In last weeks’ blog entry I mentioned that somehow between many “failed” rosary praying attempts and regimens, I began learning this one simple fact: the mysteries of the Rosary are not something that we are meant to master. Rather, we are called to enter into them and to let ourselves be mastered. But what exactly does it mean to be mastered by the mysteries of the rosary? How are we invited to truly enter in?
St. Ignatius encouraged others to prayerfully enter into Christ’s life by imagining His life events from different perspectives. One may enter as another person explicitly involved in the scene, as an unseen observer from a distance, or even as an inanimate object (i.e. one could imagine being the hay in Jesus’s manger). St. Ignatius encouraged silence, and for meditation to sink deep rather than spread broad.
Considering the mystery of the visitation we may contemplate: What does it feel like to be Mary, perhaps nauseous in the early stages of pregnancy, traveling a far distance by foot? What is happening in the heart and mind of Elizabeth as she enters the late stages of pregnancy at an advanced age? What does it feel like or what happens when John is filled with the Holy Spirit? Imagine the perspectives of John the Baptist of even Jesus, experiencing the visitation in utero. Or perhaps imagine yourself as Zechariah, witnessing such beautiful displays of faith in total silence.
If you find yourself unable to enter in as deeply as you would like, go back and read the text in the Bible. Try reading slowly until a particular detail or phrase sticks out. Sit with that thought for a while. Don’t be afraid of silence and don’t feel discouraged if nothing “happens.”
Entering into the mysteries of the Rosary is ultimately a grace that comes by way of asking, not by forcing or trying harder. “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” (Matt 7:7). Repetition may prepare your heart for receptivity, but ultimately it is Jesus who teaches and God who causes growth.
If you are want more in-depth resources, meditation suggestions, or discussion questions, click the link below. Don’t forget to share your experiences in praying the rosary with your family!
October is the month of the Rosary, with the feast of our Lady of the Rosary occurring on October 7th (which also happens to be the first Sunday of the month this year). This is a precious time to grow in our devotion to Mary as the Queen of the Rosary and, through the mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary, to come to know and love Christ our Savior. In honor of the Rosary, we are putting a challenge out to the Ascension community, to get as many families as possible to pray the Rosary. If your family can commit to one Rosary, that’s great. If you can commit to more, even better. The point of this challenge is just to pray the Rosary as a family. The power of prayer knows no limits. Thank you for signing up and may God bless you abundantly.
When I first started praying the rosary, I have to admit that I initially felt a bit underwhelmed by most of the suggested meditation points – the so-called “mysteries.” Honestly, I just didn’t understand them. Or more accurately, I assumed that I did understand them and therefore didn’t get what all of the fuss was about. In short, the mysteries just didn’t seem all that mysterious.
My mediation on the Visitation would have followed like this:
“Okay, so Mary decides to go visit her Cousin Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Got it! Elizabeth sees Mary coming and is somehow filled with the Holy Spirit. Now this is pretty amazing, and I certainly can’t explain what is happening here, but without additional objective data, there really isn’t anything left to explore. Now Mary responds to Elizabeth with a beautiful hymn of praise. She is the Mother of God after all, what else would you expect? Now I can check the box on meditating. Done.”
The mysteries of the Rosary are supposed to call us to wonder. But, from the perspective of thinking I had the mysteries all figured out, there really wasn’t much left for me to consider. In my early experiences of the Rosary, there was very little space for prayer and almost no room for genuine spiritual encounter. As a result, my version of praying the Rosary felt very repetitious and (to be blunt) exceedingly boring.
My early attempts to pray the Rosary daily faded with exhaustion. Carefully considered prayer plans fizzled. What was I missing? Somewhere between my many failures I began to learn. The mysteries of the Rosary are not something that I am meant to master. Rather, I am called to enter into them and to let myself be mastered.
Entering into the mysteries of the Rosary takes time and silence. Repetition (even when riddled with apparent failures) really is the best teacher. This is your invitation to enter into the mysteries of the Rosary and to let yourself wonder (and maybe wander a bit 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 hints on meditation and discussion questions.
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!
The Archdiocese remains committed to investigating any allegation of abuse of a minor made against any member of the clergy or any church employee or volunteer — no matter the age of the incident or the current age of the victim. Individuals are encouraged to call the confidential report line at (913) 647-3051 (or visit archkck.org/reportabuse) to make a report to Jan Saylor, archdiocesan report investigator, and to call law enforcement directly. If a child or vulnerable adult is in immediate danger, call 911.
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