Monday of the First Week of Advent

Rosary...

Rosary… (Photo credit: miqul)

Here we are at the beginning of the 1st week of Advent.  Once again, the secular media and the retail industry are trying to get us into the “holiday” spirit, which means we should spend, spend, spend.  Don’t get me wrong.  I spent most of my adult life in the retail and/or wholesale business.  I understand the need for a company to make a profit.  Millions of jobs depend on companies staying in business and it’s no secret that the month of December is make it or break it time for most companies in the consumer products businesses.

In fact, the term “black Friday” (which I never did like) stems from the fact that most retailers (if they’re lucky) run at a break-even pace for the first eleven months of the year and only begin to make a profit (get “in the black”) on the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s often true.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, my annual bonus in my previous life depended on lots of people buying lots of stuff in the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

But, here’s the thing.  You and I, as faithful Catholics, are called to spend the four weeks of Advent preparing ourselves for the coming of the Savior of the world.  It’s a time to pray and reflect on the meaning of Christ’s coming.  Sometimes it’s hard to focus on this critically important day in the history of the world when we’re overwhelmed with ads, and sales, and special events.  It’s just the 2nd Day of December and I’m already tired of all the hype.  If I see one more luxury car with a big red bow on top I may throw my shoe through the TV screen.  Enough!

Father John Mayer was the celebrant at our 4:30 mass this past Saturday.  In his homily he made an excellent suggestion.  He was speaking of the evening news, but I would suggest you try this whenever you’re sitting in front of the television.  When the commercials come on hit the mute button.  There are 44 minutes of actual programming in the typical prime time hour.  That means there are 16 minutes of commercials per hour.  If you were to spend those sixteen minutes talking to or reflecting on God every hour that you’re in front of the TV, how much better a person might you be by December 25?

How long does it take to pray the Rosary?  About 15 minutes?  How often are you praying the Rosary now?  See what I mean?  I know this blog isn’t going to change the world, but imagine  how the world would change if every Catholic in America prayed the Rosary once each day instead of watching commercials, every single day.  I’m just sayin’…….

Why not give it a try.  After all, you’ve probably heard all the commercials you really need to hear.

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40 Reasons Why It’s Cool to be Catholic #24 The Rosary and Other “Catholic” Prayers

Notice that I put “Catholic prayers” in quotes in the title.  None of our prayers are restricted to just Catholics, even though most people make that association.  The Hail Mary, The Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, or any prayer that we may think of as “ours” contains anything that should keep any Christian from joining in.  In fact, many of our protestant brothers and sisters pray the “Our Father” regularly and also use one of the two Creeds.  Notice, in your missal, that the word “catholic”, as used in either the Nicene or the Apostle’s Creed isn’t capitalized.  The word means “universal”.

The rosary (from the Latin, rosarium, or rose garden) goes back to the early Church.  In the year 1214, when the rosary was given to Saint Dominic in an apparition.  The prayer itself has remained largely the same until 2002, when Pope John Paul II added the luminous mysteries. Many protestant denominations discourage prayer of the Rosary, due mainly to their lack of devotion to the Blessed Mother (and, in many cases their distrust of anything that might be considered “too Catholic”).

But the fact is, there is nothing in the devotion that isn’t Biblical.  I’ll break that down for you in a minute.  Stay tuned.

According to EWTN, the Rosary was a devotion for the laity in the early Church, many of whom couldn’t read.  The 150 Hail Marys were their equivalent to the Monks recitation of the 150 Psalms.  The Rosary has been the preferred devotion for Popes and Saints for Centuries.  John Paul II called it his favorite prayer after the mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. There are many articles on how to pray the Rosary and I’ll give you a couple of links below.  What I want to do here is break down the individual prayers. Jesus Himself told us how to pray the Lord’s prayer.  When the disciples asked Him how to pray, He said to pray like this:

“Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.  Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”  Luke 11:1-4

Enough said. Then we have the “Hail Mary”.  Frankly, I don’t know how anyone could question the Biblicality (new word) of this prayer.  Again from Luke:

The angel said to Mary, “Hail favored one! (full of grace)  The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:28  Then when Mary visited the home of Elizabeth, “Elizabeth cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.'” Luke 1:42

That’s the first half of the Hail Mary, almost word-for-word.  In the second half of the prayer we ask Mary to pray for us.  That’s it.  The whole prayer directly from Luke’s Gospel and from our desire for Mary to pray for us.

Combine the Our Fathers and the Hail Mary’s and you have the Rosary. The thing that makes these prayers cool, along with other Catholic prayers and devotions too numerous to list here, is the fact that they give us easily-remembered forms for talking to God and to the Blessed Mother.  Sometimes when we pray, we may have a tendency to want to be too wordy.  We may go on-and-on about this and that when all that’s really needed are the words we’ve been given by the Scriptures and by the Church.  In a matter of seconds, we can speak to God or Mary anytime and anyplace.

And that’s cool!

In case you need more evidence of the coolness of Catholic prayer, especially the Hail Mary, here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know.  Elvis Presley recorded a song called The Miracle of the Rosary.  According to iTunes, it was included on not just one, but on SIX different albums.  Here he is for your listening pleasure:

Rosary Links:  EWTN

The Holy Rosary.org

The Joyful Mysteries (audio) by Dana

The Exultation of the Holy Cross

Yesterday we remembered a saint from the 4th Century, Saint John Chrystostom.  Today  we remember a celebration that began around that same time, the Exultation of the Holy Cross.  Saint Helen, Constantine’s mother, discovered what is believed to be the actual cross used for the Crucification of Christ on September 14, 326.  That’s why we have this celebration on this date.

Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on the site where mom found the cross in Jerusalem.  Helen had her son build two other churches, one in Bethlehem and another one in Jerusalem.

The Persians, who would today be the Iranians, actually stole the cross in the seventh century.  Problems with that particular country are nothing new.  When the Byzantine emperor defeated the Persians, he returned the cross to Jerasulem.

Of course, the Holy Cross symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection, the means of our salvation.  All Christians employ the symbol of the cross.  Our Church uses the Crucifix, the figure of Jesus on the cross as a reminder of His suffering, death, and glorious resurrection.  Our protestant brothers and sisters generally display the empty cross.

We see the crucifix so often, in our church, in our homes, and maybe hanging around our necks or off the rearview mirror of our car, that we may take it for granted.  We make the sign of the cross when we enter church and when we pray.  We make the “small sign of the cross” with our thumb before the reading of the Gospel.  We also use the small sign at baptism with the parents and godparents tracing the cross on the child’s forehead.

Ask most non-Catholics how we pray and they’re most likely to say we pray the Rosary.  The main feature of the Rosary itself is the Crucifix.  We begin the prayer by making the sign of the cross with that Crucifix as we begin.

We have the stations of the cross, especially during Lent, and on Good Friday we venerate the cross as we mark the day of Jesus’ crucification.  It’s good that the cross was the instrument of execution in Jesus’ time.  If he had lived in more recent times, we might all be wearing little gallows around our necks, or maybe little electric chairs.

Seriously, we display the crucifix here in church for one reason.  It’s a reminder of what the Lord suffered so that you and I might be saved.  I can remember, not so long ago, when no one spoke out loud once they entered the church out of respect for the cross, and for Christ’s presence in the tabernacle  I’m not sure when this practice went away, but it would be good for all of us to remember that before and after mass, some of our brothers and sisters might be venerating the cross and to respect their desire for quiet.

I think that this week, as our diocesan priests gather for their convocation, that the cross will be prominently displayed in their gathering places.  Next week I’ll be on retreat and I can assure you that the cross will rarely be out of our sight, or out of our minds.

As we continue with our prayers this morning, I’d like to offer you the most traditional of Catholic blessings.  May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.