The collection

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.

Submitted as part of Shell’s “Pour Your Heart Out” writing prompt at Things I Can’t Say. Please stop by to read the other posts, and give a little comment love.

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I believe all good fiction includes an element of truth, and all good photography includes an element of fantasy. In this journal I hope to give voice to the stories swirling around in my head, and to capture the images I see through my camera’s lens.

14 thoughts on “The collection

  1. Such an interesting collection, and I totally understand where you are coming from. my grandmother attended a Presbyterian church, and my mom is fond of them, though she converted to Baptist when she married my dad. I was raised Baptist, but never fit in. Maybe I should look beyond the familiar to find a church to call home.

    Rosaries are beautiful.

    I’m posting from PYHO today. You can find mine on my regular blog at http://therealpoopsie.blogspot.com. if you want to stop by.

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  2. Those are all gorgeous. I find it so crazy that we have known each other this long and yet I didn’t know that you collect those, and you didn’t know that I do as well! My favorite is a purple, white and blue glass one that I bought when I was on a road trip once.

    🙂

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  3. I think this is a very cool thing to collect. I have always found rosaries to be beautiful, and I love that you carry one in your own times of need even if you don’t use them the way they were intended.

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  4. The picture of you as a Baptist/Presbyterian/seeker carrying a rosary around to feel closer to God does my heart good. We all seem to struggle over what is the “right” religion, maybe the answer is whatever brings you closer to God. Maybe your rosaries work just as well as a pulpit, four walls and a book. I would like to think so.

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  5. When I was a kid, i was Confirmed in the Catholic Church – and part of that process was taking on a new name. So Louis Charles Lohman became Louis Charles Francis Lohman – in honor of St Francis of Assisi. In addition, I began wearing a Devotional Scapular which was felt and had a cloth image of St Francis on both the front piece and the back one, as well.

    It wasn’t long after Confirmation that i actually began to drift away – I felt there were questions I needed to have answered – but the answer was always “Have Faith”, and being the “Visual” learner I am, that was a hard demand to meet. But I wore that Scapular until the day I got home from Viet Nam – and to this day, it sits in a box on my dresser.

    I don’t collect them, but I could never be without mine – and I completely understand why and how you would feel ‘drawn’ to Rosaries.

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