Six Creative Ways to Pray the Rosary
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Pope Francis has invited all Catholics to pray the rosary during the month of October. This is an invitation to pray for the Church to be defended from evil as it is in another state of crisis. One church leader after another has faced scandal for actions related to sexual abuse. Now is a good time to pray for those who have been abused and those who have been lousy leaders.


If you’re not Catholic and are unfamiliar with the rosary, think beads. You’ve seen people hang beads from their rear-view mirror in the car, right? Those are likely to be a set of rosary beads.


The rosary is an ancient form of prayer, most often associated with Catholics but not limited to them. Martin Luther was known to have a strong devotion to Mary, even after he left the Catholic Church. The rosary is prayed in five groups of Hail Mary’s, with each group themed according to a moment in the life of Christ.  Each group is called a “decade”. You can pray the rosary in 10-15 minutes.


Many Christians know about the rosary but don’t actually pray it. This isn’t surprising. When we don’t know something or lack the confidence related to it, we don’t practice it. I run into people all of the time who admit that their prayer life is tepid. It bothers them but they’re not sure what to do about it.

 

Let’s consider the rosary as one part of your set of prayer-related tools. 


The rosary is a powerful form of prayer. Every holy person I know prays the rosary. Saints have sworn by it and martyrs have attested to its efficacy. St. Francis de Sales said this about the rosary, “The greatest method of praying is to pray the Rosary.” Pretty strong words from an all-star saint.

 

I’d like to suggest five creative ways to “get into” a regular practice of praying the rosary:


  1. Purchase a rosary ring. You can find these on Amazon or at your local Catholic gift shop for under a few dollars. Keep it in your pocket and thumb it occasionally to get used to it. This will also remind you to pray.

  2. Start with one decade a day. Whether using a rosary ring or a full rosary, begin with just one decade a day. Don’t worry about “doing it right”. If you’re not sure which decades to pray, Google it.

  3. Walk and pray. Pick a time of the day- early morning, after lunch or at night and thumb the rosary. Gradually pray the prayers associated with each bead. The walking will make it easier. Plus, you’re getting some exercise.

  4. Pray in the car. There is no time more convenient than when you are driving to pray the rosary. Keep a set of rosary beads (or the ring) in your car and when you think of it, pray the rosary. If you don’t have a drive long enough for the entire rosary, pray what you can.

  5. Incorporate the rosary into your daily quiet time. My father does this and finds it to be a wonderful “primer” for deeper, more contemplative prayer. If you’re able to carve out a solid half hour, you’ll need 10-15 minutes of it for the rosary.

  6. Include the rosary in a once-a-week holy hour. To make your weekly prayer routine special, visit your local Catholic Church when they have adoration of the blessed Sacrament. After some time in adoration, pull out your rosary beads and pray.


I’m not an expert in the rosary. What I do know is that it’s an important Christian devotion and one that can be a powerful asset in your prayer toolbox. With some creativity, you can include it in your prayer life as wel

Devotions, Faith, prayerMike StPierre
The Right Time to Jumpstart Your Prayer Life
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Prayer is a lot like working out- the more you do it, the better you feel. Besides the emotional, confidence-building aspect of regular prayer, it also contributes to your intimacy with Christ.


On the flip side, the less often you pray, the less confidence you have and, on your side at least, the farther you could be from God. I say “on your side” because God never leaves us. His love is constantly poured out on us, whether we have an active prayer life or not.


Romans 8:37-39 says, “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


St. Paul is clear- God’s love is constant. It’s God’s very nature to love people.


As a father, I can relate at least one some level. When I look at my four children, I want for their good. I want them to succeed. I want them to have good friendships. I want them to know the Lord.


Any honest question for those who want to pray more often but are hesitant to do so is this, “when is the right time to jumpstart my prayer?”


Two thoughts in response to this:


The fact that someone is asking the question implies some desire to know God more fully. This is excellent. To use a simile, it’s similar to inquiring about when someone ought to eat more healthily.

The “right time” doesn’t exist unless you consider every moment of every day to be “right”. Since God is pouring out His love on us each and every moment, now is the right time. Five minutes from now is the right time. Two years from now is the right time.


This is both good news and overwhelming. Since every moment is charged with opportunity for intimacy with God, it’s hard to know when to start.


My advice is not so much about timing but about paying attention to the moments in front of you. Notice your own spontaneous desires to pray. Then, do it.


Here are some examples that may help:


  • You notice a car accident on the side of the road. Emergency vehicles tend to a person behind the wheel. Say a prayer for that person.
  • You drive by a church and are ever-so-briefly reminded that God is worshiped there. Say a prayer to thank God for spaces in which people can pray.
  • You think of your elderly parents when you are in the middle of your day and aren’t sure why. Say a prayer for them, asking God’s provision for their health.


It’s simple: pay attention to the spontaneous moments in your life. As a response, pray. Trust that God puts people in your way and thoughts into your head. His inspiration, His “nudgings” are wonderful opportunities to grow in intimacy with Him.


This spontaneous-pray nowness is not a replacement for a daily quiet time. That is the backbone of a momentum-building life of prayer. Still, the spontaneous moments help us to answer the question- “when is the right time to jump start my prayer life?”


Right now. Pay attention to God’s work in your day.

The Church We Desperately Need
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As the parents of four children, my wife and I have often had to look our kids in the eye and remind them that we are the parents and they are the children. We have the life experience and hopefully the wisdom to make good decisions. I would assume that all parents can relate to this dynamic. Most of the time, our children agree even if their eyes roll.


In the weeks that have passed, a similar dynamic has unfolded in the American Catholic Church except one thing is different. Clerics, embroiled in another sex-abuse scandal and a subsequent set of cover-ups, have assured the faithful that they are indeed sorry for their lack of candid leadership. Most of us read the headlines with sadness but not with surprise. Once you’ve heard a “we deeply regret...” statement, often written by lawyers, you can get dismayed.

 

We’ve heard it before. 


Much of the Church’s messaging is that of a parent, along the lines of, “We’ve got this. We have the wisdom to make good decisions.” Therein lies the problem as the “we” used by many clerics is a limiting pronoun. It actually means we, the leaders of the Church rather than we, the People of God.


This people isn’t uniform. We have different roles, originating in the Early Church and then morphing into Holy Orders as they exist today. The ordained are meant to build up the rest of the Body. The rest of the Body is meant to cleave to Christ, become one with the Lord and then be sent out on mission. The Early Church articulated more formal roles such as teacher and administrator but over time, these got lost. These roles aren’t bad so long as each respects the other.  

 

One response of an American bishop, hailed by many as a firm and comprehensive “plan”, mentioned the role of the laity as a component of the Church’s solution for dealing with sex-abuse. Worth noting is that the laity is mentioned last in a list of three criterion for how the American Church can move forward.


What we have is a faulty ecclesiology in full display for all to see. Maybe faulty isn’t the right word. Incomplete might be better.


I’m convinced that many leaders simply do not value the laity as members of the People of God. They value them but only so much. If you’ve ever heard the old mantra, “pray, pay and obey”, you get the point. As a result, leaders make poor decisions and exercise a “circle the wagons” approach to crisis management. Imagine the decision-making that the Church could enjoy if it fully embraced its dignity as People of God...


Many observers have it right when they say that the absolute crux of the current scandal is a gravitational pull towards clericalism. It sucks the life out of even good priests, enveloping them in a system best described as an “old boys club”.


A good and faithful priest I know put it this way, “Far too many bishops and priests think they are above the laity.” The abuse of children is as much about disrespect as it is about sickness. The sin of pride is alive and well.

 

Clericalism isn’t the only culprit. It’s also a lack of faithfulness. It’s a laxity that, over time, fell out of love with Christ and turn inward towards self-preservation.


Nearly all of the current language used by the Church in its response to the current scandal is reactionary. We are in fixing mode and for now, that is probably the right pose to strike. The building is on fire and we need to put it out. What’s missing is a broader discussion of how best to eradicate clericalism and bring the Church into a fuller understanding of what it means to be the People of God.


What we currently see isn’t merely the fruit of sin and infidelity. The current storm is also produced by an ecclesial system of us vs them. So long as the Church continues to operate as the property of a few, its fruit will be short-lived and the Gospel will be short-changed.


As a layman, I long for a Church that seeks to make decisions together. I don’t want a Church that operates out of consensus or through a vote. What we need, desperately, is a Church that values all of its members to the point of involving them at the level of decision making. No change in Church teaching is needed. No slogan can capture this shift. What is needed is the deep conviction that the Church needs the perspective of the laity and not just when things hit the fan.


I look forward to the day when a Bishop stands on a stage along with a layman and considers him an equal rather than a supporting actor. I envision the next scandal, whenever it comes, being solved by laity and the clergy working together and genuinely learning from one another. 


This is the Church we need. This is the Church that can be Christ’s bride more faithfully present in the world. This is the Church that can bring the Gospel to the lost and hope to those in despair. 

 

This is the Church we so desperately need. 

Faith, CommunicationMike StPierre
Why It’s Important to Pray for Others by Name
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The other day, I did something that I was hesitant to do: I prayed for Archbishop McCarrick, the disgraced former Cardinal and leader of the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.


I didn’t want to do it- I’ve never met the man. It felt awkward. It put a scowl on my face. I made sure that it didn’t last long. He is an enemy of young people and I don’t like him- not even a little.


And then I prayed for others who have victimized young people. If I knew their names, I mentioned them. Again, I didn’t want to do it and certainly didn’t enjoy it.


And yet, somehow, it felt right. I’ve been so angry, of late, by the emerging news about the Catholic Church. We have a problem. We don’t form our leaders all that well. We don’t have enough accountability loops in place. We need a culture of servant leaders and instead have built a system of leader idolization. It’s sad.


Praying for others by name is like that- it will depress you. It will take you to a place that you rarely visit. I learned this years ago. Someone tried to harm me and it cut me to the core. It was only by praying for them, by name, out loud, that I found peace.


In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says that we must do this:


You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”


This sounds nice... until you have to do it. Then, it provides a hesitant submission, as if to say, “Ok God, you’re right...I’ll do it.”


We don’t like having enemies.

 

Most of us would rather just get along. I know that I would. Most of my Christian friends are people pleasers, another posture of getting along. That’s not a bad thing but it does make having enemies all the more difficult.


Enemies prop up time and again, like a rash that you can’t ignore. An enemy is someone who opposes you and seeks to do you harm. This is a dark realization and one that Jesus knew full well. He had plenty of individuals who opposed his every move. I imagine that his enemies frustrated him, knowing that they were slowing down his ministry.


Imagine just for a second if Jesus’ enemies spent more time listening and less time ruining his reputation... how things would have been different.


All leaders understand this.

 

No matter what you do, some will oppose you. They may be awful human beings or stellar individuals with good character. But prepare yourself- you will be opposed at some point.


For a follow up, I suggest you spend 60 seconds thinking of your enemies. You won’t need more than that because they will come to your mind immediately. Plus, it’s likely that your enemies can be counted on one hand.


If you have more than that, you’re likely the President. That’s another conversation altogether.


Once you have those individuals in mind, it’s important to take them to prayer. Mention them, by name, to God. Ask for His mercy and provision for them. Pray for reconciliation with them. Ask for a gentle heart towards them, knowing that they are going through something in their own lives that produces resistance towards you.


Praying for others by name humanizes them. This reminds you that they too are loved by God and in need of mercy. This shortens the distance between you and them. It also reminds you of your own need for mercy and God’s love.


It’s the right thing to do.


This exercise is one of the most powerful in all of the Christian life. We are all sinners and more in need of God’s mercy than we realize at any one moment. Praying for your enemies by name is one outflow of this truth.

Why It’s Important to Pray Out Loud
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A scenario repeats itself in my adult life. A group of Catholics are gathered. They are at table or in a living room. They may be there for a meeting or for some sort of conversation. Someone recognizes the value of starting with a prayer.


And that’s when things fall apart.


Someone asks, “would someone like to start us with a prayer?” Eyes go to the floor. An awkward silence ensues. Finally, someone says, as if to put the group out of its misery, “I’ll do it.”


Then, everyone exhales and the brave soul prays as best they can. The meeting begins.


Have you been in this situation? I’ll bet you have. For Protestants, prayer out loud is not foreign. It’s something you are raised to do. But for Catholics, it’s a different story. Catholics, for the most part, are terrified of it.


When I asked friends on Facebook what they thought of this, their responses were profound:


  • “For me it was about modeling. I will also say that it takes a good deal of practice and thoughtfulness.”
  • “Lack of a strong, personal relationship with Jesus. I never felt comfortable praying from my heart out loud until I came to love Jesus. Now it’s my preferred method of prayer.”
  • “It’s not modeled for us. We’ve only ever witnessed men praying over our family with words from a book. Unless we’ve been given a model through our families or smaller communities, it’s not something we’ve seen.”
  • “Most have never seen it modeled in the home by their parents.”
  • “I just approach it as if I'm talking to a friend, respectfully but not too distant.”


These are very personal and so many other comments came through. People take their prayer seriously and have strong feelings about it. You can hear the theme of modeling over and over again. If you’ve seen someone pray spontaneously, a seed may be planted in you that will “activate” at some point later in your life.


Second, it’s important to remember, as Merton famously wrote, that “the desire to please you (God) does in fact please you”. Even if a person’s prayer life is immature, it still can catch the momentum to take it further into a relationship with God.


Prayer out loud is important for a number of reasons.

 

First, it is an expression of intimacy. I can’t think of a “human friend” that I don’t talk to. Second, praying out loud grows our praying heart. It merges our will with our spirit, molding us into more prayerful people. Third, as we’ve seen in the comments above, praying out loud can teach others about the Lord. This will then help them grow in their faith.


Specifically, what can or should we do when it comes to vocal prayer?  I suggest three things:


  1. In your own prayer life, pray out loud more often. This will feel awkward at first. You’ll wonder if people can hear you. Still, try it out. Give it time.
  2. When you are asked to pray before a meeting or event, offer to lead the prayer. Here’s the catch- don’t prepare anything. Just let it flow. Bring something honest and from your heart. Others will benefit from hearing you talk with God.
  3. Ban “canned prayers” for your meetings or events. If you are in a position of leadership and you ask someone to lead prayer, tell them not to prepare anything. Tell them to pray spontaneously, from their heart, out loud. By doing this, you’ll be practicing what you preach and modeling vocal prayer among the group.


These suggestions are not exhaustive nor are they meant to be. What they do provide are starting points and reminders.


You can do this. God can do this through you.

The Real Benefit of Solitude
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A recent podcast with Erik Fisher and Cal Newport brought to light the topic of solitude. Newport, the Georgetown professor and author of Deep Work cites Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership by Solitude by  Raymond R. Kethledge who describes solitude as “a subjective state in which you’re isolated from input from other minds”.


This makes sense. We’ve all been alone in a solitary way- you’re by yourself in a room and no one else is around. Some of us are more comfortable with this than others. Introverts in particular revel in this form of solitude- it’s a space to recharge.


There are other forms of solitude as well. Think about it- each of us can also relate to being alone but in the context of other people. You go for a run and see other people also working out, you find a coffee shop to do some work and see dozens of others walk in and out of the shop. This is a surprising sort of aloneness- alone but with others. Sort of an “alone togetherness”.


There’s alone by myself and alone in the context of others.


Newport’s point: rich solitude (i.e. “good” solitude) is that which is free from the influence of others’ minds. You’re alone, in one way or another, and free to think and pray on your own. You may be in public. You may be surrounded by hundreds of other people. Still, you have a sense of self, a space to think and pray on your own.


There is tremendous power in this. It applies very much to prayer.


The average person is quite busy. They have commitments and errands and places to be. I know that I do. Now consider the busy Christian- still running around but expected to be prayerful at the same time. This is where prayerfulness gets tested. I sat recently with a couple and their three young children. The wife, obviously a good mother, admitted that some days are just so full of this-and-thats that she forgets to pray.

 

I totally get it. Can you relate? 


The million dollar question emerges quickly enough: how do you maintain prayerfulness amidst a busy schedule? Or, in layman’s terms- how do you take your faith with you?


And here is where we apply Kethledge’s concept of solitude. The Christian, embedded in the world, is prayerful because they retain that sense of self while they are going about their day. They find moments of prayer because they have cultivated the muscle of returning to their source: their relationship with God. They know that God has loved them and grounds them in a profound sense of adoption. They bring solitude with them and then, when God-inspiration-faith strikes, they activate their solitude and reconvene with the Lord. 


This relationship with God “pops up” at various times during the day- a spontaneous thought, a recollection of something they read in the Scriptures, a vocal prayer that emerges. These are delightful and can be unexpected. The good news is that you can become a more prayerful person and these God-moments can become the norm rather than the exception. 

 

You really can practice a healthy solitude as a result of never being fully alone. God is always with you and you can revel in this truth. Now that puts new light on solitude.

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