Just recently I attended a retreat, during which we had the opportunity to learn about prayer beads and mantras from a licensed yoga instructor. One of the things that they tried to make clear to us is that any repetitive phrase is a mantra, and that any string of beads used to help focus your mind are a spiritual device.
Now, there was also a number of other things relating to the metaphysical, like the choice of stones, crystals, or materials that you would use for your beads. I have to say that I wasn’t paying much attention at that point because one of the things that was discussed was that the Rosary is essentially a string of beads with a mantra (or several mantras), with the mantras being the Hail Mary and the Our Father.
The reason my mind started to wander at that point was that while I was the pastor of a church in Washington and living in Tacoma, I began attending a Catholic church for my own spiritual and mental health. I became good friends with the priest of the parish, a man in his 80’s who still performed the Eucharist and preached 6 days a week. To many in the church, they viewed our relationship as one of a father and a son, and in many ways, it really felt that way; he was a mentor and in many ways a spiritual father to me.
One of the things that he impressed me with was his devotion to praying the rosary, and as I began to spend more time with him and at his church, I began to help out with the fundraisers at his church by hand-making rosaries that they could either sell at the fundraiser, or raffle off. Before I started making those rosaries, I made one for him with lapis lazuli and rose quartz to match the colors of a statue of Mary that he had. He told me that he used this rosary every day, which of course, made me very happy to know.
Fast forward a few years, I’ve since moved to Tucson, and lost touch with my friend because he had retired from parish work after an illness. However, I knew that because of his age, I may not have much time to see him again unless I made my way back north to Tacoma and tracked him down.
In January of 2016, even though I had been meaning to get up to Tacoma for a few years, I suddenly started to feel like time was running out, so in February I made my way north to Tacoma. When I first got there, I tried to get his information from the church he pastored at, though no one was immediately available. Then I went to the Catholic book store where I had worked, hoping they might know, but the shop had closed down since I had lived there. I finally managed to remember how to get to a friend’s house, and luckily he was at home. He was able to tell me how to get to where my friend had retired, and I had a chance to catch up with him.
My friend told me that he had used the rosary that I had made for him for years until it broke from extended use. He told me it was his favorite rosary, which, again, made me quite happy. Had I had my tools with me at the time I would have offered to fix it for him.
As it turned out, we had a good conversation, and I was very happy that I had managed to find him in his new home. After I said goodbye, I returned to my hotel and made preparations to leave the next day. I returned to Tucson, and then only six months later discovered that he had passed away. I’m exceedingly glad that I listened to my gut and headed north as soon as I could, because I got a chance to visit with him before he died, and I’ll remember all the conversations I had with him.