Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Saturday 31 July |
Saint of the Day: St. Ignatius Loyola
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Busted and Broken, Blessed and Reformed

Jeffrey Bruno

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl.OSB - published on 01/13/16

A rosary rescued from ruin reminds us that we worship a God of second chances

Winter is a good time to clean up garden sheds, sharpen tools and empty out the baskets or canvas totes used during the growing season. As I dumped the debris from one such tote, pieces of a plastic beaded rosary with portions of rusted chain fell into the wastebasket, along with its crucifix and Our Lady of Mercy center still partially attached.

And I paused.

Quite a while back the rosary had been dug out of the ground at a retreat center where I had volunteered as a gardener. Every nook of the narrow cross and triangular center were packed with dirt, pit-marked, and crusty. The beads — plastic pearls — were flaking and peeling. Most of the chain crumbled in my glove as I drew it from roots and weeds.

I was curious how it had come to be part of the soil. Was it a child’s beloved piece lost in error? Had it been casually shoved into a pocket and fallen out? Had it been broken beyond repair, found to be useless and buried — where none would step upon the site — as blessed items ought?

Whatever the cause, it was damaged by years of being ground in the dirt. There was really no value left of its intended use. But still …

I brushed off the soil as best I could and tossed it in the tote with the tools. Now and again I would see in the bottom of the canvas bag a scattering of beads among the dry soil and twigs. I kept telling myself that I should clean out the tote and throw away the worthless remains of what had been this rosary.

Now, looking at it in the wastebasket, I thought the cross was probably blessed, and it just felt wrong — no matter how damaged it was — to so casually discard it to the dump. It should have a more dignified ending than that of a garbage heap.

I plucked the crucifix and center from the waste, pulled off the rusted chain and ran them under painfully cold water trickling from a nearly frozen hose. The medals became more distinctive as I washed. Though pitted and scratched, the damage and wear had made them interesting, given them a story, a history with meaning.

Later, I made some coffee, and as it brewed I pulled a silver jewelry wipe from under the sink and polished the thin crucifix and center. They would never look new again, but I appreciated the pieces all the more because of that. The wear only added to their beauty.

As I touched the roughened surface, I thought of how Our Lord, cleaning away our dirt and debris, renews us each time we enter the confessional. How, as Pope Francis said, “Time and time again [Jesus] bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love” (11/24/13, no. 3—Evangelii Gaudium).  

With God’s mercy, our beauty is restored within our pit-marked and damaged humanity. That being so, it seemed to me, the rosary — like us — needed another chance at being all it could be.

Taking the pieces (and the cup of coffee) upstairs with me, I found my rosary-making supplies, and set to work. Sometimes second chances need only our willingness to pay attention and co-operate.

Most of what the rosary was had been damaged beyond restoration. But the heart of the original piece — the medals — still had value, and once renewed, bore its own distinct beauty. Here again, salvaged from decay, new life is given.

Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB, is a Benedictine oblate, lay hermit and author. Her works include The Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac. She blogs atMorning Rose Prayer Gardens.

RosarySacramentsYear of Mercy
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...

Top 10
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
Zelda Caldwell
German women’s gymnastics teams modest dress protests sport’s ...
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.