Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prayer, Catholicism, & the Rosary

You know, every day I thank the Creator for giving me another day to spend with my daughter. As a child, I was taught to pray before doing everything. We prayed when we woke up, before naps, and before bedtime. We prayed before each meal and before eating our after-school snacks. My mother encouraged me to pray while I was in the shower because, in a house full of people, it was one of the few times when I could be sure that I wouldn't be interrupted.

There have been times in my life when I didn't pray very much. Usually this corresponded with extended periods of depression. If my mother read this, she might say that the reason why I got so depressed was because I wasn't praying and that if I'd prayed more, I wouldn't have suffered from it so often. I don't know whether or not that's true. Maybe there is something to it, maybe not. I do know that a lot of times I felt as if the Creator didn't want to hear what I had to say. I knew that I was doing things that I'd been taught were sinful in God's eyes. It wasn't my mother's fault. She'd always taught me that there was nothing that could make God not want to hear my prayers. To this day, one of my favorite scriptures in the New Testament comes from Romans 8:35, 37-39
35Who will separate us from the love of the Christ? Will tribulation or distress or persecution or hunger or nakedness or danger or sword?...37To the contrary, in all these things we are coming off completely victorious through him that loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers 39nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
This passage has brought me a lot of comfort over the years during times when I felt let down or misunderstood by people in my life.

Right now, VanGoghGirl is going through a rough period. In a couple of days it will be exactly one year since the suicide of my uncle. It's also been a year since her infant cousin died of S.I.D.S. On top of all that, it's the end of the school year and there's a big push to finish all of the remaining coursework. She got her LEAP scores in last week. She did really great. Unfortunately, she's spent the past few weeks all stressed out because, just like every year, she gets this idea in her head that she's probably going to fail. Though her scores were even better than the ones from last year, they weren't high enough to please her inner perfectionist.

My poor genius baby just can't seem to relax. She's having some problems with picking at her hangnails and twisting her hair around and around with her fingers. She has some stress balls that give her something to do with her hands when she's nervous but bringing them to school didn't work out so well because other kids see it as a toy and want to play with it and it winds up being a distraction in class.

I've been thinking about what I can do to help with this problem and I was sort of out of ideas until two days ago. The German and I were in the store making groceries with VanGoghGirl. She is going to a birthday party this weekend and we were trying to find a present for her to buy for her friend. Since the girl is a fellow artist, we decided on a thick sketchbook and a set of pastels.

While we were in the art supply section, VanGoghGirl browsed through the necklace charms rather haphazardly until she saw a package containing two pewter crosses. She decided to get them and make some necklaces with them for two of her friends who come from strict Catholic families. One of them has been teaching her prayers in Latin. Then told me that when she grows up she's going to be a Catholic too. She asked me if that would be alright with me. I don't know what she was thinking my reaction would be but I told her that if it makes her happy, then it's fine with me.

I don't know how long this phase will last. Who knows? She might decide to really stick with the idea of being a Catholic. In that case, there's no reason why she needs to wait until she grows up to pursue her religious path. I've decided that I'm going to buy her a rosary as a gift. I think it will help her in several ways. When she's stressed, she can use her rosary to help her pray and keep her hands busy at the same time. Plus, it won't end up getting bounced around the class like her stress balls did.

If there are any Catholics who read this, I'd appreciate any guidance you can give on how to choose one.


ben said...

i too, feel that gap between me and God when the depression set just gets that much harder to pray. my consolation then is the passage right before the one you posted in romans...

"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

Those 'sighs too deep for words' are often simply those of pain, but it is comforting to know they are heard.

as for catholicism...not my tradition exactly, but i have been fairly involved in a very high church episcopal parish for a while...the "anglo-catholic" movement. a lot of gay or liberal catholic refugees who miss the litrugical depth they came from. hail marys, devotion to the sacrament, etc.

for a chronic worrier (van gogh girl sounds a lot like a young me...overachiver, but petrified of failure.) it can be a real gift to have a strong physical component of worship. the habit of ritual forms us, reminds us through our bodies that we are dedicating ourselves to the glory of God and that grace transforms us. it's hard to express just what it means, but i guess that's the point. the divine is often wordless, both as comfort and as challenge.

i wish her well in her exploration...

ps...there is a similar church in New Orleans.

i just googled them, but they say they are anglo-catholic, and are welcoming to all/social justice oriented.

and if you would like, a good friend of mine grew up in nola and converted to catholicism as a young man...he might know good catholic parishes there.

AnnMarie Kneebone said...

You are such a good mom. I think it's great that you are going to get her a rosary. I grew up Roman Catholic. I can't say that I have advice on a good rosary. There are lots of different kinds. Maybe one in her favorite color? Also, you might want to pay attention to how the beads are strung together. I have had rosarys come apart. I'm not the most gentle with things and a rosary is something you work with your hands ... so yeah, sometimes the string breaks.

Anonymous said...

I grew up RC although I don't practice now. I second Annmarie's suggestion to pay attention to craftsmanship... rosaries can definitely fall apart. Other than that though, unless you were attached to a family heirloom like my mom is to her mother's rosary, I would just go with something you find aesthetically pleasing.


Daisy Deadhead said...

For a child, I would suggest a "Job's tears" rosary, made out of seeds from the Job's tears plant. They were popularized by Mother Teresa. They're neat--especially for kids!

I think it teaches children that one can be devout anywhere and anytime, even using something as simple as seeds or stones.

The first rosaries were small stones in little sewn bags, and someone (undoubtedly a woman) got the idea to string them together. The number of prayers (in the whole thing) represents the 150 Psalms.
The Holy Mysteries of the Rosary were taken from the Holy Days of Obligation.

I don't leave home without it. :)

Zan said...

Clearly, I'm not Catholic, but I made myself a prayer bracelet a few years ago, to give me something to focus on when I'm overly stressed. It works really well. I'm at the point now where I don't pray in anyway that makes sense, but just being able to run my fingers over those beads does a lot to calm me down. So yay rosary :)

Anonymous said...

I don't count myself a Catholic now (aged 27), but I do have two rosaries. One was a First Holy Communion present, a small one with very pretty blue glass beads on metal links and a tidy silver crucifix. The second I bought myself, also with metal links but carved wooden beads and a somewhat rougher crucifix. I like the wooden one particularly because I chose it myself, and because I kept it for a long time in a box with dried rose petals and the wood has absorbed the scent in a way the cold glass beads could never do.

I think anything VanGoghGirl likes would be fine - having her choose the beads she likes would be a good thing to do if possible. It's worth also paying attention to the images on the central medallion and the crucifix - some will be more appealing than others.

(This is my first comment here, incidentally. I love your writing.)

Anonymous said...

I like the suggestion of a "Job's Tears" rosary. But I think the most important thing is that you are buying her something and giving it to her as a gift. My first rosary was from my great-grandmother and I still cherish it.

Ruth said...

There are so many wonderful rosary beads out there!

Here's a link with all kinds of information about rosary- related "stuff" - hope it's helpful

When I was a kid, I most loved my first Communion rosary beads- a small white set that fit my hands. However, any rosary that's a gift is special.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, my name is Natalia and I came across your blog by accident 'cause I was looking for Job Tears beads to make a Rosary for my mum... I just searched and your blog came up and at first I was just going to ignore it when I realised that you had part of the Scripture that I read and pondered last night and it made me smile and feel at peace... So I read on... You asked about Rosaries - I'm a practising Roman Catholic although like everyone else I struggle with my faith- I make Rosaries as a way to calm myself and relax as I find that there is something beautiful in contemplating the mysteries of the Rosary sorry I don't want to take anymore of your time but if you like it would be my pleasure to make one for VanGoghGirl... My email is it has a filter so if you but on the subject "Rosary for VanGoghGirl" I will see it and reply... Much peace to you - Natalia

Allen said...

Aloha, We have Job's Tears for sell.
Please visit for more info. Regards, Allen