Gabrielle Atkins, left, prays with her head bowed at a Monday night rosary at the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Photo by Mark Robinson.
In the cavernous sanctuary of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Gabrielle Atkins clutches a strand of beige rosary beads and a prayer booklet in her hands.
With her head bowed, she closes her eyes, signs the cross and whispers the Apostles’ Creed, then the Our Father. Three Hail Marys follow and a Glory be to the Father. She is one of two people at the scheduled Monday night rosary.
As dictated by the Catholic ritual, the first mystery is announced: “Agony in the Garden,” the first of the five Sorrowful Mysteries. They dedicate it to all those lost in the past year.
The Our Father and a round of 10 Hail Marys follows. As each is complete, Atkins slides her index finger and thumb up a bead on her strand. She rocks back and forth rhythmically, meditating. The pair’s whispers echo in the empty labyrinth of pews. Two tea candles flicker in front of a cross at their feet.
They complete the Hail Marys and repeat the Glory be to the Father. Atkins kisses the cross on her rosary beads and another round of prayer begins. Her voice blends in unison with the friend next to her, but another voice is missing.
That voice would have belonged to Carolina Perez, a VCU student killed in a drunken driving crash last February. Before she died, Perez would lead the Monday night rosary at the Cathedral.
Atkins recalled how Perez, a native Spanish speaker, would fumble through the prayers in English.
“She’d trip up on her English whenever she’d pray the rosary,” Atkins said. “She’d just give up and do it in Spanish.”
Hearing Perez recite the prayers in her native language gave Atkins a sense of a greater connection to the wider Catholic community. Now, the feeling is different.
“Whenever I hear it in Spanish, I hear it in Carolina’s voice,” she said, quietly. “And it hurts. It hurts now.”
Read the full story courtesy of The Commonwealth Times.