Racking up the rosaries

I grew up with women of the rosary. Think the Catholic church’s equivalent of Hell’s Angels. But more lace than leather, an Irish fisherman’s sweater and comfortable shoes.

My friends’ mothers and grandmothers—mainly of the Irish persuasion—stockpiled an unbelievable number of rosaries in their “delicates” drawers back in the day. From jade to crystal, pearl to wood, we were covered.

Covered for what, you might rightly ask. Let’s see—to solidify impending marriages of the young members of any family clan; to create marriages that weren’t impending; babies, babies, babies; healing the ill; blessing the dying; babies; and did I mention, babies? “But only within the confines of holy matrimony, please Blessed Mother.” Said while making the Sign of the Cross.

Now, in a middle age where I realize very few things are certain, I envy these women their absolute faith in the power of the rosary. And do you know why they thought the rosary was the secret sauce? Because they weren’t fooling around—they were going straight to the Mother of all Mothers. When all else failed and Jesus wasn’t attending to their prayers as they thought He should, they went directly to his Mother. Because, what good son doesn’t listen to his mother?

Let’s see. There was the sweet little five-foot Irish fireball, my friend’s mother, who said a novena every day for A YEAR so her daughter would get pregnant. And when she did, of course it was credited to the novenas and Mother Mary doing what she could to nudge Jesus into sending her daughter a baby.

Then there was the mother whose rosary was worn thin from praying that her less than studious son get into a “good, Jesuit university” and meet a “nice Catholic girl.” He did. And you know why, of course.

There was the prayer/knitting circle who prayed diligently for “poor Mary Catherine” for months on end. Had “poor Mary Catherine” known why, she would have wanted to sink into the earth. Her grandmother opined about her homeliness and the group of seventy-somethings prayed that some “good man” would overlook it to make her his wife.

Lest you think these women were naïve simpletons, let me assure you—they knew exactly what they were doing. These were women who had birthed more babies, downed more Irish whiskey and held more family secrets than most of us could ever dream of doing. You didn’t mess with them—or their novenas. Smelling of lavender and Pond’s facial cream, they were grannies who got it done.

There aren’t as many of them, it seems, as there used to be. Maybe even the grannies among us are a little jaded, a little more uncertain, of the power of prayer.

I hope we don’t make them extinct. With our in-fighting and our hate speech and our cynicism about God. I am a very modern woman. But, if you look in my silver box of treasures (doesn’t everybody have one of those?), you’d find a few things. Wallet pics of myself and my two sons, each of us through early grade school years—pics that sat in my mother’s own treasure box. Shots of my parents holding my newborn sons. A photo of my mother’s grave with flowers on it—a reminder to me that none of us is here forever. A tiny prayer square a friend gave me during my divorce. A shell from the military salute at my father’s Air Force funeral. And—you knew this was coming—a rosary I’ve had since I was a child, its blue crystal beads still sparkly. It sits next to my mother’s St. Anthony medal (“He finds EVERYTHING, Kris. Everything. Just ask him.”)

I grew up surrounded by women of simple faith. Not simplistic, simple. Ask and ye shall receive. Faith the size of a mustard seed that moves mountains. The Kingdom of Heaven is yours.

I’m thinking we could all use at least one prayer warrior like that in our lives. Especially the ones that pray for us and then pour the Irish whiskey. Those are the experienced ones. The ones you want to run to when life doesn’t deliver.

Because even if we’re not sure we believe it—even when we don’t really believe it—hearing them tell us Mother Mary will make it happen is a comfort. Especially as they say it while hugging us, enveloping us in a cloud of facial cream and lavender sachet scents.

And if their breath smells a wee bit like Irish hooch, well we manage to overlook that for the greater good.

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43 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathleen says:

    I’m not very religious but when I feel the need to pray for something or simply to give thanks, it’s the Catholic faith that I, invariably, turn to. I grew up in the Catholic faith, and yes, crucifixes, novenas, holy water and rosaries are something that I’m very familiar with 🙂 Sometimes we get so caught up in our issues that I have to admit that when my mom tells me to say a short prayer to Mother Mary, I do not hesitate – there’s something comforting about that.

    1. candidkay says:

      It is the rituals of the Catholic Church that I find so very comforting. The smell of incense, the flicker of the candles, the music-and in some cases, the masses that still use Latin. It’s all so very comforting if you’ve grown up with it.

      1. Kathleen says:

        absolutely 🙂

  2. This is beautiful. A prayer warrior is worth more than gold!

    1. candidkay says:

      Sure is:). I know you’re one of them!

  3. Ha! No wonder I like you Kristine! My ancestry is Irish 🍀 and I grew up with catholic rosary friends. My mum prayed for a husband for me, for many months and we have been married 29yrs this Oct. oh there is power in all prayer!! Rosary circles, drumming circles, meditation circles. Visualisations circles. Never underestimate faith and a little Whisky In anyone. 😇🙏🏻😇

    1. candidkay says:

      29 years! That must’ve been powerful prayer and a powerful whiskey :-).

  4. Dale says:

    Here in the province of Quebec, the church was so all-powerful that it has turned many away (my mother being one of them). My grandmother was a firm believer but I never saw her with a rosary in hand though I know she had one somewhere. It’s funny. My mother, as mentioned, became a prayer when my first son was born with his heart defect. All of a sudden, the whole family was praying for him: grand and great-grandmothers, aunts, great-aunts (I’m sure uncles and great-uncles, but as we know, they have way less power than the women!) That little 4 lb 8 oz being brought more people together than one could imagine.

    1. candidkay says:

      Does your son know that story? What an amazing show of love and faith because of him:).

      1. Dale says:

        Well… as he is an angel, I like to think so… He would have been 21 in May. He died at not quite 8 months old…

      2. candidkay says:

        Oh, Dale–I’m so sorry. I did not catch that via your blog. I can’t even imagine having to be strong enough to go through that. But it sounds like you have one phenomenal angel watching over your every step.

      3. Dale says:

        Oh Kris, no worries. I don’t expect everyone to go digging for this type of stuff. Strength comes when needed, is all I can say!

        I’ve got quite the collection up There! Enough, thank you very much…

  5. Roy McCarthy says:

    Yep, my aged mother remains a prayer warrior to this day and ‘God has his reasons’ if anyone questions what He allows to happen. And I can still make a good attempt at the Pater Noster in Latin 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      Whoa! Pulling out the big guns with the Latin :-). I must say, a Latin mass can still bring tears to my eyes.

  6. Cindy Frank says:

    Oh, Kristine, this one went down so smooth! I keep feeling that I always write “this is one of my favorite posts” when I respond to your blog. But so what? So again, “this is one of my favorite posts. Looking forward to the next.

    1. candidkay says:

      Well thank you kindly:). That’s something I would never tire of hearing. I’m glad you enjoyed this one!

  7. Beautiful post Kay… AND if only they knew it was their own power and vision of great things happening for their family… it could comfort more people today to be responsible and hold the vision of good tidings for ourselves and our family. Much love barbara x P. S Your up next on sept 4 to be featured… if you could send me your writing on compassion, links and photos a few days before IAM grateful. 😘

    1. candidkay says:

      Whether they know it or not, they sure do make great things happen :-). For that, I am thankful. Honored to be next up on your blog! I better get moodling.

      1. I didn’t hear from you so have swooped your dates with mark… if you can me everything as soon as you can.😘 Barbara

      2. candidkay says:

        Hi there-I actually tried to reach out last week via your contact me box on your site. Did you not receive that? I have a draft but would like your email so I can get it to you.

      3. Oh no… sorry I didn’t receive, will have to look into that. My email is barbara@memymagnificentself.com 😘

  8. srbottch says:

    I love the last two paragraphs. I grew up in Irish-Catholic Massachusetts. Believe me, there must have been an affiliate group of those ladies on the east coast, as well. They were good for society. Nice story.

    1. candidkay says:

      I agree they are so very good for us! We can’t let them become extinct :-).

  9. Amy says:

    This essay made me smile. I, too, come from a Catholic upbringing. Love that you grew up surrounded by women of the Rosary. Your description of them is priceless! I agree that we all could use at least one prayer warriors in our lives. xxoo

    1. candidkay says:

      And some of us could use several :-).

  10. fritzdenis says:

    Love this post. It always felt good to me when I found out that prayers were directed my way even if I dreaded hearing what they might be. It still meant that someone was taking the time to wish me well.
    I had very formidable aunts, some devout and others not, who were the bedrock of our extended family. They also were the ones you dared not cross. They took no prisoners if sufficiently provoked.

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I am laughing. I can just picture your aunts now. I am sure I knew their doppelgängers. I’ve always thought that if we got a bunch of tough, sweet, little old grannies together to figure out how to solve world problems, we’d be set straight in no time.

  11. George says:

    I went to catholic grade school and high school so I’m smiling as I was reading your stories. I knew all those you wrote about..:) I’m a big believer in the power of prayer and the rosary is the most powerful of prayers, assuming one believes. You’re right, it’s not seen as much as we used to see it. But maybe it should be..:)

    1. candidkay says:

      I’m a big believer in the power of prayer also. But I me an even bigger believer in the power of these sweet, tough little old ladies’ prayer :-).

      1. George says:

        Lol..I couldn’t agree more. I always felt they have some sort of inside track the The Man.

  12. cristi says:

    Love, love, love this post…Priorities & prayer, faith & families. Thanks for the reminder! ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      And if we keep what you just said in mind, all is well:). Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  13. Ninasusan says:

    LOL more lace than leather! Lots of unspoken wisdom!

    1. candidkay says:

      Lots of lace:). All of it Irish, of course.

  14. I envy you the women of the rosary, they must have been formidable women to grow up with 🙂

    1. candidkay says:

      And that’s an understatement:). But yes–talk about comfort and solidity. It just oozed off of them.

  15. Bernadette says:

    My dear mother-in-law was a firm believer in the power of Mary. She used to talk to Mary like she was her best friend. And, of course, prayed the rosary constantly. Just before she died she said that her best friend Mary told her it was time for her to come to heaven. It must be very comforting to have that kind of faith.

    1. candidkay says:

      And part of me believes Mary was the one waiting to guide her over to heaven :-). My mother saw a woman in a veil before she died, standing in the corner of her room. Quite often.

  16. Now that’s not fair Kay. I have a direct link at all times…except when ‘I’ have to trip over something I’m stumbling with in my life, and all goes quiet ‘up there’ 😀
    How much is one of those things anyway, it might be good to have a backup 😀
    Great post my friend, it’s amazing those things that get passed on down through the families over the years 😀

    1. candidkay says:

      You won’t have to buy one, sir, if you can just get the right grannies in your corner. They’ve got unadulterated access to the Big Guy😉

      1. lol…I’ll have to quietly check my grannie group Kay. They all play tennis like Mcenroe, and they play as gentle as he did too 😀

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