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Issue 12 – Assumption 2022


Try This

On the Rosary.


I made my First Holy Communion in Baltimore in 1965. Half-asleep one night leading up to the big day, which seemed like two birthdays and three Christmases rolled into one, I thought I saw the Virgin Mary on the wall of my bedroom. It rattled me in a way the picture of the Devil in my prayer book—who looked like a Saturday morning cartoon—did not. My father, a kind and distinctly non-religious man, explained that it was just the headlights of cars coming down the road. He pointed to the window as one approached, pointed to the wall, patted my head, and told me to go to sleep. The explanation made sense, but I was not convinced.

My prayer book also came with a Rosary, white for the girls and black for the boys, presented to fifty of us in the second grade at a parish named for the patron saint of blacksmiths. I’m not sure we were taught how to pray with it. The beads went in a drawer of the desk I received as a Communion gift, along with a matching bookcase and a set of the World Book encyclopedia (with the transparent, overlapping pages that showed the innards of a frog), and were soon forgotten. But I never forgot the Lady in white on the wall of my bedroom.

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About the author

Rafael Alvarez

Rafael Alvarez has published a dozen books—both fiction and nonfiction—all about Baltimore. In September, Cornell University Press released his biography of a violent junkie turned do-gooder called Don’t Count Me Out: A Baltimore Dope Fiend’s Miraculous Recovery. This essay appeared in the Assumption 2022 issue of The Lamp.

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