What Is It?

What is the significance of this set of Rosary beads, and how did they find a home here at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts?

Let's go back to May 13, 1982. Saint John Paul II was in Fatima, Portugal, giving thanks to the Mother of God for his survival despite the attempt on his life made in St. Peter's Square on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima one year prior. He said in his homily in Fatima, "I seemed to recognize in the coincidence of the dates a special call to come to this place. And so, today I am here. I have come in order to thank Divine Providence in this place which the Mother of God seems to have chosen in a particular way. ..."

The Holy Father offered the bullet that nearly missed every vital organ in his body to be placed in the crown of Our Lady of Fatima. He prayed before her statue, and he took the Rosary from her hands, replacing it with a new Rosary. 

The Holy Father decided to give this Rosary from Fatima to one of his closest friends — the future Cardinal Andrew Deskur, whom he had known since his seminary years. They had studied together in secret during the Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II. It was Deskur who had introduced the young Karol Wojtyla (the future St. John Paul II) to the burial site of Sr. Faustina Kowalska at a nearby convent in Kraków-Łagiewniki. Karol would often visit Faustina's grave and pray there on his way to work in the quarry. 

Years later, while St. John Paul II was convalescing from the assassination attempt, Fr. Deskur read him the manuscript of St. Faustina'sDiary, which our very own Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, MIC, had provided. The first edition of the Diary was printed here in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, because the Communist occupation of Poland at the time prevented the Diary from being printed there. In gratitude to Fr. Deskur, Pope John Paul II gave the Rosary from the statue of Our Lady of Fatima to Fr. Deskur and told him to give it to his mother.

Soon after this exchange, Fr. Seraphim was visiting Fr. Deskur again. Father Deskur proceeded to pull out a Rosary and said to Fr. Seraphim, "The Holy Father gave this to me to give to my mother. But she has dementia and will not be able to appreciate it. So, you please take it, and give it to your mother."

In humble gratitude, Fr. Seraphim accepted this gift. After his mother's passing, the Rosary was put in the care of his older sister, Sr. Sophia Michalenko, CMGT, who also worked on the first edition of the Diary given to Fr. Deskur and St. John Paul II. Since Sr. Sophia's death in 2017, the Rosary has rested in the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. It sits in a glass case between the relics of St. Faustina Kowalska and St. John Paul II, in the side chapel opposite the Shrine's very own statue of Our Lady of Fatima. In a spiritual sense, the Rosary has come full circle.

— Melanie Williams