After praying a 54 day Rosary novena from August to October, I fell out of the habit of praying a daily rosary. Recently I did a lot of reflecting on events over the course of my life and came to the obvious conclusion that during those times that I immersed myself in the praying of the rosary I was showered with graces. I do not mean to say that my life was easy and that I received everything I want. That would be childish and disingenuous. I mean to say that I was stronger and better prepared to face life’s challenges and that yes…I did experience many blessings in my life.
It is because of this that I recently recommitted myself to praying the rosary each day. To that end the first few items today are related to the rosary.
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Last October in National Review Kathryn Lopez conducted an interview with Fr. Donald Calloway, author of what I consider to be one of the best books of 2016, Champions of the Rosary. I encourage you to read the entire interview (it’s not too long) and am pasting a few of my favorite excerpts below.
FATHER CALLOWAY: The rosary has the power to set souls free because it is, in essence, the Bible on a set of beads. It is mobile and can be prayed practically anywhere. The holy rosary educates the mind, heart, and soul about the true teachings of Jesus Christ because its prayers and mysteries come from the New Testament. This grounds the rosary in the living Word of God, and it is that Word that gives us hope, healing, and new life.
LOPEZ: Can a rosary really be a weapon?
FATHER CALLOWAY: The rosary has always been understood to be a spiritual weapon. When Mary gave the rosary to Saint Dominic in 1208, she gave the explicit instruction that it was to be used to overcome a heresy. She called the rosary a weapon, a battering ram, for the defeat of all falsehoods. In the New Testament, St. Paul stated that the Word of God is stronger than any two-edged sword and able to overcome all strongholds. Knowing that the prayers and mysteries of the rosary come from the New Testament makes it the ultimate spiritual sword for the spiritual warrior. Interestingly, at the beginning of the rosary’s existence, many people began to wear it on the left side of their belt in order to signify that it was a spiritual sword. In medieval times, a knight would unsheathe his sword from his left side since most people are right-handed. This is why even today priests or sisters who wear the rosary as part of their religious habit almost always have it hanging on the left side of their habit.
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Another favorite book on the subject was written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker. In the introduction to his 2016 book Praying the Rosary for Spiritual Warfare he writes:
Consider darkness and cold. We perceive them as real, but darkness is nothing in itself. It is the absence of light. Likewise, although we shiver with cold, the cold is really only the absence of heat. Evil is similar. There is nothing positive or original about evil. Like cold and darkness, evil has no substance of itself. Evil is always either the absence of goodness, truth, and beauty, or it is a distortion and destruction of goodness, truth, and beauty.
Seeing evil in this way gives us the foundation for battling against evil. In spiritual warfare, we will not so much wrestle with evil itself – that would be to wrestle with shadows in the dark. The way to counter the dark is to light a lamp. The way to battle cold is to start a fire. Therefore, instead of wrestling the shadows in the dark, we battle against evil best by supporting in prayer everything that is beautiful, good, and true.
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Over on the GKCDaily blog, dedicated to the writing of G.K. Chesterton, I read an old post titled “The Revival of Philosophy—Why?” Taken from a book of essays first published in 1950 and titled The Common Man, I found that it spoke to me today in 2017. For example:
The best reason for a revival of philosophy is that unless a man has a philosophy certain horrible things will happen to him. He will be practical; he will be progressive; he will cultivate efficiency; he will trust in evolution; he will do the work that lies nearest; he will devote himself to deeds, not words. Thus struck down by blow after blow of blind stupidity and random fate, he will stagger on to a miserable death with no comfort but a series of catchwords; such as those which I have catalogued above. Those things are simply substitutes for thoughts. In some cases they are the tags and tail-ends of somebody else’s thinking. That means that a man who refuses to have his own philosophy will not even have the advantages of a brute beast, and be left to his own instincts.
Before those of you on the American political right look at these words and think derisively of elements of the American left with a smug look of derision, consider what followed:
I know these words will be received with scorn, and with gruff reassertion that this is no time for nonsense and paradox; and that what is really wanted is a practical man to go in and clear up the mess. And a practical man will doubtless appear, one of the unending succession of practical men; and he will doubtless go in, and perhaps clear up a few millions for himself and leave the mess more bewildering than before; as each of the other practical men has done. The reason is perfectly simple. This sort of rather crude and unconscious person always adds to the confusion; because lie himself has two or three different motives at the same moment, and does not distinguish between them. A man has, already entangled hopelessly in his own mind, (1) a hearty and human desire for money, (2) a somewhat priggish and superficial desire to be progressing, or going the way the world is going, (3) a dislike to being thought too old to keep up with the young people, (4) a certain amount of vague but genuine patriotism or public spirit, (5) a misunderstanding of a mistake made by Mr. H. G. Wells, in the form of a book on Evolution. When a man has all these things in his head, and does not even attempt to sort them out, he is called by common consent and acclamation a practical man. But the practical man cannot be expected to improve the impracticable muddle; for he cannot clear up the muddle in his own mind, let alone in his own highly complex community and civilisation. For some strange reason, it is the custom to say of this sort of practical man that “he knows his own mind”. Of course this is exactly what he does not know. He may in a few fortunate cases know what he wants, as does a dog or a baby of two years old; but even then he does not know why he wants it. And it is the why and the how that have to be considered when we are tracing out the way in which some culture or tradition has got into a tangle. What we need, as the ancients understood, is not a politician who is a business man, but a king who is a philosopher.
What I’ve observed, on social media at least, from my post situated between two factions of the country seemingly at war with each other is that there is very little deep thinking taking place on either side. The same insults and accusations are endlessly hurled blindly back and forth at each other. Indeed it seems to be one of the things both sides agree upon and have in common. I don’t have time to post examples as evidence and if I took the time to do so over the course of a few days would amass what should be an embarrassing amount of juvenile and petty jabs that appeal to base emotion and involves no thinking on the part of the audience. Chesterton continues:
Philosophy is merely thought that has been thought out. It is often a great bore. But man has no alternative, except between being influenced by thought that has been thought out and being influenced by thought that has not been thought out. The latter is what we commonly call culture and enlightenment today. But man is always influenced by thought of some kind, his own or somebody else’s; that of somebody he trusts or that of somebody he never heard of, thought at first, second or third hand; thought from exploded legends or unverified rumours; but always something with the shadow of a system of values and a reason for preference. A man does test everything by something. The question here is whether he has ever tested the test.
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Also worth reading: Anthony Esolen’s column on today’s Public Discourse titled After the Exile: Poetry and the Death of Culture.
Academe has largely become an institution devoted to the destruction of cultural memory. Most of my best freshmen Honors students have never heard of Tennyson, much less had their imaginations formed by his eminently humane and approachable poetry. That is no reflection on Tennyson in particular. They have also never heard of Milton, Wordsworth, Keats, and any number of the great artists in what is supposedly their mother tongue. “Who the heck is Spenser?” asked a friend of one of my old students now pursuing a Master’s degree in English at an elite university. That friend was studying for the same Master’s exam along with others who had never heard of Spenser or never read a thing he wrote.
We are a people now illiterate in a way that is unprecedented for the human race. We can decipher linguistic signs on a page, but we have no songs and immemorial stories in our hearts. The pagan Germanic warrior could not read, and where were the books for it anyway? But he had centuries of song in his mind, and he well knew of that specially gifted man, the scop, who could sing by heart many thousands of verses about the old heroes and their adventures, and could even compose new songs of his own: wordum wrixlan, weaving patterns of words that were as intricate as the vermiculate embellishments upon the hilt of a warrior’s sword.
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While 2017 is still young I think I’ve found the book that will wind up being the book of the year. Written by Vicki Burbach (who resides nearby in Omaha) How to Read Your Way to Heaven is a terrific resource for those who have always wanted an organized reading plan that sees them not just through Sacred Scripture, but also through the Catechism of the Catholic Church and dozens and dozens of spiritual classics. There is a 5-year reading plan, but Burbach also made a one and a three year plan for those who wish to devote a shorter period of time to their reading. Expect to hear more from me about this book as I progress through the 5-year plan, but in the meantime I thought I’d end with this portion from the book taken from page 16.
One need only watch the news for five minutes to know that this world has become a bastion of paganism more and more emboldened in its persecution of those who choose to follow Christ. Everywhere we turn, secularism is the new religion. Worse, the world is fast becoming, not merely secular, but anti-God—and not only anti-God, but anti-everything-that-even-remotely-relates-to-God.
Daily we are bombarded from every angle with messages that are clearly designed to remove us one step further from our Faith or to cripple us within it. Whether social situations at work or school, the news, television shows, movies, books, advertising, or—the ultimate temptation—social media, the influences on our daily lives do virtually nothing to draw us closer to our calling as Christians to live the life of Christ.
The only way to shield our hearts and minds from the lies of a hostile culture is to fill them with reinforcements before we head out to battle each day. Additionally, the more we fill our hearts with the love of Christ, the greater the light we bring to the darkness around us. Spiritual reading arms us for all those daily battles with negativity, temptation, and sin, filling our minds, hearts, and souls with truth, building us in Christ, and strengthening us for combat.
Spiritual reading brings us closer to Christ and provides a peace and joy that the world can never offer.