Friday, December 28, 2012

A Merry Christmas Season at Christ the King

We had another wonderful candle lit Christmas Mass this year at Christ the King in Sarasota, Florida. I went up front to the left of the altar to take some pictures and I was enraptured. I never went back to my pew. I just knelt on the floor, prayed and took pictures the entire Mass. Here are a few of them. Thanks again to Father Fryar for giving us such a memorable Christmas Mass.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Legacy Icons (A Great Christmas Present!)

If you are looking for unique Christmas gifts this season, I highly recommend an icon from Legacy Icons. I recently purchased two icons, one of Saint Demetrios and one of Saint Theodore in the Legacy edition. The company makes two types of icons, one with a regular board and one with a thick more traditional icon board with trusses in the back. You can get the icons with either a high quality paper print or on a museum quality canvas on wood. For a non-hand painted icon, these are the best I have seen. Go to their website and check them out. 

From their website. 

For over 20 years, our team has painstakingly developed an exclusive system for fine art reproductions using the exquisite acid-free papers, scientific pigments, rich inks, and protective sealants. Using this combination, we are able to produce unprecedented colors with a precise and delicate balance of tones and color saturations.
Combining our museum-quality prints, over three decades of combined experience in the field of fine art restoration, and our Orthodox Christian faith, Legacy Icons offers beautifully-crafted icon reproductions that will retain their integrity for 100 years and more. Our competitive pricing makes heirloom-quality icons available to every family, ready to be passed from generation to generation.
Please note: Our Legacy Icon is a stunning product on canvas and will have the texture of a fine art painting. The boards we have chosen are about twice the thickness (about 1.25 inches thick) of our standard icon so keep this in mind when ordering. If you are looking for a traditional style icon, our standard icon will be the closest match. Legacy Icons are the finest woods and canvas available and will stand out as a show piece in your collection.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

New Aquinas Commentaries on Saint Paul's Letters

The Aquinas Institute has released a nice 5 volume set of Aquinas' commentary on Saint Paul's letters. For the price you cannot beat it. They are nice large hard bound books at a reasonable price. You can get the whole set for $125.00 at Amazon. Don't pass this one up. There is a serious lack of scholarship in today's Biblical studies. This will help remedy this problem.

Commentary on the Letters of Saint Paul


In the latter half of his career Saint Thomas lectured on all the letters of Saint Paul, bequeathing to the Church a treasury of Scriptural theology and a sure guide to the winding itinerary of the Pauline writings.

The Aquinas Institute is therefore particularly pleased to be offering, for the first time ever, a bilingual Latin/English edition of the entire series of Pauline commentaries, in the elegantly formatted, high-quality hardcover volumes that will be a hallmark of Institute publications.
The Aquinas Institute’s edition of the Commentaries on the Letters of Paul will feature:
     • Text of the Pauline Scripture verses in Greek (Nestle-Aland 27), Latin, and English
     • Complete text of Aquinas in Latin and in English, with Marietti numbering
     • English translation based on that of Fr. Larcher, edited and corrected by the Institute’s faculty and staff
     • Hardcover, quality binding in 5 volumes
     • Affordable price—$35 per volume

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dust Off Those Cassocks!

VATICAN CITY, November 19, 2012 – The cassock obligatory for cardinals and bishops during office hours. Cassock or clerical dress for priests and monsignors. Specific habit for religious, always and in every season. And for ceremonies in the presence of the pope or during official meetings in the Roman curia: "abito piano," or cassock with cape, for priests, embroidered cassock for monsignors, and cassock with embroidered cape (called a "pellegrina") for bishops and cardinals.

At a time in which everyone is specially called to renew his awareness of and consistency with his own identity, at venerable behest I come to ask Your Eminence/Excellency kindly to guarantee the observance of the above on the part of all ecclesiastics and religious in service with this Dicastery/Tribunal/Office/Vicariate, recalling the duty of wearing regularly and with dignity the proper habit, in every season, partly in obedience to the duty of exemplarity (editor's note: this phrase is in italics in the original) that is incumbent above all upon those who render service to the successor of Peter.
The very example of those who, sealed with the episcopal dignity, are faithful to the daily use of the cassock proper to them, during office hours, becomes an explicit encouragement for all, including for the Episcopates and for those who visit the Roman Curia and Vatican City.

Full story

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Process of Writing an Icon

For iconophiles such as myself, you may also enjoy this video from the Prosopon School of Iconography. I have also purchased one of their DVDs, 'Theoria' from their website, and it is produced beautifully as well. I am looking forward to purchasing the second edition production of their introductary DVD set to writing an icon, 'Logos: Immanuel', which will be released hopefully by the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Christ the King Sarasota Procession 2012

This year Father Fryar has outdone himself once again in organizing an even larger procession for the feast day of Christ the King. This time we processed around the block onto highway 41 with Bishop Frank Dewane carrying the Blessed Sacrament. It was certainly a memorable moment when I looked back and saw the bishop processing up the street while cars almost came to a stop to see something that has probably never happened in south Sarasota. Since I was in the procession carrying the Vatican flag, a friend of mine Bill, from the St. Petersburg Latin Mass community came down and took some great photos! Many thanks to his effort. Here are a few of the pictures from the procession.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Restoring True Liturgical Art (The Humble Icon)

Restoring True Liturgical Art (The Humble Icon)
Matthew J. Bellisario 2012
The Pantokrator, Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily

    I don’t think that it is a hard case to be made to prove that the Catholic Church is now undergoing the worst persecution of the sacred image since the iconoclastic controversy of the 8th century, which was confined more to the East. Now however, the new iconoclastic movement has become widespread in almost every geographic region of the Church. This iconoclastic movement preceded the Second Vatican Council, it was however not largely carried out until its conclusion along with the restructuring of the Latin Liturgy. Since the implementation of the Novus Ordo Liturgy, along with a progressive modern theology, many sacred images have either been destroyed or removed from many once beautiful churches. Likewise, this new modernist liturgical outlook denied any newly constructed churches to receive the proper sacred imagery. It  was replaced by the horrible highly secularized imagery invented under the auspices of secular humanism. As the secular atheistic philosophies gained a foothold in the Church, despite the cries of 6 successive popes beginning with Pius IX, the understanding of authentic liturgical art also completely fell by the wayside.

    I am not one of those people who believes that all evolution of art since the time of the Byzantines has been a disaster for society, although it may have contributed to a degradation of sacred liturgical art in the Church. I do not think however that Giotto was responsible for the decline of art, any more than Saint Thomas Aquinas was responsible for over intellectualism. Giotto for the most part retains a strong theological backbone to his iconography. When it comes to those artists who followed him however, things begin to change. I think a strong case can be made that the traditional form of iconography most fully represents the theological reality that is to be found within the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Although the later art of the Italian Renaissance is quite beautiful, it can be argued that it begins a movement to focus less on the divine realities which coincide with the life of the Church, and more on material human realities. A strong development began to sweep through the visual art world after the Renaissance which often aimed at depicting a more “realistic” view of the events they depict. To some this seems to be a clear positive development of sacred art. To the trained eye however, this development was not for the improvement of sacred art, but only started a slow trend in moving the focus off of divine things, to secular ideas. Although I find many of the later art of the Renaissance to be beautiful, I do not find these art forms to the best form of liturgical art.

    If we look closely at the sacred icon, we do not see what most would consider to be a “realistic” depiction of Christ or his Saints, if we understand “realism” to be that which is only seen with the human eye. Although the iconic images are unmistakable in the persons or events they intend to represent, they do not seem to keep the eye trained on any one point of the image for the image’s sake. Yes, the image is beautiful, and yes there is much detail in the image, but the eye tends to move its focus beyond the image. The sacred image intends not to leave the viewer stuck on admiring the image for the image’s sake alone. Nor does it intend to leave viewer in awe of the artists talent to make the most “realistic” or “original” depiction of a person or event. It intends to leave the viewer looking beyond the image to the divine reality which it depicts. The icon is a humble, yet strikingly beautiful image. Yet its beauty, as with later art, is not tied to the temporal world. The icon instead points to a beauty that is beyond its own existence, that of the eternal. The Saints are depicted not as they were on earth, but in a deified state in heaven. This goes hand in hand with the theology of the Church, which calls on the faithful to ask for the intercession of the Saints, who now dwell in the divine light of Christ. Our Catholic faith demands a focus on the eternal rather than the temporal.

    The humility of the icon is an important characteristic which separates it from all other art forms. Although they certainly depict real events that occurred here on earth, the events are not weighed down by earthly cares, or confined to time. The event or person depicted is done in a simple style, which leaves the person or event wonderfully suspended in eternity. For example, if we look at the image of Christ, the Pantokrator, often seen in the domes of Eastern and even older Western churches, we do not see Christ as he was seen while he walked the earth. He is seen as the “All Mighty”, or “All Powerful” King of the universe. This is something that is completely opposed to the modernist mind, which seeks to debase Christ the King, the Supreme Ruler of all. Christ rules from the heavens, blessing mankind with His right hand while proclaiming the gospels from His left. He is often depicted in a blue outer garment and red inner garment, the blue proclaiming His divine nature and the red His human nature of martyrdom. Usually He is surrounded by many Saints in a gold hue of heavenly splendor, along with a unique style halo to which only He is entitled. Likewise the Theotokos, Panagia, our Blessed Mother is depicted according to divine reality. She has an inner blue garment depicting her heavenly nature covered by a red outer garment signifying her original human nature. There is much more that can be said for the theological construction of an icon. The main point to understand here is that the icon is theological and liturgical in its essence. It is made for meditation and worship.

    I find it demoralizing at times that most Catholics are not familiar at all with iconography. In the past, when I have introduced this sacred art form to Catholics, many have called them “too cartoonish” or “too childlike.” They measure the icon by the standards of the secular mind. They believe that an art form which depicts an image more “realistically” is superior to that which does not. I actually had one person claim that those who painted icons had no talent for art. Yet, I know many iconographers who can also paint an oil painting which would astonish anyone with their ability to depict “realism.” What is not understood by such naysayers is that the iconographer does not intend to depict things as they are in this life. Instead, the iconographer intends to depict a divine, eternal reality; or more importantly, he intends to lead the worshipper to the divine. This is something very foreign to most Catholics in the Church today. Just as it is extremely important to rectify our moral, sacramental and liturgical theology in the Church today, I believe that there needs to be a strong movement in the Church to re-catechize the faithful on the theology of the sacred image. Let us leave secular art for secular establishments, and let us restore true sacred art to sacred spaces.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

"It’s a Wonderful Life", or "Its My Life?"

"It’s a Wonderful Life", or "Its My Life?" (aka Pottersville)
Matthew J Bellisario 2012

It is a fact that our country has sadly, slowly drifted away from the more moral cultural norms of the 40s and 50s. Being an avid movie buff, I wanted to draw up a comparison between the morality depicted in many of the movies of the 40s and 50s to the standard of morality we see today. We rarely see in the movie industry now, the moral standards that were inherent and often depicted on the silver screen of yesteryear. Movies depicting relatively strong morals such as ‘Going My Way’, ‘The Bell’s of Saint Mary’s’, ‘All About Eve’, ‘Miracle on 34th Street’, and ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ have been all but forgotten. While human nature has not changed, how we view human nature has radically changed over the years. We no longer look to faith in God for the solution to our problems. We have become a society of narcissists, only focused on ourselves and our wants. Again, this sinful inclination is nothing new. But today’s radical isolation, often steeped in immorality, as is depicted in the media today, has given a new meaning to the term ‘narcissism.’ It is not very difficult to prove that our current society is one of the most narcissistic. Our current president demonstrates this fact quite clearly, being that we elected one of the most arrogant self centered leaders we have ever had.

Let us examine the attitude that is regularly displayed by many today. Life no longer has meaning for them, and this is very noticeable in the large numbers of people plagued by severe depression. Men and women often seek solace in anti-depressant drugs or other substances such as large consumptions of alcohol, drugs or even pornography. The radical consumption of material objects such as big houses and fancy cars also reflect our restlessness with life. Yet no matter how many things we have, we never seem to be satisfied. The internet has also been a tool of the devil to further isolate men from one another, while cleverly making seem as if we are more connected by promoting such websites as Facebook and Twitter. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The proper vision of the family has largely been destroyed by all of these obsessions.  We have now gone way past the social problem of divorce. We can now see that the disordered immoral act of homosexuality and open promiscuity is no longer shunned, but openly accepted. This has further eroded the order of the family. Likewise our communication with one another has eroded because these immoral acts are severely self centered and eventually lead to a radical narcissism. No longer do families spend time talking or getting together for large family and friend outings. Instead we are on the internet, texting on our smart-phones, or glued to the television to watch the latest news broadcast or sporting event.

As we turn back to Hollywood, I think it can be argued that many people in Hollywood have always been a bit progressive, and much of the time they seem to have preceded the liberalization of our society. It wold not be far fetched to blame Hollywood as part of our moral decline. It is however not alway clear wether Hollywood helped to brainwash society, or merely reflected the attitudes that had already been largely accepted in society. Yet even in accepting the fact that Hollywood has been a part of the moral problem, we can still see a noticeable difference in the morality depicted in the movies of yesteryear to the movies of today. This observation is very educational for us. For example, in the classic picture starring Bette Davis, ‘All About Eve’, the film demonstrates how destructive materialism and narcissism was for the main character Margo. There is a clear moral of the story painted for us as Margo falls into depression and paranoia. Likewise, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed graced the silver screen in 1946 to shine a light on the importance of each and every person in, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ The greed of Mr. Potter is contrasted with selfless giving of George Bailey, and the ugly trait of narcissism is clearly contrasted to that of humility.

What I found to be of more interest while watching the movie ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ are the details of what is seen rather than what we hear in the dialog. For example, when the angel comes to show George Bailey what the town of Bedford Falls would have been like had he never been born, we see something quite striking. As he walks down the street of the town, which the name had now been changed to the name of the rather evil character of Potter, we see a depiction of what an evil or immoral town might look like to the average person in the 1940s. We see a lot of seedy dance clubs, bars and strip clubs along the main street, rather than the humble shops that were supposed to be there. The bank was now a seedy club, the humble café a dance club, and a girls strip club was now center stage on the main street of town.  In other words, it was well understood that nude strip shows and seedy night clubs were generally viewed as being sinister to the society of the 40s. If we fast-forward to the year 2012, we would never know that these types of establishments were to be avoided or viewed as a plague on society. In fact, we now see these types of businesses popping up all over America as if they are good old wholesome fun. At one time most Americans would have been embarrassed to be caught in such a place. Now they have no shame in being seen in them.

It would behoove us to reflect on how the corruption on our view of morality has coincided with our distaste and restlessness with life. The declination of the morals of our society coincides with the rise of depression in our society. The false notion of personal freedom being forced down our throats today is no freedom at all, but only an enslavement to sin. It is self absorption at its worst. Remember the story told in Dostoevsky’s book ‘The Brother’s Karamasov’? The old lady once gives an onion to a beggar, and when she dies she is judged as never having given anything to anyone. When judged she is sent to hell in a lake of fire. Yet, she brings up to her guardian angel the time when she gave the onion to the beggar. So the old woman is given one half of that onion by her angel to be pulled out of hell with. She grabs one end, and as she is being pulled out many others in the lake of fire grab onto her hoping to be pulled out with her. Selfishly she looks back to the others and arrogantly claims, ‘Its my onion!’ After her selfish claim, the onion breaks and she falls back into the lake fire. The tale cleverly outlines the attitude pervading our culture today. “Its my life!”

If we examine our culture today to that of 60 plus years ago, we see two very different understandings of morality. We would do well to compare two characters which stare upon us from the silver screen of Hollywood, which represent two very different moral outlooks. Representing today’s culture we have the all too popular narcissistic character of Harry Potter, who urges us to break all of the rules and to be ourselves despite what we subconsciously know to be right and wrong, or we have Jimmy Stewart’s character of George Bailey, representing a more virtuous culture, who recognizes that we are all important only in the context of faith in God, in union with our fellow man. One character more or less gives and the other more or less takes. Harry Potter, ironically somewhat like Mr. Potter in ‘Its A Wonderful Life, as like many of us today cannot say, ‘It’s a wonderful life!’ but only ‘Its my life!’ The characters of Harry Potter and Mr. Potter are the classic narcissists while George Bailey resembles more of the humble servant. For example, at one point in the film, he and his wife Mary give away their honeymoon money keep all of the townspeople afloat. I think it is important to pose two questions about these characters. Which characters are more Christ-like, and which characters at the end of the stories are truly happy? I don’t know about you, but I would rather be Jimmy Stewart’s character of George Bailey any day rather than the narcissistic Potters. Unfortunately we are all too familiar today with old George's predicament of standing in the middle of Pottersville.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Natural Law Fails Again

I encourage you to read two articles published recently by the Thomistic scholar Steven A. Long of Ave Maria University. His two articles point out yet again how the New Natural Law scholars have caused confusion in regard to moral theology. The topic that Dr. Long addresses is their failure to properly understand the question of cooperation.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Prudence: Our Missing Virtue

Prudence: Our Missing Virtue
Matthew J Bellisario 2012

Do you ever wonder at the end of a long day if you should or should not have said, written or done something you should not have? Perhaps you spoke out of emotion or sat down and wrote a scathing email just after you have read something upsetting on the internet. Maybe you did not speak when you should have spoken? As Catholics, we should understand that we are always at war with our passions. Our emotions and our intellectual weaknesses are always pulling at us causing us to act, or not to act, not always irrationally, but  lacking in spiritual wisdom. Let me explain.

Although our intellect and emotions plays a huge part of human makeup, so likewise does our soul. After the fall of Adam and Eve, the order between our bodies our intellect and our soul has been turned upside down. Which means that our human passions often usurp our soul’s desires, which should ultimately be turned towards God. Although I could go through all of the seven deadly sins and the virtues that subdue them, one virtue that is often ignored is that of prudence. I will be bold enough to say that most people are often lacking in this most important virtue. The internet websites and blogs clearly demonstrate this fact. There is no shortage of ad-hominem attacks and character assassinations posted many times by notable Catholic apologists and writers. What we all must be concerned with is the virtue of prudence. The virtue of prudence falls under the category of the moral virtues. Father Garrigou Lagrange calls it, “The charioteer among the virtues...” Why is this virtue so important? This is the virtue which properly guides all the moral acts of man. Father Lagrange says, "What separates the wise from the foolish is the wise man's care, the caution with which he judges his options and chooses actions that avoid extremes. Our faith calls this practical ability Prudence, which the Catechism defines as "the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it"

The difference between acting boldly when one ought for example, or running like a coward when one should act, is governed by prudence. Likewise, the difference between remaining in humble silence, or running off at the mouth, is likewise governed by this exalted virtue. How do we acquire this virtue? Like all things with God, we must begin with long hours, weeks, months and even years of prayer and mortification. It is most always good to begin by saying little until one has spent much time being faithful servants of God, which means struggling daily with sin, going to the Divine Liturgy at least once a week, going to confession at least once a month and maintaining a strong prayer schedule at home. As one spends time with God in the Sacraments and prayer, one begins to be given prudence by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We then begin to do God’s will rather than our own, and this is of the utmost importance.

Why is it that we often times get on the internet and write scathing articles or retorts to someone who has offended us? The short simple answer is pride. We all like to make it seem as if we are governed by righteous anger. After-all we all love to tell the story of Jesus overthrowing those crooked moneychangers in the temple. Most of the time however we do not possess this righteous anger. When we act upon our pride, prudence is absent. But how is it that prudence is further developed? Yes, we must start with prayer for their is no substitute for this needed bond with God. But what else does prayer and God’s grace bring us? It also brings us other virtues such an understanding of justice and temperance for example. Prayer is the primary vehicle which makes us one with God, and this "oneness" is made evident by the virtues.

It is crucial to understand also that it is through our intellect that we understand the teachings of the Church, which also govern our understanding of right and wrong. For example, one would not have the tools to council a good friend using contraception if one were not informed that the action was not a licit one. How can one understand the things of God unless one has been instructed? But knowing the teachings of the Church is not enough for someone to be a counselor in these important moral affairs. This is often the problem we see today in the realm of popular Catholic speakers and writers. Many, though certainly not all, think that by studying the Catechism, reading some theology books and pursuing a college degree qualifies them to lecture the public on the Catholic faith and the moral dilemmas that people often face. This is simply not the truth. This is often why the Fathers of the Church often said that this virtue was often lacking in the young, because they did not have time to cultivate it. This is likewise similar to new converts, as I have said before in previous articles.

Garrigou Lagrange gives us some insight into my point. “Prudence cannot command unless the will and the sense appetites are seasoned in obedience.” This means that holiness, and the subjection of the will to God is just as, if not more important than, our book knowledge. In fact, an immense amount of time oriented to book knowledge can often steer us dangerously off the path to self obsession, which not only endangers the soul of that person, but also the others counseled by him or her. Remember, we must understand that counsel is a gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift must be cultivated under much labor and struggle to lose ourselves in God. This is something that I have come to realize more clearly over the past year or so, and as a result you can see that I now try to stay away from more polemical writing these days.

Prudence is something we should all strive to cultivate in our lives. We can start by learning to control ourselves in conversation, remaining silent until we have gone to God in prayer for our counsel. I cannot tell you how many times I have written a blog post with fire coming out of my nostrils responding to something that offended me only to regret it about 15 minutes after publishing it. Even if what I had written had been factually correct, it did not always mean that it needed to be written or publicly aired. This demonstrated a complete absence of the virtue of prudence. Likewise the same can be said of conversations with others where we may get perturbed by some public outrage made by a high ranking bishop of the Church. Oftentimes our passions get the best of us and we end up going into an all out attack on that bishop rather than just acknowledging the comment, remaining silent, and then taking our concern to God in prayer.

In closing, I must reiterate that prudence determines when we must act and when we must not act. It also governs in what manner and the proper time in which to act. This makes all the difference between being an instrument of God, or an instrument of the devil. If we rebuke someone out of our own pride rather than love for the other person, then prudence has been suppressed. Our words will only be only our own, not God’s. Again, even though factually we may be correct in what we say or write, and we may present the hard cold facts to someone, it will often do little good because it was not communicated in love through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In other words, we are often doing our own will, not God’s. One other practice to help guide us on our struggle towards the virtue of prudence is to always examine what we say and do, understanding that every word we speak and every action we do, we will have to give an account for in eternity. In other words, we all need to make sure that what we say and what you do, that we are prepared to stand before the judgement seat of God to give an answer for. If we are unsure of whether or not our words will withstand the judgement of eternity, it is probably better to remain silent. Of course this is easier said than done, but by the grace of God may He grant us all this most necessary virtue.

Let us now turn for a word of wisdom from the Saints and Fathers of the Church to help guide us.

Let everything be regulated by prudence which should be the rule in all our actions.”
(St Pio)

“...imprudence denotes lack of that prudence which a man can and ought to have, and in this sense imprudence is a sin by reason of a man's negligence in striving to have prudence.” (St Thomas Aquinas)

“Blessed the one who does not speak through hope of reward, who is not always ready to unburden himself of his secrets, who is not anxious to speak, but who reflects prudently on what he is to say and the manner in which he is to reply.”
(St. Francis of Assisi)

"My brother, wisdom is not found in much learning and many letters; rather, as the Holy Scriptures say, the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and prudence the desire of the Holy; indeed, it is good to know the law of the mind. This is correct, for faith in God engenders a good mind, and the good mind is a river of living water; he who has attained it will be filled with its beneficial and life-bearing waters...Neither wisdom nor prudence can exist where there is not fear of the Lord, because the wealth of wisdom is to revere the Lord, to whom belongs all glory" (St. Ephraim).

Let us employ the gift of reason for actions of prudence. Let us learn now abstinence from what is wicked, that we may not be forced to learn in the future. Let us employ life as a training school for what is good; and let us be roused to the hatred of sin. Let us bear about a deep love for the Creator; let us cleave to Him with our whole heart; let us not wickedly waste the substance of reason, like the prodigal. Let us obtain the joy laid up, in which Paul exulting, exclaimed, 'Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?' (Rom. 8.35). To Him belongs glory and honour, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, world without end. Amen. (St Clement of Alexandria)

From the Life of Saint Pambo of the Desert

St. Pambo excelled most other ancient monks in the austerity of his continual fasts. The government of his tongue was no less an object of his watchfulness than that of his appetite. A certain religious brother, to whom he had applied for advice began to recite to him the thirty-eighth psalm . I said I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue. Which words Pambo had no sooner heard, but without waiting for the second verse, he returned to his cell, saying, that was enough for one lesson, and that he would go and study to put it in practice. This he did by keeping almost perpetual silence, and by weighing well, when it was necessary to speak, every word before he gave any answer. He often took several days to recommend consultations to God, and to consider what answer he should give to those who addressed themselves to him. By his perpetual attention not to offend in his words, he arrived at so great a perfection in this particular, that he was thought to have equalled, if not to have excelled, Saint Antony himself; and his answers were seasoned with so much wisdom and spiritual prudence, that they were received by all as if they had been oracles dictated by heaven...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Thoughts on Eastern Orthodoxy

My Thoughts on Eastern Orthodoxy
Matthew J Bellisario 2012

In the past I have posted some information regarding reading material or videos which are of Eastern Orthodox authorship. Some have written me thanking me for the information that I have given them. I believe that the material I have recommended has been material that is of some benefit to faithful Catholics. That being said, I do not think that I have given a full explanation of my thoughts on Orthodoxy, and how it relates to living an authentic Catholic life. While my attention is focused on this topic, I wanted to give a more full explanation of my thoughts on Eastern Orthodoxy so that readers of this blog will understand my previous posts more fully.

To start off, I will let it be known that I am a convert from Orthodoxy, which occurred in 2003. I was a member of a small Ukrainian Orthodox group established in Canada. So I do have some experiential knowledge of Orthodoxy and its teachings. I will say from the start that many Orthodox clergy and laity alike are fiercely opposed to the Catholic Church. They often misrepresent the Church’s teachings concerning the Holy Father, Our Blessed Mother, Original Sin as well as many other doctrines and dogmas. I experienced this first hand. I have listened to talks by an orthodox priest who falsely claimed that Catholics make the sign of the cross with five fingers instead of three because we believe that Mary and the Pope are equal to the Holy Trinity.

Secondly, if you hang around enough of them, especially converts, you get the impression that anything that ever came out of the West is from the devil. They go out of their way to make sure that they can differentiate anything they can between the East and the West, even when there isn’t even any substantial difference. For example, they act as if they have an exclusive claim to deification. These and other misrepresentations often paint the Catholic Church in a radical negative light, which I now tend to just ignore rather than get bent out of shape about. I guess I have experienced it enough to know that these people are sad cases of a form of fanaticism.

Finally, I must acknowledge their lack of ability to maintain any kind of stable moral theology. They simply do not have the tools to examine modern ethical situations and come to any united moral standing on them. They often waver back and forth on the contraception issue, often leaving it up to the individual and their spiritual father. They malign marriage and the vows made between a man and women to which Our Lord tells  once they are made cannot be broken. Their radical contempt for the Holy Father and the brilliance of Saint Thomas Aquinas has crippled their ability to maintain any unity on a variety moral issues. There are also some dogmatic issues of which are of concern which I will not cover here which readers should know about such as the Filioque, Purgatory and so forth. All this being said, we can indeed learn from some of their writings and publications if we are well studies and grounded in the Catholic faith.

The most beneficial aspect of reading their publications is that of Eastern Spirituality and monasticism, which has all but lost to the West. Even in our Eastern Catholic Churches the establishment of Eastern Monasticism is sparse to say the least, and are often modeled on later Western monasticism rather than that of the Desert Fathers. I long for the reestablishment of Eastern Monasticism in the US. There are only a few small communities that exist at this time in the US, and none of them really have any substantial publishing arm to communicate to the general Catholic population. There is much wisdom in the Eastern writings which contain advice on prayer and spiritual practices which are hard to find elsewhere. Unfortunately since most of these practices are abandoned in the West most of the written material on the subject is written by Orthodox monks and elders. This is an unfortunate reality that we must recognize.

‘The Jesus Prayer’ or the ‘Prayer of the Heart’ is one example of many spiritual practices that has been long lost to the West. It is however part of our Catholic heritage that needs to be reclaimed, being that the Desert Fathers and Eastern Church Fathers often spoke of this practice. I have found much benefit to practicing this form of prayer to strengthen me throughout the day, and to keep me focused on Christ rather than worldly things. LIkewise, I have found their explanations on spiritual warfare to also be of immense help.

Secondly, we in the West can tend to over-intellectualize things, and if we are not careful we turn theology into an intellectual rather than a mutually spiritual enriching practice. This is not an inherent flaw in Catholicism, but in our modern Western mindset which seeks to understand everything down to the tiniest detail. If we are not careful we often put God in a box, and when things don’t add up in the system we have created in our minds it often effects us in a negative manner. Having some acquaintance with the Eastern Fathers and Eastern spirituality can help us stay balanced.

Finally, I enjoy reading about some of their Saints and elders through which God seems to have enriched those around them, at least to the level that is available to them through their valid Sacraments and valid apostolic succession. The Catholic Church has maintained that the Orthodox are rightly called “Churches” because of these divine realities, something that is not found in any form of Protestantism. Again, I will repeat a warning to those who want to read these types of books; know your Catholic faith well and do not get sidetracked by some of the anti-Catholic stances they take. Some authors are more pronounced in these matters than others and many times I will not even come across anything that is opposed to the Catholic faith. For example I just finished reading a great little book published by the Coptic Orthodox on the spiritual life titled, ‘Practical Spirituality According to the Desert Fathers.’ However this is something you need to be aware of because sooner or later you will come across anti-Catholic prejudice and you will have to be prepared to dismiss it.

In closing I will say that reading Orthodox material is not for all Catholics. With the confusion going on today in the Church it may even be harmful to some people, so let me be clear that I am not saying that everyone will receive enrichment from Orthodox publications. I often visit Orthodox churches and I am prepared to engage in defending the Catholic faith when having conversations with them. I remember having a heated debate a few years back with an Orthodox priest in South Carolina who went ballistic when he found out I was a convert to the Catholic Church. These types of encounters do not bother me and I am usually more than happy to engage such people. In fact I believe that our attempts at true ecumenism should be more oriented in their direction. At any rate, if I run across a good Orthodox book that I have found to be spiritually enriching, I will certainly put up a post about it. I just wanted to clear the air on the subject so that those reading my blog do not think that I see no problems or differences with the Eastern Orthodox. I do not want to come across as supporting indifferentism between our one true faith in Catholicism and the schismatic problems inherent in Eastern Orthodoxy. I also do not want to dismiss some of the spiritually enriching material that many Catholics can benefit from and seek to reintroduce into their Catholic heritage. It is my hope that we will see a resurgence in the publication of Eastern spirituality and practice from the many Eastern Catholic Churches. There is one website that you can find Eastern Catholic publications that I would recommend checking out. May God bless and keep you!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Protestantism and Catholicism- Core Difference of the Heart

Protestantism and Catholicism- Core Difference of the Heart
Matthew J. Bellisario 2012

There are many theological differences between the Protestant sects that arose out the 16th century, and the ancient apostolic Church that Christ established through his apostles. As I spend more time in prayer and in reading the ancient Fathers of the Church, one core principle comes to the forefront of what divides these sects from authentic Christianity. It lies in the difference of what we actually believe about Christ and how He interacts with mankind. The basic synthesis of Protestantism lies in the false notion that after one’s “conversion” Christ now ignores the sins of the convert, and now covers the convert in a type of adoption by profession. In other words, most Protestants hold an idea that depicts Christ as dying to cover up the sins of man.

The true Christian faith does not adopt such a shortsighted view of Christ’s sacrifice. No, Christ’s sacrifice goes much deeper to the core of a person’s heart than a mere “covering up.” Grace is not a cloak which now hides and excuses the sins of man, but it seeks to transform the heart of man so that sin actually dies and is replaced by the love of God, which in turn makes man a partaker of Christ in e very real and concrete way. When we understand the Scriptures properly, which tell us that man was made in the image and likeness of God, we understand this to mean much more than an ideal image that Adam and Eve once held before the fall. We see the image and likeness of God coming truly into focus only after Christ became incarnate and gave Himself for the salvation of mankind. This was not done so that God would once again see man in his former glory days before the fall, but it was done so that man would be truly healed. This healing was not only a healing which would change man to be as he was before the fall, but to deify man so that he will attain an even higher level of life in God. Saint Maximus tells us, "A sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature is provided by the incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man. For it is clear that He who became man without sin (cf. Heb. 4:15) will divinize human nature without changing it into the divine nature, and will raise it up for His own sake to the same degree as He lowered Himself for man's sake. This is what St. Paul teaches mystically when he says, '…that in the ages to come He might display the overflowing richness of His grace' (Eph. 2:7)

The grace that man is given through Christ and His Church allows man to actually participate in the divine life of God. (Psalm 82:6) We will be like God as the scriptures tells us, and yes,we are even to be transformed not only to cease sinning, but to do His will. Jesus told us that unless we do the Father’s will we cannot have eternal life. God’s will being done by us is not some abstract idea that falls under a cloak of ignorance or even a divine edict. We do His will because God actually comes to live in us as we struggle through our life in living our faith in Christ. This transformation sometimes takes many years but it must happen one way or the other in order for God’s work to be completed in us. In reality, the true Christian becomes perfected in a very real way. St Theodoros tells us, “Now the purpose of our life is blessedness or, what is the same thing, the kingdom of heaven or of God. This is not only to behold the Trinity, supreme in Kingship, but also to receive an influx of the divine and, as it were, to suffer deification; for by this influx what is lacking and imperfect in us is supplied and perfected. And the provision by such divine influx of what is needed is the food of spiritual beings.”

In dialoging with our Protestant friends we eventually always arrive at the “faith and works”, “man’s will vs God’s will” controversy. As we well understand, there is no real controversy at the heart of these realities. Faith without works is dead, and work without faith is blasphemy. These two ideas are married at their core, and they cannot be separated. An authentic theological approach to these two truths never separate the two. This false “faith works” controversy was only brought forth in any real capacity with arrival of the Protestant rebellion. Likewise we see no clash between man’s freewill and God’s sovereignty. Man is only saved by the grace of God, and yes, God approaches man first through no work or merit of his own. Yet God grants man in a mysterious way to exercise his freewill in accepting and struggling to accept God and the transformation He seeks to bestow upon him. (Philippians 2:12–13) Again, the true Christian accepts this mystery of God and sees them as being part of the same reality, while the heretic seeks to divide these two realities as he seeks to divide the Body of Christ.

The true Christian seeks and is given transformation in his or her life by the grace of God. God did not come to us merely to cover our sins, He came to radically eradicate the sin of man and give man a portion of the divine kingdom. As the Scripture say, Christ came to change the old man into a new man. We do not pour the new wine into old wineskins. This idea of God’s grace merely covering the old man was never taught by the Church Fathers. The change of man was not viewed to be a symbolic change, just as they did not view Christ becoming present on the altar as being symbolic. They viewed these as a stark realities which transformed their lives in a very tangible way. This change happens through believing what Christ teaches us through His Church, which leads us to participate in the divine life of the Church, in her sacraments, in her liturgical life, and in our life of prayer and penance.

If we read some of the ancient fathers we see this living theology cemented in their lives. Notice, they were not theologians who sat behind desks and wrote long theological treatises. They were quoted or wrote themselves out of an authentic life in Christ. They knew full well that the true theologians were the ones who lived the true spiritual life, which transformed them to become like Christ. One’s mere education obtained by merely reading books or studying scholarly sources did not constitute one’s ability to be a true theologian. Likewise they did not view just going to liturgy on Sunday as being enough to attain salvation. They understood that what we received in the Sacraments must be cultivated with diligence outside the walls of the church in their private lives. If we view the climate today in the Catholic Church, this seems to be the key that is often missed.

Converts to the Catholic Church often write books on apologetics and their stories of conversion to the Catholic Church on an intellectual level. They write and talk about how and why the Catholic Church is the true Church, which can be of some benefit to people. Yet most never engage in truly helping anyone to become transformed and attain salvation once they come to the Church. Many remain stuck in the Church’s externals and never find the pearl of great price that lies at the center of it all. Many so often wonder why they go to confession so may times and are never changed. They go to Mass weekly and go to confession frequently but so many never spend any significant time in prayer and penance at home. They do not practice the virtues of silence, penance and other aspects of the spiritual life. Hence this true transformation sometimes never takes place. This being said, do not take me in a negative way here. Let us be patient in our transformational journey and let us not be discouraged when we fall. We must continue on to examine Christ and our lives more thoroughly. We should read the Scriptures, the Church Father, and then not stop there for mere knowledge of what they believed, but put it into practice in a very real and tangible way. As we slowly but surely spend more time prayer, penance and the practice of the virtues we will cultivate that which is given to us within the walls of the church in her sacraments. Deification, our transformation in Christ is not an abstraction, it is not a figurative idea, it is not something that we read about on paper. It must be a reality for all Christians of the true faith.

Let us now turn to the Holy Fathers for a word to enrich our souls.

Saint Nilus of Sinai tells us that, "It is impossible for a believer to be saved, or to receive remission of sins and be admitted to the kingdom of heaven, unless in fear, faith and love he receives communion of the pure Mysteries of the Body and blood of Christ."

As we receive these gifts of grace in our churches the great St. Chrysostom tells us that we must pray. "Do not estrange your heart from God, but abide in Him and always guard your heart by remembering our Lord Jesus Christ, until the name of the Lord becomes rooted in the heart and it ceases to think of anything else. may Christ be glorified in you... Every man when praying converses with God. Each of us understands how great a thing it is, being man, to converse with God; but I doubt if anyone can express this honor in words, for it is higher than even the station of angels... Prayer is a doing common to both angels and men; and no wall divides the two kinds of being in this doing. Prayer separates you from those who lack the Word and unites you with the angels. A man who strives all his life to practice praying and serving God, speedily becomes akin to angels in life, honor, estate, wisdom and understanding...Prayer is the cause of salvation, the source of immortality, the indestructible wall of the Church, the unassailable fortress, which terrifies the demons and protects us in the work of righteousness... Prayer is a great weapon, a great protection.”

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Noise of the Internet

It has been quite awhile since I have posted on this blog. I never intended to go so long without a post. I moved into my new home at the end of July and I chose not to have high speed internet connected when I moved. It turns out that this is one of the best things that has happened to me in recent years. I know it probably sounds strange that I have used the word "noise" to describe the internet, but after not having it for awhile, it seems to be a good description. There have been several benefits to not spending hours surfing around the internet. For starters I spend much more time praying than I ever have. Instead of snooping around the internet to see what everyone is saying or doing, I am able to focus on my own spiritual life, which as it turns out, needs a ton of work! Spending more time in prayer is essential to living an authentic Christian life. Someone once said, "If you pray a great deal you have a great chance of receiving eternal salvation, if you pray a little you have little chance, and if you pray not, you have no chance." Spending more time praying has allowed me to truly reflect on how I live, or do not live the spiritual life. As a result God has shown me where the problems are. By avoiding hours snooping, reading the news, watching YouTube, or shopping on the Net, I have received an immense blessing from God.

The second great benefit is that I now read much more than I used to. I have been engaged in several books on the Desert Fathers, and have been trying to implement many of their time tested strategies to come closer to God. As a result, I seem to now care little of what goes on in the crazy world of heretics, charlatans and apostates that seem to lurk around every bend of the internet. The Mark Shea's of the world are now of little concern to me. I find myself more at peace, although it has been a bit of a rough ride at the house! One project has turned into many, many projects, and there have been a ton of things wrong in the house that I did not know about. It seems that me and the house have a ton in common! Between the troubles with the house, and an intense hard look at my spiritual life, I have certainly been tested. And that has been a good thing. 

The third benefit of not having the high speed internet at my home is that I sleep more! I used to spend hours looking things up late at night, not getting to bed until all hours. Now after I pray and read a bit, when I am tired I turn out the lights and go to bed. What a revelation! I have found other ways of using the internet when I need it. I go to a coffee shop or a cafe for breakfast and I use the internet to download spiritual talks or to look things up briefly. Aside from that, I am able to check my email through my work computer. So all in all, getting rid of the high speed internet has been a great blessing from God! I still intend to post here every so often, when I have something useful to say. Otherwise I am content to spend more time reading and in prayer. May God bless and keep you!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Disconnecting From the Internet

I am currently in the process of moving to into my new house in Sarasota. After some consideration, I have decided not to get high speed internet, or cable television. There are a few reasons why I chose not to purchase these services.

1. The internet is a time killer. You can get sidetracked on to so many sites, that you waste hours that can be spent doing more productive things. One site leads to another, and to another, and another..
2. The internet is an easy portal for spending money. One trip to Amazon can cost me not only hours of time looking at books, but it also costs me money. At this point in time I have several thousand books. I know because I am in the process of moving them myself! A priest once gave me a bunch of his books from his old seminary days. I asked him why he wanted to get rid of them. He told me that once I move a couple of times, I will understand. I am beginning to see his point!
3. The internet is a source of temptation. No matter how holy you are, there is always the lure of indecent images on the internet. They are everywhere now including the advertisements, even on Facebook. I was talking to friend of mine recently and he won't let his kids on Facebook anymore because of the filth that shows up on there. This point is simple, no internet, less temptation.
3. Cable TV costs too much for what you get. I only watch TV maybe once a week for an hour or so, or I have it on for background noise. Either way I am not getting my money's worth.
4. Cable TV has nothing on worth watching. Yes I like the Military Channel, The History Channel, Fox News and EWTN on occasion, but besides that there isn't much worth watching. It can also be a time killer channel changing looking for something when I am bored.
5. Time spent praying, reading and writing is time that is largely invested wisely, while surfing around on the internet shopping, or watching TV, etc, is time largely wasted.

There are some disadvantages to not having high speed internet. For one I will not be putting up any audio or video loads any longer on the Catholic Champion podcast. At least this will be the case for the foreseeable future. I will however keep the podcast online so that people can continue to listen to the sermons and talks that are on currently available there.

Although I will not have high speed internet, I will have limited access to the net to pay bills, post up an article on this blog, or look up some info I need. With the technology now on the smart phones, I can easily check and send emails, so I won't be hindered so much there. As far as TV goes, I have a pretty good collection of DVDs and Blu-Rays to watch, and that is enough to keep me entertained. I hope that by foregoing these two services I will spend my time more wisely, allowing me to pray more, read more, and write more. Hopefully I will be able to get back posting here after I finish my move. I hope to be done by Sunday!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Prayer. A Key to Holding Fast To That Which Is Good

How often we converse with God is an extremely important component to being a Christian. It is crucial in being able to hold fast to the true faith, and seek that which is good. When I use the term Christian of course, I am assuming that the term be understood to mean Catholicism. It is unfortunate that many false sects have hijacked the name of 'Christian.' Today's Gospel reading reflects this crucial issue, being that Our Lord told us to be on guard against false prophets. (Matt. 7:15-21) While we as Christians of the true faith live within the Church and enjoy the many graces we receive from the Sacraments, our spiritual lives do not go on vacation when we leave the doors of the Church. We carry Christ with us, and we keep Him in our minds and in our hearts, leading us into prayer throughout the day. Many Catholics have fallen away from the Church and have lost a sense for what is good because they did not seek God in prayer. They have either quit praying altogether or they have fallen victim to false preachers and heretics, putting their souls in jeopardy. Sadly, by abandoning prayer which is rooted in the Catholic faith, they extinguished the spirit of God within them, and as a result they have abandoned the true faith.

The early Fathers of the Church understood what Saint Paul said in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, in a very literal way. "Always rejoice. Pray without ceasing. In all things give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you all. Extinguish not the spirit. Despise not prophecies. But prove all things; hold fast that which is good." It is with this thought that many of them entered into the desert to live lives of prayer and penance. They sought to pray without ceasing, realizing that this was a key component to keeping the spirit of God within them, and holding to that which is good. The true Christian is one that has Christ at the center of their lives. Prayer must not be neglected. The story of one of the great early monastics, Saint Pachomius illustrates my point. The angel when giving the rules of monasticism to St. Pachomius said to him: "... He laid down that in the course of the day they should make twelve prayers, and at the lamp-lighting time twelve, and in the nightly vigils twelve, and at the ninth hour three. When the multitude goes to eat, he laid down that a psalm should be sung before each prayer. Pachomius objected to the angel that the prayers were too few ..." 

Although it would seem that many of us are unable to attain the lofty prayer schedule of Saint Pachomius, we are able to incorporate his zeal for prayer into our lives in other ways. We can begin our day with prayer, and we can continue to converse with God throughout the day as we go about our business, and we can close our day in reflection and prayer. We do not have to have long formal prayers throughout the day, although when we can do so it is good. But what is important is to keep God in our thoughts and converse with Him as we go about our day, realizing that without Him we can seek nothing that is good. When the great monastic Abba Macarius was asked, 'How should one pray?' The old man said 'There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hands and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict grows fiercer say, "Lord, help!" He knows very well what we need and he shews us his mercy.' The 'Jesus Prayer' "Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner" is a great prayer to say throughout the day.

When we approach important tasks during our day, we can seek God's help. It is also right that we thank Him for everything that he has given us in our lives. God is not just an errand boy that we call upon to get material things that we want. We pray first off to give Him glory, to seek His will, to give Him thanks, and petition Him only for things that are good for us and our relationship with Him. Do we seek God's council when we make important decisions in our lives, or do we go off doing our own thing only to come crawling to God after we realize we have made a bad choice? I can think of this scenario too many times in my life. One of the great desert Fathers once rightly said, 'The beginning of evil is heedlessness.' Can any of us hold fast to that which is good without prayer? Saint Paul tells us that we cannot. It is only when we keep Christ in our minds and in our hearts daily, engaged in unceasing prayer, that we can seek His will. It is only then that we can become more holy, and ultimately hold fast to that which is good.

Whether you are in church, or in your house, or in the country; whether you are guarding sheep, or constructing buildings, or present at drinking parties, do not stop praying. When you are able, bend your knees, when you cannot, make intercession in your mind, ‘at evening and at morning and at midday’. If prayer precedes your work and if, when you rise from your bed, your first movements are accompanied by prayer, sin can find no entrance to attack your soul. ~ St. Ephraim The Syrian

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Cool Movie on Quebec City's Laval Seminary

Check out the movie 'Walls of Memory' made in 1964, which celebrates the great Laval Seminary in Quebec City. Just one year later in 1965 the Quiet Revolution would begin, which would eventually put an end to such things. You can see in the film that in 1964 the classrooms were full of young men. Now sadly, the seminary has been converted to an architectural college. There is also a cool movie below this one, which is in French, but it is well worth watching. It depicts how vibrant the convents in Quebec were before the great abandonment of Catholicism after the Second Vatican Council.

Here are some pictures I took of the once upon a time seminary. It is interesting and quite haunting to see in the film how these areas were so full of life back then with seminarians. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part IV (St. Anne de Beaupre)

Pilgrimage to Quebec- Part IV (St. Anne de Beaupre)

St. Anne de Beaupre.

One of the highlights of my pilgrimage to Quebec was the shrine of St. Anne de Beaupre. Located about 20 miles outside of Quebec City to the east. It has been a pilgrimage site for Catholics for about 350 years now! There has been a church named after St. Anne there ever since sailors were rescued by her intercession. There have been many miracles attributed to St. Anne’s intercession, and many have left their crutches behind in the monstrous basilica attesting to their miraculous healing. In fact, even Protestant skeptics have investigated such claims and have come away believers! St. Anne has a huge following in Quebec, and I saw a statue of her in every church that I visited between Montreal and Quebec City. We don’t see nearly as much attention to her here in the States, perhaps we should change that.

One of the many embossed brass plates that cover the front doors.

After getting into Quebec City in the evening after visiting the Basilica of Notre Dame du Cap, I ate some dinner in the historic area of Quebec City. Bright and early the next morning I headed off to the Basilica of St. Anne de Beaupre. The basilica steeples can be seen from quite a distance out, and the structure towers next to the highway running from Quebec City to the little town of St. Anne de Beaupre. The basilica that stands there now replaced a smaller one which burned in 1922. The current church was begun in 1923 and finally completed in 1976. It is in my opinion some of the best of modern church architecture, built in a Romanesque style. I spent a majority of the day at the basilica. I went to Mass in the morning and then spent the rest of the meandering around, spending time in prayer, and taking pictures of almost every square inch of the splendid structure. The mosaics of the life of St. Anne which cover the entire ceiling are radiant, as is the statue of her located to the left of the sanctuary to which pilgrims flock to, to make their needs known. There are several side altars going around the main sanctuary that are quite spectacular. The lower chapel is also very nice, and there are some wonderful paintings on the walls, one my favorites being St. Ambrose and St. Augustine.
The mosaics adorning the ceiling of St. Anne de Beaupre
One of the side altars, dedicated to St. Alphonsus Liguori.

Located under the church next to the lower chapel there is the body of Venerable Father Alfred Pampalon. I had not heard of this great friend in heaven before my visit. He has been known to help those dealing with addictions of every kind. You can visit his tomb and pray before his marble casket and ask him for his intercession as many have done before. In his youth Father Pampalon used to make a pilgrimage to the shrine on foot as well as by boat. I picked up his biography in the gift shop of the museum, which is located right next to the basilica. The museum is also well worth seeing and it covers the history of St. Ann de Beaupre as well as some of the history of Catholicism in Quebec. Like the other shrines there is also a historic chapel on the hill next to the main basilica, but it was closed when I was there along with the replica of the Scala Sancta next to it, because of work being done on the embankments.

The tomb of the Venerable Father Alfred Pampalon
Painting of St. Ambrose and St. Augustine in the lower chapel

On the other side of the lower chapel there is a Blessed Sacrament chapel, where you can spend time in prayer with Our Lord. After you’ve spent time in prayer, there is also a gift shop in the back of the basilica which has nice statues, rosaries, and other gifts. The statues are reasonably priced, but I found a great place in Quebec City that has hand painted statues at incredible prices. So I was glad I did not buy one there. I will cover that in another post! All in all, I arrived at the chapel around 8:30 in the morning and did not leave after 5PM or so. It was an all day event, and well worth the time I spent there. If you are ever visiting Quebec City do not miss out an incredible opportunity to visit St. Anne de Beaupre.

The splendid capitals and mosaics.
The ever radiant St. Anne in the main basilica.
Side altar containing the relics of St. Anne
What you see when you walk through the doors.
What a cool statue of St. Michael.
Every inch of the basilica is worth a picture.
Saint Anne, pray for us!