Every week I’ll share a few favorite images around one of the seven Catholic sacraments, to celebrate my new book Everyday Sacrament: The Messy Grace of Parenting. Follow me on Instagram at @thismessygrace or tag your photos with #everydaysacrament.
Let’s start seeing sacraments together…
Here’s the truth about reconciliation. It’s hard to photograph.
(It’s even harder to practice.)
Trying to capture everyday glimpses of sacraments has been a good exercise. Also a challenging one.
Because baptism and Eucharist? I see them daily in bathtime and mealtime. And I can snap a quick shot in a second – my kids splashing in water or sharing bread at our table. I smile and savor a sweet pause of a moment, a reminder of God’s humming presence at work around us all the time.
But reconciliation? That’s the ugly underbelly of family life. Tempers lost, toys thrown, loud protests and louder cries. The angry moments you cringe to imagine a stranger (or even friend) might dare to darken your doorstep and see how things really are in this house when we sin against the ones we love the most.
How could I capture that on camera?
Tender moments of offering repentance and seeking forgiveness are often too intimate and sacred to share. When we are honest and true, sorry and sorrowful, we are also most vulnerable. Which is, I think, why God invites us to practice this sacrament in quiet humility, one-on-one.
But the few images that I found were scenes I stumbled upon. And isn’t that always how God works, in the stumbled-upon moments? Tripping over truth right beneath our feet.
One afternoon I was playing with the camera, charming smiles from the sweet baby cooing on a soft blanket while his brothers squabbled on the porch behind us. Then I realized the arguing in the background had finally simmered down. Now the boys were building something strong and sturdy together.
Here they were – two brothers at each other’s throats all afternoon until they realized they’d never get their project finished unless they worked together.
And I almost missed it because I was focused on what I thought was beautiful.
Weeks later we were enjoying a lovely, lazy morning on vacation. Breakfast outside, warm sky overhead, nowhere to go and nothing to do but bask in the sun and each other’s company. I went inside to grab my camera and snap some shot of billowing clouds behind Floridian palm trees. Idyllic inspiration.
When I came back out to the cool concrete deck, there was a sobbing son in his father’s arms. Some minor infraction had reduced him to tears; they had to talk it out quietly and calmly. What it means to disobey and apologize and forgive. (I am still learning this; aren’t we all?)
I forgot about the sun and sky; I had to sneak one small memory of what this moment might look like in image, forgiveness in a frame. What it probably looks like every time I, too, bend my wrestling, wanting, wandering will back towards the One who welcomes its failings with comfort and love.
. . .
In the Catholic tradition, this sacrament has more names than any other.
Confession. Penance. Reconciliation.
Maybe we need all these hues of the same truth because there are so many movements wrapped round repentance. We speak our sins; we ask forgiveness; we promise to do better. Turn, turn, turn.
Or maybe we need mouthfuls of names to remind us how often we need to practice this lesson of love before our God. Over and over, again and again. Here at home, out in the world.
Everyday reconciliation. Where do you see it?