Too many ornaments on your Rosary…Poem

There are may ways to recite the Most Holy Rosary.  The basic paradigm changes from country to country.  In Italy, for example, the recitation of the Rosary usually includes the Litany of the Blessed Virgin.  In the USA, people often tack on the "Fatima Prayer".  In Germany you sometimes hear the addition, during the Hail Mary, of the Mystery of that decade after the Holy Name.

At my home parish, the old pastor would, go to church or to wakes and just say the Rosary, no frills, no additions.  That seemed to work out just fine. 

In interesting request from a reader:

I am looking for a poem in the monthly " Catholic Hearth" It had a poem in it, by a father who was complaining because his wife was hanging too many ornaments (intentions) on the family Rosary. I wish I could get a copy so I could recite it when the woman gets a little out of control….praying for everybody and their neighbor…."3 hours later" the Rosary is finished and were all about to kill her…  but with a smile on our face and Rosary beads in our hands.


Can anyone dig this up?

BTW… if you are interested in historic forms of rosaries, take a look at Paternoster Row.


This might be the poem in question.  [The word "keownrawning" means "grumbling".]

I would love to have a recording of this made a, preferably, an older Irish priest.  Any takers out there?  I know there are priests in Ireland who read this.  How about it, Reverend Fathers?  I’ll put you in a PODCAzT! 


Ah, the memories that find me now my hair is turning gray,
Drifting in like painted butterflies from paddocks far away;
Dripping dainty wings in fancy – and the pictures, fading fast,
Stand again in rose and purple in the album of the past.
There’s the old slab dwelling dreaming by the wistful, watchful trees,
Where the coolabahs are listening to the stories of the breeze;
There’s a homely welcome beaming from its big, bright friendly eyes,
With The Sugarloaf behind it blackened in against the skies;
There’s the same dear happy circle round the boree’s cheery blaze
With a little Irish mother telling tales of other days.
She had one sweet, holy custom which I never can forget,
And a gentle benediction crowns her memory for it yet;
I can see that little mother still and hear her as she pleads,
"Now it’s getting on to bed-time; all you childer get your beads."
There were no steel-bound conventions in that old slab dwelling free;
Only this – each night she lined us up to say the Rosary;
E’en the stranger there, who stayed the night upon his journey, knew
He must join the little circle, ay, and take his decade too.
I believe she darkly plotted, when a sinner hove in sight
Who was known to say no prayer at all, to make him stay the night.
Then we’d softly gather round her, and we’d speak in accents low,
And pray like Sainted Dominic so many years ago;
And the little Irish mother’s face was radiant, for she knew
That "where two or three are gathered" He is gathered with them too.
O’er the paters and the aves how her reverent head would bend!
How she’d kiss the cross devoutly when she counted to the end!
And the visitor would rise at once, and brush his knees – and then
He’d look very, very foolish as he took the boards again.
She had other prayers to keep him.  They were long, long prayers in truth;
And we used to call them "Trimmin’s" in my disrespectful youth.
She would pray for kith and kin, and all the friends she’d ever known,
Yes, and everyone of us could boast a "trimmin"’ all his own.
She would pray for all our little needs, and every shade of care
That might darken o’er The Sugarloaf, she’d meet it with a prayer.
She would pray for this one’s "sore complaint," or that one’s "hurted hand,"
Or that someone else might make a deal and get "that bit of land";
Or that Dad might sell the cattle well, and seasons good might rule,
So that little John, the weakly one, might go away to school.
There were trimmin’s, too, that came and went; but ne’er she closed without
Adding one for something special "none of you must speak about."
Gentle was that little mother, and her wit would sparkle free,
But she’d murder him who looked around while at the Rosary:
And if perchance you lost your beads, disaster waited you,
For the only one she’d pardon was "himself" – because she knew
He was hopeless, and ’twas sinful what excuses he’d invent,
So she let him have his fingers, and he cracked them as he went,
And, bedad, he wasn’t certain if he’d counted five or ten,
Yet he’d face the crisis bravely, and would start around again;
But she tallied all the decades, and she’d block him on the spot,
With a "Glory, Daddah, Glory!" and he’d "Glory" like a shot.
She would portion out the decades to the company at large;
But when she reached the trimmin’s she would put herself in charge;
And it oft was cause for wonder how she never once forgot,
But could keep them in their order till she went right through the lot.
For that little Irish mother’s prayers embraced the country wide;
If a neighbour met with trouble, or was taken ill, or died,
We could count upon a trimmin’ – till, in fact, it got that way
That the Rosary was but trimmin’s to the trimmin’s we would say.
Then "himself" would start keownrawning – for the public good, we thought –
"Sure you’ll have us here till mornin’.  Yerra, cut them trimmin’s short!"
But she’d take him very gently, till he softened by degrees –
"Well, then, let us get it over.  Come now, all hands to their knees."
So the little Irish mother kept her trimmin’s to the last,
Every growing as the shadows o’er the old selection passed;
And she lit our drab existence with her simple faith and love,
And I know the angels lingered near to bear her prayers above,
For her children trod the path she trod, nor did they later spurn
To impress her wholesome maxims on their children in their turn.
Ay, and every "sore complaint" came right, and every "hurted hand";
And we made a deal from time to time, and got "that bit of land";
And Dad did sell the cattle well; and little John, her pride,
Was he who said the Mass in black the morning that she died;
So her gentle spirit triumphed – for ’twas this, without a doubt,
Was the very special trimmin’ that she kept so dark about.

                         . . . . .

But the years have crowded past us, and the fledglings all have flown,
And the nest beneath The Sugarloaf no longer is their own;
For a hand has written "finis" and the book is closed for good –
Here’s a stately red-tiled mansion where the old slab dwelling stood;
There the stranger has her "evenings," and the formal supper’s spread,
But I wonder has she "trimmin’s" now, or is the Rosary said?
Ah, those little Irish mothers passing from us one by one!
Who will write the noble story of the good that they have done?
All their children may be scattered, and their fortunes windwards hurled,
But the Trimmin’s on the Rosary will bless them round the world.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Poetry, SESSIUNCULA and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. FrCharles says:

    I would enjoy hearing this poem too. Appending the “October prayer to St. Joseph” to the rosaray when I was a neophyte did me a lot of good back then. And happy birthday, Fr. Z!

  2. Allan S. says:

    I have a simple rule: I pray for up to five intentions on the standard five decade rosary – one intention for each mystery prayed. That way, I can load up an appropriate number of intentions.

    Yesterday, for example, I prayed for a colleague’s deceased father, her mother, the colleague, all those in physical agony and for improved personal character/delivery from fear.

    Everyday it’s different. If I don’t have five, I just pick someone at random – a guy I saw on the bus, a nurse who was able to find a vein on me her first try, somebody who pi$$ed me off, – you get the idea.

    Works for me….

  3. Fr. Kelly says:

    I’m not sure if this is what you are looking for, but John O’Brien has a poem named “Trimmins on the Rosary” it can be found online at
    I believe it was originally from _Around the Boree Log_ a collection of his poetry. I first came across it in a recording and found it raised very strong and beloved memories of growing up.

    Although the father does complain a bit (actually, it is the author who remembers complaining) the poem actually remembers them very fondly.

    Hope this helps.

    Fr. Kelly

  4. Oh, goodness. That’s a wonderful poem.

  5. Melody says:

    This is why I don’t say the rosary with some of my friends anymore. ADD is a cross for me, and saying five decades usually takes them almost two hours.

  6. Melody says:

    BTW, I commented before I read the poem, which now has me in tears.

  7. frobuaidhe says:

    Oh, how I rememeber the trimmings on the Rosary! It’s the nearest thing to Purgatory on earth I can think of. My grandmother’s aged brother led the Rosary every evening before we went to bed. There we were as children, kneeling on a knobbly cement floor for what seemed like hours as he added on an Our Father and three Hail Marys for the dying sinners, and again for the family away from home, and for the neighbours, and for the Prtotestants, and …and… One night my cousin and I rebelled and refused to go in for the Rosary. Later the same evening an uncle came out to us and begged us to go back the next evening, because his uncle had added an Our Father and three Hail Marys for us as well that we would come back to the Rosary!

  8. wanda says:

    Beautiful poem. Goosebumps and a tear. I’ve come a bit late to the Rosary, but I add ornaments.

    Thank you Fr. Z.

  9. irishgirl says:

    I remember hearing a recording of this poem-not the whole thing, but at least a portion of it-done by a holy priest in, of all places, North Dakota. He had a radio Rosary broadcast that he started in 1954 [the year I was born, BTW]. It used to be on a local station for many years in the late 70s and early 80s.

    Sadly, he passed away in August 1988-the day before the end of the ‘second Marian Year’. The shrine he founded [where the Rosary broadcasts originated] fell into rack and ruin after his death. I went there in 1978, shortly before the election of John Paul II.

  10. Dadof8ky says:

    That is it! Can’t wait to introduce a little someone to it tomorrow….when she pulls out her little black book of trimmin’s. I can usually get about 2-3 decades in before she finishes with the blow dryer and makeup…. but those last 2 decades are going to get me, and the kids, a free pass at the “pearly gates”. Thank you Fr.Z. Let me know when the podcast is available.

  11. Hugh says:

    Lovely to see this poignant poem going round the world, so redolent of all that was good in Irish Catholicism.

    “John O’Brien”, or Fr Hartigan, was my mother’s parish priest in Narrandera, New South Wales (Australia). She was the first child he baptised when he came into that parish in 1918. Great priest, I’m told.

  12. joan ellen says:

    Thank you for this beautiful poem Fr. I also would love to hear it read. Happy
    Birthday Fr. Z & m

  13. joan ellen says:

    Supposed to be: Happy Birthday Fr. Z & many, many more.

  14. Sacristymaiden says:

    Ahh yes. I remember this poem. I had to laugh the first time I read it, it still makes me smile–a beautiful tribute to the traditions passed down to us…despite the memories sometimes had of, yes, HARD floors and others of like ilk.

  15. Sacristymaiden says:

    Happy birthday Fr. Z! May God grant you many blessed years in peace, health, and happiness.

  16. GOR says:

    Ah yes, The Trimmin’s on the Rosary – memories of a bygone time when the family Rosary was de rigueur in Irish households! Like the schoolboy in The Seven Ages of Man “creeping like snail, unwillingly to school…” we children were not always blessed with the simple maternal faith and often hoped she might ‘forget’ – but she never did! And while Mom always supplied the trimmin’s (“now a Pater and Ave for…”) Dad had his responsibility also: the Prayer to St. Joseph. I have seen many variations on Pope Leo XIII’s prayer, but this is the one I still remember, and yes, it is now my responsibility:

    “To thee, O Blessed Joseph, we have recourse in our tribulation, and while imploring the aid of thy most holy Spouse, we confidently invoke thy patronage also. By that love which united thee to the Immaculate Virgin, Mother of God, and by the fatherly affection with which thou didst embrace the Infant Jesus, we humbly beseech thee graciously to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ purchased by His Blood and to help us in our necessities, by thy powerful intercession.
    Protect, O most provident Guardian of the Holy Family, the chosen children of Jesus Christ; ward off from us, O most loving Father, all taint of error and corruption; graciously assist us from Heaven, O most powerful protector, in our struggle with the powers of darkness; and as thou didst once rescue the Child Jesus from imminent peril to His life, so now defend the Holy Church of God from the snares of her enemies and from all adversity.
    Shield each one of us with thy unceasing patronage that, imitating thy example and supported by thine aid, we may be enabled to live a good life, die a holy death, and secure everlasting happiness in Heaven.

  17. Mrs. Bear says:

    We have prayer binders with pages of beautiful prayers and people we pray for – that I typed up on nice paper.
    The kids will groan at me when I say “OK get the binders” – then they look forlornly at my husband and hope he will say “we don’t have time”. Then I give my husband “the look” and we start on the rosary. They are such beautiful prayers that I hate to miss even one! I also have a litany (pages) of priests’ names that we pray for. Some days we will say “and all the priests”. We then pray for all bishops and say the bishops that we know or have met, seminiarian, deacons and the Pope. We pray for each family member – extended -especially those who don’t go to church and are not baptized, those who are pregnant, the babies in the womb, all those who have no one to pray for, all those who have asked for our prayers, those who have died and the families of all those who died. Then we go around and say what are we grateful or thankful for that day.
    I love the days when we get to do it all!
    Pax Christi,

  18. Jane says:

    The author of the poem is Fr Patrick Hartigan from NSW, Australia. John O’Brien is a pen name. The poem is set in the Australian outback. My parish priest (here in Sydney) has made audio recording of some of John O’Brien’s poems. I am not sure if that poem is among them. My favourite poem is about an uneducated, clumsy, outback farm boy and his efforts to answer the questions, when the bishop came to the bush at Confirmation time to examine the children. It is a very funny poem called. Tangmalangaloo. (This is supposed to be a placename for this outback location. I am sure the place name is fictional.) Another favourite is about the whinger named Hanrahan who always commented on things like droughts, floods, etc. He always predicted doom and gloom. This guy was an absolute pessimist. The poem is called: Said Hanrahan. I have a large book of John O’Brien’s poems with illustrations. Some of the Irish terms used in the poems are lost on me. Fr Hartigan is one of the best known Australian poets.

  19. Lee says:

    h/t to Jane :)

    TANGMALANGALOO by John O’Brien

    The bishop sat in lordly state and purple cap sublime,
    And galvanized the old bush church at Confirmation time.
    And all the kids were mustered up from fifty miles around,
    With Sunday clothes, and staring eyes, and ignorance profound.
    Now was it fate, or was it grace, whereby they yarded too
    An overgrown two-storey lad from Tangmalangaloo?

    A hefty son of virgin soil, where nature has her fling,
    And grows the trefoil three feet high and mats it in the spring;
    Where mighty hills uplift their heads to pierce the welkin’s rim,
    And trees sprout up a hundred feet before they shoot a limb;
    There everything is big and grand, and men are giants too –
    But Christian Knowledge wilts, alas, at Tangmalangaloo.

    The bishop summed the youngsters up, as bishops only can;
    He cast a searching glance around, then fixed upon his man.
    But glum and dumb and undismayed through every bout he sat;
    He seemed to think that he was there, but wasn’t sure of that.
    The bishop gave a scornful look, as bishops sometimes do,
    And glared right through the pagan in from Tangmalangaloo.

    “Come, tell me, boy,” his lordship said in crushing tones severe,
    “Come, tell me why is Christmas Day the greatest of the year?
    “How is it that around the world we celebrate that day
    “And send a name upon a card to those who’re far away?
    “Why is it wandering ones return with smiles and greetings, too?”
    A squall of knowledge hit the lad from Tangmalangaloo.

    He gave a lurch which set a-shake the vases on the shelf,
    He knocked the benches all askew, up-ending of himself.
    And so, how pleased his lordship was, and how he smiled to say,
    “That’s good, my boy. Come, tell me now; and what is Christmas Day?”
    The ready answer bared a fact no bishop ever knew –
    “It’s the day before the races out at Tangmalangaloo.

  20. Lee says:

    There’s more where these came from at

    Said Hanrahan

    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan
    In accents most forlorn
    Outside the church ere Mass began
    One frosty Sunday morn.

    The congregation stood about,
    Coat-collars to the ears,
    And talked of stock and crops and drought
    As it had done for years.

    “It’s lookin’ crook,” said Daniel Croke;
    “Bedad, it’s cruke, me lad
    For never since the banks went broke
    Has seasons been so bad.

    “It’s dry, all right,” said young O’Neil,
    With which astute remark
    He squatted down upon his heel
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    And so around the chorus ran
    “It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.

    “The crops are done; ye’ll have your work
    To save one bag of grain;
    From here way out to Back-O’-Bourke
    They’re singin’ out for rain.

    “They’re singin’ out for rain,” he said,
    “And all the tanks are dry.”
    The congregation scratched its head,
    And gazed around the sky.

    “There won’t be grass, in any case,
    Enough to feed an ass;
    There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
    As I came down to Mass.”

    “If rain don’t come this month,” said Dan,
    And cleared his throat to speak –
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan, ”
    If rain don’t come this week.”

    A heavy silence seemed to steal
    On all at this remark;
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed a piece of bark.

    “We want an inch of rain, we do,”
    O’Neil observed at last;
    But Croke “maintained” we wanted two
    To put the danger past.

    “If we don’t get three inches, man,
    Or four to break this drought,
    We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

    In God’s good time down came the rain;
    And all the afternoon
    On iron roof and window-pane
    It drummed a homely tune.

    And through the night it pattered still,
    And lightsome, gladsome elves
    On dripping spout and window-sill
    Kept talking to themselves.

    It pelted, pelted all day long,
    A-singing at its work,
    Till every heart took up the song
    Way out to Back-O’-Bourke.

    And every creek a banker ran,
    And dams filled overtop;
    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “If this rain doesn’t stop.”

    And stop it did, in God’s good time:
    And spring came in to fold
    A mantle o’er the hills sublime
    Of green and pink and gold.

    And days went by on dancing feet,
    With harvest-hopes immense,
    And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
    Nid-nodding o’er the fence.

    And, oh, the smiles on every face,
    As happy lad and lass
    Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s place
    Went riding down to Mass.

    While round the church in clothes genteel
    Discoursed the men of mark,
    And each man squatted on his heel,
    And chewed his piece of bark.

    “There’ll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
    There will, without a doubt;
    We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan,
    “Before the year is out.”

    John O’Brien

  21. Jane says:

    Poets sometimes have to take a bit of poetic licence to make the words rhyme. Did anyone notice that the ‘bishop” in the poem (TANGMALANGALOO by John O’Brien) referred to Christmas day as the greatest in the year? That is not the case. Easter is the greatest day in the church’s calendar. I am sure that Fr Hartigan (aka John O’Brien) knew that, but as my husband says it’s only a poem. I write poetry myself (not as good as John O’Brien’s, so I understand that difficulty well). As a matter of interest one of Father Hartigan’s nephew’s is a priest in the archdiocese of Sydney.

    Since it is all souls day I will take the liberty of putting this up.

    The powerful intercession of the Holy Souls in Purgatory for their benefactors:

  22. jaykay says:

    The family rosary in Ireland is now pretty much a rare thing. Even in my 1960s childhood we didn’t have it, and I had an extremely devout resident grandmother who every Friday blessed the house with holy water and had beautiful statues on her dressing table of the Agony in the Garden and the BVM with St. Anne. We weren’t from a rural background but you don’t have to go very far in Ireland to get there. This poem from Patrick Kavanagh sums up an Irish rural Christmas in the early part of the last century. It still wouldn’t have changed much even up to the early 50s:

    My father played the melodeon
    Outside at our gate,
    There were stars in the morning east
    And they danced to his music.

    Across the world bogs his melodeon called
    To Lennons and Callans
    As I pulled on my trousers in a hurry
    I knew some strange thing had happened.

    Outside in the cow-house my mother
    Made the music of milking,
    The light of the stable-lamp was a star
    And the frost of Bethlehem made it twinkle.

    A water-hen screeched in the bog,
    Mass-going feet
    Crunched the wafer-ice on the polt-holes –
    Somebody wistfully twisted a bellow’s wheel.

    My child-poet picked out the letters
    On Time’s black stone,
    In silver the wonder of a Christmas townland
    The winking glitter of a frosty dawn.

    Cassiopea was over
    Cassidy’s hanging hill.
    I looked and three whin bushes rode acoss
    The horizon – the Three Wise Kings.

    My father played the melodeon,
    My mother milked the cows
    And I had a prayer like a white rose pinned
    On the Virgin Mary’s blouse.

    (24 December 1943)

    -Patrick Kavanagh

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