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The Rosary Maker
The story of a young boy and his love for the rosary
It was a long time ago I was a boy growing up in a secure, well to do family in Ciego de Avila, Cuba. My mother, a loving woman and my father a very strict but caring man did everything possible to give me a wonderful childhood. I had two sisters which whom I had an ideal childhood. Loved by all and living to their expectations or so I thought. Now, hearing the stories of my adventures I doubt that was true. I must have been a real terror to my family.
¬ I started catholic school at first grade in Champagnat School ran by the Marista Brothers. Somehow I grew to love the school and the Brothers who ran it and started to spend a lot of time with them. The Principal of the school became a very good friend and a mentor to me. During lunch time it was accustomed to close the school and the kids went home for a couple of hours to have lunch with the family. I made it a point to return early to spend time with the brothers. It was during this time that I observed our Principal make rosaries.
Some how I became interested in learning the skill and he took the time to teach me.
My father got me the tools needed and I became a skilled rosary maker at the age of eight. As I grew older I always found the time between my adventures to sit and make rosaries. My father who owned several retail outlets asked me to make little bracelets of azabaches, a stone used in Cuba to keep children safe from the local myths of Santeria, a type of witchcraft.
As I grew, Fidel Castro started his Revolution against the government of the dictator Fulgencio Batista and as most Cubans believed, my father saw him as the savior of the oppression and injustice in the Island. I started to make rosaries with locally available seeds from a bush, St. Judas Tears in English, common in the area and bundle them by the dozen to send to Fidelís guerrillas fighting in the mountains. Unfortunately, Fidel turned out to be a worst dictator than Batista and sunk our beautiful Island into a communistic hell.
After Fidel enforced communism throughout the Island with the help of the Russians and eventually the Militia took over our school, deported or incarcerated the Brothers and made ridicule of our beloved school patron Beato Marcelino Champagnat through the streets of the city, a small group of us got together and started to fight against Castroís policies. We started anti-revolutionary acts by sabotaging anything we could. Making crude home made bombs and placing them in government sites and so on. We started small and escalated the action until we became a force to be dealt with. I guess in todayíÄs terms we world have been called terrorists by Castro
My life in Cuba, so beautiful and with a bright future was gone, many other sorrowful experiences were lived that caused scars that will last until the day we are reclaim by our Lord. But through all this time I was faithful to my love, making rosaries. My rosaries have always been my way to praise the Lord for the gifts He has given me.
We lost everything, my father lost all he worked a life for and finally in defeat and for the sake of our future he relocated the family to the US. This in itself is another story worth telling maybe Iíll write about it another time. Got here and through the gracious and generous people of this great country we found life once again. Though we got here with the clothes we were wearing, we immediately without question were provided a roof over our heads, food and clothing and with the generous and unselfish help of a wonderful family, the Hanlons, who were a foster home for my sister for a year, yes, she came alone to this country at the age of 13 because I was not allowed to come with her and they would not allow her off the plane when they got my off. Back to the story, they helped us get jobs and we nicely settled in Chicago. God truly works in strange ways.
My father was never the same, that man which whose mere presence invoked respect and was admire by many was no moire donít think he ever recovered though he always cared and protected us.
Imagine, I was 16, having lived a protected and wonderful life, not lacking anything in and found myself from one day to the next in CHICAGO, the home of the gangsters (according to Cuban folklore), cold and strange. I felt alone, afraid, betrayed. All I had brought with me was my rosaries. I spent many of nights making rosaries, whenever I could get parts. Other times I took them apart just to make them again. Finally a friend got me a part-time job at the department store were he worked. And Mr. Hanlon, our sponsor, got me enrolled at DePaul Academy where I continued my high school studies. Life was beginning to turn around, but I was still lost and afraid in this strange place.
But God had a surprise for me, one day I was clocking in at the department store where I worked and heard a female voice behind me saying in Spanish te vas a casar conmigoÄĚ. I turned around and said to her ďsi, siĒ ÄĚ like, if I did not understand her in English Yes You are going to marry meÄĚ and I answered her yes, yesÄĚ. My English learnt in Cuba from a German professor had a strange accent and did not appear Spanish. That girl that said it 53 years ago is today my wife Rosa. We became friends, then went steady (at the time it was the thing), then she became my girlfriend and finally my wife and the mother of my children and my savior. We just celebrated our 50th anniversary.
From that day on, Chicago wasnít that cold anymore, my fears slowly disappeared and my life had new meaning. As I believe today, God gave me Rosa for a reason as soon as I find out what it is Iíll let you know just kidding. I feel the Lord has rewarded me for the rosaries more than once in my life. Today, I have a wonderful family, two daughters, two granddaughters, two grandsons and a great grandson they are wonderful and they show me love everyday.
As I have grown older I have left behind many things but one constant in my life have been my rosaries, no matter what, where or when they always been there. Never made a rosary for money, all my rosaries maybe thousands of them, I do not really know, have been given to friends, family and even strangers for love and to promote the Word of the Lord though prayer. Today Iím proud that my rosaries are all over the world. I just pray to the Lord that they are doing their jobs.
I have gotten back many stories about the rosaries Iíve given away. Some of them seem like miracles but I do not take the credit for their virtues it is the hand of my loving God that guides the pliers for every loop made on the wire on every bead that my hands touches. That, plus the love in my heart that is passed to every one of my rosaries as I make them. As I pray each and every one of them when I finish them I ask the Lord to bless and guide in His Light the person that will pray upon it. I just make them not knowing where they go. Sometimes people ask me to make them one my daughters and sister have given away hundreds to their friends and acquaintances.
As I sit here today I am touched by the return of one of my rosaries that I made 48 years ago for my sister when she left Cuba. The rosary came back to me for repairs with his story attached in a letter. As I touched something I made 52 years ago as a child and learned its path and at the suggestion of my loving daughter I am inclined to start a Web site (www.praymyrosary.com) where the parties that have received rosaries in the past can write their experiences. At the same time are asking people to form groups in their communities to pray the rosary Pray my Rosary CirclesĚ.
A while back I received one of those E-mails that we receive everyday, jokes, garbage whatever , just that this particular one has been with me for years and I keep going back to read it because it turned my life towards Jesus around my born-again moment. If you care to read it this is a link to it. The day Jesus kept silent ‚ÄĚ . I hope that it makes you look into your own room and remember some of those cards.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ JesusĚ.
Our Lady of Fatima (1917)
When the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three children in Fatima, Portugal, she held a rosary in her hand and identified herself as ÄėThe Lady of the Rosary. During her second of six monthly apparitions, the Lady instructed them to Say the Rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world.
I release these rosaries into the world to spread the Word and to help us help one another. To give birth to a revival of our faith through praying the rosary. To bring our faith together and return our nation to the ways of God as our forefathers defined at the beginnings of this great country.
Let the Love of our Lord live in your heart.