One of the Marian promises addresses “faithful children of the rosary,” but I consider myself an unfaithful child. I first took up the rosary on my subway commute to high school, and I continued whenever I had a job that required a trip into Manhattan.
In 2006, I asked my guardian angel to help me find time for the rosary every day. I figured the angel wouldn’t mind helping me with prayer, and I guess I was right because every day since then, if I haven’t prayed already, I’ll find myself alerted when I have twenty undisturbed minutes coming up. (We won’t talk about the one time I got awakened out of a sound sleep to pray at 11:15 PM.)
During that year, a friend gave me a Lourdes rosary with a mother-of-pearl sheen to the beads. I had it blessed, and I put that rosary in rotation with my others.
Before the end of that year, God inverted my life like a dirty sock. To my own surprise, I responded to the crisis by needing–no, by craving–that daily rosary. Left frightened and small, I began carrying the pearly blessed rosary everywhere. When I hurt, I’d touch it in my back pocket. At night, I kept the rosary in my pajama pocket or sometimes slept with it in my hand.
At one point, a friend mentioned that she wanted to start saying the rosary, and without thinking, I pulled out my rosary and showed her. She said later that because I loved it, she found her own beads and downloaded instructions on how to pray it.
After a month of carrying my rosary everywhere, I began finding pearly flakes on my hands. To my distress, the pearl was only a coating over plain white plastic. Every day, I’d finish the rosary with less pearl, more plastic. Sometimes the paint would peel off a bead all at once, as if it molted.
I showed a friend from church, who exclaimed, “It’s beautiful!” I showed her how it looked ugly where the paint was peeling. She said, “At least that means you’re using it, right?”
I said I guessed so, but only because I had no strength to argue.
One afternoon, as I sat by my window praying, one of the beads lost its paint, and I had this sense of despair, how something pretty was turning ugly because I touched it.
A moment later, I felt reassured by the Holy Spirit: that the rosary, through rough treatment, was losing the fake outside, and what would remain was truly its essence. The same way, through this difficult time, I too was losing the fake outer parts of myself, and what remained when God was done would be the real me, the me God wanted.
The crisis has passed. I’m still praying the rosary every day. And my once-pearly is all white now, bright and clean, pretty in a different way–beautiful the way it should be.