Welcome everyone coming over from Truth and Charity! For the giveaway, scroll to the bottom.
One of the most difficult parts of praying the rosary is keeping focused on the mysteries. Most of the time, I name the mystery and immediately get distracted. However, I have found that praying with beautiful images of the mysteries is a good way to focus. My cousin-in-law, Will Bloomfield, was inspired by a beautiful painting that he saw in the Metropolitan Museum of Art to put together a prayer book for individuals to use to pray the rosary.
I asked him several questions about the book, and will let him do the explaining.
Susanna: What inspired you to put together the rosary book?
Will: About a year ago, my sister, Emily Ortega, published her first book I'm Bernadette. [I, Susanna, reviewed the book here.] About the same time, my brother, Benjamin Bloomfield, edited his first book, A Collection of Christmas Carols. I soon was inspired to begin my own publishing project: a version of the Gospels for children, featuring a story-by-story format, large font, and beautiful images of sacred art. That project has evolved over the last year into The Sacred Art Series, the flagship product of which will be released this Advent, The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John. This book will feature a leatherette cover, gilded pages, a sewn binding, and a ribbon.
In the midst of editing The Holy Gospels and discussing the project with printers, I happened to take a trip to New York City for a conference for work. While there with my wife and baby, we seized the opportunity to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was thrilled to see some of the very paintings that I had already included in my early manuscript for The Holy Gospels. But while there, I also stumbled across The Fifteen Mysteries and the Virgin of the Rosary by Goswijn van der Weyden. The painting was created for devotional use for a member of the Habsburg royal family. I immediately thought that this beautiful public domain image, which was designed for royalty, would make an excellent devotional aid for families and individuals. And since I was already in the midst of a publishing project, it was quite easy to add another product to the Sacred Art Series. It was also about this time that I joined the Confraternity of the Rosary, and thus had been praying the rosary more both individually and with my family. And I had recently read St. Louis De Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary, and was impressed by St. Dominic's promotion of the rosary, described by De Montfort, as the most effective means of converting sinners. So the Rosary Book is really the convergence of many things that all came together at the right time. You might say that it was a perfect storm of grace.
What remains strange to me is that something like this did not already exist. But to my knowledge, the Sacred Art Series Rosary Book is the first of its kind. So your readers are on the cutting edge!
S: Would you tell me about the painting used? Are rosary panels common in sacred art?
W: The Metropolitan Museum of Art attributes the painting to Netherlandish Painter, possibly Goswijn van der Weyden (c. 1515). I like the painting because it includes an image of each of the traditional 15 mysteries of the rosary, and each image is the same size, includes figures that fill each scene, and thus provides a complete set of rosary images. I also like the image of Mary in the bottom panel because it shows her crowned with 55 roses, recalling that when we pray five decades of the rosary, we offer Mary a beautiful rose for each Hail Mary and for each Our Father.
In my searches, I have not found any other similar rosary paintings. It's, of course, easy to find beautiful images for individual mysteries, but I have yet to find any other complete sets of a similar quality. This is also strange to me, because one would think that rosary images would be readily available. Also, from my own personal experience, I know that the stained glass windows in many Catholic churches include the mysteries of the rosary; but for whatever reason, complete sets of rosary paintings seem to be rare. (And I will gladly be proven wrong if anyone can tell me otherwise.)
S: We usually pray our family rosary in the car (the children cannot get up and run around); do you have any tips for a peaceful family rosary with little ones?
W: Pray the rosary with a Sacred Art Series Rosary Book! Your children will enjoy the ability to have a picture to look at and to take turns flipping the page for the next mystery. Apart from that, I have also found the car to be a decent place to pray the rosary with the family. Every Sunday morning, during the 15 minute drive to Mass, we pray one decade of the rosary, followed by the Angelus. Our kids (ages 1, 2, 4, and 6) are so used to this routine that it never occurs to them to question it. The three older ones participate quite well. (Although getting the pacing of the words right has sometimes been a challenge for them--and consequently, for their parents!) So I think that consistency is important. Also, it's probably better to focus on one decade prayed well, than five decades prayed poorly. Once the kids have mastered one decade, it's easy to add more decades. And for families that are just beginning the rosary, it may help to begin the devotion during an appropriate liturgical season, such as Advent, or Lent, or during the Month of May for Mary, or during October, which includes the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary (October 7) and is the month of the rosary.
This book comes with a metal spiral binding on top and has a fold out cardboard easel. It is available in two sizes, 4x5 inches and 8x10 inches. We have the 4x5. The front page has the entirety of the panel while the inside pages feature each of the panels of the painting close up, showing the individual original 15 mysteries of the rosary.
As for the paintings themselves, just looking at them outside of praying the rosary leads to meditation on the mysteries. In each painting there are tiny details of the scene that give an opportunity for deeper meditation. As Will mentioned, all of the panels are the same size and the people are all to scale with each other. This being the case, the artist had to be very creative in fitting all the characters into the scenes. You can especially see this in the painting of the Ascension, where Our Lady and the apostles are painted in their entirety, but we only see the feet of the ascending Christ.
We have had the rosary book on the family altar for about a week now, and while I think the bigger size would be better for seeing detail, our family altar is pretty packed as it is. The children have been paging through it from time to time, and they seem to enjoy the images. My (almost) four year and I looked through it the other day, talking about each mystery, and while she was familiar with the events, she could not match the picture to them. That is perhaps one of the failings of the family car rosary, but I now see ways that our children’s catechesis can be improved.
I highly recommend the rosary book as something to display in the home or on a desk, and to pray with. You can purchase it through this website, and receive a discount of $3 off each book when you use the coupon code ROSARYBK through October 30.
Further, you can enter the below giveaway of a new 4x5 rosary book which ends Tuesday, October 28 at 12am CT.
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