Thursday, 25 August 2011

Catholic Foundation Stones

Written by Fr John Wilson (Episcopal Vicar for Evangelisation in the Diocese of Leeds) and Fr Andrew Allman (Vocations Director for the Diocese of Lancaster), Catholic Foundation Stones is a basic introduction to the Catholic faith.

It is simple and straightforward and can be used with all kinds of different groups and individuals. For example:

• People who are interested in learning about the Catholic faith
 • People who are interested in becoming Catholics
 • Catholics who wish to deepen their knowledge of the faith
 • Catholics who are returning to the practice of their faith
 • Staff in Catholic schools, both Catholic and non-Catholic, who would benefit from learning more about the faith that underpins where they work

Structured around the four sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and divided into twelve sessions, this book will be useful in many different areas of parish and school catechesis and faith formation.

"I highly recommend this resource for use in Catholic parishes and schools. For anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith, Catholic Foundation Stones is a very accessible and inviting place to begin."(From the Foreword by the Rt Revd Arthur Roche, Bishop of Leeds).

To be published on 15th September, the book will be available from all of our bookshops or online here.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Grail Boat

The Christ Journey ends with a journey, the journey of Joseph of Arimathea with the Grail, to Britain. With him on this small boat, miraculously moved through the waters by a presiding angel, are other friends of Jesus, in particular Mary Magdalene. Yet Tricker’s whole intention is to assure us that the Christ Journey does not end. It continues throughout the centuries in various forms and manners, always alive with the Spirit of Jesus.

He has chosen for this climactic sculpture a five hundred year old piece of English oak which has luminous glow. This is the same image we have seen twice before, brightly in a painting and darkly in a drawing. Now we can walk all around it and see for ourselves the trustfulness and holy determination with which these travellers voyage.

The priestly intensity with which Joseph looks ahead to his unknown destination is especially striking. Tricker feels an added tenderness because the little boat is moving toward England and, of course, Tricker himself is an Englishman. When Pope Benedict XVI made his State Visit to Britain, he made a surprising comment. He said that he sensed in the British people ‘a spiritual hunger’. This is not how the British tend to think of themselves, but clearly the Holy Fathwer picked up something which Tricker himself feels.

In different ways, every image in the Christ Journey expresses that spiritual hunger. Tricker lingers on the events of the Life of Jesus and those of His New Testament followers, and adds examples of future followers, because of this fruitful and beautiful hunger.

Picture © Nigel Noyes

Text and picture are extracts from the book The Christ Journey published by ST PAULS, which can be purchased here.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

St Francis

Tricker has found great spiritual joy and enlightenment in studying St Francis, and with him his dear soul-sister, St Clare. Both saints were children of light, and the format of the stained glass window is especially appropriate.

Even non-Christians often recognise the name of St Francis, who epitomises that gentleness, humility and freedom from material possessions that are inherent to the Christ Journey. He exerts a universal fascination. He was a small man, and he fits neatly into his window, the Umbrian hills rolling behind him. He has turned his back on the securities of the world, indicated by the massive tower on his right. Yet, he was summoned by God ‘to rebuild the church’. Francis took it literally, and a small church arises on his left, but it was a greater Church to which he was really summoned.

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were as material a time as our own, and Francis, like Jesus his Master, preached a way of freedom. As we well know, his awareness of unity of all creation led him to talk to the birds, here clustering around his feet. Perhaps the white dove that he holds to his heart is a silent reminder that there is no love without peace. There is also no love without a willingness to suffer, and Francis was privileged to receive on his body the wounds of Christ, the stigmata. Tricker does not show those wounds. His emphasis is rather on an even greater characteristic of love and that is its awareness of joy. The great gold ball of the sun seems to roll down the hillside, recalling Francis’ hymn to Brother Sun, that great Christian Canticle of Joy.

Picture © Nigel Noyes

Text and picture are extracts from the book The Christ Journey published by ST PAULS, which can be purchased here.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Mary Magdalene

Tricker clearly has a great affection for Mary Magdalene. He portrays her more than any other of the Gospel characters, seeming to find in her human nature at it is meant to be, with an open capacity for God. It is she alone who foresees the Passion, and pours the precious ointment on the head of Jesus.

He explains that she is ‘anointing Him for His burial’, but she is also anointing Him as King and Priest: the Christos. It is she who overcomes her passionate grief after the crucifixion and goes to the tomb to find His body. It is she – and only she – who encounters the Risen Jesus. It is she, then, who has the privilege of being the first ‘apostle’. Apostle means ‘messenger’ and she is the messenger who runs headlong from the garden to announce the Resurrection to the Apostles lost in their grief. She has been called ‘the apostle to the Apostles’. Needless to say, Peter and the disciples did not believe her, but they were to find that Jesus had, indeed, risen and appeared to His beloved Mary Magdalene.

Tricker searches for ways to make visible the beauty and significance of this young woman. Here he has carved her head, from a stone of radiant whiteness. Her hair, long, thick and waving, cascades beside her face. There is probably a reference here to the legend, (one of several legends about Mary Magdalene, all different), that she went to live alone in the desert, leaving behind her all her possessions. As her clothes disintegrated over time, she retained her modesty because she was completely covered by her hair.

Tricker carves a long and slender face, shaped like a holy mandorla. It rises to a peak, and the radiance of the stone, combined with the strangeness of the form, suggest a lighted candle. She burns with the pure light of her closeness to Christ. It is the face of one lost in contemplation, serene in the consciousness in the every abiding presence of her Lord. Materially, she has nothing: spiritually, she has everything. It is a small sculpture, barely two feet high, but it seems majestic.

Picture © Nigel Noyes

Text and picture are extracts from the book The Christ Journey published by ST PAULS, which can be purchased here.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Christ Boy

The Gospels tell us only one story about the boyhood of Jesus, and it is not very often painted. When he was twelve and had been taken by his parents to Jerusalem, Jesus disappeared for several days and His distraught parents finally found Him in the Temple amidst the teachers of the Law. The point of the story is that the Child Jesus was the Son of God and felt His primary allegiance to God the Father. But this is not the event that Greg Tricker describes. This is the young Jesus in the carpenter’s shop of His foster father, St Joseph.

To the left we see carpenter’s tools, and he is stripped for work. Yet, to His right, is a bird cage which the Boy has opened to release three splendid doves. All three gaze intently away to the right, as if waiting to begin a purposeful journey. Jesus holds one dove seemingly ready to loft it to the skies where it can begin its flight. The doves, though ready, wait patiently, and the Boy Christ too, is patient. His slender body is wholly relaxed. However, this is not the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, or, if it is, the background is not literal but a visual expression of the Boy’s mind. Behind the young Jesus stretch the calm waters of a sea. A boat waits with sail unfurled, as ready and as patient as the doves to begin a journey. The symbolism is manifold.

Here is a young boy, most tenderly depicted, innocence and gentleness almost luminously visible. He is at the beginning of the journey of life, one which we all travel, as we move from the safety of childhood into the difficulties of adolescence and maturity. We know something of this journey of Jesus, how He will grow into His full stature as the Word of God, how He will remain free of the cage of human selfishness and pride and how the nails, which we see beside Him in His foster father’s shop, will one day be used to impale Him to the cross. Physically, His journey will lead Him deeper and deeper into an understanding of the human heart, and spiritually it will lead Him deeper and deeper into an understanding of the Heart of God, His Father. (We must remember that Jesus ‘grew in grace and wisdom’ as we all do. His life was never static).

It is impossible for us to imagine what it must have been like for the young Jesus, aware of His closeness to God and perhaps groping to be able to define the uniqueness of this relationship. The journey that Tricker imagines is primarily an inner journey, one that we are all called upon to make but that few of us achieve. When Jesus on the cross cried out ‘Consummatum est’, it is accomplished, He was surely referring to His inner journey having reached its holy end. The work that His Father gave Him that here, in His youth, He is beginning to envisage, has finally come to an unexpected but profound fulfilment.

Look at the way Tricker paints the eyes of the Boy Jesus – they look inwards searching for the mystery of who He is and what He is called to. One thing here is clear: He knows He is called, as we are, to freedom, and by releasing the birds from their cage He is expressing His own commitment to the loneliness and the determination that are inseparable from being completely free. A gem-like sun is rising. It is the morning of the life of Christ.

Picture © Nigel Noyes

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Art of Greg Tricker with reflections by Sister Wendy Beckett

An exhibition of works by the contemporary Christian artist Greg Tricker is to be held in Westminster Cathedral from Monday 26th September to Saturday 15th October.

Greg Tricker uses a variety of materials, ranging from ink, paint, wood, stone and stained glass, to produce works of art which illustrate the Gospels and the Christian tradition. His style is greatly influenced by Vincent van Gogh, and he continues the mystical tradition in modern British art pursued by Eric Gill, Cecil Collins and others from the last century. Tricker has previously produced collections on St Francis of Assisi, St Bernadette and Kaspar Hauser. His current collection is entitled "The Christ Journey".

ST PAULS is publishing the book to accompany the exhibition, which contains reflections on Greg’s work by Sister Wendy Beckett. As Sister Wendy writes in her Introduction to the book,

"One might expect the Christ Journey to be pictures illustrative of the life of Jesus. The natural assumption would be of a journey beginning with the Annunciation, or at least the Nativity, and ending with the Resurrection and the Ascension. Tricker, as so often, confounds these expectations and exceeds them.

There are, indeed, wonderful images of Jesus but they are highly selective. Tricker will show us only one miracle, and yet he depicts, most movingly, several of the great ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus. He deliberately passes on to post Ascension time, with paintings from the lives of St Paul and St John, and there is an amazing emphasis on St Joseph of Arimathea and St Mary Magdalene.

He sees Christ as embarking on a cosmic journey through time, and so he adds images of saints, some from later centuries, especially dear to him: St Bernadette, St Francis, St Clare. He is revealing his profound conviction that the Christ Journey is for each of us, our own journey. We do not make it alone or in our own power.

Of ourselves we are helpless spiritually to put one foot ahead of another. But in Jesus, we journey strongly and surely. It is not that we take the same journey. Jesus is our Journey. If our faith cannot accept this and live out its consequences, then we have no faith at all. We either journey in the Christ Journey or we stay lost, on the shore."

The book will be available on 26th September and can be purchased here.

Here are some examples of Greg’s work from the exhibition

 The Grail Boat

 Mary Magdalene
 St Francis
The Christ Boy

We will be posting Sister Wendy's reflections on the featured pieces over the next few days.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

The Dormition of the Virgin and the Assumption of Our Lady

The Dormition is the most important feast of Our Lady in the Eastern Church. It is also a great feast in the Western Church, although there it is not called the Dormition, but the Assumption; but all feasts of Our Lady are also feasts of Our Lord. It is He who gives them their sacred meaning. Here we are celebrating Mary's death. As she lies motionless, above her arises the glorious figure of her Son, gleaming and vertical. The Eastern legend has it, that when Gabriel came to Mary to tell her that her death was near, she summoned the Apostles and prepared her deathbed. This icon shows the Apostles being whirled through the air by angels, coming from all corners of the earth.

This is a remarkably peaceful icon, the Apostles crowd around either end of her bier, behind them two of the Eastern Fathers, (perhaps Theodore the Studite and John of Damascus), who have written so eloquently about this holy death. The feast of the Assumption celebrates Mary carried up to heaven by angels, body and soul. The feast of the Dormition shows Jesus Himself coming down from heaven, or rather bringing heaven with Him, to receive His Mother’s soul. It is a very touching image. When He was born on earth, Mary held Him, wrapped in swaddling cloths. Now He holds her, new born into heaven, wrapped in the swaddling cloths of immortality. Jesus lifts His mother in triumph, she is His perfect disciple, the one who most truly loved and followed Him. She is His ‘first fruits’.

Mary’s ascent into heaven, and we notice Jesus seems to hold a physical Mary, spells out our own destiny. We too, will die temporally in the body, and become small and diminished in death, but the candle of our true life does not go out. Between the scarlet flame of the candle before the bier and the scarlet wings of the Cherubim above the head of Jesus, is a continuity. For each of us, dying in the Faith will mean the same new birth in the arms of Jesus. Mary’s Dormition, Mary’s Assumption, is our future as well. She had the glory of being His perfect joy. Us, He will gather in His arms, with equal love, but without the fullness of grateful delight that He found in her holiness. She rests, utterly content in His embrace. His hands are not bare, He has them covered, in the traditional mark of respect.

No one respects His creation with greater reverence than the Creator. Most of us will not rest as serenely in His arms as Mary does. In His unveiled presence, seeing Him "face to face", we will feel the immense sorrow that our sinfulness causes Him. His sorrow is on our account. Because we have not loved Him according to the fullness of whatever is our capacity, He has not been able to sanctify us as He has wished. That sanctification will take place in the purifying flames of the love that now engulfs us. We call this purgatory. There was no purgatory for the Blessed Virgin, and hence we see the exultation of her beloved Son, lifting up the radiance of her being, to display it to the world.

Picture: The Dormition of the Virgin 12th/13th century. © Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Text: © ST PAULS Publishing, written by Sister Wendy Beckett in her latest book Sister Wendy Contemplates The Iconic Jesus

Thursday, 11 August 2011

John Henry Cardinal Newman 21st February 1801 - 11th August 1890

Today, 11th August, is the anniversary of the death of John Henry Cardinal Newman in 1890.

This great Englishman, whose own life was filled with turmoil, deprivation and loneliness but also with the love, power and guidance of God, will be horrified to see what has been happening in the country he loved and to the city of Birmingham that he served so faithfully for many years.

Today, more than ever, we should follow the example of Blessed John Henry Newman in caring and praying for each other rather than self, and pray for those who have been affected by and caused recent events in his beloved city and country.

The picture above is from the book Blessed John Henry Newman: Heart Speaks to Heart written by Fr Daniel Seward of the Birmingham Oratory and illustrated by Susan Bateman. We cannot but hope that the "kindly light" that guided Newman throughout his life and at the time of his death will now guide and protect us all at this time.

Fr Seward’s book can be purchased here, as can other books on Cardinal Newman published by ST PAULS, including:

Blessed John Henry Newman by Michael Rear

Out of the Shadows: A workbook on the life of Blessed John Henry Newman

A John Henry Newman Prayer Book

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Finding Fatima DVD

Filmmakers Ian and Dominic Higgins present a compelling docu-drama on all the crucial details about the appearances and messages of Our Lady in Fatima in 1917 - a message of prayer, penance and conversion that is desperately needed in our modern world.
From the initial apparitions of the Angel who prepared the children for Our Lady's coming, to the Miracle of the Sun, including moving film footage from The 13th Day, this illuminating and inspiring film will inspire all those who see it to personally take heed of the critical messages of Our Lady of Fatima.

"Great new DVD from the makers of The 13th Day! This film, Finding Fatima, is shot in the same Bresson-esque and super-stylised way as The 13th Day. While hearkening to and honouring filmmaking's past, the Higgins brothers are simultaneously bringing the story and message of Fatima to a new generation.

They use clips from The13th Day for the re-enactments, as we get to know the personalities of the three visionary children in depth. This documentary is chock-full of fascinating, down-to-earth interviews and historical footage, all presented in a sprightly way. There's not a dull moment in this life and joy-filled documentary, even with its more sombre sepia-toned visual edges! Innovative without being novel or gimmicky, Finding Fatima has a 21st-century feel to it."
Sister Helena Burns, FSP, Film Reviewer, The Catholic New World.

The DVD is available from all ST PAULS shops or online here.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Sister Wendy's interview with CNS

The following interview appears on the Catholic News Service website.

After decades of studying iconic paintings and hundreds of works of fine art, British art historian and author Sister Wendy Beckett said her two recently published books are her most explicitly Catholic works to date.

Sister Wendy, 81, a Carmelite, has simultaneously published "The Iconic Jesus," a study of icons of Christ's life, death and resurrection, and "The Art of the Saints," which reflects on the religious significance of the images of 16 saints. In a telephone interview with Catholic News Service July 28, Sister Wendy said the books are important personally because they mark the point when she speaks unashamedly as a Catholic.

"When I began writing many years ago, it was simply about art itself because I didn't want the people who never looked at art and thought it was beyond them to be deprived of such a wonderful gift given us by our artist brothers and sisters," she said. "And I never used religious language (so as) not to put off the atheists and the non-Christians. But I knew that if they really looked at art they would see it drew them to something greater than themselves, something beyond, something other, and that something is God," she explained. "They would be looking at God anonymously." After decades of studying and writing about art, Sister Wendy said she has "come out of the closet and now I can feel I can write about God in his own name." She said: "That is what I have done with these books. I write as a Catholic."

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Simply Catholic!

Former Protestant Evangelist and now world renowned Catholic convert, Steve Ray will be in the U.K. and speaking at a Day Conference at Westminster Cathedral Hall on Saturday 13th August from 9.30 - 5.30.

Come and hear Steve’s story and his unique and lively presentation of the beauty and truth of the Catholic Faith.

Tickets £10 in advance, £15 on the door. Contact Family of Faith Tel: 020 3286 7989

Please note, tickets are NOT available from ST PAULS.

Three of Steve’s books are currently available in our London shop:
Crossing the Tiber: Evangelical Protestants Discover the Historical Church
St John’s Gospel: A Bible Study and Commentary
Upon This Rock: St Peter and the Primacy of Rome in Scripture and the Early Church

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Unlike art, icons are to be adored

In his Sacred Mysteries column in last Saturday’s The Daily Telegraph, Christopher Howse wrote: "Sister Wendy Beckett's emphasis on icons as worship is impressive".

Quoting from her latest book, published by ST PAULS, Sister Wendy Contemplates the Iconic Jesus he rightly argues that an icon is a door into heaven.

Christopher’s full article can be read here.

Novena to Blessed John Paul II

Following his beatification in May, ST PAULS is the first to publish a novena to Blessed John Paul II.

The word "novena" comes from the Latin meaning "nine each" and is prayer offered for nine consecutive days. In scripture, after the Ascension, we see Mary, together with the apostles and disciples, gathered in the upper room devoted to constant prayer prior to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5).

The nine days of prayer can also be considered as representative of the nine months Jesus spent in the womb of Mary. Like Jesus our Head, we His Body are also to be born of Mary and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, each novena can be considered to be a time of gestation before a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus exhorted us to continually ask, seek, and knock for what we need (Lk 11:10), and he gave us strong examples of the value of persistence in prayer - like the widow who kept pleading with the judge (Lk 18:1-8) and the man who woke his neighbour in the middle of the night to give him bread (Lk 11:5-9). But prayer must always be made according to the will of God. Even Christ Himself prayed, "Not my will, Father, but Yours be done." We pray with trust that God will give us what He knows is best for us.

Novenas can be times of persevering prayer for special needs, or of preparation for solemn feasts. They also can help us to focus our intentions so that we can more effectively give thanks for God’s response to our needs - whatever they are - placing ever greater trust in the Lord Jesus.

Our Novena to Blessed John Paul II contains a series of petitions based upon nine of the many writings of John Paul II, with prayers based upon the writings of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The Novena is available in all ST PAULS bookshops or can be purchased online from here.