Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For Whom We Carry our Cross

Fernanda experiences constant nausea lately in her preganancy. Her state has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on the concept of carrying our crosses. I have thought about this subject in light of Scripture and would like to share some of my thoughts about this here.

Sometimes when resolving to carry our crosses, we can get caught up in the mortification of the whole process, so much so that the mortification itself becomes the central focus of what it means to carry our cross. In Matthew 16:24-28 (and parallels) Christ assures that he is the motivation and end of our self-giving. As his words lay out the process, we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow him. Christ is the end of the means of taking up our daily cross. With this in mind, we imitate and grow closer to Christ in faithfully enduring life's hardships. Christ also points out in the gospel that he should serve as our motivation, too: he says, "Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25).

Since self denial, carrying our crosses, and 'losing' our lives are not easy, Christ offers himself as our motivation and final end for these tasks. His example should inspire us to undergo these tasks with confidence, sustained by the grace and strength he provides for us to carry them out.

On this note, I would mention the concept of offering the faithful bearing of our crosses as a prayer for others, as Paul wrote that he rejoiced in his sufferings for the sake of the Church, for in his sufferings he made up for what was "lacking" in Christ's sufferings, namely, the need yet for the grace of Christ's sufferings to be applied to the Church (Col 1:24). Our Lady of Fatima taught the three children to whom she appeared this prayer, to be said when offering up one's crosses: "I offer this up to you, Lord Jesus, for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation of offenses against the Immaculate Heart of Mary." The three children also habitually offered up their sacrifices for souls in purgatory.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Reflection on the Sermon on the Plain

Jesus' teachings in the "Sermon on the Plain" (Luke 6:17-49) run so counter to our human nature and how we are inclined to react to others in so vain a world, of which we ourselves are a part.

The Sermon on the Plain begins with the four beatitudes and the four woes, in which our Lord preaches lowliness and poverty: the humility to accept life's hardships, even those we receive from others, with the dependence on God to receive the temporal and spiritual graces we need. We are to "leap for joy" (Lk 6:23) when persecuted by others, when our natural reaction would be spite, retaliation, or despairing withdrawal for fear of being continually rejected. On the flip side of the coin, Christ also warns us of aspiring toward the high regard of others - "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you" (6:26).

When faced with the vices of bearing bitterness toward others and holding grudges against them, Jesus reminds us to persevere in mercy and meekness so as to be "sons of the Most High" who is "kind to the ungrateful and the selfish" (Lk 6:35). How easily we forget our Lord's words about being ourselves judged according to the same judgment we pronounce on others (6:38).

A gleam of hope in regards to constant hardship we may face with particular individuals is offered with the assurance "the measure you give will be the measure you get back"; whereby if we treat others with kindness and acceptance as children of God, we may receive the same kindness in return. Though, if we do not receive such return, we are still to show mercy and love: "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return" (6:35). In other words, even if we show others kindness and love, we should not grow spiteful if the kindness is not returned. Nor, again, should we judge, lest we be judged, but rather "pray for those who abuse you" (6:28) and "be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (6:36)

Mercy implies acceptance of others, despite their sin, as persons who possess the inherent dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God and for whom Christ died. We are not without sin ourselves, and should treat others as we wish to be treated (6:31), despite our sin. Unfortunately, today this maxim is touted with the implication that we accept people's sin, as well, in accepting them as people. A reaction to this, in turn, is to reject the notion of acceptance of others as rejecting the persons outright. But a distinction must be made in, as it's said, hating the sin, not the sinner. As our Lord told the woman caught in adultery, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again" (John 8:12).

Are you having trouble with those around you at home, school, or work? Read and internalize the Sermon on the Plain!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Thoughts on How to Pray the Rosary

During the rosary, he or she who prays directs the mind toward two things: 1) the meditation on the particular mystery (or event in the life of Jesus and/or Mary) being prayed ("meditation" as it's practiced in regards to the rosary simply means prayerfully thinking about something) and 2) offering the words of the vocal prayers from the heart.

This requires some discipline. Nonetheless, neither one of these two elements - meditation nor sincere vocal prayer - can be dismissed while praying the rosary. One can imagine the benefit lost by essentially ignoring or performing by rote only one of these two elements. Granted, the Holy Spirit, who plays the ultimate part in initiating our prayer and guiding our meditations, may direct our minds and hearts to one or the other more profoundly as he teaches and sanctifies us through our prayer and meditation. As a rule of thumb, however, we must remember that grace builds on nature, and God usually uses whatever elements of our nature we devote to him that he may enrich us with his grace - this applies no less to prayer.

Both elements of meditating on the mysteries and of saying the words of the Hail Mary's go hand in hand. Especially during the decades of 10 Hail Mary's each, our Blessed Mother's maternal initiative is there to guide our meditation as we open our hearts to praying the words of the Ave Maria with sincerity. Likewise, honest meditation on the mysteries of the rosary - plumbing such theological depths as the Incarnation or in contemplating Christ's face in the Transfiguration - lead us to subject ourselves to the Holy Spirit's inspiration and guidance, and to our Blessed Mother's intercessory mentorship, aware that we by ourselves may only scratch the surface of meditating such mysteries.

Focusing on both elements simultaneously - meaning it as we pray the words of the Hail Mary and meditating on the mysteries - as this demands such discipline, may be made simpler for us by using certain methods. St. Louis De Montfort suggested that one focus on one idea - or point - of meditation for each Hail Mary prayed during the rosary. For example, while meditating on the Nativity, one may think about the hardship Mary and Joseph endured while traveling to Bethlehem while praying one Hail Mary, then while praying the next Hail Mary, meditate upon their finding a stable and preparing for our Lord's birth. Such simple points consisting of a single idea each simplify the meditation and allow one to focus in the "mind's eye" on that one idea while simultaneously praying and offering from the heart the words of prayer to our Blessed Mother. And, although each Hail Mary is accompanied by a single thought from the mystery, upon meditating on one such point for each of the 10 Hail Mary's in a decade, one ends up with a pretty thorough meditation on any particular mystery.

The method I describe is not necessary for praying the rosary. Indeed, one may meditate upon a single point throughout all 10 Hail Mary's throughout a decade if desired. However, this is a method I have personally found helpful, and is one I usually find myself returning to after realizing how slipshod and distracted my meditations can be when I don't apply as much discipline or any particular method to them. The method I expound and the ideas behind it, consequently, are those on which the scriptural rosary is based.

The scriptural rosary offers a single verse from scripture, which hopefully faithfully represents the mystery and offers a single yet substantial point to meditate on, to be prayed during each Hail Mary. Below please find the Scriptural Rosary I am presently composing for an example. Better yet, go ahead and pray a couple decades of the rosary using it. God bless.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


There are two different scriptural rosaries posted at the bottom of this entry.

While praying a scriptural rosary, one reads a short verse or passage from scripture before praying a vocal prayer. I have composed those following to where one would read a short passage (in most cases, as short as a single verse) before praying each Hail Mary. Each passage from scripture is to provide an idea - or 'point' - on which to meditate while one vocally prays each Hail Mary. For information on how to pray the rosary in general, see this helpful guide.

There are two scriptural rosaries posted here; the first provides scriptural verses which focus more directly on the events in the lives of Jesus and Mary on which the rosary's meditations are based, while the second provides more varied scriptural meditations by providing, for example, more Old Testament connections to the mysteries or adding devotional scriptural passages to the meditations. God bless!

Scriptural Rosary

The Joyful Mysteries

Scriptural Rosary with Varied Scriptural References

Joyful Mysteries

Luminous Mysteries

Sorrowful Mysteries

Glorious Mysteries