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.)