As a young child, I attended the Methodist church with my family. Even though I currently choose not to be part of an organized religion, I am most familiar with the Methodist church when it comes to such things.
I can remember growing up being a bit jealous of the Catholics in my small town. They had the fanciest church. Most of the popular kids attended the Catholic church. They also had the most population of kids (duh), with the Lutherans close behind. Then there was the little white Methodist church with maybe 10 kids in total. It's just a fact, when you're a kid, you want to be around other kids.
I used to spend some time with a neighbor friend who's family was Catholic. They were a large family (duh) and when they gathered for a meal, it was an impressive crowd. This was also the first place I saw people recite a prayer, all together, and perform strange, synchronized hand movements. I remember feeling very awkward and out of place. I think it was my first culture shock. In our small, very caucasion community, religion, income, townies or farmers were pretty much the only differences among us.
Later, as I learned more about religions and the Catholic practices and rituals, I thought the Methodists were even more uninteresting. We only talked about Mary around Christmas. We didn't have rituals or synchronized prayers during our service. I take that back, the Methodists recite the Lord's prayer together and I guess their ritual was passing the donation plate; just not as fascinating as the Catholics. Then there was the Catholic stuff: the saints, the necklaces/rosaries, the cards, the statues on the dashboards, the swinging smoke thing and lighting candles. The Methodists didn't have any cool stuff.
Now, after all these years, those old "Catholics are cool" thoughts came streaming back. And it was because of the bowling ball rosary story from Herald & Review in Central Illinois...
Monday, October 2, 2006 8:43 AM CDT
1,000-pound rosary sends heavy message:
By TONY REID - H&R Staff Writer
Photo by Herald & Review/Kelly J. Huff
NOKOMIS, ILLINOIS - Hail Mary, full of grace ? and if you sinners out there try to pray this particular rosary, you are going to need a back brace.
Not that fingering the 59 beads is the point here, of course. The rosary that retired quarry worker Bernard "Chub" Clark has created in his rural three acre yard near Nokomis is made of old bowling balls and probably weighs close to 1,000 pounds, give or take.
Behind the rosary is a cautionary sign, stark black letters against a white backdrop: "You know not the hour Jesus will come - please pray." Clark hopes the message rather than the rosary will weigh heavily on the conscience of rubber-necking motorists passing by on Hillside Avenue. Clark believes mankind has strayed further and further into the gutter and our Father, who art displeased in heaven, is getting ready to bowl us over for our wickedness.
"People have got no respect for themselves or anybody else," laments Clark, 73, a faithful Catholic. "And I do think, if we don't change the ways of the world, then the good Lord one of these days is going to say 'The hell with you' and stick a match to it."
He's convinced his 65-year-old Lutheran wife, Wilma, who has a 500-plus collection of angel figurines and thinks her husband is on to something: "The signs aren't good," she says. "Things just seem to be getting worse and worse all the time."
So, what to do? Her husband took the view, supported by his wife, that if people aren't taking much notice of God, you can at least remind them that he's out there in the great alley of sin, keeping score. Clark, who has bowled a fair bit in his time and fingered a personal rosary so fervently over the years he had to replace the worn-out beads with lead shot fishing weights, decided he could combine bowling and the rosary to make a striking statement about salvation.
He got it all done four years ago, linking each ball by 1/4-inch log chain and attaching a 2-foot by 16-inch cross hewn from 4-by-4 treated lumber at the center. Word of his creation has gradually spread among the multitude, and various priests have dropped by for a visitation, too. In July, it made the front page of the Catholic Times, the official newspaper for the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, no less.
"After it came out in the Catholic Times, I don't know how many phone calls we got about it," says Wilma. "We've had a lot of people coming out here to take pictures of it."
Her husband even encountered a passer-by who confessed up front he was an atheist but, despite himself, couldn't hide his admiration for the bold handiwork wrought by a true believer. "He said he thought the rosary was really neat," recalls Clark, smiling. "So maybe it might be turning him around a little bit towards God, I don't know. It can't hurt, though, can it?"