Bernini’s beads

Can you spot the rosary?

When I reached the end of the station pilgrimage the last time around, I was struck by the details.

For the sacramental theologian such as myself, there’s a deep lesson in the details of the journey. The Son of God’s Incarnation meant entering fully into the reality of human life, with all its diverse moments of suffering and disappointment, of hope and joy, of sometimes just getting by. The Passion narrative is the most vividly detailed part of the Gospels, and the Resurrection stories too, though reflecting the discombobulation of that utterly unprecedented event, also retain the sort of vivid details that stick out in one’s mind even when the world has just gone outside-in. Mary thinks Jesus is the gardener. Jesus eats a bit of fish. The sacraments depend on the details of the Lord’s life, too, on what he ate at his last meal.

Chrism Mass, 2022.

We don’t worship a Platonic form, but a man of flesh and blood. Sometimes artists have understood this better than theologians, and among my favorite expressions of the humanity of Catholicism remains the bronze rosary at the base of the baldacchino in St. Peter’s basilica — as if left there by accident, perhaps by a forgetful pilgrim. The central sculpture in the most magnificent temple in Christendom has this little human flaw built in, but, of course, it’s not a flaw at all. It’s the key.

Detail of Bernini’s baldacchino, St. Peter’s

This year I went back again to see if Bernini’s beads were still there, and, indeed, they are. Waiting there for me.

Resurrexit sicut dixit. Happy Easter. Here’s my post-Easter reflection on the station pilgrimage at America.

Author: Anthony Lusvardi, SJ

Anthony R. Lusvardi, S.J., teaches sacramental theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He writes on a variety of theological, cultural, and literary topics.

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