Skip to comments.Collecting 860 rosaries result of a lifelong passion (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 09/03/2011 1:24:50 PM PDT by NYer
A selection of Gloria Hoffner's collection includes a Bavarian rosary, circa 1900, bottom left.
In a collection of rosaries that numbers 860, the prayer beads that started it all look like supporting players amid the headliners. There are the shimmering (with garnet beads from Bavaria), the miniature (just three inches long), and the relics (filled with soil from Italy's catacombs).
The plain ebony strand that travelled with her grandfather from Ireland and the silver beads that spent decades in a mother's handbag have history on their side.
"I bought it for my mother when I was 19," said Gloria Hoffner, 82, about the silver rosary. With the black one belonging to her grandfather, it forms the root of a collection that is still growing.
Her rosaries are part of a seemingly endless permutation of beads, medals, and crucifixes that are instruments of prayer and devotion for Catholics and other Christians. The crosses open like lockets, contain holy water from the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, and are carved with holes that, peeped through, show images from the life of Mary.
Hoffner's first memory of buying a rosary is from a missionary visiting her school. Hoffner's upbringing was strict and steeped in the Roman Catholic Church.
"People got rosaries for birthdays and anniversaries. People carried them," Hoffner said. "I think of my grandfather and my father and those days when someone died and the priest came and everyone knelt down to pray the rosary."
Hoffner scours flea markets, antiques stores, estate sales, and the Internet. When she travels, her trip inevitably involves shopping for rosaries. Then the research starts. Hoffner wants to know everything she can about the materials, the manufacturing, and the history. Her notes, clippings, and computer printouts stuffed three big folders until her daughter Helen, a professor of education at Holy Family University in Philadelphia, had an idea to write a book.
"I always wanted to get her a coffee-table book on rosaries, but I couldn't find one," Helen Hoffner said. "There were all kinds of books on praying the rosary, but none on the history."
So in January 2009, mother and daughter went to work. Helen Hoffner, the author of several education textbooks, was on sabbatical to write yet another. She devoted some of that time to compiling The Rosary Collector's Guide, a 181-page book featuring the Hoffner collection and a history of the rosary.
Gloria Hoffner keeps her collection in flat compartmentalized boxes stored in a safe at a friend's house.
"I think she feels a real sense of accomplishment at how much she's collected and the expertise she has built," said Hoffner's daughter Nancy Catania. "It's her own little niche. It's not something a lot of people spend time putting together."
Gloria Hoffner sometimes gives rosary demonstrations. She travels to clubs and senior citizen centres to show off her collection. "Sometimes people ask if we're going to pray the rosary," she said. But she makes it clear that she's not there to conduct a service. "I'm not an expert on religion. I just like collecting."
But the rosary means a lot to Gloria Hoffner. She prays it in times of trouble, and when things go right, using the silver strand with blue enamel beads that belonged to her mother.
Learn more about Gloria Hoffner's rosary beads at philly.com/gloriahoffner
Wearing rosaries is currently becoming a fashion statement for people who have probably never entered a Catholic Church. I assume the black Americans are picking it up from the Hispanic gangsters, who at least have a cultural connection with Catholicism if they don’t practice.
I’m thinking it must be a religious practice in Central America, because our Carismaticos wear them, mostly of wood, and they are mainly Salvadoran. The gangsters probably wear them as a badge of Salvadoran identity.
None of our clergy has said it is inappropriate for a devout person to wear a rosary around the neck. That would be going against history, since it has been done in various cultures throughout the world at different times.
AAM — most of the folks who blessed the Church, coming from the Episcopal community are “experts” — they put cradle Catholics like me to shame, what do you say, Mark?
"Sacred objects, set aside for divine worship by dedication or blessing, are to be treated with reverence. They are not to be made over to secular or inappropriate use, even though they may belong to private persons" (CIC 1171).
So, wearing a rosary if you really mean it as a personal symbol of prayer is ok, but as jewellery, no (no one is going to stop you and ask, unless you're a Goth! But even Goth's can be believers, right?)
I agree with AAM though -- a rosary is useful when it is carried in your hands, not around your neck.
BTW, good to see you around these parts AAM...been a while since I've seen your handle around here.
Well I can’t say that my motives were entirely unrelated to wanting to marry a Catholic. I did and do, but decided that it must be my decision and my faith apart from her. :)
But thanks for your words. :) Take care Mark.
As with anything, done for the right reasons is fine, done for the wrong reasons is not. Personally, I don’t wear it but then I’m one of the Irish/German/English Catholics. Not much hispanic there. :p
I have thought about it but I think a good divide is this. Would you wear it around the neck but under the shirt? If the answer is yes, then it’s for the right reasons. If not, then you’ve got your answer right there. I know a very good friend of mine who does so, but no one would ever know, unless they thought to ask.
good point — if it is not “for show”, it is something close to your heart