Facets of Faith: Prayer beads

At noon Saturday, Catholics gathered at thousands of rallies across the region and nation to pray the Rosary, part of the 2013 Public Square Rosary Crusade.

America Needs Fatima (americaneedsfatima.org/) promotes this annual event to ask God to solve problems we haven’t solved as humans.

“He will hear our prayers, especially if we pray the Rosary of His Blessed Mother. Without prayer, and specifically the Rosary, we will not find solutions to our nation’s many problems,” the website says.

Prayer ritual

The most identifiable part of the Rosary is a strand of rosary beads. A series of prayers, which includes the “Our Father,” “Hail Mary” and “Glory Be to the Father,” is guided by a patterned string of beads. A typical set has five sets of 10 beads separated by a single bead.

For detailed instructions on how to pray the Rosary, visit theholyrosary.org/.

Prayer beads

Prayer beads are found in many religions.

Other Christian denominations use prayer beads. In Eastern Orthodoxy, it is usually a monastic devotion. Its Greek and Turkish branches used a string of 33, 50 or 100 knots known as kombologion. In Russia, the vervista has 103 beads in parallel strands separated by four large beads, suggesting a ladder for a soul ascending to heaven.

Since the 1980s, Episcopalians have had a 33-bead rosary, representing the years of Christ’s life.

ISLAM: Subha, meaning to praise, is a string of Muslim prayer beads whose units (100, 11, 25, or 33) represent the 99 names of God. As the beads are touched one by one, Muslims may recite any of several formulas, the most common is “Glory to Allah,” the 99 names of God. The beads are not required. Many do not use them.

HINDU: Some scholars believe Hindus were the first to use prayer beads. Hindus used them for reciting mantras and to count one’s breath to focus during meditation. The strands are called malas (Sanskrit for garland) and can be worn like a necklace. The mala is 108 beads representing the cosmos.

BUDDHISM: Buddhists also wear malas. Buddhist malas are 108 same-sized beads with a larger bead called the focal or guru bead. Smaller strands with 54 or 27 beads were designed so the beads wouldn’t touch the ground when bowing. Buddhists use the mala for the same reasons as Hindus, however, the 108 beads represent worldly desires or negative emotions to overcome to reach nirvana. BAHAI: Some Bahai use prayer beads to repeat the prayer “God is Most Glorious” 95 times. Bahai prayer strands are usually circles of 19 beads with five counters or a circle of 95 beads with a marker after every 19 beads.

SOURCES: Merriam-Webster’s Encyclopedia of World Religions, Wendy Doniger, editor; HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion, Jonathan Z. Smith, editor; World Religions, John Bowker; beliefnet.com; religioustolerance.com; theholyrosary.org/