by Ken Rolheiser
The Rosary and meditation beads

In China, a Red Guard noticed a missionary praying his Rosary. The soldier stopped him and asked: "What kind of device do you have there?"
"As you can see, I am reciting my Rosary."
"No," the Communist replied, "that’s a radio transmitter."

Beads may indeed facilitate transmissions more powerful than the most sophisticated electronic devices ever invented. We can be in touch with metaphysical powers and supernatural forces powerful enough to make any dictator nervous.

A German soldier Carl relates: When I was called up in 1943, my mother gave me a Rosary. After I was taken prisoner in Holland, I met a Scot while they were searching us. “You’re Catholic,” he said, noticing my rosary. And he showed me his own Rosary.
“So,” he said, “we pray to the same Mother. That makes us brothers!”
At the camp, he actually looked after me as if I were his brother. The day before we were to be transferred to another camp, he took me aside and asked me to exchange Rosaries. “It will be a souvenir,” he said, vigorously shaking my hand. Since then, I have always carried that Rosary on me.

There is a difference between Rosary beads and a trunk full of Mardi Gras beads. Between them they run the gamut of sacred and profane activities. Both reflect the popularity of beads in many cultures.

Religious beads echo sacred practises, traditions and beliefs. Beads help focus prayer or mantras, facilitating deeper thoughts and bringing peace of mind. Meditation beads have an appeal that goes beyond any one religious denomination. Worry beads, on the other hand, are used to concentrate nervous energy on the beads rather than on what is troubling the mind.

The Rosary has been used by Catholics, Anglicans and Orthodox believers. Traditionally the beads which once were made of seeds, knots or even crushed roses (rosaries) are used to mark the number of repetitions of chosen prayers.

In chaplet prayers typically there is a Cross at the start, some invitatory prayers, a series of beads grouped in symbolic numbers like ten, seven, five or three. The prayer selected can be a short petition for forgiveness such as Holy God, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us. In the Rosary the Hail Mary is the prayer repeated 53 times.

Chaplets use numbered beads, again, to enumerate repetitions of the prayer selected. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy, for example, uses the Rosary beads to number repetitions of For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

The effect of repeated prayer or incantation is several fold. In the Sanskrit “muttering chaplet” the sound may have a soothing or mantra effect, as does the Rosary and various chaplet repetitions.

Madeline L’Engle in the Summer of Great Grand-Mother says: “To use beads with a prayer, Indian or Moslem or Christian, is to enflesh the words, make thought tangible.”

The power of the Rosary is well documented. I will share just two examples in closing:
Fatima, Portugal, October 1917 Over 70,000 people witnessed a miracle of the sun which the Virgin Mary had predicted. This was printed in Fatima newspapers the following day.
The Battle of Lepanto 1948 70,000 Austrians pledged to say the Rosary daily for the Soviets to leave their country, rich in mineral deposits and oil reserves. On May 13, 1955, the anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, the Russians agreed to leave Austria, without one shot being fired.
(590 words)