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

{ 190 comments… read them below or add one }

Lizajane November 3, 2010 at 9:01 am

I’m not Catholic, but I find the boy’s action offensive. Go Mom! I think she handled the situation as gracefully as possible. Maybe she will pray that the boy receives some grace.

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Zhoen November 3, 2010 at 9:02 am

No doubt that rosary was blessed. In Catholic eyes, to wear a blessed item as jewelry is sacrilege. Mom could have handled it better, not popped off, essentially calling the boy names, and taught him a lesson in respect. But she’d been extremely generous to offer her own rosary, to see it treated so shabbily would have been shocking. Then the parents needed to reinforce the lesson, with an “We’re sorry, we didn’t realize.” Whole lot of no respect all around.

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bookworm November 3, 2010 at 9:03 am

Wow, the boy’s parents did a good job of ensuring that he’ll continue to act entitled to anything and everything, regardless of the implications. Way to throw a fit when your child doesn’t get their way!

If you don’t know enough about a religious objects to treat them with some form of respect, that should be your cue to pick up a book and learn!

Your mom wasn’t rude to insist that he treat the rosary with respect or not have it at all, but perhaps in the future, she won’t be as quick to jump up and offer anything to people whose intentions she doesn’t know.

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Rug Pilot November 3, 2010 at 9:04 am

No one I know who prays with a Rosary ever wears it around their neck. If attached at all it is wrapped around a waist cord on a religious habit or just wrapped around the wrist while being used. Even an Eastern Rosary (Chotki) is used the same way. Fortunately it can’t be worn around the neck – it’s smaller. We have the right to protect our religious objects from sacrilege. I support the mother who took the Rosary back.

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Virg November 3, 2010 at 9:05 am

She was rude for what she did. The simple fact is that the boy may very well not have known that his actions were disrespectful (I certainly didn’t know that it would be disrespectful to wear it like a necklace, not having much exposure to American Catholicism) and so rather than explain her stand, she simply took back the rosary and then started in with “rappers and rock stars and gangsters” despite knowing that she was talking to a person who was none of those things. Saying something like “If you just want to wear it as a decoration, please give it back, because that’s very disrespectful to my beliefs” would have gotten her off the hook, but what she did and said made her rude.

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JS November 3, 2010 at 9:08 am

I don’t know–I can easily see how the boy and his parents would’ve seen your Mom’s initial gesture as a gift, as in “no strings attached.” There’s no indication that the boy or his parents were Catholic, and the kid had a point that our culture (outside of the Catholic faith) has viewed rosaries as jewelry. I’m not saying that your Mom had no right to take the gift back, of course; if her faith does not permit her to treat rosaries as anything other than sacred objects, then she absolutely should’ve taken it back. But the misunderstanding here was her fault–if this “gift” came with strings, she should’ve said so at the outset. Her retrieval of the rosary should’ve been a request for its return, accompanied by a sincere apology, not a silent physical grab-back. I can easily see how the parents took offense (although they may have overreacted, depending on how your Mom presented her position).

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Elizabeth B November 3, 2010 at 9:14 am

I may not be Catholic, but I completely get OP ‘s mom and agree. I was raised to respect other people’s religion. My mom, even though having issues with Catholicism, would have slapped me if I acted like that boy

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saucygirl November 3, 2010 at 9:20 am

while the kids parents completely overreacted with calling the mom rude and the dramatic exit (and i hope the cousin was on the ops and her moms side), the ops mom is not without fault. as josie commented, she should have asked her questions before showing the rosary. not only that, though, she should have asked the parents if it was okay to give their minor child a religious object. as a mom, i would be very annoyed if a virtual stranger handed my kid a rosary, based on one comment that they overheard. the ops mom would have still ended up with the rosary back, but it would have been because i gave it to her.

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Deenie November 3, 2010 at 9:28 am

Really? It sounds like all the adults kind of failed here. The mother should have investigated further why he wanted a rosary before making a gift, if she intended to give the gift in a manner that is little better than proselytizing. The parents should have stepped in to explain to their son that the way he wanted to use the rosary was disrespectful to its traditional use.

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Jay November 3, 2010 at 9:40 am

The Mom was fine, and she explained her actions. The boy didn’t know any better. His mother’s the problem. IMHO.

That said, the Mom should maybe ask more questions before handing over a personal religious item like that.

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Heidi November 3, 2010 at 9:41 am

While I understand that the OP’s mother felt that what the boy was doing was sacrilegious, it’s my understanding that once a gift is given, it belongs to the recipient to do with as he wishes. While clearly this wasn’t a formal gift giving, like a birthday or Christmas gift, she gave it to him willfully and freely. She didn’t ask him up front why he wanted it (considering it’s a fairly random request from a twelve year old boy watching a football game), and she didn’t stop to explain to him why it would be improper to wear it as a fashion accessory rather than use it for its intended purpose (before she took it back, that is). Even if he didn’t know the religious significance at first, she should have explained the significance BEFORE she took it back from the boy. Even then, I think it’s questionable to (however calmly) physically remove a gift off a person. If it was that important to her, she should have asked for it back. While the boy was ignorant and dismissive, that’s no reason to return with, at the very least, impoliteness.

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JS November 3, 2010 at 9:45 am

@saucygirl–you know, that’s a good point. It’s pretty inappropriate to give a minor child a religious object and to try to instruct him how to pray, not knowing anything about his family’s religion. I mean, it’s not like the boy’s parents weren’t right there; the mom could easily have asked the parents if it was ok, and that would’ve likely nipped this whole thing in the bud, since the parents would then know how the mom intended the gift to be used as a sacred object.

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kingshearte November 3, 2010 at 9:51 am

I don’t think this situation was especially well handled by anyone.

That said, even with little or no knowledge of Catholicism, has this kid seriously never even seen a cross? I just have a hard time grasping the notion that, by 12 years old, he’d still be completely clueless as to such an item’s significance. Even if he didn’t know precisely what a rosary was, by that age I would think he’d recognize a cross and realize that there was at least a possibility that it might mean something to the person wearing it.

On the other hand, by just more or less blithely handing it over, she may have made him think exactly the opposite, because if it was so important to her, she’d want to hang on to it, right?

Definite lack of sufficient communication in this situation, leading to pretty much everyone offending everyone. Live and learn, I guess.

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Elizabeth Bunting November 3, 2010 at 9:53 am

I am a Protestant and would have no use for sacramental jewellery. However, if someone asked for a Bible and I gave it to him/her, after which he/she said “Well, at our club we tear the pages out and burn them up so we can be cool” I would probably take it back. I would likely explain that the Bible contains the words of God and it would be irreverent use it to be considered “cool.” I would go on to say that it doesn’t matter what someone does to the Bible, because the words of God are engraved on our hearts when we become Christians. However, respect for another religion and its followers is important. The same thing would apply IMO regarding the Qu’ran which is a holy book to another religion.

Perhaps the OP was too quick in her generosity before explaining the proper use of the rosary. The parents are like most parents today who indulge their children and never think the child is wrong or needs information and correction from time to time.

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Becca November 3, 2010 at 9:55 am

I find the comment , “…it is only worn that way by rappers and rock stars and gang members” offensive. I have numerous Irish Catholic friends – here in the good old USA that wear their rosaries around their necks. It isn’t done to be offensive…it is done to keep it close to their heart. While the poster’s mother may not believe in wearing her rosary, some Catholics do. She should have ascertained the boy’s reason for wanting a rosary before giving him hers. It would have been politer to request the rosary back rather than silently taking it off of the boy.

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Shayna November 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

I would be extremely irritated with anyone who tried to give my child a religious object unless they were ABSOLUTELY certain my family was of the same religion as they were. It is a parent’s right to teach their child about religion. In my case, I’m Protestant, and my husband is Catholic. That said, I firmly believe that we also have a duty to ensure our children are respectful of everyone and their beliefs, regardless of how we may or may not agree with them. In this instance, I believe the OP’s mom was wrong for offering a rosary without questioning further why it was wanted, I believe her behaviour was rude in taking it back (if a gift is given, it is NO LONGER yours, and the recipient can do with it whatever they wish, even if you don’t like what they’ve done with it – which is why it was all the more important to ask about this before handing over a sacred religious item), I believe the child was a rude little snot (as my grandma would say) for treating it in such a manner, and then I believe the parents, if they had knowledge of a rosary’s true use, were rude*. If, however, they aren’t familiar with Catholicism and had no clue of why the rosary is sacred, I believe it was well within their right to comment on the rude behaviour of the OP’s mother (because, yes, I do believe it’s rude to take back a gift). However, getting up and storming out was rude, and making that phone call to the OP’s cousin was also rude.

*If this couple knew what a rosary was for, they should never have allowed their son to accept such a gift, knowing full well that his purpose for it would be disrespectful to the gift-giver’s faith.

It seems to me that there was a lot of rudeness going on here, much of it due to too few questions being asked and perhaps a few too many assumptions being made. It’s a little surprising to me that the OP’s mom would just assume the boy wanted a rosary to pray, given that if the boy and his family were Catholics, they should already have knowledge of what a rosary is for, even if they weren’t practicing Catholics. Heck, I wouldn’t gift someone with a Bible unless I knew that either 1) they were new to the faith, or 2) they weren’t going to desecrate it in some way.

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Rani November 3, 2010 at 9:59 am

I find myself torn by this one. On one hand, the kid was disrespectful and I have no sympathy for him whatsoever. However, legally speaking, OP’s mother did steal the rosary from him. After she offered the rosary and he accepted it and took it from her, he was the owner. Very poorly handled. In my mind, it would have been better to explain first, request that it be returned, and if the kid refused, then take it as a valuable lesson that you should not assume that everyone places the same value on what you hold dear as you do.

Side note, but related, I remember back in school when Christian groups would come around and pass out those little copies of the New Testament. I know people that would take them and deface them in ways that I will decline to elaborate on. I’m sure that your imagination would be sufficient in that regard. (I only found out about this after the fact, and I do not condone their actions.) I’m sure that those folks would have rather had their New Testaments back as well.

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Ali November 3, 2010 at 10:01 am

Honestly, even if the mom was rude (which I don’t think she was) what kind of people refuse to see someone because they may have been slightly rude once? I think people will take any excuse to be resentful and mean. Whatever happened to brushing something off? Throwing a fit certainly sends the wrong message to the kid. Although I just realized that this comment could apply to half of the stories on this blog.

Even if the kid didn’t understand, describing something as “sofa king” cool to someone he just met is rude.

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Abby November 3, 2010 at 10:06 am

I agree with those who think the OP’s mom contributed to the rudeness. I understand this was very important to her, but, from what it sounds like, she was in another room, overheard a comment from a 12 year old, and without further questioning it, or asking his parents, walked in handed the boy a religious item and then offered to teach him a prayer. That to me, was the original etiquette faux pas.

Furthermore, to physically remove the item instead of asking for it back compounded that rudeness. Had she merely told him, wearing a rosary like a necklace is considered disrespectful, it is only for praying, that would be a different story. If he still indicated that he planned to wear it anyways, then I think you turn to the parents and make the case that you would like it returned. I still think asking for a gift back is rude- but not as bad as pulling it off a child yourself. She really should have asked a few more questions before she gave him the rosary.

No doubt the parents of the boy completely overreacted- and didn’t raise a very polite boy if he is using the F word when he is a guest at someone else’s house- but the OP’s mom has a share of the blame too.

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Louise November 3, 2010 at 10:16 am

This whole incident could have been avoided if mom had asked the boy why he wanted a rosary. If she’s aware that rosaries have become popular fashion accessories, she should clarify why someone wants one before handing it out to strangers. She should have asked the parents if it was OK to give the boy a religious symbol that is meant only for prayer. She shouldn’t have physically removed the rosary from the boy when she found out he wasn’t going to use the gift the way she wanted. I think the religion is a red herring. I don’t think religious gifts have more value than handmade, store-bought or second-hand gifts. It boils down to if you intend for a person to use a gift a certain way, you need to find out if he or she will before you give it. Having said that, I believe people should respect religious icons because they symbolize others’ beliefs and I can understand why mom was aghast at the boy’s attitude toward the rosary. I just think she handled the situation badly.

Perhaps the parents were furious that someone denied their precious child something he wanted. But I know I would be furious if someone gave my kid a religious object, offered to teach him how to pray and then physically took away the gift because he wasn’t going to use it the way she wanted. I wouldn’t want to be around “that woman” either. She’s essentially trying to indoctrinate my kid in her religion without my permission.

Also, although the kid is severely lacking in the decorum department, he didn’t act as the rosary was “an accessory he DESERVED.” He articulated his desire to have one, but it doesn’t sound like he expected someone to give him one. That was a bonus. And once mom gave him a rosary and it became his, he didn’t deserve to have it taken away from him like that. He’s a brat if he can’t say thank you and curses like that, but he’s not rude for not knowing the religious significance of the rosary.

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Rattus November 3, 2010 at 10:17 am

I think that everyone was wrong here. The child and his parents were rude, but under no circumstances should mom have been handing out religious paraphernalia and indoctrination to a minor without a word aside with the minor’s parent(s). I won’t even give a popsicle to a kid without asking their attendant adult. That being said, once handed over, the rosary was now his as is the nature of a gift, and it was rude to demand it back. If the thing was that important to her, she shouldn’t have been willing to part with it without assurance that it would be used in the manner she thought appropriate.

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Nicole November 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

I am not Catholic but have a beautiful rosary given to me by a friend. My friend is a very devout Catholic and one day I mentioned something about wanting a rosary as a connection to my grandmother who had just passed away. I remember seeing her with her rosary so often. My friend immediately gave me one of her rosaries. I think (but could be wrong) that many Catholics do this as a way to share their faith. She gave me a copy of the prayers and showed me how to pray it. Mostly, I keep this cherished object on my bedside table.

I thik the OPs mother was acting on a genuine impulse to share her faith with someone who seemed interested. I think she was probably shocked at the response to her gift and took it back in order to keep a religious object form being misused. I think the boy acted out of ignorance for religious tradaition but I think the boy’s parents acted terribly rude.

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what the... November 3, 2010 at 10:28 am

I’m not Roman Catholic either, but I know enough to be aware that at the very least, wearing the rosary is disrespectful, and I support her. If the parents had enough class to ask for enlightenment rather than storming out, I might have a little sympathy for them.

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Jillybean November 3, 2010 at 10:36 am

I agree with Sandy who wrote:

I have to question, however, the reasonableness of giving a religious item of significant meaning to a child without understanding the religious stance of the family. Viewed through that lens, it is very possible to read this as an attempt at conversion followed by a judgmental response (by equating a 12-year old to a criminal) when the attempt failed. Which, is pretty rude.

***

Mom overhears part of a conversation while in the kitchen – heads into the other room and essentially just verifies she’s heard correctly and then gives a child she doesn’t know something she considers sacred. Sounds pretty weird to me. And then she gets mad that he doesn’t consider it sacred, too, and physically removes it from his neck without even a word until he asks why. The assumption is the child was being deliberately disrespectful to a religious item, but people wear crosses, they wear the star of david, they wear all sorts of religious items. He would not necessarily know that a rosary is not to be worn. And while he probably shouldn’t be wearing the item of any religion he doesn’t practice, the OP’s mom should not give away things she finds sacred so “willy nilly” as another poster put it.

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Renee November 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

I say good riddance. I am not sure if what stuns me most is the fact that this child has a total disregard for what millions consider sacred, or the fact that the parents of this monstrosity had the nerve to call the rosary-owner rude! If I were the cousin/host, I would not care if that family ever returned to my home.

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Another Laura November 3, 2010 at 11:10 am

@ leelee- I believe “sofa king” was OP’s way of writing the most foul explicative without using @#$%, “so f**king.”

My friend used to work in a store in Amish Country, PA (right across the road from the porch where Harrison Ford made the phone call in “The Witness”) and one of her co-workers wore a prayer covering as part of her faith. A tourist once asked this woman where he could buy one as a “gag gift” for his girlfriend!

I didn’t know that rappers and gangsters wore rosaries, but I remember Madonna wearing a crucifix because “she liked having a naked man around her neck” or something like that.

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Typo Tat November 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

Yes, OP’s Mom was very rude.

First she jumps into other people’s conversation and offers a gift. Only later she remembers to verify what the boy actually wanted this item for. When his reasons are not good enough for her, she just takes it back.

I realize this is a sacred item for her, but that’s not an excuse to humiliate a child this way. The boy was likely not from a religious family and did not understand what happened here and why! OP’s Mom should have been kinder.

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Psyche November 3, 2010 at 11:20 am

A side note: a woman many years ago created a business online called GothicRosary.com, for goths who like the striking look of rosaries and want to wear one but aren’t Catholic. Instead of a cross, you can choose between an ankh, a pentagram, a Hand of Fatimah, etc. You can even request on the request form, if you *do* want a cross whether you want it inverted or not (for Satanists and black metal lovers) . They’re a little pricey, but they’re hand crafted so they’re worth it. I always thought that was a nice way of accomodating those who want to wear a rosary as a fashion statement without being sacreligious.

BTW, they’re still around, if you want to look them up.

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Bint November 3, 2010 at 11:25 am

Actually, for all the accusations levelled at the OP’s mother, I can see exactly why she did assume the boy knew what the rosary was for.

He said, “I’ve always wanted one.”

No wonder she thought he knew what they were for. *Always* wanted a rosary? A Catholic hearing that from someone isn’t going to think the boy means as a fashion accessory. It’s pretty obvious why the OP’s mother made some assumptions.

Also, his parents should have intervened right then. They let their son take a Catholic’s rosary when that Catholic clearly thought it was going to be prayed with. The moment he said he didn’t want it to pray over, any parent with an ounce of sense would have taken it off him and apologised for the misunderstanding.

She took it off him because as a Catholic it was her duty. Also, if you don’t want people offering your child religious objects, don’t sit back, watch it happen and then complain. Blaming the OP’s mother here is pretty off. She tried to do something generous when the boy had expressed enthusiasm (that she understandably thought was for her religion). The only ones in the wrong here are the boy and the parents.

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Asharah November 3, 2010 at 11:44 am

I’m Catholic and I used to wear my rosary around my neck, back in grade school when I didn’t carry a purse and there were no pockets in my uniform.

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secretrebel November 3, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I’m not too keen on the othering and stereotyping of rappers. No one who raps can be a Catholic? Rock stars wear religious items as jewellery? Rappers and rocks stars are equated with gangsters? Mom seems pretty prejudiced here.

And where was Mom’s respect for the significance of the rosary when she handed it over without a word about its meaning or a single question about why the child wanted one?

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ferretrick November 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

Sorry, but Mom is just as guilty of about ten etiquette faux pas here. She had no business giving a religious object to a child without knowing the parent’s own religion and wishes regarding religious education for their children. Presuming to teach the child how to pray a religion he knows nothing about and may not want to know is roughly equivalent to the people that knock on your doors uninvited and leave their pamphlets unsolicited on your property. Physically taking the necklace off the kid rather than politely asking him to give it back is an assault on his person.

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Shayna November 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

@Bint: You said ‘”Actually, for all the accusations levelled at the OP’s mother, I can see exactly why she did assume the boy knew what the rosary was for.

He said, “I’ve always wanted one.”’

Respectfully, I disagree with your assessment. If the boy knew what the rosary was for, and was Catholic, and “always wanted one”, why the heck wouldn’t his parents have simply gotten one for him? I’m sure any devout Catholic would know how to go about procuring a rosary.

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lkb November 3, 2010 at 12:50 pm

@Amber: First of all, I’d be appalled at a 12-year-old saying “sofa king”, no matter where. Second, I don’t know anything about Buddhist prayer beads other than what you described but Catholic rosaries are blessed objects — generally a Catholic priest physically blesses them before they are used. Perhaps Mom should have/could have sounded out the kid’s intentions before giving them to her (we weren’t there, who knows?), but she had to act quickly before this blessed, holy object was subjected to sacrilege. True the boy didn’t realize it, but the Mom was trying to explain but he and his parents didn’t want to listen.
Through the centuries, Christians (Catholic and Protestant alike) have been forced to deny their faith by stomping on Crucifixes and Rosaries. Many died rather than do so. That’s part of the reason why many Christians hate seeing our sacred objects misused (“Artwork” depicting a Crucifix in urine, pictures of the Virgin Mary, people buying consecrated Eucharistic Hosts on Ebay and so on.)
I don’t know if Buddhist prayer beads are held as sacred as Catholic Rosaries. For a Catholic who practices the faith, misusing a rosary is rather like spitting on a picture of one’s mother. I for one, hope that I would do anything to prevent it.
Just a note to explain why the mom acted as she did. Perhaps non Catholics don’t realize why they are so important, but it is. I applaud the Mom for doing what she did.

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aka Cat November 3, 2010 at 12:54 pm

The kid laughing and saying “Sofa king cool! Everybody’s wearing one” was just piling more insults on the misuse of a religious object. His parents should be ashamed.

Technically the OP’s mother may be wrong for taking it back, but I’d counter that it’s obvious he didn’t really want it (for its intended purpose.) So the agreement is void.

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JS November 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm

@bint:

“No wonder she thought he knew what they were for. *Always* wanted a rosary? A Catholic hearing that from someone isn’t going to think the boy means as a fashion accessory. It’s pretty obvious why the OP’s mother made some assumptions….[The parents] let their son take a Catholic’s rosary when that Catholic clearly thought it was going to be prayed with”

Completely disagree. Based on what the OP said, I see no reason to think that the only reasonable interpretation of the boy’s statement is that he’s always wanted a rosary as a sacred object. Some 12-year-old boy saying something about wanting a rosary, out of the room, during a football game, isn’t automatically a declaration of an intent to switch to Catholicism. Could it be? Perhaps. But that’s certainly not enough to go on if you’re handing over an object you consider to be sacred.

And I didn’t see anything in the OP’s post to indicate that the parents should’ve known that the mom considered the rosary to be a prayer object exclusively when she handed it over. In fact, the fact that she was handing it over so casually would suggest to the parents that she DIDN’T think of it as a sacred object.

By the way, it took me until about comment 70 to figure out what “sofa king cool” referred to. Snerk.

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bansidhe November 3, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Wow…plenty of rudeness to go around in this story. I give the mother top marks for rudeness, however, for making all kinds of unfounded assumptions and then acting on them, but mostly for attempting to provide religious instruction to someone else’s kid without their permission. If I had children and someone attempted to force religion on them, I would be highly peeved. That is completely unacceptable. (Note: I would not, however, stomp off and slam the door, as that is both childish and rude.)

Maybe the kid is an entitled brat, but maybe he just had no clue about the way some people regard rosaries and was totally flabbergasted by being given a gift only to, moments later, have it physically removed from his person by someone ranting about gangsters. I doubt the whole thing made much sense to him.

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Louise November 3, 2010 at 1:43 pm

“Actually, for all the accusations levelled at the OP’s mother, I can see exactly why she did assume the boy knew what the rosary was for. He said, “I’ve always wanted one.” No wonder she thought he knew what they were for. *Always* wanted a rosary? A Catholic hearing that from someone isn’t going to think the boy means as a fashion accessory. It’s pretty obvious why the OP’s mother made some assumptions.”
– If that’s true, mom made some interesting assumptions, and it doesn’t change the fact she’s still at fault. But I don’t buy it, because she tells the boy that gangsters and musicians wear the rosary as an accessory and that’s wrong. Clearly she knows there’s what she deems widespread misuse of the rosary. It was her duty to check which camp this boy — a stranger to her — fell into before giving him what she considers a sacred object.

“She took it off him because as a Catholic it was her duty.”
– Religious duty doesn’t excuse you from rudeness. Once she gave the boy the rosary, it was his. She doesn’t get to take it away from him just because he’s going to use it in a way in which she doesn’t approve.

“Also, if you don’t want people offering your child religious objects, don’t sit back, watch it happen and then complain.”
– If you don’t want people misusing religious objects, don’t hand them out to strangers, watch it happen, and then complain.

“The only ones in the wrong here are the boy and the parents.”
– Mom is also in the wrong. None of this would have happened had she asked why the boy wanted the rosary. It was her assumptions — when she was obviously aware people use the rosary as a fashion item — that caused this incident. That doesn’t excuse the behaviour of anyone else, but mom is also to blame.

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JS November 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

@lkb (and aka Cat)–”Perhaps non Catholics don’t realize why they are so important, but it is. ”

But see, this is key to me. Many people who are not Catholic (a) don’t know the significance of a rosary or (b) don’t understand the extent to which a rosary is considered “sacred,” or (c) don’t know what rules apply to this particular sacred object. Add to that the fact that not all Catholics treat the rosary the same, or with the same reverence, and it’s just unreasonable to assume that all non-Catholics (especially 12-year-old boy non-Catholics) should have a working knowledge of how each individual Catholic views a rosary. The onus is on the Catholic in this instance to ensure that the rosary will be treated with the amount of reverence appropriate in his/her eyes BEFORE handing it over. Put another way, it’s on the Mom to make sure that her “intended purpose” is clear.

And again–this doesn’t mean she was wrong for wanting the rosary back. But given the above, she was being rude by taking it back in the manner that she did.

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Louise November 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm

“Technically the OP’s mother may be wrong for taking it back, but I’d counter that it’s obvious he didn’t really want it (for its intended purpose.) So the agreement is void.”

Absolutely not. If someone gives me a rosary as a gift and I decide it looks nice hanging up as a decoration in my living room, that person doesn’t get to take it back because I’m not using it for prayer. If anyone is at fault, it’s the giver for incorrectly assuming I’m Catholic or intending to become one.

If you give someone a dictionary and they use it to prop up a wobbly chair, do you take it back because they aren’t using it for its intended purpose? If you give someone a mixing bowl and they use it to grow basil in, do you take it back? How about if you give someone a hammer and they use it as a paperweight? Once you give something away, you don’t get to dictate how it’s used. If that part is so important to you, you make sure the receiver is onboard before you give the gift. In my opinion, a rosary is no different. The fact it’s a sacred object lends it significance to the giver, but it’s wrong assume the receiver feels that way and will treat it the way you will.

The best way to make sure no one disrespects the rosary is to give it only to people you are sure will respect it. That means not handing it out to 12-year-olds you’re not even sure are Catholic. Mom could easily have asked, “Why do you want a rosary?” Then none of this would have happened.

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zimi61 November 3, 2010 at 2:04 pm

I’m not Catholic, but I know when to accept that I may have offended someone (with or without knowing so) and I can apologize for it. It’s called respect for others.

I must say I agree with Bint. The boy specifically said he’d “always wanted one.” What is that to lead a person to believe? The fact that he is 12 only enforces that when she took the rosary from him he should have apologized for his offense (mostly for the swearing and disingenuous request). I don’t care that he might have “owned” it and you don’t take back gifts, when does that etiquette faux pas trump religious desecration?

I also don’t see why she should have had to check with the parents about what their religion is. I get that people don’t want their children learning things they find inappropriate, but it’s not like she was discussing s.e.x. ed with him. This should have been considered an educational opportunity by them. They could certainly explain to him why they agree/disagree with Catholicism and/or what their beliefs are. That kind of parenting is the type that will lead to tolerance and respect, not this “my child can do no wrong” and “no one can teach them better than I can” crap. It takes a village.

Overall, I agree that the mother may have lacked some communication that might have helped mitigate the situation, but she was attempting a kind gesture based on her interpretation of his statements, and isn’t it the thought that counts?

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Geekgirl November 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I’m slightly puzzled – if the boy had always wanted one, why didn’t he just buy one? In London, at least, there are dozens of market stalls and shops that sell unblessed rosaries as a fashion item. They’re not that difficult to get hold of. It just struck me as odd, that’s all.

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Sharon November 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm

I hate to have to say this, but the lady who gave the rosary was in the wrong. The lady should have talked with the child and found out exactly why he wanted a rosary. But, she missed missed an opportunity to explain to the child in a nice quiet way that the rosary, while to some people is just a bunch of beads, to a Catholic it holds very special meaning. She might have helped him to understand that wearing one like he wanted to was not the best idea.
If a young child came to me and wanted a Bible, I would most assuredly want to give him one, BUT I would check with the parents FIRST. Then IF it was okay to give the child the Bible, I would maybe sit with him and his parents and tell him to please respect it, because it is a very specail book to me and I hope it would become special to him as well. Once I gave it to him, however if he used it for a doorstop, all I could do is pray. I GAVE it to hm. It is up to him and his parents to learn to treat it as it should be treated.
HOWEVER…
Even if he got to keep the rosary, his remark of “Sofa King cool”… ??? If I had used such a euphemism in front of my parents ESPECIALLY while visiting a friends house???? OH MY DEAR LORD!!! I would have to give the rosary back and then, I would have had other things to think about besides whether or not I got to keep a rosary. I would have been made to apologise. And, I would have gotten grounded.
It was cursing. I know, I know… I am a prude to some of you. But, the boy knew what he meant, thehosts knew what he meant and his parents knew what he meant. Twelve year olds are going to use questionable language now and then… they are human. But, not while you are a guest in someone’s home.

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Christine November 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I own a consignment store and I will not sell rosaries because I know that the majority of the time, they will be purchased as jewellery – and I’m not Catholic, at best, I’m agnostic. In fact, when one was accepted by an employee by mistake, I let another employee take it home to her grandmother, for free.

Go, mom and boo parents. That boy needed to learn to respect other people’s beliefs, even if they aren’t shared. I hate seeing the religious relics of others treated with disrespect, just because uninformed people don’t understand their significance.

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Lisa November 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

The mother of this story is mine. The story was edited, but with my permission. Let me just say that Mom assumed the boy wanted the rosary for devotional purposes, as would any Catholic her age (she’s 75), and she was genuinely shocked when he put it around his neck. Her reaction to take it back was totally an impulse. I am surprised she managed to remain as calm as she did. Yes, I agree with those who say it could have been handled differently. In fact, I was shocked that she even offered her rosary to a boy who was not of our faith. She should have asked permission of the boy’s parents..But I can’t blame her for taking that rosary back. Mom has many rosaries and they are all blessed and all have sentimental value, but none so sentimental that she wouldn’t give one up for a person (adult or child) who expressed an interest. When this boy’s “interest” revealed the desire to use the rosary for play and not prayer, the situation went downhill real quick. Mom feels bad about it, and is thinking of writing a letter to this couple further explaining her actions – and the significance of the rosary to Catholics. It’s difficult getting into the details of a devotion on a Sunday afternoon with the football game in the background and several conversations going on.

Maybe writing a letter is a good move. We’ll probably never see this family again, so I don’t know.

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Dani November 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm

Everybody’s pretty much said all that’s been said about this topic–but as someone who went to four years of Catholic university and is no religious slouch, I had absolutely no idea the rosary was so rarely worn around the neck.

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Elizabeth Bunting November 3, 2010 at 2:44 pm

Saying so f****n cool is an extremely gross and rude expression, especially in front of a lady like the OP’s mother. The parents should be corrected for not teaching their son proper conduct in company – that means ANY company. Using gross language is extremely rude. It was not the 12 year old’s fault.

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Jan74 November 3, 2010 at 2:58 pm

As for people not wearing other religions’ items as decoration, may I remind everyone of the whole Buddhist prayer bead bracelet fad worn by tons of non-Buddhists, just cause Madonna wore one in a video? I still see them for sale.
There is also tons of cross-theme jewelry worn by non-Christians, cause “they are cool”. So not to excuse this little boy’s cluelessness or rudeness, but he is not alone in this.

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Lisa November 3, 2010 at 3:08 pm

To those who think the OP’s Mom was rude:

The parents sat right there while she gave him her rosary and mentioned that one prays with it, so they clearly had no problem with her giving him a religious object. If they had, they would have objected, since they clearly don’t seem like the shrinking violet type.

The parents only became upset when OP’s Mom took back the rosary from Little Pwecious. I’ll give the kid a pass but his parents are the rude ones here.

OP’s Mom clearly thought she was making a nice gesture. I don’t see this as pushing her religion on someone at all, especially since, as I said above, the parents clearly had no problem with it until it was taken away.

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badkitty November 3, 2010 at 3:24 pm

To all those who say the mom should never have given a sacred object to a child: we are called to generosity, *particularly* in matters of faith. If a child told me that she had always wanted a Bible, I would fetch one of my son’s old children’s Bibles without a moment’s thought. With the parents right there *in the room* it was their responsibility to say something if this gift was meaningless or offensive to them. If I had just handed a child a Bible and then discovered that she was going to burn it or use the pages to make paper airplanes, I would be duty-bound to take it back – period.

But I’ll go back to the issue of the item as a gift, rather than a religious object: lets say that my dog has had puppies, and some friends of relatives are visiting. Their child sees the puppies and says he’s always wanted one. The parents don’t speak up when I say that the child can have a puppy, so I think everything is fine. I’m happy to make a child happy. Now I want to make sure that the puppy will be happy with his new family, so I start to talk to the boy about feeding and grooming and exercise. The boy is confused: he never intended to *feed* the puppy – he just wants to practice with his new pellet gun, and the puppy will make a great target. This child may not have my puppy. It has not left my care, and I am well within my rights to revoke the offer. I have a duty to do so, in fact. And any “parent” who calls that rude is ignorant and permissive to a dangerous extent.

I’m sure I will be attacked for this “extreme” example, but it nevertheless perfectly accurate. She hadn’t given the thing away yet, as it had not left her presence, and she was in the process of making sure he had everything he needed to care for it and enjoy it. The fault here lies with the parents who did nothing to correct the behavior of an unforgivably bratty child.

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