October is the month of Our Lady, and I’ve been feeling ambitious about getting my kiddos, ages five and fifteen, to pray the rosary more. So far, I haven’t had much success. The “rap rosary” was a total fail, said the teen. The rosary podcasts had “too much opera” or “the people talk like they need a nap,” said the little guy. I enjoy saying my rosary in the morning on my back patio, beads in one hand and coffee in the other, but that wasn’t appealing to my family.
I realized (thank you, Holy Spirit) that something physical might be a better way to connect. In the pages of Catholic Traditions in the Home and Classroom: 365 Days to Celebrate a Catholic Year by Ann Ball, I found instructions for a “stepping rosary.” Although the instructions looked a little daunting at first, I prayed the result would be worth the mess and effort. We created a one decade stepping rosary for our side yard. Don’t be dismayed by the length of the directions! Once the supplies are gathered, the rest of it goes pretty quickly. Sort of quickly. Actually, not quickly at all, but consider it a small, redemptive sacrifice to Our Lady.
Supplies I gathered:
- 60 lb. bag of cement (suggestion: get mortar instead for smoother stones)
- roll of fiberglass insect screening
- 5 gallon bucket for
- small tube of clear silicone sealant
- 11 disposable 9” round cake pans
- can of cooking spray
- Colored glass stones (the type that fill vases)
- plastic 3″ X 3” magnetic picture frame (the kind that sticks on the fridge, clear plastic on both sides)
- metal cross Christmas ornament
- Newspapers or tarp to cover working area
- Cardboard box to make mold for cross
- Hot glue sticks & glue gun
- Packing tape
- Plastic wrap
- Printed picture of Our Lady, approximately 3” X 3”
- Square disposable plastic container, approximately 9” X 9”
- Strong stick for mixing cement (like an old broom handle, or an andiron)
- Sturdy dishwashing gloves you don’t mind destroying
- Disposable container for scooping concrete (the quart size soup container from a Chinese restaurant is perfect)
- A gardening trowel and spade
Before starting, it helps to google “how to make concrete stepping stones.” This website was particularly helpful, and I followed its suggestions pretty closely.
Step one: Create the mold for the cross.
- Draw the outline for the cross on a flat piece of cardboard that you’ve covered with some packing tape. Our cross was about nine inches wide and eleven inches high, with the arms about three inches thick.
- Using strips of cardboard about 3” tall, hot glue the strips upright around the edges of the cross you drew. This holds the sides in place so that you can tape them in place more firmly with more packing tape.
- Line the inside of the mold with plastic wrap. (It will gently stick to the tape.)
- Spray the inside of the mold generously with cooking spray.
Step two: Prepare the screening, which reinforces the stones.
- Cut two strips of screening slightly smaller than the two arms of your cross.
- Trace the bottom of one of the disposable cake pans, eleven times, and the bottom of the square disposable pan.
- Cut out the screening about ¼” inch inside the lines you traced so it will fit neatly into your molds.
Step three: Prepare the picture of Our Lady.
- Print a picture of Our Lady on photo paper, or use a holy card of Our Blessed Mother.
- Place the photo in the middle of the plastic photo frame.
- Use the clear silicone to seal all the edges completely.
Step four: Prepare the disposable molds (11 round molds and one square mold) by spraying the insides generously with cooking spray.
Step five: Mix the concrete (or mortar) in the five gallon bucket according to the package directions. Some suggestions:
- Don’t mix the whole bag at once.
- Don’t use a wimpy stir stick.
- When properly mixed, it should be the consistency of thick cake batter.
- Use your gloved hands to get to the dry mix in the bottom of the bucket.
- Wear old clothes and be prepared to sweat.
Step six: Pour the concrete into the molds.
- Using the disposable quart container for dipping, pour 1” of concrete mix into the bottom of each mold.
- Cover that layer with a piece of screening.
- Pour another 1” layer on top of the screening.
- Use the bottom of your pouring cup to smooth the concrete to the edges, as needed.
Step seven: Decorate the stones.
- Allow the concrete to set for at least 30 – 60 minutes, so it can hold the weight of any decoration you add.
- Gently press the metal cross into the middle of the concrete cross.
- Add the sealed photo of Our Lady to the square stone.
- Decorate one round stone uniquely for the Our Father Stone. (We used clear glass stones to make a cross.)
- Decorate the 10 Hail Mary stones. (The one our five year old decorated is especially “blingy.”)
Step eight: Allow the stones to cure.
- Leave the stones in their molds at least 24 hours.
- After removing the stones from their molds, allow them to cure by sitting out for a few more days. (We got impatient and only waited a day. We may regret this later.)
- Ideally, two days in the mold and a week sitting out gives them plenty of time to harden.
Step nine: Install your rosary.
- We installed the cross, the Our Father stone, the photo stone, and the ten Hail Mary stones in that order.
- Lay out your stones and adjust the spacing.
- For each stone, dig down approximately 1 ½ inches with your garden tools and level the space.
- Place the stone, tamp down firmly, and then replace the dirt/ rocks around each stone.
- Once the stones are in place, water down the path to help the soil settle and keep the stones in place.
- Tip: any decorations that come loose from your stones can be “glued” back on using the clear silicone.
Step ten: Pray.
So far, the stepping rosary is far more interesting than any other approach I’ve tried. It’s outdoors, it’s physical, and it’s full-body prayer. Are my kids loving it? Well, they’re warming to it, and I can easily walk it with my coffee mug in hand. We can pray an Our Father, choose a meditation on the Mary stone, and say our ten Hail Marys. Together.
How can we encourage our kids to participate in, to love, this beautiful devotion? What has worked for your family?
Copyright 2015 Dawn Wright.
Photos copyright 2015 Dawn Wright. All rights reserved.