A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘rosary

Mary is our great helper; she it is, who presents to her divine Son, all our prayers, our tears, and our sighs; she it is, who obtains the graces for us which we need for our sanctification.

~ St. John Vianney, quoted in “Celebrate May 2015,” Catholic Digest, May 2015

Icon of the Holy Family

An icon of the Holy Family, available at Desmarais & Robitaille.

Converts like me may come to the Catholic Church knowing just a few things about the Blessed Virgin Mary:

  • Mary became the mother of Jesus (see Luke 1:26-56, 2:1-7*).
  • Mary was there when Jesus performed the first of his signs during the wedding at Cana (see John 2:1-11).
  • Mary stood by Jesus’ cross until he died (see John 19:25-30).

If we want to learn more about the mother of Jesus and her role in the Church and as our spiritual mother, this month dedicated to Mary is a fitting time. So where do we look?

The rosary: A wonderful way to get to know Mary is by praying the rosary on our own or with a group. As we pray to Jesus through Mary, we meditate on the mysteries of the rosary, including the annunciation to Mary, her visit to Elizabeth, Jesus’ birth, and the assumption and queenship of Mary.

Rosary apps: The Spoken Rosary app guides the listener through the rosary and offers the options of hearing a scripture passage at the start of each decade and seeing a picture of each mystery. The Mary App by the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception provides an interactive rosary. It also offers information about Marian consecration, dogmas, feasts, apparitions, prayers, images, and more.

The Catechism: We can find Church teachings about Mary by checking the index, which lists many passages about Mary and her part in the Incarnation of Jesus, her assumption into heaven, her role as spiritual mother of and intercessor for the faithful, and so on.

Papal encyclicals: If we want to know more about Mary, encyclicals by Pope Pius XII deal with her queenship (Ad Caeli Reginam); her immaculate conception (Fulgens Corona; the dogma was originally proclaimed in Ineffabilis Deus, a papal bull by Pope Pius IX); and her assumption (Munificentissimus Deus). Redemptoris Mater, an encyclical by Pope John Paul II, tells about Mary’s role in the life of the Church.

The International Marian Research Institute: The “About Mary” page of the Institute’s website leads to information on Marian apparitions and shrines, Marian images, music about Mary, and much more.

Books about Mary: Scott Hahn’s Hail, Holy Queen: The Mother of God in the Word of God looks at Mary’s role as set out in the Bible and at Marian doctrines such as her perpetual virginity. In The Imitation of Mary by Thomas à Kempis, we learn about “Meeting Mary,” “Knowing Mary,” “Loving Mary,” and “Calling on Mary in Prayer and Song.” And Giovanna Parravicini’s Mary, Mother of God: Her Life in Icons and Scripture features scripture passages and beautiful Marian icons.

This month, I pray that we would draw closer to Mary—the Mother of God and our mother—who always leads us to Jesus.

Crowned by the Sovereign King,

O Mother clement, sweet, and dear,

be our Advocate, O faithful Virgin.

Let us bless and praise Jesus

Who divinely blessed His Mother Mary

for all eternity.

~ “Mary Prefigured,” The Imitation of Mary by Thomas à Kempis

(*Scripture references taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

On the weekend, I added some new music to my MP3 player and created some playlists. As I looked through my songs, I realized I’d forgotten about some of the great tunes I’d downloaded, and I planned to listen to them again.

Sometimes we treat our spiritual disciplines the same way: we forget how good they are for the soul and maybe even think they’re outdated.

Consider Bible reading time. We can follow a reading plan or just read through a psalm or a chapter or two of the Bible to learn more about following and worshipping the Lord. How many of us think the scriptures have nothing to say to us today?

Think about a Way of the Cross service with its prayers, readings and responses for each station. It offers us a wonderful opportunity to reflect on the last days of Jesus’ life and his sacrifice for us. But how many of us might see it as one more thing to add to a busy schedule?

Consider the rosary. We meditate on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, praying through Mary to Jesus. How many of us just see it as repetitious?

Think about Eucharistic adoration. Whether we focus on something specific or share our cares and concerns or let ourselves be still, we get to spend time in the presence of Jesus. How many of us would struggle to imagine spending an hour in silent prayer?

For the price of a small amount of time—maybe fifteen minutes a day of Bible reading, twenty minutes or so for the Stations of the Cross or the rosary, an hour for adoration—we get to stop the hustle-and-bustle of daily life, think about our faith and God’s ways, and spend time in conversation with him.

Does the modern world we live in have anything to offer followers of our ancient faith? Absolutely. I have Catholic apps on my MP3 player and read Catholic e-books, I visit Catholic websites, I watch faith-based movies, and I maintain and follow Catholic boards on Pinterest. But it’s worth noting that my MP3 player features an album of Gregorian chant.

I pray that, even as we embrace new media and methods for sharing and learning about our faith, we would come to appreciate the ways that have served our Church so well. They may help us “become a leaven of Christian living within society” (Pope Francis (@Pontifex), Twitter, March 26, 2015).

And [Jesus] said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

~ Matthew 13:52*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

The Blessed Virgin is like a good mother who, not content with looking after all her children in general, watches over each one separately.

~ St. John Vianney, quoted in “Celebrate May 2014,” Catholic Digest, May 2014

Last week, the women in my parish’s Catholic Women’s League group joined teachers and parent volunteers to teach some children about the rosary.

The children learned about the prayers we say on the various beads and a bit about the mysteries we reflect on. They also got to make a simple rosary and have it blessed by our parish priest.

Not only was this a valuable lesson for the Grade 3 students, it was also a refresher course for me, and probably for some of the other volunteers as well:

  • In the rosary, we pray through Mary to God; she carries our prayers to the Lord.
  • We meditate on the life of Jesus and his mother, from the Annunciation to the Ascension to the Assumption and Coronation of Mary.
  • It can take as little as fifteen minutes to pray five decades, and so we could easily pray one decade each day.
  • The rosary is a powerful spiritual weapon.

My three rosaries

How many of us have a rosary (or even more than one) that we received on the occasion of our First Holy Communion, purchased in a Catholic gift shop, or got in the mail from a Catholic charity? How many of these rosaries sit in a drawer, on a night table, or in a purse, unused?

When I bought my first rosary a little while after I began attending Mass, I prayed five decades nearly every day. Over time, I found that it became one more to-do in a busy day, and I seldom found the time to pray even one decade. But lately I’ve been making this time to quiet my mind, focus on Jesus, and ask for prayers for others and for myself.

If it’s been a while since you’ve picked up your rosary or used a rosary app, or you’ve never prayed the rosary before, I encourage you to give this meditative prayer a try.

When we have handled something fragrant, our hands perfume whatever they touch, let our prayers pass through the Blessed Virgin’s hands, and she will give them fragrance.

~ St. John Vianney, quoted in “Celebrate May 2014,” Catholic Digest, May 2014

According to the Wikipedia, people will observe a wide range of events this month, from Leif Erikson Day to Thanksgiving and from National Fire Prevention Week to Fair Trade Month.

For those of us who are relatively new to the Catholic Church and may not be aware of the fact, Catholics also observe the month of the Holy Rosary.

praying the rosary

Praying the rosary

In fact, today we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. Pope St. Pius V established this feast to honour the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession—prayed for through the rosary—that led to the Christian forces’ victory in the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571.

If a little while (or maybe a long while…) has passed since you’ve prayed the rosary, this feast day is a great time to pick up your beads or rosary ring and say a decade or more. And during this 40 Days for Life campaign, you could pray the rosary using pro-life meditations, such as those available through Priests for Life or the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

But maybe you’ve never prayed the rosary. Maybe you’re a convert and the idea of praying the rosary is strange or uncomfortable for you; as Scott Hahn wrote in Rome Sweet Home, before he became a Catholic, he ripped up the rosary that had been his grandmother’s. But on his journey to the Catholic Church, Scott was given a rosary and began to pray the rosary regularly. He came to describe it as “a most powerful prayer—an incredible weapon” and found that meditating upon the mysteries deepened his understanding of Scripture.

If you’ve never tried to pray the rosary, I encourage you to give it a chance, whether you use a rosary you’ve made or been given. It does take a little time to learn the prayers and mysteries (which you can find on the Holy Rosary website, for example), but not long to pray through them; even a few minutes is enough time to recite a decade and think about some of the events in the life of Jesus.

As Pope Francis wrote this year in a message to the youth of Lithuania, this simple prayer brings us closer to God:

In the Rosary we turn to the Virgin Mary so that she may guide us to an ever closer union with her Son Jesus to bring us into conformity with him, to have his sentiments and to behave like him….The Rosary is an effective means for opening ourselves to God, for it helps us to overcome egotism and to bring peace to hearts, in the family, in society and in the world.

When I wash dishes, I usually listen to the radio or a podcast. When I watch TV, I often make to-do lists, leaf through flyers, or knit. It’s as though not multitasking somehow feels wrong.

If I sit still for a while and it’s quiet in the house, I’m tempted to doze off, especially if I’m sitting in a recliner. (Apparently my grandfather used to say that when the feet go up, the eyelids go down, or something along those lines.)

Not surprisingly, I often find it hard to concentrate when I pray silently. And then I feel guilty because I know that I need to spend time with God to keep on the right path and grow in faith. So if you struggle to be still and pray alone in silence, as I do, how can you connect with God through prayer?

  • Clear your mental to-do list. Easier said than done, I know. I’m the kind of person who always has lists on the go (groceries or gifts to buy, chores to do, crafts to finish, etc.). Writing down your to-do list first means those precious minutes can be used to pray rather than to worry about whether you’ll remember what you need to buy or accomplish.
  • Pray with your family. In s. 2694, the Catechism tells us “The Christian family is the first place for education in prayer.” When it’s time to say grace before meals, family members can take turns; you can even buy prayer dice with a different table grace on each side. You can come together for family prayer time before your kids go to bed (or before you do, if you turn in earlier than your teenagers do) or say a decade of the rosary as a family. Kids can take turns leading the rosary or other prayers.
  • Be truly present at Mass. Being in God’s house—whether it’s a small parish church or a basilica—helps me to pray. You can bless yourself with holy water on entering and leaving the church, add your own silent prayers during the prayers of the faithful, kneel for a few moments of prayer after receiving the Eucharist, or light a votive candle and say a prayer after Mass. Read the rest of this entry »

As we marked the start of a new year on January 1st, Catholics observed the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

In the Anglican and United churches I attended over the years, we talked about the fact that Mary said yes when the angel Gabriel told her she would be the mother of Jesus. We spoke about how she gave birth to Jesus, raised him, and stood by him as he died on the cross. Beyond that, no one said much about Mary.

Since I began attending a Catholic church, I’ve discovered more about the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In praying the rosary and saying the Hail Mary at Mass, I’ve learned that Mary leads us to Jesus, prays for us, and carries our prayers to God. But I’ve also come to see Mary as a model of faith:

Mary gives us an example to follow. She is the woman of faith who said “Yes” to God, and she is the faithful woman, faithful to the ultimate consequences.

This short and clear explanation was given in “Mary—A Woman for All Times and Seasons” (The Canadian League, Volume 88, No. 3, Fall 2012, pp. 2-3), the text of a homily by the Most Reverend Martin W. Currie, Archbishop of St. John’s and National Spiritual Advisor to the Catholic Women’s League.

I hadn’t thought about the ways, as explained in this homily, that people could identify with Mary. Read the rest of this entry »

At Mass this past weekend, the reading from Philippians 4:4-7 began, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

That’s a tall order for some people this holiday season: those who are ill, lonely or alone for Christmas; those who are unemployed, homeless or otherwise in need; and those who mourn.

These days, 24/7 media coverage keeps us hyper-aware of all the needs, sorrows and tragedies in our community and beyond. It’s hard not to wonder, “What can I do? I’m only one person.”

I think there are two things we can do: pray and act. You may wonder why I put prayer first. Since I tend to be a Martha (see Luke 10:38-42), my first instinct is to do something, but deep down I know prayer should be my first resort. Read the rest of this entry »

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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