BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
“Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious, Joyful, Sorrowful; Glorious.” Sunday, Monday, Tuesday; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday; Saturday. The week of the rosary, as I remember it (and before some changes made in 2002): My liturgical week began on Sunday and ended on Saturday. Within each of the “mysteries” of the rosary is the subdivision of five, and…, and…, and . . . :
Glorious Mysteries: Resurrection, Ascension, Assumption…. Joyful Mysteries: Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity…. Sorrowful Mysteries: Agony, Scourging, Crowning, Carrying, Crucifixion–as some readers will remember them.
The complexity of the religion of the rosary I had to learn early on, as an up-and-coming Roman Catholic boy. And so it goes–or went.
All of this complexity came to mind recently as I tried to organize the top drawer of my dresser: My Sock Drawer.
The drawer was a mess: things everywhere, in addition to matched and unmatched pairs of socks (a pair of socks; pairs of socks) and those lost in the jumble and tumble, without a “mate.”
As I began to try to bring order to the chaos, I noted my small pile of keys and key rings in the left-front corner. Unknown keys for unknown locks. The keys are just “there.” Receipts. And more receipts, where I neatly stack them in the right-front corner: gasoline, Walgreen’s drugs, Target, Wal-Mart, miscellaneous.
Whistles, some non-USA-In-God-We-Trust coins thrown in the back left corner; an assortment of various business cards: clinic physicians, library; Kermit Weeks, “Fantasy of Flight: An Attraction of a Higher Plane” (closed for now); “Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic–Florida” (!); lawyers’ cards. That’s the place where I keep them.
I found under the socks–after I emptied out the drawer–a package of postcards: 37 1-cent and 15 2-cent (a total of 67 cents. Easy math). I probably bought these at a garage sale.
Handkerchiefs, in the left corner, were overlaying the keys. Monogramed, old-white, linen, camouflage. Those extras, ready for a right-rear pocket of slacks or jeans or wash pants. (“A gentleman always carries a handkerchief,” I was taught. [Somewhere, stapled or pasted in one of my old journals, is one such handkerchief, neatly folded, pressed between the pages, with stains of mascara. A handkerchief used by the first co-ed ever who was brought to tears, in my college office, “way-back-when-in-the-day.” I cannot remember what made her cry. I cannot remember the reason for her tears. I am sure it had nothing to do with me.])
And, finally, the rosary I found, in the left-back corner.
Rosary Found, with Crystal Beads
Crystal beads, sterling cross and medal. My mom’s rosary that I’ve had for some five years since her passing on. Now I have cleaned it and polished it. And there it rests.
Still, not the rosary itself but the “links” which came out of this rosary-discovery brought more memories: recalling catechism classes, using the rosary with all its intricacies of prayer methods, and having sore knees in chapel during rosary-recitation time.
However, one anecdote figures prominently above all others I associate with the rosary. No, not prayer-beaded mantras, like “pray for us sinners” or “blessed be the fruit of thy womb.” (Explain that one to a first-grade boy!) But, rather, it is hearing Sister Mary Philip, RSM, telling me one morning to see her after lunch. “I need you to see my sister.”
I was to become a mule, a runner (“Slang: a person paid to carry or transport contraband, especially drugs, for a smuggler.”).
Somehow, for some reason unknown to me, Sister Mary (always add the “Mary” out of respect) Philip, RSM, singled me out from my other 8th grade classmates to do “The Deed.” I was a purveyor of goods, the middleman. My reward (now, not in some afterlife) was delight and jubilation. I would miss an afternoon of classwork. Did nothing of note happen after lunch? History? Art? Music? Reading? Ah, that’s it: Silent reading. I could run errands during Silent Reading, for I was a good reader. I could miss school.
Approaching her desk, I was told to get my coat. She gave me a piece of paper with some directions, a small change purse, and, as she adjusted her Religious-Sister-of-Mercy habit, told me to be on my way. “Godspeed,” or something like that.
I had a duty; I was on a mission: to conduct an errand, leaving and returning by the end of the school day. Off I went . . . with no food or snack, no backpack, just directions and a change purse with money for the Chicago transit system, the CTA.
There I was, making my way then to the “L,” exiting at the 47th Street stop (a few stops before Sox Park-Comiskey Park).
47th Street “L” Sign
From the “L” platform, I went down the stairs to the ticket booth/fare collector’s station.
There sat Sister Mary Philip’s sister. Only for the first time, I told her I was there for the package. She gave me a little paper bag, and a candy bar. With the package and CTA transfer in hand, I was on my way back to my school.
Often I made the trip, sometimes twice a month, receiving the goods: hand-assembled homemade rosaries. Colored beads, black beads, crystal beads; large and small silver crucifixes–all carefully wrapped, such beautiful work, as my 8th grade teacher would show me at my return.
I walked back to my desk, my classmates wondering where I had been.
“My Life with the Rosary” is certainly interesting for me, with so many memories of a time when…. I doubt any others can relate such a story (except, perhaps, those who followed after me in Sister Mary Philip’s classes chosen to do “The Deed”).
What I learned from all this is what a teacher’s pet I really was. How responsible I must have been considered–or, at least, appeared to be. I will not even mention here “child labor,” liability insurance, accountability, and other such topics. What did I know then? What if something happened on my trips? Nevertheless, I do know it was all a pretty good deal for me.
I was able to engage in one of my favorite pastimes: riding the Chicago “L.” So, in a way, I was getting paid to have fun.
Never did I realize how true for me. All because of the Holy Rosary.
How Glorious and Joyful it all was!
© James F. O’Neil 2015