Thursday, October 18, 2018

Rosary Series (part 3 of 4): A "Mysterious" Tour through Jesus' Life

When praying the rosary, each day of the week has a specific set of mysteries associated with it.  Sunday is typically associated with the Glorious Mysteries, which is fitting, since each Sunday is like a mini-Easter celebration of the Lord’s resurrection from the dead.  During Advent, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) recommends praying the Joyful Mysteries on Sunday, and during Lent, they recommend praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, in observance of the solemnity of these liturgical seasons (source).  Monday is typically associated with the Joyful Mysteries, Tuesday with the Sorrowful Mysteries, and Wednesday with the Glorious Mysteries.  Friday is associated with the Sorrowful Mysteries, which is fitting as Friday was the day of the events of Jesus’ death.  Saturday is associated with the Joyful mysteries.

Today, Thursday, is associated with the Luminous Mysteries of Pope St. John Paul II.  Prior to the implementation of the Luminous Mysteries in 2002, Thursday was associated with the Joyful Mysteries.  Some conservative members of the Church still observe this, contending that when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the prayers of the rosary, she did not give him the Luminous Mysteries.  Further, when she appeared to the children in Fatima, she said to pray the fifteen mysteries of the rosary for the reparation of sins, not twenty.

Personally, I like the Luminous Mysteries.  They complete the story of Jesus’ life as observed in the mysteries of the rosary.  If one prays all twenty of the mysteries in a single sitting (ambitious, but possible), one meditates on the entire life of Jesus, including the years of His public ministry.  Leaving them out, to me, feels like missing an important piece of Jesus’ life:  His example to us through His shared humanity with us.

Of course, there isn’t one right way to pray the rosary.  It is a private devotion.  What matters is that we use it in a way that is beneficial to us as well as to the world.  It doesn’t really matter which Mysteries one meditates on each day.  The typical associations noted above simply provide some unity throughout the Church’s prayer of this devotion.

How do you pray the rosary?  What is your opinion of the Luminous Mysteries?  Share in the comments below, and please remember to be respectful and courteous of others and their views and opinions.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Rosary series (part 2 of 4): Rosary Novenas

You have probably heard of a prayer novena before – a prayer, often to a certain saint, which is said nine days in a row for a specific petition or for that saint’s intercession in a time of need.  If you can think of a saint or a specific issue you may face, there is probably a novena to meet your needs.  But did you know there is also such a thing as a rosary novena?

A rosary novena (nine days praying the rosary in a row) could be said for any intention.  After all, the rosary incorporates intercession to Mary to “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.”  And who better to intercede for us than the Mother of God herself?

According to EWTN:  

“A 54-day Rosary is basically six novenas of the five-decade rosary that is said for a particular intention.  The first set of three novenas (27 days) are said in petition for the intention and the second set of three novenas (27 days) are said in thanksgiving, even if the answer to your intention was not yet given. In other words, in the second set of novenas you are giving thanksgiving that God's will is going to be done. To make the novena, you pray a five-decade rosary for 54 days in a row for your intention.”

Now, like me, you’re probably thinking, 54 days?!  In a row?!  It does seem daunting on the face of it.  However, a 54-day rosary has much to teach us.  It could teach us patience.  It could teach us perseverance.  It could help us make saying the rosary a daily habit.  There really aren’t any cons to giving it a try at least.  And, if we fail, we can always try again, confident in the fact that Mother Mary will not judge us for our failures.

Have you tried a rosary novena?  What about a 54-day rosary?  What spiritual benefits did you gain from this practice?  Share in the comments below.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Rosary Series (part 1 of 4): My Developing Relationship with the Rosary

During the month of October, this blog will focus on the rosary.  I will begin this four-part series with a reflection on my relationship with the rosary and how it has changed over the years.

I am a cradle Catholic.  My earliest memories of the rosary are a combination of the large children’s rosary I had hanging above my bed and my rosary coloring book.  I would spend what felt like hours carefully coloring each bead, being super careful to color inside the lines.  That was my earliest expression of devotion to the rosary. 

As I got older, my relationship with the rosary evolved.  I remember bringing a rosary to school with me in October when I was in second grade at Cosgriff and having the whole school gather in the church to pray together.  I remember the CD I received as a gift that had kids from Australia praying the rosary.  I remember receiving a specially blessed rosary from the shrine of Our Lady of Betania in Venezuela.  (I still have and use this rosary.)

As an adult, my relationship with the rosary has become more about the devotion itself.  I am still trying to find the way of praying it that is most satisfying to me.  I want to “do everything.”  I want a scriptural passage to meditate on.  I want an expansion on the holy name of Jesus to help keep the mystery top of mind.  I want to make sure I am including the prayers for the pope and his intentions and the Litany of Loreto at the end.  And I want a way to incorporate the intention of my rosary into the prayers.

Maybe I want to do too much.  I have yet to find a method or app for praying the rosary that incorporates all of these things.  I have read conflicting articles.  Some say that it’s not about the quantity of your prayer (i.e., the time you spend in prayer), it’s about the quality of your prayer.  Then others seem to say the exact opposite.  Of course, the best thing to do most likely is to find a balance between the two.  As Dr. Mary Healy says in the Symbolon video we used for RCIA this week, “If we say we are too busy to pray, we’re too busy.”  She goes on to explain that prayer needs to be a priority in our lives.  What could be more important than developing our relationship with God through prayer?

What are your earliest memories of the rosary?  How do you incorporate this devotion into your prayer life?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Urgency vs. Patience

My mom often says to me, “Have a sense of urgency.”  Hurry up.  Things won’t get done on time if you sit around lollygagging your time away.  In a way, this is an extension of what my grandmother would tell her:  “Induljatok!” – Hungarian for “Get going!”

I have struggled with having this sense of urgency my whole life.  Part of it is probably genetic from both sides.  In my family, we do things very deliberately, and very accurately.  There’s probably a measure of OCD thrown into the mix.  My parents had to be very precise in their work, so it was a habit that both my brother and I picked up quite easily.

When we went to New England over Labor Day weekend, our tour director advised us that in one town, they had no sense of urgency, so ask for your lunch check right when you receive your food.  I told my mom, this is the town for me.

There are times when it is good to have a sense of urgency:  when you are facing a deadline, when you have an important appointment, or when there is some sort of an emergency.  There are also times when it is more advisable to take your time.  Journeys of faith usually fall into the latter category.  I make sure to mention to people who want to go through the RCIA program that this is their journey.  It goes at each person’s own pace.  The important thing is to discern how God is impacting their life at this point in their life.  What is He calling them to do at this moment?  What is His will for them where they are right now?

Perhaps during hectic times of our lives, it would be beneficial to slow down, even stop for a moment, and ask ourselves, what does God want of me at this moment?  How would He want me to act or react in this situation?  What would Jesus do in this situation?  And, at times when things are not moving along as quickly as we might like, we can remember that patience is a skill that perhaps we need to develop further.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Obedience to God's Will

This year, among the many changes that have taken place in our parish, Fr. Andrzej asked me to take over RCIA.  When he first suggested this, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea.  I am a cradle Catholic.  What do I know about conversion?  Yes, I have a teaching background, but I mostly worked with lower grades, never adults.  Each age-level is its own beast and comes with its own challenges.  I spent a long time coming to terms with the idea of leading a group of adults through arguably one of the most transformative experiences of their lives, but eventually I accepted the task before me, even if it still makes me a little nervous.  This is what God’s plan for me is right now.  He wants to work through me and strengthen me in my faith through this experience.

This past Tuesday evening, the incoming RCIA participants had the opportunity to meet with Fr. Joshua, Deacon George, and Deacon John.  In the course of the conversation, the topic of Mary came up.  Fr. Joshua told those present that we can come to understand Jesus better through Mary.  Deacon John mentioned that the last recorded words we have from Mary in the Bible are at the Wedding at Cana when Jesus performed his first miracle, changing the water into wine.  Mary said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5).

When Deacon John mentioned the last recorded words of Mary, it got me thinking about the other times we hear Mary’s words directly quoted in scripture.  Each of the four times illustrate Mary’s own journey toward total obedience to God’s will.

First, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary she is to be the mother of God, she says, “How can this be…?”  (Luke 1:34).  Even Mary had her moments of disbelief and doubt.  She comes to accept God’s will for her very quickly however because just four verses later, in Luke 1:38 she says, “May it be done to me according to your [the angel Gabriel’s] word.”  When Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, she proclaims the Magnificat in praise and thanksgiving for God’s care for her.  And finally, at the Wedding at Cana, Mary shows the utmost trust in God in the person of Jesus when she tells the servants to “Do whatever he tells you.” 

Mary’s journey is perhaps best summarized as going through four stages, which we see in her own words:  skepticism, acceptance, praise and thanksgiving, and obedience.  We can take comfort from the fact that even our Blessed Mother experienced these human emotions and showed us how to be perfectly obedient to God’s will.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Keep the Plates Spinning

Related image

My mantra this week has been “Keep the plates spinning.”  When I was growing up, we had a VHS compilation of segments from “The Ed Sullivan Show” and in it, there was a plate-spinning act.  The idea was to see how many plates one could keep spinning at the same time. 

Plate-spinning was a one-person act, which upped the suspense level.  Could one person do it all alone?  It made for great entertainment, because of the potential for things to go wrong.  But what if there were more people involved?  What if, instead of just one person, there were multiple people, each trying to make sure all the plates kept spinning?  That could be just as disastrous.

Sometimes, there seems to be so much going on, it is a struggle to keep just a few plates spinning.  Other times, it is easier.  Sometimes the plates are on a counter or table with little risk of falling and shattering.  Other times the plates are spinning on sticks and the worst could happen at any moment.

The point is, when organizations are run effectively and efficiently, each person is responsible for their set of plates and their set of plates alone.  There is division of duties so that no one person has too many plates.  It makes a seemingly insurmountable task manageable.

I feel like we are in the middle of a plate-spinning act at St. Ambrose right now.  At least, that’s how it has felt on the administrative side of the parish.  There are so many programs to keep going, and at the moment our chief plate-spinner, Fr. Andrzej, has stepped away from the table.  It now falls to those of us who remain to “pick up the slack” as it were.

The important thing to realize is that, at the very core, we are invested in keeping our Church alive, even in the face of adversity.  There may be some fumbles and some slips along the way, but we will come out the other side of this difficult time.  The hope is that we come out stronger.  We just have to rely on one another a little bit more and be willing to help in whatever way we can.  We know that we can always rely on God’s help to resolve our difficulties.  It may not be in the way we want or expect, but He always listens and answers our prayers.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Finding Joy in Simple Things

I just got back from a weeklong trip to New England.  It was good to get away for a while, and nice to spend time traveling with my mom.  We went on a bus tour around all five New England states.  We had traveled with this tour company last year as well, and both times my dad joked that I would probably be the youngest person on the tour.  (I wasn’t the youngest either time, by the way.)

Half the fun of a bus tour is getting to know those with whom you are traveling.  This year, we met an older couple and their adult son who seemed to have an intellectual disability.  I’ll call him “Ryan” here.  In my years working in special education, I have enjoyed working with such individuals because they find so much joy in the simple things of life.

Ryan soaked up all the experiences on the tour.  To him, everything was “awesome!”  From visiting Faneuil Hall in Boston, to driving past the grand estates of the Breakers in Rhode Island, to cruising the harbor and eating lobster in Maine, he loved every minute. 

People like Ryan who are able to find joy in pretty much anything inspire me.  Their zest for life is contagious.  It makes me realize how much in my life I should thank God for.  I have written before about the importance of being child-like.  People like Ryan never really lose their child-like wonder and fascination with the world.  Rather than regarding this as an aspect of their disability, one might consider it their super power.