One of the things I like least about my job is having to reject an article submitted for consideration for publication. Sometimes, the article is just not a good fit for the magazine; sometimes it is because a given topic has been covered very recently. Most frequently, though, it is because the photographs that accompany the article are just not any good.
Articles with bad photography are not rejected outright… at least, not if that is the sole reason the article is not a good fit for The Stained Glass Quarterly. I contact the person who submitted the article, explain the problem with the pictures, and invite them to submit new photographs so that the article can be considered again. Less than half of the people given such an option choose to take it. Most — slightly more than half — never respond. I wonder how many of them simply despair of being able to take good pictures of their work?
Interestingly, there are a few each year who try to convince me that I’m wrong and that the pictures are actually good. Their argument usually centers around either “Well, they look fine on my screen” or “They looked okay in the local newspaper.” And both statements may be very true; however, neither one qualifies as any sort of proof that the photograph is printable in a magazine.
The secrets to taking a good picture for publication really are very basic: know how to set your camera for high-resolution images and — this second one can never be stressed strongly enough — use a tripod.
The first one — knowing how to set your camera for high resolution — really is just having a basic knowledge of how your camera works. I am aware of two ways to successfully gain this knowledge: one, work with hundreds of different cameras over the course of three or four decades until you have seen so many different camera systems that you can look at a new camera and know intuitively how to operate it; or, two, read the owner’s manual. Some folks are surprised to learn that the second one actually does work.
The second one — use a tripod — applies to everyone in all circumstances everywhere. I don’t care if you have the newest supercomputer-based Nikon camera with lens gyroscopes and anti-grav. Use a tripod. I don’t care if you’ve done laboratory tests and discovered that you can take rock-solid handheld pictures down to an eighth of a second (and, yes, I did hear someone make that exact claim once.) Use a tripod. I don’t even care if your parents lived near a nuclear power plant and you were born with three legs and so can act as your own tripod…. Use a tripod.
Have you got another excuse for not using a tripod? I don’t want to hear it… unless it involves being born with three legs. That one would be worth hearing. Or if it’s really, really creative. Then I want to hear it, but it changes nothing: use a tripod.
When 100 people take a stained glass tour and many of them have cameras that are newer, nicer, and more expensive than mine and yet I consistently take better pictures, guess why that is….
I’m the only one who shows up with a tripod.
Seriously, use a tripod. When in Germany, Verwenden Sie ein Stativ. In Paris, Utilisez un trépied. On Kronos, tripod yIlo’. On the Internet: <tripod> srsly. use one lolz i’m srs </tripod>. I don’t want to sound like I’m flogging a dead horse, but I do want to make clear that, were I to do something like that, I would flog the poor, deceased creature with a tripod.
With the camera set on high resolution and firmly attached to a quality, solid tripod, more than half the battle is already won. I will be teaching a class this summer in Portland, Oregon, on taking pictures of stained glass windows. I hope to see you there.
Don’t forget to bring your tripod.
Dear Parish Family:
I ask: if the Lord came to you like He came to Jonah and asked you to grab your knapsack, possibles bag, and a sturdy walking stick and set off for Washington, D.C., to announce a message He would give you later, would you go? Further, if that message was, “Forty days more and Washington shall be destroyed,” how loudly would you want to announce that message? That is the sort of message that might cause men whose job it is to beat people with sticks to come swarming out of black S.U.V.s to beat you with a stick.
Still, as I write this on the eve of the Day of Prayer for the Legal Protection of Unborn Children and having just read a Facebook post by a brother deacon that four busses from our diocese have now arrived ahead of schedule in Washington for the March for Life, I can’t help but reflect on the similarities between the prophet Jonah and those witnesses for life who are now arriving in Washington. Will the message fall on deaf ears or will the people repent and return to God?
We as Catholics are called to be a voice for the unborn, for the poor, for the marginalized — for all of those whose well-being and sometimes whose very lives are sacrificed on altars built to false gods. We are called to be witnesses to the Gospel and to the Kingdom of God through our words and deeds.
Will our witness be heard? Will it have an effect before it is too late? God knows.
Will future generations look back on us and condemn us for the mindless murder of millions of unborn babies? It seems they will certainly have to; God will only suffer such senseless slaughter for so long, and then He will act.
The message is out there, carried by half-a-million Marchers and millions of their supporters. Will that message be heard? One can certainly hope and pray that future generations will say of us that when God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out.
If you’ve ever wondered why Christ chose to take on human flesh and be born of the Virgin Mary 2000 years ago and not today…
…it is because He was incarnate at the opportune moment to accomplish His goal of making the Gospel known to all people and nations. Maybe folks just paid better attention back then.
Dear Parish Family:
In the second reading this Sunday, we hear Paul instruct the Corinthians that: Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body.
The time in which we live seeks to glorify the body, but it does so outside of any proper Christian context. If the body is to be glorified, it should be glorified precisely because it is a temple of the Holy Spirit and not for any lesser reason.
How many times has the false argument been made that it is my body and I should be able to do whatever I want with it? Nothing could be farther from the truth! That a person’s body belongs to that person and no one else is true, but it in no way logically follows that the person has the right to do “whatever he wants” because of that. We are not our own.
A person’s body is a gift from God, and it is not a gift that is given to be abused or misused. God gives us our bodies to complete our nature, and so that we can come to know God, to love God, to serve God, and to be with Him forever in paradise. Through Christ, we have been purchased at a price; we are called to glorify God in every aspect of our being, including our bodies.
We are to avoid immorality and seek godliness. Through modesty and decency, we can grow in holiness and come closer to Our Lord. There are many ways to achieve this, and each person must find his or her own narrow path that leads the person closer to a true union with Christ.
I have noticed an increasing number of ladies in our parish who undertake the laudable practice of wearing a chapel veil or mantilla to Mass. Not coming from a tradition in which this practice is common, I sought to learn more about it by speaking with some ladies who maintain this tradition. I discovered that for them, it serves as both an effective Catholic witness to modesty and holiness, as well as being a means by which the wearer can grow in her relationship with Our Lord.
We are all on our own journey to Christ and there are many ways in which we can glorify God in our bodies and many traditions through which we can grow in love and holiness. Let us all thank Christ for the wonderful diversity that makes up our Catholic family and unites us in His one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. A feast like today’s brings a number of questions to mind. First… what is Baptism?
Well, it’s one of the seven Sacraments, which are Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick. Baptism is counted among those Sacraments that can only be validly celebrated one time; once a person is baptized, that person is baptized forever.
Baptism leaves an indelible spiritual mark upon the individual; Baptism is the first sacrament, and is the gateway to the other sacraments. An individual is baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit — that is the baptismal formula that Christ Himself gave us. If you ever hear someone attempting to baptize in the name of the Creator and the Redeemer and the Sanctifier or using any other formula than the one Christ gave us, that is not a valid baptism. The person is not baptized.
Baptism forgives sin, including original sin, although it does not remove the effects of it.
Baptism imparts sacramental grace. Baptism forgives sin, including original sin, although it does not remove the effects of it. Baptism prepares the soul for life in Christ. Baptism is a beautiful gift that Our Lord gives us to wash us clean and make us fitting for Him.
So, with that admittedly brief but hopefully functional understanding of Baptism, we’re ready to ask the next question: Is that why Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan?
Nope. Of course not. Don’t be silly.
If the purpose of Baptism is to wash us clean and make us fitting for God, then it makes no sense that Jesus — who is God — would require that sort of Baptism. John baptized with water alone; in Christ we are baptized with water and the Holy Spirit. The sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit is infused into our soul and has the power to justify us, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism. (CCC 1987)
That justification is what we need; Christ, however, did not need it because He didn’t lack it. He already had it in its fullness, and even if He didn’t it would have been impossible for John to give it to Him. The creature cannot justify the Creator.
So why, then, was Jesus baptized? If Baptism washes away sin and Jesus was without sin, what could He possibly have had that needed washing away?
The answer, of course, is nothing. So why did He do it? Simply because Jesus loves us and wants us to have the very best.
It is through baptism with water and the Holy Spirit that Our Lord forms us into the people of His Church — and that is what we are. Baptism initiates us into the Church, and the Church is the mystical Body of Christ. It is by being a part of the Church that we are a part of Christ.
But before He formed His Holy People into His Church, Christ first presented himself for John’s baptism of repentance and in so doing announced that He was identifying Himself with His people Israel and accepted upon Himself the burden of the people’s sins. It is through this acceptance on Christ’s part that He who knew no sin was able to become sin for the salvation of our souls.
Let that sink in for a second. In baptism, we are made clean. We enter the water dirty and come out clean. Christ was so spotless that He entered the water of John’s baptism and took on our dirt.
Then Christ comes up out of the water, and something amazing happens. Before the Holy Spirit descends and the voice of God comes from Heaven, Mark tells us that “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open.”
The heavens being torn open. Not the clouds part. Not a beam of sunlight descends. Not even a choir of angels sing melodically. The heavens are torn open. Torn open. It sounds violent. It sounds sudden. It sounds like the veil between heaven and earth is being ripped asunder… and it is.
Where else in the Bible does this happen? Where else is the curtain torn? At Christ’s crucifixion. When Christ dies on the Cross, Mark tells us that “Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. The veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Torn in two from top to bottom, because it was torn by God… just as the heavens here are torn open. The veil between heaven and earth are torn open at Christ’s baptism; at His death, the veil between man and God is torn open. Christ isn’t content to be separate from His Church; He desires to be united with His Church, and so the veils that separate are torn away so that those who seek may find. In Baptism, Christ takes on the burden of His people. In His death, He faces the entire world, ready to accept all those who come to Him and who join with Him, for His yoke is easy and His burden light. In His resurrection, He conquers even sin and death and takes His rightful place as King.
Christ is the Head and His Church is His Mystical Body. We are incorporated into the Church through our own baptism. We are a part of it. We belong. Spiritually, we are in a very special place because of our baptism; we take on a uniquely Christ-like dignity at our baptism and in baptism we have a rightful claim to membership in the Body of Christ.
We shouldn’t, though, let ourselves believe that it is a free ride… or that this membership is a one-way street. It isn’t. It’s a two-way street, and in the Body of Christ you have rights and privileges because you have responsibilities. You have a right to a share in the salvific work of Christ; you have the privilege of eternal salvation and the beatific vision. These are not automatic. No one gets a free lunch. You and I have rights and privileges because we also have responsibilities to the Body and to the Church and to Christ, the Head of us all.
We have the responsibility to attend Mass on the prescribed days. We have the responsibility to fast and abstain from meat on the prescribed days. We have the responsibility to confess sins and seek to amend our lives. We have the responsibility to receive Holy Communion at least once a year. We have the responsibility to support the Church with time, talent, and treasure.
Those are the bare minimum. Those are the starting line. Do we have other responsibilities? Certainly. We are to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to pray. We need to hope. We need to love. Ultimately, we need to trust in God, for in baptism we are incorporated into the Church so that we may be saved… just as in His own baptism, Christ took on the burden of His people so that we could be saved. In His baptism, Christ journeyed toward the completion of the responsibility He took on as our savior, and the power and glory of this event was attested by God Himself, who looked on and said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
It is not at all unreasonable to wonder if perhaps God says the same of us when we work and cooperate with His grace to fulfill our responsibilities as members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Dear Parish Family:
I caught myself using the very euphemistic phrase “those less fortunate” in an announcement in this week’s Bulletin when thanking the people who participated in giving Christmas gifts through the REAP Giving Tree. Upon thinking about that, I decided I really have neither the ability nor the desire to accurately judge the fortune of people whom I do no know, so I changed the phrase to the far more honest “other people.”
It is important to remember — to remind ourselves, and to remind each other — that a person’s true fortune cannot be measured in material goods. After all, isn’t a young couple newly married and working hard to establish themselves and yet possessing few luxuries and maybe even lacking some necessities fortunate in a true sense of the word?
I remember when Katei and I were a young couple and had only recently come to Kansas City hoping to find jobs; we relied on the charity of Katei’s sister to give us a place to live until we could find work. Were we homeless? Perhaps not in the classic sense, but we weren’t all that far away from it either. It took time to find work — the economy wasn’t all that good then, either, and it was when you still had to go through classified ads looking for something that might fit; there was no such thing as careerbuilder.com or online applications.
Katei found a job before I did. When she did, we filled the car with gas and went to Winstead’s, where we spent the last $5 we had on a Skyscraper Malt that we shared to celebrate. We were truly broke until that first paycheck came in… and then we both started getting paychecks, and then things changed. At no point, though, do I think we became more fortunate. Our true fortune is found in the gift God has given us of each other; material trappings are perhaps nice, but they pale in comparison to any true standard of what it means to be fortunate and to be blessed by God.