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Of May Crowning, Corniness, and the 4-H Fair

17 May

“It turns out that Mary is a really big deal for the Catholics.”
~ Dave Barry

What a sap I am.May-Procession-005

Last Friday was May Crowning at my parish, and so I arrived loaded for bear: Two clean hankies at the ready, not to mention optimal pew positioning – close to the center aisle, but not too close to anyone I knew.

Why? It’s so predictable: Once the procession begins and we start singing those corny Marian songs, I commence blubbering – like clockwork, every year. Usually I can hold off through “Immaculate Mary” and “Sing of Mary,” but the clincher is always “Queen of the May:”

Bring flowers of the fairest,
Bring flowers of the rarest.

Picture the children in their Sunday best, with hands pressed together and eyes (for the most part) directed forward, solemnly approaching the statue of Mary in the sanctuary.

Our full hearts are swelling,
Our glad voices telling,
The praise of the loveliest
Rose of the vale.

And then there’s us in the back pews, the moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, oohing and aahing, snapping photos, recording videos.

O Mary! we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May.

Even with the distractions and the pictures, how can we resist being drawn into the schoolchildren’s sweet devotional gesture? I know I can’t. I sob, dry my eyes, and sob some more – a  mawkish mess. Sure it’s sentimental, saccharine even, but how any Catholic can withstand that surge of emotion is beyond me.

G.K. Chesterton had a similar idea when he wrote about Marian devotion – particularly the over-the-top sentimental variety:

In people who are Catholics, or call themselves Catholics, I want the idea not only liked but loved and loved ardently, and above all proudly proclaimed. I want it to be what the Protestants are perfectly right in calling it; the badge and sign of a Papist. I want to be enthusiastic about the existence of the enthusiasm.

maycrowningHence enthusiasm (complete with sobs) at May Crowning, and almost without regard to one’s typical level of Marian fervor. It’s all about mom, after all – like Mother’s Day for Mary. We’re so glad to be doing something simply to please her and thank her. And like any good mom, Mary isn’t all that particular. She doesn’t care if it’s a dozen roses or a dandelion from the backyard – an expensive Hallmark card, or a scribbled crayon drawing on a paper scrap. What matters is that we remember – not for her sake, of course, but for our own. It’s good for children to remember their mothers.

It’s good, first of all, because gratitude is a character trait that must be cultivated, beginning with gratitude to our mothers. Our human moms gave us life; Mary gave us Jesus. “Let it be to me according to your word,” was her reply to Gabriel, and it was in that simple Fiat that we have any access to spiritual life at all. Moreover, not to be outdone in generosity, Jesus in turn gave us Mary. “Behold, your mother,” he told the Beloved Disciple, and, through him, all of the church – which is only fitting, given that the church is her own son’s Body.

As my pastor pointed out at Friday’s May Crowning, Mary’s care for us is an extension of the care she provided Jesus throughout his earthly life because now we are truly part of him, the Mystical Body of Christ. As such, we seek to be ever more conformed to his likeness, and it is here that Mary’s maternal care is preeminently manifest. John Paul II, quoting Lumen Gentium, wrote:

As Christians raise their eyes with faith to Mary in the course of their earthly pilgrimage, they “strive to increase in holiness.” Mary, the exalted Daughter of Sion, helps all her children, wherever they may be and whatever their condition, to find in Christ the path to the Father’s house.

Therein lies the second reason it’s always good to lavish our affection on Mary at opportune moments like a May Procession – when it’s easy, for example, and everybody is doing it. Such tokens establish (or reinforce) the habidorothyt of turning to her when it’s not so easy or pleasant. “Wherever they may be or whatever their condition,” the Pope noted. That means the mom who receives our blossoms and childish sentiments at May Crowning will also receive our pleas for assistance when our situations are much more dire and disturbing. “She is the Mother of fair love,” wrote Servant of God Dorothy Day, “of fear and of knowledge and of holy hope.” The former Bohemian and socialist, no stranger herself to the rougher sides of life, further expanded this theme:

No matter where it is, no matter how perverse and distorted, no matter how dark and tortured, there is still in all love a suggestion, a hint of this love of God.

Once again, we do well to remember that she is not particular, and her acceptance of our meager gestures, no matter how broken or bent, can and will transform them into glorious tributes.

That brings me to the St. Joseph County 4-H Fair. For the last few years, I’ve had the privilege, along with several local Knights of Columbus, of manning the Legion of Mary’s Catholic Information fair booth in the evenings. It’s a blast, and I look forward to it every year – almost like a mini-retreat. The Legion provides a wealth of pamphlets and written material about the Catholic Faith as well as information about various Catholic practices and prayers – all to the good. But my favorite part are the Rosaries – loads of them, and all free! When I relieve the Legion ladies who’ve been occupying the booth all day, the first thing I do is load up my arms with a variety of Rosaries – blue, pink, green, purple – and then stand out in front of the booth to pass them out.

This is when the fun begins, for it’s simply amazing how many folks will take them: Young, old, girls, boys, from every culture and walk of life, and certainly Catholics (regardless of how active they’ve been) as well as non-Catholics. “Really, it’s free?” they’ll ask.grange-fair-2

“You bet, and here’s a little booklet to tell you how to use it,” I’ll say, usually with the follow-up, “in case you’ve forgotten.”

Sure, some of the younger fair-goers will take a Rosary as a joke, but not as often as you’d think. Instead, when the non-Catholics hear about using the Rosary for prayer instead of just wearing it as an ironic accessory, quite a few grow curious and want to hear more.

“The Rosary isn’t about worshiping Mary,” I’ll tell them. “It’s actually about praying with Mary to her son. In fact, it’s asking the Mother of Christ to be our mother, too!”

Do they all get it? Will they all go home and pray their pink and green and purple Rosaries that night? Probably not – maybe never. Some of the Rosaries will collect dust in forgotten junk drawers; some will be discarded; others might be retained as good-luck charms. Yet the fair-goers who accepted them did so freely, and at some level the idea sunk in that an unwavering mother’s love was involved. That’s not mere sentimentality. It’s a seed that, with time and grace and Mary’s care, just may germinate and grow.

“All I think I ever asked of her,” Dorothy Day observed of Mary, “was that she should take care of me.” That’s not just a comforting notion for schoolchildren, and we needn’t be ashamed that it brings tears to our eyes.
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A version of this essay appeared on Catholic Exchange.

Christmas Movies for Annunciation Day

25 Mar

san-domenico-annunciation

Lent is a favourable time for letting Christ serve us so that we in turn may become more like him. This happens whenever we hear the word of God and receive the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

There we become what we receive: the Body of Christ.

~ Pope Francis

Read more…

Our Lady of the Overgrowth – Winter Edition

10 Jan

mary-in-the-snow

It’s nice to see Mary again.

Of course, she hasn’t gone anywhere since I positioned her in that nook out front a decade ago. She stands watch around the clock, poised and serene, although half the year she’s completely obscured by vegetation (we take a very minimalist approach to groundskeeping).

Then, a month or so ago, we got hit with a preliminary dose of that Polar Vortex we remember oh-so-well from last winter, and the overgrowth started to recede. And now we’re in the thick of wintry things – with sub-zero overnights and a base layer of snow everywhere – and Mary is back in plain sight.

I’m glad to see her as I drive past to and fro every day. It’s comforting and reassuring – like calling mom just to hear her voice. Yet, there’s an awkwardness as well: Seeing that statue of Mary reminds me that I haven’t exactly been faithful in my prayers, and that I’m overdue for making my resolution to say the rosary every day…again.

It was way easier to slack off when the overgrowth was thick.

Such was the story in the Gospel yesterday:

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

Note that Luke depicts the encounter between the Lord and the leper as something that just “happened” – a fluke, maybe, or a coincidence. The other Evangelists tell it differently: “A leper approached,” St. Matthew records, and St. Mark? “A leper came to him….” In their telling, the leper was assertive and motivated: He sought Jesus out for healing.

ChristCleansingNot so in Luke’s version. There, the diseased man is depicted as relatively content with his lot…until confronted by the sight of the Divine Physician. It was as if seeing the healer reminded the man that he even needed to be healed. This is all the more intriguing if we consider that Luke himself was a physician – could it be that he had patients like this? You bet, and we know them today: Nagging symptoms, pain and disability, but go see a doctor? Naah.

In any case, that sounds a lot like me and our Mary statue: Driving by in the spring, when the weeds are having a heyday, it’s all “la-de-da,” and “anything good on the radio?” and “what’s on my to-do list today?” Then, winter arrives, and Mary reappears: Have you said your rosary today? No! Do you have stuff to pray about? Yes! So, then do it – pray. Now! The radio and to-do list can wait!

We need the snow and the cold sometimes, miserable as it all is, to make the essential things plain. We need hardships and setbacks and disappointments to strip away everything that obscures our spiritual line of sight – how are we going to clear up the sin and mess in our lives if we’re able to blithely go about ignoring it?

Timothy Keller, pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said pretty much the same thing in a recent interview:

“Cheer up, you’re worse than you think,” Rev. Timothy Keller says with a smile. He’s explaining that humans are more weak, more fallen, more warped than they “ever dare admit or even believe.” Then comes the good news: At the same time people are “more loved in Christ and more accepted than they could ever imagine or hope.”

That being the case, why wait for the chill of catastrophe and misfortune to clear away the weedy camouflage of our souls? Why not get out there and mow it all down, right?

No matter. If my spiritual sloth gets the best of me, I just have to wait: Winter is always right around the corner.

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A version of this story appeared on Catholic Exchange.

Even When He Tells You, It’s Still a Mystery

5 Oct

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 19.14).

1528CorregioNativityOn the way to Mass last Wednesday for the feast of St. Thérèse, Nick and Katharine were in the back seat having a debate about God’s relations.

“God doesn’t have a mother,” Kath lunged, apparently in response to something Nick had said.

“Yes, he does,” Nick parried. “Jesus is God, and Mary was his mother.”

Not bad for a ten-year-old, and pretty much the reasoning of the Council of Ephesus. In 431, the Council confronted the Nestorian heresy by adopting a Marian title proposed by St. Cyril: TheotokosMother of God. Really, it’s a name that boils down to a simple syllogism: (a) Jesus is truly God; (b) Mary is Jesus’ mother; (c) thus, Mary is God’s mother. Q.E.D.

“I meant God the Father,” eight-year-old Kath answered Nick, unwilling to yield. “God the Father couldn’t have had a mother because then he wouldn’t be God.”

Touché.

In fact, Katharine’s objection is a fairly common one, and it summarizes very neatly a complicated philosophical argument against the “Mother of God” appellation. It’s an argument that involves differentiating between function and ontology, and it requires a grasp of formal logic that is beyond me and, presumably, way over the head of my two grade-school theologians sitting in the back seat…or maybe not.

In any case, I diplomatically affirmed both children, and praised them for their acumen and orthodoxy. They’re the youngest of our seven children, and they’re the best of pals. They play and fight, giggle and argue, but even when they disagree, there’s an amiability between them that serves as a constant bond.

That’s good, because they live in a household full of big ideas, loud opinions, and strong personalities. Nick and Kath’s friendship provides them with an oasis of mutual support and age appropriate interaction amid the maelstrom of a domestic environment otherwise populated by teens, pre-teens, and aging, cranky parents.

Yet, despite the intense and sometimes conflicting messages regarding school and work, politics and religion, and just plain living, I’d like to think there’s an underlying framework of faith that connects it all, even when it doesn’t always macyrilke sense. It’s not a forced framework  it just is, even when we disagree with it or rebel.

That my youngest children have at least integrated this idea somewhat was made clear when Kath made her parting shot as we arrived at church. “It’s all a mystery anyway,” she observed. “You can never figure it out, because even when he tells you, you’re going to get confused.”

Ah, yes, that standard aphorism of Catholic apologetics: It’s all a mystery. It’s also a parenting expedient I don’t know about you, but we trot that one out pretty regularly with our kids. “But, WHY?!” comes the plaintive cry of the rebuffed adolescent suppliant. “It’s all a mystery,” I’ll sometimes reply, especially when I’ve tired of the standard, “Because I said so.”

I should be more careful, I suppose, because “It’s all a mystery” is also the conclusion of many a dinner conversation that drifted in the direction of convoluted doctrinal conundrums. “How can God be outside of time and still become incarnate?” It’s a mystery. “Why do we pray if God already knows what we’re going to say?” It’s a mystery. “If God really all good and all powerful, then why is there so much suffering and evil in the world?” It’s all a mystery.

My Protestant students also get used to hearing this phrase once they find out I’m a practicing Catholic and they get up the courage to ask hard questions: How can Mary be sinless if the Bible tells us that everyone is a sinner? What about purgatory and indulgences – what’s the point of praying for the dead if they’re already destined for heaven? And do you really believe that wafer is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity? Really? How come Catholics don’t act like they believe it?

All good questions my students are a smart bunch and I do my best to explain, but more often than not, I’m forced to come down to the old stand-by: It’s a mystery. It’s never satisfying, of course, and they roll their eyes as do my teens. But, look, all of us who profess any kind of religion get to the same place eventually, right? Even if you limit yourself to Christianity, consider the biggies we all hold in common  Christmas, Good Friday, Easter, the Blessed Trinity. They all require a shrug in the end, and a demurral that, ultimately, they’re matters that are beyond our human understanding. In essence, that’s exactly what Katharine voiced: You can’t know everything, so don’t expect to.

But it’s faith, after all, not math. There’s always a leap involved, as Kierkegaard insisted, and there’s no guarantees that we’ll figure it out this side of heaven.

And perhaps it’s no mistake that I overheard Nick and Kath’s exchange on the feast of St. Thérèse the Doctor of the “Little Way.” As Monsignor later explained in his homily, “The essencelaundry of St. Thérèse’s Little Way is this: Let God love you, and let God love others through you.” Should we devote ourselves to theological inquiry? Should anyone invest time and energy in deciphering the mysteries of God? Yes, to be sure, but not at the expense of adopting the childlike surrender of Thérèse. She wrote:

I leave to great souls and lofty minds the beautiful books I cannot understand, much less put into practice, and I rejoice that I am little because children alone and those who resemble them will be admitted to the heavenly banquet.

Anyway, Nick and Kath and I arrived at Mass, found our seats, and waited for God to appear. There, up in front of the church, the lector would enunciate God’s word, and then, after that, the priest would turn bread and wine into the Bread of Life. This is all a big mystery; we can never figure it out; we still get confused.

And it’s alright.

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A version of this essay appeared on Catholic Exchange.

Of Nativity Sets, Mary Worship, and Missions

15 Dec

Our tainted nature’s solitary boast.
~ William Wordsworth, “The Virgin

During Advent, every Christian is a Mary-worshiper.

processionMary1024Naah, just joshing you. Not even Catholics worship Mary, despite appearances to the contrary. We pay her tribute and honor her – even reverence (dulia) her in a singular, intense manner (hyperdulia). But worship (latria)? That’s reserved for the Persons of the Trinity alone.

Our hyperdulia can get pretty darn close to latria I suppose – Rosaries and icons and processions and statues, et cetera  – and it’s understandable that outsiders might get confused.

Let’s set the record straight then. Mary is not God – she was a human being. Immaculately Conceived, to be sure, but a human being in need of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice as much as anybody else.

That being said, the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (AD 431) did bestow on her the title Theotokos – mother of God. It was a way of combating Christological heresy, but also a way of putting into words what the whole Church had long embraced and celebrated. As the mother of the incarnate God, Mary shares His flesh – in fact, it could be rightly said that He shares hers. She played a unique role in salvation history, she continues to play a role in the life of the Church today, and we are devoted to her as any child ought to be devoted to his earthly mother.

Can that devotion go off the rails? Perhaps. Chesterton admitted as much when he wrote this of Mary:

If Catholics had been left to their private judgment, to their personal religious experience, to their sense of the essential spirit of Christ and Christianity, to any of the liberal or latitudinarian tests of truth, they would long ago have exalted our Lady to a height of superhuman supremacy and splendour that might really have imperilled the pure monotheism in the core of the creed. Over whole tracts of popular opinion she might have been a goddess more universal than Isis.

Still, it’s a truism that virtually all Christians, Catholic and otherwise, honor Mary in their homes this time of year, even going so far as setting up a statue of her in their homes – sometimes more than one!

You know what I mean. It’s only brought out this time of year, and it’s usually in the context of a larger Nativity set (or several). Elaborate crèches feature Jesus, Mary, and Joseph at the center surrounded by shepherds and sheep, magi and their servants, an angel, and a host of farm animals that would be the envy of any homesteader.

Simpler Nativity sets might include just the Holy Family and a single shepherd with sheep, along with a single representative Wise Man – or maybe just the Holy Family and a crib. And the simplest? The Occam’s Razor of Christmas decoration? Mary and her baby. That’s the essence of Christmas.

Jesus, the Son of God, is always the central character in these miniature figurine dramas, as He should be. But consider that rarely is the baby Jesus depicted without His mother – unless you count all those gaudy images of the Infant of Prague, with the frills and the trappings and the lace. Even then, Mary’s presence is felt, because who else but a mother would dress up an infant boy like that?

Oh, but it’s all just Nativity sets, right? Practically toys, or possibly family heirlooms that have been passed down over a couple generations or more. They’re just illustrations of a Bible story in which God the Father is the primary actor. No special credit is meant to be given to Mary just because her image is on display.

holy-family-set-standardYet, skittishness about excessive Marian devotions and fears of Mariolatry are part of the air non-Catholics breathe, so you’d think there’d be at least some hesitation about Nativity scenes – but there’s none. Come November every year, graven images of Mary are on display everywhere, and nobody gives it a second thought.

Why?

Sentimentality plays a part, I suppose. St. Francis set up the first life-size crèche in 1223, and we’ve been oohing and aahing ever since. But even for Christians quite conscientious about such matters, it’s a natural, healthy instinct to honor the Holy Family with a Nativity scene. To be able to see and touch Jesus, Mary, and Joseph isn’t just for kids. It’s also a tangible expression of a theological truth that is itself about tangible expression: The Incarnation. Given that the Nativity is all about making the spiritual and unseen into something – Someone – very physical and see-able, it seems only fitting, even to the most rigorous fundamentalist, that the Holy Family and the Christmas story be depicted in a manner accessible to all our senses.

But perhaps there’s another element as well, one that is a bit more subtle and less readily acknowledged by our Protestant kin.

It’s this: Mary is the first Christian – the first to literally accept Jesus as her Saviour. That makes her a template and model for all Christians, and it’s good to have images to remind us of her –and not just at Christmas, but year round.

I pondered all this the other day when leading devotionals for my clinical group. I teach nursing at an Evangelical college that was founded primarily to prepare young people for the mission field. Almost all my students are Protestants; few of them have much familiarity with things Catholic. So I teach them.

It was the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and I talked a little about Mary and her special place in our common Christian heritage. There are two Gospels to choose from that day, both from Luke. For my students, I read aloud the Nativity story itself, including Gabriel’s declaration that Mary would play a singular role in God’s wild rescue plan for the world.

Instead of freaking out, Mary asks an honest question: How can that happen? – that is, how is it possible for her to get pregnant at all, let alone get pregnant with the God-man Himself?

As if to reassure the young girl that “nothing will be impossible for God,” Gabriel relates that her cousin Elizabeth had conceived a son despite her advanced years. Mary’s “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” was not just acquiescence to the Lord’s weird scheme, but also a signal of active engagement. She was to be no mere vessel or medium, but a determined player as well.

Same with us.

So what?, my students might ask. What makes her any different than any other Christian responding to truth and God’s call? From their perspective, Mary is simply one in a series of biblical characters that became instruments in the hands of a God determined to save His fallen creatures.

That brings us to that second Gospel choice for last Thursday’s Feast: The Visitation. Mary, filled with Jesus at the Annunciation, turns around and brings Him to her cousin – the first mission trip! Elizabeth confirms Mary’s mission, and John has what may be truly said to have experienced a Christian ‘con-version’ (from the Latin for ‘turn about’) in the womb:

For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.

It makes sense that the first Christian would be the first missionary, and Mary fits the bill in every respect. Compare, for example, what we see of Mary in Luke’s Gospel with the qualities expected of missionary candidates by Wycliffe Bible Translators:Vladimirskaya

  • Am I flexible in working with others in the body of Christ? (Mary rushes to assist her cousin in need [Lk 1.39-40])
  • Can others see Christ at work in my life? (Elizabeth testifies to Mary’s divine maternity [Lk 1.42-43])
  • Do I have healthy, growing family relationships? (Mary’s care for her cousin [Lk 1.39-43])
  • Am I ready to trust God to provide for me financially? (“He has filled the hungry with good things” [Lk 1.53])
  • Am I living within my means? (“For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden” [Lk 1.48])
  • Am I living, and committed to continue in living, a lifestyle that is set apart in service to God? (“Let it be to me according to your word [Lk 1.38])
  • Am I ready to explore how God can use my specific interests, experiences, and job skills in Bible translation?

This last is especially applicable to Mary, and it connotes another point of contact for Christians of varying traditions. For, although Wycliffe is referring to translation of the written Word into various languages, Mary devoted her entire personhood – body, soul, and spirit – to ‘translating’ the Word (logos) of God into human flesh.

And that’s what all Christians are called to do: Take the Jesus we receive – in church, in Scripture, in Sacrament, however that happens – and translate Him for those around us – incarnate Him again and again through our own words and actions and lives.

This is why we like to have Mary around throughout the year: To jog memories of our mission and jolt us into action. This Christmas, as you put away your Nativity set, maybe keep out the mother and Child a little longer than the rest. See if their visible presence doesn’t help you remember what we’re all called to be: Pregnant couriers of Christ, just like Mary.

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A version of this story appeared on Oblation, a blog of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy.

Our Lady of the Overgrowth

17 Aug

Yard work is not my thing.

We have a statue of Mary in front of our house, and she’s engulfed with weeds. Rather than sit here and write about it, I should get out there and clear up the environs.

Yes, yes, in time. But first, an observation.

On the Feast of the Assumption, Pope Francis spoke of spiritual warfare and Our Lady’s solidarity and solicitude. She’s really on our side, and all we need do is avail ourselves of her help. He said, “The Mother of Christ and of the Church is always with us. She walks with us always, she is with us.”

From the Cross, Christ gave her to us, and we to her, and now she’s at His side in heaven (what the Assumption is all about), so she has his ear. It’s so easy to forget—like she’s lost in the weeds. We know she’s there, but out of sight, out of mind I guess.

It’s comforting to know that she’s there all the same—waiting, watching, ready to come to our aid. She’s our Mother, after all, and like any earthly mother, she can’t wait for our call and our request for aid. She wants to help—a pleasant thought as I drive past the front of my house every day, and reflect on the Blessed Mother’s near eclipse in the brush and brambles.

Our earthy papa knows all this already. The Pope knows that we are typical children that love their mother, yet neglect her. His scolding, however, is gentle, and he coaxes rather than condemns. “The Rosary sustains us in the battle,” he said at one point on Thursday. “Do you pray the Rosary every day? But I’m not sure you do … Really?”

I scan those words, I recall similar exhortations from Monsignor’s Assumption Day homily, I look at the Rosary dangling from my dashboard, and I pick it up. Not a whole Rosary, mind you—I think I got through a couple decades before I arrived at my destination. No matter. It’s the most Rosary I’ve prayed in a long time.

And Mary doesn’t care really. She’s delighted by every act of devotion, every affectionate gesture that we make. But why the Rosary? My Protestant students often express their puzzlement: Why the repetition and rote recitation? What good is it?

It’s good because it pleases her. She likes it—just like a mom likes flowers and a card and some extra attention on Mother’s Day. If you didn’t do those things, would your mom love you less? Would she refuse to help you if you asked? I doubt it. But would you be a cad if you could do those things, and didn’t?

W.C. Fields once said, “Now don’t say you can’t swear off drinking; it’s easy. I’ve done it a thousand times.” Same with the daily Rosary: It’s easy to do—I’ve initiated the practice a thousand times. Looks like it’s going to be a thousand and one.

Oh, and the weeds? I’ll get to them in a bit…after I say my prayers.
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A version of this essay appeared on Catholic Exchange.

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