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Franciscan Spirit Blog

My Rosary Story

Sep 21, 2021
Holding a rosary | Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash
It passed from hand to hand, through thick and thin.

I’ll tell you a story about one rosary and let it stand for so very many of these lovely, silent, haunting companions in our pockets and cars and purses and drawers and under pillows and wrapped around the hands of the dead.

This rosary was made 80 years ago by a boy in the woods of Oregon. He was a timber feller working so deep in the woods there were no roads, and the men and boys rode into camp on mules. He was 17 years old that summer and very lonely.

One evening he began to carve rosary beads from cedar splits otherwise destined for the fire. He tried to carve a bead a night sitting by the fire. With each bead he would try to remember the story of the bead as his mother had told him. There were the joyful mysteries of good news and visiting cousins and new babies and christenings and finding children whom you feared were lost utterly.

There were the sorrowful mysteries of men weeping in the dark and men beating men and men jeering and taunting men and men torturing men and men murdering men under the aegis of the law. There were the glorious mysteries of life defeating death and light returning against epic darkness and epiphanies arriving when no doors or windows seemed open to admit them and love defeating death and the victory of that we know to be true against all evidence that it is not.

When he had cut a bead for each of these stories he was finished, for there were at that time no luminous mysteries on which to ponder and pray. He threaded thin copper wire through each of the beads, setting the mysteries apart with a larger bead cut from yew, and he carved a cross from the shinbone of an elk.

He thought about trying to carve a Christ also, but the thought of carving Christ made him uncomfortable. Anyway, he did not think he had the skill, and he did not want to ask one of the older men, some of whom were superb carvers, so he left the cross unadorned, as he said, and put the rosary in his pocket. He carried it with him every day the rest of his life.

The rosary went with him through Italy and North Africa in the war, and into the wheat fields of Oregon, and back into the woods where he again cut timber for a while, and then all through his travels as a journalist on every blessed muddy road from Canada to California, as he said, and through his brief, but very happy, years in retirement by the sea, where his rosary acquired a patina of salt from the mother of all oceans, as he said.

He had the rosary in his pocket the day he was on his knees in his garden and leaned forward and placed his face upon the earth and died, almost 70 years after he finished carving the rosary in the deep woods as a boy. His wife carried the rosary in her pocket for the next two years until the morning she died in her bed, smiling at the prospect of seeing her husband by evening, as she told their son.

The son carried the rosary in his pocket for the next three days until the moment when he and I were walking out of the church, laughing at one of his father’s thousand salty stories of life in the woods and in the war and in the fields and on the road and by the sea, at which point the son handed it to me and said, “Dad wanted you to have it,” and hustled away to attend to his wife and children and brothers and nieces and nephews.

I wept. 

I have the rosary in my pocket now. I hope to carry it every day the rest of my life, and jingle it absentmindedly, and pray it here and there when I have a moment in the sun, and place it ever so carefully and gently on a shelf every night before I go to bed, touching the elk-bone cross with a smile in memory of my friend George, until the morning of my own death, when I pray for a last few moments of grace in which to hand it to my son, and then close my eyes and go to see the One for whom it was made, who made us. Amen.

Interested in the rosary? Keep reading!

Why Pray the Rosary?

The Rosary: History and Mystery

Saint of the Day: Our Lady of the Rosary

Blessed Mothers: A Reflection on the Rosary



Tue, 09/21/2021 - 08:13 AM
I LOVED this!!!
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 09:51 AM
Beautiful- I can’t think of a better inheritance to leave a family!
Arlene B. Muller
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 09:58 AM
Arlene B. Muller
A BEAUTIFUL STORY! I LOVE how the writer & the young man who carved the rosary connected the MYSTERIES of the rosary with events in the lives of not just Our LORD, Our Lady & the people in the Bible but to life events of people in general. I LOVE how he wrote about the man's experiences of his life until old age & death & how the rosary was so connected to his life, the life of his widow, his son & now the author himself. How beautiful that the rosary became for them not a pious exercise or a duty (which is how I view it), but an intrinsic part of every aspect of their lives! Although I am an active Catholic I don't consider the rosary as part of my life all that much & find praying the rosary to be a tedious chore reserved only for emergencies when other prayers fail. I am someone who prefers to pray in my own way, serve in my Church ministries of lector, EM & choir at weekend Masses, read these Franciscan reflections & share them on FACEBOOK & seek to connect Scripture to life. I love our motto as Secular Franciscans to "go from Gospel to life & life to Gospel". This blog post definitely gives me some insight into the relevance of the rosary.
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 11:52 AM
The rosary is our weapon against evil. I am grateful to have found this writing. God bless you and God bless us all!
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:17 PM
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 12:52 PM
This was one of the most touching and beautiful stories I have heard about the rosary. I keep mine with me almost all the time and pray that I will have it with me when the time is near.
Tue, 09/21/2021 - 08:47 PM
You just made a grown man cry. It is so important that we pray the Rosary daily. As St. Padre Pio knew all too well, it is our true weapon against the devil.
Gertrude Ossi
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 04:49 AM
Gertrude Ossi
That was a wonderful write up on the Rosary especially the explanation of the various mysteries. It will be nice to do a more detailed explanation of the mysteries to guide us decade by decade. Please also explain very well the benefits of saying the Rosary. Rosary is indeed a weapon of destruction from all evil.
Mary Burke
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 06:54 AM
Mary Burke
Dear Brian Doyle thank you for sharing this beautiful story, beautifully written.

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