A Spiritual Practice for Guilt

We come to prayer and meditation for many reasons. Some have a daily practice, some come to prayer the way you grab the “Oh Jesus” handle in the car when things get rough. Praying for help in the clutch of difficulty is as old as old gets.

Then there are the long-term difficulties that seep through daily life that we live with but forget to pray about. I’m going to broadly define prayer as a conscious outreach to the Divine / God/ess. Communication with and listening for the response.

I have some issues that are pernicious and have roots in my Catholic upbringing.

The upside of being raised Catholic is that I am a really responsible person. I am also hypersensitive to my mistakes and prone to condemn myself. I can go from, I did bad to I am bad in the blink of an eye. The gravity of guilt and shame can be life-sapping and miserable. However I got this message, I have come to know that I’m not bad, but the idea slinks back into the background of my life. Buddhist practices and therapy have helped ease the guilt orientation but I’m into the idea of religious homeopathy, so I created a prayer practice around self-compassion, mercy, and worth and a set of beads to go with it.

I made them for regular use and for the type of moments that are more about the yearning for mercy & solace when swimming in guilt and the resulting ebb of self-worth. I made them because I need them and the road to self-compassion can be rocky. I have a feeling, I’m not alone.

The rosary itself is perfect for this – knowing we are held by the ultimate loving Mother, but I felt called to make something specific and with a different archetype or Saint. Enter – Saint Dismas. The “good bad guy” who was never really bad.

I knew little about the so-called Good Thief, so I delved into the story and mythology around him. He seemed the perfect arbiter of this issue, having been the guy on the cross next to Jesus who was forgiven and called to paradise with him. Basically, I can relate to him and like I mention in the story below, you can treat his story as an allegory or archetype if you aren’t into saints and stuff.

Below is a copy of the story that accompanies these beads. If you are interested, you can find the beads in my Etsy store.  There are 2 versions with different symbols to focus on.

Here is a copy of the story that comes with the Saint Dismas Daily Prayer & Meditation Beads

Here’s the story of the symbolism of your beads along with the ingredients and their meaning.  This set of prayer beads was handmade with lots of aloha (love). You can use them to pray, meditate, worry with, contemplate with or just play with to keep your hands busy. They can also be very helpful to focus your thoughts and energies. Some use them to say a quick decade of the rosary. My creations are all free range so use them as you are called to. 

Please note that the symbol meanings I offer here are those that I have curated. If you are attracted to a symbol in particular it could be an invitation to do your own exploration of what it means to you. 

I made these beads out of a need to focus on compassion and mercy when I was feeling down on myself. There are times when we struggle to feel our own worth and summon the courage to pick ourselves up, forgive and move on. When feeling low, it can be hard to imagine mercy, so these beads can be a path to that truth if that’s useful to you. I chose semi-precious stones for the beads that I think are helpful in this. Black onyx to transform negative energy and dragon’s vein agate to help uncover the truth of our goodness. 

Your prayer beads begin with a medal of St. Dismas. St. Dismas is called the “Penitent Thief” or “The Good Thief” and is said to have been crucified next to Jesus, having recognized that he and the other thief had been punished for their crimes and that Jesus was guilty of nothing. Jesus told him that he would be with him in paradise that day.  

There is another story that Dismas and another thief originally met Mary, Joseph, and Jesus on the road not long after Jesus was born and that Dismas bribed the other thief to leave them alone, sensing the Jesus was someone special.  

He is the patron saint of thieves and prisoners and a symbol of God’s infinite mercy and hope to many. While most people would not identify with literally being a thief or a prisoner, some of our struggles are around feeling like our difficulties steal happiness from us or feel imprisoned by them. Even if you only look at the story of Dismas as allegory, it’s a tale of a flawed person recognizing goodness in another and having that goodness reflected back to him. 

Here are a few quotes that I feel go along with prayer and meditation on self-compassion and mercy:  

“You come to God by doing it wrong, not by doing it right.” –Fr. Richard Rohr

“God is too busy loving you to be disappointed in you.” –Fr. Greg Boyle 

“The feeling remains that God is on the journey too.” –St. Therese of Avila

I’ve turned them into first-person affirmations that can be used in prayer. 

My mistakes also lead me to the Divine (God/ess or what term you use in prayer).

God is too busy loving me to be disappointed in me.

I am on this journey with God no matter what happens.

The first bead is made of black onyx and is intended as a place you can acknowledge your worries and self criticisms. Accepting that we criticize ourselves starts the transformation process.  I don’t recommend making a list but just allowing that you have negative self talk. 

The 10 main beads are made of 8mm Dragon’s Vein agate with clear Czech glass spacers and hand-tied knots in-between. 

I love the colors and I love the name “Dragon’s Vein” for the purpose of seeing the feeling of unworthiness as a dragon we feel we need to battle but end up befriending. Interpret this as fits your situation.  

The 10 beads are followed by a focus symbol, either a Butterfly or an Anchor.

⚓ The anchor is a symbol of love, fidelity, stability and connection. For a person who has been through difficult and hard times, a tumultuous past, the anchor is a representation of their safe place.

🦋 Butterflies are deep and powerful representations of life and transformation. Many cultures associate the butterfly with our souls. The ancient Romans and Greeks also refer to the butterfly with metaphysical regard. Aristotle called the butterfly by the name ‘Psyche,’ a Greek word meaning ‘soul.’

North American indigenous groups also feature the butterfly in several of their legends. The Tohono O’odham tribe believes that butterflies deliver their prayers and wishes to the Great Spirit. The Navaho regards the Butterfly as an emblem of happiness and rebirth.

 Many Christians see the butterfly as a symbol of resurrection. Around the world, people view the butterfly as representing endurance, change, hope, and life.

The butterfly is topped with what I call an Angel/Ancestor bead where you can acknowledge them and ask for their assistance in seeing yourself through the eyes of love in times of struggle. This bead is made of clear quartz crystal   

The anchor is followed by the Angel/Ancestor bead.

Ingredients and properties of your beads:  Clear quartz crystal is known as the “master healer” and is said to amplify energy and thought, as well as the effect of other stones or crystals nearby. Clear Quartz is said to draw off negative energy of all kinds and aid concentration and memory.

A powerful protection stone, Black Onyx is thought to absorb and transform negative energy, and help to prevent the drain of personal energy. Black Onyx aids the development of emotional and physical strength and stamina, especially when support is needed during times of stress, confusion or grief. Black Onyx fosters wise decision-making and can provide support for self-discipline issues. Because it helps to hold physical memories, Black Onyx can be useful in healing old wounds or past life issues.

Dragon’s vein agate is thought to assist with uncovering deep truths, blooming hidden talents and encouraging emotional honesty. Many use it discover their true wishes.  

Blessing: Your beads have spent time ‘in veneration’ of the First Class Relics of St. Theresa of Avila and St. Thérèse of Lisieux that have been in my care since I was a girl. True story. Nearly all these relics are in churches but for some reason, these ladies have been with me most of my life. 

Your beads have been cleansed with the smoke of sage, blessed with the sound of the conch shell, with holy water from Lourdes and essence of Wild Nauā Fern – the personification of Divine Tenderness and Waikau fern – the personification of Courage prepared by my dear friend and Hawaiian fern medicine practitioner, Ke’oni Hanalei (Pohala.net)  

It’s my hope that you delight in using these beads. Aloha and many blessings ! 

Please me know if you have questions. 

revjulienne@gmail.com Instagram & Facebook @FreerangePriestess New website & blog! freerangepriestess.com  

Cover photo: Photo by Ian Keefe on Unsplash

Published by Julienne Givot

Ordained Minister, Maui Wedding Officiant, Maker of Free-range Prayer Beads, Community Radio DJ, Artist. Podcaster.

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