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Being Catholic is part of who I am. Things that relate to my faith.

Painting of the Martyr, S. Óscar Romero

In a time when his people were being persecuted and killed, Archbishop Óscar Romero, bravely spoke out against the crimes and injustices in his land of El Salvador. He did so until he was shot through the heart while celebrating Mass in 1980.

This is a commission portrait of Saint Óscar Romero from El Salvador in honor of his great work from a fellow Salvadoran. He was a Roman Catholic bishop from the 70s that was martyred by the government of El Salvador. He is known for his heroic virtue of courage and love.

 

11×14 Oil on Panel Original by Cristóbal Almanza

Symbols of the Painting

The Frame

In many of my saint portraits, I use frames as a tie to the many traditions of sacred art that use frames to remind us they are windows to heaven. The blue background is also a traditional symbol of heaven. I typically use even richer colors but adjusted for the space this work will live.

There is a flower on each corner is representative of an open Flor de Izote, the national flower of El Salvador, and a lily, a symbol of the Virgin Mary and of all saints. His birthday is August, 15th, which is the great Marian solemnity of her Assumption into heaven.

Archbishop Romero with Pope Paul VI

The Office of Bishop

He is wearing a traditional black bishop’s cassock with a purple fascia and zucchetto along with his bishop’s ring as symbols of his office as a living apostle. 

The Martyr

Young Romero

The light halo is dotted with little crosses as a subtle sign of his martyrdom and union with the death of Jesus.

The palm branch in Romero’s left hand is in a traditional, triumphant pose used in art of martyrs (Revelations 7:9). This is to emphasize the title of martyr that has been questioned by some that believed he became too politically involved by the end of his life. His positions may be political by default of standing up against an oppressive government, but at the core, he was a man living his calling as a shepherd to his people. A man that sought to defend and encourage his people in a time of great suffering. Many of the martyrs of the Church died at the hands of a government that wanted to suppress the faith, and their acts of defiance could also then be considered political in nature.

 

Blessed Oscar Romero of San Salvador, El Salvador, is pictured in this 1979 photo. Aug. 15 would have been the slain archbishop’s 100th birthday. (CNS photo/Octavio Duran) See ROMERO-BIRTHDAY-US Aug. 1, 2017.

The Blessing

Romero’s pose in this portrait is him in the middle of offering a blessing. My hope is that this offers some peace to anyone that feels worn in doing work for justice. He is an example of living boldly, centered on a deep faith in Christ, to take action. He knows how challenging it is, but he offers us a blessing to go forth.


A Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.

Amen.

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You Have Seen the Father Painting

Has Visto al Padre (You Have Seen the Father) 48×36 inches oil on canvas painting.

I had the first idea for this painting back in June 2016 when going to a funeral. I drew out some concepts focused on the theme of the Trinity through the approach of Spanish colonial art that represents the Holy Trinity as 3 unique Jesus characters since Christians believe that it is indeed 3 distinct persons in 1 being. 

This is not a liturgical or even traditional piece. It’s a product of my own exploratory visualization of a central mystery of my faith.

Spanish Colonial Painting of the Trinity

 Theme

It may seem a little strange but there is a verse in sacred scripture that gives good precedent for this interpretation:

“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” – John 14:9

I became fascinated with visualizing the Trinity back in late 2015 when I attended a JPII Healing Center retreat that focuses on leading participants to lead a life within the graces of the Trinity where we can find the most peace in life. The retreat features a living sculpture that demonstrates three people circling their arms around each other while surrounding the person from above. I used this as the central pose of the piece. Framing it from the perspective within the circle.

Final Drawing in prep of painting

Inspiration

All-Seeing Eye of God And and angels at Basilica Di Santa Maria Maggiore Rome Italy

The trinity is a common theme in art, but I’ve never been fond of the pieces that make the Father a Santa-like figure or the Holy Spirit just a white dove. They don’t communicate to me the depth of the living persons of the Trinity.

The mysterious symbols of an all-seeing eye also don’t communicate the relational aspects of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to me. I do appreciate the symbolism and visual, so I used this piece as an inspiration for the layout.

The old Eastern depictions of the Trinity as angels with Abraham also helped inspire the details of the three.

The Icon of the Trinity by the Monk-painter Andrei Rublev

Symbols

Seraphim – the 6-winged angels that surround the throne of God

Cherubim – the 4 winged angels and are just behind the seraphim

The hands

The Father – A hand of blessing in the traditional priestly position of blessing

The Son – Outstretched and pierced by the crucifixion openly offering His love

The Holy Spirit – Reaching out in welcome to invite us into the circle

The Eye of God Nebula – based on images from Hubble to show the vastness of God’s mercy while alluding to the Trinitarian symbol of the eye in a cosmic image

Space – reminiscent of the stars that line many churches as markings of sacred space

Eye of God Helix Nebula

Diversity

The 3 persons of the Holy Trinity are intentionally depicted as distinct versions of Jesus from different cultures. Most of my art features skin tones and cultures that depict important figures in non-European characteristics to show the diversity of the Church and God’s willingness to relate to us where we are.

 

The process

It took a long time to get to the pieces because I kept putting it to the side and lots of life changes in between.

The Final Painting

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5 Ways You Can Show Gratitude to Your Guardian Angel

Since the moment of your conception, you are accompanied by a great spiritual being known as a guardian angel. Their mission is to guide and protect you and do everything they can to guide you to heaven. They are the faithful companions that have never left our side. It feels almost too incredible to be true.

October is a good time to focus on our guardian angels. It’s more than because the feast of the Holy Guardian Angels is October 2nd. Many of the feast days of this month feature saints with very strong relationships with their angels.

While the angels desire our good more than we can understand, they aren’t able to control us or force us to do anything we’re unwilling to do. It’s also up to us to listen and cooperate with them. There are several things you can do to build a relationship with your angel, but you can also do a few things to thank your angel too.

“We should show our affection for the angels, for one day they will be our co-heirs just as here below they are our guardians and trustees appointed and set over us by the Father.”

– St. Bernard of Clairvaux

The Lord’s angels are in perfect union with Him and are without sin, so they don’t feel a lack of anything without our gratitude. Our acknowledgment of their work is more of a benefit for us to build a better partnership. Here are some ways to say thank you to your angel.

 

1. Pray with your angel

Your angel constantly sees God while simultaneously watching over you. They are already praying for you and doing everything they can to help us be holier and more faithful to our baptismal call. When you pray with your angel, they join and enhance your personal prayer.

 

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic »

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Masculine Spirituality Thrives Best in Brotherhood

Adult men often have a difficult time making friends. It’s easy to have passive relationships with coworkers, guys at the gym, or even at church, but intentional friendship takes work. This is true for both men and women, but my focus here will be particular to men.

Deep Connections Aren’t Accidental

Bl. Pier Giorgio and friends

It’s easy to feel like we’re interacting with people while never going beyond talking about sports, family activities, current events, or the weather. Even in a time when we are connected more through technology, we are connecting less in more personal ways. Loneliness is a real issue, and it happens at all stages of becoming and being an adult.

It doesn’t take much effort to maintain acquaintances and familiarity with people we see on a regular basis, but limiting all relationships to that level won’t bring fulfillment. It takes work, even sacrifices, to go deeper with the people in our life. Sadly, our jaded experiences can discourage us to invest so much into a relationship. It’s a risk when we’re unsure of the investment others are willing to give or if it’s going to work.

Friendship Goals

Friendship can still sound somewhat intangible, but there are some good ideas proposed about how to define friendship. Aristotle has a good explanation of how he separated friendship into 3 categories. In his philosophy, friendship requires these elements:

“To be friends therefore, men must (1) feel goodwill for each other, that is, wish each other’s good, and (2) be aware of each other’s goodwill, and (3) the cause of their goodwill must be one of the lovable qualities mentioned above” (Nicomachean Ethics)

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic

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Diversity in Ministry Part III – Financial

In my latest post at ATX Catholic, I write about how the economic changes happening in Austin are also having a direct effect on the people of the diocese and how we need to adapt our application of ministry.

In the first two posts of this series, I explored how diversity in Gifts and Age can provide a richer experience of the faith and allow parishes to better minister to the community.

Christians of all denominations today tend to look for communities where they feel like they can belong to the larger group. Sometimes the neighborhoods have similarities that tend to easily find commonalities with others. Back when communities and neighbors were more closely linked, there is no real issue with this model.

Continue Reading at ATX Catholic

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Saint William [Painting]

My parish has an obscure saint as its patron – Saint William of Montevirgine (or Vercelli). He is often confused for other saints like St. Francis because of some of their common symbols and simple garments. He is also distinctly depicted across global regions. This is common with older saints that lived in a time where we have little knowledge of the details of their lives. Artists often depict these saints with symbols that communicate best to the target audience instead of worrying about authenticity.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

Reading the history of St William parish, I found that one of the main reasons he was chosen was to honor Archbishop William O’Brien, head of the Catholic Church Extension Society in 1939. He approved the land purchase and helped pay to build a parish church for the Mexican community of Round Rock and McNiel.

In the many years since its founding, the parish has become incredibly diverse and is made of parishioners from all over the world. Still, there is a very large presence of Latinos from al throughout Latin America. I chose to use my Latino-flavored style of art to honor the culture of a parish originally established for Spanish speakers. I also tried to balance this look with a saint native of Italy.

Each of the elements holds a meaning about the message of the saint and the mission of our parish.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

The Saint

St. William became an abbot and founder of a religious community on Monte Virgine. In the painting, he uses the traditional symbols of a pectoral cross and crozier that are traditionally used by bishops and abbots. He was alive so long ago that there is little known about the details of the color of his habit or look of his face. In the United States, he is often depicted in brown, in Latin America is often wearing black, but he is commonly shown wearing white in Italy. This is most notable in the images of the church at Montevirgine.

Painting in Montevergine Church

Symbols of the Parish (Left Side and Borders)

The border is inspired by the pattern seen on the white dividers of the ceiling inside of the main church. The saint is also framed within a Spanish rose cross that is used in the logo and throughout the parish architecture. The background of the cross is a setting of golden stars on a blue background as seen on the ceiling of the main church building and an ancient symbol of a sacred space. The colors of the painting are also vibrant selections of colors used in the parish marketing and buildings around the campus.

Logo designed by Rebecca Martinez

The Principality of the parish, or the angel assigned to protect the community, is shown releasing the Holy Spirit as a dove from the logo over the parish.

St. William Catholic Church – © Patrick Y. Wong/Atelier Wong Photography

The bottom left shows the cupola (dome), the most notable architectural mark of the parish that can be seen from the nearby interstate highway. The Roman style cross that the saint is wearing is also the same one seen in the logo and at the top of the dome.

The pierced heart in the middle left side displays the devotion of the parish to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that has been an important element of the spirituality of the community since the beginning. The chapel on the campus is dedicated in honor the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and it was the first choice for naming the parish before selecting St. William.

Painting Saint William Winter 2017

Symbols of the Life of St William Center and Right Side)

St. William among the founder saint statues in St. Peter’s Basilica

Passion Flower

The top right side shows a floral symbol known as a passion flower behind his crozier. This is one of his common symbols and represents the saint’s connection with the passion of Jesus. Under his left arm is a bouquet of lilies that is a common symbol of saints known for the heroic virtue of purity.

In the bottom left of the painting, a wolf is held back by St. William’s crozier, symbolic of the patron’s spiritual protection through intercession. It is also a classic symbol of the saint because of the legend that he tamed a wolf after it killed his donkey. This is one of the common symbols that St. William shares with St. Francis of Assisi, but he tamed and rode the wolf instead of just befriending it like Brother Francis.

The middle right depicts a heart pierced by a sword representing the Immaculate Heart of Mary. St William had a deep devotion to Holy Mother Mary and establish his monastery upon the mountain named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The open Bible in St. William’s right hand shows the most important mission of the saint and the parish, to point the world to the Truth of Jesus Christ as our Lord. He smiles and keeps it open to point to the name of Jesus while holding it close.

I created this painting as a gift for the parish’s new Evangelization Center, but details of when and where it will go up are still pending.

Saint William 60×40 inches oil on canvas

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Austin DCYC 2017 – SANCTUS

The Diocese of Austin holds a yearly event known as the Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference for teens, and I was contracted to create the visual marketing materials for the theme of SANCTUS (meaning “Holy” in Latin).

The Logo

The main theme of the logo I created is based on a dove as the symbol of the Holy Spirit with the highlight of a flame, another common symbol for the third person of the Trinity. The yellow and orange are a bright, vibrant shades that give the feeling of fire, and the dark green compliments it while representing life.

I also chose to use Roman-style lettering with the Latin name, this is why the “U” is replaced with a “V.” It was a way to bring a balance of the ancient traditions and the contemporary setting.

 

The Shirt Design

The shirt was limited to one side and two colors for the print. I brought in the familiar colors from the logo and added vector shapes that recall the imagery of the Monstrance, a liturgical tool used to display the Blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist for adoration. This is the pivotal moment that happens on Saturday night of the event.

DCYC Shirt Design

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Sanctus Mural

Sanctus Mural Panels [Painting and Explanation]

In January 2016, I debuted a large 48×48 painting that was enlarged to 16×16′ for the Mass setting of the Austin DCYC (Diocesan Catholic Youth Conference) held in Waco, Texas with almost 3,000 people in attendance.

Official Image from Austin DCYC

This December, I also spent time finishing the 12×48″ side panels to be enlarged for the side panels of the stage. This process was much less intensive in nature because much of the theme and characters were already set. This extension was part of the original plan, but my schedule didn’t allow me to finish it in time for the 2016 Conference. This panel was entirely focused on expanding the city visuals, the flowing fountain of blood and water with the choirs of angels.

Sanctus Mural

Sanctus 3 Panel Mural

The collective visual can be somewhat overwhelming at first, and this is intentional. My hope is that it shows the grandeur of the spiritual realities occurring in the Holy Mass. I hope that it inspires feelings of wonder at the sanctity of the Sacraments.

The panels have more symmetry than the central piece with a mirrored approach to the top and bottom. This helps direct more of the attention to the center at the sacrifice of Christ. You can see the original layout sketches repeat various angels. One of the other elements borrowed from the Beuronese style is the priestly vestments used by the angels.

This key helps explain the various characters and elements happening in the 3 panels of the mural. For more background on the planning of the mural, see my posts from last year about the Sanctus Mural.

SANCTUS Mural and panels detail key

The following images are from the official DCYC event January 27-29 in Waco, TX.

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Drink Like a Catholic Professional

Austin is a cosmopolitan city where it’s common to mix drinks with work. read more

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Diversity in Ministry Part II – Age

In part 1 of this series, I began a conversation about the need for intentional diversity in ministry. read more

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