A fruitful new approach to the Rosary

On our formation weekend this weekend, a few of us were talking over a meal about the intentions we pray for as we pray the Rosary. One of the guys shared an approach he takes and I’ve tried it and find it very helpful.

Instead of concluding each Hail Mary with the traditional, “Hail Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death,” substitute in the name of the particular person for whom you’re praying. It definitely makes it real and intentional…

Hail Mary… Pray for Suzanne, now and at the hour of her death…

Hail Mary… Pray for my boys, now and at the hours of their death…

Hail Mary… Pray for my mom and dad, now and at the hours of their death…

Hail Mary… Pray for Bishop Paprocki, now and at the hour of his death…

I still focus each decade, but this adds another even more intentional focus to each prayer.

Personally, I always pray:

  • The first decade for the Pope and my Bishop,
  • The second decade for priests and seminarians,
  • The third decade for deacons, those in formation, and religious,
  • The fourth decade for Suzanne, the boys, and our family,
  • and the fifth decade for other specific intentions for which I’ve been asked to pray.

We do not pray in vain

I found great beauty and comfort in this quote this morning:

“Take note of this, for it is a certain truth: we do not pray in vain for those who are lost, even if they are our enemies. Yes, we do not pray in vain – even though everything seems to be hopeless. If we are truly concerned for their salvation and bring them before the Savior, he will bring them under his special care, so that – perhaps before we are even aware of it – miracles can happen, even among those whom we had already given up for lost.”

– Johann Christoph Blumhardt, Vom Glauben bis ans Ende

Today’s Office of Readings

I always start my day by offering the Morning Prayer of the church (as I’m obliged to do while in formation, and would promise to do if I am ever ordained.)

I usually don’t include the Office of Readings to start the day (I’m not obliged to do so), but I chose to this morning, and boy was I surprised! I picked a heck of a day to start.

From this morning’s Office of Readings (my emphasis added):

Second Reading: A letter to the Trallians by St Ignatius of Antioch
I wish to forewarn you, for you are my dearest children

Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the holy church at Tralles in the province of Asia, dear to God the Father of Jesus Christ, elect and worthy of God, enjoying peace in body and in the Spirit through the passion of Jesus Christ, who is our hope through our resurrection when we rise to him. In the manner of the apostles, I too send greetings to you with the fullness of grace and extend my every best wish.

Reports of your splendid character have reached me: how you are beyond reproach and ever unshaken in your patient endurance – qualities that you have not acquired but are yours by nature. My informant was your own bishop Polybius, who by the will of God and Jesus Christ visited me here in Smyrna. He so fully entered into my joy at being in chains for Christ that I came to see your whole community embodied in him. Moreover, when I learned from him of your God-given kindliness toward me, I broke out in words of praise for God. It is on him, I discovered, that you pattern your lives.

Your submission to your bishop, who is in the place of Jesus Christ, shows me that you are not living as men usually do but in the manner of Jesus himself, who died for us that you might escape death by belief in his death. Thus one thing is necessary, and you already observe it, that you do nothing without your bishop; indeed, be subject to the clergy as well, seeing in them the apostles of Jesus Christ our hope, for if we live in him we shall be found in him.

Deacons, too, who are ministers of the mysteries of Jesus should in all things be pleasing to all men. For they are not mere servants with food and drink, but emissaries of God’s Church; hence they should guard themselves against anything deserving reproach as they would against fire.

Similarly, all should respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, just as all should regard the bishop as the image of the Father, and the clergy as God’s senate and the college of the apostles. Without these three orders you cannot begin to speak of a church. I am confident that you share my feelings in this matter, for I have had an example of your love in the person of your bishop who is with me now. His whole bearing is a great lesson, and his very gentleness wields a mighty influence.

By God’s grace there are many things I understand, but I keep well within my limitations for fear that boasting should be my undoing. At the moment, then, I must be more apprehensive than ever and pay no attention at all to those who flatter me; their praise is as a scourge. For though I have a fierce desire to suffer martyrdom, I know not whether I am worthy of it. Most people are unaware of my passionate longing, but it assails me with increasing intensity. My present need, then, is for that humility by which the prince of this world is overthrown.

And so I strongly urge you, not I so much as the love of Jesus Christ, to be nourished exclusively on Christian fare, abstaining from the alien food that is heresy. And this you will do if you are neither arrogant nor cut off from God, from Jesus Christ, and from the bishop and the teachings of the apostles. Whoever is within the sanctuary is pure; but whoever is not is unclean. That is to say, whoever acts apart from the bishop and the clergy and the deacons is not pure in his conscience. In writing this, it is not that I am aware of anything of the sort among you; I only wish to forewarn you, for you are my dearest children.

The Triduum

The three holiest days of the church year.

Tonight, the table hosts a meal.
Tomorrow, the cross provides a place of execution.
Saturday, the tomb becomes a holding place for a man’s body,
a place of sorrow and of wondering.

But then, the table, the cross, and the bodies of men
become altars on which the daily sacrifices of life are
united to the eternal sacrifice of Christ the High Priest.

God renews His eternal “Yes” to mankind.
“It is very good.”
“I make all things new.”

The end leads back to the beginning.
The beginning of these three days is tied to their end.
The three days in one.
The pivotal day of eternity.

Theology on the Lawn

On Thursday, July 21, I will give a presentation in Holy Family Church’s free “Theology on the Lawn” series, titled “God’s Voice in the Daily Life“. I will focus on discerning God’s voice in the big and little moments and events in our daily lives. I will share personal examples and inspire reflection on such moments in your own life. This talk is intended for all ages, at all stages of openness to God in one’s life.

Theology on the Lawn: A free series of talks on faith topics, Thursday evenings this summer at Holy Family Church in Granite City.

Talks begin at 7 P.M. in Mary’s Garden at 2300 Sheridan. In case of rain, we’ll meet in the adjacent Conference Center. Talks last 20-30 minutes, followed by fellowship & free snacks. Bring the family, bring friends and neighbors… just bring your own lawn chair!

  • Thursday, July 14: The Holy Mass (Father Jason Stone)
  • Thursday, July 21: God’s Voice in the Daily Life (Michael Halbrook)
  • Thursday, July 28: Merciful Like the Father (Deacon Neil Suermann)
  • Thursday, August 4: Stories of Saints & Martyrs (Michael Halbrook)
  • Thursday, August 11: Our Mother Mary (Father Jason Stone)


Date: July 21, 2016
Time: 07:00 p.m.
Event: Theology on the Lawn: God's Voice in the Daily Life
Topic: God's Voice in the Daily Life
Sponsor: Holy Family Catholic Church
Public: Public

O God of Earth and Altar

With prayer and thanksgiving for all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in service of our country.

O God of earth and altar,
bow down and hear our cry,
our earthly rulers falter,
our people drift and die;
the walls of gold entomb us,
the swords of scorn divide,
take not thy thunder from us,
but take away our pride.

From all that terror teaches,
from lies of tongue and pen,
from all the easy speeches
that comfort cruel men,
from sale and profanation
of honor, and the sword,
from sleep and from damnation,
deliver us, good Lord!

Tie in a living tether
the prince and priest and thrall,
bind all our lives together,
smite us and save us all;
in ire and exultation
aflame with faith, and free,
lift up a living nation,
a single sword to thee.

Words: Gilbert Keith Chesterton, 1906
Music: King’s Lynn
Meter: 76 76 D

Diaconate Weekend #5 – Let’s Pray for Each Other

This weekend is a diaconate formation weekend for my classmates and me. We’ll be studying “Prayer & Sacramental Participation”.

I’m going to try to remember to share when I’m away on these weekends, and ask you, in the charity of your own prayers, to please lift my classmates and me up in your prayers during these formation weekends.

In turn, I will be remembering you and keeping your intentions in prayer during our Holy Hour on the Friday night of the weekends. If there’s a particular intention you’d like me to keep in prayer, please comment with it here or message it to me privately.

N.B.: This first year is an introductory year – the four years that follow carry more intense college-level academic studies. This year’s topics include:

  • September: Introduction to Discernment
  • October: Introduction to Theological Reflection
  • November: Introduction to Spiritual Direction
  • December: Pastoral Identity, Skills, and Boundaries
  • January: Prayer & Sacramental Participation
  • February: Evangelization & Ecumenism
  • March: Research & Writing
  • April & May: Philosophy (formal academic coursework begins)
  • June: Retreat

The Intentions on my Rosary


A daily rosary; an intention per mystery

As I’ve gotten back into the habit of praying the rosary each day (a habit I never should’ve gotten out of, but that’s a different story), I’ve developed a “standard” of the intentions that I keep top-of-mind and place before Mary and Jesus during each of the five mysteries.

They’ve come to mean a lot to me and to aid in directing some of my reflections and thoughts as I pray (beyond just the meditation on the subject of each mystery), so I thought it might be worthwhile to share them here. If you’re looking for ideas for intentions as you pray the rosary, perhaps you might find some thoughts, ideas, or inspiration here.

The First Mystery:
My bishop, the Pope, and all bishops

As I reflect upon the first mystery, I also hold especially in my mind the health, well-being, and intentions of my own bishop, Thomas John Paprocki, and of Pope Francis and all bishops.

The Second Mystery:
My pastor, and all priests and seminarians

This one holds a special prayer in my heart, because this structured way of approaching my prayer intentions with my rosary developed when our pastor asked my mother-in-law, when he was blessing a new rosary as a gift for me, to ask me to pray the first Hail Mary of the rosary for him.

As a result, I always remember him, all priests who have served my parish and city, and all priests (especially those I know personally) in mind during the second mystery. I always remember my pastor, Father Jeff, in a special way during the first Hail Mary, but then immediately broaden my prayer to cover all of the priests and seminarians who come to mind.

The Third Mystery:
All deacons, and those in formation

As I pray the third mystery, I am mindful of and pray for the intentions of all deacons, and my brothers in formation for the diaconate. I pray for our service among God’s people in the world. I also take a moment to pray for all religious, especially the religious sisters who have served in our parish and school.

The Fourth Mystery:
My wife, my sons, and our family

During the fourth mystery, I turn my prayer toward my wife Suzanne, my four sons, our parents, and our whole extended family.

The Fifth Mystery:
The intentions of family and friends

At any point in time, if you’ve recently asked me to hold a personal intention in my prayers, it’s in front of my on a slip of paper as I pray the fifth mystery.

In recent days, that mindfulness and prayer has included Madalene and her family, my friend Carol and her son John and their family, and our friend Barbara and her aunt Anita and their family. As time goes on, this one changes the most and brings my mind the freshness of prayer. (Note that I find it helpful to include real names – even if it’s just their first name – if someone asks me to pray for someone, I ask for their name, so that it’s easier to be mindful, personal, and intentional while holding them in prayer.)

As I come close to ending the rosary, this also helps to turn my thoughts outward from the authority and structure that help to solidify and support my faith life, and outward toward the world where our prayer and action are needed.

What about you?

If you have a special way that you structure your mindfulness of the intentions you’re laying before Mary and Jesus as you pray the rosary, I’d love to hear about it in the comments here.

If you have a special intention that you would like me to remember as I pray the rosary, particularly the fifth mystery, please feel free to send me a message and I’d be glad to add your intention to my personal notes and list.

The Rosary: My Weapon of Choice


If I tell you I’m going to pray for you or your intention, you should know that more than likely, in my mind’s eye, I see myself praying the Rosary on your behalf, and ultimately, within a day or two, you will be in my intentions as I am praying a daily Rosary. Today – October 7 – is a special day in our Church calendar – the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (also known as Our Lady of Victory), marking the victory at Lepanto, securing Europe against Turkish invaders (read about it here.)

The Rosary is my personal weapon of choice

Many non-Catholics (and many Catholics) misunderstand it, unfortunately – they see the Rosary as a prayer to Mary and a stumbling block to prayer to Christ Himself and a relationship with Him. However, to me (and to Catholics everywhere), the Rosary is Jesus’s mother’s preferred prayer tool for us to use to recall the major events of Christ’s love and ministry, and pray through her, begging for her intercession before Christ her Son on our behalf.