Today was Remarkable

By Jon Hillenbrand In Photography, Stories


Last night I went to a mass at a beautiful church, St. Mary’s of the Angels. It’s the largest Catholic church in IL. The numbers use to describe this church (hundreds of feet high, an organ as wide and tall as some houses) would confound most people and draw doubt among some atheists at merely being in such a beautiful place. I’m a wanderer in my own spiritual journey, but I must say that the mass last night was the equivalent of sitting in a field of sunflowers, sweet wind caught in a beam of sunlight. Perfect acoustics for music and choirs, painted scenes of remarkable events, death, life. Even if you don’t subscribe to Catholicism or any religion, if you have a human sense of the world around you, you can’t help but be moved.

Since childhood, my favorite part of the mass has always when the priest stops and talks to the parishioners. This priest was entertaining and a few things he said made me pause. He quoted Calvin and Hobbes which was interesting. At any time in my life, you can find the complete collected works of Calvin and Hobbes as they have been a cornerstone of my existence. The cartoon was more parable then I had remembered, almost biblical in it’s simplicity and worldliness. The priest continued to talk about the reading of that mass, which was when Jesus turned water into wine, and how it illustrated the relationship between Jesus and his mother. I found it interesting how in the story, Mary was almost pushing Jesus to do something about the wine problem, while Jesus was kind of resistant at first saying, “It’s not yet my time.” It made me think about what that must have been like to live with that kind of potential. To know you are a superbeing, to know you will be killed because of who you are, and holding back. It has to be quite a thing to start that journey and “go public”. Even Jesus must have been scared I would think. He was human after all. I wondered about myself and what my potential might be. I was raised to believe that something is going to happen with my life which will draw meaning to my existence. And because of that, I sometimes feel like I’ve only been giving like 20% of what I can do. Even when showered with accolade for videos or photos, I want to tell people, “That’s nothing.” I’m sure that sounds conceited but I feel that I just have so much more inside to offer.

So back to the priest. He then posed a proposition. How would you act if you knew that God was standing in the room with you. Like you wake up and boom, there he is. What would you do? How would you approach the day? I thought about it. Maybe I could do that tomorrow. The priest suggested that we try doing that tomorrow. He then went on to illustrate what people could do. Paraphrasing, he said, doctors could try to capture spirituality in their work. Teachers could try and see the holiness in their teachings. Artists could try and capture it in their photographs. He actually mentioned artists as photographers. I was really surprised. Most people when referring to artists will be talking about painters or sculptors, but not photographers. That’s rare.

I’m not sure what is a sign and what are coincidences. I’m a pessimistic optimist. I’m the kind of person who hopes for the best but plans for the worst. But long ago I decided that maybe it’s not what happens or who it happens to, but what you FEEL at the time that is significant. It’s a coincidence or a miracle that the priest said what he said. I’ll never know. But I felt something. And that’s all that matters.

So here’s what I did today:
-I created a very beautiful photo of a mother kissing her baby
-I photographed a girl and she described herself in the photo as “angelic”
-I ate lunch with an old friend who was really mean for some reason
-I photographed the huge outpouring of positive sentiment of hundreds of people honoring a retiring hospital president, people crying
-My neighbor, the woman who scolded me earlier in the year, her house is on fire right now (firetrucks are outside putting it out)

I don’t know what all of that means but I feel something. And to me, that’s all that matters.

What do you think?