Tag Archives: prayer

Beads of Distraction: The Rosary and My Wanding Mind

“Hail Mary full of grace….my dishwasher is full…Blessed are you among women…oh, gosh! I need to make dinner before going to the woman’s prayer group!”

If this sounds familiar, welcome to the club of humanity. You are a human being, in whom body and soul are struggling to find balance in this earthly life. Distractions are a normal part of being human, but they sure do make prayer hard. The longer the prayer, the more we seem to drift. Many people give up on “long” prayers such as the rosary for this very reason. But there is hope! Having established the fact that we are indeed humans, we need to realize that we have an intellect! This God-given gift helps us to not only make decisions and choices, but it also allows us to effect change in our lives. Distractions are irritating. They come out of nowhere, and often we don’t even realize our thoughts have wandered until we are distracted from our distraction. Before we know it, we are distracted by a distraction which was brought upon by a previous distracting distraction! However, armed with our intellectual abilities, we can devise ways to help our body and soul work in harmony, so that we may effectively pray.

The rosary has been around for a long time. It is for this reason that many Catholics who have gone before us have developed “tools and tricks” that aid our focus. The rosary is, after all, a very challenging prayer! It’s a spiritual full-body workout: we speak word, we think about mysteries, we touch beads, etc. So many things going on at once! The great thing is, we can try different approaches at different times in our lives, and thus come to a renewal in our dedication to this devotion. So, without further delay, let’s explore some helpful options!

One approach I often use is to place myself in the scene, or mystery, I am thinking about. Sometimes I even close my eyes, so as not to be distracted by anything. After all, St. Bernard reminds us that, curiosity is the first step towards pride. For example, in praying the first joyful mystery, the Annunciation, I sometimes put myself in Mary’s position. She was a young teen, who had vowed her virginity to God. Now, this angel was asking her to be a mother. Everything in her was in turmoil, and yet there was a deep sense of peace. Where did this peace come from? Why did she say ‘yes’? How would I have responded? Would I have posed more questions? Why? How willing am I to accept God’s plan for my life, even when it seems to shatter all that I had planned for myself? Do you see what I mean? Suddenly, you are reflecting on God’s plan for your life, just like Mary did, and seeking a spirit of complete trust and surrender. This is meditation, even if it just seems like an endless stream of questions at first.

Another tactic I have found helpful is using Scripture. There are many websites and pamphlets which suggest Scripture verses for each mystery. Sometimes I will even read a few words of the passage in between each “Hail Mary”. This helps me re-focus, but it can also lead me to notice new things in the wording. If you would like to try this, I strongly suggest starting with the joyful mysteries. These are all contained within the first two chapters of St. Luke’s Gospel. The very words of the prayer you say are also in this portion of Scripture!

Some people find it helpful to think of an intention before each decade (or even before each prayer of the rosary). I know of one person who would pause for a split-second before each “Hail Mary”, so as to bring to mind an individual or a situation for which to offer that prayer. How beautiful! When we have a purpose to our actions, the actions become easier. This is true of the rosary as well: when I have an intention in mind, I focus more on praying “well”, so that my supplication may be pleasing to the Lord.

One last idea I would like to propose before we wrap up is using your distractions as opportunities for prayer. Now, not all types of distractions should be used in this manner, so some prudence is needed. However, if I am praying the rosary, and I am continually thinking about the students I teach, maybe God is asking me to offer the next decade for their needs! Do you see what I mean? You take the stumbling block and turn it into a new rung on the ladder. Let me give you another example. You start praying the rosary, and your mind is flooded with something you saw on Facebook. Why not offer the next decade for purity in social media? I guarantee that this simple tactic will help you pray, and it will remove a lot of frustrations! Lastly, if you are as forgetful as I sometimes can be, keep a small notepad close by when you pray. That way, you can pause, and write down the thing you have to do or buy. This will only interrupt your prayer for a few seconds, and you will not have to think about it again during your prayer!

The rosary, just like so many other prayers, requires creativity. This creativity does not destroy the rich history of the devotion, but, rather builds on it, so as to help the soul come closer to the Lord. We are all unique, and, as such, we need our prayer to be unique. Even when we pray the rosary with others, each of us will pray differently. Yes, our lips may say the same words (I sure hope they do!), but our hearts and minds are approaching the beautiful battle of prayer in a variety of ways. I hope and pray that some of the ways I combat distractions in prayer are helpful to you. So now, go, pick up a rosary, and pray it! The Blessed Mother is holding beautiful spiritual fruits prepared specifically for your soul! Reach for the rosary, and receive all that Jesus longs to give you, through the hands of his Immaculate Mother!

 

If you don’t have a rosary, click here.

If you’d like a little help getting started with the prayers of the rosary, click here.

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Silent Yet Strong: The Counter-Cultural Witness of St. Joseph

Little is known about St. Joseph, other than what Scripture tells us.  There are, in addition, many pious traditions and legends, which help us understand the great love that surrounds this saint.  He lived 2000 years ago, and yet he is still honored and venerated today.  Why is St. Joseph important for our modern world?

A Man of Mystery and Silence

St. Joseph led a hidden life.  His life was so hidden, in fact, that Sacred Scripture does not give us a single word of his.  St. Joseph is, possibly, the least quoted saint, simply because we have none of his sayings written down for us.  And yet, in this shrouded lifestyle, Joseph teaches us how to contemplate the face of God in our daily life.  His silence josephcan be seen as an awe-struck adoration before the King of kings, whom he held in his arms!  Joseph also reminds us that, despite all the distractions of our modern society, we need time for silence and reflection.  This is especially true today, since there is an overpowering attempt to make loud all that should be kept silent, and to uncover all that should be held as a mystery.  At one point in history, seeing a woman’s ankle was considered shameful.  Today…well, I won’t describe what is considered shameful, for it ventures into a pornographic realm.  Suffice it to say that anything veiled seems to suffer the buffets of a culture of revelation, in which nothing should remain mysterious, and thus, nothing should remain sacred.  Joseph’s example of silence in the presence of the mystery of the Incarnate Word is a reminder of what our attitude should be before God.  Since the Second Vatican Council, many unfortunate abuses and “creative” additions have evolved in the Sacred Liturgy of the Catholic Church.  Some of these attempt to demystify the very mystery of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and thus make it a Protestant-style Catholic event for worship.  By way of clarification, I am not here in any way criticising or condemning any of our Protestant brothers and sisters; rather, I am claiming that we, as Catholics, need to be Catholic.  We are different, and that is part of our vocation—to maintain and uphold the beauty of our faith.  In his earlier days, St. Joseph, too, had doubts about his vocation and the path he was to follow.  Recall how he painstakingly pondered over the idea of secretly divorcing Mary, his betrothed.  It was then that an angel of the Lord appeared to him, and gave him a clear direction for his life.  He was never the same again.

A Man of Chastity and Solitude

In the family home of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, there was a strange solitude in the heart of St. Joseph.  He alone was not physically involved in the conception of Jesus.  It was our blessed Mother who carried Him in her immaculate womb. Joseph’s role was to defend her purity and virginity by his own pledge to chastity.  A unique marriage indeed!  And yet, what great love it expresses.  Many couples today sadly rely on sex as a standard of love.  Some even ask, “without sex, is there love?” as they continue to live out a falsification of this act.  In Joseph, we find the courage to live a chaste life, as appropriate to our state in life.  For the single person (heterosexual or homosexual) that means abstinence from all sexual activity.  For the married couple, it means fidelity to each other in all matters, including sexuality.  At times, chastity can feel like a deserted island, where we stand alone.  However, St. Joseph chose to follow his vocation to love Mary even more deeply than could be expressed through the limitations of the body—he was called to love her with a much greater purity than is required of most married couples.  This should give us hope as we strive for our own chastity.  Yes, it may be challenging, but often the source of challenges is the over-sexed media images we see and hear.  My husband and I do not have cable TV for many reasons, but one of them is the seductive nature of so many TV ads today.  I do not need to fill my mind (and my heart) with such images and ideas.  In days gone by, people practiced custody of the senses, meaning that they guarded carefully what they received through their senses.  The senses are a gift from the Lord, though which we experience the world around us, and thus come to know and love God more and more.  Disordered sexuality or seduction do not lead us toward God, and therefore must be avoided.  Most temptations require a head-on battle.  Temptations against chastity, however, require us to flee into the pure Hearts of Jesus and Mary, for we are often too weak to face these alone.

A Man of Devotion and Prayer

Walk into any Catholic Church for daily Mass.  Who do you see?  Most of our churches are filled with devout woman.  This is beautiful, but at the same time alarming.  Where are the men? It is true that in many families men are the primary “bread winners” so to speak, but what about the rest?  It seems that, over the ages, religion has been relegated to a feminine quality.  St. Joseph was a man of deep prayer, and he can be a source of renewal in the hearts of men.  Even though we do not know how he prayed (e.g. we do not have any of his prayers transcribed for us), we do know that he, indeed, must have prayed!  Each act of love for his spouse and foster-child was a prayer offered to the Lord.  Furthermore, his devotion to Mary and Jesus must have flowed from a heart filled with prayer.  Why else would he have stayed when things got tough?  Consider the flight to Egypt—Joseph was asked to take his spouse and child and flee to Egypt.  He could have thrown in the towel then, and claimed it was too difficult.  Aft_MG_9091erwards, it was more than a simple walk through the park!  Had he not already walked enough on his trip to Bethlehem?  I am sure that, thought his life, Joseph had many opportunities to turn away, and leave the Holy Family, even if just for a time.  And yet he stayed.  St. Joseph’s courage in times of trial, and devotion to his family in times of difficulty is proof of a prayer-filled soul.  Couples who pray together share an intimacy that is beyond a physical one—they share in the life of the soul.  It is the vocation of spouses to draw each other toward Heaven, day by day.  How else can a husband or wife know how to help his/her spouse on this pilgrimage unless they pray together?  It is through prayer that the Lord speaks to our hearts.  My husband and I take a few moments each day to pray together (yes, out loud).  It was very difficult at first, I will admit, but I think that this is simply due to the fact that Satan knows the power of prayer, and even more so, the power of a sacramentally married couple who is praying as one.

 

St. Joseph is a model for all Christians, men and women alike.  As head of the Holy Family, he is a great beacon of hope for all men in a particular way.  Our culture often tries to artificially equalize the sexes.  In St. Joseph we find a powerful reminder of the beauty of Christian fatherhood and manhood.  For myself as a woman, I find in St. Joseph the courage to live out my vocation as wife and mother, since I know that I have a husband who is striving to be like Joseph: prayerful, faithful and chaste.  St. Joseph, pray for us, that we may always run toward Heavenly things in a world full of noise and distraction!

 

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The Neglected Guest: Rekindling the Lost Sense of Awe at Mass

If you could make an appointment with God, face to face, what
woImageuld you want to tell him?  How would you prepare for such a unique guest? 

This hypothetical appointment is a reality, if only we have the eyes of faith.  Our God is truly present in the Eucharist.  Yes, in that tiny piece of bread and in the droplet of wine, He is completely present.  Whether you believe it or not, He is truly and completely present in the Eucharist.  Knowing it is one thing; believing is another. 

Knowledge can be gained through study, but if we don’t fall in love with what we have studied, it quickly fades from memory.  If we start to believe and love what we have learned, it will change the way we live.  Think of a subject or topic that interests you, and compare it to one that does not.  Which do you have a greater personal attachment to?  Which shapes your thoughts and actions?

Over the centuries, much has been written about the Eucharist, but reading this is not enough.  I challengImagee you to ask for the gift of faith in order to truly believe what you have read.  Fall in love with what you have studied!  The Eucharist is God’s whole and true self!  St. Catherine of Siena, a great Dominican saint, wrote that, “Upon knowledge follows love”.  If you come to know that He is in the Eucharist, how can you not love Him more deeply?

Now, going back to one of my opening questions, how will you prepare to receive Him?   In Canon Law, there is a section which speaks of our preparation for Holy Communion:
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Canon 919, 1: “One who is to receive the Most Holy Eucharist is to abstain from any food or drink, with the exception only of water and medicine, for at least the period of one hour before Holy Communion.”

This time of preparation is not just some pious tradition.  It is the law of the Church.  But why?  The Church, in giving us this prescription, is inviting us to deny our bodies so as to increase our longing.  This is to serve as a reminder of our need for God, and the necessity of longing for him.  After all, He longs for us.  That is why He left us His very Presence in this Sacrament!   If you do not longingly await His Sacred Banquet, ask for this grace.  A holy longing is a great gift from God!

For many of us, going up for Communion is just part of the Sunday Mass ritual.  We walk up, say amen, and then eat/drink.  Where do your thoughts go at this most sacred moment of your week?  How are you welcoming the Guest of honor?  What could you tell Him at this precious time?  What might He want to tell you?

My challenge to you is this: spend some time before Mass reflecting on what you are going into.  The church is notImage a stadium, nor is it a movie theatre, and yet it feels like one at times.  This building is a holy place where Heaven and Earth literally touch.  God is truly present in the Church at all times.  He is so close to us, and yet we tend to forget Him.  What if, this week, you focused on Him instead of on other distractions (which we all experience)?  What if you entered the church building with a reverential fear and awe?  How would that change your week?  How would it change your eternal destination?

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