Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene: the beauty and message behind Catholic Rosaries

Born and raised a Catholic, it took me many years to realize that people of other Christian denominations and faiths sometimes view certain Catholic practices as outdated, odd, or even hindrances to divine connection.  Starting in high school, some of my friends began to question elements of my Catholicism, such as our reverence of saints and our use of priests for Confession or Reconciliation.   Why was Jesus not enough?  Why did we need patron saints?  Why couldn’t we just ask God directly for forgiveness ourselves, or accept that He forgives everything?

At a young age, such questions were at times confusing and alarming.  I had never before looked at my religion this way, and for the most part I did not feel a personal connection to my answers, which felt more like something I had heard the priest say and then reworded.  If Jesus wanted us to follow Him alone, he would not have left us disciples.  Patron saints serve a guides and reminders of how we, too, can live a holy life.  Priest have a closer connection to the divine because they devote their entire lives to the practice.  These answers made sense… right?

As I grew older and prepared for my Confirmation and, later, independent life in college, I began to seek my own answers to these and other questions.  I felt that, as a woman, I had a strong emotional connection to two female saints, Mother Mary and Mary Magdalene.  Mother Mary, also known as the Virgin Mary, was the mother of Jesus Christ, and is highly revered in Catholicism.  Mary Magdalene, on the other hand, has historically been seen as a former prostitute, thus giving her an often low and degraded status among believers.  I prefer to view her as some contemporaries do, namely as a downtrodden women, sickened, poor, ill, and abused by her society, a woman who was healed by Jesus and given a second chance to live a glorious life.  Viewed this way, Mary Magdalene is a champion of downtrodden peoples, a symbol of female empowerment, a pioneer of women’s rights and recognition who still historically has been given a bad reputation.  In my opinion, where Mother Mary’s struggles reflect those of a pure and innocent woman called to perform God’s duty unquestioningly, Mary Magdalene’s journey is easier to relate to because most of us feel imperfect and flawed and wish for a second chance.  Mary Magdalene’s story offers us that chance for redemption, and Mother Mary offers us the warmth and compassion of a caregiver reaching out to help us in our journey to become our best person.

And here, dedicated reader, is where the rosary enters our discussion.  If you have come this far into my blog post, thank you!  Your reward will be some beautiful pictures.  Here is one, and more are coming, so stay tuned…

African Opal Agate Gemstone Rosary
by Graceful Rosaries

During college, I had the opportunity to study a number of religions outside of my own, which was probably the most beneficial aspect of my entire education. By studying Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Shintoism, Christianity, and other religions, I gained a deeper understanding of my own spirituality as well as my religion’s practices and beliefs how these compared to those in other religions.

Praying the rosary, for example, is above all else a meditative practice. Similar to the cross-legged, monotonous, visualization sort of meditation found in Buddhism, praying the rosary allows one to focus the mind by repeating one phrase over and over again, allowing for a more direct communion with the divine. When praying the rosary, one recites the Hail Mary Prayer and the Lord’s Prayer.  However, rather than simply focusing on these words alone, I would argue that one should open up one’s heart, mind, imagination, and soul, and allow their spirit to overflow into their actions, focusing intently on whatever goodwill one wishes to ask for or bestow.  Visualize the success of your prayer, and allow yourself to believe it will come true.  When you open up your mind to learning from those of other faiths, you can strengthen your beliefs and practices with theirs, making yourself a more holistically spiritual person.

Many people today still create handmade rosaries to sell for your prayerful use.  I have one of my own which I made from wire-wrapping gemstones and shells.  The rosary shown above is a beautiful example of a classic rosary, as are the following:

Victorian Snow Sterling Rosary Necklace
by Doro Soucy

Denim Nation Swarovski Crystal Rosary
by Gilliauna

The following artists have taken a spin off from the classic rosary, creating something fresh, unique, and possibly controversial, sometimes using pieces from old rosaries in new ways. I, however, think this a great way to show the world your faith and reaffirm for yourself your spirituality on a regular basis. Check out these designs, all handmade and for sale on Etsy:

Turquoise Jasper Catholic Rosary Bracelet
by Graceful Rosaries

Rosary Necklace Bracelet Wrap Oh Lord Reclaimed Jewelry
by ecoBling Couture

Vintage Rosary Charm Multi Chain Necklace
by Deer Girl Designs

vintage rosary statement necklace
by novella

The true beauty behind a handmade rosary lies in the work that went into each finished product.  When I created my rosary, the hours I spent designing and crafting it felt prayerful, like I was taking as small part in creation.

What are your thoughts on the matter? How do you stay in touch with your faith? What role models in your religion move you? What practices keep you grounded and connected? Share your thoughts here by commenting!


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MJ
    May 18, 2013 @ 23:16:00

    Wow. Those are Gorgeous. I just found your blog looking for an article on how to do an Etsy Widget for my blog. Glad I stumbled upon your blog! Now to get some stuff in my Etsy shop, so I can get them into that widget. 🙂


  2. deergirldesigns
    Aug 02, 2011 @ 13:50:43

    What a gorgeous and interesting article. It is so true that people often denigrate the different aspects of Catholicism that, to me, are really fantastic. I believe that, of course, Jesus IS enough to most Christians. I don’t think that revering saints or honoring the Holy Mother or any of it takes away from the primacy of God or Jesus, it just shows that Catholicism is a versatile faith that incorporates so many elements and believes that human beings can also be powerful and beautiful and strong when they have faith to take refuge in. Also, the human mind relates to archetypes and the saints offer so many different struggles and triumphs to relate to, emulate, believe in- but all fingers are always pointed to the One God and that is fantastic.

    The photos above are stunning. The process you wrote about is also stunning, how when you make a piece of sacred art, every single little bead and wire and charm is considered prayerfully and it has really become my meditation practice and I, like you, put my entire heart and soul into my pieces. This is another reason why I only buy hand-made jewelry- the heart energy and soul energy put into it is so powerful. So much more powerful than a mass, machine made piece of crap, you know? 🙂 Art is a language. Sacred art, like ours, is an essential language and as the pieces get passed down along the line of giving and receiving, or through ages, it speaks. Each piece whispers, like so many prayers through the centuries. What a powerful way to honor and connect to God! Thank you so much for recognizing the sacred in our pieces that are not traditional rosaries. It’s funny, when I received my first rosary from my grandmother, I immediately put it around my neck and all the old women hissed, no, no! I still to this day love the way Rosaries look around the neck, but I also respect tradition, so, my way to reconcile that all- sacred jewelry!

    So much love to you and thanks for including me!!



    • Jess
      Aug 03, 2011 @ 20:06:53

      Thank you for this beautiful commentary and for sharing your thoughts!


    • Doro
      Aug 04, 2011 @ 10:00:19

      I had a similar experience- I always wanted to put my rosaries around my neck. None of the ones I came across though were long enough to slip over the head. Anyway, my grandma and other old women would have criticized me for such a heretic act.
      I love how now, that I’m grown up, can make my own rosary using whatever beads and components I like. I enjoy the freedom of creativity.


  3. Doro
    Aug 01, 2011 @ 18:02:27

    I love rosaries! I was born and raised Roman Catholic as well, so naturally, praying rosary became part of my daily life. In my late teens, some unanswered questions about my religion and the purpose of life made me study other world religions and philosophies, too. It was fascinating discovering so many various views of deity and our origin. Some of the other religions seemed more logical than my own.
    Many years passed since then, and I am not an active catholic anymore. However, I still respect Catholicism and enjoy making rosaries very much. They bring my childhood memories back. I always envision the silent moments between masses in one of the centuries old churches I used to go to with my grandma: candles flickering with warm light, the contrasting scents of musky frank incense and fresh cut flowers mixed together, sunlight shining through the colorful stained glass windows creating divine reflections on the walls, and oh so many detailed sculptures of angels and saints, all looking humbly down with eternal compassion and love.
    All this visual and emotional stimulation shaped my path towards artistry and design. When I create my jewelry, I put a lot of my memories and old inspirations in it. Because that’s what we artists do. We infuse our creations with our past, our dreams and fears, we add to them tiny, invisible parts of the fantasy worlds we live in, we put in our love and soul. Each and one of us is unique, and so are our products.

    Beautiful collection of rosaries, Jess! I also enjoyed browsing your Etsy jewelry store. Thank you for featuring my rosary on your inspirational blog!


  4. Gilliauna
    Jul 31, 2011 @ 22:20:45

    Wonderful article! Thank you so much for including our Denim Nation rosary among your pictures. *Smile*



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