Thursday, September 30, 2010

Probably the most permanent piece of art I'll ever create...


Shortly after Henry passed away, in the whirlwind that followed, we were supposed to pick out a grave marker design. When we looked at the designs they had at the cemetery we didn't see anything that we thought would suit us for this marker. Most were too "cartoony" or had some angels or something generic, and it just wasn't something we were looking for. When we were told we could always design our own and they could have pretty much anything made, we decided to hold off on picking a design because we thought that maybe I could design the marker. However, it's been almost two years now, still with no marker in the ground.

I did start working on some sketches for a design last year, but then came selling our house, preparing to build the new house, moving in with my parents, construction, moving in to the new house, having another baby, etc. It seemed like I would never get the proper time to finish-off a design. Now that we are moved in, completing the design for Henry's grave marker weighed heavily on me. It was clearly priority number one and I had to devote the time necessary to finish it off so that we could get the stone ordered.

The only constraint on the design is that the marker lays flush with the ground and is 12" high by 20" wide. I was sure that I wanted to convey Henry being received into God's heavenly kingdom, and work in images of St. Henry and St. Blaise (our little guy's two patron saints). I also eventually decided to try to work in two others who I know prayed for Henry and our family greatly: the Blessed Mother and Henry's guardian angel.

Here is the initial sketch that I did for the full piece (click to enlarge):

This study shows St. Henry on the bottom left and St. Blaise on the bottom right, with outlines of Henry's guardian angel and the Blessed Mother higher up, and Christ on His throne bending down to pick up Henry.

Working further on Christ, I sketched a little more detail in a different study:

I also worked further on Henry's guardian angel and Mary...

Once these sketches were done I completed a more carefully done sketch of the entire piece:

In order to ensure the final product was as clean and finished as possible, and also in order to have an image that would be easiest to reproduce via the etching process for the granite stone marker, I scanned the more detailed sketch above into my computer and then used Adobe Illustrator to trace over the sketch and ensure every line was where I wanted it. This also made it easier to make the any simple shape elements more perfect than I could sketch them and allowed me to clean up any other loose ends and correct any design problems without having to erase.

After I completed this process, which took many a late night, the finished image is below (click to enlarge):
St. Henry, who was Holy Roman Emperor in the 11th century, is shown at the bottom left with his crown denoting his earthly role and also holds a scepter that is a typical attribute of his when depicted. St. Blaise, a bishop of the 3rd century, is shown at the bottom right with his bishop's crosier and mitre, as well as the bishop's pallium around his neck, and also with the two candles which are a typical attribute of his when depicted. Both St. Henry and St. Blaise are blessing our Henry as he ascends toward Christ. Henry's guardian angel is above left, in prayer, and the Blessed Mother is above right, with her crown of twelve stars, also in prayer. Christ sits in his throne and reaches down to pick up Henry and welcome him to his heavenly kingdom for eternity. There are seven steps up to Christ's throne (a symbol of perfection), and the Greek letters alpha and omega on Christ's throne denote that He is the beginning and the end.

The full design of the marker, with the above image incorporated, is shown below (click to enlarge):

I think the final product balances a quiet, somber tone with the optimism of knowing that Henry is enjoying the vision of Christ. We decided to go with Roman numerals for the dates, so that the date reads (translated): December 1, The year of our Lord 2008. "Ora pro nobis" is our simple prayer that Henry pray for us, his family, still here on earth.

The marker stone is in the process of being ordered right now, and because it is a custom order and will require special processing to render the image sharply, it will take a couple of months before we receive it. This means it won't be able to get installed in the ground this year (before the freeze) and so it will be installed in the Spring of 2011.

For all those who donated money as a memorial for Henry, a portion of those funds are being used to create this beautiful, permanent reminder of our son and we are very, very grateful for your generosity. We did not have to compromise on the manufacturing method due to cost. The rest of the funds are being used to purchase a monstrance for Eucharistic adoration for the Twin Cities TEC retreat program, in Henry's memory.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In a new school year, an official name and seal for our home school...


Despite having home-schooled our children for a few years, we've never actually settled on a name for our home school. It seems kind of trivial to name your own home school, but I've come to think that doing so is actually quite useful for a number of reasons:
  • For tax purposes, your state government or your local school district may actually ask for a name for your home school (this has happened to us on a number of occasions). It would nice to put something other than "Koop Family School."
  • In our parish, the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake, MN, there is a home school graduation every spring for all of the outgoing seniors. The name of each family's home school is featured prominently in the program in a profile of each student.
  • Having a school name can give the children a sense of identity in their school.
  • Placing your home school under the prayerful patronage of a saint in heaven is always a good idea :-)
We had always thought that once we had our dedicated school space in our new home we would finally make a decision on our school name, and being that we are into the new school year, the time has arrived.

Both Molly and I have had powerful experiences on Ignatian silent retreats (evidence Molly's diaries from her last two such retreats) and I personally have been blessed so greatly by the Spiritual Exercises written by St. Ignatius. His "Principle and Foundation" is exactly the kind of "mission statement" that should guide our schooling: man is created to know, love, and serve God, and all created things should be utilized by man in as much as they help him on toward this goal, and should be discarded by man in as much as they hinder him toward it. Therefore, the purpose of our home school must be to orient our children toward a deeper level of knowing, loving, and serving God, otherwise our school (and indeed our family life) is not serving its purpose. One of the main ways our home school can accomplish this is by fostering growth in virtue in each child.  

Virtues are nothing more than "the habit of doing the good," key word being "habit." Growth in virtue takes hard work, work that is needed to build the habits that eventually facilitate "doing the good" without even thinking about it, and doing so in a joyful, self-giving manner. If growth in virtue is fostered in children, the academics part will take care of itself. Our school can also foster self-denial, honesty, sacrifice, charity, and so many other virtues. St. Ignatius, through his writings and Spiritual Exercises, is an ideal patron and model for all those seeking growth in virtue, as it is one of the main themes in his writings.

With all this in mind, we have named our school "St. Ignatius of Loyola Classical Academy." The word "classical" is in there to emphasize that we use the classical trivium method of schooling, with the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages. Of course once we selected this name, I simply had to design a seal for our school that we could put on the wall to make things official, and Molly and I also wanted to select a motto that would be included in the seal (in Latin of course). After a few hours of work on the seal itself, the final product looks like this:

The picture of St. Ignatius is one I found using Google image search, which I then cropped near the face and included in the seal design. The motto, "Usus magister est virtus," can be translated aphoristically in English to "Practice makes virtue." More directly, it also can be translated as "Practice teaches virtue," or "Practice is the virtuous teacher." All this is meant to remind our children that, in cooperation with God's grace, hard work and perseverance is necessary to build the "habit of doing the good" -- to grow in virtue. Additionally, inside the seal I placed the symbol for the motto of the Jesuits (the order St. Ignatius founded), A.M.D.G. -- "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam" -- "For the greater glory of God." This motto really goes together with the main one below the seal.

Here's some pictures of the seal on the wall in our school room:

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Interior photos


Well, we had an absolutely wonderful open house yesterday, praise God! It was glorious weather, and there were between 100-150 people who turned out, which wasn't bad considering it's Labor Day weekend. Thanks so much to all those who were able to stop by (and more than a few had a very long drive), and to all those who couldn't make it hopefully we can still have you over soon!

For anyone who couldn't make it, here are some long overdue interior photos. There are just a couple repeats in here from past posts, but the vast majority are new. Click any to enlarge, and enjoy!

I finally finished all of the shelving in the storage room. With no basement, this is the main storage space and has an extra fridge and a chest freezer.

A couple of great pics of the kitchen that I stole from my sister!

The dining room.

The guest bathroom off of the main entry foyer.

A morning picture looking toward the East door of the main entry foyer.

The school room, with a new rug.

The family room.

The library.

The stairway up to the second level.

Top of the stairs, looking toward the nursery and master bedroom.

The nursery.

The master bathroom, where I finally got the rope lighting installed in the bath/shower area (last pic).

The master bedroom.

The laundry room.

The hallway toward the boys' and girls' bedrooms.

The boys' bedroom and bathroom.

The girls' bedroom and bathroom.