A Rosary Story by Marty Dehen


I come from very traditional Catholic roots in Anoka, MN. Growing up in the 60’s, right after Vatican II made a bunch of changes in how things were to be done by Catholics. If anything, it made life more interesting. Being half Irish and half German, we were on the seam of some pretty weird interpretations of what was expected of us as Catholics. Many of the viewpoints my older relatives had about our Faith are noteworthy enough to share with you. In particular, the way they weighed out what “counted” more in how we practice our Faith. For instance:


Attending Sunday Mass counted more than 5pm Saturday afternoon Mass. Taking the Host on your tongue counted more than having it placed in your hand. Receiving the Host from a priest counted more than from a lay distributor. Sitting in the pews with bare wood kneelers counted more than the ones with pads on. Continuing to eat fish on Fridays, year round, counted more than not. Prayers said while kneeling counted more than those prayed while standing or sitting.

The Rosary counted more than any other prayer.


There are many more, but I thought I would finish on the Rosary comment, only because it might be true. It’s a strange phenomenon, in that everyone gets something different out of praying the Rosary. For some it’s rote prayer and for others it’s contemplative. It can be used for sorrow, thanksgiving, healing, change, worldly issues, heavenly issues, etc., etc., etc. Everyone who prays it gets different images when they contemplate the same Mysteries, which is a mystery in itself. I always was confused at how some mysteries were seemingly bigger events then others. The Ascension and Assumption seemed bigger than when Mary visited Elizabeth or when the child Jesus was lost in the temple for 3 days.


One day I prayed all 5 decades contemplating only the 5th Joyful Mystery, “The finding of Jesus in the temple”. There were a couple my of old aunts, God rest their souls, who would have assured me it wouldn’t count as much. I started by asking anyone in Heaven, who was listening, to intercede and give me the thoughts I would need to understand the Mystery better. For a full week I continued that regimen and what I received was really quite incredible. Tidbits of historic stories, imaginary visuals and past Religious Ed. classes came to mind, forming a story I could relate to. Today, it would go something like this:


The Holy Family lived in Nazareth, a town so insignificant that it didn’t have any roads leading to it. The traveling merchants would set up shop along the main trade route and people from Nazareth would have to walk the path several miles out to exchange goods and services. Twelve year old Jesus, Mary and Joseph needed to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the largest city in the region. It was a 3 day journey. Jerusalem was a busy, bustling city with thousands of vender kiosks lining many of its streets trading everything from slaves to pigeons. Every kind of mammal that could transport products and people filled the limited spaces and avenues raising a staggering haze of dust and stench. The Temple Jerusalem was the center of the universe for most Jews and the largest structure in town. It was the highest possible learning institution of their known world, beyond what the Vatican is to Catholics today. Combining Biblical law and math and science, it was Oxford, M.I.T. and the Vatican all in one for people of Jewish faith.


Now, using today’s measures, picture a seventh grader – twelve year old Jesus, not yet a man by Jewish standards, left alone for a few hours in the middle of the biggest temple in the known world, in middle of the biggest town in the known world, during a census, one of the most busy times for all of Israel’s populace to all be counted by their government. Try to comprehend what anguish His parents struggle with when they discover He’s missing. Then multiply that by three days of frantic searching, ending with the submission that He’s gone and that the only thing left to do is to go back to the temple and pray for His safe return.


Three days earlier, while waiting for his dad to finish his prayers, Jesus over hears a high level discussion between two of the top scholars of the era and interjects a comment that stops both of them in their tracks. They immediately escort Him to an area where the “who’s who” of Jewish scripture interpretations have argued for centuries. In the room, Rabbi’s, professors, scribes, lawyers and experts keep alive ancient disagreements on scriptural Jewish mysteries and theories, handed down for many generations, almost to the point of physical altercation. Then a frail boy is led into their midst and He answers the toughest theology questions ever asked in a clear and precise manor where all the smartest people of the era are enlightened and awestruck. Working into a frenzy with, “well if that is the answer to this, what about that,” reciprocating one question which leads to another, non stop for three days. Each answer clears up century old disagreements (mysteries) among themselves and their ancestors. How can this one child be so knowledgeable?


For a whole week, I contemplated this over and over again while praying the Rosary and came away with a better understanding of the one, not so spectacular mystery that seemed out of place with the others. I ended up with a visual of a child teaching teachers and professors at, say for instance M.I.T., Oxford or even the Cardinals at the Vatican, and came away with a resounding, “ Wouldn’t that be incredible?” Yes, auntie, I believe it counted. To take it a step further, I’d recommend to anyone, confused about any of the Catholic teachings and not just the Mysteries of the Rosary, to submit to this method of clearing the cob webs of confusion and I’m pretty sure it will count.

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