I heard much sad news, was stuck indoors, and saw the constant clouds out the window today. So I looked for a moment of solace. To find one I went into "view my memories mode"...and found a bit of color to share. It helped me think of the glory of God, and crack at smile to end the day.
Just a few shots from going out and about with Kevin after dinner tonight. This boy may have a hard time concentrating on finishing his dinner, but he focuses pretty hard out here with his rod and reel.
St John Paul the Great says: "No one apart from God can give you true happiness." He calls us to follow the example of Mary, in complete unconditional "yes" with no compromise or laziness. "Humanity is in urgent need of the witness of free courageous people who dare go against the tide and proclaim with vigor and enthusiasm their personal faith in God, Lord and Savior." This mission is never easy...and is impossible if we rely on the power of man alone. He quotes Luke to remind us "What is impossible with men is possible with God."
I am starting to get "it" in the long line of repentant sinners knowing I just need to do what we should. Tonight I'll pray we can all embrace the power of the supernatural God to be what we are truly called to be in our eternal home.
(Quotes and Lesson courtesy of Lent and Easter, Wisdom from Pope John Paul II, Compiled by John V. Kruse and published by Liguori Publications page 54)
In the darkest of times...where people keep faith in God they will find hope he placed in our hearts by the same God to do the works of charitas needed to build a foothold of his kingdom on earth, and earn entrance to his kingdom in eternal life.
If we loose the faith...the darkest of times becomes a very dark eternity without hope, and a complete isolation of self from others and our creator.
The last two weeks were crazy: Long work days, family fighting off various rounds of the December virus, robotics competition, about two cords or more of fallen tree branches in the yard, family challenges that come with six kiddos, we lost a great American soldier I once was proud to call my own, trying to discern God's will for my family, and a dozen other crazy moments and challenges.
All this made me have a hard time focusing today. Very hard! All that stuff was running around in my head. Luckily I was able get a good rosary in at church, and then work on that yard doing physical labor for a few hours. In the rhythm of prayer and breaking down branches I centered myself for a while. So when Kalen and I came in from the rain, I was able to appreciate this one moment of two boys of mine playing.
In that moment of personal peace I was able to catch a photo of two boys secure in a warm house, loving each other, two boys who know they are loved by their parents, and safe from so much evil in the world...for just a moment. Now at the end of my day a friend lost his son-in-law in an accident, and I know I need to pray for him and his family. The sorrows and confusion of the world is back on. They, and so many others, need a moment of peace to begin to work towards healing.
I'll pray for all those who need their moment, because in my moment of peace I realized again how blessed I am. Blessings however cannot stay still, they must move on to help others. So I will do what I can in prayer tonight. I'll also pray someone who reads this, may just be inspired to join me in looking for moments of peace to share with the world.
God blesses us from time to time with people in our lives who call us out and inspire us to new heights of growth. My son, and family, were blessed to know Father Austin Fogarty at St. Thomas Aquinas Church from 2012 until his death. My Kevin would never allow Father Austin to leave the church without a high five during the procession. In 2016, two years after Father passed, my son went to cry some more at his graveside.
It was therefore a great deal of happiness yesterday, we were able to enjoy a good bit of Father Austin's handiwork at St. George Parish in Newnan, Georgia. Based on what Father did at St. Thomas Aquinas to repair and beautify the sanctuary, we could feel his handiwork all over the church. We even found notes to the parish sacristan with reminders for care of chalices with his name on it.
It made me ponder how our material works can still help the living after our passing. I realize we cannot take anything material with us beyond the grave. However, if what we build with our hands and hearts is rooted in God's Law we can leave a living memorial capable of inspiration far beyond our death to generations beyond. I know this was true here, because my Kevin shed no tears yesterday. He instead marveled at the works of this fatherly priest, and how he urged him to live a life for Christ.
So today we will pray for our beloved friend and priest, Father Austin Fogarty. I pray he finds himself wrapped in the love of Jesus, at rest from his pains endured here on earth. While we miss you, we will not let that selfishness keep us from living as you asked us to here on earth with the people of God.
This weekend the 9AM needed a volunteer family to take home an older chalice, called the Elijah Cup, and put it in a prominent place in the home. Every time we see it, we should be praying for an increase in responses to vocation calls from Christ.
Well the kids asked and jumped into the isle...as another family further up and on the side also went up. To make it even more interesting a family up front, good friends of ours, also started to leap up and then stopped. We did not see the Deacon motion to the family to our right so we kept charging down the isle...so the six of us kept walking to the delight and laughter of the parish on collision course with the other family!
As we saw the other family come into view ahead of us, we sheepishly turned about. We were headed back to our pew for the dismissal rite when we heard a booming voice...."Wait we have another one!" from Father John Bosco Tri. So we went on up and accepted the cup he held!
I don't think Father Tri was going to let us go. See Father Tri and my John Paul already had a little talk. Father Tri offered John Paul use of his vestments two weeks ago....he seems pretty sure my JP will join him soon. (JP is only 22 months old right now so they are a little big on him.)
The serious side of all this is however, we need everyone to respond deeply to their vocation call. God does not stop issuing vocation calls. The problem is we just don't respond as we should primarily due to fear. Fear of giving ourselves away totally to God's design, fear of the reaction to our family, fear of the ridicule the world will put on us for being "old fashioned", or even fear of not knowing a safe place to begin the journey.
The result is a horrible vacuum. One priest for thousands of families, and the loss of nuns to build social networks of schools and services all mean the Body of Christ does not get the care it needs. A loss of religious vocations means families suffer as well, because trained religious are not there to nourish with sacraments, knowledge of sacramentals, and caring hands. The carnage does not end there though with the failure to heed our vocations.
How many fathers are afraid to lead their domestic church towards God? How many mothers are not bringing the heart of Christ into the daily routines of family life with courage? Without true fatherhood and maternal care, the fires of vocation will merely smolder in our souls. Never will the vocation fire burn bright for either task God could give us. All this leads to greater pain for the body of Christ as marriages suffer, sacraments go under offered and utilized, and churches close.
Recently I read how Mother Teresa understood her spiritual darkness to be her participation in the pain Christ has when we reject his cry of thirst to add our soul to his. Imagine how we could soothe Jesus suffering if we all began to encourage children to become religious if they receive the call? On their journey to discernment, we parents would need to grow in our faith as well since we are their first teachers. A testament to this growth of faith, would be the rejection of the contraceptive movement, and the growth of larger families once again in Catholic households. From larger families historically come greater the number of vocations. This occurs since boys and girls do not feel the subconscious need to ensure there is an heir for the family name, or someone to care for parents in old age.
So pray for a great response to the vocations God sends us at any time in our lives!
Here is a short prayer for vocations I found:
O Holy Spirit, Spirit of wisdom and divine love, impart Your knowledge, understanding, and counsel to youth that they may know the vocation wherein they can best serve God. Give them courage and strength to follow God's holy will. Guide their uncertain steps, strengthen their resolutions, shield their chastity, fashion their minds, conquer their hearts, and lead them to the vineyards where they will labor in God's holy service.
From EWTN: Click here to see the original
I cleaned up the mess of a 15 month old boy's self instruction in the art of eating, only to find an hour later I missed one more little crumb maker in a corner of the kitchen. I used to get mad at messes like this, but over the last year I've chilled out a lot. Somehow this cheerio made it into my rosary meditations last night. Somehow this little cheerio, my reaction to it and the Sacred Heart of Jesus all came together.
As I went through the Joyful Mysteries (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation and Discovery in the Temple) I thought of the incredible trust Joseph and Mary had in God. First you have two people who have a plan...got job, get married and live a nice little life in Nazareth with a few kids along the way. Then an angel appears to each of them and says...God has a different and much greater plan for you! Both gracefully accept their commission, and they became the gateway for our Lord Jesus to enter the the world and save our souls.
After meditating on the first four mysteries I found myself thinking about how each our arrival in our family changed our worldly plans. Gone were the new cars, fancy house, and two people generating good steady incomes. I thought of how we prayed over the decision to homeschool our children, and the lifestyle changes it brought on us. I thought of our acceptance of being open to life in our marriage with the blessings of five children and five miscarriages it brought. This brought me back to the Cheerio on the floor while Jesus was in the temple as a young man.
I related to the panic Joseph and Mary had when they could not find Jesus. I could only imagine the things they wanted to say when they found Jesus calmly going about his father's work in the temple. In the moment of finding Jesus, Joseph and Mary each were able to view a mini-transfiguration. Jesus foreshadowed to them his future mission, and how well he would perform it. Joseph and Mary were able to put all their emotions and order, and enjoy a moment of clarity on what their entire lives were entirely ordered for. Jesus' parent saw a glimpse of Jesus Sacred Heart on display.
That cheerio on the floor, one of hundreds I am sure, is one of the many of sins I've committed against God's law in my lifetime. Jesus may have used that cheerio to have me peer into his Sacred Heart. When I saw the cheerio, I quieted my mind and fury about why it was there. I just accepted it was there.
Christ gives constant charity to me for my sins despite the wounds I place on his heart. In turn I must continue mirroring his charity in my life despite all the changes and challenges the world and my choices put in the way. This is what his parents did, and this is what I am called to do in living out the gospel through word and deed.
Well time to go...little guy just finished his breakfast. Low and behold! There is a cheerio for me to pick up.
Mission Control this is John Paul.
JP - MC go ahead.
MC I have the toys in sight. They are magnificent. Two Fujifilm cameras, loads of lenses, batteries and HOLY BIRTHDAY CAKE the 56mm is here!
JP you have permission to acquire the toys.
MC I have a problem...oh my it is a rigged flash...I'm on film...he caught me red handed.
JP Break Off! Break Off! Go to ground!
MC will play baby no worries. I'll get another chance...I know where the toy mine is now.
The magic of bubble or two in the life of a child is indescribable. A bubble is a one of a kind creation with a fleeting lease on life which can captivate a child's imagination. One set of magic bubbles like this will propel a child to make many more bubbles to see it if the magic will come again. I guess it would not hurt us adults to have our own fleet feet bubbles to call our own!
Still working on some of my images from Helen, Georgia. We had a fantastic time there, and I would recommend it as a great place for a family trip. After living in Germany, and traveling through Bavaria, the facade was fun to experience. I often wondered what America would look like with some German architecture, well now I know the effect of mixing the two building codes. The most important three things about the town though were: the people were very nice, the recreation readily available, and the ladies loved our John Paul (and he loved them).
With this final point made...I can say it was fun and could be visited yet again!
Today our little Catholic Hybrid School will graduate our senior class. Through family friendships and school events, I watched two of them grow into peaceful and God Fearing young adults. These two also became my very first senior photo clients!
Neil is a quiet young man of deep thought (like some of my best high school friends). He will go out west to college, and will begin the study of media production from a Catholic perspective at John Paul the Great Catholic University. This is a great fit for him.
In our school I observed how he is a quiet, humble leader of the younger students. Many boys looked to him, literally looked directly at him, before doing almost anything to observe the example he would set. His example became their course of action. He respectfully fulfilled his duties to the school and family very well. His quiet leadership leaves a void for the school population, which will be noticeable until another boy fills his vacated role.
Mikayla is a lovely young woman, of sincere virtue. She lets God's grace work through her life to help others. She will enter studies at Aquinas College in Nashville this fall. She will be more than a normal student though, as she continues her discernment of vocation with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a teaching order of nuns.
Again a great fit for this woman's character. In our school, and with her family, she is a guidon for a prayerful life. You can see it when she enters a room. Small children hold her hand, and admire her. Her baby sister simply adores her. She also walks with a grace beyond her years. When she enters chapel with her matillia, she peacefully focuses herself and those around her on the mass and prayer. She is no wallflower though. She demands unimproved family campsites, and can rough it with the best of them.
I hope I captured a bit of the reflected glory of God these two bring to the world. I enjoyed watching as my children gravitated to them at school and band over the last two years. I knew their example would be good ones, and not misguide my children on their own path to adulthood. I continue to learn a great deal from their parents as well, since they are good examples of parenting in a stormy world.
Mikayla and Neil: May God's grace continue to fall on you, and your souls never let your eyes wonder off the prize of heaven. You've started the race for the prize well, and may the finish be even more virtuous in God's eyes as you change the world for His Glory. Amen!
The epitome of virtuous love is selfless giving of one's whole self. I cannot imagine any greater gift than selfless gifting love with a cross of pain on your back. Christ did this for all of us to open the gates of heaven. I am proud to say I know quite a few women (three very close to me) who fight through their own crosses and chronic pain and illness to be living pillars of virtuous love as mothers.
I've watched many go home exhausted from work with nerve pain causing a raging fire across the body with no know cure, asthma induced weariness, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, diabetes, excruciating pregnancy illnesses, and emotional turmoil when children reject good moral choices of living. When I ask why they do it, the same women tell me, "If I do not push through this pain my children do not get the home life they need in the world to be ready for it when I am gone." It is a common theme in each of these women. This mission is indeed grafted on their souls for life.
I can imagine the temptation these women face when they see other moms bounce through life with the greatest of health and outgoing personalities. Those people get held up as the great ones in our world. To know these chronic sufferers will never be able take an "easy" walk with their children, awake without chronic pain, and will be looked down on by many because they supposedly just don't have the "mental fortitude" to be "more" than they are. These situations must produce feelings of envy, hopelessness and induce despair. Yet these chronic suffers, who hold a deep sense of faith in God, turn these vice filled thoughts around and defeat those harmful thoughts time and time again.
These women are my inspiration. They create homes with hearts of joy, and communities of charity through their hidden pains. They take up the Cross of Christ, whether they acknowledge it or not, everyday. They suffer the pain of pierced hearts like Mary in silence, and turn the pain into graceful living. These two examples turn other hearts towards God by creating homes and families which match their hearts of sacrifice.
For these women I pray for God's mercy to shower on them forever. Today I hope you too join me in this noble cause.
On Good Friday I put together a quest for our Blue Knights group. We visited three churches from noon to two and found short lessons at each church related to the passion of our Lord. We completed our Quest with a boy led Stations of the Cross in our home chapel of St Micheal the Archangel at Regina Caeli Academy. You can view a complete report on our Blue Knight website.
The regular group of seven had six potential recruits and our teen mentor join us for a day. During our travels we also met with three other families and five more children. All total it was a joy to see nine families and nineteen children participate during the day. It was also wonderful to hear the boys sing, respond to complicated questions, and enjoy being with their fathers. Our mother daughter team was precious as well, teaching us a lesson from the women of Jerusalem.
The funniest moments were at St Benedict at both the beginning and end of Stations. When the thirteen boys marched in with capes and uniform colored shirts followed by Dads, people stopped and wondered who we were. You could actually hear the whispers and see the heads turn. I must admit it was a quiet but very visual spectacle. At the end of stations I could see the pastor observing the long row of boys...I know he did not know who we were and was wondering where we came from. I think I'll drop him a note and thank him.
It was awesome to have fathers on board taking time with their sons to learn lessons, and mothers who spend great amounts of time building classically formed children inside their homes. I could see how each family was not using a cookie cutter approach to evangelization. It was easy to see families identifying what each child in their family needed, and searching out different methods of teaching each child. It was inspiring, and motivated me to continue doing the same with my sons.
The most reflective moment was after the boys completed their stations. Two boys quickly noted as we reflected on the death of Christ, the clock struck three. The timing was not choreographed, but perfectly summed up our day traveling with Christ to and through the cross.
Thank you Jesus for letting us participate with your in your passion on this Good Friday.
Do not let fear of God make you tremble like a child who touched the cookie jar, or the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai. Such fear keeps you from internalizing a healthy Fear of God. We should dread disappointing both God and ourselves by not keeping his law close to our hearts, and expressing it in our every thought and deed.
This healthy Fear of God is what moves families by generation to generation to know and love the Lord. It is this Fear of God which builds Faith, gives Hope and binds us through Charity to other God Fearing people and families. Together we must build an earthly Body of Christ outsiders will recognize as a Catholic (I.e. universal) sign of God's glory visible in the world. We can do no less in our pursuit of the prize of heaven for ourselves and posterity.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1
Shadows may give us a little insight into the theological virtue of faith. In a shadow we have evidence of things unseen. Scientists use the observation of a shadow on the moon during an eclipse to begin a search for the substantive event causing the eclipse. In the photo of a person's shadow we have evidence that something resembling a person blocked the sun's light from hitting the ground directly. In both of these examples, if we desire to search for truth, we must freely give our entire intellect towards understanding the substance of the event we witnessed.
Freely giving one's intellect to the search for truth means we must look at all potential theories for the substantive event we witnessed. Then we must objectively test the theories, and discard those proven false. At the end of our objective testing we will come up with a few questions which we may not be able to prove in any way with a scientific approach. Those remaining theories may need subjective testing to provide us the most reasonable answer to our question as to what was the substance of the event.
It is in the subjective analysis in which we will make observations of the world around us to form an opinion on what substantively occurred. The resulting final opinion will be our "best reasonable guess." The decisions we make off that "best reasonable guess" becomes our guide for future actions or opinions in our lives.
If the scientist reviewing either of our events held back on their search for truth, and allowed a predisposition to properly evaluate and answer, they will not find the truth. No matter how hard the seeker tries, any supposition based on a falsehood cannot be true. This is why Thomas Aquinas says: "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible."
If we subject ourselves to the mission of discovering God's will for our lives, we must give ourselves over to faith. We must submit our lives to totally seeking truth, discarding falsehood, and applying faith in our lives through charity. There will always be countering theories to the ones proposed by the Catholic Church for what constitutes a "good life" which will obtain for us eternal rewards. The subjective analysis of the shadows Saints of the church left on the earth says both objectively and subjectively their faith was well placed.
I will learn from their shadows, and keep my faith in Jesus Christ through the Church of the Apostles. I hope you will too.
Amidst the winter illnesses and stresses of life comes one great story...John Paul celebrated six months Friday! He continues to excel in the growth department, weighing in around 19 pounds and long enough to DEMAND twelve month duds. As the bib says, he is heaven sent and on a mission to be 100% cuteness (so others besides the Dad says).
I cannot believe we are so lucky to have John Paul. I cannot believe the love the other children show him, and the care they give him every day. I am so blessed to watch the creation of new hearts open to life and the work required to bring it to fruition. It is a series of observations which through pretenses of materialism into the shredder, because their work for John Paul demonstrates the power of agape love. John Paul detracts nothing from the older kids, and in the big kids work for John Paul they glorify God.
We still need prayers for Mom to get fully healthy, but for just a minute I want to bask in a moment of God's Glory captured in a digital form. I hope it gives you as much hope and joy as I get when I see it. For if our lives are to be full of toil (or so says Proverbs) seeing a moment of God's makes the work worth it to survive to see another day.
The world is full of manmade noise. Noise, sounds and vibrations with no Godly organization, only serve to distract us from our ingrained mission of finding and loving the Lord. This means if we want to draw ourselves to the Lord, we must through force of will, ignore the world's noise so our souls can make music in harmony with God's intended design for the world.
For example, take a look at tomorrow's March for Life in Washington, D.C. There thousands will walk as a result of a court decision literally made up from the air the justices breathed, and created with little factual evidence or legal precedent. The whim of men created "rights" which did not exist ever before, denied the humanity of a child in the wound established with natural law at the dawn of time, and to this day results in the extermination of so many people it is actually fulfilling Margret Sangster's dream of the ethnic cleansing of "lesser" peoples. Oh the thoughts of this are nauseating to God fearing people everywhere!
In the thousands of words the people attending will hear tomorrow, very few will change the hearts and minds of committed abortion supporters. Why? Abortion rights supporters will constantly deny the humanity of the child in the womb by shouting their own words over anyone opposing them. They will continue trying to convince themselves their own destiny must not include the life they helped create. They know they cannot avoid the consequences of their own actions, but they will shout themselves horse trying to convince themselves otherwise. In a way it is a perfect demonstration of evil madness to try and deny physical realities in such a way. The thousands of words hurled by the protesters will only be added noise to these abortion supporters.
What caused these abortion supporters the most fear? It is the mandatory waiting period, and ultrasound machine testing. Why? Because in the quiet of a doctor's office, with the noise of the world isolated from the room, the reality of natural law confronting hardened hearts wins over far more souls than continue to deny there is a new life in their womb. Abortionists loathe the requirement any person listen to the heart beating while they see the face of their child before they kill it.
The sound of natural law runs naturally in the heart of the unborn child, and speaks with a clarity to unsettled souls like no other sound on earth. Oh how I wish we could mandate put the father in the room as well! Maybe the natural music could save three souls at a time, and help make a proper family.
So the next time you find yourself lost in a sea of manmade noise, find a place where you can slow down and hear the pulse of life. Let the pulse remind you of your place in the cosmos as a child called to God. Then follow the call of this music to build his kingdom in word and deed. Then maybe it will be easier to get a smile out of Christ the Judge when the time comes to meet him.
This year was one of great sacrifice as we worked to bring John Paul into the world. Sacrifice came in many forms. Carrie labored daily fighting nausea which would bring me to tears, the children contributed to running the house more than ever, people took time to pray for us around the country, friends and family also dropped all to come and help in moments of need. The work continues today as my wife recovers and the family adjusts. We could not be more grateful for the sacrifice of others and health of John Paul.
John Paul continues to be our miracle of a baby. He smiles and brings out the best in all of us. He truly is a gift from heaven teaching us to live out agape love without restraint. As a reward our hearts filled with more love from heaven than we could have ever imagined in our materialistic world.
We'll pray your year wraps up well, and the next one brings you the spiritual direction needed to walk towards Christ with more strength than ever before.
Merry Christmas from Capturing His Glory Photography!