What is the man-in-the-street’s perception of St. Francis of Assisi? Is it one that is only shaped by the art that portrays him as soft and sweet, as just the saint of ecology and cuddly animals? Is he a man to be taken seriously only because of his love for nature? A “nice” non-threatening man willing to compromise and make everyone laugh and feel good? Was St. Francis non-threatening? He never physically or psychologically threatened anyone. Yet, he did confront people with his profound belief and commitment to the Gospel message. He was as non-threatening as Jesus casting out demons, … Continue reading St. Francis of Assisi: A “Nice” Man or a Soldier of Christ?
Today, May 2nd, is the “Memorial” day of St. Athanasius, a Doctor (profound theologian) of the Church. There are four “giants” of the Nicene and Post Nicene period, all are known as “Doctors” of the Church: St. Athanasius, St. Ambrose, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine. They are immortalized in bronze by the Renaissance sculptor, Bernini, and are portrayed in his magnificent sculpture of the Throne of St. Peter found in the sanctuary of St. Peter’s Basilica. St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom are saints of both the Latin and the Greek Rites of the Church. Both were bishops. Yet, Bernini … Continue reading Bernini’s Bronze Sculpture of Four “Giants” of the Church
I would like to thank one of my readers who identified the contemporary icon of St. Spyridon (thanks Carol!). The iconographer is the Catholic priest William Hart McNichols. He is a very talented artist who paints traditional icons and sacred images. At times, he steps out of the bounds of the traditional approach and adds his own personal interpretation of the person he is portraying. His artistic vision is unique. John Daly from Australia emailed me this morning to provide further grist for our mill concerning St. Athanasius, St. Spyridon, and the Council of Nicaea. One of the participants in … Continue reading Sacred Icons and Sacred Images – the Nicene Debate Continues!
I am always very appreciative of my readers writing to me and providing new information and interpretations of sacred icons and images. Happily, that occurred last evening when a reader, Mr. John Daly from Australia, provided me with information on the second icon that was in yesterday’s post on St. Athanasius. Let me provide you with that image so we will have a reference point: Mr. Daly is correct – it is St. Spyridon (born AD 270, died 340). Let’s take a look at the reasons for this correction: The bishop castigating the heretic Arius is wearing a distinctive hat. … Continue reading St. Athanasius and St. Spyridon: A Correction and Another Interpretation – Let’s Take A Closer Look!
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
Can you pick out the seven similarities between the two sacred icons of Church Apologists that are below? The differences? Let’s take a look at the two icons above. Both are correct in the way they are represented. From an artistic and symbolic point-of-view there are distinct similarities. They have seven similarities: the beard (signifying experience, authority, and that the saint is an elder); a large, high forehead (signifying Christian wisdom as influenced by the Holy Spirit which is visualized through the saint’s works and knowledge); the Holy Cross upon the priest’s stole (it appears as a garment that circles the … Continue reading Icons – Important Similarities/Differences
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
To all those that have expressed interest in the FREE on-line sacred art workshop that I am offering here at fraangelicoinstitute.com please note that yesterday I posted Lesson 3 in Exercise 1: Painting an Image of St. Rose of Lima. Just click on the St. Joseph’s Art Workshop Tab on top of the image of St. Gabriel and the Virgin Mary and you will see the first Workshop page. If you have already visited the Workshop Tab then just continue to scroll down to find the Lessons that I have posted so far. I am putting all the Lessons in … Continue reading St. Joseph’s Art Workshop – Lesson 3 – Applying Pigment
Yesterday, March 19th, Catholics happily celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph. Today’s post is slightly different from those previous in that it will discuss an Italian pastry in relation to a symbol found in Catholic sacred art. We are breaking new ground here! A little history is in order. In the 1800’s, a creative baker in the city of Naples, Italy made, for the first time, a pastry known as the zeppola (plural, zeppole). Through the years other areas created this delicacy, too, such as the islands of Sardinia, Sicily, and Malta. This traditional pastry travelled with the Italian immigrants … Continue reading Zeppole, St. Joseph, and Sacred Art
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
One of the great blessings the Lord has granted me is the privilege of meeting so many wonderful people who are interested in studying and creating sacred art. An example of this is the fine Rhode Island artist, Lesley Green. Lesley is no stranger to art. She has been interested in it since adolescence and received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. She continued to pursue her studies while taking time out to marry and raise a family. I first met Lesley a number of years ago, when my wife and I started the Fra Angelico Institute … Continue reading Lesley Green – A Rhode Island Sacred Artist
It is the evening hour on the first Easter Sunday. Gathered in the upper room the Apostles were in turmoil. They doubt. They fear. They have lost their sense of trust. They believed that Jesus was dead; and they knew that the Temple guards had orders to arrest all of them on sight. Earlier that morning, Peter and John had entered Jesus’ tomb, and came away amazed at what they saw. But the other Apostles in that room (all were present except Judas and Thomas) had not witnessed the empty tomb. The doors to the upper chamber, like their hearts and minds, … Continue reading St. Thomas: Skeptic, Cynic, and Repentant Saint
Clicking on the attached link found below produces an excellent article by Elise Ehrhard in Crisis Magazine describing the Swiss painter Eugène Burnand’s late 19th century masterpiece The Disciples Peter and John Running to the Sepulchre on the Morning of the Resurrection. One writer has described this painting as a visual Lectio Divina since the observer cannot help but feel the joy, hope, and love of these disciples for the Lord. May you and your families experience an Easter season filled with the healing love of Christ. The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made | Crisis Magazine. Continue reading Eugene Burnand and The Greatest Easter Painting Ever Made | Crisis Magazine
Readers: The statement below proclaims that the apparitions and messages have been approved by a few Roman Catholic bishops. I provide them here for your edification and prayerful consideration in light of the approaching feast day of St. Joseph. I have never heard of these messages and found them to be a fascinating expression of the witness of St. Joseph. I also recommend to you the wonderful article by Dominican scholar Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. on the Predestination of St. Joseph and his preeminence among the saints. (Deacon P.I. 3/15/2014). I have reblogged this from the following website: http://www.motherofallpeoples.com/2010/10/the-messages-of-st-joseph-in-our-lady-of-america/ The Messages of … Continue reading The Messages of St. Joseph – His Predestination and Preeminence
The following is my homily for the 27th Week in Ordinary time delivered at St. Francis of Assisi Church Wakefield, Rhode Island USA, October 6, 2013. The memorial of St. Francis of Assisi was celebrated on October 4th. This weekend, as the Church remembers the life of St. Francis of Assisi, let’s pause for a moment and examine the virtues that energized Francis’ life. We can begin by saying that 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 … Continue reading St. Francis of Assisi, Faith, and Grace
In this morning’s Gospel from St. Luke (17: 1-6) we hear Jesus imploring His disciples to teach and practice the art of forgiveness toward those who hurt and abuse us, our families, and friends. Jesus is teaching that it is so important for people who want to be considered His disciples to follow His example and in no way offer a bad example or scandal to others. Jesus is emphasizing the power of faith to assist us in our efforts to be His disciples. People of faith possess the grace to forgive others. Our desire to model Jesus enables our … Continue reading Bishop Josaphat Kuncevych – A Saint of Forgiveness and Unity
On October 15th we celebrate the Memorial of the great Spanish saint and the first woman declared a “Doctor of the Church” – Teresa of Jesus, also known as Teresa of Avila. Saint Teresa grew up in the early 1500’s and at the age of 20, entered the Carmelite convent in Avila. She freely admitted that for twenty years she had a very difficult time with prayer and distractions. Compounding the problem was the lifestyle of her fellow nuns. In the 16th century, Spanish convents were very relaxed places since a festive, vain, and worldly attitude was prevalent. The idea of strict discipline, … Continue reading St. Teresa of Avila – On Love
In our celebration of the memorial of St. Francis of Assisi we must pause for a moment and examine the virtues that motivated and energized his life. We can begin by saying that 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 was successful at eliminating everything from his life that did not enhance his understanding and love of Jesus. In other words, he kept to what was essential in life: “God, the state of our soul, judgment and eternal life.” He realized that “to … Continue reading The Virtues of St. Francis of Assisi – A Model For Sacred Artists
On October 1st we celebrate the memorial to Saint Thérèse of The Holy Face, also known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St Thérèse – The Little Flower. She was born Therese Martin in France in 1873 and died from tuberculosis 24 years later in 1897. When she was fifteen she entered the Carmelite monastery at Lisieux and took the name Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. She lived a life of simplicity, humility, and trust in God. “Therese never went on missions, never founded a religious order, and never performed great public works. Her only book, published after … Continue reading St. Therese of Lisieux and the Christian Way of Beauty
Today, September 17th, the Church celebrates the memorial of Cardinal Robert Bellarmine. St. Robert was born into a noble Italian family during the crisis filled 16th century – a time of great artistic and scientific achievements and a time of heart breaking dissension within the Catholic Church. In 1560, St. Robert entered the Society of Jesus, became a teacher, and was ordained ten years later. St. Robert’s Jesuit superiors sent him to the Catholic University in Louvain and there he developed a reputation for scholarship, disputation, and eloquence. When he returned to Rome in 1576, he became a professor of theology and … Continue reading St. Robert Bellarmine, Galileo, and the Glory of God
Today is the feast day of Saint Gregory the Great, pope and doctor of the Church. Gregory was born in the year 540 of a noble Roman family who believed in the value of education and public service. At the age of thirty he was appointed mayor of Rome; but after his father’s death, he decided to leave politics and become a Benedictine monk. Around the year 575, he transformed his family’s home into a monastery dedicated to the Apostle St. Andrew; he also established several monasteries on his father’s estates in Sicily. But in the year 579, he was ordained … Continue reading St. Gregory the Great – Laborer in Christ’s Vineyard
Today is the memorial of St. Monica, the extraordinarily faith-filled mother of St. Augustine. In the year 321, Monica was born in Algeria into a family that was devoutly Christian. As a child she was baptized a Christian and was raised to be a dutiful wife. She was given in marriage to a bad tempered, adulterous pagan official, by the name of Patricius. In examining the life of Saint Monica one is struck by the extent of the abuse she and other women endured throughout their marriage. Under the laws of the time Monica’s husband could physically and emotionally abuse … Continue reading Saint Monica – Patron of Mothers
Today we celebrate the martyrdom of Saint Pontian, who was the lawfully elected successor pope to St. Callistus during the early 3rd century. St. Pontian was considered a criminal by the emperor Maximinius and banished to the silver mines in Sardinia – an exile which meant certain death. We also celebrate today a saint by the name of Hippolytus, who was a priest in the Church of Rome at this same moment in time. Saint Hippolytus is recognized because of his brilliance and profound scholarship. He is considered to be one of the finest theologians of the 3rd century, and is the source … Continue reading Saints Pontian and Hippolytus and Our Call to Duty
The Church honors today, August 11th, the holy woman, consecrated virgin, founder and Abbess of the religious order known as the Poor Clares, and dear friend of St. Francis of Assisi. We know her by her Anglicized name: Clare. She was, however, born Chiara Offreduccio in Assisi, Italy on July 16, 1194. The Italian language has always been especially tuned to convey, through words and sounds, a delicacy and refinement of spirit. Her Italian name, Chiara, gives witness to this observation, since its English equivalent means – clear. The image above by Simone Martini (1283 – 1344) conveys this quiet asceticism … Continue reading St. Clare – Our Holy Friend and Lover of God
Today is the memorial of Saint Peter Chrysologus. Peter was born in the late 4th century in northern Italy. In 424, after serving as a deacon and priest in Emilia, he became bishop of the Italian city of Ravenna. Little reliable information about St. Peter’s life survives, except that he successfully drove heresy and the remnants of Roman paganism from his diocese by doing two things: providing exceptional pastoral care to the people and by giving practical yet passionate sermons. St. Peter’s brief sermons were so inspiring that he was given the title “Chrysologus” which means “of golden speech.” He was declared a Doctor … Continue reading St. Peter Chrysologus’ Appeal By Christ To Be Transformed
Today is the feast day of St. Matthias. The Acts of the Apostles relate that Matthias was chosen by lot to replace the disciple who had betrayed Jesus in the garden. In chapter 18 of our Gospel, St. John speaks of Judas, who was in collusion with the Romans and the Jewish elders, and brought them to the place where Jesus was staying in the garden; the betrayal took place and the deaths occurred. In the period after Jesus’ death the Apostles were known as the Eleven. The Eleven. A title which causes us to pause, even today, two thousand years … Continue reading St. Matthias and the Renewal of Easter Hope – The Lord Loves His Friends
Today, January 23rd, is the Feast Day of Saint Vincent of Saragossa. St. Vincent was a deacon and served as a minister and trustworthy pastoral assistant of Bishop Valerius, of Saragossa, Spain. He was martyred in the year 304 during the ferocious persecution of the Roman Emperor Diocletian. Saint Vincent is the most famous martyr of Spain, and St. Augustine testifies to this in his sermons that Vincent’s acts of love and loyalty to Jesus Christ, and service to the Catholic faith, were so respected that they were read and discussed in all the churches of North Africa. Owing to the … Continue reading St. Vincent of Saragossa – Martyr – And An Artistic Challenge!