By Fr. Don Braukmann/Retired Priest of the Diocese of Crookston
During my time in the seminary, I spent five months in Israel studying scripture and exploring all the settings where the events of the Old and New Testament took place.
I am a Minnesota boy, so the five months were really four months and 28 days too long! It was 1983 meaning no cell phones or email or any other modern conveniences for communication. I was homesick, and Dad had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after I arrived in the Holy Land.
That is just background, not the point of this column.
Once I returned to my own “holy land” (the farm by New York Mills) I developed over 1,000 pictures from my adventure. Of course, it was great to reminisce about all the places I had been and “show off” to the family and friends how much of a well-traveled, well-educated man I was! Although my sister, as usual, was not impressed!
As time went on, I noticed the feelings and emotions (the “lived experience” behind those photos) were not being appreciated or communicated in the pictures. As the years go on, the pictures mean less, partly because it is so easy to find better pictures on the internet, but also because, again, the emotions and feelings I had in those moments while on the ground where Jesus was born, walked, suffered, died, and rose do not lift themselves off the page.
Today, with all the technology at hand, we are able to record precious moments in our lives and in the lives of those we love; yet I fear we are so wrapped up in the technology and wanting the perfect picture to capture the moment that we may, in fact, miss it. Do we sometimes miss the sense of God when we try to capture the uncapturable power of an event?
Every moment is a “God moment,” but pictures of God have never done God justice!
A man I know, filled with the best of intentions, is a photo taking machine. Maybe the word “addict” would be more appropriate! He would take a picture of paint drying or a plane crash while he was on the plane … no exaggeration! I tease him, but, as I said, his intentions are good, and you would not find a more loving, compassionate person on earth! It seems to me, however, whether he realizes it or not, he is trying desperately to “save the moment” and, sadly, sometimes misses it!
I am a “Trekky” (I like anything to do with the Star Trek television/movie series). In one of the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” movies, the captain falls in love with a woman on a faraway planet while he and his crew are on one of their many missions.
There is a scene where the two are sitting in a field of flowers and as a breeze comes up petals from the flowers float into the air. The woman has the power to slow down time, not stop it, but lets the moment linger in its beauty. We can do the same in our hearts…to “linger” in the moment as Mary “treasured all these things in her heart and pondered them.” (Luke 2:19)
Freeze framing such an experience may mute the message. Fumbling with an artificial device may replace real emotion with artificial ones.
For me, it is like a priest who notices cameras in the congregation as he presents the Body and Blood of Christ at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer. My heart sighs at those times. The Eucharist is not a “moment” which can be captured on any device … Christ is alive and vibrant in that moment … and the one taking the picture missed it!
Now, please know I am not the Grinch who would destroy all our gadgets made to record the events of life!
I know parents who go the extra mile for their kids to make sure a treasure-trove of pictures are taken to trigger the warm feelings of an event or day later on.
I just received over a hundred Christmas cards in December with the blessing of a family portrait enclosed. They are beautiful and bring back good memories of time spent with them. Yet, there is so much a picture or the pictures we take of nature, miss.
Each year, Mom would take a “first day of school” picture. We lined up (usually as the bus was coming!) for the mug shot (I didn’t like school, so I considered it a mug shot!) on the way out the door. When I see those pictures now, of course it brings back a chuckle and even a tear or ten as I see my brother who died in 1994 or a dog we had way back then.
My point, one final time, is for us to keep our eyes and hearts open. To live in the moment, as we are. Don’t miss the beauty of God’s face or the touch of God’s reassuring hand in the people and events of our lives. May we learn to linger in God’s presence. Where we may see an instant, God sees an eternity!