Maisie Ward, in her book, The Splendour of the Rosary tells how she was a nurse at the height of the Battle of Britain as bombs were raining down on London. An air-raid warden was carried bleeding and broken into the hospital. In the darkness, she took out her Rosary beads and began to pray. The young man reached out his blood-stained hand and said: “Let me touch it. It's something to hold on to!”
Don't we all need such a support? Don't we all know some soul who needs something or someone to hold on to? What better could we offer than the Rosary? Mary, the Nurse of the Lamb of God offers us the cord of the beads and lets us hold on to the very hem of heaven.
Let me tell you of an experience that I had myself on the train from Belfast to Dublin: It started with a young man wanting a return train ticket to Dublin, but being short of cash had to settle for a single. He was nervous and asked me to sit beside him on the journey, South.
He told me his horrific life-story and when he came to the end, I said, ‘John, you’ve told it all, even your sins. That’s as good a confession as ever you’ll make, so I may as well give you absolution and ask for the loving mercy of Jesus on your life.’
He asked me to write to his mother and say, "Mum I love you and want you to know, your prayers have been answered.” He wrote the four words: Mum I love you on the back of his single ticket. He then asked if I could give him something sacred to remind him of this precious moment in his life.
Something inside me thought: ‘I may never see this young man again. I looked down at the precious rosary beads in my hands and said: ‘I want you to have these beads as a bond between us.’
‘I can’t,’ he said, ‘they are too beautiful, too precious for you to give away.’
‘That’s why I want you to have them. I wouldn’t give you trash. I’ll bless them for you now. Keep them and use them, and not only will your Mum be happy, but your Mother in heaven will smile on you.’
“Thank you,” he said. “It’s something to hold on to! Something to keep me safe!
I wish I'd had time to tell him that it was all that and more. Not only something but someone to hold on to! It was a Heaven-Sent life-line. I could have told him that when he held on to this blessed beads and united himself with the mysteries of Jesus and Mary, he would hold Heaven in the palm of his hand and touch the very edges of eternity I could have reminded him of the woman in the Gospel who said: “If I can only touch the tassel of his robe I will be cured,” and how Jesus said: “Who touched me? For power has gone out from me.”
I prayed that as he touched these blessed beads in faith hope and love, grace would flow into his soul and take away his fear. But time was not to be, though I trust my prayer was answered, even if not in the way I had hoped. I wrote as promised to his Mother, and included the single ticket with the words: Mum I love you!
Within a week, I got a telephone message from the Mother in Northern Ireland. She told me that her son had been killed in an accident the day after his arrival in Dublin. Between her tears, she said, ‘The undertaker found a beautiful rosary beads in his pocket and brought it to me. I would never have understood, only that I now have the beads in my hand and the single ticket saying Mum I love you! I’ll keep these beads and that single train ticket and treasure them for the rest of my days. They’re something to hold on to!
I still see that frightened young man standing at the booking office, not having the money for a return ticket to Dublin. I will remember the Rosary he held on to – and what he got in return: A single ticket to Heaven!