October 27, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

The ‘spiritual sword’ of powerful prayers

Shirley Vogler MeisterAs October—the month of the Blessed Virgin and the rosary—comes to an end, I turn my attention to using beads in prayer.

Some Catholics hang a rosary from the rearview mirror in their cars. Others carry them in pockets or purses, and some display them in their homes.

I keep one in a velvet pouch in my purse, but have two large rosaries hanging on the wall behind my computer.

The large white one from my husband’s mother glows in the dark. She found comfort in having rosaries with her even during her last years in a nursing home.

Unfortunately, I was forced to provide inexpensive ones for her because the lovely ones were stolen. I cringe to think of how they might have been used. One staff member told me that some younger employees used them as necklaces to emulate a rock star I consider offensive.

I especially treasure the rosary made by my daughter, Lisa, for a special project in grade school. It is more than 6 feet long, and is made of heavy string and buckeyes from a tree in our yard. She used larger buckeyes for the prayers between the five decades, and made a stained-glass crucifix. She needed help from her father to drill holes in the buckeyes.

As I work at my computer, I often visually follow those beads in prayer.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has an impressive history of the holy rosary at www.newadvent.org. Many Web sites honor this tradition. There is less information about the tradition of prayer beads in other religions, but some details can be found at www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_beads.

In Christianity, one of the oldest forms of prayer beads came between the third and fifth centuries from Desert Fathers, who used knotted ropes to count prayers, typically “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Catholic rosary comes from the Latin word “rosarium,” which means “crown of roses.”

Catholics need no explanation of the rosary’s four mysteries—joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous—and its prayers, which are sometimes referred to as a “spiritual sword” because this form of prayer is powerful.

Even some Anglicans use our rosary. Many Eastern Christians use a prayer rope, some made of leather.

The earliest use of beads is traced to Hinduism, with 108 beads to pray the name God or a mantra. Islams use prayer beads when reciting the 99 names of God from the Quran. Sikhs use 99 knots made of wool. Baha’is sometimes use prayer beads when reciting their name for God 95 times a day. Tibetan Buddhists have 111 beads to do this.

Some Catholics consider the rosary “a spiritual sword” because the prayers are so powerful. The Blessed Mother has emphasized that through her apparition requests to recite the rosary.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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