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
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.
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
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.”
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 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 Gospel reading from this past Monday, June 26, 2017, was from Matthew 7:1-15 about the well-known analogy about judging others hypocritically. This lesson could also be about not letting the actions of others blind you to your abilities of living God‘s will. First, the actual text:
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
By now we all know we shouldn’t judge others considering that we all have our own flaws. I think many of us understand Jesus’ teaching and work hard to avoid judging others. Note, this does not mean we don’t care for others and help them become better people living in God’s grace. But we must do so caringly knowing that we also must work out many of the same sins on our own souls.
Let’s take a different look at this passage. Perhaps Jesus was also instructing his disciples to understand the greater influence one’s personal actions can have over the actions of others. What if the “beam” is not someone’s faults, but rather the amount of influence we give others for our situation in life? We are, in a way, judging others according to their perceived effect on our lives. And many times, we place that judgment in a disproportionate way. So many of us tend to look at others as the main source of frustration or disappointment in life, even when they have a minuscule amount of influence, while overlooking the much larger effects of our own actions.
Just look at how much time and energy we place on the influence of politicians, companies, media outlets, etc. Many of us consume news and show more concern over what President Trump tweeted than who needs help, attention, and kindness in our own family or circle of friends. We give politics so much attention even when the day-to-day soap opera of government has actually relatively little effect on our happiness. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be involved in politics and not hold our government responsible for their actions. But we need to find a balance and not tip towards government and news being EVERYTHING to us. That diminishes our own ability to find peace and happiness in our lives. It becomes our “beam” that prevents us from helping others.
I think the Second Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, The Visitation, communicates this idea of not letting others blind you to your ability to control your well being. Mary had every reason to dwell on how others might perceive her pregnancy outside of marriage. It could have consumed her to the point of inaction out of fear and embarrassment. After all, things weren’t really going the way she had planned. But instead of dwelling on the thoughts and actions of others, she went out and did God’s will which, at the time, was being with her cousin Elizabeth. Mary was able to remove any “beams” in her eyes which would have prevented her from clearly seeing God’s plan for her and acting accordingly.
When we pray the rosary, let us ask God to clear our minds of the fear, hatred, and overall energy spent on the people and events that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of our lives. We need to ask God to block out the noise that can distract us from doing His will (turning off the TV is a good place to start). We should ask Mary through our rosary prayers for the strength to imitate her and remain focused on serving God instead of living in fear of the influence others have on our overall happiness. When we take out the distractions which act as the “beams” in our eyes we can then see more clearly and help others better see how God is calling them to receive His grace.
The Bible is full of parallels. It may be parallel themes between Old and New Testament readings or accounts of different people having similar encounters with God. We see one such parallel between the story of Mary in the Annunciation and that of Zechariah, husband of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth. We pray and meditate on these readings, which make up the first two Joyful Mysteries of the rosary, all this week leading up to Christmas.
In both accounts, the angel Gabriel comes with news of a pregnancy. Mary is told she will give birth to a son through the Holy Spirit and Zechariah is told that his wife Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist. Furthermore, the announcement is initially met by disbelief. Mary’s amazement comes because she is not married and Zechariah’s stems from Elizabeth’s old age.
The difference in these two accounts comes next. In Mary’s case, she praises God and humbles herself saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” But in Zechariah’s case, the angel Gabriel takes away his ability to speak because of his disbelief.
What confused me about these two accounts was that according to the text, it appears as if Mary and Zechariah both show a very similar reaction, one of amazement and disbelief. Why was Zechariah punished and not Mary? I think the key is understanding Gabriel’s ability to see into someone’s heart and not just hear their words.
While Mary was confused initially, in her heart she truly believed and accepted God’s Will for her. But I think that Gabriel must have sensed that Zechariah did not fully believe the news he had just heard. To put it another way, Mary’s initial reaction may have been out of shock and quickly passed while Zechariah harbored a real sense of disbelief. Maybe, while he was in the holy sanctuary, Zechariah was going through the motions of prayer but not fully open to God’s grace. It is fitting that he was punished with speechlessness as a sign that maybe he was giving more lip service to his faith rather than truly internalizing it.
As we prepare in these final days of Advent, let us remember to have an open heart like Mary and not a closed one like Zechariah. Pray that you don’t go through the motions of spirituality by treating Christmas Mass like a mere formality before the real celebration can begin. Mass is the real celebration! I know many of you have large dinners to attend, guests to entertain, and presents to open. And while you may say you believe and celebrate Jesus’ birth, how much of your heart is centered around Him? God knows what is in our hearts and you can’t fool him.
This Sunday we celebrate Jesus’ birth. The best birthday present you can give Him is an honestly open heart. Don’t go through the motions of prayer and practicing your faith but earnestly make room in your heart for God’s grace manifested in His son, Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!
This upcoming Sunday’s Gospel is from Matthew. I’m only including the part I’m going to reflect on in this article.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
In this Gospel passage, John the Baptist makes a distinction between piety and good works. The Pharisees and Sadducees considered themselves good people because they followed the Mosaic law to the letter. But John implies in his comparison to a tree not bearing good fruit that just following rules or having a certain status does not lead to salvation. One must follow up with good works, charity, and compassion.
Good works, charity, and compassion were the cornerstone of Jesus’ ministry. He came into this world, not as someone of status and authority, but as a servant who ministered to those people society had excluded. Jesus repeatedly taught that what matters most to God is what someone does, not what their title is. Whether it was teaching the golden rule or telling the parable of the poor woman who gave all she had to charity, Jesus’ ministry centered around instilling the value of good works and sacrifice. Inversely, those who only followed rules and sought status and honor He routinely called hypocrites.
This past Thursday’s Gospel from Matthew echoes a very similar message:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Notice how Jesus is saying that just accepting Him as the Savior is not enough. You have to follow up with action what you proclaim in your words. To put it in more modern terms (but now maybe ridiculously outdated), you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
When you hear and read this Gospel, meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary, The Visitation. Think about Mary in this mystery, someone who recently learned that she was to be the mother to the Massiah. What does she do? Does she flaunt the fact that an angel visited her? Does she go about looking for an elevated stature in the community? No. Instead, she travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth and helps her through her pregnancy although she herself was pregnant. Mary’s initial action after the Annunciation was one of charity.
Also, consider the Fourth Glorious Mystery of the rosary when you reflect on this Sunday’s Gospel. Mary was assumed into Heaven and now acts as our intermediary to her son, Jesus Christ. Even when bestowed the title Queen of Heaven (Fifth Glorious Mystery), she has never stopped actively guiding us through the minefield of life. She protects us from evil, helps those who ask for her assistance, and has continually appeared to many delivering a message similar to John the Baptist in the Gospel — Jesus loves you and wants you close to him, but you must make the effort to love Him through good works, charity, and compassion.
God Isn’t Fixing This! (Article title from the New York Daily News)
I do not want to hear one more politician say that their “thoughts and prayers” are with the victims and their family. For the love of God. Do Something (Facebook post from The Coffee Party USA)
“Your ‘thoughts’ should be about steps to take to stop this carnage. Your ‘prayers’ should be for forgiveness if you do nothing – again” (Tweet from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.)
We witnessed something new in the wake of the San Bernardino terrorist attack and that is an attack on people who resort to prayer. It is an almost knee jerk reaction that many people have to offer “thoughts and prayers” in the face of tragedy. Whether it was the terrorist attacks in Paris, Fort Hood, World Trade Center, or the Pentagon, tragedy seems to bring out people’s deep rooted, and often suppressed, spiritual side. And for as long as I can remember, offering your thoughts and prayers was as natural and inoffensive as saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes.
But with the San Bernardino attack, I saw the automatic “thoughts and prayers” sentiment immediately shamed by both the media and politicians. I find it amazing that changing your Facebook profile picture to the Eiffel Tower or the French flag or liking posts is seen as supportive but don’t you dare pray for the victims! As if that wasn’t shocking enough, I was also surprised how quickly that movement got started. To me, it felt like people already had their talking points ready to go and just needed a catalyst to roll it out. Like they say in politics, “never let a crisis go to waste.” And in this case, the San Bernardino tragedy seemed to provide the right setting to attack the idea of finding comfort through faith and spirituality.
When you look at the overall theme of these attacks, they do fall apart and make little sense with even minimal scrutiny. The premise is that we can’t stand around praying but we need to act. The assumption is that prayer and action are mutually exclusive and we aren’t capable of doing both. I have repeatedly said, especially in my meditations on the Second Joyful Mystery, how prayer is not always an end in itself. Rather, it puts us in the state of mind and heart to more readily receive the guidance of the Holy Spirit to act in a way in accordance with God’s plan for us. In this light, prayer and action actually go hand in hand. We pray before we act so that we can act justly.
When you see the link between prayer and action I think it becomes clearer why the media and politicians want to shame those who turn to prayer in the face of tragedy. If you are trying to push through an agenda the last thing you want to do is have people stop and meditate on it. By saying that we need immediate action with no time for serious contemplation, politicians are actually saying, “Don’t think about it. Don’t debate it. Let’s just get this 1000 page bill signed into law.” And then the politicians (and the special interests they are beholden to) can celebrate how they alone did something to address the problem without the help from that rule-laden man in the clouds.
Let’s suppose we could remove the link between prayer and right action. Is there still value in praying in the wake of tragedy? You bet! Prayers open a dialog with God and makes you more open to his grace and comfort. It doesn’t change what happened but it can provide an understanding deep in your heart (even if it’s one your mind can’t comprehend). Think about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (First Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary). His prayers did not stop the authorities from arresting and ultimately crucifying him. But it did put Jesus into a state of mind and heart to endure the upcoming hardship. And so when we are faced with tragedy, prayer can help us cope with the overwhelming sorrow. And let’s also remember that tragedy usually involves the loss of life. The recently departed need prayers too both for God’s mercy and to decrease their time in Purgatory.
It’s time to double down. If you see someone mocking prayer, that should be your call to action. You don’t have to engage them on social media since their little soundbite quip requires a larger response and dialog than what social media usually affords. Instead, think of their comment as a cry for help. Those who mock prayer are the ones who need it most. Give them what they need.
I tried really hard to avoid writing about Cecil the lion. Like many people, I don’t really see the point in big game hunting. But I also don’t understand how this one case escalated to international news. I don’t know the statistics, but I assume big game hunting (legal and illegal) goes on all the time. Why this case got so much attention beats me. I then came across an article that summed up why maybe this lion story touched such a collective nerve.
Over at CatholicAllYear.com, Kendra wrote an article titled Why We Feel Better if We Care About Cecil the Lion. She recognizes the human need to acknowledge universal truth in a world that tries hard to suppress it. She writes:
A huge segment of our population has been struggling ever since they reached the age of reason to reconcile a personal disgust with the idea of abortion, with the loudly trumpeted demands that we all must recognize that it’s NONE OF OUR BUSINESS and we’d better just pipe down. Choice. My body. Reproductive freedom. It’s not really a baby. All of it has been shouted in the streets until two generations now honestly can’t tell right from wrong or good from evil.
The same goes for other evils we’re supposed to celebrate as choice: like euthanasia, and free love, and conceiving children in such a way as to necessarily deprive them of one or both of their parents.
Moral relativism denies a fundamental part of our Truth-seeking human natures. As human beings, we crave moral absolutes. We know somewhere deep down that there IS such a thing as wrong, such a thing as evil. And we want so badly to be allowed to point a finger at it, finally, that when poor, not-actually-all-that-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things Cecil the lion comes along, we can barely contain ourselves.
Here’s my take. People are upset because unlike other animals killed by hunters, this lion has a name and a history. Like we do with our pets, we personify Cecil so his killing strikes at the same parts of our emotions as a human being’s murder. This personification is why we cry watching Old Yeller and the lack of it is why most of us don’t give a second thought to the thousands of animals that are killed every day for food.
This lack of identification is also why we don’t bat much of an eye over the evil of abortion. Because it’s evilness becomes strikingly obvious when you realize that every abortion is a life lost. Does the fact that the aborted life didn’t have a name or a history make it any less tragic when he/she is killed? Are we as a culture so short sighted that we don’t understand that an aborted life would have had a name and history if we let him/her grow? We’ve murdered millions of Alisons, Margarets, and Jakes. We’ve murdered many successful doctors, writers, engineers, and scientists that the world will never know. We’ve murdered millions of best friends, husbands, shoulders to cry on, mentors, and co-workers. It’s shocking what something as simple as attaching a name to a life does to the perceived value of it. In one case, attaching a name to an animal raises international outcry while not attaching a name to a human being allows the murder of thousands every day.
The RosaryMeds Prescription
Whenever the issue of abortion comes up as it is with the release of these shocking videos from The Center for Medical Progress and debates within the halls of Congress, the Second Joyful Mystery seems like an obvious mystery to meditate on. Elizabeth exclaims how the baby in her womb leaped for joy at the sound of Mary’s greeting (Luke 1:44). It’s not “the tissue moved” or “some cells divided”, but a baby leaped out of joy. This mystery reminds us just how precious life is at every stage of development and that we are infused with a soul at the moment of conception. We must pray for the conversion of souls and the conversion of our culture to acknowledge the inherent dignity of human life at all stages.
But let’s dive deeper. What about this craving for universal truth that the CatholicAllYear article mentions? What rosary mystery speaks to the importance of knowing what is right and wrong? The First Luminous Mystery comes to mind. When I meditate on this mystery, I remember that not everyone is baptized into the Catholic Church and yet everyone does have the God given gift to know what is inherently good and what is evil. This is often referred to as natural law and it’s something God inscribes in all our hearts; both the baptized and the unbaptized alike.
We live in a culture that tries so very hard to deny this natural law and reject this gift from God. When we pray the First Luminous Mystery, let’s remember to pray for the conversion of those who struggle in life because of their denial of truth. We must also pray for the conversion of our world to one that lives in acknowledgement of natural law, not in denial of it.
“But I don’t want to clean my room!”
“Do I have to clean the dishes now?”
“But this show is almost over! I’ll take out the trash once it’s done.”
“But I’m not tired!”
I think nearly all parents hear excuses like these on a near daily basis. They engage in a constant struggle to instill a solid work ethic in their children and have them focus on others’ needs and not just what they want. But it is just as easy for adults to fall into periods of laziness when we don’t always choose what is best for us or for others. We cheat on our diets, we skip exercise, and we procrastinate on tasks like paying bills or conducting household maintenance in favour of watching television or browsing the internet. And I think we all have a tendency to skip or race through our prayers, especially the rosary. Although we may love the rosary generally, we are often no better than children when we find excuses to avoid praying it.
This past Lent I felt like I received a lot more value from my rosary meditations all thanks to a few simple tweaks to my prayer routine. The biggest change came from thinking of a specific intention for each “Hail Mary” I recite. Praying for a specific intention combated that tendency to go into mental “auto-pilot” and start reciting the words more as worthless incantations than focused prayer. This habit of offering specific intentions started in earnest when I adopted a Catholic cardinal for the papal conclave. While I was praying for Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez of Mexico, I also offered intentions for family members, friends, and priests as well as presented my thanks for all that is good in my life and remorse for my sins.
Are you scared about the seemingly daunting prospect of coming up with an intention for each bead in a rosary? You would be surprised how easily one intention acts as a seed for many others. For example, when I pray the Second Joyful Mystery, The Visitation, I start by praying that all expectant mothers raise their children to know God’s love. That intention leads me to pray for the change of heart of all expectant mothers who are considering abortion. I then find myself praying for sidewalk counselors and those who pray in front of abortion clinics. That leads me to think about the change of heart of those working in the abortion industry. I follow with prayers that politicians (particularly Catholic ones) who publicly support the abortion industry let the Holy Spirit into their hardened hearts. Once I started attaching a few intentions to those “Hail Marys,” the rest came pouring in.
This Lent I also rekindled my love of rosary guides that contain scripture passages and commentary on each mystery. When I’m tired and feel like racing through the rosary, I often want to hide my rosary books in a drawer and forget they exist. I rationalize that I have already read them repeatedly and cannot derive much more use from them. Why do I need to reread the Bible verses of the Transfiguration or the Miracle at Cana? Why do I need to read commentary and meditations I’ve read a dozen times already?
I am so glad when I do convince myself to read and integrate a guide into my rosary prayers because I discover something new every time. While the text stays the same, it speaks to me differently because I live through new experiences and the world at large changes every day. For example, I never would have thought back in January that I would now be praying for Pope Francis. Or maybe the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery of Jesus carrying His cross will have a more personal significance to me after a difficult day at work. The same scriptural passages, commentaries, and meditations take on different meanings each time I read them. And these new ideas then manifest themselves as new intentions that I pray on each rosary bead which in turn makes me think of even more intentions, thanksgivings, and remorses. The rosary is no longer a static set of prayers, but is a dynamic dialog with Jesus, Mary, and the saints.
Looking for a good rosary prayer guide? Try mine!
I believe that when people criticize rosary meditation, they envision someone mindlessly chanting the same phrases repeatedly. They invoke Matthew 6:7 — “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” What the critics do not understand is that the rosary is not “babble” when you put forth specific intentions, sorrows, and thanksgivings before our Mother Mary who then strengthens your prayers before her Son, Jesus Christ. When Mary gave humanity the rosary, she did not intend it to act as a medium for mindless incantations but instead she wants us to really make it our own. And when we pray the rosary as Mary intended, we no longer see it as a chore to avoid, but as a moment of peace and joy in our busy lives.
- I Want Your Rosary Meditations! (rosarymeds.com)
- How to Pray the Meditation Rosary (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
- Meditation Rosary – the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
- Meditation Rosary – the Presentation of Our Lord (prayers4reparation.wordpress.com)
Previously I said how articles on RosaryMeds would tie together news and current events with the rosary. I talked about the Pope meeting with young seminarians, a recent announcement from English bishops reminding people to abstain from eating meat on Fridays, and some tips for people going to college. However, not all news is neutral and light hearted. It is the difficult cases that teach us the most about our faith and the power of the rosary.
Take this story for example. A jury awarded a Florida couple 4.5 million dollars because their child was born without arms and one leg. And while that is unfortunate, the real tragedy was their reason for suing the doctor. According to the Palm Beach Post (bold by me):
During a roughly two-week-long trial that ended Wednesday, Mejia and Santana claimed they would have never have brought Bryan into the world had they known about his horrific disabilities. Had Morel and technicians at OB/GYN Specialists of the Palm Beaches and Perinatal Specialists of the Palm Beaches properly administered two ultrasounds and seen he was missing three limbs, the West Palm Beach couple said they would have terminated the pregnancy.
I’m going to skip the social, political, moral, and ethical commentary since, as a pro-life Catholic, I think what’s wrong with their argument is very clear (plenty of other articles dive into those discussions). Instead, I want to focus on what we can learn from this story. What does the rosary teach us about difficult cases like this one? If we look at the Second Joyful Mystery, the Visitation, we see Mary sharing the joy of her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth. Luke’s Gospel talks about how John the Baptist “leaped for joy” in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting and how Mary felt blessed. Mary goes on to say how her soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and how God did great things to her. We learn from this encounter that all life, in whatever form, is a gift from God. All human life, while not perfect, is valuable because God infused us with souls meant to live with Him in Heaven forever.
Compare Mary’s story with the Santana’s. Mary also faced hardships first by being pregnant and unmarried (which would have been quite the scandal) and later seeing Jesus suffer in the Crucifixion. But through all those challenges she saw God’s ultimate glory and her role in bringing joy and happiness to the world. Both Mary and the Santana’s stories show that life is not without its hardships. Some people face larger obstacles in life than others. But God does not give us any challenge we cannot ultimately handle. Unfortunately, all the Santanas saw was the hardship and not God’s gift to them. Instead of finding strength through God as Mary did, they wanted a “do over” because they saw their son as a gift with “strings attached.” And while many of us may not face such large challenges as the Santana family, we often want God to pave over all the challenges or hardships we might encounter through life. We tend to blame God for any inconvenience or think He does not hear our prayers just because we do not receive the answers we want.
When we meditate on the Second Joyful Mystery we should remember that all life is precious no matter what form it comes in. Even the “lost souls” in this world, whether they be criminals, addicts of all kinds, or just plain “evil” persons, are special and precious in God’s eyes. All those living in mortal sin have an opportunity for forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and can return to the same level of grace as the greatest saints. In short, we all have an intrinsic value despite the terrible acts we may commit or our physical/mental limitations. We pray that we have the strength to see past the hardships and challenges in life and see God’s imprint on everyone as Mary does.
- No Cross Too Heavy with God’s Love (rosarymeds.com)
- How’d you like to have these “parents”? (fellowshipofminds.wordpress.com)
- Have You Friended Jesus? (rosarymeds.com)
- The Feast of the Assumption (rosarymeds.com)
- The Holy Rosary- The Fifteen Promises who pray the Holy Rosary (thealphaandtheomega.wordpress.com)
True or False? As Catholics we should abstain from eating meat on Fridays. I know a lot of people hear this and think this is an older tradition that no one really follows anymore. Or this is only required during Lent. However, the Bishops of England and Wales, to reunite people with their faith, are reminding people in their diocese to abstain from meat on Fridays. From their press release:
The Bishops also wish to remind us that every Friday is set aside as a special day of penitence, as it is the day of the suffering and death of the Lord. They believe it is important that all the faithful again be united in a common, identifiable act of Friday penance because they recognise that the virtue of penitence is best acquired as part of a common resolve and common witness.
Demonstrating outward signs of our faith is something lost in modern society. Many people go through the entire day without a saying a single prayer or having any thoughts about God. We tend to live our day in a religious neutral zone of neither separating ourselves completely from God through mortal sin but not really making much effort to further our relationship with Him. Basically God has become like that Facebook friend we mostly ignore but have not de-friended. We just aren’t interested in sharing our life with Him. The bishops remind us that there are many simple things we can do to make our relationship with God a more integral part of our lives.
The bishops’ words remind me of the Second Joyful Mystery of the rosary. Remember, in the Bible immediately after the Annunciation, Mary travels to visit her cousin Elizabeth. After receiving such a tremendous gift from God the first thing Mary does is goes out and shares that joy with others. Mary shows us that when you receive God’s grace the best thing to do is go out and share it with others. Similarly, the bishops want us to live our faith publicly and share the joy of Jesus’ love with everyone. When we weave little reminders of our faith into our daily routine, whether it be fasting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, or praying more regularly, we forge a more intimate relationship with God which will burn much brighter for all the world to see.
Let us pray for the resolve to live our faith publicly by consciously performing outward signs that remind us of God’s presence. We should also pray for those who are persecuted for living their faith. May they draw strength from the Holy Spirit to continue living as God calls them. And finally, we should remember when we pray the Second Joyful Mystery all of those who have left the faith for whatever reason. May our outward signs of the greatness of God’s loving grace bring them back to the Church’s welcoming arms.
Do you have any simple things people can add to their daily routine to remind them of their faith? Please leave a comment below.
- The Second Joyful Mystery (rosarymeds.com)
- Archbishop Chaput promises sacrifice to ‘renew this great church’ (catholicnewsagency.com)
- No Cross Too Heavy with God’s Love (rosarymeds.com)