Folks, it’s a prayer aid, not an accessory.


Photo: the Mary Rose Trust

An 8th grade girl got suspended in Texas for wearing a rosary around her neck because wearing a rosary directly violates the school’s dress code.

Rosaries are explicitly prohibited in the dress code because they have become associated with gang membership so the school banned wearing them or openly displaying them.

The girl says she wears the rosary to remind her of her late grandmother. I appreciate memorials as much as anyone, and when my grandmother died I made a point of getting one of her nice rosaries. But, folks, rosaries are intended as prayer aids, not clothing accessories (regardless of how many rosaries labels as “Rosary Necklace & Crucifix”).

What’s more, schools have the obligation to maintain a safe environment. If gangs have co-opted the rosary then any obvious, intentional display of it ought to be banned by the dress code. No problem with that at all. Persecution would start if they banned rosaries on the premises, even if kept in lockers, pockets, or backpacks. That’s not happening.

The problem here is that the girl and her mother think her choice of memorial is more important than school dress code. I’m willing to bet the deceased grandmother would agree with me. If the girl really wants to do good by her grandmother, honor her memory, help her with any time in Purgatory she may have, and put the rosary to its intended and appropriate use, PRAY IT DAILY!

P.S.  There is a situation, however, where I think it entirely appropriate to wear a rosary around your neck. If you are in a shooting war and you want to have a rosary, since pocket space is at a premium for things you need to keep yourself and your fellows alive, by all means, wear your rosary around your neck. It just might save your life.

P.P.S. This one really jumps the shark: Jewish rosaries. Seriously.

P.P.P.S. Yes, I guess Jewish “rosaries” are okay to wear.



  • GW why do I need 3 letters or more?

    Dominican Sisters wear the Rosary on their hip like a sword.

  • JohnE

    I think there’s two issues — 1. Whether or not it is appropriate to where a rosary solely as a fashion accessory. I agree it is not. 2. Whether it is appropriate to ban religious symbols as part of a school dress code, or to ban a particular religious symbol if that religious symbol has been co-opted to be a symbol of gang membership.

    If the school bans the wearing of all religious symbols, then the banning of wearing the rosary might be right for the wrong reason. If it is only banning the rosary because it is used by gang members, should they ban crosses if gang members started wearing them around their necks? Is it fair that illegitimate use of the religious symbol prevents legitimate use? And what if a student actually intended to pray the rosary on their lunch break and had little or no pocket space? I know of sisters who wear the rosary on their hip. Perhaps the school should provide a room to pray the rosary during the lunch hour and only those who attend regularly can wear it.

  • Francis

    Actually, it is quite common for people to wear rosaries around their necks in Mexico. I have no idea if the girl in question is of Mexican descent, but because Texas is a border state it would not surprise me if certain cultural customs were on both sides of the border.

  • Ben

    My problem with this article is that it automatically assumes that the only reason one might wear a rosary (outside of a war zone) is because one is viewing it as an accessory, which is simply not true. Byzantine Catholics wear prayer beads called Troykys around their wrist to remind them of Christ’ Mercy and in order to use the beads to recite the Jesus prayer constantly. Just as one might wear a crucifix or a miraculous medal or a troyky around the wrist, I could also see wearing a rosary around the neck as a proper use of a sacramental. It seems a bit judgmental to assume that one is necessarily viewing the rosary as an accessory and not praying with it just because one also wears it as a reminder. Sacramentals are part of our Catholic heritage–I don’t think there is something intrinsically wrong with wearing rosaries around the neck. And as for gang members abusing the rosary, they do the same thing with crosses and crucifixes–should schools be allowed to ban those too???
    On the other hand, the swastika is a particular kind of cross, technically, and I could see schools legitimately banning it, so maybe your point about the particular usage of something being banned does have validity. However, again I return to the fact that you also said that rosaries should NEVER be worn around the neck, which I just don’t think is accurate…

  • Laura

    “If gangs have co-opted the rosary then any obvious, intentional display of it ought to be banned by the dress code” I disagree, what if gangs decided to carry a Bilbe everywhere, should that be banned too? The fact is that a rosary is a catholic and not a gang object. Rosaries aren’t being used properly, the solution is fix that situation, not ban any visible rosary.

    • Tom Crowe

      Two points. 1) As is part of my overall point: a rosary is not an accessory, so no one should be wearing it around their neck, gang banger or girl remembering grandma. And no one said she couldn’t carry it in her pocket. I carry a rosary in my pocket and just move it around with my fingers as I’m standing talking to people, in line, wherever, where it serves as a little prayer reminder to re-cast my state of mind without anyone knowing. It’s a nice reminder. 2) While your principle is sound, your example is weak: I don’t foresee gang bangers carrying Bibles since they can be awfully unwieldy, make it difficult to throw up signs, can be mistaken for school books (uncool!), and generally are not as convenient as something that is worn. Now if they figure out how to wear a Bible around their neck, then I would have no problem with that type of display of a Bible being banned as well, since again, the Bible itself wasn’t banned, just a particular use/display of it. The solution, of course, is to fix the misuse, and frankly, the best thing public schools can do to assist the Catholics with that is by banning a misuse. Which they’ve done.



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