Friday, November 30, 2007
Saved in Hope - Pope's New Encyclical
SOME QUICK GEMS FROM "SPE SALVI" -
"It is not science that redeems man: man is redeemed by love."
"Whoever is moved by love begins to perceive what “life” really is. He begins to perceive the meaning of the word of hope that we encountered in the Baptismal Rite: from faith I await “eternal life”—the true life which, whole and unthreatened, in all its fullness, is simply life."
"In our encounter with the God who in Christ has shown us his face and opened his heart be for us too not just "informative" but "performative" — that is to say, can it change our lives, so that we know we are redeemed through the hope that it expresses?"
"A first essential setting for learning hope is prayer. When no one listens to me any more, God still listens to me. When I can no longer talk to anyone or call upon anyone, I can always talk to God. When there is no longer anyone to help me deal with a need or expectation that goes beyond the human capacity for hope, he can help me. When I have been plunged into complete solitude ...; if I pray I am never totally alone."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
This Golden Compass Points Due South
I love the fact that the needle of a compass points north. Well, not true north, they say, but pretty darn near true north. I love north. I love saying the word north! It reminds me of the high and lofty, the cold and unreachable, the North Star, the cap of the world, Mount Everest, stuff like that. Growing up, when July would roll around, my brother and I would always look forward to heading north to Maine. Once the old gray Chevy truck (affectionately known as the Babe) was loaded up, the very act of turning off of the back roads of Browns Mills and slipping onto the ramp that led to 95 North brought a certain rush of excitement. For us, heading north meant a journey into clarity, and a certain clearing of the head; to clearer paths of unspoiled wilderness and open fields.
But what happens when your compass is broken, or worse, the needle twisted, and the signs intentionally switched by another hand? What if 95 North read 95 South, and instead of the cool, clear, balsam-scented forests of New England, we ended up in the hot, swarmy, mosquito invested swamps of Florida! (no offense, Floridians. Hey, my Nana lives in Florida!)
Well, that would not be nice, now would it?
Enter, The Golden Compass. It's the first book of Philip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials” (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass). A slicked up movie version of The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig is due for release on December 7th. What's it about? Well, think of the beauty and mystery and appeal of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings as classic tales of good versus evil that lead us to God, to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, and then turn it completely upside down.
Pullman is a militant atheist who has said “I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion. . . .” In the conclusion of the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan the Lion (the Christ figure) brings the true and faithful Narnians to Heaven, Pullman is repulsed and has called it “one of the most vile moments in the whole of children’s literature.” Narnia, and the Lord of the Rings he claims, are "propaganda in the service of a life-hating ideology.” He's also said “Harry Potter’s been taking all the flak. Meanwhile, I’ve been flying under the radar, saying things that are far more subversive than anything poor old Harry has said.”
Tonight on the Heart of Things radio show (800AM or http://www.catholicinternetradio.com/) my guest will be Ms. Sandra Miesel. Sandra holds masters’ degrees in biochemistry and medieval history from the University of Illinois. She has written hundreds of articles for the Catholic press, chiefly on history, art, and hagiography. Outside the Catholic sphere, she has also written, analyzed, and edited fiction. We'll be talking about the ramifications of "The Golden Compass" from 5 to 6 pm tonight (EST).
PS - Sandra Miesel has a brand new book coming out!
Pied Piper of Atheism: Philip Pullman and Children's Fantasy
You can pre-order it now at www.ignatius.com
Here's the write up from Ignatius:
"British author Philip Pullman is widely acclaimed by critics and readers for his best-selling, award-winning trilogy, His Dark Materials. But he has been criticized by some for attacking Christianity and promoting atheism. What is the truth about Pullman and his books? What does he believe about God, religion, the Catholic Church, and atheism? What does he hope his books will accomplish? Why does he express such strong disdain for the fiction of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? Should children be reading the His Dark Materials trilogy, or watching the film version of The Golden Compass, the first book of the trilogy?
These are just some of the many important questions addressed by Pete Vere and Sandra Miesel in their accessible, concise, and thoroughly-researched analysis of Pullman's fiction and beliefs. The authors provide a literary critique of His Dark Materials and reveal the many premises, and often surprising literary and philosophical sources of that popular work, as well as explain the symbolism present throughout. They also compare Pullman's fiction to The Chronicles of Narnia, the Harry Potter books, and other famous works of children's fiction. And they examine the metaphysical premises and moral propositions found throughout His Dark Materials, and point out the many objectionable aspects of the books—including violence and sensuality—about which every concerned parent should know. Readers looking for a fair, firm, and non-sensational critique of His Dark Materials will find it in Pied Piper of Atheism."
Deer in the Fence
At first it brought to mind the old Far Side cartoon "Nature Scenes We Rarely See" - where a beautiful buck is leaping over a fallen log with his antlers an inch from another tree branch (and we imagine the awkward pain of the next two seconds when the two meet). The grounds of the Retreat Center were surrounded by a high, green, chain link fence. The deer cut to the right away from my car and smacked right into the fence. Deer are color blind, I'm told, so perhaps the green of the fence blended in with the deep green woods of freedom beyond them.
We all watched from our cars as its beautiful body crumpled to the grassy shoulder. Then to our amazement, it jumped again, and again... and again, each time launching itself back into the fence with no success. I found myself cheering him on... "Look over here! You're so close! Freedom is just 20 feet away!" Finally, after what seemed like a dozen attempts, the deer 's own body weight managed to tear away the bottom of the fence and it slowly edged through it backwards, unravelling its antlers from the chain links in a slow and painful twisting movement. Once free of the fence, it simply turned and jumped again, this time into the clear air and off into the deep woods.
It was a couple of days later that the image came back to me. I was thinking of a friend who was in the midst of a real crisis, and I felt again like I was sitting in my safe and secure car, observing something of great power, beauty and freedom suddenly caught up in anxiety, pain and confusion. All I could do was watch, wait, listen.... and point to the freedom just 20 feet away. I was removed, could see more clearly, could see the range of colors that offer through contrast a greater clarity. Even though the path to freedom and to open fields seemed so close, I could only pray and point to it. We can no more force others to choose (a contradiction) than I could have picked up that deer and set him onto the open path. That move would have damaged us both.
How quickly life can turn us into those tangled knots, dark places, and seemingly unsurmountable walls. And we leap again and again into the knot, into the darkness, into the mess of it all for we cannot see beyond it. But I know we're made for open fields; we are meant to be free. Even in the midst of what seems insurmountable, inescapable, even life-threatening, there is hope. And we can find it, sometimes by passing through the pain and darkness, sometimes around it. But the deer could not see this, reason it out, step back, breathe, or pray in the middle of its crisis. It couldn't make an act of faith that this struggle would work out either. But we can step back, pray, sit with the Mystery.... listen. And we should in every and all circumstances as we make our way through this world.
What fence of fear or confusion or dread has locked you in? What boundaries are you seeking to go beyond? What comfort zone is He calling you out of and beyond? And which side of that fence offers you true freedom?
To find the mystery there must be patience, interior purification, silence, waiting....
-Pope John Paul II
Sunday, November 25, 2007
You know what I mean. It had that melody, the kind that speaks in my native tongue, that language that needs no parsing and no tense. It is always Now. Always Then. Always shimmering with the possibility of What Will Be.
As far as I'm concerned, good music is an invitation to contemplation. It's a kind of sacramental, wrapping truth and beauty in melodic clothes.
So I stood there as the three people ahead of me had their stuff rung up; bagel, pack of gum, milk, coffee. And all the while I was getting zapped in the middle of a busy morning at Wawa. That music was like a sniper, hitting my heart in the midst of a crowded place, and it can us too in busy streets, in the deserts of solitude, in wide open fields of the soul where we are alone, in the wind over the water of the ocean of our being. What a power it has to strike us down, melt the heart, fire it up, send it hurtling through our days with new insights, new vision, new energy.
"Music is the language of Heaven."
- Peter Kreeft
From the Road! Sunday, Nov. 25, 2007
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
Thursday, November 22, 2007
August Rush Movie - Lookin' Good!
CRITICAL WEEKEND FOR CATHOLIC FILMMAKERS
Keep One in Theaters, Get the Other into Every Catholic Home
Thanksgiving Weekend is a critical weekend for two sets of Catholic filmmakers. While the team at Metanoia Films appeals to Catholics to keep Bella in theaters this coming weekend, the filmmakers at Catholic Exchange appeal for a blockbuster response to our multi-award winning DVD, Champions of Faith: Baseball.
Just as important as ticket sales for theatrical releases, DVD sales support and sustain films released straight to video and in this instance will enable Catholic Exchange to create more films featuring cultural icons who embrace and affirm our beloved Catholic faith.
Call 1.877.263.1263 if you'd like to order. Here's sampling of the reviews for Champions of Faith:
"A nine-inning faith classic!"
– Bishop Ignatius Catanello, Archdiocese of Brooklyn
"A great testimony to how rich our lives can be when filled with faith ."
– Dennis Heaney, President, The Christophers
"A healthy reminder that men of character do still play the game."
– Russell Shaw
"Anyone with a spiritual bent is sure to be moved by the experiences of these men."
– United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Film and Television
There is nothing more inspirational than to see and hear superstar athletes at the top of their game talking about something greater than winning the World Series or being named a Major League All-Star — that is, their faith in God, devotion to the Blessed Mother and love for Christ in the Eucharist. For the first time, there is a tool available to hand to those people in your life who are the most difficult to speak with about God. Champions of Faith is that tool.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless handheld
Thursday, November 15, 2007
My Wife the Actress!!
Jack Rowe as "O.P" spins a tale to down-and-out travelers Amanda Williamson and Rebecca Donaghy (woohoo! emphasis added) in Celebration Theater's "An O'Henry Christmas". The show opens November 30 and runs thru December 16 in Lansdowne at the 20th Century Club on 84 S. Lansdowne Avenue. The story takes place on Christmas Eve, 1893, when a mysterious storyteller enters an abandoned railroad spur on the outskirts of New York City and joins a rag-tag group of seemingly lost souls. In exchange for food, " O.P." entertains his new friends with a series of charming tales that transform them into characters in stories by O. Henry, including "The Last Leaf" and "The Gift of the Magi." In the process, he rekindles their holiday spirit and gives them new hope for their future. With grace, humor, and a touch of the fantastic, An O. Henry Christmas makes for delightful holiday entertainment. For more information go to www.celebrationtheater.com or call 610 259-1800.
November 30 - December 16, 2007 | Buy Tickets
- Performance times (Fri & Sat 7:30 & Sun at 6:30pm)
- Friday Nov 30th will feature a Wine and Cheese Reception before the performance for an additional $5 per ticket
The Red Pill or the Blue Pill?
Unfortunately, as the series moved forward, it became a tangled cacophony of too many philosophies and theologies. In the end, it was just another brand of gnosticism wrapped in shiny 20th century special effects (oh but what sweet special effects!)
Despite the philosophical fogginess in these films, there were some incredible "teaching" moments. One of my favorites happens in the initial conversation between Neo (the Chosen One who slowly discovers his purpose) and Morpheus (the sage character who leads Neo out of the darkness of deception).
Morpheus: ... Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know, you can't explain. But you feel it. You felt it your entire life. That there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there. Like a splinter in your mind - driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Neo: The Matrix?
Morpheus: Do you want to know what it is? (Neo nods his head.)
Morpheus: The Matrix is everywhere, it is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window, or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work, or when go to church or when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison for your mind. (long pause, sighs) Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. (In his left hand, Morpheus shows a blue pill.)
Morpheus: You take the blue pill and the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. (A red pill is shown in his other hand) You take the red pill and you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes. (Long pause; Neo begins to reach for the red pill) Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more. (Neo takes the red pill and swallows it with a glass of water)
Glimmers of the Truth on the silver screen?
Isn't there, for all of us, an inherent sense of something being "off" in the world, in our own hearts, in our relationships. Something we can't seem to name exactly... but we know it's there...
"But you feel it. You felt it your entire life."
We should ask ourselves "Is this how it's always been? Should we ever expect Something More?"
"Like everyone else, you were born into bondage, born inside a prison...."
Original Sin. The break in our origins as persons made to give but given in to grasp at the gifts and promises God wants to give us. But our culture is constantly tossing the wool over our eyes, filtering values, watering down truth, trying to erase our memories of that Original Grace, that Garden, that peace and love that runs deeper than lust. In the words of Pope John Paul II, it's the "heritage of our hearts" and it has real "salvific power."
In other words, it can save us. It can liberate us from the prison of sin. But it's not in a pill we can take, or a program we can attend, or even in a self-help section at the bookstore. It pours out freely from the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.
But it is the self that must seek the help, must look up, look out of the stony place in the heart and beg for the chisel and the hammer that can break us and set us free.
So we do have to make a choice. And therein lies our greatest power, our deepest identity. We are free to choose. And here is the other favorite scene of mine, taken from the final installment of the Matrix Trilogy; there is an epic battle at the film's conclusion where Neo must face Agent Smith and defeat him. Neo is beaten down, nearly destroyed and seemingly the odds are against him. Smith stands over him in what looks like the moment that will end all things.
Agent Smith: Why, Mr. Anderson? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more that your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose... You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?
Neo: Because I choose to.
What will we choose today in the many encounters we'll experience? Will we reach out of the prison of the self, the lens of lust and grasping and egocentricity that we've been told is the only reality? Or will we dig deeper into that heritage of our hearts, that Original Innocence God created us in? Will we choose to reach up and out and into the Other? Into the New Grace that streams down from the Cross?
He has the power to take us out of ourselves.... finally. Do we believe?
"Remember -- all I am offering is the truth, nothing more."
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Mother Teresa - Saint of Darkness
He began his long association with Mother Teresa while studying theology in Rome. In 1983, she invited him to be the co-founder
of her priests’ community, the Missionaries of Charity Fathers. He resides at the community’s motherhouse in Tijuana, Mexico. We'll discuss his new book "Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady."
"In recent weeks, the once-private, inner thoughts of Mother Teresa have been at the center of media attention… and scrutiny. Thanks to thirty thousand pages of documents gathered for her canonization and most recently the public release of her personal correspondence to her confessors, the Nobel Prize winning Catholic nun - admired for her work among the poor - has been the subject of critical debate. Did Mother Teresa believe in God? Was she in torment over a loss of faith? Did she cease to pray? Was she a hypocrite? These questions and more are on the lips of the world’s most vocal mouthpieces, from atheists to theologians and everyone in between. In an extraordinary new book published by Our Sunday Visitor, Fr. Joseph Langford, founder with Mother Teresa of her religious community of priests, will help us understand even more about the beloved “Mother” of Calcutta in his insightful revelations about the truth of her interior life. We’ll learn that the only shadow on Mother Teresa’s life that we need to care about is the one cast by Mary, the “Mother” of Nazareth. Fr. Langford candidly proves in Mother Teresa: In the Shadow of Our Lady, that “to attempt to describe Mother Teresa in a few broad strokes by holding up one or another aspect of her life or work without reference to the whole is to fail to grasp who she was.”
- Our Sunday Visitor
Date: Wednesday, November 14
Time: 5pm to 6pm EST @ 800 AM (southeastern PA, NJ, DE, parts of MD)
or live via http://www.catholicinternetradio.com/
To call into the show with your thoughts or questions in the Philadelphia region: 610-527-2906 or outside the Philadelphia region, call toll free: 888-343-2484
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Fire, Frost and Gold
It's beyond beautiful.
So yesterday morning on the way to work, I stashed the camera, and as I pulled onto Malvern's campus, the sun peeked up from the eastern rim of the sky and poured out fire on the sleepy earth. I took a few pics beside the edge of Black Friar Pond. The page to view them is here. Enjoy! And keep your cameras ready.... this weekend looks like the peak!
Woohoo! My brother-in-law Tim Byrons was mentioned in the BMW Car Club of America Show in Stowe, Vermont! They gave his car a nice shoutout on the webpage here. Go Tim!
FROM THE SITE
Amongst the other notables:
- A Malaga 1973 3.0CS with 7,500 original miles owned by a reclusive collector who graciously allowed it out to visit (but not play) with a number of other picture-perfect CS coupes.
- Tim Byron’s spectacular 1988 635CSi.
- Dave Haviland’s time warp 1952 Azure Blue performance-tuned Beetle.
- A bevy of Bimmers, Porsches, Mercedes, Audis, VWs. The senior BMW present was Frank Bombardier’s red 1958 Isetta 300.
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Turkey Day Apologetics (coming to National Catholic Register soon!)
Married (with a lot) of Children by Tom Hoopes
Apostles to the Slavs - Pope John Paul II
OUR CLOSING SONG
Ginny Owens - I am Nothing
Monday, November 05, 2007
A Drop of Morning Dew
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Bella - A Review
I saw it yesterday with our Head of School, Fr. Flynn, and 26 of the boys from Malvern Prep. And I loved it. I can't say enough about how refreshing it was to be served a banquet of real, virtuous love from the Big Screen as opposed to the usual dollar menu of vice, compromise, distorted sex and violence. Where other films would go when their lead characters are young, attractive, male and female.... the movie Bella halts. Instead, it opens up the possibility that there exists a deeper love, a purer love, a love that isn't just about jumping in the sack. Wow! Who knew?
And yet the love between Jose and Nina is real, gritty, painfully honest, and shows to what depths the human heart can go when we become truly naked before another person. Where other Hollywood love stories go in one night (often so predictably) Bella in one day and night goes infinitely beyond. This love is not skin deep, but dives into the painful heart of each person, into their fears and their regrets, and by facing those skeletons, the old bones are given new life.
The lead character Jose is the MAN. That's all I have to say. He is, like his name's sake St. Joseph, the guardian and protector of a woman in a very vulnerable place. And he shines, he soars! Even while carrying the burden of his own tragic past. Nina plays the fragile and sometimes angry heart that finds in the face of Pure Love, that her heart can be open to something more.
The scenes have a raw, gritty feel to them, like we're walking through NYC ourselves. The close-cropped shots of onions being cut and tomatoes tossed, of flame and bread and water and dancing feet and digging earth and planting trees all conveyed a sense of joy and a rhythm to life that I think our culture has forgotten exists. The character of Nina felt its beat in her heart after one beautiful evening meal with Jose's family. "Is it always like that?" she asks him as they walk towards the ocean. "So much joy? So much love?" Jose's humble eyes look down, "That's nothing. You should see it when we all get together on holidays."
I'm tempted to stop writing and just say go see the movie. Just go and receive it like a gift, with no idea of its contents. It's a journey into Life, and it's got all the beauty and the pain and the promise that God has growing in this garden we call earth. Ah the movie Bella, like Life.... what a beautiful choice!
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