Mama often prayed in her journals, and even though she never addressed a god directly, in the big ‘g’ sense, I felt she was a Christian, but specifically Catholic. Several of the jewelry items Mama gifted the museum before her passing were elaborate rosaries, some made with diamonds, and others with pearls. Each of them had a story that seemed to bring me yet a little closer to her.
Wanting to understand the history of the beads, I’d gone to church and joined bible study groups led by apologetics, finding them more to my liking than mass, but ultimately preferred to learn in a solo hands-on, immersion-style kind of way.
So after a season, I invested in the supplies to make rosewood rosaries by hand. I didn’t know what I’d do with them all but figured it would come to me in the middle of the designing process. I’d also purchased a kneeling bench, frankincense, holy water, and a set of artwork to replicate the stations of the cross. This was after I’d recorded every episode of Mother Angelica on EWTN, and bought some guided stations of the cross cd’s advertised. When my friends saw how I’d transformed a bedroom into a tiny chapel minus a pulpit, they told me I’d lost my mind, and it hurt, cause I was hoping to find Mama and thought to create a dedicated place for praying the rosary might be the ticket.
Mama never did come and visit me during my prayers or meditations. Although I was disappointed, I wasn’t entirely surprised cause I skipped the confession part of the process, at least speaking aloud to another living being. I skipped it cause I didn’t know if I was a sinner or just felt like my life was an accident, something one of God’s quality control inspectors overlooked when babies were flying off the assembly line into their parents waiting arms, as I fell to the ground.
I confessed a lot to those walls, and if they could have done anything, I suspect they would have slapped me across the face for things I’d felt to have done wrong. They didn’t, though, and because they didn’t, I spent more and more time in that chapel talking to them, and feeling grateful they accepted me as I was.
I don’t know if Mama knew the museum would return her jewelry to me, along with those precious rosaries, which they could have sent back to the Vatican instead. The more I learned about her, the harder it was to decide which flower to plant next in her honor. A rose garden seemed appropriate, but the rosewood rosaries seemed longer-lasting and had been a tool to lead many into prayer, so that’s what I chose to plant next: the scent of prayer.
It’s funny, cause I don’t know if Mama was Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Atheist, anything, or nothing else. All I know is she acquired some fancy rosaries from Pope land, and they ended up in my hands, led me to prayer, to finding a peace I didn’t know needed to be sought, assigning a scent to it, and giving it away.
Maybe Mama really was with me the whole time, reassuring me it was okay to go all in, not knowing where all or in was, guiding me to have faith in my differences, and trusting all would be transformed to love.