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Franciscan Spirit Blog

Blessed Mothers: A Reflection on the Rosary

May 26, 2021
A woman holds a rosary | Photo by Thérèse Westby on Unsplash
This mother and daughter found a lifelong connection through their devotion to the Virgin Mary.

A font of holy water hung in the doorway of my childhood bedroom. Above the bowl, a ceramic Blessed Mother looked down with serene love at her baby—and at me. In our house of shouts and tears, Mary was always watching over me.

My mother had a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin, as did all the women in our family. When she gave me my first rosary, I was inducted into an adult sisterhood. I’d seen them cry out to Mary in the midst of disappointing marriages, kids sent off to Vietnam, and past-due bills. She helped them: this woman calmly smiling in her blue mantle, eternally reassuring. They were all so strong, and that strength had to come from somewhere.

I wore out that rosary with praying. The thin metal links connecting the beads broke, producing a shower of tiny pink beads that rolled toward cracks in the floor and scattered to unseen places, as prayers do.

As an adult, I’d pick my mother up on Thursday nights for eucharistic adoration and praying the rosary. We’d kneel side by side and murmur the prayers that we knew like favorite songs. She’d begun working as a maid when she was 12 years old. Mom had spent a good part of her life on her knees scrubbing floors, and by old age those knees hurt. I would urge her to sit for the devotion. She’d smile at me. “I’m fine, Sweetie. I want to,” she’d say.

The rhythm of the rosary, those Hail Marys, Our Fathers, and Glory Bes repeated bead by bead, it comforts. It’s like being curled up in a mother’s lap as breath goes in and out. You’re not sure if you’re hearing your breathing or hers. Or if there is even a difference.

With each cycle of 10 Hail Marys, the faithful are called upon to meditate on an event from the life of Mary or Jesus, events we call “mysteries,” a word I have always loved.

This small, tactile thing, a string of beads, takes you out of this world. Every Catholic child hears the stories of Jesus and Mary, from the Annunciation to the Assumption, over and over. But the rosary invites you to privately imagine those stories and thus make them your own. I know Jesus and  Mary better for praying it.

As I grew, I stopped seeing Mary as the immovable lady in blue. Today, I prefer to think of her as a girl who said yes when God asked her to do an impossible thing, and who kept saying yes through all the glories, joys, and sorrows that made up her life. Mary’s life reminds me that you can be a fighter and still be at peace. This is the thing I most need to know now. So this centuries-old devotion has grown with me, or I with it.

In my mother’s last days, those beads connected us. She did not speak. I’m not sure she knew me. Alzheimer’s had taken so much of what she was. But when I prayed the rosary at her bedside, her grimace relaxed. I prayed it aloud every time I was with her, because it was the one thing that seemed to reach some part of her.

Shortly before she died, a miracle happened. There’s no better word. She spoke to me, calling me by name. This woman, who had been bedridden and silent for a year, was smiling and animated. She told me about visiting a magnificent church where everyone was clean and polite—two qualities my mother valued above all others. Mom only peeked into the church from an outer room, she said, where she’d been talking with Great-Aunt Mae, a woman dead 20 years.

“Would you like to go inside?” I asked.

“Yes, but you can’t come,” she answered sadly.

“You’ve got to take care of Charlie [my son].”

“Someday,” I told her. “You go now, if you’re ready. And I’ll see you when my work is done.”

She mumbled, “Mary, Mary, Mary, grace, grace, grace,” as I prayed. After a while, she handed me her rosary. “You give these to somebody who needs them. In my church, we don’t need them,” she said.

Then she grabbed my hand and said, “You’re a good girl. You’re praying all the time. In my church, we hear your prayers.” It was the last thing she said to me, though her body hung on for another month. I never did give her rosary beads away, because I can’t imagine anyone needing them more than I do.

Keep reading!

A Prayer for Mothers

Why Pray the Rosary?

The Sorrowful Mystery of Racism

Scenes from the Life of the Virgin Mary

Nourishing Love: A Franciscan Celebration of Mary by Murray Bodo


Wed, 05/26/2021 - 08:30 AM
Dear Colleen Shaddox, Thank you for sharing your beautiful, heart warming story.
Wed, 05/26/2021 - 10:27 AM
This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. Thanks so much for sharing the story of your mother.
Wed, 05/26/2021 - 12:37 PM
Lovely! A great reflection on mothers and our universal mother.
Wed, 05/26/2021 - 01:37 PM
What a great personal reflection on a mother's life well-lived in faith and prayers and how she handed on that faith in her praying the rosary with you. Thank you for sharing this story with all of us!
Fri, 05/28/2021 - 06:16 AM
This is so moving: what a beautiful connection between Colleen, her Mum and our Holy Mother. To someone like me who has never adopted the habit of praying the rosary, this is a clear illustration of the blessings of this form of worship. Thank you, Colleen, for sharing this story. I pray that the bond between you and Charlie and our Holy Mother may be equally strong and enduring.
Fri, 05/28/2021 - 10:46 AM
That was such a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing.
Sat, 05/29/2021 - 12:29 PM
Thank you for you and your mother's gift to us.
Sun, 05/30/2021 - 12:04 PM
Rosary was always a big help to my mother throughout all the difficult moments of her life.
Dae Vitale
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 07:26 AM
Dae Vitale
Thank you, Colleen for this so very beautiful remembrance of your mother’s devotion to the Rosary and her bringing you into her relationship with Our.Mother Blessed Mary and for deepening her relationship with you, which was so deeply touching to us who read your account. When you wrote about Mary’s “Yes” in all that Our Father asked of her, it resonated with me, for that is how I always think of her. Her “Yes” to all the joys and pains and suffering she endured for and with her beloved son…for all of us, whomever we are…. Your dear, beloved mother is in Heaven with Many and Jesus in the presence of The Father and The Holy Spirit, all the angels, and Saints. She gave you a gift most precious. Bless you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring account.
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 09:40 AM
This is so. beautiful. Hers was a good Catholic mother. We knelt around my mother’s bed to say the family rosary as children. Mom passed on her love of Mary and the rosary to me. I have, in turn, passed it on to my husband and children.
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 10:01 AM
That was so beautiful and it touched my heart. What a blessing you received from God and the Blessed Virgin in the words your Mom shared with you that day! Thank you for sharing it.
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 05:25 PM
I am 67 years old and I was never taught how to pray the Rosary... how do I learn
Virginia Sullivan
Thu, 10/07/2021 - 06:29 PM
Virginia Sullivan
Hello Lorraine, you should be able to go to any catholic church near you for a brochure on saying the rosary. The EWTN (tv station) plays a recitation of the rosary each day at 3:30 usually led by Sister Angelica. This will get you started on how to say the rosary but you will want to find a brochure or book that explains the meditations for each bead of the rosary. The meditations are what really makes the rosary such a powerful prayer. Amazon has many choices of books on the rosary. I pray you will get good information to get you started on this wonderful prayer which is so often misunderstood . God bless you..

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