The 10 Step Lenten Diet

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.

This Lent, work those “love handles,” or rather, get a handle on loving God.

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.

You can read the full list here on Fox News’ health section.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Touchdown! — Mary’s Rosary Promise #6

Whoever recites my Rosary devoutly reflecting on the mysteries, shall never be overwhelmed by misfortune. He will not experience the anger of God nor will he perish by an unprovided death. The sinner will be converted; the just will persevere in grace and merit eternal life.

What separates great athletes from good ones is their ability to overcome difficult challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds. When the game is a close nail-biter, they dig down deep and find a way to come through at key moments. Take the recent NFL playoff game of the Colts vs. Chiefs. The Chiefs had a 28 point lead at one time in the game and it seemed like the Colts season was coming to a disappointing end. The Colts quarterback, Andrew Luck, was having one of his worse games in his NFL career. But the Colts rallied back fueled by Luck’s three passing touchdowns and recovering a fumble for the game winning touchdown. Luck didn’t let the terrible start overwhelm him and he was able to gather himself and mount one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

Andrew Luck scores the game-winning touchdown (CBS Philadelphia)

Mary tells us that when we pray the rosary devoutly we find the ability to dig down deep and not let life’s setbacks keep us down. Like a great athlete, we will have the ability to “muscle through” even when it seems like everything around us is falling apart. Notice that Mary does not say we will never encounter misfortune. Misfortune is an inevitability whether we like it or not. She says we won’t be overwhelmed by it. Now that doesn’t mean we will turn every bad situation into a positive one. Sometimes even great athletes can’t overcome a huge deficit and win every game. But it does mean that we’ll never let life’s difficulties separate us from God’s grace.  No matter what life throws at us, we will not let it break our faith. Even if we never overcome great misfortune in this life, if we truly believe in the power of the rosary we will find hope and comfort knowing that will will find peace and happiness in Heaven.  Even the greatest worldly misfortunes will seem laughably trivial compared to the glory of Heaven.

Mary says in the second part of her promise that those who pray the rosary devoutly will not perish by an unprovided death. What is an unprovided death? An unprovided death means that your soul isn’t in a prepared state for God’s judgement. You have sins on your soul which you have not confessed and are not forgiven. Think of it like defaulting on a loan. Sin is like a debt and it’s a debt you want fully paid off when you die. Otherwise you will face the anger and punishment from your loan provider. In this case God.

Christ as Judge
Christ as Judge (Photo credit: Waiting For The Word)

It’s important to understand a few things. An unprovided death and dying in a state of mortal sin are not the same. An unprovided death is not an automatic judgement to Hell. Remember, we cannot know the state of someone’s soul at the moment of death nor God’s infinite mercy. Even the unprepared soul can find mercy and eventually find its way into Heaven. Also, someone can have a prepared soul without necessarily going to Confession. There are plenty of cases where people die suddenly (car accident, heart attack, fatal accident) without being able to first confess to a priest. But we don’t know if in that instant before their death (the time when people say their life flashes before them) that they repent and prepare their soul for God.  I bring up these caveats because it’s important to understand the many ways someone may prepare their soul outside of the standard means of receiving the Sacrament of Confession.

It’s a pretty logical conclusion that those who recite the rosary devoutly will not have an unprovided death. I already discussed in previous rosary promises that those who pray the rosary earnestly will tend not to commit as many sins in the first place. And those who truly live according to the lessons of the rosary and the teachings of the Catholic Church will be ever mindful of the state of their soul. Someone who is truly converted by the rosary will always share his heart, mind, and life with God up through the moment of his death.

Mary doesn’t promise magic nor does she give people a free pass to live however they want through the rosary. This rosary promise, like all her other promises, simply spells out the logical conclusions for those who truly embrace the rosary.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Coming Soon: Free Kindle Edition of my Rosary Guide

51Jfa8esBjL._BO2204203200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-clickTopRight35-76_AA278_PIkin4BottomRight-6422_AA300_SH20_OU01_Did you promise to pray more, be better about practicing your faith, or resolve to start connecting with your spiritual side? As some of you know from previous RosaryMeds articles, I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as they are usually just promises no one actually keeps. But at the same time, I know that people do make them and if your New Year’s resolution involves improving your prayer life, I want to help.

Next week I’m going to offer the Kindle edition of my rosary guide, The Rosary for the Rest of Us, for free. For three days only (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) you will be able to download it to your tablet, Kindle reader, or computer and it won’t cost you a dime. Already have the book? This the perfect opportunity to tell your friends, family, and fellow parishioners about it so they can pick up a great praying resource at no cost.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Pray More Novenas

As Fat Tuesday winds down we now turn our focus towards Lent. If you are looking to do something special this Lenten Season, you might want to try praying a novena. This is a prayer for a specific devotion you say for nine days. You pray novenas for specific causes or intentions.

One of my readers sent me a link to the Pray More Novenas website. It is a really good catalogue of novenas and you can sign up to receive email reminders. I know that novenas only last nine days but it’s amazing how hard it can be to follow through praying them.  Reminders are helpful.

Here’s to making the most of Lent!

Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Cover of "The Screwtape Letters"
Cover of The Screwtape Letters

I just completed reading C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  The book is divided into several letters from a senior devil, Screwtape, to a junior devil, Wormwood, who is working on bringing a man’s soul under the influence of Satan.  Each letter investigates a tactic that Satan’s minions use in order to move us away from God, who is referred to as the Enemy throughout the book.  Screwtape instructs his apprentice on how to manipulate human attitudes towards prayer, love, lust, war, politics, the Church, ambitions, etc. in very subtle ways so that someone’s soul will be on the path towards Hell without even realizing it.

The Screwtape Letters does a great job of taking some complex moral and ethical questions and discussing them in simple terms.  Because of the “us vs. them” format of the book you almost feel like you are reading Satan’s playbook on how to tempt you into sin.  While most of the time we learn about how we should live, it is equally useful to learn how NOT to live.  In other words, understanding Satan’s tricks and lies are sometimes just as important as knowing God’s love.  And C.S. Lewis makes it so easy to understand the nature of evil due to the casual nature of the book being in the form of personal letters.  Screwtape’s candor does not hold back the evil intent behind his various tactics.

This book is not heavy in terms of exploring deep theological arguments in Catholic doctrine.  After all, C.S. Lewis was more of “buffet style” Christian where he picked and chose elements from different denominations scattered with some of his own personal beliefs.  So he leaves the deep discussion of doctrine and theological arguments to St. Thomas Aquinas and other doctors of the Church.  Instead, Lewis provides a good introduction and a more light-hearted discussion on the nature of evil for those of us who do not hold a Ph.D in theology.

Personally, I felt that the book got a little stale towards the end once the novelty of learning about morality from the other side wore off.  It sort of felt like Screwtape starts to repeat himself in later letters as he brings up the same themes but uses different examples.  Even in the postscript, C.S. Lewis admits that this was one of the least enjoyable books he wrote because the ideas just came so easily to him.  He admitted that he feared he would smother the readers if he wrote a longer book.  Regardless, it is an interesting read and would suggest that everyone gives it a try.  I can also see it making a great gift for those who need a little theological refresher but do not want to dive into more serious texts.

Two Years of RosaryMeds

Birthday Cake Cupcake
Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr

I found this article about the benefits of Catholic radio very inspirational.  It discusses a survey taken by listeners of Immaculate Heart Radio with these results:

According to the survey, 581 respondents said the radio channel helped them teach their children the truths of the faith. Additionally, 265 said Immaculate Heart Radio helped them return to the Catholic faith while 58 said the radio network helped them convert from another religion and 28 said they were helped to convert from agnosticism or atheism. Just over 100 respondents said the radio network helped them save their marriage, 23 said they were helped when contemplating suicide, and seven were helped to “choose life for my baby.”

This was not the most scientific survey since it sounds like the sample group was probably mostly made up of people from their main listening audience.  However, I find it amazing that this radio station saved at least 100 marriages and 30 lives.  And that is just from people who responded to the survey.  Who knows how many others were helped?  The saving of even just one life validates the importance and the impact of Catholic radio.  This means there are at least 30 people who are alive today who might not have been if it wasn’t for Immaculate Heart Radio, EWTN, and other outlets spreading the Catholic faith.

The accomplishment of Catholic radio fills me with a little hope as RosaryMeds turned two years old this week.  Granted, I don’t have the resources or collective wisdom of EWTN.  I probably haven’t transformed lives as dramatically as Immaculate Heart Radio.  But hopefully I inspired someone to pray the rosary who otherwise wouldn’t have.  Hopefully, I injected a small little pearl of wisdom in a posting that made someone feel better or helped them achieve a deeper state of prayer.  If you have found this website interesting or inspirational, please leave a comment or a suggestion.

I’m super excited about RosaryMeds’ third year.  I have some great ideas in mind that I hope will come to fruition in 2011.  And a big thank you to the  1,905 new visitors and the 423 returning visitors from 77 countries speaking 34 languages who visited in 2010!

Book Review: Orthodoxy

Cover of "Orthodoxy"
Cover of Orthodoxy

I recently finished reading G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.”  It took me just shy of a year to finish it which is a little embarrassing considering that it is only 240 pages long.  However, compared to the last Christian book I read on the Templar Knights, “Orthodoxy” has a lot of “meat” to it giving me much to think about.  Like a papal encyclical, this book is very dense and you could honestly ponder and debate a single paragraph for hours.  The true genius of Chesterton is his ability to present these highly philosophical arguments in a witty and understandable way.

In “Orthodoxy” Chesterton offers an argument for the Christian faith.  He dives into why the ideas and values of Christianity make sense.  Each chapter presents an idea in the form of a question which Chesterton then tries to answer.  He doesn’t dive into the Catholic Catechism or the Bible for his answers but instead builds his arguments from the ground up using logical deductions and many examples drawn from his observations.  Essentially, Chesterton says that he was trying to build up a rational and consistent philosophy on how he should live.  It turns out that everything he thought was a good idea was not an original one as they had been part of Christian doctrine for centuries.

What impressed me about this book is how something written over one hundred years ago in England is still relevant today.  In fact, you would think that Chesterton was writing a blog about the current state of politics in the world.  That took me by surprise because I was expecting to read a book on spirituality.  Instead, I got discussions on politics, psychology, sociology, and ethics.  Chesterton doesn’t confine himself to a philosophical vacuum, but constructs his arguments based on what he sees and hears in the world around him.  The book even filled me with a little more optimism about our current world.  I see that many of the problems we face today have been around in modern society for centuries in one form or another.  Somehow the world has always moved forward despite everyone thinking that their generation’s problems will doom all of humanity and destroy our future.

I would put “Orthodoxy” on your reading list.  In fact, it might make the list twice as it probably requires a second reading in order to better understand Chesterton’s arguments.  I know that I’m going to put this book back on the shelf for another year or two and then give it another go.  This might be the first book I will read twice.  Yeah, it’s that interesting.

Scary Times

Image via Wikipedia

We are going into that “scary” period in the liturgical calendar right before Advent where many of the readings and Gospels focus on the end times, persecution, and final judgment.  There are many people who take these apocalyptic verses to extremes.  There is the one camp that just ignores these readings or see them as a lot of hyperbole and not events that will eventually occur.  The other camp thinks the end of the world will occur every day and finds every shred of circumstantial and coincidental evidence to support their claim.  I want to take a more balanced look at these readings and how we can approach them without being hysterical.

The Gospel reading from Luke on November 14, 2010 presents some very grim imagery.  Jesus describes wars and insurrections, earthquakes, famines, plagues, and persecution (Lk, 21:5-19).  I do not think anyone would disagree that these are all pretty terrible things and we would be fortunate to avoid them.  In many people’s world view this is how it all ends; people dying in misery and despair.  However, many people do not see that there is light at the end of this dark tunnel we call human existence.  There is the glory, comfort, and joy of eternal life in Heaven.  Last Sunday’s Gospel ends with Jesus saying,  “not a hair on your head will be destroyed.  By your perseverance you will secure your lives” (Lk, 21:19).  And that is the central message we should take away from these apocalyptic readings — the joy of Heaven is infinitely greater than any suffering here on Earth.

Think back to your childhood.  Do you remember the first time you cut yourself?  Perhaps you fell when you were playing.  Maybe you poked yourself with a sharp object.  I’m sure many of us cried and wailed over that pain as it seemed like the worst torment we would ever encounter.  Now as adults we probably don’t have the slightest recollection of that ordeal.  This is similar to how Heaven will compare to all our Earthly suffering.  The worst wars and tragedies won’t even be a faint memory compared to the joys of Heaven.  This is what Jesus teaches us in the Gospel.  In the end, our faith and perseverance will bring us more happiness than we can possibly imagine and make all our earthly suffering seem like nothing more than a scraped knee.

We can pick any Sorrowful Mystery as an example of  perseverance through hard times.  In this period before Advent, when we pray the rosary, we should ask God for the strength to endure any difficulties in our lives.  Perhaps you are having a hard time at work or at home.  Maybe you are having relationship problems or there are people in your life that bring you nothing but misery.  Take all those challenges and present them to God when you pray.  Try to look past the misery and difficulties of this world by reminding yourself that it is all temporary.  When you put it all in perspective you will realize that life’s biggest obstacles are so small compared to the joy of Heaven and you will wonder why you even worried about them in the first place.

Related articles

Remember the Rosary

October is Mary’s month and so the Catholic Church is particularly interested in spreading knowledge of the holy rosary. Since this is a Catholic blog site, I want to do my part and share with you some thoughts on the importance and power of the rosary. But why listen to me when you can read about the rosary from people who understand it infinitely better.

Image via Wikipedia

October is Mary’s month and so the Catholic Church is particularly interested in spreading knowledge of the holy rosary.  Since this is a Catholic blog site, I want to do my part and share with you some thoughts on the importance and power of the rosary.  But why listen to me when you can read about the rosary from people who understand it infinitely better.

On October 6, Pope Benedict, in his general audience, said that the rosary was a “simple but efficient prayer” and “a spiritual weapon for each of us.”  Upon reading this I couldn’t help but think of my article on the Hail Mary as our spiritual push up.  Like the push up, the rosary is an incredibly simple prayer in its design.  However, its simplicity is what makes it so powerful in that anyone can pray it.  Since anyone can pray it, anyone can communicate with God and receive His graces.

The rosary is also a weapon in that praying it defends us and others from the evils of satan.  Think about it.  When you are praying the rosary earnestly, you are communicating with God and not engaging in any sinful behavior even if it is just for a short time.  For many, it is about as close to God as we can possibly get throughout the day as we are distracted or busy in so many other ways (work, home, family, friends, etc.).  But even a precious few minutes spent praying the rosary can give you enough strength to resist evil and live according to God’s plan for us.

On October 8, Bishop Jorge Luis Lona of San Luis, Argentina praised rosary prayer because  of its “repetitive rhythm of praise and supplication, like a sort of spiritual breathing.”  This really drives home the idea that praying the rosary gets us into a spiritual state similar to how an athletes “get into the zone” and enter a deeper state of focus and concentration.  Breathing is something we do without thinking — it is just something that comes naturally to us.  Similarly, once we really dive into praying the rosary regularly, living in a constant state of prayer, like the Good Samaritan, becomes second nature to us.  It takes practice to get the most out of the rosary.  You may not feel its benefits the first few times you pray it, but every saint in Heaven will tell you just how powerful the rosary is and how it can help bring you into God’s grace.

The bishop went on to say, “God gives us an immense aid. In order to be able to recognize and receive His gifts, He teaches us to practice praise and supplication.”  Let’s take the bishop’s words to heart and take advantage of this great tool.  We have about half of October left.  If you haven’t done so already, give daily rosary prayer a try.  Priests, bishops, popes, and saints all say that it is one of our best tools in achieving holiness.  How many other endorsements do you need?

Seeing Lazarus in Your Life

The Gospel for 9/26/2010 was Luke 16:19-31 which was the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In short, a rich man goes to Hell because he was uncharitable to Lazarus, a poor man. I always squirm before the homily when I hear this Gospel during Mass because many times people will use it to jump into a tirade about how you are an evil person bound for Hell if you have any money. Some will use it as justification on why we need higher taxes or some sort of forced redistribution of wealth. I believe such analysis of this parable misses the point Jesus was trying to make. The rich man did not go to Hell because he was rich. He went to Hell because he was uncharitable with his wealth, neglected those who needed his help, and hence was not showing his love for God.

Print by Gustave Doré illustrating the parable...
Image via Wikipedia

The Gospel for 9/26/2010 was Luke 16:19-31 — the story of the rich man and Lazarus.  In short, a rich man goes to Hell because he was uncharitable to Lazarus, a poor man.  I always squirm before the homily when I hear this Gospel during Mass because many times people will use it to jump into a tirade about how you are an evil person bound for Hell if you have any money.  Some will use it as justification on why we need higher taxes or some sort of forced redistribution of wealth.  I believe such analysis of this parable misses the point Jesus was trying to make.  The rich man did not go to Hell because he was rich.  He went to Hell because he was uncharitable with his wealth, neglected those who needed his help, and hence was not showing his love for God.

This parable reminds me of The Third Sorrowful Mystery of the holy rosary where the Roman soldiers placed a crown of thorns on Jesus and mocked Him.  The crowning of thorns represents how we often show our faith.  Through our actions, instead of offering Jesus a majestic crown made from our love for Him we present a pitiful one made from our indifference.  When do we show this indifference, apathy, and even hatred towards Jesus?  When do we crown Him with “thorns?”  Surely we would treat Him with the utmost honor and respect if we saw Him, correct?  Look no further than Matthew 25:41-45:

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.

By ignoring Lazarus, the rich man ignored Jesus.  If charity shows love for Jesus, then acting uncharitable shows contempt.  Through his actions, the rich man was not putting Jesus first in his life.  The rich man is the antithesis of the Good Samaritan.  While the Good Samaritan lived a life of constant prayer and could spot those in need and readily help them, the rich man was blind to the needs of others.  And that is the heart of Jesus’ parable.  It’s not that money is inherently bad and those who have some and live comfortably should feel ashamed.  It’s that wealth has the capacity to blind you to the needs of others and can prevent you from offering Jesus the true respect, honor, and love He deserves.  That is, money will blind you if you let it.

On the flip side, having some level of wealth provides great opportunities to help others in need and hence really show love for Jesus.  Look around and see some of the great institutions and services funded through charitable donations.  Whether it is a food drive, soup kitchen, or a new hospital, these opportunities to help the less fortunate come from people who use their wealth for good.  Without getting too political, how could these people act so charitably if they did not accumulate anything and could only look after their basic needs?  I want to end with a trailer from the movie, “The Blind Side.”  Besides it being a good movie I think the story paints a good picture on how having a certain level of resources at your disposal enables people to do great things for those less fortunate.