Walk With Me

“Walk with me,” she beckons, one hand outstretched as if to take mine, and one hand over her heart. That heart, ringed with a garland of beautiful flowers, has been deeply and thoroughly pierced with a sword.

Her smile trembles as her eyes brim with tears about to spill over—but her eyes do not leave mine. She does not shy away from meeting my gaze, even in her own pain.

Young—so young—and newly postpartum, she reaches out to me, inviting me to hold her hand as I shoulder the cross of my troubles, that ever-heavier burden of cares and worries that knocks me down at times under its weight.

“I’ll help you up,” she assures me, reaching out her hand again to lift me off my knees, to catch me as I stumble forward, my vision blurred by my own tears.

“I’ll walk with you,” she promises. Sorrow and joy are no strangers to her. As I cast down my cares with each bead that slides between my fingers, she listens.

She knows all my pain—the pain I’ll talk about, and the pain I feel I have to keep inside. She knows. And she cares. And in my pain, I know I’m not walking alone. I know she is beside me, holding out her hand to guide me, to lift me up, to hold me up.

“I’m here,” she assures me, as every mother assures her little child in fear or pain. “I’m here.”

And as I stumble along, bolstered by contemplating the joy, the light, the sorrow, and the glory she has witnessed, I look into her eyes, answering her trembling smile with my own.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.








Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos: unattributed painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, found in Resurrection Parish Adoration Chapel, Delran, NJ; photographed by Barb Szyszkiewicz

On Barb’s Bookshelf: A Family Rosary Book

complete illuminated rosary

Praying the Rosary with children is not without its challenges. When I was substitute-teaching, the children in the primary grades would frequently lose their places because they would drop their rosaries, or fiddle with the beads (or knots) so much that their fingers would move to a different bead. It was all part of the adventure, I thought, and since I was distracted myself, trying to maintain order and a prayerful atmosphere, I figured there was no way around it.

Jerry Windley-Daoust of Gracewatch Media found a creative — and beautiful — way to solve this problem. The Complete Illuminated Rosary is the coffee-table book of Rosary guides. This book is meant to bring parents and children together to pray the Rosary — no beads necessary.

complete illuminated rosary

This large-format book (it measures 8 1/2 x 11″) offers a page or two per prayer for the entire Rosary. Simply turn the page to progress to the next “bead.” At the beginning of each mystery, there is a short selection from the Gospels that corresponds to that mystery, along with a note at the bottom of the page prompting the prayer leader (parent or older child) to ask for prayer intentions. On each “Hail Mary” page, you’ll find a row of beads depicted at the bottom: one for the first “Hail Mary” in the decade, and so on, in case you do want to follow along on a real Rosary.

“Why is it ‘illuminated’?” a friend asked when she saw this book on my coffee table. This is what makes the book truly unique. Every single “bead” in this book is depicted by a beautiful work of sacred art, from a wide variety of styles. You’ll find work by El Greco, Delacroix, Caravaggio, Frangelico, and Rubens, plus present-day artists Jen Norton, Brother Michael “Mickey” O’Neill McGrath, and Andrei Mironov — among many, many others. An art-credits section at the end of the book explains the source of every painting, drawing, or stained-glass window. The art in the book, all by itself, can lead you to prayer.

Gracewatch Media offers the Illuminated Rosary in three formats: paperback, hardcover, and in separate books for each mystery. Securing the rights to use some art that is not in the public domain, plus publishing in full color in a large format, contribute to the cost of this book (as of this writing, $49.49 on Amazon for the paperback), but this book is a treasury of art dedicated to prayer.

Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

…at least, I hope it turns out to be that way.

Today TheDad and I will return to Philadelphia for his 1-year cancer checkup. He has 3 appointments:  an X-ray, a CAT scan and a meeting with the surgeon. (No, there’s no surgery on the agenda at the moment, but we both thought that the surgeon was a better choice for our follow-ups, just in terms of personality and ability and willingness to explain things clearly.)


My pocket Rosary is ready to go; it will keep me company while I am waiting. Even if I’m too distracted to pray, there is great comfort in holding this Rosary, made (and prayed) by a caring friend, in running my finger over each knot that represents so much, in gripping the cord tightly in my fist.

Please pray for us as we wait, as we attempt to keep the balance between hope and dread.

Hail, Holy Queen

In honor of today’s celebration of the Queenship of Mary, here’s a how-to for my favorite variation of the Rosary:  the Franciscan Crown.

It’s got that name because, according to legend, the Blessed Mother asked an aspiring Franciscan friar to weave her a crown of prayers.

The Franciscan Crown is a 7-decade Rosary.  If you don’t have a 7-decade set, use your regular Rosary and just backtrack a bit.  Unlike the regular Rosary, you start at the medal and end at the cross.

For each decade, pray 1 Our Father, 10 Hail Marys and 1 Gloria.

Here are the meditations for each decade:

  1. The first Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Annunciation.  “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Your word.”  May I become your humble servant, Lord.
  2. The second Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Visitation.  “Rising up, Mary went into the hill country and saluted her cousin Elizabeth.  Grant us true love of neighbor, Lord.
  3. The third Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Birth of Jesus and the Adoration of the Magi.  “She brought forth her first-born son…and laid him in a manger.”  Give us true poverty of spirit, Lord.
  4. The fourth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Presentation and Purification.  “They carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…as it is written in the law of the Lord.”  Help me obey all just laws.
  5. The fifth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Finding of Jesus in the Temple.  “Not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem seeking him.”  May I never lose you through serious sin, Lord.
  6. The sixth Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at the Resurrection of Jesus.  “The Lord is not here; He is risen.”  May we share your glory, Lord.
  7. The seventh Joy in the Crown of Mary is the joy of Our Lady at her Assumption into Heaven and her Coronation.  “A woman clothed with the sun; upon her head a crown of twelve stars.”  Mary, may we share your crown of eternal life.
After you have prayed the seven decades, pray two more Hail Marys to make a total of 72–honoring the 72 years of Mary’s life (according to legend).  Then, for the intentions of the Holy Father, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Gloria.
Friar Charles has some more details on the Franciscan Crown.  You don’t have to be a Franciscan to pray this beautiful devotion.  Join me today, in honor of the Queenship of Mary.

Deer and Dogs and Rosaries

On the third Friday of each month, members of my Secular Franciscan fraternity meet to pray a Franciscan Crown Rosary for the intention of the protection of the unborn and healing for post-abortive mothers.

Last night, due to circumstances beyond my control, I brought Little Brother with me to the Rosary.

If weather permits, we pray outdoors at a little Blessed Mother statue at the back of the church. Last night’s weather was beautiful, and just before we began to pray, I looked over behind the parish office building and saw several deer. I pointed them out to Little Brother and my fellow Franciscans.

We counted at least seven of them before they all ran off a few moments later. They were so beautiful and graceful–and some of them were babies, so cute!

Little Brother wasn’t sticking with the Rosary too well, and I wasn’t about to force him, but he did wander over a few times and pray a few prayers with us. I was using my seven-decade Rosary, but I also had my very beautiful “Mary’s Month” Rosary with me, so I passed that one to him. A few of the people present didn’t want to be decade leaders, so I asked him if he’d lead the final decade.

And he did. I was so proud! And afterwards, all the other Seculars (all grandmothers, and some even great-grandmothers) made a big fuss over how well he did.

In the car going home, I told him how proud I was that he helped us pray the Rosary. After a moment, he changed the subject. I guess he was seizing the moment: “Mom, can I get a beagle?”

“No, bud.”

“But they’re so cute!”

“And they howl at the moon…”

“No, they don’t! They’re not werewolves!”

“Yes, they do. It’s called baying. Believe me, they do.”

“No, they’re praying. They pray to their God. He’s an awesome God and he likes dogs. Not like you.”

Well, I guess he told me! But he’s still not getting a dog, even if it is the praying kind.

A Mailbox Surprise

Yesterday when I got the mail I found a fairly heavy padded envelope, addressed to me, with my own return address on it as well. The postmark gave away its origin, though–the Virginia town where Patti, one of my Family Corner forum buddies lives. At first I thought she might have sent me a book–we’re both readers. But the package was a little lumpy for that.

What a surprise to open it up and find this beautiful rosary, handmade by her daughter. The Miraculous medal is also a locket–a combination I’d never seen before.

My first prayer on that rosary was a Divine Mercy chaplet, since the mail came at 3 PM. The chaplet was dedicated to my friend Patti, as she had hip replacement surgery yesterday. (Word last night was, she’s doing well but is in some pain.) Please add her to your prayers.