Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 1 - The Circumcision of the Lord

Traditionally, the Circumcision of the Lord is celebrated on January 1st, eight days following the birth of Christ. This is also the Octave Day of the Nativity or, in the new calendar, the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

So here is some sacred art to help you bring in the new year with these great feasts.

First is the Circumcision of the Lord, from the workshop of Giovanni Bellini (c. 1500). This is a graphic scene, but also one that has been regularly depicted in art over the years.

Next, we'll consider something we can all appreciate, a beautiful image of the Blessed Virgin Mary showing her with her Divine Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is the great 19th century painter, William-Adolphe Bouguereau's "The Virgin with Angels."

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Year's Resolutions and Discount

We're still in the midst of Christmas, but now is also the time to begin crafting New Year's resolutions.

Here are some possibilities:

(1) Read the Gospels every day.
(2) Pray the Rosary every day.
(3) Begin each day with 30 minutes of mental prayer.
(4) End each day with Night Prayer (Compline) and an examination of conscience.
(5) Weekly adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Although we can't help you with all of these, the Sacred Art Series can help you with each of the first two.

So I'm offering a Christmas/New Year's discount through December 31. Simply visit www.SacredArtSeries.com and follow the "Buy Now" links to the product pages at Amazon. Then, at checkout, enter "BABYJESU" to get 10% off one, 15% off two, or 20% off three or more items from the Sacred Art Series.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!

Adoration of the Shepherds by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (c. 1668).

Sales through Amazon.com

This post is only for the very attentive.

Last week I introduced the Sacred Art Series Store. Alas, after a week of operating the webstore, whose orders were fulfilled by Amazon, I have concluded that the shipping and handling fees were unpredictable and higher than I had anticipated, so I have canceled the webstore.

All sales will once again be through Amazon.com. Simply go to www.SacredArtSeries.com, and all the product links will now lead you to the appropriate page at Amazon.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Collection of Christmas Carols

My brother Benjamin Bloomfield was recently interviewed on the SonRise Morning Show regarding his excellent A Collection of Christmas Carols. Ben re-typeset all the carols so the text and notes are clean and crisp to the eye. He also did a fine job selecting Christmas classics and also a few carols that have been neglected over the years and are ready for a new birth. Traditionalists and Latin enthusiasts will also appreciate the fine collection of pieces in Latin. But this book is truly for everyone. Go see for yourself! Because he is a stand-up guy, Ben has left the book in the public domain and is sharing the .pdf for free.

But after you look at the free .pdf, also go buy one! I recommend the spiral edition which is available through Lulu here.

Another Sacred Art Series Review and Giveaway!

The Catholic All Year blog has reviewed the Sacred Art Series' Rosary Flip Book and Book of the Gospels and is hosting a giveaway. Here are some highlights:
We recently received this illustrated reading Bible version of the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, and it really is perfect for the eight to twelve year olds in this house. 
William R. Bloomfield at Sacred Art Series is creating beautiful products that really fill a void in homes that are striving towards bringing a true and vibrant picture of our Catholic faith to our children.

First, he created a beautiful great works of art stand up rosary flip book. It stands there on the table, and, as you start each new mystery of the rosary, you flip to a new page and see a new sixteenth century painting. Great for keeping kids' wandering little minds focused on the rosary. Also good for grownups.
Next, he has created a reading Bible, beginning with the Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. It bridges the gap for older children, or adults, who don't want to be stuck with a story time children's Bible, but who struggle to read adult Bibles, cluttered as they are with verse numbers and footnotes. 
It really is a beautiful book, and would make a beautiful gift. 

Thanks to Kendra Tierney for the kind review. And if you haven't already, please go now and read the rest of Kendra's post, where she also reviews several other great products, including Saints: A Year in Faith and Art and her own A Little Book about Confession for Children. (In fact, I just purchased each of these myself!) There's also a great Catholic planner for 2015 that includes feast days for both the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form calendars.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New photos of the Sacred Art Series

I took some new photos of the Sacred Art Series today. Short of physically giving you the book of the Gospels to hold in your hands and examine, it's difficult for me to communicate just how beautiful this book is. Hopefully these new photos will help. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Third Sunday of Advent - Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday. The name comes from the Introit (Entrance Chant) for today's Mass. Here it is:

The text of the Introit comes from Philippians 4: 4-5 and Psalm 84. In Philippians, St. Paul tells us: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Do not be anxious over anything; but in all manner of prayer, let your requests be made known unto God."

Today's Gospel tells of John the Baptist, and his testimony that he is not the Christ. (This is today's Gospel for the Extraordinary Form of the Mass; it may have been different at the Ordinary Form of the Mass). John then explains to his inquirers who he is: "I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said."

Here is the image that accompanies this passage, which comes from the first chapter of St. John's Gospel, as it is found in the Sacred Art Series' The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John.

On this Gaudete Sunday, let us heed the call of both St. Paul and St. John the Baptists: let us prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ at Christmas by removing the sin in our lives, and let us rejoice that the light of Christ will soon dawn at Christmas.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Holy Gospels Giveaway!

Leila Lawler at Like Mother Like Daughter Blog is hosting a giveaway of The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series!

Please go enter! And buy your copy today! There's still plenty of time to order before Christmas.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Our Lady of Guadalupe - December 12

Our Lady of Guadalupe is such a wonderful feast: Nearly 500 years ago, Mary miraculously appeared under this name and became the patroness of the Americas--of the new world. And the story is so amazing, so incredible, so miraculous, that it strengthens the faith of those of us who believe, and hopefully, it will rekindle the spark of faith in those who have begun to doubt or even lost their faith.

And this feast is especially great for a blog such as this--a blog that displays art. For today, in featuring the famous tilma of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I get to feature art that was created not by man, but miraculously by the power of God through the Blessed Virgin herself.

This great article from Mountain Catholic, which gives 4 "literally awesome" facts about this miraculous image of Our Lady, explains:
1. It has qualities that are humanly impossible to replicate.
Made primarily of cactus fibers, a tilma was typically of very poor quality and had a rough surface, making it difficult enough to wear, much less to paint a lasting image on it. Nevertheless, the image remains, and scientists who have studied the image insist there was no technique used beforehand to treat the surface. The surface bearing the image is reportedly like silk to the touch, while the unused portion of the tilma remains coarse.
What’s more, experts in infrared photography, studying the tilma in the late 1970s, determined that there were no brush strokes (none!), as if the image was slapped onto the surface all at once, and it was discovered by Dr. Phillip Callahan, a biophysicist at the University of Florida, that the difference of appearance with its texturing and coloration of Our Lady’s skin up close compared to a small distance away is impossible to recreate:
Now that is sacred art!

Read the other 4 awesome facts here.

And then there is the story itself of Our Lady's appearance to Juan Diego, which is featured in today's Office of Readings. I intended to only offer an excerpt, but it's too good to abbreviate.(Hat tip: DivineOffice.org):

At daybreak one Saturday morning in 1531, on the very first days of the month of December, an Indian named Juan Diego was going from the village where he lived to Tlatelolco in order to take part in divine worship and listen to God’s commandments. When he came near the hill called Tepeyac, dawn had already come, and Juan Diego heard someone calling him from the very top of the hill: “Juanito, Juan Dieguito.”

He went up the hill and caught sight of a lady of unearthly grandeur whose clothing was as radiant as the sun. She said to him in words both gentle and courteous: “Juanito, the humblest of my children, know and understand that I am the ever virgin Mary, Mother of the true God through whom all things live. It is my ardent desire that a church be erected here so that in it I can show and bestow my love, compassion, help, and protection to all who inhabit this land and to those others who love me, that they might call upon and confide in me. Go to the Bishop of Mexico to make known to him what I greatly desire. Go and put all your efforts into this.”

When Juan Diego arrived in the presence of the Bishop, Fray Juan de Zumarraga, a Franciscan, the latter did not seem to believe Juan Diego and answered: “Come another time, and I will listen at leisure.”

Juan Diego returned to the hilltop where the Heavenly Lady was waiting, and he said to her: “My Lady, my maiden, I presented your message to the Bishop, but it seemed that he did not think it was the truth. For this reason I beg you to entrust your message to someone more illustrious who might convey it in order that they may believe it, for I am only an insignificant man.”

She answered him: “Humblest of my sons, I ask that tomorrow you again go to see the Bishop and tell him that I, the ever virgin holy Mary, Mother of God, am the one who personally sent you.”

But on the following day, Sunday, the Bishop again did not believe Juan Diego and told him that some sign was necessary so that he could believe that it was the Heavenly Lady herself who sent him. And then he dismissed Juan Diego.

On Monday Juan Diego did not return. His uncle, Juan Bernardino, became very ill, and at night asked Juan to go to Tlatelolco at daybreak to call a priest to hear his confession.

Juan Diego set out on Tuesday, but he went around the hill and passed on the other side, toward the east, so as to arrive quickly in Mexico City and to avoid being detained by the Heavenly Lady. But she came out to meet him on that side of the hill and said to him: “Listen and understand, my humblest son. There is nothing to frighten and distress you. Do not let your heart be troubled, and let nothing upset you. Is it not I, your Mother, who is here? Are you not under my protection? Are you not, fortunately, in my care? Do not let your uncle’s illness distress you. It is certain that he has already been cured. Go up to the hilltop, my son, where you will find flowers of various kinds. Cut them, and bring them into my presence.”

When Juan Diego reached the peak, he was astonished that so many Castilian roses had burst forth at a time when the frost was severe. He carried the roses in the folds of his tilma (mantle) to the Heavenly Lady. She said to him: “My son, this is the proof and the sign which you will bring to the Bishop so that he will see my will in it. You are my ambassador, very worthy of trust.”

Juan Diego set out on his way, now content and sure of succeeding. On arriving in the Bishop’s presence, he told him: “My lord, I did what you asked. The Heavenly Lady complied with your request and fulfilled it. She sent me to the hilltop to cut some Castilian roses and told me to bring them to you in person. And this I am doing, so that you can see in them the sign you seek in order to carry out her will. Here they are; receive them.”

He immediately opened up his white mantle, and as all the different Castilian roses scattered to the ground, there was drawn on the cloak and suddenly appeared the precious image of the ever virgin Mary, Mother of God, in the same manner as it is today and is kept in her shrine of Tepeyac.

The whole city was stirred and came to see and admire her venerable image and to offer prayers to her; and following the command which the same Heavenly Lady gave to Juan Bernardino when she restored him to health, they called her by the name that she herself had used: “the ever virgin holy Mary of Guadalupe.” [emphasis added]
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

New Liturgical Movement Reviews Sacred Art Series' The Holy Gospels

Today, Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has posted an excellent review of the Sacred Art Series' The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John at the New Liturgical Movement.

Here's a sample:
As usual, it will help NLM readers far more to see lots of photos than to hear me going on and on about how beautiful a book this is. But I ought to say loud and clear: it is handsomely done, its cover, gilt edging, sewn binding, ribbon, rounded pages, and full-bleed artwork make it look like the sacred and special book it is, so that its very appearance transmits an unspoken message about reverence. The gentle updating that has been done to the Douay-Rheims text makes it at once reader-friendly (especially for younger readers) and utterly traditional in tone. The choice of St. Luke and St. John again is a winner, as you get a very full synoptic narrative from the one, including favorite parables uniquely Luke’s, complemented by the more “mystical”  and dialogue-centered narrative of John. Most strikingly, the full-color artworks on every other page are exquisitely tasteful, well placed to match exactly the text at that point, and guaranteed to fascinate many a reader with their own way of telling or commenting on the adjacent story.
There are also many fine photos that accompany the review. Here is just one. Read the rest and see the rest of the photos at the New Liturgical Movement. And thank you to Dr. Kwasniewski for the fine review!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - December 8

Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, which is the day when we honor the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ, the very Mother of God, who herself was conceived without the stain of original sin. What a glorious mystery! What a glorious feast! May we all draw closer to the mother of Jesus Christ, who will of course draw us closer to her son, who is the Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity.

The following comes from a sermon by St. Anselm and is found in today's Office of Readings (hat tip: Universalis.com):

To Mary God gave his only-begotten Son, whom he loved as himself. Through Mary God made himself a Son, not different but the same, by nature Son of God and Son of Mary. The whole universe was created by God, and God was born of Mary. God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God. The God who made all things gave himself form through Mary, and thus he made his own creation. He who could create all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.

Here is a wonderful image of Mary by the great artist Bartolome Esteban Murillo.

Let us close with the wonderful prayer to Mary, Tota pulchra es: (hat tip: Whispers in the Loggia)

Virgin most holy and immaculate, 
to you, the honor of our people, 
and the loving protector of our city,
do we turn with loving trust.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you there is no sin.

Awaken in all of us a renewed desire for holiness:
May the splendor of truth shine forth in our words, 
the song of charity resound in our works, 
purity and chastity abide in our hearts and bodies,
and the full beauty of the Gospel be evident in our lives.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you the Word of God became flesh.

Help us always to heed the Lord’s voice:
May we never be indifferent to the cry of the poor,
or untouched by the sufferings of the sick and those in need;
may we be sensitive to the loneliness of the elderly and the vulnerability of children, 
and always love and cherish the life of every human being.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
In you is the fullness of joy born of life with God.

Help us never to forget the meaning of our earthly journey:
May the kindly light of faith illumine our days,
the comforting power of hope direct our steps,
the contagious warmth of love stir our hearts;
and may our gaze be fixed on God, in whom true joy is found.

You are all-beautiful, O Mary!
Hear our prayer, graciously hear our plea:
May the beauty of God’s merciful love in Jesus abide in our hearts,
and may this divine beauty save us, our city and the entire world.


Review of Sacred Art Series at Unam Sanctam Catholicam

Thanks to Anselm at the Unam Sanctam Catholicam blog for this fine review of The Holy  Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series.

Here's a sample:
The editor of the series makes the admittedly audacious claim that this is now the most beautiful and easiest way to read the Gospels. And I think he is right.

Those of you who have children, especially between the ages of 7 and 17 or so, have probably noticed the difficulty that used to exist in finding a Bible suitable for older children to read. On the one hand are all the "Children's Bibles" with abridged retellings of famous Bible stories usually with semi-cartoonish illustrations. On the other hand are the standard adult Bibles with small text, thin pages, and no images at all. How, then, to introduce young children to the reading of the sacred page in a way that is accessible to them without sacrificing any of the richness of the inspired Word? Well, here is the answer:

Read the rest of this fine review here.

Buy yours today at Amazon. With Amazon Prime, you'll have it in two days and you can see for yourself.

Sacred Art Series featured at The Catholic Review

I participated in an interview regarding my Sacred Art Series with Dr. Hanael Bianchi, a blogger at the Archdiocese of Washington's The Catholic Review. Check it out!

Here's a brief sample from the interview:

2) What inspired you to start the series?
A confluence of several things: First, My day job is as an assistant attorney general for the Michigan Attorney General. In this capacity, in the summer of 2013, I was assigned to the team of attorneys working to preserve the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts during the Detroit Bankruptcy. To my shame, I realized that I had not been to the DIA since I was a kid. Later in 2013, I rectified this and again toured the museum. I was thrilled to discover their beautiful medieval and Renaissance art, which includes pieces from Caravaggio, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Gerard David, and even Fra Angelico.
Second, I had a conversation with my oldest niece, 8 and an avid reader, and I learned that she had already completed the Hobbit and the Narnia Chronicles and was already beginning The Lord of the Rings. This is all great; but I asked her whether she'd read the Gospels, and she had not. This got me thinking: is there a version of the Gospels that is suitable for a child? And as I began to look around, to my surprise, I realized that there was not.
Third, my wife and I received a set of old McGuffey readers from my wife's parents. We began using these with my son and I soon realized that I liked the way the books were laid out. The early books in the set--for beginning readers--used larger print and often included pictures. Gradually, as the series continued--and presumably, as the young reader's abilities developed--the books used smaller type and included more words per page. This seemed to be a winning formula.
Fourth, prayer. Not long before these discrete ideas began jostling around in my head, I attended an excellent Ignatian retreat with the religious order Miles Christi. My resolution from the retreat was a disciplined prayer life, which included regular recitation of the Rosary as I drove to and from work. One day, as I prayed, the idea formed: a book of the Gospels in a story-by-story format with large type and beautiful images of sacred art. And I was pretty sure that all that I needed was already in the public domain, and that I could self-publish using Createspace or some other print-on-demand publisher. Later, I determined to make the book truly beautiful by using a professional book printer.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Now available! The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series

I am thrilled to announce that The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series is now available!

Buy now at Amazon here.

I will make an audacious claim: This book is now the most beautiful and easiest way to read the Gospels.

It is gorgeously bound, featuring a leatherette cover with gold embossed lettering, gold gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon. The interior is just as beautiful. Nearly 100 full color images of the finest sacred art appears alongside the complete text of the Gospels of Luke and John presented in large print in a story-by-story format. Artists featured include medieval and Renaissance greats such as Fra Angelico, Duccio, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Titian, and Giotto.

This makes an exquisite gift and is just in time for Christmas.

Many Christians often wonder how we can better spread the Gospels. Here is one answer to that question: Give The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John to your children, nieces, nephews, godchildren, siblings, friends, parents, and grandparents.

Photos of the interior follow. For a free .pdf of the complete interior, see here.

For 15% off, please enter the discount BLOGCODE at Amazon at checkout. The same code will also get you 20% off a purchase of three or more.

For more details, and to learn more about the Sacred Art Series, visit www.SacredArtSeries.com.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

St. Francis Xavier - Dec. 3

St. Francis Xavier is one of the earliest Jesuits and is best known for his evangelization of India and Japan. He is said to have baptized thousands and even tens of thousands.

Here is beautiful painting by Peter Paul Rubens that depicts St. Francis' many miracles.

And here is a brief biography of St. Francis Xavier from Benzinger Brothers' abbreviation of Butler's Lives of the Saints:

YOUNG Spanish gentleman, in the dangerous days of the Reformation, was making a name for himself as a Professor of Philosophy in the University of Paris, and had seemingly no higher aim, when St. Ignatius of Loyola won him to heavenly thoughts. After a brief apostolate amongst his countrymen in Rome he was sent by St. Ignatius to the Indies, where for twelve years he was to wear himself out, bearing the Gospel to Hindostan, to Malacca, and to Japan. Thwarted by the jealousy, covetousness, and carelessness of those who should have helped and encouraged him, neither their opposition nor the difficulties of every sort which he encountered could make him slacken his labors for souls. The vast kingdom of China appealed to his charity, and he was resolved to risk his life to force an entry, when God took him to Himself, and on the 2nd of December, 1552, he died, like Moses, in sight of the land of promise.

Reflection.—Some are specially called to work for souls; but there is no one who cannot help much in their salvation. Holy example, earnest intercession, the offerings of our actions in their behalf—all this needs only the spirit which animated St. Francis Xavier, the desire to make some return to God.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sacred Art Series - The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John

Download the full text of the Sacred Art Series' The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John below. It's completely free. And I've left the entire book in the public domain, so you are welcome (and encouraged) to share it with others.

Buy the print edition (with leatherette cover, gilt pages, and a ribbon) at Amazon here. It makes a great gift!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Feast of St. Andrew, November 30

Today is the First Sunday of Advent and also is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of St. Peter.

Here is the Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew by the great Sienese artist Duccio. This particular painting will be featured in the upcoming The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series (which will be released later this week!).

What a great saint is Andrew, the disciple of St. John the Baptist who brought Simon Peter--the first Pope--to Jesus Christ.

Like his brother Peter, Andrew would leave behind his fishing nets and become a fisher of men, and ultimately, Andrew would give his very life for Christ. In art, St. Andrew is regularly shown with his distinctive X-shaped cross. Here is St. Andrew by the great baroque artist Peter Paul Rubens.

Two years ago on the feast of Saint Andrew, I had the opportunity to sing the Mass Propers for an Extraordinary Form Mass at the Church of the Resurrection in Lansing, Michigan. These Mass Propers are beautiful, and I particularly like the Alleluia. I was hoping to share this Alleluia chant, as these Gregorian chants are truly the pinnacle of sacred art, but I could not find a version on the Internet. Since I could not find a version on the Internet, I recorded my own. I'm sure it would sound better in a church and with several other male voices, but until I can manage to record it under better conditions, here it is:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Rosary Flip Book Review and Giveaway at Catholic Deals Online

Catholic Deals Online has a review and giveaway of the Sacred Art Series Rosary Flip Book. There's also a discount code CATHOLIC that will get you 20% off your order during the giveaway, which ends on the feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8).

Also, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John from the Sacred Art Series has been printed. It will be shipped tomorrow, and should be available for purchase through www.SacredArtSeries.com and Amazon.com by the end of next week. This will make an excellent Christmas gift for your child, niece, nephew, godchildren, grandchildren, or other young relatives or friends. Stay tuned for the release and for upcoming promotions.

And because I am leaving this entire book in the public domain, I am sharing the .pdf for free. Feel free to download this file and share it with your friends. Although the printed edition is the ideal way to read this book, reading it on a tablet is also a fine option--and that is completely free. So here it is!

Monday, November 24, 2014

New Documentary on the Vatican Museums

John Zmirak blogged today at the Catholic Thing announcing a new documentary on the Vatican Museums. This looks wonderful.

Watch the introductory video here.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Christmas with Bernadette Giveaway

The Living with Lady Philosophy Blog is hosting a giveaway of my sister Emily Ortega's latest book, Christmas with Bernadette. Please go enter!

Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass

The New Liturgical Movement's Dr. Peter Kwasniewski posted today about a new book from St. Augustine Academy Press, Treasure and Tradition: The Ultimate Guide to the Latin Mass. Here's a picture of the cover from Dr. Kwasniewski's blog post.

This book looks wonderful, and so is Dr. Kwasniewski's initial review, so I immediately bought a copy and will give it to my 6-year-old son for Christmas.

I had never before heard of St. Augustine Academy Press, and am delighted to discover them. Like my own Sacred Art Series from Bloomfield Books, St. Augustine's is a family-owned Catholic apostolate, that began on a very small scale and soon became a publishing company. May this family business flourish!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dominican Sisters of Mary-The Rosary CD

I have long been a supporter of the Sisters of Mary Mother of Eucharist. This vibrant order of teaching nuns has just released its second CD from DeMontfort Music. This year's release is The Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations, and Music.

Please support this excellent order of nuns with your purchase. And consider buying a Sacred Art Series Rosary Flip Book to aid in your recitation of the Rosary.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

St. Martin of Tours and Veterans' Day

Today is Martinmas, the feast of St. Martin of Tours. It is also the American holiday of Veteran's Day, so it is an especially appropriate day to consider Catholic spirituality in light of military themes such as sacrifice, duty, and discipline. Let's begin by discussing St. Martin.

St. Martin was a Roman soldier who is best remembered for cutting his cloak in half to share with a beggar. This is a beautiful act of charity, and we should all aspire to such acts. But we should not forget that St. Martin's charity was the fruit of his fervent life of prayer. The following regarding St. Martin comes from today's Office of Readings:
Here was a man words cannot describe. Death could not defeat him nor toil dismay him. He was quite without a preference of his own; he neither feared to die nor refused to live. With eyes and hands always raised to heaven he never withdrew his unconquered spirit from prayer. (Emphasis added) (from Universalis.com)
So St. Martin, who is remembered for his great charity, was in fact a contemplative who always prayed; he never withdrew his spirit from prayer. In other words, St. Martin constantly united himself in prayer with God. His very life became a prayer--a regular outpouring of self to God. And thus immersed in the grace of God, this grace manifested itself in acts of charity and apostolic zeal. Hence, if we want to have the charity of St. Martin, we must emulate the prayer of St. Martin.

This lesson was reinforced to me this past weekend as I attended a weekend retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who also was a soldier. While recovering from his battle wounds, St. Ignatius read the life of Christ and the lives of the saints and was so inspired that he traded his worldly life as a soldier and became a soldier of Jesus Christ, doing all things "for the greater glory of God." (The religious order that led my retreat was Miles Christi, which literally means soldiers for Christ. This wonderful young order of priests and brothers was inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola and has as its goal the sanctification of the layity.)

(St. Ignatius of Loyola, c. 1600, by Peter Paul Rubens via Wikipedia Commons)

This is what we are called to be: soldiers for Christ. As Christians, we are enlisted into the Army of Christ. And daily, we must ask ourselves: Do we truly desire to follow our Captain and King? Will we obey His orders? Will we sacrifice our will for His? Will we do all things in Christ?

For a true Christian, there can be only one answer to these questions. "Yes." And this "yes," cannot remain as only a word, but must become a way of life. We must unite ourselves to Jesus Christ in prayer as St. Martin and St. Ignatius and the saints did. It is not enough to give God a mediocre piety--a piety that prays from time to time but cannot be bothered to commit to a life of prayer. We must give God our all. We must become saints. And to do so, we must be disciplined as soldiers. We must cultivate a daily habit of prayer. Most importantly, this daily habit must begin with morning mental prayer.

I am not a suitable person to explain all the salutary benefits of mental prayer, and this blog post is not the place. But if you have not yet developed this habit, or do not know how to engage in mental prayer, or are not yet convinced of its benefits, I highly recommend The Soul of the Apostolate by Dom Jean Baptiste Chautard. (It is available for $.99 for Amazon Kindle here.)

St. Martin of Tours, pray for us! St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

St. Charles Borromeo - November 4

St. Charles Borromeo is a great Counter-Reformation saint. The Second Reading in today's Office of Readings comes from a sermon by St. Charles, wherein he discusses the need for holiness and prayer. The whole thing is worth sharing:
I admit that we are all weak, but if we want help, the Lord God has given us the means to find it easily. One priest may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships. Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected? 
  Would you like me to teach you how to grow from virtue to virtue and how, if you are already recollected at prayer, you can be even more attentive next time, and so give God more pleasing worship? Listen, and I will tell you. If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. Keep the stove tightly shut so that it will not lose its heat and grow cold. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter. 
  If teaching and preaching is your job, then study diligently and apply yourself to whatever is necessary for doing the job well. Be sure that you first preach by the way you live. If you do not, people will notice that you say one thing, but live otherwise, and your words will bring only cynical laughter and a derisive shake of the head. 
  Are you in charge of a parish? If so, do not neglect the parish of your own soul, do not give yourself to others so completely that you have nothing left for yourself. You have to be mindful of your people without becoming forgetful of yourself. 
  My brothers, you must realise that for us churchmen nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during and after everything we do. The prophet says: I will pray, and then I will understand. When you administer the sacraments, meditate on what you are doing. When you celebrate Mass, reflect on the sacrifice you are offering. When you pray the office, think about the words you are saying and the Lord to whom you are speaking. When you take care of your people, meditate on how the Lord’s blood that has washed them clean so that all that you do becomes a work of love. 
  This is the way we can easily overcome the countless difficulties we have to face day after day, which, after all, are part of our work: in meditation we find the strength to bring Christ to birth in ourselves and in other men. (emphasis mine)
(Hat Tip: Universalis.com, which is a great resource for praying the Liturgy of the Hours)

Here is an image of Saint Charles by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (c. 1768) from the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Saints Day - Adoration of the Lamb by Jan Van Eyck

The Adoration of the Lamb by Jan Van Eyck is the central panel of the famous Ghent altarpiece. (For a very high resolution look at the full altar piece, I highly recommend visiting this site.)

In this painting, we see the angels and saints adoring the Lamb of God, which provides an appropriate meditation on this All Saints' Day.

The entire, open altar piece looks like this. God the Father is in the center, flanked by the Blessed Virgin Mary on the left, and John the Baptist on the right. On the far left is Adam; the far right, Eve.

To learn more about the Ghent altarpiece, I recommend these great videos from the SmartHistory series by the Khan Academy.

UPDATE: I also recommend this excellent blog post regarding All Saints' Day by Dr. Jeremy Holmes of Wyoming Catholic College. (Hat tip to Dr. Peter Kwasniewski for linking to it at the New Liturgical Movement.)

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Another Rosary Book Giveaway!

Like Mother Like Daughter's Rosary Book giveaway has just ended, but Living With Lady Philosophy's giveaway has begun!

This week's giveaway includes an interview with me, wherein I explain my inspiration for creating the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book:
Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?
Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I'm Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.

Read the rest of the interview at Living with Lady Philosophy.

Also, note that the Amazon coupon code ROSARYBK for $3 off remains applicable through the end of October. Buy the 4x5 Rosary Book here; Buy the 8x10 Rosary book here.