Published September 1, 2005
I am not a photographer. However, I did receive a wonderful digital camera as a Christmas present last year. It remains a challenge yet to be conquered. My lack of photographic interest and skills cause me to marvel at the folks who are real devotees of photo-taking. Over the years, I have heard just about every conceivable type of request to pause and to pose for a picture. I don’t mind having my picture taken with people—especially with kids and their families. I do chuckle when the photographer seems to be as inexperienced as I am at the art of taking pictures. Nonetheless, pictures are an important part of a family’s history and heritage.
I am still unpacking at my home, and the other day I purchased a new and larger box to keep some of my own personal photographs. I last stored most of them when I moved into the bishop’s house in Belleville. I had to smile as I saw a photograph of my mother and father on my ordination day as a priest. They looked so young—of course, so did I! I saw pictures that were taken for me at my doctoral defense in Rome and many pictures of friends from Rome, from vacations, and from ceremonies in Chicago and in Belleville. I relived the joy of each of those moments when I saw those photographs that I had not glimpsed in almost a dozen years.
When I take a photograph with a family at a ceremony, for a moment I belong to them exclusively. I am a member of their family for a few seconds that may eventually last for as long as the picture endures. I remain with them on a refrigerator picture frame or in an album or among photographs in a box of family pictures for the ages. And whenever they look at the picture, I hope they remember the joy of the ceremony, the importance of the Sacrament, the happiness of the moment as a sign of God’s enduring presence in all of our lives. I certainly did when I saw those old pictures that are now re-stored in a new box in my new home. I don’t know when I will have a chance to look at them again.
I regularly receive photographs in the mail that have been taken at some parish event. Unless the writer tells me where and when the picture was taken, I am usually at a loss to recall the event. That may surprise some people who might just expect that since they remember me, I will remember all of the details of the photograph. Since I am a member of the family in that picture, they may anticipate that I will recall all of the names and the circumstances of the moment. What I do always recall is the importance of the situation for a family. How proud parents are of their children, how happy is the young couple on their wedding day, how joyful is the moment of graduation or First Holy Communion, how pleased the parish is on that jubilee day—all of these emotions remind me of how fortunate I am to have been the priest or the bishop to have shared in the joy of the faith of a family.
The professional photographers among us—Michael Alexander, John Spink and their many colleagues—do a much better job of judging light, distance, composition, background, equipment and all of the other factors that go into taking really expert photographs, and I am immensely grateful for their services and their splendid work. But all those novice photographers who belong to every family also help all of us to relive the truly important moments in our life of faith, and they keep me a member of far more families than I ever imagined possible. Thanks be to God!