Venerable Beads

I was hardly the only Catholic kid to have received rosaries as gifts. For my First Communion, my neighbors gave me a slender string of cream and orange beads, made in their hometown in Venezuela. At Confirmation, I received one from my mom with a gold chain and pearl beads. I still have the one I got from my grandfather, a single-decade set of worn bronze that he carried with him during his deployment in the Pacific during World War II.

The one I usually use is the one my grandmother gave me, a long string that over time has lost some of its amethyst-colored beads. For years it’s sat in the bottom of my purse to be fished out for special occasions. Only now, it seems to have gone missing. All the others I’ve accumulated are packed away at my mother’s house. So for the first time I can remember, I don’t have a rosary.

For the most part, this has caused me no major inconvenience. I only noticed its absence during a conversation with my husband, a convert who has never prayed a rosary before. The ultimate spiritual introvert, Ryan prefers the communal participation of the Mass to extemporaneous or extravagant personal prayer. I suggested he might find grace in the repetitive, supremely structured prayer to the Blessed Mother. But I didn’t have a rosary to lend him.

Which made me wonder: Where do you buy a rosary? A small gift shop attached to a church, perhaps, but there’s no such establishment near me. I pulled out my laptop and did a quick Amazon search. Bad start: rosaries on Amazon are classified as “fashion”—and either men’s or women’s, at that. These devotional items sat uncomfortably next to the Prime check mark.

He liked the idea of wooden beads, so we bought a simple dark-wood rosary; in case we ever need a backup again, we also got a Benedictine set.

Hoping for a more reverent shopping experience, I Googled “catholic company.” I found, well, the Catholic Company—more pious than Amazon, but no less crass. How to choose from the 24,956 rosaries for sale? You could filter by rating, but how does one rate a rosary purchase? Buying beads according to birthstone color appears popular, but emerald isn’t my favorite. Did I want a rose-scented rosary? I didn’t know this was an option. Should I purchase according to a particular intention? (If you’re worried about fertility or financial troubles, the Catholic Company has your back.) What about by my favorite sport? Whether or not I support the armed forces? Am I slacking by not springing for beads with a relic? What about Swarovski crystal?

For each rosary I saw, I could envision an occasion where it might be appropriate (well, mostly—I can’t imagine who would need a $1,400 gold rosary). But what about a rosary just for me, and just to let a new, fanfare-averse Catholic give the rosary a try?

I had never had to think about it, but maybe there were features I was looking for: the full five decades, a pretty color, a simple cross, a Marian center pendant, beads big enough not to lose track of. I settled on a blue rosary for myself that fit the bill (“the royal blue and crystal combination speaks of Mary’s tender mantle and Immaculate heart” while “the Czech glass lends a delicate, decorative feel”).

I asked Ryan if he wanted one of his own, and he surprised me with an enthusiastic yes—“but something simple,” he added unhelpfully. The first thing we turned up was the Desert Camo Paracord Rosary (“durable and practical for indoor and outdoor prayer”). He liked the idea of wooden beads, so we bought a simple dark-wood rosary; in case we ever need a backup again, we also got a Benedictine set.

This wasn’t the introduction to the rosary that I had intended to give him, but maybe it wasn’t a bad one. Sorting through the marketplace of options gave both of us the chance to define what we want, or don’t, in our spiritual lives. I’m hoping that saying the rosary becomes a regular part of our routine. We’ll find out soon; our box is about to ship. And if we’re unsatisfied with our orders, no problem—we earned 2,030 loyalty points, good for $10 off our next purchase.

Published in the December 1, 2018 issue: 

Regina Munch is an assistant editor at Commonweal.

Also by this author
Is Science ‘True’?

Please email comments to letters@commonwealmagazine.org and join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Must Reads

Politics
Religion