Category Archives: Spirituality

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality” Frank Redman’s ELIJAH

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).

This book is dedicated to Frank Redman, who has more than once reminded me of Odd Thomas

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.

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“Doesn’t She Look Tired”: Evita, Doctor Who and the power of Words

On the new Doctor Who, there was a character called “Harriet Jones,” known for her running joke, introducing herself as “Harriet Jones, Minister of Parliament,” etc., which is usually answered with, “Yes, I/we know who you are.”  In the first appearance of David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, he thwarts an alien invasion with minimal violence and convinces the would-be invaders to leave, but Harriet, now “Harriet Jones, Prime Minister,” has been working on a secret weapon to defend earth and wants to prove earth can defend itself without the Doctor.  In spite of the treaty he just negotiated, she destroys the fleeing ship with her weapon, after the Doctor threatens her by saying that he’s powerful enough to take her down with six words.  After she defies him and fires the weapon, destroying the fleeing aliens, he leans in the ear of her closest advisor and asks, “Don’t you think she looks tired?”

One of the reasons Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice were a successful team was their contrasts: ALW was always a believer to some extent; Rice was an agnostic, and so on. Rice developed an admiration for Eva Peron in the early ’70s and wanted to write a musical about her. ALW resisted for several years, till he saw her story as a modern tragedy of the cost of fame.  While Lloyd-Webber has never been a lyricist, he usually collaborates on the “book” (play) of his shows, and on the basic idea behind a song.

So with Evita, who was known as the “Rainbow of Argentina,” he thought about Judy Garland.  He had attended one of her final concerts when he was younger, and he reflected on how pathetic she was–how she could barely sing, how broken she looked, and how people were literally throwing money on the stage.

Lloyd Webber worked in an “Over the Rainbow” theme to Evita (he’d later acquire the rights to Wizard of Oz and turn it into a sung through musical with his own new songs added to the classic movie tunes.   In “Eva Beware of the City,” she says, “Birds fly out of here, so why, o why the h— can’t I?”   In the song “Rainbow Tour,” Eva’s visit to France end when “She suddenly seemed to lose interest; she looked tired.”

It only takes a few words to destroy someone’s reputation.

A Feminist Weights in on The Annual “Mary Did You Know” Debate.

I’ve previously blogged about this atrocious “Christmas” song, film critic and recently ordained deacon Steven D. Greydanus wrote a far more eloquent line-by-line response.  However, a new feminist, Protestant response adds a different dimension to the song.  A Presbyterian going by “pulpitshenanigans” published a blog post abou thow “Mary Did You Know?” is “Everything Wrong with American Christians.”  While her post is about 75% correct, she starts off on the wrong foot by essentially granting the song’s central premise.  She asserts that

From day one [Mark Lowry] was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

More likely, as a Liberty University grad fundamentalist, Lowry was taught that Mary was the most sinful woman in history.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Uhh, no. She is one of only four human persons in history who ever made a truly free choice.

Adam and Eve were “immaculately conceived,” so to speak. They were created without sin. Faced with the cosmos-shattering decision of following God or themselves, they chose themselves.  They committed the Original Sin that each of us has had since conception (Psalm 51:5).

In Catholic teaching, there are four kinds of “real Presence” of Jesus Christ.  The first is “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name” (Matthew 18:20).  The second is in the Sacred Scripture, the Word of God.  The third is in icons or crucifixes.  The highest, though, is His Presence–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in the Eucharist.

In the Israelite tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was the Presence of God in a similar way, containing in itself the Law (Scripture), the staff of Aaron (foreshadowing the Cross) and manna (foreshadowing the Eucharist).  Anyone who touched the Ark with any sin on his conscience, Scripture tells us, would die.

Gabriel said Mary was “full of grace.”  How can anyone with sin be “full of grace”?  How can anyone with sin truly be “at enmity” with the Devil, as God describes in Gen 3:15?  If a creature with sin cannot touch the Ark of the Covenant, how could a creature with sin bear in her very body God Incarnate?

Here is Mary, greeted by Gabriel, with the message that she’s been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah.  She knows the Scriptures.  She knows what it will entail.  She knows she will be potentially accused of adultery and stoned.

Almost every other figure in Scripture who gets visited by an angel, usually with news of a coming miraculous answer to a prayer, including Zechariah, questions the angel out of doubt, even legitimate doubt, and is given either a punishment or a sign.  Mary questions the angel out of concern for her virginity.  She says, aware of the risks, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me as you say.”

Eve had no sin, yet faced with obeying God or potentially dying from self-service, she chose death.  How would we expect Mary to have chosen the hard way of obeying God, when she knew it might mean death, unless Mary *at least* had the same grace that Eve did to start out with?

Revisiting Akita

Unity Publishing is probably the best site I’ve found over the years on apparitions, prophecies, etc., analyzing their content in the light of Scripture and Tradition, and emphasizing those that are approved while debunking the clear errors in many false apparitions.  Since 2012 it has seemed increasingly clear that we are living in times many Catholic mystics have warned about.  I’ve mostly sat quietly without comment hoping that what I strongly suspected wasn’t true.  The events of the past few months have made it harder to stay silent.  Since they are fully approved both as an apparition and a message, I thought I’d revisit the appearances of Our Lady in Akita, Japan, from 1973 to 1981.  Here is the Unity Publishing article’s introduction on how solidly approved they are–including Cardinal Ratzinger approving the content of the prophecies and allegedly confirming the Bishop’s theory that the prophecy of Akita is the same as the prophecy of Fatima.

Apparitions Approved – An Urgent Message In 1984, just before retiring at a venerable age, the diocesan Bishop of Niigata, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, in consultation with the Holy See, wrote a pastoral letter in which he recognized as being authentically of the Mother of God, the extraordinary series of events that had taken place from 1973 to 1981 in a little lay convent within his diocese, at Akita, Japan. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in June 1988, approved the Akita events as “reliable and worthy of belief”. In fact the Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, in 1998 spoke to Cardinal Ratzinger about Akita and the Cardinal: “personally confirmed to me that these two messages of Fatima and Akita are essentially the same”.

Here is the prophecy:

As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

“The demon will rage especially against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them.

 

On Catholics using “Big Words”

If you listen to the MSM, you might have heard how those big meanies at Russia supposedly leaked emails to make poor innocent Hillary Clinton look bad, or how a leaked video of Donald Trump engaging in admittedly repulsive talk should destroy his campaign.
If you get your news on TV, you probably missed that among the latest “dump” of Clinton-related emails by Wikileaks are comments about setting up various front groups to undermine the “backwards” Catholic Church (as C. S. Lewis would say, if you’ve strayed off course from your goal, “backwards” is “progress”), proving that groups like “Catholics United for the Common Good” and other supposedly “moderate” groups that have sprung up in the past decade or so are, as I and others have argued, secular liberal front groups.

Many have asked why Julian Assange isn’t publishing much about Trump.  Well, the big batch that was released this weekend and covered up by discussion of which members of which parties engage in worse violations of the second, sixth and ninth Commandments, also included evidence that another “conspiracy theory” was true: that the Clinton Campaign was behind the Trump campaign all along, to avoid someone like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio getting the nomination.

A third headline that you may have missed if you get your news from Clinton News Network, Nothing But Clinton, All ‘Bout Clinton or Clinton Broadcasting System (the more common acronym for CBS would violate my own broadcasting rules), and the one I’d like to reply to most directly here, concerns a batch of emails between some folks named John Halpin (jhalpin@americanprogress.org), Jennifer Palmieri (JPalmieri@americanprogress.org) and John Podesta (john.podesta@gmail.com).  I’m sure these individuals’ emails are flooded, if not shut down, but I would like to reply to the following statement that’s garnered no small attention in the circles of conservative Catholicism (and, I imagine, counterweighted Trump’s obscenities for some of us  on the fence about whether to vote for Trump or a more conservative third party candidate.  Said Halpin:

[Catholic Conservatism is] an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.

Apparently, Mr. Halpin is “totally unaware” that “Christian Democracy” is not just an oxymoron but an outright contradiction.

Now, prior to the era of Donald Trump, I’d have pointed out how liberals can’t even communicate amongst themselves without resorting to rough language, but given that that is a perfectly good word abused by abusers of language, what is more of an — adulteration — of the Faith than to try and mask Socialism with Christianity and call it “Christian Democracy”, or to claim the Church has “severely backwards gender relations”?

[Catholic conservatives] can throw around “Thomistic” thought and “subsidiarity” and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.sIt’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.

Well, first off, that’s precisely what we’re talking about–how to avoid going to Hell, which should the secondary concern of every person on the planet (the primary concern being learning how to properly respond in love to the selfless gift of Christ).

Second off, for people who throw around sentences like “postmodern approaches to reevaluating paradigms of patriarchal and Eurocentric hegemonies” to accuse anyone else of using “big words” to “sound smart” would make me laugh if I were physically capable of it anymore.

Third, and most importantly, if “Thomistic” political theory is too complicated for you (for me, St. Thomas Aquinas himself, once you learn the method of properly reading a Summa is about as simple and clear as possible), and if “subsidiarity,” one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Thought, going back at least as far back as Pope Pius XI, and best summarized in the famous dictum of Lord Acton, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, is too big a word, on this, the 99th anniversary of the Sun Dancing at Fatima, I would like to offer a far simpler explanation of why I, for one don’t support Socialism, Statism, modern “gender relations” or so-called “Christian democracy”. In the words of Our Lady:

“Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.”

“God is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Communions of reparation and for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart … In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

(See also Miraculous Medal and La Salette Apparitions)

I *am* guilty of this Man’s Blood.

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains” (Jn 9:41).
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Matthew 9:12).
“I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).
“Then may his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25)

“Blood that but one drop of/ has the worth to win/all the world forgiveness/of its world of sin” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, after St Thomas Aquinas).

It is a great disgrace that one of the most important verses in the Passion narrative has been distorted into a statement of hate such that to even quote it is considered hate speech.
Unless we accept Christ’s self-offering, we have no place in His kingdom (Jn 13:8).  Pilate, by professing his innocence, proclaims his own guilt.  The people, by accepting the guilt for Christ’s death, and accepting His blood, are actually accepting their own redemption.

When the people say “Let us blood be upon us and upon our children,” that means all of us.  Unless we accept our guilt for Christ’s death, and not only accept His blood offered for our sins upon us but into us through the Sacrament, we can have no life in us (Jn 6:53).
This is something to consider when public figures profess their alleged Christianity by saying they have never told God they were sorry.

On Van Gogh, Lewis, Koontz, Autism and the Afterlife

Here’s a thought process: I’ve long believed that part of what we take to be “mental illness” is the brain perceiving reality differently, particularly in the case of schizophrenic disorders, hallucinations, etc.: that whatever connection there is between the soul and the mind is overactive, so the person is extra-ordinarily aware of the ordinary spiritual activity that surrounds us. St Anthony of the Desert was once given a view of the angels and demons simply fighting at that moment over his soul, and asked not to be shown it again lest he go insane.
Now, I’ve been thinking a lot the past couple days about sensory overload. If you dare, here are a couple videos that simulate sensory overload experiences:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oe7yNPyf2c
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcS2VUoe12M
Tonight, I saw an interesting video on Vincent van Gogh and physics. The article and video can be found here.  Van Gogh’s painting’s, particularly Starry Night, accurately depict the motion of the stars according to the phenomenon called “turbulence,” and Hubble Telescope researchers found that patterns from the Hubble telescope match van Gogh’s work.  That’s the nutshell version of the physics: the articles leave open the question of *how*, but at one point the video touches on the neurological side of things, and that’s what inspired this blog post.  Now, if I understand what they’re saying, all the Impressionists depicted light in a way that’s revolutionary and matches with things scientists discovered later.  They all seemed to intuit or access perceptions of light that most people aren’t aware of, but our brains can still process.
Van Gogh, however, was the only one to do it with such detail and scientific/mathematical precision.    He did all this during the same period of  “mental chaos” that led to both cutting off his own ear and painting his greatest works.  They’re stopping at “apparently, by depicting the chaos in his mind, he accurately depicted the chaos in nature.”
What if the chaos in his mind was caused by perceiving the chaos in nature?
What if van Gogh was what  we call “severely autistic,” and hyper-perception turned to sensory overload?  If you have no idea what “sensory overload” means or is like, and think it means “ate too much sugar” or something, please watch (and listen to) the videos I posted above. The closest possible experience is migraine, and that’s not even half of it.
Imagine: for some reason, van Gogh went into complete sensory overload.  He could see light so well he was seeing turbulence.  He could hear every sound around him in a deafening cacophony.  That’s why he cut off his ear-to try and stop the sound.  He channeled the visual overload by painting things the way he actually saw them.
Now, the theological side of this discussion.  My wife has been reading Dean Koontz‘s books, particularly the Odd Thomas series.  If you don’t know Koontz, and are looking for someone other than the usual litany of ChestertonEliotLewisTolkienO’Connor, read him.  I started with Brother Odd, and was hooked when, within a page, he referred to Batman, Odysseus, and nuns who think they’re “social workers who don’t date.”  Anyway, as she’s told me about different Koontz books, we’ve discussed what things struck me as reminiscent of Lewis, Eliot and O’Connor.  I suggested she read The Great Divorce next, so while she’s read that, we’ve been discussing how Lewis depicts part of Purgatory being the soul’s adjustment to the sheer Reality of Heaven: grass, for example, that feels like walking on knives because it’s so REAL.  St. John Bosco had a dream where he saw a stage of the afterlife that wasn’t even the beginning of the farthest outskirts of what we call “Heaven.”  St. Dominic Savio, who greeted him there having already died years before his teacher, said that “No one can see Heaven and live.”
Perhaps it’s because Heaven is so overwhelmingly real.
Now, if you haven’t, go back and look at the sensory overload videos.
If the phenomenon/symptom that was originally called “autism”–catatonia, retreating into oneself, etc.,–stems from a brain that is so aware and so full of information that the person can’t handle it, and has to find some way of dealing with all that information that shoots in and out constantly–if Vincent van Gogh, as I’m speculating, had such an experience and was so overwhelmed he cut off his ear–if my son can have a meltdown because he suddenly keenly remembers some incident from when he was 2 or 3 years old like it just happened–imagine being suddenly confronted with the ability to instantly remember everything that happened in your life: every good memory, every bad memory.
Imagine being suddenly able to, if you and God will, see or hear anyone, anything, anywhere in time or space, at a level of detail that you cannot possibly imagine now.  That’s to say nothing of the Beatific Vision.
If you were to die after reading this, do you think your psyche (both in the modern and original senses of the word) would be truly prepared for such an overwhelming crash of reality?   It’s what Plato described with his allegorical man from the cave who suddenly goes from seeing nothing but 2D shadows his entire  life to seeing three dimensional people and objects in full color, in the sunlight.  Do you not think that you’d need to at least let your eyes adjust?  Like jumping into a swimming pool, you’d need to adjust a moment to the drastic change in your surroundings.
That adjustment is Purgatory.