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Book Review: Who said the rosary couldn’t be fun?

Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers by Patricia Ann Kasten. (Our Sunday Visitor, $9.95)

By Sister Jean Peerenboom

Anyone who can link Lady Godiva and the rosary deserves a second look I thought as I picked up Linking Your Beads, by Patricia Ann Kasten.

Without giving away too much of the story, I can assure you that Lady Godiva keeps her clothes on for this one. Her link to the history of the rosary is just one of the hundreds of tidbits that can be gleaned from this entertaining, yet highly informative, book.

Kasten offers an excellent primer on the rosary’s history, development and meditation. If I return to teaching religious education, it will be on my book shelf with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bible.

Kasten, who writes for The Compass and other Catholic outlets, proves she’s a talented writer, knowledgeable about Scripture and Catholic teaching, and has a great sense of humor.

The rosary, she tells us, “began as 150 pebbles sitting in a bowl in a monk’s hut in the desert. And those pebbles, though transformed into a bead rosary today, still give us an idea of what meditative prayer is all about in the church tradition.”

She continues, “The rosary’s portability tells us it was meant to go anywhere and be used at any time,” which makes it “the perfect tool for meditative or contemplative prayer.”

It started as a knotted prayer rope used for reciting the 150 psalms. Later the Our Father was substituted, followed by the Jesus prayer.

Kasten gives the background – historical and Scriptural – for the prayers of the rosary as we say it today. She provides explanations on where the Sign of the Cross, the Creed and other prayers came from, the origin of the fish symbol we use for Christ, and looks at the various kinds of rosaries and methods for reciting it. As with everything, we don’t all do it the same. There are ethnic, cultural and individualistic differences, which appeared as other prayers have been tacked on over the years.

She discusses the meaning and purpose of the rosary’s many colors, styles and lengths.

When I got the book, I was skeptical there would be information I didn’t already know – after all Pat and I went through the same master’s program in theological studies. I have always loved the rosary and our faith history. Yet, I quickly realized there was an awful lot I didn’t know.

It is an easy read because her style is conversational, witty and down-to-earth. For example, Sherlock Holmes opens Chapter 14: “Whodunit – The Mysteries of the Rosary.” But don’t be fooled. There is nothing simplistic about the content. She throws in some twists and turns to hold our interest, but in the end she brings the mysteries of the rosary – and our faith – home.

As she says, “We can all relate to a birth, a wedding, a meal, even the sorrows of suffering and death.” They are the events “that draw us in because they are similar to our own experiences, but highlighted by the presence of God.”

Linking Your Beads is a fun read.

Sister Jean Peerenboom is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross. She writes a monthly book review for the Holy Cross Family Blogspot.

To read all of Sister Jean Peerenboom's book reviews, click here.

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