Friday, July 24, 2015

The rosary and the ties that bind

There is some religion in my new book.  I hope it isn't an obnoxious amount.  Because the main character spends the whole story facing the issue of her own mortality (spoiler alert?), it seemed only natural to me that issues of faith and spirituality would surface from time to time.  My protagonist, like most of us, wants very badly to believe that her life has a purpose and that God will protect her, even as she doubts God's existence and benevolence.

I'm a Presbyterian these days, but I grew up Roman Catholic.  And not just a little bit Catholic: I went to Catholic school K through 12.  I taught Sunday school and sang every week at mass.  There are many aspects of Catholicism that I still miss, even though I left the Church for what I think are good reasons. My Catholic upbringing certainly still affects my spiritual outlook. One of the things I still miss and that continues to have an important influence on me and my writing is the rosary.

My first Holy Communion

Protestants tend to frown on the rosary.  The think it's about worshiping Mary, which it isn't, not exactly.  Catholics do revere Mary as the Mother of God.  We ask her to pray for us.  The rosary is part of the rhythm of life when you are Catholic.  When times are tough, there's a rosary in your pocket to remind you that God is with you.  There is a meditative quality about praying the rosary that is largely absent in a mainstream Protestant spiritual life.  The beads add to the centering quality of the ritual: the feel of them, the noise of them clacking against one another, the counting of the repeated prayers. It also fills the need many of us feel for a more feminine spiritual presence in a religion dominated by male authority and male imagery.

Rosaries on my childhood bed

In my new novel, She Dies at the End, the main character, November, carries a rosary that belonged to her grandmother.  She doesn't consider herself particularly religious, and she feels a lot of anger toward God, but she still carries it in her pocket.  It is her touchstone, a tangible symbol of love and family as well as spirituality.

There is one scene in which November, in a moment of extreme desperation, uses the rosary as a weapon.  It occurs to me that some of my readers might find that episode troubling or offensive, and I want to assure you that was not my intention.  Rather, I meant it to be a physical manifestation of the spiritual armor many of us who are religious need in order to withstand the slings and arrows of our lives.  You know, like one of those metaphor type deals.  Yeah, I'm pretty deep.  It's okay if I'm blowing your mind.

Moreover, the story of Mary is the ultimate example of a strong woman who accepts a heavy burden for the good of the human race, much like other heroes both fictional and historical.  Then there's the motherhood aspect of the Blessed Mother: November has lost her earthly mother, but she can still turn to a spiritual mother in her moments of distress.

None of us will get into a fight to the death with a super-powered fairy in a gas station bathroom (well, I certainly hope not), but we all have moments of desperation, and when they hit, I still find myself saying a Hail Mary or clutching a rosary.  It seemed fitting that November would do the same.

Read my book! She Dies at the End, available exclusively on Amazon Kindle.

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