Our Lady of La Vang

I am the most brutal critic of cheesy Christian art.

We are beautiful. The angels and saints are beautiful. Our Lady is beautiful. Our Lord is beautiful. All because God is beauty itself.

So when I see a piece of art that fails to capture at least 1% of that true and infinite beauty, I get into a fury. My soul aches at the injustice. I have seen countless statues worth smashing, paintings worth torching, icons worth dissolving in acid, and songs never worth listening to again. You could say I’m almost an iconoclastic heretic…

Except I cherish the truly beautiful images of our Faith. And Beauty should do just that: draw us away from heresy.

With that said, let me feature a work worthy of Our Lady of La Vang (aka: Our Lady of Vietnam), one that captures the seriousness and royalty of Mary as Christ’s (and our) Queen Mother, one that shows the sweet Child Jesus as exactly that: sweet. This one masterpiece finally cancels out the tons of horrid images of Our Lady of La Vang that I have suffered through (of which I will spare you from).

OLLaVang

Drawing by Tracy L. Christianson, prints available from PortraitsOfSaints.com

The little statue in the photo is a decent sculpture of Our Lady of La Vang, and I am so grateful to the artists who have given their talents to doing some justice for the beauty of our Lord and Lady. Please support Tracy in her ongoing work by ordering your own prints, by praying for her, and all these artists who have shared their work here on HolySmack.

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, please pray for all your artists, for they have recourse to thee. Amen.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus

Let me tell you the tale behind this latest Holy Smack card:

As with all of the cards, I wait for the Holy Spirit to prompt me and provide me with art and prayer to pair together into a holy card. Without the Spirit’s guidance, I do nothing. One thing that being a former seminarian has taught me is to be obedient to God’s will. And when we obey His will, amazing things happen that we could never have imagined.

With this card, I was searching for images of our Lord’s Sacred Heart. I had been on the lookout for many months, but nothing came up that rendered me speechless, until I stumbled on this blog and saw this piece. As soon as I saw Him and His heart, I knew this was the image I was always meant to find, and meant to find at that specific moment in time.

At that point, I had been going through a severe struggle in my life. Someone precious to me had been suffering in spirit and body, and like anyone who ever loved, when one’s beloved is in sorrow, one is in mourning also. Yet, when I saw this image of our Lord, the power of His light cut into my darkness. I had to find out more about the artist.

It turns out, the beaming Sacred Heart of Jesus here is a freak “accident” of flash photography! The image is a photo taken by a priest, and the blast of holy light is only a reflection of the camera’s flash. The shot was perfect, and so the priest posted it on his blog, and that’s where the digital paper trail ends, for after contacting Father, I was informed the artist is unknown, and perhaps even deceased.

And for the next four months, I deliberated and waited, I searched and listened. I found a prayer and I finished the entire card’s design, yet I still hesitated. Something was not yet in place. And then my precious friend shared with me more tragedy.

It was then I knew the time had come to print. The card was meant for her all along. The Lord was meant for her, His Sacred Heart was for her, the humble prayer was for her. And the card is the first to be dedicated to anyone.

Please pray for her.

Thank you, and if you happen to know the artist of the image, please do inform me so I can seek her or his forgiveness for using the image without permission.SacredHrtFrontSample2.png

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Note: as with all of my cards, please know I would be honored to share them with you for free and that any donation would be appreciated to support the continued ministry.

Our Lady of Victory

Blessed Ash Wednesday!

First, I would like to thank very much the lovely and talented Miss Gwyneth Holston, the artist responsible for the latest Holy Smack holy card featuring this painting:

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Our Lady of Victory is the first work I ever had the chance to commission, and if you are interested in commissioning something, please know that my experience working with Miss Holston was an absolute blessing (not to mention she gives generous discounts to seminarians, priests and consecrated religious!).

The original inspiration for this painting originated from this pulpit in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula in Brussels, Belgium, carved of wood by Hendrik Frans Verbruggen in 1699 (yep, they don’t make them like they used to). When I first saw this photograph, I knew immediately it had to be expressed anew in a painting, and smacked onto a holy card. I mean, just look at it! EPIC PULPIT:

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The image of the sculpture and painting are referencing Genesis 3:15, when God promises the protoevangelium (the first gospel) that the woman and her seed would crush the serpent. And I love how Mary and Young Jesus are making very light of it, even though they’re standing over a crocodile of a serpent.

Here’s more about the protoevangelium from Blessed Pope Pius IX:

The Fathers and writers of the Church, well versed in the heavenly Scriptures, had nothing more at heart than to vie with one another in preaching and teaching in many wonderful ways the Virgin’s supreme sanctity, dignity, and immunity from all stain of sin, and her renowned victory over the most foul enemy of the human race. This they did in the books they wrote to explain the Scriptures, to vindicate the dogmas, and to instruct the faithful. These ecclesiastical writers in quoting the words by which at the beginning of the world God announced his merciful remedies prepared for the regeneration of mankind — words by which he crushed the audacity of the deceitful serpent and wondrously raised up the hope of our race, saying, “I will put enmities between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed”[13] — taught that by this divine prophecy the merciful Redeemer of mankind, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was clearly foretold: That his most Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, was prophetically indicated; and, at the same time, the very enmity of both against the evil one was significantly expressed. [Hence, just as Christ, the Mediator between God and man, assumed human nature, blotted the handwriting of the decree that stood against us, and fastened it triumphantly to the cross, so the most holy Virgin, united with him by a most intimate and indissoluble bond, was, with him and through him, eternally at enmity with the evil serpent, and most completely triumphed over him, and thus crushed his head with her immaculate foot.[14] ]

And why did I name this image and card “Our Lady of Victory”? Well, seeing that ISIS and other militant Muslims, and other anti-Christians are raising their swords against the Church again, it reminded me of the Battle of Lepanto (which would have lost Europe to Islam if our Lady did not give us a miracle from Jesus, detailed here):

To save Christendom, Pope St. Pius V organized a fleet under the command of Don Juan of Austria, the half-brother of King Philip II of Spain. The forces of Spain, Venice and other Italian city states, and the Sovereign Order of Malta formed an alliance against Turkey. Note: “Catholic” France refused, and the Judas King Francis I financed the Muslim Turks so as to weaken his long time rival, Germany-Austria.

While preparations were underway, the Holy Father asked all of the faithful to say the rosary and to implore Our Blessed Mother’s prayers, under the title “Our Lady of Victory,” begging Our Lord to grant victory to the Christians.

Although the Muslim fleet outnumbered that of the Christians in both vessels and sailors, the forces were ready to meet in battle. The Christian vessels flew blue banners to honor Our Lady and depicted Christ crucified, while the Muslim flags had excerpts from the Quran calling for jihad and death to the infidels.

On Sunday, Oct. 7, 1571, at 11 a.m., the Battle of Lepanto began. At the end of five hours, the Muslims were defeated. Later, while Pope St. Pius V was in an afternoon meeting, he suddenly stood up, went over to the window, stared outside in the direction of the battle many miles away, and said, “Let us no longer occupy ourselves with business, but let us go to thank the Lord. The Christian fleet has obtained victory.”

The following year, Pope St. Pius V established the Feast of the Holy Rosary on Oct. 7 so the faithful would remember not only this victory, but also the powerful intercession of Our Blessed Mother. His Holiness also officially bestowed the title, “Auxilium Christianorum” or “Help of Christians,” upon her. The Venetian Senate had painted on a panel in their meeting chamber, “Non virtus, non arma, non duces, sed Maria Rosari, victores nos fecit,” i.e. “It was not courage, not arms, not leaders, but Mary of the Rosary that made us victors.”

So there you have it. Pray on! Our Lady of Victory! Give us the victory of your Son, Jesus!

*If you’re wondering why Islam is so hostile to Christianity, please see this for starters, as well as stop by Jihad Watch.

**And here’s how Our Lady of Guadalupe is our secret weapon against Islam.

Saint Francis Xavier

Please join me in celebrating and praying for my Godson’s Baptism recently!

To commemorate, nurture and safeguard the Little One’s faith in Jesus Christ and His Church, I was able to (with the help of the godmother and an artist by the name of Noah Gutierrez) share this card with my Godson’s family and close friends!

[a card celebrating my Godson's Baptism, featuring  art by Noah Gutierrez]

[a card celebrating my Godson’s Baptism, featuring art by Noah Gutierrez]

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Behold, I Stand at the Door and Knock

Hello Holy Smack Readers!

On this Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, may I present to you the first Holy Card I had the honor of designing for Saint Paul Street Evangelization [SPSE], a group of Catholic Apologists and Evangelists who volunteer to introduce Jesus and His Church to others in public, across the United States! I’ve even heard that this card itself has been slowly spreading throughout America’s cities.

One of the priests here at seminary asked if I would be interested in helping with this mission, and needless to say I was humbled and grateful to God for such a chance to offer my talents to this work. I only hope the Holy Spirit continues guiding me in the good fight against hatred and ignorance of the Faith.

Thank you for reading, and I’d like to especially thank the artist who shared her work so generously for this project: Nadia Kelaidinova (please visit her gallery here). May God bless her ever more abundantly!

Lastly, if you would like a card or so, please feel free to leave me a message on the Holy Smack FaceBook page, or email me at EvanPham@HolySmack.com (Of course, you’re also welcome to support SPSE by ordering from their site. The cards are sold for non-profit purposes only to keep the ministry running.)

 

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The Anima Christi

On this day, after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, when we remember Our Lady of Sorrows, may I present the newest addition to the Holy Smack Holy Card Collection: the Anima Christi [Soul of Christ]!

This card showcases the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the Anima Christi prayer in the original Latin on one side, with an English translation on the reverse. Popular belief claims that St. Ignatius of Loyola composed the prayer, but others believe he merely popularized it. This English version is given to us by Blessed John Henry Newman — an Anglican priest who became a Catholic cardinal after researching Church history far enough and critically enough to see that the one, true Church is the Catholic Church.

Personally, I love praying the Anima Christi after receiving the Holy Eucharist.

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Memo on the Memorare

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Annunciation: when the Archangel Gabriel spoke with Mary, when God proposed to the Queen… (Luke 1: 26-38)

My favorite icon of this cosmic event is painted by Henry Ossawa Tanner (it also heavily inspired my writing of Little Miss Lucifer’s first chapter).

Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Annunciation"

But may I also present, on this solemnity (which overrules Lent! That’s right, we may feast today!), the newest Holy Smack Holy Card made possible by artist Cecilia Lawrence’s faith, talents, and generosity:

[Our Lady of Perpetual Help]

The Memorare

[The Memorare — I pray it every day!]

Funny story: after I stumbled upon Cecilia’s DeviantArt site, and after contacting her for the privilege and permission to present her work on a Memorare prayer card, I found out that her very own brother lives, studies and discerns the priesthood in the same seminary as myself! What a small Catholic world it is! So please, pray for her, her brother, and all of us here who are offering to God our talents. Thank you and Happy Feasting!