Iconography is the oldest tradition of Christian sacred art, embodying the work of thousands of iconographers, many of whom were themselves saints.
Unlike other approaches to painting, the creation of an icon does not begin in the artist’s imagination. Rather, the iconographer’s first work is to study how the subject at hand has been traditionally depicted in this rich artistic tradition.
Through the centuries, many monks and cloistered religious, especially in the Eastern tradition, would write icons which serves as an intense form of prayer. Much prayer and fasting goes into creating this sacred art.
Here is an amazing link to a video of how the icon “O Holy Night” was conceived and painted, and below that a step by step walkthrough of the stages in the creation of an icon, in this case of St. John the Baptist.
For more information on how icons are written, visit here.
“What is beauty?” and “In our life, what strikes you as beautiful?” These were the questions proposed by the Mother Abbess to the youngest members of the Poor Clare community in Roswell, New Mexico, for a special video presentation.
Wanting to benefit from the insights of all, they in turn invited each of the sisters to reflect upon the nature of beauty and the expressions of the beautiful found within our monastic enclosure. “God is Beauty,” all agreed, “and He both reveals and conceals that beauty in the glimpses of Himself that we are blessed to perceive this side of heaven.” And, in a particular way, “Beauty is Jesus Christ.”
After the expression of these most essential realities of their Poor Clare life, a pattern emerged in the wide range of responses which allowed the nuns to categorize insights and suggested images under the headings of:
– Beauty in the Liturgy
– Beauty in their Customs – Becoming Whole
– Beauty Perceived by the Senses
– Beauty in their Bridal Covenant with Jesus
Then began a two-month long enterprise of translating a little portion of those large possibilities expressive of beauty into a concrete form genuinely reflective of their Poor Clare life. Evening recreations in the novitiate were often spent gathered around the common room table, discussing, planning, selecting.
A small video camera donated by the younger old sister of their postulant was the first piece of equipment, supplemented by the seven and a half minutes of video-capacity on the community’s camera, with both together eventually producing hundreds of video and sound clips of their daily life and observance. An adjustable music stand (already doubling as the Mass lectern) was called into service as a make-shift tripod. And, finally, a bargain sale purchase by one of their families at an eBay store enhanced the capacities of a donated laptop to include a suitable movie-making program, a critical component for coalescing the final selection of 253 pieces of image and sound into one united whole.
Filming and editing, stabilizing and refining, each of the novitiate members and their mistress contributed according to their particular areas of proficiency, with all of them coming together on a daily basis for consensus as they worked through each category for presentation. The video in itself is one of the most beautiful aspects of their shared vocation – that every one of the sisters and all of them together were needed to create, maintain and foster beauty in their Poor Clare life.
To view the video click here.
The Contemplatives of Saint Joseph (COSJ), a Catholic religious institute of consecrated men, was founded recently within the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The priests and brothers of the COSJ lead a life of deep contemplative prayer and serve in an active apostolate within the Archdiocese of San Francisco and surrounding Bay Area dioceses. They are a Public Clerical Association of the Christian Faithful as decreed by Most Rev. Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco.
The priests and brothers, immersing themselves in contemplative prayer, desire to enter into the kingdom of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. With St. Joseph, they bear about them a prayerful interior silence which aids their daily contemplative and intercessory prayer, as well as helping them to bring the Light of God’s love into the active apostolate.
Discerning that it is God who chose them to join the Contemplatives of Saint Joseph, the priests and brothers have the faith and confidence to bear witness to their calling as contemplative souls within the modern world.
The priests and brothers spend significant part of each day in contemplative spiritual practice. This intense spiritual lifestyle prepares them to become proficient in matters dealing with their active apostolate.
Why they are committed to lives of deep prayer and contemplation and expressed in an active apostolate and to the life of the Church is stated beautifully and profoundly by Pope Paul VI: “The work of contemplation overflows, benefiting the entire Church. The Church needs this work of contemplation that it may protect its life and increase its growth. The Church is in dire need of those who excel in the interior life and are intent upon recollecting themselves in God and be aflame, to their innermost being, with love for heavenly things. If such persons are lacking, if their lives are withered and weak, it necessarily follows that the strength of the whole Mystical Body of Christ is diminished. Consequently, serious damage would be inflicted on the knowledge of divine realities, theology, sacred preaching, the apostolate, and all the Christian life of the faithful” [Pope Paul VI, to the Cistercians, December 8, 1968].
The Contemplatives of Saint Joseph believe the contemplative life belongs not to himself alone, but to the life and holiness of the whole Church. The Church’s life becomes fuller because the COSJ join themselves by the gift of their whole lives to Christ in prayer and in firmly following the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Within the monastery setting, members center their lives on full immersion into the Eucharist, cultivating the silence conducive to hearing the Word of God in the depths of their hearts. Their rhythm of prayer includes the Divine Office, interior prayer, study and practice of Catholic contemplative spirituality, intercessory prayer, the Jesus prayer, Lectio Divina with Sacred Scripture, filial devotion to Mary the Holy Mother of God, and adoration prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
In addition to daily Eucharist, the COSJ regularly hold a Chapter meeting to discuss monastery business and offer general spiritual direction. They have community meals; time is scheduled for manual, intellectual, and spiritual work. They pray together several times each day and their priests are able to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite, as well as the Byzantine-rite Divine Liturgy.
The Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of St. Jude in Marbury, Alabama, withdraw from the world to be at the heart of the Church. Their primary mission as cloistered nuns is to pray for the salvation of souls and for the preaching mission of Dominican friars.
The nuns strive to offer a sacrifice of praise to God especially through the solemn celebration of the Liturgy, chanted in Latin and English, and to be of “one mind and heart in the Lord” in living the monastic observances of common life, the vows, and the study of sacred truth. They also have the privilege of Eucharistic Adoration and Rosary, forming a Guard of Honor for Our Lady.
In December a friend of the monastery, Fr. Benedict Croell, O.P. stopped by the convent on one of his road trips as Vocation Director for the St. Joseph Province of Dominican Friars. While visiting with the sisters, he took a video (through the grille!) of Sr. Mary Jordan telling her vocation story. Father Benedict was one of the first Dominicans Sister met, back when she was in high school youth group at the Dominican parish in Cincinnati.
Historically a good number of the nuns at the Monastery of St. Jude chose a Dominican vocation because of the witness and guidance of the Dominican friars–a beautiful example of the complementarity of the different vocations within the Dominican Order. The sisters whom God led here by other ways come to cherish this relationship as well. One friar even told us that the presence and support of the nuns was a positive influence in his choosing a Dominican vocation.
The most shining example of the mutual support of the Dominican friars and nuns is the correspondence and friendship between Blessed Jordan of Saxony, the second Master General of the Order, and Blessed Diana, the young lady who became the founding member of the monastery of Dominican Nuns in Bologna. (Sister Mary Jordan, the sister in the new vocation video, took Blessed Jordan as her patron.)
To view the video click here.
Lent at Ephesus is a seasonal recording of a compilation of chants and hymns of glory and redemption.
The album will be released Feb. 11. It features 23 tracks, including “O Sacred Head Surrounded,” made famous by Bach’s oratorios; “All Glory Laud and Honor”; the well-known “Adoramus Te Christe”; the entrancing “Improperia” from the liturgy of Good Friday; and three original pieces.
“In what continues to be an incredible expression of Truth through Beauty, the Benedictines of Mary have outdone themselves with this angelic collection of their monastic Lenten songs found in Lent at Ephesus,” said Monica Fitzgibbons, cofounder of De Montfort Music. “To encounter this music is to be invited and included in a very special expression of love from the depths of the human soul as they devote each breathtaking and heartfelt note to their Divine Spouse. With a perfect transcendent purity, The Benedictines of Mary lift us through a heavenly journey of the ultimate expression of His love and mercy for mankind for the season of Lent. We are incredibly grateful that the Sisters have agreed to share Lent at Ephesus with the world!”
The Missouri-based contemplative nuns were named Billboard magazine’s Classical Traditional Artist 2012 and 2013. It’s the first order of nuns to ever win an award in the history of Billboard magazine. The Sisters were recognized for their two bestselling albums, Angels and Saints at Ephesus, which spent 13 consecutive weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Classical Traditional Music chart, and Advent at Ephesus, which spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the same chart.
Lent at Ephesus was produced by Grammy Award-winning classical producer Blanton Alspaugh, who said of his experience recording the Sisters: “Their singing has a very pure and yet sophisticated style. It certainly earns its place in the international arena of classical music. Their talent is as remarkable as their sense of charity. To record them at their priory was one of the highlights of my career.”
The album features a 12-page booklet with original artwork and all the lyrics in English (Latin songs are translated in English, as well). The booklet also will be available digitally with the album on iTunes.
In silence and solitude, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration of Our Lady of Solitude Monastery spend their life at the Feet of Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist. As contemplative nuns, their main work is adoration of their Beloved and prayerful intercession for the Church and the world at large.
Being a part of the Diocese of Phoenix, the nuns especially pray for the needs of Bishop Thomas Olmsted and the local Church. They are dedicated, as well, to intercession for all priests.
Consecrated in 2010, Our Lady of Solitude Chapel is open to the public for daily Mass and Eucharistic Adoration. It has been a work in progress, relying on Divine Provident manifested through the generosity of others to complete this beautiful place of prayer and worship.
On October 11, 2013, all of the remaining saint stained glass windows were installed in the chapel. Grateful to God and all those who made it possible, the nuns wish to invite everyone to take the trek to Tonopah, Arizona, to see them in person! It is quite a glorious sight.
The following windows were recently installed: St. Agnes of Assisi, St. Junipero Serra, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Teresa Benedicta (Edith Stein), St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Gianna Beretta Molla, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bl. Charles de Foucauld, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and Bl. (soon to be St.) John Paul II.
To see a video of the installation of the new windows click here.
Sometimes one wonders what cloistered nuns and monks do all day. Certainly they spent much time in silence and solitude contemplating eternal truths and the wonders of God. Yet they also offer their talents and the fruit of their prayer for the salvation of souls and the spread of the Gospel.
Recently one of the members of the Maronite Monks of Adoration in Petersham, Mass., has teamed up with Catholic Answers to produce an exciting and innovative way to bring the Catholic faith to young people.
“Amadeus” is a contemplative monk in Massachusetts. Since having entered the cloister in 2003, he lives a life of prayer, adoration, work, and study. Although he has had experience with comic strips in his past, he was used his artistic gifts to produce a full length graphic novel, The Truth Is Out There.
A totally new kind of Catholic resource for apologetics and evangelization, The Truth Is Out There combines the visual excitement and quirky humor of graphic novels with solid popular philosophy and theology. The result is a book in which everyone from teens to adults can find accessible answers to questions about God, the soul, true happiness, and much more—and have fun doing it!
In the graphic novel the main characters, Brendan and Erc, are just your average interplanetary mailmen trying to find their way in the galaxy. But one day, while piloting cargo through the far reaches of space, they suddenly find themselves on a journey they didn’t expect: a journey to the truth.
And because Brendan and Erc start their journey at the very beginning, readers don’t have to be Catholic—or possess any kind of faith—to appreciate the thoughtful ideas and arguments they’ll encounter. If you just have an open mind (and a sense of adventure) you will come away from these pages with a clearer sense of life’s purpose, and a better understanding of the reasons for believing in God, Jesus, and the Church. And if you’re already a believer, The Truth Is Out There will deepen your knowledge of the Faith and sharpen your skills at defending it.
To learn more about this innovative resource or to sample some of its pages visit here.
Please pray for this project and for “Amadeus” who is working on his second graphic novel and will soon be ordained to the sacred priesthood.
To receive a calling can be an unsettling concept. Our first impulse may be to ignore the calling if it puts us outside of our comfort zone. Or perhaps we may hide or run, rather than responding to it. Fear can be crippling. But what if the calling is from Love itself? We may remain uncertain, but our response is no longer one of fear. Ultimately, we are compelled to respond in love and trust.
This is how the Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia view their calling – they have come to the religious life because of the calling of Jesus, who is Love incarnate. Thus, they are here for one reason: for love alone. Jesus desires that we seek his company, and waits for our response. The nuns stress that the call to religious life can hardly be considered an achievement of theirs, for none of them could have achieved it without the grace of God. The nuns firmly believe it is Christ who calls them, not the other way around!
As one of the Carmelites describes it, they are led by an interior pull. While it may be unclear initially, this pull becomes a conviction for each woman to live the life of a Carmelite Nun. The vocation that each of them receives is a gift, and the call is a tremendous honor. Called to a life of austerity, comtemplative prayer, and enclosure, the calling is one embraced with unspeakable joy.
The Discalced Carmelite Nuns of Philadelphia recently launched their first website, www.discalcedcarmelitesphila.org, from which this article was inspired. Be sure to watch the three new videos posted there and learn more about this religious community. You can also see their video “The Call” on their YouTube channel.
A former fashion and beauty photographer has released a 90-minute documentary on the life of Benedictine contemplatives.
“Tyburn Convent Gloria Deo” brings viewers within the cloisters of the order’s nine monasteries, starting with the motherhouse in England, and ranging through Oceania and South America.
The order was established in 1903 near Marble Arch, London. It is thus at the site where dozens of English martyrs were killed during the Protestant Reformation.
Michael Luke Davies created the work. He and Mother Xavier McMonagle, the mother-general of the Tyburn Nuns, presented the documentary last Thursday.
“I was moved to tears many times by the beauty of what I was filming,” Davies said. “For me, it exceeded my expectations of what I could film. It was an incredible experience I shall never forget for the rest of my life. The things I have seen and the moments I have shared with these beautiful religious people I will keep with me forever.”
The Tyburn Nuns, Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre are an order of cloistered contemplative Benedictine nuns. The aim of the congregation is to glorify the Most Blessed Trinity, finding practical expression in daily Mass, the choral celebration of the Divine Office, perpetual adoration, and in daily prayer for the Holy Father, the Church, the country and for the entire human family.
As part of Benedict XVI’s pastoral visit to the Calabria Region of Italy this month, he will visit the famous Carthusian monastery of San Bruno. The Pope will celebrate vespers and deliver a homily in the church of the Carthusian monastery of Serra San Bruno, after which he will meet the monastic community and visit a cell and the infirmary of the monastery.
Among the monastic religious families, Carthusians live in greater solitude. The monks and the nuns of the Order, while living separately in their own monasteries, share the same rule and follow a unique model in the person of their founder, Saint Bruno (c. 1030–1101).
The Carthusian monk does not live alone, as the monastery is a community. Nevertheless, he will pass the greater part of his life in his cell where he prays, works, takes his meals, and sleeps. During the course of the week, he only leaves three times a days for the Liturgy of the Hours and communal Mass: in the middle of the night, the Night Office, the morning Eucharist and Vespers towards the night.
The Carthusian can be a cloistered monk or a brother, two different ways of living the same vocation of solitude. This solitude is not lived for its own sake, but as a privileged means of attaining intimacy with God.