Beauty in the Rough


 Do you edit your photos?  Well of course I do!  The reality is, every photo coming out of a camera is already edited to the exposure and composition tastes (or mistakes) of the photographer, the film or sensor have an effect on what you can actually capture, and the software or physical development of the photo before it even hits the viewfinder.  Very little coming out of a camera will be absolutely perfect to my eye, so I will tweak the photo until it fulfills my vision of the art coming out…and it is art because it is my interpretation of the photo. 

    I know some people will shrill at this, but it is really a reflection on the reality of the fallen world we live in.  God made a perfect Garden of Paradise at the beginning, and then the whole Adam and Eve thing occurred where humanity fell to fear and pride and separating our actions and will from God’s.

    The good news for us is God’s laws permeate into our world naturally.  We can discover right and wrong just as we can discover beauty inside our man influenced environment.  The better news for us is if we look for and listen to God’s Wisdom from the Church’s Catechism, with its rich source material, the beauty becomes self evident.  The best news for us is good materials to learn from are closer than ever to our fingertips, if we but look for them.

    So the story of the lead photograph is no different than what our spiritual journeys should be.  I walked out of my hotel, the pretty new lobby shinny and sparkly, into a smelly alleyway facing the back of an abandoned business.  The brick and paint needs attention, the inside of the business really needs some TLC.  To my my naked eye the natural light blows out the color , the situation gritty, and the remaining beauty hidden in a low contrast area with no eye grabbing potential.  It is easy to see the despair of the building and have no hope for a photograph “straight out of the camera.”

    I had other tools though in my head. Tools and lessons in photography which gave me faith I could find the beauty in the smelly alleyway.  I looked and saw a classic shape inside a shape…good…I thought.  Then saw the flowers and knew they could be drawn out and made a centerpiece brought to prominence by the eye focusing shapes.  I knew my camera and lens.  My trusty 23mm would not distort or give in to great lens refraction at F/16. My camera sensor with a high ISO would be sharp and still have good color detail with a larger aperture giving me depth of field to be sharp from front to back.  I knew the distracting wires would not pull eyes away, but highlight the fallen nature of the setting.  Still in camera I knew the result would be flat, and without great interest.

    So I knew I’d dive into my favorite adjustment set on my Capture One 9 software, and get a quick taste of improvement.  See in the rough photo I knew there was beauty to be brought out, and I was just warming up.  Then I looked at my film simulations on hand, and saw one I like and applied it.  I added some texture and dodged some light in…in a matter of minutes I realized the image in my head which reflected a whole lot of learning and applied photography lessons.  I paused, reflected, worked on other images and returned to adjust a few more items before it was where I wanted it to be for a final product.

   I ask you though, is this any different than how we should approach the world in all our endeavors?  In each person we meet, or situation we encounter, will we ever experience perfection as God intended?  No!  Can we make things perfect ourselves?  No!  We need to know God’s plan to become better.   We need to know how to work with each other as we together try to rise ourselves up to deserving entry to heaven.  We need to not reject every sad situation, and look for the opportunity to glorify God in it.

   So yes I edit every photo I share.  I also work at editing myself and the world around me by bringing a bit of God’s plan into it one snap at a time.  I think if you look at your day in the same way, you’ll realize you do it as well.  I hope and pray we can do all we can to grow into the Glory of God’s light by doing this as a community.  I am really thinking it would be a great work of art…I could even title it “Capturing His Glory.”

And just to demonstrate…here is what the camera generated as a RAW image and the camera generated “correct” JPEG….and my edited image at the end.

Some 54 Day Spiritual Boot Camp Thoughts

    For the previous 54 days I participated in two 27 day novenas of petition and thanksgiving centered around the concept of a spiritual boot camp for a recruit to the Church Militant.  A good friend of mine joined me on this journey, so I had a combat buddy the whole way.  The format came from the website called the Roman Catholic Man (  Each day we received a meditation thought, lesson, wisdom from saints and the church fathers.  You also dedicated yourself to a rosary each night with petitions of your choosing.  

    One of my petitions was for discernment on how I was to serve the Lord and my family better in the years to come.  Saturday was my final day in this journey, and as we attended the baptism of a wonderful baby boy this photo came together before me.  It symbolized many of the lessons the Lord brought to my attention int he last 54 days.

    Here you see parents humbly presenting their child to the Lord, and pledging obedience to the church’s teaching as they raise their child to trust the Lord.  The Child’s grandfather is the Deacon conducting the baptism.  He calls all of his children to a life embracing the supernatural grace of God though example and deed.  He does this as a patriarch of his family, and as an ordained clergy for the Body of Christ.

    In this photo you see many members of our Regina Caeli Academy family, and other families joyfully embracing a culture of life and sacrifice.  As my altar serving son said later, it was the nosiest mass he ever served at.  As a result of the noise, the presiding priest only got a bigger smile because it was a sign of parents continuing to present their children to the Lord as they grew. He knows this pleases God greatly.

    The joyful presence of children lining the isles reminded me I am to be like a child in my faith.  I must be inquisitive and seeking truth with all my heart.  The presence of my child reminded me I also have a calling as a younger patriarch to follow the lead of wiser Catholic men around me.  If you want be the best you can be, you must associate and learn from the best on the field of battle yourself.  It is the only way to care for your wife and children properly.

    Finally, I realized even if I cannot do anything physically to help people I must continue to pray.  In this photo are many who’s names line my prayerbook.  I do not know them well, and some did not know I was praying for resolutions to problems they mentioned when we met.  I pray because right now, for most of them, it is all the charity I can provide.

    The day and setting for the sacrament were beautiful beyond my ability to describe it in words.  I knew by the high stratocumulus clouds change was just over the horizon.   By the next morning the temperature would drop forty degrees to a low of 36 degrees.  This symbolized how the Church Militant needs more recruits to prepare for the long campaigns of spiritual warfare to come.  So the final part of my discernment was the knowledge I am to help sound the call for new warriors to join our cause.  For men are meant to be courageous, not cowering from fear and despair.

  The journey to these discernments was long and productive…but only the beginning of a new a more challenging chapter as I seek again to capture a glimpse of his glory and share it with you..



In the magic of a moment…

John Paul looks into his DjaDja's eyes

John Paul looks into his DjaDja’s eyes

    In the magic of a moment we can see glimpses of heaven on earth.  On this day when John Paul sat with his DjaDja (his Grandfather), I enjoyed watching this scene play out over 45 minutes.  John Paul was content to sit right on his DjaDja’s lap and listen to the rhythm of tapping hands, the touch of a hand on his head, or to reach for his grandfather’s face and feel the texture of his elder.  

    When their eyes met, it was magic to see the connection grow between them.  It appeared John Paul could tell innately DjaDja was family without the need of an adult logical thought process.  Maybe evolutionary smell, facial similarities, or voice recognition causes this.  I think there is also somewhere in here a gift of the spirit letting us enjoy the gift of multi-generational family.

    I hope one day to hold my grandchildren, and watch my children bring them to know the Glory of God.  These would be gifts worth more than the finest gold and food.  It is a shame so many people today across the world think so little of a gift like this.  Or worse, succumb to despair and think bringing children into this world is hopeless in making it a City of God.

    In the magic of this captured moment, I hope and pray grace will flow to help others receive a gift of the spirit calling them to join in the act of creation built into our nature by God himself.  Then we can all help build a City of God one loving glance at a time.


Was this a test of Faith?

Do you cross the bridge if called? 

Do you cross the bridge if called? 

     Yesterday as I ate lunch I overheard two men discussing faiths other than their own Evangelical beliefs.  One gent was a little louder than the other, and I could clearly hear someone in his past incorrectly explained a number of Catholic beliefs to him.  He then said, I am willing to,listen to what they (Catholics) have to say, but from what I know they are going to hell.

     I was nervous, because inside me I was hearing a call to simply explain the errors he heard.  To let him know if what he said was true (for example that we worship Mary like a God) I could not be That type of “Catholic” either.  So I finished my lunch and made a decision…I would offer to both men my services to understand the Catholic faith from a Catholic who really wants to know truth as well.

     With my mind made up, I walked right up and made the offer.  What followed was one of the most respectful ten minute discussions I’ve ever had.  We discussed Mary, sin, Saints, intersession, problems with language translations, how God’s plans for us all vary in time and process, baptism, reconciliation and our goals in life.  Near the end, one of the men looked at me and said “Why do you know scripture?  Most Catholics don’t.”

     I told him I was embarrassed I don’t know more, but it was a lesson I took from the Evangelicals I met.  One had to have faith, keep learning as an adult, and be willing to share it in evangelization.  So I learn something, learn how much I still don’t know, and then adore how the tenets of my faith interlock into something more beautiful with each lesson. 

      When I left I was shaking a bit.  Did I do justice in my explanations?  Did I honor the teachings of the Lord with my deeds?  Did I show my sincere respect for fellow seekers of the Lord’s timeless Wisdom?  Did I do what God wanted me to in this test of my faith?

    I’ve been praying God would discern to me what my future should be…maybe this was part of the process.  Until then I will have to keep praying my Faith grows in the Wisdom of the Lord and I do him honor and Justice in word and deed.   I also will be praying for those two nice men, that they continue to honestly seek the Lord’s Wisdom themselves.  The Lord wants nothing less than for us all to come home to Heaven.