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.


Be Not Afraid (of a Plus Size Family)

Oldest and youngest (for now) reading this past Christmas

Oldest and youngest (for now) reading this past Christmas

    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?

The Cheerio and the Sacred Heart of Jesus

The Lonely Cheerio which should bug the devil out of me.

The Lonely Cheerio which should bug the devil out of me.

   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.


Dose of Happiness

John Paul

John Paul

    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!