Sacrifice Beads (also known as "Good Deed Beads" or "St. Thérèse
Beads) spring from a practice from the childhood of
Marie-Francoise-Thérèse Martin, better known as St.
Thérèse of the Child Jesus and
of the Holy Face (or St. Thérèse
of Lisieux, the "Little Flower.")
Thérèse was the baby of a family that had endured the deaths
of four children, and her four surviving sisters -- Marie, Pauline, Leonie,
and Celine -- and her parents let her know it by babying her. Her pious father
even called her "the little Queen," and so when she was young, she had a
tendency toward stubborness and precociousness. But underneath this superficial
spoiling was a great spirituality, not just in little Thérèse,
but in all the sisters -- all of whom ended up in the Carmelite convent.
Thérèse was guided by her older sisters, and it was Marie who
gave to her a set of beads on which to count the things she
offered up to God. Their mother, who died
of breast cancer when Thérèse was four, wrote:
Thérèse wants to start making sacrifices now. Marie has given
each of the little ones a chaplet on which they can keep count of their good
deeds. They have real spiritual conferences together. It is most amusing.
Celine asked the other day: "How can God get into such a little Host?"
Thérèse answered her: "It's not surprising, since Our Lord
is almighty." "What does almighty mean?" "It means He can do whatever he
wants." But the most charming thing of all is to see Thérèse
slip her hand into her pocket time and time again and move a bead along as
she makes some sacrifice.
The most typical
actual "chaplet" consists a string of 10 beads, with a Crucifix at one end,
symbolizing our taking up our Crosses and going the Way of Christ. On the
other end nowadays is usually a medal depicting St. Thérèse,
which reminds us of her "Little Way" of spirituality that's embodied in the
use of the beads, and of the fact that we are all called to be Saints. They
are kept in one's pocket, secretly, and when one mentally offers up something
to God in union with Christ's sufferings on the Cross, one slides one of
the beads toward the Crucifix. The beads are constructed such that when they
are moved, they remain where they are put.
Some Sacrifice Beads consist of 15 beads, with 3 beads of a different color
evenly interspersed among them, each representing one of the Three Persons
of the Most Holy Trinity. Each time 5 regular beads are moved toward the
Crucifix, one of the Trinity beads is automatically moved, too, symbolizing
our participation, by grace, in life of the Most Holy Trinity, and reminding
us that any good we do is because of God alone.
Some people use the beads simply, by just moving one toward the Crucifix
for each Sacrifice, but a more challenging and fruitful way of using them
is to move a bead back toward the medal for each sin one commits along the
way. This is a good way of examining one's conscience all throughout the
At the end of the day, one "re-sets" all of the beads and places them under
one's pillow to retrieve and put in one's pocket in the morning in order
to begin anew, hopefully fulfilling the goal of moving all the beads toward
Though Sacrifice Beads originated with the young St. Thérèse
and are most commonly used by children, they can be and often are used just
as well by adults, too.
Sacrifice Beads (which don't need to be blessed by a priest) shouldn't be
used in a spirit of competition with others who might be using them (though
a child discussing nightly with his parents his spiritual development by
use of the beads is, of course, good!). Their use is, ultimately, between
God and the one making sacrifices.
Take heed that you do not your justice before men, to be seen by them: otherwise
you shall not have a reward of your Father who is in heaven. Therefore when
thou dost an almsdeed, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites
do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honoured by men.
Amen I say to you, they have received their reward. But when thou dost alms,
let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doth. That thy alms may be
in secret, and thy Father who seeth in secret will repay thee.