Archive for May 10th, 2008

Yeah! Here is the article about the trunk show of the prayer beads from Bead One, Pray Too currently on display at Maumee, Ohio’s Bonita Bead Boutique. The article appears in today’s Toledo Blade. Thank you, David Yonke, religion reporter extraordinaire! I love the part of the story about the sisters, Anita and Ann, who run the store. I only wish they had better pictures for the online version – David told me his photographer got some great pictures. Darn!

And note what Ann and Anita say about being able to make a set of prayer beads for as little as $10-15. Very true – you can actually make some very nice ones made of Czech glass and maybe even some Swarovski for that amount. I hope that this article moves you to make a trip to your local independently owned bead store.


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Earlier this week, I was interviewed by my friend and colleague David Yonke, religion reporter for The Toledo Blade, about the book and prayer beads in general for an article he is very kindly writing pegged to the trunk show of my prayer beads at Bonita Bead Boutique in Maumee, Ohio. David mentioned that his paper ran a story on prayer beads in 2001 and that people in it were quoted as saying that young people were returning to both the Catholic rosary and the Muslim subha (“mesbaha” in the story) prayer beads in larger numbers. I asked him if he could share that article with me and he sent it along. Since The Blade has a pay-per-view policy, I am reprinting the whole article here.

What do you think? Do you see young people in your faith using prayer beads more? If so, why or why not?

Oh – and when the Blade article runs, I’ll post a link.

By Judy Tarjanyi Blade Senior Writer

Saturday,October 27, 2001

Catholics have their Rosary, Muslims their mesbaha, and Hindus and
Buddhists, the mala.
All are hand-held prayer beads, ancient tools that are enjoying something of
a resurgence among moderns trying to slow down and connect with the
spiritual side of life.

Considered helpful as both a stress-reliever and an aid to prayer, beads are
tiny prayer markers, tactile reminders of a mantra or petition. When used
properly, they can free the mind of earthly distractions and focus it on the

Once viewed in some faiths as a nice pastime for the elderly who had time on
their hands, beads are out of the prayer closet in a big way these days. The
Catholic Rosary in particular has been enjoying a boom, especially among
young people.

“It’s popular with college students who don’t see it as a little old ladies’
practice, but as one of the riches of the Catholic tradition,” said Dr.
Maureen A. Tilley, associate professor of religious studies at the
University of Dayton. “I think that’s where the appeal is for young people.
It’s like going up into the attic and finding all this cool stuff, stuff
that may not have appealed to your parents, but that, for your grandparents
and for you, fill a need.”

Young people have warmed to the Rosary because they like its repetitive,
meditative style of prayer, Dr. Tilley said.

Meanwhile, younger Muslim men reportedly are using the mesbaha, a string of
11, 33, or 99 prayer beads, with greater frequency.

“I see a lot of younger fellows carrying them around more and more,” said
Cherrefe Kadri, president of the Islamic Center of Greater Toledo council.
“I don’t know if it’s become popular, or maybe people are going back to
religion. What I do notice is that once a generation starts having children
and becoming parents, people tend to come back to religion and religious
practices because of their children.”

In a new book, Prayer Beads, authors Manuela Dunn Mascetti and Priya
Hemenway tout the advantages of praying with beads in a variety of religious
traditions. To encourage their readers to give it a try, they have packaged
their book with a fragrant 108-bead sandalwood mala used by Hindus and

According to Ms. Mascetti and Ms. Hemenway, the mala originated with the
Buddha, who, when asked by a king for a simple exercise that would convey
the essence of his teachings, told him to make a circular string of 108
beads. On each bead, the person praying was to say the trisharana, or three
jewels of Buddhism: “I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the
teaching of the Buddha, I take refuge in the community of the Buddha.”
Hindus use the mala to chant a name or a symbol for God, such as “Rama,
Rama, Rama,” or “Hari Krishna, Hari Rama.”

Although people who pray with beads seem to be repeating the same thing over
and over without any thought as to what they are saying, the act of
repetition actually can help them meditate on something larger, such as the
majesty of God or a particular truth.

For example, Dr. Tilley said, Catholics who pray the Rosary are encouraged
to ponder biblical stories or “mysteries,” while repeating the set prayers
that make up the devotion.

The 15 “mysteries” are divided into groupings of five – joyful, sorrowful,
and glorious – and consist of scenes from the Bible, such as the birth of
Jesus, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. While praying one section, or
decade, of the Rosary, which consists of one Our Father, 10 Hail Marys, and
a Glory Be, the person praying is to meditate on one of the mysteries.

Mystery meditations have long been a part of praying the Rosary, but there
has been a renewed emphasis on them in recent years as part of a revival of
interest in the Bible among Catholics after the reforming Second Vatican
Council, Dr. Tilley said.

“I think in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many people looked at the Rosary
as passe. By the 1980s, they realized that the form of prayer was valuable.
So the question was how to hook up that form of prayer – that meditative
repetition – with the values of the post-Vatican II church, and the link
there was scripture.”

Although Christians are warned against “vain repetition” in their prayers,
many say that repeating a prayer establishes a kind of rhythm that stills
the mind, making it more receptive to meditation or contemplation.

Eastern Orthodox Christians do this with the “Jesus Prayer,” a simple
entreaty consisting of the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy
on me, a sinner,” which is said repetitively and marked by a series of knots
woven into a “prayer rope.”

“It’s a contemplation. It’s not something done by rote, but becomes sort of
the medium to discipline our mind, to clear our thought, and to bring the
mind into the heart,” said the Rev. Paul Albert, pastor of St. Elias
Antiochian Orthodox Church in Sylvania.

Although the habit or the rhythm of repetition is good, Father Paul said, it
is not the aim of such prayer. “The goal is a very conscious activity of
bringing the mind and heart into a union of our prayerful thoughts, which
ultimately lead us to the realm of unceasing prayer.”

Muslims who use the mesbaha to pray employ it to keep track of the 99 times
they glorify the name of Allah, or God, at the conclusion of the prayers
they say five times a day.

“The way to do it,” said Imam Farooq Abo-Elzahab of the Islamic Center of
Greater Toledo, “is to hold the mesbaha and say subhan Allah (glory be to
God the greatest) 33 times, then Allah akbar (God is the greatest) 33 times,
and then Al-Hamdu Lillah (Praise be to God) 33 times.”

Some Muslims also will say the name of God 99 times, and a Sufi, or Muslim
mystic, will use the mesbaha to recite the 99 attributes of God.

A mesbaha can have 11, 33, or 99 prayer beads. The ones with more beads also
have divider beads to separate the groupings of 11.

Most Muslims count their 99 prayers on their fingers, Imam Farooq said,
making the mesbaha more of a tradition than a religious item. However, it
remains popular among men, among whom it originated, and many will finger
them as they are visiting or talking.

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