A saint’s suggestions for praying the rosary

POPE PRAYS ROSARY AT POMPEII SANCTUARYIStJP2 issued his Apostolic Letter on the Rosary 13 years ago this month, It included these suggestions for praying the rosary:

  1. n. 19 …….I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion.
  2. n. 29 Announcing each mystery, and perhaps even using a suitable icon to portray it, is as it were to open up a scenario on which to focus our attention.
  3. n. 30 …….In order to supply a Biblical foundation and greater depth to our meditation, it is helpful to follow the announcement of the mystery with the proclamation of a related Biblical passage, long or short, depending on the circumstances. No other words can ever match the efficacy of the inspired word. As we listen, we are certain that this is the word of God, spoken for today and spoken “for me”
  4. n. 30 ……In certain solemn communal celebrations, this word can be appropriately illustrated by a brief commentary.
  5. n. 31 …….After the announcement of the mystery and the proclamation of the word, it is fitting to pause and focus one’s attention for a suitable period of time on the mystery concerned, before moving into vocal prayer. A discovery of the importance of silence is one of the secrets of practicing contemplation and meditation. One drawback of a society dominated by technology and the mass media is the fact that silence becomes increasingly difficult to achieve. Just as moments of silence are recommended in the Liturgy, so too in the recitation of the Rosary it is fitting to pause briefly after listening to the word of God, while the mind focuses on the content of a particular mystery.
  6. n. 33 …….The center of gravity in the Hail Mary, the hinge as it were which joins its two parts, is the name of Jesus. Sometimes, in hurried recitation, this center of gravity can be overlooked, and with it the connection to the mystery of Christ being contemplated. Yet it is precisely the emphasis given to the name of Jesus and to his mystery that is the sign of a meaningful and fruitful recitation of the Rosary. Pope Paul VI drew attention, in his Apostolic Exhortation Marialis Cultus, to the custom in certain regions of highlighting the name of Christ by the addition of a clause referring to the mystery being contemplated.37 This is a praiseworthy custom, especially during public recitation
  7. n. 34 Trinitarian doxology is the goal of all Christian contemplation. For Christ is the way that leads us to the Father in the Spirit. If we travel this way to the end, we repeatedly encounter the mystery of the three divine Persons, to whom all praise, worship and thanksgiving are due. It is important that the Gloria, the high-point of contemplation, be given due prominence in the Rosary. In public recitation it could be sung, as a way of giving proper emphasis to the essentially Trinitarian structure of all Christian prayer.
  8. n. 35 …….In current practice, the Trinitarian doxology is followed by a brief concluding prayer which varies according to local custom. Without in any way diminishing the value of such invocations, it is worthwhile to note that the contemplation of the mysteries could better express their full spiritual fruitfulness if an effort were made to conclude each mystery with a prayer for the fruits specific to that particular mystery. In this way the Rosary would better express its connection with the Christian life.
  9. n. 37 ……. The Rosary is then ended with a prayer for the intentions of the Pope, as if to expand the vision of the one praying to embrace all the needs of the Church. It is precisely in order to encourage this ecclesial dimension of the Rosary that the Church has seen fit to grant indulgences to those who recite it with the required dispositions.
  10. n. 38 ……. Where might the “mysteries of light” be inserted? If we consider that the “glorious mysteries” are said on both Saturday and Sunday, and that Saturday has always had a special Marian flavour, the second weekly meditation on the “joyful mysteries”, mysteries in which Mary’s presence is especially pronounced, could be moved to Saturday. Thursday would then be free for meditating on the “mysteries of light”.
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What will you give Jesus for His birthday?

giftIn the earliest months of his pontificate, St John Paul II found himself in the season of Advent, and took the opportunity to teach about its significance:

Advent means:  God who comes, because he wills “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He comes because he created the world and man out of love and established the order of grace with him.

He comes, however, “because of sin”.
He comes “in spite of sin”.
He comes to take away sin.

Though not as emphatically penitential as Lent, Advent is a time when, after initially recalling that Jesus will come again triumphantly in glory, we strive to prepare ourselves to celebrate during Christmastide that first, humble coming of Jesus.  Hopefully, our preparation this Advent has included a good Confession and a resolve to turn away from sin.

In Mother Teresa’s Secret Fire (pp. 113-114), Fr Langford illustrates the humility of our Lord with this Christmas-related anecdote from the life of St Jerome:

After many years spent in Jerusalem translating the Word of God, Jerome finished his grand project just days before Christmas.  To celebrate his accomplishment, Jerome decided to spend Christmas Eve in nearby Bethlehem, in one of the many grottoes that dot the countryside.  According to the ancient account, sometime around midnight Jesus appeared to him, saying “Jerome, what will you give me for my birthday?”

Immediately and enthusiastically, Jerome declared, “Lord, I give you my translation of your word.”  But instead of congratulating him, Jesus simply replied, “No, Jerome, that is not what I want.”

Jerome was speechless.  Then he began to complain and remonstrate with Jesus, asking why he had let him go on for forty years, far from home, laboring at something other than what God most wanted from him.  But Jesus remained silent.  Jerome started suggesting other ways of honoring Jesus’ birthday – fasting, becoming a hermit, giving his possessions to the poor.  To each of these Jesus replied, “No. Jerome.  That is not what I want most.”

Finally, Jerome protested, “Then you tell me, Lord.  Tell me what would give you the most joy on your birthday, and you shall have it.

“Do you promise, Jerome?”
“Yes, Lord, anything at all.”
Jesus replied, “Give me your sins…”

Fr Langford recapitulates:

“Give me your sins.”  In his limitless humility, more than any service we can render him, the Lord considers it a gift that we “allow” him to take away our sins.  Why?  Precisely because he thirsts for us, because he longs for union with us, and the only obstacle to that union is our sin – which, in his eyes, then, becomes the most precious gift we can offer.

Will I be able to give Jesus my sins this Christmas?  Strangely enough, even after being absolved of my sins, there is part of me that still regards them as my sins.  Of course, I have not a shadow of a doubt that my sins have been forgiven.  But have I truly given those sins to Jesus?

St Jerome initially proffered the work of his hands as his gift to Christ, but this was rebuffed by the Lord as less than ideal.  This reminds me of something that I’ve heard Scott Hahn say in at least half a dozen of his talks over the years:

God wants to do more in you than he wants to do through you.

May this Christmas be a season in which I seek the heart of my Lord, truly give him my sins, and give to him whatever else it is that he wants the most from me.

St JP2’s Theology of the Body — for women!

Sr Helena Burns, fsp (who blogs here) gave 5 talks in Toronto recently.
Here’s the audio: Talk 1, Talk 2, Talk 3, Talk 4 and Talk 5.

TOB AND WOMEN TORONTO

Don’t want the men to feel slighted, so here are 4 talks (audio) given by Dr Ed Sri at a men’s retreat which incorporate aspects of St JP2’s TOB for the men:

Talk #1: Practical Insights from John Paul II — Part 1

Talk #2: Practical Insights from John Paul II — Part 2

Talk #3: Will I Be the Hero of My Life?  Virtue and the Mission

Talk #4: The Primacy of the Interior Life

Saintly snippets about Sunday’s Gospel

PJPII_prayingIn the latter half of this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we hear an impassioned call from Jesus.  In order to steep myself in the promise contained in this call, I sought out the preaching of St John Paul II.  Here are some of the occasions when the sainted pontiff made reference to this call and promise of Jesus:

Following the call prepares me to proclaim the Good News:

5. Jesus Christ says to all men and women: “Come to me, all you who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you” (Mt. 11:28). But Christ does not invite us to come to him for some empty consolation. He renews us and strengthens us to go forth to share with others the salvation he has brought. He tells his Apostles: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mk. 16: 15). Christ – the one sent by the Father – now sends others forth: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn. 20: 21).

These words remind us that the work of evangelization is at the heart of the Church’s mission in the world. The Church began through evangelization–and she is ceaselessly renewed through evangelization. In every time and place the preaching of the Gospel must be the Church’s first duty,

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/1993/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19930810_stadio-kingston_en.html

I should not expect a life of comfort and ease:

4. Once when Jesus was addressing a large crowd, he said to them: “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matth. 11, 28-29). These words are intended for all of us, but they have a particular significance for the sick and elderly, for whoever feels “overburdened”. We note, with consolation, Jesus’ promise that our souls will find rest – not our bodies but our souls. Jesus does not promise to remove all physical suffering from our lives during our earthly pilgrimage, but he does promise to refresh our spirits, to lift up our hearts, to give rest to our souls. Come to the Lord, then, with your weariness and pain, your burdens and sorrows, and “you will find rest for your souls”. For Jesus is the Good Shepherd, the shepherd who leads his sheep to green pastures of consolation, to fresh waters of peace.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1984/september/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19840915_malati-anziani_en.html

A shout-out to the Blessed Sacrament and the priests who bring it to us:

Always, but especially at moments of confusion and anguish, when life and the world itself seem to collapse, do not forget the words of Jesus: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt 11:28-30).

Do not forget that Jesus willed to remain present, personally and really, in the Eucharist, an immense mystery but a sure reality, in order to materialize authentically this individual and salvific love of his! Do not forget that Jesus willed to come to meet you by means of his ministers, the Priests!

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/1979/march/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_19790311_giovani-san-basilio_en.html

Only my relationship with God will sustain me:

It is true that, when one goes through difficult times, the support of science can be of great help, but nothing can replace an ardent, personal and confident faith that is open to the Lord, who said, “Come to me, all you labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11,28).

The indispensable source of energy and renewal, when frailty and weakness increase, is the encounter with the living Christ, Lord of the Covenant. This is why you must develop an intense spiritual life and open your soul to the Word of life. In the depths of the heart the voice of God must be heard, even if at times it seems to be silent, in reality it resounds continually in the heart and accompanies us along the path that can have its burden of sorrow as happened to the two travellers of Emmaus.

Special care must be shown to young spouses so that they do not surrender in the face of problems and conflicts. Prayer, frequent recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation, spiritual direction, must never be abandoned with the idea that one can replace them with other techniques of human and psychological support. We must never forget what is essential, namely, to live in the family under the tender and merciful gaze of God.

The richness of the sacramental life, in the life of the family, that participates in the Eucharist every Sunday (cf. Dies Domini, n. 81) is undoubtedly the best antidote for confronting and overcoming obstacles and tensions.

http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2002/october/documents/hf_jp-ii_spe_20021018_pc-family_en.html

The Christian community and its young people

Recently, at a Sunday Mass, our pastor honored several young parishoners who had recently graduated from high-school and college.  It was a wonderful opportunity for recognition.  The graduates were affirmed by our pastor for their academic accomplishments, as well as for their participation in our parish.

In his Message for the 32nd World Day of Prayer for Vocations, St John Paul II offered the following pointed advice for youth:

It is in following Jesus that youth displays all the richness of its potentiality and acquires its full meaning.
It is in following Jesus that the young discover the sense of a life lived as a gift of self, and experience the beauty and truth of growing in love.
It is in following Jesus that they feel themselves called to communion with him as living members of a single body, which is the Church.
It is in following Jesus that it will be possible for them to understand the personal call to love: in matrimony, in the consecrated life, in the ordained ministry, in the mission ad gentes.

Having established that an ongoing encounter with the living Christ should be the highest priority for youth, JP2 also offered advice for the rest of us in the Church:

What is needed today is a Church which knows how to respond to the expectations of young people. Jesus wants to enter into dialogue with them and, through his Body which is the Church, to propose the possibility of a choice which will require a commitment of their lives. As Jesus with the disciples of Emmaus, so the Church must become today the traveling companion of young people, who are often marked by confusion, resistance and contradictions, in order to announce to them the ever-astonishing “news” of the risen Christ.

This is what is needed: a Church for young people, which will know how to speak to their heart and enkindle, comfort, and inspire enthusiasm in it with the joy of the Gospel and the strength of the Eucharist; a Church which will know how to invite and to welcome the person who seeks a purpose for which to commit his whole existence; a Church which is not afraid to require much, after having given much; which does not fear asking from young people the effort of a noble and authentic adventure, such as that of the following of the Gospel.

The entire message is well worth reading, and quite challenging.  Near the conclusion, JP2 offered this brief but magnificent prayer to Our Blessed Mother for young people:

O Virgin of Nazareth,
the “yes” spoken in youth marked your
existence and it grew as did your life itself.

O Mother of Jesus,
in your free and joyful “yes”
and in your active faith so many generations
and so many educators have found inspiration
and strength for welcoming the Word of God
and for fulfilling his will.

O Teacher of life,
teach young people to pronounce the “yes”
that gives meaning to existence
and brings them to discover the hidden “name” of God
in the heart of every person.

O Queen of the Apostles, give us wise educators,
who will know how to love young people and help them grow,
guiding them to the encounter with Truth which makes one free and happy.
Amen!

“…a deep, personal experience…”

From the quotable St John Paul II:

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3: 8). To know Christ! On this last stage of our Lenten journey we are encouraged even more by the liturgy to deepen our knowledge of Jesus, to contemplate his suffering and merciful face, and to prepare ourselves to experience the splendour of his resurrection. We cannot remain on the surface. We must have a deep, personal experience of the richness of Christ’s love. Only in this way, as the Apostle says, can we “know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible [we] may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3: 10).

Like Paul, every Christian is on a journey; the Church is on a journey. Let us not stop, brothers and sisters, or slow our pace. On the contrary, let us strive with all our strength for the goal to which God calls us.

From this Sunday’s readings

In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jesus describes our salvation – the kingdom of God, which begins on earth – in these terms:

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father
and you are in me and I in you.

He uses language which seems steeped in mystery.  I enjoy attempting to explore the unfathomable depths of mystery.  Here Jesus is touching on the mystery of the Holy Trinity.  I want to understand as much as I possibly can about the Blessed Trinity, because my destiny as a faithful Catholic is to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love.

What is the “cycle of Trinitarian love?”  In the early pages of his book, My Beloved Son, Fr Lawrence Lovasik SVD says this about Jesus:

Jesus Christ is called “The Word.”  The Greek term which it renders, logos, means not only “word,” which is its nearest equivalent in English, but the thought which is expressed by the word,…

Based upon this, he offers an enlightening explanation of the Trinity, describing the cycle of Trinitarian love:

God is the fullness of being, the limitless ocean of all perfection and of all life.  He is Being Itself, the necessary Being, subsisting of Himself, and possessing the fullness of all perfection.

There is in God an altogether spiritual fatherhood.  He is Father, the principle of all the divine life in the Trinity.

Being Infinite Intelligence, God perfectly comprehends Himself.  In a single act, He sees all that He is – all that is in Him, the fullness of His perfections – and, in one thought, in one “word” that exhausts all His knowledge, He expresses this infinite knowledge to Himself.  This thought conceived by the eternal intelligence, this utterance whereby God expresses Himself, is the Divine Word.

(…)

The Father begets the Word because He communicates to this Word a nature not only like, but identical with his own.  Scripture calls the Word, the Son.

(…)

Because this Son is perfect, He possesses with the Father all the divine perfections except the property of “being Father.”…the Son ever dwells in the bosom of the Father who begets Him.  He dwells there both by unity of nature and also by the love which They mutually bear to one another.  From this love proceeds, as from one principle, the Holy Spirit, the substantial love of the Father and the Son.

Saint John Paul II summarized the cycle of Trinitarian love this way:

The Father begets the Son by loving him; the Son is begotten by the Father, letting himself be loved and receiving from him the capacity to love; the Holy Spirit is love given in total gratuitousness by the Father, received with full gratitude by the Son, and returned by him to the Father.  (General Audience 29-July-1998)

How do I know that my destiny as a faithful Catholic is to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love?  Because that is what Jesus is telling us in this Gospel, which is confirmed by what we hear St Peter tell us in today’s Second Reading:

For Christ also suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.

Baptized in 1956 by the late Rev Albert Kaczmarek at Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke PA

Baptized in 1956 by the late Rev Albert Kaczmarek at Holy Trinity Church in Nanticoke PA

Jesus willingly suffered and died because it was the only way in which he could lead me to God.  At my Baptism, I was baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus.  I was cleansed from the sin by which I deserved eternal separation from God, and I was freed to abide forever in the cycle of Trinitarian love.  All I need to do is to be faithful, to love Jesus and keep his commandments, as he tells us at the beginning of today’s Gospel.  Commandments like “love one another as I have loved you,” “deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me,” “if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive you,” “if you deny me in public, I will deny you before our Father in heaven,” “love your enemies and pray for your persecutors.”  Challenging, eh?

What happens if I am unfaithful, if I don’t keep the commandments?  If I fail in a serious way to keep the commandments of Jesus, I commit mortal sin.  Here’s some of what the Catechism teaches about mortal sin:

1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

When I prefer to indulge my own selfishness instead of loving Jesus and keeping his commandments, I reject God’s love and Jesus’ saving sacrifice, and I no longer have the opportunity to enter the cycle of Trinitarian love, until I am reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Penance.

So, what I need to do is eagerly and ardently follow Jesus’ instructions at the end of today’s Gospel:

Whoever has my commandments and observes them
is the one who loves me.
And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father,
and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”

Going an entire day without uttering a prayer shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Going for days at a time without reading the Bible shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Not being able to share my faith with others (as St Peter instructed us today) shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Spending hours upon hours in front of the TV shows how weak my love for Jesus must be (even if it is EWTN!).  Wasting on lottery tickets or at Mohegan Sun the money with which the Lord has blessed me shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Denying by contraception the new life which the Lord wants me to bring forth shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  Viewing pornography shows how weak my love for Jesus must be.  There are so many ways to indulge my selfishness; so many ways for me to fall out of love with Jesus.

I need to love Jesus.  My love for Jesus should be growing deeper and deeper as time goes on.  When I fail, Jesus wants me to humble myself and appeal to his mercy by making a good Confession.  And then continue striving to love him more and more.