burying st. josephIn our family of seven, there always seems to be someone (or several someones) crying or yelling or laughing or shrieking or giggling at any given moment.  We are a constantly fluctuating tide of emotions, a full display of the human experience every second of every day.

But soon, we are going to be expected to sit still in seven outfits that look like they’ve never been played in, eaten in, spit up on, or used as a tissue.  We will be expected to paste smiles on our faces and look like we’re having a Norman Rockwell moment as we tell each other through clenched teeth to “Sit still!”  “Look at the camera!” and “Say cheese!”  We’ll be expected to look fresh and brand new, with our identities subtly masked by color coordinated outfits, smiling as if there were no tomorrow and guarding our expressions to reveal nothing about our past.

Yep, it’s parish directory portrait taking time again.

Our family is not comprised of experienced picture posers.  In fact, we’ve never had professional pictures taken of our children or our family before.

Maybe we’re stingy.  Maybe we’re lazy.  Maybe we’d just rather spend our time and energy doing other things.  Quite frankly, I’m a little jealous of those families who are able to pull off those adorable family photos, walking together down a woodland path in the fall, the colors of the leaves playing so nicely off of the red, orange, and yellow ensembles they are wearing.  I truly enjoy looking at those lovely, picture perfect photos.  It’s just not our family’s thing.

But that’s okay, because I also love looking at our quirky, imperfect family photos where someone always seems to be missing a tooth or picking his nose or dressed in the wrong thing or wearing the burden of the day on his or her face.  We have some nice family photos, but there is always a very human element to them–something that makes us say things like, “Remember when we took that?  That was just one day after you were born and I was fighting that sinus infection.  See how tired I look?” or “Remember?  That was when we sold our first house that we loved so much and we managed to pack up and move with two kids and a three month old baby.” or “Remember?  That was when you lost your job and we were praying desperately that everything would work out.”

It is those imperfect photos, those memories that remind us of how far we’ve come, how hard we’ve fought, how long we’ve persevered in faith, and how God has come through for us one way or another every time.

Pope Francis says in his book Open Mind, Faithful Heart, “Memory is a grace we should ask for.  It is so easy to forget, especially when we feel satisfied.”

It is so easy to settle into my marriage of ten plus years and forget how much I longed for a spouse at one time.  And so I look at our wedding album, our beautiful, perfectly posed wedding photos–but the pictures I love best are those that capture the anticipation on my face as I prepare to meet my groom at the altar.  Or the one slightly blurry photo that a relative managed to take just before our joyful first kiss as husband and wife.  Or the one of my husband carrying me over the threshold of our first, ahem, lovely rental house.

It is so easy to sit comfortably under the roof of my home and complain about the broken garage door, the front porch that appears to be gradually falling off the front of the house, or the sump pump that occasionally doesn’t do the job in a torrential downpour.  Then I look at our photos of the kids posing next to “Sold” signs, and the photos taken by past realtors of a perfectly clean and decorated home.  But my favorite pictures are the candid ones–of our family burying St. Joseph with a hope and a prayer; of friends and family carrying moving boxes through the rain; of rooms filled with half-unpacked boxes on top of misplaced furniture.

These are the pictures that remind us of who we are as a family.  A family who perseveres through difficulty, a family who turns to God and prayer when life becomes challenging, a family who has been so blessed over the years.

We remember the good times, and we remember the bad.  We even remember the truly ugly–because we realize now that was where God’s steady hand was most present, holding us with love until we could find our feet again.

“The memory of the past accompanies us not as a dead weight but as a reality interpreted in the light of our present consciousness.”  Pope Francis, Open Mind, Faithful Heart

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook timeline recently.  Her twin babies were busily playing in matching exersaucers, the floor was covered in various piles of clothes, toys, and pillows, and her little boy was standing in nothing but his underwear, watching TV.  The caption for the photo simply read, “Monday”.

I’ve heard mothers say to be sure to take pictures of the ordinary days of life, the messy days of life, the supposed “mistakes” in life.  These are the living and breathing memories.  The memories that propel us into the future with their temporary, move at the speed of light nature.

“…the families and the peoples that remember their past are families and peoples with a future.”  Pope Francis, Open Mind, Faithful Heart

Our family’s church directory portrait may not come out exactly “perfect”, but maybe that’s okay–maybe it would even be better if it were one of those “Monday” pictures–one of those pictures that makes you say, “Remember when?” followed by a “Thank you, God!” and hope-filled dreams for the future.

What are some of your favorite “Monday” photos?  Describe or post them here.

Copyright 2014 Charisse Tierney


About Author

Charisse Tierney lives in Newton, Kansas, with her husband Rob and six children. Charisse and Rob are Natural Family Planning and Theology of the Body for Teens teachers. Charisse holds degrees in music performance and is a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She also writes for Family Foundations magazine and blogs at Paving the Path to Purity. Find her on Facebook.


  1. Love this. I sometimes feel bad that I don’t have perfect professional pics but I don’t know we’d ever get everyone to even look in the general direction of the camera at the same time.

    My favorite family picture is complete chaos, but also, completely us. 🙂

  2. What a wonderful post! The older you kids get the more valuable those pictures, posed or real, become. It’s a true joy with the kids remember things about those pictures you’ve forgotten. Thank you for a beautiful piece…I think I’ll go home and pull out a photo album! Blessings on your day!

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