Friday, March 25, 2011

Lenten Chaplet: From Venezuelan Wood to Metal and Synthetics

I finished writing about a Lenten chaplet a few minutes ago. "Chaplet" is what I call the series of prayers, and the knotted cord with a crucifix that helps me keep track of which prayer I'm at.

That's a photo of a card with instructions for praying the chaplet, and three chaplets.

All three are made of synthetic fiber and metal: typical materials for this sort of thing, in our culture.

The original chaplets were made from Venezuelan wood and leaf fibers - but as far as I know, all that matters is that whatever you use be flexible enough to wear, and durable enough to last at least 40 days.

Venezuelan?! There's a story behind that, which I'll get to after a little about blessings:

Blessings, Beads, and All That

This isn't an exhaustive discussion on Catholic teachings about the rosary, blessings, and their theological implications. As I've said before, I write with the authority of "some guy with a blog."

First of all, a "blessing" is a sort of prayer that invokes God's power:
"BLESSING: A blessing or benediction is a prayer invoking God's power and care upon some person, place, thing, or undertaking. The prayer of benediction acknowledges God as the source of all blessing. Some blessings confer a permanent status: consecration of persons to God, or setting things apart for liturgical usage (1671, 2626)."
(B, Glossary, Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The Catechism discusses sacramentals (not the same thing as sacraments) in some detail. (Catechism, 1667-1676, summary 1677-1679)

The cord and crucifix I'm wearing were blessed by Father Statz, along with many others that are being used during this Lent. The prayer was short, to the point, and punctuated with a sprinkling of holy water.

Catholic Practices, a Reality Check

I've mentioned the (imaginative? creative?) beliefs endemic to the region I grew up in. I think that Catholic beliefs and practices aren't - to be charitable - well understood in parts of America.

Despite what's sometimes assumed, the Catholic Church has some strict rules about magic and superstition.

Prayer beads, knotted strings, and the crucifix I wear aren't magical.

I'm a practicing Catholic, and the Church has a word to say about sorcery, charms, and divination: Don't. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2110-2111, 2115-2117)

Maybe you knew someone who's Catholic, and who uses a saint's statue as a magic charm. I'm not surprised: there are over 1,000,000,000 of us walking Earth at this moment, and some of us haven't learned the faith as well as we might. Which is yet again another topic.

Now, as promised, back to Venezuelan wood:

About This Lenten Chaplet

My family, and quite a few folks in Sauk Centre, Brooten, and a few other towns here in central Minnesota, have been praying this Lenten Chaplet for the last few years.

The chaplet got started in Venezuela, though. Father Statz and Father Todd, who now live in Sauk Centre, were in Venezuela when they developed this chaplet as a way to encourage prayer during Lent.

The original prayer cords had wooden crucifixes, carved from a sort of tree that grows in Venezuela. The cords were woven from fibers the folks got from the leaves of that tree.

In central Minnesota, our crucifixes have been metal and the cords some synthetic fiber: which is consistent with how our regional culture makes things.

As far as I know, what the cord and crucifix are made of doesn't matter, as long as the materials are sturdy and flexible enough to be worn and used for a minimum of 40 days.

There isn't a 'right' kind of crucifix, again as far as I know: the style has been a little different each year, probably depending on what was readily available at the time.

Prayer: Ignorance Not Required

A person doesn't have to have a doctorate in theology to be a practicing Catholic: but ignorance isn't encouraged, either. At all.

As a practicing Catholic I'm expected to read - make that study - the Bible. That's something anybody can do: literate or not. Each Sunday, at Mass, we hear part of the Bible read; and after three years we've gone through a cycle that covers a great deal of the Word of God. If census reports are your thing, like Numbers, being able to read is a help.

As for studying God's creation, I've discussed Catholics like Copernicus and Mendel before. (September 7, 2010)

Somewhat-related posts:

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.