Rosaries somehow seem make their way into John Baine’s hands.
Perhaps it’s because of his knack for tinkering with things. Or it’s what he sees in the materials they’re made with and how they’re constructed.
But maybe it’s also because he knows all about the power of prayer.
Baine, 32, has handcrafted more than 300 rosaries since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. His efforts have morphed into an Etsy site, Olvera Street Rosary, where he sells his one-of-a-kind pieces. Earlier this year, his rosaries landed in the gift shop at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Ill.
The name of Baine’s Etsy site is where his story with rosaries begins. During a 2018 visit with family in Los Angeles, his mom suggested stopping by the historic Olvera Street. Inside a candle shop, he found a rosary made from coffee beans. The materials used for the rosary were intriguing, but the construction was not well-done, he recalled. He brought it home and replaced 11 of the beads to make it more structurally sound.
Around that time, Baine also received a broken rosary that belonged to his great-grandfather. Taking a handful of religious medals that were handed down after a great-aunt died, Baine brought new life to the rosary, with the medals serving as beads in between the decades. He made a few more as gifts for family, which were well-received.
“It was an ‘aha’ moment,” Baine said. “People were saying, ‘This is so cool. Why aren’t other rosaries like this?’” Others were asking: Where can I buy one of these?
Baine enjoys crafting individual stories to accompany his rosaries. There’s the Martyr’s Duty Rosary, made from hot coal agate beads, which according to the Etsy listing, “drive home the fact that if you are going to be a martyr you must light your life on fire first.”
The Sanguineous Heart of Jesus Rosary features blood agate chip beads and garnet Our Father beads as a physical reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. “Just as Jesus forgave those who crucified Him, this rosary will help you find similar wells of forgiveness in your life for those who have transgressed against you,” Baine included in the description.
As he develops a theme for each piece, Baine takes time to pray, meditating upon his creation. “When I am putting these things together, whether it’s making them for strength or willpower, for example, I get to know the rosaries as I build them,” he said. “It’s the uniqueness each of the piece that I make. They’re all different and each one has its own individual story — that’s the best part of it.”
Baine considers Our Lady of the Pillar in Creve Coeur as his home parish, but he and his family also are regular attendees at Sunday Mass at Mercy Hospital in St. Louis. The first Friday Mass at the Shrine of St. Joseph Downtown also is a family tradition, Baine noted.
Turning to prayer is what helped him through what he described as the “awkward” phase of his teenage years. Diagnosed with dyslexia, Baine experienced learning challenges when he was in school. “All of my problems were put to prayer,” he said. “I want to excite other people to pray, too — and to pray as fervently as possible.”
Research into the history of the rosary has inspired Baine in his work as well. While many connect the origins of the rosary to St. Dominic, the use of “prayer beads” and recitation of prayers trace back to the early days of the Church and is rooted in pre-Christian times.
“I feel like there’s such a kinship and connection to this craft,” he said. “I feel like I am part of a special history.”
>> Where to buy
John Baine’s rosaries are available for sale the gift shop at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, 442 S. DeMazenod Drive in Belleville, Illinois. Gift shop hours are 10 am.-5 p.m. daily. His Etsy shop is Olvera Street Rosary, www.etsy.com/shop/OlveraStreetRosary