Friday, January 27, 2006

Hey, Jude

It's been brought to my attention that this is the 101st post in this blog, so I'm celebrating, in a minor sort of way. Who would have guessed that I could keep talking this long and never run out of things to say? (Wait, don't answer that.....[grin])

Anyway, I've had a little time recently to go exploring in eBay again, and found some interesting stuff, sparking ideas for future articles. I've mentioned before that I find it useful to keep an eye on eBay -- it's an interesting window into the modern rosary market and its stories and trends.

I thought at first this rosary was a case of mis-identification. Here are the pictures:

Judebeads 3

Judebeads 2

This is listed as a "vintage rosary with St. Jude's image in beads." The seller says, "Each clear bead has an image of St. Jude inside, seen from both back and front, in pink set against a cloud like background. Beads are plastic or similiar composition. The metal at the bottom of the loop has an image of St. Jude on one side and 'St. Jude Pray for Us' on the reverse."

St. Jude is well known as the saint of "impossible causes", whose prayers are requested when a situation seems to offer no hope of a positive outcome. While devotion to him (as with all saints) is not as intense or visible as it was before Vatican II, I still see classified ads saying "Thank you, St. Jude" pretty regularly in the diocesan newspaper. Perhaps I owe St. Jude a small debt for the success of this blog, as well.

These beads are a well-known type from (I think) the early 1960s, except that the more usual version has a small blue figure of the Virgin Mary inside each clear plastic bead. Given the size of these beads (half an inch at most) the inside figure is generally pretty crude and not very detailed. But considering that it's relatively easy to produce a compound plastic bead like this, I'm a little surprised that there don't seem to be many types of them -- ones with roses inside, for instance.

I at first thought that the pink figure in the beads had to be Christ, showing the Sacred Heart on his chest. In part, I was misled by another rosary up for sale this week, which has ordinary round beads for the decades and these same heart-shaped beads as markers -- and it also has a medal of St. Jude in the center. But this one identifies the figure inside the bead as Christ.

A commenter has since convinced me that this really is Saint Jude after all: for which, my thanks. Here's a closeup:

The key is what is displayed on the figure's chest. If this were Christ, it would be a heart shape, representing the Sacred Heart. But instead it is a round plate with a head on it. Apparently a common identifier for Saint Jude is to show him carrying a roundel diplaying the head of Christ. I can only say "Ooops!" [grin].

Both rosaries are marked as being from Italy, so perhaps that is the source of these beads. I'll have to look at the next blue Madonna-in-plastic rosary I see and find out if those seem to be from Italy as well.

I have to confess that I consider plastic beads to be inherently tacky, and that this type of bead is classified in my mind (and my file folders) under the heading of "bizarre." Still, it's a historical phenomenon, and there are quite a few rosaries with beads of this type around, so someone liked them. And God, after all, pays far more attention to sincerity of heart than to bad taste in beads.