Editor's Note: During the month of November, as the Year of Faith draws to a close, we will be celebrating all the fruits of this year. Each day we will feature a short reflection from Catholics all over the country and world, sharing what God has done. If you want to share your own fruits with us, email us a short reflection (no more than 500 words, please) to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear how God has blessed you and deepened your faith this year!
Part of my enjoyment of this year of faith and this blog has been contributing some of the photography for the site. Photography literally means, “to capture light,” and in capturing these images to share, I hope it shares the beauty and light that is Jesus Christ.
I am a fairly recent convert/revert to the faith, so much of my outlook on God and the Church these last seven years has literally been with the mind of a child. Everything appears new, and you walk about with a mouth-wide-open awe upon discovering that this creation is so intimately tied to its Creator. The Church has a term for this – mystagogia, which is a deepening of the understanding of the mysteries of our faith.
I have always enjoyed taking pictures, and began taking images of the Church and our faith as a very organic way of processing and documenting much of this mystagogy I was encountering and experiencing. I came to discover in sharing these images that pictures are very sacramental, a physical, tangible reminder of the intangible grace of God. A photograph can transport you across space and time, where you have an opportunity to feel how the photographer felt, even getting a sense of the sounds and smells of the place.
Think of the icons, statues and stained glass that are central to the Tradition of the Church. We don’t worship them, but these physical reminders do allow us a way to experience the faith in a very tangible way. They are part of the portfolio of ways we can come to encounter and know God more deeply. Stained glass was a living Bible in a time when print Bibles were prohibitively expensive. Those windows helped our ancestors encounter the story of salvation without words, proving the old axiom, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
That said, one of the best pieces of advice I received in studying photography was that every picture should tell a story. It is a challenge to find a way to provide context without cluttering the picture up. Very often, the pictures that most resonate with people are those that focus on a single element, or “tells the story” well. I will share a couple of my favorites.
I took this picture at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky. There is a monastery there where you can visit for silent reflection, and can pray with the monks seven times during each day. These retreats are a fantastic way to detox from the noise of the world, and allow yourself the opportunity to hear the voice of God in the silence of your heart. This setting struck me as very endemic of the Abbey. You can see the Abbey walls in the background, helping to set it apart from other places, and the three trees surrounding the single chair felt very Trinitarian. It’s as if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit had saved this space just for you – inviting you to sit with them and contemplate both their relationship of love and the splendor of their creation.
This next picture was taken by Nate Proulx. The two of us took an afternoon to photograph the Stations of the Cross in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. They are especially difficult to photograph because they are mounted fairly high up in the air, and the lighting is poor (it is had to “capture light” when there is little light to capture!). Much of the afternoon was spent on ladders, holding cameras, flashes, and umbrellas at tenuous angles in an attempt to unveil this treasure in our midst.
This is the twelfth station: Jesus dies on the cross. In the foreground, we see His grieving mother, Mary, right after Christ had given her to the world as our spiritual mother. It takes us to foot of the cross, in empathy with His (and our) mother. It is a reminder that God so loved us that He would send us His son, humbling Himself to enter the world as a man, and take on our sin in the form of this sacrifice in order to redeem our shortcomings. And as St. Paul said, “We preach Christ crucified.” Because while we celebrate the promise of salvation, we also acknowledge the sacrifice of Christ both as a model for our lives, and as a necessary step in our redemption from sin.
It has been a joy to share these pictures with you during this Year of Faith. I hope they share some of the mystagogy I experienced, and help you grow in your faith in coming to know the love of God in a more meaningful way. May God’s peace be with you always.
- Mike Kelly, Fort Wayne, IN