"'Do You Not Remember?' / A Father Who Provides" study

Christ, to the disciples: “Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the four thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up? … Do you still not understand?” (Mark 8: 14-21)

Recently I was struck by this Gospel at daily Mass. In this passage Jesus is calling his disciples to remember that they are provided for– not by the world’s means but by the Father. We forget so easily that He provides for us!

“Do you not remember?”

We distrust more than we seek to actively trust in our Father.

“Are your hearts hardened?”

We misunderstand the ways in which He wants to provide for us. Our own thoughts of what we should have in order to measure up to our standards are not always God’s desires for us or what we need.

“Do you still not understand?”

The truth is, we have been blessed in many ways throughout our lives, and we must try to remember these blessings often, however big or small.

I began this small mixed media study as a way of praying with this passage through visual, hands-on means. Using symbolism of the fish, loaves, and hands of surrender has helped me process Christ’s words to His disciples.These words still pierce hearts today, challenging each of us to examine ourselves more deeply. This study will potentially become a larger work in the near future, especially as I get into Lent.

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Self-Emptying and the Fullness of Love

Emptying of self: just hearing this phrase can be challenging and often brings about fears and feelings of drained emotion. But it doesn’t have to be the case. The fruit of self-emptying hinges on one’s motivation and guidance. If we empty the thoughts, vices, and emotional baggage that fills our hearts and weighs down our lives, but do so without the eyes of faith then we have only created space for a pointless void. Fear must never fuel our motivation to empty- neither shame, nor personal guilt, or a sense of pride.

Love, in the truest sense of the word, must fuel our desire to empty. Love does not seek to empty for the sake of emptying, or to cleanse because it will help us feel better about ourselves and our relations with others, or because we want to become minimalists. Love is not sterile and lifeless but is instead motivated by purity and a deeper desire for something greater to fill the emptiness, or perhaps someone.

This process is not often simple and straightforward. Fears, anxieties, habits of sin, personal preferences, and past wounds take many different forms for all of us. Letting go of these attachments and the ways in which we pray through some of these things may look different for varying individuals. Since our hearts were created so uniquely by the Father, the process of scraping the attachments and clutter away from our hearts must create uniquely beautiful results. As we empty, our ugliness and darkness is shaped and transformed into beauty and light when our hearts are open and cooperative with the Father’s hands. I imagine this process looking something like these ceramic pieces, made by my friend Jill Ross.

This sort of emptying waits. It creates an anticipatory space in our hearts. A cleansed heart that has poured out its own self-interested clutter waits in joyful, focused hope, for the fullness it is worthy of receiving. The fullness of beauty, light, and love Himself. We empty ourselves to make room for only LOVE to fill us. Love, that is, Christ.

 Let us examine ourselves as this Advent season begins and make room for the One who wants to enter and transform our hearts fully. And may we live in the freedom that comes from true self-emptying.  —Erin K. McAtee (Danbury, CT)

Thank you Jill for letting me share your beautiful work! Jill is a talented ceramicist and art teacher living in Jacksonville, FL. Here are some more images from her senior thesis, as well as her artist statement:

Return of the Prodigal Son

“…for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

 The story of the prodigal son gives us a glimpse into God the Father’s boundless love and mercy for us. This woodcut is an attempt to express the moment of mercy exchanged between the son and the father when the prodigal son returns. How do you approach God the Father? What is your response to His embrace of mercy, which is always waiting for you?

 I approached this woodcut primarily as a follow-up to an etching I created a few years ago of the prodigal son amongst swine, a low moment of realization before he decides to return to the father. A big thank you to Teddy Lepley for being my model for the prodigal son and to my teacher Dave Johnson for letting me use his hands for the Father. Please message me if interested in learning more about the process of making this print, the concept behind it, or if interested in purchasing one of the prints. All prints are hand-carved, inked, and printed in my studio. 

The original drawing for the Prodigal Son print was commissioned for the St. Francis Center at Franciscan Health (Dyer, IN), a residential service that provides behavioral treatment for adolescents in Northwestern Indiana / Chicago area.

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Simply Be - contributed by Benjamin C.

Being precedes doing; this is a theological truth. The concept is as present to us as the very air that we breathe—and yet just as much forgotten about. This phrase, “being precedes doing”: what does it mean, exactly?

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“Being precedes doing.” It is as it sounds. What we are comes before what we do. A less theological oversimplification might read as follows: “An action is informed and carried out by persons.” The notion is very plain and perhaps obvious; yet, the distinction that is made is paramount: persons are separate from their actions.

 What then is a man, stripped bare of his actions? Why, he is still a man of course! And let us never forget this beautiful fact! For all too often one defines others simply and solely by what they can do. Yet, there was a time before in youth when we could not perform outstanding acts, and there will be such a time again with age. Clearly, our dignity as persons was never contingent upon such momentary measures. As such, we sell ourselves cheap when we are hasty to define ourselves by any action, no-matter how noble. We are much more than these.

 Be that as it may, how often in our own relationships do we fail to recognize what truly matters in others? We might associate, mingle, talk, and share—in other words, do many things—but how often do we actually get to the being of a person? This is a difficult task, but, as GK Chesterton put it, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” Let us at least try by applying the principle of being precedes doing.

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To simply be can be hard, but it must happen before any action. It is to approach a person in such a way as to see him as a walking miracle and a tabernacle of the hidden Christ. This approach demands that one slow down and seriously consider the dignity of the person before him. Being looks to love the person before all else. Any action will thus follow in purity of intent and respect. On the other hand, to put doing first is to subconsciously place the human being second. The encounter thus begins at a loss, for the man on mission, partly blinded by his own devices, ironically overlooks the actual needs of the people right in front of him.

 It is in this light that I recommend firstly learning to simply be with the others that you meet. Jesus humbled Himself to find us in the very normal aspects of life. A primary example of this is when Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well: He does so at a common place and begins with common speech. Here, Jesus’ simple request for a drink of water from the woman begins a long dialogue that ends with her conversion (Jn 4). In short, Jesus shared in the woman’s ordinary life, listened intently, and replied in response to her needs. We, too, must learn to be with others after this example, whether on the street-corner or coffee shop. Our love cannot be bound by conditions and expectations; we must love first, gratuitously. “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).

When being precedes doing in our own interactions with people, the difference is made. Then, the sword is rather held at the hilt and not at the blade. What I mean to say is simple: first things are to be put first. Second things will naturally follow from there. Being precedes doing. -words by Benjamin C. (Indiana), illustrations by Rachel Rossier (Danbury, CT)

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[*Note from the author: Context is key. This post is meant to highlight the proper order of things in general. It is not an excuse to cowardice or mere sociality. It also is not meant to disregard prudence, planning, or preaching (or any noble or virtuous thing for that matter). The post focuses on being preceding doing in brief at the cost of details and distinctions that would merit a whole treatise.]


Connecticut Post Article

“Good art reaches out and grabs the viewer. (My challenge) is how can I draw a viewer in to realize deeper truths. As a Catholic artist I’m always trying to think, What does God want me to bring to the world? How is God trying to use me? The finished product is ultimately God’s creation- a mix of our decisions and God’s grace.”

Feeling super blessed about being able to speak about my process and the role faith plays in my artwork for the Connecticut Post! This piece came out a couple of days ago and was published in a handful of Connecticut newspapers. 

+AMDG+

 

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A Mild Hot Take on the Age of Self-Care

In a culture that continues to promote endless products and ways to “self-care” we risk the temptation to inwardly focus too much on the self; life becomes more and more about what I need and what I want to do to care for Me. We are encouraged to make time for extra trips to coffee shops for the latest colorful Frappuccino, spend an evening on a facemask routine… “Clothes- treat yo’ self, Fragrances- treat yo’ self, Mimosas- treat yo’ self” etc…all because You deserve it.

 

I get it- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve splurged on new clothes from Forever 21 or a chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-a at the end of a hard day because I deserve this. What an easy trap self-care can become, and how easy it is to transform “self-care” into a distorted mindset of self-importance.

I don’t mean to say that some amount of self-care is unimportant, but I want to pose this question during the age of Self-Care 2018: How can we seek to care more for the “other” in our lives- The stranger on the street who needs food, a friend going through a struggle, a parent or sibling that we haven’t visited with in awhile? It could be offering someone a ride, or sharing part of your cookie at lunch. Heck, maybe you know someone who is on their feet all day with a tough job who could use a good pedicure but can’t afford the extra expense.

Peace and happiness will never be found with constantly focusing inward. We find joy in serving and loving others. Even the smallest ways we can get outside of our selves and find unique ways to care for others can be life-giving and could perhaps produce similar effects as any amount of self-care would have. #treatsomeoneelse     - Erin K. McAtee

The Well-Worn Path- Solo Show in Danbury, CT

A HUGE thank you to everyone who was able to come out to my show opening for "The Well Worn Path" @ the Trailer Box Project in sweet Danbury. It was so good to meet and talk with other artists who care about this community, and I feel blessed to be a part of it. It's been encouraging and humbling to receive support from near and far for my work, and I thank God for opportunities like this. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam- For His Greater Glory! 

Enjoy some pictures from the reception last night:

 

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The Mystery of the Gifts of Free Will & Silence

"For the greatest things are accomplished in silence- not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice." - Romano Guardini,  The Lord   God waits for us. Not in loud, clanging noises or warnings, not in grand gestures, not in tacky billboard messages, not in social media or news app notifications on our phones that demand our attention- but in silence. God waits for us in silence.   Our gift of free will is somewhat of a mystery- a blessing, to be sure- but a mystery as I've come to understand it. As I weave together a web of mistakes and downfalls and occasional "right" choices throughout the journey of my life, God waits and works in silence, for those moments when I decide to come to Him. Why does He allow this and often work in this way?  Because He wants us to come to Him out of our own choice to love, out of our own choice to approach Him in humble silence too.    Through this gift of free will, I try to find ways to quiet the sounds of my day-to-day routine and the distractions that pop up in my thoughts, and I listen, or simply remain still in the presence of the Lord. I make room to hear the promptings and inclinations of where He wants to re-route my path and call me closer to His heart- through encounters with other people in my life, obstacles that have been blocking me from growing in charity, or simply through deeper intimacy with Him in my personal prayer and the sacraments.    I was speaking with a student about this recently who came to me seeking advice about a tumultuous relationship. Amidst her interior battle and list of pro's and con's for staying in the relationship with her boyfriend all she wanted was for God to speak to her and tell her clearly what to do. Have you ever been in such a frustrating situation? It's so easy in our limited human perspective to desire something so simple as a literal "Dump that boy!" or "Stick it out, this will be your future husband" from the voice of God. However, we know the flip side of this. If we experienced God in the ways we wanted to experience God, He would be nothing more than a puppet master trying to control his puppets. A great quote from the author Flannery O'Connor comes to mind: "A God you understood would be less than yourself".   So, within the silencing of our own hearts and minds, God is there-  waiting . He knows the desires of our hearts, even before we know them. He listens, and listens, and listens to us in our hardest interior struggles, even when it doesn't feel like He is. What's left for us to do is make the time and space for receiving Him within our silence and to find Him within our own small hidden sacrifices throughout the day. - Erin K. McAtee

"For the greatest things are accomplished in silence- not in the clamor and display of superficial eventfulness, but in the deep clarity of inner vision; in the almost imperceptible start of decision, in quiet overcoming and hidden sacrifice." - Romano Guardini, The Lord

God waits for us. Not in loud, clanging noises or warnings, not in grand gestures, not in tacky billboard messages, not in social media or news app notifications on our phones that demand our attention- but in silence. God waits for us in silence. 

Our gift of free will is somewhat of a mystery- a blessing, to be sure- but a mystery as I've come to understand it. As I weave together a web of mistakes and downfalls and occasional "right" choices throughout the journey of my life, God waits and works in silence, for those moments when I decide to come to Him. Why does He allow this and often work in this way? Because He wants us to come to Him out of our own choice to love, out of our own choice to approach Him in humble silence too. 

Through this gift of free will, I try to find ways to quiet the sounds of my day-to-day routine and the distractions that pop up in my thoughts, and I listen, or simply remain still in the presence of the Lord. I make room to hear the promptings and inclinations of where He wants to re-route my path and call me closer to His heart- through encounters with other people in my life, obstacles that have been blocking me from growing in charity, or simply through deeper intimacy with Him in my personal prayer and the sacraments.  

I was speaking with a student about this recently who came to me seeking advice about a tumultuous relationship. Amidst her interior battle and list of pro's and con's for staying in the relationship with her boyfriend all she wanted was for God to speak to her and tell her clearly what to do. Have you ever been in such a frustrating situation? It's so easy in our limited human perspective to desire something so simple as a literal "Dump that boy!" or "Stick it out, this will be your future husband" from the voice of God. However, we know the flip side of this. If we experienced God in the ways we wanted to experience God, He would be nothing more than a puppet master trying to control his puppets. A great quote from the author Flannery O'Connor comes to mind: "A God you understood would be less than yourself". 

So, within the silencing of our own hearts and minds, God is there- waiting. He knows the desires of our hearts, even before we know them. He listens, and listens, and listens to us in our hardest interior struggles, even when it doesn't feel like He is. What's left for us to do is make the time and space for receiving Him within our silence and to find Him within our own small hidden sacrifices throughout the day. -Erin K. McAtee