The rosaries of our lives
Sometime before Christmas I made the upsetting discovery that I had lost one of my favourite rosaries. People lose rosaries all the time, I know, but this particular one was very special to me. This was the rosary that accompanied me to work each day, sized perfectly so that I could finger the beads while driving. Its small, oval, burgundy beads were on a strong silver chain. The attached St. Benedict medallion and detailed crucifix, both made of pewter, made it simple yet beautiful. It was made by a friend and given to me one Christmas past. That was the saddest part of the loss—the sentimental value attached to it.
Silly? Some people may think so, but I don’t. I have a small collection of rosaries, all of which I use and all of which have a story, a memory, a person behind them. When I meditate on the rosary, I picture myself praising God through its powerful prayers along with the communion of saints. The rosary I am using at the time connects me in a special way to the person who gave it to me and I remember that person in my prayers.
I propose that the personal rosaries of faithful Christians have a fine history of their own. They have accompanied their owners through the most joyous as well as the most heartbreaking times in their lives. Their oft-handled beads show the passage of years as they slip lovingly through praying fingers. If rosaries could talk they would tell many profound stories of loss and rejoicing, of lives shattered and lives found, all within their 59 beads.
During my work week, I have the blessing of being able, on most days, to pay a quick visit to Jesus in a Eucharistic Adoration Chapel. Some days the chapel is quite full; other days there may only be a couple of us in silent prayer. The multicultural mix of my city is well represented in the chapel with whispered prayers being offered up in a multitude of languages. A common sight is the rosary held gently in the hands of worshipers. We may all be praying in different languages but there is a bond between us, all joined by the beads, simple or ornate, of our rosaries. It is a powerful sight.
When I was a Rosary Apostolate volunteer, one of my goals was to teach children in younger grades how to properly use the rosary. Patience and the ability to move quickly around the classroom placing little fingers on the proper beads was a skill I developed. My efforts and the efforts of all Rosary Apostolate volunteers are not in vain as we watch the same children become proficient in telling the beads as they get older. In the First Communion class that I teach, I am giving the same lesson to young children who pride themselves on knowing how to properly use the beads. Learning to navigate the beads has prompted many of the children to ask their parents for their own rosaries—so memories are being safeguarded in a new generation of beads.
In my home, each of my children have their personal collection of rosaries, complete with unique memories. They are either stored haphazardly in small tangled piles or hung in multiples on bedposts. One of my husband’s prized possessions is his late father’s time-worn, much used rosary. It is in need of repair but that does not diminish its value in the heart of my husband. When he holds it, he is reminded of his dad and I like to think that they pray together, joined by this special link.
I watch as my mom, her mind destroyed by dementia, slowly recites her prayers using the same rosary she has had for decades. Her dementia is at the stage where even long-term memory is compromised but the familiar beads are still a comfort to her. She recites her rosary much slower these days, often lapsing into sleep, and I am convinced that she does not always remember how to get from start to finish. No matter. She receives much comfort from feeling the smooth patina’d beads and God rejoices in her efforts.
Back to the rosary that I lost. After weeks of searching and beseeching St. Anthony, it is no where to be found. It is definitely gone. I only pray that whoever found it will somehow be blessed by the love that went into fashioning it and by the love with which it was received and used. Please God, the person who now owns it is making new memories and in reciting the age-old Christian prayers of the Rosary, is joined with the communion of saints in praising God and praying for the world.