Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Applying the Luminous Mysteries

1. The Baptism in the Jordan

2. The Wedding at Cana

3. Proclamation of the Kingdom

4. The Transfiguration

5. The Institution of the Eucharist

The Luminous Mysteries, which became part of the Rosary in October of 2002, were instituted by Pope John Paul II as the "Mysteries of Light" to emphasize Jesus' public ministry. I think of them as being particularly pertinent to our times, and that's why I think the Holy Spirit moved John Paul II to add them. That means they are particularly helpful when I'm looking for solutions to my problems.

The Baptism in the Jordan

Jesus didn't need to be baptized, but he submitted to His Father's will. We know this pleased the Father, because He said so. "This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased."

I think that we were made for order, and I think the Father loves order. When our lives are ordered around Christ, we are living as we should. When we have simple order in our households, then we eliminate unnecessary worries and tension and we are truly ready to submit to God's will. 

I'll pray later, when I have time. I'd love to go to morning Mass but I have to finish that thing I forgot to do yesterday. I'd volunteer my time, but I'm afraid to be tied up because so many unexpected emergencies are always popping up. This is what my life looks like when I don't have order, and you can see how God gets pushed to the bottom of the list. Not good. He belongs at the top. 

We should order our days around God, not fit him into our day. 

Do my problems exist because my life was a mess of paper piles and overextended scheduling? Did the solutions evade me because I couldn't find them in my stress and rush?  Could I have been better prepared to deal with my problem if only I had been living in order? 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that God loves order and obedience, and if I live my life accordingly, I'll be prepared for my troubles and ready to receive the solutions. 

The Wedding at Cana

I have to admit that this is one of my favorite mysteries. I love how Mary points everyone to Jesus and how she has complete trust that he will make the problem disappear. 

When the couple ran out of wine, it was a crises of dignity rather than an issue of life or death, but Mary and Jesus thought it was important enough to lend a hand, so I should never feel that my problems are too insignificant to pray about. 

This story also tells me that It's not all about me.  Mary noticed that someone else was in distressed, and rushed to ask Jesus to help them. 

Did my problems come about because I didn't consider the dignity of others?  Did I charge up a storm without thinking about how it would effect my family? My hard-working husband? My own dignity? Do I have a strained relationship because I didn't treat that person with dignity? 

But my problem is a strained relationship.  I had to chastise my spouse for spending all our savings on his monopoly addiction. I had to say something! But did you say it with love? With love, dignity remains intact. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that I need to consider the dignity of myself and others before I make decisions. And, if I wind up in trouble, Jesus will help me if I ask. 

Proclamation of the Gospel

It's all there in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: Jesus telling and showing us how to live. 

We preach through our actions, so if I'm not handling my money well, if I'm not doing the Corporal and Spiritual Acts of Mercy, then I'm going to go off the right track.  Is that how I wound up in my current situation? Is my current situation keeping me from performing the Acts of Mercy? 

If I've handled my money wrong, I might not tithe. Big mistake. The first 10% of everything, from our money to our time to our talents belongs to Him. He lets us keep 90% because He is a nice guy. 

The Corporal Works of Mercy
  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
  • Admonish the sinner
  • Instruct the ignorant (This and the next work are extremely pertinent categories today, when so many people are confused by what the Church teaches on contraception, abortion, homosexuality, etc.)
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Comfort the sorrowful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive all injuries
  • Pray for the living and the dead
The mystery behind this Mystery is that I need to match my actions to what Jesus teaches. That should help me avoid my problems as well as find solutions. 


Okay. This might be my favorite Mystery. (Or maybe they ALL are?)  Jesus went up the mountain, and there Peter, James and John saw Him revealed as the Son of God. He made the connection between the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah), showed us the point between Heaven and Earth, and combined the old covenant with His new covenant, which would come with His resurrection. 

Jesus was with the apostles the entire time and they didn't know He was God.  Likewise, God is with us all of the time, even if we don't recognize Him. He is in the face of the person we most dislike, the politician we hate, the crazy homeless person who grosses us out. 

Jesus revealed Himself as God at the chosen time. Not sooner; not later. There is a proper time for everything, as the Psalms tell us. Maybe I'm trying to accomplish things before it's the right time, and I'm pushing at them and causing problems, or a push back. Maybe I'm not dealing with issues when I should, and then they become bigger problems. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that God is beside us all of the time, even if we don't notice Him.  There is a proper time for everything, and by preparing and being aware, I'll be ready to respond "at the right time."

The Institution of the Eucharist

Jesus left us with his physical presence in the Holy Eucharist. We can receive him at daily Mass, and He will help us through the day. 

When I receive the Eucharist, I pray that God, who is in me right now, will shine through me and guide my actions for the day. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that the Eucharist is one of the biggest helps I have available to me, and it's a gift from God. He meant me to utilize His presence, so by receiving daily Communion and by showing up for Adoration, I'll be able to better hear Him throughout my day, and maybe I won't get into problem situation in the first place!

I hope that I've done an effective job of showing you how the Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary can be brought into your present life and used in your life right now. Today. The Mysteries of Christ's life and death are not old news to be reviewed like a history book. They are present and current, and you can use their example to wind your way through modern trials, and to help you avoid them!

I'd love to know what you think about the Mysteries, especially any examples of how they helped you deal with situations in your life. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Applying the Joyful Mysteries

The Joyful Mysteries

1. The Annunciation

2. The Visitation

3. The Nativity

4. The Presentation

5. Finding Jesus in the Temple

How can I apply the Joyful Mysteries to my daily problems? To the current big issues in my life as well as the little trials that happen every day? Here's what I found. 

The Annunciation

God sent the angel, Gabriel, to Mary to ask her to become pregnant with and give birth to the Salvation of the World. Well, of course she'd say yes, right? Not so fast. 

He was asking her to understand that she would become pregnant by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit at a time when the world didn't really understand the Trinity, even though it was right there in Genesis. And speaking of not understanding the Trinity, she was the first person to be told that God had a Son who would become a man! What a shock!

That doesn't take into account the very real fear that she would be rejected by Joseph. Though they weren't yet living together, she was his wife. I have a hard enough time telling my husband that I forgot to take care of one of the few errands he asks me to do for him. I can't imagine telling him, "By the way? I know we haven't had sex, but I'm pregnant. And I'm still a virgin. Promise." Especially since Joseph would have been within his rights to have her stoned to death. 

But Mary submitted to God's will. She trusted. And she trusted with joy. She didn't run and hide for the next 9 months. She trusted and accepted and continued to move forward in her life. 

Hiding from my troubles, pretending they don't exist or putting off dealing with them is a bad plan. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that, even in the scariest events in our lives, God has a plan to bring about great joy. There isn't any reason to be afraid. Just hand it over to Him and rejoice. 

The Visitation

Mary's cousin, Elizabeth, was pregnant at a late age, because "with God, all things are possible." The Bible says she flew to Elizabeth's side. She saw a person in need, knew that was God's next mission for her, and she rushed to get it done. 

I think we, as humans, would have understood if she had dawdled. That's a five day journey, and I'm pregnant. I'm responsible for the Son of God. I can't go traipsing off on a hard and dangerous journey. I've got responsibilities! 

Again, I sound like a broken record, but she trusted in God. And then she did His will. 

I read an article about the problem with discernment as it relates to the religious life (and probably to every other issue that people are discerning.) There are too many folks who discern, discern, discern, and they never take any action. Entering the seminary is how you discern if you want to be a religious. They don't lock the doors when you enter and say, "We've got you now. You can never leave."  You enter, and you try it, and you pray to find out if it is truly God's will. 

I tend to act too fast, without enough prayer and consideration. That often gets me in trouble. I should take more time with important decisions. And it's good to get the advice of wise people, especially my elders, but it's not good to sit on the situation (unless that's what God's asking me to do) and wait for magic fairies to come take my troubles away. 

But make sure the person you speak to is living a holy life and is a good example. For instance, it's not a good idea to ask for marital advice from a group of divorced women who are card-carrying man-haters. And don't laugh. I know people who have done this. They are now divorced. Surprise. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that, when God gives us a mission, we should act, and we should trust that He knows the way it will be fulfilled and trust in Him. 

The Nativity

Mary had a tiny baby in the poorest of conditions. Herod was mighty and rich. Jesus was tiny and poor. But looky who's King of Kings? 

The smallest acts, the humblest people, the poorest souls hold great possibility. The tiniest things can bring about the greatest joys. We're too focused on accomplishing great things. God accomplishes great things through our small efforts. 

The Little Flower, St. Therese of Lisieux, gave us The Story of a Soul, in which she explains how we are so little, but God loves to lift us up. 

Maybe that one kind word that you give will change a person's attitude for the entire day. Maybe your smile will raise the spirits of a person with a broken heart. Maybe picking up the paperwork on the dining room table will give your husband order in his mind when he walks in the door after a hectic day. It's all important. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is to look for the possibilities and the joy in the details, in the small acts. I don't have to solve my problems with a huge ta-da. There is probably some small thing I could change that would bring results. I don't know what promise each move holds in God's plan, so give each one 100% and do it with joy. 

The Presentation

Jews would take their firstborn son to the temple and offer him up to God. Then they would ransom him back with an offering--two turtledoves if you were poor, like Mary and Joseph. 

They were following the rules set down by their religion. The Catholic Church has rules. Go to Mass on Sunday. Go to confession once per year, minimum. 

These rules are for our benefit and protection. They teach us humility. And maybe your following of the rules will aid someone else. 

Mary and Joseph didn't have to submit to the rules. If anyone should have been exempt,it should have been the mother and step-father of Jesus. But they had humility, and by going to the temple with Jesus, they fulfilled God's promise to Simeon that he would see the Christ child before he died. They also gave joy to Anna, the prophet. 

Maybe my problem is a tough financial situation. I look to the Bible and see the passage on tithing, and I decide to follow the rules. I help someone with my offering. My actions are witnessed by somebody who sees that, even in difficulties, I still help the poor, and it converts him. I just don't know. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is that it's not all about me. Following the rules of the Church are for my benefit, but they may also be used for someone else's benefit. And following the rules might help me out with my problem. 

Finding Jesus in the Temple

If you look for Jesus, you will find Him. And notice how He was found in a house of God? And who was there with him?  God the Father. The Holy Spirit, spouse of Mary. Mary, mother of God, and her earthly spouse, Joseph. Talk about the A-Team. 

If we look for Jesus, we will find Him. He's there, even in our troubled times. And His posse is with him, too!

The mystery behind this Mystery is that Jesus is with me, even in my troubles. I can talk to Him, ask His advice, look for solutions in His Word, the Bible, and look to the examples of Mary, Joseph, and the Saints. 

Next up, the Luminous Mysteries. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Applying the Glorious Mysteries

If you haven't been reading along, I was having difficulties with two reoccurring issues, and I decided to meditate on the Mysteries of the Rosary to find answers to how to handle my problems. Today was the Glorious Mysteries.

1. The Resurrection

2. The Ascension 

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit

4. The Assumption of Mary

5. The Crowing of Mary

The Resurrection

Through His resurrection, Jesus freed me from the worries of this life by giving me life everlasting with Him. Living at my best, I'm focused on the next world right now and live accordingly.  When I focus on my troubles, they hold me in this world. The solution?  Hand my worries over to Jesus and trust Him. 

I spoke with an aunt who has big time health issues in her family. She said, "We focus on the present. Yesterday and tomorrow don't matter. We have now." 

She is exactly right. God is the God of the present. When you are lured into regrets from your past or dragged into the future through worry, that can be the enemy trying to keep you away from God, Who is in the present.

It may be that what I'm experience right now has a purpose, and if I'm fluttering around trying to ignore what's happening or I'm too stressed out to enjoy right now, I will miss that purpose. 

It's also possible that I'm beating myself up over something in the past, or I'm worrying about something that hasn't happened yet, and that's why my problem looks so large. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is to stay in the present. Do what I can do right now and trust in God for the rest.  And don't forget to enjoy the present. 

The Ascension

It must have been a huge bummer for the Apostles when Jesus left them. They must have felt so lost. All this time they had Him to depend on, to talk to, to question. Now they were completely alone in a hostile world.  Or were they? 

God didn't have to become man. He didn't need to endure thirty-something years as a human being, which couldn't have been comfortable for someone  who was, well, GOD. But He became man so He could give us an example of how to live. Give to Cesar that which belongs to Cesar. Multiply your talents. Be not afraid.

He also didn't leave us. Not really. Just in the form of a man. We can still ask His advice, and if we listen, He'll respond. That's why spending time in prayer, especially before the Eucharist, is so important. Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer to His Father. Do we need the Father less? I think not. 

Through the spiritual exercises of Ignatius, (led by a competent spiritual director) I've been privileged to experience direct interaction with Jesus. No, He didn't whisper in my ear, but it was definite and wonderful. (I've also experienced "conversation" with the enemy, which is one reason it's imperative that you have a competent spiritual director.)  But He does talk to us if we listen.

And then we have to accept the answer. Father Larry Richards said that when people complain about their day, he asks them if they thanked God for their day. "Did you pray the Our Father? Did you say Thy will be done? Well, this is His will. Thank Him for it!"

The mystery behind this Mystery is to look to the Bible for examples of how God has advised us to deal with our problems. Ask Him for help, and then trust that the response is His will. 

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

I have to say, I preferred it when we referred to the Third Person of the Trinity as the Holy Ghost. That said, the Holy Spirit is with us, a gift from God. Catholics believe that the Person of the Holy Spirit is the love shared by the Father and the Son. 

Don't be fooled. The Holy Spirit is Love, but He'll kick our butts if He needs to. He's there to guide us, and He'll fill our actions if we let Him. 

One of the problems I'm having is because I ignored promptings. Whether they were from the Holy Spirit or my guardian angel, I don't know.  A prompting is just like it sounds--a thought (in the right direction) that keeps coming to mind and won't leave you alone. 

I experienced this once before when a parishioner was dying of cancer. I didn't even know her, but I kept getting a very strong feeling, one that wouldn't leave me alone, that I should let her borrow my Rosary blessed by Blessed John Paul II. I called a friend of the lady's, because I thought maybe I was having delusions of grandeur and I didn't want to bug the dying woman. The friend explained what was going on, I lent the Rosary, and it gave the dying woman great comfort.  

The mystery behind this Mystery is to ask the Holy Spirit to guide my actions in dealing with my problems, and to listen to Him if He responds. That means I have to take action, not just sit around and whine. 

The Assumption

I won't go into a debate about the assumption. There are apologists who do that much better than I could, and I'll go into the difference between ascension and assumption some other time, but the point is that Mary is now in Heaven. She gave me a role model to follow while I'm here on earth, and primarily, it was service and devotion to Jesus. 

How can my problems point me to Jesus? Is there something I can learn from them? Are they of my own making because I haven't lived the life a disciple of Jesus should? 

The mystery behind the Mystery is to look at my problems, see if they originated with being out of step as a disciple, and then work out the solution in accord with how Jesus would want me to. And, of course, ask for His help. 

The Crowning of Mary

We are not alone. No, it's not a catch phrase from a science fiction series. It refers to all the angels and saints in Heaven who are ready and willing to intercede for us. 

I really have to get away from thinking I have to handle everything by myself, because I don't. Jesus will help me. So will Mary and the saints and angels.  But I have to ask. 

The mystery behind the Mystery is that I never have to feel alone in my troubles.  

Next up is the Joyful Mysteries. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Reflections on the Ring, a Book Review

Reflections on the Ring: An Ordinary Woman's Extraordinary Tale of How She Saved Her
Marriage and Her Family 
by Lori Colombo Dunham
Available at, $13.95

Reflections on the Ring is a vignette about an unexpected turn in a ladies night out. The women have gathered together to share their wedding albums when one woman admits she doesn't have pictures to share. Instead, she has a love story.

Told from author Lori Colombo Dunham's point of view, her tale is about how she married a man she hardly knew after conceiving his child. Fortunately, he is the kind of guy willing to start (or continue) a family, though she wonders if she's making a mistake by choosing to share her life with a complete stranger.  Through hard work and commitment, the couple make the marriage a success.

Sprinkled with quotes from various  self-help books and the Bible, each chapter ends with Reflections on the Ring, a few thoughts on what it takes to make a marriage 

In a "me first" society with so many examples of Bridezilla stories, it's refreshing to read about a woman who puts her marriage and her family at the top of her priority list.  The Reflections on the Ring provide a nice reminder (or possibly new information) to women who want the same thing. 

It's a quick read, and the author will hopefully put it on Kindle.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Our Lady of Guadelupe, Pray for Us

 Today is the feast of Our Lady of Guadelupe. She is the Patroness of the Americas, and the US could really use her help right now.

In 1531, a poor Aztec named Juan Diego traveled through Tepayac hill country. He ran into a beautiful woman surrounded by light. She identified herself as "Mary, mother of the true God", and she told him she desired a church be built in that location.

Juan, imitating Mary's own haste when she was called to help her cousin Elizabeth, flew to the palace of the Bishop in Tenochtitlan and told his story. The Bishop-elect, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, listened to Juan's tale and said he would think about it.

As proof of her appearance, Mary told Juan to pick flowers from the top of a freezing hillside. The flowers were there, and Juan picked them and took them to the Bishop as proof, since flowers shouldn't have been growing at that time of year. When he opened his tilma, a poncho-like cape made of cactus fibers, the image of Our Lady was imprinted on the fabric.

That's the short version.

Where did her title come from? She requested it, though it's believed that she actually said Santa Maria de Coatlallope, which means one who treads on snakes. The local Aztec dialect caused the mis-translation.

Add caption
The image is displayed at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadelupe. In 1999, Pope John Paul II named her the Protectress of Unborn Children, as the black sash around her waist in the image indicates pregnancy.

As for miracles and cool stuff associated with the image?

First, the tilma's very existence. It has maintained its structural integrity over nearly 500 years, while replicas normally last only 15 years before suffering degradation.  The image's longevity (cactus fibers should have disintegrated by now) is inexplicable, as is the method used to create the image, though it's been studied by experts.

Next, it repaired itself after suffering considerable damage from an ammonia spill in 1791.

Then, on November 14, 1921, a bomb damaged the altar but left the icon unharmed.

The next one needs a more technical explanation, and the Wikipedia description is very good.

From Wikipedia:

Then in 1929 and 1951 photographers found a figure reflected in the Virgin's eyes; upon inspection they said that the reflection was tripled in what is called the Purkinje effect, commonly found in human eyes.[54] An ophthalmologist, Dr. Jose Aste Tonsmann, later enlarged an image of the Virgin's eyes by 2500x and claimed to have found not only the aforementioned single figure, but images of all the witnesses present when the tilma was first revealed before Zumárraga in 1531, plus a small family group of mother, father, and a group of children, in the center of the Virgin's eyes, fourteen people in all.[55]

In 2012, the St. Augustine Chapel, which displayed a portrait of the image, burned to the ground. The image survived with only minor damage.

There's only one thing left to say:

Our Lady of Guadelupe, pray for us, because we really, really need it right now.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Applying the Sorrowful Mysteries

The Sorrowful Mysteries

1. The Agony in the Garden

2. The Scourging at the Pilar

3. The Crowing with Thorns

4. The Carrying of the Cross

5. The Crucifixion

Yesterday I mentioned that I had two "buttons" that the enemy kept pushing. How do you know when it's the enemy? If the resulting worry, stress, or anger keeps distracting you from trusting in Jesus, you can bet there's a certain prideful angel behind it, because that's his goal. Per my spiritual directors instructions, I looked for the answers in the Sorrowful Mysteries.

The first thought I had was that the other Mysteries--the Nativity, the Visitation, Finding Jesus in the Temple, etc.-- are gifts from Jesus to us. The Sorrowful Mysteries give us a chance to give back. 

The Agony in the Garden

Can you imagine the most painful, embarrassing, or lonely moment in your life? Were you alone? Completely and utterly abandoned?  No one to email or call? 

That's what it was like for Jesus in the garden. His friends fell asleep, leaving Him to go through tortuous prayer, doubts, and fear all alone. When I contemplate this Mystery, I can be there for Him. I can keep Him company. Not only that, I can bring Him joy.

Joy seemed to be the key word. Christians are meant for joy, and when we are joyful, even in our trials, that makes Jesus happy. But as long as I'm focused on those buttons I mentioned, I'm distracted and can't give Jesus my full attention. I can't give Him the love he deserves. And if I'm worried about them, it means I haven't handed them over to Him. And He wants it all.

Columnist and author Teresa Tomeo said, "If God is your copilot, you need to change seats."  I need (and want) to do His will, not mine, and that means taking my control freak fingers off the steering wheel.

So the mystery behind the Mystery, when applied to my problems, is to approach them with joy, and that joy comes from complete trust in Him. 

The Scourging at the Pilar 

Life isn't fair. The scourging started Jesus on his path to death, as the internal injuries left Him weak and bleeding. He gave us everything, and we gave Him death. The ultimate not fair.

When I have problems in my life, I tend to look for the fairness. Why should I go through this? Why is that happening? Never mind that many trials are of my own making. It doesn't feel fair. 

And wouldn't it be more fair if I responded to bad things with anger or depression? That seems logical, until I remember that my reward isn't in this life. This is a damaged world. It seems like a big sacrifice to respond to troubles with joy. Sacrifice is never fair. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is to stop looking for fair, because it isn't there. 

The Crowning with Thorns

When the Roman soldiers crowned Jesus with thorns, they were mocking Him. Did He react with pride? Zap them into Hades? Make fun of the Son of God, will ya? BAM!  No. That's how I want to react. (It's that fairness thing again.)  

When you stand up for what's right, which isn't very popular these days, you will be mocked. It may come as gentle ribbing or outright sarcasm. It may be a passive aggressive response or plain anger. Just look in the comment sections of Christian blogs. There are some pretty horrible comments. 

Even worse, when I accept the mistakes I've made and try to fix them, there is an internal mocking from the enemy. Who are you to think you can fix this? You deserve your sadness because you really blew it. Take your medicine. OR Don't you deserve to get angry about this? Are you a wimp? 

When I see it written here, it seems so obvious, but that train of thought can be pretty damaging. 

The mystery behind this Mystery is to know that whatever my mistakes, however big I think my problems are, when I hand them over to Jesus and trust in His love and His mercy, I can move on.

Carrying the Cross

This one smacked me up the side of the head. We're going to have to do some actual work. While God could miraculously fix everything that's wrong in my life, that wouldn't be very loving. Good parents let their kids go through trials so they can learn coping skills and know that mistakes and bad things aren't the end of the world. 

When I have problems, I need to look for the solutions, and I shouldn't expect the answers to be easy. But they're doable. I just have to do them. 

There is a story about a man in a flood. He climbs to the top of his roof and prays to be rescued. Then he trusts in God. A passing canoeist offers him a ride. He declines. God will save him. Then another boat comes to him and offers to take him to safety. He declines. God will save him. Then a helicopter hovers overhead and offers him a ladder. He declines. God will save him. When it's apparent that he's going to drown, he rages against God. I trusted you! You said you would save me! And God responds, "I tried three times." The guy drowns.

The mystery behind this Mystery is that, after I hand my worries over to God and trust in Him, I'm going to have to roll up my sleeves and do some work. 

The Crucifixion

Jesus died on the cross for us. Death is usually the ultimate fear, and He took away our reason to fear death. He opened the gates of Heaven so we could be with Him forever. The Baltimore Catechism answered the question Why did God make me? with  (and I'm paraphrasing) "To know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this life so I can be with Him forever in the next life." That's a pretty good reason for joy.  

It puts my problems into perspective. They are temporary. Everything that God allows in this life is to bring me closer to Him.  How can I use my problem to get closer to Him? 

If it's financial, maybe I need to reevaluate my relationship with money. Am I in difficulties because I'm too caught up in buying stuff? Am I remembering to tithe and trust? Or if it's relational, am I approaching those relationships with love? Even if it's not reciprocated? (And I don't mean stalking. Stalking's bad.)

The mystery behind this Mystery is that Jesus died on the cross and took away my reasons to fear. Problems are just part of life. Deal with them with trust in Him, dignity, and love.  That's the best I can do. 

After I went through these Mysteries, I decided to go through the Glorious, Joyful, and Luminous Mysteries with the same intention--to apply them to my problems right now. I'll post my discoveries as I go. 

I hope this encourages you to see the Rosary as a modern day prayer--not something rooted in the past, but something present, something that you can apply to what's happening in your life today. 

Try it, and then let me know how it went. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Stalked by the Sorrowful Mysteries

You've had it happen to you, I'm sure. That song that won't get out of your head. The movie scene that keeps coming back to you. That something that won't let go of your mind and let you be.

I was being stalked by the Sorrowful Mysteries.

For those who don't know the Rosary, it's divided up into four Mysteries - Sorrowful, Glorious, Joyful, and Luminous - and these are prayed on different days. When you pray, you focus on five events in Jesus' life that fall under each heading, and you pray a different Mystery each day.

Seven days a week, with Luminous prayed on Thursday, leaves two days each for the other three mysteries, but it seemed every time I picked up my Rosary, it was time for the Sorrowful Mysteries again. Or it would be the next day. Logistically impossible. God was trying to tell me something.

At the same time, the enemy was pushing certain buttons of mine. You know, those triggers that get you angry, or scared, or depressed, even when there's no logical reason. There were two for me, and he kept pushing them over and over and over. My wise spiritual director told me to ask Jesus and Mary how the button pushing was related to the Sorrowful Mysteries. Perhaps I was receiving an invitation to delve more deeply into the Rosary.

The next day (surprise) it was time for the Sorrowful Mysteries again. This time, instead of just focusing on the events in Jesus life, I asked God to apply their meaning to the buttons. The results were just another example of how God provides us with every spiritual blessing we need to get through life. He was inviting me to actively apply each Mystery to the current situations in my life as a way of guiding me through tough times.

I found so many treasures in the Sorrowful Mysteries that I decided to do the same with each of the Mysteries, and I'll blog on each of them separately. I hope they help YOU apply Jesus' life to your troubles, and that they guide you through them as they have me.

Next Up:  Applying the Sorrowful Mysteries

Monday, December 9, 2013

Immaculate Mary and Why We Sing Her Praises

I often hear criticism of Mary, everything from  "You Catholics worship her" (we don't) to you to you worship her statue (Do you have a creche? Is there a statue of Mary in it? Do you worship it? Enough said.)  to the Immaculate Conception was made up in 1854.  It was made official dogma in that year, but the feast day was celebrated as early as 1476, with a feast in the honor of Conception of the Most Holy and All Pure Mother of God celebrated in Syria in the 5th century. 

Just because things aren't written down for a while doesn't make them untrue. Otherwise, the Bible would be untrue. As early as 350 AD, the belief in the Immaculate Conception existed. And as we know from personal experience, the first one to write it down wasn't the first one to think of it. 

"You, and your Mother are alone in this. You are wholly beautiful in every respect. There is in you, Lord, no stain, nor any spot in your Mother." - St. Ephraem, 350 AD

My favorite explanation lies in Matthew 9:17, also found in Mark 2:21-22and Luke 5:33-39

17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.

Jesus was a lot more valuable than wine, so why would God allow Him to enter a body stained with original sin? 

Any way you look at it, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, like everything we believe about Mary, originates with an points to Jesus, not Mary. If she wasn't carrying the Savior, God wouldn't have created her without sin. 

Think of her as the very first person to be saved by Jesus. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Mother Cabrini: What it Means to Pray Always

Pray, pray always, and ask unceasingly for the spirit of prayer. What is the spirit of prayer? It means praying according to the Spirit of Jesus, in Jesus and with Jesus. The spirit of prayer means praying in accordance with the divine good pleasure, willing only what God wills. It means that we have our minds fixed on prayer at all times, in all places, working, walking, eating, speaking, suffering; habitually and always.” 
                                                                      --  Mother Cabrini

This is why Mother Cabrini is a saint, and I'm not.  She sees through the eyes of Jesus, I see through mine.  

I struggle with my prayer life.  Like many, I make the mistake of fitting it into my day instead of building my day around prayer, around Jesus. I focus on to-do lists, goals, and responsibilities--the end instead of the means. (And not even the true, important end, either.)  I rush through my Examen and promise to give it my full attention tomorrow. I put off my Rosary. Why? 

We live in an attention deficit world, where we've mistaken more for better.  I'm aware of this every time I see a mother walking with her child but ignoring this special time to talk on the phone.  How many times do I fly through a task without focusing on what I'm doing? That would be most of the time.  

In an article about Mother Cabrini, A Missionary for Our Times by David Lynch, I was struck by the this phrase: 

All of Mother’s missionary activity was carried on in an un-hurried manner. In the midst of her whirlwind activities she maintained her recollection in the presence of God.

The contrast of her un-hurried manner and her whirlwind activities is the ultimate paradox. When we are present with God, we get more done. I think it's because he has a lot for us to do, if we'd only listen to him. 

I know I don't listen because I'm  usually focused on me, not Jesus. What's the difference?  When I'm concerned with my will, then I get angry when things don't go right. My activity ceases, or at least slows down while I rant or figure out how to make things work out in the way I want.  When I'm concerned with doing God's will, I don't get angry when situations don't meet my expectations because I understand that this mess, this mistake in my world may be exactly where God wants me to be. And then I can look for the opportunities.  

In fact, Mother took it a step farther. (From the same article.) 

One of the Sisters once asked Mother what to do when her prayers were not answered. “Do?” Mother replied, “Thank God all the more!” At such times she herself would say, “I thank Thee, dear Jesus, that Thy will and not mine has been done.”

I think what Mother Cabrini is referring to is the art of being present. She's not the first to talk about it. Brother Lawrence's letters are compiled into the book Practicing the Presence of God. St. Ignatius of Loyola's retreat leads us into this same state of being. 

My husband and my father are the examples I look to when I want to remember how to be present. When either of them is working on something, that something has their full attention. Their head isn't someplace else thinking about the grocery list or writing thank you notes. 

It's hard. It's really hard. But I think it would be amazing to get to that state of mind. Don't you?