Despite the wealth of ideas for rosary prayer and meditation, we all hit a prayer block sometimes. Prayer block is like writer’s block when you cannot come up with any good themes to meditate on or intentions. There are plenty of books and websites with rosary meditation ideas (I know two great books off the top of my head… hinthint) and the rosary is a dynamic prayer because we bring new life situations (and hence new intentions and thanksgivings) every time we pray the rosary. And yet, we sometimes hit a rough patch where our rosary prayers turn into mindless repetition.
I’m going to share a tip that you all must start doing now. It will dramatically improve your rosary praying experience. READ THE DAILY BIBLE READINGS BEFORE PRAYING THE ROSARY MYSTERIES. That’s it! How does reading some bible verses improve rosary prayer? I found that, without exception, I always can make a connection between the daily readings and the mysteries I’m praying. And that makes sense. After all, the rosary is rooted in the bible and guides you through the Gospels. The mysteries of the rosary touch on all of the main themes of the Gospel. The great part is, because the readings change every day, you will make different connections with the rosary mysteries each time you practice this. You avoid the dreaded auto-pilot praying mode.
Want to make even more connections between the Gospel and the rosary? Try reading commentary and meditations on the daily readings. Often, those meditations highlight certain truths of the readings that you may otherwise overlook.
Don’t have time to read, why not listen instead? There are plenty of audio recordings and podcasts for daily scriptural reading and meditation. My favorite Android app for listening to the daily Gospel and meditations is Laudate, specifically the Regnum Christi Daily Meditations podcast.
Lent just stared. Give this strategy a try for the next 40 days and see for yourself how much more you get out of your rosary prayer.
Easter Sunday has come and gone which means life can get back to normal right? No more Lenten sacrifices so the donuts, chocolate, and beers can come out of the hiding spots. No more meatless Fridays. No more long Gospel readings. No more stations of the cross, rosaries, and being hounded to go to Confession. Time to shelve that piety until Advent yes?
Don’t start making plans for that vice-filled weekend quite yet. Lent was a time of preparation. But preparation for what? What happened on Easter Sunday that required 40 days of training? Surely Lent wasn’t about fine tuning your egg finding abilities or expanding your sugar tolerance. In terms of process, the Easter Mass wasn’t any different than other Sunday Masses. There really wasn’t anything different on Easter Sunday than any other Sunday. What was all the preparation for?
Technically, Easter isn’t a day but a whole season. It lasts 50 days starting with Easter Sunday and ending at Pentecost. Did we spend 40 days of Lent preparing for 50 days of Easter? Do we just have to practice our faith extra hard for three months and then we don’t have to think about it until Christmas? Of course not. In fact, there is no end date or time limit to what we profess during Easter.
When we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, we acknowledge the truth of his ministry. Jesus said that he would die and rise again and we celebrate the reality of that claim on Easter. But it’s not just about celebrating that single promise, but all of his promises. Easter is a celebration of the entire Gospel where we rejoice in all the promises and teachings Jesus gave us. If Jesus was right about the outlandish claim of raising from the dead then he was right about everything else he preached. And we celebrate and give honor to Jesus’ resurrection by promising to go out and live according to his teachings. Jesus asked us to go out and love our neighbors and our enemies. He asked us to show compassion to the suffering and less fortunate. He asked us to forgive those who wronged us. He asked us to turn away from sin. He promised eternal joy in Heaven. He fulfilled that promise on Easter by rising from the dead and opening those gates for all of us.
It’s spring so I’m going to use a baseball analogy. Think of Lent as the pre-season. We exercise and got into spiritual shape through fasting and prayer. It was a time where we worked extra hard to shed those bad habits that crept in over the past year. But if Lent is pre-season, Easter Sunday is opening day. Yes, it’s a grand event filled with joy, hope, and optimism. But it’s one day of many. And it is one Easter season of many. Following Jesus’ teachings doesn’t end on Easter Sunday any more than the baseball season ends after the first game. Instead, it is a time of hope and renewal as we look towards living out the Gospel in its entirety for the rest of our lives.
Easter Sunday has come and gone. The candy will disappear over the next few days. The pastel decorations and colorful eggs will be takn down. But the celebration continues and requires your active participation. Continue praying the rosary. Continue attending Mass. Continue fasting (maybe after indulging a little on the things you gave up during Lent). When you meditate on the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary, picture Jesus opening the gates of Heaven in his resurrection. He showed us that there is so much more to our lives than just what we experience on earth. We are eternal beings with souls destined for Heaven if we choose. Our praying, fasting, penance, and charity doesn’t end on Easter. It ends when the Lord welcomes us into his kingdom that he made available to us through his resurrection. Keep your rosaries close and God even closer!
My wife turned to me the other day and said, “I really don’t feel like it’s Lent right now.” I replied that I felt the same way. As parents, every day of our lives feels a bit “Lentish.” We continuously sacrifice our time, money, sleep, and freedom to raise our boys the best we can. For 365 days a year parents have to sacrifice those little luxuries that others just put off for 40 days.
But before I give myself a Purple Heart for the sacrifices I’ve made in the parenting line of duty, I have to recall the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary — Jesus Carrying the Cross. I don’t think anyone would disagree that Jesus endured and sacrificed a lot during His ministry and particularly during His Passion. No one would have been too critical of Jesus if He never got up from one of His falls under the weight of the cross. After all, He was in a human body that could only take so much punishment. And yet, He dug down deep, got up, and kept moving knowing that His earthly life was only going to get worse. Why? Because His love of God and doing His Father’s will outweighed all the pain and suffering.
We should follow Jesus’ example in His Passion and dig down deep and find that extra spiritual energy during Lent. It’s not like we have a sacrificial quota and those who make sacrifices all year are exempt or can take it easy during Lent. It’s actually just the opposite. God calls the spiritually fit and conditioned to push themselves even further. Jesus was the most spiritually fit person to walk the earth and He pushed Himself through the Passion and ultimately Crucifixion. God asked that of His son so surely we can do whatever small things God asks of us this Lent.
Even if you pray, fast, and live a Catholic life all year around, Lent is the time to go that extra mile. Like Jesus getting up after a fall and carrying His cross, we can all do a little more to better connect with a God who loves us and we should love in return. It doesn’t matter whether practicing your faith begins and ends one hour every Sunday or if you are Pope Francis, there is always a little something more you can do during Lent that you don’t do other times of the year.
To help, I found this article on Catholic Exchange about making the most of Lent. It’s still early in the Lenten season so if you’re off to a slow start (I’ve accidentally forgot that I gave up snacking twice already), give this a read and hopefully it will jumpstart your Lent.
I’m a software engineer. Part of my job is participating in what are commonly called technical postmortems. In postmortems, my team recalls what went right and what went wrong with a recently completed project. The idea is that by learning what we did right and wrong we can correct our bad practices while continuing our good ones in future projects. An important part of engineering is always refining our processes and behaviors.
I figure, why not do a postmortem on Lent the same way I do with an engineering project? This way, I can reflect on what I did right this year and what I need to improve upon for next year. Like other aspects of our life, we need to sometimes assess our spiritual behavior. If we don’t, then how will we know what to improve? What goals can we set for the next day, week, month, year, etc.? In the Third Luminous Mystery, Jesus calls us to a life of conversion. But to convert our ways, we first have to analyze them.
Of course, in this case we really can’t call it a postmortem since Jesus is alive and well (that is the main idea behind Easter after all). So, I’m going to coin a new term and call this a post-risen or post-lenten.
Followed through with my Lenten sacrifice (once I made it)
I said a short prayer whenever I was tempted to break my sacrifice
Contributed to a charitable cause
Attended a bible study class in my parish
Received the Sacrament of Confession
What I need to do next year is plan my Lenten sacrifice much better. This year I started out with a “no dessert after lunch” sacrifice which turned out to be too easy since not having desserts was something I was already doing for the most part. About half way through I changed it to giving up all sweets during the day. Now that was much more challenging but something I was able to do. And whenever I felt tempted to have a piece of candy or a cookie, I said a small prayer instead. So my sacrifice led to more prayer throughout the day. That was what I learned. How about you? Can you think of ways you can improve your spiritual habits from this past Lent?
Mardi Gras has come and gone. I hope you devoured those sumptuous desserts and succulent calories because now we forgo worldly gluttony for a spiritual one. For the next 40 days we take time out from filling our mind and soul with food, drink, TV, internet, magazines, and other activities that usually leave no room for God. And when we tapper off indulging in our worldly appetites, we make room to address the more important need, our spiritual one.
Dr. Manny Alvarez suggests 10 “easy” steps for our Lenten diet. And this diet has nothing to do with your waistline. Remember what Sister Margie Lavonis said in my previous article, Lent is more than just skipping desserts. So here we have a few short Lenten dieting tips:
1. Focus on loving God and all his greatness, instead of celebrities, action figures, “real” housewives or even world leaders that think they know best.
2. Be careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing, like politicians, promising you something but taking your liberties away.
3. Set up standards of morality at home. Enough with the casual cursing. Teach kids some etiquette and manners, and use yourself as an example.
4. Spend time with your family, telling stories, and listening to those around you. Because someday you will wish you had.
It’s that time of year again. Flowers start to grow, the grass turns green, trees get their leaves back, and we get ashes on our forehead. Yep, that’s right, on March 5th we kick off Lent with Ash Wednesday.
I read a great article in the Catholic San Francisco about how to prepare for Easter this Lent. Sister Margie Lavonis says it best when she wrote in her article, Lent: An opportunity to grow, that we shouldn’t “let this be just another 40 days of the year.” She talked about many of the same themes I routinely mention on RosaryMeds (has she been reading my work?). She touches on how our relationship with God needs a commitment from us, through prayer, to grow:
No relationship can deepen and grow unless we are willing to listen and share ourselves with the other person. God is no exception. During Lent, if you don’t already, set aside at least fifteen minutes of your time each day to be with God. Go to a quiet place, if you can find one, slow down and let God love you. Read and reflect upon some scripture each day and get to know the one who loves you unconditionally and who has given you all you have. I suggest using the Mass readings for each day and reflect on what God is saying to you. In fact, it would be good to try to go to Mass more than just on Sunday if you can.
She also covers some ideas for fasting and alms giving. Remember, it’s not all about giving up desserts and writing checks. I know it may sound cliche, but I’m really going to try to remember that it’s Lent every one of these 40 days leading up to Easter whether that means praying more, offering small sacrifices to God, or giving a little more of my time and patience to those who need it. How about you? Are you prepared to get prepared?
Can you settle down for just one minute? Seriously, how long can you go without feeling like you need to do some sort of activity? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I always have to do something. I feel anxious if I’m “unplugged” and not checking email, Facebook, and news feeds. I become bored easily without my cell phone, computer, magazines, books, and television. Fortunately, I have access to all sorts of media almost 24/7. But is that a good thing? The Catholic News Agency reported Pope Benedict’s words during a general audience of pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square:
“Interior and exterior silence are necessary in order to hear that Word,” and yet, “our age does not, in fact, favor reflection and contemplation,” the Pope said March 7. On the contrary, “it seems that people are afraid to detach themselves, even for an instant, from the spate of words and images which mark and fill our days.”
The Pope’s words make so much sense to me particularly during this season of Lent. We tend to fill our lives consuming so much media and information that we do develop a fear of detachment from our technology. We feel lost without our gadgets. And while we don’t truly believe that our gadgets replace God, we sure sometimes act like they do. We get so worked up over an almost-dead cell phone battery or the internet acting sluggish. We can all probably think of times when we felt angry over missing a favorite TV show. And yet many times we don’t feel the slightest bit of anxiety over the sins we commit or not regularly receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We often have no worries about overlooking routine prayer and meditating on our relationship with the Lord. We spend so much time staying up to date with what our friends are up to and what goes on in the world, but often don’t take the time to check our status with God through reflection and contemplation.
The pope’s words remind me of the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary — The Assumption of Mary. Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our guide on our journey to God’s heavenly kingdom. In asking for silence and meditation, the Pope echos Mary’s call to fasting and prayer. Fasting from food is a physical reminder that true happiness does not come from just satisfying our earthly needs. When we fast, we show ourselves that it’s not what the world offers that will ultimately make us happy. We push aside, even for just a little while, satisfying our physical desires so that we can concentrate on satisfying our spiritual needs. But we can fast from things other than food. We can fast from whatever prevents us from meditating and focusing on our relationship with God. As you probably guessed already, perhaps we need to fast from our computers, cell phones, and televisions. Lent may be half over, but we can all still find a little time to “unplug” as the Pope suggests.
pope and me (Photo credit: BoFax)
In this time of Lent, really challenge yourself to ask what separates you from fully receiving God’s grace. Conduct an examination of conscience and receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But avoiding sin and receiving absolution only gets you half way there. Think about an athlete in training. An athlete needs to do more than just avoid a bad diet. He needs to focus on physical conditioning and perfecting his technique. Likewise, we need to be more than “not bad people.” We should take some time this Lent to focus and concentrate on how to best live as one of Jesus’ disciples and show the power and glory of God in this world. Lets take up the Pope’s challenge to unplug and focus on how we can best serve the Lord. Because now, more than ever, the world needs to see God’s love and glory by us living our faith. We need to prioritize and show the world that our faith is more important than TV and the internet.
And yes, I understand the irony of me posting an article on the internet discussing how we need to unplug ourselves from the internet.
The Gospel for April 10, 2011 is John 11:1-45. In this Gospel, Jesus performs the miracle of raising His friend, Lazarus, from the dead. This Gospel foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection which we pray in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary. Both this rosary mystery and the Gospel remind us that there is more to our existence than this earthly life. God’s divine plan for all of us does not end with the death of our physical bodies. His plan also includes our souls living for all eternity in His heavenly kingdom.
News flash, we all have a terminal illness. I do not want to be a downer, but we all had this illness from the we were conceived. Our terminal condition is our earthly existence. No one will physically live forever. But we should not despair as Jesus said this in the Gospel:
This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
While Jesus was referring to Lazarus, He might as well have spoken about the human condition and our mortality. None of our lives will end in death if we define death to be a transition to nothingness. Instead our souls will live for all eternity. We should recognize that reality and adjust our lives by avoiding sin and doing good works.
In addition to our final, physical death we also encounter little deaths throughout our lives. I refer to the death of our relationship with God when we commit mortal sin. When we sever ourselves from God’s grace our soul experiences a type of spiritual death. However, like how Jesus physically raised Lazarus from the dead, the Holy Spirit raises our soul from its death through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our return to God’s grace is just as miraculous, and I would say vastly more important, as if Jesus raised us physically from the dead as He did with Lazarus. Especially in this period of Lent, it is so critically important to do a little spiritual spring cleaning of our souls and go to confession. We all should experience the miracle of God rising our souls from their spiritual sleep. And we must pray for all those in this world who are spiritually dead through sin that they have the courage and humility to return to God’s grace.
In this Gospel reading Lazarus’ rise from the dead foreshadows Jesus’ resurrection. We remember Jesus’ resurrection in the First Glorious Mystery of the rosary. One of the central themes of this mystery is that our physical death is not the end of us. Rather, it is just the beginning of a new life either in Heaven or in Hell. I believe that our spiritual life is actually our real life as it is eternal. Our life here on earth, even if we live one hundred or more years, is nothing compared to eternity. So which existence is really the one where we live as our true self? Our current, temporary, and imperfect life or the eternal existence in the afterlife? When we pray the rosary, think about this Gospel, and meditate on Jesus’ resurrection may we remember to make the most of this short time we have in this life by being a testament to the glory of God. God desires all of us to be with Him in Heaven. Through Jesus’ resurrection, He showed us that there is so much more to our existence than what we experience in this world. Let us not become so obsessed and consumed by all the material wants of this life as they will all one day disappear. Instead, we should pray that we can endure and reject the temptations of this world and live for the greater goal of an eternity of joy and happiness in Heaven.
The Gospel for March 20, 2011 is from Matthew 17:1-9. It is about The Transfiguration which is also the Fourth Luminous Mystery. There is not much more I can add beyond what I already wrote about this mystery of the rosary. I want to point out that this Gospel not only connects to this mystery, but it also connects to the Gospel for January 9, 1979 on Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. In both cases, God reminds us through a booming voice in the sky that Jesus is His son and that we should listen to Him. In this time of Lent, may we focus on listening to Jesus’ message, not because He is a prophet with some good ideas, but because Jesus is God made man. May we hear Him in prayer and find the strength to always do His will.
Sometimes showing strength to to God’s will is more than avoiding sin. For many of us, it might take just as much strength and courage to open our wallets to those who are in desperate need of help as it is to not avoid the temptation to do evil. This Lent, we have much opportunity to be a Good Samaritan to those who are in need and I urge you to help however you can. I am fond of Catholic Relief Services who are always responding to the major disasters around this world.
The Gospel for Sunday, March 6, 2011 is from Matthew 4:1-11. In this Gospel, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert for 40 days before rejecting Satan’s temptations. Tired, hungry, and physically weak Jesus had the strength to reject evil. Jesus shows this same spiritual endurance during His Passion, especially in the scourging at the pillar which we remember when we pray the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary. May we learn that we too have the strength to endure life’s challenges and that we will find comfort in Heaven after we reject evil in this life.
“Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11) To me, this is the most interesting verse in this Gospel reading. The fact that angels needed to minster to Jesus after the 40 days in the desert shows just how difficult that ordeal really was. I think many of us have this idea that because Jesus is God made man and performed many miracles that spending 40 fasting must not have been very hard for Him. With that mindset we cannot relate with how Jesus faced life’s challenges and think it is unfair that He asks so much of us. After all, how are we to imitate Jesus without the advantage of being superhuman? But since angels needed to comfort Him shows us that certain aspects of life were no easier for Jesus than they are for the rest of us.
Like the challenges Jesus faced in His 40 days in the desert, the Second Sorrowful Mystery shows us the great hardship Jesus endured during The Passion. Jesus felt pain and suffering when scourged at the pillar as any of us would. But His faith in God gave Him the strength to persevere that torment. Likewise, our faith tells us that we have the same strength to endure hardship in this life. We have every opportunity to imitate Jesus by remaining faithful despite life’s challenges. As much as we would like to be spared hardship in this life, chances are that our physical and spiritual limits will be tested at some point whether that be illness, a tragic accident, or a crisis of faith. But this rosary mystery shows us that we all have the God-given ability to overcome any challenge and endure any hardship as Jesus did during His scourging.
May we remember that, like Jesus after His 40 days in the desert and all the pain and suffering He encountered in The Sorrowful Mysteries, we too will find joy and comfort in Heaven. In fact, the comfort that Jesus offers us will so dwarf our earthly suffering that it will make the worst times in our life feel like a momentary itch. But we also must remember that this consolation only comes to those who live according to God’s will. Remember, the angels ministered to Jesus only after He rejected the temptations of the devil. Likewise, we will find true joy and happiness once we reject Satan’s false promises and evils in this world. Especially in this season of Lent, as we prepare for Easter through fasting and prayer, may we remember that God gave us the gift to overcome any challenge this world has to offer. Let us remember to use this gift when we face difficult challenges in our lives.