Monthly Archives: October 2011

Saints Simon and Jude

When we were just newly-married, my wife and I honeymooned at a wonderful little chalet in the mountains of Tennessee near… well… it was not really near anything.  I am sure that we have all heard of the “Great Jacksonville Metropolitan Area” or the “Great Orlando Metropolitan Area” or something to that effect.  The part of Tennessee in which we honeymooned referred to itself as the “Greater Tri-City Metropolitan Area.”  Poor things, they needed to group three cities together in order to get what could be called, using some generosity, a “Greater Metropolitan Area.”

Today is the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude.  Poor things, it seems you have to pair them up to get a reasonable feast day.  How unfortunate!  These men were Apostles; they were among the twelve.  Saints Peter and Paul have two feast days each, and St. Paul was not even one of the twelve!  So why do these two get lumped in together and who were they?

Part of the problem with these two apostles is that, among the twelve, each of them has someone with the same name who is more famous.  Of the 68 references to “Simon” in the New Testament, the overwhelming majority of them refer to Simon whom Our Lord renamed Peter.  So we have Simon, who is called Peter, “The Prince of the Apostles,” and that other guy, also named Simon.  Likewise, with Jude—which is just another name for Judas—the shadow of Judas Iscariot casts a heavy pall.  Both of these names were very common is Israel, both being names of one of the twelve tribes of Israel.  In fact, among the apostles, there were two Simon’s (Simon-Peter and Simon the Zealot), two Judas’ (Judas Iscariot and “the other” Judas) and two James’ (the brother of John and James the Less).  More to the point, each one of these names is also mentioned as the name of a brother of Jesus in St. Mark’s Gospel. (6:3)  They were very common names.

So what do we know about these men?  Really, we know next to nothing.  Local tradition abounds with accounts of what happened with them.  Apparently, they went off together and ploughed the missionary fields in either Egypt or Persia.  On legend says, St. Simon was sawed in half, another that he died in a Roman rebellion.  St. Jude may have been clubbed to death or beheaded with an axe.  Unfortunately, their deaths are as obscure as their lives.  It is quite uncertain if St. Jude the Apostle penned the Epistle of St. Jude or if it was written by someone else with the same name.  It is a possibility, but we cannot know for sure.

We should not feel to sorry for St. Jude, though.  Since his death, he has become the patron saint of so-called “lost causes.”  One such “lost cause” is that of children who are afflicted with Cancer.  As such, when entertainer Danny Thomas founded a children’s hospital, he named it after St. Jude.  There are patron saints for just about everything imaginable under the sun.  I do believe, however, that sick children have a very special place in the heart of Our Lord.  Far from being the patron saint of scholars or accountants, St. Jude intercedes on behalf of sick children and their distressed parents.  I imagine that intercessory oversight of that magnitude shows that St. Jude is truly quite honored in Heaven.  The idea that Our Lord would entrust the prayers of and for sick children to the watchful eye of St. Jude means that he is perhaps the most highly honored apostle of them all.

O God, we thank you for the glorious company of the apostles, and especially on this day for Simon and Jude; and we pray that, as they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Saint Jude, Hope of the Hopeless, Pray for me.

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St. James the Just and the Ministry of Reputation

St. James the Just is also known to us as the Adelphotheos, Brother of God, and the Protepiscopos, or First Bishop, referring to his early leadership in the Jerusalem church.  When Our Lord passed through Nazareth, the locals rejected him saying, “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?  And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” (St. Matthew 13:55-56)  Later on, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, St. James became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem.  This is evidenced in various Scriptures.  In the first, after Peter has been miraculously released from prison, he finds refuge in the house of Mary, the mother of John-Mark, and says, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.”  (Acts 12:17)  Keep in mind that this cannot refer to James, the brother of John, the other Son of Thunder, because he was put to death by the sword in verse 2 of the same chapter.  The second Scripture that testifies to James’ leadership in the Church of Jerusalem is Acts 15, wherein it is St. James to whom the Apostles defer and who gives judgment in the Council of Jerusalem.  Additionally, in his Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul declares that James, Cephas (Peter) and John are “Pillars” of the Church in Jerusalem.  (2:9)  Finally, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul tells us that, after His resurrection, Our Lord “was seen by James, then by all the Apostles.” (15:7)

St. James is also attested in extra-Biblical sources as well.  Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, records in chapter 9, Book 20 of his Antiquities of the Jews, that Ananus, the High Priest, “brought before them [the Sanhedrin] the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James.”  This happened after the death of Porcius Festus, the Roman Governor of Judea (see Acts 24:27) but before the arrival of the new governor, Albinus.  The convening of the Sanhedrin technically required the consent of the governor and many were outraged at what was seen by some as the murder of James the Just.  Josephus suggests that possibly the outrage that followed the martyrdom of St. James might have been responsible for the riots in Jerusalem that prompted the Emperor Vespasian to begin the Jewish War that ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Temple.

The early church historian Hegesippus also speaks of St. James, suggesting that he was a Nazarene who never partook of wine, ate flesh, or took a razor to his head.  Hegesippus says that St. James wore only linen garments and was in the Temple so often, praying on his knees, that his knees became like those of camels!  Hegesippus believes that the High Priest took him to the pinnacle of the Temple in hopes that he might quell an uprising forming, since it was the time of Passover, and St. James was so highly respected.  St. James, true to form, preached the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ and was thrown from the Temple.  Having survived the fall, the remaining mob decided to stone St. James for heresy, yet, before they could, he crawled to his knees and cried out, “I beseech Thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.”

There are some very interesting points to these narratives.  The first is that St. James was so incredibly renown for his faithfulness and piety that even the Pharisees and Sadducees respected him.  He was continually in prayer, so much so that his knees became practically deformed!  The Pinnacle of the Temple to which he was taken, was not the summit or highest tower within the Temple courtyard; rather it was the southeast corner of the Temple’s outer wall.  From there, someone who was thrown down would fall, not to the courtyard below, but to the bottom of the Kidron Valley, some 450 feet below.  St. James found himself in the same place his Most Holy Brother found Himself some thirty years prior when Satan took him up to the same place in order to tempt Our Lord.  Saint James, miraculously surviving the fall, echoes the words of his Brother in St. Luke 23:34, praying for those who would murder him.

What does this have to do with us?  May we be so dedicated in prayer, so mindful of justice and the needs of others, that even those who would condemn us call to us for our wisdom and insight.  May they heed our words and change their lives because they see in us the Holy God of All Creation who calls us all to be holy.  Finally, when we face persecution, may we, in every way, echo the words of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Grant, O God, that following the example of your servant James the Just, brother of our Lord, your Church may give itself continually to prayer and to the reconciliation of all who are at variance and enmity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and ever.  Amen.

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St. Luke and the Problem of Identity

St. Luke is one of the most prolific authors in the New Testament.  Having written both the Gospel According to St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke has contributed as much to the New Testament as St. Paul and St. John.  Yet, in spite of this massive contribution, we know very little about the Evangelist and that which we do know of him must be pieced together in fragments.

St. Paul mentions St. Luke on three separate occasions.  In both his Epistle to the Colossians and the Epistle to Philemon, St. Paul speaks of “Luke the beloved physician” sending his greetings along with a host of other co-laborers including Epaphras, Aristarchus, Demas, and John-Mark (St. Mark the Evangelist).  Nevertheless, by the time St. Paul wrote his second Epistle to St. Timothy, one of the apostle’s very last letters, he laments that “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica…  Only Luke is with me.” (4:11-12)

There are, however, some tantalizing clues as to what role St. Luke played in the evangelism of the Mediterranean hidden away in Acts of the Apostles.  There are four occasions in Acts where the author, St. Luke, “slips up” and begins using the first person plural “we” instead of the third person plural “they.”  Basically, St. Luke “forgot” that he was not supposed to include himself in the text and basically admits that he was there by saying “we did this” and “we did that” instead of saying “they did it.”  These passages are from Troas to Philippi on the second missionary journey (16:10-17), the ministry in Macedonia, Troas, and Miletus on the third missionary journey (20:5-15), the final journey back to Jerusalem (21:1-18), and St. Paul’s voyage to Rome (27:1-28:16).

That is still precious little on which to piece together a life story, but it does lead some to draw a few conclusions.  Many believe that St. Luke joined St. Paul’s missionary team in Troas, just before the Apostle headed into Europe for the first time.  He most likely did not accompany St. Paul on the brief trip back to Jerusalem and Antioch, but worked with the Apostle extensively upon his return and long stay in Ephesus.  St. Luke then traveled back to Jerusalem with the Apostle, was present for much if not all of his trials, and journey with him all the way to Rome, remaining with the imprisoned Apostle all the way to his martyrdom.

Consider all those moments where St. Luke was present.  Imagine hearing all of those incredible sermons and testimonies.  Ponder what it would have been like to have been one of the missionaries that was known throughout the Mediterranean as being part of the team.  Yet St. Luke’s name is recorded only three times in the entire New Testament.  He wrote two of the largest books in the New Testament?  His name appears nowhere in either book.  Why?  How can this be?

St. Luke knew something that we would all do well to keep in mind.  It is not about “me.”  It is about the work that God is doing.  It is about spreading the Gospel and advancing the Kingdom of God.  St. Luke did not attach his name to his works nor write himself into his stories because they were not his stories; they were God’s stories and how His kingdom was spreading.  In fact, that is the case with all four Gospels.  St. Mark is never named in the Gospel; St. John refuses to refer to himself by name; only St. Matthew includes his own story in the Gospel.  Up through the Middle Ages, most texts were anonymous.  They were all anonymous because the authors knew that it was not about them; it was about the truth.  They were only a part of the story and, God have mercy, they could have been replaced.

In our day and age, name, reputation, and presence are extremely important.  People judge their success and failure based on how many followers they have on Twitter and how many friends they have on Facebook.  The fact of the matter is that it is not about how many people follow you; it is about how many people you help to follow Christ.  May the Holy Spirit help keep us humble and ensure that we never labor for anything less than the greater glory of God, Ad Majorem Gloria Dei.

Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to declare in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church the same love and power to heal, to the praise and glory of your Name; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

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St. Philip and the Best-Laid Plans

In his 1875 poem “To A Mouse,” legendary Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / gang aft agley.”  Some sixty years later, John Steinbeck would paraphrase the lines to say “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry” and take is as the title of one of his most famous works.  Taking nothing away from Burns or Steinbeck, Holy Scripture has a line which echoes the very same sentiment.  The Prophet Isaiah tells us,

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (55:8-9)

We can see these words ring to in the life of St. Philip the Deacon, also known as St. Philip the Evangelist.  Therein lies the first clue about the difference between our plans and God’s plans.

The sixth chapter of The Acts of the Apostles records that, as the Apostolic Church grew in Jerusalem, a complaint rose of from the “Hellenists.”  The Hellenists were those of Greek heritage who had become Jewish and, in this case, ultimately Christian.  The Apostles were both ethnically and religiously Jewish.  There was discord in the earliest Church because the Hellenists alleged that their widows were not being cared for in the daily distribution.  With this in mind, the Apostles declared, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables.  Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (vv. 2-4)  In order to accomplish this goal, they chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas to be the very first deacons in the history of the Church.

Truth be told, we know virtually nothing about the majority of these men.  Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon and Parmenas are never heard from again in Scripture and what little we hear from them in various church histories are conflicting and unreliable.  According to St. Irenaeus of Lyons and St. Hippolytus of Rome, Deacon Nicholas turned from the faith and began teaching the heresy mentioned in the second chapter of the Book of Revelations.  Many church fathers traced the heresy of the Nicolatians to the apostate Deacon Nicholas.

That leaves us only the Deacons Stephen and Philip, both of whom feature prominently in The Acts of the Apostles.   St. Luke tells us that St. Stephen “full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.   And they [the synagogue of the freedmen] were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.” (6:8, 10)  St. Stephen then stands up before his accusers and gives one of the most amazing speeches in all of the Acts of the Apostles before being stoned to death.

After St. Stephen’s death, Saul began to “make havoc of the church” and, as a result, many of the Christians were scattered and went preaching the Gospel where ever they went. (Acts 8:3-4)  St. Philip was one of those who was scattered in the early persecution.  The remainder of the eighth chapter of Acts of the Apostles recounts St. Philip’s evangelical activities outside of Jerusalem.  The good deacon preached the Gospel in Samaria and converted Simon the Sorcerer; by the power of the Holy Spirit ran up to and overtook a chariot before converting and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch (traditionally “founding” the Ethiopian Church); and finally he preached he was from Azotus to Caesarea where he remained.  The very next time we hear of St. Philip he is in Caesarea when St. Paul passes through that city on his way to Jerusalem.  There St. Luke makes reference to St. Philip being both one of the seven deacons, and evangelist, and the father of four virgin daughters who prophesied.  (21:1-9)

Consider the incredible ministry of St. Philip.  When he preached the Gospel in Samaria, “the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed.” (8:6-7)  Sorcerers cast away their books at his preaching.  Empowered by the Spirit of God he was able to run in such a manner as to overtake a horse-drawn chariot, then was spirited away by God to a city 23 miles away!  All of this, keep in mind, from a man who was called to make sure that widows were getting their daily distribution of alms.

When God calls us, we have a plan for our lives.  When the bishop ordains us, he has a plan of our lives and ministries.  Nevertheless, God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways.  For as the Heavens are high above the earth, so are My thoughts than your thoughts and My ways than your ways.”  We have every reason to believe that the Apostles were seeking the Lord when they selected these men to be the first deacons.  We might even go so far as to say that they were in consensus that it was the will of God.  Maybe it was the case that they could get seven men to agree to handle the alms distribution, but getting seven men to preach the Gospel until they were stoned to death, or to preach the Gospel in Samaria and Gaza and relocate their family to Caesarea was not quite so easy.  I know a pastor who has frequently said, “If I had known, all those years ago, where God was going to take me, there was no way I would have ever said yes to ordination.”

We think we know where we are heading and to what ministry we are called.  Sometimes we are right.  Then again, sometimes are thoughts and His thoughts are not quite on the same page.  Nevertheless, God also says, “I know the plans that I have for you, plans of blessing and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)  May we have the grace to lay aside our plans and follow through with the plans He has for us, just like St. Philip.

Holy God, no one is excluded from your love; and your truth transforms the minds of all who seek you: As your servant Philip was led to embrace the fullness of your salvation and to bring the stranger to Baptism, so give us all the grace to be heralds of the Gospel, proclaiming your love in Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: Part 2

In my previous post, I presented what I called an Evangelical defense of the Rosary.  In that post, I hope that I dispensed with arguments against praying the Rosary.  However, laying aside arguments of “why not” is hardly the same as giving a positive reason why someone should pray the Rosary.  In this post I will attempt to do just that.

First off, the Rosary is a tool of meditation and prayer.  Now, since the seventies when Eastern meditation came into vogue with the New Age movement (and TV shows like Kung-Fu, Martial Arts and Far Eastern cinema), meditation has had a very negative connotation among Christians.  Many Christians, especially conservative Evangelicals, associate meditation with some foul element of Eastern religions that will invariably lead good, godly Christians into false worship of foreign “gods.”  With something like Hindu transcendental meditation, this could be true.  With Christian meditation, however, this could not be further from the truth!

Christian meditation is found in the very beginning of Holy Scripture.  Genesis 24:63 says, “Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening.”  The Lord Himself spoke to Joshua, the son of Nun, saying, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8)  Within the Book of Psalms there are thirteen separate passages that refer to meditation including six references in Psalm 119 alone.  In his closing address to the Church at Philippi, St. Paul instructs, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”  Lastly, St. Paul advised St. Timothy to meditate as a tool of spiritual growth.  (I Timothy 4:15)

Meditation is a method of prayer in which Christians reflect on the greatness of God and his glorious deeds in the creation and redemption of the world.  In meditation a Christian prayerfully considers these passages of Scripture and reflects on how God moved, how that event impacted the lives of believers then and how it impacts their own lives now.  As the Jews were called to meditate on the Law (the Torah), Christians are called to meditate on the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The Rosary is a tool that allows us to do just that.

The Rosary itself is made up of a Crucifix and four beads which hang off of a loop of 55 beads.  This loop is made up of five decades, with each decade being one larger bead and ten smaller beads.  It is from the ten smaller beads that the name “decade” originates.  When praying with or meditating with the Rosary, one holds a bead in between their fingers while praying the Lord’s Prayer on the larger beads and a “Hail Mary” one each of the smaller beads, before concluding with a “Glory Be.”  While one has the immediate benefit of simply reciting these prayers, they also serve as a time frame to meditate on each of the particular events of the life of Christ that are called “mysteries.”

The Rosary is divided into four sets of five mysteries.  The sets of mysteries are the Joyful Mysteries, events of great exultation regarding the birth and early life of Christ; the Luminous Mysteries, events which shed light on the identity of Christ from His own ministry; the Sorrowful Mysteries, the agonizing events between the Garden of Gethsemane and the Crucifixion; and the Glorious Mysteries, events which occurred on Easter and afterwards.

The Joyful Mysteries are the Annunciation of the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:26-38), the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to St. Elizabeth (St. Luke 1:39-56), the Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 2:1-21), the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 2:22-38), and the Finding of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple (St. Luke 2:41-52).  The Luminous Mysteries are the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ at the River Jordan (St. Matthew 3:13-16), the Wedding at Cana (St. John 2:1-11), the Preaching of the Kingdom of God (St. Mark 1:14-15), the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Matthew 17:1-8), and the Institution of the Holy Eucharist (St. Matthew 26).  The Sorrowful Mysteries are the Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (St. Matthew 26:36-56), the Scourging at the Pillar (St. Matthew 27:26), the Crowning with the Crown of Thorns (St. Matthew 27:27-31), the Way of the Cross (St. Matthew 27:32), and the Crucifixion (St. Matthew 27:33-56).  The Glorious Mysteries are the Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. John 20:1-29), the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ (St. Luke 24:36-53), the Descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-41), the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (please view this LINK for a thorough discussion of that topic.), and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven (Revelation 12:1-6).

So, as you can see, all of the subjects upon which one meditates are drawn from passages in the New Testament and are events in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ (or, in the case of the last two mysteries, something He did for His blessed mother after His Ascension).  By meditating on the Holy Mysteries we are, in fact, meditating on the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are focusing on key events in the life of Our Savior and reflecting on how they pertain to our life.  In Holy Scripture, St. Paul directs us to meditate on whatever is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report.  What could be more true than Truth Incarnate?  Who could be more noble than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  Who could be purer than Him who knew no sin?  What could be lovelier than God who is love Incarnate?  What could be of better report than the Good News?  Scripture of both the Old and New Testaments enjoin us to meditate.  As Christians we are called to meditate on the life of Christ.  The Holy Rosary is a prayerful way of responding to a Scriptural responsibility.

Praying and meditating with the Rosary concludes with the following prayer:

O God, whose only-begotten Son by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech Thee, that by meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary: An Evangelical Defense of the Rosary

Friday, October 7th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. The Feast commemorates the decisive victory of the Holy League over Muslim forces in the 1571 Battle of Lepanto. The Holy League credited victory, a catastrophic loss for the Muslim forces, to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary since the league had sought her aid through devoutly praying the Rosary. Since the victory was such an overwhelming defeat of anti-Christian forces, Pope Pius V instituted the Feast of Our Lady of Victory. Two years later, Pope Gregory VIII renamed the day the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

History of the Rosary itself dates to at least three hundred years prior to the Battle of Lepanto.  According to legend, while in Prouille, in 1208, St. Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order of Preachers, received a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. While desperately seeking the Lord in an attempt to discern why he was having so little success in converting the Albigensian heretics, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Dominic and gave him the Holy Rosary as a tool of spiritual warfare against the heretics. As he and his disciples began devoutly praying the Rosary, the spiritual tides turned and the Dominicans began experiencing victory after victory, conversion after conversion. This, in part, explains why the Holy Rosary is a standard element of the Dominican habit, just as are the white tunic and scapular and black cloak and cappa.

There are a great many Christians throughout the world who insist that the Rosary is a wicked tool of false religion. They insist that it is idolatry and worshipping some false goddess. This is absolutely not true. In fact, praying with the Rosary or meditating with the Rosary is, in a way, praying with the Holy Scriptures.

There are only a few prayers that one needs to pray the Rosary: The Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be.  The Apostles’ Creed is the most basic baptismal creed of the Church.  Every believer recites this creed either at their Baptism or Confirmation, and at the renewal of baptismal vows whenever any believer receives these sacraments.  Who could raise an objection to the recitation of the Apostles’ Creed in prayer?

In praying the Rosary, one prays the Lord’s Prayer six times. Who can complain about this? Did not Our Lord Himself instruct us saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray:” (St. Matthew 6:9) Who would dare to say that we should not pray using the very words Our Lord told His apostles to use?

The heart of most people’s issue with the Rosary is the use of the Hail Mary, yet this is another prayer that is fully grounded in Holy Scripture. The prayer reads, “Hail, Mary, full of grace. Blessed art thou amongst women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.” Taking the prayer phrase by phrase we see that St. Luke’s Gospel (1:28) gives us the Angelic Salutation of “Hail Mary, full of Grace.” St. Luke again provides the words “Blessed art thou among women and blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (1:42) St. Elizabeth would not yet have know Our Lord’s name, but we include the Holy Name because “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.” (Philippians 2:10) The phrase “Holy Mary, Mother of God” comes from the third ecumenical council, the Council of Ephesus in 431. That council affirmed the universal teaching that Jesus Christ is God. Therefore, if Jesus is God and the Blessed Virgin Mary was Jesus’ mother, then, by definition, she was also God’s mother since Jesus is, in fact, God. She was, of course, holy because “holy” means set apart for a specific purpose. Mary’s purpose was unique in all of humanity and clearly she was set apart and, therefore, holy.

Some people raise an issue by saying “why would you ask some dead person to pray for you?” They say, “The only person I need to go to the Father on my behalf is Jesus Himself.” Yet those same people have no qualms against going to a trusted brother or sister and asking them to pray for them. They might say, “I’m sick, brother. Would you pray for me?” or, “My husband is travelling next week. Would you agree with me that God give him travelling mercies?” Who could fault them for asking a brother or sister to stand with them in prayer? In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus responds to a question from the Sadducees saying, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (St. Matthew 22:31-32) Those who are dead in Christ are alive with the Lord, for He is the God of the living! If you will ask any other brother to pray for you, why not ask a saintly forbearer who has gone before us? Why not ask His holy mother to pray for us? Take note: you are not asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to grant you anything! This prayer is not “Holy Mary, give me what I want,” but rather, “pray for me, a sinner.” Surely, none can object to a Christian calling himself a sinner. St. Paul tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) It is only by Christ’s blood that we are washed white as snow. Without Him, we are miserable sinners. I know that when my time comes I definitely want as many people as I can get praying for me. Again, why not ask Our Lord’s Holy Mother? Remember the wedding at Cana? (St. John 2:1-11)

There is also the prayer “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the Beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.” There are seventeen separate verses in the Book of the Revelation that refer to God receiving glory in heaven. Our Lord Himself declared, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (St. Matthew 28:19) Again, what objection could be raised to ascribing glory to God? Was He not glorified in the beginning? (See St. John 1:1 and Genesis 1:1) Is there some strange rule which would prevent us from glorifying Him today? Will He not be glorified at the end of time? (See The Book of the Revelation.)

Thus, we can see that the prayers that are said in praying (with) the Rosary are not objectionable, but rather are thoroughly Biblically based.  Nevertheless, dispelling objections to something is nowhere near the same things are convincing someone that it is a good idea.  Later on this week, I will post another article on why praying the Rosary is not only not idolatrous, but why it is a powerful spiritual devotion afterall.

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