Editor’s note: John Schlimm, author of Five Years in Heaven and creator of Thank a Nun Day, returns to CatholicMom.com to share a craft using religious medals. This would be a great rainy-day project to work on with your children this summer! –Barb
Over the years, I’ve amassed a collection of antique and new holy medals, but I never knew exactly what to do with all of them. It wasn’t like I could wear them all. Or, could I?!
When I was 31 years old, I met 87-year-old Sister Augustine, who ran the ceramic shop she had founded in the 1960s on the grounds of the oldest Benedictine convent in the United States. Sister was a talented artist, who could transition between realism and abstract expressionism faster than it takes to make the Sign of the Cross. She and her work had a profound effect on me.
As I recount in my new memoir Five Years in Heaven: The Unlikely Friendship That Answered Life’s Greatest Questions, Sister Augustine taught me how to live every moment to the fullest and enjoy glimpses of Heaven right here on earth. One of her greatest lessons was inspiring me to think outside the box creatively.
So, in the spirit of Sister Augustine’s unique gift for combining faith and artistry in her one-of-a-kind clayware pieces, here is an easy and fun DIY Heaven On Earth Necklace activity — for adults and kids — that uses all those holy medals you’ve been saving for just the right occasion. This heavenly handmade accessory gives new life to the medals and proves just how fashionable it is to wear your faith proudly for all to see.
Gather up all your old holy medals, or mix and match them with newer, inexpensive medals that are available at any religious shop. Next, choose the specific medals you would like to use for your necklace (or this could easily be turned into a Heaven on Earth Bracelet project).
Not only does this project stir the creative juices by letting you play around with classic and contemporary holy medal designs, it’s educational, too. When else would you get to learn about many of the lesser-known sacred luminaries like Saint Genesius (patron of actors, clowns, and dancers) or Saint Dymphna (patron of the nervous and psychiatrists)?
Choose a simple cord (I use faux suede), which you can find in several different colors at any craft store. Remember, faith is meant to be a celebration, so don’t think twice about using a bright red cord or some other lively color. Of course, tan, brown, and black cords are always a classic choice.
Also, some older medals may no longer have a jump ring, so have a few on hand. Jump rings are available at any craft store.
There are two main ways of arranging the medals on the cord. But I encourage you to let your imagination guide you with this project!
One option is to string the cord through the jump ring of a single medal or multiple medals at once, positioning the medal(s) in the middle. Then, tie a knot over the jump ring, securing the medal(s) front and center.
Another option is to string one medal onto the cord at a time, starting at one end of the cord and tying a knot above the jump ring. String on another medal, leaving a gap between the medals, and tie a knot over that medal. Repeat this with as many medals as you wish to use. With this technique, you can create a single-strand, eight-to-ten-inch necklace, or a very long strand that can be looped around your neck several times.
Fasten the necklace by simply tying the two ends of the cord in a knot behind your neck.
The DIY Heaven on Earth Necklace is a great conversation piece. It’s a fantastic way to learn about saints you may never have heard of before, or to showcase the saints who especially inspire you or whom you’re named after, such as my namesake Saint John Evangelist.
This homemade project is also a fun way to share your faith and a little touch of Heaven on earth with others. Give the necklaces as one-of-a-kind gifts or indulge those who will no doubt want a closer look at your awesome accessory.
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Copyright 2015 John Schlimm
Photos copyright 2015 John Schlimm. All rights reserved.