19-year-old S was raised Catholic in Houston, Texas. When she was in 9th grade, she attended her first overnight church retreat. During this retreat, she experienced the Catholic tradition of Adoration, in which the body of Christ in the form of the sacramental bread is displayed for prayer in the church.
During Adoration, S prayed her rosary, which was a gift from her grandmother. It had lavender-purple faux crystal beads. While praying she was overcome with emotion and started to cry. She put the rosary away and went to confession. Once adoration ended, she left the church and returned to a different building where they broke off into small groups to talk about the experience.
S opened up the little white bag containing the rosary and suddenly noticed that the beads were a bright baby blue. She believed that the rosary had changed color during Adoration, coinciding with her intense emotional experience. This belief was affirmed by the adults leading the retreat, who told her that blue is the Virgin Mary’s color, meaning that she must have performed the miracle. S told her story to the whole room (50+ people) and called her mom in tears to tell her about the miracle. This moment was the strongest she had ever believed in God, but it was probably the last moment she ever believed to that extent as well.
The next morning when her mom came to pick her, S pulled out the rosary to show her. Her heart sank as it was purple again. She snuck back into the youth center and realized the grave mistake: it was only the lighting of that room that had changed the color of the rosary. Immediately she felt embarrassed for having believed such a miracle could have occurred. S says that her belief in Catholicism pretty much declined from there, largely due to other factors but also the humiliation of such an underwhelming event.
S thought she had a personal experience of myth, or the occurrence of a miracle, which is central to Catholic mythology. Often, for people growing up in christian communities, they are instilled with expectations for God’s incessant greatness and love for all his creation. Catholicism especially holds the notion of every-day miracles at its core, preaching that the divine can send little miracles, or head-nods, to acknowledge his creation and the hope of their eventual salvation.
The Christian doctrine creates endless promises to its followers, giving them hope for when hope is absent. However, when such promises are not conceived in any way, people tend to drift away from God. It is an underwhelming and confounding experience, which in turn deters followers from Christian doctrine and introduces them into a realm of harsh reality.
S believed she had experienced a miracle, which was so central to her belief system at the time. However, once she realized her miracle was false, she not only snapped back to reality, but also realized the prospect that much more than just the color-changing rosary was an underwhelming lie. Although she mentioned that other factors played a role in her rift from the church, this instance is symbolic of what happens with many when religious beliefs get flipped on their head.