Friday, August 14, 2009

The Holy Trinity Mass: A Matter of Perspective

The article about the Holy Trinity Mass came from his secretary with one of Padrecito’s terse orders. He wants photos that show a completely full church, she wrote. I rolled my eyes. As if after all these years I don’t know what Padrecito likes…

But he never really gets it because he is asking the impossible. He wants my camera to see what he sees, as the celebrant standing at the altar apart from and above the congregation, the vast throngs gathered at his feet. But I too am at his feet, in the congregation, and from my place I can capture only a fraction of the panorama his eyes take in. So by insisting on photos taken from his perspective, he doesn’t get the best of what my camera has to offer.

Partly, I understand him. One of the privileges of being a layperson is being able to find and unite with someone who will share your perspective on the world, at least most of the time. It’s lonely up there at the altar in more ways than one. The first of the Holy Trinity photos captures that loneliness. Padrecito is a vey social creature and it was painful to see him up there all by his lonesome. He likes the crowds; I love it when I can see many priests and deacons in a healing Mass because I know Padrecito has the company of people who can share his perspective. This church is glorious and ornate but I would have traded all the rich woodwork and golden angels for one more pair of consecrated hands…

Hands. For some reason, at Holy Trinity I was very focused on Padrecito’s hands. They are big and beautiful and they flow from the sleeves of his vestments in expansive, majestic gestures that express the man’s generous spirit and God’s grandeur. I never tire of looking at them.

I usually snap a shot of the elevation of the Host or the Cup. This is what most church photographers do because those moments are iconic. However, they can get stale. This time I chose the consecration itself and, again, was entranced by the spirit you can almost see emanating from Padrecito’s hands. That is my impossible dream: to capture the power I feel on film.

But the healing Mass is not just about Padre Hoyos. I admire the healing ministers and love to catch them when they are praying with intensity and concentrated compassion, oblivious to all the chaos around them. Here, one of the experienced ministers has been asked to give special attention to a woman who was very distraught.

And drama. When I started in this gig, I struggled to capture the moment of resting in the Spirit. It can happen so fast that unless you are on some psychic wavelength and can anticipate it and have your camera pointed and ready, it’s gone. And it constantly amazes me how unfazed our people are. Bodies can be falling all around them but they are enrapt in their own conversations with God, completely unperturbed.

In the end, it’s the quiet, intimate moments that most capture my attention and lens: Padrecito’s calm and recollected pause before reading the Gospel, a woman and her baby resting in the Spirit, a child at prayer…


  1. Suggestion: If the church has a balcony, you can get up there and take a view of all or almost all the “esplanade” but still will not be from the altar perspective but it will show the crowd. To me the picture Número Uno, is the girl kneeling in prayer. A truly sincere moment.
    Oh! This morning I saw a reader from Nepal. Your blog is becoming very international.

  2. It has a balcony, which was where Los Amigos de Jesus choir was hidden away -- both out of sight and, as it unfortunately turned out, also significantly out of earshot. It did not appear that anyone else could go up there, though I suppose I could have tried had I really wanted to. This church also has a "T" sanctuary so I'm not sure how much of Fr. Hoyos' perspective I could get from the balcony.