Day 4: Vatican Gift miraculous medal & rosaries

Welcome to my second review of 12 Days of Christmas season 3! Today, we have a series classic: rosaries. Not only that, they are rosaries from Vatican Gift, a company you may be familiar with if you followed the series last year. Vatican Gift has been kind enough to let us take a look at what a bigger budget can get you from their lineup. If you are not familiar with Vatican Gift, last year’s review may be a good place to start.

Let’s start today’s review with the not a rosary, but a miraculous medal, which is a product not mentioned in last year’s review. It comes in the typical blue Vatican Gift box. There is a little hook in which the medal is hooked onto. It is perfectly shaped so that together with the plush board the hook is attached to, the medal is held firmly in place but can still be removed without damage to the medal itself. The overall presentation is impressive.

The level of detail on the medal is also quite high. The etchings that form the letters, Mary’s facial features and the folds of her clothing look very clean and intentional. It is clear that care was taken when choosing what details to include and where they should be placed.

If you checked out the website, you would have noticed that the price (starting at $22) is quite a bit higher than what you may typically find at a Catholic shop or a shrine gift shop. This higher price is not only a result of the nice packaging and attention to detail, but also because this medal is made of sterling silver, made evident by the “925” marking on the back.

The perks of ordering such an item from Vatican gift is that, as detailed, it is much nicer than the miraculous medals you can buy for 50 cents to a dollar at a shrine souvenir shop for example, both in the etchings and the material quality. It also comes with packaging – nice packaging, might I add. The final perk is that there are a variety of sizes to choose from (please note that each size is priced differently). I think the price tag is justified when all these benefits are listed, but if you choose to gift this medal, the person receiving it may not be familiar with Vatican Gift and/or have read this post. Therefore, the person receiving the gift may not understand that this miraculous medal is indeed of higher quality (and price tag) and value it the way you hope they would. I think this is best gifted in addition to a rosary or given to someone who is familiar with medals and is fond of collecting those of higher quality.

Moving on to the rosaries, the first one I want to discuss is the Hematite rosary. The beads are made of hematite as the name implies and they all seem well made and very reflective, a quality that is noted on the web page. They also have quite a bit of weight to them which contributes to a luxurious feel. Upon close inspection, I noticed that not all of the beads have a perfectly smooth surface, which I think is a quality of the mineral. The crucifix and center piece of this rosary is also sterling silver and like the miraculous medal, do not have a high shine finish which is an interesting contrast to the rest of the rosary. I expected them to be heavier considering the weight of the beads, but these components are actually quite lightweight. The links between the beads feel sturdy, are all well shaped and appear to be the same size. The consistency between the links is an indicator of good quality.

The second rosary is from the Gratia Plena series. Rosaries in this series are “[d]esigned by Italian stylists, with the best raw materials, they are precious and elegant Rosaries.” This rosary is called the Emerald Swarovski Crystals And Murano Glass Rosary Necklace. It’s a rather long name but all the rosaries in this series are named like this. I suspect it is so that all the specifications of the rosaries are listed in the name and there is no need for a long description, and shoppers know exactly what they’re getting just by reading the name. It also makes my life easier; now I don’t have to list the materials for you. All the beads look really well cut/shaped; there aren’t any jagged edges or oddly sized beads. The beads flanking the larger Our Father beads have little crystals embedded which all seem well secured. According to the description, the crucifix is 24K gold plated sterling silver. Like the other rosary, this crucifix is also quite lightweight. The details in this crucifix aren’t very well defined; I think it may be a result of the plating process. Also, a very specific note, but I found Jesus’ feet to be painfully pointy. I think it could scratch someone given enough force. I know that not every one cares about that level of detail and it is also possible that that is a quality specific to the rosary I received, but it was something that stuck out to me. One final detail I want to note is the lobster claw clasp. I have never seen this feature in a rosary, but I think this is more geared toward the necklace aspect as the name details. I find that it works well and none of the links surrounding it feel loose. I think the jump between the Hail Mary beads may bother some people considering it is in the middle of a decade, so it is something to consider while shopping.

You may wonder how these rosaries, which are from the line of Precious Rosaries, differ from other rosaries, particularly the Vatican Gift rosaries we have previously reviewed. I think there are two main differences. The first is packaging. If you go back to the first Vatican Gift review we wrote, you will see that the first few rosaries we reviewed came in a little velvety pouch. These rosaries come in a very sturdy box. The exterior is a faux snake skin and the inside has a fuzzy spongey material. The hinges aren’t loose and feel very high quality. I also, however, would not be surprised if the faux snake skin layer eventually cracks or tears along the hinge given time. I will say I think it will take quite a bit of time and use before that might occur. The rosaries are then wrapped in two more layers of packaging before they are tucked into the box. The second major difference is the materials used to make the rosaries. These rosaries are made of very high quality precious stones, minerals, metals and glasses, not seen in the other lines. A common point I think worth mentioning is, as detailed in our previous review, you can have these rosaries blessed by the Pope. We provide more details in that review; please check it out if you are curious about this.

As I noted with the medal, these rosaries, too, are expensive, and it may be difficult for someone who is not familiar with the materials used to comprehend just how expensive they are and appreciate the craftmanship. I would only recommend these rosaries if you intend on purchasing one for someone who has been looking for more of a luxury rosary and likes the materials used to make the rosary you intend on purchasing. Otherwise, if you were attracted idea of purchasing a rosary that is then blessed by the Pope, I would recommend a rosary from one of Vatican Gift’s more affordable lines, which also have beautiful pieces.

And this concludes day 4! I hope you will look forward to the rest of the series for some (not quite as expensive) gift ideas!

Disclaimer: The Catholic Man Reviews was provided these rosaries and the miraculous medals for an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Vatican Gift for the opportunity for us to review these items on our blog and look forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.


The Liturgy Series: Manifatture Bianchetti Roman Style Alb

The Liturgy Series is well loved by many readers of our blog as we continue to strive to feature examples of beautiful objects and materials to be used at the service of the altar because liturgical beauty is not for aesthetic reasons, but rather, liturgical beauty emphasizes the importance of what is about to take place – that is, in the liturgy, we encounter Jesus Christ, God with us, in the Eucharist. Therefore, such gravity of importance is depicted on only interiorly but also exteriorly through our gestures, “full, conscious and active participation in the liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium 14) and in a special way through the articles used at Mass, such as vestments. In this instalment of The Liturgy Series we will be taking a look at an alb that comes us from Italy, from a company I think is less well known here in North America (particularly Canada, where I live): Manifatture Bianchetti.

Manifatture Bianchetti is a company which specializes in the design and manufacturing of Sacred Vestments based in Milan, Italy. The company was founded in 1916 and interestingly enough, used to specializing in the manufacturing the materials used in military uniforms and supplies. It was not until the 1950s that the company shifted its focus on designing and creating ecclesiastical clothing. Manifatture Bianchetti is now headed by Elisabetta Bianchetti who serves as both designer and administrator.

The company today has a very wide range of products ranging from chasubles, mitres, albs, cassocks, clerics, and even clothing for religious sisters too. Liturgically speaking, their design range from very traditional, to modern. In other words, with Manifatture Bianchetti has a vestment that would suit one of practically any liturgical taste. A number of their vestments have also been used by Popes, namely Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis.

Pope Francis using a chasuble designed and manufactured by Manifatture Bianchetti at the World Retreat of Priests (2015)
(Photo courtesy of: Manifatture Bianchetti)

The alb featured here today is a faux gigliuccio hemstitched, square-neck alb. As mentioned before in this Series, I much prefer the Roman square-neck albs (that must be used with an amice) because they are easier to clean, and in my opinion, require less cleaning. I have found that the albs that have a built-in standup collar require more cleaning as the neck portion becomes stained from sweat. Square-neck albs require an amice and in turn, the piece that needs frequent cleaning is the amice. Therefore, if you have a square-neck alb, I recommend having on hand a good supply of amices.

‘Unboxing’ of the alb after its trip from Milan to Toronto (Click images to enlarge)

This specific alb from Manifatture Bianchetti is handsome work of art. Notably, since it is a square neck alb, there are nice simple pleats that go from the collar down. Modern wrap-around albs are unable to achieve such beautiful pleats. Gathered-pleats are unfavourable for me, but may be preferable to some. However, these gathered-pleats are less of a hassle to iron. The biggest concern in this specific alb is that pleating as “clean” as that of Manifatture Bianchetti requires more time and patience when cleaning and ironing. However, the good thing is that the fabric does not easily wrinkle as it is a poly-cotton blend. The alb from Polish Vestment we reviewed last year is made of 100% cotton, while more breathable than a poly-cotton blend fabric, it wrinkles more easily. Thankfully, none of the albs mentioned are made of 100% linen. Though linen is more of a classic choice of gabrics for alb, there are several down sides to it. First, 100% linen fabric tends to get wrinkled very easily, more than 100% cotton fabrics. Second, the lifespan of these albs are not as long as poly-cotton blends. Having worked as part-time sacristan at the Cathedral in my diocese, I have found 100% linen amices being worn down a lot quicker than those of other fabrics.

Some views of the alb with a cincture on. First three images are front views; latter two images are back views
(Click images to enlarge)

One of the more notable features of this Manifatture Bianchetti alb is how much it resembles a Vaticano Style alb with its hemstiching and cross on the lower front and back for only about half the cost. As I mentioned, the gigliuccio hemstitching on this specific alb is a faux machine-gigliuccio. Gigliuccio is a unique Italian hemstitching done by drawing out threads and gathering them to create intricate designs. Gigliuccio in my opinion has a more masculine feel than most types of lace, though that is subjective. The downside with handmade gigliuccio is that it is very time consuming to manufacture. You would find hand-done gigliuccio albs in around the $500 – $700 USD price range… maybe even more if there are more “lines” of gigliuccio on the garment. However, that cost factor is eliminated here with the machine-gigliuccio. Though economical, I think the sense of beauty is not compromised. Manifatture Bianchetti has produced here a desirable machine-gigliuccio than a lot of its competitors.

Some views of the alb without use of a cincture. First four images are front views; fifth image shows arm length; latter three images are back views (Click images to enlarge)

The alb is very comfortable to wear. I like how with the poly-cotton blend fabric, I do not need to mind much about wrinkling, as opposed to pure linen square-neck albs which are a hassle at times if you want to avoid wrinkles. With the poly-cotton fabric, the albs drops very nicely. It keeps its shapes very well, especially when you put the cincture on. There are the pocket slits on the two sides which makes accessing items in your pant-pockets all the more easier.

More detail of the alb (Click images to enlarge)

With years of experience, Manifatture Bianchetti has produced a very commendable alb, worthy for use by clergy and lay ministers in the liturgy. Its simple but elegant gigliuccio design is better suited if used on Sundays and Solemnities. A plain alb of this square-neck design, which is also available at Manifatture Bianchetti is better suited for weekday Masses. It is also a very affordable alb with a price tag of 170,00 € (as of November 10, 2021 is ~$195.00 USD or ~$240.00 CAD).

You can check out this gigliuccio alb at the Manifatture Bianchetti online shop here.

Manifatture Bianchetti also has physical shops in Milan, Rome and Turin.

To know more about Manifatture Bianchetti, click here.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a sample of alb for an honest review of it on The Liturgy Series of this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Manifatture Bianchetti for the opportunity for us to review this alb on our blog and look forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.

Review: Artesanato Costa Sacred Art, with Blessed Carlo Acutis statue

On this second feast day (October 12) of Blessed Carlo Acutis since his beatification on October 10, 2020 in Assisi, Italy, The Catholic Man Reviews‘ moderator, Vincent Pham, Ivy Pham take time to speak about Artesanato Costa and their statue of Carlo Acutis.

If you have been following our blog for the past year or so, you may have noticed that The Catholic Man has a devotion to the Blessed Carlo Acutis. With review of four English titles (with one or two more coming in the near future) about the young Blessed, you may have a sense where this review is heading, but hold those thoughts! Today, we are reviewing an article related to Carlo Acutis, but it is not a book about him. Unlike the other the other reviews, this article comes to us from Brazil. Thanks to Artesanato Costa in São Paolo, Brazil, we have for feature on our blog today a beautiful 30cm statue of Bl. Carlo Acutis.

Why all the way from Brazil, you might be asking? Since the beatification of the young Blessed on October 10, 2020 in Assisi, the devotion to the Blessed has grown all around the world, particularly in Brazil. It was in Brazil that the miracle needed for Carlo’s beatification took place. A search of “Carlo Acutis Brazil,” or “Devotos de Carlo Acutis Brasil” (Devotees of Carlo Acutis in Brazil) on Google or on social media pages can reveal to one the extent and numbers of devotees there are. One of the leading figures of this devotion in the country is Fr. Fabio Vieira. He served for some years as postulator for the cause, particularly for the stage leading up to Carlo’s beatification (as the miracle for the beatification came from Brazil). Now that his role of postulator has concluded, after October 2020, he has returned to Brazil and is now the Rector of the Shrine of Nossa Senhora dos Remédios (Our Lady of Remedies). It is here that he has set up his “headquarters” for the Devotos de Carlo Acutis Brasil and has been travelling all over the country in recent months following the more relaxed COVID-19 measures. He continues to share and promote the story of the young boy Carlo and inspires other young people to follow in the young Blessed’s path to holiness.

Carlo Acutis’ “arrival” from Brazil to Toronto

On May 3, 2021, devotees of Carlo Acutis celebrated what would have been his 30th birthday. It was then that I saw a beautiful statue depiction of Bl. Carlo Acutis being circulated throughout social media. I immediately had to search for the company behind the production of the statues, and found that it was Artesanato Costa. To be fair, there have been small statue depictions floating around on the online market, mainly from Brazil, but they were not up to a premium, quality standard, probably an effect and result of quick mass production. These depictions that I saw came very shortly after Carlo’s beatification and the production was probably in response to the growing number of devotees.

Artesanato Costa only launched their statue of Bl. Carlo Acutis well into 2021 and in my opinion, the wait has paid off to be a handsome, premium product that urges one to reflect on the life and spirituality of Carlo Acutis. Carlo Acutis would say, “Non io ma Dio – Not I but God,” and so such depictions of holy figures like Carlo direct one not to the individual, but rather, to God as all the saints point to God. Yet, beauty is such an important factor that builds into this. A beautiful work of art only reinforces the need for one to ponder the Glory of God, and in this context, the beauty of art through depictions of the saints. I think this is the goal that Artesanato Costa has in mind in their creations as they continue to serve in this ministry of producing beautiful Sacred Art.

Late August, I brought the statue to be blessed by a priest, and one of the people standing near us remarked to how ordinary the depiction of Carlo is: a young man, with a polo shirt, jeans and tennis shoes… an image anyone can relate to. Personally for me, as a university student, that is very much visible on the university campus in the hundreds of thousands of students who walk the streets and enter the classrooms. Artesanato Costa’s depiction reminds us that sainthood is not for the extraordinary people, but like Carlo, for the ordinary, because in sainthood, it is through the ordinary that one reaches the extraordinary. I think it is so important to be reminded as such. I have kept the statue of Carlo Acutis on my desk in my bedroom (and soon, after today, it will have a more prominent place, like a “side altar” in my room) to be constantly reminded of how holiness does not require that I aim for grandeur tasks, but rather, being faithful in my current vocation as a son, a student, a lay person in parish ministry… and such depictions of the saints should remind one so. It is not merely decoration for an altar or the home, but should prompt some further action.

I was quite amazed when I saw the images of the statues by Artesanato Costa on Fr. Vieira’s social media pages, as well as that of Devotos de Carlo Acutis Brasil. However, I do have to say, the pictures do not do them justice. The detail on the statue is simply amazing. I have received statues which lacked details and they were, in bare terms, “cheap-looking.” Not the case with Artesanato Costa’s statue – there is much detail in the figure, from the face, his backpack, and down to even his tennis shoes. All the elements are in great harmony with one another. One thing I can be certain of, every statue has been given “individual” treatment of love and care that they deserve. For me, a very life-like statue.

Fr. Fabio Vieira visiting the studios of Artesanato Costa (@padrefabiovieira)

What would I recommend? Honestly, not much – all I would recommend would possibly be darker hair on Carlo since in the photographs, he has nearly all black, if not, black hair. He had a lighter, golden-brown in his younger years based on photographs I have seen.
** Update: After the publishing of this post, the hair on the statue will be dyed in a darker colour. **

Another consideration I would keep in mind would be size. Currently, the statue is available in 30cm and 60cm. The one used in this review is 30cm. When the statue arrived, I was honestly a bit surprised at how tall the statue was. I am used to 15cm statues. The tallest statue to date is probably the ~40cm wooden crucifix I have reviewed on this blog some years ago. The larger size, I think is appropriate in order to give it the full treatment of details and such, because features such as pupils of the eyes become very difficult to detail well on smaller statues. However, if one day, Artesanato Costa would consider making smaller sizes, I think they would be welcomed. I would love to see one of about 15cm for use in the space where I do my school work.

My sister, Ivy Pham who have been a familiar face and contributor of our blog shares similar sentiments, but is a bit more critical with her review of the statue, considering her passion in the arts:

I think overall this is a very well done statue. There is a lot of detail in it: creases in the fabric, fingernails, texture in his hair, shading and highlighting. There is what I interpret as “dirt” on his shoes and bag which I think gives it a realistic, well loved aspect. There is also just the slightest dusting of pink to his cheeks. I really like this detail; it helps gives the whole piece a youthful feel and I think that is very representative of Bl. Carlo and why his legacy is so attractive to many people, particularly young people. Often times with statues, there is a bit of “painting outside of the lines” and that is present with this statue, but it is very minimal so it does not distract from the overall piece. His facial features are very well done; I would imagine a lot of care was taken to achieve such a high level of precision. He even has pupils painted in with great detail. I am particularly taken by the base. The colour chosen for it is a great choice. It is a different colour from the rest of the statue but is still from the same colour palette so it doesn’t take away from the main features. I think the border at the bottom is absolutely beautiful. It just adds a little something without being overpowering since it is quite small. My biggest qualm with this statue is that Bl. Carlo has disproportionately long legs. From what I know, Bl. Carlo was quite tall, but I think his legs in this statue are a bit too long compared to the rest of his body. It doesn’t take away very much from the piece as a whole but I think it is something some people will notice if they took some time to truly look at the piece.

Overall, an excellent, job well done by Artesanato Costa, who through their art, has brought Carlo Acutis to 3-D form for his devotees all over the world. Devotees of Carlo might want one for their home altar or prayer space in their home. Youth groups might want to consider purchasing one for their youth group space in their parish. For me, this statue has another purpose – to hold my third-class relic of Bl. Carlo Acutis. How perfect!

Interested? You can check out more details about this 30cm statue of Carlo Acutis and purchase here. You can also check out details about the 60cm statue here.

You can check out Artesanato Costa’s great work and other products on their website at If you want to see even more beautiful Sacred Art, I highly recommend their Instagram @artesanatocosta and their Facebook @ArtesanatoCosta62. Unfortunately at the moment Artesanato Costa cannot sell and ship abroad, but soon this will be possible. If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact their wonderful, caring staff via Whatsapp at +55 11 5670-5600.

Blessed Carlo Acutis, pray for us.

Official product images courtesy of Artesanato Costa – Please click on them to enlarge

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a sample of this statue to provide an honest review of the title on our blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Artesanato Costa for the opportunity for us to review this statue of Carlo Acutis on our blog. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the product.

Day 7: Oxford Black n’ Red Notebooks

Today, we are returning to the more “practical” of gift ideas. This gift is a good one for the student and/or aspiring author in your life. As the title suggests, I will be reviewing the Oxford Black n’ Red notebooks.

They have their branding down pat. We have four different lined notebooks: 2 wirebound (one hardcover, one poly cover), one casebound and one composition style. The design is consistent for all of them, with the Black cover, red lettering and red spine. The notebooks that aren’t spiral bound have really nice endpages which is the same across the notebooks that we have. There are motivational quotes on certain pages. For the Catholic touch, the “Objectives” page in the front has a quote credited to St. Francis of Assisi (my brother says that St. Francis likely didn’t actually say this quote though; just something I thought I should mention – note, he said so based on this video from Fr. Casey Cole). The ruled lines are also very crisp.

One of the marketing points seems to be the Optik Paper. The Oxford website made the following claims regarding their paper: “You don’t need to be an expert to recognise great paper: paper that does not bleed, paper that is perfectly white, paper that is soft and smooth to touch, paper resistant to tearing, that enables sharp writing without smudges or show through.” Those are some bold claims, so I decided to put them to the test.

I can verify three things immediately: the paper is indeed VERY white, it is very smooth and I think that goes hand in hand with the softness claim. I did a “tear test” on it; it is significantly more tear resistant than regular lined paper, but it is hard to say if it is more tear resistant than standard printing paper. I think if it is, there isn’t that much of a difference, and I think that is just because the paper feels a bit thicker than standard printing paper. If Oxford is making a comparison between lined paper and the Optik Paper, then I would agree.

For the claims regarding bleeding, smudging and showing through, I wrote on it with a number of different writing utensils, and did the exact same thing on lined paper and printing paper for comparison.

I think the paper still shows through, but it is definitely better than the other papers I wrote on. In terms of pencil or ball point pen (the top two rows in my photos), I think it is on par with other papers, but there is a notable difference when it came to the other types of pens and markers. Markers also bleeds through the page a lot less on the Optik Paper. I think the claim about writing showing through mostly holds.

I find the claim about smudging a bit iffy. To test this, I ran my finger over the ink after writing a word in gel pen and my Zebra eco to somewhat simulate what a left-handed person might go through. Optik Paper seems less absorbent than the other papers I tested, so this paper actually had the most smudging out of the three papers, so I find the smudging claim a little questionable (unfortunately it doesn’t show up so well in photos).

However, I don’t find the lower absorbency of the paper to be a bad quality. I think it contributes to the lack of bleeding or feathering, which was a major struggle that I had with the other papers. It doesn’t do that thing where the patch of colour rapidly grows in size as soon as you put your marker to the paper. As a result, your writing looks really crisp which is also a claim they make. Overall, I found my experience writing on Optik Paper to be surprisingly luxurious.

The covers are also really nice. Even the softer ones feel sturdy for the material they are made of. The wirebound notebooks have a divider in the middle which looks nice with the really high gloss finish, but I would have preferred if it was a bit thicker. Something else worth mentioning is that the notebooks with the crosshatching texture (I really don’t know what its called) is not the same neutral black as the poly cover; it has a red undertone that really pulls through under some lighting conditions. I’m not complaining about it nor am I saying that the cover isn’t black, but I wanted to mention it in case someone has an aversion to red-toned blacks.

The composition style notebook also has a pocket in the back. The notebook itself is taller but slimmer than a sheet of A4 paper, so if you wanted to store regular sized paper in there, it would have to be folded. It has a nice amount of expansion though, so theoretically, you could fit a lot of folded sheets.

(See the end for a side note on these pictures)*

There is another feature that comes with select notebooks which is Scribzee. The Catholic Man will discuss that.

The Catholic Man’s Thoughts

SCRIBZEE® | My Oxford

Many saints kept journals and it has proven to be a good spiritual practice. I have kept a spiritual journal for quite some time and from experience, there is nothing better than writing on a nicely dignified notebook, beautifully bound with quality paper and Black n’Red notebooks are a fine example of that.

One thing I would like to note though is that some of the Black n’Red notebooks are “Scribzee” compatible. Now you may be wondering what is “Scribzee”? This is a free and cool application that allows you to easily scan your work. You may be wondering, “I have CamScanner!” I also have CamScanner on my phone, but I grew in love with Scribzee when scanning notes because it can pick up the details and writing very well with little work, without having to estimate the lining up of corners. Scribzee “corners” are made available, in which the app (which can be easily and freely downloaded on your smartphone) can pick up and BAM! You have a scanned copy of your notes! You can try it for yourself here with Scribzee printouts! With the Black n’Red notebooks, you can not only choose to have Scribzee paper, but you can have scanned notes and hand-written notes on high quality paper in the minimalist Black n’Red cover.

That is it for today; we may follow up down the road to let you know how our spiritual journaling with Black n’Red notebooks are going. For now, why not consider Black n’Red notebooks for your loved ones this Christmas? With many places under lockdown throughout the world, it is not a better time to write a story, write a book or just gather your thoughts because 2020 is never coming back again once it’s over. 2020 is a year to remember, so don’t go forward without writing it down in the books.

Purchase and take a closer look at Oxford’s Black n’Red notebooks here, and also check out their Facebook page.

*Side note from Ivy Pham: If you liked what you saw, I’d appreciate if you check out and support my (as in Ivy’s) side hustle!

Disclaimer: I thank Oxford Notebooks for providing samples of your Red n’ Black notebooks, way back in March 2020, for the purpose of providing a sincere review on our blog.

Beauty: A Necessity in Catholic Liturgy (with Holy Art)

Some people may ask, “Is Vincent Pham (a.k.a. The Catholic Man) liturgy crazy?” Well, I think that is the case sometimes. While I love all things Catholic, there is something about the liturgy that has captivated me as a young child. I often used to do “fake” Mass at home and tried to imitate everything the priest had, from vestments to furnishings. Slowly, the “fake” Masses turned into serious matter when our pastor asked me to be the Liturgical Master of Ceremonies for major celebrations at our Parish over four years ago (a position which I still hold today), while being a part-time sacristan at St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica just less than year ago. Then, just in recent years, I became interested in the Mass in “Ad Orientem” in the Ordinary Form and the Extraordinary form and for many years, I have been reading about liturgy, its developments, its theology, its form, its rubrics… all matters liturgical.

It was not until just recently that I came to realize how important beauty is when it comes to the liturgy. One may say, “The Mass is the Mass… you don’t need aesthetics…” While I would agree with that statement years ago, my thoughts on beauty and the liturgy really changed when I took a course called, “Beauty, Human and Divine” at St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto last term. It was a first-year Foundations Seminar course that I took solely to fulfill a breadth requirement just because it has the term “Christian” in its course description. But I was wrong… it was a course that included the reading of secular texts, but had Catholic influence, including The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde), The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (James Joyce) and Purgatorio (Dante Alighieri). I really had no idea what was in store for me in those texts, until I was prompted to read those texts with the themes of beauty in mind. The thread through all these texts is that of liturgical beauty.

When I stress that liturgical rubrics should be followed, pr beautiful vestments should be used, or six-candles should be used at a Solemn Mass, I am not focussing on aestheticism. Rather, when the liturgy is done correctly with the rubrics of the Church, then it is very beautiful. That beauty leads one into a sense of reverence, and then ultimately to God himself because he, in the term of Jean-Louis Chrétien, is “the Divine Artist” (see Hand to Hand: Listening to the Work of Art, Chrétien 2003).

The beauty of the liturgy is compelling, even for non-Catholics. In Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is attracted to the beauty of the liturgy in chapter 11 from the fabric of the dalmatic of the deacon, to the “fuming censers”. Unfortunately, he fails to have metanoia. In many cases, like the souls in Purgatorio, the beauty of the liturgy, especially that of ancient prayers lifts their eyes up to “Paradiso”.

Beautiful liturgy is liturgy done right – according to the rubrics of the Church, and celebrated in a manner that is reverent, not only by the presider, but by the people of God as a whole. When liturgy is celebrated beautifully and reverently, we exemplify the importance of the Sacred Mysteries that we celebrate.

Find celebrating beautiful liturgy to be too expensive? While there are certainly ecclesiastical furnishing companies that have very expensive items, or elaborate vestments with price tags too high, I recommend Holy Art. I have found that Holy Art’s items everywhere (at least within the Archdiocese of Toronto) from St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica to my home parish at St. Cecilia’s Church. There are also items for your “Domestic Church” as well. Holy Art boasts a whole selection of beautiful wooden statues, and especially crucifixes. The crucifix currently in my bedroom altar is from Holy Art, and my sister and I wrote a review of it on The Catholic Man Reviews blog.

The thing with Holy Art is that their items offer beauty and simplicity, all in one package with all of their items. They also sell a lot of unique liturgical finds such as a wedding ring tray, beautiful Paschal candle incense nails, and even (the most unique in my opinion), Host baking machines!

Check out Holy Art’s wide selection of Liturgical Items here.

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Holy Art, in exchange for an honest review of Holy Art. This post also contains affiliate links to