When I was a child, being brought full swing into Catholicism and groomed for the holy life by my grandmothers, I spent an abnormal amount of time in church. By choice. It is unheard of for a young child to want to go to church, and to volunteer at all opportunities to do so, but for a young nun, this is a must. The earliest sign that a girl might be headed for the convent is a sincere desire to attend mass, and say the rosary, as often as possible. I said the rosary, voluntarily, as often as I could, in churches, in cars, in beds, from the frigid north to the swampy south, and back. While my siblings and cousins would try everything they could to get out of church and out of saying the rosary, like pretending to sleep (that was the most common one) and hiding away in a closet (not so common, but maybe you know about that one, Readrrr); I, by contrast, would force myself to stay awake and force myself out of bed just to be able to say it.
Why would a young girl feel such a compulsion to say the rosary? The short answer is that the crushing guilt of not doing so, and (therefore) the relief of doing so, were all the motivation I needed. I wanted to be good in the eyes of God. I wanted to be accepted and I wanted to belong. I also did not want to die; eternal life was more appealing. The long answer is one I already mentioned: it is a divine sign of a calling for a life spent serving God and the church. In my case, this turned out to be “serving God and the church as a probationary nun spy,” but most of the nuns are simply led to a cloistered life without delving too deeply the reasons.
In the case of the nuns, the term “cloistered” doesn’t quite do the situation justice, however. Yes, the nuns are sheltered from the outside world to a criminal extent, but they are not prevented from developing their own world, their own culture. And that, they do.
The other dimension of my calling was rooted in sorrow. I, early on, had a sense that I was a budding Sistrrr of Perpetual Sorrow. Full of the fire of life and drenched in the tragedy of it enough to be likened to the Niagara Falls. This is my nature, as reflected in my name, Jessica, which contains the word “sic(k)” in it. My name, Biblical and Shakespearean, reflects my very nature: sick. Sick with sorrow. But the Catholics see the spiritual gift of sickness (i.e., empathy for others) as a divine gift, so while I’m perpetually sad about everything, I’m not too sad about it. This sadness, paired with a painfully active and deep conscience, led me to need relief, and I found it as well as solace in the act of praying. Particularly in praying the rosary, anywhere and everywhere– at the altar, on the kneeler, on the pew, on the way to Disney World in the back of Lincolns and Cadillacs, in the line to ride Space Mountain, while traveling at the speed of light in the back of a space ship. You get the idea.
But do you know how to say the rosary? Readrrr, it’s time you learned.
I will let you in on a secret; I will let you in on Sistrrr Rosalita’s Top Secret Rosary Guide (I found it in the garden at the Friary Priory, buried under a perfectly pruned rose bush and a statue of The Virgin Mother crying tears of rosebuds). You can try to follow the guide with friends, but if you enjoy saying the rosary, I don’t really expect you have any. It’s okay that all your friends are douche bags, Readrrr; that’s why the rosary is there. It, like me, is there to be your best and true friend. All right? Good. Now do as Rosalita says and:
1 – Obain the biggest, flashiest, gaudiest rosary you can find. Preferably one from a well-respected local jeweler that deals in restoring giant, honking rosaries that were passed down through generation after generation of old annoying, ugly, alcoholic mothers. Be sure it is one you would never pick out yourself, one you would never want to wear, one that screams “I am the ancient chattel of the church.” Be sure it is one that has a big, annoying rock (read: diamond) (read: a nun’s best enemy), and be sure it is one with a lot of angles that will scratch you and those around you. The best way to obtain one such rosary is to get a wealthy priest to give it to you. Act like you want it, make him feel special. Get the rosary.
2 – Take the ring-around-the-rosary to the church cellar. Place it on a hard surface, such as the cement or a wooden block, and, holding a mallet with the delight and abandon of Julia Child, smash the rosary to bits. Yes. Smash it, Readrrr. Smash the hell out of it (trust me, Readrrr, it will make you feel like you’re in Heaven). Shatter it into a thousand broken pieces. Bash it into oblivion.
3 – Once the rosary is in smithereens, take it to an honest crafts-person, someone jolly and gay who loves rainbows and is in the business of making beautiful, colorful stained-glass creations, and ask that person to create a mosaic of a lighthouse for you. Then take a beading class taught by one of the nuns, and make your own rosary out of wooden beads made from the ruins of an old church in Rome. Not too hard, right, Readrrr? Once you do this, you’re ready for your next step.
4 – Find a raised platform in a public square and set a wooden crate upon it. Then, set an oak barrel upside down upon the wooden crate. And stand upon the barrel, wearing only your wimple and holding only your rosary close to your bleeding heart. Begin reciting quotes by Oscar Wilde but mis-attribute them to “a wise old lady” and then inform any gathering spectators that you’re “just joking.” Good one, Readrrr!
5 – Call forth The Little Match Girl (“Will the Little Match Girl please stand up?”), and if and when she comes, sing “Light My Fire” in your best Elvis impersonation.
6 – Allow the girl to set you on fire, in the public square, while a choir of eunuch monks hum “Let it be” in the distance.
7 – Holding The Little Match Girl hostage in front of you while you are tied to a cross whose base is being doused with gasoline, say the rosary from start to finish, in French, calmly and beatifically, starting with the Apostles Creed. Say the Our Fathrrr and the three Hail Marrrys and the Glory Be togethrrr, in perfect harrrmony.
8 – Ask someone to get the two of you a fireproof two-person space suit. Like Houdini, climb with The Little Match Girl inside the suit, unbeknownst to the gas squirters, and proceed to announce, in private, the First Mystery, followed by a bossa novian Our Fathrrr.
9 – Say ten Hail Marrrys, while meditating on the mystery, followed by another Glory Be.
10 – Announce the second through fifth mysteries, following the structure just mentioned and saying the Prayer of the Blessed Virrrgin (Ya Woolf!) after each decade of beads/HMs.
11 – Finally, on your knees in the fireproof suit, with flames all around you, cry in ecstasy the Hail, Holy Queen, which begins:
HAIL, HOLY QUEEN, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope! To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!…
12 – Finish it. Feel it. Release all barriers. Let it send shivers through your body. Let it shake you to the core. Die. Come back to life. Say, “I’m melting, I’m melting.” Cry it. Release it. Repeat. Give it up to god, unzip the suit, step out of the ring of fire, have a lake-water throwdown until the fire goes out, and then call it a day. Walk back to the convent and act like it never happened.
And there you have it. Rosalita’s Rosary Guide to Sal-i-vation!
Warning: If you don’t follow Sistrrr Rosalita’s 100% Salvation Guaranteed Guide to the Rosary, step by step, I’m afraid there’s just no hope for you. But if you follow this guide, to a TEA, Readrrr, The Holy Spirit will be with you and you CAN get yourself out of any situation and achieve salivation(<—!). Follow the steps as often as you like; the important thing is to make sure you do it at least once in your lifetime!
Until then, I’ll be waiting in The Rose Garden of Perpetual Inpatients, Impatiens, and Impatience.