C is for… Crafting A Prayer, and (Anglo-)Catholicism

This all started with a thought.

And the thought was: I miss my rosary. I should make prayer beads.

Prayer beads

Three strings of beads, for Land, Sea and Sky. (I’ll join them together at some point. Looking for something for the centre.)

It was a stunningly terrible idea. My hands don’t work too well. It’s taken a while. But what can you do when an idle thought becomes an obsession, one that has now been all-consuming since Lughnasadh? As idle thoughts are wont to become.


The rosary was my first serious connection with the mystical. Mary is a rather complex force in my life. I grew up Protestant – Pentecostal, in fact, with all the speaking-in-tongues and falling over that any growing girl could scoff (at). I never touched the mystical that way, though I knew plenty of people who did. Yet it was mostly weirdness to me, with an occasional side order of bonkers. I liked the singing (mostly). I was Puritan in my piety. I prayed a fair bit. I faithfully sought the mysteries – I thought they had to come eventually. But I didn’t experience anything numinous until years later.

And then the sudden, majestic holiness of an Anglo-Catholic* church: its haughty rafters, its cryptic prayer-chapel nooks, its brilliance in a hundred liturgical colours. I exchanged the babble of tongues for the exultation of silence, the raspy guitars for the furtively whispered Hail Mary, the gushing clamour of prayers for the aching loneliness of choral music, the distant Father God for a very immanent Queen of Heaven, incarnated in a glorious statue that wore its own rosary – and a veil at Advent. The first time I touched that rosary (golden calf of an idolatrous people), the sheer, illicit physicality of it, I knew what Julian of Norwich meant when she said “For in man is God, and God is in all.”1

(Catholicism. Gateway drug to Paganism!)

Mary still has a place on one of my altars. We don’t talk much anymore. Ever full of grace, she moved aside so I could find the gods of my ancestors. Mostly, she’s now just a small Russian icon by a little white candle. A reminder.

But sometimes the Queen of Heaven decides she’ll have a moment of my time, thank you. Like, say, when I started writing this nice light post about beads.

It’s only fair. Really, she was the first deity I ever encountered.

These prayer beads are not Mary’s rosary. They were made to honour the depths of the sea of the dead, the endless reaches of the hills of the daoine sídhe, the blazing heights of Caer Arianrhod. These days my gods are truly immanent.

But they are not the Ones who taught me how to pray.

Be it unto me according to Thy word.


C is also for Cat, so have a Merlin bonus picture.

2013-01-28 14.47.06-1

Ancient wizard. In box.

*Anglo-Catholicism is an English form of Catholicism. It has Roman Catholic roots, but there’s no pope (lots of Mary, though). It’s a very beautiful tradition, and it kept me in the church for quite a few years after I’d have left otherwise.

[1] Juliana, & Wolters, C. (1982). Revelations of Divine Love. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

13 thoughts on “C is for… Crafting A Prayer, and (Anglo-)Catholicism

  1. I wasn’t raised in a religion, not really, but my parents did baptise me in the Catholic Church for the sake of family tradition. I cannot deny that it has left a small imprint on me, not in any real devotion to the saints, but in exactly that love of its ‘physicality’. I am particularly fond of Romanesque churches, the aesthetic but also the smell of them. And protestantism is just so very alien to me. I remember sitting at a friend’s table, and she started praying aloud to sweet Jesus. That was such a strange experience. It seemed a completely different religion to me. For one, the Catholics I knew prayed to God, not the father. And I sometimes feel like defending the Catholic traditions towards protestants, how weird is that!

    And you are right in distinguishing between different forms of Catholicism. Even if Dutch Catholics due accept the pope (officially, but very reluctantly, most Catholics aren’t very fond of their institution), their religion is very different from the Spanish or Portuguese traditions, more influenced by protestantism over the course of history, and probably even by the different climate.

    • While I agree with you about the different flavours of Roman Catholicism around the world, Anglo-Catholicism is actually *entirely* separate from Roman Catholicism. It isn’t recognised by the Roman church. It developed after Henry VIII removed the English church from the control of Rome, and was revived in the nineteenth century. It’s a tradition of the Anglican church. There are Roman Catholic churches in England too, but I was never part of one. Sorry for causing confusion there!

      I definitely see your point, too, in terms of what influences each church has. European nations received Protestantism in very different ways. I think you’re right that that affected the different churches in each country, but in different ways. (And I just said ‘different’ about twenty times.)

  2. O do you mean to refer to the Anglican Church? I wouldn’t have thought of describing it as Catholic. I figured there still might be a Catholic grouping in the UK outside of both the Anglican Church and the Roman church. Thank you for the clarification.

    • Not the whole Anglican church. The Anglo-Catholic wing. It really is *very* Catholic – but of course, there is a ‘low church’ wing too, as well as the majority of the Anglican churches which are what we call ‘middle of the road’.

      • How very interesting … It makes sense that such a big institution, historically being aimed to include all British subjects, is so diverse. I should do some further research on this, as I am fascinated with Britain in general. I think I probably now more about Tudor history than of the Dutch Golden Age, but on the development of religion after this time I now comparatively little.

      • It’s really interesting – especially when you get to know the churches, and start seeing all the socio-historical developments across their practices. I’ll try to think if I can recommend any books on the subject!

      • Thank you! Last summer I saw a remarkable church in England, which was whitewashed in the 16th century, but whose old Medieval wall-paintings came back through the white paint. It was as I was standing in two different churches at the same time, as if I was time-travelling. Fascinating.

  3. Another stunning post. I never particularly ‘clicked’ with the Catholicism of my youth, but a relationship with Mary is one thing that did stick with me.

  4. Great post! My fiance grew up Catholic, so sometimes I ask him about the Catholic church. I grew up Protestant, and it just seemed to lack too much in structure for my taste, but Catholicism is too much structure! ADF falls nicely in the middle. :)

    Also, great idea including a cat picture! I should do that for mine. :)


  5. Thanks for sharing. It’s really interesting to hear about your intricate and personal relationship with Mary, as a step on your path and how your still honour her. I never connected with Christianity. However I have experienced the presence of Christian divinities in churches, at places like Stonyhurst College and in particular when working at a Catholic school. Shows how even if we wished to we can’t escape the fact that Christianity is one of the main forces shaping contemporary paganism.

  6. I love Mother Mary, and I am Anglo-Catholic (for those who don’t know, Anglo-Catholicism is a type of Anglicanism, but the super traditional side). Whether you are a Pagan or a Christian, I think that we all need to honour the feminine, both in ourselves, and in Divinity. There is a beauty in using earthen materials for prayer and meditation, and how else can one honour our Mother – Mother Earth – than through her abundance?

    • Absolutely. (I used to be an Anglo-Catholic – that’s where my devotion to Mary began.) Nice to meet someone else who honours Mother Mary, and I agree that we can do so from many religious traditions :)

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