After arriving home from work one day this week, my wife handed me a box. In it were nine rosaries and two beautiful crucifixes. They were given to her by a co-worker who said they belonged to her now-deceased in-laws. Knowing we were Catholic, she thought we might know someone who could use them. If her in-laws were Catholic, isn’t her husband Catholic, I asked? He may have been at one time, but apparently not anymore.
I can only imagine his father and mother looking down from heaven at the sight of their precious sacramentals being given away to strangers rather than being handed down to Catholic grandchildren as holy heirlooms. How often did grandma and grandpa pick up those rosaries at critical times in their lives? They probably prayed for their children and grandchildren in sickness and times of trouble. The two crucifixes were identical, the kind often displayed in the casket of deceased Catholics. Having them in my possession saddens me.
I remember my elderly grandmother praying her rosary in her small first-floor bedroom. She faced much difficulty in her life, the loss of her husband and a son, and a devastating Christmas fire that destroyed the family business. She died in 1972 and was probably buried with that rosary in her hands. How wonderful it would be to pray on that rosary today, a relic of my grandmother who loved her Catholic faith so much.
Many Protestants look at sacramentals as Catholic superstition. They see no value in them, and may even view them as forms of idolatry. I suspect they are uncomfortable having them in their possession, and at the same time, reluctant to destroy them too, just in case. Play it safe, and just give them away.
A description on the EWTN website says, “the myriad of little things that are sacramentals are the parts of catholicity that jostle against us in our everyday life, those little extras that often tell others we are Catholic.” The rosary, as we know it today, probably dates back to the thirteenth century, but may have originated in some fashion as early as the second century. When praying the rosary, we meditate on the mysteries of the Incarnation and Redemption in the history of our salvation.
One might wonder why non-Catholic Christians object to the crucifix. Protestant denominations generally do not display the corpus on the cross. In response to the crucifix, they will say they instead worship a Risen Christ. Well, so do we, but our salvation comes not from the cross itself, but by the God-man who hung on it. The crucifix is a stark reminder that Jesus suffered and died for our sins.
Parents bear the great responsibility of raising their children in the faith. The priest can’t do it. The CCD teacher can’t do it. And in some cases, even parental guidance is not enough. How many future generations will never know the Catholic faith because one person decided to abandon the Church? How many rosaries will never be prayed?
So, what will I do with these staples of catholicity? I would like to eventually see them go back to the family. Perhaps one of the children will someday be inspired to investigate the faith of their grandparents. How wonderful it would be to make that connection and be able to present them with rosaries that once guided the prayers of grandma and grandpa. For now, I will place a note in the box and keep them in a safe place.