Dr. H. P. Bianchi is an assistant professor of history at a local community college, where he teaches courses on Western Civilization and Asian history. He received his master’s degree in modern German history from the University of Connecticut and his doctorate from The Catholic University of America. His research focuses on the question of secularization in Britain and the United States.

Dr. Bianchi is happily married and the father of two sons and a daughter. You might find him perusing one of his interests in gardening, disc golf, hiking, cooking and traveling when he isn't working.

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Catholics should definitely vote. My article's thesis is that Catholics should not publicly promote either of the major candidates, and when there is a discussion of current problems facing our country, Catholics should not address them from a Clinton or Trump perspective, but a Christian perspective. Thus, the church could serve as a alternative to the current political system.

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If Bianchi is proposing that we not vote at all, he is wrong. The choice is between a woman who could serve as an example of many of the seven deadly sins and a man who has his faults, but the biggest is that he is not a politician and has no experience "playing the game". BUT if the proposal is a write-in ballot for Jesus Christ, then he may have some merit in his thoughts.

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Fertile Soil

The Case for Tradition




People pray during the Jan. 19 episcopal ordination of Bishop Adam J. Parker and Bishop Mark E. Brennan at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Homeland. (Olivia Obineme/Special for the Review)

Tradition has a bad name. Catholic traditionalists are seen as rigid, bitter and judgmental. In political circles, individuals who hold traditional values are cast as fanatics and bigots, and in modern culture, traditionalists are depicted as reactionary and backwards.

Modern society values newness and change. The media celebrates revolutionaries and trendsetters, not people who defend the time-tested truths of previous generations.
 
Even in a world of constant flux, people are still drawn to tradition, and this inherent desire is displayed in growing countercultural movements that favor time-honored practices. The food industry has a niche for products made using traditional methods, artisanal cheeses and breads come to mind. Individuals are also rediscovering the joy in producing their own food and drinks with hobby farms and home brewing. People are also drawn to historical sites for vacations to experience traditional lifestyles, and antiques and historical items are popular features in home decor. Modern Americans desire tradition, but they are content with only small vestiges in their otherwise thoroughly modern life.
 
Tradition is an inescapable aspect of a Catholic mindset. It is not a trinket on the side, but a central element. We often label Catholics as liberal or conservative or progressive or traditional. However, tradition is synonymous with Catholic. To call someone a traditional Catholic is to be redundant.
 
The theological principle of Tradition (capital T), which upholds the authority of teachings outside of scripture, is a key tenant of the Catholic faith, but I would argue that the non-theological use of tradition (small t) is also a central aspect of Catholicism. In a more general sense, the word “tradition” comes from the Latin traditionem, which means "delivery, surrender, a handing down, a giving up,” and it means to pass down customs and beliefs from generation to generation.
 
A Catholic mindset rooted in tradition emphasizes the timelessness of truth. Catholics accept that truth is not contingent on a time period, and therefore, what was true in the past, is true today, and will be true in the future. Subsequently, the teachings of the church do not change. The church develops its teachings to confront challenges of the day or to address a heresy, but any development cannot contradict what has been taught by the church in the past. Therefore, one function of the church is to pass on timeless truths from one generation to the next.
 
The church also resists fads. The secular world is in constant flux, with values and beliefs incessantly changing. Amid the instability of the world, the church is an anchor, meant to hold one steady in the stormy sea of the world. The church is a destination to come to find calm and peace and escape the chaos of the time. It is not a place to fight for more change and chaos. Any church that seeks innovations to keep up with the times is subject to the world and not to God; such a church is a contradiction to its very nature.
 
A traditional mindset values the vast corpus of Catholic wisdom generated through the ages. Every generation of Catholics is tasked with preserving what is good and beautiful in the faith, and then passing it on to the next generation. The Catholic Church has 2,000 years of accumulated experience, and with each period, the level of knowledge grows deeper and richer. Catholic tradition begins with Jesus and the Apostles, and it was further developed by the Church Fathers, Doctors of the Church, and countless others. When encountering this abundant body of work, we have to wonder “who am I” to question this wisdom. Our first response to any theological question should be a spirit of deference to the brilliant and inspired minds of the past, not to discard them to the dustbin of history.
 
Reverence for tradition has always been part of God’s plan. In the Old Testament, stories were passed down orally and the Law was memorized by every generation. Jesus revealed the fullness of the faith to the Apostles, and they were charged to spread the Gospels throughout the world. From the Apostles, the faith spread to others, and as St. Paul writes, “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thess 2:15)  Without tradition, we would have no faith. Tradition is the very means of how it grows, and I would reason that churches that neglect their traditions died off and those that honor them prosper.
 
Tradition is a force of unity. One of the amazing aspects of the Catholic faith is that a Catholic can attend any parish across the world and find a similar experience, but this occurrence is contingent of the faithful passing down of traditions. In addition to Catholicism being unified across space, it is also unified through time. When we say a prayer or attend Mass, we are reciting the same prayers as previous Catholics have done over the last 2000 years. Tradition unifies Catholics with Jesus, but it also unites Catholics with all the saints over the history of the church.
 
One of the most common attacks on tradition is to point out the atrocities of the church in the past, and demand that the church modernize and get with the times. Yet, if you examine major outrages such as religious wars, slavery, racism, fascism,  you will quickly note that these are not part of the Catholic tradition, but happened across religious lines. They occurred because Catholics forgot their traditional beliefs and succumb to popular and evil ideologies of the day. Traditional Catholicism is a safeguard against radical ideologies, not a cause of them.
 
Yes, tradition has a bad name, but has our faith improved in modern times, since tradition has been neglected? Or, do you feel like something is missing? Perhaps, it is time to give tradition another try.
 
Tradition is not blind acceptance of the past. Tradition is preserving what is the best and most beautiful, and handing it on to the next generation as a gift, and they would be wise to accept it.   



 

January 25, 2017 12:37
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Imitation of Christ: The essence of a Catholic mindset





An image of Jesus is seen as Pope Francis greets a young woman during the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony in Blonia Park in Krakow, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

My wife and I recently finished watching a series on Netflix. As with any well-written show, I found myself engrossed in the characters and storyline. Throughout the day, I caught myself thinking about the latest plot twist and counting down the hours to when I could watch the next episode. 

In my last blog post, I wrote that “Catholics no longer think like Catholics. They think like Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, socialists, or secularists, but not as Catholics.” What is the key to restoring a Catholic way of thinking? In short, Catholics must seek to think like Jesus. 

And for me to think like Jesus, I need to replicate my experience of “binge watching” television shows such as "Lost," "Downton Abbey," "Blacklist" or more recently, "Stranger Things" by “binge meditating” on the life of Jesus. In the past, while commuting to work, sending an email, or watching the children, I was reviewing the latest episode of the show in the back of mind. As a Catholic, I need keep the mindfulness of a world beyond our present world, but replace the television show with the life of Jesus. In this process, my life will be less molded by the fictional characters of the newest hit show, and more by the life of Jesus. 

The concept of imitating Jesus has a rich tradition in Catholicism. In the New Testament, St. Paul commented, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,” (1 Thessalonians 1:6) and St. Peter wrote, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Saints built on this biblical tradition, and fully developed the idea of following Jesus. Famously, St. Francis of Assisi emphasized a literal imitation of Christ, and Thomas a Kempis wrote The Imitation of Christ, perhaps the most popular devotional book ever on the concept.  

Quite simply, Jesus is the model Christian. He is the paradigm. To follow in his steps, Catholics must immerse themselves in the life of Jesus. That is, they need to read and reflect on the Gospels. Often Gospel passages are plucked out of context to justify a position, but we are called to accept the whole Gospel, the parts that are easy to follow and the parts that hard to follow.

Beyond reading the Gospels, Catholics should mediate on the mysteries of his life – his birth, his death, his resurrection, with particular focus on a daily reflection on his passion and death. As Catholics become more aware of the life of Christ, they should have a greater sensitivity to the living like Jesus. It has become trendy to speculate “what would Jesus do?” but seeking to live out that simple phrase is the essence of being a Christian, uniting our will with the will of Jesus.

It can be intimidating to imitate Jesus. While he was fully human, he was also God. The gap between Jesus and humanity is vast, and it is hard to ascertain how we can be like Jesus. Moreover, Jesus lived in a different time and had a different vocation from most modern Americans. How does a modern, married, businessman model his life on Jesus? It is helpful to look at the lives of Mary and the saints. Mary is highest of all creatures, and Catholics understand her as means to become closer to Jesus. Mary’s life provides a perfect example of how we are called to unite with Jesus. In addition to Jesus and Mary, the saints provide further examples in numerous vocations, time periods, and locations. In the wisdom of the church, she provides the saints as tangible models to imitate the life of Christ. Therefore, the formation of a Christian mindset is aided by knowledge of the lives of saints, and reading their spiritual instructions.

Even with the examples of Mary and the saints, it is still difficult to imagine how we can become like Christ. Fortunately, God has done the majority of the work. The wonderful mystery of the Incarnation is that God became man, entering the world as a little and poor baby in Bethlehem. We do not have to cross the great abyss to encounter Jesus; he crossed it for us. During his life, humans were able to see God face to face. With his Ascension to heaven, however, Jesus did not leave us. God sent the Holy Spirit only 10 days later at the great feast of Pentecost, and he also left us the sacraments. Jesus is present to us in Mass, and in the Blessed Sacrament. We need to spend time with Jesus in order to become more like him, and for us, we are with Jesus through frequent reception of Holy Communion and visits to the Blessed Sacrament.

Catholics no longer think like Catholics because they do not think like Christ. We have immersed ourselves in the lives of politicians, celebrities and fictional characters rather than the life of Christ. We can restore a Catholic mindset by imitating Christ, which begins with reading the Gospels, studying the lives of Mary and the saints, and regular reception of Holy Communion and visits to the Blessed Sacrament.



September 06, 2016 10:08
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Time to move the March for Life



Victor Jauquet was one of the younger representatives of Our Lady of Victory in Arbutus at the 2016 March for Life. (Erik Zygmont/CR Staff)

Every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, hundreds of thousands of people from around the country descend on Washington D.C. to petition for the end of abortion and showcase the strength and youthfulness of the pro-life movement. And every year, the weather is horrible. Without fail, it’s either freezing cold or snowing, and this past Friday was no exception.

Media blackout

After attending the march, one feels re-energized about the pro-life cause, and confident the tide has turned on this important moral struggle. That positive energy is dampened, however, when you see the complete secular media blackout of the event or the blatant dishonesty. That is, the national news rarely covers it, and if they do, they give equal time to the handful of pro-abortion protestors and drastically underreport the number of marchers.

Pro-life organizations have documented the lopsided media coverage, and the March for Life organization, under new and younger leadership, have made a point to increase media coverage.

A radical proposal

I do not intend to duplicate their critique of the media blackout, but propose a radical shift in the way the march is organized. That is, the march should be moved to another date. The traditional date - January 22 - is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, and many schools and organizations have made plans to attend the event on the January date.

It is always difficult to change, but the March for Life should be moved to an early fall date, for example on the last Saturday of September.



Peggy Nichols traveled from Dallas to walk in the March for Life, on crutches, with Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville. (Erik Zygmont/CR Staff)

Weather

No organization would intentionally plan for a major rally in January due to possibility of horrible weather. Some years, it was dangerously cold, and marchers sought out shelter in nearby museums and restaurants. I recall seeing parents desperately trying to warm their children near heaters after spending hours in the cold. The potential for cold weather makes it irresponsible to venture out with small children and attend the march as a family, which seems odd for a pro-life event.

This past Friday, numerous organizers cancelled their buses due to snow storm. Many that went were stuck in bad weather as they tried to return home. I followed the story online as buses from my alma mater, Franciscan University, were stranded on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Go for a million

During a warmer time of year and on a weekend, the March for Life should aim for one million participants. The media can only ignore crowds below a certain number. They can only diminish the numbers to a degree, and their favorite phrase is thousands of people. The more accurate estimates are: “Around 250,000 people attended the march until 2010. Estimates put the 2011 and 2012 attendances at 400,000 each, and the 2013 March for Life drew an estimated 650,000 people.”

Few rallies generate enough interest for a million participants, but the March for Life is nearly there. With a million marchers, the media would be hard pressed to ignore its historical significance. 

Parish and family model

The goal of a million participants is reachable. The final push could be accomplished by a strategic plan to involve families. Marching in cold weather and on weekdays has prevented many pro-life families, both young and old, from attending. The move to a weekend in late September could provide a huge boost with that demographic. It could be easily facilitated by working with church leaders to ensure that every parish in the mid-Atlantic region has at least one bus attending the march (many already do).   

Schools

If you have attended the march recently, you know the crowd is mostly composed of high school and college students, the only age groups crazy enough to brave the harsh conditions. Relying on schools as a means to bring young marchers makes a summer date impossible. The September date ensures that it is early enough in the school year that they could miss a Friday, as a travel day, without major repercussions. One individual from Baltimore informed me that the January date conflicts with midterms and preparations for Catholic Schools Week, making it difficult for local school children to attend the march.

Political pressure

One of the advantages of scheduling the march on a weekday in January was the presence of lawmakers, and undoubtedly, fewer members of Congress will be present on a weekend in the fall. I doubt any politician was swayed by the presence of pro-lifers, but a massive million-person march a little more than a month before elections would provide far more political pressure. In other words, there is more to be gained than lost.

Think outside the box

Strangely, the march may have gotten more coverage this year than in any past years. It was not the events that played out in the nation’s capital. When several buses were stranded in Pennsylvania, the passengers got out of the bus, built an altar of snow, and several priests concelebrated Mass on the edge of the snowy highway. Pictures of the Mass went viral, and the story was covered by numerous news programs across the country.

Involve individuals with huge social media followings. Matt Walsh, for example, is a local pro-life advocate, and he had the most-commentated Facebook post of 2015 (620,111 comments on one post)! He and others could generate attention for the march without the traditional networks.

Install a station of 20 to 30 buttons across Constitution Avenue, and have every marcher hit one as they pass, generating a running total of the exact number of participants. Something unusual, like a Mass on the side of a highway, might create more attention than hundreds of thousands of of marchers alone.

It is time

A few years back, I was caught in a snow storm driving back to Steubenville after attending the march. It was a stressful drive back, and fortunately, we make it back to campus safely. One car that left right after us got into an accident, but no one was badly injured. Parents are going to be more reluctant to let their children go to the march in inclement weather, especially with the thousands of students stuck in this year’s storm. It might be a sign that it’s time to move the march to another date, and the nation’s most important pro-life event will be stronger for it. 

Also see:

Life beats blizzard, say participants in 2016 March for Life

Why I am pro-life

 
 

January 29, 2016 10:24
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Game design, education and evangelization




Young people operate Playstation controllers at a gaming exhibit. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Ever since taking a game theory course in college, I have been playing German-style board games. I knew I had a problem, an addiction of sorts, when my wife bought me a strategy game for Valentine’s Day last year. Nothing says a romantic evening like playing Settlers of Catan.

I admit it. I am a nerd. 

It never occurred to me to integrate my love for games into my teaching until I attended a conference for community college leaders last spring. The gamification of education was one of the hot topics at the conference, and I eagerly attended several sessions, learning how theories on motivation, player types, and game mechanics can be used to increase student learning. In recent months, I delved deeply into the theory of gamification, and even had the opportunity to present on the topic at a regional conference. It was during this time I realized some practices could also be applied to the way we instruct others in the faith.

Foundational to gamification is the distinction between different types of motivations. First, extrinsic motivations are external rewards or punishments for performing an action. They would include money, grades, or gold stars as rewards, and spankings, timeouts, or fines as punishments. An intrinsic motivation is internal and based on personal fulfillment, such as engaging in an activity because it is fun, enjoyable or interesting.

Let’s examine some hypothetical classrooms to illuminate the distinction.

On the one hand, a teacher using largely extrinsic motivations might announce on the first day that grading will be done on a bell curve with a certain amount of As, Bs and so forth. Students would be assessed randomly and frequently, and the teacher would make little to no effort to engage students or try to interest them in the material. On the other hand, a teacher using purely intrinsic rewards would eliminate grades and not require attendance. Students attending the class would be free to discuss what they were interested in without any graded assignments.

From these examples, the strength and weakness of the two types of motivations is fairly evident. The extrinsic motivations are powerful, but their long term effectiveness is questionable, as students will dislike the subject matter. Students will learn in this type of class, but they will not enjoy it. In the second example, I cannot image the vast majority of students gaining any significant knowledge, but they would probably enjoy the class, if they attend it.

For Catholics, extrinsic motivations would be the fear of hell and purgatory, and the hope of heaven. Old prayer books even had small extrinsic rewards attached to certain prayers, for example a 500-day indulgence. An intrinsic motivation would be doing something purely out of love for God.

In games, education and faith formation, the goal is to move from extrinsic to intrinsic motivations. A well-designed “game” begins with small challenges and frequent extrinsic rewards. As the skill of the player increases, the challenges become more difficult and the extrinsic rewards decline. 

This model makes perfect sense for any parent or teacher. With young children, parents use a lot of timeouts and rewards, but as children grow older, parents hope they will act properly on their own. Similarly in education, younger students are graded daily on assignments, and offered countless extrinsic rewards. Yet when I was taking doctoral classes, I was required to read lengthy monographs every week, and there was no grade attached to the assignments. In several seminars, I went through the entire semester without receiving any feedback (extrinsic motivation). At that point, it was assumed students would complete the assignments due to their interest in the subject matter (intrinsic motivation).

Now, we turn to faith formation in Catholic schools and religious education. From my observations, we seem to be doing the complete opposite of the proven model. At the youngest age, there is no mention of extrinsic rewards – hell, purgatory, or heaven. When heaven is mentioned, it is not as a reward for good actions, but a place where nearly everyone goes after they die. Instead, we offer only intrinsic motivations. That is, we instruct children to do religious actions out of love and because they are fulfilling.

In many ways, Catholic formation is like the class with no grades, optional attendance, and you get to do whatever you feel like. To be more specific, there is no sin, you do not have to go to church, and everyone goes to heaven in the end. It is no wonder young Catholics lack motivation.

Do not get me wrong. I understand that intrinsic motivations are superior, but they are most effective for master game players, doctoral students, and living saints, in their respective areas. Every game designer would laugh at the failed strategies of the Catholic Church. I would assume many Catholics are stuck in an elementary level of faith, yet we are giving them assignments appropriate for graduate students.

In this movement from one motivation to the next, we need to also realize that extrinsic motivations are a means to an end. As a parent, I am overjoyed when my children clean their rooms without a threat of punishment, but I am slightly disappointment, when afterwards, they ask for a treat for their work. As a teacher, I am annoyed by students who complain about an 88, stating that they always get As, but never once reference their interest in the content of the course. Likewise, at our judgment, God will look for more than a fear of going to hell. It is understandable that Catholic reformers in the last 50 years have targeted extrinsic rewards, but they made a grave error by eliminated them completely.

Lastly, game designers have discerned several different player types, and if you are curious, you can take a test online to determine your player type. Most games are designed for two player types: achievers who like to win game and who are highly motivated by extrinsic rewards (racing and shooting games), and explores who like to discover new things and who respond better to intrinsic motivations (simulations and role-playing games). Given that people respond to different motivators, the least the church can do is to balance the approaches that are used in faith formation.

Psychologists and game designers have studied the reasons why people play games, and they have used their knowledge to develop fun and addictive games.

Shouldn’t Catholics examine these theories? After all, people spend countless hours swiping candy or role playing on the Internet, but we cannot motivate people to spend an hour a week at church, when their eternal salvation in on the line.
 

June 30, 2015 12:21
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


The morning offering: A New Year's resolution for all


What is the first thought that enters your mind when you wake up? Is it what you watched last night on television or what you have to do at work that day? Is it your spouse or children? Do you reach for your phone and check Facebook or email? Or, do you thank God for the new day and resolve to live that day in union with God?

Our first thought of the day reveals a lot about our priorities, what is important to us, and what is on our mind. It also sets the tone of the day. That’s why the morning offering is so important to a vibrant spiritual life.

For years, I struggled making a morning offering. I tried it as a Lenten practice and a New Year’s resolution, but I failed numerous times. For those who know me, I am not a morning person. Don’t talk to me before I take my morning shower, and don’t expect a response until after my morning coffee. As a night person, I never struggled remembering to recite a night prayer, but I couldn’t develop the habit of a morning prayer.

Last New Year’s, I began the practice again, and I have not missed a day since. This time, I printed out a morning offering, and taped it to the outside of my shower door. Then, at the end of the shower, finally in a semi-awake state, I recite the morning offering.

You could do something similar, with the morning offering or another prayer. Download a saint of the day app for your phone, post a prayer on your bathroom mirror, or associate a prayer with the start of your morning commute. That way you’ll always be reminded to pray at a particular time of the day.

Below is a standard morning offering, and the one that is posted on my shower door. Print it out and place it somewhere prominent for your New Year’s resolution.

“O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father. Amen.”
 

December 30, 2014 04:14
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Sacred Art Series: An Interview with William Bloomfield


 
Are you having a hard time finding a Christmas gift for someone on your list? Are you looking for a book that is physically beautiful but also inspiring? Then, you should checkout some products from the Sacred Art Series by Bloomfield Books. There is a very practical Rosary Flip Book to use as a devotional aid and a stunningly beautiful version of The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. I have invited the editor of the series, William Bloomfield, to tell us more about the mission of the series and some of his products. I hope you enjoy the interview. (Use the code CATHVIEW by December 21 and get 15% off your Sacred Art Series Amazon purchase)
 
1) What is the Sacred Art Series?
 
The Sacred Art Series is a series of books I am publishing through my newly created family business, Bloomfield Books. In its most general sense, the series aims to help families grow in holiness. More particularly, the series uses sacred art to aid families in traditional Christian devotions such as the daily reading of Scripture and the family Rosary. The first book in the Sacred Art Series was the Rosary Flip Book, which was released last Fall. The second book, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, was released on the Feast of St. Nicholas, December 6. Other books are currently being developed.
 
2) What inspired you to start the series?
 
A confluence of several things: First, My day job is as an assistant attorney general for the Michigan Attorney General. In this capacity, in the summer of 2013, I was assigned to the team of attorneys working to preserve the art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts during the Detroit Bankruptcy. To my shame, I realized that I had not been to the DIA since I was a kid. Later in 2013, I rectified this and again toured the museum. I was thrilled to discover their beautiful medieval and Renaissance art, which includes pieces from Caravaggio, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, Gerard David, and even Fra Angelico.
 
Second, I had a conversation with my oldest niece, 8 and an avid reader, and I learned that she had already completed the Hobbit and the Narnia Chronicles and was already beginning The Lord of the Rings. This is all great; but I asked her whether she'd read the Gospels, and she had not. This got me thinking: is there a version of the Gospels that is suitable for a child? And as I began to look around, to my surprise, I realized that there was not.
 
Third, my wife and I received a set of old McGuffey readers from my wife's parents. We began using these with my son and I soon realized that I liked the way the books were laid out. The early books in the set--for beginning readers--used larger print and often included pictures. Gradually, as the series continued--and presumably, as the young reader's abilities developed--the books used smaller type and included more words per page. This seemed to be a winning formula.
 
Fourth, prayer. Not long before these discrete ideas began jostling around in my head, I attended an excellent Ignatian retreat with the religious order Miles Christi. My resolution from the retreat was a disciplined prayer life, which included regular recitation of the Rosary as I drove to and from work. One day, as I prayed, the idea formed: a book of the Gospels in a story-by-story format with large type and beautiful images of sacred art. And I was pretty sure that all that I needed was already in the public domain, and that I could self-publish using Createspace or some other print-on-demand publisher. Later, I determined to make the book truly beautiful by using a professional book printer.
 
3) What type artwork do you use in your publications? Why?
 
I don't claim to be an art historian or to have any real expertise in art, but I have always liked the beautiful churches and paintings and sculptures that I saw in Europe during my semester abroad. Beautiful art should be timeless and not subject to fads. And good art should appeal to all ages, both young and old; I've never really cared for the art in many children's books, which too often strikes me as childish. The art of the High Middle Ages and of the Renaissance met my criteria. Another advantage of art from this period, is that it has long been in the public domain. So when I began looking for art to use, I began here. I already knew of some great artists, like Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and Fra Angelico, and I soon discovered other greats, like Titian, Duccio, Giotto, and Murillo. And as I found more and more good art, I realized that from my own schooling I knew so little, and that the Sacred Art Series would be a way of remedying this for my own children and those of others. 
 
4) What is the Rosary Flip Book? How has it changed the way you and your family pray the rosary?
 
After I had essentially completed the manuscript for The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John, I happened to go to New York City for a conference for work. Since some of the art from my book was located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, my wife and I made it a point to visit the museum, which I had never been to. I was in awe to discover Fra Angelico's Crucifixion there, which I had not realized was at the Met. I also was delighted to discover a beautiful painting of the 15 Mysteries of the Rosary that had been created for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I had never seen anything like it. When I returned from the trip, I thought that the image could be used to create a devotional aid. And as my wife had given me a desktop calendar last year for Christmas, I thought this would make an excellent format.
 
My wife now prays at least a decade each morning with the kids as part of their homeschool routine. We also keep the 8 x 10 Rosary Flip Book displayed on our mantel throughout the day. So whether we're praying the Rosary or not, it provides an excellent reminder to pray and to meditate on the life of Christ and Mary. At work, I keep a 4 x 5 Rosary Flip book next to my computer monitor, and every day I flip to a new image. I really like it, and hope that others will to. I've also noticed that now, when I do pray the Rosary, whether I have the Rosary Flip Book at hand or not, I can easily call to mind the images for each of the mysteries, thereby aiding my prayer.
 
5) You have a book of the Gospels in Latin. Why Latin?
 
Yes, the Gospel of John is available for purchase as a softcover in Latin. Since I already had the manuscript prepared in English, it was quite easy to substitute the Latin Vulgate for the English text. So why not? My family routinely attends the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and I lead our small schola in the Latin Gregorian Chants. When I was a freshman at Steubenville, to satisfy my own curiosity regarding the liturgical changes following Vatican II, I read Sacrosanctum Concilium, Vatican II's Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. There I read that Latin was to be preserved in the liturgy. Well, if the Church celebrated Mass for more than a thousand years in Latin and wants Latin to be preserved, who am I to disagree? I did not learn Latin as a child, but have now done some self-study as an adult. I love the beauty of the Latin and am impressed at how succinct it is. It also strikes me that anyone that learns Latin will greatly expand their English vocabulary and improve their grammar. So I'd like to help others to discover the beauty of Latin, and for me, one of the easiest places to read Latin is in the Gospels.
 
6) You have a new book coming out with the Gospels in English. What makes this book unique?
 
This book of the Gospels is the first to provide the actual text of the Gospels in a story-by-story format with beautiful images of sacred art. It bridges the gap between children's bibles and adult bibles. It is designed for children, but it is not childish. And I've left the entire book in the public domain, so anyone with an internet connection can freely download the text.
 
7) Which translation did you use?
 
Because the most recent English translations are copyrighted, I used the Challoner Revision of the Douay Rheims, which is in the public domain and is approved by the Church. Because this book is designed for children, I updated the text to remove most thee's, thy's, thou's and -eth endings--but the substance remains that of Douay Rheims.
 
8) What are some of your future projects? 
 
I am working on a Sacred Art Series Book of Saints and on a Stations of the Cross Flip Book. I'm also considering completing a second volume of the Gospels, which would include the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark in a similar format. Whether I complete these projects will depend, in part, on the reception of the Sacred Art Series by the public.
 
9) What impact do you hope this series will have on the church, on individual Catholics?
 
I hope the Sacred Art Series will help families to grow in holiness, and ultimately, to become families of saints. More specifically, I hope children learn more about the life of Christ through the text of the Gospels and that they will absorb the teachings of the Gospels into their daily lives. I also hope that children (and their parents) will be inspired by these beautiful works of art and come to appreciate and know the works of these great artists. How tragic that I did not know of Duccio or Titian until I produced these books! May this tragedy not be repeated for the next generation of young Christians.
 
10) Your family members are involved in some other publications. What are they?
 
My sister Emily Ortega has now written two short novels for young Catholics (especially young Catholic Girls), I'm Bernadette and Christmas with Bernadette. Both are available at http://www.bernadettebooks.com/.
 
My brother Benjamin Bloomfield has edited and published A Collection of Christmas Carols, which is available here: http://acollectionofchristmascarols.com/.
 
And my brother-in-law John Joy has published a book featuring the art from Duccio's Maesta. It's available here: https://www.createspace.com/4597030.
 
All of these books are also linked from the Related Projects page at my Sacred Art Series website. See http://www.sacredartseries.com/related-projects.html.
 
Biography:
 
William R. Bloomfield graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001 and Ave Maria School of Law in 2004. Following law school, he clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff and U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Guy. He then joined the U.S. Navy JAG Corps, where he served for 4 1/2 years, including a deployment to Iraq. For the last three years, he has worked as an assistant attorney general for the Michigan Department of Attorney General. William and his wife Anna have four children; their oldest is now six. They live in Lansing, Michigan. 
 

December 08, 2014 03:59
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


Why do you go to church?


Periodically, I hear about people who left the Catholic Church because they did not like their parish priest. In other cases, they left because they did not like the music or it wasn’t a welcoming parish or a myriad of other reasons.

Why do you go to church? Think about it for moment. Why do you get up on Sunday morning and go to Mass? Is it for the music? Is it for the fellowship? Is it for entertainment purposes? Is it for the homilies?

I hope not, because you won’t be going there for long. If you are looking for good music, you might be tempted to go to a concert instead of Mass. Certainly, the BSO provides better music than your parish choir.

If you’re attending church to be entertained, you’ll soon find something else that is more entertaining. From the sheer number of people wearing football jerseys at church, I feel many people view Mass as a warm up for the “real” entertainment of Sunday – the Ravens’ game. If Mass conflicts with a football game, I wonder which one people will attend? If they are looking to be entertained, it’s probably the football game.  

I have heard my share of homilies, running the gamut from life changing to not so life changing, to be charitable. If you’re looking for a great homily every Sunday, you’re going to be disappointed.  

Religion has a lot of competition. Many of the elements that churches try to emphasize - social justice, fellowship, enjoyment, a welcoming atmosphere – secular institutions do quite well. I would even contend that they do it better than a Catholic church.

Catholicism has a trump card. One point that no secular institution has: the promise of salvation. We should go to church to receive the Bread of Everlasting Life. As Jesus said, “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you who eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. He that eat my flesh, and drink my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:54-55)

Receiving Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is why we get up every Sunday morning, and if we truly believe it, we would never skip Mass or go to another church, no matter how bad the music or how bland the homily or how unwelcoming the church. We go to receive Jesus, and the value of these other elements is only in how they aid or diminish that key fact.

There is a lot of rhetoric about evangelization, especially the “new” evangelization. The recent synod that has been all over the news was called: Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization. The previous synod in 2012 was entitled: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

It might be advantageous to return back to the basics in terms of evangelization, which means emphasizing the one item that Catholicism has to offer – a promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. It can be done in novel ways and using new technology but the message must hinge on this point.

Next time you go to Mass, try not to get worked up about the music or the homily. Turn your attention to the one aspect that really matters, receiving Jesus.
 
 
 

November 13, 2014 03:47
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


CNN is wrong about the archbishop’s residence


I have a brilliant idea. Let’s sell the White House to help pay off the debt. It’s valued at more than $300 million and that would make a significant contribution. The Obamas could move into a nice townhouse, probably in the $300,000 range, within commuting distance of Washington, D.C.

I suppose some complications would arise from this plan. For security purposes, they would probably have to buy the surrounding houses or even the whole block. The president’s entourage would likely back up traffic as he is commuting downtown every day. They would also have to purchase new office space for his personal staff, and a large hall for hosting foreign dignitaries and holding functions. It also would be a shame to sell the White House to a private citizen because of its historical significance as the house and its artifacts should belong to the people of this country.

On further thought, my brilliant idea is pretty stupid. It would not even be a significant contribution, since it’s only worth .000000017 of the national debt. I am glad I did not write about this idea, and I’m really glad I did not send it to CNN to be published. Daniel Burke is not so fortunate.

In a recent article, he blasted the archbishops for not following the example of Pope Francis in living in a more humble setting. I completely agree with Burke’s main point. It would be great if our church leaders chose to live in simple houses close to the people. Moreover, a few bishops have done great harm to the church by their extravagant spending, most famously German Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst.

In Burke’s article, Archbishop William Lori is mentioned because his residence is valued at $1.24 million. In this case, Burke fails to make some important distinctions. The archbishop’s house was not purchased by Archbishop Lori; it first served as the archbishop’s residence in 1832. In other words, Archbishop Lori paid nothing for it. It’s a free building for the church. It would, however, cost money if the spiritual shepherd of the Archdiocese of Baltimore wanted to buy a smaller, more humble residence.

Archbishop Lori's residence. (Tom McCarthy Jr. | CR Staff)

Second, it is not just a home for the archbishop. The article states that the rector of the Basilica and secretary of the archbishop also live there. It also has work spaces for them, meeting rooms, a place for receptions and a chapel. It is a functional building for ordinary Catholics to use in addition to the archbishop. If you want to meet the rector to plan a wedding in the Basilica, that’s where you’ll go. If there’s a small reception after a Mass at the Basilica, that’s where you’ll have it.

According to the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the basilica deed prohibits the sale of the residence. Even if it could be sold, it’s a historical building with limited appeal outside of the church. Moreover, it is attached to the Basilica. Think of all the expensive renovations to separate the house from the church. It would make zero economic sense to sell it and buy another property.

Lastly, the building has a deep spiritual legacy. It was the cradle of Catholicism in the United States. According to the current rector, “In this house the Bishops of the United States met to commission the writing of the Baltimore Catechism, opened the Catholic School System and established the Catholic University of America. The Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the chapel and through the years the Archbishops of Baltimore have welcomed guests to the chapel including Blessed John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”

Think of all the saints who have come through its doors and prayed in that house. Its history is too rich to give it away.

Of all of the church leaders cited in the CNN article, guess who lives in the most expensive residence? Surprise, it’s Pope Francis. Of course, Burke misses this point. His “residence” cost $20 million to build in the 1990s. However, it is a massive dormitory with over a 100 rooms; clearly it’s not used just for him. Citing straight numbers without an explanation, you see, can be confusing.    

As I said, I am glad the press is holding the church accountable. I am grateful that they have uncovered bishops who have spent money donated by the people for expensive and unfulfilling projects. However, I do not approve of sloppy journalism that makes generalizations about the archbishops of the United States, completely ignoring the nuances of the matter. Burke seems more intent on insulting Catholics than holding bishops accountable.   

I believe that Archbishop Lori’s residence is free, highly-functional and a home with a unique spiritual legacy. As a local Catholic who makes a weekly financial contribution to the church, I am pleased that he has access to it, and I would protest any movement that tries to pressure him to vacate it.    

This blog was updated with new information Aug. 8 at 6:18 p.m.

August 08, 2014 04:02
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


The Anglican question


In a widely praised move, the Church of England recently voted to allow for female bishops. It would seem to follow that the church’s shift toward popular opinion would result in an influx of new members. If one, however, looks at the American branch of the Anglican community, the Episcopalian Church, the predicated impact of the vote is quite the opposite.

The Episcopalian Church is far more progressive than its sister church in England. The American church consecrated Barbara Harris as its first female bishop in 1989, and in 2006, Katharine Jefferts Schori was elected as the head of the Episcopalian Church, the first female head of a national church.

Women priests in in York, England, react after the General Synod of the Church of England voted July 14 to authorize the ordination of women as bishops. The decision overturns centuries of tradition in a church that has been deeply divided on the issue. (CNS photo/Nigel Roddis, Reuters) 

The Episcopalian Church is proudly and unabashedly a modern church with its approval of contraception as a matter of private conscience, legal abortion, same-sex blessings, married clergy, and openly gay priests and bishops. It is a church that emphasizes a message of diversity, love, and acceptance. It should be thriving it the modern world, poised for a major revival, yet it is dying.

According to their data, weekly church attendance dropped from 856,579 to 657,831 between 2000 and 2010, a drop of 23.2 percent. In addition to a decline in church attendance, the Episcopalian community has been torn apart. Dioceses, parishes, and individuals have all splintered off to form their own communities or to join other denominations.  

I am not at this moment interested in the merits or lack of merits of female bishops, nor do I want to simply draw attention to the decline of mainline Protestant denominations. Rather, I'm intrigued by the phenomenon that a community so aligned with current trends seems to be declining the most in the modern world. Moreover, counter-cultural churches, such an Evangelicals and Catholics, are holding steady or increasing in size. 

A strange disconnect exists between what people want in a church and what church they actually remain members of or join. To put it another way, if typical Americans made up their own religion based on their personal beliefs, they most likely would not join it. For example, 77 percent of Catholics support the use of birth control, 72 percent want married priests, 68 percent support women priests, and 50 percent support same sex marriages. Millions of Catholics would, therefore, find their views correlate better with the Episcopalian Church than the Catholic Church, yet the vast majority have not and will not leave the Catholic Church.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Catholic Church experienced a similar occurrence to what is unfolding in the Episcopalian Church. That is, young progressives initiated numerous reforms into the church, and oddly, after getting many of the changes they desired, they stopped attending church or left the Catholic Church completely. Consequently, church attendance dropped from the 1950s to 1970s in an unprecedented fashion.

Trends in religion are counterintuitive; the more in align a religious denomination is with popular opinion, the more it declines. As Pope Francis and the world’s bishops prepare to review church policies, they should take a hard look at the recent experiences of the Anglican community. Earlier this year, Catholics were asked their opinion on a range of issues in preparation for the upcoming Synod on the Family. If church leaders think there is a simple correlation between Catholics disagreeing with church teachings and declining church attendance and that the easy remedy is to modernize the church’s teaching, they have no understanding of Catholic Church history nor have they studied what has happened to other faith communities in the last decade.   

 

July 28, 2014 11:21
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi


The reform that no one wanted: Communion in the hand



Within Catholic circles, the Second Vatican Council is a flashpoint for debate, but there is one point that all Catholics – traditionalists, progressives, liberals, conservatives – agree on: the unprecedented level of change. Consequently, most scholars would argue that the council was the defining event of the modern church, and that nothing had a greater impact on the church since the Reformation.

As an historian of religious rituals, I have been fascinated on how this religious revolution played out on the parish level and how Catholics in the 1960s and beyond reacted to it. There is no shortage of institutional histories of the council, focusing both on the events in Rome and the implementation in the United States. These works, however, concentrate on the hierarchy and their actions in developing and executing changes following the council. Even works that promise a history of the council “from below” emphasize parish priests or records composed by clerics about the laity. The voice of the majority of Catholics seems lost in the historical literature of the modern church.

My initial thought was to do an oral history of the post-conciliar church, interviewing people who lived in the 1960s and 1970s. This approach is limited, however, by the small number of people that could be sampled and also by the lack of accuracy when dealing with distant memories.

In reading about the history of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, I began seeing references to the GIFT (Growth in Faith Together) program and an extensive survey that was part of the program. I discovered that upon returning from Rome, Cardinal Shehan developed a plan to visit every parish (either himself or an auxiliary bishop) in the diocese to discuss the changes that were taking place in the late 1960s. The meetings were contentious, and he described a heightened sense of “anxiety and confusion” in the parishes. He tasked the senate of priests to construct a program to address these issues, and the GIFT program was the result of their efforts.

It was a three stage program, including research, reflection, and response.  In the research phase, the entire parish would take a 60 question survey, and then in the reflection period, the parish would break
up into small groups to discuss the results of the survey and pick a few topics to learn more about. Lastly, in the response time, experts would come in and deliver lectures on topics selected by the parish during the small groups phase.

The program was piloted in two parishes in the fall of 1970, and then the senate of priests voted to implement the program in all the parishes. A thorough reading of the GIFT program reveals that it increased tension, rather than diminished it. The response sessions turning into debates, and the Catholic Review saw an eruption of heated letters to the editor in favor and in opposition of the program. Furthermore, the senate of priests’ vote was close with 115 priests voting in favor of expanding the program and 101 voting against it, highlighting the divergent opinions of the program.

The GIFT program lasted from 1970 to 1975 and 21 parishes took part. An impressive 13,796 Catholics responded, and though I am not an expert in statistics, such a high number should provide enough data to make a definitive statement concerning the laity’s reactions to the changes following Vatican II.

Over the winter break, I spent several days shifting through the survey results in the diocese’s archive, located in the basement of St. Mary’s Seminary (It is a closed box and not accessible to the general public). The survey results could provide evidence for many articles, even books, but I was initially only interested in questions dealing with the liturgy.

The simple answer to the laity’s reception of the liturgical changes can be found in question 19: “Changes in the Mass have harmed rather than helped me to worship” and 27% agreed and 68% disagreed (with 5% not answering). These results confirm the standard narrative that the majority of Catholics preferred the new Mass with its use of English and more community oriented worship. Yet, a sizable minority, nearly a third, desired to go back to the old Mass. The traditional percentage is much higher than the often cited numbers compiled by Andrew Greeley, which claim that 85-87% preferred the new Mass. To this point, I was not overly surprised by the results.

What piqued my interest was question 23. This question, unlike the other questions, changed several times, and I have not determined the reason behind the shift. Its three versions with survey results are: I like to participate actively at mass: 75% agree and 24% disagree; There should be more lay participation in Sunday Mass: 35% agree and 64% disagree; I would prefer to take Communion in my hands: 17% agree and 82% disagreed. The first two versions reveal that people wanted to be part of the Mass, but not front and center.


Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York distributes Communion at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York June 21, 2013.(CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz) 

The version relating to the reception of Communion in the hand is perplexing for a variety of reasons. First, the 1970s were not a traditional era. As seen above, most people approved of the main liturgical changes, and when it came to social issues, they were exceedingly liberal, with 68% disagreeing with the church’s teaching of contraception. Second, it is also curious that there has been nearly a universal switch. I have no statistics about current practices, but from my own personal experiences, almost everyone receives Communion in the hand.

Communion in the hand was not authorized by Vatican II; though in some countries, like Germany and the Netherlands, the practice became more commonplace after the council. To address the question, Paul VI surveyed the world’s bishops on the topic, and released a document, Memoriale Domini, to explain the church’s position. Below are the questions sent to the world’s bishops and their responses.

1. Do you think that attention should be paid to the desire that, over and above the traditional manner, the rite of receiving holy communion on the hand should be admitted?

Yes: 597 No: 1,233 Yes, but with reservations: 315 Invalid votes: 20

2. Is it your wish that this new rite be first tried in small communities, with the consent of the bishop?

Yes: 751 No: 1,215 Invalid votes, 70

3. Do you think that the faithful will receive this new rite gladly, after a proper catechetical preparation?

Yes: 835 No: 1,185 Invalid votes: 128

Since the majority of bishops opposed the vote, the pope issued a clear and poignant statement on Communion in the hand. “The Apostolic See therefore emphatically urges bishops, priests and laity to obey carefully the law which is still valid and which has again been confirmed. It urges them to take account of the judgment given by the majority of Catholic bishops, of the rite now in use in the liturgy, of the common good of the Church.” He, however, left open the option of a local conference to continue the tradition of receiving Communion in the hand, if the practice was already in place.

As an historian, I have two questions related to Communion in the hand. First, why was this reform the one that no group wanted? The pope and bishops, who a few years before passed sweeping liturgical reforms, came down on the opposite side on this issue. The laity also favored the majority of the liturgical changes, but not this one. What made the traditional practice of receiving communion, kneeling at a communion rail and on the tongue, so popular even with a progressive generation?

Secondly, how did the shift happen so rapidly? My first memories of going to Mass come from the mid-1980s, only 15 years after Memorial Domini, and Communion in the hand had already become the norm. How did a practice go from being unpopular to the universal practice in 15 years or less?

Of course, these questions on the reception of Communion touch on more than one aspect of the liturgy. Its significance relates to the meaning of Communion, the role of laity, the changing of the liturgy in general, and much more. I am interested in hearing your thoughts, especially if you lived through these events in 1970s.    

 

 

April 10, 2014 04:13
By Dr. H. P. Bianchi

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