Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Sorrowful Mysteries at Planned Parenthood

Last fall, for the first time, I prayed in front of Planned Parenthood during the 40 Days For Life campaign.  I was a bit fearful (Will I get arrested?), but the experience was humbling and incredibly moving as I joined a group praying the Rosary on the sidewalk.

After the 40 Days campaign was over, I often found myself driving to Planned Parenthood and praying on the sidewalk by myself.  I didn't have any "Choose Life" signs, but I did have my bright red Rosary dangling in front of me as I prayed.  I don't know if anyone realized what I was doing, but I was proud to be a silent prayer warrior, speaking for those tiny babies whose voices were silenced before they could ever be heard.

Today I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries on the sidewalk as Wednesday's suggested Glorious Mysteries just didn't seem right.  As I meditated on each mystery, I reflected on how abortion tied in with Jesus' sorrows.

In the Agony of the Garden, I imagine Jesus must have felt a profound agony at the thought of mothers callously murdering their own children.  This thought brought to mind a statue I saw several years ago when my family was traveling through Texas on I-40.  We saw a giant cross in the distance, and I told my husband to pull over and stop.  To our surprise, there was a ring of beautiful statues around the cross, depicting the Stations of the Cross.  There was also a statue of Jesus on one knee in front of a gravestone.  In His hand, he held a tiny fetus, and the gravestone honored the millions of babies who had been aborted.  It was so moving, and I think of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, weeping over the loss of these precious lives.  (You can see a photo of the statue at the Cross Ministries site.  Scroll down the page a bit.  While you're on the site, be sure to check out the other photos, especially those of the construction of the cross.  If you ever pass through Groom, Texas, on I-40 you simply MUST stop and see it.)

As I prayed the second decade and meditated on Jesus' scourging, I thought about how much those tiny babies suffer during an abortion.  They are scourged by their own mothers in what should be the safest place on earth, the womb.  I can't even begin to imagine the horror as I fervently beg for an end to this holocaust.

During the third mystery, the Crowning of Thorns, I think of how the soldiers mocked Jesus as they pretended to do Him homage.  Abortion mocks the sanctity of life, it mocks the sacrament of marriage and it mocks the Blessed Trinity of which a family is an image. 

Abortion is a heavy cross to bear, as I meditate during the Fourth Sorrowful Mystery.  Women who have had abortions report depression and grief among other negative effects.  The person often forgotten is the father of the child, who must also deal with grief.  There is an incredibly moving video on youtube by rapper Flipsyde who raps a tale of grief on the "would have been" birthday of his aborted child.

Meditating on the Fifth Sorrowful Mystery gives me renewed hope as the virtue that shines forth in The Crucifixion is Mercy.  We must pray for mercy for those who have abortions, those who encourage others to have abortions, the doctors, nurses and administrators who run abortion clinics and those who cry for a woman's "right to choose." 

Our prayers can be powerful pleas to change hearts and minds.  If you can't pray the Rosary outside an abortion clinic, then please pray your next Rosary for an end to abortion and for those poor helpless babies who have no choice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Holy Face of Jesus in the Sorrowful Mysteries

Don't you just love those first signs of spring this time of year?  The sky is just a bit lighter each morning when you wake up and the sun begins to feel more warm and welcoming.  Birds start to appear again, and the winter boots and coats start their migration to the back of the closet.

I decided to go for a walk in the sunshine, and I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries as I hiked up and down the long, steep driveway to our home.  Occasionally, to help with my meditation, I'll view the mysteries I'm praying through a sort of "lens," for lack of a better word.  Today, I reflected on the Holy Face of Jesus in the Sorrowful Mysteries.

In the Agony of the Garden, Jesus' face is human perfection-- He is still the "unblemished lamb," about to be led to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).  I imagine that His eyes are gentle and loving but probe to the depths of one's soul.  As He fervently prays, His holy face is lifted to heaven in agony as he pleads for the cup of suffering to be taken away.  Yet, He obeys the will of His Father rather than the weakness of His human flesh.

By the time Jesus is scourged at the pillar, His face is likely bruised and battered by the enemies among His own people.  The cruel whips of the Roman soldiers increase the damage as they strike His head and face, tearing flesh away and causing unbearable suffering.  Yet Jesus patiently endures this torture, all the while looking upon those who beat Him with love and mercy.

When Jesus is mockingly crowned with thorns by the Roman soldiers, He still looks upon these pagan men with love and mercy.  The sharp thorns pierce His scalp and forehead, causing blood to run down His face and into His eyes.  How could these men not be moved by His loving and kind countenance, despite the swelling and bruises that disfigured His holy face?

During the Carrying of the Cross, Jesus looks at several people on the way, profoundly affecting each one.  The most painful meeting must have been with His own beloved mother.  Can you imagine the sword of sorrow that pierced her Immaculate Heart when she looked upon the face of her beloved Son?  Simon the Cyrenean, an unwilling bystander, must have looked upon the Holy Face and been profoundly affected.  We know that Simon's sons were involved in the early Church, and I'm sure he told the story of carrying the cross with the Savior to anyone who would listen.  Veronica, a woman brave enough to push past the soldiers, weeps as she offers her veil to Jesus so that He can wipe the blood from His eyes, leaving an imprint on her veil as well as on her heart.  The women of Jerusalem weep as Jesus passes by, but He turns His Holy Face to them and tells them not to weep for Him but for themselves and their children.

By the time Jesus is crucified and hangs on the cross, His Holy Face calls to mind the words of the prophet Isaiah:

"There was in Him no stately bearing to make us look at Him, nor appearance that would attract us to Him.  He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held Him in no esteem.  Yet it was our infirmities that He bore, our sufferings that He endured, While we thought of Him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.  But He was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by His stripes we were healed." (Isaiah 53:2-5)

The crowd turned their faces from Him, just as we often do.  Pray the Rosary, every day if possible, and your reward will be to see that Holy Face in all its glory in eternity.

Related links:
Website devoted to The Holy Face of Jesus

St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower) was very devoted to the Holy Face.  Here's a link to her Holy Face Prayer for Sinners

Monday, February 14, 2011

Walking the Joyful Mysteries

As the author of The Rosary Workout, I like to practice what I preach and pray the Rosary during my workouts.  I've prayed the Rosary while outside biking, hiking, running, swimming and walking.  I've prayed the Rosary in the gym on the elliptical trainer, the Stairmaster, the rowing machine, the treadmill and the Spinning bike.  Although I usually pray the mysteries that are traditionally designated for each day of the week (Monday and Saturday - Joyful, Tuesday and Friday - Sorrowful, Wednesday and Sunday - Glorious, and Thursday - Luminous), I occasionally mix it up a bit.  If my workout is going to be touch and grueling, I'll pray the Sorrowful Mysteries as meditating on Jesus' suffering makes my own more bearable.  If the weather is particularly beautiful outside, I might pray the Glorious Mysteries.  If I'm going to walk or hike, then the Joyful Mysteries are my favorite choice.

The Joyful Mysteries involve quite a lot of walking!  Although The Annunciation is a pretty sedentary mystery, I imagine that Mary would likely have gone for a walk after the Angel Gabriel left, just to process the amazing news she had just heard.  Then she would have quickly prepared for her journey to visit Elizabeth in The Visitation.  Mary lived in Nazareth and would have had to walk about 67 miles to the hill country where Elizabeth lived.  On the way, I imagine that she prayed and reflected on the Scriptures, particularly Hannah's canticle in 1 Samuel 2:1-10.  When Mary bursts forth with her beautiful Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-55), it's a completion of Hannah's cry to the Lord thousands of years earlier.

The Third Joyful Mystery also involves quite a bit of walking since the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 70 miles..  Mary is usually depicted riding on a donkey in artwork, but that is not likely as St. Joseph was a poor man and probably could not afford a donkey.  Imagine Mary's excitement and joy as she awaited the birth of her Divine Son.  She quietly trusted that God would provide a suitable place as St. Joseph patiently sought shelter for his family. 

The next journey for the Holy Family was a trip from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for The Presentation, a fairly short journey of about 5 miles.  On the way, Mary probably carried Jesus for part of the time, marveling that she was taking God's own Son to the Temple to present Him back to His Heavenly Father.

The final journey of the Joyful Mysteries is the return trip from Jerusalem to Nazareth, a journey of about 120 miles.  According to the account in Luke 2:420-52  Mary and Joseph has already traveled for a day before they realized that He was missing.  Then they walked for an additional three days searching for Him.  When I walk during this mystery, I pick up my pace as Mary must have, frantic with worry.

Next time you're out walking, pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and walk in Mary's footsteps.  If you get distracted, simply imagine Mary walking next to you and ask her to help you better comprehend the depth of these mysteries as she leads you closer to Christ.

Related link:

I really enjoyed this site with detailed information on the Miles That Jesus and Mary Walked.

My recent articles:

Get your children excited about exercise!  I have plenty of tips in my latest column on,
Ideas for Fun Family Fitness

Do you need help to convince someone not to use birth control?  I found a wonderful parallel in the story of Moses and the Burning Bush which inspired me to write an article for The Integrated Catholic Life e-magazine, A Lesson on Birth Control From.... Moses?