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Sanctus Mural [Painting]

I have been working on a very large project for the past several months that I was excited to debut at Austin DCYC 2016. read more

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Songs for Thanksgiving

Songs for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is one of the best American traditions in my opinion. It’s also impressive that it has maintained such high value in our ever changing culture. read more

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Contemporary Music for Lent

Music For Lent

Finding music in the spirit of Lent seems far more difficult that Advent because it is not as widely celebrated. Even though Easter, not Christmas, is the highest celebration of Christianity, preparations for Easter don’t have the same spirit of the season. This could be because Easter does not fall on the same day year after year. It could also be because gifts and a baby make us feel better than the cross.

Some might also argue that it is time for silence rather than listening to music. I agree that Lent is a time of purgation and simplification as we seek to strip ourselves of earthly attachments. Though that does not mean that we have to spend the entire time without music, unless you happened to choose that very difficult Lenten sacrifice.

As I have said before, music speaks to my heart in a very profound way that feeds my spirituality. I have made sure to take time for silence and contemplation, but I often have many times that I listen to music as I work, drive, or do other activities. Like I did in the last season of Advent, I put together a playlist of some of my favorite contemporary Christian music that fits well into this liturgical season.

What is Different About Music For Lent?

Music for Lent has a lot in common with the themes of Advent. We live in state of expectancy of the great celebration ahead. In the mass, this is marked with the absence of the Gloria, Alleluia, and toned down instruments.

We live in the hope of the Resurrection while still clinging tightly and embracing the cross upon which our Savior died. There is a more somber tone to many of the songs as we focus on our need for conversion and our desire to overcome our death. Lent is a time of thirst and hunger for our salvation while we recognize our need to reconcile and strengthen our relationship with Jesus.

I recommend reading a post by Simcha Fisher about traditional music for Lent. My list focuses mainly on contemporary music, many of which have been inspired by the same scriptures and themes of the traditional songs. Join me in going deep these last weeks of Lent as we prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter.

 

Beautiful Exchange – Hillsong Chapel 

This song describes the focus of Lent. We praise our God for the life He offers us through His death on the cross.

His Glory Appears – Hillsong United (Brooke Fraiser version)

A beautiful song that focuses on the love Jesus showed us by taking our sins the cross.

http://youtu.be/JVNWCATP1WU

Lord Please Save Me – The Brilliance

A painful honest call for help to our Lord in our brokenness and humble recognition of our betrayal to Him through our sin.

Lamb of God – Tenth Avenue North

A somber praise of the Lamb that was sacrificed for our sins.

Does Your Heart Break – The Brilliance

An brutally honest question to God in the depths of our pain, and the reminder that He too knows suffering.

Ezekiel – Gungor

This song is a vivid reminder of Ezekiel 16 where we hear our God remind us of the times we turned away from the love He gives us.

Words Remain – Josh Garrels

This song is a beautiful plea for Jesus to remember me as we await for our death or His return.

 

Lent Spotify Playlist

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Endless Years – The Prayer of My Heart [CD Review]

Contemporary Christian Music has come a long way in the past decade. Even still, there is a problem that many CCM writers create work only because they know will be replayed on Christian radio stations or that is easy to learn. After all, Christian or not, it is still a professional industry where music artist and their teams need to make a living. This financial side of the industry has restricted much of the creativity.

I spend a lot of time looking for some of the best Christian music because it is a form of art that speaks to my heart and leads it easily to prayer. I love to share the music I enjoy.

The Australian group, Will Reagan & United Pursuit released a new 15 song album, Endless Years, in December 2012. I discovered their music only a few months before this album was released. The United Pursuit collective brings together a very diverse and talented group of musicians.

EndlessYears-AlbumCoverThe Music

The music is beautifully written with great combinations of classical strings, hand drums, pianos, guitars, and other instruments. The musicality is perfectly blended to increase and decrease the energy of the song at the perfectly crafted moments.

The beautiful, melodic instrumentation is gracefully orchestrated and complementary to the lyrics. The musicians of United Pursuit take you on a journey that leads to prayer without distractions or begging for attention.

A nice surprise is that the album includes “Genesis” and “Preparation,” 2 audio treats of instrumental songs.

The Lyrics

These songs are so passionate and authentic that it often feels like overhearing a conversation in between Will Reagan and God. Even still, the honesty makes it easy to relate and use as your own prayer.

willraeganWill Reagan has made a name for himself with powerful songs such as “Break Every Chain,” “Fill Me up,” “If I Give It All,” and “Set a Fire,” that are used throughout the world. He keeps it simple and uses the element of repetition with skill. This makes it easy for anyone to pick and learn his music quickly and enter into prayer. This method is used in all great musical prayer such as chant, Taize, and others.

My favorite element of the lyrics is also their bold approach to prayer. These songs do not hold back. Whether it is in the reflection of the past relationship with God or the petitions for strength in spiritual battle. This is most evident in the battle cry of “Take Back” and in the Charismatic petitions of “Set a fire” and “Reach for Me.”

These songs are the prayer of my heart.

This is easily one of my favorite CCM albums released in the last year. If your spirituality is fed by prayer through music like this, I highly recommend it. If praise and worship isn’t your cup of tea, then I don’t expect you will find this album to be as great as I did. United Pursuit has different lead singers that each other their own perspective and sound, and I recommend you listen to their music too.

Get the Music

iTunes

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Breath of God

This is a beautiful prayer. It is taken from Midmorning Prayer from the Divine Office for February 4:

Descent of the Holy Spirit - El Greco (Detail)

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love the things you love,
And do what you would do.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with you I have one will,
To live and to endure.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
My soul with grace refine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with your fire divine.

Breathe on me, breath of God,
So I shall never die.
But live with you the perfect life
In your eternity.

This is a really common theme in some of my favorite songs. Shows elements of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the story of Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones.

Vikci Breeching – Breath of God

Hillsong Live – Bones

Gungor – Dry Bones

Glorious Unseen – Burn In Me

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Conversations with Saints

For a long time in my spirituality I looked at the saints as great role models, but I never really went past that line with them. In many ways, it was as if I was looking at them as dead members of the Church. That might sound strange considering they have all died, many of them centuries ago, but my eyes have since been opened to see this great cloud of witnesses.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,  looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
-Hebrews 12:1-2

These great witnesses may have passed, but the saints are alive.

But that the dead are raised, even Moses showed, in the passage about the bush, where he calls the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living; for all live to him.”

Luke 20:37-38

In the past few years that I truly began to embrace the saints, my faith has found more comfort  and encouragement being actively involved in their prayers for me. These great heroes became more than old stories of history, and I was able to enter into conversation with them.

and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God.

Revelation 8:4

The beauty of having perfect friends is that they only point me to Jesus. This is part of the reason I find it odd/interesting that some protestants accuse us of worshiping idols.

How do we talk to the saints? Well… we pray. Not to them, but with them.

Looking at the surface, I can kind of see how it could be confused as idol worship, but our prayers are more than remembrance of loved ones passed. Our prayers with saints are live conversations with those that have already finished the race. They know the struggles – they know the suffering. I can think of no one better to ask for prayers.

Last year, I only finished one painting so that I could take a break and focus on large design projects like Austin Catholic New Media. I also felt like taking a break from religious themed art, which has dominated most of my works. Now after much discernment, I realized that promoting the faith through my art is more important than ever.

Now that my angel series has come to a stopping point, I am very excited to work on my new works that will focus on the saints. I hope that I am able to create works unique to my style and in ways that celebrate the great legacies of these men and women that know a life and love deeper than we can imagine here on earth.

May it be done for the greater glory of God.

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Prayer to St Joseph by Pope John Paul II

Most beloved father, St Joseph, dispel the evil of falsehood and sin in me, graciously assist me from heaven in my struggle with the powers of darkness and just as once you saved the child Jesus from mortal danger, so now defend me from the snares of the enemy and from all adversity. Teach me to be the father that I ought to be in words and in deeds. Amen.

(Modified by Deacon Emmanuel)

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My Prayer of Humility

Recently I haven’t published any new posts on my personal blog for many reasons. I actually have a long list of started, but still unfinished drafts because I’ve had many concerns about everything from search engine optimization, conflicts of interest, and many other technical issues. I realized how much pressure I was putting on myself for no real reasons.

Last weekend, I was greatly motivated by a presentation I heard at CatholiCon Expo in Houston. It helped to liberate my approach from being so confined to a strict, strategized approach to my online presence. In the grand scheme of eternity, I do a greater disservice if I am afraid of being who I am.

I look forward to starting to post more, even if some are short. Some may call it lazy, but I call it prudent. 2011 has definitely been a working year, and God has provided plenty for me to do. With all of that, I have to be careful to keep it all balanced. Many great things have happened by the grace of God, but there are many times that it’s easy to forget who’s in charge.

My penance from confession last week really resounded with me. I only had to do it once, but he recommended adding it to my regular prayers. It is absolutely the perfect prayer for the different work that I am called to do right now. I highly recommend it for everyone.

Litany of Humility

O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

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The Feast of St Justin Martyr

June 1st if the feast day of St Justin Martyr in the Roman Catholic Church. It saddens me that many people don’t know who he is. I have a personal mission to make sure more people get to know him, and I hope he can be knows as more than just one of the early, obscure Church martyrs.

St Justin is considered the first great apologist of the Church. He was a pagan philosopher that converted to Christianity after he could not find satisfaction in other philosophies and traditions. In his heart of hearts, he knew that all his studies in Rome would lead him nowhere, even when he didn’t know of God. Through conversations with a Christian, he came to discover Jesus and sacred scripture. It was then that the Truth spoke to him so clearly, and he knew that it was undeniable. After his conversion, he used his love of reason to teach a pagan world about the Truth that lives in Christianity.

It was his writings on the Eucharist that touched my heart the most when I began to do research on why he was a saint. In the second century, he brought light to the Truth in a world full of darkness, and he did it all as a layman. He fell in love so deeply with The Logos, Jesus, that he willingly died defending it. Although, he did not die before converting many hearts through his preaching, writing, personal conversations, and simply sharing the love of Christ.

St Justin is also very special to me because he is my patron saint from confirmation. There were many reasons why we connected, but it was his unwavering passion for Truth that really inspired me. At the time, I wasn’t sure that I could truly believe in something so deeply that I would tell the world and even die for its sake. It was his testament that inflamed my desire to love the faith as much as he did.

In September 2006, I was on a private tour of  Immaculate Conception Church in Rome with some seminarian friends. This church is famous for a crypt-ossarium that consists of bones from 4,000 different Capuchin friars that died in the 16th-19th centuries. It a little odd, but it has really interesting art and powerful message for our mortal bodies and imminent end. I recommend reading this interesting post from Cardinal O’Malley’s blog about his visit there (half-way into the post). He also has some good pictures of the site.

When the Capuchin Friar leading the tour got to the altar of the back chapel, I read the Latin wording on the altar that indicated it was the tomb St Justin, and I fell to my knees. It felt like suddenly running into a long lost friend. It was a moment of pure joy and thanksgiving.

The power of the communion of saints hit me at that moment, and I was deeply touched at the blessing of visiting where his relics lay. To this day, it is one of the most beautiful blessings that I have personally experienced – to visit an old friend and thank him for his prayers for me during some of the most pivotal points in my life.

Some may find it weird, even down right morbid, that I would kneel in prayer in the place of where a man’s remains are stored. It may be even harder for some to understand that I feel such a deep and personal friendship with a man that died over a millennium before I was even born.

This mystery is the beauty of the communion of saints. It is the mystical body of Christ that unites us all beyond our current state and surpasses all space and time. I will come back to this point at a later post and expand upon it, but currently I don’t have the time to do so here.

In the meantime, I will leave you with the video featuring some texts from St Justin.

St Justin, Ora pro nobis.

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