I didn’t grow up in a Catholic household but I did grow up in a very Catholic culture. I participated in Catholic events and culture to an extent as well but, I must confess…

I think I’ve only prayed a whole Rosario (rosary) once at the velorio for a friend’s mom.
There I remember being self-conscious about my lack of finesse when it came to all the Catholic rituals and requirements but nonetheless being swept away on the tide of Padre Nuestros and Avemarias. It was soothing, much like chanting which I came to later in non-Christian ways.

And although I’ve owned several Rosarios I’ve never used one for its proper purpose. I have a strange dark love for religious iconography and, well, kitsch. And a deeply spiritual love for sacred objects, regardless of the worship tradition they originate from. Some things are just sacred regardless of the entity/ies being worshipped.

The other day on the train I watched an older, obviously latina, obviously mestiza, beautiful woman with her Rosario. She looked anxious, and was intent upon her beads. And for a minute or two I envied the simplicity of that ritual. I envied the escape into the words that more than meaning have a rhythm that transports me back to my abuela, to sitting around on borrowed chairs at one velorio or another (not that I’ve attended that many), it’s a rhythm that is in my blood somehow, as much as salsa, as much as the crashing of warm waves on the rocks, as much as the song of coquis.


I realized even at a very young age that I couldn’t hang with the rhetoric of the church, I couldn’t pray for the pope, I couldn’t get down with the whole virgin thing (and I mean the mythical kind, my own was easy to upkeep considering I hadn’t discovered queerness yet). But I was fascinated with the images, with the static statues, with their sad eyes, their outstretched hands, I was fascinated with the beautiful virgins, staring at them for hours under the guise of prayer, with the pretense of lighting candles.

But the words lost their literal meaning to become a song, a chant, an intimate murmur.

My grandmother taught me to say Avemarias. She bought me images of Maria Milagrosa to bless and heal me.


I prayed. I prayed the words with the same satisfaction as I muttered a random Wordsworth poem I’d memorized, or a Shakespeare sonnet. The words were happy on my tongue, a welcome litany of distraction. But I learned my rosario in Spanish. To this day I default to Spanish when it comes to structured prayer. A few of the questions asked to determine what a person’s first language is are: what language do you pray in? (both) what language do you count in? (both, it confuses the shit out of people when I’m counting out loud) what language do you curse in if you are hurt? (both) I’m the rare creature who is a native speaker of two languages. And yet when it comes to this ritual that isn’t even truly mine, it has to be Spanish.


There’s something so blissful about escaping into a prayer that requires no thought, no agreement, no consideration of ones blessings or troubles. It just is. And it was prayed by my greatgrandmother in much the same way…there’s power in that, even if the words don’t mean much to me. And considering my greatgrandmother makes me wish I had a Taino prayer to hold close to my heart. The Yoruba prayers I have handed down to me are synchretized. No less authentic but the roots cover more area and less depth. Avemaria the prayer of the colonizer (the first one) but still stirs me.


Even though the ritual is contradictory and foreign it is still something so close to me. Even though it belongs to a church that oppresses my people, that is homophobic and misogynistic at its core. But still it’s there. And if I picked up a rosario right now I wouldn’t know how to do it. Thank gawd for google! I don’t know what prayers go where and one of the rezos I don’t even know. But I would know to fondle the beads and think of abuela. I would know to fondle the beads and think of MamaTea. I would know that it is a sacred, intimate, and very feminine in my experience act.

I don’t think I could lose myself that way though. I wish I could. I would like to get lost for a while in something that requires no thought and no effort. Not like meditation where the more stressed I am the harder I have to gently and lovingly SHOVE the thoughts away.

A ritual that does it all for me and takes me away to sit on the laps of my foremothers for a while and be.

Perhaps tonight when I light my candle to La Milagrosa I’ll thrown in an Avemaria or two.


1 Comment »

  1. laurynx Said:

    this was great. I have a love for religious iconography too. I don’t know, I don’t practice, but it’s just so beautiful.

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