Mindfulness

Yesterday, I spent the morning at a Musician’s Retreat at my church.  The group consisted of choir members, accompanist, instrumentalists and music ministers from the parish.  There were two speakers who had topics that I first thought were unrelated but, which I later discovered had a big connection.

The first speaker, Karen Thomas (shown above), Music Minister at Ignatius House Jesuit Retreat Center, talked about finding space to listen to God as it relates to music.  The second talk, given by Ron Dennis, was about a method (the Alexander Technique) on using correct posture to improve the way your body works.  Although both of these topics can easily be related to music and singing, I didn’t see the deeper connection until later.

During Karen’s presentation, we had a short period where she asked us to take a time of silence and practice clearing our minds and being open.  During this time, someone arrived late and made a little noise on entering the room.  I found myself growling in my mind and wanting to scold the person for interrupting our quiet time and then I discovered a message in that reaction.  I remembered lessons I had heard before about the importance of being present for people even when our first reaction is to see them as an interruption.  Hey, I doing something here – don’t bother me!  That is often the reaction but, what if we instead put aside our tasks and were attentive to others?  The world would be a better place if more people were able to do that.

I found that the second presentation on posture was also about being aware, being mindful of how we carry ourselves.  We get into many habits that seem natural but really are not and it takes effort to break out of these.  I find that my photography is another exercise in mindfulness.  I must make an effort to observe what is around me and think about how I can compose a pleasing image of what I am seeing.  At the same time, I can get absorbed in looking for the shot and forget that others are there as well.  It’s a balancing act that takes work but, I think the outcome is always better when we make the effort to be mindful of our surrounding and the people who we are with and give each their due attention.

Musician’s Retreat
St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
270mm @ f/6.3 – 1/25 sec – ISO 800

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Alleluia, He is Risen!

I had the privilege of being the official photographer for the Easter Vigil Mass last night at St Thomas Aquinas parish in Alpharetta, Georgia.  A group of about 60 people were welcomed into the church during this marathon of the catholic church’s most holy ceremonies.  The mass began at 9:00 PM with a bonfire outside and proceeded through just over 3 hours of readings, music, and sacraments, ending just after midnight of Easter morning.

Having gone through the RCIA process which initiates new members into the Catholic church myself, the Easter Vigil is always a special event for me.  Being a witness to all these other people joining in full communion with the church is a fantastic way to celebrate Easter.

Prayers and good wishes to all the neophytes and their friends and family and to all believers throughout the world on this beautiful Easter day!

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
22mm @ f/4 – 1/60 sec – ISO 1600

Living Stations of the Cross

Since this is Holy Week, I am deep into the process of capturing the events at my parish which lead up to Easter Sunday.  Yesterday, being Good Friday, the Hispanic community at St Thomas Aquinas put on their annual presentation of the Stations of the Cross.  This includes Gospel readings, music and a live re-enactment of the events leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus.

This scene shows Jesus on the cross where the Roman soldiers are breaking the legs of the criminals.  We often hear the readings and many people walk around statuary that represent the stations of the cross but, to see it live is another experience altogether.

Were you there?

Nikon D7100
Tamron SP 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
18mm @ f/9 – 1/200 sec – ISO 200

Sunday morning

It’s Sunday morning and I thought this was a good image to post before I run out to cantor at two consecutive masses this morning.  The Cathedral of St Augustine is full of stained glass but I really liked this one window which had sunlight streaming in through it.  The little streaks of color were dancing around in the cove of this window and made it fantastically beautiful.

Pray for me, that my voice doesn’t give out and I will pray for you for a great week to come.

Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
Nikon D7100
Sirui P-204S Monopod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
16mm @ f8 –  1/125 sec – ISO 800

Saint Augustine Cathedral

On our recent visit, we had the privilege of toust-augustine-7727ring the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine.
The spire of the church is one of the most recognizable features of St Augustine’s historic district.  When you look down Cathedral Street, the cathedral and the tops of the main buildings from nearby Flagler College draw your eyes toward the sky.

St Augustine Cathedral was part of the original Spanish colony but the original buildings were small and crude.  The current building was constructed over five years, from 1793–1797, it is the oldest church in Florida.  The interior is full of beautiful stained-glass and elaborate details.  The exterior is a combination of Spanish mission and Neoclassical styles.

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Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine
St. Augustine, Florida
Featured Image: Nikon D7100
Sirui P-204S Monopod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
16mm @ f8 –  1/2 sec – ISO 800

Aztec Dance

December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Catholic Church.  This feast is one of the most celebrated religious days in Latin American culture as it remembers the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Mexico.  The celebration begins on the night of the 11th and continues through the night and all day long on the 12th.  At our church, the feast is marked with re-enactments of the apparition, displays of Aztec dance, serenades and homages to the Virgin Mary and of course, mass in Spanish and English.guadalupe-6222

The story of the Virgin of Guadalupe is unique in that is the only apparition where Our
Lady left a miraculous image of herself unmade by human hands.  Second, it is the only universally venerated Madonna and Child image where Our Lady appears pregnant instead of holding the Infant Jesus.

Reproductions of the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe are on display for the feast in many Catholic Churches including the one I attend.

The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe
In the winter of 1531, a poor, 57-year-old Aztec Indian living five miles outside of Mexico City encountered a miraculous happening on his way to morning Mass. First he heard strange music coming from Tepeyac Hill, and then he heard a woman’s voice calling his name. Juan Diego climbed the hill and encountered a young woman, appearing to be of his own people in physical appearance and dress. The woman identified herself as the Virgin Mary, and told Juan Diego to ask the bishop of Mexico City to build a church on the hill to assist in the conversion of the nation and be a source of consolation to the people.

Juan Diego obeyed the request, but the bishop was skeptical regarding the message, even though he perceived that Juan was a humble, and well-meaning Catholic. Juan reported the bishop’s doubt to Our Lady at Tepeyac Hill, and she asked him to return to the bishop once again, bearing the same message. The bishop once again heard the story, and told Juan Diego to ask Our Lady for a sign that it was indeed herself that wished for the church to be built.

When he returned to the hill, Mary gave Juan Diego such a sign. Miraculously, roses appeared on the hill in the middle of winter, and Juan gathered them in his tilma, or cloak. Our Lady arranged the roses in his tilma with her own hands, and Juan returned to the bishop’s presence. When Juan released the tilma, allowing the flowers to fall to the floor, it was revealed that a miraculous image of Our Lady had imprinted itself on his tilma.

The bishop immediately fell to his knees, and came to believe in Juan Diego’s message. A church was built on the spot of the apparition, as Mary had requested, and 8 million people converted to Catholicism in a short period of time upon hearing of or viewing the miraculous image of Our Lady.

The tilma of Juan Diego has been the subject of much modern research. The tilma, woven out of coarse cactus fiber, should have disintegrated after 20 years, but although over 500 years have passed the tilma is still in perfect condition. The pupils of Mary in the picture reflect the Indians and clergy present at the time of the first revelation of the image. No paint was used, and chemical analysis has not been able to identify the color imprint. Additionally, studies have revealed that the stars on Mary’s mantle match exactly what a Mexican would have seen in the sky in December of 1531.

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
Alpharetta, Georgia, USA

Nikon D7100
Vanguard Altra Pro 263 AT tripod
Tamron 16-300 Di II VC PZD Macro
100mm @ f/5.6 –  1/500 sec – ISO 800