Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My First Rosary

Recently I ran across a little package I'd been missing for a while. I've mentioned this before (in Home for Retired Rosaries), but now that people know I'm interested in rosary and paternoster beads, once in a while I get given an old or "extra" rosary that someone no longer wants.

The package I found contains my friend JH's first rosary, which she gave me after a class one day because she now has others she likes much better. It's a pretty little thing, with tiny (4 millimeter) sparkly pink beads and a nice 1960s-style medal and cross. (The "streamlining" of the figures and the diamond patterning on the cross are very characteristic of the '60s -- just to add a historical note here. :)


So I thought I'd share my own first rosary, which is of similar vintage. I bought it when I was somewhere around eight or ten, and it cost me a whole $1.00. (Which dates me, I suppose!)


Perhaps because I've had this one so long, I tend to think of it as sort of an archetypical modern rosary, with the very standard 6-millimeter faceted glass beads shared by so many other modern rosaries.

As I think I've mentioned before, I grew up in New England, which has a lot of Roman Catholics, due to past generations of immigrants from Italy and Ireland. I was brought up in a Protestant church -- then called Congregationalist, now part of the United Church of Christ. But when I was in elementary school, nearly all of my playmates were Catholic, and that definitely had an influence on me, to my parents' mild dismay.

I've always been interested in religion, but at that age, theology was really not the issue. It was the artifacts. My Catholic friends had an astonishing variety of religious THINGS, none of which we had in our church: statues, candles, rosaries, medals, scapulars, missal books, special dresses for First Holy Communion -- and of course the girls all got to wear their First Holy Communion dresses to school the day after, which made me quite envious of all the white frills and froufy stuff.

Being young and female, these things were as routine and unquestioned a part of my friends' lives as playing dolls. So of course I had to have some of these fascinating THINGS for myself. I still have all three of the rosaries I bought with my allowance. My secret "stash," kept in an old cough-drops tin, was of the tiny pictures of statues, medals and rosaries that I cut out of old mail-order catalogs. And I still have a couple of children's books, one of which is My First Rosary (featuring a very Caucasian, blond, blue-eyed Virgin Mary, which I now find quite amusing).

I knew the prayers and how to pray them, but I don't think I actually prayed the rosary very much in those years. It was more the sparkly beads -- and of course the "forbidden fruit" aspect of the whole thing -- that kept my interest.