It wasn’t until I was well into my journey of learning to pray the Rosary that I discovered that each mystery is associated with a spiritual fruit. I think that I first noticed them listed in a “How to Pray the Rosary” pamphlet – probably something that I had casually picked up from the church vestibule.
Written under each of the 20 mysteries was a specific spiritual fruit. In this particular pamphlet there was no instruction beyond this. As a convert to Catholicism, I had initially found the layered praying experience of the Rosary to be a touch overwhelming. This may seem entirely second nature to a cradle Catholic, but for me, the idea of praying one set of prayers (Hail Mary, Our Father, etc.) while meditating on something else (i.e. the annunciation), initially felt dizzying and mainly impossible.
Now I had discovered a whole new layer to the Rosary experience. To be honest, I had no idea what to do with this new piece of information. I began by just saying the name of the virtue before beginning each decade: “The annunciation. Humility. Our Father …”
To be honest, I had no idea why any given virtue was associated with a particular mystery of the Rosary. Furthermore, I wasn’t totally certain what I was supposed to do with these virtues. In the example of humility and the annunciation – was I supposed to look for the virtue of humility demonstrated in the annunciation Bible story? Could I mystically obtain the virtue of humility just by praying the Annunciation? How many times did I need to pray to be truly humbled?
As with much of my Catholic experience, I have found that my initial questions – while honest and well-intentioned – are not ultimately the questions whose answers I most deeply seek. The answers that I truly want are not something that can be neatly printed in a pamphlet or answered with a simple response. Rather, they are answers that come in pieces, slowly with repetition and prayer.
This is your invitation to continue the Rosary Journey with your family (with your Parish, and with me, too!). You can check out the Rosary Encounter on our social media pages or in the bulletin. Try praying it with your spouse or with your kids. You can also come here to find additional resources and something new each week. Click the link below for materials on meditation and discussion.
As a child I thought that pie crusts only came in preformed aluminum pie plates. It wasn’t until my late teens that I first tasted a true homemade pie. I was immediately smitten. As a young adult I decided to learn the art of pie making myself. I looked up an old fashioned pie crust recipe and was excited to see how simple it was. Just 5 ingredients: flour, salt, butter, shortening, and water. Easy peasy – or so I thought!
I began learning then what I am still learning today. Sometimes the recipes that appear to be the simplest are actually the most complicated. The discretion of using just the right amount of ice water, the finesse of cutting the fat evenly into the flour without overworking it, and of knowing which pie recipes would benefit from sneaking a few pinches of sugar into the dough – all of that can only be learned through experience and repetition. I am a much better pie maker than I was when I first started, but even so, sometimes my pies still don’t turn out just right.
I did not grow up praying the Rosary. Perhaps you did? Maybe your childhood memories of praying the Rosary seem cold and distant – a sort of endless monotony that you were forced to endure. Perhaps you have memories of praying with your family as a young child, wrought with youthful mysticism and warmth that you long to return to as an adult. Regardless of what your childhood Rosary experience was, it seems like the practice of praying the Rosary is something that is often pushed aside or pushed through, not something that is fully embraced.
When I learned to pray the Rosary as an adult, I approached it like a pie crust. Just a few ingredients – easy enough! Now say these prayers, now these, now meditate on this. The only problem was, I was missing all of the finesse – all of the warmth and joy (and sorrow and shared suffering) that comes from repetition and experience.
As Catholics we love to talk about our Rosary devotions. We have Rosaries in the adoration chapel and in the back of our church; we give them as confirmation, first communion, and baptism gifts; we have family rosaries, Rosary groups, and Rosary podcasts. These are all wonderful resources, but often they do not help us get past the “ingredient list” method of praying.
The Ascension Family Life ministry wants to challenge you to enter into praying the Rosary a new way. Hopefully you have already seen the Rosary Encounter on our social media pages or in the bulletin. That is a short, weekly challenge that is meant to be shared/prayed with your family. In this blog, you will find additional Rosary resources that can supplement your journey as you enter into praying the Rosary and meditating on its mysteries in a new way.
Click the link below for additional materials for meditation and discussion. And come back next week for something new!
Not long ago while visiting with a Catholic, I was taken back by the question, “Why should I go to Mass?” My assumption is that Catholics know why they should go to Mass, but maybe I assume too much. Hence this little piece Why go to Mass? Every individual sharing in the Mass has his/her own reasons for doing so. Here are some that deserve some consideration.
God gives us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Is it too much to give Him an hour of our time? God gives us life itself and all our talents and abilities. Isn’t it only right to say THANK YOU by sharing our time and ourselves with God?
We lead hectic lives, running in a thousand directions. What’s the integrating thread that keeps it all together? What reminds us what is really important in life and what may be interesting, but superficial? Taking time to draw back and being with God in prayer helps maintain balance and perspective and helps us keep on track.
♦ COMMUNITY PRAYER
Some people say that they can pray better by themselves alone in the woods. Sometimes I can too. But that doesn’t take away the need to join with the community in prayer and worship. In the midst of a world that focuses upon the individual as the center of it all, we need to remember that we are creatures and children of an all-loving God. We are part of a community of faith that communicates Christ to us and needs us to be active members of Christ’s body. The Mass is the most perfect form of worship because it is my prayer in union with the prayer of others that is joined withbest prayer ever offered – the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. No other form of prayer can take the place of Christ’s perfect gift of Himself and His sacrifice represented in the Eucharist.
Each of us carries with us some woundedness, hurts from others or our own sinfulness. We need forgiveness and the strength to forgive others. We need God’s power to flow into our lives healing and renewing us in the spirit of Christ. The Mass makes real the healing and strengthening presence of Christ whom we experience in Holy Communion as our Brother, our Savior and our God.
We lead by the example we give more than by the words that we say. We can tell our children that we believe in God and are followers of Jesus, but if we don’t take time for God and show our fidelity to Him in prayer and example, our words will be hollow and our example weak. Our young people learn to value what their parents value. What are we sharing with our children?
We have a serious moral obligation to worship God through active participation in the Eucharist. To neglect this wonderful prayer and to deny ourselves the grace of the Mass is seriously sinful and is in a way like spiritual suicide. We have the serious obligation to make use of the means that God has given us to grow in holiness through union with Christ in the Mass and the Sacraments.
We need Christ. We need a Savior. We need to know that our life is of value and worth both here on earth and eternally. We need Christ to keep us going in the right direction with what’s really important in life. We need a personal relationship with Christ so that His word speaks to us and His presence is felt in our heart. Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. He gives his very self to us in Holy Communion. To be embraced by His loving presence is such a wonderful and awesome gift. Why deny oneself Someone so great and so loving?
♦ GOD’S COMMANDMENT / JESUS’ REQUEST
“Keep holy the Lord’s Day” is the third commandment. What better way to do so than to join in the perfect sacrifice, the perfect prayer of Jesus? Jesus enjoins us “Do this in memory of Me!” Ultimately we go to Mass as an expression of our desire to really love God with all our heart, soul and mind and that in turn helps us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
On the other hand, I often hear why people don’t go to Mass. I imagine the reasons are as individual as the person, but here are some common ones.
♦ I DON’T GET ANYTHING OUT OF IT
Who ever said you were supposed to? Do we only do something because we personally get something out of it? We receive from God every moment of every day; is it too much to do something for God without expecting an immediate return? We go to Mass to worship God, to thank Him, to draw closer to Him, not to get something more from God who already gives us everything.
♦ TOO MANY HYPOCRITES
Church is not a health spa for saints, but a hospital for sinners. Yes, we have hypocrites at Church. Can I say that I have never acted hypocritically? I wish! We go to Mass because we are sinners and need God’s grace and strength to live better lives. If no sinners went to Mass, the church would be empty. Some people stay away from Mass because they have a hard time with accepting or living some of the teachings of Jesus and the Church. We need to remind ourselves we are all on a journey. None of us has it all together yet, but we need to be present and open to Christ who will show us the way and give us the strength.
♦ IT’S BORING
For people used to fast action and constant entertainment, the Mass seems boring. As one young person put it “It’s the same old miracle every time.” Is it the ‘same old’ or is it the ‘miracle’ that we experience? The Mass is not entertainment. It is prayer and worship. We get out of something what we put into it. Consciously entering into the miracle of Christ’s love present in the Eucharist will engage our mind and heart, indeed our entire life.
♦ I’M TOO BUSY
Most of us are over extended. We have too many commitments and responsibilities. Yet can we really be too busy for God? Is an hour a week too much to give? If we plan our Sunday around Mass rather than trying to fit Mass into a crowded weekend, we will never be too busy for the Lord. If we don’t go to Mass, how much time do we really devote to prayer on our own?
♦ I’M LAZY
Yes, most of us are subject to laziness. It’s part of original sin and we can let ourselves develop some pretty lazy habits. Laziness can lead to weakening and even loss of faith. Just as we need to exercise our bodies to keep them strong, we also need to practice faith in order to strengthen it. The best remedy to laziness is just simply DO IT!
♦ I FEEL GUILTY
When we are not living the life that we know we should, we feel guilty. Guilt needs to be resolved rather than denied. We have to face our guilt and seek forgiveness and search for a better way of living. The Mass will challenge us and remind us of our guilt, but it can also bring us healing forgiveness and new life.
♦ I AM ANGRY
Unfortunately some have been disappointed and even hurt by the Church or its representatives. Just as Jesus teaches us to seek forgiveness, He calls us to be forgiving. Past hurts because of the human side of the Church shouldn’t keep us from experiencing its divine side wherein God shares his very self with us. St. Paul enjoins us “forgive as the Lord has forgiven you”.
♦ I DON’T NEED IT
“I don’t need the Mass to be a good person. I can be kind to others without going to church.” That may be true, but being a nice and kind person is not the essence of being a Christian. Loving God above all things is. How am I really showing my love of God above all if I don’t take any time for Him? And by loving Him we will have greater strength to follow the second commandment, to love our neighbor.
Jesus invites you to join Him each Sunday in prayer. Come and experience the awe of God’s love and presence in the Eucharist. Saturday 4:30 p.m. Sunday 8:15 a.m. 10:00 a.m. 11:45 a.m. 5:00 p.m. “Come to Me and I will bring you strength and peace!“
Why go to Mass? Ultimately each of us answers that question by the choices and decisions we make. The answer lies in how seriously and personally we take the invitation of Jesus “Do this in memory of Me” and God’s commandment to love Him above all else. God wants to be central to our lives. Our choice is to make Him number one!
Every year my brother and I exchange a phone call on Christmas to say, “Merry Christmas, $h!tt#r’s full!” Christmas Vacation is one of our favorite movies and we grew up watching it together every year. My kids and I quote the movie year round! I love the opening scene where they go to get their tree out in the woods…decorating the house with too many lights, having the big sit down dinner, waiting on the holiday bonus, etc. I think that a great point is raised by Clark’s extreme nature in that we tend to do some things each year just to do them or because it’s what we’ve always done, but in reality they may not be all that healthy for our family. So in the great Griswald family tradition we’re gonna discuss…drum roll please…drum roll…rituals!
If someone told me that there was a simple solution out there that relieved anxiety, fear, depression, and was known to strengthen my marriage to the point that it was less likely to break down, I’d be like, “how do I buy a bottle of that?!?” The truth is that it’s not a pill or product, but rather an uncomplicated thing that we all can do: pray. Prayer is a powerful tool.
In this final installment of The Marriage Shield we come to the third F: Faith Devotion. Previously we covered fidelity and fiscal stewardship, but faith is the magic ingredient that has such a profound influence on our behavior that it guides our choices to be faithful to our marriage and responsible stewards of our finances.
Time For Family
In The Choice Wine Steve Bollman’s father-in-law, Riley Leggett, advised him to sit with his family in church every Sunday. This wisdom has a profound impact on a family. Couples attending weekly church services have a divorce rate 60% lower than those who never attend church services. Why? Because going to church changes the behaviors that lead to divorce: infidelity, using money foolishly, and substance abuse which all decrease significantly when you regularly worship with your community.
Prayer changes the functioning of the brain during and afterwards:
It reduces anger, fear, and anxiety.
Makes one more empathetic and compassionate.
Strengthens a person’s sense of self.
Leads to lower levels of loneliness, depression, anxiety; less substance abuse.
Prayer changes you, which changes your marriage.
Statistically Protecting Your Marriage
The General Social Survey used in The Choice Wine found a baseline of close to 30% experiencing a marital breakdown, but this included newlyweds. The national average today is closer to 40% or more, but here’s the statistical rundown of how The Marriage Shield protects your relationship:
Couples who don’t cohabitate prior to marriage and are faithful reduce the likelihood of marital breakdown from around 30% down to only 11%. This is why infidelity is the greatest threat to your relationship.
Attending weekly worship drops the rate to 9% and praying daily takes it down to 5.9%.
Many who are fiscally responsible have earned a certification or bachelor’s degree and combining that with fidelity and faith brings the probability down to nearly zero. Considering that the foolish use of money is the second leading cause of marital breakdown it makes sense.
Sex, Money, And Religion
The Marriage Shield covers three topics people don’t like to talk about, but that’s because they are the leading causes of problems in a relationship. Steve Bollman says that nailing these three areas of your life will nearly divorce proof your marriage because they substantially lower the probability of a marital breakdown. In our first discussion on The Marriage Shield, we covered that married people are generally happier, healthier, and wealthier than average. Spending time at the dinner table proved to not only save us money, but is also a huge benefit to our children which is why protecting marriage is so critical to the future of our community making it all the more important to protect following the three F’s:
Faith is that intangible spirit that changes us into better spouses. I hope that you will take the three F’s to heart and think about the wisdom shared by Riley Leggett that we should be eating with our family each night and going to church with them every Sunday and I can’t stress enough how important it is to be engaged in your church community who is here to cheer on your family life. Change and habits are hard to break, but little changes every day will keep you on the path to a lifelong, holy marriage.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei
I’m one of those cheap people, like I don’t usually drink soda at a restaurant because I can get it cheaper at the store (and let’s be honest, I don’t need the calories!) I love buying used stuff on Ebay or at Pawn Shops. I drive a car that was wrecked and rebuilt. I eat most meals at home and bring groceries to my office on Monday to make sandwiches all week for lunch. I even cut my own hair…well what’s left to cut. It’s not that I’m broke, I just don’t like wasting money on things that that I can get for less or do myself, but who knew that being cheap could be good for your marriage?
Protecting Your Marriage
In case you missed our introduction to The Marriage Shield, you can go back and read or watch it to get an idea of why it’s important to keep a relationship together and what it takes to do so. In our last episode on fidelity, we discussed our vows one of which applies to this topic “for richer or for poorer”. Today we will focus on the second of three “F’s” in protecting your marriage, fiscal stewardship.
Financial stress is the leading cause for tension in a marriage, especially for newlyweds as they try to navigate this new blending of income and spending. According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, using money foolishly is the second leading cause for women to end a marriage tripling the likelihood of marital breakdown. Even though it’s not as big of an issue for men, misuse of finances is a top cause of tension in a relationship. So when we talk about keeping a marriage together for life, fiscal stewardship is a priority because not being responsible with your money is a serious threat to a relationship.
Financial stress can be particularly intense during the newlywed period when the couple try to blend two lifestyles and two bank accounts into one household. The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman highlights how the top issues causing tension for newlyweds relate to money:
Balancing work and marriage
Financial Decision Making
Credit card debt, car loans, student loans, and medical expenses are the four areas of preexisting debt that cause stress. The top purchased categories on credit cards are clothing, gasoline, eating out, and travel which are consumable goods and therefore not the best choice for debt which should really be used in cases of investments like a home or an education. Brain imaging reveals that when a person considers buying something a reward is anticipated in the circuitry of the brain, but when considering paying for the purchase a pain region is anticipated. Credit cards were designed to delay the activation of the pain in our brain until after the purchase is made. The problem for a marriage with all of this is that studies indicate that debt and financial stress lead to lower levels of marital satisfaction and increase levels of marital discord. Needless to say, debt is a threat to marriages, but Americans continue to accumulate debt at historic levels.
Work Life Balance
The average full-time worker in the U.S. works approximately 47 hours per week and just over 1,700 hours per year. Riley Leggett’s wisdom about eating dinner with your family every evening is very difficult to do with that kind of workload. 69% of workers check their work email before going to bed. 57% of teenagers eat dinner together with their families at least five nights a week or more. The average worker spends an additional seven hours per week working from home. Technology has given us an unprecedented challenge making it all the more important to be intentional in balancing our professional and domestic worlds.
Here’s what’s at stake, youth who eat dinner with their family five nights a week or more are:
Twice as likely to spend at least 21 hours with their parents during the week
60% less likely to have parents who argue a great deal
30% less likely to feel a great deal of stress in their lives
One and a half more times likely to say that their parents are proud of them
30% more likely to have an excellent relationship with their mother
60% more likely to have an excellent relationship with their father
40% more likely to confide in their parents with a serious problem
One-third less likely to have tried alcohol
60% less likely to have tried marijuana
70% less likely to use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs
23% more likely to be have A’s and B’s in school
20% less likely to have friends who have tried drugs
Half as likely to have parents who do not know their children’s friends well.
Save To Give
Our brains are wired to be charitable. We receive a reward in that same circuitry that guides us to buy something when we give. People who are charitable tend to be happier and healthier than average. The more that we save, the more that we can give. Riley Leggett was onto something with this eating with your family philosophy because over an 18 year period skipping one night out of fast food would save you over $37,800 which could equate to an average four year tuition at a state university.
In order to be able to give more, here are some of Steve Bollman’s tips on being a better steward of your money:
Give the first fruits of your labor to God recognizing that all we have is a gift.
Keep $8 in your wallet that you must give away.
Moderate your consumption of media. Not only will you save subscription costs, but it’s full of advertising propaganda on all of the things you just have to buy!
Live within your means.
Cut up credit cards until they are paid off.
Reduce entertainment expenses by eating more meals at home and enjoy nature as recreation.
Begin saving and gradually increase the amount.
The way we manage spending and finances have tremendous influence on the success of a life-long marriage. Debt and working too much causes stress and tension and limits our ability to spend time with our children which has an exponential effect on their success. Making sacrifices by not buying things that are outside of our means and eating more meals together with our family will greatly reduce the risk of marital breakdown and increase the joy in your family which is why Fiscal Stewardship is the second F of The Marriage Shield.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei
by Ray Martin If you missed our introduction to The Marriage Shield, I encourage you to go back and read or watch it to get an idea of why it’s important to keep a relationship together and what it takes to do so. Today we will focus on the first of three “F’s” in protecting your marriage, fidelity. Infidelity is the surest way to break down a marriage. According to a study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, Infidelity is the number one cause of a marriage ending. It increases the likelihood of marital breakdown by 300% or in other words, the probability is quadrupled. So when we talk about keeping a marriage together for life, fidelity is a priority because not being faithful is the biggest threat to a relationship.
What did we promise when we got married?
We hear from the very start of creation that God made man and woman to be lifelong partners where the “two become one flesh”. (Genesis 2:24) Let’s go back to the wedding itself and see what it specifically is that we do or say that supports God’s plan for us and how we can keep it together.
The first step shared in The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman is to “Honor your wedding vows.” It’s not surprising that many people don’t actually remember the vows themselves. These days there is so much focus on the party of the reception that much of the wedding ceremony is quickly forgotten, but to refresh your memory we say:
“I take you to be my lawful (husband/wife) for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”
If you go back to our first installment of this series we discussed the “marriage premium” findings Bollman shared that married people are happier, wealthier, and healthier than average and that’s similar to what we promise when we say, “for better or for worse” which speaks to our happiness, “richer and poorer” is obviously tied to wealth, and “in sickness and in health” refers to our physical wellness. We promise in our vows that regardless of our happiness, financial status, or health, that we will be faithful to the union that is joined together during the sacrament of our marriage.
Questions of Consent
In addition to our vows, we also answered three questions of consent:
Do you come here freely without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
Will you love and honor each other as husband and wife all the days of your life?
Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his church?
It’s no surprise that one of these questions has to do with honor. The first is simply asking if there has been any coercion or if you are in a state to give yourself to your spouse. The third question regarding children could be it’s own topic for discussion because fertility and being open to children in various forms is a challenging topic in our culture, but when it comes to honor, being faithful to your vows is pretty obvious. If you go back to the wisdom of Riley Leggett shared in The Choice Wine which was to eat dinner with your family every night and sit with them every Sunday at Church, it’s easy to see how difficult it would be NOT to honor your spouse by spending that intentional time with them and being in a culture with your church community that supports marriage and family.
What Did Jesus Say about Marriage?
Let’s close with a few things found in scripture about fidelity. Jesus preached to a crowd and it’s known today as the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew Chapter 5. During that sermon he said, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Leave it to Christ to raise the bar on the definition of cheating! He also went on to dig his heels in regarding divorce “ But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” Later on in his ministry, church leaders known as Pharisees questioned him about the Jewish rules on divorce and he responded, “Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female? and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” And finally back at that sermon on the mount Jesus commented on keeping your word which I think sums up all that really needs to be said on fidelity, it says in Matthew 5:37, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Anything more is from the evil one.”
If protecting your marriage is important to you in order to honor the union that God has joined together then fidelity is the most important thing you can do and why it’s the first “F” of The Marriage Shield.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei
by Ray Martin What if there were a couple of simple things you could change about your relationship that could almost guarantee that your marriage would last a lifetime? Could it be that easy? Would you do it?
My grandparents were blessed to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary which was an even bigger deal since it was my grandmother’s second marriage and my grandpa’s third! I recall how meaningful it was for them to have made it to that milestone. When my mom passed away, I was the bearer of giving them the news and it was one of the hardest things that I’ve ever had to do, but what was so touching was how they stayed up all night together sharing memories of her entire life. I want that kind of relationship with my wife, to be there with her even in the midst of pain and sorrow, but how do people keep their marriages together over the course of a lifetime and why should we when relationships can be difficult to maintain?
Happier, Healthier And Wealthier
Steve Bollman, author of The Choice Wine which is a book and video series that highlights seven steps to what they call a superabundant marriage, begins by sharing research on the benefits to getting married and staying married. He refers to the statistical data as a marriage premium meaning that married people seem to benefit greatly by being married.
Happiness: married people are happier than single, divorced, separated, or widowed people according to the General Social Survey, 1972-2012.
Health: People who have never been married have a 75% increase in poor health and those divorced have a 90% increase compared to those who are married according to the General Social Survey.
Wealth: Married individuals accumulate approximately four times the net wealth of those who have never been married or who are divorced according to the Journal of Marriage and Family’s study in 2002.
How To Reduce The Likelihood of Marital Breakdown
Bollman refers to the first three steps in The Choice Wine as a way to nearly Divorce-Proof your marriage meaning that statistically, the likelihood of getting divorced is nearly zero when following these behaviors discovered through the research of successful couples. Over the next few weeks we will be going in more depth to these specific steps which I’ll conveniently call three “F’s” of Marriage Shielding:
The Legacy of Riley Leggett
Riley Leggett was Bollman’s father-in-law and is referenced throughout The Choice Wine. Riley offered Steve some advice before getting married to his daughter that if he would eat dinner with his family every evening and sit with his family every Sunday at church, then their marriage was guaranteed to work out. While this sounds almost trite or too simple, there is a lot of wisdom in this message.
Only 7% of families who eat dinner together five or more times a week experience a “great deal of tension.” (Columbia University September 2005)
Only 17% of those who attend worship services on a weekly basis have been divorced. (General Social Survey 1972-2012)
I hope that you’ll stick with me as we review these three F’s or what The Choice Wine calls their first 3 steps which dramatically reduce the probability of a marital breakdown over the next few installments of this series. If you haven’t read or watched The Choice Wine, I highly encourage you to check it out. More information can be found at www.thechoicewine.com.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Paradisus Dei
Halloween is almost here and kids start getting all freaked out about ghosts and all of the evil characters from horror movies, but we can confidently say as parents that there’s no such things as ghosts, right? After all we’re just organisms that developed over time from other species, but wait that’s evolution…and the bible says God created us, and then there’s the bible stories about angels and they’re okay, but when we die we die…except for the saints…who went to heaven and we pray for their help, but they’re not ghosts…I’m so confused!
Creation Vs. Evolution
There’s a seven step marriage book and video series called The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman of Pardisus Dei, the same company who made That Man is You. Step four of The Choice Wine focuses attention on the conflict of science and reason versus religion and spirituality. This is a highly argued topic that folks like to debate as if the right answer is one or the other, but there are scientists who wrestle with faith and have started out as atheists who then become believers through their research.
Charles Darwin’s writing in the late 1800’s on evolution are notably accepted as an explanation of how life developed on earth over millions of years, but this is not at odds with the creation story in Genesis. Unlike the other animals and things created before, God both made and created man whom he “formed out of dust of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” Nobel laureate Dr. John C. Eccles was a scientist from the 20th century who is credited with our current understanding of the brain and how thoughts travel across neurotransmitters. We have a brain full of tiny paths, but the electrical currents traveling across those paths which are our thoughts come from our mind. The brain is physical, but the mind is spiritual. We can be made up of physical matter which evolved over time, and also be spiritual creations formed by a spiritual being, God.
Bollman in The Choice Wine goes on to share an analogy he heard to explain this using a cell phone. All cell phones are tuned to a specific frequency. We can see the phone, but not the cellular waves. My phone is specifically tuned to my number, so it only rings or alerts me when someone calls or texts my number. The brain & mind work like this as well. The brain is activated by the mind which is tuned specifically to that person. Evolution and biology can explain where our bodies come from, but not the origin of our minds. Now back to the phone analogy, the frequencies tuned specifically to my phone exist even though they aren’t visible and if something happens to my phone like it breaks or is destroyed, people can still send text messages to my frequency. My phone isn’t going to receive them anymore because it’s broken, but the frequencies tuned to me are still there. This is a good way to think about what happens when we die. Our mind is not made up of elements or matter. It’s spiritual and so our body dies and returns to dust, but our spirit, our unique radio frequencies still exist. They’re still out there.
Communion of Saints
This brings us to saints. In the creed that we proclaim every weekend during Mass we say that we believe in the communion of saints. St. Paul taught that we are one body in Christ both the living and the dead and so as Catholics we believe our spirits are in union with the spirits of those who are no longer living on earth. How can we do that? Even though their cell phones died and aren’t able to receive a call anymore, their unique frequency created by God is still out there among us and we can still call upon them through prayer. We have to use a different means of spiritual communication but we acknowledge this when we come together as a community at Mass and you hear the priest say, “in union with all the angels and saints we exalt and bless your name and sing the hymn of your glory as without end we acclaim…” In that moment we are placing our minds in the company of the minds of those saints and angels. We do that at every Mass!
So, if you can accept that we are more than biology, that we have a brain and a mind, and that even when our brain dies that our spirit continues to exist, then it’s not so hard to believe that there are other people who have died, but lived such virtuous lives that we know without a doubt that they had to have gone to heaven. Those people are the saints of the Church. Is it a stretch then to think that through prayer we could ask those servants of Christ who have gone before us to still help us out? This is why we honor saints through celebrations and feasts. Their lives are examples to us of how to live the Christian virtues in our faith journey and we consider our minds to still exist in a spiritual along realm with theirs.
Saint of the Day
There are a ton of resources out there on saints, but one in particular that I have been enjoying is the saint of the day from Franciscan Media. There is a link to it on the homepage of our website as well as in our mobile app. There is an audio file that you can listen to or you can simply read their article on the featured saint of that day. Our Catholic calendars that we get every year also have feast days of saints listed on them and you will note if you go to daily Masses or watch ours streamed online that the vestments worn by priests will often reflect a special feast from a saint who may have been a martyr. You’ll see a priest wear red on that particular day. Our priests will often talk about saints during their homilies. Fr. Michael in the past two weeks has mentioned St. Faustina and St. Augustine.
Quick story- I was reading 33 Days To Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley on the life of St. Therese of Lisieux referred to as the Little Flower. She is known as a Doctor of The Church because of her writing on Divine Mercy and her philosophy called the Little Way which is a path for us to get to heaven by recognizing our littleness, trusting God, and striving for holiness. While alive, she said that when she died she wanted to shower the world with flowers, roses specifically, so she is known for roses and people often think of her and ask for signs from her in the form of roses. While reading about her I began to pray her novena which has reflections weaved into the 9 days of rosaries. One day during that novena, a woman came into the office here at the Parish and asked if we could do anything with these roses that she had left over from a wedding and we gladly helped her bring them in…box after box, hundreds of roses made their way into our Parish office! What’s even better is that I had been praying specifically for one of my children and she brought one of the flowers to my office which I dried and kept as a reminder that St. Therese heard my prayer.
All Saints Day
We celebrate All Saints Day on November 1st. We will have Masses throughout the day and I highly encourage you to attend, not out of obligation because I really dislike that term, but come because you want to celebrate this rich history of heroic people who lived here on earth just like us and left us an incredible witness of how follow Christ all the way to heaven. If you want to start learning more about saints, start checking out the saint of the day that we link to from our website and app. Perhaps there’s one that you may want to read more about? The 33 Days to Merciful Love was a terrific read, so maybe that would be a good one to start with. We are so lucky to have the Hall of Fame of Holiness as Fr. Michael likes to refer to the saints.
Hopefully the next time people are talking about creation and evolution you will feel more comfortable being okay with both. There’s nothing wrong with believing in science and religion! And as we celebrate the feast of All Saints, I pray that you will start to talk about and learn more about the many saints of our Church.
Resources: The Choice Wine by Steve Bollman and 33 Days to Merciful Love by Fr. Michael Gaitley