The day began with a worship service that was filled with a bittersweet sense of endings and beginnings. There was a procession of joy as seminary graduates were honored and celebrated. There were tables and tables of food, and young people posing for photos with their arms linked. We heard expressions of gratitude and were introduced to families that we'd heard about but never met.
My grandmother was from a part of the world that no longer exists. As an immigrant to the U.S. between two wars, she saw people raped and murdered and towns plundered. Until she died she continued to express strong feelings about people and places—feelings that seemed only bizarre and paranoid to me, her young granddaughter.
Harvard historian of religion Wilfred Cantwell Smith likes to talk about the origins of the rosary, the string of beads used for prayers by devout Catholics. Catholics got the idea for using prayer beads from Muslims, for whom prayer beads are quite common. The Muslims likely got the idea from Buddhists, and the Buddhists no doubt picked up the idea from Indian Brahmans, whose 108 beads account for the requisite number of Hindu prayers (Mark Juergensmeyer et al., God in the Tumult of the Global Square, University of California Press).