I jerked open my car door and sat heavily into the front seat, slamming the door shut in spite of the oppressive waves swirling around the overheated interior. It felt good for a moment but eventually it competed with the heat rising in my head, an unfortunate by-product of a bad combo of high blood pressure and an angry exchange moments before leaving the office.
What can I say? It happens when you deal with people all day. And to think that yesterday I was bemoaning the fact I had locked myself in my office and not spoken a word until lunchtime.
Days like today try my patience, for sure, but they also become opportunities for grace. Let me say that five years ago, heck, last year, my response might have been quite different. I may have a long fuse that sputters out before it gets to the end and explodes, but every once in a while if it gets lit real well…um…it runs its course.
I got out of the office when I saw the warning signs and stewed a bit in my car before putting the key in the ignition. I don’t really know how long I sat there with the A/C blasting, but it was long enough for me, and the car, to cool off. Lucky for me I caught a glimpse of the rosary in the console, and I absentmindedly picked it up. The transformation in my attitude came gradually.
Now I’m a nice Catholic lady—that means I have rosaries stashed all over the place. This particular rosary, a gift from a dear friend who went on a pilgrimage to Rome several years ago, has medals of the basilicas in the place of the Our Father beads, which is a shame, really, because the Hail Mary beads are quite beautiful. They are sky blue that give off a swirling illusion if the light hits them just right. When I hold this rosary I can feel it in my palm.
It clinks and clacks and makes all those sounds I associate with the old ladies in Mass during the sixties. I always thought that serious prayer, the kind that made God sit up in appreciation, required a furious working of those beads. I must have been praying hard in the car because I was pretty furious. I didn’t have any words, but frankly, what are words to God when he knows my heart anyway? So there I was, just holding the rosary in my hand, moving the beads into a tight little ball and then letting it spill out of my hand so I could gather it back into another tight ball. It was like a slinky: Catholic edition. And it calmed me.
Eventually the hypnosis wore off and I could start to put thoughts together in my mind. Now that I was thinking clearly I could contemplate the crucifix, and look at the details of Christ on the cross. I turned it over to look at the backside, where the nails go through. I don’t remember where I learned that the back of a crucifix has those marks to remind us of the horror of crucifixion (as if the corpus isn’t enough), so I kissed the cross before going back to my game of squeezing and letting out the rosary beads.
By now the heft and feel of the rosary changed a little bit as I became accustomed to its feel in my hand. I found comfort in its weight. The beads have substance, the metal workings that keep it together are sturdy and strong and I became more and more entranced by the workmanship.
It occurred to me that the rosary got heavier as my tension and anxiety got lighter.
As I shifted away from the self-absorption of my anger I was able to better focus on the rosary – away from the craftsmanship and onto the immensity of what it represents.
Pope Pius XII called the Rosary “the compendium of the entire Gospel.” The mysteries contain the story of our salvation, and in that moment of grace when I understood, albeit fleetingly, time stood still.
I am nothing. My petty grievances, forgotten now, pale against the enormity of that truth.