Category Archives: prayer beads

Seven Sorrows Chaplet

The Seven Sorrows Chaplet is my latest chaplet design.  There is a tradition of recognition of the seven sorrows and seven joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary that goes back to the 13th century. The sorrows of Mary are also represented by Our Lady of Sorrows and the Mater Dolorosa (Mother of Sorrows).  The sorrows of Mary are represented by a sword through her heart, and the seven sorrows by seven swords in her heart. The Seven Sorrows have long been a theme for prayer beads. These are usually long chaplets with medals and beads for each of the sorrows as found here.

15th century cross replica
Seven Sorrows center

Anglican chaplets are ideally designed for the seven sorrows devotion because there are seven beads on each “week” of beads (analogous to a decade of a Catholic rosary).  The metal used in this chaplet came from Gardens of Grace, all bronze replicas of antique pieces. The cross is a replica of a 15th century cross, the small medal attached to the cross is a tiny miraculous medal, and the three-way connector is a heart pierced with seven swords.  The reverse of the three-way connector features the symbol of the sacred heart of Jesus. The beads are 10 mm mother of pearl.

This chaplet is designed in a Anglican format and can be used as an Anglican rosary or as a chaplet. The seven “week” beads (in the loop) could be used to remember the seven sorrows (or the seven joys). The single bead attached to the cross is the invitatory bead used for special intentions or a prayer to lead into the the other meditations. In this chaplet the three-way connector of the heart with seven swords functions as the cruciform bead. A full Anglican rosary can be done with this chaplet if the cruciform and week beads are repeated four times. Anglican rosaries and chaplets are free-form in so much as there is no set group of prayers. Each person can use them as they see fit. I am still thinking about how I will use this chaplet, what prayers to assign to each bead, cross or medal. I think I will use the week beads to meditate on each of the sorrows and pray for similar groups in the modern world, such as the homeless and refugees on bead 2 (flight into Egypt). Traditional Marian prayers can also be assigned to other parts like the cruciform bead (center) or the cross.

The Seven Sorrows I will be observing are listed below with the traditional seven designated by the number in brackets.  I added my fourth sorrow, Mary’s fears over the crowds and authorities following Jesus, because it is  based in scripture and it helps bridge the gap between his childhood and Good Friday. Further some of the traditional sorrows are not mentioned in the gospel and are heavily clustered on Good Friday. Meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary is part of the stations of the cross but it is not in the Gospel. Likewise, Mother Mary is not listed among those present at the tomb. Having four of the seven sorrows on Good Friday seems to me like they are trying to stretch to reach seven. How might you adjust these seven sorrows?

  • [1] Prophecy of Simeon. (Luke 2:33-35)
  • [2] Flight into Egypt (Matt  2:13-15)
  • [3] Loss of the child Jesus in Jerusalem for three days. (Luke 2:41-51)
  • Mary fears the crowds and authorities following Jesus. (Mark 3:20-33, Matt 12:46-50,  Luke 8:19-21)
  • [4] Mary meets Jesus on the road to Calvary
  • [5] Mary stands at the foot of the Cross. (John 19:25-27)
  • [6] Jesus is taken down from the cross and laid in his mother’s arms; and [7] is laid in the tomb.


St Hedwig’s Beads

hedwig oxted1aI was intrigued by the graphic of St Hedwig from the Paternosters site (left) that shows St Hedwig with prayer beads so I decided to look around for more graphics of St Hedwig with beads. The only luck I have had so far is the modern stained glass window to the right. Unfortunately I now can’t find where this modern window comes from.  Does it look to you like those are prayer beads in her hand? Its hard to tell if its prayer beads or a handle to a bag. As a modern window it could have also been inspired by the medieval graphic of her with beads.

So who is St Hedwig? She was a born in Bavarian, 1174, and married a Henry Duke of Silesia and later Duke of Greater Poland at age 12. One of her sisters married King Andrew of Hungrey and another sister became a Benedictine abbess of Lutzingen in Franconia in medieval Germany. Hedwig and Henry had seven children, including Henry the Pious, a duke of medieval Poland, who was killed in the battle of Legnica against the Mongols two years before Hedwig’s death. After the birth and subequent early death of their seventh child, Hedwig and Henry took public vows of chastity. Duke Henry went so far as become tonsured and took the lifestyle of a lay Cisterian brother. Hedwig was renoned for helping the poor and as a patroness of the church. Hedwig and her husband Henry founded and/or supported several monsateries for Augustinians, Dominicans, Francisicans, Cistercians and even Templars.  In 1202 Henry founded a Cisterician convent at Trzebinca, the first religious foundation for women in Silesia, where he was buried in 1238 and she entered a convent upon his death. Their daughter  Gertrude became the first abbess there. She was only there five years before her own death in 1243. Hedwig took the dress and lifestyle of a Cistercian sister but never took her formal vows so that she kept control of her revenue to direct it to the poor. Her pious reputation was such that she was considered a saint in her lifetime. Her daughter Abbess Gertrude was the only one of her seven children to survive her. Two of her grand-daughters by Henry the Pious did eventually become abbesses at St Clara of Trebinca.  St Elizabeth of Thuringia and Mechtilde of Kitzingen were her nieces. She was canonized only 24 years after her death. St Hedwig’s Cathedral in Berlin was built by Frederick the Great in 1773 and is now the cathedral for the Archdiocese of Berlin.

References: St Hedwig, Wikipedi, and St Hedwig, New Advent website.

A the most complete image of the medieavel illustration I’ve found online but I haven’t been able to find any more specific information about its medieval source. If you know any more about St Hedwig’s beads, this illustration or the stained glass window above, please post a comment.

Aqua blue prayer beads

Sky blue Anglican Rosary
Aqua blue Anglican Rosary

I particularly like this one. I think its just pretty. I don’t know that my picture does the blue justice. It really is a lovely aqua blue. The cruciform beads are, if I recall correctly, blue moon cats-eye beads, the week beads are aqua, with silver spacer beads and a celtic knot to hold the three ends together.

This is another icon cross that I particularly like. It is similar to a cursillo cross but different. It has an inscription that reads: “Ecce lignum crucis in quo salus mundi” Behold the wood of the cross on which hung our savior.” I haven’t been able to find out much about where it comes from. I thought I read somewhere that it came from an ancient painting or inscription. It is a pretty widely available cross in Catholic shops and generally inexpensive. So before you buy one in silver or bronze from somewhere like the rosary workshop, they are often available in base medal from local Catholic supply shops. They are all exactly the same design with the rough Latin inscription and the stars around his feet. I would like to know more about it, so please comment if you have any clues.

From the Rosary Workshop
From the Rosary Workshop

Again, the celtic knot is just structural but doesn’t have a prayer assigned to it. I think this is a weak point in the Episcopal/Anglican design. You need some type of three-way bead for structural stability. Either we need cruciform beads designed with three (or four) holes so that strands will lay correctly or we need to intigrate a three-way bead/medal into the design. In diagrams the Anglican rosary looks like a nice circle of prayer but when you string it, it never comes our circular.

Repainting for the second wife

Triptych of Jan Des Trompes (rear of the wings), 1505
Triptych of Jan Des Trompes (rear of the wings), 1505

So here is the painting that Chris is talking about the comments of “Bead Spotting”.

First the beads carried by this wife look similar but the pendant is different. The first wife seems to have a cross on her beads while this one looks more like a medal, perhaps of the Madonna. It looks like there are 10 bead decades separated by gauds and the center decade has 5 beads – medal – 5 beads, so it doesn’t mark a decade. The smaller woman in the front is probably a daughter of the second wife. Interestingly, she doesn’t have beads, but a decorative sash.

Looking at the rest of the painting, I think that Chris is right about it being Mary Magdalene behind the wife. Mary Magdalene was a popular namesake in Germany, at least among my ancestors who often gave Magdalene as a middle name and sometimes as a first name. The baby Jesus appears to be holding a beaded bag and a stick that it looks like he is trying to pass to the second wife. What is that or what does it mean?

Interesting that both wives would be painted in the same triptych.  Only he would want both wives like this. Its a large work 132 cm x 43 cm, almost 5 feet high. So getting this painted with the second wife covers up the entire first family, if it is kept closed. Easy to see why the third wife gave it away. Why would none of the children take it? Perhaps giving it away is a way to keep the children from fighting over it.(?)

Mary Magdalene Chaplet

Mary Magdalene Chaplet
Mary Magdalene Chaplet

This is a chaplet I’ve used during Holy Week in the past. It is themed on Mary Magdalene. This is a week that she will be very involved in and so it seems appropriate to use it during Holy Week.

The design of this chaplet is simple, following earlier Anglican chaplet designs. It has a primary cross, a small medal of Mary Magdalene, and blood red glass beads. There is a small Celtic knot serving as a three-way connector but does not have prayers assigned to it.

From Fire Mountain Gems
From Fire Mountain Gems

The style of the cross is Celtic, but more importantly it has a feminine feel to it. The lattice work is of hearts, which reminds me of love and devotion.

It is tricky to find a good medal for Mary Magdalene. There are of course many modern medals that reflect unbiblical notions like those found in the Da Vinci code. I want to completely avoid those! I really wanted something small, and the standard Catholic medal is ok, but I wanted something a little different.

Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene

The standard Catholic medal shows Mary on her knees at the foot of the cross. One problem with these is that many of them are double sided with St Martha on the other side. Its a match that reflects the confusion between Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany. These medals are intended to honor Mary and Martha of Bethany. This is unfortunately why you very see icons or medals or any art of Mary of Bethany (without Martha), though there are a couple modern icons of Mary of Bethany from the Eastern Orthodox.  The Eastern Orthodox have a standard icon of Mary Magdalene that looks like many other icons. She is usually shown in a veil and holding an ointment jar. Its an interesting difference between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox medals. The Catholic medals all recall Good Friday, while the Eastern Orothodox medals with the ointment jar point toward Easter morning. The medal is very similar to this small icon. Mary Magdalene is holding her ointment jar and the inscription is in Russian. Its about charm bracelet size, about 5/8 inch.

The red beads are obviously because red is a color repeatedly associated with Mary Magdalene. In western iconography and painting, Mary Magdalene is usually shown with red hair and wearing red clothing, like these paintings.

Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles
Mary Magdalene, Apostle to the Apostles

magdaleneMary is shown in all of these works in red. In the painting below she also has red hair. The general idea usually proposed is that the west shows her in red because she was confused for so long with the sinful woman. However, given her association with red eggs in the East and the frequency of red in her Eastern paintings, it does make me wonder if the red isn’t because of her role as witness to both the passion and resurrection. Of course, once characteristics were established for the apostles, St Paul, Mary Magdalene and the Blessed Mother, they were repeated to allow people to easily identify figures in paintings. The color red became Mary’s signature much like wild hair became the signature of St Andrew and the color blue was associated with the Blessed Mother. As we know for the others, these attributes became established very early. The link between the Magdalene and the sinful woman came from Gregory the Great in the sixth century, but I would think that these attributes were probably set before then. It is just possible that the color red became associated with her because she is always the first person listed as a witness to the Passion.

The lamentation panel by Giotto. Mary Magdalene is the woman holding Christ's feet, all in red.
The lamentation panel by Giotto. Mary Magdalene is the woman holding Christ's feet, all in red.