Walking through the jardin you can’t help but notice that in addition to selling Maria and Jose rag dolls, the Otomis, indigenous farmers, also sell multi-colored straw beads bound together in a loop. Those beads form a rosary, the most popular Catholic devotion around the world with a fascinating history all their own.
Basically a rosary helps the user keep track of their prayers. Holding one brings one comfort, protection, luck and strength. So much so it is highly unusual to find a local Catholic not buried holding one.
Rosaries are a part of life in central Mexico and for me growing up in central Pennsylvania. Women within a 2 block radius came to our house weekly to say a rosary in a group. My mother, while we children rode the world’s largest wooden roller coaster at Hershey Park, would sit on a bench with her trusted fishing box to use pliers and make rosaries. Her rosaries are still in much demand as my brother found a stash I was able to give my dance students here thrilling them to have a gift made by my deceased mother.
Rosaries can come in various forms, and can be made out of almost any material (metal, stone, fiber, glass or plastic). Originally rosaries were made from garlands of roses, hence the name, and where your pals named Rocio, Rosario and alike received their monikers.
As with any ancient tradition, origin stories vary. Many feel the rosary was presented by a vision of to St. Dominic in the 13th century. Lady Godiva (of nudity and chocolate fame) bequeathed her rosary in her 1075 will. Others feel it is an image of Mary that appeared during a 1571 naval battle off Greece. You can see the battle, and Mary’s image, in the chapel named for her in the sanctuary of Atotonilco.
Our Lady of the Rosary also has a newly constructed church in her honor in the colonia Mexiquito where she is celebrated with fanfare each October.
Wearing a rosary is a bit of controversy for many Northerners who were raised insisting a rosary was not a fashion statement and should only be handled when in use. This is part of the reason a then little-known singer, the aptly named Madonna, caused such a stir in 1984 with her “Like a Virgin” music video featuring her wearing a rosary.
I remember that year taking my two year niece to the church’s children’s Halloween party with her dressed as Madonna with a cut off top, short skirt and sporting a rosary. She had fun, I thought it was funny, but suffice to say we didn’t win the contest!
Here I wear a rosary daily, as many do, to help love Jesus more and serve as a protection from Satan. Plus, honestly, it just makes common sense. Countless times in the company of others, a situation has occurred making the public saying of a rosary necessary. Suffice to say you’ll never catch a Mexican without easy access to a rosary!
My rosary is made from jasper, a Mexican stone and the name of my dog (a 3 Kings’ Day gift, hence named for a king and bearer of children’s gifts which makes the under a meter set like my pooch even more). Also it includes seashells my kids collected growing up on the beach and a roach clip cross that instead of holding a joint holds a relic of St. Blandina. The relic was worn for decades in a cross by my grandmother’s sister, Sr. Blandina, a nun.
Sidebar: Having a rosary with a story can help pass the time when waiting for the prayers to begin.
Today’s rosary helps the user quietly meditate on the events in the life of Jesus and that of his mother, Mary. The prayers that compose the Rosary are arranged in sets of ten Hail Marys, called decades. Each decade is preceded by one Lord’s Prayer (“Our Father”) and followed by one Glory Be. During recitation of each set, thought is given to one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which recall events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. Five decades are recited per rosary with beads aiding towards saying these prayers in the proper sequence.
The Mysteries of the Rosary are as follows and said on certain days:
Mondays and Saturdays: The Joyful Mysteries of Christ’s Birth
- The Annunciation: The Archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she shall conceive the Son of God.
- The Visitation: Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth, who is pregnant with John the Baptist.
- The Nativity: Jesus is born.
- The Presentation: Mary and Joseph present Jesus in the Temple.
- The Finding in the Temple: After losing Him, Mary and Joseph find young Jesus teaching the Rabbis in the Temple.
Tuesdays and Fridays: The Sorrowful Mysteries of Jesus’ Passion and Death
- The Agony in the Garden: Jesus sweats water and blood while praying the night before his passion.
- The Scourging at the Pillar: Pilate has Jesus whipped and where our image of the Lord of Column originates starting the Easter season each year.
- The Crowning with Thorns: Roman soldiers crown Jesus’ head with thorns.
- The Carrying of the Cross: Jesus meets his mother and falls three times on the way up Calvary.
- The Crucifixion: Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies before his mother and his apostle John.
Wednesday and Sundays: The Glorious Mysteries of Jesus’ Resurrection and The Glories of Heaven
- The Resurrection: Jesus rises from the dead.
- The Ascension: Jesus leaves the Apostles and bodily ascends to heaven.
- The Descent of the Holy Spirit: The Apostles receive the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire in the upper room with Mary.
- The Assumption: Mary is taken bodily into heaven by God at the end of her life here on earth.
- The Coronation: Mary is crowned Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Thursdays: The Luminous Mysteries of Light
- The Baptism in the Jordan: The voice of the Father declares Jesus the beloved Son.
- The Wedding at Cana: Christ changes water into wine, his first public miracle.
- The Proclamation of the Kingdom: Jesus calls to conversion and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him.
- The Transfiguration: The glory of the God shines forth from the face of Christ.
- The Institution of the Eucharist: Jesus offers the first Mass at the Last Supper with his apostles, establishing the sacramental foundation for all Christian living.
As a child the rosary was punishment for sleeplessness as the repetition of prayers at age eight surely put a child to slumber faster than counting sheep!
by Joseph Toone
- TripAdvisor’s top tour guide in San Miguel de Allende with History and Culture Walking Tours and Joseph Toone Tours.
- Amazon’s best selling author of the San Miguel de Allende’s Secrets book series on making your adventures around town unique.
- Creator of the Maria Dolls coloring book helping indigenous doll makers.