I found the first one hidden among a tray of gaudy costume jewelry in a display case at the local Waterfront Mission. I knew immediately what it was and asked the clerk if she could get it out for me to see.
The black wooden beads polished to a high sheen, I could imagine them being worn smooth from years of use, thousands of prayers recited, thousands of Our Fathers and Hail Marys. The crucifix made of the same ebony wood as the beads, was accented with silver and stamped ‘Italy’ on the back.
It felt like I had found a lost treasure and knew I would be taking it home.
Having been raised in the Baptist Church, and married in a Presbyterian one, it felt slightly heretical to bring a Catholic relic into my house. I didn’t know how to pray a rosary, and at the time, knew nothing of substance about Catholicism.
All I did know was that holding it in my hands, working my fingers around each bead, somehow felt right.
The next rosary I found was at an eclectic, flea-market style antique shop, displayed in a much more appropriate way. Not piled together with plastic strands of faux pearls, but laid out on a shelf, in a lighted curio cabinet beside gold and semi-precious jewels.
It was as if I was rescuing them from obscurity. Since then I have actively searched for rosaries whenever I’m in an antique shop, especially if I’m somewhere away from my hometown.
The most recent rosary I found was in a sweet little shop in Tennessee. The pale blue beads and elegant crucifix were beautiful. l was quite smitten with it and soon the proprietress was wrapping it in thin parchment paper for my trip back to Florida.
This week was the first time I hunted for a rosary online. I found one that is reputed to be from the early 1950s. It’s called a Job’s Tears rosary. The creamy white beads are ellipse-shaped and it also features six different saints medals.
Its history claims it was once owned by a nun. With each rosary I find, I wonder about its previous owner, and how it came to be for sale. Was it part of an estate, were there no family members who would have treasured such a precious item, was there no one to pass it on to?
I’ve asked Catholic friends about praying the rosary, was even given a prayer-book, but not having that particular ritual as part of my religious upbringing, it never felt like the appropriate way to handle them. My sentiment is that if I can’t recite the prayers and mysteries with the same confidence and reverence as I can sing familiar Baptist hymns and perform Presbyterian liturgies, it’s disrespectful to try.
There have been occasions when I’ve carried a rosary with me, especially when I’ve felt particularly vulnerable. Having the beads as a focus instead of my worries and fears, was comforting, I somehow felt closer to God. A place that’s been very lonely for the past several years.
I’m not a religious person. I believe in a higher power, God… but struggle with what that really means. These rosaries, even though not a part of my specific ecclesiastical teachings, hold a special attraction for me. I will keep looking for rosaries and keep seeking answers.