Australian Catholics are downright pissed off “after discovering rosary beads, symbols of devotion used in prayer, are being flaunted as a fashion statement,” The Sydney Sunday Telegraph reports.
The outrage comes after Diva, an Australian fashion chain, started selling strings of the beads as necklaces on the cheap. Religious officials in Australia say such sales flout the spiritual importance of what the rosary represents.
Catholic Women’s League Australia president Madge Fahy said it was inappropriate for teenagers to wear rosary beads as jewellery. “It is totally disrespectful to the religious beliefs of Catholics,” Ms. Fahy said. “They don’t have the right to abuse our religious objects … Don’t wear them unless you’re prepared to use them for what they’re made for. They’re not a fashion item.”
To which we can only say oh please. We could understand the fracas if the bones of Saint Francis Xavier had been stolen and integrated into a sculpture (Francis Xavier being, of course, the patron saint of Australia), but rosary beads-as-accessories hardly warrant news coverage.
Why? Because people have been wearing and selling them outside of a religious context for decades. As teenagers on vacation in Rome, we were duped into shelling out five euros for a rosary that had been “blessed by Pope John Paul II himself.” And rosaries aren’t the only religious symbol that teenagers and adults alike have abused. How many times have you seen someone who clearly didn’t know anything about ancient Egyptian religion wearing an ankh pendant? Did Hindus take umbrage when Julia Roberts wore a bindi (the traditional Southeast Asian forehead decoration) while touring the Taj Mahal last year? No — they actually applauded.
So you’ll have to excuse us if we’re not as outraged as Ms. Fahy and company. We just don’t see what possible harm more people wearing rosaries could do. They’re recognized the world over as a symbol of Catholicism, so if people are wearing them, it’s good publicity for the church. This is all about positivity. Instead of attacking the poor souls who have adopted these beads as part of their own fashion story, the church should embrace the trend, encourage those who don’t wear them for religious purposes to learn the importance of the rosary in Catholic tradition and enjoy the fact that this part of their religion has made an impact on the secular world.
[Image via Timoteo]