Saturday, November 20, 2010

Upsizing the Rosary!!

I was strolling through Brisbane Markets today when I noticed a stallholder offering rosary beads that would "fit small ladies up to XL men". The stock on display seemed to be the conventional "one size fits all" I imagine the made to order set would be arranged in a discrete booth where appropriate measurements would be recorded.

When I was growing up in Geelong the evening rosary was as regular my Mum's trifle. It (the rosary, not the trifle) was a strange ritual involving us burying our heads deep into a chair with our backs to each other as we rattled off the required Paters and Aves to complete the regulatory decades of the day.

It became more challenging when we bought our first TV set. In those days you wouldn't turn the TV off for the rosary as it took a while for the valves to warm up again. We used to turn down the volume and cover the set with a rug. This provided another great distraction as each of us kids positioned ourselves at the edge of the rug to see if we could glimpse a bit of the black and white colour image of Sunnyside Up or perhaps a scene from Peyton Place.

I'n not sure when the ritual began to die but I suspect it happened as we moved into secondary school and our engagements with extra curricular activities took us out of the house soon after tea on some evening.

My other strong childhood memory of the Rosary was the incredible passion of the Ladies of the Legion of Mary. My grandmother was a member of the Geelong Praesidium and I remember hitting the streets with her and Kit Corbett as they did the rounds of local homes with the fervent door call: "Are there any Catholics in this household"? They were as passionate as JWs and Mormons in full flight weeding out recalcitrant Catholics and other unsuspecting "lapsed" with a fierce determination and sense of purpose.

On Monday evening The "Legion Ladies" would lead a rosary at the home of one of the locals who was hosting the statue of Our Lady of Fatima which did the rounds of the parish. Neighbours would come around for a good dose of Marian Hymn singing a few decades of the rosary and a hefty supper.

I still carry beads with me as a reminder of prayer that binds me to generations and a spirituality of mantra prayer. The beads I carry are coloured in red. black and yellow, the colors associated with Australia's First People. I also have a larger set that I have carried with me in memory of my days as a Capuchin friar when they were my constant companion as part of my habit. I am reminded of this tradition now as I see young people who wear rosaries around their necks.

In a news item earlier this year the Catholic Womens League denounced young people wearing rosaries as "disrespectful to the beliefs of Catholics" I mix with young people who wear rosaries most Sunday nights at The Fox Hotel in South Brisbane. None of them have shown any disrespect to my faith and in fact we have had some great conversations about life and spirituality when discussing the rosary wearing fad.

So, rosaries are everywhere it seems from the necks of the Sunday nights party people to the boutique stall offering designer size for the hip or the pocket. I am happy to see
anything that points beyond our consumer culture and calls us to meditation and prayer.

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