Fr. Brett Taira, L.C., just celebrated his first anniversary as a priest on December 10, 2017. His story has been unique from the beginning of his call, up to and including the way he exercises his ministry today. Born in Santa Barbara, CA, and raised Buddhist, he converted to Catholicism in 2002. In 2004 he received a B.A. in Electrical Engineering from Rice University in Houston. Immediately after graduation, he joined the Legionaries of Christ. One year ago, he was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State.
Fr. Brett is currently serving as the Local Regnum Christi Director in Chicago. He brings some unique gifts to his ministry, especially as a millennial convert who has grown up in the current culture with a God-given talent for photography. These two attributes give him an insight into the needs for evangelization of this generation, and the capacity to bring Christ to people in a powerful way.
We asked him to answer a few questions through the lens of a priest.
What ignited your passion for photography?
What makes photography special is not its ability to reproduce a given reality, but rather its ability to tell the story of the meaning of reality. For example, a security camera recording 24/7 can give a faithful reproduction of recorded events, without actually saying anything meaningful about what happened. Photography is different because every shot is the result of a decision made by the photographer; even those shots taken by accident aren’t so accidental.
Walking out the door with camera in hand is already a decision to start telling a story even if one doesn’t know how the story is going to end. In these years of renewal, the Church has challenged us to define the essential elements of our charism. We have our Constitutions and Statues, which are good at describing the WHAT of Regnum Christi. Nevertheless, our Movement is not about a WHAT, but rather about a WHO. The WHO belongs not to definitions but to narration, to story.
Our charism is the story of a personal encounter with Christ, that each of us has experienced in a multitude of different circumstances. In an age when attention spans grow increasingly shorter (maybe even too short to read to the end of this interview), photography provides the perfect medium to tell the story of WHO we are as Regnum Christi members.
How is photography part of your ministry as a priest?
Photography allows me to preach without using words. It invites without imposing. This makes it ideal for the new evangelization.
Much of my work as a priest involves helping people to perceive the presence and action of God in the ordinary events of their own lives. Photography allows me to show ordinary things in an extraordinary light. This is a metaphor for the way faith enlightens our daily activities and opens us to the action of grace in all we do.
Rather than seeking after extraordinary signs of the supernatural, we learn to open the eyes of our hearts and discover that God shines all around us in the most common and familiar experiences.
For me, the most important story that needs to be told is that of Regnum Christi members. The renewal of the Movement is not completed with the approval of documents in Rome, but with the rediscovery of the treasure that we already possess within us.
Those who have been in Regnum Christi for a long time may run the risk of falling into routine, or even boredom. Those who have never heard of Regnum Christi don’t know where to start looking. Both need to encounter and continue reencountering our story. It’s my hope that my photos can tell a part of that tale.
What is it about photographs that captures us and can help us to pray and reflect?
Photography is itself a morally indifferent medium. It can be used both to elevate and to denigrate. Too often photography focuses on the ugly and obscene in life. Photography can be used to spread lies about who we are as human beings, and about what our life is about.
Photography needs to be restored to its true dignity by the encounter with the Gospel. It reminds us of the goodness and beauty of creation. Most of all it draws attention to the individuality, uniqueness, and dignity of each soul. I prefer to bestow upon my subjects something of an epic quality, showing both who they are and who they are meant to be. This is not to engage their vanity, but rather to affirm a fundamental truth – the infinite worth of each soul. Every soul is worth saving, and every soul has been saved by the love of Christ. In the Incarnation, Christ’s story is joined to each of our personal stories. Undoubtedly no story is more epic than that of the Son of God!
Can you share some of your favorite photos with us?