Beauty and the Beast and the Bible

BeautyBeastPosterLike most typical American kids, I grew up with Disney movies in my DVD collection. Some films are great, some were great, and some are just trash.

Beauty and the Beast (B&B) is great. I’m sure you already know that if you’ve seen it. But here are some details you may not have noticed:

1) The prologue is narrated in stained-windows… stained-windows… reminds you of what? What kind of buildings have stained-windows? For what building was stained-glass invented for? If you said castles or palaces, then you’re partially correct. The answer: Christian Castles/Palaces — aka: churches.

2) The Rose is the main motif in the movie, especially a rose that seems to countdown. If that doesn’t hint at the ROSARY (which is a bouquet of prayers we offer to Our Lord’s Blessed Mother), then I don’t know what does!

the-assumption-of-the-virgin-16703) Speaking of the Blessed Mother, what colors do Belle wear? Did you know that light blue and white are Marian colors? Notice that the majority of traditionally colored Mary statues and icons show her to be wearing blue and white.

4) Shortly after we meet Belle, she stops where and sings to what? She stops at a fountain, and she tells a story in song to a little lamb. A fountain is like a well, and in Sacred Scripture, it’s typically the place a man and woman have a significant meeting (recall Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman). Well, in B&B, we see Belle singing to the lamb: “She doesn’t discover that it’s HIM till chaper 3…”

This is significant because Jesus had to be revealed to the Samaritan Woman, had to be discovered. And three is a convenient number that not only rhymes, but symbolizes the third day after Jesus’ death — when His Resurrection is discovered by Mary Magdalene. Also, Jesus is the prince in disguise!

BelleLambAnd what does a lamb symbolize in Christianity? “Agnus Dei…” which means “Lamb of God…” which means Jesus.

And Belle is Mary, and Mary is the God-bearer, and God is love… so Belle carries love.

Betcha never connected that “Mary had a little lamb… little lamb… little lamb. Mary had a little lamb whose wool was white as snow” is talking about the Blessed Mother who has a Son who is innocent and pure.

And in B&B, everyone thinks Belle is such a strange, funny girl, such an odd girl unaware of her own beauty. Well, Mary is odd too! She was immaculately conceived, and no one else was. She would obviously have been singled out as exceptional and strange and completely oblivious to how beautiful she is (because of her humility). Oh, oh, oh! You don’t know you’re beautiful! Oh, oh, oh! That’s what makes you beautiful!

BeautyBeast5) What about what causes the prince in B&B to be cursed? Wouldn’t that be the sin of pride? Being spoiled, selfish, unkind… and pride causes us to be isolated to the point that we curse ourselves. Pride was the Original Sin, and it caused us to be disfigured, naked, ashamed, lonely and doomed to die. And so after the prince commits this sin, he becomes a beast: ugly, naked, ashamed, lonely, and doomed to die.

6) Our sin never affects us in isolation. Sin is like contagion: it spreads. And so Adam and Eve’s sin caused all of us and the rest of Creation to crash and burn. In B&B, the curse spreads throughout the castle, infects the servants, the forest, the world around the property. Sin is never personal; it affects everyone eventually.

BeautyBeastBalcony7) And only what can redeem Beast and his servants? Only if he truly loves and is truly loved in return, right? And doesn’t Belle bear that love? She’s the one to break the spell… she must give her love to him, must give her word to him. Notice later in the film that it’s only when Belle says she loves him is the curse busted. This is so symbolic of Mary’s fiat to the Archangel Gabriel, when she said “let it be…”

8) At the ball, notice the colors of Belle’s gown: yellow and white. Those are the colors of Mother Church, the Bride of Christ, the redeemed. The colors of the Vatican flag hint at this.

PiercedSide9) When Gaston (whatta jerk…) attacks Beast, where does he stab him? In the side! The right side! Take a look at any crucifix and you’ll see that’s exactly where Jesus was pierced (John 19:34).

10) Then, when Beast dies in Belle’s arms… it looks a lot like the Pieta.

11) And earlier when Beast released Belle after the ball, he in effect accepted sin (the curse) and death. Recall Beast’s response when his servants warn him of the mob’s approach: “It doesn’t  matter, just let them come.” This is a bit similar to when Jesus accepted our sin (though he was sinless) and accepted His impending death, even death on a cross.

12) But true love breaks the spell (remember that God is love). After Mary gives her fiat, God is allowed to intervene (allowed to love) at the ground level of our humanity to redeem us through the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. And in B&B, after Belle’s fiat, we see Beast rise from the dead in glorious light. His body shines forth as a glorified body. This is totally an allegory in the movie for the Resurrection of Christ!BelleLoves

13) And Beast’s salvation also saves the whole castle (transforms all the gargoyle’s too!), all his servants and the world around him.

Bonus) Beast can be seen as a Christ figure, in that Jesus is also known as the Lion of Judah, an idea that C.S. Lewis used when writing the character Aslan in his Chronicles of Narnia.

Aslan

So there you have it, 13 or so details I noticed one day while re-watching this classic.

First Year Seminarian

Two months ago, I crossed the finish line of my first year as a seminarian (aka: full time discerner of my vocation). Since then, it’s been hectic gearing up for and going on summer travels. In the year since I entered seminary, so much has happened in so little a time span that I’m tempted to think nothing happened at all. But now that I’m in a bit of a slowdown in between summer travels and events, here are some positives that I have to share:

1) I lived childhood shyly. I lived adolescence even shier. But then my twenties saw an outspoken Evan, and today I am more confident than ever before. I don’t know exactly what happened in this first seminarian year, but I can stomach the butterflies in my stomach a lot easier, and that jittery heart is much calmer now. (Yes! I don’t have a heart problem, after all!)

2) The Church loves her seminarians. I never knew how much until now. I have been so spoiled with support, prayers and pick-me-ups, sincere friendships with other seminarians and with priests, chances to waste time regularly with Jesus, and plenty opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. I have to be careful not to take these for granted.

Jumile3) I got to travel to Mexico for six weeks for pilgrimage (Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe!), language and culture learning, and witnessing to others. I literally did not know I was being sent there until last December! And now, I know that Spanish is more challenging to me than Latin (or Chinese or Vietnamese)!  I also know that I have friends there who I was very blessed to meet. Oh, and I even know that little bugs called jumiles taste just like mint leaves. Yum!SHMS Mexico

NameTag4) I have met more people this past year than probably in the last five! Thus one of my weaknesses has been revealed: I have a hard time remembering names and faces. I really need to have a lengthy and personal conversation with someone before it clicks in place. (Please don’t take it personally!)

5) I move from place to place pretty painlessly. When I first moved into the seminary, I was pretty sad, not just because I missed home and my family, but more so because I hated the thought of my family being lonesome after I left. But, they were okay I think. And so, when I went to Mexico, I didn’t really get homesick for the States. And when I returned to the States, it felt like I never even left. I just shrugged and got back into the swing of things. It really does not feel like I was there, and when I left the seminary for summer break, I found it hard to believe I lived there for eight months. It all still feels more like a weekend retreat… hmm…

DarkKnightOST6) I love exercising, especially to the roar of Hanz Zimmer’s Dark Knight scores when I bike or run… and to the bass of dubstep/EDM when I do weights. Yes… I didn’t know this about myself until I found myself staying in the seminary gym for almost four hours one night (the music was on repeat, and apparently I was too).

7) Got a lot left to learn about prayer and how to keep it up regularly.

8) And finally, I realized that I need to go onto year two and keep discerning the priesthood and growing in the Christian life.

RomanCollar

 

Sed Libera Nos a Malo

DeliverUsFromEvil“But Deliver Us from Evil…”

And does Deliver Us from Evil deliver?

I love a good exorcism story. But over the last few decades, they’ve been less and less original. My favorite is still Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose (yes, I prefer it over the original Exorcist).

This latest film from Derrickson wasn’t bad at all, but it did leave me feeling disappointed. No one in the film industry seems to know what to do next with the genre (which is why I wrote Little Miss Lucifer); the same story runs over and over. Hey Hollywood! It’s getting a bit redundant!

But let’s focus for now on the positives from Deliver Us:

1) It’s Catholic. The director himself, in a lengthy interview, admits that he “has nothing but love for Catholicism” and would convert if it weren’t for one reason: he doesn’t know how to raise his kids Catholic. So, here’s to praying he finds out how!

St. Benedict Medal2) It boldly features the Medal of Saint Benedict! Today is the Memorial of Saint Benedict! I have more and more friends who sport the Medal of St. Benedict. If you want to know more, check out this page (note: the medal bears exorcising properties.)

3) It calls out anti-Catholic stereotypes, especially about priests. No priest is perfect, just like no police officer is perfect, just like no person is perfect: “Every saint has a past — every sinner has a future.”

4) It takes the Sacrament of Confession dead seriously: meaning that if you’re going to battle the devil’s tricks and temptations, you must be free from your tainted history, and the only one who can liberate you from your guilt and lies is Jesus Christ. Confession is not only for healing, but also for shielding!

5) And of course, the Latin!

ExorcismMeme

The Romance Tongue

VaticanAnd when I say Romance, I mean as in relating to Rome, as in the Roman tongue, aka: Latin.

The Roman Catholic Church [aka: the Latin Church] still uses Latin today. Sure, it causes some to wonder why, and causes others to be suspicious. After all, isn’t Latin a dead language? Does anyone even understand it anymore? Why keep up with it when it’s irrelevant?

Well, I’ve heard many of those thoughts throughout the years, and I’ve had many of those years to reflect and pray about it. Here’s what I think:

1) Latin is Mother Church’s language. I mean, wouldn’t you wanna know the language your own momma speaks? Don’t you love her? It’s a part of your heritage, your legacy! (Which explains why I love learning Chinese, academically and for fun.) If you don’t know a lot of Latin, at least know how to goo-goo-gah-gah in Latin, and lip-sync some of her favorite love songs!

2) Latin isn’t so much a dead language as it is a language that has been left alive for one thing, and one thing only: worshiping God. Think about it: we use common languages (like English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Afrikaans, etc.) for common things. We use those languages to work, to curse, to joke, to love, to hurt, to heal, etc. When we use any language well, then it’s all good. But we can also easily use those languages to harm… except we can’t really use Latin to harm! Not enough of us know it well enough to use it for evil. And so Latin’s limited use has left it off limits to common use/abuse, and has dedicated it now as a custom-made language for praying and serving God.

3) Common languages (aka: vernacular languages) are changing constantly. Words in English have changed since Shakespeare. Styles of Chinese have evolved since the Oracle Bones. They change because people use them, and people change. But God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Latin today symbolizes our unchanging God superbly, because Latin does not change! It hasn’t changed since the Roman Empire went to ruin. And now it’s not going to change anymore because it’s a “dead” language: what a Latin prayer meant 1,000 years ago means the same today, and always. Whereas maybe 100 years from now English will be too different to even read an English dictionary!

The Latin Missal4) I cherish being able to pray in Latin. I pride myself in learning new Latin hymns and prayers by heart because it humbles me. I love it because it’s like the trust-game: even though I don’t understand every word and nuance of the Latin prayer, I do know that Mother Church has been praying this way and teaching us these prayers for centuries, and countless saints have said the same prayers, and it worked for them! It teaches me to trust my Church, my Faith, and pray the way she has prayed to her Lord and Savior for ages and ages.

5) Lastly, if some exorcists claim that the demon corrects them when they stumble through Latin in the Ritual, then who am I to think Latin is inferior?! Hell don’t care if English prayers are mispronounced, but mutter a Latin error and the devils go out of their way to correct you while you’re thrashing them??? I don’t know exactly why, but that just means there’s something about Latin you just don’t mess with or brush off. After all, some exorcists even claim that the prayers in Latin are just more effective.

So there you have it: five little reasons why I like to have some Latin in my pocket and in my prayers.

P.s. Did I mention that dinosaur names are in Latin?

[Tyrannosaurus Rex!]

[Tyrannosaurus Rex!]

Why Chant Can’t Speed Up

Canto GregorianoWhen I first encountered Gregorian Chant in the Catholic Mass, it felt like a serenade for my soul. The music massaged my anxiety away, and I knew right away I wanted more chant in the masses I went to, more chant in the prayers I prayed, more chant in my life.

So what did I do? What I usually do when I find treasure — I shared it with others as fast and as much as I could.

I started by teaching Tantum Ergo to the kids in the youth group. Yes, it was all in Latin. Yes, they took to it easily and faster than I thought they would. And yes, it was slow, paced, and measured.

But why exactly is Christian chant so slooooooow? Why do we draw out the Kyrieeeeeeeeeee eleison (among others)? Why do we take our time and pronounce everything carefully, tediously…

Well, it’s the same reason why lovers can talk for hours. When you love someone, you don’t rush through conversations, you don’t speed through hellos and blitz through farewells, you don’t sing to each other just to get it over with. You savor it!

You take it slow, show them you care, take the time to make it clear and meaningful.

When you encounter beauty, you want to stay in it. Nobody brushes off a stunning sunset. Nobody forgets a special smile. But everybody wants to prolong their exposure to beauty, to stall and relish in it — get absorbed into it.

And that’s why chant can’t speed up. Because we’re singing to our Beloved, because we’re humming to Him with the saints in Heaven, because we’re steeping in His glory and beauty.

Even toddlers know Gregorian chant is just different — and dare I say…  just better.

So next time you’re at a Mass with chant done right, don’t just listen… but feel the music. It’s prayer with texture.

 

Is Chant Still a Thing?

[YOU BET it is!]

Pentecost — aka: Holy-Spirit-Smack-Down-Day!

To celebrate Pentecost this year, may I present the new Holy Smack logo! On the first Pentecost of the Church (2,000 years ago), the Holy Spirit zapped the Apostles with the grace of God and sent them throughout the world to spread the Gospel and increase the Church. Today, the successors of those first few bishops (yes, all the Apostles were bishops — Judas included [may God have mercy on us all]) have continued spreading the Gospel and increasing the Church*

HolySmackPentecost

[May the Holy Spirit smack you in the Faith and break down the darkness.]

*World Youth Day — just one teeny, weeny, itty, bitty way the Gospel has spread and the Church has increased:

WYD in Rome, 2000

You Are What You Eat

Most of us know this as a fact: if we eat unhealthy food, then we become unhealthy. But the reverse is true too! The more healthy food we eat, the healthier we become. Everything we consume becomes a part of us. We are actually made of bits of bánh phở, nem nướng, strawberries, sushi, black sesame gelato, pizza, katsu don and everything else we have eaten before. It sounds funny, but it is very true that you can trace the origin of certain proteins and lipids within you to your breakfast bacon last month!

So then, ask yourself: what do you want to be made of?

Do you want to be made of just bacon grease? Just rice? Just cheese? (Don’t get me wrong – I love cheese, but I do not want to be cheesy!)

Of course not. And we’re all made of a complex combination of the things we eat. But of all those varieties, what is the most amazing thing? What are we made of that nothing else is made of, that not even most people are made of?

We are made of God.

And not merely made of His love either (everything is made of that)…

[Click on the Crib for Shane Kapler's Blog]

[Click on the Crib for Shane Kapler's Blog]

But for you, ever since you started receiving Holy Communion, your body has been being rebuilt by True Food and True Drink. Don’t take my word for it, but take The Word for it, when Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John, Chapter Six – He tells us we must eat His holy flesh and drink His holy blood (John 6: 35-67).

Jesus is God, and God made us (body and soul). He knows how our bodies work, and He wants us to be like Him – exactly like Him, made of Him. The fancy word for this is “divinization” or “theosis”, and God wanted this for us since the Beginning. God always meant for us to be like Him, so stop falling for the serpent’s original lie (Genesis 3: 5) and realize that when we Catholic Christians follow Jesus, we also must follow His diet for us. He wants our mortal flesh to be made of His eternal flesh, because then we are not only adopted children of God, but actual children of God!

Let me take this reflection a bit further: what we eat and how we eat also changes our spirit. We notice this most during Lent when we set aside sweets, meats, and other treats. In this way, we exercise our will power, our self-mastery, our spiritual muscle (which is always more challenging to train). So when we live according to the Jesus Diet – when we live the Eucharistic Day – we also let the Lord remake our souls. It takes real will-power, self-mastery and spiritual biceps to live the Eucharistic Day, but all good workouts are worth it in the end.

DNALastly, let me take this even further still: if we are made of Jesus, and Jesus receives all His flesh and DNA from Mary (and He was nourished in infancy by Mary), then it must be that we receive not only Jesus in the Eucharist, but also our Queen of Heaven and Earth. Yes, Mary is with us always as we try to live for her Son. She is so intimately and uniquely near Jesus that she is even here in the Eucharist. So, if we struggle to live the Eucharistic Day, if we need a boost, we must remember that she is here to help us. Jesus gave her to us, and He will always back her up.

 

[Originally written April 28, 2014: for the Northeast Region Youth Leaders of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society in America.]