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How to make a rosary out of roses

On Dec. 9, 1531, an Aztec Indian was making his way to Mass past the hill of Tepeyac outside Mexico City, when the Virgin Mary appeared to him in the form of a dark-skinned princess. She asked the man to instruct the local bishop to build a church on the site from which she could bestow her love and compassion “for all the inhabitants of this land.”

The man, called Juan Diego, was awestruck by the apparition, and dutifully reported Mary’s message to the local bishop. Doubting the sincerity of this macehual or simple farmer, the bishop asked for a more definitive sign. And the Virgin complied.

When she next appeared to Juan Diego, she asked him to pick roses on Tepeyac –  an odd request given that roses were not known to bloom in December. But, when he arrived there, he found it covered with flowers and gathered many in his tilma, or cloak, to show to the bishop. Once in his eminence’s presence, Juan Diego unwrapped the cloak, spilling roses on the floor and revealing an image of his Mary – La Virgen de Guadalupe – miraculously imprinted on the fabric. The bishop is said to have fallen to his knees before it.

The story of Juan Diego and the miraculous image spread like wildfire throughout the region, inspiring great numbers of native Mexicans to convert. On July 31 of this year, Pope John Paul made Juan Diego a saint, the first of Indian descent. And, on Dec. 9, we celebrate his feast day.

In St. Juan Diego’s honor and in honor of the Virgin Mary, FAITH offers these steps in making a rosary made out of roses.

Rose Petal Beads

4 cups of rose petals (trim off any brown or white parts)

Water to cover

Rose oil

Straight pins

Corrugated cardboard

Chop rose petals into small pieces. Put the pieces into a saucepan or skillet and cover with water, simmering for an hour. Add a bit of rose oil to the pot and simmer for an hour 4 or 5 times in one day until the petal mixture begins to look like clay. When it reaches a clay-like state, squeeze as much moisture as possible out of the mixture and save the rose liquid in a small, covered container.

Form beads with the mixture. (Warning: the beads will shrink by about half as they dry.) Poke a hole in each bead with a pin and stick the loaded pin into cardboard, setting aside to dry. (It may take 3 or 4 days, depending on the humidity level in your house.) When fully dry, remove the pins and rub some of the reserved rose liquid on each bead. Do this for several days to harden and polish the surface. Store the beads in a closed container to help them retain their scent. Depending on the color of the petals used, finished beads can range from a deep wine color to purple or black.

Rose Petal Bead Rosary

6 large rose petal beads

53 medium rose petal beads

Nylon cord with attached needle

Small cross or crucifix

1 center piece (a metal piece that has two loops on top and one on the bottom)

4 bead tips

Add a bead tip to the end of your cord. String on 10 medium beads, knotting between each one. String on one large bead and add a knot. Repeat the previous two steps three more times and then string on the final 10 medium beads and knot between. Finish off with another bead tip.

Close the hooks of two bead tips around the loops of the center piece, and set aside. Using another length of cord, add a bead tip to its end, then slip on a large bead and knot. Then slip on 3 medium beads, knotting in between. Finish this section by adding another large bead and a bead tip. Connect this short strand to the end of the center piece by closing the hook of the bead tip around the loop of the center piece. Connect the cross or crucifix in the same manner.

Where to find rosary parts

Nylon cord and bead tips are available in craft and bead stores, but you may have to check other sources for center pieces, crosses, and crucifixes.

Here are five Web sites that specialize in rosary parts.

• Lewis & Company: www.rosaryparts.com

• Our Lady’s Rosary Makers: www.olrm.win.net

• The Rosary Shop: www.rosaryshop.com

• The Rosary Workshop: www.rosaryworkshop.com

• Seeds of Faith: www.seeds-of-faith.com