My understanding of Religious Art

      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.


Points of Grace and Wisdom

    If we believe the Bible, God’s Grace and Wisdom abound on this earth.  We also know God pronounced humanity good at our creation.  So what keeps us from finding these two tools needed to help us navigate the world in harmony with the Father’s will if our nature is inherently good?  We all know it is the noise of the world preventing us from finding God in the silence of our own hearts and lives.

    Noise comes in many forms.  Lack of sleep, too much TV, too much Facebook, illness, threats to our livelihood and our families just to name a few.  The challenge to quiet the noise requires solutions unique to our individual identities.  For introverts prayer will come easy.  For sanguine temperaments simply standing still long enough for grace and wisdom settle in your life may be the challenge of a lifetime.  For melancholics not falling into despair when challenges smack your life may be the constantly renewed roadblock of a lifetime.    

   For each person there is a solution though.  It just takes the time and dedication to find it.  The examples of saintly and holy lives abound in history, and even in modern times.  We just have to look for them.  Then when found we have to take the next step and act to apply the lessons in our own lives.

   In the quiet of quite a few vacation timed desert morning walks, I was able to quiet my mind enough to get to church on a weekday for mass and confession.  It was wonderful.  The grace and wisdom revealed saved me once again from wrongheaded paths.  I know I will need to seek yet more grace and wisdom for many a coming storm, but it was reassuring as always a minor miracle appeared when needed.

   I hope you find your path to points of grace and wisdom today as well.


The 18th Anniversary

    Time flies and it lies. 

    It seems like yesterday I went out for an easy five mile run with my cousin David, showered up and put on my blues ensured these rings were tucked in with my brother Karl and we went off to the church to meet two priests (who are like brothers to me) to get married before God and family.  I remember the door swinging open and my soon to be Father-in-Law smirking at me saying “I loved her first.” The whirlwind day of photos, holding hands, being the focus of attention wore my bride and I out.  I remember thinking of the marriage being about the two of us, swearing fidelity to each other before God.  

    Today I started with rescuing John Paul (child number five) from his crib at 4:55AM, resting a few more minutes and then going for a laborious 2.9 mile run (every tenth counts now).  On coming home I see three boys doing chores and enjoying each other’s company.  Two girls and a momma fast asleep…and I think…wow a lot happened in eighteen years.  Soon we’ll make a doctor’s visit and I’ll be off to work for the rest of the day.

    Nothing could symbolize the massive change and frozen time better than our wedding bands.  Nicked, bumped, worn smoother, worn 24/7 and still as strong as when new.  If possible, they might even defy the laws of physics and be stronger now than ever before.  It is almost like the rings adapted with us to experience, trial by fire, success, failures, responsibilities and the love of children we’re blessed with.

    I love my Carrie Anne, and I truly think no one else in the world would put up with me like she does.  Her wisdom is sound, and heart warm.  This warm heart powers our family, and keeps us on track.  The self sacrificing love Carrie displays with each child she carries is simply heroic.  The nine month sickness and long recovery she fights through each time has to count for something good when see meets our Lord one day!  She is pretty cute too!

   More than loving her alone, I love the “us” our marriage creates.  Our constant lessons of agape love, brought by the opportunity to be a family, allow us to bring Christ into our family everyday.  Mastering these lessons provides the spark I see in couples married and happy at 25, 40 and 50 years.  This is the love which should inspire us all to holy matrimony for life, grows healthy families, and shows us how to claw our way towards heaven through better and worse a fallen world provides.

    I know we have so much more to face in our lives.  The world is right now in a tremendous crisis of faith, and needs Christ more than ever.  I write this not to boast, but to help others see the way to heaven through Holy Matrimony and its foretaste of heaven.  I had a friend who said he was surrounded by friends with failed marriages, and was scared to become married out of fear generated by those failures.  

    I told him what I now know is true…seek out those who succeeded.  Learn the lessons of the happy 40-50 year marriages, and put them into your heart.  Learn sacrificial love, and seek one who wants to give of themselves without limit as your partner.  Pray over everything, and keep Christ front and center in your family life…he will guide you through the tough times which will come.

    So today pray for us, pray for your marriages, and pray for those who need to find peace in self to make either a vocational commitment to marriage or holy orders.  It is the best gift we could give the world!

Capturing the Glory of our Spiritual Dawn

Windmill on the property of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama

Windmill on the property of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, Hanceville, Alabama

    When I saw this windmill I could see the outline, but not the details.  The vast contrast between the bright rising sun and the shadow side of the windmill also deprived my eyes of fine color detail.  My brain knew what was before me, but my senses could not grasp all the details as the wind gently started moving the blades and changing the scene.  

    I looked into the scene and then began to think of our spiritual lives.  We first know the world as it exists around us with natural light and law.  When God’s light falls on the land the contrast between the right and wrong becomes distinct.  What we thought before of our environment will radically change if we embrace God’s law as our spiritual dawn arises.

    This is the key moment in the transition between dawn to day in our spiritual lives.  If we accept God’s law over us, the light will continue to grow into full day.  If we decide to follow man’s law alone, we’ll need to wait for the street lamps to come on to make sense of the world.  Street lamps are no substitute for God’s light.

    Even with embracing God’s Law bringing on our spiritual day, our earthly minds will never see the world as clearly as God sees it.  We will, however, be gifted with the knowledge and graces needed to avoid pitfalls if we ask for them with heart, mind and soul.  If we grasp the offered graces, sacraments, and penance we have a better chance to stay on the path to heaven.  

    If we obtain the prize of heaven through the gift of God’s mercy, we will one day see as God sees.  The outlines will suddenly become full of detail, the high contrast will yield brilliant color, and the slightest breeze will be noticed and appreciated.  

   Sounds good to me…