Sunday, April 14, 2013

Benedictine Sisters Release New CD

The Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles will have their new cd out in a couple of weeks. I will have have to order a copy!

Recommended Books On Iconography

Five Recommended Books On Iconography

For those interested in the history, theology and technique of iconography, I have put together a list of my favorite books on the subject. Where there is more info I have included a website link. All of them can be found on Amazon for purchase. I have kept the book list small and concise, to my five essentials. There are many good books on the sacred image, but these are in my opinion the best ones to begin with, and if you purchase all five, there is not too much overlap in information. Together they will give you a solid historical, theological and technical foundation on the subject. The first part of the list are books, and the second list are some free online articles and websites that I recommend which accompany the books nicely. 


1. Hart, Aidan. Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting. Leominster: Gracewing, 2011. Print.

This is a very nice book. It is a large hardback put together very well and has a ton of full color illustrations. While it does cover some brief history of the icon, it goes into great detail on how to write an icon. From the making of the board, to the gesso, all the way to finishing it, it takes you along step by step. Although it is a bit on the expensive side, if you want to delve into icon painting, it is worth the money. More info found here.

2. John, and David Anderson. On the Divine Images: Three Apologies against Those Who Attack the Divine Images. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary, 1980. Print.

This book contains three written defenses of the Church's use of sacred images, in which all three are from Saint John of Damascus. This should belong on every Catholic's bookshelf. If you dig you can also probably find them all on the internet as well. 

3. Ouspensky, Leonide, and Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary, 1982. Print.

The Meaning of icons is a great book for those who may want to just have a nice background on iconography as a whole. It covers the basic history, types of icons and their meanings and symbolism. It is an oversized glossy paperback with nice full page illustrations throughout. This is a great book to supplement Hart's book if you are getting into iconography and want to understand more history and the meaning of icons. 

4. Belting, Hans. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1994. Print.

Likeness and Presence is a history book, pure and simple. If you want the complete history of Christian art and then some, this is it. It is over 600 pages. I really recommend this book for Catholics because it does cover the icon in the Western tradition as well, which most iconography books tend to overlook because they are usually written by Orthodox theologians. There are also many black and white illustrations that accompany the text as well. If you like history, this one's for you. More info found here.

5. "A History of Icon Painting [Hardcover]." A History of Icon Painting: L. Evseyeva: 9780955008900: Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

The final recommendation is a feast for the eyes. The entire book is filled with icons from the various traditions of the East along with explanations of them. If you are going to start painting icons, this will give you hundreds of examples from the many traditions of iconography. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristeros

If you have not seen the movie yet, you really should. It is great on blu-ray.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Saint Nicholas Punches the Heretic Arius

This is a great video recounting the story of St. Nicholas punching out the heretic Arius. Very cool.

The Doom and Gloom Gang Vs The Balloon and Sunshine Gang

The Doom and Gloom Gang Vs The Balloon and Sunshine Gang
Matthew J. Bellisario 2013

In the Catholic world today we have seen the emergence of two polar opposite “gangs” emerge. This is most readily observed on the internet where you have those who see a doomsday scenario behind every event, or those who think that everything is perfect, where everything comes in a nice neat box with a bow on top. Few are those who view things in a healthy balanced manner, where the bad is recognized and yet the good is also given is due place. 

Since there has been so much material written recently on the election of Pope Francis, it is a perfect topic of discussion for further explanation. There are generally two opposing camps on the internet concerning our new Holy Father. We have the extreme “traditional” side who views everything Pope Francis has done thus far as an utter catastrophe. His liturgical behavior has been the favorite point of attack for the Doom gang. On the other side of the street we have the Sunshine gang, where everything that this Pope has done has been nothing short of miraculous. For them Saint Francis of Assisi has been resurrected from the dead and become pope. The truth however lies somewhere in between the Doom gang and the Sunshine gang. 

As Catholics we should not join in the ranks of either of these “gangs.” Rather we should be in the “Reality and Prudence” guild. That is, to be of the mindset that we see the truth and recognize it for what it is, and deal with it according to our Catholic faith. If we look at the Doom and Gloomers, yes they see a particular truth regarding the liturgical laxity of Pope Francis, but they get absorbed into only focusing on this reality. They fail to see any good that will come about by other things Pope Francis is doing. For example, they fail to see the positive effects that he is having on those with whom he has taken a personal interest in. He has fearlessly gone out to welcome and meet the “average joe” at Saint Peters. No bullet proof car, etc. He has no fear of walking up to a crippled stranger in the crowd of Saint Peters and giving him a blessing, with little to no regard for himself. I know, to most “traditionalists” this is nothing more than touchy-feely nonsense. Yet, Christ Himself did this very same thing. The fact is, these types of acts by the Pope will convert people to the Church. Yet, the Doom gang has become so fixated on his liturgical laxity that they fall into a negative mindset, which also equates to a superficial faith. Rather than observe and move on, everything the Pope does now falls under their view of his liturgical laxity. No matter what he does he cannot do anything right in their mind. This is a travesty. 

Now we look at the balloon brandishing Sunshine gang’s opposite naive view, which makes any excuse it can to justify everything the Pope does, no matter how detrimental it may be to the faithful. For example, it is a fact that Pope Francis has taken the liturgical reverence a step down from that of Pope Benedict XVI. In fact, it is not a stretch to say that he looks rather sloppy at times during the Mass. What is the deal with one hand over the chalice? Why not follow the rubrics, rather than making things up on the fly? Why does he equate “poor in spirit” to wearing horrible looking vestments, etc? Obviously we cannot know the intentions of the Holy Father, and so we must be careful when we voice our concerns. The Sunshine gang however equates this obvious change in liturgical praxis as being a great thing. He is Saint Francis reincarnate, period. For them, he can do no wrong. The Sunshine gang is so insecure in their faith that they never dare to observe the reality that not everything with this pope or the Church is perfect. That would indeed upset their superficial faith. They would rather live in a fantasy world where earth has now become heaven. They refuse to realize that we live in a foreign land here on earth, where Satan constantly wages war on the Church, and those in it. 

How do we avoid the errors of these two rival gangs on opposite sides the street, constantly hurling insults back and forth akin to the opening scene of ‘The Gangs of New York?’ It is critical to observe reality as it is and deal with it as the Church and its Saints teach us to do, which is with the virtue of prudence. When we see the Holy Father at times exhibiting the characteristics what we consider to be a loose canon, we may charitably recognize that his actions are not helpful to our faith, and we pray for him. We are not bound to imitate everything he does. Just because Pope Francis has little regard for wearing beautiful vestments does not mean we have to agree with him. We must live our faith in Christ, receiving the Sacraments and spending time in prayer. Did the Saints during times of great trials spend all of their time complaining about it? No, they spent most of the time in prayer, and when they had a valid opportunity to actually do something positive, they did it in the virtue of prudence. Even the Saints in their greatest times of trial were often joyful and even humorous. They thanked God for the opportunity to suffer for Him. No, they were not usually bitter as many of those on the internet today often are. Many Catholics today on the internet are either bitter, prideful or arrogant, or all of the above. This is very clear with many of the apologists and bloggers on the internet. How they all became experts on the new Holy Father overnight is a mystery to me. 

On the other side of the coin, the Saints did not pretend that a dumpster full of rubbish was a treasure chest of gold. They saw things for what they were and they lived their Catholic faith recognizing both the good and the bad, and yet remained in joy and peace in Christ. They realized that in the end they were going to be judged by what they did, not by what others have done. They refused to let anyone else’s actions be a cause of sin for them. We should have the same attitude. Yes Pope Francis has exhibited what many would call radical behavior since the start of his pontificate. Some of it has been good, some of it hasn’t. Deal with this fact like the Saints dealt with their trials, tribulations and concerns. You or I cannot change how he acts or what he does. Be thankful for the good he does and pray for what we consider to be the negative he does. 

Finally, we should carefully consider whether or not we should even make public remarks about the actions of the Holy Father or others. This is easier said than done, by the way. I know, I have big mouth. For example, it may not be prudent to either criticize or even defend his actions in public, for we may only cause scandal or give our own ill-informed opinions about one thing or another. We run the risk of misleading others. I hope not to do that in any of my future posts here. Remember everything we put on the internet we are going to be held accountable for. That scares me when I go back and see some of the things I posted years ago where I lacked prudence or charity. All of us should strive to act with the virtue of prudence when writing or posting on the internet. When we do give our opinion regarding our observations concerning negative things, we should do so carefully and charitably. Let us not join the ranks of the Gloom and Doomers or the Balloon and Sunshiners. Let us live in the reality of Jesus Christ as he has taught us to do, with the cardinal virtue of prudence.