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 }

lkb November 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Just reread my post and realized I accidentally edited out something, I meant to say “Pictures of the Virgin Mary covered in dung.”
One other point to bring up: As a practicing Catholic, it may well be that if the mother had not acted as she did in taking back a blessed rosary that she had reason to assume would not be handled as intended, she too would have been complicit in the grave sin of sacrilege. (After one knowingly commits a grave sin (also known as serious sin or mortal sin), a Catholic should not receive Holy Communion without confessing the sin and receiving absolution.) If one dies without having confessed a grave sin, well, um, gee…but Catholics generally believe there is a good chance that one is going to someplace quite warm. (Of course we trust in God’s mercy but we also have to do our best to avoid sin.)
So, if I were in that case, I’d guess I’d rather risk being thought rude than risking my immortal soul.
I’m also willing to bet that she realizes she should have asked for more information first, but she unthinkingly responded to what she thought was a sincere wish for a rosary. I agree with bint — “I’ve always wanted one,” would strike me as a sincere request. I know of nonCatholics who pray the Catholic rosary, she may have thought this was likely, which is why she offered the prayers.
If I were in her case, I probably would have done what Mom did.

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Amber November 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm

@lkb

I happen to be a former Catholic. Believe me, I understand how some Catholics view rosaries, what with a history of Catholic oppression being taught to me in my Catholic school. And yes, when I was younger I thought it was taboo to wear a rosary. That is, for a Catholic to wear a rosary, as Catholics view rosaries as sacred. For everyone not exposed to rosaries, I can see how they’re seen as just a set of pretty beads.

The thing is, I see nothing in this story that labels the child as ungrateful or disrespectful or snotty. (Perhaps the swearing, yes, but that’s just a potty mouth.) He acts with excitement when he receives the rosary. He acts confused when asked about praying the rosary. He laughs and says, “Oh, no, I’m not going to PRAY with it,” and puts it around his neck, thus confirming what he WILL use it for and confirming that he doesn’t really get the religious significance (and this is, remember, before the OP’s mother says it’s disrespectful to use the rosary in any other way but praying). And he’s surprised and confused when the rosary is taken from around his neck without explanation. Only after he asks why (which, I think, is an okay question) does the OP’s mother give an explanation. After that, no response from him but confusion. On top of that, he’s labelled a hoodlum by the OP’s mother for wearing what are, to him, a set of pretty beads that people sometimes pray with.

If the rosary is that sacred to the mother, she should have inquired further about its use, she shouldn’t have simply handed it over, and after the confusion she should have clarified its sacredness without snatching it away. Plenty of people make the mistake of thinking a rosary is to be worn before being shown the tenants of the faith, and plenty of reasonable Catholics have calmly explained their use without snatching them back from the ignorant with little to no explanation.

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WrenskiBaby November 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Being a devout Catholic and hearing a young person say he always wanted a rosary, OP’s mom most certainly thought the boy wanted one for prayer purposes, since that’s what a rosary is for. I’m glad she takes her faith seriously enough not to regard a rosary as jewelry or promote its misuse. Which she explained to the visiting family. There are a lot of people who would have let the boy keep the rosary to use as jewelry… he and his family would have been happy but in the OP’s mom’s world, God would have been grieved.

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Lizajane November 3, 2010 at 4:25 pm

What bothers me most is that a 12 year old boy used the f word in front of several adults and his parents didn’t correct him. Not cool.

But think about this: What if she gave him peanut brittle but then found out he’s allergic. She’d have to take it back because he might die. To a devout Catholic, what he was going to do with the rosary equalls blasphemy (or maybe heracy) which equals risk of spiritual death.

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kero November 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Whoa whoa whoa, OP’s mom is not right at all–every adult is in the wrong here! Giving a gift, and then taking it back without an explanation first? Tasteless. The kid’s mom has the right to call her rude, because it is rude to take back a gift, and geez, even more so to physically take it off a minor. Just because she took it off calmly and quietly does not mean she’s graceful or etiquette queen. This whole thing could have been avoided if Mom really understood why the kid wantd a rosary. Just because the boy said “I’ve always wanted one” doesn’t necessarily mean he does (kids say a lot of things). I understand she’s excited and wants to share her faith, but I don’t think it is right to hand off something so sacred/religious to a minor. Mom should have asked the parents, “Can you please ask your son to remove the rosary?” and then explain. Any decent parent will understand.

Mom has made a lot of assumptions, and the bit about rappers, rockstars, and gang members was rude–these people (and criminals too) can pray and be religious. I think what people wear, why they wear it, or how they pray is their own business. I believe it’s the meaning you give the object and the connection that matters most–as long as they are not desecrating the object or disrespecting the religion.

When I was 12, I had no idea what a rosary was, how it was worn, etc nor did my parents. The only thing they taught me , it was a religious item and don’t touch it (furthermore, don’t take gifts from strangers). I don’t think the kid was at fault (other than using profanity and not saying Thank You….or did he even have a chance before Mom took it off of him?) because he probably didn’t understand the significance. At the moment I think the parents thought “what a nice woman, giving a gift to my son.” But I do think they should have stepped in once she was talking about religion. And absolutely, they went overboard with the whole storming out of the room and making that phone call. A simply, “No, thank you” and “Please don’t touch my child” would have been in order.

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jenna November 3, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Mom probably gave too quickly and was a bit too harsh in the face of ignorance, but for a devout woman of 75, I can see how there would be a generational difference here. In her generation, that was a perfectly acceptable response to such disrespect for a religion. I can also see how a woman of that age would compulsively offer to give her rosary away, as from what I know this not an unusual reaction. I don’t think one would see much of this in younger folks.

The kid clearly had no idea, was spoiled, foul-mouthed and disrespectful, but he also honestly didn’t know, and being a bit kinder about the whole “teaching moment” may have helped him, rather than what it seems like it did – anger his (uncouth, immature) parents and teach him nothing except that He Is The Center of the Universe and if somebody goes against that, mom and dad will protect him. For that, I blame his parents. If I had acted that way I’d have been severely and immediately taken to task by my parents.

I am not religious (at all – I am deeply, devoutly secular) but I do think that, for the giver, religious gifts *are* of greater significance. For me they may not be but it’s not all about me.

The Buddhist prayer beads/crosses/rosaries thing came and left the area where I’m from – the thing about crosses is that they *can* be jewelry, btw, so while it’s not really right for a non-believer (like me) to wear one, it’s not a double crime of wearing something as jewelry that is not meant to be. I have several jewelry crosses because my family *is* religious (Protestant) and has given them to me. I never wear them, but they are jewelry. In these heated times of religious debate, where the arena of personal belief has become political, I don’t think many people would wear a cross if they are staunchly non-Christian anymore.

In the end I think the mother was in the right, and that family is unrepentingly (pun intended) rude. The mother could have handled it better, but that’s a much smaller crime against etiquette than how this boy acted.

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The Cat Whisperer November 3, 2010 at 6:22 pm

If I encountered a kid about whose background or education I knew nothing, and that kid said that he really wanted a rosary, my knee-jerk reaction would be to ask him “Why?”

IMO, that’s where OP’s mom went wrong. Wanting to give the kid a rosary is a nice gesture, but if you feel objects used in religious rituals should be treated with respect, then you don’t just hand them out to people if you don’t know what they want the object for. Asking this kid why he wanted a rosary would have been a perfectly reasonable, polite question, and very natural under the circumstances.

And it would have given LW’s mom the chance to politely explain to the kid that people who have been brought up in the Catholic faith are taught to treat ritual objects with deep respect, and she could have offered to explain to him the use of a rosary in the Catholic ritual and worship.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what actually transpired and who may have had the right to feel offended. But since the gist of this posting is about behaving in a respectful and reverent manner towards objects used in worship, then I think I have to say that it’s incumbent on the person who knows the proper treatment and reverence for the object to ensure that the object will be treated with reverence before handing it over to someone else. And that the etiquette with regard to respect for objects that have a religious significance attached to them supersedes etiquette with regards to being friendly. For that reason, IMO the OP’s mother should not have offered her rosary to the child before she found out why he wanted it and assuring that he would regard it with the proper respect.

Since her hand-over of the rosary was not understood by the recipient to be conditional, once she realized that he didn’t respect it properly, she was wrong to take it from him as she did. The proper etiquette would have been to tell him, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that you wanted it for a fashion statement. I thought you wanted it to use for prayer and worship. It was a mistake for me to give it to you and I apologize, but I’m going to have to ask for it back because it is hurtful for me to know it isn’t being used as it’s supposed to. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me and give it back?”

If that was said without rancor and with real humility, I don’t think anyone would have been offended, and maybe the kid would have actually given some thought to what a rosary means to the people who use it in worship.

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Kriss November 3, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Thank you Amber

“The thing is, I see nothing in this story that labels the child as ungrateful or disrespectful or snotty. (Perhaps the swearing, yes, but that’s just a potty mouth.) He acts with excitement when he receives the rosary. He acts confused when asked about praying the rosary. He laughs and says, “Oh, no, I’m not going to PRAY with it,” and puts it around his neck, thus confirming what he WILL use it for and confirming that he doesn’t really get the religious significance (and this is, remember, before the OP’s mother says it’s disrespectful to use the rosary in any other way but praying). And he’s surprised and confused when the rosary is taken from around his neck without explanation. Only after he asks why (which, I think, is an okay question) does the OP’s mother give an explanation. After that, no response from him but confusion. On top of that, he’s labelled a hoodlum by the OP’s mother for wearing what are, to him, a set of pretty beads that people sometimes pray with.”

This pretty much sums it up. OP, no disrespect but it was presumptuous of your mother to pull that kind of a stunt and then blame the child for her own rush to testify. If I were his mother I would’ve smacked him first for his mouth and then her for being so rude as to try to convert my child in front of me like I have no say in the matter. Ok, I may not have smacked her but I definitely would’ve walked out. Door slamming and all. In all your actions ask yourself “Do you see Christ in me?” I don’t see God in your mother’s actions and probably because of it I don’t see Jesus in that boy’s heart any time soon. Wait, Catholics believe in the Plan of Salvation right? I was raised bible-thumping Baptist so I have no clue.

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Pam November 3, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Sounds like one of the basic misunderstandings that is common to life and the reason manners and etitquette exist – Gracious behaviour can pave the way to peace…

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nannerdoman November 3, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I’m an e-Hellion from way back, and I understand that by the strictest rules of etiquette the OP’s mother was rude and that a gift belongs to the giftee, etc.

Having said that–

I’m an (Anglican) Catholic and a Rosarian, and I probably would have reacted the same way as the OP’s mom. When a child said he’d “always wanted” a rosary, I would assume he wanted to pray with it and might well have offered him one of mine. I would have been horrified that he meant to wear it as jewelry, and especially offended by his dropping the F bomb as a token of his appreciation. And likely I’d have simply lifted it from his neck as well.

Count me as another who’s disturbed that the parents didn’t seem to be fazed by his vulgar language. If it had been my kid, I’d have made him give a gift back on that account alone. I would certainly not have made a big scene and slammed out of the house.

If his parents are so gung-ho on the kid’s having a rosary to wear, then why don’t THEY just stop at a Catholic gift shop and get him one?

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lkb November 3, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Well put, Liza Jane.

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boxy November 3, 2010 at 7:24 pm

@badkitty – well said!

What parent allows their 12 year old to use language like that in front of a senior citizen?

Shame on the parents. Kudos to the Senior.

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lkb November 3, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Lisa: May God bless your wonderful mother. She sounds like a treasure. (And you too, for sharing her story.)
Forgive us Lord, we know not what we do.

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Sharon November 3, 2010 at 7:39 pm

@ badkitty, you actually made a good argument for those who say that the older woman should have discussed the situation with the parents first.
In no way do I think the woman intended to be rude. But, if she had taken a few minutes and discussed the situation with the child and her parents BEFORE giving the rosary, perhaps she would have learned the child was wanting the rosary to use in a way that she did not approve.
The child was rude. There are not many things on earth that are as obnoxious as a undisciplined 12 year old who has been told something they don’t want to hear.
His parents were ridiculous to react the way they did. Especially considering the age of the older woman.

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erin November 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm

@ amber, excellently put. i can certainly see how a child, more than likely having seen crosses being worn around people’s necks before would not automatically differentiate between the two. while i can completely understand why she was shocked, i truly think simply taking it off his neck was rude, irrespective of her beliefs or age.

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Merry Mrs November 3, 2010 at 11:02 pm

I actually think hearing the phrase ” I always wanted one.” and responding with an immediate gift made the gifting mother appalling rude. Yes, I can see how some people might interpret that to mean , the boy wants to pray the rosery but how could you not also interrupted it to at least possible mean the boys parents expressly forbad him to have one. If you think this child is expressing a long standing unfulfilled desire to pray don’t you also think are his parents have forbidded praying perhaps that’s why he has always wanted and never received?

I am catholic and would have been furious at OP’s mother. How dare she give my child a religious article and offer to instruct him how to pray without checking with me. I also would have instructed my child to return any item of religious signifiganceif he planed to use it as a fashion accessory but I would have been mortally offended that the gift of this nature was given without my consent.

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Skoffin November 3, 2010 at 11:13 pm

The boy didn’t know what he did was insulting, his confusing at why it was taken back is understandable.

I don’t think the mother was that rude. She made an assumption as to his intentions, an easy mistake to make. If I am used to seeing something one way and then I hear someone talking about it, I naturally go to the default assumption that they are thinking about it in terms I know for it.
It sounds as if the boy was putting it on as she was asking him about it, once realising the mistake she has made then going to take it back. Sure the standard is that it’s rude to take something back, but it’s not easy watching someone insult your beliefs right in front of you.

As for her discussing religion anyway, while blatantly trying to convert others is wrong I don’t see why there needs to be such a stigma with talking to children about religion. The boy expressed interest in an aspect of the religion, the mother enquired further on it and discussed it. The parents clearly didn’t have much concern for that as the moment she talked on the subject they could have easily shut the topic down.

Whether you believe the mother to be rude or not, the parents were the worst offenders here. Slamming doors? Not only in someone elses house, but not even the house of ‘the guilty party’? Their solution is to have a tantrum with a third parties property. There was no reason for them to be rude to their hosts.

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Charliebug November 4, 2010 at 12:38 am

Regardless of the parents or childs religious convictions I believe the giver of this particular gift (being of a religious nature) was absolutely within her rights to take it back when she realized the child did not regard it in the nature it was given. I am not Catholic nor religious but I do believe that such gifts should be regarded as sacred. When the giver realized it was going to be regarded as “jewellery” per se she took it back. I don’t see anything etiquettely wrong with this at all. Lil Johnny doesn’t get to play with a Rosary.

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anon November 4, 2010 at 1:04 am

I know I am chiming in a little late but after reading all the comments I am kind of shocked by the reactions to the mothers behavior.

I am a semi-practicing Roman Catholic family, I spent six months in Italy and have an extremely devout grandmother who prays with her rosary more in one day then I ever have in my life (at least since being confirmed). I have never once seen anyone wear a rosary as jewelery, so while I agree that to a point the mother was rude I can also imagine my grandmother behaving in the same way as the mother. It was made very clear in my CCD classes that religious items such as rosaries, statues etc should be treated with all respect. So while I would have handled the situation differently I don’t really think the reaction was wrong.

I bought rosaries for all my relatives while I was in Italy and all of them were blessed by the pope-and none of them would even consider wearing them around.

I do not think there is anything wrong with non-religious people wearing the large (tacky) gold crosses but to where something like a rosary around ones neck just seems very wrong.

Also having worked with practicing Muslims recently I know that some of them treat there prayer beads differently but I never once saw any of them wearing the beads around, though I did get to see some of the prayer beads made, I imagine if they saw someone wearing there beads they would feel the same way as the mother in this story. Just because a child is not familiar with the religious sentiment something holds does not mean it is okay for them to disregard said sentiment. As soon as the child realized what he was asking for was unacceptable he should have offered them back, and his parents should have a little more control over him, had I ever done something like this in a strangers house towards their family I would have been punished so badly my mother would have needed to go to confession.

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Maryann November 4, 2010 at 1:11 am

Please excuse the politically correct term, but this is “Indian giving.” While I understand she had an expectation of how her gift would be used, it’s not up to anyone to dictate that after the fact. When you give a gift, it is for the recipient to use it how they see fit. If they use it in a way with which one doesn’t agree, the correct response is no more gifts. If you have stipulations as to how something should be used, you say so first. Taking it back? Basically tantamount to stealing. Further, the gifter was plainly aware of some of the uses of the rosary that she finds offensive, so she can’t plead ignorance. And plainly the other family is not Catholic (or the boy would have had a rosary), so expecting the boy to pray the rosary, possibly against his parent’s wishes, was also not acceptable. The family reacted perhaps too strongly, but they were right that the OP’s mother’s actions were out of line.

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Maryann November 4, 2010 at 1:22 am

Urg! I mean politically incorrect term.

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Elizabeth Bunting November 4, 2010 at 3:57 am

I don’t know why we are describing this little scene which might have taken less than 3 minutes as though it were a well-choreographed dance like Alice in Wonderland’s “Will you walk a little faster said the whiting to the snail, etc.” All the participants COULD have done something different had they been rehearsed.

The OP is quite right in defending her mother. She was giving a little boy something that he wanted when she overheard him say it. When he said he wanted a rosary, she naturally wanted to explain it to him. She did not deserve to receive foul language out of his mouth. The old-fashioned bar of soap inside the mouth is the consequence that comes to mind. As to accusing the woman of proselytizing and teaching another religion, that is completely OTT. Most religions teach kindness and graciousness and some even teach respect for elders. The parents of that child would be immune to any such teachings if the description of their child-rearing and subsequent conduct is accurate.

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RMMuir November 4, 2010 at 7:25 am

@Kriss,,
“If I were his mother I would’ve smacked him first for his mouth and then her for being so rude as to try to convert my child in front of me like I have no say in the matter. ”

I don’t think it says anywhere she was trying to convert the child, merely explaining why she couldn’t give the gift: “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.
… 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.”

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harry November 4, 2010 at 7:38 am

As a practising atheist can I just say that the mother was absolutely right.

She very kindly gave the rosary to the boy in the expectation that it would be used for its intended purpose and was understandably shocked to see it disrespected in such a way.

People of all faiths and people of none should all follow one simple rule.-
Respect other people’s religious beliefs but keep your own to yourself.

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JS November 4, 2010 at 8:21 am

@badkitty–your religion may call you to be generous in matters of faith, but I think that OP’s mom was quite ungenerous in this situation. There was a clear and understandable misunderstanding between her and the boy, which was due to her failure to communicate at the outset, and rather than be understanding about the miscommunication, she behaved rudely by retrieving the rosary without explanation. Put another way, if her goal was to display Catholicism to this boy in a positive light, I’m thinking she missed that opportunity.

Again–I’m NOT saying she didn’t have the right to take the rosary back. Your puppy analogy in fact is not accurate (because no reasonable person could think a puppy is for shooting, while this thread alone demonstrates that it would be reasonable to think a rosary could be used as jewelry) but given its sacred significance to the mom, she had the right to ask for the rosary back. To ASK, with humility. And the son should’ve given it over immediately, and if not, the parents should’ve stepped in.

But assuming that everyone, including a 12-year-old boy, should immediately understand the value that each individual Catholic places on a rosary, and labeling the boy as “unforgivably bratty” for not reading OP’s mom’s mind on this topic? Nope.

Now, if your faith, or the mom’s faith, leads you to conclude that the right thing to do would be to grab the rosary back, by any means necessary, with no explanation, tackling innocent bystanders, etc., then that’s your faith and your choice. But that doesn’t mean it’s not rude.

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Amber November 4, 2010 at 8:52 am

@ Skoffin, you nailed it. I think the mother made more assumptions than she should have, and I think it’s unfair that the boy is automatically labelled a snot because 1.) he swore and 2.) he was ignorant of what is considered a holy item, but I can positively agree that the real offending party was the boy’s mother. With a cooler head she could have made her views clear without storming out, or calling the cousin to harrass him about his relative (aunt?). WAY over dramatic for a situation that boils down to a miscommunication and a misunderstanding. With a few gently probing questions, she could have learned why the mother took the rosary back in depth, and the boy could have learned a lesson about what things some people and religions consider sacred. What a missed opportunity.

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Lizajane November 4, 2010 at 9:00 am

IKB,

Thank you very much.

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Griffin November 4, 2010 at 9:11 am

OP’s mom was rude. She gave a gift, and then didn’t like how the gift was going to be used, so forcibly took back the gift. Once a gift is given, the giver has no right to dictate to the giftee how the gift should be used. Just because it’s a religious symbol does not mean it’s exempt from this basic etiquette rule.

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Amber November 4, 2010 at 9:25 am

I will make one more comment on the subject, and I’ll be done. I am still baffled at the comments directed towards the boy, i.e. calling him a brat or a snot or ungrateful or any of a number of names.

I think people are blinded by the fact that he swore. Yes, swearing is in bad taste (to many, anyway — there are plenty of perfectly nice and polite people out there who are unfazed by the words we’ve deemed unacceptable). But swearing does not a snot make.

And the WAY he swore is telling. “Sofa King Cool!” he said. “Everyone is wearing one.” He swore in delight, in praise of the perceived gift. He was not denouncing it, the word was not directed toward anyone. Not the best choice of words, no. But I wonder if there’d be the same uproar if he had said “This is so awesome!” (the obvious meaning of the swearing phrase) instead. Insert Awesome instead, and you can see that there’s little at fault with the boy’s reaction.

Also, people seem to assume that the boy knew at some level that he was desecrating the rosary by wearing it. He’s a twelve year old boy. If he had little to no religious upbringing, or even a religious upbringing that wasn’t Catholic, chances are at this point in his life he has not been exposed to other faiths or their expectations. Where on earth would he have picked up that this set of beads was more sacred than any other set if never exposed before except as jewellery that “everybody wears?” How does the very brief explanation he received before he put the beads around his neck somehow make him knowledgeable enough to know better? How does ignorance equal being a brat?

Finally, the boy was not the one who stormed out. He sat there in confusion when his mom took over and overreacted. The boy’s reaction was not that of the mother’s. It’s not fair to lump them together.

In conclusion, the boy had little fault in this scenario. He was ignorant, yes. He swore gleefully, yes. But he didn’t demand the rosary, he didn’t demand it back, he didn’t throw a fuss when it was taken away after an explanation was given (and I think his question was valid, when he obviously didn’t know why it was taken back or what he did wrong). Leave the boy out of the equation. Ignorance is forgiven in etiquette, particularly in one so young.

And frankly, a twelve year old boy would probably be fanTAStically embarrassed by the whole situation. “Oh, man, I put the rosary around my head and the lady got mad and then took it back and said I was a gang member then my mom got mad and pushed me out of the house and yelled I just wanted to disappear and I wish I never said anything about any rosaries ever.” Lesson learned, somewhat :D

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Cat November 4, 2010 at 9:55 am

This brings up something I did back in 1973. I was a young teacher in a public high school and the “style” then was for the African American boys to wear a double-edged razor blade on a chain around their necks. We were still having race riots in high schools and it bothered me that someone could eventually get hurt if the razor blade stopped being decor and was turned into a weapon. Rather than turning into critical parent (you kids have no business wearing a razor blade; you could put your eye out!), I told my world history classes about the growth of the cult of saints in the Middle Ages and it’s subsequent role in the Protestant Reformation. I gave St. Martin de Porres as a black saint from South America, Charles Luwanga as one from Africa, Paul Miki from Japan, etc. to explain that not all saints were of one race. We stressed that sort of thing in the ’70′s as history books were usually only about Europeans.

One of my male students was very taken with Martin de Porres and I mentioned him to my priest. Father gave me a blessed St. Martin de Porres medal to give to him. The razor blade came off and the medal went on. Being a very popular person, his wearing the medal spread the idea to his friends, male and female, so that most African-American students had a four way medal, an Immaculate Heart of Mary medal, St. Christopher, whatever. No more razor blades.

Nothing was said by any administrator or parent though one teacher mentioned that we seemed to have turned into a black Catholic high school. I said nothing. To me it was better than razor blades. It has just occurred to me that perhaps I encouraged the use of religious medals as decor. After thirty-six years, whoops!

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Lizajane November 4, 2010 at 9:58 am

Louise,

Hammers, dictionaries and mixing bowls are not sacred objects, to any religion or any one as far as I know.

“Religious duty doesn’t excuse you from rudeness.” Your opinion. My opinion is that sometimes it might.

Badkitty,

Excellent analogy with the puppies.

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Louise November 4, 2010 at 10:09 am

@badkitty

“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.”
– So you would be fine if a child’s parents said, “Yeah, give him the Bible, it’s meaningless anyway”? I think anyone who says that about a gift is very rude! Also, do you give strange children everything they want without clearing it with the parents first? I think that if the parents are “right there *in the room*” it’s YOUR responsibility to clear it with them.

The analogy with the puppy is neither exact nor perfect. No one suffers or dies if the rosary is misused. It may pain the person who gave it, and that person might believe it pains God, but — and I don’t say this to offend any believers but in the interests of pointing out a fact — that’s subjective. Puppies’ lives aren’t subjective.

Mom had given away the rosary. The boy had it around his neck. She physically removed it from him. If I give you a birthday present and then at the end of the party decide to take it back, I am rude. If I physically remove it from you, I’m even ruder. It doesn’t matter whether the gift has left my presence; once I give it to you, it’s yours.

Your belief that you are duty-bound by your faith to spread its icons does not trump etiquette. It is rude to give someone a gift and then take it back because they aren’t going to use it the way you want them to.

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Louise November 4, 2010 at 10:20 am

“What if she gave him peanut brittle but then found out he’s allergic. She’d have to take it back because he might die. To a devout Catholic, what he was going to do with the rosary equalls blasphemy (or maybe heracy) which equals risk of spiritual death.”

I can guarantee you that if we were talking about peanut brittle, everyone here would be saying, “She should have checked with the parents! You never give a child food without checking with the parents!” Interesting that when it comes to religious icons, the idea of checking with the parents flies out the window because people are duty-bound to spread their faith.

Before I put myself or others at risk of death, spiritual or otherwise, I check to make sure all the safety measures are in place: Everyone is wearing a seatbelt, the burners on the stove are off, and the person to whom I want to give a sacred object understands its significance before I actually give it.

The difference between the OP’s story and giving someone who is allergic to peanuts some peanut brittle is that in the second instance the harm is objective and in the first, it isn’t. You can snatch the peanut brittle away and say it’s not rude because safety trumps etiquette (although it’s rude to give children food without checking with their parents), but that doesn’t extend to safety of the soul.

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TulipWorthy November 4, 2010 at 10:44 am

I think the OP’s mom was the rude one here. She gave a gift and then rudely took it back. If the gift was so precious to her, then she should not have given it away.

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Goldie November 4, 2010 at 10:59 am

Interesting that someone used the puppy analogy – I thought of it as soon as I read the original post. But Louise does make a good point, blasphemy is not the same thing as animal cruelty. It’s rather kind of like this. Say, I have framed photographs of my mother, or of my children, set around my house. A family comes to visit, and their preteen child admires a photo and wants a copy so badly that I scan it, or run it through a copier, and give him one. He’s happy as can be. Then I find out he wants to use my mother’s portrait for target practice, or, I don’t know, submit my daughter’s photo to a child p()rn site. No one would actually physically suffer if he does that, yet it’s really really low and he cannot have this photo for those purposes, and no I will not be rude even if I have to pry it from his resistant hands. This, in my understanding, is what blasphemy feels like to a religious person. I am not religious, but I used to be, so I have a pretty clear idea about this.

In the original story, I’d say the boy had no idea what he’d done wrong, and every one of the adults dropped the ball on that one. The OP’s mother, by not asking what the boy needed the rosary for (seriously, who in this day and age assumes that a 12yo kid has an uncontrollable urge to pray the rosary? has anyone ever seen this actually happen? it must be a very rare occasion and I would definitely ask the kid first to make sure that is indeed the case.) And the parents, for throwing a tantrum instead of apologizing to the OP’s mom and explaining the situation to their kid.

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Lizajane November 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

“but that doesn’t extend to safety of the soul.” Again, your opinion. Many devout people would rather risk earthly death than spiritual.

And yes, she should have asked first, but she didn’t. She made a mistake and felt very strongly that she had to rectify it. Most of us do make mistakes sometimes.

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AS November 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

This seems to be a huge case of misunderstanding and does not seem to me that the adults handled it as gracefully as they could have.
The way people of different cultures see things is different, and it seems that everyone involved over-reacted to it.
First of all, when the boy said he “always” wanted a rosary, I too did not think it was necessarily for praying (BTW, I had thought that rosaries do not need to have a cross until I googled it). So, I disagree with the comments earlier that it seemed obvious. It does seem obvious to someone who knows the religion. But others (like me, I am not even a Christian), it is not that obvious. Also, I remember when I was young, I used to think it is a nice chain to wear, so even if the boy has seen people wear it, it is not necessary he knows the significance.

The boy’s tone with OP’s mom seemed a little carefree-type “I-am-a-cool-dude” type; but he’s a 12 year old. Also, his questions about praying and “laughing” when saying that he wants to wear it around his neck might have been just ignorant reactions, and does not seem bad to someone to whom rosaries are not religious. (I don’t know what “sofa king cool” mean though). The boy was a little rude, but more ignorant and behaving as a 12-year old.

OP’s mother said “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.” This is in a way automatically calling the boy names; and what if they boy is from the “other cultures”? This sounds like lot of my friends mocking Hindu’s idol worshipping on my face! I am not religious, but I don’t like people mocking my culture. (Also, rappers and rock stars traditionally have a stereotype associated with them; but the profession is just another profession where they need talent, and equating that to gangsters is, in my opinion, rude too. But I digress). As other people said, a calm explanation of the misunderstanding could have saved a lot of drama. I can see OP’s mother’s excitement of a child wanting to be adopting her faith. I can even see her not wanting her rosary to be misused. But again, as other people commented, I’d not like someone trying to have a religious item to my 12 year old kid, which is in a way indoctrinating him/her without my permission.

Now coming to the boy’s parents – they should have interfered at some point and nicely explained to the boy to be sensitive to other people’s religion apologized for the error. It seemed as if a lot of things were just going on at that point, and they just didn’t get a chance to interfere at the right point (also, there is no indication as to whether they knew the Catholic custom about rosary or not; if they didn’t know, they’d be just as confused as the boy). When I was 12, parents would have interfered right away had I been in this case. Their storming out of the house was an overreaction. On the other hand, their son was just equated to a gangster by another guest at a house they were visiting. I can see reason for them to be offended.

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AS November 4, 2010 at 11:27 am

Adding to my comment above -
I don’t think OP’s mother should let the child have something that is so sacred to her which he’ll not be using for religious purposes, even if it was a “gift”. But the point I was making is that it could have been handled better.

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JS November 4, 2010 at 11:39 am

@Goldie–but would you ask for it back first, before ripping the picture out of the recipient’s hands?

@Lizajane–again, that is your choice to behave rudely to avoid risking spiritual injury. But it doesn’t make the behavior not rude, because it is just your opinion. And I think there were absolutely ways to rectify her mistake that weren’t rude. I don’t know why she didn’t try them first. But she’s not rude because she made a mistake. It was how she chose to fix it that was rude.

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zimi61 November 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Wow. I feel old fashioned saying this (mostly cause I’m not that old yet) but what happened to personal responsibility? This kid is 12. 12!

That is plenty old enough to understand that when your actions have offended someone, intentionally or not, you apologize. I don’t care that his parents were there. If he is old enough to decide what he can order off a menu, he is old enough to know what sort of religious ideas his parents might follow, which may be something or nothing. Excusing him from his behavior because the mom didn’t ask them only enforces the idea that he can’t handle himself in anyway and needs his parents for EVERYTHING. START CUTTING THE CORD! When is he supposed to learn how to grow up if he’s not allowed to learn from his own choices/actions and societies mores in the process of doing so?

Also, I strongly disagree that retrieving a religious gift intended to be used in a sacrilegious way is worse than knowingly letting that gift be used in a way that is directly offensive to the meaning of said gift. There are exceptions to every rule, this is it. Someone giving a toaster only meant for toast who is upset by the receiver using it for waffles is out of line to take it back. A roasary, q’uran, star of david, or whatever religious symbol has more meaning than a toaster, and part of participating in a society that supports religion is that you maintain a respect for it even if you don’t believe in it.

All this kid should have done after the mom took back the rosary was say”Sorry, I didn’t know.” I’m sure the mom would have easily accepted the apology and maybe even apologized herself for insinuating the kid was of a criminal sort.

I would say I’m agnostic at best, but I always take full responsibility for my actions, whatever the situation may be. These ideas that this 12 year old has an excuse for acting how he did only enforce why we as a society let people get away with so much rotten behavior. Just because he didn’t know what he was doing was wrong doesn’t mean it was ok. Maybe the mom should have been more clear with her intentions, but as it has been mentioned this was not a choreographed event. We don’t always make the best decisions possible in the moment. Hindsight almost always says we should have done it differently.

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LovleAnjel November 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm

re: the Boy “always wanting” a rosary. I received at least 3 rosaries as First Communion gifts. If the boy were Catholic, likely he would have gotten one as well. It sounds more like what kids say when they really want something – “always wanted” really means “want it really badly right now”.

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Lizajane November 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Goldie,

But the OPs mother DOES believe that someone could physically suffer from this. I would venture to guess she believes in eternal damnation and that is suffering.

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Louise November 4, 2010 at 1:37 pm

@ Lizajane

“Hammers, dictionaries and mixing bowls are not sacred objects, to any religion or any one as far as I know.”
– You missed the point I was making, which is it is not acceptable to take back a gift just because it is not being used to your standards. That applies to hammers, dictionaries, mixing bowls and, yes, rosaries. It is irrelevant that rosaries are sacred to you. For all you know, it pains me to see someone use a dictionary incorrectly, but that doesn’t mean I get to take away the dictionary I so freely gave. It is rude to attach strings to a gift after you give it, and it is rude to physically remove a gift from someone’s person. That’s not “my opinion,” that’s what etiquette says. Find me a respectable source that says otherwise (religious sources don’t count).

Also, if giving a rosary to someone who misuses it comes with the penalty of eternal damnation, all the more reason to check beforehand why a 12-year-old whom you have never met wants a rosary. If my soul is that important to me, I wouldn’t blithely risk it, nor would I call putting it at such risk a mere “mistake.” If it’s so important to mom to get the rosary back, she could have asked for it politely, appealing the parents for help. Would that guarantee she gets the rosary back? No. But that’s what happens when you cheerfully risk your soul. It doesn’t give you the right to physically take the item you gave back.

If an insane person with a gun came up to me and said, “I’m either going to wear this rosary or shoot this puppy. Tell me what to do,” I’d tell him to wear the rosary in a heartbeat. For those of you believe they are equal acts, well, I think that’s shocking.

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lkb November 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I have one last set of comments and then I’m done.
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.)
2. Sorry Amber, but people are judged by the words they use. The phrase used (sounds like “sofa king” (clever disguise by the way OP)) is very offensive to many (especially the elderly like the mother in the OP) and especially when coming out of the mouth of a 12-year-old boy. May I suggest to those who think the phrase is okay, try saying it to your boss, your parents, your grandparents, a religious leader, a police officer, your job interviewer etc. Keep saying it — let’s see how far you get.
3. The boy also said, “I don’t want to pray it. (laughing)”. Having been around my share of 12-year-old boys, I can imagine this came with a sneer or a “yeah! Right!” snort. Thus I envision he was rather dismissive of the gift anyway. At that point the mom realized that she erred and that a holy object was likely to be desecrated. In the heat of the moment, she was mainly concerned with the object’s safety from sacrilege. Perhaps she should have asked nicely. But to her this was an emergency. “Umm, please, mister, would you mind very much if you called, the fire department? The wall behind you is caving in.” or “Fire!”
Thanks Lizajane.

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Jillybean November 4, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Not sure anyone has said this or not yet (haven’t read through all of the comments, but most), but a twelve year old saying, “I’ve *always* wanted one” is the equivalent of saying, “I’ve wanted one since last week when I saw Timmy Thompson wearing one.” It’s roughly the same as when people say, “There were *literally* a hundred people there,” when it was actually 20.

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Louise November 4, 2010 at 1:55 pm

@Goldie

“Say, I have framed photographs of my mother, or of my children, set around my house. A family comes to visit, and their preteen child admires a photo and wants a copy so badly that I scan it, or run it through a copier, and give him one. He’s happy as can be. Then I find out he wants to use my mother’s portrait for target practice, or, I don’t know, submit my daughter’s photo to a child p()rn site. No one would actually physically suffer if he does that, yet it’s really really low and he cannot have this photo for those purposes, and no I will not be rude even if I have to pry it from his resistant hands.”

The child pr0n analogy doesn’t work for me because child pr0n is illegal, which the wearing of the rosary is not. But I really like the shooting analogy, which I think is much better than the killing-the-puppy analogy. If someone said they were going to use my mother’s photo for target practice, I too would snatch the photo back. But that would make me rude, because I did give the photo away freely and I should have asked why a child I had never met before wanted a picture of my mother. I may feel my rudeness is justified, but etiquettely speaking, I was rude.

Now, if someone is using a photo of someone else’s mom for target practice, I think that’s weird and disrespectful, but I wouldn’t snatch the photo away from them.

To me, the rosary is no different than the photo of someone else’s mom. I understand that to others, it’s like a photo of their own mom. But the etiquette standard is the same: If you give someone a gift, it’s theirs to do with as they please, regardless of your approval. If our personal feelings were allowed to trump etiquette, there would be no etiquette.

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badkitty November 4, 2010 at 2:06 pm

I don’t understand how so many people on here are saying that she should have checked with the parents. The parents were sitting **right there** and could have pointed out at any time that they did not think this was an appropriate gift. I would have assumed that if he always wanted one and still didn’t have it, it was because they can be (not always but can be) quite expensive, and maybe the parents are not in a position to do this for him right now. I would not have assumed that the parents sat there like lumps because they are not Catholic and do not want their child to have this thing, and I would not have assumed that he didn’t know what it was for if he called it a rosary. If he had called it a necklace or a cross or a chain or anything else like that, I would have questioned it. But knowing the name kind of implies that you understand that there is some significance.

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the Not-so-Divine-Miss-M November 4, 2010 at 2:15 pm

I’m with Goldie on this one, imo all adults in the scenario dropped the ball.
The kid acted as kids act; he wants something, and is happy when it is given. If he is unaware of the religious significance or holiness of an object, it’s his parents’ responsibility and fault, not his. They should have understood OP’s mother and told their son to give the rosary back, because it is holds a significance for the giver, that the recipient does not understand and cannot match.
However, the giver should have asked the child for his reasons for wanting a rosary, instead of immediately giving it away under the assumption that the child wants to pray with it. I have to agree with other posters, that it’s as important to check for food allergies before giving children food, as it is to check for religious “allergies” (I mean affiliation) before giving away a religious item with the intention that it be used for its religious purpose.
If nothing else, the giver should have asked instead of assuming that the child’s reasons for wanting a rosary was religious (and by extension: if the child did want it for religious reasons, had his parents not given him one? And then further: if they hadn’t given him a rosary even though he wanted it for religious purposes, is it not their right, as parents, to decide what direction his spiritual life should take?).
Oh, but I do fault the child for having a potty mouth.

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Simone November 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm

@ Goldie – well put. I love your analogy.

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Aspgirl November 4, 2010 at 4:14 pm

I know this is sort of off-topic, but I have to ask…

LizaJane and lkb, the idea that a person is justified in being rude if it means saving someone’s soul is, to me, disturbing, to say the least. I have no doubt that there are deeply concerned Christians/Muslims/etc. who would consider my little brother’s deeply necessary medication as a risk to his eternal salvation. Does that make it okay for them to withhold it from him? If not, why not? Where do you draw the line?

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