Catechetics and Catholic Art

Sacred art, by its very nature, is catechetical. The purpose of this art was and continues to be a method of instruction. The Catholic Church, in its Latin and Greek Rites, and the twenty-six Catholic Rites that are in union with Rome, have all produced magnificent sacred calligraphy and art; non-Catholic faiths have done this, too. Two thousand years ago Christians hiding in Rome inscribed images of Christ, the Blessed Mother and with the Christ child, and other Scriptural images on the walls of the catacombs. That art contributed to the catechesis of the early Christians. Two millennia later, Pope … Continue reading Catechetics and Catholic Art

St. Athanasius – Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Icons

St. Athanasius of Alexandria was “the Lion” of the Council of Nicaea. He was instrumental in providing well argued testimony rebuking the heretic Arius during the Council’s debates. His verbal skills, as powerful and commanding as a lion, shredded Arius’ arguments. His eloquence convinced the assembled bishops of the correct dogma that Jesus Christ has two, separate and distinct, natures (divine and human), and that Jesus Christ is fully human and fully divine. The heretic Arius insisted that Jesus was “just a creature” of God. The Council’s main purpose was to address the divine nature of Jesus Christ and the … Continue reading St. Athanasius – Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Icons

Saint Nicholas Slaps a Heretic! A Reflection Appropriate for Palm Sunday

The extensive Gospel reading for Palm Sunday relates the Scriptural and historical truth that Jesus  triumphantly entered Jerusalem, yet, five days later He was arrested, put on trial, tortured, and executed. As you know, the religious and secular leaders of Israel did not accept Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. They were adamant about the fact that Jesus was just a man and that His claims, teachings, and healings were all fraudulent.  Their disbelief took place during the first century, yet, two hundred years later there were Christians saying the same thing. The questions came down to, “Who … Continue reading Saint Nicholas Slaps a Heretic! A Reflection Appropriate for Palm Sunday

St. Joseph’s Art Workshop: Lesson 4 – Applying Color and Modeling the Face

Just wanted to notify the people who are following the art lessons in my St. Joseph Art Workshop tab that I just published Lesson 4: Applying Color and Modeling the Face. You need to go to the Menu tab above and click on Lesson 4 to see it. My next post in the St. Joseph’s Art Workshop tab will be Lesson 5. It will be the last post in my Art Exercise of Painting Sacred Images using Acrylic Paint.  Thanks.   Continue reading St. Joseph’s Art Workshop: Lesson 4 – Applying Color and Modeling the Face

Fra Angelico – “Heaven on Earth” Exhibition – Part 2 – Ascension, Pentecost, the Last Judgement

I hope you had a blessed Feast of Pentecost! Please read Part 1 of “Fra Angelico – Heaven on Earth” (posted here on May 16, 2018) in order to receive a proper introduction to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s extraordinary exhibition that, unfortunately, closed this weekend.. As you moved into the gallery that exhibited this once in a lifetime collection of Fra Angelico paintings you first saw the beautiful painting entitled The Ascension of Christ, The Last Judgement, and Pentecost (the Corsini Triptych). It is painted in egg tempera with gold leaf on a wood panel. Fra Angelico painted it … Continue reading Fra Angelico – “Heaven on Earth” Exhibition – Part 2 – Ascension, Pentecost, the Last Judgement

Fra Angelico – The “Heaven on Earth” Exhibition – Part 1

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts is the only venue in America for the extraordinary “Fra Angelico: Heaven on Earth” exhibition. This amazing collection of reliquaries which express the life of the Virgin Mary, and other paintings of the greatest painter of the Early Renaissance, will be on display until this Sunday May 20th, 2018. Earlier incorrect media reports had the last day as May 28th. I will be posting my photos of the Gardner Museum’s exhibit starting with this post and continuing on through the upcoming weeks and months. The exhibit consists of more than just the … Continue reading Fra Angelico – The “Heaven on Earth” Exhibition – Part 1

St. Joseph the Worker and Sacred Artists

Today, May 1, is the memorial of St. Joseph the Worker. I chose him to be the patron of St. Joseph’s Art Workshop (found within this site’s Menu Tab at the top of the page) because he is, of all the saints, the most important next to Our Blessed Mother. He was a righteous man (in the finest sense of that spiritual word), a devout and very prayerful Jew, a carpenter, the beloved spouse of our Blessed Mother, and the foster father of Jesus Christ. Today we honor him as a worker. A worker in the professional sense and a … Continue reading St. Joseph the Worker and Sacred Artists

St. Michael and the Archangels

On this day, September 29th, the Western Rite of the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast Day of Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael (the Eastern Rite celebrates it on either November 8th or 21st depending whether or not they use the Gregorian calendar). Pope St. Gregory the Great (AD 540 – 604) mentions in one of his homilies: “You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser … Continue reading St. Michael and the Archangels

The Gospel of John 1:35-42 – An Invitation to Follow Jesus

In our Gospel today we hear John the Baptist proclaim “Behold the Lamb of God.” We see in our mind’s eye, Andrew and another disciple, probably St. John, listening to the Baptist say those words. Immediately after Jesus walks by they look at one another and, without saying a word, begin to follow Jesus. Jesus, sensing their presence, turns and seeing them says, “What are you looking for?” They say: “Rabbi where do you live?” They didn’t presume to say, “Rabbi we want to be your companions – we want to learn from you.” Rather they instinctually knew that this … Continue reading The Gospel of John 1:35-42 – An Invitation to Follow Jesus

The Way of Beauty On-Line Course and Reimbursement Scholarship Opportunities

The mission of the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts is to teach the truth, goodness, and beauty of God through the prayerful creation of sacred art. We are happy to announce that we have recently entered into a partnership with Thomas More College of Liberal Arts to present a wonderful on-line course to anyone interested in Catholic Culture and the sacred art of the Church. We also have a special opportunity for teachers of history, art, religion, and the humanities in Catholic high schools of the Diocese of Providence who complete this course. Thomas More College of Liberal … Continue reading The Way of Beauty On-Line Course and Reimbursement Scholarship Opportunities

Sin and the Sacred Artist

Our society is quite adept at pointing out the sins and foolishness of others. Cable TV, radio talk shows, and various web sites love to dwell on the ignorant and immoral actions of politicians, celebrities, and the man in the street. But, as sacred artists within the Christian Tradition, what does Jesus require of us? Jesus demands that we become countercultural. He requires us to be more concerned with our own sinfulness rather than the sins or inadequacies of others. When we first heard it years ago, last Sunday’s Gospel of Matthew 5: 17-37 must have caught us off guard – … Continue reading Sin and the Sacred Artist

PREPARE! Bruno Mars in Light of Matthew 5: 13-16

If you had the opportunity to watch the Super Bowl half-time show last weekend you saw that there were a number of symbolic messages that were being sent by the producers and main performer of the show; interestingly, variations on these messages continued to be sent throughout the game in the form of the commercials. The singer Bruno Mars’ half-time performance sent one specific message – one specific word – that flashed three times behind him at the beginning of his act, the word was: prepare. Prepare. But prepare for what? The verb prepare in and of itself, is a … Continue reading PREPARE! Bruno Mars in Light of Matthew 5: 13-16

Baptism, Discipleship, and the Art of Lorenzo Lotto

In our Gospel last week we stood at the banks of the Jordan River and witnessed Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist. Today we hear John announce to all that the Spirit of God rests upon Jesus who is described as the Lamb of God and the Light of the World. John goes on to say that Jesus is not an angel, a prophet, nor a magician; rather, He is the incarnate Son of the Most High God. John reminds us that as the “Lamb of God” Jesus has a specific mission. His role is to teach and preach, and most importantly, it … Continue reading Baptism, Discipleship, and the Art of Lorenzo Lotto

Mary and Joseph’s “Yes” – The Risk of an Open Heart

Our Gospel today (4th Sunday of Advent, Matthew 1: 18-24)) provides us with the story of a young couple, Mary and Joseph, who through their pondering of God’s request for understanding and trust provide humanity with the opportunity for divine Redemption. It is in their collective “Yes” to the angel’s request, that God’s plan could be fulfilled. His strategy for humanity’s Redemption was patiently planned and executed. It was a plan, seen in the Holy Scriptures, that shows Him searching for His broken human family, seeking ways in which He can communicate His desire for love and friendship. God is very methodical in His … Continue reading Mary and Joseph’s “Yes” – The Risk of an Open Heart

The Virtue of Christian Responsibility

This weekend’s Gospel (26th Week in Ordinary Time) about Lazarus, and a rich man by the name of Dives, is filled with very concrete images about the virtue of Christian responsibility. Jesus’ message is twofold: first, He is saying that during his earthly life the rich man was not applying the teaching of the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures which speak of the obligation to hospitably help those around us. Jesus is also challenging us by mentioning that the rich man sinned. In the Hebrew language the word sin means to “miss the mark” and the rich man Dives clearly … Continue reading The Virtue of Christian Responsibility

Roger of Helmarshausen O.S.B. – Theophilus the Presbyter: Part 3 – The Prologues

Last February, in Parts 1 and 2 of this article, I shared with you some thoughts on an important figure in the history of Western European art: the Benedictine monk, Roger of Helmarshausen, also known by his pen name, Theophilus the Presbyter. Dom Roger was born in the late 11th century during a dramatic time in Western European history. In 1066 the Normans successfully invaded England and defeated the Saxons, which forever changed the history of England and the Continent. In 1084, St. Bruno founded the Carthusian Order in France, and in 1098 the foundation monastery of Citeaux saw the beginning … Continue reading Roger of Helmarshausen O.S.B. – Theophilus the Presbyter: Part 3 – The Prologues

Pope Benedict 16th and the Virtues of Humility and Patience

May the Peace of Christ be with you on this unique day in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. Today we commemorate the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes which reminds us that the Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858 at Lourdes, France. Her message was clear and concise to the young Bernadette: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” She requested Bernadette to tell the local clergy that a church should be built on the site of the apparition so that the sick and suffering might come to find comfort, and healing of both body and soul. A … Continue reading Pope Benedict 16th and the Virtues of Humility and Patience

Gaudete Sunday In Light of the Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

Today we celebrate Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means, “Rejoice!” – and we visualize this by the rose-colored vestments and candle in the Advent wreath. Yet, it is so difficult to rejoice in light of the unspeakable horror and evil that befell the 27 innocent children and adults in Newtown, Connecticut, or the 22 children and an adult who were slashed by a man wielding a knife in a city in China, or the teenager arrested in Oklahoma for plotting to kill his fellow students and bomb his high school; and this all occurred on the morning of December 14th. Connecticut Governor … Continue reading Gaudete Sunday In Light of the Tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut

St. Lucy – Patron of the Blind

On December 13th of every year we remember the life and death of Saint Lucy. Lucy was the virgin martyr who was put to death in the year 304 during the great persecution started by the Emperor Diocletian. St. Lucy is one of those saints whose feast day came at the time of the winter solstice, and because the name Lucy is derived from the Latin “lucis or lux” which means “light” a song was written that had this refrain: “This is the feast of St. Lucy Light, the shortest day and the longest night.” In the 6th century, with the … Continue reading St. Lucy – Patron of the Blind

The Immaculate Conception of Mary – The Beauty of the New Eve

We are about to begin the second week of Advent and as you may know the word Advent has its root in the Latin word adventus which means “coming.” The liturgical term adventus is similar to the Greek word parousia which refers to the Second Coming of Christ at the final judgment of the world. Through the millenia Church scholars have linked these two words together because they hope to instill within us the understanding that we are on a spiritual journey. In this journey we experience the waiting period – the longing – for the coming of Jesus, the actual … Continue reading The Immaculate Conception of Mary – The Beauty of the New Eve

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Jesus

Today we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. During the first 280 years of its life the Catholic Church was severely persecuted. The symbol of the Cross, the symbol of public humiliation and excruciating death, was rarely used in our Christian iconography. But this doesn’t mean that the early Christians were reluctant to express their devotion to the Cross. Writing in the year 204, the Christian theologian Tertullian said: “At every going in and out, when we put on our clothes, when we sit at table, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace … Continue reading The Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Jesus

The Assumption of Mary

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans (8:30), sets that stage for this great solemnity: “Those God predestined He likewise called; those He called He also justified; and those He justified He in turn glorified.” Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Assumption/Dormition of Mary. This is an ancient celebration documented as occurring as early as the 400’s, probably soon after the Council of Ephesus in 431 declared Mary the Theotokos: the Mother of God. In a homily on the solemnity of the Assumption, Pope John Paul II used  John 14:3 as a Scriptural foundation for understanding the dogma of the Assumption … Continue reading The Assumption of Mary

The Feast of St. Joseph – Universal Patron of the Church

At the birth of Christ, the seven hundred year old messianic prophecies of the prophet Isaiah became an historic reality. On a yearly basis, we celebrate and remember that moment on the Feast day of St. Joseph, the patron of the universal Church; for we see in Joseph not only a loyal husband and foster father of Jesus – our Savior – but also a man of conviction and prayer. Upon hearing that Mary is pregnant Joseph is filled with pain and anger. Understandably, at first, he is not ready to say “yes” to Mary and her story of divine … Continue reading The Feast of St. Joseph – Universal Patron of the Church

Making Room In Your Heart for God, Prayer, and Creativity

The Gospel of St Mark, chapter 9: 14-29, challenges us to ask ourselves the question “How does the effective disciple of Jesus live his or her life?” Clearly the ineffectiveness of Jesus’ disciples in doing His work is evidenced when the father of the possessed boy complains to Jesus that His disciples were unable to help his son, and even questions the power of Jesus to intervene on his son’s behalf. Jesus responds with disappointment tinged with anger over the actions of some of His disciples; people who took it upon themselves to act in Jesus’ name but were not … Continue reading Making Room In Your Heart for God, Prayer, and Creativity

Perilous Times For People Of All Faiths

There is a very striking phrase from yesterday morning’s Gospel:  Mark says, “…and when they got out of the boat, the people at once recognized Him…”  – they immediately recognized Him. The question that begs to be asked is “If they immediately recognized Him – what did they recognize?” Was it just the fact that they identified a teacher of profound importance, or a powerful prophet, or a new healer with extraordinary ability?  Or did they recognize the fact that this person was someone totally above and beyond that – a man truly sent from God – to do God’s … Continue reading Perilous Times For People Of All Faiths

The Demons Say “We Are Legion.” Jesus says “Trust Me.”

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke all contain the story of the demoniac from the territory in northern Israel called the land of the Gerasenes. They describe the fact that the demons had united within this man for a specific purpose – to torment this poor sinner and to terrorize the countryside with demonic power so concentrated – that the evil was unable to be controlled. Unclean spirits fueled the demoniac’s actions; and as Jesus steps out of the boat onto the shore the demoniac immediately confronts Jesus and the demons within him beg to be left alone. Jesus … Continue reading The Demons Say “We Are Legion.” Jesus says “Trust Me.”

The Joy Filled Christian – A Sermon on Survival in the Face of Tribulation

Today is Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means “Rejoice!” The Church has us  visualize this by the rose colored candle in the Advent wreath and the rose colored vestments. Gaudete Sunday appears at the midpoint of the Advent season, and we pause to rejoice and reflect on the marvelous work of God and His plan of salvation for us. Our readings show us Isaiah speaking of the splendid work of God – – St. Paul telling us to “give thanks and rejoice always,” not just in good times, but in all circumstances, and our Gospel describes St. John the Baptist testifying that the Light of … Continue reading The Joy Filled Christian – A Sermon on Survival in the Face of Tribulation

The Immaculate Conception – A Time To Reflect On The Meaning of Mary

1) Mary’s Personal History Tradition tells us that Mary was the daughter of Saints Joachim and Anne. They were devoted Jews who raised their child to be loyal and pure within the Jewish holy tradition. Mary was born within the royal line of King David and was betrothed and later married Joseph, a respected Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Little is known of Mary’s day-to-day life other than the references to her in the Gospels. Those early references indicate that she was a loving, concerned, and devoted person. During her Son’s ministry she attended the wedding feast at Cana, was present at … Continue reading The Immaculate Conception – A Time To Reflect On The Meaning of Mary

Beauty Built on Gospel Values

David Clayton, artist in residence at Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in New Hampshire, has written a wonderful essay that capsulizes the essential nature of what Pope Benedict 16th is saying about creating a culture of beauty. It should be required reading by all seminarians, clerics, and laypeople who are interested in evangelization and the recreation of a culture of beauty based on sound Gospel principles and the appeal to our innate sense of the beautiful. Please copy and paste the link below into your search engine bar and it should pop up for you. http://thewayofbeauty.org/2011/10/the-psalms-and-the-evangelisation-of-the-culture/        … Continue reading Beauty Built on Gospel Values

Our Lady of the Rosary

All the events of human history have to be backlit by the reality of our faith that God does not abandon His people. An example of this truth is today’s memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. This memorial was established by Pope St. Pius 5th in thanksgiving for the Catholic victory over the Muslim army and navy at the famous battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. Many rosaries were said by the European faithful during the battle to stem the tide of the Islamic invasion. The admiral for the Catholic Fleet, Andrea Doria, had the miraculous image of … Continue reading Our Lady of the Rosary

St. Francis of Assisi, Simplicity, and Sacred Artists

Today is the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi. He is one of the patrons of the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts. St. Francis reminds us how we admire, and should emulate, the virtues of the saints. When we meditate on the life of St. Francis  – three characteristics of spirit – three virtues –  emerge. First, he was a simple man. He pursued simplicity. This does not mean that he was of limited intelligence, or that he pursued simplicity for simplicity sake, rather, it means that he tried, and was successful, at eliminating everything from his … Continue reading St. Francis of Assisi, Simplicity, and Sacred Artists