Monday, April 29, 2013

The Rosary As Story

"The purpose of the Rosary is to help keep in memory certain principal events or mysteries in the history of our salvation, and to thank and praise God for them." From The Rosary-Center.Org

This is a quote from one of the sites that first helped me learn how to pray the Rosary (back when I was still a Protestant). As I have since been praying the Rosary on & off  for nearly 2 years now, I can agree that the prayer makes it easier to remember key events of salvation history & also provides ample opportunity for thanksgiving & praise. However, its much more than this.

The Rosary isn't some dusty, old, stagnant prayer our grandmothers prayed.  Its not just a rote prayer you pray in part on certain days of the week. Its not reserved for a horrible penance (as a monotonous, droning heap of  "Our Fathers, Hail Marys & Glory Bes"). Its a full on story. But its not just about something that happened over 2,000 years ago. Its about what's happening now, in my life & those around me. Its global. Current. Cutting edge. How so? The "mysteries" as they're called, have already been written. Sure, Pope John Paul II wrote some new ones in the 90's (the Luminous Mysteries), but the story remains the same...

My point is this: the Lord God said He "was & is & is to come" (Rev. 1:8). What would happen if we were able to see the Rosary the same way? What if we were able to see it as we see the word of God,  "living & active"? When you think about it, the Rosary is actually His word, His story, told to us through the heart of Mary. The majority of the mysteries (save 2) come directly from scripture and while the mysteries are written in a past tense, if we pray the Rosary, we will find them to be surprisingly applicable to our present tension & beyond.

The key is to insert ourselves into the story. For instance, how might the 1st Joyful mystery (the Annunciation) apply to me today? I may look at this mystery & marvel at how God stepped into Mary's ordinary world out of the blue & changed her life forever. I might pray to be on the lookout for His presence & for the faith & obedience to say "Yes" like Mary did. Or I might be confused or afraid about something, but I can choose to seize the opportunity to trust that God will be faithful to protect me & help me work out the details, just as He did for Mary. The Annunciation (& all of the mysteries) are just as much mine as they were Mary's or Jesus'. And just as life typically doesn't remain stagnant from day to day, so it goes with the story of the Rosary.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Sorrowful Mysteries For the Severely Depressed

1. Agony in the garden
In the agony of the garden, Jesus cried out to be delivered from death. I often cry out to be delivered to it! Though its impossible to pray with the fervor He did on that night, my heart still feels like its being torn in two. My agony comes from the thought that I may have to face another day (& another & another...) & there's no angel consoling me (Lk 22:43).  But I discovered I can unite my heart with His in saying I don't want to go through with this. Isn't there some other way? I can also unite my heart to His resolve: "not My will but Yours be done".

2. Scourging at the pillar
At the scourging of the pillar, Jesus received the lashes as an innocent man. I wish I could have taken those lashes because I feel like I'm so much more deserving. Each lash is a thing done to me... a mean word, a rejection, a misunderstanding... Each lash opens up the anger & fear & sadness I've experienced & the wounds I've inflicted on others as a result. As I picture Jesus's hands tied to the pillar, as I picture Him on His knees being struck & bleeding, I picture me & realize He must know how I hurt too.

3. Crowning with thorns
In the course of the third "mystery", the guards clothed Jesus' bleeding body with a scarlet robe & wove a crown of thorns which they beat into His head. They hit Him & spat on Him... They mocked Him with snide words & blasphemy. They made Him a laughing stock, a punching bag, a plaything. The guards in my life also mocked me. I was given a "mental" crown of thorns which was beat into my head. I was given a "mental" robe which stank & stuck to my open wounds. I was made a laughing stock, a punching bag, a plaything. Yet Jesus stayed silent through it all because He knew Who He really was. As I think of this, I find it difficult to stifle my pain or my desire to retaliate in some way even now, so many years later... and then I realize He & I shared this experience too. I see in His suffering a reflection of my own.

4. Carrying the cross
In the fourth mystery, we find Jesus carrying His cross through the city streets, past people shouting profanities & women weeping & wailing... The soldiers surround Him & whip Him like cattle, trying to get Him moving faster. Tradition tells us He fell three times on the way, while scripture tells us that Simon of Cyrene, a passer-by, was eventually made to carry Jesus' cross. When I find I am too weak to walk, let alone hold on to my cross, when I find myself continuing to fall, its ok to acknowledge this isn't working for me. I need help. Even Jesus couldn't make it on His own.

5. Crucifixion
Jesus is crucified in the fifth mystery. Finally, His agony gets to end. I wish that I were there with Him... not to console Him as much as to die with Him... But the reality is He has actually chosen to die with me. He endured His suffering not necessarily to take mine away, but to experience it with me. He took the wounds in His physical body like I've taken wounds in my "emotional body"... and once I'm able to grab hold of this, I can begin to unite His death to my desire for it. In a sense, I crucify my flesh with His (Gal. 5:24).

So what comes after that? 3 days in a tomb & a glorious resurrection unto a new life? If only it were that easy. For now, I'm content just to know that someone "gets it"...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Dulled by Division

Well, its the day after Easter & brand new Catholics are filling the online forums with thanksgiving. I remember that feeling... but I haven't been able to retain the force of it. I'm happy for them, I really am. These days, I'm still thankful that I'm a Catholic, but I'm also troubled & weary from all the things I've seen (or haven't seen). Church is supposed to be the place we join our relationship with Him to one another's in order to strengthen one another, as iron sharpening iron. But it seems like many are just clanking chunks of metal, bustling for elbow room or brushing past with nothing more than an acknowledgement of common faith, sans practice. Have we forgotten that its the practice that makes us sharp & able to sharpen others?

We were told in RCIA that the Church is one body, unified under Christ in heaven & the Pope is His vicar on earth. But there's so much division in the ranks. I'm not just talking about the 20 or so different rites within the Catholic church alone.  Within your average parish, it seems many people have chosen to pick & choose what they want to adhere to & simply discard what they don't agree with. I consistently hear the excuse that we are American Catholics & we don't believe the superstitious mumbo jumbo those "foreign Catholics" believe in. Among these so-called superstitions include teachings regarding Mary, purgatory, communion of the saints, the necessity & validity of reconciliation & even the reality of the Eucharist. Throw in the disdain of the various devotions such as the Rosary, the LOH & the myriad of Novenas out there & you might have yourself an average American Catholic.

Some people don't consider Mary anything significant, nor do they consider the saints viable prayer partners. Some don't believe in purgatory, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist or a priest's authority to consecrate, forgive or absolve... Some are known to receive communion in a state of sin (even mortal sin) & don't bat an eye because they have their own opinions about what actually constitutes sin and / or they believe everyone is welcome at the Lord's table regardless. Perhaps they were told the Confetior or Kyrie absolves them at the beginning of Mass. Perhaps they believe the Eucharist will cleanse them or that they don't need to go to confession because God knows their hearts. My favorite has to be that God is love & there's no condemnation because a loving God can't possibly send people to hell. Whatever the reason, it seems apparent that what happens at the Mass isn't "real" for a lot of folks... its just church, just an obligation, its what we've always done... Maybe I'm way off base here, but I was under the impression that these more traditional, even superstitious things (now often rejected or overlooked) are the very things that set Catholicism apart from Protestantism... for centuries. Until now. We are a Church increasingly dulled by the division of popular opinion.

May God bless the neophytes & protect them from the rest of us.