In today’s Lenten blog, Rev. Judith Liro, explores how prayer beads and the connection they bring to Mary, mother of Jesus, can bring us comfort.
Today I want to focus on the comfort to be found in praying with beads. We have a need to be soothed and comforted when we’re frightened and feel alone. Mary is known for offering gentle compassion and being present when we are facing painful reality. Waking up and being comforted belong together on this path of love.
Praying with beads is a way to befriend ourselves, to enter into a field of compassion cherishing us unconditionally, a field of acceptance and non-judgment connecting us with all beings. Perhaps we feel compassion and interconnectedness as we hold and finger the beads and find tangible comfort. Mary comforts and soothes.
In the book, The Way of the Rose : The Radical path of the Divine Feminine Hidden in the Rosary, both authors share healing and comfort received. Perdita Finn writes about debilitating episodes of anxiety and panic that have plagued her for a long time. The rosary changes her life by bringing a sense of safety she hasn’t known in years. The rosary brings Clark Strand healing from restlessness. He’s been a spiritual seeker who has never found any spiritual practice satisfying for long. When Mary appears to Clark, she tells him to pray the rosary. Initially he’s highly skeptical. He’s not a Roman Catholic and has never been drawn to Mary. Truth-be-known this popular prayer seems more suited to an uneducated grandmother than to a man who spent years in a Zen monastery and has continued to be a spiritual warrior. However, praying the rosary is healing for both of them and they come to believe that Mary knows how to respond to each of us with what we need. Mary brings the truth about our lives we need to hear as well as the lap we need to crawl into for comfort.
The way that difficult truth is coupled with gentle comfort reminds me of an earlier time in my life. During my first sabbatical I was in silence, living at a retreat center for a month. The Holy Spirit did bring me face to face with my shadow selves in a firm and matter of fact manner. There was no shaming or bullying or meanness; neither was there a glossing over or backing away from what I didn’t want to see. The truth was offered for my liberation. It was a gift to set me free. There was a great sense of warmth and caring—the knowing that I was beloved and totally safe. My experience wasn’t connected with Mary or the rosary but aligns with the authors’ experiences. I am reminded that the devil is sometimes called “the Accuser” and the Holy Spirit is named “the Advocate.” Remembering this difference helps me to have a firm boundary with inner voices of self-blame and to recognize the presence of the Holy Spirit when there is truth spoken with love and encouragement.