The first thought that entered my mind (after I got over my initial surprise) was of the Muslim prayer rugs that have a few stiches the wrong color, or the great mosques where every row of columns has one that’s just slightly out of kilter. The makers put these imperfections into their work intentionally, as an acknowledgement that only God can lay claim to perfection, which it is right and proper for us to acknowledge.
These visible flaws don’t simply remind us that God is perfect, of course; their purpose is also to remind us that we ourselves are radically imperfect; not simply morally flawed, but incomplete without God. So my flawed rosary, through the (unintentional, no doubt) mistake of its maker can represent the flawed nature of all of us.
There is also a reminder here, however, of my own particular imperfection: I have carried this rosary in my pocket for seven or eight years; I don't use it every day (when I pray the rosary in the car, as I often do, I usually forgo the beads and use my fingers, in the interests of automotive safety), but I use it frequently enough that I ought to have noticed that it is one “Hail Mary” short. In fact, I really should have noticed when I first bought it at the local Catholic book store. So, I have not only a symbol of human imperfection, but a very real, concrete reminder of my own broken nature, and in a very particular area.
Today, as it happens, is the last day of Ordinary Time. Here is the Gospel reading for the day:
Jesus said to his disciples: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36)
As we are about to embark on the Season of Advent, in which we prepare for the coming of Jesus, not only at Christmas, but at his second coming, and also his coming for each one of us individually, we are enjoined to pay attention. It looks like I have my work cut out for me; and every time I put my hand in my pocket, I have a tangible warning of how far I have to go.