Why Celebrating the Mass is Like Returning Home in 2020

The death of Kobe Bryant ushered in the new year. It shocked the world. Suddenly the coronarovirus circled the globed. Lockdowns and quarantines ensued. Our lives have been upended. You may have joked about this year being the beginning of an apocalypse— honestly, it feels Pandora’s box of evil was opened and there is no end in sight.

time traveler 2020 meme

Recreational outlets for stress such as sporting events, music concerts, and festivals have either been cancelled for postponed indefinitely.  Local libraries, zoo, and museums closed. How the heck are you supposed to live? I contracted COVID19 in April and those were among the most miserable weeks for my family. And if that wasn’t bad enough the Church suspended public Masses.

I understand why the bishops temporarily removed the Sunday obligation. Viewing the Mass via the Internet was a gift. It was a grace to hear my diocese’s newly ordained bishop preach (my family ordinarily don’t attend the Cathedral for Mass so we wouldn’t have heard Bishop DeGrood otherwise).

In May several dioceses across the United States started allowing public liturgies with safety precautions. I was recently graced with the ability to receive the Blessed Sacrament for the first time in months. It felt like a homecoming.

Home is Where the Sacred Heart is

Saint Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee. ” This year was a journey in the wilderness (I mean that literally and figuratively). Lent ended on April 11th however my spiritual dryness and suffering continued well into the Easter Season. Streaming the Mass on TV felt like viewing an oasis far off in a desert. Some weeks it appeared real and other times as a mirage.

sacred heart of Jesus is our home

The tangibility of going to Mass physically reminds me of the Incarnation—  God becoming man. Without that direct connection of hearing and seeing the priest in person it remained a great Cross to bear.

Saint Pope Pius X said, “Holy Communion is the shortest and safest way to heaven.” This life is not our true home. It is a pilgrimage toward our destination.

Home is about love. The truest form of love is found in the heart of Jesus.

Community of Love

Another term for the Blessed Sacrament is Holy Communion. I love this name for the Eucharist. Under the section What is this Sacrament Called?  the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1331,  (It is called)  “Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body.” Love can only happen in the presence of another.

Jesus told his Apostles in Matthew 18:20,  “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This is the reality of the Church. People united together with each other through the power of God’s love.

Returning to Mass reminded me of this communion with God AND man. The priest stands in Personi Christ (the Person of Christ). While only a validly ordained priest, Eucharistic prayer, wheat bread, and grape wine are officially needed for the Sacrament to occur, it is a fuller sign of God’s love when the laity are present. Hearing the faithful sing the various hymns helped me to greater enter into the mystery of the Mass.

An Invisible (But Still Real Communion)

Mass is not boring

The community of the laity are a visible sign of communion. Yet, there is an invisible assembly present in the Mass— the angelic hosts and communion of saints. I felt closer to the holy ones during the Eucharist than when I was watching it in my own home on the television.  Jesus’ words to Thomas in John 20:29 hit home last Sunday, “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” This world is not our true home. A world beyond the senses exist.

According to the Catechism, “The whole community thus joins in the unending praise that the Church in heaven, the angels and all the saints (CCC 1352). St. Augustine echoes this truth,  “The angels surround and help the priest when he is celebrating Mass.” Understanding this reality helped deepen my appreciate for the Mass. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Ask God to Give You Strength

God won't leave you

This year continues to send us new and unimaginable trials. Our hearts ache for love. The inability to receive the Eucharist made those challenges exponentially tougher. Some of you may still be in “exile” and wondering how long you have to wander aimlessly in the desert of 2020. God never totally abandons us even though it feels like it sometimes. Read the Bible daily or the writings of saints for comfort. Praying the Rosary or chaplet of Divine Mercy help ward off distress. I offer my sufferings to God in hopes that you may receive spiritual consolation to soothe you during your trials!

Related Links

10 Things You Should Do Until Public Masses Return

Why Priestly Ordinations Give Me Hope in an Age of Pandemic

7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration


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How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

The Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena on April 29th. One of only four women Doctors of the Church, Catherine’s writings and life continues lead people to Christ.

Catherine of Siena

Catherine has been particularly important in my life. When my wife was pregnant with our youngest child  complications existed. Several times throughout the pregnancy we feared having a miscarriage. We prayed daily for the safety of our unborn child and asked for saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerard of Majella for help and intercession. Avila Catherine Geraldine was born in late 2018. She was healthy!

Since then my family continues to look to Catherine of Siena as a role model and guide to God. The Doctor of the Church provides mystical insight into the Gospel and demonstrates the depths of God’s love.

Fierce Defender of Truth

Few individuals have displayed such tenacity for the truth as Catherine did in her life. During the 14th century, the Catholic Church endured one of the most corrupt periods. Known as the Avignon papacy, the popes succumbed to worldly powers, specifically under the influence of the French monarchy. Catherine wrote frequently to Pope Gregory XI. An example of her boldness is shown in a Letter to Pope Gregory, “But, I hope, by the goodness of God that you will pay more heed to His honor and the safety of your own flock than to yourself, like a good shepherd, who ought to lay down his life for his sheep.”

Love is a Divine Furnace

Another key theme in Catherine’s writing is describing how God  love burns away sin.  God appears to be absent in our life. Suffering seems mysterious. That was the way I thought before reading the saint’s works. Her description of love as a divine furnace helped me better understand how God allows suffering to draw us closer to Him.

Fire of God's love

Reflecting on my past pains I realized how my prayer life actually bloomed. Having recovered from the contracting COVID19 a couple weeks ago, I rediscovered the importance of relying on God. At first I was angry for getting sick. I took all the precautions. Prayers started out as laments and ended in hope.

God was using my sickness to cauterize my sinful inclinations and renew my prayer life and trust in Him.

Spiritual Sister

According to the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his General Audience on November 24, 2010, “Catherine (of Siena) is one of these and still today speaks to us and impels us to walk courageously toward holiness to be ever more fully disciples of the Lord.” Her intercession is powerful. I used to only think of saints as people too lofty to relate to. But reading the Sienese saint’s writings and her struggles I gained an intimate spiritual relationship with her—like a sister.

Her wit and spiritual knowledge helps me grow in holiness. Sanctity. That truly is the purpose of family. Catherine wrote,  “There is no sin nor wrong that gives man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger and impatience.” Wow! Those words sound like they were written specifically for me. Parenting tests your patience. Daily. Hourly. And sometimes nearly every minute.

Catherine of siena quote

Catherine reminds me to trust in God. Her holiness shows through in her books and letters. I highly recommend looking to this Doctor of the Church for spiritual guidance.


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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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Epic Book Review: Shaun McAfee’s I’m Catholic. Now What?

Book Review

Photo credit: massivephobia.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a cradle Catholic and possessing a Master’s in Catholic theology, I am in a sort of unique spot reviewing this title I’m Catholic. Now What?  by Shaun McAfee. I don’t have the formal experience of being a convert. I never left the Catholic Church. Nor returned to it. I always remained with Her. In the past, I sometimes took my faith for granted.

My initial concerns about this review did not center on the book itself, but my background. How exactly will I write a qualified review when I am not officially  part of the audience for this work?

That was my sentiment before reading. After reading this book I must say this. Buy this book now! Order this for your Church (especially if you work in the parish office). Get it in bulk.

Even though I knew most of the content already, this book helped me fall deeper in love with Catholicism. I wish this book was already when my wife converted. She would have definitely enjoyed it back in 2009.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on I’m Catholic. Now What?

Bridge from RCIA into Post-Baptismal Life

In the introduction, McAfee tells the reader, “That’s what this book is you’re holding is all about: helping you perfect your soul by living out the fullness of the Christian life. When you’re reading this book, expel the temptation to do the minimum. Be an all-out Catholic!” (p. 15.) I think this message is lost when it comes to bringing new members into the Church. We need not be afraid to welcome them and urge them to FULLY embrace and engage with Catholicism.

The author breaks his book into the following sections: Getting Started; The Sacraments; Mary, the Church, & the Saints; Prayer; Catholic Life; Customs, Rules, & Basic Etiquette, Being a Modern Catholic, Knowing & Defending Your Faith; and Evangelization. 

This book serves as a connection from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to life afterwards. The honeymoon time after baptism and acceptance into the Church is brief.

The safest way to travel over a tumultuous body of water or dangerous terrain is to go on a bridge. McAfee’s book helps new Christians travel with both confidence and delight.

He answers the basic and most logical questions that come up for new converts such as: how do I learn more about the Faith (he provides a concise but detailed explanation of the Catechism and other key resources), precepts of the Church, how to grow in holiness, and the importance of the sacramental life.

Both Depth and Simplicity of Catholicism

Along with providing a road map and bridge for converts to travel, McAfee demonstrates both a depth and simplicity of Catholicism in his book. His short chapters help keep the pace moving. The author does a great job with giving you enough information without watering down the faith or overwhelming the reader.

McAfee sprinkles in personal stories about his journey as a convert and new experiences as a Catholic: attending an ordination Mass or going on a pilgrimage to a holy site. These mini-anecdotes add depth, but also add to the relevance and importance of Catholicism as a long-life journey. It’s not merely a ritual here or there.

Catholic Church teaching is not always easy to tackle or wrap our heads around. I mean there is a supreme treasure trove of over 2 ,000 years to draw from! But at its core the Church has a teaching role and does not change the teaching of Jesus. We simply gain a deeper understanding of the Deposit of Faith over the course of time.

The author’s approach to tackling the “hot-buttoned” issues is not really tackling them. McAfee writes with unity and love in mind. He only states the facts about the Church’s teaching. No judgment. McAfee wants the reader to approach Catholicism with an open heart and mind.

Style— Welcoming to Converts

Along with providing a bridge and simple road map for new converts to the Catholic Church, McAfee does a great job to welcome converts. It felt like he was in my home or at the door of the Church when I read this book.

I think the author’s conversion experience gave him this ability. The best Catholics in my opinion have been converts. Saint Paul. Saint Augustine. Scott Hahn. My wife Jennifer. Reading this book makes be comfortable put Shaun McAfee in that conversation (at least in the same category of Hahn and my wife!).

While I enjoyed the entire book, Chapter 63What’s the priest wearing? McAfee’s clear and informative writing style. He defines provides a brief description of all the important priestly vestments worn in the Liturgy. This is simply one example of the clarity he provides.

Conclusion

I could seriously write an entire book about the  relevance and epicness (no pun intendedhe is the founder of EpicPew.com) of  I’m Catholic. Now What?  but that will take time from you purchasing this book. Go to https://www.amazon.com/Catholic-Now-What-Shaun-McAfee/dp/1681923432/ and order your copy today!

Other Simple Catholic book reviews

Book Review on Pope Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth

Book Review: God’s Human Face: The Christ Icon


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3 Reasons Why Jesus was Baptized

In 2019, Bishop Joseph Tobin tweeted a questionable statement about Jesus’ Baptism,

“Christ stood with all of us sinners seeking redemption” and that “the sinless Redeemer was reborn in grace”.

Whether his intention was heretical or if it was simply loose and careless theology could certainly be up for debate, I wish to write to clarify the reasons for why Jesus was actually Baptized.

Jesus' Baptism

Did Jesus Need to be Baptized?

Contrary to what was purported by the cardinal,  Jesus did not require Baptism for salvation and also did not need to be “reborn in grace”. Already sinless, Jesus first and foremost entered the waters of the Jordan as an example for the new sacramental life of grace for his disciples to follow.

In John 3:5 Jesus taught Nicodemus [and later us] of the necessity for Baptism when he declared, “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes the importance of this passage as well:

 Baptism is the sacrament of faith. But faith needs the community of believers. It is only within the faith of the Church that each of the faithful can believe. The faith required for Baptism is not a perfect and mature faith, but a beginning that is called to develop. The catechumen or the godparent is asked: “What do you ask of God’s Church?” The response is: “Faith!” (No. 1253).

Along with modeling the importance of Baptism, though Jesus himself did not require cleansing from sin, three additional lessons may be learned from the Event of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Fulfillment of Old Testament

Several key events in the Bible relate to water. The Flood in Genesis 6-8, the Crossing of the Red Sea, and the Crossing of the Jordan River into the Promised Land are just a few of the aquatic occasions detailed in the Old Testament.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says,

Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 129).

The Baptism of Jesus is a feast to help us realize the fulfillment of God’s promises from long ago.

Prefiguring the Death of Jesus

 Along with being foreshadowed in the Old Testament, Jesus’ Baptism signified an anticipation of his Death. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI describes this perfectly in his work Jesus of Nazareth,

Looking at the events (of Christ’s baptism) in light of the Cross and Resurrection, the Christian people realized what happened: Jesus loaded the burden of all mankind’s guilt upon his shoulders; he bore it down into the depths of the Jordan. He inaugurated his public activity by stepping into the place of sinners. His inaugural gesture is an anticipation of the Cross. He is, as it were, the true Jonah who said to the crew of the ship, ”Take me and throw me into the sea” (Jon. 1:12) . . . The baptism is an acceptance of death for the sins of humanity, and the voice that calls out “This is my beloved Son” over the baptismal waters is an anticipatory reference to the Resurrection. This also explains why, in his own discourses, Jesus uses the word
“baptism” to refer to his death (18).

Death to sin [original] gives way to a new life in the sacrament of Baptism. A new life of grace occurs through the waters of Baptism.

Door Way to Adoption

According to my favorite reference book– the thesaurus, synonyms for adoption include the following: acceptance, confirmation, ratification, and support. While each of those words convey a strong and position sense of adoption the synonym that stood out most to me was embracing.

Biological birth occurs through the profound act of sex, however, unfortunately not every child is welcomed a gift as a result. The major difference with adoption versus biological parenthood is that the former always seeks out the child to be welcomed into the family whereas that is not always the case for the latter.

Please note that this is not a knock on biological parents as some of the best parents gained children through biology [i.e. MY PARENTS!].

The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism in paragraph 1265, “Baptism not only purifies from all sins, but also makes the neophyte “a new creature,” an adopted son of God, who has become a “partaker of the divine nature,” member of Christ and co-heir with him, and a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Enter New Life

Because of original sin, the biology of humanity is tarnished with a natural aversion from God’s will. Humans naturally seek their own will over the Will of the Father. Through the waters of Baptism, people cleansed of original sin and enter into the door of the sacramental life of the Church.

While Jesus did not require rebirth into the sacramental life of grace, he was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill the Old Testament, prefigure his Death and Resurrection, and be a model for God’s faithful. German Catholic philosopher Josef Piper declared, “Adoption is the visible Gospel.” The graces received through the sacrament of Baptism truly brings good news as we become adopted children of God!

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Related Links

Remember Your Baptism

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D Part 6- Destructive Waters

The Sacrament of Baptism: Gateway to New Life

US Cardinal, Jesus Was “Reborn in Grace” – What?

 

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Why I Became a Writer

Why, How, What

 

 

 

 

 

 

🔷 Everything we do in life is a process or a journey. It takes time, patience, understanding, willingness, collaboration, humility, and gratitude.

🔶 Writing has been my passion forever. Made me a better person

    —a more patient parent,
    —an empathetic employee,
    • —a forgiving friend

the more I write and share with the world.

🔷 Our world is impatient, angry, assuming, unforgiving, and divided. I imagine a world where more people know how to communicate with both TRUTH and CHARITY.

🔶 I believe it is my purpose in life to provide content that provides real unity that goes beyond the screen of our phones.

🔷 As a Catholic, my Church has been scandalous. This resulted in the world and many members of the Body of Christ losing trust in an institution that is meant to lead to Truth!

🔶 I am here to help earn that trust back—not for any personal gain, but because I need to share my gift as a means to thank God for every blessing in my life!

❓Do you have any genuine questions or concerns about Catholicism you want me to address in future posts/articles.

Tell me in the comments ⤵️

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3 Reasons Catholics Should Have a Saint Statue at Home

Catholic saint statues

What is the deal with Catholics and their statues? Are they committing idol worship? Is this not against the 1st Commandment? These are common objections Protestants have against the owning of holy images. This article will be focused on showing three reasons why possessing sacred art and statues is something all Catholics should do and how they help build our faith.

Saint Statues Deepen Our Belief in the Incarnation

Having a statue of a saint in your home deepens your belief in God. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2141, “The veneration of sacred images is based on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God. It is not contrary to the first commandment.”

Often, we forget that Jesus is 100% human along with being 100% God. His miracle stories in the Gospels and Resurrection sometimes overshadow the fact that Jesus Christ lived a human life—he slept, ate, and experienced emotion.

Incarnation

Possessing saint statues anchors our faith in the Incarnation because God became fully human. Holy statues provoke a certain tangibility, rawness, and realness of humanity.  I experience this when I enter a Catholic Church with sacred art (icons and statues) of Jesus and the saints. If you’ve ever entered a church without such art you experience a dullness or staleness. Should not the same be true for your home?

St. John Paul II wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation Familaris Consortio, “the little domestic Church, like the greater Church, needs to be constantly and intensely evangelized: hence its duty regarding permanent education in the faith” Keeping saint statues around your home will help elicit questions from your children, or visitors, about important figures in Catholic Church history.

Guides to God

A second key reason to have a saint statue in your home is tied closely with the first—saints help point you to Christ. The Catechism speaks of saints in paragraph 957, “Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself.”

Proper veneration of the saints leads us towards Christ, never away from Him. A statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary located in your dining or living room and other saints around your home will only aid as a reminder—you are not alone in this journey toward Heaven.

Mary and Jesus

Growing up, our statue of Mary in our dining room helped to remind me that she is our Mother and helps us get to her Son—Jesus. This reminder helped keep my eyes on Christ, especially during my teen years!

Family, Friends, Fellowship

Along with deepening your faith in the Mystery of the Incarnation and pointing you towards Christ, keeping holy statues will help foster fellowship. Traditionally, Catholics name children after a saint. The reason for this is because we honor and look to these holy men and women for guidance. You may have been named for more than a couple saints (if you include first, middle, and confirmation name!).

Saint friendship

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among the highlights of marriage my wife and I anticipated, during our engagement was the naming of our children. All members of the family are called to holiness. We selected saint names whose lives exemplified heroic virtue and testimony of truth: Bernadette, Teresa of Avila, Matthew, Catherine of Siena, Maria Faustina, and Fabian just to name a few!

A simple way to grow in fellowship with your family’s patron saints is to celebrate their feast day. Owning a statue of a saint unique to your family will provide a more tangible connection to your holy friend. Gazing at the face of your patron saint, in the living room or bedroom, will help remind you daily of their holy life and strong love of God. I am comforted during a stressful day every time I see the image of Mary Queen of Peace in our living room.

Utilizing sacred images, especially saint statues, deepens your faith, guides you to Christ, and provides opportunities to develop unique family traditions of your own while fostering fellowship with God’s holy ones. Go get a saint statue today!

Related Links

3 Reasons How Sacred Art is Needed More than Ever

The Importance of Sacred Art

 

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