Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI: A Lifelong Pilgrim

It has been a while since The Catholic Man has posted on this blog. A blog-post was initially supposed to be released on December 31, 2022. However, out of respect for the passing of Pope-emeritus, Benedict XVI, this blog-post will be postponed until after his Funeral Mass on January 5, 2023. The blog-post, interestingly, was to mention of his works. In lieu of that, I share my tribute reflection to him, titled Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI: A Lifelong Pilgrim. An excerpt will be shared here, but the rest of it can be found on my personal blog.

Just hours before the See of Peter went into a state of “sede vacante” on Thursday February 28, 2013, Pope Benedict XVI from the central loggia of the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, said that, after a few hours he would no longer be Supreme Pontiff, but “simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this earth.” In 2018, marking the fifth anniversary of his resignation, the Pope-emeritus in a letter to the senior correspondent of Corriere della Sera newspaper, Massimo Franco, reiterated similar sentiments, “I can only say that with the slow decline of my physical forces, interiorly, I am on a pilgrimage towards Home.”

This theme of being a pilgrim is one that seemed prominent in Benedict XVI’s Pope-emeritus years. Perhaps too simple of a concept for a world-renown theologian? I would argue not so. It is perhaps with his background as a theologian that he understood very well what it meant to be a pilgrim. To be a pilgrim requires one to first of all, be on a journey, and second, a realization of where the journey is headed. A pilgrim needs an end destination, and Benedict realized very well that that end destination was the Heavenly Jerusalem, the place where he would eventually meet God face-to-face.

As a theologian, he strived wholeheartedly to be a “cooperator of the truth,” hence his episcopal motto, “Cooperatores Veritatis,” and in that search and collaboration with truth, his own faith in God was strengthened for the pilgrim journey. It is in understanding, deciphering and sharing theology that he understood that, “faith is nothing less than being interiorly seized by God, something which guides us along the pathways of life. Faith draws us into a state of being seized by the restlessness of God and it makes us pilgrims who are on an inner journey towards the true King of the world and his promise of justice, truth and love.” (Epiphany 2013 Homily) It is in God alone that one finds rest (cf. Ps 62:1), finds truth (cf. Jn 14:6), and love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Pope Benedict affirmed this for himself in his Spiritual Testament he signed in 2006, in which he said, “I have seen, and see, how, out of the tangle of hypotheses, the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging anew. Jesus Christ is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the Church, in all her shortcomings, is truly His Body.”

Continue reading…


The Catholic Man’s Carlo Acutis ‘Swag’ List

The Catholic Man Reviews will be back with new reviews in a couple weeks, but for now, as we celebrate the memorial of Blessed Carlo Acutis for the third time since his beatification. As many readers and my friends know, I have a devotion to the young Blessed. Over the past years, several have asked me about materials on Blessed Carlo Acutis. On this occasion of his memorial this year, I compile a list of some materials on Blessed Carlo Acutis for those interested. A number of items I have reviewed, of which the review I will link in this , a number of things, including books I have purchased a read. I hope these materials will help many, particularly young people like myself grow in devotion to Blessed Carlo Acutis.

English Books

  • Blessed Carlo Acutis – 5 Steps to Being a Saint by Mgr. Anthony Figueiredo: This is, in my opinion the ultimate starter book on Blessed Carlo Acutis that anyone who has yet to read up on the young Blessed should pick up and read. It is not heavy on his biography, but really focuses on the spirituality of the Blessed, and how his spirituality is relevant for all peoples today in their universal call to holiness.
  • Carlo Acutis – The First Millennial Saint by Nicola Gori: Now that you understand Carlo’s spirituality, then there is no better biography in English than one from the Postulator, Nicola Gori himself. Reading this biography will help you realize how ‘down to earth’ Carlo’s life was, and how holiness can be attained by the person who truly strives and wants to follow Jesus.
  • Carlo Acutis – A Millennial in Paradise by Fr. Will Conquer: I would say that this book is a merger between the titles by Mgr. Figueiredo and Nicola Gori and is more ideal for a “book club” or devotional group setting. There are questions for discussion and reflection and Bible passages that might facilitate prayer, making it useful for small groups.

Younger audiences will benefit from the following:

  • Carlo Acutis – The Boy Who Knew by Corinna Turner: The storyline is fictional, but the retelling of Carlo Acutis’ life weaved throughout the story is real. It gives younger audiences a deeper outlook of hope of a model of holiness in Blessed Carlo Acutis, and also fosters devotion to him, particularly through the Novena to the young Blessed.
  • Dare to be More, The Witness of Blessed Carlo Acutis by Colleen and Matt Swaim: This book is more ideal for a senior elementary school, or junior high school classroom setting. The language is really easy to read, and has challenges geared to give young people tool to help ground them in a deeper spiritual life based on the spirituality of Blessed Carlo.
  • Holy Heroes Carlo Acutis Series: I have personally not read or used any of the materials from Holy Heroes, but I do hope to review them one day on this blog alongside the many titles I have featured on this blog. I see there is a book on Carlo Acutis, as well as an audiobook and even a colouring book. The reviews I have seen on the web has been very positive. Let me know in the comments below if you have read or used any of Holy Heroes’ Carlo Acutis materials.

Other titles include:

  • Originals, not Photocopies: Carlo Acutis and Francis of Assisi by Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino: The Bishop of the Diocese of Assisi, Archbishop Sorrentino, the diocese which is now home to the remains of Carlo Acutis, wrote this little short book on the spirituality of Carlo Acutis contrasting it with the spirituality of Francis of Assisi. A beautiful short read which I recommend. You can purchase it from the bookshop of the Sanctuary of the Spoliation, Assisi, the ‘shrine’ to Blessed Carlo Acutis, as well as where his tomb is located. Profits go to support charitable works.
  • Highway to Heaven: A Spiritual Journey through the Life of Blessed Carlo Acutis by Ephrem Kunnappally: Quite an insightful read on the life of Blessed Carlo Acutis, and verified by Nicola Gori, the Postulator of Carlo Acutis’ Cause as well as Ms. Antonia Salzano, Carlo Acutis’ mother. However, the English in this book is a little difficult to read – I hope it will be further edited in future editions.
  • Carlo Acutis, the Servant of God: Life beyond the Border by Francesco Orchetta: I would say that this is one of the first English books on Carlo Acutis. It is brief biography of him, but informative with many photographs.

Devotional Items

  • Artesanato Costa’s Carlo Acutis Statue: This is by far my favourite and high quality statue of Carlo Acutis, made in Brazil, the country that produced the first miracle that paved the way for Carlo Acutis’ beatificaiton. Statues come in 30cm and 60cm sizes. Please note, that as of the time the review was written, shipping was not yet offered internationally. For confirmation, do contact them via their WhatsApp – they are very responsive to their communications.
  • Editrice Shalom’s Carlo Acutis Statues: Editrice Shalom has produced a wide variety of Carlo Acutis statues, made in Italy. I have never seen them for myself, but if you do own one, feel free to let us know in the comments.
    • Search results here.
  • Editrice Shalom’s Carlo Acutis Portraits: I did a Carlo Acutis shopping spree last year, and bought a variety of holy cards and prints of Carlo Acutis’ official Beatification portraits for low prices. All of them are printed with lamination so they can last for years to come.
    • Search results here.
  • Editrice Shalom’s Carlo Acutis Medals: By this point, you can see how much of a shopping spree I did at Editrice Shalom, simply because they have the widest array of Carlo Acutis related items, directly from Italy. I bought a silver-plated medal of Carlo Acutis, as well as a keychain – both of high quality. The medal I attached on my Rugged Rosary I bought some time later.
    • Search results for medals here.
    • Rugged Rosary with Carlo Acutis medal review here.
    • Keychain here.
  • Catholic Prayer Cards’ Carlo Acutis Medal: This is a high quality but most economical Carlo Acutis on the market, made in italy. I have one attached to my Breviary cover’s zipper. The family who owns Catholic Prayer Cards are amazing people – it is a pleasure to purchase Catholic prayer cards and medals from them.

The Liturgy Series: Word on Fire’s The Liturgy of the Hours monthly prayer resource

Note: For consistency, the term breviary is used in this post to refer to the hardcopy four-volume Liturgy of the Hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the Prayer of the Church – prayed around the clock by members of the Church all around the world. Some may think it is a prayer reserved for the clergy and religious, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church has affirmed that, “The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God.” (1175, emphasis added) However, the hard-copy breviaries that you sometimes see priests and religious carry around in leather cases with several ribbon markers may seem daunting to the lay-person. Where do you start? Perhaps the lay-person just wants to pray without the stresses of ribbons, of Commons and of page-flipping… sometimes 3-4 page flips at some hours on some days. It is with these sentiments in mind that Word on Fire Ministries (WOF) has recently started publishing a monthly subscription simply titled The Liturgy of the Hours.

I think many readers of our blog is familiar with WOF – a Catholic evangelization ministry founded by Bishop Robert Barron. The ministry has published numerous books written by Bishop Barron, by also a variety of books in theology, evangelization and apologetics by world-renown theologians and scholars. Most notably, the WOF Bible volume I (which has been reviewed on our blog) and subsequently volume II has been very well received by people all around the world, not only for its commentary, but its quality and beauty. Producing beautiful books and publications has always been something WOF has strived to do because beauty is a way of evangelization. Moreover, The Liturgy Series on our blog has always mentioned that beauty reminds one of the author of beauty, which is God.

Therefore, WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours instilled in me high expectations for a booklet that was simple, practical, but also beautiful – and it does not matter if this was a mere monthly subscription booklet. Evangelization & Culture, the journal of the WOF Institute serves as testament to high-quality of subscription pieces published by WOF.


Opening the plastic, you find yourself holding in your hands a simple, handsome, orange-red cover book, embossed/debossed gold foil depicting the symbol of the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS) and a monogram, and white calligraphic text. The symbols are embossed/debossed without gold foil on the back. Personally, I am not a big fan of the red-orange – simply because when I think of a design of a liturgical publication, even if it were a monthly missalette or devotional, orange is not a colour that comes to mind. My mind often turns to a dark red, or a dark green, as seen with many classic liturgical book bindings. But maybe, the orange was chosen because WOF wanted to allow the book to stand out on your night stand, allowing it to remind you to “Pray it!” morning and evening.

The booklet’s paper is not newsprint like the Canadian Living with Christ monthly missalette. The paper is thin cream-coloured bible paper, which resembles closer to the Magnificat monthly missalette and devotional. I never liked newsprint missalettes or annual missals found in the pews of some parishes. Even if a resource were to be replaced monthly or annually, I think it should in no way resemble a copy of the daily newspaper like the Toronto Star, where you read through it once, and tossed into the trash. The Liturgy of the Hours‘ paper provides this sense of dignity to the content of texts that will be prayed – ultimately these are Liturgical Prayers, drawn from Scriptural passages, and thus I think it is rightful that a paper besides newsprint is used.

There is just a sense of reverence when you hold and pray using a printed copy of The Liturgy of the Hours that a movile device app just can’t achieve. Not only does the cover and paper merit attention, but the use of fonts, calligraphy and optimization of two-colour printing elevates the contents of the booklet. WOF seems to stick to two colours for the booklet: black and an orange-red font, which complements the elements of the cover, and gives a sense of cohesiveness to the booklet as a whole. Scattered throughout the book are full pages of calligraphic text of Bible verses in the orange-red ink – simply beautiful. These one-pagers of Bible verses, though seems rather trivial, or like ‘space-filler’, provokes further thought and reflection at times.

WOF’s website states, “The booklets include special artwork to mark and celebrate solemnities throughout the year, helping you to better enter the Church’s liturgical life.” Unfortunately, I did not get to see that – I asked for a review copy in May for the June issue, which never came. I received a review copy for July, and sadly July had no Solemnities… guess just bad luck, because June had many Solemnities and August at least has the upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption. I would have loved to see the art for June’s Solemnities, especially that of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, simply because WOF has always had great artwork in so many of their publications.

The size of the booklet is of a good, user-friendly, and portable size, measuring about 5″x7″x0.75″ – that is less than half the size of a classic breviary. I set aside my copy of the breviary for the month of July to fully immerse myself into the experience of the booklet, and was quite happy with the ability to bring this copy of The Liturgy of the Hours along with ease during my pilgrimage to Québec at the end of the month.

“Bare Bones”, Easy to Pray

The content is “bare bones”. Whether this is the first time praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or you are very familiar with the breviary, WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours makes praying the Prayer of the Church with ease. I think the first thing that needs to be clear is that The Liturgy of the Hours booklet unlike the full-breviary, only contains Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. I often pray the Office of Readings as well and I had to supplement that segment with a copy of a now, out-of-print The Office of Readings published by St. Paul’s Editions.

The Liturgy of the Hours provides the “bare bones” to facilitate the most straight-forward praying experience of praying the Liturgy of the Hours. For every hour, the Introductory is printed, the Psalms and Canticles are provided with the antiphons in bold at the start and end of each Psalm/Canticle (without the Psalm-Prayers found in the breviary), and proper formulae of dismissal for either layperson or clergy.

For every hour, there is only one instance of page-flipping, and that is ironically the hymn. Why do I say “ironic”? Because in the breviary, at least for the Ordinary Time season, the hymn is already printed after the introductory – that is unless you want to choose a different hymn. I often use the hymn provided for that hour. Therefore, having to flip for that portion of the hour seemed a little unusual for me, but totally understandable. Unlike the breviary, WOF provides notation for the hymns which really allows the Liturgy of the Hours to be prayed in its fullest sense possible. I know a number of people who have difficulty singing with breviary because of lack of notation. Unless you are familiar with the tune, it is difficult to follow along. WOF eliminates this questioning of, “how does this tune go?” and provides the notation which makes singing the hymn a lot easier.

In keeping with the “bare bones” user-friendly structure, I like how the headings are not printed in the text block itself, but rather, in the left margin. This is helpful for new users to know what is to be recited and what not, because I think “say the black, do the red” is unfamiliar among lay-people. I know the breviary even has some quotes from the saints or another source before some of the Psalms and Canticles, and those are printed in black and italicized, which might make things even more confusing for someone new to the breviary.

Some Critiques

An American Liturgical Calendar: While the Liturgy of the Hours is the Prayer of the Church, like the Mass and Lectionary texts, there are some adaptations in terms of the liturgical calendar in each country. While it was not surprise to me, it might be to some Canadian subscribers, and those outside of the United States, that The Liturgy of the Hours is reflective of the United States’ Liturgical Calendar. This was evident in July in two instances for me. The first was on Thursday July 14, 2022, which had the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Canada does not celebrate St. Kateri’s memorial on this day, but rather on April 17. Another instance was on Tuesday July 26, 2022 in which in the United States the memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne was observed, while in Canada, this day is observed as a feast. Therefore, not only would one of the Commons was to be utilized for most of Morning and Evening Prayer, but Morning Prayer was supposed to utilize Sunday Week 1’s Psalms and Canticles, as is the case with Morning Prayer of Feasts and Solemnities.

This is understandable on the part of WOF, because WOF is based in the United States, and it seems that Americans are their largest recipients of their materials, compared to Canada. Even the current breviary fails to acknowledge Canadian saints and the Canadian Liturgical Calendar, which makes praying the breviary on days like the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha or the feast of Sts. Jean de Brébeuf and Companions even more difficult with the extra work to locate prayers, inserts and commons. On these days, I find praying with the Universalis app all the better, because the app has reflected these Canadian adaptations. The only bummer with that is the use of a mobile device, rather than a printed book.

I think WOF should address the use of the American Liturgical adaptations in their FAQs. They have an FAQ on their site that states:

On saint/feast days, will you give people options or just pick one set of prayers?

The booklet includes one set of prayers for each day, choosing the highest ranking feast or celebration. Our goal is simplicity. We want to reduce the number of choices so that people can just read and pray without worrying about extra decisions.

I think this is a perfect place to mention the American Liturgical Calendar adaptations. It is just unfortunate that the Canadian market is just too small to justify the making of a Canadian version of The Liturgy the Hours subscription program. Even the popular Magnificat has a version with American Lectionary translations and no Canadian version. But overall, you will only find these adaptations on a handful number of days of the liturgical calendar.

Recordings for the Hymns: I am glad that WOF chose to include musical notations for the hymns. For someone who can read musical notation, I can find my way through the hymns easily, but I do not think that is the case for many users. To facilitate the learning of some of the hymns, I recommend adding a page with recordings for the hymns on the WOF website. Perhaps there are permissions that must be sought, but even if these recordings are made available to subscribers only, it might be of great help to many who wish to learn these hymns.

Reconsidering Gospel Canticles and Night Prayer: I know WOF wants to have the prayers in proper sequence laid out for every day, even duplicating prayers every day as necessary, but is there too much dupication? I questioned this while praying using the booklet, especially for Gospel Canticles – I wonder if it is better to have the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis or at least just the Benedictus and Magnificat on the inside front covers, epsecially since as of now, the two inside front covers are blank.

I do not think it is difficult, or of inconvenience to have to turn to the front or back cover for these Canticles. That means that only the antiphon would need to be printed once at the point these Canticles are to be recited. Moreover, I have found the Gospel Canticles easy to learn by heart after frequent praying of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Some consideration might also be given to Night Prayer which is less complicated than Morning and Evening Prayer, and I think, better suited to have just a section dedicated to Night Prayer in the back with the Night Prayer from Sunday to Saturday. This is a better alternative, I think, than printing four-weeks worth of the same prayers. The only extra effort required is turning to the back section each night, but that is very simple, given that you know which day of the week it is. For the day’s prayer after Evening Prayer, some note to turn to page # for Night Prayer might be an option.

Adding the Invitatory Psalm: I was a bit disappointed to not see the Invitatory Psalm included in The Liturgy of the Hours, especially since the Introductory for the Invitatory is so meaningful, “Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.” The Invitatory Psalm, often Psalm 95, but Psalm 100, 67 or 24 can serve as alternatives, is said at the first hour of the day. I often pray it at the Office of Readings, but for users of The Liturgy of the Hours, it is most appropriate to include it at Morning Prayer. I hope some consideration will be given to including the Invitatory Psalm in future editions of The Liturgy of the Hours booklet.

For WOF’s Future Consideration

WOF has provided a wide range of resources in theology and apologetics, and it seems with The Liturgy of the Hours, WOF is entering a different field – of liturgy. Seeing the quality that WOF puts into their publications, I have questions as to what other types of publications may publish, especially in the area of Liturgy. Coming out in a couple of years, is the second edition of The Liturgy of the Hours, and I wonder if WOF will consider a more permanent resource, of publishing a user-friendly breviary for use by the lay-faithful that is not subscription based.

Moreover, the artistic beauty makes me wonder if WOF has any plans to publish high-quality liturgical books. I would love to see one-day the possibility of an edition of the Roman Missal printed with the highest standards, similar to the WOF Bible. Since the promulgation of the third english edition of the Roman Missal in 2011, there has been no new editions (i.e. new bindings, printings) of the Roman Missal in the english market, and I hope that WOF can introduce something new, worthy for use at the altar. These are just some possible liturgical projects, that I hope WOF might consider down the road.


The Liturgy of the Hours is a wonderful subscription that will help one be introduced to the hours. For a mere $7USD/month (at Special Founder’s Discount), one can have the chance to immerse one’s prayer life with the Prayer of the Church. I recommend it for individuals, families or prayer groups and chaplaincies in educational institutions so that many more people will be introduced to this wonderful prayer of the Church.

To learn more about WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours subscription and subscribe, click here.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of The Liturgy of the Hours – July 2022 to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Word on Fire for the opportunity for us to review this subscription on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

Review: For Love of the Church – A Festschrift on the Interests and Accomplishments of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins

While a majority of our blog readers are American, I believe my ordinary, Thomas Cardinal Collins, Archdiocese of Toronto deserves a spotlight on this blog. Probably, one of the perks during my time as a part-time sacristan at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica (2019-2021) was being able to frequently hear homilies from my Archbishop. It was a captivating 15-minutes every time Cardinal Collins went to the ambo to give the homily at the Masses which he celebrated. When churches were closed in March 2020 until June 2020 due to COVID-19, Cardinal Collins was preaching at his Daily Masses everyday from the Cathedral ambo, though to an empty Cathedral nave, but these homilies would reach thousands via livestream. His zeal for preaching and teaching the Word of God in the homily, and in a special way via his Lectio Divina series, has served as a point of spiritual and intellectual inspiration for many, including myself.

This year, 2022, marks Cardinal Collins’ 75th birthday – the age which bishops submit their resignation to the Holy Father (Code of Canon Law 401 §1). This year also marks 15 years of Cardinal Collins as Archbishop of Toronto (2007). To celebrate this great milestone year, Novalis has published a festschrift on the “interests, and accomplishements of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins,” titled For Love of the Church. Now “what is a festschrift?” you might be asking. This title from Novalis was the first I have heard of the term, and I am certain many of our readers are asking the same. It may seem like a festschrift is just a fancy word for an anthology of essays and articles. However, it seems that it is more than a mere anthology:

a collection of essays or learned papers contributed by a number of people to honour an eminent scholar, esp a colleague

Collins English Dictionary

The scholar here is Cardinal Collins. “Cardinal Collins, a scholar?” Yes – and his biography on the Archdiocese of Toronto website proves this with his education degrees:

  • Bachelor of Arts (English), St. Jerome’s College, Waterloo, Ontario
  • 1973 Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.), St. Peter’s Seminary, London, Ontario
  • M.A. (English), University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario
  • Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L), Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome
  • Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.), Gregorian University, Rome
    • Dissertation: Apocalypse 22:6-21 as the Focal Point of Moral Teaching and Exhortation in the Apocalypse, Director: Rev. Ugo Vanni, SJ.

This festschrift is consisted of 20 essays divided into 5 sections:

  1. Scripture and Literature
  2. Spirituality
  3. The Church in Modern Times
  4. Seminary Formation
  5. Accomplishments

I will go through each of the sections, and how relevant they are to the ministry of Thomas Cardinal Collins in my capacity and observations, and also from my own experiences of hearing Cardinal Collins’ homilies and talks at various events. I see this festschrift as an expansion of the topics Cardinal Collins references in his homilies and talks. It is better to understand the texts of this volume, I think, if one has been exposed to a variety of Cardinal Collins’ homilies, talks and pastoral letters. It might be said that without prior knowledge about the interests and accomplishments of the Cardinal, this festschrift may be more like an academic textbook, journal or anthology. I must admit that reading this volume as an undergraduate student in the humanities is helpful with some background in academic reading. Someone in other non-humanities disciplines or those who might have little interest in Christian Theology, may find some of the readings difficult to get through due to the academic tone in some of them. For such readings, I advise spending the time to read slowly, and carefully. It might be helpful to make notes in the margins.

1. Scripture and Literature

Cardinal Collins is a scholar of Scripture. He has a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture (S.S.L) from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, and also a Doctorate in Theology (S.T.D.) from the Gregorian University in Rome with a focus on the book of Revelation, as evident in his doctoral dissertation, Apocalypse 22:6-21 as the Focal Point of Moral Teaching and Exhortation in the Apocalypse. His love of the Scriptures is also made evident in his Lectio Divina series he has done in both Edmonton and Toronto. He always promotes the reading of Scripture – holding a red-cover New Testament, “My bible is red, because the bible is meant to be read,” and encouraged the people of the Archdiocese, “Read a chapter of the Gospels everyday.”

If the Cardinal is not quoting Scripture, or a saint, then as someone with an MA in English, he quotes from literature… I can recall more than one homily which had a reference from the works of Dante Alighieri. The Cardinal is a “devoted fan of Dante.” Many homilies would begin and/or conclude with some form of poetry and rhetoric. There is some special zeal that comes out the Cardinal everytime he reads poetry…

The first five articles of the festschrift ties in the biblical themes from the book of Revelation, transformation, knowing the Lord, unity with Christ and the Church, and Dante. These are all themes one will likely have heard the Cardinal make some connection or reference to in his homily.

2. Spirituality

There are several saints whom Cardinal Collins have a great devotion to, and mention them frequently in his talks and homily. The next three articles of this festschrift speaks to some of these figures: St. Augustine, Sts. John Fisher and St. John Henry Newman. All three essays speak to a mere dimention of one of these saints, whether it be the saint’s own thoughts, writings or a deep conversation – like the essay, Spiritual Notes for a Secular Age: In Conversation with John Henry Newman and Charles Taylor by Dr. Donald Graham – which provides grounds for further thought on what secular age really means, and the three keys to live as a Christian in this age.

These three articles tie in the past challenges of the saints, while giving us guidance on how to live holiness in the world that we live in today. Cardinal Collins’ homilies have always strived to give some ‘food for thought’ for the listeners, because that is our ultimate vocation – to be saints – and not to hold on to the passing things of this world.

3. The Church in Modern Times

The first two themes drew from themes that I would say, come from the homilies, talks and speeches of His Eminence. The third section, The Church in Modern Times shifts gears to speak about the themes that you might find in a talks outside of homilies, in a setting like the Cardinal’s Dinner, or maybe a talk at the March For Life in Ottawa. The five essays contained in this section speak to a variety of topics that surround the Church in Canada, and in Toronto specifically: The uniqueness of Eastern Catholicism (specifically liturgy), comparison of the Diocese of Toronto during the time of Michael Power and today, the Church experience from an African perspective, Catholic-Jewish Relationsinn Canada from the 1990s-2020, and finally, a “hot” topic in Canada, “care of the elderly at the end of life.”

This whole section is like a time-capsule: It gives one a context to the state of the Catholic Church in Toronto during the tenure of the Cardinal Collins. Every predecessor of Cardinal Collins faced unique issues to their respective time period, and only time will tell what type of concerns Cardinal Collins’ successors will face and need to address. It is so important to be able to understand the circumstances of a certain time so to avoid drawing our own uneducated assumptions on a specific leader. I think these five essays touch on these various topics and concerns that were at the heart of the Cardinal, and gives a unique picture of the Church in Canada during his time as both Archbishop of Edmonton and Archbishop fo Toronto.

4. Seminary Formation

It may seem a little biased that the Seminary gets a whole section in this festschrift, especially considering that most of the contributors are professors at St. Augustine’s Seminary. However, the seminary is truly close to the heart of Cardinal Collins, because as Fr. Edwin Gonsalves points out in his Afterword, “…[Cardinal Collins is] fully aware that these [seminarians] are the future of the Church – men who are our future priests and bishops.” It is also of no surprise that this section is present given that he spent a good number of years from 1978 to 1997 serving in various positions at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, as a professor, Dean of Theology, Vice-Rector and as Rector up until his episcopal ordination. Many of the seminarians who I have been blessed to know throughout the years have testified to the Cardinal’s love for the Seminarian, and his frequent visits there. Besides the seminary, Cardinal Collins has been a promoter of priestly vocations in his diocese, hosting a breakfast, gathering young men all across the Archdiocese a couple hours prior the Archdiocesan Priestly Ordinations at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. He also makes time to speak at the Come and See event at St. Augustine’s Seminary and speaks at the annual Ordinandi Luncheon – a youth event to promote vocations to high-school students in Catholic Schools, which precedes the Ordinandi Dinner which takes place in the evening.

Though comprised of three essays, this section does not speak about how to train men to the priesthood. While two of the articles speak to more technical aspects of formation: homiletics and spiritual direction, the first essay of the three covers a topic that is fairly interesting, In Persona Mariae: Another Mary for Another Christ – Women as Marian Successors in Seminary Formation by Dr. Josephine Lombardi. Women can be seemed to be left out of the picture of designing a seminary formation program. However, Dr. Lomabardi, herself a professor of St. Augustine’s Seminary, recognizes women’s potential role co-minister/housemoterh, as leader, teacher, counsellor/advisor, lay preacher, comforter/intercessor, and ultimately, models of goodness. These are not just mere roles women can take on in the process of forming men in the seminary, but these are roles that exemplify Mary’s role in salvation because she herself had all of these roles. Inclusion of women in serminary formation is therefore, crucial and should be more widespread. Through that, a ‘Marian continuation’ takes place as women becomes “Mary’s successors, reavealing her presence and unique genius, advising and informing decision making at every level of seminary governance.” (Lombardi 338) Dr. Lombardi’s article gave some fairly interesting and thought provoking insights, at least for me, especially in a time when women are being appointed in dicasteries and positions in the Church where they will have more say and voice.

5. Accomplishments

There are twenty essays in today, but only the last five are dedicated to Cardinal Collins. These articles in a sense tie in all of the interests indicated in sections 1-4, and gives them context of where it fits within Cardinal Collins’ ministry. These chapters gave me much insight into the episcopal ministry of Thomas Cardinal Collins. I have deeply admired Cardinal Collins for many years, not just because he is my ordinary, but because of his care, concern and zeal in his ministry. The first of the five essays speak to the “Alberta Years,” which really gave me a lot more context to Cardinal Collins’ ministry in Toronto – it was really like a game of connecting the dots: You need to read the essays of his interests, his spirituality to understand his accomplishments and the why of what he does as Archbishop. It is in understanding who Cardinal Collins is, getting where he is coming from when he speaks, to understand why he speaks in a certain tone, certain voice, certain style and certain “drama” at events like the Cardinal’s Dinner.


Once again, I am biased to give a review of this book, because Cardinal Collins is my ordinary… but in all honesty, this festschrift only helped me to appreciate my ordinary, Archbishop Thomas Cardinal Collins a lot more for the person he is. Thanks be to God! I have always been a “fan” of Cardinal Collins, and truthfully wish he receives more publicity for his accomplishements on the news. But this festschrift convinces one that he doesn’t need this sort of glamourous attention on the news. Cardinal Collins does what he does, not only out of responsibility as Archbishop of Toronto, but he is urged on to act “For Love of the Church.”

Thank you, Cardinal Collins for all you do for the Church. And thank you Novalis for publishing this festschrift – hopefully others in the Archdiocese of Toronto will come to appreciate their shepherd more, and pray for him.

To purchase and read more details on For Love of the Church, click here.

Click here to read an article on this festschrift from the Archdiocese of Toronto Blog.

Click here to read an article on this festschrift from St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of For Love of the Church: A Festschrift on the Interests and Accomplishments of His Eminence Thomas Cardinal Collins to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Novalis for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

The Liturgy Series: Sanny de Zoete’s Altar Linens

On this day, the Catholic Church in Canada (where I reside), and in many other dioceses of the world celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, more commonly known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. I thought it would be best to speak about beauty in the liturgy, and specifically, on the altar.

Since the beginning of The Liturgy Series, The Catholic Man has strived to feature exceptional liturgical objects for use in the liturgy. Some might be tempted to think that being nit-picky about having beautiful objects at the liturgy is going too far – as long as the item serves its purpose, then it is suitable, because it is the liturgy itself that is important, not the externals. There was an era where functionalism was adopted widely. However, in recent decades, the Church has taken a different approach, an apporach that was amplified, seemingly, under the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI.

In the context of the liturgy, in Sacramentum Caritatis, Pope Benedict said:

Like the rest of Christian Revelation, the liturgy is inherently linked to beauty: it is veritatis splendor. The liturgy is a radiant expression of the paschal mystery, in which Christ draws us to himself and calls us to communion. As Saint Bonaventure would say, in Jesus we contemplate beauty and splendour at their source.

The beauty of the liturgy is part of this mystery; it is a sublime expression of God’s glory and, in a certain sense, a glimpse of heaven on earth. The memorial of Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice contains something of that beauty which Peter, James and John beheld when the Master, making his way to Jerusalem, was transfigured before their eyes (cf. Mk 9:2). Beauty, then, is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation. These considerations should make us realize the care which is needed, if the liturgical action is to reflect its innate splendour.

Sacramentum Caritatis 35

Yet, why a path of beauty? Why should Catholics ensdorse beauty, not just in the liturgy, but within Catholicism in general? To this, Pope Benedict XVI would respond:

[…]the via pulchritudinis, the way of beauty, is a privileged and fascinating path on which to approach the Mystery of God.

General Audience Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Ultimately, we use beautiful things in the liturgy, because beauty itself is reflective of the unexplainable beauty that takes place at every liturgical celebration: Jesus Christ, our salvation, present in the form of bread and wine among His people. It is also on this way of beauty that we may encounter God Himself, who is the author of all beauty.

Considering what has been mentioned thus far, it is such a pity that not few parishes resort to less than ideal altar linens, some made with polyester, and some with a cotton-poly blend. One rationale behind this is that purchasing and having altar cloths made from such material is cheaper. I don’t know if this is something more for myself who has been a sacristan and have seen the differences between polyester and authentic linen, but the difference is quite noticable. However, for the purposes of this review, I have also learned and felt the difference between cheap and expensive linen and trust me… there is a difference when you touch the two linens. That aside, this review will not be about comparing cheap and expensive linen, but rather, to speak specifically about a line of linens that I think deserves more attention among churches in North America.

Sanny de Zoete, based in Delft, Netherlands, is a linen damask lover, an art historian, speaker, author, cultural entrepreneur and guest curator. Her website makes evident the level of expertise and passion she has for linen damask. For the purposes of this review, and to get a feel for the background she has, I had a light-hearted Zoom conversation with Sanny and it is amazing how much she knows about an art that is unfortunately dying in many parts of the world.

Yes, you can get plain linen, but linen damask is turning linen up a notch – designs actually woven into the fabric itself to form a design. For the purposes of this review, Sanny graciously sent me two samples which I will speak about.

The Last Supper Linen Damask

Leonardo da Vinci’s depiction of the Last Supper is likely one of the most famous, and recognizable works of art in the world. It has been reproduced on a variety of mediums, including mosaics, prints, tapestry… by how about as linen damask? It is surprising to know that according to Sanny, “[l]inen weavers have been incorporating this design [of the Last Supper] into their communion damask in the Netherlands since 1850.” Coming from a Protestant Christian background, the Last Supper as damask linen has been of interest for her. She managed to acquire a 19th century engraving by Willem van‘t Riet which reproduced da Vinci’s depiction of the Last Supper. The print served as Sanny’s inspiration for the recreation of the Last Supper on linen damask.

Upon hearing of the Last Supper linen damask, there is perhaps some fear that it is not detailed enough. In fact, Sanny’s Last Supper linen damask is not the first – during my time working at the Catholic Cathedral in Toronto, I have already seen something of smaller sized, called the Last Supper super-corporal (a corporal, meant for larger altars) by Slabbinck. The product page for that super-coproral seems to have been taken down from the page, but in all honesty, everytime I looked at the damask, there was something off about the design – it just lack so much detail. This is understandable since many of these linens are mass-manufactured for sale, and on many occasions, with the aim of low prices while still making profits. Yet, it is true, you get what you pay for.

The detail on Sanny’s linen is awe-inspiring. It seems to me that Sanny’s linen is like a mosaic embedded on linen, but it is more complicated than mosaic in the aspect that: mosaics are often made up of titles that have a wide variety of colours. That is how you can achieve various shades on mosaic. But that is not achievable on damask – the colour of the threads of the fabric including the damask are all the same. It is the direction of the weaving that creates the image that you see. Is that not amazing?

The sample Sanny sent me was used at my parish for the first time this past Good Friday. At the liturgy of Good Friday, the liturgy begins with a bare altar. It is only before the Communion Rite that the altar is prepared with an altar linen. The altar linen used at that liturgy this year at my parish was Sanny’s Last Supper linens damask and the juxtaposition of the Crucifix and the Last Supper damask spoke to the interconnectedness of these two distinct, but mystical events, which eventually culminates with the Lord’s Resurrection. My pastor was amazed at the quality and detail of Sanny’s linen, not only because it came all the way from the Netherlands, but it was, I dare say, the first time he was able to feel, and use high-quality linens. And indeed so, Sanny produced here a beautiful linen for service at the altar.

I would argue that such a linen as delicate and fine as this Last Supper linen damask, should be brought out for use on the most solemn of occasions of the Liturgical Year, especially during the Paschal Triduum. For a linen as large as this, it must be cared for well. I keep this linen rolled up, and tied with white grosgrain ribbons so to minimize wrinkles. It can be folded, but I think doing so will not be able to bring the damask design to its best visual state.

Click below to view the History of the Last Supper design, as recounted by Sanny de Zoete.

You can take a closer look at the prices and dimensions of the Last Supper linen damask here:

Grapevines and Ears of Wheat Corporal

Perhaps another investment that would best accompany the Last Supper linen is the Grapevines and Ears of Wheat Corporal (Sanny calls it a napkin on her website). Why do I say it is best suited as a corporal? It is square shaped – the corporal is folded into ninths, so that when folded, it could hold the fragments of the consecrated host which may fall onto the corporal. The corporal is carefully and reverently cleaned. Unlike the large Last Supper linen damask which covers the mensa of the altar, the corporal is placed on top at the liturgy of the Eucharist at the Catholic Mass to collect the fragments of the consecrated species, and therefore, may come in direct contact to the Eucharist, hence its significance.

The ears of wheat and grapevine are symbols of the Eucharist: the wheat used to make the bread, and the grapes used to make the wine, which in the Catholic Mass are consecrated so that they may become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ – in which through transubstantiation, the consecrated species contain the body, soul and divinity of Jesus.

Sanny de Zoete’s corporal contains these two seemingly simple symbols, but so eloquently woven all around the perimeter of the border. While this design might be able to be embroidered, for a corporal in Catholic liturgy, it may prove to be “too much.” Yet, when woven in damask on linen, there is just something so delicate and special about it. At various angles, you can see the design “glistening” under the light in a unique way.

I have not mentioned, but both the Last Supper and this linen corporal are made up of 42 threads per centimetre – the density of the fabric allows the deep level of detail, that I have not been able to see in a lot of Ecclesiastical linens and fabrics today.

The only exception with the corporal, is that for Catholic usage, it only lacks a simple cross in the centre. I hope this can be incorporated in future designs. There is a version indicated on the website: “One has a shield in the centre with the text Deze drinkbeker is het nieuwe testament in Mijn bloed, hetwelk voor U vergoten wordt (This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you).”

This design is, in fact, also available as a fair linen for the altar and for Catholic usage with crosses all along the middle as well.

I hope Sanny considers making a matching chalice pall, purificator and lavabo towel to go with this corporal. How complete of a set and amazing would that be, especially considering Sanny’s quality of work?

More details on the Grapevine and Wheat design can be found here:

You can purchase the corporal in a variety of sizes here:

Compared to other types of fabrics, linen damask is very strong, and has a longer life compared to some of the more contemporary types of fabrics. Moreover linen damasks keep their shape nicely during years of use.

Need a specific size to fit your parish’s altar? Sanny can weave according to your custom measurements! Just let her know, and contact her with your needs, and Sanny will happily answer your questions.

Closing Remarks

At the celebration of the Mass, the most important function of the Catholic Faith, Jesus Christ truly comes to His People in the Eucharist. If a king, or even a VIP (very important person) were to come dine at our table, we would offer them the best preparations: the best napkins, tablecloth, bowls, cutlery, etc. Why do parishes not do the same each week as Jesus comes among the Christian community?

The Liturgical Arts are important because they speak to the reality of what occurs at the liturgy: a true encounter with none other but the Lord in the sacraments, and especially the Eucharist. A parish that has continued to do this well since their establishment, is St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago. Throughout the pandemic, possibly many people, including myself were exposed to them via their livestreams of the their beautiful and reverent liturgies. The St. Martha’s Guild at their Parish which fosters beautiful and traditional Liturgical Arts wrote an interesting piece, The Mission to Restore Ecclesiastical Damask, which merits the time of our blog readers, especially those who follow The Liturgy Series to read. In this blog post, they feature Sanny de Zoete’s altar linens, and in particular, the long fair linen on the main altar, with the Grapevines and Ears of Wheat design, which also matches the corporal – simply beautiful! The post also features an application of the Last Supper linen damask on one of their side altars.

The interesting point is this, that I have read somewhere: The Canons of St. John Cantius revived the life of the church and parish, through their commitment to beautiful liturgy. Their parish has now fluorished. The little things for Our Lord matter. Beautiful articles for use at the liturgy matter, because humans have a tendency to gravitate toward beauty, and that beauty ultimately leads us to its Creator – God. Let us strive to use beautiful linens for use at the altar, like that of Sanny de Zoete, so to foster beautiful and traditional liturgical arts for generations to come. Through that, future generations will recognize the importance not only of the beautiful, but more importantly, the gravity of the Mass, the Eucharist in their Catholic lives.

I close with a point Sanny made at the end of our conversation together: The Last Supper damask, is a fine example of the embodiment of Jesus. On one side, Jesus is depicted seemingly as a white man. If you flip the linen on the reverse, Jesus is still the same Jesus, but depicted inverse, seemingly like a black man. Yet, no matter which image you see, it is still the same white thread used throughout – it is just a matter of the threads are woven that form the image.

The question is this: How do we see Jesus, going forth from the Eucharistic table? Do we recognize the beauty of all peoples and cultures, and therefore, unite together to move towards the Kingdom of Heaven? Do we see Jesus in all peoples, no matter their race, their skin colour, their ethnicity? Do we see Jesus in the prisoner, the beggar, the labourer, in our own brothers and sisters, classmates and co-workers?

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided some samples of Sanny de Zoete’s altar linens, by Sanny, to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews sincerely thanks Sanny for the opportunity for us to review and feature these linens on our blog and look forward to future reviews and features. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about these altar linens.