Beware of Creating “Golden Calves”

As I go through Fr. Mike Schmitz’s “Bible in a Year” podcast, I come across some readings that help fuel my Rosary prayer. This is what I’ve been trying to communicate through RosaryMeds — so many of our life experiences can supercharge our Rosary experience. Conversely, great encounters with the Rosary then lead to a more meaningful lifestyle. When we surround our days with Scripture, Rosary, prayer, and the Sacraments we plant the seeds for a fulfilling life. Let’s take a look at the Book of Exodus and about what it tells us about our relationship with God.

Reshaping God

The Israelites in the Old Testament started their covenant with God on the wrong foot. Immediately after escaping Egypt, they started worshiping a golden calf when Moses didn’t return from Mount Sinai. They grew impatient waiting for Moses but felt the urgent need to honor something for bringing them out of Egypt. Fr. Mike Schmitz pointed out that they did not reject God for an idol. Rather, they re-attributed God to the golden calf. They proclaimed, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4) They reduced God to a statue that they crafted with a narrative they could control.

The Israelites did with the golden calf what we do all the time — reduce God to work on our terms. Often, we happily follow Catholic teaching when it’s convenient. But we are full of excuses and justifications when it becomes inconvenient or confusing. We tell ourselves, “God will understand if I miss Mass this once. After all, my kid’s baseball game is at the same time and is in another city.” Or, “I’ve been so good, why can’t I loosen up this once and go on a bender with my friends?” But where in scripture or Church tradition is it taught that God is okay with sin? Where does that perception of God come from? We aren’t that much different from the Israelites reshaping God to fit our actions rather than shaping our actions to serve God’s Will. We reduce God to being our buddy who’s cool and chill with how we want to live and won’t be too preachy or judgmental.

Looking in All the Wrong Places

Remember that the Israelites thought they were justified in turning to an idol. After all, think about how confused they must have felt. Moses led them out of Egypt, a civilization they called home for generations, into the wilderness only to leave them stranded at the base of a mountain. We may sympathize with them seeking answers about their situation. Since Moses had disappeared and God was silent, they were left to their own devices. Being impatient and scared, they found comfort by re-attributing God as a golden calf.

We also want answers but often aren’t patient enough to wait for God to answer us in our prayers. So we turn to simplified solutions from whoever has a justifiable answer. Our “golden calf” may be a friend, politician, TV personality, or just our justifications telling us we can support abortion, artificial contraception, and divorce. Or that holy days of obligation, fasting, abstinence, and prayer aren’t necessary. We proclaim, “I’m following God and his Church!” although it’s a fictional god of our own design.

Learning What God Wants

How do we prevent ourselves from reducing God to fit our desires? First, we have learn who God is and what he asks of us. We do this by reading Scripture, learning from the teachings and examples of the saints, and learning about our faith. Of course, we also need to receive the sacraments. Many people believe that the only way to learn about the faith is from a priest’s homily on Sunday. But the Mass is more than the homily. That is why you need to be reverently present in the Mass allowing God to speak to you.

Think about Simeon and Anna in the Fourth Joyful Mystery. They prayed constantly at the temple doing God’s Will. They didn’t look for a way out of the life God called them to. They didn’t justify a different life telling themselves, “Maybe this is what God was actually asking of me?” No, they chose the hard life because they knew that’s what God wanted from them. Remember, God rewarded their sacrifices by allowing them to be among the first to recognize Jesus as the Christ.

We can often become scared and confused like the Israelites and start redefining Church teachings to justify our behavior. But we become like the Israelites worshipping a false god. This is why it’s so important to embrace a life of prayer and continuously learn about the Catholic faith. It is in the silence of prayer that we see that God is always with us. And when we know He hasn’t abandoned us, we won’t go seeking comfort in a god of our own creation.

How to Break out of Complacency Loops

The Hell of Monotony

My family just watched the 90’s comedy, Groundhog Day. It’s about a man, Phil Connors, who lives February 2nd repeatedly. Whenever he falls asleep or dies, he wakes up at 6 AM, Feb. 2nd and relives that day. As entertaining as the movie is (one of Bill Murray’s best), I’m not the first person to notice religious undertones it contains. You can read commentary about how the movie hints at philosophies found in Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. 

Phil relives the same day for nearly 34 years given all the knowledge and skills he obtains. He knows practically everyone in the town, learns how to play the piano at a professional level, French poetry, and ice sculpting, just to name a few. But reliving the same day that many times is someone’s personal Hell. Like Sisyphus rolling a boulder up a hill only to see it roll back, Phil is condemned to live each day only to start over and never knowing how to break out of it.

Stunted Spiritual Growth

While many of us don’t relive the exact same day as depicted in the movie, we can fall into routines where each day just feels the same. We enter loops of monotony. We wake up, go to work, listen to the same news stories, eat the same foods, watch the same shows, play the same games, sleep, and repeat. Like Phil, we feel like there isn’t a point to our day as it seems like we’re doomed to do the same things repeatedly.

It’s not that our days need to be bad or challenging to experience our own Groundhog Day. We may like our jobs, have good health, and not have any real problems. But are we growing spiritually? Are we striving to be a better person? Often, we get stuck in the loop of the status quo never challenging ourselves to do better. We may start to withdraw from others in an attempt to isolate ourselves from the inconveniences associated with personal growth — the schedules, the commitments, and dealing with different personalities.

Opportunities to Improve

Phil broke out his loop by putting together the perfect day. He stopped trying to manufacture a day where he got what he wanted and instead focused on what others needed. He caught a boy falling out of a tree, bought insurance from an annoying salesperson, gave the Heimlich to someone choking, and fixed a flat tire for some senior citizens. He even tried to help an elderly homeless man whom he ignored in his first dozen years. Now the critic in me has to point out that all these nice deeds were to ultimately impress a woman. Groundhog’s Day is a romantic comedy at heart after all. But strip out that predictable plot point and you are left with a man who breaks out of his hell by serving others.

The skeptic may also note that Phil could act selflessly because he knew exactly where to be when needed. He had lived the day so many times, he memorized who needed help and when. We don’t have that gift of foresight. However, while our days may not be the same, we can also learn how to be at the right place at the right time. Every day is an opportunity to improve ourselves. We can reflect each night on what we did well and where we fell short. Who are we ignoring who desperately needs our help? As long as there is a tomorrow, we can strive to put together that ideal day and break out of any loops we may have in our lives.

Because Phil was stuck reliving the same day, he also had to interact with the same people. One particular annoying person was an insurance salesman, Ned Ryerson. At first, Phil tried to avoid him or punch him. But he later learned to just act nicely to him and make his day by purchasing insurance. We often can’t change who we interact with. We may have annoying coworkers, family members, and sometimes friends. But we can change how we interact with them. God may be putting us in difficult situations so that we can learn how to deal with others as he wants us to.

How the Rosary Helps us Break Monotony

Let’s look at the apostles in the First Sorrowful Mystery. By the time Jesus was arrested, the apostles probably had fallen into a comfortable routine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had stopped being amazed by Jesus after years of traveling with him. They had gotten comfortable with the lifestyle of traveling from village to village as part of Jesus’ entourage. But then they didn’t know what to do when Jesus was arrested. Maybe they had grown so comfortable in their routines that they stopped trying to grow spiritually. They were asleep in the garden; their physical state possibly reflecting their motivational state.

The apostles broke out of their loops when Jesus ascended into Heaven and they needed to go out at evangelize Jesus’ message. God may not be calling us to such dramatic changes. But we can work at making each day count. Every morning is a new opportunity to work towards spiritual growth. We can work harder at avoiding sin and temptation. We can work harder at more devotional prayer and spiritual formation. And we can work harder at being there for the people who need us. If you feel like you’re stuck in a loop, treat each day as an opportunity to break out of it by striving to live according to God’s divine plan.

Fighting Superficiality in our Lives

We all act superficially at times

Here’s a follow-up post on a topic similar to sloth. This time, I’m talking about superficiality, a close relative to sloth and gluttony. By superficial, I mean lacking depth or substance and focusing on surface-level qualities. We often have that stereotypical, “bimbo blond” idea of superficiality which leads us to believe superficiality doesn’t apply to us. However, while we may not be a superficial person, we can act superficially at times.

One way many of us tend to act superficially is by spending too much time on activities that aren’t meaningful. There are those obvious ones like spending too much time in front of screens either binge-watching shows and movies or spending time on social media trying to craft this artificial projection of ourselves. We often chase “likes” and “thumbs up” on our online persona trying to impress faceless (and often non-human) masses.

Superficiality in the news

But there’s another way we trick ourselves into superficiality. And that’s how we consume news. Many of us follow the 24-7 cable news cycle, not as a means of education, but as a means of entertainment. We follow our politicians like a sports team; cheering when they succeed and jeering when the “other side” wins. Instead of reporting facts and educating the public, most news outlets know they can increase advertising revenue by appealing to our baser tribal instincts of “us vs. them.” Often, the news is really no more substantial than episodes of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

Not only is much of the media superficial, but it deprives us of worthwhile activities and dispositions. One of the ways media makes money is by scaring us. They present the improbable as likely making everyone believe that the “other side” is going to destroy us all. That leads to persistent feelings of dread and despair. When we replace our faith in God with superficial mass media, we replace hope with hopelessness. We tend to see everything through a lens of superficiality. We start to believe that our world is such a mess that not even God is powerful enough to fix it.

Following superficial news applies to news about the Church. Many of us follow scandals in the Vatican like soap operas. Worse, we often mistake following Church news for practicing our faith. We think because we know what Pope Francis said or how some bishops responded, we’re better connected to Jesus. Reading or watching homilies is a good start, but it isn’t the same as receiving the sacraments. 

How to fight superficiality

How do we combat this superficiality? It’s quite simple actually. TURN OFF THE TV! I’m not saying you need to cut yourself off from world events. Like any appetite, you need to show restraint and control. Gluttony isn’t just about overindulging in food; it’s overindulging any appetite whether it be food, entertainment, or news. When you overindulge or consume things of low value, you don’t leave any room for God in your life.

Make time in your life for meaningful activities. Like a diet of proteins, fats, and carbs, you need to find a balance of spirituality, work, and leisure. Make time for prayer such as the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, and reading Scripture. Put in an honest effort on your work. And relax with some exercise, reading a good book, and spending time with friends and family. Find the superficial in your life and replace it with the meaningful.

When you pray the Rosary, meditate on the Second Sorrowful Mystery, The Scourging at the Pillar, whose fruit is Mortification or Purity. Think about what superficial practices in your life you need to purge. Like Jesus being scourged, showing discipline over our baser instincts can be painful. It’s hard to let go of easy comforts. But in that suffering, we learn how to overcome the temptation of a comfortable, but shallow, life so we can grow in holiness. Similar to how whips tore away Jesus’ flesh, we need to tear away the superficial “skin” in our lives that prevents us from experiencing deeper connections with our brothers and sisters in Christ and God himself.

How the Rosary Helps us Avoid Sloth

Previously, I wrote about the Daily Rosary Meditation Podcast and how it can improve your rosary prayer. I even have a link to it on RosaryMeds. I recently listened to this great episode on examining your conscience for the seven deadly sins. I especially liked the meditation on sloth. Let’s explore sloth deeper and how the Rosary can combat it.

Boredom with Spiritual Life

Sloth is a sorrow or boredom with the spiritual life. It’s being bored with the things of God which results in a spiritual apathy or complacency. This is when you don’t like spiritual things like prayer, rooting out vice and practicing virtue and talking about God and ultimate things like heaven – basically of everything that matters most. And it results in the effort escape the invitation to become god-like through busyness, workaholism, entertainment, news, sports, drunkenness, drug use, pornography, or sex.

Dr. Mike Scherschligt, Daily Rosary Meditation Podcast

I’ve never thought of sloth in this way — boredom with spiritual life. By that measure, I’ve certainly been guilty of sloth. How many times have I reached for my phone to watch mind-rotting videos instead of reaching for my rosary or litany of the hours? Or how many times have I consumed those cookies, candies, or spirits on days when I told myself I was fasting? Yeah, I’m guilty of trying to escape God’s call to spiritual greatness via earthly delights.

The middle panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”

How Sloth is Killing Us

Our society hinges around us embracing sloth. We spend all day working to afford the latest gadget that consumes the rest of our waking hours. We spend tons of money on streaming services, concerts, and sports. Even our hobbies, as good as they are, often provide an escape from living the more challenging, but fulfilling, spiritual lifestyle.

Sloth is killing parishes around the world. I’ve heard so many people say they no longer attend Mass because the priest’s homilies are boring and the Mass is so long and repetitive. Going back to Dr. Scherschligt’s definition, sloth starts with boredom. We, the Catholic faithful, haven’t been showing our slothful brothers and sisters the importance of the Mass and how it’s focused around Christ, not the priest or the music. If we only understood the importance of spiritual life, we would kick sloth to the curb.

How to Combat Sloth through the Rosary

To combat sloth, focus on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary — The Presentation. Think about Simeon and Anna, two people who spent their days at the temple in prayer. They were hardly slothful. They did not get bored pursuing a spiritual life and doing what God asked of them. Ultimately, they both met God face-to-face in the baby Jesus. They received in their earthly lives what we hope to receive after we die — union with God.

I also meditate on the Fifth Joyful Mystery when I think about combatting sloth. I recall Joseph and Mary searching for Jesus in Jerusalem. Did Mary and Joseph get bored with their search? Of course not. They had to continue because they understood the importance of finding their lost son. We shouldn’t get distracted by all the good things of this world that we stop searching by giving up Mass, the sacraments, and prayer. When we give up those practices, sloth will fill the void and lead to other sins.

Bosch reminds us where sloth ultimately leads us

Disclaimer — sloth is not the same as leisure. We do need time for leisure; a break from work. Often, leisure can lead to increased spirituality because it refreshes and energizes us. Refreshing leisure activities include reading, listening to music, and spending time with people. It’s not binge-watching Netflix alone until 3 AM. Leisure compliments a spiritual life, sloth replaces it. 

The Eucharist Shows the Awesome Power of God

God Can Do Anything

I’ve been helping at my parish by leading a few of the OCIA classes (Order of Christian Initiation). They gave me a hugely important topic this week — the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. How do I fit the centerpiece of the Catholic faith, something that has been debated and philosophized about for centuries, into a thirty-minute question-and-answer session?

Most importantly, Jesus is fully present in the Eucharist. It’s not a symbol of an event that took place 2,000 years ago. It is Jesus fully present in the form of bread and wine. I heard a priest explain this phenomenon well. He said that if God can take the form of a human through Jesus Christ, he can take any form he desires and be fully present in that form. Who are we to understand or evaluate how God chooses to manifest himself? It’s his creation, his rules.

I then watched this short video on the Eucharist. The video mentions the Hope Diamond in the Smithsonian. Millions of people wait for hours to see it for a minute or two. But in the end, it’s just a lump of shiny carbon. There is something infinitely more valuable in every tabernacle worldwide — Jesus Christ! You don’t have to wait in line or pay an admission fee to spend time with God.

We Can Talk to Jesus Anytime

Imagine if Jesus, in human form, came walking into a church and started reciting the Beatitudes. Everyone present would flip out, right? It would make news and headlines and converts. But is Jesus taking the form in a different arrangement of atoms as bread and wine really any different? Is the Word of God any different whether we hear it proclaimed by Jesus in his human form or from the priest at Mass? Does God hear us any differently when we pray to him versus him in human form hearing us via vibrating eardrums and brain pulses?

I know that the Real Presence in the Eucharist is a hard concept to wrap our heads around. But when I recall that God created everything out of nothing, I’m reminded that there is nothing beyond his capabilities. If we truly believe that, then it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to believe he is truly present in the form of bread and wine.

When we pray the Fifth Luminous Mystery of the Rosary, we reflect and meditate on the fact that we have the faith and belief that we really do receive Jesus Christ through the Eucharist. We should show the Eucharist the same reverence and respect that we would show Jesus if He came to us in human form. This mystery goes to the core of the Catholic faith; that the bread and wine at Mass actually are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.

How to Navigate the Current Vatican Confusion

Episode 9.5: Confusion Reigns

If you’re a Star Wars fan, you know that the sequel trilogy (episodes 7-9) was a mess. A large part of the problem was the discontinuity Rian Johnson introduced in Episode 8, The Last Jedi. He threw out much of the plot line set up in Episode 7 as he was intent on “upsetting expectations.” This put JJ Abrams in an awkward position of trying to connect Episode 9 to the previous two movies. But the damage had already been done and the trilogy felt more like three independent movies rather than a cohesive and unified story.

I see parallels to the Star Wars sequel trilogy and Pope Francis’ papacy. It feels like he is intentionally disrupting Church tradition out of some desire to modernize Catholicism. But this is creating a mess because much of what he’s doing doesn’t seem to follow the teachings and traditions laid out by Jesus Christ and has been unyielding truth for thousands of years. To me, Pope Francis is creating a legacy for himself instead of continuing the legacy set forth by Christ and previous popes starting with St. Peter.

The obvious example of this papel disruption is Fiducia Supplicans. I’m not going to go into detail about that specific letter as there are many great articles about it that I’ll link to at the end of the article. But this letter from the Vatican is only the latest of a series of statements that have confused the Church’s teachings. And while it hasn’t created an official schism in the Church, it has split the faithful about what the Church believes.

A Legacy of Confusion

My concern is that the pope is setting a precedent of the Vatican being ignored or challenged by bishops and parishes. We are not in a good state when bishops pick and choose what statements from the Vatican they will follow. That’s hardly a Universal Church. In this case, thank God that many bishops sided with Church tradition in rejecting Fiducia Supplicans. But what if, in the future, the Vatican comes out with a document similar to Humane Vitae; something hard to follow but flows from Church teaching and tradition? Certain priests will reject the teaching citing the numerous people who rejected Fiducia Supplicans.

I now find myself in this uncomfortable position where I roll my eyes whenever I hear someone quote Pope Francis or talk about the letters and declarations coming from the Vatican. It’s the same reaction I have when I read statements from liberal politicians. It’s hard for me to hear them out although they may have a good point that teaches me something valuable. But I subconsciously discount the value of that message due to who is the one proclaiming it. I don’t like the fact that I’m discounting the teachings of the person who occupies the Chair of St. Peter and holds the keys to God’s kingdom.

And that’s what saddens me. The Church which I love is starting to feel more like a political party. People change or deliberately confuse Her message to make short-term allies and score political points. The beauty of the Catholic faith has always been that she taught unyielding truth regardless of the whims of society. I liked that St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict didn’t feel the need to radically change Church teachings out of the false sense that all change is progress. No one ever accused them of doing nothing just because they reaffirmed Church doctrine instead of modifying it.

How We Handle Confusing Times

What are we, the Catholic faithful, to do in this climate? We need to act as we’ve always acted in times of confusion and persecution — pray. We need to pray for Pope Francis and those in positions of power that they use their authority to lead us to Christ instead of furthering their agendas or legacies. We also need to pray for each other so that we can look through all this confusion and hear how God expects us to live.

We need to regularly pray the Rosary and ask Mary for her guidance. I like to dedicate the Fourth Glorious Mystery to this request. God assumed Mary into Heaven because he had a special plan for her — to lead us into communion with her son, Jesus Christ. She’s there, waiting for us to ask her for clarity and direction. She may lead us to reading and learning more about the Church’s teachings. She may call us into deeper prayer and adoration. She may ask us to fast. Mary has multiple tools to lead us to Jesus. We only need to be willing to ask and listen.

Reading the Bible in a Year… Again

Bible in a Year

In 2024, I’m reading the entire Bible again. Longtime RosaryMeds readers, you may remember that I did this back in 2021. I think reading the Bible is something we should revisit periodically. Hopefully, I’ve grown in spiritual maturity since 2021 and so I’ll learn new things on this next reading.

When I first read the Bible in a year, I used the physical copy from the Augustine Institute. It was good, but I felt like the explanations and meditations that accompanied each day were too shallow. This time, I’m using the Ascension app and listening to Fr. Mike Schmitz read the Bible. The great thing about this one is that Fr. Schmitz provides much more in-depth commentary on the day’s scripture passages.

Build Strong Reserves

I’m starting my Bible reading now. I know there will be days in 2024 when I won’t be able to listen or read my Bible. I will have busy days or times when I just won’t have the energy to focus. It’s a good idea to have a few days “banked up” to stay on track. This is good advice for reading the Bible in a year and for many tasks and goals in life — get started early and build up reserves.

Building up reserve strength is also why we need to continuously pray the Rosary and receive the sacraments. As Mary promised, praying the Rosary builds up our armor against Satan. The more we pray, the stronger that armor will be. She promises that we’ll never be conquered by misfortune. We need to pray the rosary, not just when times are tough, but also when times are good to prepare ourselves for those tough times.

Thankfulness in all Circumstances

One point that many people don’t understand is that Mary doesn’t promise that we will never encounter misfortune or be tempted to sin if we pray the rosary. It’s important to understand that Satan is always out there trying to lure us away from God. And the world is an imperfect place where misfortune happens. What Mary does promise is that we’ll never be CONQUERED by misfortune and temptation. Why? Because we will have built up strong spiritual reserves through the rosary.

The second reading for the third Sunday of Advent provides a good roadmap on how we should approach prayer — pray without ceasing and in all circumstances, give thanks. The second part is difficult to follow, especially when times are tough. My lector workbook says that we should offer thanksgiving IN all circumstances, not FOR all circumstances. When we pray, we must remember to thank God for seeing us through both the good and bad aspects of our lives.

Pray the Rosary early and often.

PSA: Two Holy Days of Obligation This Christmas

The Public Service Announcement

I know we are only starting the second week of Advent. But many of us are making plans for Christmas Eve and Day already. If it seems like time is flying by, it’s not your mind playing tricks on you — Christmas is coming early. Basically, the fourth “week” of Advent is only one day — Sunday, December 24. That means that both Sunday and Monday are Holy Days of Obligation.

uCatholic shared this article answering the question, “Can an evening Mass on the 24th fulfill the Sunday Mass obligation and the Christmas Day Mass obligation?” Short answer: NO. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said this in reply:

“The prevailing view of many canon lawyers is that each obligation must be fulfilled with a separate Mass. When consecutive obligations occur on Saturday-Sunday or Sunday-Monday, the faithful must attend Mass twice to fulfill two separate obligations.”

I can hear the collective groans from my keyboard. I’m sure a lot of people are cranky about how they are going to juggle two Masses amongst their already-crowded Christmas plans. Or maybe, you’re covering your eyes and quickly closing this webpage while chanting, “Didn’t see that; not a sin if I didn’t know.” That leads to the question, why are we so averse to spending a little extra time with our Lord at Mass? Isn’t Jesus the reason for the season?

Team Catholicism

It’s been an unofficial theme of RosaryMeds this year — why aren’t people attending Mass? This has been a topic many parishes have been asking since the Covid lockdowns. Unfortunately, Covid exposed how weakly catechized many people are that they would so easily give up Mass. We’ve forgotten what it means to be Catholic and practice our faith.

For me, the dwindling participation in my parish hits me on a personal level. I see my parish and the Church as a whole as a team. But in the last few years, many of my teammates haven’t been giving 100%. Think about what happens to a sports team when people don’t practice, don’t show up, and don’t work hard. The team loses. And that is how I sometimes feel about Team Catholicism — we’re losing because the team doesn’t want to put in the effort anymore.

This is what losing looks like

We have an Advent/Christmas doubleheader this year. Instead of bemoaning it or trying to avoid it, let’s remember all the spiritual benefits and graces that come from participating in Mass. Remember to remind your friends and family to center their Christmas around our faith. The gifts that God bestows on us will be greater than any flatscreen TV or new phone.

Go Team Catholicism!

Avoid These Pitfalls During Advent to Practice Humility

Stay Humble

Let’s take a break from current events and return to a more classic RosaryMeds post — an actual Rosary meditation. As we enter Advent and the Christmas season, I want to give some of my ideas of the First Joyful Mystery and its fruit, humility.

In the Annunciation, Mary’s humility is exemplified in her response to the angel Gabriel when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). She showed a joyful willingness to submit to God’s will and a trust in God’s plan for her life. She accepted the role that God had given her despite the radical changes and challenges it would bring. In short, she placed God’s will before her wants and desires.

Buying for Ourselves During Christmas

Placing God before our wants and desires can be challenging during Advent. That is why it’s important to be aware of the temptations that draw us away from behaving humbly. We are bombarded with advertisements to shop until we drop. Even when we shop for others, it’s hard to curb that desire to buy things for ourselves or at least desire them. We may obsess over receiving a certain gift and fixate on how we’re going to hint to our loved ones to buy it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting nice things and maybe splurging occasionally. But those desires can make it harder to practice humility when we place our desires ahead of others’ needs.

Christmas shopping can weigh us down and not leave room for others in our life.

I think back to last Sunday’s Gospel where Jesus tells his disciples about the sheep and the goats. The theme of his teaching is that those who serve Jesus are the ones who serve others, particularly those in most need. We honor Jesus when we put the needs of others before our wants. But that is hard to accomplish when we are bombarded with ads everywhere we turn. Advent can easily turn into a season where we serve ourselves, not others, and especially not God.

Trying to Create that “Perfect” Christmas

There are other mindsets that make humility hard to practice during Advent and Christmas. We may truly embrace the idea of “giving” during the season. But is that goal preventing us from acting with true humility? Are we putting our desire to find the perfect present, throw the perfect party, and produce the perfect Christmas ahead of being truly present in other’s lives? Are we praying for one another? Fasting and sacrificing? Maybe we can think of the perfect Christmas as the one where we put others’ spiritual needs ahead of satisfying their seasonal desires.

Christmas doesn’t have to look like a Norman Rockwell painting to be perfect

Praying only for Yourself

Finally, reflect on your humility in prayer and intentions. I so often fall into the mode where I pray only for myself. I focus solely on my challenges, desires, sorrows, and thanksgiving. That’s not exactly showing humility when our well-being is the sole focus of our prayers. It also creates a form of isolation because we don’t look past ourselves. Humility implies a sense of connection with others. After all, how can we put others ahead of ourselves if we don’t acknowledge others in our lives?

There you have it — three different challenges to practicing the virtue of humility during Advent and Christmas. I think it’s important to be aware of these traps so we can actively work on avoiding them. Naturally, asking for Mary’s intervention in these matters through her Rosary and the First Joyful Mystery is a good place to start.

How Our Faith Brings Hope into the World

My apologies for my month-long absence from RosaryMeds. Of all months, I should be cranking out the most content in October, the month that we celebrate Mary, Queen of the Rosary. But between family, school, work, and activities, I just couldn’t find the time or energy to write. But I continued to pray the Rosary and ask our Mother Mary for her intercession in all matters, big and small and global and personal. I hope you did the same.

Seeking Hope in a Troubled World

I understand that there isn’t a ton of good news out there right now. Many of us are worried about the multiple wars, growing antisemitism (which leads to growing anti-religion), and some of the concerning actions and statements coming from the Vatican. We should continue praying, especially the Second Glorious Mystery, Jesus’ Ascension. The fruit of this mystery is hope. We must remember that we are a people of hope who know that God’s plan reigns supreme even when everything appears to be falling apart.

I have a hodge-podge of stories that all center around conversion and the importance of prayer. They demonstrate the comfort that one receives when one chooses to listen to God instead of the world. These are stories of hope because they show God has the ability to change the hearts of those who seem the most distant from him.

Atheist Turns to Christianity

Ayaan Hirsi Ali recently converted from atheism to Christianity. She is a well-known critic of Islam to the point where she has a fatwa against her (she needs a full-time security detail for protection). Her Muslim upbringing left her so emotionally and spiritually scarred that she initially took the stance that all organized religion is bad and that God cannot exist. However, she now embraces Christianity. Here are her thoughts why:

“Atheism failed to answer a simple question: What is the meaning and purpose of life?” she said, arguing that “the void left by the retreat of the church” in the modern world “has merely been filled by a jumble of irrational quasi-religious dogma.” Hirsi Ali said in the essay that there is “no need to look for some new-age concoction of medication and mindfulness” to address these present crises: “Christianity has it all.”

I think she says it best when she uses the word void. There are so many people who have stopped practicing their faith creating a void in their life. They may try to fill it with activities, work, leisure, and family. Or they take up some political cause. But that is like trying to fill a round hole with a square peg. The only way to truly fill the void created when we stop practicing our faith is to start practicing it once again. There are not enough YouTube videos or community events to fill the void created by abandoning the sacraments of the Church.

Outspoken atheist Ayaan Hirsi Ali says she is now a Christian | Catholic News Agency

Father Baptizes His Dying Baby

The next story is the tragic events around baby Indi Gregory, a UK baby that was taken off life support against her parents’ wishes even after the Vatican granted her citizenship so she could receive care in Rome. But the moving part of these events is that Indi’s parents, neither of whom are baptized, baptized Indi before her death. Her father, Dean Gregory, said he wanted Indi to go to Heaven if she died. He is now in the process of being baptized as well.

As tragic as this story is, it serves as a wake-up call for all of us. Dean Gregory said that his experience with the British court system and NHS exposed the evil that exists all around us. He desired protection from that evil both for himself and Indi. We too, should realize that evil exists in many forms. Just read Father Spitzer’s books that I reviewed. But rest assured, by practicing the Catholic faith and receiving the sacraments, we have all the protection we need from any evil we may encounter in this life.

Baby Indi Gregory’s father says he chose baptism for her after feeling ‘dragged to hell’  | Catholic News Agency

Knowledge of Church Teachings Tied to Mass Attendance

A national survey found that 90% of Catholics who attend Mass weekly believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. And while that seems great, we must realize that only 17% of the respondents attend weekly Mass. The majority of Catholics surveyed (51%) believe that the Eucharist is only symbolic of Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper.

That survey results make me wonder what people think “being Catholic” means. It seems like we’ve watered down Catholicism so much over the years that it has become more like a forgotten gym membership than the focal point of our existence. But God has his ways of waking us up. I believe that the Church is due for a wake-up call.

National Survey Finds 9 in 10 Weekly Mass Attendees Believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist – CatholicVote org

It’s unfortunate that we need to have moments of experiencing Hell like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Dean Gregory to realize just how important our faith is. This is where our prayers come into play. I like to think that each Rosary prayed and each Mass celebrated helps bring others back to the Church in ways that are dramatic, but not traumatic. We need to remain hopeful that our sacrifices will help convert those who are so far God’s grace. Keep up those prayers!