Why You Need Contemplative Prayer Right Now

With only two weeks left before Christmas, many of us are feeling that last minute pressure to finish shopping (or start it) and finalize plans.  Did you get the right presents?  Did you forget to send a Christman card to someone important?  Will the package you ordered be delivered on time?  There are so many questions and concerns spinning around in our heads right now.  And that is why it’s the perfect time to stop and engage in some contemplative prayer.

In my recent presentation, I emphasized how the Rosary is a meditative and contemplative prayer.  And this makes sense given its origin — our Mother Mary.  In the Gospel, Mary is a woman of few words.  Instead, she is always listening and observing what Jesus is saying and doing.  In so many instances, the Gospel talks about how she keeps things in her heart.  She is humble and reserved taking the role as God’s servant.  She is the paradigm of contemplative behavior.  And likewise, her gift to us, the Rosary, is modeled after her contemplative nature.

Here are some examples of how you can use contemplative prayer to great effect.  This Advent, in addition to a morning Rosary prayer, I’ve taken up reading from a daily prayer and reflection book.  By front-loading my day with prayer and scripture, I have plenty to think about and meditate on when I find some quiet downtime throughout my day.  Jonathan B. Coe, in his article on Catholic Exchange, calls the combination of scripture and Rosary prayer a “contemplative canvas that renews the mind and facilitates an open-handed generosity in life.”  If your day is a blank canvas, how are you painting it?  And you filling it with holy thoughts and actions fueled by the Gospel and Rosary?

One of the Advent reflections I read stressed the importance of silence and clearing your mind of all the holiday distractions.  Remember, Jesus’ birth wasn’t a grand event in the physical sense.  It was a quiet one that took place in a stable or cave in some small, out of the way village.  And even today, the commercial grandeur of Christmas drowns out the whisper-like presence of Jesus’ birthday.  It is only in the stillness of meditative prayer that we block out the noisy world to truly appreciate the heart of Christmas.

Lastly, I recently finished reading a biography on Saint Dominic, through whom Mary gave the world the Rosary.  He traveled throughout Europe in his life.  And wherever he went, when he had free time, he visited a church or cathedral and prayed.  That routine of filling part of the day in contemplative prayer can be said of any number of saints.  God desires all of us to saintlike behavior as that is the quickest means to internal happiness in His kingdom.  And so, maybe we should take a cue from the saints and also fill some of our lives with meditative prayer.  For example, after I drop off my son at school, I stop by the church to sit quietly and pray.  Maybe you can find time to attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.  Try attending a weekday Mass or just sit quietly in a Church for a few minutes.  Or maybe, just lay still in bed when you wake up and spend a few minutes in prayer before starting your day.

Think about Mary’s contemplative behavior in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary.  When the shepherds came to Jesus talking about angels announcing His birth, Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19).  Upon finding Jesus in the temple and hearing Him say that he needed to be in His Father’s house, she treasured all these things in her heart (Luke 2:51).  Are you talking regularly with God through prayer and treasuring His response in your heart?

Don’t Lose Your Moral Bearings in the Darkness

Imagine you’re a pilot flying alone on a completely dark night with no instrumentation.  Envision how hard it would be to know your altitude, your level, and whether or not you’re about to crash into something.  In total darkness, with no visibility and landmarks for reference, there is a good chance the airplane will crash and burn.

Keep that airplane analogy in mind as you read this article about the Glamor of Evil by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  We all know about how we should avoid committing sin. That’s Catholicism 101; easy stuff. But you can also be seduced by sin without actively participating in it.  He writes:

Evil is glamorous, not only in the sense that it can be hard to resist being drawn into it, but also in the sense that it can be hard to look away from it. If you aren’t careful, it’s tremendously easy to stare at it, and stare at it, and stare at it, until you can’t see anything else. Until everything good, and godly, and righteous, and beautiful has been drained from view, and all that is left is outrage, and anger, and indignation, and disgust.

Like the pilot alone in the dark, when we fixate on all the evil, darkness, and problems in this world we lose our moral bearings.  We can become disoriented in the darkness and start to lose hope, joy, and our faith.  We can no longer see the differences between good and evil because we’ve lost our spirital point of reference.  Our actions no longer seem to matter because we don’t see any goal or point to them.  Does it really matter what I do if everything is falling apart around me?

Being lost and aimless doesn’t usually end well.

Dr. Popcak tells us that we can’t let negative thinking completely envelop us.  Our faith and relationship with Jesus Christ should act like a shining beacon, even in our darkest hours.  The beauty and goodness of our faith can provide all the guidance we need to find strength, peace, and maybe even happiness, even when our world looks nonredeemable.

When Good Things Turn Us Bad

I’m going to go one step further. It’s not just evil that can completely block us from whatever is good and godly. Neutral activities can also do the same. Consider social media and the 24/7 cable news cycle. On their own, there’s nothing sinful about them.  They allow us to stay updated on recent events and connect with each other. But for many of us, these seemingly harmless pastimes can consume 100% of our attention leaving room for nothing else. And when your world is completely consumed by Twitter, Facebook, Fox News, and MSNBC, you can stop seeing the genuine good in the world. You will either see a carefully curated goodness that isn’t real or you will just see everything as bad and hopeless and fall into despair.

As we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, it’s important to not allow ouselves to fixate on what is ultimately unimportant. I know we want to buy presents, decorate our homes, and participate in all the other traditions associated with Christmas. But we can’t let the commercial side of Christmas blind us to the true meaning behind it. Because when you obsess over what to buy and what you want to receive, you leave yourself open to the sins of greed, envy, and even wrath. Want an example?  Look no further than the annual chaos around Black Friday and how people lose their moral bearings fighting over TVs and toasters.

The Rosary Connection

Look at the Fourth Luminous Mystery, The Transfiguration.  I’m talking about darkness and the light in this article.  Well, in this mystery you see Jesus’ clothes literally become dazzling white (Mark 9:3).  And that, of course, got the apostles’ attention.  When you meditate on this Rosary mystery, ask yourself, is Jesus a dazzling beacon of love, hope, and goodness in your life?  Does He shine brighter through the darkness keeping you morally oriented toward His teachings?  If not, maybe you need to turn around or take off your blindfold.  Jesus is always present in our lives.  If you don’t see that “light” in the darkness, ask Mary for guidance when you pray the Fourth Glorious Mystery, Her Assumption.  She wants nothing more than to guide you through the darkness to Her son.

Also, when you pray the Third Joyful Mystery, think of the wise men traveling through the desert to pay homage to Jesus.  They would have been wondering around aimlessly and hopelessly if it weren’t for a star to guide them.  Again, you have a point of light, a referrence point, which guided the three wise men to Jesus. Are you following the signs in your life which lead you to Jesus?

Are You Ready for a Lenten Advent?

As we approach Advent, I’m sure most of us will focus more on what’s on sale on Amazon than on prayer and fasting. When it comes to seasons of preparation, Advent tends to take a back seat to Lent when it comes to people focusing on their spiritual needs. This Advent, I want to challenge you to devote more time and energy preparing what is in your heart in addition to what is under your Christmas tree.

True story. One time my wife and I met with a priest for a class on a weekday in Advent. The priest offered my wife a small brownie bite which she politely refused saying that she was abstaining from sweets during Advent. The priest surprisingly said that was the first time he’d ever heard of someone fasting during Advent. Lent? Of course. But you must be a special sort of crazy to fast during a time when stores, markets, homes, and offices are stocked wall-to-wall with Christmas candy and pastries.

eat as much as you can
It would be a Christmas miracle if I could abstain from eating from the office cookie dish.

I mention this not to show how strong-willed my wife is (okay, maybe I wanted to brag a little). I mention this because of the priests surprise that someone actually took a season of preparation to actually prepare for Christmas! I think many of us hear that word, preparation, but don’t actually internalize what it means. We decorate our homes, buy gifts, trim a tree, and do all sort of things to prepare for Christmas, the holiday. But we so often skip the preparation for Christmas, the Holy Day.

I encourage you to make a plan for Advent similar to what you do for Lent. Don’t just think about what you can give up. Advent is a good time to think about what you can add. Here are some ideas:

  1. Set up an advent wreath and pray around it every day with your family.
  2. Buy an Advent prayer book that you use daily.
  3. Make an effort to go to Eucharistic adoration and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
  4. Consciously do extra good deeds.
  5. Pray the Rosary daily.

And on that last point, I have just the solution to help you pray the Rosary during Advent.  After many long months, I’m happy to announce that my latest book, The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us, is now available in paperback on Amazon.  Right in time for Advent and Christmas.  This book continues what I started in The Rosary for the Rest of Us.  But instead of taking a holistic approach to each Rosary mystery, this new book takes a tactical approach.  It has scripture passages, intentions, and quotations of wisdom for each Rosary bead.  Get an overall understanding from The Rosary for the Rest of Us but get focus for each prayer in The Rosary Prayer Guide for the Rest of Us.

Remember, a Rosary a day keeps the Devil away!

Getting Mary’s Help in this New Year

Happy New Year!  Usually, my first post of the year is about how we should not make “praying more” a new year’s resolution because making something a new year’s resolution almost guarantees failure.  However, this year I’m going to take a different tone based on the homily I heard last Sunday on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary.

At my parish, Father Tony talked about the importance of asking Mary for help with all the challenges and concerns in our lives.  He iterated the Church’s teaching that Mary will clarify and amplify your intentions before her son, Jesus Christ, and act as your mediator.  You may only have a vague notion of what you want or need but Mary will help you better understand those needs and help you present them to Jesus.

That homily got me thinking about new year’s resolutions.  What if they don’t fail because they are often rather vague promises made on a somewhat arbitrary day on a calendar?  Instead, maybe new year’s resolutions do not stick because people try to accomplish them on their own without any help.  Maybe we should ask Mary for her assistance in trying to accomplish our resolution.  After all, she desperately wants to help all of us achieve true happiness by eventually living in God’s Kingdom of Heaven.

But how will Mary help me lose weight?  How will Mary help me earn $10k in the stock market?  Does she really care about helping you achieve any non-spiritual goals?  Probably not.  And maybe she wants us to take a hint.  If certain goals are not a priority to Mary, maybe they shouldn’t be a priority for us either.  Like I said earlier, part of Mary’s intercession is to clarify what we truly need.  Finding a meaningful resolution is just as important as following through on one.

Yes, but will it buy you true happiness?

In the spirit of including Mary in helping me throughout my life in all important matters, not just a single new years resolution, I’m going to try to remember to add the Memorare prayer to my daily routine.  I invite you to do the same.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word incarnate, despise not my petitions, but, in your mercy, hear and answer me.
Amen.

Two Different Responses to God’s Unbelievable Plan

The Bible is full of parallels.  It may be parallel themes between Old and New Testament readings or accounts of different people having similar encounters with God.  We see one such parallel between the story of Mary in the Annunciation and that of Zechariah, husband of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth.  We pray and meditate on these readings, which make up the first two Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, all this week leading up to Christmas.

Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annu...
Cappella tornabuoni frescoes in Florence. Annuncio dell’angelo a San Zaccaria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In both accounts, the angel Gabriel comes with news of a pregnancy.  Mary is told she will give birth to a son through the Holy Spirit and Zechariah is told that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist.  Furthermore, the announcement is initially met by disbelief.  Mary’s amazement comes because she is not married and Zechariah’s stems from Elizabeth’s old age.

The difference in these two accounts comes next.  In Mary’s case, she praises God and humbles herself saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.  May it be done to me according to your word.”  But in Zechariah’s case, the angel Gabriel takes away his ability to speak because of his disbelief.

What confused me about these two accounts was that according to the text, it appears as if Mary and Zechariah both show a very similar reaction, one of amazement and disbelief.  Why was Zechariah punished and not Mary?  I think the key is understanding Gabriel’s ability to see into someone’s heart and not just hear their words.

Angel Gabriel's Annunciation to Mary, by Muril...
Angel Gabriel’s Annunciation to Mary, by Murillo, c. 1655 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Mary was confused initially, in her heart she truly believed and accepted God’s Will for her.  But I think that Gabriel must have sensed that Zechariah did not fully believe the news he had just heard.  To put it another way, Mary’s initial reaction may have been out of shock and quickly passed while Zechariah harbored a real sense of disbelief.  Maybe, while he was in the holy sanctuary, Zechariah was going through the motions of prayer but not fully open to God’s grace.  It is fitting that he was punished with speechlessness as a sign that maybe he was giving more lip service to his faith rather than truly internalizing it.

As we prepare in these final days of Advent, let us remember to have an open heart like Mary and not a closed one like Zechariah.  Pray that you don’t go through the motions of spirituality by treating Christmas Mass like a mere formality before the real celebration can begin.  Mass is the real celebration!  I know many of you have large dinners to attend, guests to entertain, and presents to open.  And while you may say you believe and celebrate Jesus’ birth, how much of your heart is centered around Him?  God knows what is in our hearts and you can’t fool him.

This Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ birth.  The best birthday present you can give Him is an honestly open heart.  Don’t go through the motions of prayer and practicing your faith but earnestly make room in your heart for God’s grace manifested in His son, Jesus Christ.  Merry Christmas!

“Let’s go to Bethlehem” — The Shepherds’ Tale

I wanted to write one more post before Christmas.  I really thought I would be able to get something out last week but two small boys really just suck up all available time and energy.  I don’t have a lot of time and I’m sure many of you are already in party mode.  But I would appreciate it if you could just entertain one more rosary insight before diving into the egg nog.

Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherd...
Gerard van Honthorst Adoration of the Shepherds, still influenced by St. Bridget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rosary mystery that relates to Christmas is an obvious one — The Third Joyful Mystery, The Nativity.  I want to focus on a group of people in this mystery that I don’t think get a lot of mention in Christmas homilies — the shepherds.  To recap from Luke’s Gospel:

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.

Remember, being a shepherd nearly 2000 years ago wasn’t an easy job.  A shepherd spent day and night taking care of sheep in all sorts of environments.  You couldn’t just run off and leave the sheep unattended or else some wolves would have a very grand feast.  While they worked in groups, I’m sure a few shepherds leaving created a huge burden on the others.  So you have to picture the sense of awe they felt when they saw that great company of the heavenly host in the sky and how deeply the spirit moved them to go and seek out the baby Jesus.  They risked their livelihood to catch a glimpse of Jesus, the newborn king.  After all, I’m sure the “angel excuse” wasn’t going to hold up very well with their employers if the sheep were eaten by wolves.  But they were filled with a sense that seeing Jesus was something unique and important.  Their jobs, while important as well, could wait for a bit.

Georges de La Tour: Adoration of the shepherds...
Georges de La Tour: Adoration of the shepherds (1644) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s learn from the Gospel’s shepherds this Christmas.  For just a few moments, whether it is a week, day, or just a few hours, cast aside your fears and worries in your life to just bask in Jesus’ presence.  Just trust in the Lord that the world won’t come crashing down because you stopped and took a few minutes to pray.  Like the shepherds, you don’t need to come bearing great gifts.  You just need to give your time and attention and most importantly, show a little faith.  Christmas is chaotic, I get that.  It’s not always easy to escape our responsibilities of work and family.  But I hope we can all just take a few moments to just be with Jesus in prayer and allow Him to remind us what’s truly important — God’s love and a sense of hope for a peace, both inner peace in our souls and an exterior peace with each other.

Merry Christmas!

Bath Time! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #9

I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.

Ah Purgatory!  After the high regard Catholics have for Mary, nothing seems more contentious than the existence and need for Purgatory.  It brings up debates between Catholics and protestants and questions like, “Where is Purgatory mentioned in the bible?”  Aside from the theological arguments whether Purgatory exists, there is just a general fear of it.  I think many people don’t really care all that much about the theological underpinnings of Purgatory.  Rather, many wish that it didn’t exist because they think it’s some sort of “Hell Lite.”

We need to frame Purgatory in the proper context — it is a level of existence between our earthly life and a heavenly one where we become purified and worthy of Heaven.  We cast off the last layers of our earthly selves — the sin, the shortcomings, the weakness to temptation, the pressure and anxieties, and everything else that prevents us from fully embracing God‘s love.  No matter how good any of us are, with the exception of the saints, most of us die tied down to worldly things in some way or another.  Purgatory is like that final, cleansing bath that washes away that worldly “grime” we accumulated throughout our lives.

Bath time
Splashy, splashy!  Time to get clean for God’s kingdom.

If we truly understood the majesty and beauty of what awaits us in Heaven, we would not only understand why we need Purgatory, but actually want to go to it.  I think that when we die and we get the full sense of who God is, we would not even consider entering His kingdom any other way but in a state of perfection.  Would you want to attend a wedding in your work clothes?  Would you walk through someone’s immaculately clean home in muddy shoes?  There are social situations in this life where we feel embarrassed if we arrive in a state not appropriate for the event.  Similarly, I think when we get a taste of just how awesome God is at our final judgement, we won’t give a stay in Purgatory a second thought.  The notion of entering His kingdom with any worldly blemishes will seem embarrassingly laughable.

This shows The Virgin and The Child being pres...

But just because we understand the need for Purgatory doesn’t make it any easier to endure.  But the suffering isn’t the type of suffering we encounter in Hell.  Rather, we suffer because we know just how close we are to the infinite joy and peace of Heaven.  We are like children on Christmas Eve that can’t wait for Christmas morning and open the presents under the tree.  Every minute is just agony as time just seems to slow to a stop and it seems like Christmas day will never come.  Likewise, every moment in Purgatory probably seems unbearable with the knowledge that we are so close to completing a long journey.  We want Mary to act as our advocate so our time waiting in Purgatory will be brief.

Like many of her other promises, I think Mary reveals more of a result of praying the rosary than something that she actively applies.  Those who are devoted to the rosary are less likely to commit sins which require a longer stay in Purgatory to clean.  Those who pray the rosary already have a better understanding of just how great Heaven must be and try extra hard to live in a way where they will most quickly arrive in Heaven after their death.  As I said in early articles, it’s not solely the act of praying the rosary itself that leads us to Heaven, but the wisdom and will to live in God’s grace that it helps implant in our souls.  Mary is here to help those who want her help and ask for it through rosary prayer.

Ask for Mary’s help to quickly pass through Purgatory.  Pick up a rosary and pray it today!

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Christmas Bells Are Ringing

It’s that time of year again where we crawl deep into our garages and take out all the Christmas lights and decorations.  I’m always excited each year to see if the outdoor decorations I bought the year before at a discount (since I buy them after December 25th) will actually work.  This year, a lit snowman backed by candy cane lights graced our front lawn to keep our Christmas polar bear company.  Of course, the Christmas season is also about shopping.  I know that we all say Christmas shouldn’t be about gifts, but chances are you will need to buy presents for at least one person.  I’m going to tell you how you can shop for Christmas gifts online while supporting RosaryMeds and without it costing you an extra cent.

Do you know why blog websites display ads for various online retailers?  Whenever you follow a link from a blog site to an online store and purchase something, that blog site gets a little payment from that online store as a small “thank you” for referring someone’s business.  This is called affiliate marketing.  I know that term gets a lot of bad press since most people associate it with pyramid, MLM, work-at-home, and “get rich quick” schemes.  But it’s a legitimate way many blogs try to cover their costs (hosting, domain registration, site design expenses, etc.).  The great thing about affiliate links is that they require you, the customer, to do nothing differently except initially go to the website via a special link from the blog site.  You just purchase items that you were going to buy anyway, but the blog site gets a small payment.  I try my best to be selective about who I partner with and only promote sites and products that I personally like and relate to the overall themes of RosaryMeds — the Catholic faith, rosary meditation, and prayer.

For example, you might want to consider buying something from Mystic Monk Coffee.  This coffee is actually roasted by Carmelite monks in Wyoming as part of their vow of daily labour.   It’s the only coffee we brew in my house.  Sure, I could go to the market or Starbucks and pick up a bag of dark-roasted beans.  But I feel good knowing that when I buy Mystic Monk coffee I’m helping support a monastery and people who dedicate their lives to praying for others like you and me.  And when brewed correctly, it tastes great to boot.  Do you have a coffee drinker on your gift list?  Consider Mystic Monk.

Another Catholic online retailer that is near and dear to my heart is Ignatius Press.  To be honest, it is sometimes a love/hate relationship particularly when they send me their catalogue in the mail.  The frustration comes from the fact that they offer so many interesting books and videos that there aren’t enough hours in the day to read them all.  Just to name a few titles that look interesting to me — 50 Questions on the Natural Law, A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, The Seven Big Myths about the Catholic Church, and Modern Moral Problems.  Do you have an avid reader or movie watcher on your gift list?  Consider buying something from Ignatius Press.

Of course, in my humble opinion (wink, wink), one of the best gifts you can give yourself or others is a copy of my book, The Rosary for the Rest of Us: A Practical Guide to our Most Powerful Prayer.  I saw a huge gap in the types of rosary books available to aspiring prayer warriors.  The books are either extremely basic; giving only small paragraph descriptions of each mystery and not even much reflection.  Other rosary books are incredibly dense with a lot of scholarly analysis and history of the rosary.  That might make for good reading, but does it make for better praying?  My book focuses on helping you get the most out of actually praying the rosary, not just learning its history or the story behind each mystery.  Do you know someone who could use a little rosary prayer?  Consider The Rosary for the Rest of Us.

So there you go — three great Christmas gift ideas.  Follow the links to those online stores from this post or on from the banners on the left-hand sidebar of the RosaryMeds website as a way of showing your appreciation for either my articles or my book.  And, speaking for bloggers everywhere, if you do intend on purchasing something online this Christmas, check and see if your favourite blog has an affiliate link to the sites that have the items you want.  It’s a great way of saying “thank you” to the blogs that you enjoy visiting without requiring any extra effort or money.

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Don’t be La Befana this Christmas

English: Snowman in Stra Italiano: Befana di n...

I just heard an interesting Italian legend about La Befana.  She was a woman (or a witch in some accounts) who was approached by the Three Magi on their journey to see the baby Jesus.  She gave them shelter and food as she was known for being a great hostess.  When the three magi invited her to join them in their travel, she declined saying that she had too much housework to complete.  Later, once she understood the shortsightedness of turning down such an offer, she ran out in search of Jesus; leaving gifts at every house on her way in hope that the Holy Family was in one of them.  And so, on every Feast of the Epiphany, she leaves treats at each house as she still is looking for the baby Jesus.

La Befana was so consumed trying to be the perfect hostess that she lost sight of what was really important.  Instead of taking the opportunity to praise Jesus, she worried that the floors were swept, the fire was warm, and there was food for her visitors.  Ironically, her desire to provide that perfect, welcoming environment ended up excluding her from joining the real celebration in a small, dirty stable in Bethlehem.

Are we like La Befana during Christmas?  Are we so consumed with the physical and commercial aspects of this season that we forget that it’s about glorifying Jesus?  We should remember that all those physical things — having the right outfit, baking the Christmas cookies, buying the perfect gifts, and having matching napkins for all our guests, are not what make for a great Christmas anyway.  It’s about friends, family, and most importantly, our faith.  The real party is not what takes place on the 24th and 25th.  Instead, use Christmas to reflect that God, through Jesus and His Church, calls all of us to one day join the infinitely larger celebration in His Kingdom of Heaven.

The legend of La Befana echos the story of Martha from the Gospel of Luke 10:38-42:

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.  Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.  There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

I don’t think I need to go into too much commentary here as the parallels between Luke’s Gospel and La Befana should be clear.  Again we see Martha so concerned with providing a perfect hosting environment that she misses the opportunity to embrace and rejoice in Jesus’ presence.

I wrote about the “trappings” of Christmas in my article on the Third Joyful Mystery of the rosary — The Nativity.  La Befana trapped herself by her desire for housework and making the perfect home.  We often trap ourselves by thinking of all the physical and social aspects of Christmas while glossing over the spiritual aspects.  I think the word “trap” is appropriate in this case.  All those gifts and ornamental dressings can ensnare and prevent us from receiving a much better Christmas gift — God’s grace.

Challenge yourself this Christmas to fully embrace Christmas Mass and not just think of it as something you have to endure for an hour before the fun begins.  Remember, the best gift you receive for Christmas is the Eucharist during Mass.  That is Jesus, His love, His grace, and His promise for eternal happiness right there in front of you which no physical gift or scrumptious feast can even compare.  As I said in the Fifth Luminous Mystery, don’t receive Jesus so casually when you receive the Eucharist.  Truly embrace the Lord and listen to Him in prayer on how He calls you to live.  Don’t be La Befana and ignore Jesus’ invitation to live for His Kingdom of Heaven.  Don’t regret that you missed an opportunity to fully enjoy the grace God deeply desires for you.  May you have a Merry Christmas by remembering and rejoicing in the gift God gave the world through Mary through the person of Jesus.

Like this article?  Show your support and jump start your prayer life with my new book.  Available now on Amazon!

 

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The Rosary for the Rest of Us

It’s here!  After a year of careful assembly, I’m proud to announce my first-ever, self-published book, “The Rosary for the Rest of Us: A Practical Guide to Our Most Powerful Prayer.”  Inspired by the articles on RosaryMeds, this book should help you get so much more out of your rosary prayers.  Full of meditations, intentions, and illustrations on all 20 mysteries, this book has a little something to boost everyone’s rosary prayers.  This will make the perfect companion to anyone who prays the rosary (or wants to start praying the rosary).  On sale now!

I want to acknowledge and thank everyone who helped make my goal of becoming a published author a reality.  I could not have done this without my editors — Barbara, Linda, Rebecca, Voytek, and Zofia.  Thanks for taking the time to read the book and provide feedback.  I also want to thank Jakub.  Originally, I was going to turn my rosary postings on this site into a pdf file and just distribute it as an ebook through the RosaryMeds website.  It was Jakub who urged me to publish it “for real” and make it available to a wider audience.  And so, now this book is available on Amazon in paperback and will hopefully be on the Kindle soon.

I really don’t know what to expect from this book now that’s its gone live.  Sometimes the delusional side of me envisions interviews on EWTN Catholic radio or the Catholic San Francisco newspaper writing a review on my book.  I would love to be at Mass and see someone with the book tucked under their arm or hear that rosary prayer groups are using it.  More realistically, it would be nice if enough people bought the book to cover operating costs of RosaryMeds.  But honestly, I will be enthused if this book motivates someone to pray the rosary who otherwise would not.  I truly hope that my efforts will bring at least one new person into the world of the rosary.

Just in time for Christmas.  Here are just a few ideas for purchasing “The Rosary for the Rest of Us”:

  • Stocking stuffer for someone on your gift list
  • Combine it with the purchase of a rosary to create the ultimate rosary prayer kit
  • Us it to pad your Amazon order for free shipping

Order it now, either from the CreateSpace eStore or Amazon, to get it by Christmas.

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