Category Archives: Chirsitanity

St. Joan of Arc

Today, May 30, the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of Joan of Arc.

“Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in poor Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing”.

GK Chesterton
Orthodoxy

I hope this quote from Orthodoxy peaks your interest into the life of this great saint of the Catholic Church.

 

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Atlas: A Masterpiece

From time to time I get into a band so intently that I hardly listen to anything else. Has that ever happen to you? The fact that I keep coming back to listen to it over and over tells me that it is not just disposable melodies, whose enjoyment and novelty burst open just after a few listens, but a real musical effort that has substance, whose full beauty demands time to unpack and discover all its subtleties.

Atlas by Sleeping at Last is one of such albums. Ever since my best friend introduced me to it, I have been captivated by this amazing musical marvel. Atlas is a yearlong project by Ryan O’Neal, a singer and songwriter behind the band Sleeping at Last.

O’Neal describes, Atlas, as an “overarching story of how our universe came to be, and how we were woven together inside it*. It is a storybook about us looking at the heavens and marveling at the wonders of creation while navigating the vast oceans of human existence. The lyrics give witness to such epic task when he sings:

 You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.

 With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.

Atlas might be the best Christian album that I have ever listened to. The lyrics are grounded on a firm admiration of creation and the uniqueness and preciousness of life while its melodies constantly remind you of the beauty and elegance of creation. It is like O’Neal songwriting agrees with the psalmist in every song:

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands”.

Psalm 19:1

I am not even sure if Sleeping at Last considered themselves as a Christian band or even if they agree with such category, but they sing about hope, forgiveness, frailty, desire, love, hope and wonder, all essential ingredients of the great drama that is life.

God Bless.

If I have peaked your interest go and visit their at website: http://sleepingatlast.com

Fr. Kapaun

In honor of Memorial Day, Chris Stefanick, posted this moving video about Fr. Kapaun. I am speechless…

 

If you have a family member who is a veteran and is suffering from post traumatic disoder introduce him to the story of Fr. Kapaun, he will find a friend that is in heaven and will watch over him…

http://www.frkapaun.org

Fr. Kapaun pray for us!

Why can’t Christians make good films?

When I was growing up I had a friend who was into, what I can only describe as “death metal Christian band” either that or a “screamo” Christian band. To this day I have no idea what that was, all I remember thinking: “boy that is odd”. Years later I remember talking to an evangelical friend and telling him how odd is to have a “death metal” Christian band singing songs of worship. Just imagine someone shouting from the top of his lungs with a deep ghastly voice: “Jesus Saves You” over and over against the backdrop of screams and dissonant guitar riffs… odd, isn’t? My friend said: if that leads them to Christ then he was fine with it. I quickly agree with him and move on…

Years later, I am confronted with a slightly different question: why modern Christian art is so bad? Let me make some distinctions before you stop reading. When I say bad I mean humdrum, preachy and uninspiring. For example, movies with a Christian themes tend to be long protracted sermons aimed at having someone to accept Jesus as their personal lord and savior right on the spot but are devoid of the great drama of human life. They only have one audience in mind: churchgoing Christians. Another example is praise and worship music. I don’t listen to it. I rather think most of it is just plain bad. I am sorry but it is just an opinion. I find myself closer to God listening to Sigur Ros, an admittedly pagan band with a homosexual front man, than anything I hear on your garden variety of praise and worship station.

This is a generalization. On one hand, there are movies like The Kid with a Bike or the Son, by the Belgian filmmakers Dardenne brothers, that have profound but subtle Christian themes, the detrimental effects of an absent father on the former and forgiveness on the latter.  On the other hand, you have movies like Mel Gibson’s masterpiece the Passion of the Christ. Which challenges you in almost every single frame because it conveys the story of the greatest love that ever was and does so superbly.

The art of subtlety, for the most part, has been lost in Christian art. Subtlety is powerful because it bypasses your own biases and hits you, like a clever joke that conveys some truth. The beauty and the sense of wonder about our faith are often lost because we are so close to it and the filmmakers don’t know how to translate it into the screen. Also, we are guilty of forgetting that before the resurrection there was the passion, that without the Cross, there is no Easter. That, in the drama of life, sin and redemption are powerful. Yet we often don’t really see that in most Christian films. The characters are fixed from beginning till end. No real danger of a precipice to fall and thereby no payoff, no growth and no dramatic event, such as in God is not Dead movie. Alternatively, movies like Joe managed to convey this tight rope dance between sin and redemption, between the ugliness and the beauty of life. I can’t really recommend this movie to everyone, but it tells the story of a very sinful man searching for redemption and making a difference in the life of a kid.

I think this is why we are losing the so-called culture war. We are afraid of engaging the culture where it is and if we do, we can’t resist the urge to preach and succumbing to all temptations and pitfalls of a bore.

The answer is that we should not conform to the “isn’t that nice” attitude. Why not offer the best we can offer? Why not stride to make the best art we can make and not just pay lip service to something that we believe? Why not build cathedrals whose stain glasses are a living gospel that evangelizes the illiterate? Why not be passionate about the gift that God as given you and share them with the world?

St. Paul says in Romans 12:6: “Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us exercise them…” If you are a blogger, a musician, an aspiring filmmaker or a photographer just make the best blog, the best music, the best film and the best picture that you can make… after all any frame can be a Cathedral stain glass that can evangelize the unbeliever.

God Bless.

If you are interested in this subject, I highly recommend the essay: Why Heathen makes the best Christian Films or Peter Kreef’s talk about Beauty from which I took a lot of inspiration writting this post. Tell me what think in the comments below.

One more note:

Funny thing, I started writing this post wanting to write about Sleeping at Last recently completed a yearlong music album “Atlas”. They are one of my favorite bands that embody the spirit that I wrote about. I guess I will save that post for later.

A brief thought about miracles

Sometimes I feel that as Christians, we are indifferent to the miracles that happen around us. Indifference is not a kind word. It is the anti-thesis of being alive; it is a recipe for boredom that leads to spiritual death. Miracles are mighty, unexpected and mysterious. They are mighty because they turn upside down the laws of nature. They are unexpected because we often don’t look for them and when they happen, we explain them away as coincidences. They are mysterious because we cannot explain them but they are real.

I wonder if the real reason why we are indifferent to miracles is because, if we really believe in them, we are forced to reckon with what they reveal to us: that there is something more than mere materialism and that something is God. Miracles force us to confront that reality and perhaps we are fearful because of what that reality may demand from us.

Another explanation might be that as Christians we refuse to ground our faith in external signs. After all Jesus said in John 20:29: “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” but if we already believe why not rejoice when the creator of the universe shows us a glimpse of his power from time to time?

The fact that many so-called miracles can be explained by science or are simply fraud should not stop us from testing everything and hold on to what is true (1 Thessalonians 5:21). An open heart will open your eyes, perhaps one day you will realize that your very existence is a miracle in itself because without God’s will we would simply cease to exist.

About the Big Bang and Fundamentalists

The recent debate between Bill Nye, the Science Guy, and Ken Ham, a young earth creationist supporter, reminded me of something that St. Thomas Aquinas said:

“First, the truth of Scripture must be held inviolable. Secondly, when there are different ways of explaining a Scriptural text, no particular explanation should be held so rigidly that, if convincing arguments show it to be false, anyone dares to insist that it still is the definitive sense of the text. Otherwise unbelievers will scorn Sacred Scripture, and the way to faith will be closed to them.”

-St. Thomas Aquinas

In other words, some fundamentalist interpretation of scripture contradicts our observation of the universe and their staunch literalistic interpretation of the Bible may be a stumbling block for unbelievers, closing faith to them.

God is truth and cannot be deceived or deceive. As Sir Francis Bacon said: “God wrote two books. One is Holy Scripture and the other is nature”. They cannot contradict each other. One reveals how God created the Universe and the other reveals why God created the Universe. They do not oppose each other, but complement each other in reviling the beauty and power of our Creator. It is amazing that not a hundred years ago, scientists like Fred Hoyle mocked the primordial atom theory, the Big Bang Theory, first proposed by Fr. George Lemeitre, a Jesuit priest, as nothing but religious propaganda.

Einstein thought that Fr. Lemeitre’s theory was the most beautiful explanation of creation once he looked at the evidence that support Fr. Lemeitre theory.

The key here is openness to evidence. On one had it seems to me that staunch atheists refuse to look beyond their biases about religion and look closer to the cosmological and philosophical evidence for the existence of God on the other hand
Fundamentalists who hold a literalistic interpretation of the Bible refuse to see irrefutable evidence about the age of the universe. Making their faith look un-reasonable to non-believers and in the process alienating people who are searching for truth.

The result of such public debate between these opposing views is that it foments a caricatured notion that there is no place for reason in faith and no place for faith in reason. The history of science as it was developed in the West begs to disagree with such ill informed notion.

“But you have disposed all things by measure and number and weight.”

Wisdom 11:20

This verse from the book of Wisdom, often quoted by St. Augustine in the third century, greatly influenced many thinkers during the early and late Middle Ages. It reveals something about creation. The act of creation was not arbitrary but carefully designed “by measure and number and weight” and thus allowed for the investigation of the world because it argues that the world was created by reason and thereby can be understood by reason. This line of thinking led to the creation of the universities, the scientific method and many scientific fields by the Catholic Church, which ultimately led to the scientific revolution.

Fundamentalist creationists staunch advocacy in favor of young earth creation can be a stumbling block for many because it refuses to accept the evidence and change its position. Perhaps St. Thomas anticipated young creationist postures when he caution about rigid Bible interpretation.

Faith properly understood is reasonable and beautiful because it brings us closer to the good, the beautiful and the true.