Saturday, February 25, 2012

Praying the Rosary: Staying Focused

I have been praying the Rosary for several years now and I notice from time to time that things get just a little too routine. When this happens I feel like I miss the point of the prayer. On my run this morning I finished the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and realized I hadn't been paying much attention to it. In fact, I finished it and it seemed as though I hadn't actually prayed.

This is Lent and it is no time for zombie prayer! What to do? Pray it again and try harder to stay focused? Move on and try to get into some contemplative prayer? Just count it as a Rosary prayed and try again tomorrow? Then I thought of a new strategy. I would spend time summarizing, paraphrasing,  and analyzing each mystery before praying the prayers and then try to keep the fruit of that exercise in mind as I prayed the mystery. I have no doubt that this technique is not unique to me. If the truth were known, I probably read or heard about it somewhere but I can't really say when or where.

The time I spent before each mystery ended up taking longer that the prayers themselves. That was just fine. I had all the time in the world to pray the mysteries because this morning I was running 13 miles. Generally on a run of that length I can pray a full Rosary, Luminous Mysteries and all. But this morning after plowing through the Joyful Mysteries and realizing that my heart and mind hadn't been in it I spent the rest of my run simply re-praying the Joyful Mysteries in this new way.

I found this to be exceptionally helpful in focusing my mind on the mysteries I have prayed 100's of time before. Not only did it help me to stay focused on the life events of Our Lord, which is what the Rosary really is, really spending time looking at those events allowed me to see nuances I had over looked or had never noticed before.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Right to Lifestyle vs. The Right to the Free Expression of Religion

Are we really watching this fight? The fight between an inalienable right granted to us by our Creator and the new "right to health insurance" granted to us by our government. Worse still, it is only being called a "right to health insurance". That is not even what this fight is about.

Instead, there is a certain political faction that is trying to trick us into thinking that birth control is health care. Not only that but, they are trying to make us believe that health care is incomplete without artificial birth control and abortion inducing drugs. What this fight actually comes down to is a fight between the inalienable right of free expression of religion and the right to methods and drugs that have existed for only about 50 or 60 years. It is a fight between a right that is truly ours as part of our very nature and a  "right" to demand that someone else pay for our lifestyle choices. Because anyway you cut it birth control is a lifestyle choice.

The other day I was running on the treadmill at the gym and I look up to the television in front of me and saw Al Sharpton interviewing Sen. Barbara Boxer on MSNBC. The part of the interview that I saw apparently was focusing on the recent HHS mandate that will require Catholic's (or anyone else for that matter) who provide health insurance to employees to cover contraception and abortion inducing drugs*. I almost fell off of the treadmill when Al asked the senator how they could pass a law that said an employers religious view trumps your right to be insured. Senator Boxer makes the argument even more incomprehensible by comparing birth control to life saving (or even life improving, life extending, etc) medicine.

When the people who are in a position with mass media to influence public opinion are so willing to make a case for the government being allowed to trample our human rights we are in for a fight. When the people we elect to government are so willing to trample our rights to push their agenda, we are in for a fight. But then again we were never promised an easy road were we?

So yes,  Al Sharpton, yes, Senator Boxer, my right to free expression of religion and yours and everyone else trumps any right you may think you have to demand that I pay for your lifestyle choices. Because there is a difference between rights we posses by our very human nature and those thought up and instilled by bureaucrats.

* If you don't already know Catholic's hold that birth control is intrinsically evil. For an very good explanation of why the Church teaches this read  Humanae Vitae

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Church and Birth Control: Maybe it's More Than You Think.

I read Humanae Vitae this weekend. If you are unfamiliar with this document it is a papal encyclical written by Pope Paul VI in 1968. The document addresses the problem of artificial birth control in the context of modern society and applies the Church's Traditional teaching on the matter.

When it comes to current events involving birth control and the teachings of the Catholic Church you don't have to look far to find people saying things like "it's none of their business", "why doesn't the Church move in to the 21st century", "what does an old celibate guy know about sex anyway", "the Church just wants to tell women what they can do with their bodies" etc, etc ad nauseum. Sadly, it is not only people who are outside of the Church saying this but Catholics themselves often express like sentiments.

I think the most common objections to the Churches teaching are answered in Section 17 "Consequences of Artificial Methods"  which states
"Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings—and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation—need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection."
There are two take always for me from this section. First, the real possibility of pregnancy through un-contracepted sex is an incentive to the young and unmarried to adhere to moral law. Namely that the sexual act is the right of a man and woman united in marriage for the procreation of the human race and the strengthening of the bond between them and that removing that incentive thereby making it easy for them to break that law is evil. Far to often our society tells us that providing kids with contraception is a good thing. They are going to have sex anyway, right? But no, as faithful Catholics we are not free to believe that. Pope Paul VI tells us that it is in fact evil.

The second take away was the Churches view of the woman. By standing firm in it's rejection of artificial birth control the Church is in fact affirming the real and true value of the woman. The Church is saying that men owe her reverence and care for her physical and emotional well being. By rejecting artificial birth control the Church is protecting the dignity of the woman, not controlling her.

I feel like the time I spent to read this document was well worth it. Humanae Vitae is only 12 pages long. I am a pretty slow reader and I like to go back over sentences and paragraphs several times while reading and I finished it in about 45 minutes. It has a lot of good teaching in it and would be a great read for someone who has wondered why the Church refuses to go along with the rest of society affirming the "goodness" of birth control.

The full encyclical can be found in pdf form here