A beautiful tribute to my beloved John.
A beautiful tribute to my beloved John.
Posted in Catholicism, death, despair, fan mail, heroic virtue, Saints, suffering, widowhood
(My wife, Mary Hathaway, was given a free e advanced reader copy of THE WHISPERING ROOM, by Dean Koontz, but due to health and other issues, she could not finish the novel until now. This is written from her point of view and shared on Amazon as well. The links go to Amazon, but we are NOT getting any money for it. You can find the books elsewhere and even some are free for download. They just enrich the meaning if you have read them.)
Many read Dean Koontz for his horror and suspense. I read him because he makes me laugh, brings me hope in our very fallen world, and his plot twists and character development serve as an amazing examination of conscience, one that usually leaves me squirming and landing on my knees in repentance. The higher, anagogical meaning is what I look for and am never disappointed.
In her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” found in the collection, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor writes, “I think the way to read a book is always to see what happens, but in a good novel, more always happens than we are able to take in at once, more happens than meets the eye. The mind is led on by what it sees into the greater depths that the book’s symbols naturally suggest. This is what is meant when critics say that a novel operates on several levels. The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up.”
O’Connor could have been predicting the work of one of her biggest fans, Dean Koontz, in this essay. He may be known as the “Master of Suspense,” and aptly so, but it’s his use of symbols and their anagogical meaning that has me pondering his works long after I finish them and brings me back to them again. The “suspense” of what happens after earthly life is what he wants his readers to consider and I do, with every novel of his I have read.
THE WHISPERING ROOM, the second novel in what is promised to be a 7-book series features the intrepid and determined Jane Hawk, a rogue FBI agent on the run, investigating a series of deaths while attempting to guard herself and those she loves against the unseen enemies. Having been startled, enthralled and moved to tears by the end of THE SILENT CORNER, the first book in the series, I was anxious to see where Mrs. Hawk would land next in her quest to bring justice for her husband and safety for her son and others imperiled by “them.”
While THE SILENT CORNER is meticulously crafted to introduce the Jane Hawk universe, THE WHISPERING ROOM immediately draws the reader into an intimate scene of the slowly unveiling iniquitous underground. The pace is fast and the mood sinister. Jane’s quest for justice introduces her to some of the most foul and disgusting people one can imagine, as well as some of the bravest and kind. One’s conscience is pricked and left mourning for evil and its web in which we are all entangled. Its end left me puzzling and wondering where Jane was headed next in the quest for justice, an answer that is coming in May 2018, in THE CROOKED STAIRCASE. If you have not read The Silent Corner: A Novel of Suspense yet, I strongly recommend reading it first and then reading the sequel, THE WHISPERING ROOM.
I also suggest reading T.S. Eliot’s Collected Poems, 1909-1962 or read this excellent analysis of “The Hollow Men,” as well as reading Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories (FSG Classics). A look at CS Lewis and his book The Four Loves will also provide more insight into the deeper meaning of the fantastic Jane Hawk series and the other works of Dean Koontz.
In closing, I would strongly recommend reading a novel by his apprentice of sorts, Frank Redman, ELIJAH: A Suspense Novel and reading Redman’s publisher web site for his Koontz story. Redman’s influence on Koontz’s writing and his life cannot be exaggerated, as once again, Redman’s integrity, bravery, faith, and health battle are featured in the Jane Hawk series, hidden in the characters’ names, words and actions, just as he served as the inspiration for ASHLEY BELL.
Like most adults, my spare time is limited, so I can cover all my reading needs in one of Koontz’s amazing novels– a spiritual work, a fantastic suspense, a deep romance, a political critique, a futuristic sci-fi thriller, and an examination of conscience, all in one incredible work of art.
I don’t know exactly where to begin this review, which angle to take. I’m reeling. My wife and teenager have been commending Frank Redman‘s ELIJAH: A SUSPENSE NOVEL to me for weeks now, and I finally read it. In short, I can say it was amazing, entertaining, chilling, and a punch in the gut in ways for which I was not prepared. Apparently, I am not alone in this regard. My wife remarked to me that with the internet’s instant access to so much information, when one writes about a book, a review is not sufficient. Rather, an encounter would better describe it, where one meets the author, reads the background and influences, and embraces the story and its characters. It certainly is true for our experience with Frank Redman and ELIJAH.
Frank Redman is a brand new author, whose own journey in the writing profession sounds like something out of a movie. It’s his debut book, so I was thinking it might be something like early C.S. Lewis with a few twists in the manner of Dean Koontz, but it’s that and more.
By the time I got to the end of ELIJAH, I’d say it’s better than the early C.S. Lewis. This story has the mystique, chilling suspense, and humor of a Christian “Twin Peaks” or a more tightly written THAT HIDEOUS STRENGTH. It takes you into levels of evil that many of us would rather not know at all, but far too many people actually live through. Many writers depict such evil and either glorify it or give it a worldly punishment, but few provide a sense of hope that there is something better, that victims can still find happiness and holiness. Frank Redman is one of those few writers, and ELIJAH is a book with a message that needs to be read.
St. Augustine says a work of perfect logic may be true but if it’s boring to read, it won’t do any good, and people are more willing to read and believe something that’s eloquent. The same is true of literature and movies: it doesn’t matter how true it is or how artistically “well crafted” it is. If it doesn’t draw people in, nobody will read it. HAMLET may have psychological and moral depth, but it’s basically a story about murder, ghosts and revenge. ELIJAH has it all. It immediately drew me in with the supernatural and suspense, has great depth in the character’s dealings with his horrid past, as well as fantastically funny insights with well-crafted characters who open your eyes to the devastating horrors that are hidden in daily life. The reality of evil is tangible, but it’s tempered with hope and perseverance.
At times, the story of an author can sometimes be as compelling as the book the author wrote. This can be an advantage in attracting readers, as it is what led us to Frank Redman and ELIJAH. My wife and I both became Dean Koontz fans a little over a year ago. She noticed that Koontz has referred a few times to his friend Frank Redman (he dedicated SAINT ODD to him and said Frank’s struggle with brain cancer inspired ASHLEY BELL).
Through a series of events that I’ll leave Frank Redman to tell, he began a mentorship with Dean Koontz. Koontz had read some of his writing, saw potential, and agreed to mentor Frank. Then, on the same day that I had my descending aorta surgery, Frank was diagnosed with an extremely rare and extremely lethal brain cancer–most people diagnosed with it are only diagnosed with it posthumously, and if they are diagnosed while alive, they die in days or weeks. Frank is still alive nearly 4 years later. So, with a sense of urgency, I set aside the few dozen “in progress” books I’ve been working on reading for years to read ELIJAH, reading late into the night, and enjoying it more and more with each swipe of the screen.
People don’t want to acknowledge the reality or enormity of Evil in the world. It’s often hidden, and when it’s revealed, it can be nauseating, horrifying, and seemingly unfathomable. The desire to stick one’s head in the sand is understandable, but unadvised. Even less do people want to acknowledge the reality and enormity of God’s grace. Redman’s ELIJAH addresses both supernatural phenomenon and their implications in our reality, in an engaging, fast-paced, thriller that will leave you reeling and pondering for weeks.
Posted in book review, Culture, Culture Wars, death, despair, dogs, forgiveness, heroic virtue, human dignity, humor, Media, Philosophy, pop culture, reviews, Spiritual warfare, Uncategorized
Tagged brain cancer, C.S. Lewis, child abuse, Christian, Culture Wars, Darth Vader, Dean Koontz, Elijah, Frank Redman, hope, human trafficking, humor, Luke Skywalker, perseverance, reviews, Star Wars, suspense, That Hideous Strength, thriller, Twin Peaks
We’ve all heard by now of the suicide of Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old brain cancer victim who decided to become the poster woman for so called “death with dignity,” and then got mad when people criticized her “personal choice.” The Pontifical Academy for Life issued a statement condemning assisted suicide, and calling her death “reprehensible.” Maynard’s mother has now posted an article on some site called “Compassion and Choices“, saying that PAV statement is “immoral” and “a slap in the face.” The Culture of Death is now calling it “the Pope’s sin.” I submitted the following to “Compassion and Choices.” Re-posting here:
You posted an article by Brittany Maynard’s mother, claiming that the Pontifical Academy for Life’s statement on her daughter’s suicide is a “slap in the face” and “immoral.” No, Brittany Maynard’s suicide, and your entire “death without dignity” movement is immoral and a slap in the face to every one of us who deals with debilitating, life threatening illnesses. I have Marfan syndrome. I have suffered horrible pain every day of my life. I have dealt every day with the knowledge it could be my last. I have also dealt quite regularly with the temptation to “end my suffering” in this life–but a death with *true* dignity, the death of a Saint, is far more appealing to me. The risk of eternal suffering in Hell, and the knowledge that Jesus died undeservingly for my sins, and continues to suffer that infinite pain of the Passion for me, make it worth it to me to share His sufferings now for love of Him. Leon Bloy said the only tragedy is not to be a Saint.
What is reprehensible is the notion that people with terminal illnesses should be killed or pressured to kill ourselves because we are a “burden” to others. What is reprehensible is saying that it is dignified and courageous to die the death of a coward.
I pray that Brittany Maynard was not culpable for her decision, or that she repented in her last seconds, but what she did was neither moral nor compassionate, for herself or others.
John C. Hathaway, OCDS
Last night, I posted a semi-defense of certain controversial comments made in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide and a general suggestion of how Matt Walsh, Rush Limbaugh, Bryan Kemper and others might have done better.
Part of Matt Walsh’s appeal is that, like the early Limbaugh, he uses sensationalistic packaging to get people’s attention to pieces that are usually very thoughtful. In this case, which backfires horribly because his piece isn’t as thoughtful as he thinks, he emphasized the notion that “Robin Williams didn’t die of a disease; he died of a choice.” At one point, he says, “First, suicide does not claim anyone against their will.”
He anticipates this response a few paragraphs above, but that is precisely the problem. Mental health issues, addiction, etc., reduce or remove culpability. Now, the mentally ill person may remain culpable for what is done while sane, but the question–which none of us can answer in this life–is whether the person who commits suicide truly has control of his or her will.
People like causes. They like to have someone or something to blame, especially if it isn’t themselves. “He was depressed because his career was in the tank” is an easy target versus “He was depressed because he had a genetic condition that made it difficult to control his emotions.” That gets into a mess of problems about free will versus determinism. Then there’s the controversial, “He was post-abortive,” which I want to discuss in a separate post, but while guilt, financial troubles, or frightening medical diagnoses may contribute to mental health issues, we cannot deny that there are physiological components. Matt Walsh is right that there are spiritual components, but wrong to dismiss “chemical imbalances” as modernist mumbo jumbo. Physiological understandings of depressive disorders are nothing new at all.
It is precisely “He was depressed because of XYZ” that is “modernist mumbo jumbo,” originating with Freud’s era. Back in the old days, instead of “chemical imbalances,” people talked about “humors.” Melancholy is usually associated with depression, though the “melancholic temperament” would be what we now call “bipolar” and possibly include even autism. The melancholic is concerned about the troubles of the world, prone to mood swings, etc. Literature’s most notorious melancholic is perhaps Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s eponymous play. Three major movies made of the play within a decade demonstrate different psychological interpretations of the character:
The Zeffirelli/Gibson film (1990) depicts Hamlet as bipolar, mostly manic or “rapid cycling.”
The Branagh/Branagh (1996) version depicts Hamlet as almost sociopathic (choleric), with the melancholy a complete facade.
The Almereyda/Hawke (2000) version depicts Hamlet as straight-up clinically depressed.
Either way, all effective writers are natural psychologists and write their characters so well that they can be readily diagnosed (always baffles me that people insist you can’t “diagnose” fictional characters because a particular health problem or mental health issue wasn’t named: people still had problems). Shakespeare drew from the psychology of his day and also left the character open to interpretation because he was aware of the debates that existed even then.
One of the concerns Walsh, and many others raise in critiquing a biological interpretation of mental health, is the spiritual component. Fr. John Corapi would compare it to any physical disease: you might have a genetic predisposition to something. Then you add in the component of an actual physical trauma, poor nutrition, etc. Then bacteria come into the wound and infect it.
With mental health, you may have a genetic predisposition to bi-polar, depression, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, etc. You experience traumas that other experience but they hurt you more because of your predispositions. Things that might cause a brief situational depression for anybody are devastating (or, conversely, one thrives in a crisis). Then the demons, like bacteria in a wound, come along and whisper “You’re unworthy.” They infect the emotional wound and refuse to leave. That certainly needs to be dealt with, and most treatment programs acknowledge it.
“Madame has moments of melancholy,” says Max in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard (1950). Norma Desmond, also clearly bipolar (mania demonstrated by her literally insane, rambling “script” that she’s been working on for years), has made several attempts on her life, and Max has removed all the doorknobs in the house, as well as all knives and razors (“Madame got the razor from your room, and she cut her wrists!”)
If Robin Williams had shot himself, certain people would be calling for restricting the ability of mentally ill people to own guns. They cite statistics on gun deaths in America, more than half of which are suicides. It is noteworthy that these same people objected to “politicization” of his death when some pro-lifers pointed to his status as a post-abortive father (post-abortion syndrome contributing to many suicides), or when Rush Limbaugh, ironically or inadvertently “politicized” his death by complaining about the media politicizing it. Yet the same people would have readily “politicized” it if it had been a gun suicide.
That’s another easy cause, though, that people look for. They try to say, “It’s guns,” except when it’s not guns. Nobody is talking about legal action to restrict ownership of ropes, or belts, or plastic bags, or knives or razors by mentally ill people. The real issue there is why people must rely on the government for everything.
A desperate person will find a means.
One last observation under this topic is the question of medication. Some people will say, “See? This proves meds don’t work!” or “This proves meds make things worse!” One of the reasons it’s important to nail down the right diagnosis is that the wrong medicine really can be disastrous. Someone with bipolar needs to be on bipolar meds, not necessarily anti-depressants or anti-anxiety meds, which can cause a horrible mania and, in turn, drastic behavior.
Accurate diagnosis is so very important, as are accurate treatment methods.
Posted in abortion, despair, Disability, forgiveness, health care, Priests for Life, Pro-Life, straw men
Generally speaking, my view of how the media, and society in general, handle celebrity deaths (or any deaths) can be understood by Fr. George Rutler’s “Speaking Well of the Dead” from the November 1997 Crisis, which addresses the problem of insta-canonizations and eulogies, particularly of people who do not seem deserving of it. Or, as Crisis co-founder Ralph McInerny once quipped in his own column, “We cannot be certain of the fates of anyone but the Saints and our mothers.”
Plus, I have never been comfortable with getting emotional over celebrities, whether living or dead. I pray for them, either way, and leave it at that. Somehow, even before I knew the details, however, the death of Robin Williams kind of hit me, and when the details came out, it hit even closer to home. The subsequent media frenzy has touched on a number of issues that I have been wanting to write about, anyway.
Some people have been condemned, rightly or wrongly, for calling for caution in how the issue is being handled, especially given the circumstances, and I’d like to address those two main areas of concern *in general*.
Again, there is generally a reaction in these situations to the true neo-Pelagianism of “he was a ‘good man.'” As the cartoon that accompanies Fr. Rutler’s piece reminds us, Our Lord, and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta (whose death was one of the events that inspired it) have both cautioned “No one is good but God.” “Judge not” works both ways. Salvation is not a game of mathematics, where good deeds win points and bad deeds take them away. Nor is it a magic formula of sacramental grace or saying, “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior” being a “Get out of Hell free card.” Salvation is about relationship, and again I’ll address that later, perhaps.
Right now, I wanted to focus on what I think is the problem when dealing with death from a pastoral theology standpoint, and the major worry regarding suicide.
While they may or may not have phrased it badly, and often the harshest critics have been those who’ve faced this temptation itself, one of the biggest problems some people are having is language like the now-infamous, “Genie, you’re free” meme, or saying things like, “He’s in a better place.” These words may seem consoling, but they can, as Rush Limbaugh, Matt Walsh, Todd Bridges and others have attempted to warn, be severely tempting to someone in the grip of despair. If such language is problematic with a natural death, it’s dangerous in this case.
When I was seven years old, and first became aware of how different I was from other children, I first thought about jumping out a window because I’d heard about reincarnation on TV and thought I could come back with a better body. “I didn’t break any mirrors. Why have I had seven years of bad luck?” I cried on my birthday. What saved me then was my parents telling me there was no such thing, and that if I did that, I would go to Hell.
Just last year, when I was on a respirator and feeding tube, and sedated, and hearing the ICU nurses debating questions of Obamacare regulations, organ donation, and “why don’t they just pull the plug,” and for a time (time at that point was irrelevant, but that’s another story), I became convinced that everything I believed as a Catholic was wrong, and that it would be better to pull the plug. Thankfully, they didn’t take the new “living will” I attempted to draft seriously. They *did* take it seriously in assigning my a psychiatrist, but again that’s another story. I just bring it up here to say that, attempts to console one person might bring another to despair.
That brings me to my other main thought. These “insta-canonizations,” as they’re referred to, whether of celebrities or the fellow down the road, are often well-meaning attempts to practice two of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy at the expense of others. It is a corporate work of mercy to bury the dead. It is a spiritual work to comfort the sorrowful. However, in comforting the sorrowful, we must be cautious not to use language that discourages praying for the dead.
Purgatory is temporary, and the holy souls in Purgatory know they’re going to see Jesus, but that no one imperfect can stand in the presence of God. They can intercede for us, but not for themselves. However, they still suffer, and our prayers and sacrifices on their behalf can alleviate their suffering if not free them, so well meaning attempts to say that someone “is in a better place” and presume that he or she went straight to Heaven is failing in one of the spiritual works and discouraging others from practicing it.
The traditional Requiem prayers are all about the awesome judgement of God, and in addition to praying for the deceased, reminding those in mourning that we, too, are mortal. That’s where admonishing sinners, instructing the ignorant, and counseling the doubtful come into play.
We’ve covered 5 of the 7 spiritual works of mercy, and the other two provide the last guidepost in these situations: bearing wrongs patiently and forgiving willingly.
Whatever wrongs a deceased person has done must be forgiven by us if we are to show mercy. We must always forgive as we would be forgiven, so even if the person hasn’t asked God’s forgiveness that we know of, and while we must not commit the sin of presumption ourselves, we may and should offer forgiveness to the dead–though, again, forgiveness requires acknowledging something to forgive. We can talk about a person’s good qualities and the signs of hope while acknowledging the things that need forgiveness.
Thus, when we look at the various arguments surrounding the Williams suicide, there have sadly been many offenses against Mercy, but we should forgive each other.
Posted in apologetics, Catholicism, Confession., Culture Wars, death, despair, forgiveness, Indulgences, pop culture, prayer, Spirituality, TLM, tradition
All human life is sacred. Every one of us should be honored and respected as the immortal beings that we are, made in the image and likeness of God. The desecration of people’s bodies in the name of animalistic pleasure is degrading to both the victims and perpetrators of the violence. Socrates taught that it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and rapists and murderers hurt themselves, in the long run, perhaps worse than their victims. The most fundamental purpose of civil law is to protect citizens from harming each other, as well as themselves, and any government that fails to protect the weak from the strong is a failed government.
I need your help. Two young girls were hanged from a tree after being gang raped in the fields outside their home in India and a minister from the ruling party just responded by saying that rape “is a social crime … sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong.”
It’s disgusting! But this isn’t an isolated incident. I’ve been attacked in front of senior policemen and nothing was done. I know the system is totally failing India’s women. But together I think we can change it.
My country’s new leader ran on the promise of rebuilding the holy city, Varanasi, where he was elected, as a major tourist hub. If we build a millions-strong global call for the protection of women and plaster it all over Prime Minister Modi’s city, he’ll be forced to act to save his tourism plan.
An ad campaign like this has never happened before in India. But this is a national crisis and it requires drastic action. Sign now — let’s get two million people to demand Modi protects India’s girls and women.
Alaphia Zoyab, Avaaz campaigner
Please sign this petition to the Indian government to take action against rape gangs
I know a lot of people who suffer from chronic pain. Most of my Marfan friends are non-Catholics, and I observe how very differently they approach the question. Often, “Offer it up” has become such a cliche that it loses meaning. Even Jesus cried out from the cross, and sometimes that’s what we have to do, but we must always remember to keep focused on the goal. I constantly have to remind myself of these things:
1. “Though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at, . . .”
2. “We deserve our punishment, but this Man has done no wrong.”
3. “In my own body, I fill up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ.”
4. Mother Angelica once asked, “Why me, Lord?” She got a response: “Why Me?” She never asked again.
5. A single mortal sin merits eternal suffering. The worst we can bear here is nothing compared to that. Imagine enduring *anything* forever. My mom’s all-time favorite homily was, “You think it’s hot here?!”
C. S. Lewis once responded to someone who said, “It’s hot as Hell,” with “How would you know?” When I was in CVICU last year, thinking I was dead and in Gell, everything seemed unendurable because ?I thought it was forever. I was hot (high grade fever and screwed up post op metabolism). I was thirsty (living off a feeding tube and npo). I was in pain. Most of all, I was *bored.* I couldn’t move or speak. I was strapped in a bed with tubes all over my body.
The only way to survive such a situation without despair is the Lord’s grace. The Voice kept telling me to stop waive ring and make a choice. It kept telling me it was over: I was in Hell or destined for it, that Jesus would never forgive me. Yet, I thought of Faust, and I prayed, and I used the seemingly endless monotony to pray. In particular, I thought about “70 times 7 times,” though I confused it as “70×70” and couldn’t remember if I was supposed to ask or grant it, so I kept naming people in my prayers and asking their forgiveness while offering mine. I prayed the Pater repeatedly, the Publican’s Prayer and St Dismas’s prayer, over and over, 24/7, for at least 2 or 3 days. My recovery began.
My New Year’s Resolution was to get back in a better habit of daily prayer, particularly the St. Bridget Prayers, and I have been lately overcome by the repentance and awareness that comes with such efforts. It seems like every day this past few weeks, something comes up on my Facebook feed like this article on what constitutes “serious sin,” or particular posts regarding sins I know I have or have previously had on my conscience.
One story that hit close to home, though I’m sure it’s dubious for a number of reasons (first and foremost that we are not supposed to listen to “messages from Hell”) is one a saint told of a monk who had committed some sin in his adolescence and been so prideful (his real sin) that he never confessed it (then sacrilegiously confessed and went to Communion). He developed a reputation for piety, like Hawthorne’s Rev. Dimmesdale, and his fear for his reputation led him to repeatedly conceal this sin in the confessional. He kept thinking “one day I will confess” until he was struck ill and could no longer do it. When he died, the monastery was preparing his funeral and he allegedly appeared to the Abbot and said to stop praying for him because he was in Hell. Although I know I have confessed fully on many occasions, I still felt identification with that story.
I know on the night of my aortic dissection that the demons were there to drag me into Hell, quite gleefully, because I had neglected the Confessional for over a month and had sinned that very night, committing the additional sin of presumption that I could confess the next day. I screamed for God’s Mercy, and they left, and I confessed to the priest in the ER a few hours later. I improved some of my behaviors over the next two years but still had some bad habits (still do). Then, in April of 2013, while I was in the ICU, and even after making a thorough Confession, I went through a deep “ICU psychosis” that was in many ways a deeply spiritual experience, truly one of the “passive nights” described by John of the Cross. I saw how many of my inclinations and impure thoughts, bad habits, and such were just as bad as committing the worst sins in their categories. I came out of the experience feeling like I had been purged of a great many problems, and I was, but now I just keep plunging deeper and deeper into things.
The other night, after reading the above article, I was overwhelmed with guilt and disgust at the fundamental sin that permeates our culture. Then, Adam Shaw, FOX News’s video game reviewer turned anti-Pope Francis attack dog, wrote this piece claiming the Pope is leading a “War on Aspiration,” and I thought, “Isn’t that what every Christian should be doing?” Aren’t we supposed to aspire to be Saints? Aren’t we supposed to *not* aspire to worldly fame and fortune and “success”?
St. Joan of Arc was asked at her “trial” (which of course was not conducted nor sanctioned by the official Inquisiton) if she believed herself to be in a state of grace. It was a Pharisaical trap: if she said, “no,” they’d say she was admitting to witchcraft; if she said, “yes,” they would say she was prideful. So she replied, “If I am, may God keep me there; If I am not, may God put me there.”
We must never endanger our souls with pride and presumption.
Please make sure to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even for venial sins. Remember: the Pope goes every week. It breaks my heart to think of anyone suffering eternally.
Who knows? It’s certainly a time to pray and fast for the good of the Church and the World.
Here’s what I don’t understand: Jesus specifically warned against the equivalent of “stocking up canned goods” in Luke 12, saying to store up treasure in Heaven. Paul, in 2 Thessalonians, is writing all about what *not* to do, and the oft-quoted “anyone who would not work should not eat” was referring to those who were doing the equivalent of “hiding out in a bunker” and waiting for the world to end. He who clings to his life will lose it; he who loses his life will find it forever.
In the Twilight Zone episode “The Shelter,” Larry Gates (later Guiding Light/s HB Lewis) plays Dr. Bill Stockton, a beloved family doctor who’s quite proud of the bomb shelter he’s built in his basement–with *just* enough room for him, his wife and his son, and stocked with just enough food (it is unclear whether he packed “just enough food” to last not only until *after* the fall-out of nuclear war but till after it was possible to *regrow* food). His friends and neighbors, gathered for his birthday, mock his paranoia–until reports come in that an actual nuclear war is on the verge of starting. Stockton hurries his family to the shelter, leaving the friends & neighbors behind. He locks them out. They come begging to be included. He says he doesn’t have any room–*maybe* one person if they insist. But he keeps screaming at them to leave and threatening to shoot them if they don’t. They fight among themselves viciously about who should be the one to survive with the Stockton family, and condemning each other’s real or perceived faults.
Then war *doesn’t* happen, and they’re all left with their relationships shattered by their selfishness.
When Jesus comes again, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker, and we have the assurance the world will not end until then. If it’s nuclear war, you’re not going to avoid that by hiding out in a bunker (interestingly, at Nagasaki, a Catholic Church was preserved from the destruction). If we’re going to experience a little turmoil that leads to the Era of Peace, then why fight it or fear it? If society collapses, stored goods will only last so long before you need more food, and refusing to share what you’ve stored with those in need will not win you points in Heaven.
And, if none of that stuff happens, and you wake up just as you did on December 22, 2012, or you come out of your bomb shelter like the Stocktons, and the world is still here, you look pretty silly. You might even, like the Stocktons, find yourself with shattered friendships.
And if you go to bed expecting the world doesn’t end, and your *life* ends, whether the world does or does not, you still make yourself liable to die and have the Lord say, “You fool! Did you not know that this very night your life would be demanded of you?! For I come like a thief in the night!”
The other night, I had the dubious pleasure of watching _Percy Jackson and the Olympians the Lightning Thief_, and what I got out of it is that it showed why the _Harry Potter_ series is both artistically and morally laudable.
1. While both J.K. Rowling and C. S. Lewis have been criticized for the “derivative” nature of their work, and the matter can be debated in both their cases whether they’re hacks or geniuses, it is clear from the movie, at least, that _Jackson_ author Rick Riordan falls under the category of hack, since on the surface this is _Harry Potter_ with the names changed and “god” substituted for “wizard.” The term “half-blood” is even used. The movie doesn’t mention Triton, but apparently the overall theme of the series is that the Percy and his “half blood” friends (including a much less friendly counterpart of Hermione and a much more competent but more lascivious equivalent of Ron) must save the Olympians from the return of the Titan Triton.
2. To his credit, Riordan has done his homework. Even the film was *mostly* accurate with its adaptations of Greek mythology, which is unusual even for films directly concerning Greek mythology. My only gripe there is that if we’re supposed to believe the Greek myths were real, Medusa died, killed by the original Perseus, and there’s no explanation given why or how she was resurrected. I’ve never understood when fantasy stories refer to “a Medusa” (or “a Pegasus” for that matter), and I’ve also never understood why stories that try to use Greek mythology don’t just use one of the other Gorgons. Also, Medusa was supposed to be ugly to look at, even without the snakes, and while I personally think Uma Thurman fits that category, I don’t think a lot of people agree.
3. Maybe the books do, but the film doesn’t explain why the “Olympians” are so Ancient Greece-centric (for example, the “half bloods” are wired to read ancient Greek; see below), but most of them have emigrated to the US.
4. Apparently, Barack Obama is a demi-god, at least according to the film. When “Grover” the Satyr is explaining to Percy about the existence of demi-gods, and showing him around Hogwarts-I mean, the summer camp for half-bloods–he says that there are literally hundreds of demi-gods (children of gods and humans) alive today, some who live completely normal lives and others who achieve great fame, “I’m talking White House famous” (film came out in 2010; I’m sure they wouldn’t have made that suggestion of the president in 2007). So, is this supposed to indicate that Barack Obama, Sr., was actually a Greek god? Or perhaps to suggest that BHO isn’t actually a natural-born citizen, after all?
5. All good stories, particularly children’s stories, and particularly fantasies, include some level of wish-fulfillment. It is not hard to see how the nerdy, bullied, abused, motherless children in C. S. Lewis’s books are all shadows of himself, particularly Digory Kirk (who both reflects Lewis as a child and an adult) and Eustace Clarence Scrubb (who, like his author, hated his own name).
The abused, orphaned Harry Potter also provides children a character to sympathize with: what I love about the first few Potter stories is that they remind me of myself–obviously, I was raised by loving parents and Harry was raised by an abusive aunt and uncle who locked him in the closet under the stairs–but having been a misfit in general in my childhood, as I awakened to my faith, I found a sense of belonging in the Church and in academia. When Harry found himself embraced by his teachers who saw his great potential yet unable to fit in with any but a few of his peers, that was my own experience.
Rowling gets it just right. While one of the popular arguments of the anti-Harry Potter crowd is that supposedly he is not adequately punished for the things he does “wrong” (violating relative, worldly rules for the greater good, which is something the Pharisees criticized Our Lord for doing, and which is also a basic tenet of Catholic moral teaching). However, it is also very clear that while they’re trying to shape and encourage him, Harry’s teachers want him to learn obedience and humility because they know how Tom Riddle’s great power and potential had gone to his head.
Not in _Percy Jackson_. In the first few minutes of the film, we see a discussion between Zeus (the guy from _Lord of the Rings_ who’s always popping up in “One does not simply . . . ” memes on Facebook) and Neptune, in which Zeus is accusing Neptune’s son of stealing his lightning bolt, because supposedly only a god’s son is capable of doing so. Then we’re introduced to Percy, whom we first see underwater, saying he can only think underwater–gee, no mystery who Neptune’s secret son is, now, is there?
Percy’s horrible at English Literature, and comes home and laments to his longsuffering mother that the “special school” she sends him to isn’t working, and his ADHD and dyslexia are much too severe. Then we are introduced to his very stereotyped oafish, abusive stepfather.
Shortly thereafter, Percy’s English teacher turns out to be a Fury who has been sent to get the lightning bolt back from him, but she’s chased off by his mentorly and wheelchair-bound Classics teacher (played by Pierce Brosnan) who later turns out to be a Centaur. His best friend, who hobbles around on crutches turns out to be a Satyr. I’m not going to summarize the whole film, but just establishing the characters here for this purpose. The message here is:
a) people with physical disabilities are OK because they may just be hiding secret superpowers
b) English teachers probably are horrible monsters
c) Percy is told his ADHD is just his godlike instincts for adventure, and his dyslexia is because he’s “hardwired” to read ancient Greek, not modern English. So, people with ADHD and dyslexia, feel good about yourselves! You’re probably like Percy, and too good for these lame-o schools.
d) Percy’s mom only stuck around with his step dad to “protect him” because his step dad stank, and the smell of his unbathed stepfather shielded the Olympians and their related monsters from recognizing his divine blood (yes, seriously, that is how it’s explained in the film). After mom orders stepdad out of the house at the end, he finds Medusa’s head in the fridge and gets turned to stone.
Oh, that reminds me. . . .
6. THIS IS NOT A CHILDREN’S MOVIE. PARENTS, DO NOT LET CHILDREN UNDER 13 VIEW THIS FILM.
I believe in striking the balance between being lenient and strict in all aspects of parenting. We try to let our kids have an informed exposure to pop culture. They know when we say not to watch something, we mean business, and they usually agree with us when we tentatively allow them to watch something we’re not comfortable with. We tried to hold off Harry Potter till our eldest was at least 13, but my father in law kind of circumvented us on that one, but she’s well formed enough that it worked out.
But this is falling under the category of the Michael Bay _Transformers_ films: NO WAY IN THE NETHERWORLD.
This is very violent. There’s something about the CGI minotaur that really freaked me out, even more than the monsters in a Potter or Narnia film. It didn’t even look like a minotaur except for the horns, and the fact that they called it that. The Minotaurs in the Narnia movies looked far more like what I’d imagine a “real” one to look like. Granted, today’s kids are really immune to CGI special effects (“It’s OK, Mom, it’s just CGI,” they often tell their mom when she’s worried some special effect is too scary for them). However, I dunno. I found the creatures and violence in this film disturbing and inappropriate for anyone under 13. I don’t even think it’s the fact that the movie’s violent so much as that it’s so casual about violence.
My dad talks of his experience trying to teach _Hamlet_ to kids in the 90s who found Hamlet’s dilemma problematic, not for the traditional reasons scholars have argued it, but for the simple fact that they saw nothing wrong with killing. “Why’s he hesitating at all? The dude killed his father. He should just off him and get it over with.”
That’s the approach of this film. Got a stepfather you hate? Stick a Gorgon’s head in the fridge & kill him.
7. “All lives end in tragedy and despair,” says the boatman on the River Styx in _Lightning Thief_. Interestingly, the Netherworld in this film is depicted as the Christian Hell more than the Greek Hades, and it is referred to as Hell while its ruler is referred to as Hades. Much as in _Buffy: the Vampire Slayer_, where Hell is depicted as the ultimate reality, and “the jury’s still out” on God or Heaven, _Lightning Thief_ suggests that all souls end up in Hell, except for the select few who make it to Olympus (and presumably they have to be demi-gods to start with). I shouldn’t have to explain why this is a bad thing.
8. _Harry Potter takes place in a world where good and evil are clearly defined, in spite of those who insist that it’s morally ambiguous. This film is definitely morally ambiguous. Socrates was accused of impiety for complaining about the moral ambiguity of Greek mythology, and this film is true to that element. Neptune is the “good guy” among the gods, but only because we’re supposed to be cheering for Percy. Zeus and Hades are both the “bad guys,” since their minions are both coming after him.
Grover commits adultery with Persephone, which is OK because Hades doesn’t really love her.
We are assured that all the gods are selfish (though that is by the character who turns out to be the actual “lightning thief,” but his position is never debunked).
9. Thus, _Lightning Thief_ completely precludes the possibility that Christianity is true. I don’t mind fiction that suggests that pagan gods were real but that they were angels and fallen angels, or that they were aliens, or just super-powered humans, or even some other preternatural beings still lower than the true God. Christian figures from St. Augustine to John Milton to C. S. Lewis have entertained the possibility that the pagan gods might have been or been based upon “real” beings. I also have no problem with reenacting the Greek myths.
It is possible to take most fantasy or science fiction “worlds” and see the True God behind them. This is what Flannery O’Connor says is the key to “Christian” writing, and I’d say it’s also the key to Christian reading and criticism: viewing the world with a Christian lens. O’Connor says that fiction doesn’t have to discuss theology to be Christian, but merely see the world as one in which Christian moral, cosmological and spiritual principles are true, and work in practice. This would be contrasted to a literature which is completely atheistic or pagan. For example, while I saw _House, MD_ through to the end, I was dismayed at the middle of the second season when House hits rock bottom after breaking up with Cuddy, and he really starts to go crazy. When I saw House jump the shark–I mean, jump out of the hotel room–I said that there was no way he could return from that low a pit of despair without a proverbial “higher power” in his life. No real person could descend so deep without committing suicide or going deeper into drug use unless he had God in his life.
However, this movie holds that Greek mythology was completely *true*. Zeus *is* the current ruler of the universe, though the Titans Again, all people go to Hades, and Hades is the Roman Tartarus or the Christian Hell, where the “real” Hades in Greek mythology was more like the Christian limbo or the Hebrew Sheol.
Again, this shows what Harry Potter does right: the _Harry Potter_ books are filled with at least cultural Christianity. There are churches, there are Christian cemeteries, Christian holidays, and citations of Bible verses. It’s not clear that the characters are Christian in anything more than a cultural sense, but it’s *perfectly* clear that “Christianity” exists, and the overall providence and moral fabric of the stories holds true to Christian principles.
While Rowling is not as overt as C.S. Lewis at showing the Christian God at work in her fantasies (and apparently, according to some people, even Lewis isn’t that overt, between those who insist Aslan is merely allegorical or those who insist that Aslan is a representative of “any great religious figure,” as opposed to being very clearly the Divine Word incarnate in a different way on a different world), it is still *possible* that had God chosen to give some people magical powers, and to create some kind of magical parallel world within our own where magical people could exist with fantasy creatures and practice magic freely, all that happens in _Harry Potter_ could happen in a world where Christianity is true. Nothing explicitly violates Christian theology other than what violates known science, anyway.
That is not the case for _Percy Jackson_. If Greek mythology was completely true, if all souls go to Hell, if Zeus is the ruler of the cosmos (and got there by force), and if beings who are part god and part human walk the earth in the hundreds or thousands, then Christianity is false.
So that is the message that Rick Riordan and the producers of this film want to send to your children: Christianity is false, and you’re doomed to Hell, so “eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.”
Posted in apologetics, atheism, Culture, Culture Wars, death, despair, Gnosticism, Natural law, New Age, Philosophy, pop culture, postmodernism, reviews
About the same time I read a solemn flippancy by some free thinker: he said that a suicide was only the same as a martyr. The open fallacy of this helped to clear the question. Obviously a suicide is the opposite of a martyr. A martyr is a man who cares so much for something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life. A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything. One wants something to begin: the other wants everything to end. In other words, the martyr is noble, exactly because (however he renounces the world or execrates all humanity) he confesses this ultimate link with life; he sets his heart outside himself: he dies that something may live. The suicide is ignoble because he has not this link with being: he is a mere destroyer; spiritually, he destroys the universe.
Posted in apologetics, asceticism, Catholicism, Culture Wars, death, despair, G. K. Chesterton, heroic virtue
“Oh, far other must be that life in which we no longer desire death! How differently shall we then incline our wills towards the will of God! His will is for us to desire truth, whereas we desire falsehood; His will is for us to desire the eternal, whereas we prefer that which passes away; His will is for us to desire great and sublime things, whereas we desire the base things of earth; He would have us desire only what is certain, whereas here on earth we love what is doubtful. What a mockery it all is, my daughters, unless we beseech God to deliver us from these perils for ever and to keep us from all evil! And although our desire for this may not be perfect, let us strive to make the petition. What does it cost us to ask it, since we ask it of One Who is so powerful? It would be insulting a great emperor to ask him for a farthing. Since we have already given Him our will, let us leave the giving to His will, so that we may be the more surely heard; and may His name be for ever hallowed in the Heavens and on the earth and may His will be ever done in me. Amen.” (Way of Perfection, Ch. 42, para. 4).
Posted in apologetics, atheism, Carmelite, despair, Saints
St. Teresa de Jesus contends that the last point of the Lord’s Prayer is actually a prayer for a happy death: the only way we can be delivered from all evil is to die and go to Heaven.
She also says that, if we have lived our lives well, we should be tired of them. We should always be eager to get out of this life.
“I think the good Jesus was right to ask this for Himself, for we know how weary of this life He was when at the Supper He said to His Apostles: “With desire I have desired to sup with you” — and that was the last supper of His life. From this it can be seen how weary He must have been of living; yet nowadays people are not weary even at a hundred years old, but always want to live longer. It is true, however, that we do not live so difficult a life or suffer such trials or such poverty as His Majesty had to bear. What was His whole life but a continuous death, with the picture of the cruel death that He was to suffer always before His eyes?” (Way of
Perfection, Ch. 42, para. 1).
Posted in asceticism, Carmelite, death, despair, heroic virtue, prayer, Saints
Pro-abortionists have a particular question they like to throw out at pro-lifers. Like the Pharisees trying to trip up Jesus, they think this question particularly clever and creates an impossible dilemma.
My recent interlocutor, the pro-abortion terrorist and demonaic who goes by “Operation Counterstrike”, prides itself on its website for supposedly “confounding” pro-lifer bloggers with this question. Although I answered the question on its blog, and the direct question never came up here in our lengthy exchange, this person (whom I strongly suspect has gender identity issues, given that its rhetoric sounds like NOW but seems to avoid the personal identification with abortion that radical feminists have) tried to say that I put its comments under moderation because of my inability to confront that question.
No, I put its comments under moderation because a) the arguments were getting circular and unprogressive and b) the person insisted on using language that was both rude and crude, as well as personally attacking my friends. This individual needs to learn about a modicum of civil discourse.
Anyway, the question goes like this:
“If abortion is made illegal, and you consider abortion to be murder, what should happen to the women who have abortions?”
They see this is an an “aha!” question, exposing us for either being hypocrites or for “not really thinking abortion is murder.”
The paradox, they think, goes this way:
1. If you think they should be punished as murderers, they’ll call you “unreasonable.”
2. If you say they shouldn’t, they say, “Then you don’t really think abortion is murder.”
Of course, these are the kinds of people, especially the CounterStrike person, who think that people like Scott Roeder, Paul Hill and John Salvi are the only consistent anti-abortionists. According to their logic, a) if you believe abortion is murder, then b) the only way to punish a murderer is to c) kill him/her in an act of vigilantism. Otherwise, you’re a liar and/or hypocrite in that a) you don’t “really” believe abortion is “murder” or b) you’re not “really” pro-life.
Of course, they set up the false dichotomy in that, case they set up the false dichotomy in this one, too.
Yes, the question does pose a paradox for certain kinds of Republicans and conservatives, but it shouldn’t pose a paradox for a Christian, or certainly any person with an understanding of psychology or legal responsibility.
There is a difference between the objective nature of an act and the subjective culpability of the actor. When a teenaged girl has an abortion, is she really culpable? Does she know abortion is murder? Does she know the unborn child is a person? (Not if the pro-aborts have anything to say about it; they do everything in their power to fight informed consent, waiting periods and sonogram laws–they know most women would reject abortion if shown this information). Are they really making the “free choice” that pro-aborts allege? Or are they pressured by family, society, money, etc.? What is their mental state?
Is a girl who has an abortion fully morally culpable for what she does?
Now, this is quite different from, say, some upper middle class white woman who gets an abortion to avoid the stretch marks or pursue her career or something.
Interestingly, Patrick Madrid has been involved in a parallel exchange from the other end, on his Facebook page, radio show and blog, in which a pro-life advocate apparently took a fairly hardline stance with some women who had repented of past abortions, insisting they were still “murderers”.
Of course, objectively, the woman who has an abortion is a “murderer,” but that leads to two issues: 1) her aforementioned culpability and b) her intention of repeating the crime.
A person who copies and pastes a bunch of paragraphs out of Wikipedia and Cliff’s Notes is, objectively, a plagiarist. However, a good teacher knows how to distinguish unintentional acts of plagiarism from intentional academic theft. Sometimes, especially in this example, the student just doesn’t know how to cite or how to write a proper research paper, and thinks the copied and pasted paragraphs constitute “research.”
So, let’s say the teacher decides to give the student a second chance, or that a student who was expelled from one institution for plagiarism gets admitted to another. In either case, our plagiarist has learned his or her lesson. He or she remains a plagiarist, but the question is: will he or she *continue* to commit plagiarism?
Inspector Javert chases Jean Valjean for years because he thinks that one act of theft should mark a man for life.
Christians technically believe in repentance and forgiveness. The pro-life movement is an embodiment of this. Many of our leaders have themselves been directly involved in abortion in the worst ways: Norma McCorvey, Sandra Cano, Bernard Nathanson, John Bruchalski and so many others have come to the pro-life cause after repenting of their involvement in abortion, whether it was their own abortions, abortion practices, or political/legal work.
Yes, we want to see abortion illegal so that it is stigmatized, and society can heal from the rift in Natural Law caused by legalized abortion. Yes, we want to save babies’ lives. Yes, those who are consciously and deliberately involved in abortion–and unrepentant–should be punished for it.
Those who lack full moral responsibility, however, should be given clemency and understanding. Those who have repented and turned over a new leaf should be given the benefit of the doubt. They remain, objectively, murderers, but the real question is whether they will murder again.
There is no better illustration of this than a conundrum presented regarding George W. Bush when he was still Governor of Texas, a situation that puzzled liberals to no end. It was the case where a woman on death row in Texas had converted to Christianity, repented of her crimes and showed a complete remorse. Pro-life Christians argued that she should not be subject to the death penalty, and even that she should be released.
“Our God is the God of second chances.”
That’s what Christianity is all about: repentance of sins:
This Pentecost was marred by the shooting of George Tiller. Jesus says any sin can be forgiven except the “sin against the Holy Spirit.” The Fathers engage in much debate about what this is. It has come to be interpreted as despair, particularly despair expressed in suicide, which makes sense in the context. Jesus gives the teaching in Mark 3:29, after the Scribes accuse Him of driving out demons by the power of demons.
In other words, they are denying that the power of God can drive out demons.
Now, Jesus asks the rhetorical question of whether a house divided against itself can stand, but this must carry with it the realization that a) Satan’s house cannot stand and b) Satan’s house is divided against itself.
One of my great disappointments with most Christians today is the total lack of trust in Providence. Jesus could not be more clear on this:
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they? Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith? So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’ All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
But Christians sure do worry a lot, about a lot of frivolous, worldly things: 401(k)s, stockpiling canned goods in case of social collapse, buying guns to protect themselves from possible looting gangs, eating “organic” foods so they can try to avoid getting cancer, torturing Muslims to prevent terrorist attacks, etc.
A bit more drastic, and apropros to this feast of Pentecost, is the passage that inspires certain varieties of Pentecostals:
“These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents (with their hands), and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mk 16:17-18).
The person who shot George Tiller–though, it must be noted, we know nothing of this person’s motivations; maybe he was a campaign finance reform fanatic–was committing the sin against the Holy Spirit. He was denying God’s power to redeem the soul of George Tiller, as He redeemed the souls of Bernard Nathanson, Norma McCorvey, Sandra Cano, John Bruchalski, and so many other architects of the Culture of Death.
Wouldn’t this person have done so much more good if he’d been armed with a squirt gun full of holy water? If he’d handed Tiller a Miraculous Medal and dared him to wear it for a month, like Ven. Alfonse Ratissbonne? If he’d sprinked exorcism salt on Tiller’s head?
Why don’t Christians learn that the fundamental message of the Bible is to trust *God’s* way, not our own. Watch almost any episode of _Veggietales_. Read the anonymous letter to the Hebrews. The passages, often used by sola fide types, which talk of how the Old Testament saints were redeemed by their faith, not their personal righteousness, mean not their “intellectual belief” in God but their *trust.*
Abraham trusted God, and it was “credited to him as righteousness.” David was a “man after God’s own heart” because he ultimately trusted God’s promises to him. Yes, both these men had times where they failed to trust in God–and all sin boils down to failure to trust God–but when God called on them to extreme tests of faith, they pulled through.
There are so many issues which we consider “ethically complex” that become far less complex when we look at them from a Providentialist viewpoint, and when we look at them from a willingness to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus.