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Posted April 17, 2011

Book: Living the Rosary: Finding Your Life in the Mysteries
Author: John Phalen, C.S.C.
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2011. Pp. 148

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The rosary, often called “the Gospel in miniature,” is both explained and meditated upon by Rev. John Phalen, C.S.C., president of Holy Cross Family Ministries and one of today’s leading Rosary evangelists. Phalen invites readers to open their eyes and hearts to God’s presence in their daily lives through this ancient devotion. Living the Rosary employs scripture, the lives of the saints, and Phalen’s pastoral experiences to lead readers into a deep appreciation of the personal import of the mysteries of the Rosary.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Resurrection: Why Do You Seek the Living among the Dead?

The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

The women went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. It was easy, before dawn. They were wondering who would roll away the stone for them. When they got there, the stone had already been rolled away. They went in, and a young man dressed in white sat by the empty tomb. He asked, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised.”

Jesus had predicted such a thing, but apparently it had seemed too preposterous to really believe, this business of rising again after three days! If there is one reality we can observe in this world, it is that when you are dead, you are dead! There is no living after the life we lead; at least that is what we see with our eyes and experience when loved ones die.

Or is it? Have you ever known someone who has lived with alcoholism or some other addition? Such people seem practically dead, and there are many such unfortunates. But some of them have found their way into twelve-step programs and are now living their lives one day at a time, knowing they are still addicted but not making the same poor choices as before. We could easily say of them something similar to what the father of the prodigal son said about his own child: “We had to throw a party; your brother was dead and has come back to life!” if you know someone who is faithful to recovery and is living a much more sane and disciplined life, then you, too, know someone who has “risen from the dead.”

Those who fight off cancer and find themselves in remission after months, or even years, of exhausting treatments often feel like they have risen from the dead, as do prisoners who have committed crimes and have paid the price by serving time. The one who goes through the nightmare of prison and is still able to draw closer to Jesus, leaving with no regrets and thanking God for freedom, is very much like someone “risen from the dead.”

For some time, I have served as chaplain to a prison in upstate New York. Working there I once met a joyful man who played music for our Masses. He would often say to me, “I’ll see you one day on the outside, Father!” I must confess that , while I would go along with his words for the sake of friendship, I had no real expectation of ever seeing him on the outside, a free man reunited with his family. No, these particular prisoners were “hard core.” They had done some terrible things, and the expectation was rather that they would find their way back to the correctional institution once the $40 given them by the prison for their return to New York City ran out. This could (and often did) happen very quickly, whether a prisoner had the intention of staying free for good or not.

Years later, I was arranging the altar after Mass one Sunday, and a whole family appeared at the doorway of the Church. I motioned them to come forward: a father, mother, and four children. The guitar the man carried gave him away. He was that same musician who had always said he would look me up “on the outside.” They were all grinning ear to ear. He testified taht his faith had grown while he was in prison, and that his family had suffered without him, missing him for many years. The man was deeply grateful to his family for not giving up on him. He was someone “risen from the dead” in my book. He was even playing music for Sunday Mass in a neighborhood nearby. He and his family knew he would never return to prison.

Another prison story comes to mind. I had been preparing a couple for marriage in the Church. They already had children and were married civilly, but now he was in jail, she was at home raising the children, and they decided to marry in the Church while he was still incarcerated. We had several preparation sessions on prisoner visiting days. Preparations fo the wedding day were made — this mostly involved paperwork — and the day finally came.

The wedding was to take place in the front offices of the prison. Having to take on the burden of doubling for a place of worship and celebration, the offices looked especially drab that day. Two secretaries none of us knew acted as the witnesses. The bride appeared, crying in frustration. She had wanted to put some dignity into the meager ceremony. Knowing that the office was bleak and understandable as a location for her wedding, she had brought her husband a new necktie. Unfortunately, the presence of a necktie was a problem in a maximum security prison. She became infuriated when the officials observed that her husband might hang himself with it! “On his wedding day?!” she protested. After much discussion and many tears, the Watch Commander finally allowed the tie for the ceremony alone. (He became my hero after that concession).

In came the groom, dressed in prison green. His hand were cuffed. He did not look happy to see his wife crying. He was escorted by a guard, who had to check the memo to be sure his necktie was allowed. He handed the tie to the inmate, who looked sorrowfully to me. I was dressed in my vestments for the ceremony. It became clear that this man did not know how to tie a tie. I put the tie around my own neck (this being the only way I could get a good knot in the tie), and before the bride could start crying again, I started to laugh at how ridiculous this all looked: a handcuffed prisoner marrying the woman of his dreams in a dreary office with a guard on duty; unknown secretaries as witnesses; and a vested priest trying a tie around his own neck. A bizarre scene indeed! But the sacrament took, and the two have some unusual stories to tell of their wedding. Free of the red tape and the correctional institution, these two qualify as having “risen from the dead!”

Of course, these are simply human experiences — events that give us a kind of hint about the resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection tops them all. But the point here is that if we have experienced some sorrowful mysteries in life, we have also experienced some form of resurrection glory, albeit limited.

We can all look forward to our own resurrection of the body on the last day. Then our experiences of mini-resurrection will be validated, and we will be in the presence of our Creator, having been brought into new life. Death is truly a new beginning. The cross always finds a way to bring hope. So he is risen. He is not here. Why seek the living one among the dead?

Questions for Reflection

Have you ever come across someone who has “risen from the dead”? Tell the story.

Have you ever been able to “give new life” to a group or to a depressed or grieving individual? How did you do it? Or, how did God do it through you?

Table of Contents:

1. Living the Joyful Mysteries

2. Living the Luminous Mysteries

3. Living the Sorrowful Mysteries

4. Living the Glorious Mysteries