Immaculate Heart Example

        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.

-ehw

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In the Presence

     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.

-ehw

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.

-ehw

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!

-ehw

P.S. Besides where would I get my cute photos of family life from without this many kids?