To Support Catholic Artisans and Orders

Guest Post by Allison 
One of our great joys as parents is to celebrate our sons’ milestones. Gabriel’s Confirmation is on the Feast of Pentecost in several weeks and we’ve been pondering how best to mark the occasion.

My husband and I  have been dismayed in recent years to see children of our acquaintance posting their confirmation cash haul as facebook status updates. We  pray the 10 Confirmandi in our parish this year will find deeper meaning in the day.

We are hosting a simple breakfast at our home for friends and family before the Mass. In years past, for invitations and a gift, I would have headed over to the Pauline Books & Media Center, run by the Daughters of Saint Paul to look for invitations and gifts, but the store closed last year.

I felt a real loss when the Sisters shut their doors in Edison, in part because I love supporting religious communities with my shopping dollars. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to fill that void.

Googling, I stumbled on a magnificent site called Monastery Greetings, a mail-order catalog of gifts from abbeys, convents, monasteries and hermitages.

According to the site, Will Keller founded the mail-order company in Cleveland Heights, Ohio in 1997 after discovering that, while these community businesses have high-quality products, they do not have the time or resources for marketing.  Keller majored in both art history and philosophy and religion at Colgate University and worked in the Boston area for a time, managing several divinity school bookstores.

On Keller’s site I found some lovely note cards produced by The Cistercian monks of St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado.  These and other religious communities are not interested in turning a profit; rather they need enough money to live and pay for health insurance and maintain their buildings.

For his Confirmation gift, we are giving Gabriel a retablo hand painted by Ann Burt of Raleigh, North Carolina.  Retablos are Latin American devotionals.  I discovered Ann here on YIM Catholic as she is a regular commenter.  Ann, the married mother of two, has run a business of commissioned murals and specialty architectural finishes for wall décor for 20 years.

“As far as beginning this business, it started a while ago after visiting my sister in New Mexico.” Ann told me, “ I absolutely fell in love with the spiritual climate of the Southwest. The faith is everywhere you turn and so rich.  Anyway, I began collecting Retablos while really having a desire to create my own, but just not the confidence to actually do it. Realizing too that we are all given certain gifts by God for a reason, I began to think that perhaps this was more than painting but a ministry in itself honoring our friends in heaven and encouraging devotions.”

Gabriel has chosen Isidore as his Confirmation name in honor of San Isidro of Seville, who was Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades. He is considered “the last scholar of the ancient world.” Gabriel chose  this name after our friend Andy, understanding that our son has great respect for people who are intellectually curious, told him about the saint.

The archbishop was the first Christian to compile a summa of universal knowledge, thus creating the very first encyclopedia in medieval civilization. His Etymologia has 448 chapters in 20 volumes. In Raleigh, Ann custom-made a beautiful retablo (see photograph above) of the saint for us.

Other sites of Catholic artisans with which I am familiar include Sarah Harkins of Fredericksburg, Virgina, 28, and a mother of two.  Sarah has been designing and selling her unique clay rosaries and chaplets since she was 15 years old in an effort to inspire others to prayer and deeper contemplation.

It’s impossible to know whether gifts such as retablos or rosaries will have a lasting effect on a child’s faith journey. My parish priest assures me they will.

He was almost speechless with joy on the other end of the phone when I mentioned Greg and I are giving Gabriel a retablo as a Confirmation gift. He said in his years of pastoring he has seen some hugely  inappropriate Confirmation gifts, including a copy of Donald Trump’s Art of the Deal.

Our pastor said a gift such as a retablo has profound meaning and that our son will continue to reflect on the saint and the Confirmation every time he sees his St. Isidore retablo.

I pray our priest is as  insightful about this as he is about so many other things.

Now dear reader, let me ask you: from which Catholic artisans do you purchase gifts and sacramentals?

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  • Allison, thank you so much for including me on your post! The retablo you are giving your son is beautiful, and perfect! –he will surely cherish the gift! God Bless!

  • Here is a link to a rosary guild I belong to. Most of the women make wire wrapped rosaries. Very beautiful and unbreakable!

  • I had to laugh at "The Art of the Deal" as a Confirmation gift. The retablo is such a nice idea! I make rosary bracelets and rosaries, many of which have been given as Confirmation gifts.

  • Similar to Monastic Greetings is the Monastic Treasure website, at The site is run by a Cistercian monastery, and sells products of other religious communities.

  • First I need to say that I'm thrilled to have found this blog and I'm grateful to my fellow guild member, Sarah Harkins, for telling me about it. I, too, am a convert and I always love learning about other peoples' journey home to our Church.Allison, I love the retablo that you have chosen to give your son for his confirmation gift. I am encouraged by your quest to find something meaningful and appropriate. It is a sad commentary on our society when both adults and children think of confiirmation gifts in terms of dollars. The gift of Trump's "The Art oaf the Deal" is a stellar example of that mindset.I am a woman who makes and sells rosaries and religious jewelry. My website is Linda Laude Arts and Gifts

  • I don't quite understand $ as a gift for these beautiful sacraments. The point as a family member/friend/sponser/godparent is to enrich them in thier faith. I don't think that money has that ability. I feel the best that we can do for those whom we sponser or godparent is to give our prayers and the tools of faith that we have found useful. I also make rosaries and I am so excited to make one for each of the ladies that I am sponsering for Confirmation & RCIA. I have never heard of a retablo–I am looking forward to learning more about them. Our Catholic Church as so many riches at its disposile, how can we not draw on those riches to give those celebrating a wonderful Sacrament–retablos, rosaries, Bibles, novena booklets, statues, medals, the list goes on…



  • Allison Salerno

    After I posted this blog, I thought of another Catholic artisan, a couple actually, who runs/ from their home.Beautiful posters, cards, bookmarks etc. All designed by them. Custom made orders also…They are a young (to me!) couple who struggled with pregnancy loss and who use the proceeds from their family business to fund their adoption efforts. They have adopted two children already and hope to adopt many more.

  • I really appreciate this particular post. In our very secular progressive society gifts of money are often used to mark rites of passage — even relgious events. Recently in my town there was a party held for a 13 year-old boy after his religious ceremony. The party took place at an inddor "Indy" race car club. The event was so elaborate it cost over $50,000. I wondered how else could this money have been put to use to advance this young man's spiritual journey? For boys and youn men in our culture there remain very few markers to identify their journey towards manhood. Money and extravagant parties merely rob what is left of ancient rituals and traditions. I like your retablo idea for your son, since it is a sacramental that is simple, rustic and 'masculine.' While rosaries are important for ALL people, I think there is a paucity of available sacramentals for young men. I looked at the studiodeineri website just now. They too offer sacramentals and religious objets d'arts that are not only beautiful, but especially appropriate for young men. I myself am very familiar with Sarah Harkins' "artesenías" at The Clay Rosary Girl. Her handmade and designed clay rosaries and chaplets are truly divinely inspired. Each bead has a particular meaning and allows the person to meditate on deeper issues while praying their rosary. Each rosary/chaplet and bracelet is a 'keeper.' Thanks for an interesting guest post.

  • Allison Salerno

    @mujerlatina and others: I love the rosaries I see on various sites, but I have two boys. Their dad does not pray the rosary and neither do they. I think men and women express their spirituality differently. Or at least in this house they do.Even if the males in my home did pray the rosary, most rosaries are delicately and prettily made, not very masculine. I am sure there are lots of exceptions but this is what I have seen. I had even thought of a religious bracelet – but our son wouldn't wear it – unless it were made of leather or rope or something. So for us, the retablo works – masculine and sacred.

  • This isn't necessarily for your sons, but Beads of Mercy has absolutely beautiful rosaries. She does custom orders.

  • I agree that a religious item is so helpful to keep us nourishing our spirituality. I buy rosary parts from an whose rosaries were so inspiring to me that I was inspired to start making them myself. I think encouraging prayer with beautiful, spirit inspired works of art feeds not only our spirituality but our love of beauty which is an integral part of the human whole which we were so graciously given by our Glorious Father.

  • I remembered another great site, There are some exquisite handmade pieces on this site.

  • Allison Salerno can order a catalog from the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Flemington, NJ. The sisters make notepapers, books and note cards.

  • Dee

    Allison – I miss the Pauline book store too. You might try the Consolata Missionaries on RT 27 or McAuley Gift shop on Rt 22 for gifts. I laughed at the Trump book as a gift. I like to give religious medals for gifts.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Dee: Thanks for those local resources. Do the Missionaries have handcrafted items? I will check that out; I loved the missionary from Kenya who spoke at our parish a few years ago.Also, just checked out your blog. Would you ever consider proposing a guest blog for this site? Your journey through cancer with faith would be most interesting and inspiring to many.Blessings,Allison

  • Back in 2006, I was going through a deep depression (post partum) and realized that I needed a rosary to help me through (who better to help a mother in need but another mother?). So, I made my own. Since then, I've been making rosaries and other devotional gifts, and have opened an online store to share those designs with others.

  • Allison, thanks again for including me in your blog! What great ideas and input to help us all in our spiritual journey. Can't wait to check out someof these sites. Ann

  • Allison Salerno

    First, thanks to Via Della Rosa for mentioning that rosaries can help with anxiety and depression, two "companions" with whom I am intimately familiar. A few years ago, I was complaining to our family counselor (a secular Jewish man) about my anxiety and he looked at me and said: "But didn't you say you are Catholic? Don't you believe in the Communion of Saints? Don't you pray the Rosary? Go pray the Rosary." He has great respect for the spiritual disciplines the Church offers.Second, I wanted to mention to the other artisans that posted that Via Della Rosa has a GREAT post on how to structure your shopping costs. Very detailed and practical for these cottage industries.Finally, I am thrilled so many artisans are responding. I am inspired by your sincerity and faith. I hope to see you hear on this blog again!

  • Allison Salerno

    And finally, I find the "twinning" of these two posts on the same day deeply meaningful. (Waving to the Holy Spirit) One Anglican asks if Catholics are hung up on Mary; the other post is full of comments about how praying the Rosary helps our spirituality and leads us once again to God.

  • Allison, the retablos are gorgeous, what a wonderful idea. There is a shop on Etsy called Saintly Silver, she makes saint plushies. I bought each of my children one for Christmas, but these would make a nice first communion gift as well. They are adorable and have a prayer on the back. make flower petal rosaries and rosary bracelets. Of course, they are feminine and pretty. But I recently had someone ask for some masculine rosaries, so I am working on a new line now.

  • Allison Salerno

    @JourneyOh! These saint plushies are perfect for two little girls I know. Thanks!

  • Allison Salerno

    Correction on my earlier comment. Via Della Rosa (who commented above) has a great blog entry on her blog for independent artisans on how to structure your SHIPPING costs, not your SHOPPING costs. Tee hee. Now you all know what I have been doing this morning!

  • I so enjoyed this article and the new knowledge about retablos. I followed the link and found them wonderful. I'm happy too that your son is surrounded by thoughtful faith, not just the "path of least resistance." I'm another tradtional rosary maker and would like to post my link, too. Making rosaries is my ministry at the moment, as my husband and I are outside of the Church until we complete annulment proceedings. Praying and encouraging the rosary is my heartstring to the faith and keeps me grounded. Blessings to all!

  • Anonymous

    The Printery House at Conception Abbey in Missouri sells gifts, icons, etc but their main business is greeting cards. They have a huge assortment for all occasions, and you can buy only one of a particular card if you want.

  • Allison Salerno

    @Debra: Thanks for including your site. So many wonderful artisans. Your work is beautiful, Debra! And I am sending a prayer up for you and your husband.

  • Allison Salerno

    a postscript of sorts: My parish friends are joking with me: am I on some kind of commission system with Clay Rosary Girl? No, I am not. I never even have met or spoken to Sarah Harkins. Her work speaks for itself.In our parish, we have four girls (along with six boys) making their Confirmation this year and all four families will be buying Clay Rosary Girl's Confirmation bracelet – after I sent a post to our parish listserv linking to this guest blog post.This tells me there is a real hunger among practicing Catholics for gifts to children that nurture their faith.

  • Hello! Absolutely love this site! I am really a greenhorn with the computer but am learning! I have been a floral designer for nearly 20 years and did not have the need to use a computer, except for e-mails, until recently. Awhile back my desire to "design" moved me into the direction of jewelry making…but there was this still small voice in my head that said Rosaries, Rosaries, so I followed the lead. I wanted to make good quality rosaries and religious jewelry hoping that the beauty of the stones might entice people to pray on them! I try to pray on each piece for the person who will wear it! My first answer to that prayer came rather quickly as I had sold a rosary bracelet to someone who is not Catholic. I did not tell her at the time, the significance of the beads,but she loved the bracelet….especially the Father bead which she called the "Power bead". I later got a call from her to tell me that she never wanted to take off the bracelet as she "has this sense of peace" when she wears it. Subsequently she has ordered about 6 bracelets from me to give as gifts to her non-Catholic friends. We did later have a conversation about the meaning of the rosary and the beads! I joined the Etsy community last year and was introduced to a great set of rosary artisans…several of whom have already posted on this blog. I would like to invite you to visit their shops…as well as mine….

  • My two daughters and I make table linens and rosaries and have much more in the works. We are hoping to earn enough to make a pilgrimage to the shrines of France. I have also found some really great Catholic artwork through Etsy! I purchased a gorgeous carved wood angel from Brazil through Etsy, and two Sacred Hearts. One is made of clay, and the other is formed from pieces of metal. I've always had great customer service and feel it is a safe portal to Catholic artists around the world. :)For confirmation I've given our children an Irish linen handkerchief with the dates of their baptism, first communion, and confirmation embroidered on them, as well as a petition to their patron saint. I left room for their next sacraments to be included in the future.In Christ,

  • Cheese and Bourbon Fudge from the Abbey of Gethsemani.Top notch. Fruit cakes for Christmastide too.Best Handcreme on the Planet! (According to my wife anyway) and on sale now too. Get some!I hate to say it but, Mystic Monk Coffee? I tried three different grinds and all of them tasted the same (like weak tea). Sorry, I'll be sticking to Peet's.

  • Anonymous has a lot of mens and boy rosaries as well as others. Its a pretty big selection to choose from.