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Lectio Divina: Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God (2017)

This Sunday we will celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. It’s a Holy Day of Obligation that falls on a Sunday this year. I always love those, not because it means I don’t have to plan to attend Mass a different day besides Sunday, but because there are people who don’t often come for HDO that will get to experience this beautiful Mass this Sunday. I always hope it will inspire them to attend again the next year when this Solemnity will fall on a Monday instead.

Regardless, I love singing the Marian hymns and having the chance to give glory and praise to Mary for her role in salvation history. And she is our beautiful mother, too. Here is a chance to celebrate her motherhood, for all she did as a mother of Jesus, for all she had to endure in watching her sweet boy give his life for humanity, and for all she still does in listening to the prayers of all her children and bringing them to her son, Jesus. Today is indeed a special day.

I hope you will pull up today’s Gospel reading and join me in praying along with it in lectio divina style. You can access the Gospel reading at this link for the Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God. For a brief description of lectio divina you can find a quick outline from St. Meinrad Archabbey. Remember to read the Gospel reading before each of the next four sections below and take some time to reflect on the questions before reading my own responses. I hope you’ll share some of your thoughts in the comments.

READ

A word or phrase that stuck out to you during your first reading. Mine were:

  • Kept these things
  • Reflecting
  • Glorifying and praising

REFLECT: What is God saying to you?

“And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” This line speaks to me. Just before it we are told that all were amazed by what had been told by the shepherds. Those shepherds, who had just been visited by angels from heaven, hastily made their way to find this baby and then shared what had been told to them. The amazement makes me think that there were other people there with Mary and Joseph. What strikes me about the line specifically about Mary is that she is calm and reflective, which seems in contrast to the amazement of “all who heard” the shepherds’ message. Isn’t this always typical of what we can expect from our Holy Mother. She is calm and simply takes everything in, no matter the situation. She trusted God in all things.

I can tell you, I am not a calm, reflective person. I want to be. Really, I do. But I’m not there yet. Mary, on the other hand, is humble, she says very little, she reflects on the words spoken to her, and she has total trust that God will handle everything. She knew there would be adversity, suffering, unknowns, and plenty of sacrifice, but she just carried on and trusted. Every time I do one of these reflections I feel God calling me to trust him more. And here he also provides an example in the Blessed Virgin, his Mother and ours.

RESPOND: What do you want to say to God?

Your Mother, O Lord, is such a gift to this world. Her example of a humble, contemplative mother and disciple is one I hope to emulate more and more each day. It will take me a lifetime to have even a fraction of the trust our Holy Mother had. Thank you for the gift of your mother, our Holy Blessed Mother, for her calm demeanor, total trust, and humble spirit. May she always be blessed among women.

REST

Read the passage one final time and spend a few moments in quiet contemplation, rest in the words of the Gospel.

YOUR TURN

What do you feel God is saying to you in this passage? How would you respond to him? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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There’s Something about Mary

virginmaryI was blessed to come into the Catholic faith with no preconceived notions about Mary. I hadn’t grown up as a staunch Protestant who believed Catholics worshiped her. Or equally damaging—a staunch Catholic who’d witnessed some well-intentioned relatives skirting the line between veneration and worship (perhaps by dressing up their statues of Mary?). So I had none of the usual obstacles to embracing the Mother of God. If anything, I was predisposed to love her, as I had no earthly mother.

Except…I had no idea who Mary was. And outside of my desire for a mom, I didn’t really know WHY I should cultivate a loving relationship with her, other than the fact that she was the mother of the person I loved most. As it was, that’s all it really took to start my relationship with the Mother of God: the knowledge that if Jesus loves her, then I should, too. It was similar to how I felt when I got married and desired to get close to my mother-in-law for the sake of my husband.

Over the years, however, I’ve moved beyond loving Mary through Jesus and loving her as a person in her own right, for her own intrinsic value. For her beauty, compassion, and humility. For her loving and unrelenting solicitation of her children, no matter how errant or stubborn we are. In no time at all, I discovered that I loved her for her, as I’m sure Jesus intended all along.

They obviously haven't met the Blessed Mother.
They obviously haven’t met the Blessed Mother.

A turning point for me came a few years ago, when I was reading Scripture and realized that Mary wasn’t there at one of the most pivotal times and places in salvation history: at the tomb on Easter morning. In Jewish tradition, preparing the body of your deceased loved one was a sacred ritual and one Mary would never have forgone for Jesus. So why wasn’t she with the women at dawn as they went to anoint his body? Was she just sleeping in? Most probable is that Mary declined to go with the women because she knew Jesus was not going to be in the tomb.

It’s hard to believe that if Jesus told his followers he was going to rise from the dead, that he didn’t also tell his own mother, whom he knew his torture and death would devastate most of all. The difference is, Mary listened to Jesus—and believed him. She wasn’t at the tomb on Easter morning because she was the first to fully believe Our Lord when he said he would be raised from the dead. Unlike the other followers of Jesus, she didn’t need proof or someone else to tell her what Jesus himself had said would happen. Jesus said to Thomas, “’Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” Jesus was not only talking about those of us who live today, but first and foremost about his own faith-filled Mother.

bumpersticker

I don’t think people realize how Mary anchors us to Jesus, especially in times of crisis and doubt. When my son died and I couldn’t talk to Jesus without anger, it was Mary who held my hand through the pain, who generously allowed me to rail at her own precious Son for taking mine. When my doubts creep in during suffering, that whisper into my heart that God can’t be trusted, it’s Mary who stands beside me and helps me fight off the demons that would snatch me from the hand of Jesus forever. She’s the one who gently reminds me to “Do whatever He tells you” when I struggle to do my own will instead of God’s. And perhaps most importantly, she is my clearest example of what it means to be a fully human, fully faithful woman who follows Jesus in this life without ever once counting the cost.

St. Louis de Montfort, known for his profound devotion to Mary, said, “[The faithful] will see clearly that Mary is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” And he’s right. To that end, I’d like to offer a few suggestions for those seeking to get closer to the Virgin Mary, whether you’re a cradle Catholic, a new convert, or anyone who loves Jesus and who wants to better love his mother–and yours.

bumpersticker31. Get to know Mary. Meditate on the events of Jesus’ life from the Blessed Mother’s perspective. Imagine being 14 and telling your parents that you’re pregnant out of wedlock, knowing you also live in a society that could stone you for it. Imagine not knowing where your child is for five days, as Mary and Joseph did before they found Jesus in the temple. (One day of traveling from Jerusalem, one day back to Jerusalem, and three days searching; we forget it was really almost a week that they were looking for Jesus.) Imagine hearing people malign your son, calling him names and saying he’s in league with Satan, just for being loving to them.

Especially if you already have children, you’ll quickly realize that Mary suffered intensely long before Jesus was ever arrested. Just as Mary leads us to Jesus, Jesus can also lead us to Mary, if we realize that much of his suffering caused his mother to suffer, too.

2. Talk to Mary. Our first priest used to say you’d never walk up to a stranger and ask her for something, which is why we ought to have a relationship with a saint long before we ever ask that saint to intercede for us. Just like Jesus, Mary cares about you. She cares not just about your salvation, but about all the little details of your life that comprise your attempts to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

Tired of doing laundry? Tell Mary. Struggling in your marriage? Tell Mary. Excited that your son made the honor roll for the first time? Tell Mary. Talk to the Blessed Mother as a friend, a real friend, who loves you and wants to know about all the big and little things that bother you or even make you happy. I go to Mary before I even go to my female friends, because as my Mother, she shares my struggles and joys as all good mothers do with their children. I find that when I do, my joy is multiplied and my sadness divided.

3. Go to Mary for help. As a new Catholic, I once had a faithful Catholic woman tell me to take all my “womanly” problems to Mary. I started doing just that, which is when my relationship with the Blessed Mother really deepened.

bumpersticker4I’m convinced the Church’s veneration of Mary has made her intimidating to most Catholics, who see her as this distant, holier-than-thou (even if she actually is!) figure that we should admire from afar. But Mary was a real, flesh-and-blood woman just like you and me, sisters. She went through puberty, pregnancy, childbirth, and probably even menopause. She was married, raised a child to adulthood, and lost her husband when Joseph died. She was poor and probably struggled financially, especially when she and Joseph fled to Egypt. She likely had unkind relatives who were less than charitable about her pregnancy outside of marriage. She spent the early part of Jesus’s childhood—you know, those hard, sleep-deprived years–with little support from her family, because she was in Egypt and they were in Nazareth.

As a mother, Mary wanted all the things for her child that we all do: safety, love, and a happy future. She may not have had to deal with a sinful child, but how could she not worry about Jesus once his public ministry began and her beautiful little boy was treated like a pariah out of jealousy? She also endured a mother’s worst nightmare: seeing her child not only killed, but tortured before her very eyes. This is a woman who has suffered in every way a woman can suffer, ladies.

virginmary2

There really is no struggle you can bring to Mary that she doesn’t know intimately through her own life. If you had an earthly mentor next door with this kind of life experience, you’d be a fool not to take advantage of her counsel and comfort. So why are we so reluctant to seek both from the Mother of God?

4. Pray the rosary…or the Hail Mary; the Hail, Holy Queen; or the Memorare. Or don’t pray any specific prayers at all–just talk to the Blessed Mother. Don’t believe those who claim the rosary is the ONLY way to get close to Mary, because it’s not. It may be an especially efficacious way, and for those who feel drawn to it, more power to them. But don’t give up on Mary if your ADD or spiritual sloth keep you from praying the rosary meditatively every day. St. Therese struggled to stay awake when she prayed the rosary and so do I. Instead, I have a Hail Mary at the ready 20 times a day; it’s so reflexive during times of anxiety that I often don’t even realize I’m praying it until I get to the second half. I don’t stress over whether my Blessed Mom prefers formal prayer, because I know that what is really important to her is that I’m PRAYING–that is, talking–to her.

Use what draws your heart to Mary, whatever that is. If it’s simply talking to her about your life, like she’s a friend in the room, do that. If it’s praying the rosary or other Marian prayers, do that. Keep a journal and write your entries to Mary. Put a letter to her in the mail, stamp and all, and mail it to one of the shrines around the world! Make Marian feast days serious celebrations in your home—a big dinner, balloons, dessert, a skit about the Blessed Mother’s life. Buy yourself a blue coat as a symbol of putting yourself under Mary’s mantle (which is usually blue in art, to represent the sky, which covers all believers). Leave a card for her on the altar or beneath your church’s artwork of her from time to time. Frame a picture of her and put it beside your bed or on your desk.

There are a thousand ways to show your love for Mary and invite her into your soul more fully. The old ways are good and they’ve worked for millions of people throughout history. But don’t be afraid to embrace less traditional devotions as a way to develop your own unique relationship with this amazing woman!      

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Holy Mother of God: A Litany for Women

For the Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God, January 1, 2013. For Carla, because she showed us how to follow the Blessed Virgin Mother’s example so well.

Lord, have mercy.
Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy. Christ hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.
God the Father of heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.

Holy Mary, pray for us. 

Holy Mother of God, pray for us women.

From the moment you were conceived you had sanctifying grace in your soul, and you were born without Original Sin. Then you grew in virtue your whole life. Holy Virgin of Virgins, Mother most pure, Queen conceived without original sin, pray for us to accept the gift of sanctifying grace in our souls so that we, too, may follow your example, even as we know that we will often fail.

Mother most chaste, Mother inviolate, Mother undefiled, Refuge of sinners, Queen of Confessors, pray for us to have determination even if the sins of our past still cause us pain and regret.

You were chosen to be the Mother of God, whatever grace is available to us, you received fully. You possess a greater degree of sanctity than any angel or human, you are the highest creature. Even so, you do not know all the things that your Son knows, and you are subordinated to Him in the order of grace. Even when you did not know everything, you never lost faith, but only increased in it. Mother of divine grace, Virgin most faithful, Queen of Virgins, Mother of Christ, pray for us to recognize that we do not need to know everything either, so that we may focus on the things God calls us to know.

Your obedience, humility, and total devotion to the Son of God make you a supreme exemplar of the Christian life. Tower of David, Tower of ivory, House of gold, Ark of the covenant, pray for us to turn our eyes to you as our model of virtue and see what truly makes us rich.

You received the Word of God in your heart and in your body, and you gave Life to the world. Courageously, you accepted this predestination when the angel Gabriel greeted you and counseled you not to be afraid. Thus you conceived, so that just as the choice of a woman contributed to death, so also the choice of a woman contributed to life. Mother of our Savior, pray for us that we may follow your example of humility and obedience in bringing forth new life if blessed to do so.

When we discover we are with child, Mother of our Creator, Spiritual vessel, Vessel of honor, pray for us to navigate the anticipatory months with patience and grace as our bodies grow heavy and our mind’s anxious to fulfill our new role with competence.

When you visited your relative, Elizabeth, who was also pregnant with a son, John, her child leapt for joy in her womb as he was cleansed from sin and filled with divine grace in the presence of your Son, Jesus. In caring for your relative and friend, you brought Christ to her unborn child. Mother most amiable, Mother most admirable, pray for us, that we may show others the love of Christ.

When we say hurtful things because we fear rejection or want to control what we cannot control, pray for us Singular vessel of devotion, that we approach our relationships with honesty, apologize in sincerity, admit our faults, and vow to mend our ways.

You presented your Son to the shepherds and the wise men, accepting their gifts fit for kings, though you were poor and your baby was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Pray for us that we may receive gifts with gratitude and accept difficult situations with honor.

When we hold our babies in our arms, unsure if we can do the work of mothers, pray for us Mother of Our Creator, that we may receive the grace we need even when we cannot remember to ask for it.

When an angel warned Joseph to flee with you into Egypt because Herod wanted to destroy your baby, you were not consumed with anger, but obeyed, and then grieved for the mothers who would not be comforted as they bewailed the loss of their children.

When we are troubled by current events, and grow anxious about our nations, pray for us Mother of good Counsel, Mirror of Justice, that we may contribute good to our society in whatever way we are able, remembering our first society, our families.

Queen of families, help us to be the loyal and honorable wives to our beloved husbands that we desperately want to be.

When you presented your Son in the temple, Simeon foretold that He would be a sign of contradiction, a sword that would pierce your heart so that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. You never doubted or shrank from your duties. Pray for us, that we may achieve fortitude during anxious or confusing times.

When your child was lost, you were pained with concern, yet you did not complain, but found Him in the temple where He was about His father’s business. Virgin most prudent, pray for us, that we may hold our tongue and spare others the misery of our complaints, even if our children abandon us, even if they do things we do not understand.

When moved with pity at the marriage feast of Cana, you interceded for a miracle and asked your Son to turn the water into wine. Mother of good Counsel, Seat of wisdom, pray for us to show compassion and generosity, and to be attentive to the needs of others.

As Christ preached of a blessed kingdom beyond the bonds of flesh and blood, you advanced in your pilgrimage of faith, receiving His words and preserving your union with Him all the way to the cross. Queen of Prophets, pray for us, that we may also persevere in our daily pilgrimages.

When we mourn the loss of a child, and feel isolated because we think no one understands our sorrow, Virgin most merciful, pray for us to be comforted by your strength, the strength that held you beneath the cross that held your bleeding Son, as you stayed with Him until death.

If we hold a child dead in our arms because someone else takes that gift and that life from us, hold us up Queen of Martyrs, Queen of peace, that we may stare evil in the face too, forgive a sinner, and pray for mercy, even as we want to seek revenge, and then whither and die in despair. Remind us in our darkest moments that we all need a Savior, even you.

After you consented to suffer with your Son and united your maternal heart with His at the cross, He gave you over in His death to continue on as a mother to His disciple. Virgin most venerable, Queen of Apostles, pray for us that through your Son we may unite our maternal hearts with our brothers and sisters in Christ, encouraging them in charity, even when we feel we have nothing left to give.

When you found the empty grave and rejoiced that your Savior was risen from the dead, on the day of Pentecost, you implored the Holy Spirit to pour forth on the human race. Virgin most renowned, Virgin most powerful, Help of Christians, Queen of Patriarchs, pray for us, that we may implore the Holy Spirit too, and remember those people who have no one to pray for them.

And if we become ill, even so ill that we will never hold our children’s babies as we once held our children, or if we never have children, or if we die very young, pray for us Health of the sick, Comforter of the afflicted, Cause of our joy, Morning star, that we may be sustained in faith with the hope that the family of humanity will unite in eternity before the face of God.

At the end of your life on earth, preserved from all sin, you were taken up body and soul into heaven, exalted as Queen of the Universe so that you could be close to your Son, the conqueror of sin and death. Queen assumed into heaven, Mystical rose, Gate of heaven, Queen of Angels, Queen of all Saints, pray for us, that we never stop hoping for salvation of souls.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us.

And if we live a long life full of happy memories, and die peacefully in our bed surrounded by people who love us, or if we die alone and abandoned with nothing left in this world, Queen of the most holy Rosary, pray for us, O holy Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Amen.

[Adapted from the Litany of Loreto and Lumen Gentium, Chapter 8.]

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The Seven Sorrows of Mary, our Mother

If we are temples of the Holy Ghost; if we are made members of the Body of

Seven Sorrows of Mary
Seven Sorrows of Mary, Our Lady of Quito found at Nunc Coepi, Catholic Icons by Mary Henley

Christ at our Baptism; if the Body of Christ is our Holy Mother the Church; how much more so then is Mary both our personal model as believers, and the model of the Church?

Mary our mother had the fullness of God become incarnate of her flesh, and dwell within her for nine months. She swaddled, and suckled, and raised, and dwelt with the Most High for the first thirty years of His Life. Sadly, she was uniquely joined to His Sacrifice by the piercing of her own heart, foretold by the prophecy of Simeon. Lastly, she was given to us as our Mother by Our Lord Himself, on the Cross, for as John was the beloved, so too are we the beloved of the Lord. Mary is truly our Mother, and Mother of the Church: Militant, Suffering and Triumphant.

Because of this total giving of herself, Mary is our model of faith. With perfection, by the grace of God, she is the complete, total, unreserved giving of herself, for the sake of our God. The entire purpose of her being is to bring forth the Messiah into the world, and that purpose has never changed. She is the Magnificat; she only serves to magnify the Lord, and draw souls closer to her Son. As Christ is the Light of the World, Mary is a lens, which only amplifies our focus and devotion to the Divine Light of Christ.

I have heard of many believers, even Catholics, who shun affection and devotion to our Mother. Still more I have heard believers rebuff Mary’s devotional titles of Mediatrix of All Graces and Co-redemptrix. I believe this rebuff comes from ignorance, because calling on our Mother by those titles only amplifies Our Lord, and glorifies His already infinite glory. In giving her fiat to Gabriel, and sacrificing her life as a life of sorrow united to the Cross of Christ, Mary acted as that vessel through which God became man. That is why she is Mediatrix of all graces, not because she Mediator, for Christ alone is Mediator, but because she is the means God chose, in the fullness of time, to make Himself present in time, and in the world. She continues this role today in our devotion to her, which is used solely to amplify her Son, and draw souls ever closer to Him by His Grace. Is Mary the Redemptrix? Heaven’s no. She is Co-redemptrix because: she cooperated completely, totally, and without reserve, with the Will of God and the Redemption of man in Christ her Son; she was united to His Sacrifice her entire life by the prophecy of Simeon, so truly was her life a life of sorrows, even in the overwhelming joy of living with God made man, here on earth; and Mary our mother continues her purpose of existence in drawing souls ever closer to her Son, so that they may enjoy the fullness of His Redemption in Heaven. Truly Mary is Co-redemptrix because she alone, in a unique way, by the superabundant grace of God, cooperated in His Redemptive Life, and Act upon the Cross.

Tomorrow is the Feast of the Seven Dolors (Sorrows) of Mary. If you can, go to Mass, but no matter where you are, think of the Seven Sorrows of Mary and offer a Hail Mary for each sorrow, in thanks to her sacrifice of self, for the sake of her Son, and Savior.

The Seven Sorrows of Mary, our Mother:

1. The Prophecy of Simeon.
Reflect on the sorrow of Our Blessed Lady, when She presented Her Divine Child in the temple and heard from the aged Simeon that a sword of grief should pierce Her soul.

2. The Flight into Egypt.
Reflect on Her sorrow when, to escape the cruelty of King Herod, She was forced to fly into Egypt with St. Joseph and Her beloved Child, and pray for those who kill the children today by abortion.

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple.
Reflect on Her grief when, in returning from Jerusalem, She found that She had lost Her dear Jesus, Whom She sought sorrowing for three days.

4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross.
Reflect on Her meeting Her Divine Son, all bruised and bleeding, carrying His Cross to Calvary, and seeing Him fall under its heavy weight.

5. The Crucifixion.
Reflect on Her standing by, when Her Divine Son was lifted up on the Cross and the blood flowed in streams from His Sacred Wounds. 

6. Jesus’ Body is struck by a lance and taken down from the Cross.
Reflect on Her sorrow, when Her Divine Son was taken down from the Cross, and placed in Her arms.

7. The Burial of Jesus.
Reflect on Her following His Sacred Body as it was borne by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus to the sepulcher. 

After meditating on the Seven Sorrows of Mary, recite three Hail Mary’s in honor of Our Blessed Lady’s tears.  Mary our Mother, Mary Mother of Sorrows, pray for us.

Seven Sorrows of Mary, found at Nunc Coepi, Catholic Icons by Mary Henley

Reflections where found at: PrayerBook Devotions 

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Taking Your Enemy Off The Cross

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”. -Matthew 5: 44-45

Once upon a time I had a job outside the home, a career even. As a middle school teacher at a Catholic school, I enjoyed my job, but there were a few days out of the year I loathed. Two of these days were our staff retreats. You see there are few things more torturous to a teacher than to use one of her days without students, namely the day before Thanksgiving, as a day to put her in a room full of crabby women and insist she do ice-breakers and reflections.

Sounds awful right?

Ok, maybe I just didn’t have the right outlook. At least that’s what I told myself the morning of one of these said retreats in 2007. I reminded myself that some people would love the opportunity to get paid to attend a spiritual retreat. So, I pulled up my big girl pants and went in with as much of a positive attitude as I could muster.

Our retreat started out with Holy Mass and there must have been some sort of staff meeting and speaker, but I don’t remember any of those things. I do remember though what Fr. Sean Kilcawley asked me to do for our meditation, and what he asked of us seemed utterly impossible to me.

He asked us to pray for the student, the parent, or the situation we were most struggling with in that moment. He asked us to pray for our adversaries, our enemies. This of course made sense, and it’s something we often hear, but what struck me was how he asked us to pray. Now, I must unfortunately paraphrase and hope that the Holy Spirit can guide me to explain with His words; Fr. Kilcawley asked us to, “use the power of the rosary and the Holy Mother’s guidance in conjunction with the Sorrowful Mysteries to gain a better perspective of your enemy’s life and your role in it.”

Wait. What? I had to consider the pain of a person whose very presence made my skin crawl? Not cool Father, not cool. But like I said, I had put on my big girl pants that day, so I told myself it was time to attach the suspenders and get over it.

So, there I sat, rosary in hand, ready to pray. I knew whom God was calling me to pray for, and even admitting that was rough for me. I didn’t want to pray for this person, in fact I didn’t even want to think of this person on my “day off”. But believe me when I tell you, that this was one of the most powerful prayer experiences of my life.

I began the rosary, with much trepidation. This time as I came to each Sorrowful Mystery, not only was I asked to ponder the sorrow of Mary, but Father had asked me to consider how each mystery could relate to my “enemy’s” life and the crosses that he or she might have to bear.

The Agony in the Garden, The Scourging at the Pillar, The Crowning with Thorns, The Carrying of the Cross, and finally The Crucifixion; as I progressed through the rosary, I found myself becoming more and more compassionate toward my enemy. I will admit that the most difficult mystery for me was The Crowning with Thorns, and I must have pondered that for a good 5 minutes before coming up with something, but just those five minutes of considering someone else’s hardships was so important to changing my heart. I did my best to imagine my enemy dressed as Jesus, with Jesus’ wounds and with our Blessed Mother crying tears of sorrow for his pain.

By the end of the rosary, I truly felt my heart had changed. Not only did I feel differently about this person, but I felt different, period. It was one of the most intense prayers I had participated in up to that point in my prayer life, and I left the church feeling as though God had really heard me.

If you would like to implement this meditation in your prayer life, here are some ideas to get you started. I fully concede that this may not be easy for you at first, but it will aid you in letting go and giving full control over to God.

Agony in the Garden – How has your enemy agonized over decisions that he or she has made? When they have made decisions that upset you, were they easy choices for that person to make?

The Scourging at the Pillar – What emotional, physical, verbal, or spiritual abuse has your enemy suffered, both in his or her past or currently? Have you caused any of this abuse?

The Crowning with Thorns – How has your enemy been made fun of, or mocked in his or her life? Does your enemy make choices you disagree with in order to save face or because of peer pressure?

The Carrying of the Cross – What crosses does your enemy have to bear alone? Has your enemy asked you for help carrying these crosses, and have you refused? Are you a cross for your enemy to bear?

The Crucifixion – How have you crucified your enemy? Have you allowed your enemy to get down from the cross?

I think about this prayer often when I am in disagreement with someone, or when there is a person whom I just cannot trust. I often use this as a last resort prayer, because to me it is so powerful and it is serious spiritual work. But, when I do pray for my enemies using this prayer, my heart is changed.

We know we cannot change anyone else, but we can soften our hearts and pray for others.