The invisible decade on my rosary

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the different types of religious congregations that help make up the Catholic Church. Writing it was like spiritual therapy because for years I have been discerning where my spiritual talents could be most useful, which Saint could mentor me towards earning my heavenly crown and those of my family.  St. Francis? Our lady of Mount Carmel?  St. Dominic? St. Ignatius?

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Big Therapist in the sky has astounded me once again with His wisdom.  Upon praying the rosary, a sense of belongingness that was silently coaxing me towards a particular religious charism shone through… and it came in the most peculiar way:

This is my rosary.  It was a birthday gift from my wife that I received back in 2010.

Did you notice something different about my rosary?  It has six decades.

Why? Wouldn’t that anti-liturgical?  Truthfully, I don’t know.  I’ll let you battle that out in the combox.

I learned how to pray this sixth decade from a very lesser-known religious congregation called the Christian Brothers.  They are consecrated laymen who vow poverty, chastity and obedience to the superior Brother (not a Bishop) who then answers to the Pope.  They are teachers and dedicate their bodies and souls to the ongoing construction of the God’s Kingdom as teachers.  Since I am a teacher, I gravitated to their founder’s spirituality.  St. John the Baptist De La Salle, while not very well known in the U.S. is worldwide thanks to his Brethren.

Back to that sixth mystery. It turns out that the Lasallian rosary is always prayed with a sixth decade which bears no evangelical mystery.  Instead, it is prayed to strengthen the community through consecration to Mary and her Son, Jesus.

“The sixth and final decade is dedicated to the Lasallian community which I love so very much.”

These are the words I’ve recited thousands of times prior to beginning my secret sixth decade.  Now, it is not longer a secret.  I am Lasallian.

Here are a few problems with that:

The closest Lasallian community is located 3 hours away from me so I can’t be considered an “official” part of their community.

The Lasallians have no “Third Order”, so there is no real enrollment into the community besides what we experienced while serving with them as missionaries.

Finally, almost nobody knows who they are in the U.S. which makes it hard to connect with other Lasallians.

And so, I have no real merit in saying I’m lasallian, but I sure as heck hope that merit is earned by living as one.

What about you?  Have you ever had a calling to serve but couldn’t realize it?  Do you have a secret prayer that is hooking you up with some extra graces?

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Accountability- a dangerous word for many, the key to success for all

I recently sat down to lunch with a colleague of mine to ponder the problems of the world and figure out what we can put into motion to solve a few of them (because that’s what teachers do during their lengthy summer vacation).  I came out of the restaurant with two truths-

Photo by David Roseborough @ Flickr Creative Commons

1) the tacos at El Ganadero on the northeast side of Grand Rapids are undeniably flavorful and

2) everyone in the world needs someone to keep them accountable.

It is true.  It doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer, doctor, teacher, student, writer or professional base jumper, if you don’t have someone motivating/ guiding you to be the best you can be, you will inevitably become mediocre.  And mediocrity spawns a life of disillusionment, fear, and spite towards those who have people keeping them accountable.

Here’s the irony, accountability requires people to humble themselves in the criticism of another.  This means that a certain degree of trust must be established in an accountable relationship.  Trust and humility are two aspects of life that most would prefer to do without.  The “I don’t need nobody” and “I can do this myself” attitude springs forth and a series of unfortunate events ensues.

My colleague and I talk often about our teaching crafts and we have scratched the surface of what our writing means to us.  He, very unknowingly, keeps me accountable in these two portions of my life.

My wife keeps me accountable as a husband and father.  She even gives me time to write and go to adoration to foster not only my spirituality, but that of my family.

So who keeps me accountable to God?  That is the question I have meditated on for many years now.

My wife?  To the (GREAT, WONDERFUL & AMAZING) extent that the sacrament of marriage allows, of course.

My parish priest? En persona Christi during Mass and Confession, yes.

But even with such spiritual giants as these keeping me somewhat accountable, how can I seek even more spiritual growth?

Answer- get a spiritual director.

After reading countless biographical and autobiographical pieces on the Saints, there is one common strand almost all of them share besides loving God more than all things- they all had spiritual directors.

And so, this Monday, I have my first meeting with a spiritual direction pro.  Let’s hope it goes well.  I’ll let you know what we come up with.

What about you?  What are your dreams? Who keeps you accountable for striving for them?  Do you have a spiritual director?  If so, how is it going for you?

Discerning the Will of God

Since the beginning of time, the will of God has been contemplated by the greatest of kings to the lowliest of peasants. We ask the same questions today as they did in the past, “Am I on the right track to holiness?” “What must I do to please my God?” “How do I know that what I am doing is what God wants me to do?”

These are questions that we cannot answer alone; we need Jesus to help us find them. Thus, we search for ways to seek Him out so that we can better understand the mysteries of His Will. We do this so as to receive His wisdom via the most prized Gift He can give to us: His grace- an understanding of His immense love. This grace is the key to discerning God’s Will in our lives.

As Catholics, we have an insurmountable amount of ways in which God allows us accumulate such graces. Here are just a few of the most popular:

The Mass: At Mass, we listen to Christ through Sacred scripture and experience Him physically through Eucharistic Communion.

Adoration: While in an Adoration Chapel, we pay homage to our Lord by being with Him physically and consulting with Him about His will for our lives.

The Sacraments: Through the spiritual gifts of Baptism, Communion, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick, we come closer to Christ in our vocations as well as in our daily lives. We experience His teachings closer than ever before.

Prayer: While contemplating His spiritual presence within us, we meditate on His will for us in silence. We reflect on His mysterious love and become enamored by it, especially when we are willing to listen to His words as opposed to filling the conversation with our own.  (A well prayed Rosary is one of the best ways to really focus on His words instead of our own.)

In all of these activities, there is one common theme that all of these activities share: the presence of God. When we place ourselves inside His presence, we are more tuned in to His spiritual wavelengths and thus have better reception of the plans He shares with us. The more we are in His presence, the more we can learn from Him. The more we learn from Him, the more we understand His will.

In a couple of weeks, new students will be filling up our desks to learn from us. May we recognize God’s presence in them so that we can receive the graces necessary to teach with the faith and zeal that characterizes us as Christian teachers. When we do this constantly, we no longer discern the will of God, we participate freely in it.

Live Jesus in our hearts forever!