As many of you know, I am creating devotional medals for the canonization efforts of Padre Hermogenes Lopez Coarchita of Guatemala. I have been continually humbled throughout this project as I experience more and more the influence of his lifework. Due to a litany of unforeseen circumstances and perhaps a touch of my habitual procrastination, I had devoted my last two weeks in the States to the casting of pewter. The makeshift studio in my kitchen was prepared with the thirty-three pounds of pewter begging to be fired as I went on a search through town to find the tiniest of engravers. You see, I had to make slight modifications to the lettering in my resin cast before I made the master mold for the pewter.
And here is when the hand of God made itself known.
Thinking that a jeweler must know where one can locate tools for the most microscopic of detail work, I walked into the jewelry store of one of my mother’s friends. My mother’s friend was in the design business now but thought that perhaps her jeweler may allow me to borrow some of his tools. And with timing just like that, he came into the showroom to make a delivery. With a quick explanation of the project, a couple of questions here and there, and a good long laugh about the primitive tools I was currently using, he offered his studio to me.
I arrived that afternoon with my shoebox of resin casts and popsicle stick modeling instruments with a smile so big I didn’t even try to hide it. I was finally going to be able to use a tiny engraver! Well, the jewelers explained to me that I was actually looking for a “graver,” but no difference. I finally had access to a tool I desperately needed. His studio was a marvelous wonderland of tangible reality. Everything I had only dreamed of during those long nights of sitting over my clay model whittling on a popsicle stick attempting to obtain a miniature point or slight edge, was there in front of me. He demonstrated the tool that he thought would work best for my particular need and then allowed me to work alongside him.
As we worked we talked, and he soon fell in love with the project. Seeing that this was an opportunity to give back and saying that pewter is such a soft metal that wears easily, he offered to help me cast in a higher quality, stronger, and more sophisticated metal. Because I was working at home with such basic tools, I could only cast in metals that have low-melting points. Nothing but pewter was an option for this project. Recognizing the strength of this offer, I thought it only prudent to finish the project in the studio of this master jeweler. While he has taken me as an apprentice until I leave for Belize, he recognizes that I as the artist continue to make every legitimate decision regarding the medals. In a beautiful relationship where each party acts as both student and teacher, every day is now a living extension Padre’s influence.
The chance to give the Guatemalan people a finished product that is of higher quality with a more refined finish as well as professional molds that can be used for future production, is a greater gift than I ever dreamed of giving. Allowing this man the opportunity to give to people that he has never met before, using the trade that he has perfected over forty-five years, is a humbling encounter with Christ.
This project has advanced into something that is far greater than I could have ever done on my own, and it’s simply because Christ enhances everything that touches this Guatemala mission. I am ecstatic to share with you that the medals will be cast in bronze and I cannot wait to share with you the fruits of this effort.