Making Crosses: Icon Style


A long time ago, I remember learning that painting icons was a devotional practice for the monks and nuns who created them.  Although they followed a very strict formula, each stroke of the brush was a prayer.  I wondered if we could do a prayer practice that I had found called “Making Crosses” in this same way.

I first found out about making crosses from this website: and wondered if I might be able to adapt it for my own context of a confirmation class.  Here is my first twist on the project:

I bought paint stir sticks from the hardware store (they are like $.15 each if you need a lot of them, free if you don’t.).  I used a handsaw and cut them into two pieces, at 2/3 to 1/3 of the length.  The 2/3 left is the vertical bar of the cross, and the 1/3 is the horizontal bar of the cross.  I used a little bit of sandpaper to smooth the cut edges. Then, I glued them together with wood glue and clamped them in place over night.

I used to do a lot of work in decorative mosaics, so I had a lot of leftover pieces stored up in a box.  That’s what we decided to use for decoration.

On the first week, we made crosses for our Portable Prayer Stations.  First, we tied them with jute string around the center, for a little added stability.  Then, I asked the students to choose the mosaic pieces and arrange them as they liked.  I told them they could still visit during the designing phase.  Once they were designed, we entered into an attitude of prayer, and each student prayed a silent, personal prayer before gluing each piece fast (we used craft glue for this purpose).  Here are some of their designs:

cross 1     cross 2     cross 3

During the second week, we made crosses for our shut-ins to hang on the walls of their assisted living or nursing home rooms.  Some of our youth had been around to visit, and wanted to do something to cheer their rooms up.  Each confirmation student selected a specific shut-in to pray for, and we were on our way.  We made them in the same way, with one addition.  When they were dry, we turned them over and used hot glue to attach a loop of floral wire to the back.  This would make it easy for them to hand on a wall.  They also wrote their name and the name of the shut-in on the back.  Here were the designs:

crosses for shut-ins

You would not believe how the shut-ins have treasured this gift!  They received them with great thanks and had me put thank yous in the church bulletin so that everyone would see how they were cared for.  In the month after I gave them out, most of the shut-ins had them hanging on the wall in a treasured place. Although most of them are in their mid-nineties, they each had me take pictures with my smartphone so that I could show the confirmation students how important these crosses were to them.  This was a prayer project and a service project well worth doing.


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