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years to realize that people of other Christian denominations and faiths sometimes view certain Catholic practices as outdated, odd, or even hindrances to divine connection.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!

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Jewelry design, beauty, and the spirit?

Jewelry design. Beauty. The spirit. How do these three concepts fit together in one blog?

This is a conflict that I had to resolve before I could write my first post. To be honest, initially my concept for this blog was more of a felt sense or an intuition than an actual mapped-out idea. I did not have words for what I wanted to write about as much as I felt a flicker of emotions and images pass through my spirit. And as I found words to express what I could feel emerging from within me, the critical part of my mind turned on and said, “‘Jewelry design and the spirit?? Are you serious?. Isn’t fashion design a little superficial, rather materialistic, and therefore not “of the spirit” by its very nature?”

Well, Critical-Jess, it turns out the answer is “no.” While the materialism that drives much of our culture and the international fashion industry is not soothing to the soul, the creativity and art behind this industry is an expression that comes directly from the spirit. I know this to be true because of my own experience as an artist, a writer–a creative being. The act of creation brings us closer to our created world and–whether we call it a god or a goddess, Allah, Brahma, God, Yahweh, Science, chi, the universe, or sheer happenstance–to our creator. Each time we create something, we are engaging in creation, imitating the creative acts of the natural world. And that action fuels our spirits, reminds us of who we are and who we can become, and brings us a little closer to understanding the meaning of life.

Right now, for me, that creative expression comes out in the art form of jewelry making as well as though writing. This blog will be dedicated to finding the beauty in art, especially wearable art, and discussing how this art can bring us together, touch our hearts, and make a lasting impact on our spirits.

To start things off, check out this beautiful little piece, a charm bracelet by One Heart Jewelry of Colorado Springs that is a celebration and a symbol of interfaith harmony.

Comment with your thoughts!