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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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

God’s Path in the World

The path to Anna Ruby Falls

The path to Anna Ruby Falls

    As three of us (Carrie, John Paul and I) walked up the trail to Anna Ruby Falls I could not help but think of my son Kevin.  Almost every time we are out in the woods he says,”God made nature, and I like it.”  Kevin, at the tender age of nine, recognizes God imprinted his law on us through natural law.  He “gets it” better than most of us much older folks.  I just wish the politicians would go back and read the Declaration of Independence, and learn the founders state all laws must conform to natural law (or nature’s God) to be just.

    Many people today, afraid to be labeled religious or tied to a group, call themselves “spiritual.”  They find their way on their own through the forrest of life.  If they are attentive to natural law, and heed it, they have great potential to make good choices in their moral lives.  The problem with just finding your “own way” though the forrest, is your experiences are very narrow.  So the chance for misinterpreting a sign is higher than if you had advice on reading the signs as you approach a rattlesnake habitat.  If you stumble and the snake strikes, no one will be there to hear your cry.  There is also nothing supernatural to sustain your body and soul in this earthly journey if you go it alone.

    In this photo I purposefully left the trail in the shot.  I did this because as I thought of Kevin’s statement, I was also thinking of the peace which comes from growing ever more into a Catholic life.  The trail stood out in my viewfinder.  With each glance I found a reminder of how God also gave us so much more than natural law.  He gave us a path of safety through the dangerous forrest of life, and a means to walk it.  All we need to do is use the path and his grace to avoid the greatest dangers of the forrest.

    I revel in the knowledge I do not have to be Solomon, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila or John Paul II to survive in the forrest.  I just have to turn to the collective wisdom imparted over almost 6,000 years through revelation and illumination of God’s laws to my church and the world!   Being the thinker I am, I fall more in love with the Catholic magisterium as each new lesson clicks into place like custom made Lego blocks in a slick design.  I know this magisterium is stronger than the efforts of fallible men who may try to twist it to their own political designs.

    Not only do we Catholics have the lessons, but we can receive supernatural graces pouring forth from sacraments.  God cleanses in baptism, restores with mercy in confession, nourishes at communion, sanctifies matrimony and holy orders, and comforts in anointing of the sick.  So not only do I get a path to follow, but a complete pit crew as well for my life journey using supernatural grace.  This allows God to be with me in every place, in my body, and in my most important earthly relationships.

    So God’s path through the forrest is the one I chose.  I pray after reflection, you may chose to investigate the strongest and safest path through the woods to heaven.

   

Open to Grace: Two Fruits of Classical Catholic Education

    Today our little Catholic Hybrid School will graduate our senior class.  Through family friendships and school events, I watched two of them grow into peaceful and God Fearing young adults.  These two also became my very first senior photo clients!  

    Neil is a quiet young man of deep thought (like some of my best high school friends).  He will go out west to college, and will begin the study of media production from a Catholic perspective at John Paul the Great Catholic University.  This is a great fit for him.  

    In our school I observed how he is a quiet, humble leader of the younger students.  Many boys looked to him, literally looked directly at him, before doing almost anything to observe the example he would set.  His example became their course of action.  He respectfully fulfilled his duties to the school and family very well.  His quiet leadership leaves a void for the school population, which will be noticeable until another boy fills his vacated role.

    Mikayla is a lovely young woman, of sincere virtue.  She lets God’s grace work through her life to help others.  She will enter studies at Aquinas College in Nashville this fall.  She will be more than a normal student though, as she continues her discernment of vocation with the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia, a teaching order of nuns.  

    Again a great fit for this woman’s character.  In our school, and with her family, she is a guidon for a prayerful life. You can see it when she enters a room.  Small children hold her hand, and admire her.  Her baby sister simply adores her.  She also walks with a grace beyond her years.  When she enters chapel with her matillia, she peacefully focuses herself and those around her on the mass and prayer.  She is no wallflower though.  She demands unimproved family campsites, and can rough it with the best of them.

   I hope I captured a bit of the reflected glory of God these two bring to the world.  I enjoyed watching as my children gravitated to them at school and band over the last two years.  I knew their example would be good ones, and not misguide my children on their own path to adulthood.  I continue to learn a great deal from their parents as well, since they are good examples of parenting in a stormy world.

    Mikayla and Neil:  May God’s grace continue to fall on you, and your souls never let your eyes wonder off the prize of heaven.  You’ve started the race for the prize well, and may the finish be even more virtuous in God’s eyes as you change the world for His Glory.  Amen!

-ehw