How the Rosary Improves Your Soul’s Health

I know I’ve talked about living a spiritually healthy lifestyle in previous posts.  It looks like I’m not the only one who believes in the importance of practicing good spiritual hygiene.  I came across a post on spiritual healthy living on Catholic Exchange the other day which espouses many of the same themes I’ve pushed on my site.  The TL;DR summary of living a spiritually healthy lifestyle is:

  1. Avoid gossip and gossipers
  2. Dress properly
  3. Avoid bad company
  4. Avoid impure images
  5. Think before you act
  6. Consume electronic media responsibly
  7. Don’t be a couch potato
  8. Constantly exercise your mind
  9. Avoid gluttony
  10. Avoid contrary views of Mary

I find it interesting how much time and energy people generally spend on their physical health.  After all, collectively we spend billions on diets, rare and exotic “superfoods,” supplements, and all sorts of workout programs to obtain those six-pack abs.  We also spend a lot of time exercising our minds (see #8) with all sorts of creative hobbies, DIY projects, reading books and articles, and watching informative videos.  And while we muster up the energy to power through our daily workouts and gulp down kale smoothies, we begrudging go to Mass once a week and fly through our daily prayers.  We so often see the value of eating well and exercising our mind and body but fail to see the much greater value of exercising our soul.

Hey Hulk, maybe it’s time you cut back on the kale and spinich and pick up a rosary.

My go-to Rosary mystery that reminds me to live a spiritually healthy lifestyle is the Fifth Joyful Mystery — The Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  It reminds us how easily we can forget about Jesus in our lives and the state of our relationship with him.  Mary and Joseph incorrectly assumed he was with the caravan leaving Jerusalem.  And so we often have a tendency to assume we have a close relationship with Jesus even when we don’t actively work on it.  And while Jesus will always be there to “share the yoke” (see last Sunday’s Gospel), he also is patient and doesn’t force his assistance on us.  We have to make the effort to work on our relationship with Jesus.

Let’s look at this another way.  I’m sure many of us have co-workers, friends, spouses, or family members we occasionally take for granted.  Yes, we may value them or love them, but maybe we don’t let them know how important they are to us.  We just assume they will always be there filling the role we’ve come to expect and depend on.  It’s not until they get tired and get upset with us that we realize how we’ve taken our relationship with them for granted.  Maybe a kind word or small token of appreciation was all that was needed to maintain that valued relationship.

“Just one kind word! That’s all I ask.”

Our relationship with Jesus is similar to our relationship with people.  We can so often just take our faith for granted that we do not make any effort to improve upon it.  Jesus actually asks relatively little of us compared to what he is willing to offer.  But we have to remember that we are in a reciprocal relationship with Jesus and want to maintain that relationship if we are to get any benefit from it.

Looking at the ten tips for living a spiritually healthy lifestyle from Catholic Exchange is a good place to start.  Many of us maintain todo lists, either physical or mental, of exercises to perform, daily tasks to complete, and foods to eat and avoid.  But perhaps it would be wise to keep a list of the daily spiritual tasks and goals we need to consciously work on.  If you’ve been coasting spiritually then perhaps it is time to take a more active interest in your soul’s health.  Maybe you’ll find that you’re already quite fit or maybe you’ll find that you’re really on spiritual life support.  Either way, you’ll never improve your relationship with Jesus unless you analyze it periodically and correct those weak spots.

Take a look at that list.  What dimensions of your soul’s health do you need to work on?   When you pray the rosary (hopefully daily), ask Mary to help you work out those weak spots in your spiritual health.  She’ll be more than happy to help.

Praying the Rosary: A Formula for Success

A US Marine Doing Pull-ups.
Any goal worth achieving takes energy and persistence.

I follow a lot of blogs and news sites covering topics ranging from technology, to personal finance, humor, and fitness.  Nerd Fitness is one of my favorite exercise and health blogs I visit.  Steve Kamb started the site when he decided to start a blog on a topic that is important to him.  It started out small with some posts and ebooks but he now has a small fitness empire where each of his posts reaches thousands of people and receive hundreds of comments.  His blog does for fitness what I hope RosaryMeds does for rosary prayer and meditation (he has apparently had more luck finding a large audience so far).  I like his articles because he doesn’t promise miracles or “six-pack abs in six days” type of exercises.  He understands that to achieve meaningful results one has to put in a lot of time and hard work.  That is similar to the how I feel about rosary prayer — it’s a long process and not a “quick fix.”  He recently published a guide on success and happiness which has a lot of parallels to what I’ve said about rosary meditation.

Steve mentions the progress principle meaning that “we love making progress so much that we actually enjoy it more than getting the thing we wanted in the first place!”  The progress principle fits nicely in areas where there are measurable results such as fitness, diet, work, and school.  But it’s hard to measure progress when it comes to prayer and spirituality.  There is no blood test you can take to measure how far you are in God‘s grace.  You can’t hop on a scale and see how many sins your soul has gained.  There is no report card and annual review from “the boss.”  But that doesn’t mean you aren’t making progress in your spiritual life when you pray the rosary daily.  The changes are just more subtle.  In my book on rosary meditation, I explain that praying regularly gives me perspective on life.  When you spend quality time with God, what He values starts to rub off on you and they become your values.  You just start to treat life in different ways whether it is not sweating the small stuff or feeling a little more confident when facing difficult challenges because you have faith that God knows you can handle it.

I’m going to skip to the end of the Nerd Fitness article.  The beginning is worth a read as he talks about money and happiness.  But the real crossover with rosary prayer comes when he talks about “being in the zone:”

When we are productive and happy, Haidt defines this as “flow,” or in “the zone”: a state where you are incredibly immersed in the task at hand while incredibly productive and happy.

Find a way to make time for these things as often as possible. Challenge yourself to make room for them in a busy day, for we all know that “I don’t have time” is a big fat lie.

In terms of rosary meditation, the concept of “being in the zone” should sound familiar to anyone who has read my book.  Praying the rosary is all about finding that zone where you lose yourself in prayer.  Like exercise, you have to put in some effort to find the zone where you get the most benefit out of praying.  You don’t get physically fit doing a single push up daily.  And you don’t get spiritually fit with a few, disjointed prayers either.  And while some prayers are better than nothing (just like some exercise is better than none at all), you really want to push yourself to find your prayer zone.  That zone is where you will make the most progress finding the true happiness to which God calls you.

English: A Discalced Carmelite nun sits in her...
Finding happiness through prayer also takes effort and discipline.

Finally, the Nerd Fitness article ends by offering a free tool that willincrease your happiness, energy, confidence, emotional balance, fertility, and immunity…while reducing stress, loneliness, inflammation, and risk for disease.”  And if you’re a regular reader of RosaryMeds, you already know this tool — meditation, specifically rosary meditation.  Steve writes:

When we learn to meditate, we can teach ourselves to ignore the stuff we can’t control and focus instead on the things we CAN control.  We can recognize our negative thoughts for what they are, and focus on the thoughts or lessons learned that make us happier.  Along with that, meditation can improve your attention span and self-regulation and can even lead to a longer life.

Science backs up the physical benefits of rosary meditation.  As I wrote in the physical benefits of rosary meditation about an Italian medical study:

Luciano Bernardi, associate professor of internal medicine at Pavia University, recorded breathing rates in 23 healthy adults during normal talking, recitation of the rosary, yoga mantras, and six minutes of controlled breathing.

Breathing was markedly more regular during the rosary and the mantra and was slowed to about six breathes a minute.  The results mean yoga enhances ‘aspects’ of heart and lung function and might be viewed as a health practice as well as a religious practice, he said.

The takeaway from all of this — develop a rosary meditation routine so that you can find your “zone” and make progress towards leading a healthier and happy life.  Your body and soul will thank you.

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The “Hail Mary” — Catholicism’s Push Up

One of the main themes in my postings is that spiritual fitness is an important part of one’s overall health. I discuss the idea of spiritual exercise and being spiritually fit. In this article I’m going to discuss one of the most basic, but also one of the most important elements of spiritual fitness — praying the Hail Mary.

U.S. Marines count out push-ups.
Image via Wikipedia

One of the main themes in my postings is that spiritual fitness is an important part of one’s overall health.  I discuss the idea of spiritual exercise and being spiritually fit.  In this article I’m going to discuss one of the most basic, but also one of the most important elements of spiritual fitness — praying the Hail Mary.

Physical exercise, no matter how complex, breaks down into very basic movements such as push ups, sit ups, squats,  pull ups, etc.  Exercise is a matter of simple mechanics where someone is lifts, lowers, pushes, or pulls some object.  However, an entire industry has emerged selling videos, books, and equipment pushing the idea that being fit is a complex process.  But when you remove all the advertising and spokespeople,  what differentiates a physically fit person from others is that the fit person has discipline to conduct very basic movements aggressively, routinely, and properly.

One of the most basic exercises is the push up.  However, it is also one of the best exercises as it strengthens core muscles, increases metabolism, and requires little space and no equipment.  And yet, so many people avoid doing push ups because they are hard or many believe that such a simple movement cannot be as effective as using a very complex machine at the gym.  But any athlete or soldier will tell you that mastering the push up is an important tool in improving one’s overall health and strength.

Like the push up in physical exercise, the Hail Mary and the rosary are fundamental prayers in staying spiritually fit.  The Hail Mary is 42 words long and takes about 10 seconds to say at a normal pace.  But it should be the cornerstone of everyone’s prayer routine.  After all, why do you think Mary wants you to pray it 53 times in the rosary?  It may be a simple prayer, but Mary and the saints know that it has a proven track record of keeping people in God‘s grace.  And yet so many people tend to avoid praying it.  Like the push up, the Hail Mary and the rosary are often avoided because they are seen as too difficult or not complex enough to have any meaningful result.  But people who are in shape spiritually will probably tell you that the Hail Mary is an important part of their prayer routine and must not be avoided.

Like the push up, you should start praying the Hail Mary slowly, methodically, and routinely.  Even the greatest athletes start with a single push up and then build on it.  Similarly, anyone can start building spiritual muscle with a single Hail Mary and build on that.  Remember, it is a ten second prayer and no one is so busy that you can’t fit in at least one some time during the day.  Like the push up, practice good form which means really concentrating on the words and not rushing through it.  A push up consists of two movements — a downward move followed by an upward one.  Likewise, the Hail Mary consists of two parts.  The first section you acknowledge and praise Mary as the Mother of God.  In the second you ask Her to pray for you, a poor sinner.  Both parts are important and require your attention and concentration.

So don’t be afraid of getting in spiritual shape through simple prayers.  Remember, sometimes the simplest prayers can yield the greatest benefits when they are said with your whole mind and soul.  Does anyone have any Hail Mary or rosary stories that they want to share?  Please leave your story as a comment.