Hail Mary, He Ain’t Full of Grace

by admin on November 3, 2010

My Mom and I were over at a cousin’s house last Sunday, watching the game. Some friends of my cousins were also there: a man and his wife and their twelve year old son.

My mom was in the kitchen making a salad when she overheard the boy say he wanted a rosary. This perked her interest and she headed back in the living room.  “Would you really like a rosary?”

The boy responded, “Oh! I’ve always wanted one!”

So Mom reached in her purse and pulled out her rosary (she has many others), and said, “If you really want a rosary, I’ll give you mine.” Then she asked, “Honey, do you know how to pray a rosary?  I have a booklet if you don’t.”

Boy: “Praaay??? What are you talking about?”Mom: “Well, you PRAY the rosary. That’s what the beads are for. Do you know the prayers?”

Boy ( laughing): “I don’t want to pray it!” He proceeded to put the rosary around his neck. “Sofa king cool! Everybody’s wearing one.”

You could have heard a feather floating across the room when my mother calmly reached over and took the rosary from around the boy’s neck and dropped it back in her purse. His jaw dropped. “Hey! Why did you take it back?”

Mom explained that while people of other cultures might wear rosaries around their necks, in our culture it is only worn that way by rappers and rock stars and gang members – people who have no intention of praying it. That was disrespectful in her eyes, seeing as the rosary is a sacramental.

The kid’s jaw was still scraping the floor. His parents, sitting on the couch, were also slack jawed. The woman remarked: “I can’t believe you did that. How rude!”

Mom explained again:  “I’m not trying to be rude…. but I can’t give up my rosary to someone who wants to wear it like a decoration.”

With that, the couple and their son got up and walked out! Doors slamming and all! They even called back and told my cousin that they would not be returning to his house if “that woman” was there.  Now, from my point of view she wasn’t being rude, the boy was: even if you don’t belong to the same religious tradition, you should treat those objects with respect, not as an accessory you DESERVE.    1029-10

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizajane November 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Why don’t religious sources count?

Rosaries are not sacred to me, as I stated, I’m not Catholic. However, I respect the beliefs of those that they are sacred to.

There is no insane person with a gun in this story and no reasonable purpose for putting one in the analogies.


Louise November 4, 2010 at 4:45 pm

“1. LizaJane has expressed my feelings exactly and more succinctly than I could. “Many devout people would rather risk earthly death than spiritual” — yes, exactly. And, I add, would rather try to save someone else from a spiritual death by allowing them to use a blessed sacred object in a way it was never meant to be used. Even if one is deemed rude by taking away the sacred object. (Both the mom and the boy were in grave risk of sacrilege had this continued.)”

This is no different from saying it’s OK to be rude if you believe it’s OK to be rude. Your belief that it’s wrong to wear a rosary as a fashion item is no better than someone else’s belief that it is acceptable to wear a rosary as a fashion item. Your belief does not give you the right to take away someone else’s property because you believe they are using it incorrectly. There is nothing wrong with having those beliefs, but by acting upon them, you are foisting them upon others, and therein lies the problem.


nannerdoman November 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm

@badkitty–Just a point of information. A basic rosary can be quite inexpensive. If the child doesn’t have one, it’s not because his parents “are not in a position to do this for him”. It’s not as though he was asking for a Ferrari or an Xbox.


Kriss November 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm

RMMuir, In my neck of the woods (huge Irish and Polish Catholic population if that makes a difference, I don’t know.) many people wear their rosaries. I thought OPs mother was smug when making that generalization.

If this is such a sacred object then treat it as such and don’t hand it off to CHILDREN willy nilly. Don’t be surprised when you see them committing whatever unspeakable horrors to it (purposefully or otherwise). This is really an example of religion used as an excuse to bypass etiquette (no takesies backsies!). Whether OPs mother was right or wrong in doing so is up to the individual. I personally think she was wrong due to my personal belief that a string of beads is nothing more than a string of beads. A rosary is not sacred and is not so important that OP’s mother needed to teach that child that it’s ok to be rude as long as you have Jesus on your side.

If the kid and his parents were so clueless about a rosary and prayer what do you think their teachings of Christ and Christianity were up to that point? What lesson do you think they took away from it?

Also, what would OPs mother have done had someone given OP some sacred pagan object when OP was 12. Growing up in a Christian home tells me I don’t think OP’s mother would’ve treated it with any respect whatsoever and it would’ve found itself quickly in the garbage can.

The whole situation leaves a bad taste in my mouth and doesn’t do anything to help my outlook on how backwards the Catholic brand of Christianity is (or seems to be).


JS November 4, 2010 at 10:33 pm

@louise–“This is no different from saying it’s OK to be rude if you believe it’s OK to be rude. Your belief that it’s wrong to wear a rosary as a fashion item is no better than someone else’s belief that it is acceptable to wear a rosary as a fashion item.”

This. Exactly this. Acting out of genuinely held religious beliefs does not magically turn rude behavior into not-rude behavior. It isn’t carte blanche. That’s why it’s still rude to proselytize where it’s been made clear that such a discussion is not welcome; even though it may be central to your religious beliefs, it’s still none of your business. You can still do it, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re being rude.

Mom made a decision that her religious beliefs were more important than etiquette in this situation. That’s her choice. But this is an etiquette website.


Louise November 5, 2010 at 12:37 am


I should have been more clear: a pro-religious source doesn’t count. A pro-religious source is obviously going to say that souls, rosaries and eternal damnation trump all. On an etiquette website, the rules of etiquette are most important. Etiquette sources say that once you give a gift, it’s given. If you can find a reputable etiquette source that says otherwise, I’m interested to see it.

“Rosaries are not sacred to me, as I stated, I’m not Catholic. However, I respect the beliefs of those that they are sacred to.”
— The belief that the rosary is sacred is no more valid than the belief that it isn’t. Once mom transferred ownership of the rosary to the boy, it was his to use as he wished — just as when the rosary was mom’s, it was hers to use the same way. She doesn’t get to take away his property because she didn’t check beforehand what his beliefs were. I know of no etiquette source that says it’s acceptable to physically remove an object from someone else because you messed up and endangered your soul. Again, if you know of one, please share.

“There is no insane person with a gun in this story and no reasonable purpose for putting one in the analogies.”
— I didn’t introduce a gun into the analogy, the person who compared misusing a rosary to using a puppy as as target practice did — a comparison you called an “excellent analogy.” From that I can only conclude you consider misusing a rosary equal to killing a puppy and thus would be in a dilemma if you had to choose between the two evils.


Hopium November 5, 2010 at 1:41 am

Thought I’d weigh in as an athiest…

I think Mom could have handled it differently but that little boy… a 12 year old should know better than to basically laugh at the woman giving him a gift.

Having your beliefs mocked when you give a gift must be infuriating.


Me November 5, 2010 at 2:14 am

Yeah, so my parents are atheists. If someone had given me a rosary when I was twelve, they would have been pretty miffed. But if I’d dropped the f-bomb in front of an eldery lady? Forget the rosary, my bottom would have been a wicked shade of crimson. I can’t believe the commenters who think i’s okay; doesn’t matter if it was said angrily or gleefully or used as a verb, noun or adjective. Don’t we have respect for our elders anymore?


Mariam67 November 5, 2010 at 9:14 am

I can understand how she would find that offensive, but I think it was rude of her to grab it back like that.


Elizabeth Bunting November 5, 2010 at 9:59 am

Dear Me,

Exactly the point I was trying to make and the short answer to your question about respect for elders is “No.” The child is the important one and doesn’t need to learn anything according to the parents. The boy will just have to learn the hard way – maybe lose friends and jobs a lot because of his foul language and lack of empathy for the feelings of others. The parents are the culprits here, not the OP, the OP’s mother or the boy.


nannerdoman November 5, 2010 at 10:25 am

Suppose the boy had said, “I’ve always wanted a [national] flag”, the patriotic mother had given him a small one, and then discovered he intended to sew it onto the seat of his jeans? Would she have been justified in taking it back?


Louise November 5, 2010 at 2:44 pm

@ Elizabeth Bunting

Where from this post do you get that the boy lacks empathy for others? Mom asked if the boy was going to use the rosary to pray and the boy said he wasn’t. He spends the rest of the post with his jaw on the floor, so I presume he said nothing else. His mom spoke and then they left. I see nothing that can be construed as an intentional insult to the mom or her religion, nor nothing to suggest the boy lacks feelings or is unable to understand others’ points of view. It’s not as though he said, “I know how important rosaries are to Catholics and I don’t care.” My guess is that no one has explained to him the meaning of the rosary; he just thinks they look cool. I’m sure there are plenty of really nice kids out there who don’t understand the symbolism of religious icons and drop the F-bomb when they get excited. That doesn’t mean they all lack empathy.

I’m starting to feel bad for this kid. I can buy that he shouldn’t have cursed; but if his parents let that go as acceptable behaviour, it’s likely ingrained. A nice lady gives him something he really wants, and then takes it away and lectures him. His parents cause a scene and they leave. At 12, my head would be spinning and I would have a horrible feeling it was all my fault. After all, we were having a nice day until I took that rosary.

Exchanging the rosary for a flag doesn’t change my opinion. Once it’s given away, it’s given away.


TheBardess November 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

On a slightly off-topic, more humorous note- it also took me a while to figure out what “sofa king cool” meant. My first thought was that the kid was referring to some popular rapper or something, who wore a rosary as a fashion accessory and went by the name “Sofa King.” Shows how up to date on pop culture I am…


Lynda November 6, 2010 at 3:51 am

I think we should look at a broader picture. It is not just that it is a Christian or Catholic religious item, it is that it IS a religious item. If the item had been a Jewish item (a Star of David or mezzuzah or such) there are people who would say misuse of it would be a defamatory act.
I know they don’t teach religion in schools (not that I’d want them to) but I think children should be exposed to the basic religous beliefs and practices of the more common groups found in this country so they can show respect and consideration for them.
That the boy and his family didn’t understand (or care about) what an article of faith meant to someone demonstrates their ignorance. If we are to get along, we need to respect others.
I think the mother offered the rosary because she thought he was religous and would use it for the purpose it was designed for. People may choose to wear them, have crosses tatooed on them, wear them as fashion accessories–but that does not change their origin and continuing value to a certain part of the population.
I think since the proffered gift was intended for a specific purpose and it was not to be used for that purpose, but for a worldly purpose, then I think she had a right to take it back. Most people have their rosaries (whatever the cost) blessed by a priest so the item is already ‘committed’ in the woman’s eyes to spiritual work, not human adornment.
I am not a member of a church nor am I affiliated with any religion but I have studied them so I can enjoy the diversities of faith within my country and my community and I consider it only good manners to try not to offend people of religion by not showing respect for their practices.
As far as the analogy of the national flag, there are laws concerning the proper use of the flag. If I gave someone a flag and found they intended to use the flag in ways contrary to its proper use then, yes, I would ask for it back as well.
I think the boy, having found the woman who gave it to him expected it to be used for something very different from what he wanted it for should have offered it back.


Enna November 6, 2010 at 9:03 am

I think it was handled badly by all.

The OP’s Mother should’ve asked why the boy wanted a Rosary before giving it to him. If she was unhappy about the boy’s potential use of the Rosary she shouldn’t have given it to him in the fisrt place. Or maybe let him “borrow it” for the visit saying it’s not a toy and would like it retruned before he left. She refers that it is okay for “other cultures” to wear rosaries but not rockstars, gangsters or rappers – how is she to know that these people aren’t religious? Taking it from him before she explained why she wanted it back was rude – maybe saying “You’ve offended me ….”

The boy and his parents were also bad to overreact the way that they did. Maybe the parents could have suggested that the boy could wear a rosary but he must understand that it is holy and must be treated with respect – that if he is wearing it he must be good – to try to placate the OP’s mother and to emphasise what she intedned it for. Then the parents try to reseolve the situation. People do have spats and disagreements – sometimes you have to say “let’s agree to disagree.”


JS November 6, 2010 at 10:22 am

Lynda, I would agree, but the very fact that the kid clearly hadn’t had exposure to this type of religious object (which is not universally considered a religious object) means that he really wasn’t being rude, and that it was incumbent on the mom to behave more appropriately. He didn’t know, and moreover, I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that he should’ve known. I differ from some on this thread in that I think he should’ve given it back if asked, but I think it was on the OP’s mom to ask politely for it back, considering that the misunderstanding was her fault. The kid (apart from the cursing) did nothing wrong.

But I agree with you that “children should be exposed to the basic religous beliefs and practices of the more common groups found in this country so they can show respect and consideration for them.” Here, the OP’s mom had an opportunity to do just that, and … she kind of tanked it. Now, the kid, I’m thinking, has somewhat of a negative association with rosaries and Catholicism.


Louise November 6, 2010 at 11:16 am

Is mom allowed to remove rosaries from the necks of people she sees in the street? As in, just go up to people and try to take their rosaries? After all, they are also using the rosary the wrong way, according to her (and some of you), and risking spiritual death and eternal damnation the way this 12-year-old boy was.

The answer is no. Why? Because it’s rude to go up to someone and take away their personal property because they aren’t using it the way you want them to. Which is what mom did the boy. She took away HIS rosary. The fact it is a gift is irrelevant; she gave it to him freely, he had it around his neck, ownership of the rosary had clearly been transferred to him.

Let’s say someone buys you a gift card to a bookstore. The giver says, “Now, which books about Jesus are you going to buy with that?” You say, “None! I don’t read those kinds of books” and put the gift card in your pocket. Does the giver have the right to take the gift card from your pocket? No. Granted a gift card is not considered sacred like a rosary is, but the principle is the same: The giftcard giver has attached his religious convictions to an object and is now taking it away because you won’t do the same. Just like mom with the rosary. If mom has endangered her soul, well, that’s her fault for not considering the consequence of her actions. The most she can do is explain why she wants the rosary back, and if that fails, well, bed, made, lie.

Your property is your own whether it came to you as a gift or you bought it. It’s yours be you 12, 34, or 56. The religious convictions of the person you obtained it from aren’t transferred along with it. If I have a rosary hanging up as decoration on my wall, a Catholic can’t remove it on the grounds that I’m risking eternal damnation and now she’s risking eternal damnation unless she prevents me from using a sacred object that way.


Miss Raven November 6, 2010 at 6:26 pm

I have to add my vote for the “OP’s Mom showed poor etiquette” camp. I agree that the kid shouldn’t have cursed, but that’s not the real issue here nor why she took it back. She took it back because in her mind, he was going to do some she viewed as thuggish with an article that she viewed as sacred. I know many people who wear rosaries, Catholic and not, and they’re not thugs. And if many kids are wearing rosaries as accessories, obviously not everyone views the rosary as sacred. These are two opinions held by her, not two facts, and as someone said, you don’t get to eschew etiquette and common decency just because you have Jesus on your side.

He wasn’t going to light the darn thing on fire. He was going to wear it. I’m Jewish, and growing up I idolized Taylor Hanson, an Evangelical Christian who wore, among other things, a star of David around his neck. Was I offended because he wasn’t Jewish and was not “using” the symbol for what I understood to be its religious purpose? Of course not, because I’m not narcissistic enough to believe that everyone in the world should hold sacred that which I hold sacred. It’s not defamatory. It’s just different.

The kid said he wanted a rosary. Not to “pray a rosary” or to be closer to Jesus or to understand Catholicism or to repent for his sins or to make magic wishes. The OP’s mother gave the child exactly what he wanted, and he was extremely pleased with the gift. To take it back tells the child that it’s okay to rescind a gift if you don’t like what the recipient is going to do with it, which is an awful lesson for a child. The correct response was, “Well, let me teach you why my religion considers the rosary sacred and how we use it and once you know what it means to me, you can choose what to do with it, because now it’s yours.” Not, “If you’re not going to kowtow to my religious dogma, you don’t get presents.” I completely understand why his parents were miffed.


AE November 7, 2010 at 8:08 am

It seems to me that the Mom was still in the process of giving the rosary to the boy when she discovered that he did not want it for its intended purpose. She should have asked the whys before offering the rosary. But I see her faux paux as a minor one. She missed an opportunity to teach the child, as did his parents. If someone had offered me a gift and I had expressed plans for it that clearly bothered the prospective giver, they my parents would have insisted that I turn down the gift with polite thanks.


Twik November 7, 2010 at 5:20 pm

This cannot be seen as a case of “well, the other family wasn’t Christian, and the parents might not have wanted the rosary,” when the parents took offence that the rosary wasn’t handed over.

At best, it was a miscommunication. The older woman (who grew up at a time when an older person might pass on a rosary to a child as a simple act of faith) misunderstood that the child wanted to use her sacred symbol as a fashion statement. The parents are the ones in the wrong, for insisting that she still “owed” their son the rosary, even when he indicated no spiritual desire for one.


Louise November 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

@ AE

“It seems to me that the Mom was still in the process of giving the rosary to the boy when she discovered that he did not want it for its intended purpose.”

The boy said, “I don’t want to pray it” and put the rosary around his neck. Mom had clearly handed it over and the boy was using it. How from that do you conclude mom was in the process of giving it? I could see that if the boy reached out for the rosary and mom pulled back and said, “Wait, why exactly do you want one?” But not when the rosary has left her possession and is now in someone else’s.


Chocobo November 8, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Who swears in front of a 75 year old lady? Forget the not knowing what a rosary is for, this kid needs to learn some manners! I didn’t read anything about a “Thank You” either.

And I personally believe a 12 year old is old enough not to laugh off prayers and beliefs to his elders, regardless of his upbringing. I don’t know of any child his age who hasn’t had some kind of passing knowledge religion. It would be different if he were six or something, and had basically no outside-of-the-home contact. But a twelve year old is in 7th grade/secondary school (American school system)! He’s probably learning about the origins of Islam and the beginnings of Confucianism in World History classes by now.


phoenix November 10, 2010 at 11:51 am

I’m a bit confused by all the fuss about how once you give a gift, there’s no input on how it’s used, to the point of saying the mother was stealing! This is a child, and a rude and disrespectful one. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I always think that if a child proves they don’t deserve a gift, it is taken back. Truly the child’s parents should have taken it, but in general I think if you feel your face has been slapped by the receiver of a gift, there’s no rudeness in taking it back immediately.

Children are not adults, so sometimes their “rights” come second to teaching them a lesson.


SamiHami November 11, 2010 at 1:47 pm

The brat and his obnoxious parents are in the wrong here, 100%. I can’t believe the posters who are actually defending this rude little monster. The lady was kind enough to want to share a symbol of her religious beliefs with a child who requested it, only to find out he intended to use it in a manner that was offensive and disrespectful to the giver.

That’s like saying if one of you gives me a very expensive leather jacket, for example, and I immediately throw it on the floor and stomp on it, that the giver shouldn’t be upset, because, hey-it’s not hers anymore.

Finally, I don’t get why some of you automatically discount the religious feelings of the woman in this story, saying they don’t “count.” Why would that be? Because your beliefs differ from hers, therefore hers should not be respected? That sure does seem to be what your are implying.

Shame on the child, his parents and anyone who thinks that their behavior was in any way justified.


Chelsey November 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Please allow me to give my input as a non-Christian I agree with everyone who said the mom violated the rules of etiquette. However, I would have done the exact same thing and I completely understand why she did it. And to some people, religion IS more important than etiquette. To her, this is about her soul, not about what other people think of her. I applaud that. Too many people ignore their religion for the sake of being polite and having a nice reputation. And maybe this will teach the little boy to have some respect for other people’s religious beliefs. I may not agree with what she believes, but I’m not going to stomp all over them for the sake of fashion and etiquette.


Miss Raven November 12, 2010 at 1:16 am

I think a couple points need to be clarified again, for some of those who continue to be aghast at those of us not defending OP’s Mom.

1.) The boy was not going to burn the rosary, tear it apart, throw it away, stomp on it, pee on it, or give it to his puppy for a chew. He was going to wear it. It might not be Catholic, but it is, in fact, harmless.

2.) Religion may be more important than etiquette to some people, and it’s fine to put religion first at church or in the company of those who share your beliefs. But when in the company of others with different beliefs, the polite and courteous thing to do is to put etiquette first. Not everyone will agree with you that a rosary is sacred, but most everyone will agree with you on matters of etiquette. A question: If the religion in question was not Catholicism, but a smaller Pagan religion, would you still feel that religion trumps etiquette? If the object in question was a Wiccan’s consecrated crystal, and the boy wanted to use it for decoration instead of for Wiccan ritual or magick, is it okay for the Wiccan to become offended and silently snatch it back?

3.) When I was 12, I knew the basics of Christianity and other world religions, but if you gave me a rosary, I also would have put it around my neck because my school didn’t have time for the “what to do with very specific articles of all major religions” class before 6th grade. Any other public school kids have similar situations?

4.) For the sake of argument, let’s say that it’s just fine to be rude if you personally believe it’s what Jesus would want (which I do not believe.) Can anyone truly justify this woman’s behavior, when the other option would be to keep your cool because you are the ADULT in the situation, and try to educate this lad? I believe it’s what they call a “teachable moment”. There are a thousand ways I can think of off the top of my head for OP’s Mom to have reacted politely while still walking away feeling her beliefs were being respected. Her reaction was knee-jerk and thoughtless (and, as I see it, more than a little bit smug) and came off cruel.


Lizajane November 12, 2010 at 9:58 am

Miss Raven,

To answer your question #2, I thought about earlier in the thread, and yup, I would totally understand if a Wiccan took back their consecrated crystal. Why? Because it is consecrated. I don’t believe that objects are “holy”, or equivalent words in other belief systems. But I know that the members of other religions and belief systems do, so I would respect that.

I don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs to respect them, and as long as no one is being hurt by the actions supported by those beliefs, I have no objections.


Kimbubbley November 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

@ Miss Raven – I think that Liza Jane is correct in her assessment of the respect for religious articles that you mention in your #2.

As for your #4, I went up to be sure and re-read the original post and I find that, in my opinion, the OP’s mom WAS using the gifting of the rosary as a “teachable moment” by asking him if he knew how to pray the rosary and did he want to learn and “here, I have a booklet”. Yes, that could be taken as proselytizing or, more open mindedly, as Mom’s assumption that if the child wanted a rosary then he must be Catholic. In Mom’s mind, that’s the only reason to want a rosary – to pray with it. I think it falls into the “pushing her religion onto someone else’s child” or “proselytizing” if she had persisted in teaching him the accompanying prayers, pressing the booklet into his hands or started waxing poetic on the sacrifices of the Virgin Mother despite anyone’s protestations. She did not do that, nor is it apparent from the letter that ANYONE (read: child’s parents) involved themselves or objected in any way.

To my mind, as the mother of a young boy, when it became clear that my son’s stated desire was being fulfilled by a person who understood his desire to be for the item’s *meaning* and not for it’s fashion value, I would have asked him to return it to her or at least explain why he wanted it before taking final possession. If, in that conversation, the gifter did not seem comfortable with the “fashion” aspect of it, I would have told him to go ahead and give it back to her because it means so much more than that to her.

Along the same lines, as the mother of a young boy, given the same set of circumstances, if my son’s reaction was “sofa king cool” while he was being offered the background and uses of said gift, I, MYSELF, would have ripped it out of his hands, given it back to the gifter, taken him to a back room for a talking to and perhaps an ounce of soap and then returned to the living room to thank the gifter but explain that she had misunderstood his intentions.

While the OP’s mom’s generosity may have opened up an unintentional and awkward can of worms, I think that the fault lies entirely with this child’s parents for NOT getting involved from the instant that the misunderstanding became clear and intervened to be sure that their son was respectful, thankful and understanding and that the OP’s mom understood his intentions and was okay with that. To allow the expletive (especially in front of an older woman so devout that she carries a rosary and the accompanying prayer booklet in her purse and who, arguably, has more right to the host’s accommodations than the young boy might have) and then to be offended at a devout Catholic’s upset at the rosary being misused (by her standard) COMPOUNDED by the utter and complete lack of respect signified by the aforementioned expletive is, in my opinion, the greater offense here. Add to that the slamming of the host’s door and the promise of never returning to their friend’s house if “that woman” is there and, honestly, I say “good riddance”. They treated the HOST poorly for what they perceived to be another GUEST’s bad behavior.

* Yes, I am Catholic.
* No, I do not carry a rosary nor am I particularly devout.
* Yes, I would treat the Star of David or a Wiccan crystal or any other person’s sacred articles with the same respect I would treat my own, even if they didn’t.
* Yes, I would expect more than this from my own children and if I didn’t get it, the “teachable moment” would be in impressing upon them the importance of it from that moment forward.


Trialia November 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm

SamiHami, I’m with you 100% on this one. Disrespect for someone else’s religious traditions, whether or not you share them, if they aren’t doing anything to harm you, is neither good etiquette nor decent humane behaviour. If the rosary means something that important to the OP’s mom, and she wanted to share that importance with the kid because she believed he wanted to know about it, I think she should have every right to take it back,in the circumstances. I do believe she missed a teaching opportunity there, but I think the rest of you commenting that the OP’s mom is the one being thoroughly rude have it exactly backwards.

And no, I’m not a Catholic. I’m a Unitarian, and find myself in disagreement with nearly all their religion’s teachings – but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to be that rude about it when it’s not a harmful situation.


Radi November 13, 2010 at 11:03 pm

I am Catholic and raised in a predominantly Catholic country, and so this story is kind of shocking to me. Not the wearing around the neck thing – some people here do, and actually I think that they tend to be the more devout ones (they want the rosary close at hand) but this boy obviously isn’t going to be wearing it for any reason other than to look cool. He SAID so. I am kind of shocked at people wearing the rosary as a fashion statement; I am shocked the parents were so rude as to defend their son’s ill-mannered and disrespectful behavior; and I am shocked people are defending it. The poor lady was completely mistaken in her overly charitable assumptions of why the boy wanted the rosary. It is offensive to her; why isn’t that of more importance than a child’s whims?


wolfgirl November 15, 2010 at 1:02 pm

I agree with everyone who has basically said that all the adults involved were slightly at fault!
1) Never give kids religious items without asking the parents. Even if its your neice or nephew (as happened to me, when my parents were not present), I don’t agree with it, they are not of an age to decide for themselves, it totally wasnt the mom’s place to act like that without expressly checking with parents it was OK. I agree it was probably well meaning but its just not appropriate.
2) Children should NEVER swear, esp that badly, in public as well! (good use of sofa king tho!) Parents are clearly at major fault here. A sharp retribution followed by a sincere apology from child and parents should have followed!
3) If you see someone give your child a gift, esp if you have reason to believe the gift is being given in a sincere way and means a lot to the giver, ie a religious item, its a good idea to ensure your kid understands the importance of the gift, and if necessary to intervene to ensure they dont accept it if you know they are not gonna appreaciate it (Im guessing the parents were pretty sure that little Jimmy wasnt about to start praying devoutly with it?)
4) If you’re uncomfortable with the religious-gift-to-a-child thing, SAY straight away. Only gonna lead to awkwardness otherwise!
4) Never take something off someone physically, especially a child. I remember adults doing similar things to me, if an adult who you dont know physically invades you space like that, even in a minor way, it can make a kid feel intimidated, belittled and upset. Especially, perhaps, as a 12 year old boy who may feel he’s too old to be treated like a “baby” and have things snatched off him. Which in turn might make him defensive and hostile; he might have been really upset and shocked by this action. Adults should understand this. If another adult grabbed something off my kid I’d think it extremely rude and be upset with them. Even if the kid was rude, the adult should know better.
5) Minor point but a child yelling they’ve “always wanted one”; really? dont people know that “always” generally means “for at LEAST the last 5 minutes” with children?! Should not have been taken as a sincere expression of religious commitment without further invetigation!
6) WHilst I think that its not well known amongst non-Catholics that a rosary cannot be worn (I didnt know, my Mum was brought up Catholic), parents should be concerned that thier child does not recognise a major religious symbol ,and have the respect not to offend people of that faith by wearing it as a fashion item in front of their noses!
Anyway I think the child is probably obnoxious and spoilt and the parents ignorant and defiencient in parenting skills, but I confess what most wound me up was the mum’s unthinking, slightly pushy evangelising behaviour, relgious belief is personal and should not be pushed on others without very carefully checking they are interested. Thats almost as bad as disrepecting other’s religons; its disrespecting a person’s right NOT to hold a religious beluef should they so chose.


Anon December 9, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Aside from the religious discussion, what kind of parents allow their children to use the “f word”?


Jurinne December 15, 2010 at 3:50 pm

I am a Catholic. I would have taken the rosary back, just like “Mom” in the OP. A rosary is sacred to us – and it’s not just a string with beads on it (to whomever said that). It also has a small crucifix and a medal and it is used as an aid to help us pray to our Blessed Mother and contemplate the Mysteries of Jesus’ life as God-incarnate. And, yes, I would have taken it off his body. I wouldn’t normally do such a thing but quickly yanking it away from him (though gently) puts a quick stop to the possibility that the rosary can be broken or that the verbal disagreement would escalate.

I don’t want to start an argument about whether the Catholic Church is the true Church (of course it is 🙂 ). However, we should all realize that a rosary is very important to Catholics and to use it as the boy wanted to use it is sacrilege.

Perhaps “Mom” would have not found herself in such an awkward situation if she had ascertained the boy’s reasons for wanting a rosary in the first place. She probably didn’t know that children are wearing rosaries as some sort of fashion statement. I didn’t know that either, although I have seen them worn by Hispanic gang members (yet I believe that the gang members are actually wearing them as a sign of respect to the Mother of God). In “Mom’s” defense, she was probably initially very happy to be given the opportunity to help the boy show his faith (she was wrong about his reasons but that doesn’t mean she was wrong for wanting to share her faith and to help another person participate in the same faith). The fact that “Mom” carries a rosary in her purse indicates that she is a practicing Catholic who prays to Mary (not all Catholics feel comfortable doing this). A rosary is very important to her.

The boy’s parents reacted in a bizarre fashion, as though the taking back of a rosary was somehow equivalent to taking back a hundred bucks or something like that. What “Mom” did was correct and I commend her for it.

And if the boy’s parents have any sort of Christian belief they should know that we are required to forgive. It doesn’t look like they forgave “Mom” and this saddens me because that is the lesson their son will most likely learn. His use of the “f” word in front of adults, including his own parents, shows a lack of respect to his elders and, specifically, his parents. I hope his parents eventually told him that such language is unacceptable. Actually I’m surprised the boy didn’t already have a rosary – bought and presented by his parents to him to use as a fashion statement.

If I were twelve years-old and expressed a desire to own a crucifix I shouldn’t be surprised if the person who gave me the crucifix takes it back after I proclaim that I’m going to wear it around my neck – upside down (and I’m not referring to St. Peter’s crucifixion here).


Jurinne December 16, 2010 at 11:38 pm

Addendum: My apologies; I should have included this. Twenty-twenty hindsight can be very clear and we can all look back at the incident (at least as it was reported) and say that “Mom” should have done such-and-such and the parents of the boy should have responded in such-and-such way, yada yada yada. But when the incident is actually occurring people don’t have time to think as clearly as we do. They think quickly, make a judgment call, and act. We could discuss and debate and argue ’til the cows come home but except for the person who reported the incident, we weren’t there.

It does make a huge difference.


lkb December 17, 2010 at 6:01 am

Bravo Jurinne!
This is exactly how I feel about the matter entirely (both posts)!
God bless you and have a very Merry Christmas!


Jurinne December 19, 2010 at 9:06 am

Merry Christmas to you, too!! And to everyone, everywhere!!


Amy December 29, 2010 at 9:48 pm

I am Christian, but not Catholic, for whatever that is worth. My particular sect considers it rude to proselytize to someone who hasn’t first clearly expressed an interest in the religion; I would not have considered a child wanting a rosary to be interest *in the religion*, but rather interest in an object. Additionally, I would not have presumed to discuss religion of any sort with someone else’s child without their express permission. I am sure it was meant as a kindness, but it seems very presumptive to me. I might have asked him if he knew what a rosary was, and if he said no, asked his parents if they minded if I explained. Once he understood, perhaps a the gift would have been appropriate if he still wanted it, but the parents would have to be consulted again.

Not, mind you, that I think the kid or his parents were anything other than shockingly rude and disrespectful! Were I the child’s mother, I’d have been displeased that the rosary had been given, but I would have pulled him up quite sharply well before the nice lady was forced to handle it herself. How are children supposed to learn manners when their parents haven’t any?


Javin September 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

I don’t think the kid in this scenario is in any way, shape, or form to blame. He’s 12. I’m guessing it’s pretty safe to assume he’s not majored in any religious studies yet. He would have no way of knowing (short of his parents telling him) that the rosary was not to be worn as jewelry.

The guilty parties here are twofold. First, the woman giving the kid a rosary without so much as a cursory glance at his parents to see if it was okay. If I’m raising my kids to be Buddhists and some stranger hands them a bible, I will not be happy. If I’m raising them to be Jewish, and someone gives them a Koran, I will not be happy. Religion is something very important to most families, and a stranger has no right to impose any “sacred” religious artifact on a 12 year old without the permission of the parents, WITH the understanding that the rosary was given AS a sacred artifact, and not a decorative item.

Finally, the absolute brattish behavior of the parents of the kid just goes without saying. The appropriate response in this situation would have been no response at all. Rather later, in the privacy of their own home, they may have had a small discussion with the kid about what had transpired. It didn’t sound like the rosary giver was making any attempt at all-out conversion, but if she *had* continued to press it, a very polite “No thank you. We would like him to be raised with our religious beliefs.” should suffice.


NostalgicGal December 2, 2012 at 4:37 am

I make prayer beads. For a lot of different faiths. Until they are blessed or consecrated, they are just beads, and wire or string or beadcord, sometimes with some metal bits.

Until they are dedicated they are just another item. Perhaps the 10 year old didn’t realize that, just seen others wearing (catholic rosary) and thought it was cool. In that much can’t blame him.

The woman who had had the rosary consecrated and used it in the purpose intended, then found that they were not held in the same regard; I can understand why she took them back. But.

That said, both sides are to fault here. As many others have said, maybe the parents didn’t like him being given the set for what it was supposed to represent and be used for (a different faith) and maybe it was just the give and take.

The items I make, some take up to forty solid hours of labor (yes I had to keep track of it to figure costs and overhead). I don’t know how many think that time should be free; or worse.

I had two women, one holding a particular rosary, and telling me vehemently (and pleading) on how she NEEDS *that* rosary. (aka take $10 for what cost $35 wholesale just for the beads, wire, and other metal in it, not counting my time to MAKE that into the item) I pulled a parachute cord knotted rosary, called a missionary rosary, and pamphlet out of a storage drawer and told her, Maam, you don’t NEED that rosary, you WANT that rosary. If you truely NEED a rosary, here is one, with my compliments, and how to pray it properly. (yes I made those knotted ones too, donating many sets, and always kept a few in stock, never displayed) If you truely NEED, this one will do what you need. (The two looked at me in shock. I am at a show and selling merchandise and I won’t deal for far far less than the item was worth….) I make beautiful collections of beads; and sell them. If you want that rosary, I’m asking that much for it for the time, effort, materials, and craftmanship. If you NEED a rosary, here is one with my compliments. (the lady took the pamphlet and not the knotted rosary, and did not purchase the fancy beaded item)

Someone that worked my booth at a show, was heavily gothie, I could respect that. As part of her pay she opted to have me make her a custom blackmetal black and red bead (opaque and yes blood red) rosary, which I did. Until consecrated or dedicated, it’s just beads. She wore it as a piece of costume jewelry and I could respect that was her right.

Respect. I think in the OP’s case, it comes down to both sides contributing to what happened, and how it happened, and neither side is totally innocent or totally guilty. They both share in this. I think the woman should have gently asked more questions of the lad to find out why he wanted a set and what he was going to do with them, before handing over her rosary… and asked the parents first.


Natashia February 1, 2013 at 12:00 am

I’m not religious anymore, but I would liken this to a child happily receiving a bible, then telling the giver that he intended to use it for a fire starter for his next BBQ. No one would object to her taking the bible back so that it wasn’t used in such an obviously disrespectful and blasphemous way. Or taking a Eucharist in good faith at a Catholic Church, then spitting on it, stepping on it, and otherwise defiling it in front of the priest.
These people would be giving the gift in good faith, assuming that the religious object was going to be used for its purpose, or at least benignly neglected in a drawer somewhere. As this was not the case, the giver took her sacred object back before the wearer could blaspheme. I see nothing wrong with that, other than teaching an obnoxious kid that he can’t get away with being obnoxious to everyone he meets. Which is doing his future self a favour.


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