The Catholic Magicians’ Guild

catholic-magicians-guild-mum catholic_magicians_guildThe Catholic Magicians’ Guild

by Angelo Stagnaro, Guildmaster

Deo dignus vindice nodus

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) 

Introduction to the Catholic Magicians’ Guild

The Catholic Magicians’ Guild is an international organization of professional and amateur magicians dedicated to Catholic Gospel Magic.<ref>www.geniimagazine.com/wiki/index.php/Catholic_Magicians’_Guild</ref> The Guild came into being when the group of performers considered the unique needs of Catholic Gospel Magicians. Their principle concern was how to creatively and appropriately use sleight-of-hand and stage illusion to pass on the beliefs of the Catholic faith to youth.<ref>www.insidemagic.com/magicnews/2006/04/27/angelo-stagnaro-is-a-genius-catholic-magicians-guild/</ref>

Though it is an excellent organization, the Fellowship of Christian Magicians didn’t fulfill the unique needs of Catholics Magicians. Some felt constrained or awkward joining the group as it didn’t offer ideas for magic effects and patter appropriate for Catholic theology. Started in 1985, the Catholic Magicians’ Guild:

  1. helps parishes by augmenting cathetical instructions of children and adults with stage and close-up magic;
  2. spreads the devotion of Sts Don Bosco, Nicholas Owen, Genesius the Actor, Albert Magnus, patron saints of magic.
  3. offers its services to fraternal and philanthropic organizations;
  4. evangelizes and instructs non-Catholics in our faith through the vehicle of stage and close-up magic (ie, Gospel Magic.)

The CMG is a Catholic organization whose members submit themselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and aspire to share Christ’s message and His love to Christian audiences via the medium of stage magic. Everyone is welcome to join the CMG regardless of religious affiliations.

What is Gospel Magic?

St. John Don Melchoir Bosco, an Italian priest born in Becchi, Piedmont, Italy invented what latter came to be called Gospel Magic. During the latter half of the 19th century, as the poor of Europe struggled to eke out life during the Age of Industrialization, Don Bosco saw how most of the children in his village remained uneducated and without faith in God. Taking care of their physical needs of food, clothing and shelter were difficult enough but Don Bosco wanted more. He wanted to make sure that these children grew up to be dedicated and enlightened Christians.

He remembered the magic he would perform for his friends when he was a child and decided that that was the best way to bring children back to the Church. This was the beginning of Gospel Magic, that is, the altering or tailoring of a magic performance so that it can be used to instruct people on some aspect of Christian theology. Among the magic effects that Don Bosco used to teach Christian theological principles, he was said to be able to tie three ropes together to form one seamless rope in order to explain the mystery of the Christian Trinity.

As magic is a richly sensory experience, one can see the spiritual applications that magic can offer as a pedagogic tool. Typical magic effects used by Gospel Magicians look very much like any other magic trick one has come across but the patter, or story weaved by the magician, is directed to demonstrate such theological principles as God’s love and forgiveness, Christ’s parables, the Immaculate Conception, the Sacraments, or even free will can be the subject of a Gospel Magic performance.

Totus Tuus

”Totus Tuus” is the Catholic Magicians’ Guild’s quarterly e-zine.<ref>http://lists.topica.com/lists/TotusTuus</ref> Chris Knabenshue and Angelo Stagnaro serve as co-editors of the electronic magazine.<ref>www.catholic.com/radio/calendar_download.php?downloadType=4&event=5098</ref> The phase, Totus Tuus, is Latin for Totally Yours. It was often used by the late Pope John Paul II to refer to complete devotion and total surrender to God.

To subscribe to Totus Tuus simply go to: http://lists.topica.com/lists/TotusTuus

Recent Projects

  1. The Catholic Magicians Guild has recently helped design a religious medal struck in honor of Don Bosco as Patron of Magicians in partnership with the St Francis de Sales Religious Art Store (http://www.stfrancisdesales.com/catalog/medals/saints/catalog_medals_saints_donbosco.htm)
  1. Developed the CatholicMagic.com website to help promote Catholic Gospel Magic
  1. The CGM prepared hagiographies of Sts Don Bosco, Nicholas Owen, Genesius the Actor and Albert Magnus
  1. The CGM developed a cyber-chapel dedicated to St Don Bosco
  1. Developed a two-volume series of Gospel Magic for the modern Gospel magician which will be published at the end of 2007 by Crossroad Publishing

CatholicMagic.com

Chris Knabenshue’s website, http://www.CatholicMagic.com, serves as the Catholic Magicians’ Guild’s main website. It is a place where Christian Magicians can learn about a unique form of ministry to the Church. Visitors can discuss ideas for patter for their effects on the site’s forum and to contribute effects and patter ideas on the site’s database. The site is also a resource for lay people interested in booking a Gospel Magician by searching through the profiles posted on the site.

Guild Motto

Deo dignus vindice nodus (A knot worthy of God to untie)

Nos magi secreta non prodimus, sed servamus (We don’t reveal, but retain.)

Suggestions for Catholic Magicians

Catholic magicians around the world, principally in Europe (especially southern Europe,) North America, Philippines, Australia and Latin America, seek out their own ways of performing Gospel Magic. Some suggestions include:

.

  1. Consider offering your services to children’s hospitals and homes for the elderly. If during your hospital rounds, you have the opportunity to offer a silent prayer and blessing to the infirmed do so as unobtrusively as you can.
  1. Volunteer time at Catholic schools and at parishes’ cathetical classes including Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD)
  1. Take advantage of the catechetical classes for adults offered by parishes and dioceses to better prepare yourself to teach children.
  1. Offer your services for retreat work with kids, prayer groups with adults and school fairs. It offers the most flexible and relaxed settings for kids and adults to learn about Catholicism.
  1. Commemorating the feastdays of Sts Don Bosco, Nicholas Owen, Genesius the Actor, Albert Magnus with magic performances especially for disabled and poor children.
  1. For those who feel they are truly academically unprepared to teach catechetical classes to kids or adults, instead, contact the usual teachers at your parish and ask them for the topic they are about to teach. Instead of teaching the entire course, you might be able to offer a single magic effect or two to teach that particular theological point.

The Patron Saints of Catholic Magicians

The ”CMG” recognizes many saints as patrons of our art including:

  • St. Don Bosco – Don Bosco created the art of Gospel Magic from a very early age and is therefore the primary patron of the art.<ref>http://www.donboscokhmer.org/MEMOIRS/Chapters/chapter_3.htm</ref> (Feast day: January 31)
  • St. Nicholas Owen – St. Nicolas is considered the Patron of Stage Illusionists and Escape Artists because of his use of cabinetry skills in creating hiding spaces for fugitive priests and lay Catholics during Britain’s Penal Times. He evaded capture by the priest hunters for many years and also managed to escape from the Tower of London.<ref>www.ncregister.com/site/article/16247</ref> (Feast day: March 22)
  • St. Dismas – St. Dismas is considered the Patron of Reformed Thieves. In this regard, Catholic Magicians who utilize pickpocketing in their acts consider him their patron.<ref>http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm</ref> (Feast day: March 25)
  • St. Simeon the Holy Fool (Simeon Salus) – St Simeon is considered the Patron Saint of Puppeteers. In his iconography, he is depicted holding a hand-puppet which he used to mock himself and to ridicule sin. Stage magicians who utilize puppetry and ventriloquism in their acts recognize St. Simeon as their patron. (Feast day: July 1)
  • St. Lawrence of Rome – St. Lawrence is considered the Patron of Comedians. As many stage magicians perform lighthearted and comical acts, it’s quite common for Catholic magicians to ask for St. Lawrence’s prayers for their performances.<ref>http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09089a.htm</ref> (Feast day: August 10)
  • St. Claire – St. Claire is considered the Patron of Television because of a legend that she saw a vision of a Mass as if it were projected upon her cell’s wall. For this reason, mentalists will ask for her prayers when they perform. (Feast Day: August 11)
  • St. Genesius of Rome – St. Genesius is also known as Genesius the Actor because he was the greatest actor of his age and, in fact, converted to Christianity in the midst of a play designed to parody the Faith.<ref>http://www.stgenesius.com/genesiusofrome.html</ref> (Feast day: August 25)
  • St. Nicholas – St. Nicholas, of Santa Claus fame, was called a thaumaturge or “Wonderworker” because of the many miracles which occurred in his life. It’s hard to find a better patron for Catholic magicians who perform for children and those who want a spectacular outcome to their performances. (Feast Day: December 6)

Other Magical Holidays:

  • Feast of the Three Kings – In Spanish, this feast is referred to as “Los Reyes Magos” (i.e. “The Feast of the Magician Kings.” It’s understandable why we would take this holiday as their own. (Feast Day: January 6)
  • Mardis Gras – The day before Ash Wednesday is a particularly festive occasion and very appropriate for magic performances.
  • Gaudete Sunday – Third Sunday of Advent is referred to a “Joyful Sunday” which refers to the joyful anticipation of Christmas experienced by Christians.

Members of the CMG

  • Fr. Silvio Mantelli, sdb, Mago Sales, Salesian priest, Gospel Magician, Director of Fondazione Mago Sales, b. Torino, Italy, URL: http://www.Sales.it
  • Br. John Hamman, sm, Marianist Brother, (deceased) b. St. Louis, MO, (1927-2000)
  • Fr. Jerry Jecewiz, Priesto, Diocese of Brooklyn priest, Gospel Magician, b. Brooklyn, NY
  • Fr. Boudewijn Spittaels, sdb, Bodo, Salesian priest, Gospel Magician, b. Merksplas, Belgium
  • Fr. Daniel Rolland, op, Dominican priest, Gospel Magician, b. Scottsdale, AZ [http://www.spiritualmagic.org]
  • Fr. James Blantz, csc, Holy Cross priest, Gospel Magician, b. Massillon, OH
  • Fr. Steve Gibson, csc, The Sermonator, Holy Cross priest, Gospel Magician, b. Fort Wayne, IN
  • Fr. Mark Thesing, csc, Holy Cross priest, Notre Dame University, Business Manager for Student Affairs, b. Dayton, OH
  • Sr. Carol Ann Nawracaj, osf, Bernardine Franciscan Sister, Gospel Magician, Supervisor of Society of Young Magicians, Executive Director of Villa Maria Education Center, b. Manville, NJ [www.villamariaedu.org/]
  • Fr. Nicholas Argentieri, Diocesan priest,  Gospel Magician, b. Pittsburg, Diocese of Pittsburg
  • Fr. Jim Miller, Diocesan Priest, Forth Worth Diocese, Gospel Magician, b. Lincoln Park, Michigan
  • Fr. Michael Court, sdb, Salesian priest, Gospel Magician, b. Sydney, Australia
  • Fr. Larry Lorenzoni, sdb, Salesian priest, Gospel Magician, b. Vincenza, Italy
  • Br. Martin de Porres Schmidt, ofm cap, Capuchin friar, Gospel Magician
  • Fr. Mark Davis, Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, Diocesan priest, Gospel Magician, b. Toledo, Ohio
  • Br. Jim Zettel sdb, Salesian Brother, Gospel Magician, b. Hanover, Ontario, Canada
  • Fr. John R Blaker, Diocese of Oakland, California, Diocesan priest, Gospel Magician, b. San Francisco
  • Fr. Vincent Pazhukkakulam, o.carm., Magicachan,  Carmelite priest, Gospel Magician, b. Alakode, Kerala, India
  • Patrick Coffin, Catholic Answers, Gospel Magician
  • María Ibáñez, MI, AIMC, S.A.M. President
  • Joan Caesar, IBM President
  • Angelo Stagnaro, Gospel Magician, b. New York
  • Glenn Hester, Gospel Magician, b. New York
  • Chris Knabenshue, Gospel Magician, Co-Chairman of the Catholic Magicians’ Guild, b. South Bend, IN, URL: http://www.CatholicMagic.com
  • Michael Loyet, President of St. John Vianney High School, St. Louis, b. St. Louis, MO
  • Joel Howlett, Gospel Magician, b. Charlestown, Australia
  • David Calavitta, Gospel Magician, Catholic Youth Minister, St. Thomas More Church, Irvine, CA, b. Victorville, CA [http://www.kofc13111.org/]

Performing Magic: A Gospel Magician’s Preparation

1) Be Prayerful (Matthew 21:22; Ephesians 5:20)

Before every performance, I offer my performance to God. I also ask for the special intervention of St Don Bosco, Patron of Magicians. But, as St Augustine rightly points out, we should pray as if all depended upon God and act as if all depended upon us. It is imperative that you are familiar with your effects you are planning on performing and the theological lesson you are presenting.

2) Be Theologically-Correct (Acts 8:27-31, Titus 2:1)

Take advantage of as much theological and cathetical training as possible. Furthermore, if you are in doubt as to a particular theological issue do not hesitate to consult your parish priest or a Catholic theologian.

3) Be Faithful (Romans 12:6)

A Gospel Magician is not simply an entertainer. He or she is principally a catechist. It’s wonderful to have fun but it’s more important to be a teacher. Magic is only a vehicle by which you will impart knowledge and understanding.

4) Be Joyful (John 17:13)

You are a Gospel Magician. Carry the joy and love of Christ in your heart when you perform before others, especially children. St. Francis of Assisi warns us that it is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look.

5) Be a Light onto the World (Matthew 5:14)

I wear a crucifix around my neck when I perform Gospel Magic to remind my classes that I am there as a catechist and not as an entertainer. Though, of course, I hope that while they are being entertained, they are being edified. Having a crucifix or icon present in the room is also an excellent way to remember that you are not performing magic for magic’s sake. You are there as a minister, an educator and a catechist. It’s hoped that your class/audience will be entertained but that is not the final end of your performance. The real end of your performance is to point to God and to inspire those around you to love and honor Him.

6) Be Humble (Luke 14:11)

If you are successful during your performance, remember to tell your audience that your skills aren’t yours but God’s. St. Francis of Assisi teaches us that true progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.

7) Be Christo-centric (Romans 5:17)

Christ must be the main reason for your performance. You are a Gospel magician in order to proclaim God’s Word. He is present during your opportunity to teach. Allow Him into your life and He will allow you into His.

The Structure of Catholic Magicians’ Guild

There are three Orders of the Magi in the Catholic Magicians’ Guild named after the Three Wise Men who serve as patronal saints of the Orders:

  • The Magian Order of Balthazar (OB)
  • The Magian Order of Caspar (OC)
  • The Magian Order of Melchior (OM)

One advances through the three Guild orders by showing a dedication to the art of Gospel magic and/or magic used in service of the Church. The Counsel of Mages meets annually to decide which magi can advance through the orders. Members of each order are referred to as “magus” and may use the title in their advertisement materials. Magi may also use the post-nominal initials listed above in their signatures. The following is an example:

John Smith, cgm, ob

Non-Catholics are welcome to be members of Catholic Magicians’ Guild but they can’t be members of the above orders.

Requirements of Membership in the Catholic Magicians’ Guild

A magus of the Catholic Magicians’ Guild must:

  1. Dedicate oneself to saying the rosary once a day
  2. Weekly Mass
  3. Keep Lenten fasts
  4. Spiritual readings
  5. Participate in frequent Reconciliation
  6. Evangelize the Faith with and without magic.
  7. Perform Gospel magic at least once per year
  8. Must volunteer to assist the Church in some capacity other than through magic.

The Counsel of Mages

Twelve magi are nominated every year to the serve on the Counsel of Mages, the governing body of the Catholic Magicians’ Guild.

Each one, as a good manager of God’s different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. Those who preach must preach God’s messages; those who serve must serve with the strength that God gives them, so that in all things praise may be given to God through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and power forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)