beads & thumbs

Oct 7, 2020

While prayer beads were used before Christ in Judaism and after Christ in Islam, it’s the prayer beads of the Rosary which focus on the life of Jesus that I am most familiar with.

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, and a chance to savour the beauty of this prayer-with-beads which gives us time to focus on central mysteries of the life of Christ while meditatively using as a mantra Hail Marys and Our Fathers.

I learnt this prayer from my grandparents. Every night (often during the ads in a tv program) they would move from their comfortable lounge chairs to kneel facing the back of the chair with elbows in the seat and away they would go: “I believe in God…”

There was never a “shall we pray the Rosary now?” It just seemed to happen.

I remember too running up the paddock to catch grandad walking with shepherd’s crook shifting the sheep. He would often have the beads in one hand, thumbing his way through the mysteries.

Then on other days I would take him his lunch while he was working the hill paddock ploughing at the levers of the D2 and notice that in the midst of the noise and the dust he was praying the Rosary.

So I started to pray it too, to the stage where I could do it completely by heart including the naming of the mysteries. When I say “by heart” that is exactly what it was. As I mumbled Hail Marys my heart was at the birth of Jesus or with him as he carried his cross.

And then there were many other times when I got to the end of a decade or even through the five decades and realised that my mind had been all over the place the entire time.

But it never worried me. I have grown to love the mind-wandering knowing that as I day-dreamed my way through the decades, my thumbs were doing the praying for me and my heart was driving prayer as a sub-conscious desire for God.

I know some families who have decided to pray the Rosary together like their grandparents did. They tell of immediate rewards.

Try it.

If you need Rosary Beads to get you started just let me know and I will send them free of charge.  No problem if you need a dozen sets for a class group or family, (as long as you promise to use them!) just let me know.



  1. Always reassuring to know that it is not just me whose mind wanders while praying the Rosary

  2. What a great story Father John – thank you for sharing it with us.
    As a grandparent it gives one hope that grandchildren will pick up this method of praying and will grow to be at one with it as you have over the years.


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