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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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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What is the Rosary?

If this year has been anything like mine you strongly desire a sense of normalcy, routine, and stability. Up. Down. Sideways. Left. Right. Cattywampus. Upside down. There’s really no predictability in life anymore. At least that’s what our great Enemy desires us to think.

The Rosary

A spiritual weapon to fight chaos in your life.

The Enemy Loves Disrupting Your Prayer Life

Chaos is a normal part of life since the Fall as told in Genesis 3. Originally, Adam and Eve were created in an original state of justice and union with God. Disobedience to God’s will led to original sin and the consequences of death. But God is love and He didn’t want to give up on humanity so easily.

According to John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. Saint Paul refers to Jesus as the New Adam (Man).

Since Jesus is the New Adam who then is considered the New Eve (Woman)? The answer is: Mary, the Mother of God.

Saint Jerome wrote in his Epistle 22, “Death came through Eve, but life has come through Mary.” Put another way, Mary gave birth to salvation (Jesus). The angel Gabriel visited Mary by greeting her and calling her the favored one of God. The Hail Mary prayer comes from the first chapter of Luke.

This leads me to the question a lot people have about the Blessed Virgin Mary: what is the Rosary?

What is the Rosary

In short, it is a prayer about the life of Jesus and Mary. Composed of the Our Father and Hail Mary prayers (there are other prayers included which I will go over in future posts), the Rosary helps Christians keep alive the memories of the events in salvation history.

To Jesus through Mary and the Rosary

The word Rosary originates from Latin and means a garland of roses, the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolize the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Praying the Rosary provides a foundation in your life. The repetition helps to form a habit of pondering the Mysteries of faith. Recently, I have struggled mightily with anxiety and depression. I’ve resolved to pray the Most Holy Rosary more frequently. The goal is not to rattle off prayers but to ponder the life of Jesus and Mary throughout your day.

Stay tuned for more in The Importance of the Rosary series. Subscribe to The Simple Catholic to receive email updates about the Rosary and other Catholic content.


“The Rosary is the most powerful weapon to touch the Heart of Jesus, Our Redeemer, who loves His Mother.” — Saint Louis de Montfort

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A Good Friday Reflection: Fixing Our Gaze on Golgotha

Jesus at Golgatha

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.


A Prayer Before the Cross

Lord Jesus Christ, I petition you as your most unworthy servant and adopted child through the waters of Baptism to hear my petitions. Please soothe the anxiety in my heart, mind, and soul over the pressures, toils, and attacks of despair the Enemy sends my way. Self-doubt and self-loathing pervades me mind throughout today.

Saint  Catherine of Sienna wrote, “Every great burden becomes light beneath this most holy yoke of the sweet will of God.” May I receive the graces from the Holy Spirit to love myself and confidently seek your Will, not for my sake but as in loving myself I make a worthy offering to you Most Holy God.

My sins wound me. Damage my relationship with myself, my neighbors, and ultimately You Most Holy Trinity. I ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints in Heaven to help re-orient my gaze to the Cross of Jesus—crucified on Golgotha.

Focus on God

May Mary Intercede for Us

I recall the words from a homily by my parish priest who declared, “It is through the atmosphere of Mary that we truly are able to receive the light of the Son.” According to John 19:26-27, “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’ 27 Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

At the foot of the Cross, Jesus entrusted his beloved disciple [and all humanity] to his mother. More important, Jesus gifts us the blessing of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well.

Mary at Foot of Cross

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Failures, trials, and doubts will surround us throughout life. Uniting ourselves to Christ’s suffering in Calvary brings joys and peace in the struggle. Remembering that we are all in this pilgrim journey, towards holiness, together helps sustain me in my downtrodden times.

Related Links

Where is Golgotha? Where did Jesus die? Church of Holy Sepulchre vs. the Garden Tomb

Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. Part 4- Jesus as the New Passover Lamb

Why Maundy Thursday is an Important Part of Holy Week

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✨ Why Patience Obtains All Things

Forcing a dream when the time isn’t right will lead to frustration and fatigue.

Be patient. Don’t compare your journey to others.

Patience obtains all things.

This line comes from a prayer by Saint Teresa of Avila.

She lived in Spain during the 1500s.

Coming from a wealthy family Teresa felt a call to convent life.

Money and fame didn’t give her peace and fulfillment…

It wasn’t until Teresa was in her 50s until she made significant impact on her religious order.

People start their journey at different times and places.

I committed her prayer to memory to help ease my anxiety and when I feel my dreams are dashed.

It’s hard not to think of this amazing witness daily (my daughter Avila is named after this holy woman 😊).

Sickness and stresses at work have forced me to adjust how I write and market on social media.

Better to chisel away at your goals (if your life situation doesn’t allow you to dive headlong into it) than to exhaust yourself out.

Slow and steady wins the race after all. ✅

Have you had to pump the breaks on your dream(s)?

How did you deal with adjusting your timeline for success?

#success #mindset #goals #personaldevelopment #freelancework

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How the ‘Superior Iron Man’ series warns us about immoral use of technology

Superior Iron Man

Since 2008, no other superhero has commanded as much attention or authority as Iron Man. Portrayed by Robert Downey Jr, the Armored Avenger has been the face of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from the beginning. What is most fascinating about Tony Stark is his character development. He goes from a selfish and greedy business man to a selfless  hero.

In Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron Tony Stark almost makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the world. It was fitting that Iron Man was the superhero made the final snap of the new technological Infinity gauntlet in Avengers: Endgame. His death may have come as a surprise, but it was appropriate and necessary for the Golden Avenger to be the one to save everyone in the end. Iron Man’s completely noble deed completed the 180 degree transformation of his character.

Unfortunately, not every Iron Man storyline shows Tony Stark as a hero and leader. The Superior Iron Man (2014) series has an egomaniacal character thinking he is greater than the rest of humanity. This article will discuss the potential dangerous effects immoral use of technology would have on humanity, examine the Christian understanding of being the “best version of yourself”, and how Jesus is still the way in the age of superheroes.

The New Man vs. The Man of the Future

Jesus as the New man

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 452, “The name of Jesus means ‘God saves.’” Jesus did not enter our world as a political or military messiah to usher in a worldly power of dominion. Instead, he entered into our world and became one of us to show us the true path—the road of true love and obedience to God. He gave us the blueprint to overcome sin—the sacraments. St. Augustine described sacraments best by calling them, “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” As the New Man, Jesus gave us access to become new and better versions of ourselves, free from sin and death.

In Marvel comics, Tony Stark stands at the vanguard of human advancement. He is often referred to as the Man of the Future. The future ignites excitement. Possibility. Promise. Fulfillment. We all hope for a better future. Issue #1 of Superior Iron Man opened with that excitement. In San Francisco, Stark delivered a free app to all citizens to access and download Exetremis 3.0 This was a techno-virus  created to turn people into the best version of themselves. Iron Man was a messiah figure!

Upgrading the Exterior

All promises for a better future are enticing at first. Superior Iron Man’s plan for the future was no different. However, Extremis 3.0 only solved physical defects. Tony Stark’s altruism quickly faded as he cut off free access to the techno-virus. He made the cost so expensive it caused people to turn to robbery. Bodily perfection became addictive.

Superior Iron Man

Acting as one of the moral compasses in this series, Pepper Potts expresses concerns about Stark’s use of technology. “You created a master race across the city, but you’ve also created an instant underclass. Extremis may have made people more beautiful on the outside but you know as well as I do that, for some it will only enhance all of the ugliness within,” Potts warns Tony (Issue # 1).

Similar to technology there is an allure, an attraction to the exterior—to the mere outside. We can only see outward appearances. It is difficult to sense the underlying beauty at times. Iron Man’s various suits of armor are both attractive aesthetically and technologically. Whenever I watched the Iron Man or Avengers film I dreamed a day where similar technology could be created and implemented in our world. Fighting off evil with the flick of a wrist or voice command would be incredible. If given the chance to overcome a physical limitation would you have it cured?

Playing God Not Man’s Destiny

Iron Man gave Daredevil his eyesight back temporarily. Infused with a dose of the Extremis virus, Matt Murdock regained his vision. In response to receiving the virus without consent Murdock asks Stark, “What gives you the right to play God?” (Issue #3). Stark quips back, “Being a God can’t be too hard. I mean if Thor can do it…I’m the most intelligent, capable person on the planet. I’m not playing God. All this time…I’ve been playing human.”

This world is definitely imperfect. Human beings are selfish. Manipulative. Greedy. Prideful. We long for control of our situation. Control over suffering—eventually the eradication of all suffering.

God Values His Creation

Goodness of creation

Another important theme in Superior Iron Man is the creator versus creation. Tony Stark prior to his personality becoming infected with pride and egomania implemented a contingency plan to keep himself in check if he ever got out of control. Pepper works with a mysterious “new” Iron Man to combat the Superior Iron Man (Issue #6 In His Own Image). Later it is revealed that the “new” Iron Man is actually an artificial intelligence (the consciousness of Tony Stark before he turned evil) in an earlier version of the Iron Man armor.

As creator of his advanced superhero armor and artificial intelligences, Tony Stark is like God because he creates. That is as far as the similarities go. God respects human freedom. He did not create humanity to blindly obey 100% of the time. We are not automaton. Mere robots. Fighting his creations across San Francisco, Tony takes a brief moment to inform the artificial intelligence Tony, “Do you know what’s left when you take away everything that was holding us back? Freedom” (Issue # 8 Bio-Mark-One). He goes on to boast in Issue #9, “I made you. All of you. And I can tell you: each and every one of you is inferior.”

Danger of Man’s Pride

Sin of Pride

This is definitely the mentality of a prideful man. According to St. Teresa of Avila, “There is more value in a little study of humility and in a single act of it than in all the knowledge in the world.”

The Superior Iron Man certainly possessed superiority, but dominance in worldly things alone. Tony Stark had a genius level intelligent, grand ambitions, and creativity second to none. His inability to account for human freedom and the need for morality would be his downfall. Stark failed to depend on others’ for help. Potts, Murdock, and their allies united together in humility to fight the selfish Stark.

Next Steps for Humanity?

Technological advancements such as advanced prosthetics, improving medical procedures, and renewable energy sources provide hope for the future. We can learn from the Superior Iron Man that true perfection is not skin (or armor) deep. Pride initially causes us to experience invincibility—and superiority. Experience shows us otherwise.

Jesus as the New Man—and True Man of the Future—teaches us the importance of the virtue of humility. His humble obedience to the Father led to suffering on the Cross, but it also led to the Resurrection—True life! We can experience authentic power when we follow Jesus, the Avenger of Sin. There is still value (and entertainment) in watching and reading about the adventures of Iron Man. Be a superhero. A superhero of virtue! St. Paul wrote, “Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil.” Suit up. Not with arc reactor technology, but with the “ark technology” of the sacraments instituted by Christ and safeguarded by the Catholic Church.


Tony Stark Gif

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7 Reasons to Go to Eucharistic Adoration


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on February 13, 2020.


Saint Alphonsus Liguori proclaimed, “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us.” Sitting before the Eucharist in awe and wonder is something faithful Catholics have been doing for centuries.

Whether you are a faithful or lapsed Catholic, here are seven reasons why you need to be going to Eucharistic adoration today. Don’t worry you still have time to go now (either before or after reading this post).Eucharistic adoration

Unites You to the Sacrament of the Eucharist

According to St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “When you look at the crucifix, you understand how much Jesus loved you then. When you look at the Sacred Host, you understand how much Jesus loves you now.” Now. The Eucharist is the Sacrament of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ. His body, blood, soul, and divinity under the appearance of a simple host. Sitting in Eucharistic adoration lets you draw closer to the Mystery of the Eucharist. How easy is it for us to dismiss this reality? But by driving to a local church you are making a sacrifice. A sacrifice of time. The same sacrifice you make on Sunday.

Increase in Holiness by Bathing in the Light of the Son

People enjoy tanning in the sunlight during summer or visit tanning salons. Going to Eucharistic Adoration does for your soul what a tanning salon does for your skin— it transforms it. Too much physical light burns. If you stay before the light of the Son too long your sins will be identified and destroyed.

Eucharistic adoration is a precursor to confession. St. Clare of Assisi proclaimed, “Gaze upon him, consider him, contemplate him, as you desire to imitate him.” Standing in the “Sonlight” will lead to you think like the Son. You will be more patient. Kinder. Gentler. More obedient to your parents, spouse, priests, bishop or other spiritual authorities in your life. Bath in the light of Son and be prepared for noticeable results.

Removes You from Temptations

Along with leading you notice your sins, frequent attendance of Eucharistic adoration will remove you from tempting situations. Think about it. Simply being before the Blessed Sacrament takes you away from the worldly things. Occasions of sin. My parish’s deacon, who is currently in seminary to become a priest, said there is always a choice between God and the world. Christ or the cell phone.In the times of greatest temptation seek our Lord! The Good Thief on the Cross gazed loving at Jesus during his greatest temptation. He could have easily fallen prey to despair. Why didn’t he? Because he looked to Jesus to take away his temptations and limitations.

Helps You to Examine Your Conscience

The longer you remain in the presence of God the more you will reflect on your failings—your sins. Remember being in the light of Christ will make your sins more recognizable.

Provides a Reboot to Your Spiritual Life

rest in the Lord

We all need a reset. Our lives get busy. Busy lives lead to tiredness. And tiredness causes us to give into temptation and sin. Think of sin as a virus that corrodes our soul. Without a proper defense the virus (of sin) will attack us more often and successfully cripple us spiritually. Eucharistic adoration acts as a kind of system reboot to our spiritual lives. Praying in the light of Christ brings us countless graces that will be effective in repairing us and warding off sin. Take time to rest. Rest in the pew. Sit (or kneel) before the Lord and ask for renewed strength and energy to reach the big spiritual reset— the Mass!

Prepares You for Sunday Mass

Adoration gets you into the right frame of mind for celebrating the Mass. Spend your time reading the upcoming Sunday Mass readings. Investing time into learning about the theme and reading of the Mass is helpful later on especially when you have younger children who can cause distractions on Sunday. Praying before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic adoration reminds you of the primary focus of the Mass—Jesus. The readings, rituals, and liturgical garments are all a means to point us closer to the Son. Gazing upon the Blessed Sacrament reminds us of Jesus’ words in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

Because the Church Recommends It

A seventh reason to attend Eucharistic adoration is simple. The Catholic Church tells us to go. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1380,

The Church and the world have great need of Eucharistic adoration. Jesus waits for us in this sacrament of love. Let us be generous with our time in going to meet Him in adoration and contemplation full of faith. And let us be ready to make reparation for the great faults and crimes of the world. May our adoration never cease.

That reference is actually a quote from Saint Pope John Paul II in Dominicae Cenae: Letter to Priest, Holy Thursday, 1980. I am a big fan of John Paul II. He is amazing because of his close connection to God through the sacraments. I trust in the wisdom of the late Polish pope.The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Catholic faith (CCC 1324). Jesus is truly the Bread of Life. Like the Apostles, Mary Magdalene, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Joseph, and other New Testament figures, we too see Jesus on a consistent basis. No he will not be donning sandals or his mighty epic beard during Eucharistic Adoration, but we will still experience the same love. Try to find at least 15 minutes this week and visit our Lord at a local church. Better yet invite a friend or family member to go with you!

Related Links

The Eucharist as Presence and Sacrament Eucharistic Adoration-EWTN

Eucharistic Adoration: A Window to Heaven


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