Thursday, October 28, 2010

Of Dead Squirrels

“But these people revile what they do not understand and are destroyed by what they know by nature like irrational animals.” Jude 1: 10

I killed a squirrel today.

I knew it was only a matter of time. For days the little things have been darting in and around my car every time I drive to work. And I always try my best to swerve or slow down to avoid them. But today I was on a busy road and I saw him and there was nothing I could do and…BAM! That was that. But I couldn’t help but thinking all day about that squirrel. Not as if he were human and I was grieving. But I was thinking about the similarities between that squirrel and so many people I see today.

Why are there so many squirrels running around right now? Well, they are trying to feverishly collect and store as many acorns, nuts and grain possible before the cold and snow of winter arrive and there is no more food to be found. They are working so hard to amass as much as possible, running here and there, always working, always searching, never slowing down. Willing, in their irrationality, to even traverse roads and compete with cars and trucks in a vain attempt to find new sources of food. And yet, where does it lead for so many of them?

Sound familiar?

We work so hard to be popular, to fit in, to make the team, to get good grades, to impress people, to win the awards, to please others, to be liked, to be noticed, to be loved…and what do we have to show for it? And yet how much time and energy do we spend searching for righteousness? How much time spent in diving deeper into the heart of our Lord? How much effort do we give to the daily grind of personal prayer and reading the Scriptures?

Ultimately it comes down to this: do we spend more time preparing for the things of this world, or for the next? It doesn’t seem to make much sense to me to put so much effort into the things of this world and not prepare for what comes next. I think at the end, many people are going to find that their lives were not much different than a squirrel’s. And that’s pretty sad.

Dear Jesus, help me to slow down today and take stock of my life. Give me the grace to prioritize and to have eternal vision. Amen.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Need for Church

“And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Ephesians 1: 22-23

We live in a very spiritual country. Even the most recent polls show that most Americans claim to be Christian and even more claim to have faith in some kind of “higher power”. And while the percentage of atheists has gone up in the last few years, it is still the vast minority of people. But is just being “spiritual” enough?

I think lots of people are drawn to the idea of God. We like knowing He is watching out for us. We are comforted by the idea of an afterlife in heaven. We think that positive thoughts and energy will aide us in healing from surgery or sickness. We want to believe that there is more to life than just amassing wealth or living the American Dream. This is even true for Christians who feel that all they need is a personal relationship with Jesus and nothing more.

But can we really have spirituality or even a personal relationship with Christ apart from the Church? Is it possible to have authentic Faith and Truth on our own? Is it possible to withstand the temptations Satan throws at us at every turn while trying to be a “Lone Ranger” Christian? I think the answer to all of these questions is “no”.

Why? God Himself is a community of Three Persons in the Trinity. While this is a mystery to behold and it is impossible to grasp the full knowledge of how God is made up of Three Persons, but still only one God, it is a reality of our Faith. And being made in the image of God, or in other words, with the capacity to love, we too, are created to live in community—in family. Frankly put, humans simply do not do well on their own. Even a recent documentary I saw on solitary confinement proves that we were made for community. After years and years of isolation with no interaction with others and no physical touch, many of the inmates developed mental problems or went insane.

The point is that we were made for one another, for family, for community. And the Church is the body of Christ. It is the family of God. And we need to be in it and an active part of it in some way. We do this primarily by attending Mass every Sunday, but for young people it can also mean being involved in your parish youth group (if you have one) or helping with service projects, etc. If we think we can simply live a “me and Jesus” Christianity, we aren’t going to last long. And if we think we can be “spiritual” apart from the body of Christ, then it is a hollow, superficial version of God’s plan.

I know at times it might seem easier to have faith or spirituality apart from the Church: Is the Church messy at times? Yes. Are there fights and imperfect people? Yes. Do we sometimes resemble the rest of the world instead of the people God is calling us to be? Yes. But isn’t this the same in any family? But St. Augustine once said, “The Church survives despite her members, not because of them.” While it is true that we will not find heaven on earth in our Church, in our Church we will find the way to heaven while on this earth. And this is something we all need.

Dear Jesus, please help me to recognize not only my need for You, but also my need for Your Church. Give me the grace to see that I cannot live the life You have called me to on my own, but only with the help and support of my brothers and sisters and the guidance and grace offered to me through Your Body. Amen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cast Out Fear

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4: 18a

Well, ‘tis the season: ghouls hanging from trees, swaying in the wind. Tombstones planted in front yards as if a plague has struck. Goblin heads skewered on sticks and all other manner of evil, death and gloom shoved in our faces at every turn. And most people love it. I just don’t get it.

I certainly appreciate a good Halloween party with some spiders and creepy things. And I remember having a haunted house one year at my Catholic grade school with the peeled grape “eyeballs” and the cold, wet spaghetti “entrails”. And certainly a good sheet with two holes cut out for eyes never hurt anyone. But I think like a lot of things in our society, we’ve gone way beyond the pale when it comes to scary images. Glorifying death and murder, whether done in your front yard or in a horror movie, does nothing to cast out fear from our hearts. In fact, it increases it. How many people reading this have ever been in the shower, alone at night, and been afraid? Probably most of you. And do you think this is a natural thought that just anyone can have? I don’t. I think we have that fear because of movies and other images that we have allowed in to our brains.

Our brains are like super-computers. And once something is in there, especially an image, it is there to stay. I remember being subjected to a horror movie at an 8th grade graduation party when I was 14 and of course I watched it because everyone else was and I wanted to be “cool”. But even to this day, the images of that movie can be as fresh and vivid in my mind as the day I let them in. And many times it is during Mass or Adoration that they spring up out of nowhere. But are they really from nowhere? Are they really random?

I think that we need to be careful about the images we allow in our brain, especially scary images, because I believe Satan uses these the most to drive peace from our hearts. I think the Evil One uses these images from within our own hearts to stir-up fear in us. But Jesus wants us to live in the certainty of His love. He wants us to flee from evil. Even in our Baptismal promises we pledge to reject the “glamour” of evil. As Halloween approaches and the scary and gross become abundant around us, let us guard our hearts and minds from images that will affect us long after the ghouls are done swaying from the trees and the tombstones have been placed in the attic.

Dear Jesus, please help me to place my mind and heart in the certainty and safety of Your love. Give me the grace to avoid situations where images of fear will be allowed into my heart and mind to steal my peace. Amen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Always Rejoice

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” Philippians 4: 4

It seems to me that a lot of the time people do things (or don’t do things) based more on how they are feeling at the moment than on anything else. For instance, we eat when we feel hungry or we sleep when we feel tired. Nothing wrong with this. But what about doing things that are immoral just because we feel like it. Or what if there are things we should do, but don’t, just based on our feelings. For instance, I think people have sex outside of marriage just because they feel like it or they feel in love. Or on the flip side, I think people sometimes don’t pray or go to Mass because they don’t feel like it. So you see the potential danger: our feelings can be very fickle.

Now here comes St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians saying that we should rejoice always.  And in case you missed it, he tells us again. Notice the lack of clarification on his part. He doesn’t say, “Rejoice in the Lord when you feel like it” or “Rejoice in the Lord when things are going really well for you”. No, he says rejoice always; without any wiggle room. Is he insane? You might be thinking “Obviously he has never felt suffering, or pain, or loneliness, because you couldn’t rejoice when you are feeling that way.” But a closer examination of his life from Scripture reveals to us that St. Paul knew all about suffering, and pain and loneliness. And yet even in those times of imprisonment and torture and even at the moment of his execution, he rejoiced. Always.

How is this possible? How can you and I rejoice when someone is making fun of us? Or when we are grieving the death of a loved one? Or when we lose a job, get a bad grade or get cut from the team we tried out for?

Think of it this way. Recently I saw a documentary on North Korea. The people of that country actually worship their leader. They don’t just see him as a human general, but as a god. And for many of them it doesn’t even seem to cross their minds to think anything negative about him. In all things, good or bad, they praise him and his name. They will literally bow down before his photo and raise their hands in the air and jump up and down and sing songs to him and shout out praises and accolades to him. In other words, they rejoice. What’s crazy is that many of the people doing this live in extreme poverty, have little adequate health care and can hope for no better in their lives than what they currently experience. Why do they still rejoice? Out of fear and from being brainwashed. For the country is also filled with hundreds of “work camps” where men, women and even children are forced to live and are worked to death, either because they or their loved ones did not “rejoice”, or tried to resist, or tried to escape.

Isn’t it amazing that out of fear and a lack of freedom, these people will rejoice in their god no matter their circumstances. But we, who are asked to live in the unconditional love of our heavenly Father in true freedom, find it hard to rejoice in Him when we don’t feel like it or when life gets hard. Our God loves us and wills nothing but goodness for us, even when we don’t see it or the big picture—and even in the midst of suffering. The Bible says that perfect love casts out all fear, let’s prove it by rejoicing always!!

Dear Jesus, I praise You and I rejoice in the life You have given me, no matter what circumstances or situations I find myself in this day. By Your grace, may I always rejoice in Your perfect love. Amen.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Let Mercy Lead

“…not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit…” Titus 3: 5

I think that when we ponder God’s mercy we think to ourselves, “I don’t deserve this”. But isn’t that kind of the point? I mean, if we deserved it, then it wouldn’t be mercy, right? By its very nature mercy implies that the person receiving it did not earn it, nor deserve it. This is hard for us to comprehend sometimes because as humans we have a hard time being truly merciful to others. We tend to forgive or say we’ll let things go, but normally only with conditions. This is why the mercy of God seems like such lunacy.

But think about a little baby: pure, innocent, not even able to care for themselves, let alone choose to sin. And yet because of Original Sin and our fallen nature, they come into the world tainted, dipped into this pool of humanity that God created good, but since has become broken through the sins of our original parents and then down through the ages even to our own day and age through our own sins. But yet, in His mercy, through the sacrament of Baptism, these tiny babies are born anew and given new life through the mercy of those holy waters.

And even as they grow and reach the age of reason and can be culpable for the sins they choose to commit, our Lord will continue to offer them his mercy and His love, even when they don’t deserve it. God’s mercy does not just offer forgiveness, but it offers redemption and re-creation. Always bringing us back to what we were intended to be from the beginning.

Has anyone hurt you lately? Maybe someone at school? Maybe a parent or a sibling? Offering mercy to this person may seem crazy. It may feel like the last thing you should do. But when we remember that God keeps offering us His mercy time and time again, perhaps, just maybe, we can begin to let go of the hate and hurt and desire for revenge that resides in our own hearts and begin to seek His mercy not only for ourselves, but for others as well.

Dear Jesus, please help me to ask for Your mercy and to offer it to others each day, especially to those who have hurt me. Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Burning within Us

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way…” Luke 24: 32a

What do you want out of life?

Whenever I am doing a retreat for teens and I ask this question most of the responses are: college degree, a good job, money, stuff, marriage and a family, be successful, etc. But these answers show us a potential means to an end. They have to dig a little deeper to see what they really want. And when we dig a little deeper, I think it is obvious that the top four things we ALL want are happiness, love, purpose and peace. None of us want to be miserable our whole lives, or grow old and lonely. None of us wants to say at the end of our lives that all we did was sit around wasting natural resources. None of us likes living with regret, guilt and stress.

So why do we all want these four things? Because God made us this way and He made us this way so that we would find Him. They are like four spiritual homing beacons implanted in our hearts at the moment of our conception. And nothing can take them away from us. In fact, every good and bad decision in life will revolve around one of these four desires for happiness, love, purpose and peace. Some people will literally destroy their lives trying to fulfill these desires because they try to find them in everyone and everything but Jesus. Even St. Augustine, one of the most notorious sinners turned Saint once said, “Our hearts are restless O God, until they rest in Thee.” And so we go on searching and seeking and looking. God keeps drawing us to Himself, whether we know it or not. And yet we keep trying to find happiness, love, purpose and peace in the world. But we were not created for the temporary, we were created for the eternal. And so everything and everyone in this life will leave us disappointed or unsatisfied.

As Pope Benedict Xvi said to the Catholic students of Great Britain last month “Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is simple—true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only He can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.” 

May we all come to discover sooner rather than later, as the disciples on the road to Emmaus, that only in relationship with Christ, will our hearts burn within us. Until then, our hearts will continue to feel empty and ever restless.

Dear Jesus, I want my heart to burn from union with Your Sacred Heart. Give me the grace to see that only in You will I find true happiness, love, purpose and peace. Never let me make choices that will leave me disappointed or unsatisfied. Amen.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Transforming Grace

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” 1 Corinthians 15: 10a

Have you ever thought about God’s grace? I mean, really thought about it—what it is, why He gives it to us, what does it does for us? Grace is the life and power of God Himself that He freely shares with us so that we can come to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him and to ultimately be with Him forever in heaven. Grace is a share in the divinity of Christ, given to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, primarily through the sacraments. And God the Father bestows this grace on us because He loves us. We don’t earn it; in fact we can’t earn it. But without it, we could never become holy, we could never be Saints, we could never spend eternal life with Him in heaven.

So what does grace do? It transforms us from the inside out. St. Augustine used the imagery of an iron fire poker. Hard, cold, dense—but put it into the fire long enough and it begins to soften, it heats up and it glows red. It becomes malleable. Bang it with a hammer on an anvil and it changes shape. This is kind of what grace does for us. Our hearts become more soft to God’s Word and our souls become more malleable to His Spirit.

A good example of the transforming power of grace is St. Peter. Read the four Gospels and it becomes clear that St. Peter, while possessing a great love for Christ, was a flawed man. He bragged; he wanted Jesus’ attention and approval. He doubted in Jesus after walking almost right next to Him on the water. He argued with the other apostles about being the greatest. He couldn’t stay awake with Jesus in the garden—and then resorted to violence when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. He denied knowing Jesus three times after saying he would die for Jesus. And finally, he hid in the upper room between the crucifixion and resurrection and then again after Jesus ascended into heaven. But then what happened?

Pentecost! The Holy Spirit rushed upon St. Peter and the other apostles and they came running out of that upper room filled with courage and wisdom. St. Peter preached boldly to the crowd and 3,000 people were baptized and entered the Church that day (Acts 2). He then went on to be the first pope and led the Church through the Councils of Jerusalem. He finally ended up in Rome where he was captured by the authorities and commanded to deny Christ under threat of death. To which he replied (at least in my mind) “Been there, done that, not doing it again.” Finally, they led him out to crucify him and his last request was that they crucify him upside down because he was not worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord. His request was granted.

The Peter who died upside down, hanging from a cross, was not the same Peter who denied Jesus three times or cut-off the ear of the man in the garden. He was a new creation! He was transformed by grace into a holy Saint of God, willing to suffer and die for love of his Savior. And this same grace is offered to us. Will we dare to receive it and cooperate with it so that our lives can be transformed?

Dear Jesus, thank You for Your grace. Please help me to never receive Your grace in vain and help me to cooperate with Your grace so that my life can be transformed into the Saint You have called me to be. Amen.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do You Hear What I Hear?

“If you are willing to listen, you will learn; if you give heed, you will be wise.” Sirach 6: 33

Have you ever heard God speak to you? A lot of people, maybe most people, would say “no” to this question. Perhaps even as you read this you’re thinking that God has never spoken to you. But I think that God is speaking to us all the time in all kinds of ways. The problem is that we often aren’t listening.

What do I mean? Let’s begin by thinking about the fact that right now, wherever you are, no matter the time of day, no matter if you are inside or outside. There is music, TV shows, maybe a football game—all going on around you. Do you hear them? And I really mean that they are truly there. You can use scientific means to prove it. You think I’m crazy? I’m talking about radio waves and television waves. They are real and they are flowing through you, the air, the room you are in, the walls, etc. But you can’t hear them unless you have/do three things:
1)      You have to have the right equipment
2)      You have to have a power source and
3)      You have to be tuned-in to the right station.
It’s the same thing with listening to God. He is like the airwaves, constantly there, transmitting to us, but we do not hear. So how do we hear Him?

First of all, we need the right equipment. If you want to hear music, you don’t turn on the stove, right? If you want to watch and hear a football game, you don’t turn on the washing machine. You need a radio and a TV. Well, the Church and the Bible are our equipment. We need to read our Bibles and read what the Church teaches. Secondly, you need a power source. You can have a radio and a TV, but if they aren’t plugged-in, then you won’t get anything from them. Our power source is the Holy Spirit. And we have to be plugged into Him. We get plugged in through the sacraments which gives us God’s grace. Finally, we need to be tuned-in. You can a radio station or a TV plugged-in, but if they aren’t on the right channel, all we hear and see is static. So how do we “tune-in” to God? We pray in silence.

If we have the Bible and the Church, but we don’t receive God’s grace and never pray, will we be able to hear? If we are receiving the sacraments from time to time, but never pray, read our Bibles or study Church teaching, can we really hear? If we pray, but never receive the grace of the sacraments and never read the Bible or study the catechism, can we hear? No, no and no. We might hear some things, but certainly not the fullness of Truth. For this we need to be reading the Bible and catechism, receiving the sacraments on a regular basis and praying in silence every day. Only then can be we certain of hearing God’s voice speak to us.

We have got to recognize the grasp that Satan has on the culture and begin to tune-out the noise and voices all around us. God is like a tiny whispering sound amidst all the clamoring masses, but He is the voice of Truth. He is speaking to us every day in so many ways. Are we listening?

Dear Jesus, I know that I hear what I want to hear and I want to hear Your voice. Please give me the grace to tune-out the world and tune-in to Your Truth every day. Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

You Are Loved

“In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” 1 John 4: 10

All of us can believe the lie that we are unlovable. Maybe we have guilt for things we have done, or failed to do. Maybe we have listened to the lies of the world that use advertising to constantly tell us that we aren’t talented enough, or smart enough, or beautiful enough—that somehow in some way, we are defective. Perhaps our parents fail to show us the love we need or desire. And maybe, just maybe, we sought after love in all the wrong places and are left with a hard, cold, jaded mass where our heart used to be. Or, maybe today is just one of those bad days where we felt little, small, overlooked or ignored—not in an on-going way, but just for today.

No matter why you might be feeling unloved today, I have good news for you: Jesus loves you! Of course this is sometimes easy to say and hard to accept. Other days it is hard to believe altogether. But it is true and we can all use the reminder from time to time. The really awesome part of this is that His love for us is UNCONDITIONAL. This is so hard for us to understand because the love we give and receive from other humans is always conditional. But God’s love is unconditional. What does this mean? It means that He doesn’t love you more when you are doing good or love you less when you are sinning. Why? Because He loves you perfectly at all times. You are His precious daughter or son and He desires to be with you. In fact, we have a God who loves us so much that He would rather die than spend eternity without us. He loves you so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to suffer and die so that our sins could be forgiven and we could get to heaven someday.

I encourage you today, dear young people, do not be afraid of this love. Do not reject this love! So many people feel that God does not love them, but this is not true. But what is true is that so often we don’t love Him back. And even then He loves us! When Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the young pilgrims in Australia in 2008, he described the love of God as the “love which dispels uncertainty; love which overcomes the fear of betrayal; love which carries eternity within; the true love which draws us into a unity that abides!” As you read this, doesn’t your heart yearn for this love? Let us open ourselves today to the possibility, to the absurdity, that our God loves us without condition and that His will for us is always that which will draw us deeper into this reality.

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving me first and without condition. Through Your grace, help me to always live in the knowledge of this love and to love You back. Amen.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Bread of Life

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.’” John 6: 35

Did you notice that every time we eat food, we get hungry again? Every time we drink, we are thirsty again? Even after a good night’s sleep, we still get tired again? The temporary of this world, even the good things, always leave us wanting.

But Jesus claims to be the bread that will never leave us hungry again and the drink that will never leave us thirsty. Of what was He speaking? Some people say He was speaking symbolically, but the Catholic Church has maintained for 2,000 years that Jesus was speaking literally. Unfortunately, even most Catholics do not understand this teaching. In a recent Pew Research Poll half of the Catholics surveyed got this question wrong and said Holy Communion was symbolic.

So it is probably safe to say that many people out there struggle with this teaching, and perhaps many young people. And if you are one of them, then you are not all that much different than most of the people who heard Jesus give this teaching 2,000 years ago as recalled in the Gospel of John, chapter 6. When Jesus said He was the bread of life, the Jews present took Jesus literally and were confused as to how He could give them His flesh to eat and His blood to drink. If Jesus had been speaking symbolically, and He recognized that people were taking Him literally, He would have had a moral obligation to set them straight. But He didn’t. Rather than correct their assumption, Jesus goes on to say four more times in four different ways that He IS speaking literally and that He does mean that we have to eat His Body and drink His Blood.

At this point, even His own disciples began saying that this teaching was hard and that they didn’t know how they could accept it. And yet, once again, Jesus does not back down. The result? In verse 66 it says that many of His disciples left Him and returned to their former way of life. Again, if Jesus was not being literal, He would have had to stop those people and correct their misunderstanding. Think about it, why would He be willing to lose so many followers over a misunderstanding?

Finally, as His disciples were going away, He turned to His twelve apostles, His hand-picked, best friends. The ones he had spent every day with during His public ministry. And what did He say to them? “Hey guys, boy, did they all really miss what I was saying”. No! Jesus turned to His apostles and said “Do you also want to leave?” He was willing to lose EVERY disciple and EVERY apostle over this teaching. EVERY one of them!

As we are confronted with the Truth of Jesus’ words, may we come to believe in Him and in His Real Presence with us in the Eucharist. As St. Peter said, “…You have the words of eternal life.”

I believe Lord, help my unbelief so that I may receive Your Body and Blood worthily and never hunger or thirst again. Amen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


“As it is written, ‘Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.’” 2 Corinthians 8: 15

Yesterday was the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi and one of the things he is most known for is his great poverty and simplicity. Let’s face it, not many people are going to be so radical for God that they strip naked in front of the bishop and townsfolk in order to give back their clothes to their father in order to be completely free to follow God. But that’s exactly what St. Francis did. And he (and his followers) continued to live in poverty, begging for their food and necessities.

Even in our own modern society, we see Franciscan Brothers willing to be more and more in poverty in order to be more and more like St. Francis. Some even go so far as to only eat and live on what they can beg for and nothing more.

But what about you and me? What if we are not called to live as a religious brother with vows of chastity, poverty and obedience? I think we are still called to simplicity. And with today’s unhealthy focus on materialism and consumerism, trying to live simply as a lay person is almost as radical as St. Francis in his day. Why? Because everywhere we look we are bombarded with the idea that we need more, that we should WANT more, that we will only be happy with more and more and more. And yet, either right at the surface, or deep down in our hearts, we know this isn’t true. We know that no amount of “stuff” can fill the longing in our hearts.

This is where simplicity takes on value. It is an attempt to live below our means. To recognize those around us with less, to associate ourselves with them and to share what we have. I once heard that the whole of Catholic social justice teaching can be summed up in one statement: “No one should have too much, until everyone has enough.” So what is “too much”? I think this is something we each need to pray about and ask the Lord to reveal to us. For the rich young man in the Gospel, it meant selling everything and giving all the money to the poor. For others it means less than that. At a minimum, it means detaching ourselves from the desire for things. Then after that we need to let the Lord lead us and then be obedient to His will.

It could mean that we don’t need four choices of jellies or jams in our refrigerators when one would be plenty. For others it might mean eating beans and rice every Friday in solidarity with the poor. For someone else it might mean getting rid of the sports car for something more practical. For young people it might mean less money and time spent on entertaining yourselves and more time spent in service to others.

We may not all be called to take the vow of poverty, but each of us can certainly live more simply in our world. Take the time today to ask God how you can do this.

Dear Jesus, I want to live a life of simplicity. I want to be less focused on things and more focused on You and others, especially those in need. Please give me the grace to let go of the desire for more things and to open my heart to simplicity according to Your will. Amen.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Month of the Rosary

“His care is to seek the Lord, his Maker, to petition the Most High, to open his lips in prayer…who will direct his knowledge and his counsel, as he meditates upon His mysteries.” Sirach 39: 6-7

When I was growing up with my two brothers, October usually meant three things in my family: football, raking leaves (and jumping in them) and praying the rosary. This was because 1) we were boys, 2) there were leaves and 3) we were Catholic. Praying the rosary in October (and celebrating other Catholic feasts, holidays and observances) helped to instill a strong Catholic identity in my brothers and I. The Faith was literally infused in me through these celebrations and encounters with Christ.

Many Saints have said that praying the rosary is the second most powerful prayer after the Mass. Yet, so often this devotion has fallen by the wayside as more and more Catholics are integrated into our culture and find themselves with a stronger American identity than Catholic identity. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Church still holds October as the Month of the Rosary. A special time marked aside to either begin or to renew our Marian devotion. But why would we want to do this? Because we want to become closer to Jesus. And Mary always points us to her Son.

Contrary to popular opinion, the rosary is not simply a set of rote, meaningless, insincere prayers spoken over and over with mindless repetition. Rather, it is five sets of prayers said while meditating on one of 20 “mysteries” of our Faith, almost all of them an important and profound time in the life and ministry of Jesus. Moments like His resurrection, His crucifixion, His miracles, His institution of the Eucharist, etc. Key doctrines of our faith that we would do well to meditate on more often in order to bring us more deeply into the mystery of His grace and its meaning for our lives.

Perhaps this is why it is often so difficult to pray the rosary on a consistent basis, or to pray it with fervor and attention. Obviously Satan works with all of his power to keep us from using such an incredible spiritual weapon against him. But let’s not let him win this battle. Let’s all renew (or try for the first time) our commitment to praying the rosary with consistency and passion. And maybe, just maybe, we can form a good habit this month that will help to guide us and bring us closer to Jesus--not just for this month, but throughout our entire lives.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls into heaven, especially those in most need of Your mercy. Amen.