The last time I went to Mexico, I bought a rosary in a little shop on the corner across from the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Salúd, in Patzcuaro, Michoacan. I am not Catholic, but for some reason, the idea of owning prayer beads has always appealed to me. I think it is the idea of organizing one’s prayers in this metered way that called my attention. The knowing when one is done. When I bought my rosary I was traveling with my mother, who has always considered a mixed marriage to be one between a Catholic and a Protestant. I wasn’t sure how to explain this purchase, sure it would seem particularly Catholic to her (not that she would care at this point in her life – both my sister and I married Catholics and she had no problem with either marriage, although in retrospect perhaps she should have protested just a little), so I didn’t. I just stopped in and bought it and slipped it my bag. I don’t think she even noticed, to tell the truth.

When I got home from Mexico, I hung the rosary over a lampshade next to my bed. One night, about 3:00 A.M., when sleep was evading me, I decided to pray. As I reached for the rosary I was stunned to notice it glowing in the dark. Each little brownish bead has a stripe of a creamy white around it, and it is this white part that glows. Since childhood I have loved all things luminous, so the glow definitely adds a little bit of magic to an already intriguing artifact.

A rosary is divided in groupings of beads. Each group has ten beads, and is divided by a separator bead. As I began to pray, I decided that I would alternate prayers of thanks with prayers in which I asked for something. It seemed rude to just ask for things without ever saying thank you for what I already have, so each group would be organized in an alternating type of prayer, but the divider beads would be dedicated to gratitude, thus ensuring more thanking than asking. I prayed thanks first, thinking of anything I could to be thankful for– it wasn’t too hard to come up with nine things at a time and when I ran out of ideas I just repeated myself. Next, I said one big general thank you on the separator bead, then went on to a group of prayers in which I asked for outcomes. I asked that I be helped to lose weight, that one of my students who had a mysterious illness would regain her health and that I wouldn’t run out of money before the end of the month again. I prayed for my children’s health and prosperity, world peace and then came around to the weight loss prayer again. By the time I got to the end of the rosary, I was calm, relaxed and ready to sleep.

I have found unexpected solace in those deep night prayers. Since that night, I have often repeated this pattern of prayer, using the rosary as an organizer. Now all I have to do is hold it in my hand and I fall asleep within minutes, feeling safe and relaxed. It is as though just touching the beads activates the prayer, and I no longer have to say anything at all.


2 thoughts on “Praying

  1. reprimanda says:

    I’m not religious either (sometime I should tell you about my past and leaving my family age 16), but I love symbolism. Jacob and I have a cross that I found at an antique shop that hangs in our bedroom. For Harlo we created a baby rosary from beads given to us from my girlfriends, which will be hung in his bedroom at some point (probably before he’s too old to tell us NO). There is something about these symbols that appeal to me. I like the way these ‘things’ make me feel… and sometimes objects work in ways unexpected. Faith is an amazing emotion. I’m a faithful and spiritual person without the messiness of religion.

  2. lynnjake says:

    I love that comment, “a faithful and spiritual person without the messiness of religion.” You pegged it! I would love to see the baby rosary you created for Harlo. That is such a lovely thing to do. For the past year or two I have been collecting beads with the idea that I would make prayer beads, for myself, for others, just make them. I love the idea of doing that. Everywhere I go, when I come across a bead shop, an inport shop, a “head shop” (whatever those hippie sort of stores are called these days) or even an antique store, I stop and browse for beads. I’m not sure when I’ll feel ready to begin putting them together in some sort of meaningful way, but the day is coming. I can feel it!

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