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Posts Tagged ‘Catholic rosary’

I had the good fortune to visit two of my best friends in Austin, Tex the weekend before last and while my one friend, Chris, was working, my other friend, Lisa, and I hit the bead stores. Lisa is one of the most talented beaded jewelry designers I know and specializes in Japanese beading. You can see her blog here and her Etsy store here. Check ’em out.

Front room at Bead It

Front room at Bead It

One of the stores that Lisa and I went to is called Bead It and is located in South Austin – which, when Lisa, Chris and I went to school at the University of Texas was kinda a place you didn’t want to be in after dark. Here’s my main memory of that neighborhood – a buddy convinced me to go see our first X-rated movie there. Actually, my only X-rated movie. Yeesh.

But now, that part of town is hot and happenin’ and has all kinds of cool stores and boutiques – not the kind you need a million bucks to buy anything in, but the kind that remind you that Austin is still weird, still a bit on the wild side, still a place where you can get away from the strip mall mentality of much of the rest of the country. Bead It is the perfect embodiment of that.

Lisa and I were not looking for prayer beads, or prayer bead materials – which is probably

Zoe, the great sales associate

Zoe, the great sales associate

why we found one of the coolest rosaries I have ever seen. It seems that one of Bead It’s specialties is vintage beads, and there in the front case was a rosary, probably from the 1950’s or a bit earlier, that had directions written on each Our Father bead! Each Our Father Bead was three-sided – like a little Toblerone bar – reminding you of each mystery you should prayer for on a given day. It was like a 3-D rosary map! Very cool! Here’s a BIG picture. Click on it to see the whole thing:

Mapped out rosary

Mapped out rosary

They also had a small case of Tibetan pendants blessed by monks! Pretty cool, huh?

Tibetan prayer beads

Tibetan prayer beads
Rosary window

Rosary window

The store is in an old house and it was extremely fun to wander from room to room and dip through all the treats and treasures – some vintage, some not. They also have a great classroom, and while they do not have a rosary or prayer bead making class, they did have a rather fabulous display of rosaries in their window.

I also noticed that they had a really good collection of crosses and other pendants that would work well for prayer beads and rosaries. Some of the crosses I had never seen before – and I have seen a lot of crosses!

If you go to Austin, definitely check out this fine, funky store. Make a set of prayer beads or a rosary from vintage glass. We were helped by a lovely, young knowledgeable girl named Zoe, and Pake, the manager, or Sarah (the owner?) can also help you out. I plan to visit my friends in Austin again before the end of the year – I hope – and I am going back for sure. I just might have to have that vintage rosary.

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anglican-rosary-cluster-11First, let me say how touched I am by the flood of emails I’ve been receiving from readers and other friends and family who read my post about Bella. Many of them have contained the most lovely pet prayers – some which had me in quite a puddle of tears – that I will share here in a blog post within a day or so. I am a little raw today and don’t want to go to the Bella place right now. But I thank you all so much.

In a previous post, I promised to let you know when two sets of  prayer bead prayers I compiled for Beliefnet.com were “live.” They went up today and I hope you will check them out.

The first set is on the subjects of patience, strength and endurance. I compiled them for an Anglican rosary because that is what Beliefnet requested, but they could be adapted for the Catholic rosary by repeating a few prayers of your choice.

The second set is on the subject of light. They are also for the Anglican rosary and are adaptable.

Soon I will have a “how-to” gallery on Beliefnet that will offer directions for making a simple Anglican rosary. I hope we are able to bring a lot more people into this ancient contemplative practice which is bringing me a good measure of comfort at this time.

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As the daily news gets worse and worse, I keep thinking back to the hopefulness of the inauguration, especially to the beautiful prayers of Rev. Gene Robinson, Rev. Rick Warren and Rev. Joseph Lowery. I have also been inspired and comforted by the prayers of Jewish, Hindu and other Christian leaders who wrote inaugural prayers at the request of Religion News Service. A couple of lines from each of these prayers have been sounding within me over the last two weeks, and I finally decided to lay them out as a set of prayers for my prayer beads.

Before I share this with you, let me say that I believe, above everything, that prayer has an enormous power to unite us and should never divide us. In that belief and spirit, I link together the prayers of these leaders, even thought they come from different faiths and certainly have different interpretations of God, His/Her will and what our purpose here is. It is my hope that all of us can find common ground in the spirit of these prayers. Perhaps in joining them all on one strand of prayer beads we can put aside our differences as well all pray for our country. You, of course, are free to pick and choose the prayers you like and discard the ones you don’t.

The first instruction is for the Anglican rosary and the second is for the Catholic rosary. I identify the author of each prayer by their initials: GR (Gene Robinson), RW (Rick Warren), JL (Joseph Lowery), WDJ (Wilfred de Jesus), BH (Brad Hirschfield), SR (Samuel Rodriguez), AGL (Anne Graham Lotz) and RZ (Rajan Zed)

This is what I came up with:

On the Cross, Crucifix or Other Terminal Charm:

Almighty God, our Father,
Everything we see, and everything we can’t see, exists because of you alone.
It all comes from you, it all belongs to you, it all exists for your glory. (RW)

On the Invitatory (Anglican Rosary) / First Our Father Bead (Catholic Rosary):

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us thus far along the way, thou who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path, we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O God, and true to our native land. (JL)

On the Three Hail Mary Beads (Catholic Rosary Only):

1-3 Peace, peace, peace be unto all. (RZ)

On the First Cruciform / Second Our Father Bead:

The Scripture tells us, “Hear, O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD is one.” And you are the compassionate and merciful one. And you are loving to everyone you have made. (RW)

On the First Set of Weeks / Decades Beads:

1 – Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility,

2 – the courage to lead us with integrity,

3 – the compassion to lead us with generosity.

4 – Bless and protect him, his family, Vice President Biden, the Cabinet, and every one of our freely elected leaders.

5 – Help us, O God, to remember that we are Americans–united not by race or religion or blood, but to our commitment to freedom and justice for all.

6 – When we focus on ourselves, when we fight each other, when we forget you–forgive us.

7 – When we presume that our greatness and our prosperity is ours alone–forgive us.

8 – When we fail to treat our fellow human beings and all the earth with the respect that they deserve–forgive us.

9 – And as we face these difficult days ahead, may we have a new birth of clarity in our aims, responsibility in our actions, humility in our approaches, and civility in our attitudes—even when we differ.

10 – Help us to share, to serve, and to seek the common good of all. (RW)

On the Second Cruciform Bead/ or Third Our Father Bead:

Lord God Almighty, you are the author and initiator of change. Humbly, we ask for the strength to put our hands on the arc of history and bend it once more towards the hope of a better day – one of freedom and peace. (WDJ)

On the Second Set of Weeks Beads / or Decades Beads:

1 – And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

2 – Help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

3 – We go now to walk together, children, pledging that we won’t get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone, with your hands of power and your heart of love.

4 – Help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors,

5 – when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree, and none shall be afraid; when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

6 – For we know that, Lord, you’re able and you’re willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, [and] mend our brokenness,

7 – heal our wounds and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor or the least of these and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

8 -Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

9 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

10 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen. (JL)

On the Cruciform Bead / Our Father Bead:

O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will… (GR)

On the Third Set of Weeks Beads / or Decades Beads:

1 – Bless us with tears – for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women from many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.

2 – Bless us with anger – at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

3 –Bless us with discomfort – at the easy, simplistic “answers” we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth, about ourselves and the world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.

4 –Bless us with patience – and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be “fixed” anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.

5 –Bless us with humility – open to understanding that our own needs must always be balanced with those of the world.

6 –Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance – replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences, and an understanding that in our diversity, we are stronger.

7 –Bless us with compassion and generosity – remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable in the human community, whether across town or across the world. (GR)

8 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

9 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.

10 – Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen. (JL)

On the Fourth Cruciform Bead / Fourth Our Father Bead:

And God, we give you thanks for your child Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States. (GR)

On the Fourth Set of Weeks Beads / Fourth Set of Decades Beads:

1 – Give him wisdom beyond his years, and inspire him with Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for ALL the people.

2 –Give him a quiet heart, for our Ship of State needs a steady, calm captain in these times.

3 –Give him stirring words, for we will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.

4 –Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.

5 –Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.

6 –Give him the strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.

7 –And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking FAR too much of this one. We know the risk he and his wife are taking for all of us, and we implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand – that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity and peace. (GR)

On the Fifth Set of Decade Beads (Catholic Rosary Only):

1 – Known by many names and called upon in many languages, we stand before You, God, as one nation.

2 – The Psalmist declares that the heavens belong to you, and that you have given the Earth to humanity. Strengthen this president, vice president and each of us to be good stewards of the this planet and our country. (BH)

3 – Thank you for our freedom which has not come easily, and is even now being defended by the courages sacrifice of those willing to lay down their lives. May we never abuse it or take it for granted.

4 – Give our new president a powerful, fresh encounter with yourself, so that on your behalf, he would exercise kindness, justice and righteousness in this nation and in the world. (AGL)

5 – [May] we stand against the voices that attempt tp draw us appart and commit ourselves to focusing on what holds us together: our love of God, family and country.

6 – Let this generation arise as the firewall against the spirit of violence, poverty, death and injustice. (SR)

7 -May we be protected together. May we be nourished together.

8 – May we work together with great vigor. May no obstacle arise between us.

9 – United [in our] resolve, united [in our] hearts, may our spirits be at one that we may long together dwell in unity and concord.

10 – Peace, peace, peace be unto all. (RZ)


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Happy New Year all! I am sorry for the long time, no blog. I have been down with flu this whole week and am now behind in work, housework and everything else. Ugh.

A couple of days ago, I received a very nice comment from a man named Larry Gray in response to my much earlier post on Baha’i Prayer Beads. Here is a bit of what Larry had to say (to see the full comment, go to the original post and scroll down):

“I make prayer beads that are sold in Baha’i bookstores and I send them in “Vahids” [groups of 19, as Baha’i prayer beads have 19 beads] rather than dozens, just to help establish the tradition.

Baha'i Prayer Beads

Baha'i Prayer Beads

As to all [Baha’is] not using prayer beads – it is often that we haven’t established the habit of praying regularly. Baha’i is a gentle religion and we are not threatened with hellfire for not following our traditions. I am getting better as I grow older – hopefully a bit wiser. My knuckle counting friends tell me it is less distracting than beads. I see their point. I have beads made of seeds and seashells and semiprecious sonte and I love to look at and handle them.

I also do a display of prayer beads and prayer aids (tallit shawls, Native American prayer feathers, etc) from all the major religions. It is a visual feast at programs where I present them. It fascinates me how much in common they have.”

I like the fact that Larry seems to see the world’s religions much the way I do – that we all have much more in common than we have that separates us and that the very common use of prayer beads is an example of this. So I asked Larry, who says he was a Catholic before becoming a Baha’i, what he found was both the same and different about the Catholic rosary and Baha’i prayer beads. Here is a portion of his response:

Prayer beads are a fascinating tool in that they are so similar in the various religions, just as the religions themselves are more similar than different. All religions promote prayer, marriage, spirituality, peace, etc. What differs is the culture in which it lives, so marriage ceremonies, for example, are different around the world, but marriage is the same. Repetitive prayer helps us relax and communicate with the inner, spiritual self. The idea behind prayer beads is minimize the need to count prayers, a left brained function, and move into the more spiritual right brain where one is more likely to be moved and inspired.

Catholic (the major Christian sect until the middle ages) has had many styles of prayer beads called c[h]aplets, but by far the most popular has become the rosary. Lore has it that St. Dominic was given the rosary by the Blessed Virgin in a vision. Rosary comes from the Latin for rose and suggests that one is in a spiritual rose garden when praying the rosary. Other apparitions of Mary, such as at Fatima, also reinforce the importance of the rosary.

Baha’is, whose original culture comes out of the Moslem [Muslim] traditions also started out with 99 beads, but were soon given a set of 95 beads divided into five sets of nineteen beads each. Nineteen is the number of original believers named “Letters of the Living,” similar to Christian apostles. Nineteen of something, including these prayers is called a Vahid, named for the last member of the Letters of the Living. Baha’is recite the chant “Allah’u-Abha (God is Most Glorious) on each bead usually first thing in the morning. Interestingly, some Baha’is don’t need prayer beads. They find them distracting. Instead, they count on their knuckles and the tips of the fingers, adding up to nineteen.

You asked about the differences between Baha’i prayers and the Catholic rosary. The rosary has different prayers, ten of this, one of that, etc. One must think about where one is in the scheme of the beads, but is does give a pleasant musical rhythm to the process. Baha’i prayers are the same chant on all the beads, this being a more calming and less thoughtful and rhythmic experience. Needless to say, neither is better than the other, just different.

I must tell you, I have made and sold prayer beads for years, mostly Baha’i, some rosaries and others. Over the years, I have added a small strand of five beads onto the end of the ninety-five. The reason is that sometimes we chant some prayers in multiples of 100 and can use the extra beads to keep even. It has become popular with some other Baha’i bead makers as well, but darned if it doesn’t look a bit more like a rosary! I also sometimes say a slightly different prayer on each of the nineteenth beads. “You can take the boy out of the Catholic Church but you can’t take the church out of the boy.”

Thanks so much for this, Larry.If any of you live in Maine, you might go and see Larry present a talk on prayer beads this Sunday (MY BIRTHDAY!!!) for the Bahai’s of Eliot, Maine. BRRRRRR!!!!

Anyone else out there have something to say about two different prayer bead traditions that they have personal experience with? How are they the same and different? How has your experience with one informed your experience of the other?


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June is the month of weddings (yeah – I was married in May) and so I thought some of you out there might be interested in making a special set of prayer beads for the brides-to-be in your lives.

As I have a friend getting married soon (yeah – not in June) I decided to make her a set. I combed through my bead supplies and this is what I came up with:

Almost everything you see here came from my local independent bead store, Berkeley’s ab-fab Baubles and Beads. The cross is made from mother-of-pearl shell with a nice pinkish hue overlaying the white. The oval beads and the pentagonal bead are also a highly polished mother-of-pearl. I know I paid less than a dollar for each of those – I think. There are two tubes of seed beads, a size 11 white to go between the beads on the circlet and a size 8 white seed bead to go on the stem. These bigger seed beads have holes large enough to take the two strands of flexible beading wire I will use in the stem. And I am using small daisy wheels with a silver finish.

The only thing I got elsewhere are the faceted crystal beads that make up the main part of the prayer beads’ circlet. These I bought at a local antiques flea market. I think I paid about $20 for a vintage necklace that had about 50 or 60 of these iridescent, aurora borealis faceted beads. I looooooove them and still have enough left for a bracelet and some earrings. Or another set of prayer beads!

My bride-to-be friend is a not a Catholic, so I decided to make her an Anglican/Protestant form of prayer beads. But as I was stringing them, I decided to do something a bit different – to create my own form of prayer beads, a kind of hybrid between the Anglican/Protestant form and the Catholic rosary. I made the circlet of the prayer beads in the Anglican/Protestant format, with 28 weeks beads, divided in four groups of seven, divided by four cruciform beads, which represent the arms of the cross. But on the stem, – which, in the Anglican format, traditionally has a cross or other terminal charm, an invitatory bead – I decided to add three additional beads, like the Catholic rosary stem’s three Our Father beads. I decided these will represent the three major marriage vows: to love, to honor and to cherish. I will create or find three special prayers to give her for these three beads.

I encourage you to feel free, whenever you make prayer beads, to break away from the traditional forms if you are comfortable doing so. You can turn this same set of bridal prayer beads into an Anglican/Protestant rosary by subtracting the three extra beads from the stem, and you can make it into a traditional Catholic rosary by adding more beads.

If you have my book, Bead One, Pray Too, you can find directions to make this kind of prayer bead set under “Intermediate Anglican [or Catholic] Rosary” on pages 127-128. If you don’t have the book, you need bead stringing skills that include crimping. That’s about it.

You will need:

flexible beading wire, size fine (I like Softflex)

1 crimp bead big enough to hold 4 strands of flexible beading wire

crimping tool

4 oval cruciform beads

1 pentagonal invitatory bead

31 faceted crystal beads, approximately 6-8 mm

10 small silver daisies or other spacers

size 11 white seed beads

size 8 white seed beads

Begin with the circlet. String one daisy spacer, one cruciform, one daisy, 3 size 11 seed beads, *one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads.* Repeat between * and * until 7 faceted beads are strung. String 3 size 11 seed beads, one daisy spacer, one oval cruciform bead, one daisy spacer, 3 size 11 seed beads, one faceted bead, two size 11 seed beads. Repeat in this fashion until all oval curciforms and all but THREE faceted beads are strung. End with three size 11 seed beads and bring working end of wire back down through the first oval cruciform bead and the two daisy spacers on either side of it.

Now string the stem. On BOTH STRANDS OF FLEXIBLE WIRE, *string 3 size 8 seed beads, one faceted bead. *Repeat between * and * until all three faceted beads are strung. String three size 8 seed beads, one daisy spacer, the invitatory bead, one daisy spacer and three size 8 seed beads. String the crimp bead and the terminal charm. PULL THE FLEXIBLE WIRE TAUT. String both ends of flexible wire back through the crimp bead and the next three size 8 seed beads. Crimp and clip flexible wire close to beads.

If you need a tutorial on crimping, see my blog entry from yesterday.

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The Sea Ranch, Monday morning . . . .

This morning, sitting in the window overlooking the ocean, I got out the packet of paper beads I ordered last month from Beads for Life. I am going to hold a Beads for Life party in June and I couldn’t wait till then to see what they were like, so I ordered a packet of loose beads. I brought them, and some other supplies, to The Sea Ranch with me so I could make a set of prayer beads with them.

First, I separated the more than 100 beads into colors – pinks, reds, yellows, oranges, green, blues and multi-colored beads. I decided I’d like a set of prayer beads where each section – weeks for an Anglican version, decades for a Catholic version – would be a different color. For the uncounted connector beads, I chose a size 8 seed bead that is yellow with small red stripes.

For the terminal charm, I chose a kind of cross that I purchased at Baubles and Beads I don’t know how long ago. It is a cross with four equal arms and has cut outs inside it. It’s kind of a Jerusalem cross. It is made of jade, I think, or some other pale green stone. I really must start keeping better records of what I buy because I forget after I get things home. I thought it would be nice because it is stone would give the paper prayer beads some heft. Also, its color reminds me of the color of waves when the light shines behind them – a kind of pale bottle green.

I decided to make a basic Anglican rosary (page 122 in Bead One, Pray Too), but there were enough beads in the packet that I could have made a basic Catholic rosary (page 125), too. But as the paper beads are all elongated, stringing the 59 counted beads a Catholic rosary requires would have given me an extremely long set of prayer beads. So I chose to go with the Anglican rosary’s 33 counted beads so the final set of prayer beads would be more manageable.

Then I just threaded a needle, strung the beads in the pattern of the Anglican rosary. I put one uncounted connector bead between each of the weeks beads and three uncounted connector beads between each set of weeks and the cruciform beads. Then I tied a surgeon’s knot (Bead One, Pray Too, page 125) and ran the thread tails back up through the beads. What do you think? Here is a picture of my new prayer beads draped on a Buddha statue that sits in the garden of the house we rented. I love it. I love the colors and the feel of the beads – both light and heavy at the same time. I cannot wait to have my Bead for Life party and hope I can encourage my guests to try their hands at making a set, too.

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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.

GETTING A BEAD ON PRAYER ANCIENT TOOLS STILL USED BY VARIETY OF FAITHS
By Judy Tarjanyi Blade Senior Writer

Source: THE BLADE, TOLEDO, OHIO
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
divine.

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
Buddhists.

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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