Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Church Photography, part 1: Don't be THAT woman

Beyond “just” attending and praying at beautiful liturgies, Church Ladies often have a desire or a need to take pictures of churches or during Masses. I’d like to offer a few tips (both technical and concerning etiquette) for getting great shots without getting tapped on the shoulder by an usher.

First, a few words about church photography in general. Personally, I find that I am able to balance my camera with actual prayer. If you have trouble with that, you might want to consider which is *really* more important. Also, if you come into Mass with the proper ordering of your priorities and a realization that what’s going on is more than just a great photo op, you’ll find yourself automatically becoming more discreet. This will help you avoid the ire of those around you. With that, here are a few pieces of etiquette advice.

Become familiar with your camera

If you pick up your camera for the first time on your way to the big Mass, I guarantee there will be things that will confuse you and prevent you from 1) concentrating, and 2) getting a good picture. The more comfortable you are with the camera, the less obtrusive you’ll be able to be.

Respect requests for no photos

Chances are, there’s a reason for that little announcement before Sally’s First Communion requesting no photos. Don’t be that person who blithely disregards the rules. That said, it’s worth noting that “no flash photography” does not mean “no photos.”

Turn off the sound!

Your goal is to be as inconspicuous as possible. That means you’ll need to silence the MIDI symphony that chimes in whenever you power up. It also means turning off the beep that might come whenever your camera focuses. And really, you probably don’t need those noises anyway; chances are, there’s also a little light that comes on in the viewfinder or on the screen when it focuses.

Turn off the flash

This is a good idea for three reasons. First, the flash is DISTRACTING to the priest as well as those around you. A Mass procession is not the same as U2 taking the stage. Turn off the flash. Secondly, the built-in flash on most cameras has a range of 12-14 feet, max (most are less). So really, it’s not going to do you much good under most circumstances anyway. (There are exceptions to this second point which I’ll cover in a more technical post). Third, in older churches, the “no flash” signs are there for a reason: flash bulbs are powerful and can cause damage to works of art. Do you want to be responsible for making a priceless painting fade beyond repair?

Time your photos well

Some points of the Mass are better for taking photos than others. Any time the congregation is making a response, the noise from that will cover any sound your camera might make (of course, you’ve already turned off the blue jay chirp, right?). Same goes for Sanctus bells.

Above all, remember: Don’t be THAT woman.

You know the one. The one who has her camera up constantly, decides it’s okay to use the flash *sometimes*, and keeps nudging the person next to her to look at the great photo she just got.

Getting an aisle seat so you can get a good picture: okay. Standing in the middle of the aisle: not okay. Don’t be standing up with your camera when you should be (and everyone else is) kneeling. If you can tell you’re annoying the person next to you, it’s probably a good idea to pull the camera out a little less often. It’s not worth leading them to uncharitable thoughts about you.

I’m sure our readers have their own thoughts on what is and isn’t acceptable for Mass photography. Share your suggestions in the comments!

Coming up next: Let there be light

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The ways of her household

From Jamie:

I didn't know how much pleasure I would get out of that machine over the next fifteen years. My husband has never understood my itch to make clothing. Sewing rompers, knitting socks -- he thinks it's a little like digging a well in your backyard and carrying the water inside even though the municipal water is perfectly safe and there for the pouring. It strikes some Proverbs 31 chord in me, though. It reminds me of the women in other parts of the world who have made most of the clothes I wear, out of necessity and not out of spare-time privilege. It draws on my little store of hard-won knowledge, ferreted out through hours of deciphering pattern-speak -- hours in which an armhole facing became a series of sensible steps and not a mystery akin to transmission rebuilding.

These days making clothing is an underappreciated art. When I pin a dart or turn a sock heel I wonder about the women who first figured those things out, the tricks for accommodating their loved ones' angles and curves. The clothes we make for our children are born of our hands' skill and our hearts' tenderness. "Here," they say, "it's a tough world out there. Here is something to keep you comfortable, protected." No matter how soft the fabric, they look to me like armor.

[full post at Light and Momentary]

Image source

Monday, June 14, 2010

Feeding the Hungry (party style)

I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I found it in some publication in some parish's pamphlet rack about a year ago. It's such a wonderful idea on so many levels, that I just had to share it with you all.

Instead of donating the regular type of items to your local food shelf, consider assembling "birthday bags" for kids of different ages. These can be as simple or elaborate as you'd like and provide the makings for a birthday celebration.

On the most basic level, a bag should contain a cake mix, canned frosting, and some cake decorations. You could also add festive paper plates and napkins, a drink mix, balloons, noise-makers and party hats. An even more elaborate bag could include a simple party game (check your local dollar store), some kind of craft project, and prizes for party-goers.

I think this would be a fun project for any kind of church service group or even the participants of the next birthday party you host for your children.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lucy the Chair Lady

"[Rose] had also begged from an old aunt at Beverley Farms a couple droll little armchairs in white painted wood with covers of antique needlework. One had 'Chit' embroidered on the middle of its cushion, the other 'Chat.' These stood suggestively at the corners of the hearth.

"'Now Katy, said Rose, seating herself in 'Chit', pull up 'Chat' and let us begin.'"
[Susan Coolidge, What Katy Did Next]

You really can get just about everything here at Church Ladies- recently, there's been everything from spirituality to college football to needlework to great art to recipes. What can we say? We're women of many interests.

Here follows a double endorsement- both for the Katy books and for taking a stab at upholstery. Let's start with the former.

The Katy books chronicle the life of the Carr family in 1860s America. It is a lovely series about a family living out Christian values and a beautiful testimony to the friendship between siblings. Although the fictional Katy Carr is contemporary with Laura Ingalls Wilder, she has a very life. Katy grows up in a well established small Midwestern town, goes to boarding school out East, and travels to Europe; her siblings are a part of the great expansion of the West. I think the Katy books would make for delightful family reading- they are wholesome without being moralizing, like most literature branded Christian fiction.

Now for the heavier topic. Yours truly has a big heart.... especially for lonely chairs. It started innocently enough. I needed an extra chair for living room. Enter a nice chair from the consignment store. Then came the Holy Rosary parish rummage sale. It took 3 trips with my compact car, but I hauled 5 hand-carved cherry chairs home... for the grand total of $25. Another one of my collection, found on a street corner in a college town, is the most historic. When re-covering it, I discovered a manufacturing sticker dating the chair's construction to Matoon, IL, 1912 and freighted to Boise. I can only image the stories it could tell. And over Memorial Day weekend this year, I found a solid cherry captain's chair on my way to the market.

Changing the seat cover on a chair is one of the easiest skills. My mother taught me how when I was 5. All you need is a screwdriver and a staple gun (with staples at least 1/2" long).

If you are starting with a reclaimed chair, wash the wooden portion with oil soap. Dry it, then unscrew the pad. This is also a good time to rub the wooden frame with Old English scratch cover, in light or dark wood as appropriate.

Examine the condition of the chair cushion. If it's intact and clean, you can cover right over it. However, if the cover is in poor condition or has holes with padding exposed, you'll need to re-cover it with vinyl (more later).

Now comes the fun part, the trip to the fabric store. Don't panic- upholstery fabric can be expensive, but 1/2 a yard will cover 2 chairs, if lining up a motif isn't necessary, and some of the chains often have 50% off sales on decorator fabric. Also, check out the clearance/remnant section. Apparel or quilting fabric alone really isn't strong enough for upholstery, but if you find a print that's absolutely perfect, you can fuse it to a heavy-weight fabric, although it will be more prone to stains, since it isn't scotch-guarded like upholstery fabrics. If the original chair pad is a bright color or in poor condition, you will also need some lightweight vinyl in the same quantities as the decorative material.

If you are a handy needle-woman, you might be interested in embroidering or knitting a cover. Napa Needlepoint has some helpful guidelines for material & design selection for embroidery; here is a delightful knitted seat.

Re-covering the seat is as easy as can be. You use the same technique whether you are starting with vinyl or decorative fabric. Cut your fabric into a rectangle about 6-8" bigger than the pad, with the motife located as desired. Put the chair pad on the ground face up, then use a few straight pins to put the fabric in place. Flip it over, and pull a side taught, then staple in place about 1" from the edge, and again 3" from the edge. Repeat all the way around, taking care at the corners, then trim the excess. Screw the pad back in place, remove the pins, and you're done!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Celebrating the Love of God!

I'm traveling today, so I don't have time to post anything on this most wonderful day, but I couldn't help linking to my new favorite piece of art on an old favorite topic!

Corrado, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque contemplating the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Cloche tip to The Crescat's always interesting taste in art

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cooking for a crowd

In my little corner of the Midwest, spring is the time for larger-than-average parties in celebration of events like graduation, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion. I have friends from other regions of the country who have never heard of a graduation party, but around here it's the custom to celebrate with an open house of 200+ people. Quite often they're pretty casual affairs, sometimes with a bit of a potluck nature, but no matter what the menu, the big question is how much food to prepare.

A local grocery store would love to cater these events and recently printed an ad of what they have to offer. I thought the details would be useful as a starting point to plan food for future events and I hope you think so too.

BBQ Party Pack (Serves 20-25)
  • 5 lb. pulled pork
  • 2-3 lbs. baked beans
  • 24 count tray corn bread (or 2 dozen corn bread muffins)
  • 2 dozen bakery buns
  • 6 lb. Cole slaw
Chili Dog Party Pack (Serves 20-25)
  • 48 hot dogs
  • 6 packs (8 count) hot dog buns
  • 6 lbs. potato salad or Cole slaw
  • two 32 oz. kraut
  • two 22 oz. cans chili
  • pickle spears
  • two boxes of potato chips
  • 3 lbs. diced onions
  • 32 ounces shredded Cheddar
Taco Fiesta (Serves 25-30)
  • 8 lb. cooked taco meat
  • 3 lb. shredded lettuce
  • 3 lb. diced tomatoes
  • 32 oz. shredded Cheddar
  • two (20 count) packs of tortillas
Chicken Wings Party Pack (serves 20-25)
  • 4 lbs. (approximately 50) Buffalo wings
  • 4 lbs. BBQ wings
  • Rance or Blue Cheese dressing
  • 1 lb. celery sticks
  • 6 lbs. Cole slaw or potato salad
  • two boxes potato chips
  • pickle spears

Monday, June 7, 2010

Corpus Christi

What did you do yesterday?
Below are a few photos from my parish's procession --

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Celebrating Sunday: Corpus Christi


So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. [Jn 6, 53-55]

Image: Raphael, La Disputa


Rustic Bread Salad

About Celebrating Sunday

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm torn...

Spotted in the preschool room of a local parish -

On one hand, I appreciate the sturdy construction in this play set - solid birch, no small parts, obviously this set has survived parish life since the 70's...

On the other hand, what I don't like is the complete lack of beauty! Where's the color? Where's the artistry? (Where's the gender?)

But again on the positive side, I love the idea of children "playing church." It encourages them to pay attention when they're at Mass, and to reproduce what they see in their play time. It brings Church out into the world; a child's interpretation of ite missa est. Many priests have fond childhood memories of gathering their siblings or neighborhood children together to read the Gospel and distribute Ritz cracker communion, and that should be encouraged.

But on the fourth hand, I cringe at the description on the box. "Let young children experience the Mass in a way they enjoy most - through personal involvement and imagination. For ages 5-11." I'm possibly reading too much into it, but isn't using one's imagination to create a Mass that we will enjoy most the summation of pretty much every liturgical abuse around?

But I see the potential. Cut and sand that round altar into something a little more rectangular, paint a roman collar onto Father, have some tiny brocade vestments available, and include a children's missal to guide the imagination, and it has possibilities.

Spotted at the Conference

I know there's a bit of a hidden language in chapel veils with white indicating one is single and black for married women. If that's the case, however, I'm wondering what some of these are saying.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A rare treat

Originally, there were three Church Ladies, Rosaleen, Therese, and Lucy. Rosaleen graduated early and joined the Missionaries of Charity. I've spoken to her once since then... and today I received this email, which reflects Rosaleen's beautiful soul.

my dear ones,

Pax Christi! This email brings you much love and prayer. Please rejoice and thank God with me - on May 24, I had my first profession in San Francisco! Deo gratias! Novitiate was a beautiful and grace-filled time - a real piece of heaven...and a holy preparation for life in the mission house. I count on your prayers as I go to Cairo, Egypt! Jesus is waiting for me in Egypt region (in the MC world, Egypt region includes Malta, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt and part of Sudan---a vast geographical area). I will go to our regional house in Cairo and spend anywhere from a few days to a couple months, and then receive my official assignment somewhere in the region. Right now, I am at home for a little visit and will fly out of Chicago on June 11, stopping in Jordan before reaching Cairo.

Please pray for me! I pray for all of you, entrusting you all to Our Lady's beautiful heart.
If you have a chance, please let me know how you are, where you are.

with much love and prayer,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Holy Father's Prayer Intentions for June

General Intention: Respect for Human Life
That every national and transnational institution may strive to guarantee respect for human life from conception to natural death.
Missionary Intention: The Churches in Asia
That the Churches in Asia, which constitute a “little flock” among non-Christian populations, may know how to communicate the Gospel and give joyful witness to their adherence to Christ.
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You all my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all our associates,
and in particular for the intentions
of the Holy Father for this month.