Newsletter of the District of Asia

 April - December 2008

The Rosary without beads

By Fr. Aeden McGrath

Before I had come in (the Chinese prison), while I was in the Catholic Central Bureau (in Shanghai, China), a Jesuit priest from Canton had sent me a Legion of Mary leaflet, giving a method of the rosary for those in factories or for those who had not an opportunity to use their rosary beads. The title of that little rosary method was "A Method of Saying the Rosary for Each Hail Mary."

The idea was this: There was a thought for each Hail Mary, so that when you got to the last thought, you said the Glory Be, and it was not necessary to count on your fingers.

To give you an idea of the method, let us take the third Joyful Mystery: the Nativity. The first Hail Mary is Mary and Joseph leave the house at Nazareth. The second is Mary and Joseph arrive in Bethlehem. The third, they are refused entry in the inn. Fourth, they go outside the city. Fifth, Jesus is born in the stable. Sixth, the angels appear to the shepherds. Seventh, the shepherds bearing lambs went to adore Jesus. Eighth, the star of Bethlehem appears in the east. Ninth, the three wise men arrive in Jerusalem. And tenth, the shepherd and the king kneel and adore the Child Jesus. When you get to your last picture, you just say Glory Be without having to think of them or anything else.

At first, to me, it seemed a little confusing, and I did not use it myself, but I got it translated, printed and sent it all over China. And the Chinese loved it. Before I was arrested, I gave it to a lady in Shanghai, and she was delighted with it.

"Father," she said, "I always like to say the rosary while I am knitting. As I can't use my beads, I used to mark out nine chairs in my room, and then I had a piano. I'd look at each chair, as I said each Hail Mary. When I got to the piano, then I'd say Glory Be. But, now, when closing my eyes, I can do my knitting and think of the pictures. It is wonderful."

In prison, I had no beads, and I could not easily use my fingers, so I thought out that method. I thought out the 10 distinct pictures in each decade, each being in a sequence, so that when the last picture appeared, I then said Glory Be. It was those pictures that I made out for myself. It was the best method I ever used for keeping one's attention on the mysteries and the parts of the rosary.

I explained that method to George, my Chinese friend, but my pictures wouldn't satisfy him.

"No, no, no. Tell me the stories, and I'll make my own," he said.

I told him the Gospel stories, and he made his own 150 pictures. I remember coming to the Glorious Mysteries, which were a little bit difficult to find pictures for when Mary dies and goes up to Heaven.

"What were yours?" I said.

"Oh," he said. "We had a Chinese feast up there, and we had chopsticks and wine and Our Lady was drinking at the crowning in Heaven."

George and I used to say the rosary together. In fact, we said nine rosaries every day. During my interrogations, when I got very little sleep, I found it very difficult to say the rosary.

The moment I stepped outside the cell for interrogation, my hands were cuffed behind my back, so tight that my hands swelled until I lost all feeling. In the interrogation room upstairs, I had to stand for hours, answering questions. The armed guard kept me covered all the time.

For one stretch of two weeks, I was questioned nearly every night and every day. After being on my feet before some browbeating judge most of the night, I was forbidden to sleep in the cell during the day. If my head nodded, as I sat on the floor beside my fellow prisoners, the guard would yell at me through the bars. The punishment for falling asleep was an order to stand in the cell.

One day, when I was giving out the Hail Marys in one decade, I felt a nudging in my side.

"Father," my friend said. "Say the Gloria."

I knew I must have said too many, but I did not know how many.

"Glory be," I said, "to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

George did not say anything until I finished the rosary, then he turned around to me.

"Father," he said, "you taught me 10 pictures for each decade, and, mind you, they weren't easy to find. How did you have 17 pictures for that last decade?"

I blushed, confessing that I had not even had one picture, that I was asleep, and both of us began to laugh. But from that day on, I was so sleepy and so tired that nudging with his elbow became part of each decade…

Perseverance through Faith, A Priest' Prison Story, by T.M. Moreau, 2008, pp. 67-68)


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