Our hope is that The Rosary Unbound will foster a deeper understanding of the language and symbolism of the biblical texts, leading to a more profound and attentive contemplation of the twenty mysteries. Since they recall events in the life of Christ, this will further unite us to him.
The inspiring illustrations are the work of award-winning artist Sister Mary Grace Thul, O.P. Whether or not you pray the Rosary, something new is unveiled about the life of Christ in each of these 20 brief studies that will enrich your faith.
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Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them. If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? (Matthew 6:25-30).
The key to the text is the last word, “of little faith”, a rare compound word in Greek, oligopistos, meaning having a limited amount, but not a lack of faith. This explains why it only comes up in connection with the disciples and never the Pharisees.
Recall the story of Jesus walking over water out to the boat containing the disciples. In a moment of excitement, Peter jumps out and goes to meet him, suddenly realizing what he was doing:
But when he [Peter] saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me! Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31).
Worry and fear are intertwined. We are afraid of not having enough money, illnesses, aging, insecurity, tough decisions, etc.; so we worry. Jesus summarizes his point:
So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides (Matthew 6:31-33).
St. Paul also instructs us that anxiety over our personal needs is a waste of energy:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God (Philippians 4:6).
Three Ways to Battle Anxiety:
First, Jesus tells us to reprioritize our lives: “seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness.” The pursuit of our daily needs should not be our first order of business. Seeking the kingdom can take many forms: Holy Mass, Confession, Adoration, Liturgy of the Hours, the Holy Rosary and other devotions, almsgiving, doing good works, etc. The Church is free to administer her Sacraments and has canonized many saints, from whose writings and biographies we can draw inspiration.
Secondly, while we are told to pray for our specific needs, the first thing we should ask for is a stronger faith. Faith is not a quality that we can generate within ourselves like good habits but is described by Catholic theologians as an “infused virtue”, a gift of God. If faith is the answer to anxiety, we should by all means ask for it.
Third, meditate on the providence of God, remembering that everything is subject to God’s sovereignty:
Good and evil, life and death, poverty and riches—all are from the LORD (Sirach 11:4).
Notice that even evil is subject to God’s authority and used to accomplish His will.
Strengthening one’s faith won’t make hardships disappear, just the anxiety that goes along with them. St. Paul is a perfect example of this; recall that God had given him an unnamed “thorn in the flesh”:
…an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” …Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).
Paul doesn’t just suppress anxiety over his hardships, but is “content” in spite of them, a word usually translated “well-pleased”. Paul happily accepts hardships because he has faith that God is provident over all things, including evil, and will accomplish all His purposes unhindered.
Blaise Pascal, in his Pensees, argued that desiring happiness was a universal human aspiration, but added that in a practical sense it was relativistic and dangerous:
All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire [for happiness] in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves (425).
Book II, Vision 7 of St. Hildegard’s Scivias is a vision of the Devil, a worm-like creature bound in chains:
Now that worm was black and bristly, covered with ulcers and pustules, and it was divided into five sections from the head down through the belly to its feet, like stripes. One was green, one white, one red, one yellow and one black; and they were full of deadly poison. But its head had been so crushed that the left side of its jawbone is dislocated.*
Though chained, Satan is still able to corrupt souls. Hildegard describes “flames” coming out of the creature’s mouth which represent his deceits and temptations. They go in four directions:
In response to a trick question about marriage, Jesus dramatically overturns a law of Moses with authority. But we will see that in his response, the reasoning Jesus uses has a broader significance for Christians today.
Some Pharisees approached him, and tested him, saying, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause whatever?” (Matt 19:3).
Among the various Jewish schools of thought at the time the divorce question was not understood with unanimity, so Jesus was being set up in hopes for a chance to embarrass him in front of the crowd. But, as usual, it would be the Pharisees that would end up looking bad. Jesus responds,
Reading the gospels, we are often reminded that Jesus had little trust or interest in the prevailing civil institutions, focusing instead on the kingdom of God and spiritual realities that as Messiah he was bringing to humanity. Unlike the Pharisees, he did not care that Palestine was a vassal of the Roman Empire:
Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving him they went away (Matt 22: 17-22).
What used to be unimaginable is now taking place in America. We see certain aspects of Nazi-like totalitarianism in the United States. The obsession with race, declaring an ethnic group collectively guilty, shaming, humiliations based on ethnicity, lootings, arson, racist violence, intimidation of opponents, cancel culture, controlled dissemination of news, and indoctrination of children in schools.
Nobel laureate Saul Bellow once lamented that when attending dinner parties he would often be cornered and questioned about politically sensitive issues. His standard answer: “Trust me, I’m for all the good policies and against all the bad ones”. Even in the 1980s, avoiding politically labeling had become an art.
The problem facing progressives today, now that they have gained almost full control of the cultural, educational, media, and tech platforms, and now political institutions, is that they promote only lies. Some boys are really girls and girls might really be boys; people of the same gender can marry; statues of nice people like Abe Lincoln and Father Junipero Serra deserve to be vandalized, police are evil, white people are naturally inclined toward racial supremacy, etc.
Angelo Codevilla recently pointed out that statue defacing is just the beginning:
Jesus taught that physical needs must be subordinate to the pursuit of the kingdom:
As for you, do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not worry anymore. All the nations of the world seek for these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these other things will be given you besides (Luke 16:29-31).
The priorities in the speeches of Pope Francis seem less concerned about the kingdom, preferring to utilize the Church’s resources in conjunction with “all the nations” to cure poverty:
It is a truly pressing duty to use the earth’s resources in such a way that all may be free from hunger. …We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being (link).
An older but important article by Monsignor Charles Pope expressing his misgivings about the historical-critical method of interpreting scripture reflected my own experience:
When I was in Seminary the method was insisted on by some, (not all), of my professors as the only real and valid method of Scripture study. They were zealots of a sort and any suggestion of a world outside this method was dismissed by them.
…I was also troubled by the strong tendency of the historical-critical method to doubt the existence of the miracles. …[T]he more usual explanation of the miracles were that they were either literary devices, or just epic legends that were common of ancient near eastern and middle eastern texts. Further, claims that Jesus made of his divinity were somehow to be understood as later additions, not something Jesus actually said [emphasis his].
I recently bought the highly regarded book, The Triumph of Christianity: How the Jesus Movement Became the World’s Largest Religion, by Rodney Stark, a professor of social science at Baylor. It is a socio-historical study of the rapid spread of the Christian faith. He begins by partially crediting Jesus’ immediate family for the religion’s early success: