Ask A Catholic: What is the Rosary?

Q. What is the Rosary? How do you pray it? When do you pray it? Are there different kinds?

A. The Rosary is perhaps the most commonly known and most popular form of devotion practiced by Catholics and, believe it or not, even many non-Catholics. In short, the Rosary is a series of prayers is dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, that provides a contemplative walk through the life and significant events of Jesus Christ.

How to pray the Rosary

The rosary is made up of a crucifix (a cross bearing the crucified Jesus), five introductory beads, a medal (usually bearing an image of Jesus & Mary), and five sets of 10 beads with a single bead between each set. Depending on the day, a different set of “mysteries” are used to guide the person praying through the Rosary (more on that in a minute).

Only six prayers are used when a person prays the Rosary: the Apostles’ Creed, the Our Father, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, the O My Jesus (The Decade Prayer), and the Hail Holy Queen.

Read the rest over at Spokane Faith & Values.

Sheen quote Rosary


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Ask a Catholic: Do Only Catholics Go to Heaven?

NOTE: This column is hosted by and has been updated from it’s original at Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at

Q. Please explain if the Catholic faith supports the belief that only Catholics go to heaven.

A. That particular phrasing can be a little misleading — the more accurate question would be, “Do Catholics believe there is no Salvation outside the Catholic Church?”

Here’s what the Church says.

  • “Re-formulated positively, [the statement “there is no Salvation outside the Church”] means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, [Vatican II] teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 846 – read more)
  • “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church. Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (paragraph 847)
  • “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.” (paragraph 848)

Here’s what that means.

The basic answer is “Yes, BUT.”

This teaching stems from the two core beliefs that a) Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Risen Savior of all mankind, and b) he founded a church before being raised to heaven – one that was built on the 12 Apostles, led by St. Peter, and protected until the end of time by the Holy Spirit.



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Copy of I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself.

Five MORE Catechism Truth Bombs About Marriage

To read the first 5 truth bombs on marriage, click here. You won’t regret it.

Weddings are a big deal in our culture. Between the months of June & September (and all year on Pinterest…ladies) there’s hardly anything else on the minds of most 20-somethings in America. And yet, marriage, especially as a religious institution, is in a sad state these days.

It seems more and more people are understanding marriage as merely a legal contract between two people with intense romantic feelings for one another. But what’s been understood for centuries, especially in Christian cultures, is much, MUCH richer.

So we turn to the trusty Catechism of the Catholic Church, the rich volume compiled under the watch of one of the greatest writers on love and marital flourishing the Church has ever seen, St. John Paul II, for answers and a heavy dose of much-needed truth.

Below, you’ll find five “truth bombs” on marriage from the Catechism that are so awesome, by the end you’re sure to be doing this (kinda like you did the last time, and the time before that):


1.  “Sexuality is ordered to the conjugal love of man and woman. In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.” (2360; 2361b)

As Christians, we believe everything (EVERYTHING) in existence is intricately ordered by God and for a specific purpose: to praise Him and return with gratitude the gift He gave to us. That fact means that in our sexuality and in our very humanity there is, necessarily, a way to be more true to our humanity or less true to it – to be more true to our sexuality or less true to our sexuality.

But how do we know what it means to be truly human or to be authentically living our sexuality?  Words we read here – like pledge and commit – imply an act of self-gift, telling us that a contrary, self-focused existence accomplishes neither true expression of humanity nor sexuality. Those called to marriage must give of themselves, must commit to their spouses – on the first day and every day – if they wish to live out this vocation authentically.

2. “The acts in marriage by which the intimate and chaste union of the spouses takes place are noble and honorable; the truly human performance of these acts fosters the self-giving they signify and enriches the spouses in joy and gratitude.” (2362)

This, ladies and gentlemen, is what many Catholics refer to as “holy sex”. And, by the way, “holy sex” is not just allowed to be enjoyed (we aren’t Puritans, after all), but as we read here, it’s both noble and honorable. The reason it can be all of the above is because our bodies are inherently good, and, thus, so is the marital embrace. In fact, Pope Pius XII, in 1951, affirmed that it was none other than God who made it so “spouses should experience pleasure and enjoyment of body and spirit.”

But, as mentioned in No. 1, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Garnering that enrichment, joy, and gratitude between you and your spouse requires heroic humility and radical self-gift. It requires us to think outside of ourselves – to trust God and to will the good of our spouses “as other” (without concern for our own well being). If you use your husband or wife as an instrument of your own gratification (in any way, sexual or non-sexual), on the other hand, your marriage will not be enriched, and you can kiss that joy and gratitude goodbye.

3. “The spouses’ union achieves the twofold end of marriage: the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life. These two meanings or values of marriage cannot be separated without altering the couple’s spiritual life and compromising the goods of marriage and the future of the family.” (2363)

One of the cool things about Catholicism is that it’s possible to do the “both/and” thing and not have to adhere to an “either/or” mentality. So, while it’s an incorrect assumption for people to think all the Catholic Church wants couples to do is have seventeen babies, it’s equally incorrect for couples to think they’re doing marriage right by only thinking about themselves and/or being closed off to life (and that includes The Pill).

This cuts to the heart of where the Church comes from on abortion and contraception, but more importantly it provides a blueprint for (surprise, surprise) a successful marriage. Every marriage worth its salt – and every marriage that ever truly thrives spiritually, emotionally, and physically – pays attention to both the good of the spouses and the openness to life.

4. “Fecundity is a gift, an end of marriage, for conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child does not come from outside as something added on to the mutual love of the spouses, but springs from the very heart of that mutual giving, as its fruit and fulfillment.” (2366)

One of the most poetic lines about marriage in Scripture is, “the two will become one flesh,” (Mark 10:8), emphasizing clearly that marriage requires the full giving of oneself to create something entirely new.  It speaks to the utter unity that the newly married couple, as man and woman, engage in as complementary spouses.

While we mainly think of unity in terms of the marital act, or the couple being “a good team” in the way they tackle life, it’s mind-blowing to think that the highest form of unity that a married couple can reach is in the creation of a new human being. In a child being born, the “two becoming one flesh” takes on an even more profound meaning, as both spouses literally give their whole selves to create, through God, an entirely new, unique person.

5. “Fidelity expresses constancy in keeping one’s given word. God is faithful. The Sacrament of Matrimony enables man and woman to enter into Christ’s fidelity for his Church. Through conjugal chastity, they bear witness to this mystery before the world.” (2365)

The “til death do us part” promise that’s made before God and the Church on our wedding day isn’t asked of us just on that day — we’re asked to be faithful, to be loving, that day and every day after.

As the Catechism quotes, St. John Chrysostom exhorts young husbands to say to their wives:

I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. For the present life is nothing, and my most ardent dream is to spend it with you in such a way that we may be assured of not being separated in the life reserved for us. . . . I place your love above all things, and nothing would be more bitter or painful to me than to be of a different mind than you.

There’s a reason “Chrysostom” means “Golden-mouthed”… The man speaks truth! Husbands, if you don’t have this devotion to your wives (and wives for your husbands), you need to do something about that.

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Sts. Mary and Joseph, pray for us!

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I have taken you in my arms, and I love you, and I prefer you to my life itself. (1)


Declining American Catholic Numbers is a Call to Action

NOTE: This column is hosted by and has been updated from it’s original at Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at

A survey is an interesting thing.

Though valuable in its ability to grasp the perspective of vast groups of people, a survey nevertheless holds no bearing on the inherent truth of something – it exacts precisely zero influence over the rightness or wrongness of a particular issue.

For example, if the Pew Research Institute existed in the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a poll of religious beliefs about whether or not Christ was divine would have resulted in a two-thirds majorityamong bishops of the day in denying the divinity of Jesus. That information, though giving the reader a sound testament of the persuasive capabilities of the chief evangelist of such a belief (Arius), stands in direct contrast of the truth of that particular matter; for Jesus is, always has been, and always will be, the begotten Son of God, who is both fully divine and fully human.

And so, as a Catholic, the 2014 Pew study on America’s religious landscape, while interesting and informative in a certain respect, wasn’t terribly troubling to me on the whole.

I wasn’t surprised to see the continued decline in religious practice and belief on a generational level. From my own experience in the Catholic world, I know that those in my parents’ generation were taught the motions and the rules by their parents, but weren’t often taught why those motions and rules mattered; they were catechized, but not evangelized. They knew Jesus’ church, but they didn’t know Jesus.

And so, it’s no surprise that their children have sniffed out something that’s not being done out of a place of understanding and intentionality. Doing something “because that’s what we do” is rarely good enough for kids, because kids want answers to their questions. So, when no good answers are offered — and when the Sunday practice often contradicts the rest of week’s activities — they’ll call B.S. faster than you can say “transubstantiation”.

But the story isn’t over, and the last thing the church is doing is giving up. So, what that survey does do is reaffirm the call to action and identified priority on evangelization that we’ve heard for decades, first from the Second Vatican Council (“Vatican II”), from Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and now from Pope Francis.

Read the rest at SpokaneFaVS…


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Integrity at the Sticking Point: How We Can Each Help the World Post-Paris

C.S. Lewis’ famous book, The Screwtape Letters, came out in 1942, smack in the middle of World War II. When the book, a satirical series of “letters” written by a demon uncle to his demon nephew, was released, Europe was still fighting to keep its citizens and its patrimony safe against invading forces, with no hint of when – or how – an end would come.

A similar response, admittedly on a much smaller scale, has sprung up in the aftermath of Friday’s Paris attacks at the hands of ISIS. Rallying cries of unity and solidarity (profile pictures, #prayersforParis, etc.) have come from all corners of the globe. Though most of us go about our days living common and pleasant lives, on Friday we were suddenly – and rudely – shaken from our slumber by the death knell of 129 souls.

We’re right to be agitated. We’re right to be angry, sad, or in disbelief. We’re right to demand that the world be a better place. But the change must start with each one of us. In our agitation, a 73-year-old lesson from The Screwtape Letters would do us good, and can even help us find a way out of this mess.

A situation like Paris, like 9/11, or any other unprecedented and seemingly senseless attack awakens our moral sensibilities in a way that normal life doesn’t. Our sense that good and evil are indeed tangible things tends to dull in the everyday, but spikes when the unexpected happens.

From the perspective of the demons, Lewis affirms this:

In peace we can make many [humans] ignore good and evil entirely; in danger, the issue is forced upon them in a guise to which even we cannot blind them.

What comes along with our heightened sense of good and evil is the “fight or flight” instinct — the impulse to either rise up with courage or shrink back with cowardice, hatred, and despair.

This, as Lewis writes, “is probably one of [God’s] motives for creating a dangerous world–a world in which moral issues really come to the point.”

[God] sees as well as [demons] do that courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means, at the point of highest reality. A chastity or honesty, or mercy, which yields to danger will be chaste or honest or merciful only on conditions. Pilate was merciful till it became risky. (161-162; emphasis added)

The beauty of our intertwined, God-breathed existence is that no single human is inconsequential — we all matter in the grand scheme. What that means is that each of us has a part to play in effecting positive change in the world following this horrendous attack on the homeland of Therese of Lisieux, Louis IX, and Joan of Arc.

So as we go out from this, we do pray for Paris, and we should continue to do so. But our solidarity with them shouldn’t stop there. In our lives we should live in chastity, honesty, and mercy with a fierce zeal, even (and especially) when it’s troubling or difficult to do so.

May God be with us all.

A chastity or honesty, or mercy which

A GIF Narrative of the Reactions from the Synod on the Family

A big, huge event just ended in Rome a couple days ago. At least, if you followed the American media you’d think it was huge, anyway.

The Synod on the Family, though significant enough in its ability to be a litmus test of where the world’s bishops stand on key issues, was never going to change Catholic doctrine, because that never been (and never will be) its purpose. It also wasn’t just something where bishops got together and talked about divorced or gay Catholics. Instead, it was about much more — You know, because the family is important because everyone comes from a family and if the family didn’t exist neither would the world or any of us.

The Synod was more or less an advisory meeting of bishops, gathered to help Pope Francis continue to guide the Church with how She cares for the family and all the mess that comes with it. But not everyone has the time to pore over news articles about documents and arguments and speeches, so here’s a quick rundown of what happened, the reactions, and where we go from here. Let the GIFs be your guide…

Pope Francis, wanting good input from lots of viewpoints, beckoned a group of bishops, priests, religious women and men, and laypeople from all over the world to the Eternal City. 

Patrick Stewart animated GIF

Then, presumably, Pope Francis stood up and was like…

Meetings started in early October, with the working purpose being, “The vocation and mission of the family in the Church and in the contemporary world.” The goal would be coming up with an advisory document for Pope Francis, with which he would presumably produce a clear path for the Church in a teaching document — called a “post-synodal apostolic exhortation”.

Actual discussions between attendees weren’t open to the public, so all we had to go off of were reports from journalists and … sadly … armchair interpreters on Twitter of both an ultra-conservative and more left-leaning Catholic bent.

Save yourself some time. Here’s the gist of those tweets:

You're WrongRight on!

And for those who seem to have forgotten Christ’s words in Matthew 16:18, this was the consensus:

To which more level-headed folk, in full understanding that the Synod was most certainly NOT dismantling the Church, wished to be all…

But instead were more inclined to throw up their hands and be like…

Now, the Synod hath ended, and guess what?

Nothing’s changed! The bishops of the world are strongly in favor of what the Church teaches! And, most of all, we’re still here!

Pope Francis is a trustworthy leader, who, considering he’s made both sides uncomfortable for different reasons, seems to be doing his job right. You know who else did that? JESUS.

And so, I’d like to offer some words of advice to anyone (and everyone) losing their heads over all this business:

terminator animated GIF

The Holy Spirit is still in charge, and last time I checked, that wasn’t any of us. Let’s remind ourselves (ad nauseam) that God is God and we are not. That is all.

Oh, and one more thing:

Be Not Afraid


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How St. John Paul II Might Answer Cupich on Conscience

This post originally appears at Crisis Magazine. It has been shared with permission.

In September 1953, a group of 20-somethings and their young parish priest embarked on the first of what would be 26 annual kayaking trips into the wilderness near where they all lived and worked, taking time away from normal life to enjoy the water, the wilderness, and, most of all, a prayerful retreat with each other.

This group – Środowisko, as it was called – was the experiment of Karol Wojtyla, the Polish priest most of us know better as Pope St. John Paul II. Beginning out of his parish assignment as a student chaplain, John Paul built the group of young people slowly out of a common desire for community, growth, and free discussion (such opportunities were rare at the time in Communist-ruled Poland).

Two characteristics of the group that particularly stood out were the group’s interest in prayer — especially liturgical prayer — and John Paul’s emphasis on accompanying his friends as they navigated their young lives. The two desires collided in the sacrament of confession, where John Paul “didn’t impose,” one member recalled, “but he did demand” that decisions be made as wisely as possible.

John Paul’s emphasis on accompaniment as a pastoral practice, in order to enrich and form the consciences of his parishioners was because, as George Weigel wrote in his biography Witness to Hope, “this was the way a priest lived out his vocation to be an alter Christus, ‘another Christ.'”

Read the rest here…


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