Thursday, February 16, 2017

Confession of an Amateur Photographer

I’ve got a confession to make, but no, it’s not one that I need to approach the confessional box to ask for penance.  I’ve been given a privilege to be a part of the photographer team for the Multi-media ministry in our parish.  Photography has always been one of my passions, even before the time of digital cameras, and I remember going through roll after roll of film and having to wait, back then, for a couple of days, for the pictures to be developed.  There were a few memorable shots, but most ordinary and even some wasted.  I would carry a camera on most occasions and on the ones that I failed to, I would be disappointed seeing a scene or occasion that would have been wonderful to capture and immortalize.

Long before I became part of the Multi-media ministry, I would love taking pictures of events especially religious processions, some of which I’ve posted here in previous blogs.  I love seeing the people, their expressions, the beautiful images of Christ, Mother Mary and the other Saints, and the scenes and circumstances that surrounded these events.  All of this I did to satisfy my passion to capture these images and share them with others.

But being, in a way, an official photographer of our parish, I feel an added weight on my shoulder.  I am still very amateur and far from being an expert in this field.  I purchased my first SLR just less than 3 years ago.  Many times, it’s shoot-and-miss. Some turn out great, others not so.  What my eyes and mind want to capture is not always what comes out upon reviewing my shot.  (Thank God we’re in the digital age and taking practice shots do not cost anything).   I still have the same basic lens that came with the package, which definitely has its limitations.  I’ve learned to deal with these limitations, coming closer to my subjects to make up for the lack of zoom function and learning to weigh aperture, shutter speed and the use of flash in dark settings.  (Recently, I have learned to use what light is available, example, light from the street lamp post, or someone holding a candle, or even another person’s flash.)
A definite missed shot. Had the perfect position, but the lighting. I've had trouble with this before. It's dark but the image of our Lady of Lourdes is filled with light. The result, Mama Mary coming out too bright and missing out the details of her beauty.

But when I do go back and download my shots, many times I am disappointed.  I see many beautiful pictures of the image of Mother Mary.  There are many images of our Mother and all of them beautiful in different ways.  Her beauty mesmerizes me at times, a beauty that truly heaven had a hand with.  I look at her with my eyes,  then look at her through my camera lens, then try to make the needed adjustments to my camera and then click to take the shot.  I look at my captured picture and I sigh.  I try again and again and again.  There are some that I feel satisfied with and I pass on to be posted to our Social media accounts, but too many shots are left on my camera and laptop as a personal reminder that I can do better.

So this is my confession…that I cannot do Our Mother Mary justice with the pictures I take of her.  Your beauty, dear Mother, is beyond me; is beyond the pictures I can capture with my camera.  As we can only experience a minute glimpse of what heaven will be like, just so we can only view a minute part of the beauty the image of our Mother Mary represents.  Your beauty is beyond me, dear Mother.  And I know that no picture will ever be good enough.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lingkods - Servers of God and of Mother Mary

A year ago I would arrive at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes (or Lourdes church as we commonly call our parish) and see the decorations ready for the Feast day. The church would be all decked with the long trail of blue and white, banners hung from on high and with a bounty of flowers behind and all around the altar.  It was an awesome sight, and I looked at wonder how the church could be transformed magically from the last time I saw it the previous Sunday.

This year was different.  Yes, it was the same long trail of blue and white cloth running from the end of the church to the front, and yes, it was the same banners that hung on high. But this time, they had their own stories to tell.
Beautiful view of the church from the choir section during one of the novena masses.
Photo credit to Hubert Villamiel.
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There is a term in Filipino: Lingkod, which means servant; a person who gives or offers service.  And there are many lingkods in our Church, people who give willingly and voluntarily of their time, talents and even their treasures. They all have different stories to tell of what brought them to serve in the church, and specifically the church many of us have called our second home, the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes.

It has been a privilege to be a part of the family of lingkods in our parish. It has almost been a year since I began my service in the Multi-media ministry and the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes was the biggest celebration that I was able to witness and be a part of.

As a lingkod, we witness the behind-the-scenes; we become more than an audience “enjoying the show”.  As a lingkod, we are part of the production crew; setting the stage, making sure that everything works smoothly for the grand celebration.  In this case, the celebration is greater than the greatest show on earth for it is the celebration of the most Holy Mass and the maringal na pag-alis at pag-balik ng Mahal na Ina ng Lourdes.  And, as a lingkod, we wish nothing but perfection for this holy and heaven-sent day.

I was in the parish one evening working on the Powerpoint presentation for the mass and testing our livestream, and it was during this time that some members of Mother Butler Guild were working hard to put the blue and white material up on the second floor. They had a tougher time this year since our Multi-media booth was enclosed and they tediously put a straw string in a narrow crack between the walls to secure the cloth. It was late in the day, but these ladies had been working the whole day. Sweaty, tired and dirty from the heat and dust, they kept working to push the straw so it was long enough to be pulled from the other end.  When they finally did get the material tied, they pulled on the straw string, and at times we were afraid that the straw would break from the weight of the material and the rough crack of the wall. Yet these ladies continued with their work, silently exhilarating when the heavy cloth finally went up, a small victory for these lingkods who do their share of the magnanimous work that goes into the novena masses and Feast day celebration, all for their love and devotion for our dear Lady of Lourdes.

This is just one, short story behind the work of just a few lingkods of our parish, but It was a busy time for the parish as a whole; a busy and tiring time for all the lingkods of the different ministries and organizations; and, literally, sleepless nights for some.  There was one night, when there was a choir practicing their songs for the novena and feast day, while the altar servers were downstairs repeatedly practicing for the high mass, and other people setting up the equipment for the new electric fan, and still other lingkods arranging the flowers, all in one night, at the same time, in different places around the church. Still there were others whom we do not see, but who make their own important contribution to the parish.

So those long trails of blue and white material, banners, flowers, lights, music, etc,-   did not appear magically nor easily.  There were many hands, feet, eyes, ears, sweat and even tears that brought them there.  The lingkods are like the many parts of one body, working individually and yet in unison for a common goal, a common love.

When the Pilgrim image of Our Lady of Lourdes made its way back to the church after nearly three hours in procession, we all felt overwhelmed with a deep emotion that is hard to explain, as we were brought back to the reason why we were all there in the first place. "Naiiyak ako" was a sentiment I heard more than once. Our sweat and tears from the tiredness, late nights stress and frustrations were turned into tears of joy. Thank you dear Mother, ang aming Mahal na Ina ng Lourdes. Thank you Lord God for giving us a loving Mother who listens to the prayers of our hearts and continues to intercede for us. Salamat po Mahal na Ina ng Lourdes, mahal na mahal ka namin!