I love praying the rosary. It always has given me peace whenever I have recited it, and my family prays the Sorrowful Mysteries together each Lent. However, the person who has the greatest devotion to the Rosary in my family is my Protestant Uncle Ralph.
When I was growing up my family lived next door to Uncle Ralph and his family. Uncle Ralph was my favorite uncle. He always had a sense of fun, loved to shoot the breeze with kids and did a hilarious Donald Duck imitation. My Dad’s family were all Protestant; my brother and I were Catholic because my Dad had married my Catholic Mom, so I was surprised one day during my teen years when Uncle Ralph pulled out his rosary and told me how he came to always carry it.
Ralph was a homesick 19 year old in 1951. His Army National Guard unit had been called up for duty in the Korean War. He was stationed in California waiting to be shipped out, when, one Sunday, he had dinner with a Catholic family under an Army sponsored program to give troops some home-cooked meals. Ralph enjoyed himself immensely. The family treated him like a long lost son and brother, and the meal was superb. Ralph was relaxing after the meal when the father of the family, a WWI vet, handed him a Rosary. “Here son, this got me safe back from France and I hope it does the same for you in Korea.” Ralph wasn’t sure what a Rosary was, but he was touched by the gesture and he took the Rosary.
Ralph fought in several bloody battles after he arrived in Korea. The Chinese would attempt to take hills and Uncle Ralph and his Division would do their best to hold on, or retake captured hills, and he did a fair amount of fighting and praying. When he prayed he would hold the Rosary in his hands and it became a source of hope for him.
Ralph made it back from Korea in one piece, raised a family and had a good life. More than half a century later, still a Protestant, he and the Rosary remain inseparable. I have no doubt he will be buried with it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, one day, a Protestant is seen strolling the streets of Heaven with a rosary in his hands.