Ring of Roses - Thorny Times
The rosary used to fascinate me when I was little. There it was, nestling in Nana's little box of precious things. My mother told me it had belonged to "Ma" - her paternal grandmother. My parents were far from Catholic. So far as I know Nana was anglican. She kept the fasts deeply.
There I was, a child, exhorted to say my prayers by someone shouting from another room. I remembered Nana, as she lay in her big bed, and I in my little mattress. I could hear her whispering in the night. Talking to Jesus. In my childish loneliness I thought this was 'saying my prayers' so I too would lie there in the dark, imagining that I could hear Nana, and joining in. Alas, I would fall asleep in moments, sleeping like the baby I was.
Then I went and found a blue necklace. I found that, whether I used it kneeling, or cuddled it to me in the dark, praying was easier. Easier to remember to pray for this one or that one. I discovered, I suppose, a talent for prayer. No one knew the significance of those blue beads, and though I strung them many times, eventually some one threw them out because they were unwearable.
So I made a little cross from plywood and held that. I carried it everywhere.The years passed, the plywood cross fell battered and crushed to the wayside, and I bought myself a rosary.
The truth is, I had no idea how to use it. So I used it in lots of different ways. I learned the Salve Regina, prayed, Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner, Lord, Jesus Christ son of the Living God have mercy on us; Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on us and all your world. Sometimes I used the Rosary to straighten my mind. To talk with Him about everything, from the state of my soul to my emotions, to the state of the world, and all the people I knew. Sometimes I just held it.
By then, of course, I also knew how to use it 'properly'. The rosary had become for me an all purpose tool. A way of measuring time, of giving my time itself to God. A way of taking me away from the increasing trials of the life I was leading. Sometimes a way to walk right back into the troubles, with strength and calm that did not belong to me.
More years went by. Nana died. There was no sign of the rosary tucked into the little blue box with the pearls. I asked my mum. "Oh that, she said, it was broken, so I threw it out."
My own rosary fell to pieces. I laid it carefully in a little box. More years passed. My marriage was more than hard work, finances were in a desperate state. When a dear friend died I went to the funeral, which was held in the Cathedral. Afterwards I crossed the road to the Catholic Shop, bought a beautiful sturdy wooden rosary, and began a long Novena. Before the Novena was completed my whole life was cleaned up. Mind you - in some unexpected ways. I completed the Novena with a sense of astonishment. Never would I have believed such a total transformation of every aspect of my life. Not just those matters for which I offered the Novena. But for the whole of life.
My circumstances were still hard. I had a child to rejoice in, and a mother to nurse. Indeed, that nursing become increasingly difficult, until mother was put into hospital. It was while I was sorting her possessions, packing them up that I found the rosary. I laid it carefully in tissue paper in the box with my own broken rosary and went on with what had to be done.
Some time later I took it in my hands and began to mend it. The task was soothing and absorbing, healing in many ways. It was only when I had finished that I felt a sense of wonder. Exactly the right number of beads. But when I had started, there had not been enough.
I took the Rosary in my hands, and felt myself in two places. One was most definitely my own familiar room, the other was my great grandmother's kitchen. Nana's mother. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was her rosary, I felt her hands, her warmth, the love of all her children, her grand children, her strong irish bones, her gentleness, her midwifery, the cleanliness of her person, and I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that she also prayed with me, and for me.
This loving woman had been given the gift to break through time, by the moments of her life she had spent in eternity, in the love of God, to follow us all with her prayers and her peace.
Then I also knew what a wonderful gift God has given us. The communion of Saints is a communion of living people. When we ask for the prayers of this one or that one, it is no more difficult than asking for Father Peter to pray for us, or our cousins to pray for us, or our friends to pray for us. To ask for our Lady's prayers is to ask them of someone living, and vital, someone who cares deeply what happens to us and how well we do with what we've got.
I do not often take out my great grandmother's rosary. When I do you can bet that it is because some great peril, or some great joy is upon us. The sturdy wooden rosary I bought in that time of trial ten years ago has been mended several times, and when, a few weeks ago, the crucifix fell into the garden and was lost, I prayed, and remembered the one part of my old rosary that was not used in the mending of Great Grandmother's Rosary. The cross.
As I attached it, I remembered the priest who blessed it, and felt myself again part of a living community of prayers. Not just my own flesh and blood, but the family that He has given me.
The roses on the wooden beads are polished and worn. They have cushioned and transformed my fingers as I fingered them and felt the thorns of my life. Perhaps they have even made the thorns beautiful.
The season of thorns is upon me again.
and the word became flesh