In 1981, Sabu Caiter was standing at the deathbed of his grandfather P C Francis. He was only 13 at that time. Everybody in the house was in sadness including Sabu, but he fixed his eyes on the rosary that was placed on the hand of his grandfather. Just before the body was buried, Sabu took away the rosary. This was how the teenager developed the habit of collecting rosaries. “It was my way of showing love to my grandfather,” he says.
Today, after 30 years, he has a collection of more than 30,000. They include the largest rosary of 1000 beads to the smallest: a 10 bead ring rosary which is used while traveling.
His method of collecting rosaries is simple: whenever he meets his friends and relatives he asks a rosary as a gift. Thereafter, he made slow but steady process. In 1986, Fr. Joseph Kurippamparambil introduced Sabu to Pope John Paul II at the St. Mary’s Basilica, where the Pope blessed a rosary and gave it to him as a gift. “In 1997, I met Mother Teresa in Chennai,” says Sabu. “When I told Mother about my hobby of collecting rosaries, she immediately gave me her rosary as a gift.”
More than 300 Bishops and priests have donated rosaries to Sabu. “As a result, my collection is more colourful and varied,” he says. So far, Sabu has collected rosaries from more than 70 countries including America, Poland, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Sweden, Russia and China.
There are unusual rosaries, like, for example, a credit card rosary. In certain places, like in the Middle East, you cannot take religious articles. “So a credit card rosary, which can be placed in a purse, is a clever way to use the rosary in these countries,” says Sabu. Then there is the couple rosary: two rosaries made as one, just like two people become one in marriage. “So, the couple can say the rosary together by using this rosary,” says Sabu. “The bracelet rosary is made in such a way the youngsters can place it on the wrist.” The Unborn rosary is one made against abortion; each bead contains a picture of a foetus.
Rare rosaries include the way of the cross, rosaries which represent the five continents, missionary rosaries, which are exclusively given to priests and nuns, rosaries which contain the holy water from Fatima and Lourdes, special Irish stones rosaries, rosaries made up of gold, silver, copper, beads and woods, as well as rosaries used by St. Francis Assisi and St. Benedict and blessed by Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
The first rosary exhibition was held on October 31, 2009 at Don Bosco Church, North Paravoor following the advice of Sabu’s parish priest, Fr, Francis Kaithara. So far, 48 exhibitions have taken place in different parts of Kerala.
The feedback of the people and the encouragement of the authorities encourage us to do more,” says Sabu. His wife, Benett and son Akhil are keen helpers. It is a faith journey along with the rosary. The effort should be appreciated,” says Joseph Kariyil, Bishop of Kochi, after inaugurating a recent exhibition at St. Sebastian’s Church, Thopumpady.