As a Dominican you can be called for some missionary work in quite unexpected places.
The following story took place in a barbershop in Breda, a city in the Netherlands. The hairdresser took care of the increasingly greying hair of a Lay Dominican.
During a Dominican celebration he told us the following story:
After the necessary preparation the hairdresser, Jolanda (I can’t remember her real name, but I call her so, because everybody has a name, don’t they?) took me to a seat where I became the subject of her clipping art. In the mirror I saw Jolanda wearing a beautiful silver rosary around her neck.
To my question where she got this lovely ornament from, she answered: “From my grand-mother”. I said:” Do you know what it is that you are wearing?” “Just a string of beads”. “No”, I said, “ it’s not a string of beads, it’s a rosary”. “What’s that?” she wanted to know. “Well, it’s a string of beads, used by Catholic people to pray with”. “Oh, is it? ” was her reaction. “Yes”, I said. And I tried to explain to her the different sizes of the beads. Some of the beads are bigger, and between the big and the small ones is some space left. When you start praying you always start at the cross. “What do you pray then?” she asked again. “People start at the cross praying the confession of faith. In this prayer you express your faith, which is of course faith in God. That’s obvious”. “Yes, that’s obvious” she said without any hesitation. “And what do the beads mean?” she wanted to know again. “I will explain it to you. At a big bead we pray the Lord’s Prayer, at the small ones we pray Hail Mary”. “What kind of prayer is that?” she went on to ask.
As a Lay Dominican, sitting in a chair at the barbershop I felt I had a mission to do. So, quite loudly I was saying the words of the Lord’s Prayer and also the Hail Mary, so that Jolanda could hear it well above all the noises of the blowers, clippers etcetera. Now and again she stopped working so she could listen properly to what I was praying. She didn’t know what praying was like and she was very surprised I could do it all by heart. But I was a kid from a devout Catholic farmers family. When I was growing up we had to pray the rosary kneeling in front of the chair in the kitchen, facing the Holy Mary. She had a place of honour in the kitchen on a brown console. And what’s more when a neighbour had passed away, we had to pray the rosary three times around during the wake.
Jolanda seemed to like the subject and it didn’t harm me at all, but I was very pleased to have met such an open-minded happy girl, full of questions about her grandmother’s string of beads. In the end I said to her it would be a good idea to go and talk to your grandmother about the meaning of the rosary. And I also said to her when you are down hearted or it isn’t going well between you and your friend it helps you to pray the Hail Mary, it gives you strength.
“Sir, thank you for the explanation, now I know what I am wearing”. That’s what she said when I left the shop after paying the bill.
Author: Bernardus, Province of The Netherlands