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.
Time is in very short around here. It is a constant race against time to get up, feed, cloth, clean, teach, maintain, and then get back to bed before it starts all over again. It seems at least half of the eight of us are always out of sync with the others....Too often our weekends are merely Groundhog Days.
Well in the midst of all this I was able to take advantage of a wonderful opportunity provided by the Cherokee Gun Club. I was able to spend over four hours with the two big boys on the range learning safety, good habits, and showing them what a fun lifetime hobby looks like under the guidance of an incredibly patient guide and trainer from the club. Look them up, and if you have kids who want to learn the same...contact them. You will not regret it, in fact you'll be trying to schedule another visit! The boys will not let me forget to...and Momma liked the confidence the boys came home with.
The key to the day was the tutelage of Mr. Richard. You will not find a calmer and nicer man to enforce safety while displaying the joys of shooting. He listens, coaches, and keeps the focus of boys in a way I wish I could emulate. He made my job of being an extra safety and assistant coach a joyous one. In fact he made it easy for me to come home and say I helped my boys grow up a bit today. So I got as much a gift from today as they did.
One message I always find myself returning to in this blog is why my photography is important to me...and it so much relates to life. You have to find the good moments and appreciate them. Today was one of those good moments to be a Dad. Thanks God and the Cherokee Gun Club.
Today my wife and I had a Sunday afternoon date...to complete our Divine Mercy Novena and Sunday at our church. While I am still processing all the lessons from the last ten days, I rarely allow myself to miss a nice moment or two with the capture of a frame of electrons, ones and zeros. The image on the program matches the beauty of the Holy Hour... so I just had to share.
Jesus I Trust in You!
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.
Carry your cross today. The Saints remind us, the only way to heaven is through the cross. We must suffer, and learn to rejoice in that suffering. This is such a hard concept if we are of this world and not Christ's. (I struggle with this debate daily myself!) So let us not be like the masses and flee our Lord in his time of need. Let us take up our personal cross, and follow Christ in his way of the Cross.
PS Please pray for the boys...we start carrying our cross today at 1155, St Brigid to Regina Caeli, Academy.
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
What can you learn from a man who says nothing in the entire Bible? It turns out we can learn a great deal from his silent example and the symbols of his biblical and tradition based stories handed down from the Patriarchs. For this reason he is a patron saint of my family and our little Blue Knight Evangelization club.
St. Joseph was a carpenter, and it is this trade he passed down to his son. Working with wood is one of the oldest traditions of mankind. In the Garden of Eden we began this tradition of working with wood through the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. Working with first gave us the fruit of unity with God, and the later one's fruit planted inside us the seeds of pride to create our fallen world.
The Tree of Life required no pruning or sacrifice to care for it or provide for our souls. Once the world fell though, God needed to send his son to set things aright. The job required Jesus to use the materials, tools and symbols we humans could grasp. As partakers of the Tree of Knowledge we humans always look for God to symbolize rewards for good behavior by showing us the "land of milk and honey." Overturning our fall from grace could not however come without sacrifice and correcting the pride from the fruits of Knowledge.
So enter into this story a carpenter. A man who sizes up a tree, cuts it down, cures it, and then crafts it with man made tools to provide necessities of life. A carpenter will build tools, homes, carts, and hundreds of other items to ease our daily burdens to give us a better life. Yes the carpenter kills a tree to provide us a better life. It is the way of things in a fallen world.
It was the carpenter St. Joseph who provided Jesus with the earthly skills and tool set to make the very cross he will carry to Calgary. In the Jewish tradition it would be St. Joseph who introduced Jesus to earthly scripture (remember Jesus was there when they wrote it in the Trinity), apprenticed Jesus, brought up in the knowledge of Jewish ritual, taught Jesus the culture of the world he lived in when they went to market or met customers, and ensured Jesus had a sound domestic church with his wife Mary . St. Joseph was responsible for introducing Christ to the complete earthly tool set needed to communicate with the world the message of salvation.
Being the faithful and obedient son, Christ learned his lessons well. This is why Christ took the dead wood of the cross, a barren man formed tree as his greatest tool. While the Romans saw it as a tool for a public belittlement of men to keep their earthly power over a population, Jesus had other ideas. Jesus took the dead tree and used it to pass through to eternal life. Through his death he obtained the glorification briefly glimpsed at the Transfiguration for all eternity. In this act he corrected the error of Adam and Eve, and showed us our personal path to redemption.
Through the works of a child, we get a glimpse of the qualities of the parents who raised them. Although St. Joseph never said a word to us in the Bible, the impact he had a profound impact on the life of Jesus. Looking for guidance in his example and patronage for our families can greatly advance our spiritual lives towards the Tree of Life.
ANCIENT PRAYER TO ST. JOSEPH
Oh, St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires.
Oh, St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
Oh, St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him close in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.
Please visit The Catholic Company to see more about this prayer.
It is the time of year for getting ready to do our lent traditions to clear our hearts and souls for the coming of our savoir Jesus Christ. This is great! Being the 100th anniversary of Fatima also lends some urgency down the hearts of many faithful, as one of the primary calls Mary made was to repent and do penance for our sins and those of the whole world.
In a series of happy God driven coincidences, I opened a book my dear wife provided me for the first time (I just finished two others...she wants me to get spiritually smarter) The SPIRITUAL COMBAT and A TREATISE ON PEACE OF SOUL by Dom Lorenzo Scupoli. This book is a guidebook for many a religious soul, and a few saints like St. Francis de Sales. In just a few pages it roped me in, and started answering a few questions I've had.
Recently several experiences begged me to look for answers to the the proper understanding of a rule based and spirit based path to heaven. As a law and order type guy my whole life, simply following the rules is a very simple path for my little brain to follow. Do X and receive Y. The problem us law and order people have is this still leaves us short, because to obtain heaven we need nothing less than perfection in our souls as well as our actions!
Rule based paths to heaven are also dangerous to many of us. When we observe and judge people poorly because they are not as "observant," or will not practice the same extreme forms of asceticism we personally choose to do. When we do this, we easily fall into sin because we are comparing and showing off our "holiness." We become modern day Pharisees.
Instead we must carefully chose the form of self denials and rigor of our prayer life to draw us closer to the mysteries of Christ. This type of introspection, combined with strengthening spiritual exercises makes us primed like an soldier for the great battle working in unison with God's commands . We need all the strength possible for our daily battles with the prince of evil who seeks to turn us from the path of God to his by hook or crook.
Our example in all of this can be our dear mother Mary. In the Bible she says but a few words, but attends every major event with our Lord. She faces every temptation and torture a mother can endure, but never gives in to sin Mary also was compliant with the old Law she was born under, and the example of the new law of her son. She silently witnesses and participates in the unfolding of salvation, but never brings the focus to herself. Everything she does assists the Lord as he completes his mission for the world and all people in every age. Her Immaculate Heart always complements, and never overshadows the Sacred Heart of her son and our Lord.
As we go forward into Lent, Mary's Immaculate Heart example should guide us towards heaven. Accept the hardships of the fallen world, but never waver from following the law of God. We also will remember to seek greater understanding of God in all things we observe and do, and to bring God's graces to all those we meet.
We Catholics witness today a sad turning point in out church history. We are looking at a demographic cliff of dying churches, and a youth which overwhelmingly not staying home in the church. The ability I had to swing into a local church for a Rosary, in a town not my own, in the presence of the Lord in Adoration may not be available to my children. I saw today a glimpse of hope I the church I visited today...one sixty plus parishioner, one 50 something, a 19-20 year old young man, and me Mr. Middle Aged man all sat together in the chapel. This was an encouraging mix to be part of for a Rosary.
On this trip I did find hope, as I met men living lives full of charitable work (done in God's name not theirs) all searching for better understanding of God's law. It reminded me, even though in the course of human events matters may appear bleak...if we pray for and believe in the supernatural power of God we may yet be surprised in how the world can turn to hear his word again. I know this does not avail me of my duties to evangelize, but it gives me faith to redouble my devotion and duty to live the word I deed.
Over the last few years I found myself learning more and more of my faith...yet with each lesson I realized my understanding of faith is barely out of its infancy. I can grasp a concept, but to know the precise details will escape me for many years to come. I am not worried though, it just means each day I can explore a little more. I also take heed of St Thomas Aquinas vision...what we understand and can percieve here can do no justice to what the reality of what the Divine Law really is.
So if we can only see a glimpse of heaven in anything we think or create, I think religious art should reflect that. Eastern Rite Catholic churches have incredible icons which follow this very basic premise. What we see is not to be hyper realistic, but rather a starting point to enter the mystery presented. From this entry point in meditation, you can explore the rest of the story and its application in your life and its journey towards heaven.
Take this photo for example. A hyper realistic photo here would draw no interest. It was washed out, a simple statue in front of a church. There was however much more to its story if you cared to look for it. In the editing I found the amazing light and shadow contrast. I vignetted the photo to draw the eyes into my message, I knew the subject matter was an angel or a messenger of God and it just fit. I removed some color to make it timeless, since angels are timeless creatures. The contrast of the man made wall and green plants made me think of the leading Rosary mystery of that Friday...Mary why do you look here in a tomb for the living?
The scene before me became the pathway to a deeper meditation on something far bigger than I will ever be able to comprehend on earth through the creation of and review of Catholic religious art. One added bonus in all of this was I needed to quiet my mind to the world's distractions to see this. In the silence, is where God can speak to our souls, and where we need to spend some of our time each day. So I got my silence, my thought and my created art.
This is what making and viewing Catholic religious art should do for you...at least from my little spot on this earth.
Our current Western society praises itself on being rooted in control over nature through application of science and reason. Nowhere is this more evident than through control and size of the family. Embracing a large family is in fact the anti-thesis of control of nature. Therefore any counter-cultural move away from strict family control sets off a firestorm of emotion, debate, and shunning to bring people back into the fold.
The argument for a controlled size family is a logical outgrowth of the Enlightenment. The penny sized description of this philosophy is: If I can reason something out (logically order it through science) and I want to will it into being, the result I want to make can and should be as I want it to regardless of any historical or scientific obstacles. While the goal of Enlightenment thinkers is good, to make the world a better place, it fails because it assumes all things are ordered according to a single person's will.
In a precisely ordered world replacement level children would not be bad...it would simply ensure a stable society with Mom and Dad being replaced by their little children. It assumes there is no war, famine, enjoyment of bountiful years, divorce, recurrence of the Spanish Flu, accidents, control of passion by all people, natural spoiling of children, or change of political order. When in history has this ever happened? If I apply a scientific method to the review of history against any one of these factors, much less a combination of two, I can say never with confidence.
A view of family across all traditional cultures shows having a large nuclear family is a reward and sign of prosperity. Large families can take a loss, as tragic as it might be, and still survive to another generation. Families with large families embrace passion and reap the rewards with a 99% stability rate (i.e. no divorce) when using Natural Family Planning. In large families where parents have all the children help each other natural selflessness arises. Even economic science shows growing populations increase GDP, while stable and declining populations result in a loss of economic power despite automation.
Yet just saying have a large family is also a poor scientific argument as well. Many large families fail because they may be open to life, but fail in another basic component of success. One has to look into the why behind successful families everywhere, and its origins. These reasons come from observations in natural law, not man's law.
In Genesis we see man was not complete until he had a wife. Together they were to be fruitful and multiply. Proverbs tells us a man will have no fear to argue in the city gates when surrounded by his children. Jesus tells men they must serve their families to the point of complete self sacrifice, and women must listen to their self sacrificing men. (This addresses our greatest vices as men and women of power going to our heads, and sets the example for their children's future relationships) Time and time again we also read throughout the Bible we all must look for the Lord's direction, and build our world towards it. Embracing these lessons points us towards successful family models.
St John Paul II, in his masterful Theology of the Body, also reminds us men and women complete the other sex in marriage. In the marital act we participate in renewing creation with God. Acceptance and loving our resulting children then completes the family. When viewed in its totality, this sets up an environment where family life can mimic the Biblical revelations of Natural Law. This type of environment fosters good and minimize bad family effects we can see in the physical world around us, while moving from generation to generation.
In the a few short words above I hope this lets you understand where I started on my journey towards embracing the title of this post: Be Not Afraid (of a Plus Sized Family) in today's world. This decision does not come without challenges, doubts and trials. It is emblematic of real life, needing a constant renewal. Nothing worth doing ever came without cost...and never will. So be not afraid to look at the reality of the world, and use its very nature to form a better future according to the will of God revealed through nature. I promise the experience will really ENLIGHTEN you!
P.S. Besides where would I get my cute photos of family life from without this many kids?
Things going a little crazy right now? Election got you in a funk? Well how about a dose of happiness? This is John Paul's version of a pick you up smile!
Catching babies and children is a hard task, but a little flash and quick thinking help. In this case John Paul was happy since he was on a swing, and making it go very very fast. The flash caught the action in freeze frame where it counted most: the eyes. The flash also put a sparkle in the eyes which gives you a sense of life in a frozen frame. His natural smile completes the moment without the typical childhood squint and cheese.
This is what great family portraits are all about...making art where the going is rough!
My daughter just finished a very special trip with her grandparents. Ten days visiting Washington, D.C.; seeing godparents; enjoying some new clothes; but most of all enjoying a different vision of the world she lives in. She learned a great deal about where she comes from on my side of the family. My daughter lives a very virtuous life, and is a role model for me her Dad. Her selflessness for living God's law is impressive. While she was gone though, her absence let me think about how God's relationship with each of us in the story of the Prodigal Son. This story is always about the tale of the two sons, but it also gives us a deep insight into the love of God for each of us.
In the previous excursions of my children with grandparents I never had a child who was at the age to explore life away from the family. This time though, my daughter took a trek to the outstanding Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia. There she met one possible destiny. She saw shelves and shelves of great books. She sat in classes where she had more of the Shakespeare memorization complete then the students (recent homework at Regina Caeli), and also experienced a class knowing she was not yet ready for it. When she was done she found a great college, and felt it could be a home away from home for her.
My young lady left, and seriously contemplated the next phase of her life. Thankfully for me, her description of why included the statement "They really try to live out our Catholic faith there dad." In the story of the Prodigal son, however, the boy wanting to live in man's world chooses to live by his own rules. He leaves the father, and the father knows he may never come home. This faithful father also realizes the son may also forfeit a home in heaven for his soul, and this fate would trouble the father even more than a failure to return to the family home.
When the father sees his son coming home repenting of his sins, he rejoices. He hugs and adorns his child with all he can. While the physical return home is good, the father knows a repentant son will be with him forever in the paradise of heaven. Since tradition teaches us the father is symbolizing God the Father, we know the human joy and love we see pales to the love God has for us.
So when my daughter returned I rejoiced in having my faithful and true daughter in my care once again. I also thought of the Father in the Prodigal Son. Here a son, who was dead to him, returned home. The son showed repentance, and demonstrated his embrace of the Lord's ways. If my joy was immense, I could only imagine the joy and love God poured forth into the moment when sinners come home.
What an awesome God to believe in, and see reflected in natural law throughout history.
At then end of a long day, when you just came inside from playing in the dirt with your brothers you just get SPUNKY!
I love my kids....this is just all part of loving the moments on the high ground of life.
Back in June I was able to get up to the mountains of North Georgia. It was hot, but a good time to explore a little of more of the state. One opportunity I received was the gift of an early rising to meet the sun. Watching the earth go from black through its purples, reds, orange and full daylight was a simple pleasure. What a gift from God!!
Then my daughter Kellie says, "My hair is messy!" The Daddy replies, "Well you were having fun twirling your dress!" Kellie then screaches with a belly laugh happy as can be because this is what she remembered:
Thank you Aunt Jane for all your work! A dress for my doll and I and purse to boot! Some really nice other outfits as well! Annalise (the doll) is now in her pajamas enjoying a short summers nap with Kellie. These are some great moments to remember. It is what being a family photographer is all about.
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!