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?

Why Men Especially Need Mary

As we approach the end of the year, I took a look at all the articles I saved and filed under “write about the Rosary connection to this someday.” Well, someday is now. It’s time to clean house. Since I’m on a Marion kick lately with the release of my latest video on the benefits of effective Rosary Prayer, let’s talk specifically about how men’s spiritually is completed through Mary.

In his article, Mastering Manhood Through Mary, Matthew D. Pride talks about how God created male and female to complement and complete each other. He explains how man and woman are made in God’s image, but so is their union. In other words, while man and woman are a reflection of God individually, their union creates another unique image of God.  Therefore, Mary is the spiritual complement to men.  He writes:

Mary is the Immaculate Conception, the New Eve, perfectly complementary to every human male. As the New Eve, Mary is our helper, perfectly compatible with every human male and yearning to help us master manhood to become who God called us to be in our families, in our marriages, and in society.

Spiritually, women form this unique reflection of God through their union with Jesus Christ. But what about men? Yes, of course, men can also have a deep spiritual bond with Jesus. But Mary offers us what I’ll call a better fit for men to come to Jesus. Since men and women are hardwired to complement each other, it makes sense that God would provide both sexes a spiritual complement to come to Him.

Not an Old Lady’s Prayer

After my latest presentation on the Rosary, many people commented on how nice it was to see men embrace and share their love of Mary and the Rosary.  These comments, while said with the best intentions, saddened me a little.  Many still consider the Rosary a women’s prayer, or to put it in a less politically correct term — an old lady’s prayer.  But this characterization of the Rosary completely misses the point and ignores centuries of history.

The Rosary is a weapon, a weapon of war both physically and spiritually.  Soldiers prayed it before the Battle of Lepanto and several other battles.  It gave Saint Dominic strength to combat the Albigensian heresy.  More recently, it gave Saint John Paul II the strength to fight the evils of Communism.  Countless saints did heroic acts with the help of the Rosary.  We should pray it daily before doing battle against sin, temptation, and our own weaknesses.  Does that sound like an old lady’s prayer to you?  If men are called to know God through Mary then men need to take up the Rosary.

The Rosary Connection

When you pray the First Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Annunciation, remember that God created Mary for a very specific and special purpose.  She was immaculately conceived so she could be a clear, unblemished window to Jesus.  God’s plan for Mary was more than just give birth to Jesus and then get out of the way.  If that was the case, Jesus could have just emerged mysteriously out of the wilderness as an adult as there would be no need for Mary.  The fact that Mary was part of God’s plan tells us something.  We should utilize the gift God gave us through Mary who willingly said she would be the servant of the Lord at the Annunciation (Luke 1:38).  God wants all men to know Him through our Mother Mary.

Defeating Pride With The Rosary

The next of the seven deadly sins we’re looking at is pride.  Many consider pride the worst of the seven deadly sins and also the foundation of the other sins.  Pride means putting your wants and importance before anyone else’s authority.  And what is a sin?  It’s putting your desires in front of what God wants.  When we sin, we knowingly act without regard to the consequences because we don’t accept any other law beyond our own.  According to C.S. Lewis, it’s pride that leads to every other type of sin because it’s the anti-God state of mind.

Pride is so deadly because, by its very nature, it remains hidden.  As Fr Dwight Longenecker puts it in his article on Catholic Exchange:

This is why pride is so deadly, because it is the one sin that hides itself so effectively. The proud person, by very definition, does not realize he is proud. If he realized he was proud he would repent, but it is pride which keeps him from seeing that he is wrong or sinful in any way. Pride is a very difficult sin to do anything about because the proud person will even go so far as to admit that he is proud, and that makes him even more “right” than he was before!

The Scriptural Connection

Look at how blinded the Pharisees were by their own pride that they could not accept Jesus’ teachings.  They dwelled on their own self-importance and their understanding of God and the Law that they couldn’t accept the teachings of a poor carpenter from Nazareth.  They criticized everything Jesus and His apostles did from breaking certain Mosaic laws to ministering to sinners; acts their pride did not allow them to do.  So indebted to their pride that the Pharisees didn’t even come to believe after witnessing Jesus’ countless miracles.

We turn next to Saint Paul, or rather Saul before his conversion.  Saul was a Roman Jew who persecuted the early Christians.  He was so blinded by pride that he refused to accept the teachings of the apostles to the point of killing them (poor Saint Stephen).  Saul justified what he was doing by claiming it was God’s work.  In reality, he was just keeping the status quo where the power of the Law was taught and enforced by those who believed they were important and holy enough to wield it.  Ironically, God physically blinded Saul on the road to Damascus to humble him.  That event led to his conversion.  Once a humble servant of God, Paul was able to preach God’s Word throughout the world because he could let go of his own self-importance.  He teaches to this very day through his various letters in the New Testament.

The Rosary Solution

Humility is the heavenly virtue that counters pride.  The humble heart thinks of others and understands and appreciates others’ talents and strengths.  It also allows us to put our faith in God by recognizing His authority over us.  The humble heart accepts Gods law while the prideful one fights and rebels against it.

Humility is the fruit of the First Joyful MysteryThe Annunciation.  Mary proclaims, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38) when hearing God’s plan for her.  She doesn’t consider herself high and mighty as a prideful person would.  She doesn’t see God choosing her as some sort of award or even something to brag about.  Instead, she sees herself as the humble servant called to do God’s Will.  She doesn’t complain about God messing up her life’s plans.  Instead, she realizes that God’s plan is the best plan even if it’s unconventional.

Humility also shows itself in the Third Sorrowful Mystery — Jesus’ Crowning of Thorns.  It is a time when Jesus is mocked or tortured.  At that time, He could have proven Himself as the Son of God by performing any number of signs.  Jesus could have said that He didn’t have to take any more abuse from lowly humans since He was the Messiah.  But Jesus humbly lived out God’s Will by enduring mockery and torture.  Humility sometimes means suffering in doing what is right instead of constantly asking “Why me?  Am too good for this type of treatment.”  We should take Jesus’ example in the Third Sorrowful Mystery and always accept God’s plan for us even when it’s difficult or doesn’t make sense.

Ask yourself, are you humbly accepting God’s plan for you or is your pride causing you to rebel against Him?  Are you depressed or saddened because you have a hard time accepting God’s Will?  Ask yourself, is that your pride talking?  Humility isn’t something to fear.  It means greater freedom and comfort knowing that you are putting your life in the hands of some greater authority.  And what better authority to place your life than our loving God and His Church?

Humane Vitae and the Value of Self-Discipline

If you’ve done any type of sports or exercise, you probably know the term no pain, no gain.  All athletes must push themselves hard to obtain victory.  Muscles only grow when they are challenged.  Your heart needs a little bit of stress from cardiovascular activity to function its best.  It’s just the way our bodies are designed to function — you need to periodically exert yourself to stay healthy.

Much like how we have to exercise our muscles, we also have to exercise our souls.  Here’s another slogan you’ve probably heard — use it or lose it.  But what does it mean to exercise and use your soul?  Using your soul means feeding yourself with grace by practicing virtue.  Is that easy?  No, of course not.  But much like how our bodies are designed to function best by stressing it a bit with exercise, our souls are at their best when we challenge ourselves by practicing virtues and avoiding temptations.  Sounds hard right?  The good news is that we’re not alone in this challenge.

No pain, no gain!

The Catholic Church is a great spiritual fitness instructor.  She has challenged people to work harder at developing their spiritual muscles.  We may often want to quit when life gets challenging and temptations mount.  But the Church is like that coach telling you, “you can do this!”  Or, “just one more set!”  The Church has never allowed people to cheat and take an easy way out of a difficult situation if doing so ultimately harms their spiritual state.  There’s no, “you’ve gone to enough Masses” or “sure, commit a little sin; you’ve earned it.”  The Church sets a high bar for our spiritual health understanding that it will be challenging.  But it doesn’t veer away from teaching what is right just because many people find that path difficult and fail to live up to God’s expectations.  The Church knows that it’s within everyone’s ability to lead a spiritually healthy lifestyle.  You just have to make the effort.

Humanae Vitae

This Church’s mindset of uncompromising spiritual living is seen in the 1968 encyclical, Humanae Vitae, which we celebrated its 50th anniversary this past July.  Many people, when they hear about Humanae Vitae, they immediately think, “Oh, that’s that document that is against artificial contraception.”  But that’s like saying football is that sport where everyone just lines up and falls down.  Sure, the Church’s position against artificial contraception is a core teaching of that document.  But there’s so much more to it.

Humanae Vitae puts a challenge before all of us.  It asks us to put the needs of our soul first in our lives even when recent inventions and social conventions make it seem like we don’t have to.  Just because the birth control pill exists, abortion is legal in many countries, and pornography is readily available doesn’t make them good or healthy.  Humanae Vitae wants us to realize that a life of immediate gratification is not necessarily happier because we don’t grow spiritually in accordance with God’s design.  God’s design requires us to challenge ourselves to stay spiritually healthy.  Consider this excerpt from Humanae Vitae about self-discipline and how it leads to “spiritual blessings.”

Self-discipline of this kind is a shining witness to the chastity of husband and wife and, far from being a hindrance to their love of one another, transforms it by giving it a more truly human character. And if this self-discipline does demand that they persevere in their purpose and efforts, it has at the same time the salutary effect of enabling husband and wife to develop to their personalities and to be enriched with spiritual blessings.

From Humanae Vitae, Section 21

The Rosary Connection

The whole Rosary is an exercise in practicing virtue and growing spiritually by challenging yourself.  It’s not an easy prayer.  It’s relatively long and repetitive.  It’s tiring to say it every day, especially when it’s done in a meditative manner.  But, the Rosary is a great prayer to tell God that you want to spend time with Him despite your access to various forms of entertainment.  We tell Mary that we’ll pray Her Rosary because we believe that it’s one of the best ways to build grace.

There are so many Rosary mysteries that center around the theme of self-discipline.  The one I’ll choose to mention is the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation.  You really have to give Mary credit for traveling and helping Her cousin Elizabeth when She was pregnant.  No one would have faulted Mary for cloistering Herself during Her pregnancy given Her circumstances.  But She knew that was not what God was calling Her to do.  And that is the core of many Church teachings — true happiness comes when we do God’s Will even when it is difficult or inconvenient.  That is how we grow and stay spiritually fit.

Mary visiting Her cousin Elizabeth

Mary had a choice — does She try to bend God’s Will around Her desires or challenge Herself to follow the path as God designed?  She’s our Heavenly Queen for a reason — She uncompromisingly chose to obey God’s Will in Her life.  How about you?  Are you growing spiritually by challenging yourself to follow God’s plan or are you feeding yourself spiritual junk food through sin and vice?

The Power of the Pompeii Rosary Novena Part 2

In my first article about the Pompeii Rosary Novena, I discussed what I learned about Rosary prayer from a tactical standpoint.  I discussed my strategies for finding time to pray 15 mysteries every day and its benefits.  In this article, I’m going to discuss whether Mary responded to my 54 days of Rosary prayer.  I prayed this novena asking Mary to intercede on behalf of people in my life who have chronic illnesses.

The big question is, were the people whom I prayed for cured?  Yes, but not in the way you may imagine.  I learned that there are more ways to cure the sick than just physically.  The people I prayed for have gotten marginally better, but not miraculously cured of their physical ailments.  Naturally, I hoped that they would be in that select group of people who experienced a miraculous physical cure as a result of the Pompeii novena.  But that was not God’s plan, at least not yet.

I’ve come to realize that a physical healing is not necessarily the point of a novena.  I know that Mary heard my petition and that Jesus is comforting them in His grace.  The physical illnesses may still be there but so is the increased strength and courage to endure.  God, in His infinite wisdom, decided that a miraculous physical healing is not what is needed in this case.  And while that would have been great and I still hope and pray for one, I also understand that God applies His grace uniquely to every situation.

Now the cynic would claim that I’m just rationalizing God’s inaction and that I really just wasted my time over the last 54 days.  But I’m sure many people would be cynical of the Pompeii novena even if there was a physical cure.  They would say it was good science and medicine and prayer played no part.  There are some people with such a hardened heart that even the greatest miracles wouldn’t change them, let alone the more subtle ones.  That is why we must keep the hardened-hearted cynics in our prayers too; for they benefit from them whether they admit it or not.

God’s response to my novena reminds me of Jesus’ crucifixion (Fifth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary) where the criminal asks Jesus to remember Him.  Jesus’ response was that that criminal would join Him in paradise (Luke 24:43).  Here you have the criminal in a terrible situation reaching out to Jesus similar to how we reach out to Him in prayer.  Jesus didn’t miraculously bring the criminal down from the cross.  But that doesn’t mean Jesus did not respond to the man’s plea.

Jesus gave the criminal something much more important than physical relief from his dire situation and that was His grace and the promise of Heaven.  While I’m sure the criminal would have been grateful if Jesus had physically rescued him from the cross, that physical saving would have paled in comparison to what Jesus actually gave the criminal.  Because no physical saving can compare to the promise of Heaven brought about by one’s faith in Jesus Christ.

Like the criminal on the cross, I have faith that Mary, Jesus, and God the Father heard my plea to remember those in my life who are ill.  While God didn’t bring them down from their “crosses” by physically healing them, I know that my prayers will help them obtain graces and spiritual healing.  And ultimately, that is more important than any temporary physical cure.  Because all physical cures are temporary because our lives in this world are temporary.  It’s our souls that live on for all eternity.  When it comes to tradeoffs, a healed soul always wins over a healed body.

Thus ends my Pompeii novena experience for this year.  But it won’t be my last.  I will turn back to it when I know people who are in dire need of some sort of healing.  Or, if my energy to pray the Rosary starts to wane, the Pompeii novena is a great way to jumpstart it again.  It’s like going through spiritual boot camp.  Remember, Mary does hear your petitions.  But you must be open to how she intercedes for you and how God responds.

The Power of the Pompeii Rosary Novena Part 1

Earlier this month, I finished praying the Pompeii Rosary Novena.  It is a 54-day novena split into two halves — 27 days of petition and 27 days of thanksgiving.  In other words, it’s six nine-day novenas.  Each day, you pray 15 decades.  Before Saint Pope John Paul II introduced the Luminous Mysteries, 15 decades meant all the Rosary Mysteries, every day, for 54 days (I’m unclear if we should now pray 20 decades every day).  That’s 810 decades in about a two month period.

The Pompeii Rosary Novena was first prayed by Blessed Bartolo Longo in 1874 and he was miraculously cured of typhoid fever.  Later, in 1894, a young girl was cured of a terminal disease after praying this novena.  There have been numerous, documented cases of healings as a result of this novena.  The Pompeii novena is often prayed to ask Our Lady to intercede on behalf of someone sick.  Since there are people in my life who need healing, I too turned to Mary through the Pompeii novena.

You Always Have Time

I learned a few things about Rosary prayer during this novena.  On the practical side, I learned that I have more opportunities for prayer throughout the day than I thought.  When you commit to praying 15 decades every day, you have to be very disciplined and scheduled so you are not left rushing through decades at 11pm.

My schedule typically looked like this.  I would wake up early in the morning and say the Joyful Mysteries before getting out of bed.  I would aim to have the Sorrowful Mysteries done by early afternoon and finish the day with the Glorious Mysteries.  I squeezed in decades while driving, before meals, waiting for my kids to fall asleep, etc.  There are so many opportunities for the Rosary if praying it is constantly on your mind.

Talking to God

Because Rosary prayer was constantly on my mind throughout the day, my relationship with God was constantly on my mind too.  I was sharing more of my day with God, telling Him the good and the bad as they happened.  I asked Him for more help and guidance for the challenging parts of my day and thanked Him for all the good.  Instead of waiting to share my day with God in my last few waking moments, praying the Rosary every few hours gave me the opportunity to talk to God as my day unfolded.  I was including God in my day in real time instead of running through a highlights clip at night or the next day.

A Spiritual Banquet

Praying all the Rosary mysteries every day was also beneficial.  If you think of the Rosary as a balanced spiritual diet, then praying a single set of mysteries each day is only getting you 25% of the necessary vitamin G (God).  Now, of course, the Rosary isn’t the only source of daily spirituality.  There’s other prayers, meditation, Mass, scripture, etc.  But the Rosary is an important part of one’s spiritual diet because it covers so many important Catholic teachings and has so many benefits.

Praying 15 decades (sometimes inserting the Luminous Mysteries too) felt like a more complete daily prayer regiment.  It was easier to build on ideas when I visited each mystery every day instead of letting several days pass between mysteries.  I really felt like I gained new insights into certain mysteries that I overlooked when I only prayed them twice a week.

Now, many of you might ask the million dollar question — did the Pompeii novena work?  Did Mary respond to my petitions?  Stay tuned for part 2 on this topic.

Come to Jesus in the Eucharist Prepared

I came across an article about how to best prepare to receive the Eucharist at Mass.  I thought it was timely since the pope’s June intention revolves around the idea of fostering respect.  I mentioned in my last post how we not only have to respect each other but we also have to respect Jesus Christ.  And there is no better way to respect Jesus than receiving Him in the Eucharist in the fullest and most reverent manner possible.

The Catholic Exchange article breaks down Eucharistic preparation into ten items.  Please read the article for a full explanation.  For the TL;DR crowd, they are:

  1. Practice your faith
  2. Appreciate the gift of the Eucharist
  3. Confess your sins
  4. Do not arrive late to Mass
  5. Show reverence
  6. Have intentions
  7. Participate in the Mass
  8. Keep a Marian heart
  9. Show thanks
  10. Be a Eucharistic apostle

I liked how the CE article made comparisons to the Mass and Eucharist to attending a party or some other social event.  Typically, we try not to be late, we thank our hosts, we dress appropriately, and we respect the venue.  And yet, many times we don’t extend that same level of courtesy when it comes to receiving Christ in the Eucharist.  We sometimes come to Mass late, zone out during the readings and prayers, stand in line at Communion thinking about other things, and receive the Eucharist almost mechanically.

Being respectful isn’t easy.  If it were, we would be respectful more often.  Respect takes work often at the cost of personal convenience.  It’s hard to focus on prayers during Mass, to set aside time on a weekend to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to continue praying as you walk up the aisle for Communion, and to pray in thanksgiving when you come back to your seat.  But if we truly understood that there is literally nothing on Earth more valuable than the Eucharist, we would be horrified to even consider receiving Jesus without making our best effort to prepare ourselves.

Here’s my item #11 to add to the list of Eucharistic preparation.  Pray the Rosary regularly.  Ask Mary to help increase your faith and understanding of the great gift Her Son offers us.  Ask Her how you can most worthily accept Jesus during Communion.  Showing faith in the power of the Rosary prepares us for the faith we need to fully accept Jesus in the Eucharist.

Better Serve God by Avoiding “Media Morality”

As many of my regular visitors know, I try not to bring up fleeting political topics in my writing. The way I see it, when we get into the outrage of the day type of politics, we become like the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus warned us about. We can get self-righteous about the details of an individual’s actions or some political decision and we start seeing those who disagree with us as our enemies, not our fellow brothers and sisters. We get so wrapped up in being right (or convincing others that they are wrong) we forget about Jesus’ call for us to live in loving service of one another.

I see this quite often from those who consume the 24/7 news cycle whether it be MSNBC, CNN, or Fox News.  Once someone establishes an opinion on a particular political or social topic, validating the correctness and righteousness of that position becomes their priority at any cost.  Gone are the days where people could respectfully disagree.  Now it’s an attitude of “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.”  This thinking throws up walls between us as we cut people out of our lives because we see them only as the sum total of their political opinions.  Many of us choose to be miserable by dwelling and even hating those who hold different views.

Is this really how you want to spend your life?

It doesn’t help that we find ourselves in a world the promotes relative morality.  When we throw out the teachings and logic of theologians and philosophers we are left with moral confusion and chaos because there is no doctrine or logic backing up someone’s view.  I see this all the time in the news where someone is wrong, bad, and even evil for no other reason than having a different perspective.  As a society, we’ve moved away from the idea that there are moral truths.  Has pretending that those truths don’t exist made us any happier?

I think the Fourth Glorious mystery of the Rosary, Mary‘s Assumption, is a good place to reflect on how we treat others.  Think about Mary’s mission since her Assumption into Heaven.  She wants nothing more than for us to follow Jesus’ teachings and imitate His actions.  She asks us to pray and read the Bible and really understand how Jesus wants us to live.  She wants us to know the moral truths behind the Church’s teachings so that we can live free instead of falling victim to the unhappiness moral chaos brings.

Jesus, while perfect, didn’t cut people off because they were imperfect.  He didn’t look down on the tax collectors, the poor, and the sick like the Pharisees.  Quite the opposite, Jesus reached out and helped them.  Mary calls on us to pray and help those who are particularly struggling to know Her son, Jesus ChristPope Francis’ May intention of the lay faithful promoting the faith echoes Mary’s mission.  We all should be helping those who have cut themselves off from God‘s grace and embraced a morality that is only as valid as the media or politicians deem it valid.

It’s important to understand that while Jesus didn’t cut off sinners He also didn’t give people an excuse to continue to sin.  He still maintained and reinforced God’s laws.  We aren’t called to be pushovers either.  But to help those who may have swerved from God’s path, we need to understand God’s truths through the lens of prayer and scripture.  Prayer gives us the perspective to focus on the big challenges that are important to God and not on the day-to-day controversies whipped up by the media.  So for your spiritual health and sanity, turn off the TV and pick up that rosary!

How the Rosary Helps Us Understand the Pope’s May Intentions

I had the privilege of attending a First Holy Communion Mass last weekend.  The Mass was great; all the children were in their fine attire and super excited, parents and family packed the church, and everyone went home to big parties.  I asked my relative who attends the parish how many of those families attend Mass regularly.  More specifically, how many of these families will be at Mass next Sunday.  He guessed about 20%.  I was saddened but not shocked when I heard that low number.

I would think that emphasizing the importance of regular Mass attendance would be a core tenant of preparation for one’s First Communion.  We can’t really blame the second graders for not coming to Mass every Sunday.  After all, they depend on their parents to take them to church.  The responsibility lies almost entirely on the parents to make sure their children attend Mass.  If parents do not attend Mass regularly they convey the message that Mass isn’t that important.  More broadly, they convey that practicing their faith isn’t all that important.  This message creates a cycle where the kids grow up thinking that Mass and receiving the Eucharist is something unimportant and optional which they will pass to the next generation of Catholics.

See the source image
Plenty of first communicants, not many second ones though.

With this scenario in mind, listen to Pope Francis’ intention for the month of May:  That the lay faithful may fulfill their specific mission, by responding with creativity to the challenges that face the world today.  The pope is asking all Catholics to actively live and promote the Catholic Faith.  Promoting the faith cannot fall solely on ordained priests and nuns.  They only make up a small fraction of the Catholic Church.  For the Church to remain thriving, it requires the active participation of the lay faithful who make up 99% of the Church.  Remember, Jesus didn’t select the Pharisees, scribes, and scholars to spread His message.  He chose fishermen and a tax collector as His apostles.  From the start, the foundation of the Church was the laity.

As the lay faithful, we of course need to set a good example.  We need to attend Mass and avoid sin.  And that’s a good start because that can help break the cycle of indifference.  But God wants more from us than just the bare minimum.  He doesn’t want His Church to just survive; He wants it to flourish!  God desires all of us to one day join Him in Heaven and so we need to be active promoters of the faith.  This doesn’t mean pestering and annoying people into conversion.  As the pope says in his May intention, we need to be creative in our approach.

The Rosary Connection

As you pray the Rosary in May (Mary’s month), remember the pope’s intention.  Think about how you can be a more active champion of the Catholic Faith and lead others to realize the peace that comes from God’s grace.  Here are how some of the mysteries relate to the pope’s call for greater laity involvement in the Church.

The Visitation (2nd Joyful Mystery) — This account immediately follows the Annunciation in the Bible.  Note that God did not direct Mary to go visit her cousin Elizabeth.  Mary went on her own accord to help someone who needed it.  This should remind us all that upon receiving God’s grace we should all be moved to use that grace in helping others in whatever creative way God calls us.

English: Statue of the Visitation in the Churc...
English: Statue of the Visitation in the Church of the Visitation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ascension (2nd Glorious Mystery) — This mystery is about Jesus’ final human appearance before going into Heaven.  He left behind dedicated disciples to carry on His mission.  Today’s lay faithful are descendants of those early disciples.  We have just as much of a responsibility for spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ as those disciples.  Ironically, we find ourselves in a similar world; one that does not know Jesus.  We need to be the ones showing others that our desire for true happiness only comes through Jesus, not by fulfilling all our worldly desires.

The Assumption (4th Glorious Mystery) — Mary is our guide who desires nothing more than for us to know Jesus’ love for us.  We can call on Her when we have a particularly difficult time living and spreading the faith.  Mary will help us and intercede for us if we ask.  God isn’t asking the lay faithful to spread His Word alone.  We can always rely on Mary to assist us.

I hope you have a joyful and glorious month of May.  Honor Mary by praying the Rosary and contemplating the pope’s intention.

How the Rosary Increases Our Patience with God and Others

The Rosary is a prayer that requires an above-average level of patience.  It’s long, repetitive, and doesn’t have a narrative like reading Bible passages.  Admit it, you’ve zoned out more than a few times praying the Rosary haven’t you?  I know I certainly have.  The motivation for the RosaryMeds website and my books is to make the Rosary a more engaging and less monotonous prayer.  But when it comes down to it, you just have to work up the motivation and put effort into praying it effectively.  No amount of websites, books, and videos can substitute for the will to pray the Rosary and the patience to allow it to transform you.

In this post, I want to focus on the value of patience and how it relates to the Rosary.  There are two ways the Rosary helps us grow in patience.  First, there are many Rosary mysteries that teach patience as a core value.  When you meditate on these mysteries, ask Mary to help you grow in patience.

  1. First Joyful Mystery: Saint Joseph‘s patience with God’s plan for his wife, our mother, Mary.  Imagine learning that God has a completely different life prepared for you that will be much more difficult and confusing.  It takes a lot of patience to accept God’s Will when it conflicts with your desires or expectations.
  2. Fourth Joyful Mystery: Saint Simeon‘s patience with God’s promise that he would one day see the Chosen One.  He did, but only at the end of his life.  Talk about needing patience for God’s plan to come to fruition.
  3. Second and Fifth Sorrowful Mysteries: Jesus enduring the scourging and insults during His Passion and Crucifixion.  He kept silent while soldiers beat Him and the authorities interrogated Him because He knew it had to be done to bring about our redemption and salvation.  He was patient onto death because it was God’s Will.

Jesus in Pray
Jesus in Pray (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second way the Rosary helps us grow in patience is the act of praying the Rosary itself.  It’s not an easy prayer and takes time and energy to pray correctly.  But that focus and perseverance you practice in Rosary prayer translate into increased focus and perseverance in other aspects of your life.  It is practice for dealing with annoying coworkers, parents, or uncooperative children (parents, you know what I’m talking about right?).

But what’s so important about patience?  Patience is often referred to as a virtue.  But why?  In other words, what’s so bad about impatience?  Why is it bad if you have a low tolerance for people making mistakes or not giving everything their 100% best effort?  This Catholic Exchange article frames patience as a reflection of our relationship with Jesus:

Simply by reminding ourselves that we’re being patient not primarily for the sake of the person who is irritating us, but as an expression of our love for Jesus. Following Him often means putting up with people, events, and situations we’d prefer to avoid entirely.  This effort is very valuable, for, as St. Katherine Drexel noted, “The patient endurance of the Cross — whatever nature it may be — is the highest work we have to do.”

Patience is tied to humility.  What is impatience but a lack of humility for God’s plan and our desire to change our circumstances immediately?  Patience is admitting that we cannot change everything to suit our desires but instead we must let God’s plan for us and others play out.  Patience means telling God, “I may not like this situation but I will put forth the effort to endure it because it is Your Will.”  Patience is an admission that our lives and circumstances are in God’s hands.  Instead of wishing that they be different, it is our opportunity to respond to our circumstances as Jesus taught us.

The next time you feel like putting down the Rosary because you feel like you aren’t getting anything out of it, take a small pause and tell Mary you will be patient with Her and her gift and then continue praying the Rosary.  She promises miraculous things through the Rosary which we often lose sight of in our impatience of repeating Hail Marys and Our Fathers.  Don’t let impatience prevent you from obtaining all that God desires for you.