Joy in the yard!Read More
Today I found myself blessed to watch my son Kevin participate as an altar server at mass for the first time. It is a moment which almost put tears of joy in my eyes. Why? I could see in his eyes and his deeds he wanted this moment with all his heart.
Last night Kalen and I prepared Kevin by holding a practice mass, as conducted at RCA with Father Tran's preferences, twice on our deck. Kevin impressed me with his memory of how the bells rung, the way people stepped around the altar, holding his hand on his chest and the procession in which he would accompany the priest to the nursery to deliver the Eucharist to those working there. I already knew he memorized much of the consecration prayers, but this was pretty amazing for me to see first hand. For all of his daily eight year old distractions, he was paying attention every mass.
Today two upper school boys, John Paul and Stephen, took Kevin over to the chapel to set up and do a final rehearsal. This is something which endears me to Regina Caeli. Our youth are normal youth, but we parents call them out a little more each year to live their faith. At the end of a 15 minute preparation, Kevin came out tripping over the seam of the smallest cassock and stood with Father Tran and Stephen to enter the mass.
He went down the isle with his serious face on, and nervously looked over to Stephen from time to time to make sure he was doing the right thing. Stephen looked out for Kevin as a big brother should, and Kevin earned a smile from Father Tran. Kevin sure made his Daddy proud. It sounds silly to many, but I was proud because he entered the Army of Christ today at the altar of our Lord as a willing servant for the community. it is a major step on the road to adulthood of life and faith.
Thank you God for letting me see this day in the company of so many good friends!
It is an interesting week in our house. Most of the normal home life continues. Dance, Robotics, and letting the kids play outside....normal life. After a few months being under so many guns it was nice to also have friends over and see a movie with them...and eleven kids had a pizza night! Then there was the opportunity to just for a few minutes enjoy John Paul getting to settle down on my chest for a nap...after a few minutes of ear piercing complaining!
Life is still crazy, but it needs living and sound of worship to abound for it to have meaning.
When you give my girl music, a dress and a light saber you get a whole new version of the Saber Dance! She takes after her big sister who as I type is spinning in the kitchen as she loads up her breakfast cereal. All children at some point need to enter the real world, but for now I love keeping them safe to dream and play in a wholesome way.
Today I had the opportunity to attend the Blue Mass honoring and praying for all First Responders with Bishop Gregory at Christ the Redeemer in Atlanta. Met many men and women who man the line and guard us from the terrors of the night. Thanks be to God for such men and women.
I pray our nation returns to God with respect for Natural Law and the life of the unborn so we can be the great nation our founders intended.
These are the moments when a parent's heart melts just a little. Between normal conflicts children have over toy ownership, using crayons on someone else's homework, songs being sung too many times, and a dozen other issues we occasionally have little moments where we catch a glimpse of parental heaven. Whenever your children find displaying the love of friendship (filia) for the fate of their siblings, you know something you are doing worked to get God's message through to your charges for at least a moment.
If our parental hearts melt in joy with a moment like this, I can only imagine the joy in heaven when one of us reaches sainthood to go beyond the gates into heaven. Angels of all types singing, saints of old grinning and reaching for our hand, and a parental smile on Christ after passing the test of our final judgement might be amongst the sights and sounds we'd see. Oh the glories of such thought!
Well for five minutes I saw my parental heaven walking before me again...I hope we all get to enjoy it in heaven as well!
Do you need someone to pray with you? For you? The prayerbook above is meant for you!
How did this happen? (This is the hardest post I've composed over the last four years!)
In 2014, after much introspection, I realized a need for more consistent personal prayer in my life. Prayer with God needs to happen in good times, meditative times, times of discernment as well as times of need. A year ago I failed in most of those areas by being hit or miss. On cue, God sent my son to me with a book about St. Dominic and the rosary. A year of growth started in earnest as I devoured the book. As I wrapped up the first year of work, I noted progress in many areas and several continued shortfalls.
Prayer from others literally kept me upright following our two 2014 miscarriages. Since then I made it a point to let others in need know I will pray for them as well. The opportunity to pray with others had two incredibly powerful moments this past year. One with close friends as we prayed over their sick child in the ICU. The other was with a co-worker recovering from a heart attack in a different ICU. In the second case it was special as we prayed with his wife and another friend from work.
I know God was listening, and I am grateful he supported full recovery for both requests. I don't want to sound crazy, but God's grace was so present in each moment I was shaking afterwards. The realization God was amongst us in those moments, tending to his children, left me feeling rather meek.
This year I wanted to be more consistent in fulfilling prayer requests as they came in. So I picked up a spiritual diary to catalog the requests over the next year.
I publicly announced this year's prayer campaign on St Dominic's feast day at John Paul's baptism. Current requests recorded so far include needs of friends for their parents, the manager of a transmission repair center fighting liver and pancreatic cancer, young men discerning their future vocation, our school's success at its mission, a friend's child with the same risks my wife had in pregnancy, a young priest at his parish, a new widow and her family, and two co-workers with heart ailments to mention just a few. I also have some for people who never asked, but just have an obvious need for someone to requests God's intercession on their behalf.
Each night I review the prayer requests, hold it close, and pray for those inside.
Prayer is the only thing I can do for most people I know in need. I have no worldly riches, and little spare time in my days to travel and be with the many I know in need.
So you can see, this prayerbook is for you. Please help me direct my prayers to God to help you, and I what I pray will be our collective journey to sainthood in the Kingdom of God.
P.S. Reply to the post, shoot me an email or better yet give me a call! I'll add you to the prayer rolls!
As with most newborn families, we continue spending time letting Momma recover and John Paul his rest. We are now at the beginning of a period I look as magical. It is the time a baby can see further than his fist, shapes take on meaning, and eye contact begets social reactions.
In between common household chores with my four big kids, a quick reward trip for donuts at Mr. Dunkin's, and making an indoor BBQ we got time with the new son as his world expanded once again. This is the reward time for Dad's and family members. Facial gestures, words and coos get replies from this intelligent creature of God's creation. I also find this is when we start to get a fuller assessment of a child's personality.
So as we head off to church this is a typical slow, family oriented weekend in my home. Yet it is one I am fully thanking God for, because this is what the rewards of putting family life first is all about.
On Monday, Father Tran provided a wonderful homily at the Regina Caeli Academy's opening day mass. One very important thought Father wanted us to take home is a key step all of us need to take when building a relationship with Christ and the body of Christ. It focused on reorienting our discussion reference points while talking with God.
Most of us, myself as a sinner included, begin our discussions with God saying, "I am in need...I wish...I.....I....I...I" Father challenged us to recognize this type of thought and language implies the little partner in the relationship, or the child, is telling God to look at the world through our eyes. When you ponder the statement, you quickly realize the insanity of our normal position. We mortals, of limited senses and knowledge, tell the almighty and all knowing to work towards our designs.
After thinking through this situation for but a minute or two, most rational people will recognize we should really be walking a mile in God's shoes before we talk to the Almighty. Rather than asking the Lord to make straight the crooked path ahead to ease our burden, maybe we need to ask the Lord for strength to correct the mistakes we made while making the crooked path ahead the day before!
When we shift the thought process from our perspective to God's perspective, we can more readily accept the wisdom of God. This will mean more time walking with him, and less time arguing with our own selfishness. Just maybe that will lead us better on the path of salvation. The very path he called us to from the moment he formed us in our mother's womb..
The vast majority of people outside our little homeschooling community think we were nuts for rejoicing on the possibility of a fifth child in our family. I could not disagree more with the majority.
The Bible described children as a blessing, and large families were a reward from God. Nowhere in the Bible does a large family equal a curse. I would agree having a large family however can present a challenge from time to time! So far nothing I've faced is insurmountable, just a great set of challenges.
With the arrival of child number five, good young John Paul, I look forward to enjoying one more round of moments like this one above. I have the seasoning of parenthood four times before to know snuggling with my baby on the couch, in between diaper changes, is one brief moment in time. The only moment in which I get to love my son with these cuddles. In a few years, he will be all boy and want to wrestle the old man into submission!
I received five wonderful sets of moments like this. I am looking forward more good times ahead, with the full knowledge valleys of darkness will exist as well. It is all part of the large family blessing I behold day in and out.
P.S. Photo credit to my favorite assistant Carrie Wojtkun who caught me sleeping on the job! I did all the post processing for her!
Today I officially received two more grey hairs. Kalen turned 12, and John Paul celebrated eighteen days! Kalen planned out his birthday almost all by himself.
The day started last night with vigil mass for the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. Kalen organized a simple get together today with good friends for a day of Nerf gun wars and legos. He made his gluten free cakes with Grandma, a time honored tradition, this AM to provide dessert. For lunch? Simple hot dogs with gluten free buns for those of us on the dole with him for sensitive tummies was his planned menu. It was his party, followed by a family pizza night where he watched a funny movie about Penguins from Madagascar. Tonight he went to bed beaming with the joy of friends and family being with him today.
All of his actions got me to thinking about when does a boy crossover to become a man? I could only think of the answering: "The man arrives when the boy begins to seek and take responsibility for his actions."
This young man is doing just those actions. It makes me proud to know he will do everything in his being to be a real man as he grows older. It makes me sad to know my eldest is no mere boy any longer. It also worries me, since I know this little man tries to take on more than he can chew or is responsible for.
I am still happy today to keep the promise made 12 years ago today. I promised to always get to church on the Feast of the Assumption and say a prayer of thanksgiving for a healthy child. Just attending mass with him last night was pure bliss in an of itself.
P.S. John Paul is not a noisy child...unless he needs momma's special blend. He is also not a huge believer in flash bulbs!
This past Saturday we had the privilege to baptism our son John Paul in the faith of our forefathers. I am happy to know the faith in scripture and tradition handed down from the Apostles themselves resides in all of our children.
Now back to living the faith, and striving to be the example and teacher our children God needs me to be. Thank God for family, friends, reconciliation, Holy Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit to help us meet the mission.
P.S. Yes it is hard to hand over the camera....but sometimes you have to live the moment.
Kevin: "Dad was I this small?"
Dad: "Yes son you were once that small"
The joy of teaching a culture of life to your children is that even when the baby gives a yelp, the older kids know this is part of respecting life from conception to death. You know you succeed in reaching their souls with with this understanding when they have such great awe for the new members of the domestic church...and all people created in the image of God around them.
My older children saw the trials Mom went through for nine months to get John Paul to birth. They understand more than ever the depths of love she had for each of them before they were born. Each of our children, at the age of reason, now understands this baby was their baby brother from the moment of conception in the womb (even if they haven't had "the talk.").
The big kids will soon will associate what Mom suffered as part of her agape love for each of them, when only our God knew their name and destiny. The older kids now also understand in a larger sense why abortion is decidedly agains the commandments of God. John Paul was never a bunch of harvestable organs and stem cells. John Paul was John Paul when two halves became one whole.
As crazy as the calendar is now these are the good times. As crazy as life will get it the coming days, months and years if we get the concept of agape in their heads and hearts I think we have a good chance of succeeding as parents. I hope we raise children who fulfill the Lord's two great commandments: To love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul. To love your neighbor as yourself.
I pray to God we, and parents everywhere, achieve this noble goal as well. For there is no other option than this if we are to form a civil society where peace can reign.
Boys like their summers filled with wonder and awe...and this year both found fulfillment in home based fireworks over the Fourth of July! If you remember your childhood, I bet it was moments like this you remember for a lifetime. I know memories like this are seared in my mind!
P.S. Always a challenging shoot when darkness is involved, and you will not use the flash. The rewards for catching the special moment of light are immense.
Today our parish celebrated four men from our parish, and are working their way through seminary discernment of their vocation. It was a wonderful moment to see the men up there.
One of the seminarians reminded us we were a parish of 4,000 families, and many more vocational discernments exist in a parish that size. He asked us to pray for vocations from the men and women in the pews to continue filling our seminaries.
I remembered what good priest told me about a year ago regarding discernment. He told me all the hectic activities we do today divert both adults and children from prayer time. Just think of the distractions we all face: secularized schools where God is forbidden up to ten hours a day, too many sports, too many dance classes, entertainment celebrating drunken and drug filled activity on every station and TV show. Every marketing company seeks to get you attention with each second of your day to sell their wares though logos, tunes, and embedded messages on other media. It creates a mess for forming individual prayer life.
The challenge to each of us is to create the space and habit to pray in the midst of this clutter. We need to pray in silence at first. In a world filled with so much marketing this is actually the greatest challenge. Adding sacred music and art in our prayer time later is a bonus, which when used properly, will draw our minds up to God. From these mountains of life we can feel and see the glory of the Lord.
When the valleys of life come our way (say a 3AM infant which does not want to sleep or the 3 year old having a really challenging day I am talking to between sentences) we can always fall back to our basic memorized prayers bring our daily life back to focus on God. Using these prayers we still remain connected with God despite the noise around us.
Whether we are young or old, we must learn the timeless and priceless traditions of prayer. I am finally understanding this, at the age of 43. So there is hope for us all! John Paul seems to prefer the early morning Rosary already...he made it a point to schedule me in three times already! The boys have me each night for boy prayer time, and my big daughter seems to live her life as a prayer. This is all just wonderful...and I hope a set of traditions we continue through thick or thin.
P.S. This photograph is a real challenge with my camera in one hand and three limbs trapped by a semi-sleeping baby. Battery box attached to my forehead, changing apertures with a loose thumb...it was definitely not a textbook solution. It worked though.
At the start of the month I began my proverbs review. One chapter at a time..and since the month has thirty-one days I get to read Chapter 31. This is a chapter I have to read aloud to her, and I must say she deserves it in spades. I cannot match the beauty and wisdom of the Bible so her are the words of Proverbs, and some photos to follow showing the riches my wife brought to our family.
Proverbs 31: 10-31
10 Who can find a woman of worth? Far beyond jewels is her value.
11 Her husband trusts her judgment; he does not lack income.
12 She brings him profit, not loss, all the days of her life.
13 She seeks out wool and flax and weaves with skillful hands.
14 Like a merchant fleet, she secures her provisions from afar.
15 She rises while it is still night, and distributes food to her household, a portion to her maidservants.
16 She picks out a field and acquires it; from her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She girds herself with strength; she exerts her arms with vigor.
18 She enjoys the profit from her dealings; her lamp is never extinguished at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her fingers ply the spindle.
20 She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy.
21 She is not concerned for her household when it snows—all her charges are doubly clothed.
22 She makes her own coverlets; fine linen and purple are her clothing.
23 Her husband is prominent at the city gates as he sits with the elders of the land.
24 She makes garments and sells them, and stocks the merchants with belts.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.
26 She opens her mouth in wisdom; kindly instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband, too, praises her:
29 “Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive and beauty fleeting; the woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.*
31 Acclaim her for the work of her hands, and let her deeds praise her at the city gates.
Proverbs 31: 10-31 from the USCCB in the New American Bible for Catholics
I hope you can see the love on these faces! It is real. Their work and prayers helped get us here.
Proverbs Chapter 4
THE TEACHER AS MODEL DISCIPLE
1 Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive, that you may gain understanding!
2 Yes, excellent advice I give you; my teaching do not forsake.
3 When I was my father’s child, tender, the darling of my mother,
4 He taught me and said to me: “Let your heart hold fast my words: keep my commands, and live!
5 Get wisdom, get understanding! Do not forget or turn aside from the words of my mouth.
6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; love her, and she will safeguard you;
7 The beginning of wisdom is: get wisdom; whatever else you get, get understanding.
8 Extol her, and she will exalt you; she will bring you honors if you embrace her;
9 She will put on your head a graceful diadem; a glorious crown will she bestow on you.”
The New American Bible for Catholics, Proverbs Chapter 4
As we await our fifth child, I must confess the lifetime calculators have me worried. Birth, food, college, weddings, dance lessons, music, school, medical, housing and of course food...they all cost something. Many people tell me we are nuts for having this many children. I always tell them I could never give up one of these wonderful lights in my world. We believe nothing should be free to us, or we sinned by enslaving someone to us without a just salary. So I cannot cheat someone of a just wage. We already sacrifice things, and care for 30 year old sofa's because they still work just fine. Yet I still wonder how I will make ends meet over the next 25 years or so!
The weekly readings sounded a timely note in my home. The disciples fearing they could not feed the 5,000 before them wanted to send them away to find food on their own, lest they riot or go hungry. Jesus on the other hand calms his disciples, and feeds them miraculously.
So as I listened to the Sunday sermon, and the divine office yesterday, I found myself comforted. I'll find a way to provide if I listen to our Lord's call. We'll find a way to make due because he will help us find a path. We just need to do our part, listen to his call, and maximize the tools God gave us.
We know the lives in our home have the potential for doing a special missions for our Lord, that we could never dream of. Maybe a priest, nun, or a parent of God fearing family...maybe someone who saves a life for the Lord physically and spiritually...maybe a simple child who inspires with simple acts of faith. I now find myself relishing the unveiling before us in the coming years. Sweat and tears in the years ahead for sure, but what good things come from a life of complete ease?
I hope to live out for my parents and experience the following words from Proverbs 17:6
"Grandchildren are the crown of old men, and the glory of children is their parentage."
P.S. We are supposed to be at the hospital this morning, but there are no beds right now...please pray for good news soon!
A playground always brings out the best in kiddos...open spaces and fresh challenges every day! I always love to watch the little guys and gals climb the slide backwards for the challenge and shortcut to the top! In the case of this mountain climber the hill will pose no obstacle!
P.S. for you tech-cats this was the X-T1 sporting the 18-135 zoom. A nice all around tool in good light. When you hit the playground it is good to have a tool which reaches out and goes wide at a whim. You don't miss too much action that way! If you hire a photographer for an event, make sure he has the tools for the job you need done. That is why a good guy will have to charge a little bit more...he has to pay for the right gear and it costs a good amount to purchase.
What happens when you take three sweet little girls, from three different grades, all growing up together over the years and let them play? Magic smiles and poses appear! Their different heights made a naturally interesting composition! Maybe this will make it past the yearbook editor and get a thumbs up!
P.S. Ok Fujifilm fans this was my often neglected 35mm prime set at F2.0 to handle the poor gym lighting. Yes the ISO is 3200, but the X-Series RAW file handles it well in Capture One 8. Even the jpeg was excellent! I just enjoy playing with RAW files whenever possible because I adore the extra headroom to craft my final images.