Music Educator, Composer, Pianist, Writer

Mark Christopher Brandt

A YEAR OF FAVOR

Sixteen Meditational Rosaries for More Fruitful Visits with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament

HIS FOOTSTEPS...YOUR CAVALRY

A Heroic but Practical Way of the Cross

Mark’s second published work, entitled His Footsteps...Your Calvary, was granted ecclesiastical permission at the same time as A Year of FavorHis Footsteps contains Mark’s personal reflections on the Stations of the Cross for deep meditation in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, as well as several shorter versions for making the traditional Way of the Cross using the stations in any church.  The book also includes two versions for children, which will prove invaluable for parents, as they introduce their children to this beautiful and ancient Lenten practice.

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The Catholic Church teaches us that confession and spiritual direction are two different things.  We confess our sins to receive mercy and forgiveness as well as to grow in conversion and repentance.  We do not go to Confession for counsel.  We go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation to accuse ourselves of our sins and to be freed from them.  Spiritual direction can be in the context of a sacramental confession, and visa versa, if the priest (spiritual director) agrees to it, but we do not use the confessional for spiritual direction, nor is the Sacrament of Reconciliation to be considered “spiritual direction or guidance.”

 

The purpose of Confession is to list our sins and to show remorse for them.  The purpose of spiritual direction is to discern the movement of our heart.  They are not the same thing.  Counsel with friends or with "spiritual people,” is a completely separate thing from the Sacrament of Reconciliation or from formal spiritual direction with a priest.  Seeking counsel from trusted souls is always allowed in the Church.  Priests, deacons, religious, and the laity are all qualified to give spiritual counsel, as Counsel is, specifically, a gift of the Holy Spirit.

 

For almost thirty years souls have been coming to me for spiritual direction and I have always told them the same thing.  I am not a spiritual director or a spiritual guide.  I am a husband, I am a father, I am a composer of music, and at times, I am a writer.  I am a daily communicant.  I am consecrated to Jesus through Mary according to the spiritual exercises of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort.  I am predominantly Carmelite in my spirituality with a joyful devotion to the Holy Rosary.  I pray at least four Rosaries every day.  I lead the parish Rosary at All Saints Catholic Church in Manassas, Virginia every Saturday at 7:15 am, and I was chosen for this wonderful responsibility in 2003.  I am not a permanent deacon.  I am what people refer to as a member of the laity.  The laity, in my humble opinion, should not be involved in the spiritual direction of souls.  That is a job for well-trained and experienced priests and religious.  There have been exceptions throughout church history, but I am not one of those exceptions.

 

That said, I am completely comfortable offering counsel in a variety of areas.  I have done so over the years, but I do not solicit souls to counsel.  Souls find me.  I am not ashamed of my gifts of discernment, but I reiterate that I am not a spiritual director nor are there any souls coming to me for spiritual direction.  There never have been any souls coming to me for spiritual direction.  The number of souls I have turned away for “direction” over the years far exceeds the number of souls who have received spiritual “counsel” from me at any time.

 

My spiritual writings, dating back to my very earliest days as a Catholic,  were documented in 2016 and published in obedience to my own spiritual director, a priest, and they have been approved, as I mentioned earlier (legitimate ecclesiastical permission and approval), for publication by the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia.

 

As a Catholic Christian, I am, like anyone reading this, a sinner in need of our Savior, Jesus Christ, with a long row to hoe towards sainthood.  Everything I do is for the glory of God and for the salvation of souls.  I do not boast of my own gifts, but those of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Who dwells within me!  Amen!  Alleluia!

THE ROSARY

You don't have to be Catholic to pray the Rosary.  Just pick up a rosary and start.  Meditating on each mystery (decade) of the life of Jesus and of His mother Mary, simultaneously asking for the virtues (fruits) that are granted to you by them, is the guaranteed formula for solving all of the world's problems. Our best ideas to save the planet and humanity will always end in war and disaster.  The solution is love.  Prayer is love in action.  The answer comes from God.   The Rosary is a sure way to know that He has heard your cry for justice and peace.

The Rosary.  What is it?  Why pray it?

A short online tutorial by Mark Christopher Brandt 

 

The Rosary is a western form of meditation and prayer deeply rooted in Sacred Scripture.  It is a wonderful way to grow in the love of God.  Like anything of value, the Rosary requires a commitment and some discipline.  The dividends, however, are literally endless and even eternal.  The repetitious nature of the Rosary is meant to lead us into the silence of our hearts where the spirit of Jesus dwells.  The Hail Mary is a mantra which, repeated again and again, becomes the background music to our contemplative focus on the mysteries.

 

The fruit, or virtue, of each mystery is a specific grace that we are asking for from God as we pray.  These virtues bring us into a deep oneness with Jesus Christ and if they are truly asked for, cooperated with, and practiced in our daily life, these virtues will change us radically from within into the most peaceful and joyful of souls while affording us the opportunity to bring Christ to others in word and deed.  It is not the Rosary which changes our life.  It is God Himself, but we must want Him to do so and we must allow Him to do so.  The Rosary is the sure way to aid us in spiritual battle as we struggle to leave a life of sin behind for a new, and more beautiful, free life of virtue and self-mastery.

 

Every time you pray the Rosary, asking for the fruit of each mystery and pondering the mystery itself, you become a new creation.   It is important to remember that the moment you ask for a grace, you are granted the request. You may, however, have to practice maintaining or even surrendering to this new way of life and behavior.  The Rosary is not meant simply to bring you peace in the moment.  It is meant to bring that same peace through you to everyone around.  As in the study of music, practice at this lifestyle makes perfect.

 

There are four sets of mysteries on which to reflect.  They are the Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries.  It is not advisable to attempt to pray all four sets at the beginning of one’s entrance into the Rosary.  It is better to pray one set of mysteries per day and to become comfortable with them before attempting to pray more than one set in a given prayer time.

 

It is completely advisable and desirable to strive for a point in time where one prays all four sets of mysteries in a day and, if possible, in one sitting.  Pray the Rosary with a group of friends or alone, in any location and especially in front of the Blessed Sacrament.  Praying the Rosary is a wonderful, beautiful activity at any time.  Praying all four sets of mysteries consecutively takes about one hour.  Praying one Rosary at a time takes just over 15 minutes.

The Mysteries and the Fruits of the Rosary

The Joyful Mysteries

Prayed on Monday and Saturday

Meditation

Fruit

The Annunciation

The Visitation

The Nativity

The Presentation in the Temple

The Finding of Jesus in the Temple

(Lk 1:28)

(Lk 1:41-42)

(Lk 2:7)

(Lk 2:22-23)

(Lk 2:46)

Humility

Charity

Poverty of Soul (Detachment)

Obedience

Wisdom

During Advent the Joyful Mysteries traditionally replace the Glorious Mysteries on Sundays.

The Luminous Mysteries

Prayed on Thursday

Meditation

Fruit

The Baptism of Our Lord

The Wedding at Cana

The Proclamation of the Kingdom of God

The Transfiguration

The Institution of the Eucharist and the

Priesthood on Holy Thursday

(Mt 3:16-17)

(Jn 2:5-7)

(Mt 10:7-8)

(Lk 9:29,35)

(Lk 22:19-20)

Embrace Our Baptismal Vows

Go to Jesus Through Mary

Trust in God's Love and True Repentance

A True Desire for Holiness

Deeper Love and Reverence for Jesus in the

Eucharist and in the Priest

The Sorrowful Mysteries

Prayed on Tuesday and Friday

Meditation

Fruit

The Agony in the Garden

The Scourging at the Pillar

The Crowning with Thorns

The Carrying of the Cross

The Crucifixion

(Lk 22:44-45)

(Jn 19:1)

(Mt 27:28-29)

(Jn 19:17)

(Lk 23:46)

Perfect Contrition/Honest Confessions

Purity of Heart, Mind and Body/A Spirit of Mortification

Courage in Humiliations/Conquering Pride

Perseverance in Prayer/Patience in Trials

A Deeper Understanding of the Self-Emptying Love of Jesus/Self Denial

During Lent the Sorrowful Mysteries traditionally replace the Glorious Mysteries on Sundays.

The Glorious Mysteries

Prayed on Wednesday and Sunday.

Meditation

Fruit

The Resurrection

The Ascension

The Descent of the Holy Spirit

The Assumption

The Coronation

(Mk 16:6)

(Mk 16:19)

(Acts 2:4)

(Jud 15:9-10)

(Rev 12:1)

A Deeper Faith

Ardent Desire for Heaven/Hope

A Deeper Understanding of God's Love for Us/Love of God

Grace of a Happy Death

Trust in Mary's Intersession/True Devotion

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How to Pray the Rosary:

 

Make the Sign of the Cross:

Right hand moves forehead to heart,

Left shoulder to right shoulder.

 

Holding the crucifix, pray the Apostles Creed.

 

On the first large bead, pray the Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father).

On the three beads prior to the Rosary centerpiece, pray three Hail Marys.

Pray the Glory Be.

 

Announce the mystery before each decade and then pray the Our Father on the large bead and the Hail Mary on each of the smaller beads (ten times).

 

Picture in your mind - or use actual images of - the mystery while praying the ten Hail Marys as a mantra.

 

After each decade pray the Glory Be and the Fatima prayer.

Begin the next mystery (decade) and repeat this process for a total of five decades.

 

After the Rosary is completed, pray the Hail Holy Queen. Other prayers after this are optional.  See below for the traditional final Rosary Prayer.

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The Prayers of the Rosary:

 

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hell, on the third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen.

 

The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father)

Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil

Amen.

 

Hail Mary

Hail Mary full of grace,

the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

 

The Glory Be

Glory Be to the Father.

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit,

As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be, world without end.

Amen.

 

The Fatima Prayer

O my Jesus,

Forgive us our sins.

Save us from the fires of hell.

Lead all souls to heaven,

especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

 

The Hail Holy Queen

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life our sweetness and our hope!  To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve; to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.  Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

 

O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

 

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

 

The Rosary Prayer

O God, whose only begotten Son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord.  Amen.

 

Conclude with the sign of the cross.

Print This Rosary Page Here

This tutorial by Mark Christopher Brandt is free of charge and may be copied and shared freely.

DIVINE MERCY

You can use your rosary to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  This prayer, like the Rosary, will truly set you free.  You don't have to be Catholic to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Just pick up a rosary and start.

How to Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy:

 

Make the Sign of the Cross:

Right hand moves forehead to heart,

Left shoulder to right shoulder.

 

Holding the crucifix, pray the following:

 

The Lord’s Prayer (The Our Father):

Our Father Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those

who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil

Amen.

 

The Hail Mary:

Hail Mary full of grace,

the Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women,

and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

Pray for us sinners,

now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

The Apostles Creed

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended into Hell, on the third day He rose again from the dead.  He ascended into Heaven, and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.  Amen.

 

On the large beads (the Our Father beads) pray the following:

 

Eternal Father, I offer You the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

 

On each of the small beads (the Hail Mary beads) pray the following:

 

For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 

Repeat this process through the five decades.  When you reach the end, say the following invocation three times:

 

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

 

Pray this concluding prayer:

 

Eternal God, in Whom mercy is endless, and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible, look kindly upon us and increase Your mercy in us, that in difficult moments, we might not despair nor become despondent, but with great confidence submit ourselves to Your Holy Will, which is love and mercy itself.  Amen.

 

Conclude with the sign of the cross.

Print The Chaplet Here

This tutorial by Mark Christopher Brandt is free of charge and may be copied and shared freely.

BIO

Compiled from verified, reliable sources, multiple articles and interviews.

 

Mark Christopher Brandt (born February 2, 1961) is an American composer, pianist, bandleader and writer.  HIs middle name Christopher comes from the Greek name, Christophoros which means “bearing Christ.”  It is derived from Christos combined with phero and translates literally as “Christ bearer,” or “one who carries Christ.”  Since December 25, 1991  Mark has been an unapologetic follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings, as found in the Catholic Church.  He considers the use of his middle name crucial to both his public and private life.

 

Mark has operated a successful private instruction studio, built solely on word-of-mouth advertising, since 1991.  In 2011, he received the Virginia Governor's School Award for exemplary service and dedication to education.  Many of Mark's students have achieved high honors and scholarships at both the high school and the collegiate level. Many have successful careers in the music industry as performers, educators, producers, and engineers.

 

Mark’s first musical performance was during his sixth grade year at an assembly for his elementary school.  At the request of his music teacher, Mark performed an original composition, Heartbeat, and there discovered his desire to share what was occurring within him musically.  Like all accomplished composers and instrumentalists, Mark honed his skills performing as a side man and an accompanist for many years.

 

Since his first professional performance in 1977, Mark has shared the bandstand with a variety of artists, from the famous to the obscure, in performances on television, in theaters, large and small venues of every kind and in in every genre of music.   Mark’s experience as a composer spans classical to country and includes a Rap and Hip Hop piece he was commissioned to create for the Ramada Renaissance Hotel’s “We’re Somebody Special” Corporate Ad Campaign that took place in the early 1990’s.

 

Before graduating high school in 1979, Mark was already an experienced performer and had appeared at some of the major venues in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland area, including the Main Stage at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. The United States Navy Band Commodores sent a recruiter to Mark but he respectfully declined their   offer hoping for a deeper artistic freedom than a career in the military would ultimately provide him with.

 

Mark studied classical composition and piano performance at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. (1979-1982), and jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts (1983-1984).  While attending Catholic University, Mark was actively performing with many of the East Coast’s most reputable musicians in almost every jazz club that was open for business.  The group with which Mark regularly performed opened for several nationally recognized groups, including Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering, and Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band.

 

While attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, (Upon arriving in 1984 Mark tested out of their entire undergrad harmony and theory programs), Mark’s talents were noticed by the faculty, who invited him to sessions with them as well as sessions with other students who, like Mark would go on to achieve successful careers in music.  Upon completing his education at Berklee Mark left the Boston area, settling in central Florida.

 

While playing in Florida, Mark became a member of a prominent group playing Top 40’s hits and country music.  As the group grew in popularity (1985), the opportunity to sign with a label in Nashville appeared.  Mark passed on the offer, remaining focused on his personal dream of being a composer and a performer of his own music, free from category and genre.  In an attempt to gain objectivity, Mark left that group and moved to Georgia, where he packed up his musical gear and worked odd jobs in order to gain a fresh view of his artistic options. It was during this time that he met his future wife Ramonie.  They were married in April of 1989.

 

When Mark’s long-time friend Geoff Thaler (woodwinds) discovered that Mark was not attached to a group, he invited him to come back to the Northern Virginia area, which Mark did in December of 1986.  The two immediately began working together professionally and started to collaborate in the realization of their life-long dream of playing and recording their own music.  In March 1987, they debuted compositions from both their portfolios at Blues Alley, Washington D.C., in a fusion/funk group, Syncron.  Shortly after this performance, Mark and Geoff replaced their rhythm section with two phenomenal musicians (Dallas Smith, electric bass and Stan McMullen, drums) who would work with them for the next eight years.

 

By 1991, Mark again became known as one of the top jazz musicians in the tri-state area and was starting to gain national attention.  Hoping to breach the fear of launching himself as an artist under his own name, Mark released a recording of his jazz trio (Warmup 1994) for limited circulation.  The hint of success it brought was all he needed to move forward with his own music.  By 1995, Mark’s first recording of originals - a duo project with longtime friend and woodwind master Geoff Thaler - was completed and titled Veritas.  This became the catalyst for two more projects and multiple performances with Geoff.

 

As well-known jazz labels, and national artists began to take notice of Mark and his music, he began studying his options and learning more about the music business.  Mark ultimately decided to start his own independent record label and produce, release, promote and sell his recordings under that banner.  Before the Internet became the glut of music that has been since the late 90’s, Mark’s music was selling all over the globe.  To this day he is still selling his music online under his own label, Lionheart Music East, with sixteen projects to his name.

 

After his 1999/2000 New Year’s performance at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., Mark decided to step away from performing so that he could be close to his wife and to his children during their young years.  During this break, he built one of the most reputable teaching studios on the East Coast, regularly placing students with scholarships into the top music colleges and universities in America.

 

In these first few years of the new millennium, Mark was asked to lead the Holy Rosary at his home parish of All Saints in Manassas, Virginia on Saturday mornings.   He has been leading the Rosary in his parish every Saturday morning since he was first asked to do so, and in 2016 his Rosary meditations were approved by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and published in a book titled A Year of Favor.  This book was followed with a book of Mark’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross, also published with ecclesiastical approval, titled His Footsteps Your Calvary.

 

From 2008 until 2014, Mark was a sponsor for the annual Chantilly High School Invitational Jazz Festival. The festival, which for over 35 years took place at Chantilly High School in Virginia, was, at the time of Mark’s arrival and his departure as sponsor, the largest of its kind on the East Coast.  Mark remains at the top of the list as the “go to” instructor for piano, composition and improvisation lessons for all instruments. His students include many of the Washington, D.C. area's professional musicians, seeking him out for polish and refinement of their improvisational skills.

 

In 2008, Mark returned to the world of performing with a new jazz trio, and began to use his middle name, Christopher, professionally, wishing to be known, not just as an artist, but as an artist who carries Christ.  After the release of Worth The Wait (2010), Mark and bassist Shaun Jurek became the East Coast Duo, moving successfully into the club, hotel, and private party circuit that Mark trafficked as a young jazz pianist in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and again in the late 90’s before his 2000 hiatus.  Adding a drummer for a second trio CD, this one of Christmas classics, December Moment (2014) received a glowing review from Downbeat Magazine.  Mark and Shaun began to fill the calendar year with performance after performance, becoming one of the most respected and most working jazz groups on the East Coast.  The duo remained active until the spring of 2020 when the pandemic caused the two musicians to amiably disband.

 

While collaborating with multiple artists and performing with the East Coast Duo, Mark released a double CD of piano solos, This Side of Forever (2012), and two completely Improvised solo piano recordings, Seven Moons (2015) and Seven Gifts (2016), which feature the music he created on the spot with cameras rolling in his educational DVD series on improvisation.

 

Between 2013 and 2016, Mark collaborated with well-known guitarist Dan Leonard in a group they called No Explanations.  Together, they produced three CD’s and a documentary DVD: Round Trip, The Making of an Artist, which has premiered in film festivals all over the world and been translated into both Italian and Polish.

 

In 2017, Mark began composing music for flutist Yana Nikol, and cellist Katherine Colburn in a programatic collaboration titled The Nightingale (2018).  Mark and Yana followed up The Nightingale a year later with both a duo CD, Sunflowers and Roses, and a DVD, Structure and FreedomStructure and Freedom is the third DVD in Mark’s series on Improvisation.  The collaboration between Mark and Katherine Colburn continued into 2019 with the release of The Butterfly, which also featured the Manassas String Quartet of which Colburn is a founding member.

 

In February of 2021 Mark suspended his performance career so that he could devote more time to composing.  He is still accepting music students privately through word of mouth referrals.

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“We get one life. It’s up to us to find our purpose. It is our duty to find the reason for our existence, and to bring joy and light to those around us who have not yet discovered theirs.”  Mark Christopher Brandt

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