Why Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever


Editor’s note: Article originally published on August 22, 2019. This article is sponsored by Holyart.com.


Our world is an ugly place. Disease, cancer, war, hunger, greed, murder, abuse, and countless other appalling things have existed throughout human history. Because of the original sin of Adam and Eve, humanity fell out of communion with God. Thankfully, God had a plan. A redemptive plan of salvation. Through the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, God provided a pathway for us to return to Him. Two thousand years later, not much has changed with humanity. Human nature is always the same. Self-centered. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to guide the Catholic Church as a harbor and teacher of truth.

Catholic Church

Baptized Christians are called to a life of grace. This is best lived out by participation in the Sacraments. Life on earth is temporary. Our true home is Heaven. St. Therese of Liseux said it best, “The world’s thy ship and not thy home.” Nothing is wrong with admiring the beauty this world has to offer. It only becomes an issue when the good of the created world is preferred to the good of God.

Beauty and Goodness

According to Bishop Robert Barron, “Begin with the beautiful, which leads you to the good, which leads you to the truth.” His quote always intrigues me. Think of the things you consider to be beautiful. Things that immediately come to mind are the beauty of a sunset, a smile, or the kindness of a stranger. Those are truly beautiful things or actions. Beauty always points us to the good.

beauty truth goodness quote

Saint Pope John Paul II described the relationship between goodness and beauty in this way, “beauty is the visible form of the good” (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 3). Throughout Church history, holy art in the form of icons, sculptures, and architecture has reminded Christians (and the world) of the Good News of Jesus Christ. In this article, I will provide three reasons why sacred art is desperately needed to help us recover a sense of beauty in an ugly world.

Inspiration Not Mere Entertainment

A major difference between modern art and sacred art is their purpose. The former seeks to entertain whereas the latter aims at a higher purpose—inspiration of the heart, mind, and soul. In his 1999 Letter to Artists, John Paul II describes the motivation of artists as, “they must labor without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves. There is therefore an ethic, even a ‘spirituality’ of artistic service, which contributes in its way to the life and renewal of a people” (no. 4). Holy art seeks to serve others and the Other—(God). Gazing at those holy individuals will help inspire you to lead a holier and virtuous life.

Drawing us into the Paschal Mystery

Sacred art draws us into the life of Jesus. “Thanks also to the help of artists ‘the knowledge of God can be better revealed, and the preaching of the Gospel can become clearer to the human mind’”, declared St. John Paul II (Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists, 1999, no. 11). Sacred art largely consists of scenes from the Gospels. Entering any Catholic cathedral or basilica causes an immediate reaction of wonder and awe. We gaze at the glorious murals, statues, and music that exist.

trinity icon sacred art

In college, I went on a trip to Europe. My favorite part was visiting the glorious cathedrals in Rome and France. I experienced the tangibility of the Gospels during those church tours. The marble statues of Christ and the Apostles transported me into the New Testament. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the primary subject matter of sacred art is Jesus, Mary, the saints, and scenes from the Gospel (CCC 2502). Sacred art helps draw our minds deeper into the Mysteries of our Faith.

Sacred Art Navigates the Soul Toward Heaven

Along with inspiring and drawing us closer to the Good News of the Gospel, sacred art helps to remind us that our ultimate destination is not here on earth, but in Heaven with God. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his August 31st, 2011 General Audience, “Art is able to manifest and make visible the human need to surpass the visible, it expresses the thirst and the quest for the infinite.” Holy art acts as a doorway to the supernatural.

doorway to the divine

Sacred art is not the end, but rather a vehicle to help us pray. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1192 teaches, “Sacred images in our churches and homes are intended to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ. Through the icon of Christ and his works of salvation, it is he whom we adore. Through sacred images of the holy Mother of God, of the angels and of the saints, we venerate the persons represented.”

The statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my dining room reminds me of her closeness to her Son Jesus. Gazing at images of saints also help guide me closer to Christ and ponder the reality of Heaven—full love and communion with God!

Sacred art is vital to a renewal of the increasing de-Christianization of nations and cultures around the world. Bring back beauty into an ugly world by owning holy art in your home and workplace. Be an advocate for change and promote the Gospel while adding beauty to your surroundings.


Visit Holyart.com for high quality and original Catholic artwork for your home, parish, or business.


Related Links

Sacred Art is the Triumph of Beauty and Truth

The Importance of Sacred Art

3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 3― Creation Week in Genesis and John


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 6, 2017.


This is the third installment of my series Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D . Check out the first two in the related links section at the end of the article. 

I am excited! The Gospel of John is probably my favorite gospel. Genesis’ creation story always fascinated me as well.

Today I am going to examine the direct connection the evangelist makes between the first book of the Bible and the first chapter in his gospel. I came across this revelation a few years ago while I was planning a lesson on John for my high school students. Here are three ways to show how John’s Gospel is the fulfillment of Genesis.

Presence of the Trinity

Both Genesis 1 and John 1 start with the phrase, “In the beginning” and both make reference to God being preexistent before the creation of the world. Not only is God referenced in both chapters, but the revelation of God as a commune of Persons is also present. The writers of Genesis in verse 2 state, “while a mighty wind swept over the waters”. Translated literally, this phrase refers to the spirit of God or the hinting at of the Holy Spirit—the Third Person of the Trinity.

Another foreshadowing of the Trinity occurs in Genesis 1:26 when God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The usages of the first person pronoun strongly hints at the Triune God fully revealed in the New Testament.Compare this with the first words of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him” (1:1-3). I do not think it was a coincidence for John to invoke the first words of Genesis to begin his Gospel.

wedding at cana

Count the Days

There are six days of creation within the first creation story of Genesis. Interestingly enough John starts his gospel using a similar chronology. The evangelist starts his gospel with the words, “In the beginning” so let’s make that day 1. When we get to 1:29 it states, “the next day”. This is day 2. Verses 35 and 43 also have the phrase “the next day” so those verses correspond to days 3 and 4.

Chapter 2 begins with the following words, “On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus was also invited to the marriage, with his disciples.”

Notice he says on the third day which in contextually reading with John 1 the wedding at Cana occurs at the 7th day of the week. In other words, John is mirroring the chronology of Genesis 1 to begin his gospel.

keep calm and count the days

Wine Leads to Rest

Perhaps the greatest two words parents hear at the end of a long week both at work and home is rest and wine. John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, placed Jesus’ first miracle at the end of the New Creation week. The first miracle was not the curing of a blind man or healing or a leper. It was multiplication of alcohol at a wedding. It seems like a trivial use of God’s power!

At first it seems so, but a deeper look at John’s connection with the creation story and the history of the Catholic Church tells otherwise. First of all, it is Mary who intercedes on behalf of the wedding couple to her Son to perform the miracle. While the first woman [Eve] fell into sin, Mary conceived free from sin was instrumental in the miracle of Jesus’ public ministry.

Secondly, the resting of God on the 7th day of the initial creation week is a sort of celebration and similarly the wedding at Cana on the 7th day of the new creation week is celebratory in nature as well.

Finally, the Catholic Church’s liturgy is a combination of the Old Testament “resting on the Sabbath” when we rest in the pews and contemplate God’s word in the readings and homily along with the celebration akin to the Wedding at Cana banquet when we arise for Communion to eat at the Eucharistic feast.

wine

 

 

 

 

My view of the relationship of the Old and New Testament transformed after I learned about the connections between Genesis and the Gospel of John. I hope that in reading this post you gain a greater interest for the Holy Scriptures.

Related Links

Why Catholics MUST Have Bible ADD!- Intro

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 2- Miracles of Elisha and Jesus

Why Jesus Called Mary “Woman” at Cana


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Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 2―Miracles of Elisha and Jesus

reading the bible

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on March 28, 2017.


When I taught Old and New Testament at a Catholic High School, I developed the phrase “Catholics Must Use Bible A.D.D.” to describe how Catholics should read the scriptures. This is my second installment of what I hope to be a regular series for this blog. What I mean when I say Bible A.D.D. is necessary to understand the Scriptures, is that we need to read New Testament passages in light of the Old Testament and vice versa. We should not isolate Scripture passages in order to decipher their meaning. However, we need to be careful to avoid a Biblical A.D.H.D. in which we too quickly scan over passages without understanding the context of the Bible as a whole.

Today’s topic will consider how the prophet Elisha foreshadowed Jesus Christ. This will be demonstrated via biblical typology. Catholic Bible 101 defines typology in this manner, “Biblical typology is when a person or an event in the Old Testament foreshadows a person or an event in the New Testament. I will outline three ways that Elisha foreshadows Jesus.

loaves and fish

Miracle of Multiplication of Food

In 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha− through the grace of God− feeds 100 people by way of multiplying the bread. Jesus performs a similar miracle in John 6. Aside from the parallels in the actual miracles themselves, both Elisha and Jesus receive the bread from an unnamed individual (see 2 Kings 4:42 and John 6:9).

Healing of Lepers

Elisha heals the soldier Naaman in 2 Kings 5:9-10 through his command to have the leper wash in the Jordan seven times. Jesus also performs the same type of healing miracle. As with most typological reading everything the Son of God does is greater than the Old Testament type (i.e. Elisha)—here Jesus heals 10 lepers.

Naaman the leper

Preceded by a Great Prophet

Both Elisha and Jesus were heralded in by a great prophet Elijah and John the Baptist respectively. Interestingly enough, St. Luke draws a connection between these prophets when he says, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 NASB). What is most important is that both prophets point us toward Christ.

Elisha was a holy man of God who prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. He is one of many types that foreshadow and prepare us for the Incarnation. Come back for future Bible A.D.D posts to learn more!

Related Links

Elisha as a Type of Christ and His Disciples

When God Calls, Burn Your Oxen


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How Tolkien and a Board Game Brings Greater Insight to the Papacy

I am a huge fan of fantasy literature and among my favorite authors is J.R.R. Tolkien, better known as the creator of Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien described the creation of Middle Earth more as a discovery of a fictional world already in existence.

It was not until I started creating my own board game when I realized the truth in Tolkien’s words. My journey in making my board game was more of a discovery of a game already existent. I simply happened to be the one to uncover it.

one ring

There is a connection of Tolkien’s and my own personal experience to the truths of the Catholic Church. Truth is not something to be manufactured or fabricated. The objective truth of the Gospel—preached and housed in the Catholic Church— have always existed!

Jesus gave the honor and responsibility to his Apostles and Original members of the Catholic Church to safeguard, teach, and articulate the Truth for future generations until His Second Coming. Let’s examine some examples as evidence for this claim.

Jesus Entrusted Peter with Authority

In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus said, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

Humanity thrives on clarity of thought and stability in leadership positions. Jesus planted the seeds to the papal office with Peter. The Greek name for Peter [πέτρος] translates as “stone” or “rock”. God gifted Christianity [and the entire world] with the office of the papacy to be the authority in the matter of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit works in a special way through the pope to guide him whenever a moral truth comes into debate or question.

Evidence from the Didache

According to many scholars, this document was written around 65-110 A.D.  This text is  known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. When I read this document I was surprised to hear many Catholic truths proclaimed from such an early 1st century document. The Didache specifically mentioned the Eucharist in Chapter 9 and the sacrament of Holy Orders in Chapter 15.

 Pope Pius IX on Papal Infallibility

The solemn declaration of papal infallibility occurred on July 18th, 1870. Pope Pius IX’s statement on papal infallibility related only to matters of faith and morality. Only in his office as pope could the leader of the Church speak with such authority. The Holy Spirit planted the seeds of papal infallibility in Matthew 16:18-19.

 keys of peter

 While the doctrine of papal infallibility may be a hot-buttoned issue, especially among non-Catholics, it does not have to be. Seeing the role of the Catholic Church as the guardian and teacher of truth and not the creator of truth was a notion that transformed my approach to this subject.

Tolkien’s discovery of Middle Earth, as a place already present, is like Catholic Church teaching as a truth existent for eternity. Our role is to discover anew how the truth of the Gospel may shape our daily lives!

Related Links

The Didache

A brief history of papal infallibility


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Catholic Meme Monday— Issue 6

Hope you had a blessed Feast of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Christ!

Time for another Catholic Meme Monday:

Mass is the real deal!
Get your Sunday morning exercise in. 😊😂
One of the funnier memes I’ve seen the past week. 🤣😂😅😊😁
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” —John 15:12
Accurate.

That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The Simple Catholic blog.

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The Power of Gratitude


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 26, 2019 but the power of gratitude still remains relevant.


Today started out much like a normal day. I woke up. Ate breakfast. Got ready for work. Arriving at work, I encountered a lot of negativity. Frustration from customers. Lack of understanding from co-workers. Dullness, dreariness, pessimism besieged me.

Pessimism

My ego weakened and trust damaged I felt like giving up. Something provoked me to pause. Wait. Think it through. To fight back.

Gratitude caused me to push back against the negativity. Pulling out a post-it notes I quickly jotted a ton of things (ability to write, family, life, job, pens, calculator). Most of these were blessings immediately in front of me. I soon relearned that I have much to be thankful.

Stopping to reflect on my blessings put distance between myself and the negativity. Recognizing all the things large and small I have to be grateful for proved to be the turning point in my day.

Gratitude

Gratitude is the greatest weapon to defeat negativity. If you are encountering pessimism daily, at work or home, please don’t despair. Think about the blessings in your life great and small. Thanksgiving will help dispel the storm.

Related Links

How Dr. Pepper and Gratitude Lead to Joy

Why Gratitude is Our Oxygen – The Simple Catholic

The Virtue of Gratitude

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How Saint Rita of Cascia’s Story is Impossibly Beautiful

The process pearls are created is a wonder of wonder. A speck of sand or small piece of a shell finds it’s way inside an oyster. Due to the irritant, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre. It covers the irritant and over time (on average seven years) the nacre builds up to form a beautiful pearl.

Rita of Cascia— Beautifully Holy Saint

God often works in a person’s spiritual life like a grain of sand provokes the oyster. Over the course of time, God allows individuals to suffer, participate in the Passion of His Son Jesus Christ, as a means to grow in holiness. One of the greatest saints whose life mirrored the beauty of a pearl is Saint Rita of Cascia.

Rita of Cascia

Rita was born in 1381 in the republic of Cascia. In the local dialect her name meant “pearl” (what a coincidence!). Growing up, Rita became acquainted with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery. Their lifestyle attracted Rita but her parents wanted her to marry. Rita had an arranged marriage to Paolo Mancini and had two sons.

The political climate of her time was volatile (not unlike today). Fighting between families broke out often.  Rita’s husband was murdered as a result of this violence. She already was following the will of God when she gave forgiveness to her husband’s murderers. Shortly after, both of her sons fell seriously ill and died. Instead of allowing the loss of her entire family cripple her spiritually, Rita plunged further into trusting God’s Providence.

Rita sought to join the religious life after 18 years of marriage. Initially, the Augustinian nuns rejected her requests because Rita’s extended family still refused to forgive her husband’s killers. Her peacekeeping and persistence finally helped her family (and others in the region) reconcile and give up hatred.

At the age of 36, Rita was accepted into the religious life under the Rule of Saint Augustine. She lived out this vocation for forty years. Shortly before dying, Rita received one of the wounds of Christ— the crown of thorns.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

One of the things Rita of Cascia is most known for is her patronage of impossible causes. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. He allowed Rita to experience the full gamut of life: daughter, wife, mother, widow, and religious nun. Seemingly ordinary vocations, the process by which God allowed Rita to follow those paths was anything but ordinary.

Rita of Cascia crown of thorns

Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like an impossible task sometimes. How can you find it in your heart to show mercy to those who bitterly rejected or hated you? Rejection is a natural part of life. But continual rejection? It can make even the most ardent wills downcast and doubt God’s plan.

Three years ago, my wife and I thought she was going to miscarry our youngest daughter. She had some bleeding and other same signs as our previous miscarriages. We implored the intercession of many saints—Rita of Cascia was one of them. Since Mother’s Day 2017, my wife and I had never forgotten to include Saint Rita in our nightly litany.

Rita is an excellent saint to petition for help. We all experienced chaos, tumult, and confusion the past year. No matter your circumstance please take refuge in the fact God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28).


Dear St. Rita,
during your entire life on earth
you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father.

Help me to be as trusting of God in all His plans for me.
Help me this day to give myself to Him as you did,
without limit, without fear, without counting the cost.

Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others,
patient in all difficulties,
forgiving toward all who injure me.

Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the Cross of Jesus,
so that by embracing it as you did,
I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen.

Related Links

St. Rita of Cascia: Hope for the Impossible!

Rita of Cascia: Catholic Answers

Prayers to St. Rita

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