Sunday Lifestyle

The real maker behind my 1,190 rosaries

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star
The real maker behind my 1,190 rosaries

My life on the surface is so simple now. I wake up before eight every morning except when I cannot sleep — like last night. Then I take an allergy pill and wake up after nine because I got to sleep at around two. In the middle of the night. This happens to me at least once a month. Suddenly I cannot sleep. I watch Netflix until I am bored. Then I get up to drink my allergy pill and play double-deck Free Cell on my computer until sleepiness comes.

The living room of our condo has turned into my husband’s bedroom. He has a hospital bed that keeps him safe. A huge TV set he bought when he was well and loved to watch every day but now he only casts it an occasional glance. He doesn’t like watching TV anymore. Left alone, he just likes to lie down with his eyes closed. Then he either moans or calls me or wakes up from a dream and calls for his brother. He has eight children. He can only name three of them.

I make rosaries in what used to be my husband’s guest room. Quite a number of you know my reputation. I was never saintly. Once I had my wild and woolly days. But there was a somewhat religious side of me. My mother had a brother who was a priest and a sister who was a cloistered nun. She was my godmother/ninang. To them I was a major disappointment.

When I hit my old age I straightened out. By then my uncle had passed on and only my godmother remained still a cloistered nun. We became closer. She died a few months after I got married in church. One day, alone with her in the chapel during her wake, I talked to her. Told her I was sorry for all the pain I caused her. Promised her that from that day on I would say a rosary every day for her sake, as my way of repentance for my sins.

Soon that promise will be four years old. I have been praying the rosary almost every day. In the beginning I prayed alone. Later my husband asked if he could join. Once I made necklaces. One day I fixed my beads and came across many glass hearts. Mmm, I thought, I have enough to make a rosary. I did but it was too big and long. So I created an altar in our room, putting together the statues that my husband had, gifts to him from the many women who adored him, and my two little statues of Mother Mary and her baby and a Sto. Nino I inherited from my grandmother. I liked what I saw.

Then I began to make rosaries. I thought of using innovative materials to give the rosaries a contemporary look. If there is anything wrong with the Catholic Church it is that they seem so traditional. Their costumes. Their customs. I think that’s why I love Pope Francis so much. He is the most modern pope I have seen. He dances the tango. He speaks from his heart. He has done a series for TV. He speaks of traditional values but he talks and moves like a modern man.

How do you convert the young when your props — rosaries, for example — are so traditional?

So I began to redesign. My rosaries are made with more color. I began with coral crystals and fake turquoise. Very nice, but one day someone bought all the coral crystals. I put pictures of the Blessed Mother on the rosaries. There are extra beads for the Our Father, Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer to wake you up when you’re falling asleep while praying. Lately I have added roses and flowers because the Virgin Mary is known to have loved flowers. I have also added butterflies because they are attracted to the flowers. Now I have added hearts in very modern colors — yellow, green, aqua, purple, dark blue, chartreuse (yellow-green), orange, fuchsia, pink and, of course, red.

I think my rosaries speak of the personality of the one who ordered them. One of my friends ordered 10 pink rosaries with chartreuse roses for his team of campaigners for Leni Robredo. They all liked them.

Most important of all — I don’t know who designs my rosaries. I know it’s not just me. I simply sit and count hearts into my tiny tray. I hear what colors to add, what to put where. I follow the instructions that run through my head. When done I admire the rosary. Maybe angels help me. Maybe it’s my godmother who was very creative when she was young. Or maybe it’s my mysterious higher self, teaching me. I don’t know. All I know is it’s not just me who makes the rosaries. To date I have made 1,190 rosaries. I am very grateful for this grace.

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