Monday, April 26, 2010

The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity: Charming Book, Local Author

"The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity," by Deborah Lee Holt, is another of those devotional books: a collection of pictures and prayers, songs and observations.

This one is, maybe, more 'personal' than most. From the author/artist's introduction:
"I was at a point of persona crisis in October of 1996. A friend suggested that I turn to God with total trust. She recommended going and praying before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, or before the Tabernacle. I felt quite embarrassed about this, though, because at the time I didn't know what the Blessed Sacrament was or even what the Tabernacle was; so after dropping off our children at school, I apprehensively found my way to the Tabernacle...."
The first picture came in January of 1997, By August of 2000 there were 10. The pictures aren't your run-of-the-mill 'religious art.'

The best way to show what I mean is by showing "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity's" cover:

As the book's "Foreword and Letter of Recommendation" put it:
August 15, 2002
Assumption of Mary into Heaven

My dear Friends in Jesus and Mary,

It was a delight to read through the informative book entitled "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity," authored and illustrated by Deb Holt. Overall, it can be said that this presentation is charming in its simplicity and allows the reader to easily focus upon the many riches of these profound precious mysteries of our Faith. The illustrations are childlike in their almost primitive style, which makes this book's unique approach even more endearing to the reader. It is hoped through this edition, that one will better grasp the depth and breadth of the scriptural insight, "unless one becomes like a little child, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

Always in Christ,

Archbishop Lawrence Khai
Rev. Andrew John, Mission Director
Arch Diocese of Thare-Nonseng, Thailand
I don't look for a "Nihil Obstat" or "Imprimatur" in books written since around the mid-point of the 20th century. Procedures for granting that sort of certification have changed. Partly, I suspect, as an adaptation to the flood of written material that was being produced.

Is "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity" Okay, Theologically?

Short answer, yes. That's not my opinion, by the way.

Deborah Holt ran "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity" past a Church authority. Good idea, too, I think. I'd have done the same thing, if I'd produced a book like that.

I've done what I can to educate myself about Catholic teachings. But I'm a layman, and one of the functions of priests and bishops is to be subject experts in what the Catholic Church believes. I'd be daft to not use a resource like that.

I've seen a letter from the Diocese of St. Cloud [Minnesota] Chancery Office, saying that a priest has read the book, and that "he finds the book free of all doctrinal error."

"St. Cloud has spoken" isn't in the same league as "Rome has spoken," but that 'free from error' works for me.

Thailand; Minnesota: The Catholic Church is All Over

While I'm thinking of it: Thailand? Minnesota? What gives? I've discussed what the Catholic Church is in other posts. ("The Catholic Church: Universal. Really" (April 19, 2010), "Accommodating Indigenous Cultures: Including Ours" (January 10, 2010), for starters)

I'm not surprised that a letter of recommendation came from Thailand. The Catholic Church is, literally, the Universal Church. The word "catholic" started out as καθολικός (katholikos, for folks who use the Latin alphabet): which means universal, among other things.

I'd also expect that "doctrinal error" check to be made in the diocese where a book was authored. The Catholic Church is universal: but folks living near an author are more likely to understand the local language and culture.

"Primitive?" isn't That an Insult?

"Primitive" means quite a few things. When someone who's had some background in art uses the term to describe art, or an artist, it generally means, "of or created by one without formal training; simple or naive in style." (Princeton's WordNet)

Think Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses. The New York Times did a pretty good job of summarizing her accomplishments in her obituary. (The New York Times (December 14, 1961)

Symbolism: This May Take Some Getting Used To

Pictures - and even the colors - in "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity" mean something. I don't mean the 'it moved me' sort of 'meaning.' Deborah Holt uses a moderately complicated system of symbolism.

Don't worry: She gives a pretty good description of what the colors and all the rest mean. Nothing fancy: just that white means purity, goodness, piercing, light; yellow stands for sunny, bright, cheerful, light. That sort of thing.

Again, why write about it, when I can show you some examples:

That's the page where Deborah Holt explains how she uses color.

One thing this book isn't, is drab. That's a typical opening page for a chapter.

That horizontal line across the picture? It's not a printing error, or a crease in the original artwork. It indicates that the people are standing in water. This isn't, quite, representational art.

Folks who go to Our Lady of the Angels church in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, are already familiar with the originals of Deborah Holt's work. This collage was on display in the church entry about a month ago. (March 28, 2010)

Earlier this month, another set of pictures. These are on the cover, and page 77 of "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity." (April 11, 2010)

Should You Buy This Book?

Whether or not you buy "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity" is up to you. Like the Chancery Office said, it's free from doctrinal error: so if you're a Catholic, you can read it without keeping your defenses up.

But whether or not you buy it depends on a whole lot more. Like whether you can afford the $19.95 (plus shipping and handling, likely enough). For a book with something like 129 pages that includes 10 high-quality art reproductions that's a quite reasonable price, I think. (It's 8 1/2 by 11 inches, wire-bound.)

But I've seen quite a few things I'd like, that had a reasonable price: which I'll never be able to afford. And that's okay.

Another important point you'd need to consider is: do you want the thing? If you don't, why buy it?

About the binding. If a book just doesn't 'feel like a book' if it doesn't have hard covers, or at least pages that are attached all the way down one side: that could be a problem for you and "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity." I think the wire binding is a good idea: the book lays flat, even if you aren't holding it down.

I'm not much of a 'devotional book' reader myself, but I've used them from time to time. Some of those books are so 'well bound' that keeping the things open is a distraction. Enough said.

Deborah Holt did a good job with this book: not just the artwork, but the tedious job of keeping track of where she got the prayers, songs, and sayings she quotes. One page is mostly a list of copyright permissions.

Finally, there's a reference section in the back of the book, with two parts: Mary, our Mother - The Rosary in Scripture; and Symbols and Where they are Found in Scripture (by chapter).

I'm not going to buy "The Seven Sacraments and Life in the Trinity." Partly because I can borrow my father-in-law's copy. Which I did, to take those photos.

But don't let that stop you. As I wrote about a year ago, "Not All Catholics are Like Me - Thank God." (March 18, 2009) This book could become a valuable part of your spiritual life.

But not if you can't find a copy.

Here's where you can order the book, or learn more about it.

Deborah L. Holt
P.O. Box 264
Sauk Centre MN 56378

There's a CD, too: but I don't know as much about that.

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