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Raw Materials: Courtney Haase 
 
Courtney Haase has made three big changes in her life -- so far. On each occasion, she has felt spiritually led. Even though she couldn't see the end point, she had faith that she would reach her destination. As a teenager, she became a nun in the Poor Clares, a Franciscan order. At age 32, she left the convent; she moved from her hometown of New Orleans to southern New Hampshire, and became a goat farmer and cheesemaker. Then, a few years ago, she sold her goats and began making rosaries. Here is an excerpt from our interview, in which she talks about rosaries and her spiritual outlook. 

What is a rosary? 

Rosary is a set format for praying. Typically it's five decades, five groups of ten. You say the Our Father on the larger beads that break the segments up, and then the Hail Mary which is from the Scriptures for the sections of ten. 

 

The beads help you keep track? 

Yes. Originally there were 150 of them, and it was supposed to represent the 150 Psalms, but John 23rd put in another decade, so now we have four sets of five decades. 

The rosary is more than just a set way of praying. It's also, as you course the beads, you're coursing your life.  It really is meant to bring you to a place where you're not, most of the time. Most of the time you're in your daily duties. But when you sit down and spend some time... You really can't do this on the fly. You have to spend some time collecting yourself. 

 

You also make chaplets, which are smaller. If a rosary looks like a necklace, the chaplet is more bracelet-size.  

A chaplet is a one-decade rosary. There's ten beads and then the Our Father. 

Saying the rosary is like weaving.  Let me tell you, John, when I say my rosary in the morning, sometimes I'm a thousand miles away (NO accent strong on that phrase), but that finger running through those beads, it calls you back.  

 

Did you have any training or background in making rosaries or other jewelry?  

I did this in the convent. We used to have recreation time, and I would make rosaries there. I did leather tooling. I can do a lot of things! But what triggered it all was, my brother made it through Katrina, and he called me and said, "Courtney, will you re-string Daddy's rosary?" My Dad died in '68, and my brother had an old wooden rosary that belonged to my Dad. So I restrung it. And it was while I was doin' it -- my Mom had died two months before Katrina -- while I was doing my Dad's rosary, it was like she was right there, she whispered in my ear, 'This is what you have to do.' I said, 'How am I gonna make a livin'?'  She said, 'That's not the problem. You make them, and you'll find the buyers.' And I think that's pretty much what's happened. 

 

Everybody is supposed to have all the answers, but the fact is, nobody has all the answers. It's a compilation of everybody. I believe -- and see, I was a Franciscan. I couldn't have been any other kind of nun, because the restraints would have been too much. Francis was just out there! Out there, having a wonderful -- I mean, he had his moments, but when you get beyond the surface of 12th Century, you realize he was just a wonderful man! And I could not have followed any other tradition. 

He would be so proud of me. Using natural materials, he would just love this! And I call my little shop here the Portiuncula ["Little Portion" in Latin] because in our tradition, Francis was doin' his thing out on the hillside, and there was a little chapel, a wayside shrine, and there was that cross hangin' on it. And Jesus had said, 'Go and rebuild my church,' and Francis being the way he was, he took Jesus literally and started to rebuild this little chapel. [He named it "Portiuncula."] It's been moved, and is now in the main cathedral in Assisi. And it means a little portion. So this is a little portion of my farm. 

 

You're making a product that touches people on a deep level. 

I'm just beginnin' to build up the clientele. I would say about 80-90 percent of the people I meet have tried money and it doesn't work. They know they can talk to me on another level because that's where I am. I'm not trying to convert anybody. I just know what I believe.  I really think that money is not where happiness is. It's a much deeper level. 

I would rather be known for my faith than for my business. I've always felt that way. Even when I would give talks on dairy, I would talk about the spiritual side of walkin' this earth because I was a Franciscan, I couldn't help it! (laugh) 

About four years ago, before my mom died, I went back to see if I would re-enter the convent, because there's something in me that I think has not been resolved. But I was there four hours, and I knew that I had been away too long. I had a wonderful visit with the sisters. It was a cloister, but they let me in. I told them, 'Well, girls, I thought I could do it, but I think I've been on my own too long.' 

I asked my sister, where did I go wrong -- to leave? She said, I don't think you went wrong. You're like a bird out of the cage. 

I think I'm doin' good work. I think I always felt that I'm doin' a good work. I got off the path for a while but I came back. God calls you back. I think I needed to just get away from church. But you come back in. You may not come back to church, but you come back to the bigger reality.  




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