Wednesday, March 28, 2012

(78) Meditations For the Rosary III: The Sorrowful Mysteries

        The 20 mysteries of the rosary and their corresponding meditations cover the highlights of the life of Christ and His mother, Mary. Four times through this coming liturgical year, we shall post a blog on a set of five mysteries that coincide with the Gospels of the liturgical year. Please permit me to share insights I obtained while meditating on the holy rosary. You might like to incorporate some of these meditations among yours or add to them.

        Conceptually, the rosary is a litany of repetitive prayers, which act like background music, while the focus is to meditate upon five of 20 different mysteries of the life of Christ and His mother, grouped according to the joyful, luminous, sorrowful, and glorious events portrayed or alluded to in the Bible. See www.americaneedsfatima.org. The rosary is said with the aid of beads and a connected crucifix, marking the beginning with the Apostles Creed. This is followed by an Our Father for the intentions of the Holy Father, three Hail Mary prayers for the increase of Faith, Hope and Charity plus a Glory Be. Then each decade or mystery includes one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, and a Glory Be (Praise).

        For those who say the rosary every day: The Joyful Mysteries are usually said on Monday & Saturday; the Luminous Mysteries are said on Thursday; the Sorrowful on Tuesday and Friday; and the Glorious on Wednesday and Sunday.  The Sunday rosary may also use the mysteries that correspond to the season of the liturgical year.......Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter. Furthermore, the Sorrowful Mysteries may be said during the entire Holy Week and the Glorious Mysteries are usually said for the entire Easter Week. Of course one may meditate on any set of mysteries. There's no rigid rule.

      “The family that prays together, stays together.” Prayer has healed millions, ended wars, overthrown dictators, stopped the advance of militant Islam into Europe in 1571 and again in 1683, both chapters in a one thousand year old war that includes today's War on Terror. This certainly gives credence to two quotes by Alfred Lord Tennyson: “A world at prayer is a world at peace” and “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”. These were the themes promoted by Father Patrick Peyton in his Family Rosary Crusade and other programs. God used his magnetic personality to attract most of the top movie stars of the day to act on his Family Theater program on radio and television. His cause for canonization is advancing.

THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY

              Imagine being with Our Lord praying in the Garden of Gethsemane on the evening of Holy Thursday after the Last Supper; watching the condemnation and the torture of Jesus; being part of the crowd on Good Friday saying “Crucify Him”; then following Our Lord on His journey to Calvary; and being beneath the cross with Mary, her heart pierced by a sword as she suffers with her son.  We can also relive it all every Holy Week, watching Mel Gibson’s epic movie on DVD, “The Passion of the Cross”.
 
        Below are meditations for each decade or mystery. One may use the entire meditation or read and reflect only upon the Bible passages as he or she can imagine being there as an observer. In bold is a recommended shorter version when time is limited as for the recitation of the rosary before Mass. Anything in italics is a quote taken directly from the Bible.

         The facts of the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, and meditations below are based on the Bible, tradition, and from the Shroud of Turin. Googling “The Shroud of Turin” gives a wealth of sources for the reader with a deeper interest.

        These meditations are also very appropriate for use with the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, which is a litany asking God that “For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world”. While reciting the litany, one meditates on different aspects of the passion of Christ. May the Rosary and the Chaplet be important parts of our spiritual renewal during Lent.


        Notice that the Psalms and the Book of Isaiah of the Old Testament cited below beautifully foretell details of the Passion of Christ up to 1000 years before His birth. The Psalms are a collection of songs of praise and thanksgiving by several authors written between 1410 and 500 B.C. Most of the Psalms were written by David from 1010-970 B.C. Isaiah wrote most of the book of the Bible attributed to him between 722 and 687 B.C. 


The First Sorrowful Mystery: The Agony in the Garden  

        After the Last Supper, Christ took the apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray because He knew what was coming. He was afraid. He felt the weight of all of the sins of the world.....past, present, and future. His agony was so great that He sweat blood. Under extreme anxiety, the capillaries on the surface of the skin break. Our Lord prayed: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but  you will" (Mark 14:36). May we likewise accept the will of God, no matter what. We know that He will be with us and take us through any cross.  

         “When Christ returned he found the apostles asleep. He said to Peter, 'Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray that you may not undergo the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" (Mark 14:37-38). May we have a good prayer life so that we will be ready for the test. Sooner or later, it will come. Other options include reading and reflecting during the recitation of this decade on Psalm 27:1-3,7-14; 140:5-6; 141:2-5; Matthew 26:36-27:25; Mark 14:32-15:14; Luke 22:39-23:15; John 18:1-40


The Second Sorrowful Mystery: The Scourging at the Pillar 

          “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him scourged” (John 19:1). It was brutal.  The Roman whip had three or four strands of leather with pieces of bone and/or metal pellets attached to the end. Thus each blow tore globs of skin from our Lord's back, causing profuse bleeding. According to the evidence on the shroud, Christ received not the normal 100 lashes, but 120.......60 by one soldier on his back and another 60 by a shorter soldier who whipped below. When Jim Caviezel was twice accidentally lashed with the whip during filming, of the "Passion of the Christ", the pain was so intense that he could neither breathe nor talk for a moment or two. Other options are to read and reflect on Isaiah 53:4-6; Matthew 27:25-26; Mark 15:1-15; Luke 23:16.


The Third Sorrowful Mystery: The Crowning of Thorns
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              “And the soldiers wove a crown out of thorns and placed it on his head, and clothed him in a purple cloak, and they came to him and said, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they struck him repeatedly (putting a reed in His right hand and even spitting on Him).  Once more Pilate went out and said to them: ‘Look, I am bringing him out to you, so that you may know that I find no guilt in him.’  So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And he said to them, ‘Behold, the man!’  When the chief priests and the guards saw him they cried out, 'Crucify him, crucify him!' Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find no guilt in him” (John 19:2-6). 
 
      They probably pounded the crown into our Lord's skull. Christ the King, the King of the Universe is mocked and suffered such humiliation for our sins. Indeed, the shroud shows numerous puncture marks on our Lord's skull. Other options include reading and reflecting on
Psalm 69:8-22,31-35; Isaiah 50:4-9; 52:13-15; 53:1-3; Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; John 15:18-20.


The Fourth Sorrowful Mystery: The Carrying of the Cross 

         Let us briefly reflect on the Way of the Cross and the lessons we can learn at each station.
  1. When we are criticized and even condemned publicly, may we act with dignity, grace, love, and faith in God as Christ did. Wisdom 2:12-22; Matthew 26:57-68; 27:11-26; Mark 14:53-65; 15:1-15; Luke 22:66-23:25; John 18:19-24; 28-40; 19:1-16.

  2. As Christ accepted His cross, may we accept our daily crosses and offer them up to the Lord (John 19:17).

  3. (Also 7th & 9th Station) Each time that we fall, may we have the perseverance to pick ourselves up and keep going. The shroud shows evidence of extensive bruises that would be caused by falls.  Any time that we fall into sin, may we get up quickly, say a prayer of sincere sorrow, and go to confession as soon as possible if serious. Most spiritual directors recommend monthly confession to facilitate growth in virtue.  The future St. John Paul II went to confession every week.


  4. Mary accompanied her son on the entire way of the cross, suffering together with Him the whole time with intense love, tenderness, dignity, strength, and grace, trusting in the will of the Father in His plan for our salvation and knowing that the glory of the resurrection will come.  May these qualities motivate us to embrace Mary as our mother. (Genesis 3:15; Lamentations 2:13)
  1. May we be willing to help others carry their crosses as Simon of Cyrene did (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 23:26).
  1. (Also 8th Station) May we have the compassion of Veronica and the women of Jerusalem (Luke 23:27-31). When we help the least of these, we do it for Christ as Veronica did. (Matthew 25:37-40).
          Other options include Isaiah 50:4-7; Matthew 27:32-33; Mark 15:21-22); Luke 23:26-33; John 19:16-18.


 The Fifth Sorrowful Mystery: The Crucifixion.
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        Every breath was excruciating because Christ had to lift himself up against the nails each time He had to breathe or utter a word. Even from the cross, our Lord tried to teach us. Let us examine these lessons from the seven times He briefly spoke as underlined.
  1. "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). May we forgive as Christ did on the cross.

  2. The good thief said: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:39-43). Christ showed his mercy to the good thief in his last moments. May we also show mercy to others.
  3. "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, 'Woman, behold, your son.' Then he said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother.' And from that hour the disciple took her into his home" (John 19:25-27). Thus Christ gave us himself in the Eucharist on Holy Thursday; salvation on Good Friday; and even His mother from the cross. Later when the centurion pierced the dead redeemer's side and heart with his lance, some speculate that was the very moment when Mary's heart was pierced by a sword as prophesied by Simeon some 33 years earlier (Luke 2:35).
  4. After this, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I thirst (John 19:28). Our Savior ardently thirsts for sinners to come back to Him.

  5. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). To not feel the presence of His father was Christ's greatest suffering. May we always crave to feel the presence of God even though He is always there.

  6. It is finished." And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit (John 19:30). These last words were of triumph. Christ accomplished His mission from the Father and opened the gates of Heaven for us. May our deaths also be moments of triumph.

  7. "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit"; and when he had said this he breathed his last (Luke 23:46). May we also resign ourselves to the will of God. With faith and trust in God, all things work out for the best in the long run.


         When the soldier pierced the side of Christ, blood and water flowed out (John 19:34). They symbolize the blood of the Eucharist and the purifying water of Baptism.

            Doctors have written articles on the medical aspects of the Christ's passion and can only conclude that Christ had tremendous endurance and superhuman strength to bear it all and stay alive for as long as He did. See www.evangelicaloutreach.org/crucifix.htm, www.ldolphin.org/kwells9.html,
            God allowed this scandalous travesty to happen for a higher good......to make reparation for our sins and thus make possible our salvation and eternal happiness in heaven. He loved us so much with such great mercy that He sent his only begotten son to save us from our sins and open the gates of heaven for us. May we remember that suffering will make saints out of us if accepted as Christ did and united with His cross as we offer it all up to God for the Church, the missions, a better world and for our loved ones.

              Other options are to read and reflect on Psalm 16:9-10; 22:2-3, 7-20; 30:2-6; 31:2-6, 10-16; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Matthew 27:34-66; Mark 11:32-34; 15:23-47; Luke 23:33-56; John 3:13-21; 19:18-42; Romans 5:19; Philippians 2:6-11; Hebrews 4:14-16, 5:7-9; 1Peter1:17-19; 2:19-25. 

    For meditations on the Joyful, Luminous, and Glorious Mysteries, go to Blogs #50, 73, and 84.

     
     

Monday, March 26, 2012

(77) The Lenten Journey: What It's All About




        On Ash Wednesday our parish church was packed, standing room only. That was great! But we won't see some of those people until Easter. Attending Mass every Sunday without fail is much more important than only coming on Ash Wednesday.  Click on https://youtu.be/Y4DVUlf7ec4 for a one minute segment of a beautiful talk by Matthew Leonard on Lent. 

       True, the blessing with ashes is a beautiful sacramental and a wonderful tradition. In our presence after Mass on Fat Tuesday morning the day before, our pastor, Father Thomas Hamm burned the palms of previous Palm Sundays. Fat Tuesday is the traditional day for Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Mobile, Rio in Brazil, etc. as one last fling before the forty days of prayer, fast, and almsgiving. By no means are the festivities an official Church observance. The next day, Ash Wednesday, the Mardi Gras partying is transformed into Lent, the somber period of penance and repentance. 

       The Gospel of the First Sunday of Lent relates that Christ spent forty days of prayer and fasting in the desert as a retreat in preparation for His public ministry. We could also spend a day or two on retreat in preparation for a new phase in our lives.......ordination, marriage, college, graduate school, first job after graduation, a new career changing job or mission, etc. In any event, a short annual retreat, day of recollection, or day of renewal is an excellent practice for any Catholic striving to become holy and a true man or woman of God. Lent also consists of forty days of prayer, fasting, and alms giving, not counting Sundays.

       Temptations. Interesting is that Christ was tempted by the devil in the same way as we are (Matthew 4:1-11). Temptations revolve around four worldly aspirations: Pleasure, wealth, power, and honor (prestige). “Turn these stones into bread” purports to satisfy pleasure in relieving hunger; “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the tower)” appeals to honor for such a public miracle. “All these I shall give to you (all the kingdoms of the world), if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” supposedly promises wealth and power. Do we not make idols out of money, power, pleasure, and prestige? Do we become slaves to any of them? In other words, do we become addicted to them? And we can't simply blame it all on the devil. So often temptations come from within ourselves, from our own selfishness, from our own weaknesses.

       In the Old Testament penitents would wear sack cloth and sit in a heap of ashes. On Ash Wednesday, the priest blesses and marks each person on the forehead with the ashes in the form of a cross saying: "Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel." Traditionally, the priest said: "Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return" as a reminder of mortality and it's time to repent. Clearly, the focus is upon repentance and conversion. i.e., turning away from sin and turning back to Christ, to follow Him, and to become closer to Him. 

       Prayer. During Lent, we tend to focus more on giving up things.......sweets, movies, etc. That is the negative. We should place a much greater emphasis upon doing. That is the positive. Prayer is basically conversation with God. It brings us closer to Him through adoration, praise, thanksgiving, and petition. Prayer can also take the form of Bible reading. A great lenten sacrifice is to read just one chapter of the Bible a day from the New Testament. That only takes about 15 minutes. There's also other spiritual reading possibilities. More frequent attendance at Daily Mass and lenten devotions such as Stations of the Cross often followed by Benediction, and Eucharistic Adoration are fabulous lenten sacrifices. 


Christ prayed and fasted for 40 days in the desert in preparation for His great mission to teach us how to live and to save us from our sins on the Cross on Mt. Calvary.  We should do much of the same during the 40 days of Lent.

        Fasting is really no big deal. Before Vatican II, Catholics were required to fast every day except Sunday which is not counted among the forty days. Today, Catholics between the ages of 19 through 59 are required to fast only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. It consists of only one full meal and the other two combined should not exceed the full meal. Furthermore, there is no snacking between meals. That's really great for weight watchers as is giving up sweets and could be done every day during Lent. Sweets never taste as good as it does on Easter Sunday. Giving up tobacco and alcohol has all kinds of health benefits. Giving up TV, video games, partying, etc. are great time savers and forms of fasting. Penance promotes self discipline. You can't conquer the world until you conquer yourself first. Penance also makes restitution for our sins. 

      Almsgiving is not simply giving money to charity. It's also good works.......volunteering in the Community and in the Church; simply helping people in need; doing favors for people; opening our hearts to others, listening to people who need a friend, visiting the sick, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, etc. There's so much truth in the old saying: “Charity begins at home”. It's easy to be nice and courteous to strangers, but not so easy with our loved ones who sometimes are annoying, insensitive, blunt, rude, discourteous, and want their own way. Little acts of love go a long way. 




       Lent is a time for self-examination and developing virtues. What are things that I have to work on? How can I become a better person? How can I become closer to God? How can I become a true man or woman of God? The focus is upon holiness and eternity. To enter Heaven, one must be holy. We can become holy either on Earth or in Purgatory which may take many years. It's a choice each of us must make. That's what Lent is all about. May all of you have a very fruitful Lent.

 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

(76) Two Hundred Men Attend 2012 Steubenville Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal

  
 Danny Abramowicz

         Two hundred men traveled from all parts of our far flung diocese, some two hundred miles from north to south, for a day of renewal, featuring two great talks by Danny Abramowicz, a Penance Service, and Mass, presided by the Apostolic Administrator, Msgr. Kurt Kemo. Men of all ages participated and sang with enthusiasm. It was a great day of renewal and enjoyable fellowship. One of the men remarked: "I go to the Men's Day of Renewal every year. I wouldn't miss it for anything. I really need it".

       The men could relate to at least parts of Coach Abramowicz's down to earth, simple and direct testimony of his own falling into the fast life as a young pro football star in New Orleans, his misery in it and consequent alcoholism followed by conversion after hitting bottom. He presented a challenge: “Men, we have dropped the ball as spiritual leaders in the family, in the parish, and in the community. We must get into spiritual shape. We spend so much time on the temporal that ends when we die and so little time on the spiritual that is eternal. We're in a spiritual war against powers and principalities. Our playbook is from the Bible and our game plan comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM or www.FamilyCatechism.com).

        The 1969 all pro wide receiver presented steps for conversion and for keeping on the straight and narrow. “Men get into trouble because they neglect their prayer life”. Danny spends an hour and a half a day in prayer (Mass, Bible & other spiritual reading, time in front of the tabernacle, etc.)......even more time than working out. He's not far from his playing weight. Prayer is nothing more than “raising the mind to God to praise, adore, thank, and ask. You'll find the Lord in silence. Listen.”

        We must “run away from temptations. Porn is more addictive than booze and drugs”. When we fall, we must “blame ourselves and resort to confession, which is essential for renewal and conversion”.

        “What we get out of Mass depends upon what we put into it. We receive the word, which should be read before Mass to get a better understanding”. But most of all, in this sacrifice of Christ to God that makes Calvary present in an unbloody manner, “we receive the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ”.

        Coach Abramowicz asked each man to tell his wife how much he loves her. Furthermore he asked the men to encourage priests: “Lift them up”. The men then enthusiastically gave the priests present a standing ovation for giving their lives to the Church. “Encourage vocations” among the young men in our lives that may be called.

        He urged the men to “take your walking orders from Christ. Look for His will. We don't know when the Son of Man is coming”. During his bypass surgery of 100% blockage, Danny had to trust in the Lord's will, not his own will. The former offensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints then closed with the challenge: “Are you ready?”

 
        Next year's Diocesan Men's Day of Renewal will be on March 16, 2013 at a location much closer to us. The main speaker will be the nationally known Fr. Larry Richards, who will challenge the men to become real men instead of spiritual wimps. He's the author of the best selling book, “Be a Man”. Fr. Richards is very dynamic and entertaining.

        See “Crossing the Goal” on EWTN television and radio, both of which can also be obtained on the internet at www.ewtn.com. The program features Danny Abramowicz, Peter Herbeck, Curtis Martin, and Brian Patrick. Tune in Thursday 9 pm, Sunday 6:30 pm, and Monday 6:30 am. Their website, www.crossingthegoal.com has resources and blogs by members of their team to complete their mission. That is to “support and equip men to stand up and live the life they were called to by their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”
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     See the Men's Conference Blog on men's spirituality “Becoming a True Man of God” at diosteubmen.blogspot.com and a greater variety on “A Little Bit for God and His People” at paulrsebastianphd.blogspot.com.