Awhile back I blogged about my love for the rosary. I try to pray a daily rosary, meditating on what we Catholics call "mysteries" of the rosary. There are 20 mysteries, and each 5-decade rosary focuses on 5 of these mysteries. When praying the rosary, each decade (group of 10 beads, each representing prayers) is supposed to be spent meditating on a particular mystery. For every Catholic that I've talked to, there seems to be a particular "set" of mysteries that they find themselves drawn to. Typically, this set of mysteries is easier for them to meditate on, or to enter into more fully. It's no different for me: I find that the joyful mysteries resonate more deeply within my soul. They draw me in, and I find myself able to meditate more easily on these 5 joyful mysteries.
Up until today, I actually found the sorrowful mysteries the hardest to meditate on. Friends would speak of being moved to tears while praying these mysteries....and I would feel a pang of sadness that I couldn't enter into them as deeply as my friends did. Especially during Lent (where the focus is on these mysteries), I would struggle with praying the rosary.
Tonight, I spent an hour in Adoration at our parish. In fact, I wrote about it as today's blessing. I brought my rosary (as is my habit during Adoration), and since it was Tuesday, I intended to pray the sorrowful mysteries. As I usually do, I prefaced my rosary with asking for the Holy Spirit to guide me through the prayers, helping me to hear what God was speaking to me. He did not disappoint.
I feel called to share my meditations with you here. Maybe you are like me - unable to really enter into these mysteries. Maybe you are struggling - like me - with all of the chaos in our society today. Maybe you, too, feel like persecution for your Catholic faith is just around the corner. I'm hoping that tonight's experience (where I was finally brought to tears during these mysteries) may help you as much as it helped me.
If nothing else, maybe it will help you remember what I was reminded of tonight: When we ask, and are open to Him....He answers.
The Sorrowful Mysteries, meditations for today's cultural climate
1. Agony in the Garden (Matthew 26: 36-46)
Jesus entered into prayer, asking for a release from doing God's will ("Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet, not My will but Yours be done"). How often do we do the same, but not trusting in God, as Jesus did? How often do we ask "God, please take this from me..." but not continuing with submission to His will? Have we even stopped trying to discern His will for us? It seems that everywhere we turn, we are bombarded with ways to do what WE want, encouragement to fulfill our every selfish need and desire. Have we stopped submitting ourselves to the will of the Father?
Currently, we Catholics are being thrust into the Garden in our society. We are being challenged - even mocked - and some are even being persecuted. Now is our time to learn to trust, as Jesus did. Are we entering into the Garden in humble prayer, or are we demanding that God remove us from the challenges and struggles, without any commitment on our part? Are we begging God to let us avoid the fray outside.....because it is what WE desire? Are we stopping to ask what it is that He desires of us?
Are we willing to release that fear, and find strength and courage in the prayer of the Garden? Have we begun to trust in God's plan for our lives? Can we commit to trusting in God's plan for our lives?
Lord, help me to trust. Help me to name my fears, and lay all my anxieties at Your feet. You've given me a model to follow in your son, Jesus, and His agony in the Garden. Help me to find the strength that can only come from trusting in You. Help me to step out of my own Garden and follow Your path for my life.
2. The Scourging at the Pillar (Mark 15: 1-16)
Jesus stood strong and did not deny You when challenged by Pilate, even though He know the pain that He was going to endure. He accepted the beating, humbly, because to do otherwise would have been to deny You.
How many times are we challenged, in Your name? How often are insults and mockery thrown in the direction of the Church, of which we are a part, because of You? How often do we read inflammatory articles and editorials, aimed at defacing the very Church we love?
Do we hide the Truth from those around us, in order to avoid the hurt and pain that we know is coming?
Now is our moment to stand in witness to Your glory and truth. Will we deny You, in order to protect ourselves?
Lord, help me to witness to Your love. Help me to accept the insults with humility, and out of love for You. Let me love those who hurt me, those who insult me, and those who attack your Church. Let me be the witness to Your glory, through my humble actions.
3. The Crowning With Thorns (Matthew 27: 27-31)
Jesus was mocked, publicly, as the soldiers dressed Him as a king, and pierced His skin with a crown of thorns. He accepted all of this with utmost humility, even as His own dignity was being attacked. He did this out of perfect obedience to Your will, showing perfect patience and love.
How often do we feel mocked, especially by those we care about the most? More painful than general insults aimed at the Church, these thorns attach to us personally and intimately. The insults, the teasing words, can pierce us with what seems like thousands of thorns. The pain of persecution is intensified, as those closest to us dig the thorns even deeper into the "skin" of our hearts.
But, yet, we can know and trust that You have a plan. The suffering will lead to Your glory, and embracing our own thorns can remind us of that, if we let them. First we must accept the thorns and the suffering, with humility and grace, as Jesus did.
Lord, help us to embrace our thorns. Let our humble obedience to Your will be a beacon of light to those watching. Allow us to trust in You, to gain strength through Your love, as those around us mock us and pierce our hearts with thorns.
4. The Way of the Cross (Mark 15: 20-22)
Jesus was hurting, He was physically in pain. He fell multiple times, out of sheer exhaustion and pain. In Your mercy and love, You placed people along His path to provide help (like Simon), to love Him (like the women and His own mother), and people to show Him compassion (like Veronica).
How can I doubt Your mercy and love within my own life, then? I am not perfect. I will stumble, I will fall, I will be discouraged, I will be scared. And yet, along my path too, You will place help, compassion, and love.
But will I see it? Will I recognize Your gifts in those around me? Will I be looking for You in everyone I meet, open to receiving Your love and compassion through the people I come into contact with?
Lord, help me to see You in all who surround me during this difficult time. Help me to accept their gifts with humility, and respond to them in gratefulness and love. For I know that I walk in communion with my fellow man - help me to love him in my thoughts and in my actions. Help me to love my fellow man as if he was You.
5. The Crucifixion (Luke 23: 33-46)
Jesus submitted Himself to Your will in the greatest way possible. He died in order to reconcile us men to You. Through Him, we were shown the way to everlasting life. Through His death, and His obedience to Your will...we were given new life.
We are being called to death now, as Catholics. We are faced with a death to our own selfish ways, our own lives. We must turn away from our current culture, and die to what we have come to know. To find new life in You, we must turn towards Your Church, and away from the world we have grown up in.
This is painful. It is hard. Our old life - and all that is culturally acceptable now - seems to be filled with so much less pain. Submitting to Your will, and faithfully living as a member of your Church, appears to invite so much more pain and suffering. We are being tempted, daily, to save ourselves from that pain and turn towards the wisdom of the world that we live in. Just as Jesus was challenged to save Himself from death, we are constantly being challenged to turn away from You and "save" ourselves from apparent pain and suffering.
But we must follow Jesus' lead. He did not turn away from Your will, He did not "save" Himself. True salvation came only through His perfect submission to Your will.
We will not be perfect - we will stumble time and time again - but we must have the courage to face the pain, and die to self. We must turn away from this world and live for life with You in the next. We are facing our moment of truth, as Catholics.
Lord, give me the strength to die to this world. Help me to overcome the temptation to save myself from pain and suffering, by denying Your Truth. Help me to trust in Your endless mercy and love, and let my refusal of the current culture be a witness to Your promise of new life.