Reason #5 - to change the world!
The Parable of the Persistent Widow.
Then he told them a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said,“There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.’”
The Lord said, “Pay attention to what the dishonest judge says. Will not God then secure the rights of his chosen ones who call out to him day and night? Will he be slow to answer them? I tell you, he will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
This parable reminds us that eventually, all the pain and strife of this world is going to end. In the meantime, we are called to pray without growing weary. Praying without growing weary entails two things. First of all, it means that we will constantly be calling out to God, pulling those graces and gifts down to earth. So the first reason to pray without growing weary - without stopping - results in a blessing for the earth. The second reason is more subtle. The second reason to pray without ceasing is to form ourselves. Recall those 4 Great Reasons to Pray the Rosary that we've already discussed. #1:There are physiological, calming affects that take place right away.
#2: We become fluent in contemplative prayer, and adept in managing our emotions.
#3: We can draw down the graces and virtues of Jesus directly into the specific circumstances of our own lives.
#4: We grow in holiness, in the purpose for which we are here.
The world can't help but be changed, and changed drastically, if we pray constantly and continually, without growing weary. Why? Because we ourselves will have changed drastically and dramatically! Let us stick to this habit of prayer, then, regardless of (as well as especially in light of!) the daily newspaper headlines. Let's encourage each other to pray, as well. Pull out your rosary if you are waiting somewhere. Let people see there is a person of prayer and peace among them. Be the visual example of the Pray-er, the one who prays, who reminds us of the kingdom of God.
As the month of October draws to a close and we finish our series of unpacking "5 Great Reasons to Pray the Rosary," we leave you with this challenge. First -Can you commit to praying the rosary? If not daily, can you commit to praying it every other day, or even weekly? Secondly - can you encourage another person - maybe even once a week- to think seriously about praying? So much good could come from our decision to simply "pray, without growing weary" and invite other people to pray, as well.
In November, we will be shifting our focus to a Month of Giving Thanks! Each day of November, we'll post a short note of gratitude or reflection on thanksgiving, and we invite you to follow along and post your own words of gratitude.
Reason #4 - to grow in holiness
The 4th reason to pray the rosary is to grow in holiness. What does that mean?
First of all, what does the word "holy" mean, anyway? In essence, the Old Testament tells us that being holy means to be "set apart for a special task." Note - that does not mean "set above." The word holiness gets a bad rap these days, as it often conjures up images of puritanism, fastidiousness and self-righteousness.
True holiness, however, has a very different aim. Ultimately, holiness means taking on the attributes of God, both personally, in our own lives and decisions, and colletively, as a society. This understanding comes from the book of Leviticus, where God tells the Israelites "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy." Leviticus 19 What we often forget, though, is that God has a specific way in which the people will become holy. God tells them how they are to act in their relationships, in the way they interact with the created world, and also how they will act towards him. So, we see that the most important part of being holy involves being obedient to the Word of God.
In fact, when Jesus walks on the earth, this is the one thing he does better than any other person. He is continually seeking to do the will of his father. History has known great preachers, like Jesus. There have been great leaders of new movements as well. The Old Testament even records certain people who were able to manipulate the elements, such as the magicians in Egypt. But no one comes close to Jesus in following the will of his Father, even when following that will is profoundly difficult. Why is obedience so important to Jesus?
Jesus sums it up for us in Matthew 5:48 "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." When Jesus says these words, it is in the context of a larger framework, called the 5 Discourses. And what do you think the point of the 5 DIscourses is? You guessed it - being holy! Jesus again reaffirms the teachings of his Father from the Old Testament, and takes them even further.
Being obedient to the word of God allows us to become holy. It gives us a framework to understand and a scaffold to lean into. We incarnate the attributes of God. His mercy, patience, lovingkindness, justice, wisdom and peace become more and more apparent in us.
In the walk through the mysteries of the rosary, from Jesus' annunciation to his birth, death, resurrection and ascension, we end with the Assumption and Coronation of Mary, Mother of God, Queen of the Universe. In Mary's coronation, we see human holiness on display, the fullness of God shining through. Just imagine if we all tried to be like Mary, obedient to the Word of God. Wouldn't it be wonderful if we all took the call to holiness a little more seriously? Just imagine how and our lives, adn the world, might change.
Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.
Pope Benedict XVI
Reason #3: to draw down graces and apply them to our lives
There's a well known song that we sing at Mass. You've probably heard it. The refrain goes something like "We become what we receive! Amen. Alleluia!"
The belief that an ordinary created object, like a bunch of random wheat and a few grapes, can become something radically different - while still maintaining its original form - is foundational to the Catholic understanding of the created world. We certainly proclaim that this mystery takes place in the Mass. Some pretty ordinary stuff - wine and bread - become divine, through the participation of humans (which we call "the work of human hands"), the ministry of the priest, and of course, the presence of the Trinity.
Even if we don't fully understand how this exactly happens during the celebration of the sacraments, we profess that belief. That's why we say "Amen," which translates to "I believe." But what about outside of the sacraments?
The same principle certainly applies! Just as we are called to "become what we receive" when we participate in the sacraments, praying the Liturgy of the Hours or the rosary offers us similar benefits.
As we pray the rosary, we've already noticed a physiological change (Reason #1) and an elevation of our hearts and minds through contemplation (Reason #2), so now we are in a position to be more receptive to the graces made available to us. This can be very specific. For example, if your family struggles with peace and harmony, the Joyful Mysteries are of great benefit. Since the Joyful Mysteries invite us to meditate on the life of the Holy Family, we can also ask that our families receive the graces that were present in the daily life of the Holy Family. Surely Joseph knew great stress and anxiety, as he protected and provided for Mary and Jesus. Who better to ask for help in these areas than Joseph?
If you or a loved one is struggling with work issues, be sure to pray the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday. These 5 mysteries detail Jesus' own public life, where he lived out the work he was called to do. Ask Jesus to walk with you in your own vocation, to grant you clarity, courage, and the wisdom to see the way forward.
Do you often encounter mockery? Ask for assistance in this area when you pray the 3rd Sorrowful Mystery, the Crowning of Thorns, when Jesus was mocked. Jesus suffered all these things so that we would not have to suffer them alone. We are able to draw from the lives of Jesus, Mary and Joseph the graces that we need for our own lives, in our own particular circumstances.
But as Pope Francis said in "The Joy of the Gospel," time is greater than space. We have to allow plenty of time for the changes we pray for to occur, and do our best not to get downhearted if nothing happens right away. After all, God took 6 days to create the cosmos in the beginning, and Jesus was born as a baby. The proper use of time is always part of God's plan.
While we wait for our prayers to be answered, we can continue to think over how our lives, in their own way, mirror the events that we meditate on in the rosary and consider how we can draw down those graces, and apply them where they are needed.
Reason #2: to practice contemplative prayer
In case you hadn't heard, many sociological and medical experts are saying there is an unknown epidemic going on right now. It's called the Anxiety Epidemic, and it's being talked about in many well known and respected scientific and psychological journals. A recent study conducted by the APA (American Psychiatry Association) showed that close to 70% of respondents said they felt extremely anxious in 3 areas - health, safety (especially towards their families) and finances.
But it's not only adults who are feeling increasingly anxious. Teenagers and even preteens are now being diagnosed with extreme anxiety. Panic attacks in preteens, as well as rising diagnoses of clinical depression and suicidal thoughts are becoming more and more common even in Middle School.
So far, only one remedy has surfaced - the practice of meditation, or as Catholics call it, contemplative prayer. Not surprisingly, contemplative prayer has long been one of the hallmarks of Dominican spirituality, the order that is most connected to the rosary. In fact, it is said that St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominicans, received the rosary from Our Lady herself as a gift. Whether this gift-giving took place in a vision or in an unseen inspiration drawn out over time, is unimportant. The rosary truly is a great gift, and it offers the beginning level of learning contemplative prayer.
What is contemplative prayer? The Catechism answers this by quoting the great St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote: ‘contemplative prayer is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.’ Contemplative prayer seeks him ‘whom my soul loves.’ It is Jesus, and in him, the Father. We seek him, because to desire him is always the beginning of love, and we seek him in that pure faith which causes us to be born of him and to live in him.” CCC 2709
Let's reread a couple of those lines again. Contemplative prayer is a "close sharing between friends." So much of our sharing between friends takes place on social media platforms today. Although there is a place for that high-tech connectivity, it certainly doesn't take the place of quiet time together, face to face, heart to heart, with those we love and who love us.
What about this line? Contemplative prayer is "taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us." What a beautiful, hope giving thought! It's no wonder that contemplative prayer offers such an antidote to anxiety, depression and fear. Spending time with the one who made us, knows us and deeply loves us can only be life-giving. Even though the circumstances of our lives may not instantly change, nevertheless, WE are changed, even if only a tiny bit. We find we have a little more peace, a little more patience. We find that we can get through one more day. Even more than that, we feel listened to. We are heard by one who loves us AND can also help us!
Praying the rosary is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children, and to each other. We can teach others how to pray it, as well as pray it for others. It's well worth rediscovering, so that we can experience contemplative prayer.
Contemplation is a gaze of faith, fixed on Jesus. "I look at him and he looks at me."
Today we begin our 5 week journey of unpacking "5 Great Reasons to Pray the Rosary." Here's Reason #1.
Reason #1: For the physiological changes that take place in the body.
One of the first, and most basic benefits of praying the rosary is the physiological changes that take place in the body. When one prays the rosary, a slower heart rate is noticeable. Breathing also slows down and becomes more rhythmical, and those are just a couple of the benefits. This has been well documented.
We especially recommend the rosary to those who struggle with anxiety and nervousness. It can be enormously helpful to youths, especially when they are going through a growth spurt. As their young bodies and brains grow, not everything matures at the same rate. It is normal for them to feel confused and even separated from themselves, as though they aren't sure what is happening. You might see a reocurrence of night terrors and bad dreams. Although these emotions are part of growing up, they can be disturbing and even frightening to young children. Falling asleep praying the rosary can be very comforting and soothing - and help ease them into a better sleep as they teach their bodies how to unwind and power down.
Of course, not just the young, but people of all ages can experience the healthy benefits of intentionally slowing down and breathing deeply. The rosary is a source of comfort and physical help to all who make meditation and reflection a habit, as it greatly helps in stopping the flow of cortisol and stress-reaction hormones, replacing them with serotonin and other helpful, feel good hormones.
The Rosary Foundation (www.erosary.com) also lists these benefits: