Sunday, December 26, 2010

Through the scanner

This was just an ordinary x-ray machine (not the kind at the airports that are drawing a commotion). If I had brought a backpack to my meeting this week, I would have had to put it through that machine. But instead, I only had to empty my pockets of metal belongings. As I walked through a metal detector, those things passed through the x-ray machine.

Out of habit, I hadn't taken the time to sort through my pockets to only submit the belongings that might contain metal (e.g., watch, coins, keys). To make it easier, I had simply placed everything that I'd had in my pockets in the little plastic dish that would go through the x-ray machine. That day, like almost every day, I'd had my wooden Rosary in my pocket, and it went through the x-ray machine as well.

What had the security guards thought when they saw my Rosary? Do they examine so many objects every day that any meaning associated with an object goes unnoticed to them?

What did my colleague think if he saw my Rosary? He has been to my office many times and if he has ever noticed the small prayer cards on my wall, this small sacramental probably wouldn't have been a great surprise to him. But the next time that he comes to my office and sees those small prayer cards, will he also remember the Rosary that had been in my pocket? Will he think, "Hmm, here is a man that bears small signs of faith not only on his office wall, but also on his hip?"

What did our host think if he saw my Rosary? Did I become not just a mathematician from the research lab, but "a mathematician from the research lab that carries a Rosary in his pocket"? If he too carries a Rosary in his pocket, did seeing mine bring him encouragement? If he has not seen very many Rosaries, was he fascinated by the cross? Did seeing the Rosary ever affect his perception of me during our meeting?

When I awoke that morning and prepared for work and put the Rosary, I didn't think about who would see it. But could it have made a difference?


  1. What would you have done if the TSA classified your rosary as a potential weapon and would not allow you on the plane with it? This is worth thinking about because it may happen day. That may be the real question: would you not fly for the sake of the rosary? The TSA is such an unknown that anything is possible.

  2. Actually, the Rosary is a weapon:

    "Love the Madonna and pray the rosary, for her rosary is the weapon against the evils of the world today" (St. Padre Pio).


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