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.
The title suits my baby Big Girl. Took this after a hot day, late summer birthday party with her friends riding ponies. I swear you can see her independence, sweetness, and sass all in one shot.
Some people say a good portrait is supposed to let you see more than the image of a person...it is supposed capture the essence of the person. I can use some more practice, but this captures Kelley....
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.
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.
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.
The world outside is frightful. The agents of chaos are legion right now. Mass destruction warfare is now more possible than ever before, because courageous men did not act when the opportunity was present. In our country, agents of anarchy want to use their evil to deliver tyranny on the masses through imposed Marxism. In our church, the evil theology of modernism is encased in prelates unfaithful to the unchanging magisterium of Christ's bride on earth. Inside family life we also have the chaos of too much noise competing for the attention of us parents and our children.
Now is the time to pray. Pray for a moment of silent reflection amidst the storms, war, noise and chaos. Find your moment and ask to be the instrument God needs you to be to bring the world back to him one soul at a time. Now is the time to become the missionary of his word, to create safe havens for our families to make the new missionaries, and to remember this struggle is an eternal one on God's timeline not ours.
Like everything else the Lord teaches...what seems hopeless by the world's terms is actually the situation where we can use his power working through us for miracles in our time to flow. It all starts with a prayer to beat back the chaos. The call is now out there...what do you say>
I was able to enjoy a slightly different dinner Wedensday night....excellent sushi. The little Ichiban Sushi restaurant was done up just like many a sushi joint I remembered as a child in Japan. In this age of cell phones I found most of us miss out on the little things in our environment. I this case a traditional Japanese fishing boat right over my head on the window called me to photograph it. Rather than just photograph it, I took the time to compose and make some art of the image. It is just something I would miss i i hac not forced myself to enjoy the environment for a minute or two.
Amidst the hustle bustle of Northern Virginia sits little St John the Beloved Catholic Church. From the outside it appears to be a typical 1950's design of a church, lacking the traditional calling cards. Walking inside was a surprise. During adoration Gregorian chants filled the church, the altar was made the centerpiece, and based on the appearance of the cushions all around the sanctuary it it had an altar rail in use at mass for communion. It was wonderful, and adoration was full of people coming, praying and heading back out into the world. On my way out I found a wonderful board filled with men and women entering religious life, heading the call of the Lord. What a way to go forth.
Sometimes the wrapper just does not tell you what you are really looking at! Thank you St. John the Beloved.
Yesterday we welcomed our newest family member, Josiah Anthony to the family. He is a wonderful little boy, and the family gallery moments are full of rich loving emotion. People viewing these photos would think we live in a wonderful version of wonderful TVLand where all is right in the world. In reality though, the photos reflect a grace filled moment resulting from a gutwrenching year of enrichment leading to it.
Over the last year as a family we faced many challenges. Our adventures extended not far from the house. Daddy led only minimalist excursions, Momma struggled with health issue after issue, kids got sick, we faced challenges at school, in discipline, and we all lost our marbles from a problem or issue more than once. NONE of those moments were the type of Rockwell images I relish to build in either my personal or photographic life. I certainly never captured those moments outside of own cranium.
Friends can't come over, Daddy is at work, and Momma is too sick to drive? Hope for tomorrow and play with your siblings. Tired of groundhog Saturdays with no adventure...shut up and finish a job you had not finished in the house. Tired of having to do more and more chores, lacking Mom's presence in your life because she is perineally sick, or the thought you now have bigger bills to pay? Pray on why your giving into vices, and hit confession to seek forgiveness.
In the valleys of life we always have a choice to help ourselves go lower, hold the course or begin to climb to the ridgeline again. I know the only way we reached this glorious moment yesterday though, was because of our collective responses to those low points. We only occasionally failed to stay at or gain altitude, and never went into a terminal decent. The key to our family response was our collective final decision always kept hope alive through acts of faith and charity. We also paid up lots of pennace to each other for our internal transgressions.
We had a moment in some glorious graces, and now we are back to reality. A huge tree fell in the yard, feedings every three hours around the clock, littles now need to re-establish the household order, health needs restoration, there will be more chores to do, and needs to meet. The reward though will be more lessons leading us to greater heights of love, and good photographic moments.
So off to work we go!
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
As a college student I really enjoyed my history assignments. Being a photo guy, I of course dug deeply into my pictures, maps and diagrams. In my senior year at West Point I watched my company pass in review on parade on my first personally acquired camera. When I printed the photos I found myself looking at a present day image, which could be from the relatively distant past if were not for some modern building in the background.
I was soon looking at every historical image differently. Every image of a battle, congressional debate, city street, factory or farm had me replacing the face of yesteryear with one of ours. We could be those past people, if it was not for an accident of historical timing. This made me appreciate photography even more, and my own place in history.
The event also made me remember a quote I heard from President Ronald Reagan a few years earlier:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free."
(From the Quotations Page)
While our DNA will allow us to recreate moments as actors from the past with ease, certain important lessons such as the American concept of freedom only will be passed on and lived with through deliberate efforts. Putting myself into the shoes of soldiers, statesmen, explorers, industrialists, farmers and my forefathers getting off the boat only made this lesson easier to understand.
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?
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.