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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Time to Wear White

Hi Sister Mary Martha! I love your blog, I read it about as often as I pray my rosary (about 1-2 times a day). I have a question!

I grew up under super conservative traditional catholics. I was always taught that rosary's are NEVER to be worn as jewelry, yet lately I've been seeing everyone from Madonna to the "cool kid" down the street wearing rosary or rosary type jewelry, and even "catholics." Am i wrong? Is there a special clause that allows us to wear a rosary as jewelry? And the religious candles and jewelry with pictures of Jesus and Mary, and the saints. It it sacrilegious to wear/use those also if you're a non-believer? or am I just being way too uptight?

Although I love that you are a frequent reader, I would drop me like a hot potato to squeeze in another rosary if I were you.

I, too, was taught that one never wears a rosary. A rosary is an instrument for prayer. It's not jewelry. End of discussion.

But now people wear white after Labor Day all the time and nobody cares.

Here's what I've been told about our brave new world of rosary wearers:

1. People in other cultures have been happily wearing rosaries all along. Perhaps we just didn't know because we never had the internets. For example, in Mexico people wear rosaries all the time and always have. I'll bet they've been wearing white all year long all the time as well.

2. People wear rosaries as reminders. I had a reader who informed me that she wore her rosary around her neck to remind her to remain chaste. I really can't ask her not to do that, if that's what it takes. I truly can't imagine that someone would need a rosary around their neck to remain chaste. How bad is this poor woman's memory? Isn't that the purpose of a hair shirt? I told her to get a hair shirt. I doubt she listened. Far be it from me, at any rate, to tell her to stop wearing that rosary under those circumstances. I've given enough bad advice to land me in Purgatory until Pontius Pilate gets out.

(I was told by the nuns I had in school--and I believed them--that Pontius Pilate did not go to Hell. He went to Purgatory and he has to stay there until the end of time. It makes perfect sense to me. But it's just another one of those things some nun made up.)

3. Gang members now wear rosaries. This is truly horrible. It might make anyone who is considering wearing a rosary for any reason think twice about it, even if they are just wearing it to prevent it from sinking to the bottom of their purse so as to be able to get their hands on it quickly so they can pray for gang members.

If rosaries are actually becoming a fashion statement, you really shouldn't be wearing a rosary around.

That said, I'd rather see you wear a rosary than hang it on your rear view mirror. That is a really useless place to have a rosary, hanging there with the little stinky cardboard pine tree. If you want to hang something on your rear view mirror, put St. Christopher up there.

Actually, don't. He probably didn't exist. St. Joseph is my choice for travel aid. One of his many patronages is travel, as he managed to get Mary safely to Bethlehem and his whole Holy Family back and forth from Egypt. On a donkey. Tell that to your kids the next time they whine that your SUV doesn't have a backseat DVD player.

Candles and medals, though, are a whole different ball of wax. Oh. What a pun. Sorry.

Candles and medals are sacramentals. (So is the rosary, which is why I suppose, it's actually okay to wear one.) They are there for the sole purpose of reminding us about Jesus. Having a candle with Mary on it will remind you to say the rosary and help you focus when you do. Having a medal of a saint will remind you what that saint endured, how he managed to stay holy, got shot full of arrows (St. Sebastian), had his skin peeled off (St. Bartholomew), never ate anything but the Host (St. Catherine), remained chaste (St Agnes), etc.

That is altogether different than wearing an instrument of prayer as jewelry. To me, wearing a rosary would be like tying your Missal to your head and calling it a hat. But that's just me.

I never wear white no matter what time of year it is.


MAB said...

I have heard that in prison gang members try to "show their colors" with colored rosary beads. My mother was involved in obtaining rosaries for the local prison. The prison's policy is that now all rosaries have to be completely black.

I do hang my rosary on my rear-view mirror. It is handy when I am driving. Is it better to put it away in the dashboard unseen, or leave it out where it may be a witness to others? If I can have a Sacred Heart on my dashboard, why not a rosary on the rear-view mirror? They are both sacramentals, as you point out. At home, we pray before a crucifix. We don't put it away when we are done praying. We leave it up on the wall, as a reminder and a witness to visitors.

Sarah - Kala said...

Thanks for the belly-laugh.

I hang a "car" rosary off my mirror. It's not as distracting as you might think and it reminds me that I have to pray for my driving and the other drivers out there. It keeps me calm! Anyway, like you said, it's a sacramental and therefore a reminder to live holy.

God love you!!

Anonymous said...

Sister said "(I was told by the nuns I had in school--and I believed them--that Pontius Pilate did not go to Hell. He went to Purgatory and he has to stay there until the end of time. It makes perfect sense to me. But it's just another one of those things some nun made up.)"

Huh? I thought that was Martin Luther?

Anonymous said...

I have a Rosary hanging from my rearview mirror, and take it down to use while I am waiting in the mom line at my children's Catholic school. I'm not the only one, either.

Alison said...

Thank you 'journey of truth' for saying that it is a reminder for you when it comes to your driving. That is one of my driving pet-peeves (not that I have a lot of pet-peeves in general) that is to say, it makes me grumpy to see someone speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, talking on their phone etc. all while their rosary is swinging wildly from their rear view mirror. Can they not see it bouncing around? I imagine Mary waving her hands yelling "Slow down!"
As for wearing a rosary, don't monk of several different orders wear them on their belts?

Alison said...

Sr. MM you don't have to publish this comment. I just wanted to say that I noticed you had removed some comments a few weeks ago, and are now approving comments before posting. I just have to say that anyone who would use this site to attack you or the Catholic faith needs prayers and a big hug! God Bless! I love your blog. It has been a starting point for conversations between my husband and I, and has helped us share our faith. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Gang members wear rosaries!!!What's up with that!!
As far as hanging your rosary from your mirror.....it might be better to hang it from the gear shift. It's there for you to pray a decade or two as you drive to work, but it isn't there as sort of a "look how holy I am" thing.
Don't get me wrong...I think we should live our faith, but I am not so sure about all those t-shirts and stuff. It has been my experience that more people are drawn to the faith by our example (without shoving it down their throats) than by all that outward "stuff". Several people I know have come back to the church, not because of anything I said (I never even told them I was Catholic!), but just because of the way I acted. When you radiate joy people just naturally want to know why, and then they want some too!

Anonymous said...

PS Anyone who attacks Sister doesn't need a hug.....he needs a kick in the patootie!

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

You are the bee's knees! I found your blog while looking for information on the brown scapular, and you may be just the person I need to talk to. Is there any chance we could speak privately(?)

Several years ago my mother gave me a brown scapular with a brief explanation about its significance, and a hint that I would be needing it. (She was Catholic, I am not. But that's another story.) She died shortly after under quite bizarre circumstances. The scapular sort of appeared at her funeral in a manner that nearly caused one of her Catholic friends to faint.

One of many questions I would like to ask you is do you find it odd that someone would "give" their scapular to another? One of my other questions is about something even more puzzling.

I hope we can correspond. My heart has been in torment for three and a half years, and I appreciate all the help I can get.

Thank you so much and may God continue to bless you richly.

Sandra Schneider
Boyers, PA

Sarah - Kala said...

Look, I put the rosary in my car to remind ME, not to show anyone else anything. And, I personally, love wearing my Mary shirts as opposed to Izod, Ecko, OP, Tommy, and you name it. Why should anyone else's show of loving God bother you so much? It is not that we are more holy and trying to shove it down people's throats. Most of us know we are weak and sinners, but love our Faith - and decide to show it.

Who cares? Why let our holy shirts and obvious love for God make you feel like we are more holy or you are not so holy? Anyway, only God knows our hearts.

I will add that I understand that our actions should be the Gospel to others and it does draw folks in more than my wearing a Jesus t-shirt ever will. But, I'm not trying to evangelize with my shirts. I just like my shirts. And, I more than love Jesus.

Helen said...

Dear Sister,
When you respond to Miss Sandy's question, could you also answer whether the brown scapular needs to be given ceremonially at Church in order to be worn. I was told that it did, and since I am too old go getting special ceremonies to receive something most children get at their First Communion, I do not wear one. I would like to though, since I want all the help getting into heaven I can get!

Anonymous said...

I have fallen in love with your blog. I work with several Hispanics. They wear a rosary UNDER their shirt. It does show from time to time. I believe it is to be a reminder to pray, a great love of Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe), and to be handy when an opportunity to pray happens. If they are wearing it just for jewelry thats sad, they should consider a scapular instead.

Anonymous said...

i wear a rosary every day, tied to my belt loop with the crucifix in my pocket so the beads hang down. it's pretty inconspicuous, definitely nothing over-the-top, and on occasion people will notice and ask me about it, and i find that this is a great opportunity to share my faith with them. other than that, i love that it's always so close to me, i have no fear of losing it, and i never have to dig for it.

i also have a rosary hanging from my rearview mirror. for me, it's just part of my life as a Catholic....i have sacramentals, Saint pictures, crucifixes everywhere....it's both a comfort and a reminder. i don't think there's anything wrong with keeping a rosary hanging in your car, as long as you are keeping it there prayerfully and reverently.

Anonymous said...

III. Jewelry

Pearls such as yours a proud queen quaffed one day;
A jealous queen such diamonds flung away;
Your ring once Portia might have haggled for;
Your bracelets finer are than Esther wore.

A queen brought me my beads from Nazareth,
Egypt and Judah; she was done to death
Almost in fetching them. What bitterness
She bore, from this cross you, perhaps, can guess.

Her only Son was nailed upon it -- see,
Jesus of Nazareth, on Calvary;
And this inscription Pilate fastened there.
Beads are the only jewelry I wear.

This was written by Sister M. Madeleva, in the context of writing about her habit. I don't think I like the idea of wearing the rosary as a necklace either, but it made me think of this.

Anonymous said...

I never liked the idea of people wearing rosaries as jewelry, either, but now I am considering buying one for my son. He's due to deploy soon and the Aguinas and More store sells wearable military rosaries. The description reads in part:

"The Wearable Service Rosary is a traditional five-decade rosary that can be worn about the neck. These are VERY popular with the troops! The necklace has a break-away safety clasp enabling the rosary to be worn around the neck safely. It is constructed of heavy-duty plastic and parachute cord for extra strength."

I think there are situations where wearing a rosary is acceptable.

As for gang members, I'm a little saddened at the lack of charity towards them. Certainly, gang members are often bad. They're criminals, right? Like the ones who hung with Jesus? And when Jesus hung there and said, "This is your mother," I don't think he was just talking to the disciples. He was talking to everyone, even the criminals, even the betrayer, even those who put him to death. And when the Virgin appeared to Juan Diego, she asked, "Am I not your mother?" If a gang member has a devotion to Mary, I think that's great. If a gang member uses a rosary for other purposes, well, I think that's okay, too. After all, rosaries are powerful things and Our Mother loves us all. Who knows? Rosaries may work like green scapulars.

Anonymous said...

I am so happy to find out what happened to Pontius Pilate. I have always wondered. Even if it is made up, it sounds like as good an explanation to me as any!!

DaveW said...

Welp, I hang my Rosary from my rear-view occasionally too. If I am going to be driving for over a half hour or so I will want to use it to pray either the Rosary or Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

And like JoT above it helps me stay focused and remember to watch my driving.

Actually I am a little self-conscious about it because I know some people don't approve and I am new to the faith and in RCIA. But I need all the spiritual help I can get as I am a little bit slow on the uptake spiritually. Then I started wondering if I took it down because I didn't want others to see it, was this the same as denying my faith?

I decided I was putting myself in a hopeless bind and I'd just do what works for me. I use my Rosary to help me stay centered in my faith not for some other purpose like bragging. And as I said I need all the help I can get.

Anonymous said...

I used to have my rosary draped (not hung) around the back of my rearview mirror as a reminder to drive safe as much as a reminder to actually say it. Draping it kept it from hanging so low and swinging.

It worked quite well. When I didn't have it there, I would forget to say it when taking the road trips, or to use it for the Divine Mercy chaplet when waiting for that long 10 minute train to pass.

But now instead, I have some St. Terese Sacrifice Beads clipped to my mirror. So when someone clips me, instead of fuming, I offer it up as a sacrifice for that person, and slide one of the beads. The crucifix also serves as a reminder to pray, and I pick up that rosary tucked into a nook of the car. So nothing is lost by the change of beads.

All the people I know personally who have the rosary hanging in the car actually use it, so I have an inclination to think that others use it too. Besides it has been a great witnessing tool. Catholic passengers who haven't prayed it for awhile have mentioned thoughtfully that maybe they should return to the practice, and non-catholic passengers have asked me about it. One actually asked if I could get her one. I knew I could trust her to not abuse it, so I just took off the one on the mirror and gave it to her.

Anonymous said...

Sister wrote, "If you want to hang something on your rear view mirror, put St. Christopher up there...Actually, don't. He probably didn't exist." As a namesake of St. Christopher, I have to stand up for him. He is no longer on the universal calendar, but the Church still recognizes him on local caledars, and still encourages devotion to him, despite the lack of historical evidence. See http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0265.html for more.

Anonymous said...

dave w, congratulations! You have recognized and avoided the trap of scrupulosity that gave Martin Luther so much trouble! Continue to do whatever helps you come closer to God.

Anonymous said...

As I see a picture of a rosary tattoo I must ask, whats the difference between a rosary tattoo and a tattoo of a crucifix, or jesus? Both are of religious values to an individual. So, is a rosary tattoo just as fine to get as say any other religous piece?

mph said...

Poor St. Joseph. He gets buried upside down in people's yards for house sales already, and now he'll be hung up with stinky pine trees on the rear view mirror.