TIS THE SEASON OF TRUE HOPE

I’m always mystified by the three beads at the beginning of the Rosary; what I was taught and have referred to in past writings as the Faith, Horosary01pe and Charity beads. This week’s Gospel message was one focused on HOPE, so I reflected and meditated on it to make it the topic of this article. Tis the season of HOPE. In fulfillment of scripture, God gave us the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and the HOPE of His second coming for our salvation. When baby Jesus was presented in the temple to the Holy Simeon and High Priestess, Anna, all their HOPE came to be true. There are parallels that I will stretch to prove a point or two, but I want to emphasize that Jesus didn’t need HOPE, He was and is HOPE for all of time and all of mankind.

In general terms, HOPE is a very broad topic and takes on many forms. HOPE can fade. It can be tampered with and falsified. HOPE fluctuates like the stock market, for some. HOPE is emotional capital that we humans invest in certain beliefs, causes or perceived positive changes. It’s healthy to have HOPE, but can be unhealthy to have too much in some cases. Sports fans have abundant HOPE. This past election season demonstrated the biggest swing of HOPE I’ve ever witnessed. Strictly in my opinion, most people place too much HOPE in politicians. As KC’s we must always leave partisan politics at the door, which I intend to do here in sighting an example of two very different kinds of HOPE.

For the most part, elections are always split in two with one side barely winning regardless of party. This year, the DFL had massive amounts of HOPE and momentum that would suggest their HOPE was going even higher with the surety of electing their next vision of HOPE. It was “money in the bank”, as they say. The GOP didn’t have much HOPE as the mainstream media and their own common sense directed them to “not get their HOPE’s up”. It seemed pretty obvious to all who would win the election.

Both candidates were the least liked and least trusted ever to have run for public office, but the DFL had many more times the HOPE of the GOP. When the election results came in, the party of HOPE had a stock market crash, free-fall of emotional capital where all HOPE was dashed in the flash of time. The GOP had an unexpected, simultaneous nuclear explosion of HOPE, sky-rocket up past the falling DFL’s HOPE. Both sides were in complete disbelief and udder shock, some jumping for joy and others balled up in the fetal position, completely devastated. Never before has there ever been such a huge emotional swing of HOPE. The OMG’s were at a record level on all forms of social media. America was speechless as the two HOPE’s switched positions in a wild swing.

Regardless of party, should we allow ourselves to be swayed to invest that much emotional capital into media driven representations that lead to elations or convulsions over electing mere humans? As we know so well, Catholics don’t always get a fair shake in the media, but that’s a whole different can of worms to open. Why are we so eager to give HOPE to well-intended, fallible humans, but have to work so hard to give TRUE HOPE to Jesus? No matter what side you had HOPE in, you might now realize that you are capable of having massive amounts of HOPE. At your own election, you choose to invest your HOPE in whatever you want. Why not the one TRUE HOPE, this glorious Christmas season?

Be it done to me according to your word

Merry Christmas, everyone! One of my favorite passages, this time of year, is The Magnificat of Mary. I’d like you all to take the time to read it and meditate on it with first of The Joyful Mysteries. “Tis the season” for that mystery set on the daily rosary journey. Many of the daily gospels, these past few weeks have been parables of Jesus healing lame, blind, inflicted/afflicted, unclean, etc. people that he encounters, telling them it’s their faith that has healed them. It’s a message that gets repeated throughout the New Testament. We don’t have to be extremely physically bad off to ask to be healed or to accept Gods healing. The Magnificat is the Lectures report, this month.

Somehow, being a tongue-in-cheek, smarmy overweight sixty three year old guy with a bad knee, whose eyesight is failing and recently diagnosed with asthma, along with an attitude towards current politics that, at the very least, is off-color and somewhat unclean, I identified with all those healing terms. It would be too easy for me to take this month’s Lecturers article in the wrong spiritual direction, but I couldn’t resist attempting to put a smile on your faces during this joyous time of year with some humorous self-flagellation. Instead, I’d like you all to rejoice in your own imperfections, knowing that His birth is what saves us all from ourselves as much as from our enemies. We’re all sinners that are supposed to strive to sin less, because it’s not possible to be sinless. It’s the guy looking back at you when you shave that has caused the majority of your set-backs, in life. The media is doing a great job of keeping enemies visible at all times, so continue to be vigilant, spiritually during this Christmas season. Jesus is the reason for the season.

PASSION PLAY ROSARY GIVE-A-WAY SPEECH

Every year the HNOJ KC’s are privileged to be invited here to give away the Holy Rosary to the Passion Play actors and staff. People often think about us KC’s carrying swords and wearing fancy hats and capes, but our biggest weapon against Catholic adversaries is the Holy Rosary. Back in the late 1800’s a Catholic Parish Priest in Connecticut received a vision leading him to create the KC’s. He had a Parish full of emigrant Catholic widows and orphans because so many of the jobs available to the bread winners were so very dangerous; police, firemen, foundry workers, canal builders and far away rail road workers, etc. and many dad’s died prematurely. Back then, Catholics were not allowed to enroll the kids in public schools, own homes, buy insurance, etc. My Grandfather told of signs in windows that said, “NOW HIRING-NO CATHOLICS”. Fr. McGivney and his KC’s fed, clothed and educated the orphan families. It was similar to your opening scene when the crowd was against us Catholics. “CRUCIFY THEM, CRUCIFY THEM!”

You will always be part of a crowd. When you’re old enough to vote, you’ll do it as a crowd; Dem., Rep, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-gay marriage, in work you will be pro-labor or pro-management, etc. As a crowd you can holler at the refs, the opposing teams, protest various causes, however, you won’t always be on the right side. Group leaders won’t always be truthful. The media will rarely cover it without putting a slanted spin. Catholics rarely get a fair shake in the public eye. As Catholic’s we are always swimming against the media current.
My crowd scene is now the KC’s. As a crowd, we are stronger than we would be alone. There are just under two million Knight’s of Columbus members in the world. About 50,000 reside in Minnesota. Our HNOJ KC council has 120 members, including all of our current and past priests and deacons and many of the church committee leaders. In 1954, we successfully petitioned President Eisenhower to add, “Under God”, to the Pledge of Allegiance. In 1956 the KC’s challenged and overturned a Supreme Court ruling to abolish parochial schools in the State of Oregon, creating an explosion in new Catholic schools being built throughout the USA.
In high school AP European History class, you’ll learn that all of Europe was in a total self-destruct mode in and around the 1200’s, due to barbarians and marauding hordes, disease, plagues, war on all fronts of all different countries, cities and religious beliefs. Most of the various “Orders” of Catholic priesthood were created in the 1200’s, (the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Jesuits, the Benedictines, the Carmelites, and more) as the Church was also in disarray from corrupt lay leadership appointing Popes who acted in their favor. The Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Dominic in 1208 and instructed him to teach people how to pray the Rosary for cures from all the chaos. Today, St Dominic is portrayed with a hound carrying a torch in his mouth and their motto is, ”we set the world on fire”, referring to their evangelizing Europe with the Holy Rosary. More miracles are attributed to the Rosary than any other prayer form. If there’s chaos in your life, try the Rosary to calm things down.
When praying the Rosary, we are supposed to imagine ourselves to be present during specific events surrounding the birth, gospel life, passion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ when we meditate on the Rosary. Those events are called “Mysteries” and are recommended by the Vatican in four sets of five mysteries. They are: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. There’s even an APP for it. We are instructed to pray ten Hail Mary’s for each Mystery we meditate on. With each Rosary we give to you, we ask you to take one of these tiny, wallet size guides on how to pray it correctly.
The biggest misconception with the Rosary is we don’t pray to the Blessed Virgin, we pray it with her. It’s legit to invite people you believe to be in heaven to pray with you as advocates. The Hail Mary prayer is a two part rote prayer. Next year, in tenth grade Confirmation class, there is a whole section dedicated to “rote prayer”. The first half is two quotes out of the gospel, surrounding the Immaculate Conception with Mary, the Angel Gabriel and the Holy Spirit and the Visitation of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. “Hail, Mary! Blessed are you…..blessed is the fruit of your womb…” The second is a petition to Mary, asking her to put in a good word to God now and on your death bed, sometime in the future. It’s not all that different from asking a dead relative or patron saint to pray for you about a specific problem. Hey Grampa, Gramma, aunt Cecelia, Fr. Arnie, St. Patrick, etc., if you can hear me, tell God about my issue and it’s no different than asking a living friend to pray for you or someone you know to be in need.
In order for you to learn your role in the Passion play, you probably had to imagine being present 2000 years ago, to best act out the parts you were assigned. That’s the same procedure for meditating on a specific “Mystery”. You HNOJ 9th graders really have an advantage over most when it comes to contemplating the Sorrowful Mysteries as they become the Passion Play. For most, it’s a lot like creating a controlled daydream, but for you folks, it’s just reliving the play from memory. Throughout your life, you will run into times of trouble and the Rosary is a great way to calm down and get back on track. If you ever become overwhelmed, remember, worry is the unproductive use of imagination and a huge waste of time. Test out the Rosary when that happens. Who knows, some day YOU might be the miracle or the answer to someone else’s prayer request.
Some of you will take physics class and discover that every action has an equal or greater reaction when it comes to energy in motion. That applies to everything, physically, emotionally, verbally, and spiritually. Technology has enabled us to create much more energy, both positive and negative, much faster. Once you hit send, you don’t get a do-over. I’ll bet that many of the original crowd members, who crucified Christ, realized that they were wrong, long after it was too late to change the outcome. That’s the way God wanted it. If we weren’t sinners, we wouldn’t need a Savior. A good deed, a kind word, a prayer, can lead to a positive energy reaction, so let’s work in that direction. An old HNOJ Pastor, Fr. Arnold Weber told the parishioners that, in your lifetime, you will have more temptations to do good rather than evil. Think about that.
What you probably don’t realize now is this Passion Play event that you are all part of will leave an indelible mark on your soul and a memory in your brain that will stay with you forever. Even though we all know how it begins and ends, even though we have now watched this play every year for 22 years, it’s slightly different each year, because it’s your personal version, acted out by you as individuals and it makes for interesting variety for us HNOJ parishioners. Every year, someone or perhaps even several folks in the audience will be dramatically affected by your group (crowd) effort, so thank you.

 

THE GLORY BE – aka the Rosary reset button

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

It’s the simple, one sentence rote prayer that we use as a reset button to switch gears, thoughts and images as we pray the Rosary. We use it after each decade, to switch to the next Mystery in the chain. Control/Alt/delete/click the next icon. Let’s call it the Rosary deep meditation cleansing breath between Mysteries, acknowledging the Holy Trinity’s awe. The Baptists and evangelicals all holler, “AMEN!” and “PRAISE GOD!” and “HALLELUIAH!” when they hear the preacher say something good, during a sermon. I think this is just a longer, better, more Catholic version.

THE ROSARY IS CHARITY

“….and the greatest of these is LOVE”. Because I’m an “old school” dedicated KC, I’m hanging on to the word CHARITY instead of converting the title to LOVE for this monthly piece that’s written for third bead on the front, dangly side of the Rosary. Praying the Rosary is CHARITY. Rarely does anyone pray a rosary without dedicating it to a cause, a cure, a person, or a dire need, perhaps even a “foxhole” prayer, of sorts. The KC’s consider Charity to be their first and most important Degree in our international organization. CHARITY is also the driving force behind many organizations, schools, and corporate mission statements, etc. It’s usually a safe harbor in “political correctness”. Community service hours; i.e. CHARIY, is the tie breaker for all college admission committees when they have equal GPA’s on two students and only one slot to fill for scholarship dollars, the winner goes to the one with the most community service. There are lots of “deep thoughts” that come with this word. CHARITY is such a huge topic, I can hardly do it justice or cover it correctly for the continuation of the Lecturers monthly Rosary theme. Is it Christ’s CHARITY for us? Is it our CHARITY for others? We hear so much about unconditional love, but as normal sinners, many of us draw lines and place conditions on who to love, with our enemies on the outside of that line. True Charity is supposed to be non-judgmental and blind. Some of you may remember the Fr. Arnold sermon where the homeless person on his door step interrupted and asked him are you going to lecture me or help me. It’s not up to us to change the poor or down-hearted, just help them as best as we can. Simply put, God is LOVE (CHARITY).

 

Many of us belong to numerous “charitable organizations” outside of the KC’s; curative therapies, worthy causes, not-for-profits, nature hugging groups, just to name a few. Some form of CHARITY affects almost every part of our lives. However, we tend to only fund things we believe in. When we hear a really motivating appeal for CHARITY from a recognizable national spokesperson or celebrity, it’s our nature to want to go all out and “fire hose” our way to the solution. Working towards the perceived goal, laid out by the national ad campaign makes us feel good that we can help in the telethon by sending in a little money, without getting our hands dirty. Walk for the cure, run for the cure, bike for the cure; all safe ways to show support, but seaming at arm’s length from the actual cure. A few weeks ago, there was a piece being forwarded around, via email, about the breakdown of costs and net amounts actually making it to the needy in various well known charities, with frighteningly skinny results for everyone except the administrators. (I have a copy for anyone to see) So often we wonder if our charitable contribution of time talent and treasure ends up accomplishing what was initially promised by the visiting bell ringers and tin cup rattlers. So often the media spotlights hucksters who take advantage of our bleeding hearts, making it even more difficult to respond to a seemingly, worthy cause.

 

I’m going to write about two very different CHARITY events today, neither is going to even scratch the surface of what CHARITY actually is. I could have picked better stories to cover, but I want to stimulate you all to think deep thoughts. Twenty years ago, I helped a local Presbyterian Church parishioner raise money for mission in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. They used it to build special 16 x 20- 4 room plywood shelters for homeless people, outside of their mission town. We raised well over a quarter million dollars and built twenty homes for, what was the lowest segment of the area’s social strata. With all the CHARITY came tremendous jealousy among the townsfolk that were one or two notches up the food chain and living in shipping containers and lean-to’s. The recipients of our homes felt so guilty that their new houses were better than those they deemed to be higher class, that they dismantled and sold the windows, sinks and fixtures as either a self-punishment or for the income. Some recipients abandoned their homes for more deserving classes of people to move in, a few were in fear of their lives. Others’ need for cooking fuel exceeded the need for shelter so they removed important structural wood components, door and window frames, to burn and the flimsy, unsupported plywood homes fell apart. Did CHARITY occur? I covered “blind faith” two months ago, in the Lecturers Report titled “the Woosh of Blind Faith”. How about a little “blind charity”? Did we go wrong by donating homes that caused disruption? It can be complicated. An entire church community got behind this feel good project, but it appeared to have failed. There is no moral to this story. The cultural differences were unforeseen. Charitable people got together and tried to do something nice for other less fortunate folks with their missionary efforts. Maybe it’s not all that different than when some dirt poor person wins the Lotto and self-destructs with lack of knowledge in how to handle their new-found wealth. It didn’t stop them from continuing to try to help the poor people in their Mexican mission project, as it still continues.

 

In very stark contrast to the last story, I want to share another, more uplifting story about CHARITY, also with unforeseen results, only this time, positive. Sometimes throwing large sums of money and huge resources at a problem isn’t always the best way to provide CHARITY. I heard this story from a colleague, John Deedrick, as he lamented about the loss of his best friend, Chuck Herman, in a freak accident involving his friend cutting a tree down and having it catch, twist, and fall in a different direction than intended and land on his friend, killing him. His friend was a Fire Chief in the Rochester, MN fire district.

 

Several years earlier, both Chuck and John read a book written by Bruce Wilkinson, titled, “You were born for this”. The two were so inspired, they formed a non-profit entity called, GREAT DEEDS, with the idea of performing random acts of kindness, as often as the opportunity arises, with as little as ten and twenty dollar bills; i.e. lunches or groceries for hungry strangers, books, socks, shirts, etc., “see it, do it” during your daily routine. Many friends and prominent business people from Rochester were recruited to participate and to “fire at will” whenever the occasion arose to thank or help someone in a small way for any reason.

 

Chuck rode his motorcycle to Sturgis South Dakota for an annual weeklong event. Early Sunday a.m., he stopped at Wall Drug to stretch his legs. He stood in line to buy a twenty dollar “T” shirt when it dawned on him that he already had too many “T” shirts and that he should probably attend a local church an put it in the collection plate, instead. As he got back on his bike, he noticed inclement weather approaching and thought heading north, would avoid it. Several miles out, he noticed a little white church with cars in the lot and people walking in, so he rolled in, parked and took a seat. After hearing a wonderful message, he shook the pastor’s hand and handed him the twenty dollar bill, suggesting to him, to take his lovely wife out to brunch. The pastor handed it back and said he had three more sermons to give at three more neighboring parishes, but directed him to Lily, a parishioner who was about to head to Africa for a two week mission trip.

 

Chuck introduced himself to Lily and chatted for a spell. Lily was about to go visit an orphanage in the center of a city in Zimbabwe with clothing, donations and bibles. He handed her the twenty and instructed Lily to buy soccer balls for the orphanage kids to play with instead of putting it towards less than fun activities. He then reluctantly shook her hand and left. Lily reluctantly agreed and left with the money, shaking her head, as if it were too weird to figure out, but promised she would buy the soccer balls. The donor doubted the money would end up where he requested, but finished his vacation and returned to Rochester. The woman doubted a soccer ball was good idea when other needs were so great, but stashed the cash and headed for Africa with a promise to keep.

Lily arrived at the orphanage as the director greeted and showed her the latest improvements, including a new, large group classroom. Lily advised that she promised a donor that she would buy soccer balls for the kids. The director balked at the idea of balls being kicked around inside the new orphanage hall. Lily queried about the adjoining, but unimproved lot owned by the orphanage, to which the director chided, “too dangerous”. There were sharp objects, needles, broken glass and things that could cause harm to the kids as well as the potential for nefarious activity and uncontrollable strangers in the poorest part of town. Lily fought back with the argument that Chuck gave her, in the need for kids to play and have fun. Lily volunteered to walk the grounds and clean it up and others joined in.

 

The landscape was very uneven and weedy, but they cleaned it up as best as possible and drove to the nearest sporting goods store. On the way to the supply and sports stores, they passed some idle earthmoving equipment, parked nearby. Lily asked the director to pull over and she asked the owner if he would smooth out the area, next to the orphanage and create a soccer field, to which he said, “No, I don’t do charity work”. They turned and moved on. The door of the sporting goods store was locked and a sign said CLOSED, but Lily began to knock, incessantly, until someone came and unlocked it. In an unfriendly voice, he pointed out the CLOSED sign and told them to leave, adding that he was about to go out of business. She pled for him to look for soccer balls which she would gladly pay twenty dollars for. He said there was a barrel in the back with equipment in it and told her to help herself. She dug to the bottom and found three uninflated soccer balls, went back to the owner and asked for him to pump them up. He sold her a pump and air needle and took her twenty dollars. On the way back, she asked the director to stop at the earth moving equipment one more time and one more time she was run off by the operator.

She repeated this for two more days and finally the curmudgeon operator said, “if I don’t have any work booked by Friday, I’ll clear your lot for you.” Not only did he clear it, he seeded it with grass left over from another job. Some local craftsmen, living in the area, fashioned simple soccer goals and the kids were excited to begin playing soccer on a real soccer field, once the grass filled in.

 

Lily returned to South Dakota and began to plan for fund raising efforts for her next trip to Zimbabwe. Nearly two years passed by. As she neared the departure date, she communicated with the director, who was very excited to surprise her with the events that unfolded as a result of her persistency and her twenty dollar purchase from the previous visit. In her absence, word had travelled to neighboring companies, organizations, villages and other soccer enthusiasts wanting to use real balls on a real soccer field and people started to show up. Money offers, to rent the facility for sponsored events, started to flow into the orphanage and the word spread to even farther reaching areas. The director informed Lily that, by renting the facility out, they make enough money to buy all the food, clothing, text books, cleaning supplies, etc. that it takes to run an orphanage, with money left over, thanks to her twenty dollar purchase and persistence to keep a promise.

Since then, teams have formed by numerous villages and games and tournaments were scheduled. Entire villages of spectators began to show up, stimulating a micro economy of trade, concession sales and other positive activities. The nearby sporting goods store even reopened. Local church attendance increased. An even larger economy began to develop. Money, hundreds of donations and volunteer labor to make improvements to the field and school flooded in and, over time, it evolved into a nice soccer facility with bleachers, benches, and grass field, lined with chalk. The church, the orphanage and school benefited, the city benefited, local companies benefited, the kids and families benefited and it all began from a twenty dollar bill.

 

Unaware of all that happened in Zimbabwe two years earlier, Chuck was back in Minnesota, in a heated discussion with the Rochester Mayor about some politically polarizing views and public events surrounding diversity and religious freedom. They ended the rhetoric with an agreement to disagree. It got uncomfortable, so the Mayor switched subjects and asked about Chuck’s next motorcycle trip. That, in turn, jogged his memory about an email he got from the Minneapolis Mayor, so he retrieved it and asked Chuck, “Is this you?”

 

When Lily returned home in Wall, SD, the second time, she knew she had to find the motorcycling fireman and thank him. She couldn’t remember his name, but thought he might be from Minneapolis or St. Paul, so she emailed the mayors of both cities and told them of her successful soccer ball story and asked them to help her find her fireman. They forwarded the email to all of the area fire stations, but they reported back to her, no positive results. She asked them to check other nearby cities, so one of the mayors forwarded the email to other Minnesota mayors, wished her well and washed his hands of it.

 

Shocked, Chuck immediately responded to her email and got “the rest of the story”, as Paul Harvey used to say, this story that I’m sharing now. He used this example to motivate many others who continue to further his dream of GREAT DEED’S and John Deedrick shared it with me to keep it going, too. Twenty dollars can turn into millions or go up in flames. Truly “blind charity” occurred as no one expected these results from a $20 donation turning into a million dollar soccer facility in a poor part of town in Zimbabwe. In the previous story, no one expected the 300k Mexican mission homes project to fail.

 

Two very unusual choices of Charity to write about, eh? What was Marty thinking, you ask? I’m not sure there can be a moral to these stories, but there are many contemplations, which is what we are supposed to do when praying the Rosary. Some CHARITY is a gamble that takes on a life of its own. CHARITY has to be unconditional. We have to let the Holy Trinity put the final touch on CHARITY as it abounds in and around our lives. There shouldn’t be expectations for CHARITY. Common sense will not always be your friend when it comes to CHARITY. Earlier this month, the daily gospel reading (that reminds me most of the KC’s) from MT 7 15-20 read, “….by their fruits you will know them…”, but who hasn’t occasionally bought a good looking piece of fruit that ends up being punkie in the middle. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t buy fruit anymore. I think it applies to CHARITY as well. To the best of your ability, try to be charitable. God’s ultimate CHARITY of sacrificing His only begotten Son for all of us undeserving sinners is probably a good point to end this with, as we contemplate God’s CHARITY for us, rounding out the last of the three beads near the start of the Rosary. God is CHARITY!

Hope

Last month, the lecturers report covered “the woosh of blind faith”. With FAITH being the first of the three beads, near the beginning of the Rosary, I like to encourage everyone to always have an image or visual for every rote prayer recited in the Rosary for maximum effect. Too often we zip past these three beads to get to the main part of the meditation and miss the opportunity to revisit our images of what represents our rendition of faith, hope and charity. Next month’s article will be a stretch for some as CHARITY can sometimes be complicated and often conditional.

As we continue with our Rosary journey, the second bead in the string of three is HOPE. I ask you to go back to a Christmas from your past and think of a childhood gift that you hoped, beyond measure for that something special you wanted more than anything else in the world. Was it a B-B gun, a fishing rod, a bike, the latest electronic gadget? You ached for it, but you also may have doubted it possible that you would receive that special gift. It was a real long-shot that your parents would ever get it for you. Thoughts of, too big, too expensive, too unlikely for whatever reason, all crept into the common sense portion of your brain. Maybe you even allowed yourself to think you might not deserve it, yet you laid awake wondering if would be wrapped under the tree on Christmas morning. You probably day-dreamed about it at school and during the Homily on the Sunday’s preceding Christmas Mass.

Mine was the “Hop-a-Long Cassidy, full cowboy arm-fringed outfit, black with red piping, black hat, black boots, guns, black holsters, black tooled belt with silver buckle, red neck kerchief –  Marty Dehen Boypictured here.    “HIGH HO SILVER….AWAY!”, he would shout, every Saturday morning, taunting me with the William Tell Overture theme song. Lucky for me, I had an aunt who was a buyer for Donaldson’s Department Store, so I did get it and wore it until it was thread bare, even for our kindergarten class pictures. If you hope like a child it will be a greater pine than as an adult. Adult common sense will not be your friend for this exercise.

The HOPE bead is the promise of Christ’s second coming. Jesus didn’t have hope, He was hope. Hope is a lot more than a wish, although it has a somewhat “maybe” tone to the word. I try to keep the “maybe” part of it to not knowing the actual time and place of His return, rather than the “if” He returns. I know He’s coming and I HOPE it’s soon. I HOPE I’m ready. I HOPE I’m worthy. What’s your HOPE? Long for HOPE, like a child at Christmas.

THE BLIND FAITH – WOOSH

A carload of high school students are heading down the State Hwy. to a high school sporting event. Behind the wheel is a young girl, whose parents gave her permission to drive the family minivan. Piled inside are her best friends and classmates. The radio station tees up the song, “Call me Maybe” and the shotgun passenger rider cranks it up as the whole car starts to flail their arms and rock-out to the video on u-tube. The girl behind the wheel is a responsible young driver, but also likes the song. Her driver-side tire encroaches the double yellow line, but she remains in her lane as they all sing at the top of their lungs.

Up ahead is a county plow truck, heading back to the garage in the opposite direction of the girls’ van. He’s been out all day getting ready for an approaching weather system. His driver-side tires are also riding the yellow lines, as he squeezes the thermos bottle between his knees, unscrews the top and places the cup in the dash cup holder, He notices the approaching passenger van, drifting, but is confident they will stay in their lane while at the same time watches the road and adjusts over. He’s very experienced and is pouring a thermos cap full of the remaining coffee left inside the jug while at the same time glancing back and forth from the road to the cup holder.

The girls’ side mirror misses the plow by about a foot and a woosh sound is made as the two vehicles pass by one another. In comparison, it’s about the same distance from the mirror to the side of your garage door when you slowly pull the car into your garage at night, but this incidence both vehicles are traveling 60 mph. The impact would be equivalent to hitting a brick wall at 120mph. However, the plow driver kills his coffee, not the girls. (You didn’t really think I’m cold enough to have one of Past Grand Knight, Jim Grube’s County plows, nail a carload of kids, did you?) That “woosh” happens all day every day on every undivided state highway in the country, but our built in blind faith allows us to drive without a care in the world. “I’ll stay in my lane, he’ll stay in his… no problem”. You know, very well, there’s oncoming traffic, but you believe it to be other safe drivers. The distance between your two mirrors is usually a few feet. Now where did I put my cell phone charger?

The blind faith it takes to be a Christian is that simple, too. We don’t need to complicate teachings and parables and miracles. We just believe it all happens the way the Bible tells us. Woosh!

Woosh! How can the kids be graduating already? It was just September.

Woosh! How can they be going to college? They were just going to kindergarten.

A little bit of blind faith goes a long way. I think it was described as the size of a mustard seed is enough to get you to heaven.

THE APOSTLES CREED CHECK LIST

I’d like to simplify this month’s report by focusing on the beginning of every Rosary; The Apostles Creed. For those of you who hunt, fish, camp or travel for specific job functions, you probably have a variety of packing lists that you maintain for each type of journey. Pilots all go through pre-flight check lists before take-off. Most probably take into consideration the weather conditions, the perceived activities, the mode of travel, but keep it to the simple, but essential “must-haves” for your excursion. When our 5th grade kids went to Wolf Ridge for the week-long field trip, the teachers sent home a packing list with all those must-haves. When Chris Kostelc takes the crew on retreat, he sends a packing list. With large traveling groups, space is limited and the bare essentials are all you need to get by. You get the point.

I try to approach the Rosaries as if taking short journeys. Using my imagination to create visuals of each mystery, I try to day dream about them as if they were trips back in time to when they were actually occurring. Some are more graphic, some are harder to relate to (hence the name Mystery). The graphic Sorrowful Mysteries are the easiest to use this method. Every year, we HNOJ KC’s donate Rosaries to the Passion Play 9th graders, and every year and encourage them to use this visualization technique when they meditate on them and relive a few moments of their play. Last month’s Lecturers Report illustrated the Oscar short film, visual journey using fifth Mystery of the Joyful Mysteries. The 7th grade class I presented to, identified with the similar aged Jesus as both being lost and then again teaching all the scholars.

Starting the Rosary with the Creed is, like taking an inventory of what we all believe. It’s going over a packing or check list of what we profess. By reciting it, we check off the list of all what we believe, before we disembark on the Rosary journey. The Creed sets the tone by reminding us of those basic tenets. It’s really quite a simple prayer. If you recited one, right now, there is nothing to add, subtract or challenge. It covers all the basics that we are all taught to believe, straight out of the catechism.

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth……check

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son…………check

Who was:

Conceived by the Holy Spirit……………check

Born of the Virgin Mary…………………..check

Suffered under Pontius Pilot……………check

Was crucified, died and was buried……check

He descended into hell………………….check

After 3 days, He rose again…………..…check

He ascended into Heaven………….…..check

He sits at the right hand of God to judge the living and the dead………check

I believe in the Holy Spirit………………..check

The Holy Catholic Church……………….check

The forgiveness of sins………………….check

The resurrection of the body……….……check

And life in the world to come……………..check

 “KC jumbo, you are cleared for departure & take-off”. “permission to buzz the tower?” “DENIED!”

A Short Film Nomination for the Religious Oscars

Years ago, I was fortunate enough to teach a class of seventh graders about the Rosary. In rereading my notes I came up with my next Lecturers Report. With all the buzz about the Oscar’s and our KC Councils devotion to the Rosary, I thought it would be fun to draw parallels to meditations being a way to write and direct our brains to create “short films” of the Mysteries instead of grunting, “Jesus is lost and found” and droning into the ten Hail Mary’s. I recommend you do this with all the Mysteries and engaging your senses while you imagine each of the specific Mystery settings sights, sounds and smells. Here’s an example:

 

The Rosary Mystery of the child Jesus being lost for three days, then found, teaching the elders in the Temple Israel

 

Passover had just finished and the weather had begun to warm up. Everything was beginning to bloom. Jesus was now twelve years old and still considered a child under Jewish tradition. His Bar mitzvah, during his 13th year would be the start of his journey into “manhood”, as it is with all young Jews, but until then he would enjoy the privileges of childhood. As a perfect, sinless child, he had already picked up a number of carpentry skills from Joseph and helped out as much as he was allowed by his earthly father. Occasionally, he would join the other kids of the village in a game of stickball, using a goat’s bladder or play the usual games of tag or hide-and-seek. The village people knew there was something special about Jesus, but no one could comprehend his true meaning to the world. His only schooling was from the area’s lone Rabbi, who taught all the kids in the small village of Nazareth. Mary and Joseph knew the day would come when Jesus would make himself known, but believed that to be a long ways down the road.

 

Some Roman soldiers officially notified the town of Nazareth that its citizens were ordered to travel to Jerusalem to partake in the national census and be counted for tax purposes. Nazareth was one of the smallest towns in the area. In fact, it was so small, there weren’t even any roads leading to Nazareth, only a narrow path that branched off the main road. Rarely did any of the traveling merchants consider it worthwhile to travel to Nazareth because everyone from there was too poor to buy anything anyway. The Nazarenes that wanted to barter for goods had to travel all the way back to the main road and wait for caravans of merchants, in route to their next big town and hope they could convince the nomadic merchants it was worthwhile to unpack their wares. Better yet, Nazarene’s liked to travel to Jerusalem, the largest city in the whole Middle East and a well-known international hub for goods, services, spices, fabrics, animals and precious stones or metal coins. It was the center of the Universe for all Jewish people, the Holy City. Mary and Joseph would use the trip to swap some of Joseph’s wood-working handy-craft to barter a few necessities needed around the house. Hopefully they would get the opportunity to stay and visit with friends and make a pilgrimage to the Great Temple to offer up their prayers.

 

Mary and Joseph packed enough food and water and a few of Joseph’s prize possessions on the back of a burrow and headed down the rocky path to the main road. The trip to Jerusalem lasted three days, as they stopped frequently to visit with acquaintances and share meals with other travelers along the way. The city was magnificent and full of energy and diverse culture clashes. Jesus’ family made their way to a modest section of town, crowded by those considered less fortunate. They stopped at an old friend’s house, where they were invited in to stay the night. The next day they would stand in the long line to register and be taxed and accounted for. Joseph wanted to set up shop at the busy marketplace to trade goods and finish by taking Jesus to the Great Temple Israel to pray for a safe journey home.

 

Temple Israel was where all the brightest scholars, teachers and students came to study the thousands of years of Jewish doctrine and prophecies rolled up in giant scrolls. It was common for them to argue new and old biblical theories as the common folk listened in. Many scholars would attempt to unlock century old “mysteries” passed down through generations of the Twelve Tribes of Israel dating back to the days of Abraham. These “mysteries”, taught by credible prophets, were often the topics of heated debates that could last for days, weeks or even generations between the smartest Rabbi’s in the world and were considered by most as unanswerable. Jesus was fascinated by the conversations and moved quickly from group to group until he found the highest ranking Rabbi’s of the whole world, deep in discussion over an unsolvable mystery. They turned to the crowd and asked if anyone could offer a better explanation of certain theory. To everyone’s surprise, Jesus raised his hand. After the laughter subsided, the Rabbi said let’s hear the boy out.

 

Jesus began to explain a very complicated subject. The renowned scholars were silenced, in shock over the words coming from a child’s mouth. They asked Jesus to come up and sit with them. People started to gather around. A Rabbi thought he would try to test Jesus a second time with a previous unanswered question that continuously stumped the scholars every time it got raised. Jesus calmly addressed the issue with an answer that finally made sense to the cantankerous old Rabbi’s, staring at Jesus in disbelief. A scramble for the old scrolls caused the Rabbi’s to find other passages in Jewish law that had confused them in the past and several Rabbi’s sent messengers to fetch other scholars known to be in or near the giant Temple Israel to hear this child speak. Jesus spoke for hours, losing complete track of time.

 

Joseph and his friends were praying and discussing things in a different part of the massive Synagogue when he noticed Jesus was missing. He thought to himself that Jesus must have found some kid’s his own age to play with or maybe he got bored and found his way back to the place they were spending the night. When it was time for Joseph to leave, he made his way around the Temple, looking for Jesus. It was big enough to put five Nazareth’s inside the walls of the great structure. A large crowd had gathered around one of the altars, but Joseph couldn’t see through all the men, nor could he see who was conducting the discussions, so he moved on. Outside of the massive structure, Joseph studied the different groups of children playing in the street, but found no sign of Jesus. He knew Jesus was smart enough to find his way back alone, but felt he would have to have strong words with his son for not telling him he had left.

 

The women greeted the men as they entered the home and asked, “Where’s Jesus?” Joseph replied, “Isn’t he with you?” A panic started to fester in all their stomachs. “He’s still just a child! We’ve got to find him as soon as possible!” cried Mary. Fearful of their child being sold into slavery, they all made their way back to the Synagogue and spread out with a plan to search for the child. Hours passed and the worried parents began to worry. The search extended into the surrounding neighborhoods, recruiting help from anyone who would give it. They assured one another that God would never let anything bad happen to the future Savior of all mankind. They felt they had let God down as custodians of the young Savior and prayed for His almighty forgiveness. Late that night, the search was called off until the next day. Some kind soul must have taken Jesus in for the night with intentions of helping him find his family the next day. They would search the marketplace at sun-up.

 

Back in the Temple Israel, all the highest-ranking scholars in the entire Jewish faith were present with Jesus. They moved their session deeper into the private areas of the Synagogue where they could recline on comfortable pillows and be served food by the servants as they continued their deep discussions with the child Jesus. His answers were so profound and enlightening. The energy in the room was so high no one was even thinking about sleep. Question after question bombarded young Jesus as he stood his ground and lit up the wrinkly old faces of the wisest men in the world. The student was teaching the teachers. How could a twelve-year-old child be wiser than Solomon, Moses, Abraham or Elijah? His answers were so simple and yet, enlightening and made so much sense.

 

For two full days, Joseph and Mary’s search party scoured the streets of Jerusalem, worried sick over thoughts of guilt, foul play, sickness or a frightened, lost child feeling abandoned by his parents in the largest city known, at that time in History. They felt the only thing to do was to go back to the Temple and pray for God’s intervention. As they worked their way around the Synagogue, word got back to them that a twelve-year-old child had been teaching the world’s brightest scholars of Jerusalem for the last three days, none stop. A huge crowd had formed around the cluster of Rabbi’s and young Jesus was standing in their midst. Joseph and Mary approached and sternly announced Jesus name. Jesus turned and looked at them. “Where have you been, Jesus?” they asked in unison. Jesus said, “I have been here, doing my Fathers work”. “It’s time to go home, child, now,” they said and took Jesus by the hand and left. Not much was spoken on the trek home. It would be many years before anyone would hear of Jesus again, but Scribes and Pharisees were busy for several weeks trying to write down all the new found theology uncovered that brief three days in 0012. Jesus quietly went about both of his father’s works, back in Nazareth. Mary patiently waited for the time to come where Jesus would make his name known to the world. She was proud and scared at the same time.

 

 

WHAT IS THE LESSON IN THIS STORY?

 

This is a special two-part Joyful Mystery contemplated and meditated on the Rosary by many people over time. Most of the recognized “Mysteries” of the Rosary are related to single events. This one is different. Part one: you have an unknown, uneducated, but gifted child teaching the most notable teachers of his time. Some twenty years later, they would hang a sign on his cross making fun of Jesus the Nazarene, because it was so impossible to imagine a nobody carpenter’s son from no-wheres-ville being, not only  King of the Jews, but the actual Son of God.

Part two: you have a child who is three days separated from his parents in the largest city of his region where selling kids into slavery is commonplace. It’s helpful for middle school aged children to identify with a similarly aged Christ child in this specific 5th Joyful Mystery. They’re in an awkward environment at school where they all know how far down the “food chain” they are in the scope of high school and society.

 

By today’s standards, it would be compared to a seventh grader from a tiny insignificant speck on the map (think of the smallest town you know of) with no formal education or worldliness, home-schooled and now visualize him traveling to Harvard or Oxford University so he could teach the world’s leading professors advanced theology that had not yet been taught. While all of that is taking place, also by today’s standards, you can further identify with the panic Jesus parents would experience if he were ever to be lost in a large, strange new metropolitan city for a period of three days. The “Amber Alert” would go out and every available friend, neighbor, relative and law enforcement agency would be recruited for help.

 

Meanwhile, back at the University, all the major news and social media  networks would be covering this “phenom”, child prodigy who knew all the worlds organized religions histories and various doctrines frontward and backwards. The reporters would clamor for position as he addressed the Pope, Bishops, Guru’s, Rabbi’s and all those thought to be authoritative religious leaders, unlocking complicated religious theories for all the worlds Jewish, Muslim and Christian Faith’s combined. “Blogger’s” would be all over the Internet with reactions. Politicians would posture themselves with both sides of the issues to acquire votes. Close minded individuals would be forced to grip their chins, squint an eye and say, “hmmm”. As sarcastic as this all sounds, that’s exactly what was happening nearly 2000 years ago with whatever available means of disseminating information.

 

What comes to your mind as you contemplate it? If the Rosary is part of your Lenten or daily prayer activity, try putting your imagination to work on the Mysteries with a “short film adaptation” and you just might win an Oscar for your spirituality.

OVERWHELMED, a Rosary solution

Written by Marty Dehen

Overwhelmed is the latest, non-specific, “catch-all” word for many individuals who are feeling too busy. There are varying degrees of “overwhelmed” and various environments where it occurs. “I’m overwhelmed at work”, at school, financially, relationally, spiritually, etc. I’m behind in every project I’m working on.” Many of us hate our job, our boss, or parts of our life in general. “I can’t think straight, I’m just plain overwhelmed.” “I’m not stupid. Why can’t I think my way out of this horrid situation?” Some folks take “overwhelmed” to an even higher level by incorporating an addiction, chronic depression, or criminal activity. If you’re at the end of your rope and you believe you’ve tried everything in your power to fix what needs fixing and nothing has worked, keep reading and hopefully I can succeed in getting you to try praying the Rosary as a test drive for something new and different.

One of the things never taught in school, is that life isn’t always fair, not for humans and definitely not for animals. Every living thing is somewhere in the “food chain”. Even those at the top eventually run out of time, strength and energy and fall prey to death and become worm food. The “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust” reading comes out every Ash Wednesday, to remind us of our short stay on earth. Life is not easy. As we grow older, we inherit more responsibilities; job duties, marriage, kids, disabilities, older parents, taxes, home and car maintenance problems, natural disasters, to name a few. Some become vulnerable to quick fixes and temptations to remedy the situation, but more often make it worse. Age sets in, energy levels wane, work piles up and just like that we are overwhelmed with what seems like no warning. If you toss a frog into a pot of hot water, it will immediately jump out, but if you place the frog in cool water and gradually turn up the heat, one degree at a time, you will cook him to death.

Overwhelmed is the new cop-out for most, but it’s a harsh reality for others. You hear people say, “I’m too busy….I’m too far behind to catch up….I’m in over my head….I don’t know how to fix it. I’m just flat out overwhelmed.” Overwhelmed Christians often turn to prayer. Casual Christians usually wait for a major downturn in their luck and tee up the “foxhole” prayer scenario. The bombs are going off all around and instincts tell them prayer is the only thing left to survive. When our backs are to the wall and our minds are racing, to the point we can’t think straight, we deem ourselves “overwhelmed”. That’s when our prayers are desperate sounding, emotional, deal-cutting sessions with God. The style of mentally shouting, “GOD, if you help me get out of this mess, I’ll do….this, that or the other…for the Little Sisters of the Poor”, won’t get you anywhere. Ranting, “GOD! If you give me what I want now, I’ll give You something back later” is no better.

Worry is the unproductive use of imagination. It gathers and accelerates all the fears to the now, even though the thing we fear hasn’t happened, yet. By worrying, you’re using your God-given imagination to create events that haven’t even occurred, yet you perceive will soon affect your life in a bad way. Meditation (or more specific to this test drive, contemplating the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary) can be a more productive use of imagination and can distract one from all the worries. You have control over what you meditate about just as you have control to fear, loathe or hate. You choose to worry. It doesn’t happen by itself. It will not strip tomorrow of its burdens; it will strip today of its joy. Essentially, you are paying a debt that you don’t owe, by worrying. If you’re too overwhelmed and too busy to find twenty minutes for a Rosary, try doing it during that time period that you’re already laying awake in the middle of the night. If you don’t want to get up and find the beads, use your ten fingers. Instead of thinking about what you need to accomplish in the up and coming day, while you’re staring at the ceiling, move all the worry aside and pray. Why not make “you”, the first miracle you witness?

WHITE NOISE

Many years ago, I worked in a sales organization that provided a “Dilbert” cartoon style cubical for each salesperson, in a large room called “the bull pen”. The noise was deafening, as we all tried to talk over one another with our telephone sales presentations. After non-stop complaining to the boss, he finally hired a company to install, what was commercially termed “white noise”. The idea was to throw out a constant noise from speakers, installed in the ceiling, that would buffer or drown out voices. It was difficult to adjust to, at first, because the noise created an environment that made us feel like we were working inside the belly of a 747 jet liner. A few people resigned because it gave them headaches. I had a similar experience with a college roommate who developed a habit in Viet Nam of using a two foot square, rattle-trap, floor model fan to drown out the noise from the military base and now college in order to sleep. After he graduated from college, it took me several months to get a full night’s sleep without listening to that roaring, rattling, whirring contraption. Meditating a Rosary can be the white noise of prayer, if you let it.

As I advanced my career as a straight commission salesman, there were peak pay periods and valley pay periods that turned into a few good years, but mostly not so good years. Being more of a “grasshopper” kind of guy, than an “ant”, as purported in Aesop’s Fable, I got deeper and deeper into life’s black hole of “overwhemnitude”. The pressure to meet the monthly goal, set by my handlers was consuming me. After a couple of big market corrections, I didn’t notice that my prayer format had evolved into the “foxhole” style of whining and deal cutting. Internal survival mechanisms took over; more sales calls, more lists, more lunches and meetings. I was too busy getting deeper in debt without increasing my monthly intake. The noise in my head was deafening.

FAMILY HISTORY

It was right around then when God, more or less ambushed me with the Rosary, but before I go into detail, I’d like to give some family history. Try to identify with it by remembering yours and then I’ll tie it all back together, as you read on. My family lineage consists of multi generations of Catholics. I’m half German and half Irish. I have a cousin on each side that immersed themselves into our family trees. The Irish cousin spent three years in Ireland and traced our heritage back to the late six hundreds. On the German side we can go back to the seventeen hundreds. Both sides were run out of Europe for being Catholic and found it necessary to cross the big pond to Ellis Island, where they would start anew. Continuing my Catholic legacy has become a priority since my Rosary journey began late in my life.

The older relatives were all real big on praying the Rosary. My grandpa, on the German side, had chronic asthma with multiple co-morbidities. He lived a hard life, homesteading a farm thirty miles northwest of Minneapolis with ten kids. He worked hard, played hard and drank hard. He even spent ninety days in the St. Cloud, MN State Penitentiary for owning and operating a whisky still, during Prohibition. After he retired and moved to town in the 1960’s, his new, sedentary lifestyle eventually caught up to him. Over a two year period, about every other month, dad would get a call from a relative suggesting Grandpa might not make it through the night. We, along with all of dad’s siblings, would throw all the kids into the station wagons and head for Grandma and Grandpa’s apartment, across the street from St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Anoka, MN. (Nobody used baby sitters back then.) Once inside, everyone would huddle around Grandpa’s bed and pray the Rosary. As a child, it was kind of creepy to hear the low drone of Hail Mary’s in a dim lit room like Tibetan Monks chanting. Grandpa finally died, but the relatives believed the Rosaries kept him alive for those two years of last rites being administered to him.

ROSARY HISTORY

Rosaries are not chains of “worry beads”, as some would have you believe. Nor are they good luck charms you carry around in your pocket, like a rabbit’s foot. It is a gift from the Blessed Virgin Mary. We don’t pray it to her. We pray it with her. You will never pray alone if you use a Rosary. The Vatican has accounted for thousands of documented miracles that are a direct connection to the Rosary. It is the all- time most powerful prayer form we can use.

Some view the Rosary as superstitious or primitive, but there was a real reason it came to us. In the year 1208, the blessed Virgin appeared to St. Dominick, in the Chapel of Notre Dame and instructed him how to make and use the Rosary. She then inspired him to teach the whole world how to pray the Rosary. If you recall your high school European AP History class, the entire continent was in chaos. The “Crusades” were in full swing. With the Moors and the Muslims, to the south, the French, English and Scots, to the north, everyone was trying to kill one another and all the marauding nations were taking over the land, raping and pillaging their way through the continent. If that wasn’t enough, while the hoards of invaders were killing, so was the plague. Europe was engulfed in total self destruction.

Mary’s introduction and use of the Rosary, to Brother Dominick, was a game changing event. It gave a boost to the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. It brought focus to the overwhelmed Christians. When highly outnumbered Christian forces faced large armies, they prayed the Rosary and were victorious. The sick and dying were also healed with the use of the Rosary. There are too many miracles associated with the Rosary to account for during that era and even more since then. I thought a little personal background would help.

GRAMMA’S ROSARY CATHEDRAL

Long after Grandpa died, Grandma continued with her daily Rosary regimen. Her eight-plex apartment was the lower unit, closest to the old St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, built in 1888, the same year Grandpa was born, in heart of Anoka, MN. Grandma found comfort in looking out the window at the steeple and attended six a.m. Mass every day. Six of the ten sibling families lived in Anoka, so we grand kids could ride our bikes over to Grandma’s place whenever we felt like it. The ground level picture window allowed for us to look in and see if Grandma was in “the chair”. We also had clear view of the kitchen for any sign of cookies, usually found on the counter. If Grandma was in “the chair”, we patiently sat on the cement steps of the front stoop until she got up. Whoever was on point, watched for movement in her thumbing the beads just to make sure she wasn’t sleeping.

The chair was a funny little parlor chair with no arm rests and an arched round, spring loaded seat pad that required weight greater than a 4th grader to depress to a comfortable position. Most of us just slid off of it or listed to the side, when we tried to make it work. It was perfect for a Grandma. Next to it was a funny little round table with a small drawer, covered with a lace doily. A swinging elf knick-knack and a lamp adorned the waxed surface. Grandma kept Rosaries and school photo’s of all of her grand kids in the drawer. With forty seven grand kids, there wasn’t much room for anything else.

When Grandma was in “the chair”, she was deep in a Rosary trance and we grand kids knew we should wait to knock on her door until she was finished. One day I asked her why she closed her eyes and prayed the Rosary every day, all by herself. I don’t ever recall seeing a bigger smile than the one she flashed that very moment. She explained that we never pray the Rosary all by ourselves. The Blessed Virgin always joins us and so do other Saints and Angels, when we invite them. Grandma shared a secret

about her special church. When she closed her eyes, she imagined being in a big Cathedral where all her invited guests in Heaven came to pray with her and the Blessed Virgin. The altar was the most ornate of its kind, with the Holy Trinity and all the Apostles, alive and intertwined in its magnificence. The first few pews were filled with all the Angels and Saints that she asked to attend and the next few rows were filled with all her old friends and neighbors that had passed away. Cradled in her arms and seated on her lap was the infant that was still-born and buried on the farm 70 years earlier in her life. The next few rows were filled with Popes, Cardinals and various religious clergy who dedicated their lives to the Church. The balance of the congregation was her general invite to all souls in Heaven who were looking for something to do at that moment in time. It was a really big Cathedral, packed to the rafters with as many intercessors as she could drum up, maybe as the Bible says, “hosting a cloud of angels and saints”. Coincidentally, I don’t ever recall seeing Gramma as being visibly overwhelmed.

THE AMBUSH

I never really thought about the Rosary again until many years later. Thanksgiving weekend in November of 1997, I read an interesting article in the Sunday sports page about Alfred Ebner, a 94 year old deer hunter from Elk River, MN., who shot two nice bucks opening mourning while praying the Rosary on his deer stand. It just so happened that I inherited Grandpa’s photo album which contained pictures of Alfred’s first deer in 1919 when he was just 16. Alfred’s older brothers were good friends with my Grandpa and they all hunted together in a tent camp near MacGregor, MN .(the north-central part of the state). Alfred started one of the state’s oldest bait stores in Elk River as a young man and his Ebner grand and great grand children still run that business. Grandpa hunted, fished and trapped with Alfred’s older brother, Erich. The two men had a double wedding with Grandma and her sister in Hampton, MN.

Besides a passion for the “great outdoors”, one of the legacies my Dad and my Grandpa passed on to me is an affinity for playing practical jokes on friends and family members. I called dad and we proceeded to craft a homemade Rosary out of a blaze orange plastic lanyard and miniature deer charms I found at the craft store. The Our Fathers are buck deer, the Faith, Hope and Love beads are doe and the decades are all identical little spotted fawns. Our intentions were to have the Ebner Bait Store hang it up around a framed reprint of the news article of their great grandpa boasting it to be the only Rosary that guarantees you’ll see deer every time you pray it.

Unfortunately, Alfred died, unexpectedly in his sleep, about the time I finished the official deer hunters Rosary. Hesitantly, I brought it to the wake, but left it in the car. After seeing all the hunting and fishing pictures going back over one hundred years, I retrieved it from the car and at the request of Ron Ebner, his seventy two year old son and grade school classmate with my dad, set it on one of the easels that held a collage of outdoor photos of Alfred enjoying the riches of nature. Ron proceeded to tell me a story about how Alfred was diagnosed with cancer in 1952 (I got goose bumps hearing the year I was born in). As a young, devout Catholic and now a diagnosed “short timer” with nine kids, Alfred prayed to God and every patron saint he could think of and promised to pray the Rosary every day in exchange for a productive, healthy and long life with his family. Both God and Alfred kept their promises.

THE WHISPER OF GOD

In the Book One of Kings in the Old Testament, about half way through, there are passages that refer to really loud events; the RUSH of high wind, the RUMBLE of an earthquake and the ROAR of a large forest fire, but none being so loud as the whisper of GOD! It was a very quiet ride home, that night. God whispered, but I was contemplating whether or not the funny little plastic deer Rosary was a little too

sacrilegious. God whispered as I thought what an incredible string of Rosaries Alfred kept going, as I did the math in my head and arrived at over 30,000 times that Alfred thumbed the beads. It’s too bad the Rosary isn’t “my thing”. God whispered and I finally heard, but I wasn’t even sure I remembered how to go about praying one, as I made a shoddy attempt at an Apostles Creed combining the long and short versions, a few extra beliefs of my own and what seemed like lyrics recorded by both Gladys Knight and Johnny Mathis from the song, “I Believe”.

That night, while tossing and turning in bed, I remembered my mom made all of us kids laminated Rosary bookmarks one year as part of our Christmas gifts, illustrating the sacred mysteries, the prayers and directions of how to pray the Rosary. We all politely thanked her and put them away somewhere. The next morning I rifled through drawers and boxes and to my surprise, found it in a cigar box with my first Holy Communion children’s missal, a black Rosary (boys got black and girls got white ones) and my Confirmation scapula. As I read over both sides of the book mark, I wondered how long it takes to say a Rosary. It didn’t seem like too tall of an order. What a shame it would be to let Alfred’s string come to an end of what I was taught to believe, the most powerful prayer meditation available to mankind.

I prayed to God and asked Alfred, Grandma, Grandpa and anyone who could hear me in heaven to intercede if possible and I pledged to try to keep the chain going for a while. The story doesn’t end here, it begins here. Now I didn’t have this pseudo Saul/St. Paul, fall off the horse, transformation back into Catholicism kind of thing. I didn’t see the Light or hear the booming voice from heaven. I was too OVERWHELMED! What I did know was this; what I was currently doing for prayer, wasn’t working.

THE QUIET PLACE

So my daily Rosary journey began in November of 1997. Not being the most rigorous schedule, my day began around 7:00 a.m., long after my wife had left for her job, when I’d grope for the remote on the bed stand and turn on Good Morning America for the day’s headlines. After a quick shower and shave, a local evangelist used to show up on the television with an info-mercial called “The Winners Minute” every morning at exactly 7:20 a.m. It’s was a mini sermon about something current drawing parallels to something in scripture and a great way for viewers to start their day. Call it Divine Providence or coincidence, but that “turning point” morning he asked his television viewers about where the quiet place you go in your heart when you pray in this noisy world and to find time each and every day to go to your quiet place and do just that, pray.

Without a doubt, my most favorite quiet place is up in northern Minnesota hunting or fishing, watching the sun rise, listening to song birds and red squirrels chattering. Well there’s two weeks every year covered. What am I going to do about the other fifty? My eyes refocused on my unshaven face, my thinning hair and my bulk of middle age in the mirror as I get a massive dose of reality.

Let’s face it, most Christians could argue that they don’t pray enough in the course of a day. In my new found quest for guilt free religion, I admit I dropped the ball in this department, but I don’t consider myself that different from everybody else. Mornings were a little hectic getting the kids ready for school and the drive to work would be too tough without the humorous radio show hosts to listen to. Evenings are impossible; every night there’s something different going on with the kids (dance, swimming, soccer, basketball, religious education, girl scouts, etc.) not to mention all the really good prime time television shows I wanted to watch. Whenever I try to pray in bed, I invariably fall asleep the second my head hits the pillow. Praying at work is out of the question because the phone never stops ringing. We could always lengthen the current dinner prayers at the risk of creating children too much like ourselves. I had

all these Christian beliefs and good intentions, but it didn’t appear that I made room to pray or even prayed very much at all.

Recalling the last few times I prayed, it was in the car after one of those “bring you to your knees” kind of days at work where I question everything I do and feel. You know, those “off” days we all have where nothing seems to go right, where I doubt myself the most. My job; how the heck did I end up in this field when I studied for something completely different in college. My finances, how can I burn through so much money and have so little to show for it, my empty promises to myself for family vacations that never seem to get taken or new cars that never seem to get purchased, days where I catch myself starring into the abyss of life and wondering what my destiny is, etc. I’m told a lot of people in this age group torture themselves like this. If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

To avoid being prescribed to prozac or lithium, I’d often gravitate to prayer, usually on the way home from work. Typically, I shut off the radio and pray for guidance, for self-direction, for tolerance, for “a sign” to lead me to make changes in my life or just plain begging, whining and deal cutting with God. For whatever reason, something a Young Life councilor preached in 1971 comes to mind; when ever my problems get too big to handle; Jesus promised he would take those problems too big to handle from us if we completely give them up to Him. More often than not, this “hand off” to Jesus was enough to survive a few weeks before it surfaced again. So there it was, my “quiet place”, my twenty minutes a day for the Rosary…the drive home from work. I threw Moms Rosary book mark in the car for a reference and continued Alfred’s string the very next day after work.

THE REVELATION

As a middle aged adult, seeking spirituality instead of retribution, the words to the prayers and meditations took on a lot more meaning then they did as a child. Certain parallels to feelings and events seemed to fit better with the prayers this time around. My willingness to pray the Rosary opened up insight and deep thoughts, unlike when it was used as a penance. I discovered my indifferent feelings as a young adult towards the superstitious sounding Rosary (a prayer I previously thought for senior citizens only) were unfounded and plagued with misnomers. Hearing the Rosary in a large group or on a radio show, pray along is a far cry from jumping in and actually praying one all by yourself in your “quiet place”. Another bolt out of the blue is, the Rosary is more of a meditation than a prayer. While you meditate about each sacred mystery the ten Hail Mary’s, effortless to remember, provide a background for your thoughts and hinder your mind from wandering. In the past, when I prayed conversationally from my heart, I tended to day dream and pray at the same time and meander off track as something I talked to God about reminded me of something else totally unrelated. The steady decades of Hail Mary’s almost act as a mantra filtering the distractions while I concentrate on the mystery at hand. Every time I pray the Rosary I get touched with new contemplations to think about over the same mysteries.

A few years ago, I was building a deer stand in the woods of northern Minnesota. I had to carry a twelve foot long cedar log, six inches in diameter, up the trail to use as a post. I almost blew a blood vessel struggling under its weight. While catching a breather I wondered how heavy a cross would be if it were strong enough to support me and long enough to be buried into the ground so it wouldn’t tip over after they hung me on it. Being cut from a green tree would make it much heavier than a dry one. Figuring my wingspan of roughly six feet, the cross piece would have to be eight feet wide allowing room to nail me to it without splitting the ends out. The length would need at least three feet in the ground, three more feet to the bottom of me for elevation, six feet to cover my length and two feet above me to allow room

for the sign INRI, for a grand total of fourteen feet long. Hey, the sins of the world are many, this is a seriously heavy cross and it requires an uphill three mile march through town. I’m not sure I could even tip it up on its side let alone carry it.

I received lots of contemplations out of that whole thought process, plus I got to spend time in my favorite place on the planet. My every day aches and pains and agonies, my questionable suffrages and self persecutions don’t hold a candle to His, but they’re not supposed to. Maybe we’re supposed to experience some suffering so we can identify with His suffering for our sins. God probably created outlets in my brain for me to contemplate all my petty human stuff so I can have a small piece of common ground to make sense of all the events surrounding His Son’s birth, death, and resurrection. Contemplating His and Mary’s life without sin, their total faith and trust in God, their unending, unconditional love for every soul, is even bigger than that to meditate on. Accepting my own imperfections makes it easier to find tolerance in the world around me.

PRAYER REFLECTION

If you think of some of your most favorite works of landscape art, quite often, the artist will choose to paint a beautiful setting in the wilderness, across a body of calm water, where both the landscape and its mirror image reflection on the water, are portrayed. Bev Doolittle is a prime example of that technique in many of her best paintings. Ansel Adams, the famous wilderness photographer, also used reflected images in many of his award winning shots in National Parks. Many of the great architects like to design reflecting pools into their complex structures, the most famous of which is between the Lincoln Memorial and the US Capital building in Washington DC.

The campus of Notre Dame has a famous reflection pool at the base of a fourteen story mosaic on the side of the library, facing the football stadium. Millions of tiles create a backdrop of angels, saints, apostles and religious figures floating behind a twelve story image of Jesus with outstretched arms. Everyone calls it “Touchdown Jesus”. It is said that that the Notre Dame kicker can look through the goal posts and out through the tunnel entrance to the stadium and see Jesus signifying that the kick is good, with his raised, outstretched arms. At the start of every game, the football team captains always take the coin toss position on the field where they are finishing the fourth quarter towards the image of Touchdown Jesus, under the belief that it will give their kicker inspiration.

Many of the great Prophets, Prognosticators, Philosophers, Professors, Poets, etc., all liked to head off to somewhere in nature and reflect on a wide variety of contemplations to further their understanding of the subject at hand. Christ turned to many different wilderness settings, like the desert, Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, the Sea of Galilee, and other pristine places, to pray. My favorite Biblical quote comes from Hosea, “the wilderness will lead you back to me where I will speak to you”, comes to mind. As I mentioned earlier, where is your wilderness? I will play an important role for you in the future.

Once I was walking the dog around an inner-city wildlife area on a designated tar walking/bike path. We came to a small wooden bridge, spanning a widening in a drainage creek and, for some unknown reason I stopped and glanced over the rail at the flat smooth water below. Out ahead, my eye caught movement and focused on the water reflection of two geese flying by while my peripheral vision saw them in the air. My eyes trained back down on the reflections of the clouds moving and floating past the tree tops, then down to where the marsh grass and their reflection met, as the creek turned and disappeared into the landscape about a hundred yards away. I glanced down at my own reflection and detected movement below the surface. My visual focus intensified on the wavering motion of

underwater grass, bowing with the gentle current. I saw a crayfish crawl over some rocks and gravel, magnified by the glass-like water surface. Upon further intensity, an underwater boatman bug oared around some tiny bits of debris, highlighted by the sun’s rays. No longer aware of the surface reflections, I gazed as deep as my eyes would allow, searching for the complete picture of all that was happening four feet, below the surface, into the pool.

Reflection is an interesting word in the context of a prayer form. It reminded me of contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary. The initial visual of any given Mystery, as it is written or depicted by the rosary guide books, is a lot like the surface reflection on the pool. When you narrow the focus on any particular Rosary Mystery, you begin to contemplate or reflect on its significances to you, to the Catholic Faith, to mankind, to theology, to life, etc. When praying the Rosary, ask yourself, “how does it pertain to me, what does it mean, why is it a Mystery?” Not all of them are obvious. If you look below the surface of the mental picture, God or any of the intercessors that you may have invited in, will give you insights and thought of clarification to make for a better Rosary meditation.

BEING OVERWHELMED

That was a roundabout way of getting back to the theme of this written epistle about how overwhelmed I was, how God ambushed me with the Rosary and how you might test drive the Rosary to temper your own overwhelmed situation. Today, I continue with the daily regimen of meditating on the Rosary. Like grandma, I’m at peace for about a half an hour with my “white noise” of prayer. One hundred years ago, back on the old homestead in rural Otsego Township, grandpa built two small grottos out of stones. They each had separate arched cubbies that housed ornate, plaster-of-Paris, painted statues; one of Mary and one of Jesus, both displaying their Sacred Hearts. The mini stone grottos bracketed rose bushes and were slightly angled to face toward a cement bench. Grandma planted a flower bed at the base and across in front of the whole arrangement. That was her second most favorite place to pray the Rosary.

I don’t have a grotto, but I ended up with grandma’s two statues, after she passed, and display them in my basement home office on a small corner shelf along with some other family memorabilia, my First Holy Communion Children’s Missal and old rosaries. The display gives me hundreds of Catholic family memories. Because I live in the city, I can’t go to the wilderness to pray. However, when I pray the Rosary, I imagine that I’m in a favorite quiet place from my memory banks. Similar to grandma’s cathedral or grotto, I view nature’s vista’s as cathedral’s or, better yet, as my own Garden of Gethsemane. The reason I bring this up is, blood is thicker than water. Many people who have detailed knowledge of their Catholic family history can add meaning to their own Rosary journey by using family heritage. Those that don’t, still have favorite nature spots to put them in the right prayer location.

Some of those favorite memory places may vary from docks to deer stands, from mountain tops to Caribbean beaches, from breathtaking ocean sunsets to sunrises, but I like to call it my meditation inside a meditation. I use those visuals to create the right mental setting for praying and maybe even block out some additional “white noise” to mental traffic. By imagining that I’m at one of these memorable places, before I begin the Rosary, it transcends me to a better place to pray then behind the wheel of the car or in a busy, noisy room or an echo chamber of a church.

Most modern-day, two working spouse households rely on split-duty assignments to haul kids to events, attend meetings and meet social obligations. With the aid of technology, we can make ourselves even busier with 4-G phones and electronic ipads to create more meetings and work flow. We can’t head out

to our designated grottos and gardens to pray. So, we too, have to transcend to our favorite spots by using our imagination when we earmark time to pray a Rosary. Even though it’s conjured up in our mind, it’s still wilderness. Maybe even go to the photo gallery in your phone and find a good scenic photo you have saved and use it to transcend there mentally.

WHERE IS YOUR GARDEN

Many of the Profits, the Saints, the apostles and Jesus, Himself, went into the wilderness to pray and contemplate. Where is your Garden of Gethsemane, your wilderness, your Mount of Olives? The Rosary opened the door to a part of my brain that I hadn’t been using. It created a peaceful, quiet ride home every night and provides avenues to better relationships, clearer and more productive thinking and wisdom or knowledge that was there all along asleep in my brain. If you’re not sure you’re ready for the Rosary, but you’re willing to experiment with the concept of meditation, try walking before you run. On the way home from work some night, pick an event in Christ’s life to contemplate on and really dig deep into your imagination for all your senses. i.e. Christ’s birth in Bethlehem; was it a stable or a cave? What animals or people were present? What were the sounds and smells? The star overhead, details etc. If you want something more stressful, imagine you were in the crowd as Jesus carried the cross to Mount Calvary. How loud were the shouts, the cracks of the whip to Jesus’ flesh? How quiet did it get when the sky went dark, as Jesus exhausted His last breath? How scared were Mary and Joseph when their twelve year old son was lost in the biggest city of that time? Then repeat the Lord’s Prayer or the Hail Mary or the dinner prayer or whatever other simple prayer that comes to mind, and pray it all the way to your driveway. When you’ve finished, analyze whether or not you feel more relaxed. Don’t forget to turn off the radio. You’ll find your brain is capable of thinking about several things at the same time.

THE ROSARY

The Rosary consists of the repetition of three basic “rote prayers”; the Lord’s Prayer and the Glory Be, which bracket ten Hail Mary’s called decades. Each decade requires one to contemplate a specific Mystery while reciting the prayers in a mantra like fashion. With five Mysteries in each of four different themed New Testament, Biblical era’s, surrounding Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection. It’s helpful to use as much of your imagination as possible to visualize the sights, sounds and emotions of each individual Mystery.

Begin the Rosary with the Sign of the Cross and the Apostles Creed and while reciting it, think about what you’re saying. I call it, “the take inventory prayer.” Concentrate on what you believe in. Before you go on a trip, a trek, a vacation, you make a list of what to pack. Contemplating the Mysteries of the Rosary is like a journey through your imagination, even though much of the scenery is what God wants you to see. It’s helpful to refresh your core beliefs before you start prayer and meditation by going over the list of you do actually believe in. If you were the author of the Creed, could you make it any simpler? Can you think of anything else to add? It covers it all. What a magnificent prayer this is:

THE APOSTLES CREED

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell; the third day He arose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from thence He

shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, Amen.

The reference to “the communion of saints” strongly suggests that there’s large number of holy people willing to pray along with you if you petition their help; a host of angels and saints. Grip the steering wheel tightly for this prayer and imagine the little Crucifix on the end of the Rosary in the palm of your hand. Sometimes I break with tradition and pray the long version from mass because it’s more detailed. (I’m still working on “consubstantial”.) If you feel the need to ask St. Christopher to protect you while you drive, feel free to do so. If you feel unsafe or uncomfortable driving and praying at the same time, it would be best you find a different “quiet place” other than the car. It should go without saying, but just to be on the safe side, don’t attempt to read the prayers while you drive, recite them from memory as best as you can. If you forget the words, make up new ones until you can reference your prayer guide. I’ve yet to be struck dead for improvising when I forget. Remember, there are other drivers on the road, many of which would love an opportunity to annihilate you or gesture wildly at you over something petty.

THE WARM UP

Before you take a trip in the car, it’s wise to fill up the tank, check the oil, the tire pressure and, generally, make sure everything looks and sounds good. The first part of the Rosary is a brief warm up to get the words and mood right before the big meditations ahead. Just above the crucifix is the first bead. It is “The Apostle’s Creed” bead. Next are three more beads, referred to as the “Faith, Hope and Charity” beads. Recite a Hail Mary while thumbing each of these beads and think about:

Faith……if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can get to heaven….is the Biblical visual I grab for this short meditation.

Hope…..if you can recall a childhood Christmas, past where you hoped as hard as you ever hoped for the toy or gift you wanted more than anything in the world, then do so on this bead. Christ didn’t have hope, He was Hope.

Charity…Love is a better word for this bead. I try to recite John 3:16 before I pray this last, warm-up Hail Mary, preceding the main decades of ten beads.

THE GLORY BE

The last lone bead, below the main part of the Rosary, is for the Glory Be prayer. Think of the Holy Trinity whenever you tee this prayer up. Each decade of Hail Mary’s is started with the Lord’s Prayer, followed by the ten Hail Mary’s and finished with, “Glory Be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, Amen.” It’s like a re-set button for an electronic devise or the “clear all” button a calculator. It’s time to start a new calculation, a new meditation. It’s more of an acknowledgement of “God in three persons, Holy Trinity”, as the song refrain echoes in your brain.

THE HAIL MARY PRAYER

When reciting a Hail Mary, the first half of the most well know Catholic “rote” prayer, there are a couple of quotes right out of the first chapter of Luke, beginning with the visit to Mary from the Arch Angel, Gabriel. He announces, “Hail, Mary, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women”. A little

further into the first chapter of Luke, Mary Visits Elizabeth, her pregnant cousin who is carrying John, the Baptist, in her womb. Upon seeing Mary and feeling the presence of the Savior, Elizabeth’s child stirs inside her and she exclaims, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. The second half of the prayer is a petition to Mary, asking her to, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” It’s pretty simple. When prayed over and over again, ten times for each Rosary Mystery, in a mantra like fashion, it becomes the “white noise” you need to block out the other noises.

If you’ve ever lost a close relative, a mentor or anyone who inspires you to perceive them holy enough to be in heaven, it’s not uncommon for you to ask them to put in a good word to God. Often referred to as “The Man upstairs”, in foxhole prayer format, we plead for help from anyone, up there, who can hear me. All the saints (before they were saints) were one of those, so called intercessors. They were asked by us mere mortals to intercede, pray, draw God’s attention to and make something miraculous happen. After so many documented miracles, those souls then became “beatified” by the Vatican and later canonized into sainthood. Without knowing exactly how many, I’m going to suggest that a very large number of those “saint making” miracles involved the use of the Rosary as the prayer form during the intercession, by those asking for the miracle.

MYSTERIES FOR THE OVERWHELMED

Remember, the Rosary is not a race. You want to shoot for quality not quantity. Yammering through one in speed-talk might register as a Rosary, but you get what you pay for, as they say. It usually takes a half an hour for an average paced, good quality meditation. If anything, lengthen it by stating each Sacred Mystery in as full detail as possible. Pretend you are actually there, in the Mystery, at the time it occurs. Instead of blurting out, “the Annunciation” and start in with a string of Hail Mary’s, try to imagine you are actually there and create or re-live the description mentioned earlier, like;

“Angel Gabriel appeared to the fifteen year old, Blessed Virgin Mary in Nazareth and startled her with the original phrase, “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee”. He then followed with news of that she will bear the Son of God; to which she recites the wonderful words of the “Magnificat”, a beautiful Bible passage, referencing that she is the “hand maiden of the Lord” and asking, “may it be done to me according to Your Word”. She continues her journey to visit Elizabeth, her elderly cousin, also miraculously with child because of her advanced age, and is greeted with, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb”, as her own child, John the Baptist, stirs within her.

Here’s another example;

Instead of stating, “the Transfiguration” vs. secretly visualizing yourself observing Jesus and his Apostles from the brush, “as Jesus prayed on Mount Tabor with Peter, James and John, His entire body turned to light. He then began talking to Moses and Elijah. Then a bright cloud appeared and Gods booming voice was heard, “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, OF WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED. LISTEN TO HIM”. The disciples fell to the ground in fear.

Let’s take a shot at making some Sorrowful Sacred Mystery sample descriptions geared to the “overwhelmed”. The benefits should be clear. By using your imagination and memory recall of what you perceive each total Mystery to be, in as much detail as possible, you will pave the way for a better meditation of that specific decade of Hail Mary’s. Immerse yourself into the scenery, become part of the jeering crowd, touch His garment as He passes by, imagine the sounds of the whip or the hammer that drives the nails into Christ’s hands and feet.

THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES

1. Retching on the ground in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed so hard that he sweated blood and shed tears of blood as He asked God if this cup should pass and spare Him of all the impending agony coming His way the next day. HE WAS OVERWHELMED

2. Shackled to a post like an animal, Jesus was flogged until there was barely any visible unbruised flesh left on His bloody body. The pain was beyond anyone’s imagination, yet the crowd jeered and cheered for more. HE WAS OVERWHELMED

3. Humiliated, spat and urinated on, kicked and punched, cloaked in a make believe royal robe and holding a make believe royal scepter, Jesus was crowned with a woven wreath of thorns. They were pressed deeply onto His scull until the blood ran down all sides of His head and He was mocked and called King of the Jews. HE WAS OVERWHELMED

4. Barely able to support His own weight, Jesus was sentenced in a bogus trial to be crucified by His own people. He lugged a heavy cross, weighing more than all the sins of the world, through the streets of Jerusalem and up to the top of mount Calvary as an angry crowd chided Him the entire way. HE WAS OVERWHELMED

5. With forgiveness in His heart, Jesus was savagely nailed to the cross and hung there until His last breath. Pierced like a piece of meat. HE WAS OVERWHELMED

THE OVERWHELMED’S APPEAL TO MARY

At the end of the Rosary, we recite the Hail Holy Queen prayer/petition, but it’s almost more of an acknowledgement than a prayer. We transform ourselves (by imagination) to see Mary’s face and greet her with the same salutation as Angel Gabriel, ‘Hail, Holy Queen!” She’s no longer an innocent, sinless young woman. She’s been assumed, miraculously, into heaven, body and soul and crowned the Queen of Heaven and Earth. (Here’s where we lose many of the Protestants.) She is the great intercessor to all lost causes, mainly us. This recitation is more of an appeal or petition then a prayer. Read it carefully, word by word:

The Hail Holy Queen

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To you do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To you do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this Valley of Tears. Turn then, most gracious ADVOCATE, your eyes of mercy toward us and after this exile; show unto us the blessed fruit of your womb, Jesus. Oh clement, Oh loving, Oh sweet Virgin Mary, pray for us, Holy Mother of God, that we may be worthy of the promises of Christ.

“Hey! Mary, can you hear me? I’m overwhelmed! I can’t think very clearly, right now. I need you to put in a good word to the man upstairs.” If you are homeless, Jesus was born, homeless in a stable. If you’ve been physically beaten, Jesus was beaten more severely at the pillar. If you’ve been unfairly judged, Jesus unfair trial trumps yours. If you’ve ever agonized about anything, Jesus agony is greater. If you were ever humiliated, Jesus humility was greater. If you’ve ever carried a heavy burden, Jesus carried a heavier one. If you feel insignificant, Jesus was raised in a small, no-name town and made fun of as

“Jesus the Nazarean”. Jesus was baptized and so were you. Ultimately, if you are overwhelmed, so was Jesus. These commonalities you have with the man, Jesus can bring you closer to a better relationship with God. There is no suffering you’ve experienced that doesn’t have a parallel to Jesus, even if it’s much less dramatic. It’s so we can identify with Him.

What could I possibly have in common with Jesus? Find common ground with Christ by meditating a Rosary. Re-read or recall John 3:16, God sent Jesus to us to be like us, so we can all identify with Him in all the ways He means for us to do so. All we have to do is believe. The Rosary meditations create an opportunity for us to find common ground with our Savior. By using our imagination to meditate on each of the Sacred Mysteries, the Holy Trinity and Mary will intercede and help you with visuals and flashes of brilliance to help you have a better Rosary.

THE FINISHING PRAYER

Most prayer leaders of the Rosary, finish it with one last prayer. It’s a good summary of what may have just happened in your mind. It lumps everything together and closes out the journey. Let’s face it, when we’re done with our vacation, we usually don’t pack everything with as much care as when we were first starting out. We still take inventory, but we are apt to cut corners and stuff everything in the suitcase, knowing we’re just going to unpack again when we get home. The thoughts that come are like saying, “ well that was nice, we’ll have to do that again, soon.” Not as heartfelt and detailed as the Apostle’s Creed, but a nice summary:

Oh God, whose only begotten Son, by His Life, Death and Resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life. Grant, we beseech thee, that by meditating on the Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may both imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ, our Lord. Amen

Meditate? Imitate what they contain? Obtain what they promise? Hey God, help me use my imagination in a productive fashion by thinking, by remembering, by reflecting on all the stuff we just covered in the Rosary over last thirty minutes. Let’s carry some of it with us and do this again real soon and please help some of it stick with me until then. Help me accept Christ to come into my heart and guide me through my tough times (or his or her tough times, if you’re praying for someone else). Rather than an appeal, it’s more of an acknowledgement that you believe that meditating on the Rosary, can help your cause. It’s great finish.

NOW IT’S YOUR TURN

That’s easy for you to say. When am I going to have time to pray a Rosary? I’m overwhelmed because there aren’t enough hours in the day. I lay awake, many nights, trying to solve problems and take advantage of uninterrupted thought process. So, there you have it. During that 2 a.m., your wide awake time period, relax and meditate a Rosary. You probably will fall asleep before you finish, but it’s a start of a good habit practice. The beads are nice, but you can use your fingers to keep track, without rummaging through the drawers and waking the whole household. Maybe it makes more sense to hook different fingers on the steering wheel, as you’re stuck in traffic.

The good news about being overwhelmed is you’re alive. Maybe even for some, it’s like being trapped inside a mine behind a cave-in. You might feel doomed, breathing can be laborious, your mind races into a panic or anxiety attack. You question how can I escape? The only way out is to remove one stone at a

time. Like various burdens, some are heavier than others and may require more effort or leverage. Each meditation might be focused on different burdens that cause you to be overwhelmed. It may take a day, a week or a month to move a burden, but the effort will bear fruit. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Your perception of what overwhelms you can change by meditating on the Rosary. Isolating a worry, a health issue, a cause for concern, with the Rosary can drown out sorrows long enough to soften them. If anything, it could help slow down your racing thoughts to see them more clearly. Why not try wearing away one malady at a time. Eventually you may get God given insights to overcome them. If you make a commitment to praying the Rosary, regularly, you’ll figure out that your life has improved. Maybe then, it will be time to pray for someone who is worse off than you. Feel free to share this with other overwhelmed individuals. By helping someone in need, sometimes you end up being the benefactor.

It wouldn’t hurt to supplement your Rosary journey with a daily paragraph out of either or both testaments of the Bible. God touches your heart, as you read, and you naturally apply it to you own life experiences. Try to imagine you are physically present in the scene of the readings as an observer or participant. Every single person who reads the Gospel, get different messages or images from the exact same passages, hence the phrase, “the Word of God”. Ask God, “what do You want me to hear today?”

THE OTHER MYSTERIES OF THE ROSARY
Officially, from the Vatican, there are four sets of five Mysteries, each with their own theme. They are: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES:

1. Angel Gabriel appears to the Blessed Virgin and announces the Birth of Christ
2. Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth and shares the news of her pregnancy
3. Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem
4. Baby Jesus is presented in the Temple of Israel to holy man Simeon and the high priestess Anna 5. Twelve year old child Jesus is found preaching in the Temple after being lost for 3 days

THE LUMINOUS MYSTERIES:

1. Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan by John the Baptist
2. Jesus changes the water into wine at the wedding in Cana
3. Over a three year period, Jesus manifests Himself into the Gospel with His teachings
4. Jesus is transfigured into light on Mount Tabor with Prophets of the Old Testament
5. Jesus manifests Himself into the Eucharist, the living body and blood to share with the world

THE GLORIOUS MYSTERIES:

1. Jesus is resurrected from the tomb
2. Jesus ascends into heaven
3. The Holy Spirit descends down upon the Apostles
4. The Blessed Virgin Mary is assumed, body and soul, into Heaven 5. The Blessed Virgin Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and earth

THE SORROWFUL MYSTERIES: were covered in the main portion of this writing for “the overwhelmed”.

All of these official Mysteries give opportunity to each person who reflects on them to feel Gods personal message, to receive images God wants us to have, to seek and find common ground with Jesus. There are millions of vivid scenarios, sights and sounds to perceive. There are easy to understand events and there are very complicated, hard to understand things with multiple meanings, hence the term, “Mysteries.” Each person gets something different than the next because the Rosary is personal. The Franciscan Order introduced a different Rosary with seven decades of beads and recommend we meditate either the Seven Sorrows or the Seven Joys of Mary. There are others, as well.

PERSONAL MYSTERIES

This may be presumptuous, but there may be certain teachings, verses, miracles or hard to understand “mysteries” inside of your own faith journey. Although the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Dominick in 1208 with instruction to pray and teach the Rosary with three sets of Mysteries, Pope John Paul II and all the Cardinals in the Holy See, added the Luminous Mysteries in 2008 and filled in a large time gap in the life of Christ between His childhood and his Passion. By meditating on the things that confuse you, with the use of the Rosary, you may clear up a few cob webs. Eventually, Providence will nudge you back to the original design of the Sacred Mysteries. An overwhelmed you, is not healthy. In the long run, it’s not about you. It’s about The Holy Trinity, the Word of God and the life of Christ.

WHAT NOW?

Life, in general, can be a mystery. Being overwhelmed is a mystery. How did this happen? How did I let this get so out of hand? Your ongoing struggle is 24/7 and you attack it one day at a time. The Rosary is twenty minutes at a time. There may be days where it’s the only twenty minutes of sanity in your day. Your sanity journey can begin right now. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s a process. It’s a mystery that will take time to understand, twenty minutes at a time. Test it out. Make minor changes in your life. Begin by reading the Word of God, a little bit at a time. Most Catholic churches hand out pocket sized booklets that have a daily Gospel reading with accompanying thoughts or reflections from credible sources or well know writers. Stop in any parish house and ask for one. When you decide to meditate on a Rosary, come right out and ask God, “what is it You want me to see and hear over the next few minutes Lord?” Do you have a quiet place? Where is your Garden of Gethsemane? A Cathedral? You may have to transcend there by way of your imagination, but do so. If God was a personal friend, how would you talk to Him? Now, talk to Him. If you believe you have a special friend or relative in heaven, ask them to pray along with you. Ask for all the help that is available and begin now. Choose to be less overwhelmed. Simplify your life through prayer and meditation.