What Are Sacrifice Beads?
Have you ever seen someone carrying a small string of about 10 to 15 beads and wondered what they were? It’s no mere decorative keychain or modified friendship bracelet – it’s a set of Sacrifice Beads.
What Are Sacrifice Beads?
Sacrifice Beads, which may also be called Good Deed Beads, St. Therese Sacrifice Beads, or simply St. Therese Beads, are a set of beads strung so that each sacrifice bead can be moved up or down to count sacrifices or good deeds done as a way of showing love to the Lord.
Typically, Sacrifice Beads contain ten beads, though some sets contain fifteen or eighteen beads. They are woven in a ladder-like formation with some excess string so that a bead can be slid down the string. The way the string is woven through the beads prevents beads from sliding back and forth on their own without a person actually moving them. They commonly have a medal of St. Therese, the Little Flower at the end of the string; some also include a crucifix.
The Sacrifice Beads are used to keep track of sacrifices made and good deeds performed. When a person performs a selfless good deed for someone else or sacrifices something – whether a tangible object or some level of comfort or time – to benefit another person or God, he or she slides one bead along the string. Keeping count of good deeds and sacrifices is not about pride or a way to praise oneself for his or her own actions. Tracking the sacrifices is a method of making oneself aware of his or her relationship with God and how he or she is seeking opportunities to do God’s work and act as an instrument of God’s love. Each a time one slides a bead, he or she should take a moment to offer the deed to God.
The History of Sacrifice Beads and The Little Way
Different types of Catholic prayer beads have been used since the earliest generations in the Church. Long before the Rosary as we know it today was developed, strings of beads or containers of pebbles were used as a method of counting prayers. Though there is no specific prescribed prayer to be used along with a set of Sacrifice Beads, one is encouraged to take time to pray to God and to St. Therese for intercession and guidance as he or she moves a bead along the string.
Sacrifice Beads originated in the childhood of St. Therese of Lisieux. When Therese was a small girl, her older sister gave her a set of beads on which to count the things she offered up for God. This became a regular and consistent practice for St. Therese. It fit naturally into her “Little Way,” the name given to Therese’s manner of living a spiritual life and her constant quest for sanctity. Therese advocated that heroism and great, astonishing acts were not the only way to obtain and grow in holiness.
Therese wrote, “Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”
St. Therese’s Little Way involves offering all you do, even the smallest of things for the love of God and emphasizes that even small things, when done out of love for God, are valid and important. For example, when doing laundry in the uncomfortable heat of summer, Therese would quietly take her place in the hottest area of the room and leave the cooler areas for the others.
Who Carries or Uses Sacrifice Beads?
Because St. Therese began using these Sacrifice Beads as a child, children today are often encouraged to carry and use Sacrifice Beads. This is completely reasonable, as it encourages children to grow closer to God through the little things they are able to do, such as obeying parents, sharing with others, and helping others. Using Sacrifice Beads and learning about St. Therese and the Little Way also is useful in teaching children that although some people are called to be part of heroic adventures or martyrdom, our seemingly simple lives abound with the opportunity to answer God’s call and do His work through little acts of love and sacrifice.
However, this does not mean that Sacrifice Beads are only for children; they are also a wonderful tool for any adult seeking to grow in holiness. After all, Therese did not abandon her Little Way as she grew. Though she did die as a young adult at the age of 24, her Little Way was something she followed until the end of her earthly life, and a practice that can enrich the holiness of any Catholic, regardless of age.