Posted October 07, 2005 in My Dear Family:
Beads on a String

by Catherine Doherty.

I went outside for a bit today to enjoy the mild air and the autumn leaves. Sitting in my Russian shrine, I was thinking—of all things—about the rosary, the neglected, rejected rosary.

What is the rosary? It is a string of beads arranged in a certain way. I remembered my childhood in Egypt where I saw Arabs who often fingered something like a rosary. The Muslims also have a string of beads, but with a tassel at the end instead of a crucifix.

I once asked an Arab maid why the men were fingering these beads all the time. She said, “for the glory of Allah and for help in meditation.”

As I grew up and traveled around the world—India, China, Europe, and Russia—I saw among both pagans and Christians a variety of prayer beads arranged in different patterns on a string. Everywhere, this simple device has helped people to meditate.

But so many Catholics have discarded the rosary as obsolete, as something meant for the illiterate and for children, as something utterly meaningless and irrelevant in our days!

What is the rosary? The rosary is the story of the Incarnation. The Incarnation began in the womb of a woman who simply said, “yes” to God.

The rosary follows the main events of the life of the Man-Child to whom she gave birth, and who for us Christians is God, the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity.

Step by step, in awesome simplicity, anyone can follow the life of Christ. For each decade is dedicated to a particular aspect of the life of Christ.

As the drama of his life unfolds, the tempo increases. Finally, man is killing God, and God is willingly dying for love of man. The tragedy pierces heart and mind with almost intolerable gratitude.

Then, slowly, the pain is assuaged by the Resurrection and by the realization that the Lord is in our midst.

The problem with the rosary is the manner of its recitation both in churches and in the home. It cannot be hurried. Mysteries do not lend themselves to mumbling, to carelessness, to rapid recitation. No. One decade a day might be better, or even one a week.

Entering deeply into the mysteries of the beads will be entering into the whole immense mystery of the life and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who, better than Mary, could act as a guide for us? She was there throughout the years of Nazareth. She was there with the holy women who followed him through his short period of preaching. She was there when he was pushed around from tribunal to tribunal. She was there under that cross, and by the grave where he was buried. She was in the upper room where the eleven frightened men huddled around her.

Mary “started it all” in a manner of speaking by her “yes.”

So our Hail Marys simply honor her for her role in these mysteries, and we ask her to lead us also through the earthly life of her son with similar devotion and faith.

I wondered if we really know the difference between childishness and childlikeness. Have we completely forgotten what the Lord said? Unless you become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt 18:3).

Perhaps I am a fool, but I continue to say the rosary, though I must confess it takes me a long time to say the 15 mysteries! I have never been able to say more than one mystery a day because “saying” is not the proper word when one talks about meditating on mysteries.

One is plunged into a mystery and has to stay there, waiting, until God himself slowly reveals as much of it as he desires.

Yes, I had quite a meditation on the rosary that day, and for some reason, probably because I love you, I wanted to share this meditation with you.

Adapted from Welcome, Pilgrim, pp. 89-91, available from MH Publications.


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