Hillary and Donald Are Just Like Me


Yes, I watched the debate.

No, I don’t know much about either candidate.

But I do know that they are just like me. This is how:

When I make promises and do not keep them. When I cheat and steal. When I objectify and lust. When I hoard things and am greedy with money. When I deceive and hide the truth. When I pretend to know what I am doing, and what I am talking about. When I refuse to pray for others and only pray for myself. When I think I am a god and everyone else is deplorable. When I claim to be Catholic Christian, but live like a pagan and heathen. When I say I care, but don’t do anything about it. When I claim to be pro-life but ignore families who need help with their children. When I say we need to help the poor but I live like royalty. When I talk about their flaws but ignore my own. When I call them hypocrites but am just like them.

And that is also why we have the presidential candidates that we do. They reflect who we are as citizens: what we think of, what we do, what we love, what we worship. We will only have better leaders if we ourselves become better, virtuous citizens.

Now that would be a miracle… virtuous citizens…

I Saw The Light Between Oceans

140672CM01B_Trp_Email_LR.pdfAn actress who has become a fast fave of mine is Alicia Vikander. When I saw she was in “The Light Between Oceans,” I knew I should see it. Coupled with Michael Fassbender, and it became something I had been looking forward to for a few months now. And so thankful am I to have not been disappointed. Here are the shining moments of the film:


—–1) As a man, it is difficult for me to relate to the experience of miscarriage. Yet, my heart was pierced and my gut was gutted when I saw the trauma in Isabelle’s (Vikander) two losses. The helplessness of both mother and father as the child comes stillborn, the vulnerability of life, the hopes suddenly spilling, all of it was so cruel and devastating. It helped me think of times my own friends endured such loss, and while I only heard the news after the fact, seeing it portrayed as it happens is terrifying.

Yet, the scene here also shows the irony of intentionally and deliberately terminating unborn children in the womb, aka: abortion. We have couples who are desperate to save their unborn children from miscarriage but are helpless and at the mercy of their infertility, yet then we also have merciless couples desperate to destroy their unborn children. And the only difference between the two kinds of couples is that one truly loves their children, and the other is inconvenienced by them.

the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-002159-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx—–2) On the note of parenthood, Isabelle shares that (paraphrasing): “When a wife loses her husband, she becomes a widow, but when a mother loses her child, she remains a mother always, even if she has no children left. I wonder if I am still a sister, since I have lost my brothers.”

This is such a profound insight that reflects the “till death do you part” vow in true Christian marriage, when spouses vow their fidelity with such determination and faithfulness that only their death might end it. Hence, a surviving wife becomes a widow, or a surviving husband becomes a widower. However, this film demonstrates the permanence of motherhood and fatherhood on many levels.

One level is that Isabelle and Tom (Fassbender) are parents, even with their loss of two stillborn children. Parents are always parents, even if all their children have gone to judgment before them (by whatever means). Parents who loved their lost children must realize however, that the children are not lost, but are waiting for them in the hereafter. Parents should then live so as to strive to be with their children again, to pray for them and ask them for prayers.

Another level is Hannah (Weisz) remains a mother too, despite her thinking her daughter is dead. And we also see that she remains a loving and devoted wife to her lost husband, revealing that though she is a widow, she remains his.

And powerfully foiling Hannah, we see that Isabelle struggles to remain Tom’s. She disowns him for surrendering to justice, and she does not allow herself to love him again until it is almost too late. Eventually, she finds forgiveness and also surrenders to the truth. I was so grateful to see this story go this way, the way of fighting to keep a marriage, to keep a love beating at the moment it has bled out.Alicia-Vikander-in-The-Light-Between-Oceans

—–3) And we see in this story (unlike in Kubo and the Two Strings) that the truth must always and will always have its day. Nothing good, not even a seemingly happy family, can be built on a lie and deception. Tom’s character, so morally formed and conscientious, cannot live with the lie, with keeping a child hidden from her true and loving mother. Tom knows the deception and must right it. Even in the end, Isabelle realizes her love, however honest it is, is flawed when founded on a lie.

In fact, the lie ages and wears down Tom and Isabelle and leaves them childless in the end. Even Isabelle yearns and hopes Hannah could forgive her for the evil she did. This film is dripping with the characters wrestling with the truth and finding out that the truth is alive and far more subtle and cunning than their greatest deceits. Lies die, and then Truth rises up alive.

Most beautifully done, however, is that we see after the truth is respected, the relationships bloom on a sure future. When truth becomes the foundation of love and relations, then it becomes easy and beautiful. The catharsis we see when Lucy-Grace (as a grown woman and mother herself) visits an aged Tom is something that could only have happened with the support of the truth.the-light-between-oceans-michael-fassbender-alicia-vikander-rachel-weisz-349486-r_1920_1080-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx

—–4) Finally, great acts of forgiveness abound in the story; acts so great that even the police question why anyone (in this case, Hannah) would forgive the couple who is suspected of murdering her husband and kidnapping her daughter. But we see that this is how a happy and fulfilled life should be lived. Hannah remembers wise words from her husband (paraphrasing): “It’s too hard to resent, you have to think about it and remember it all the time. It’s tiring. It’s better to forgive so you can live.”

We also see, as mentioned earlier, how Isabelle forgives Tom, and thereby allows them to live a better marriage into old age. However, we must also note that Tom has forgiven Isabelle: for originally insisting they keep the baby and hide the body of Hannah’s husband, for refusing to admit the truth, and for finally revealing the truth even when it meant her conviction and imprisonment. We see here how Tom’s love led him to forgive her all these times, every time.

And that’s exactly it: only love makes it possible to forgive, and if not your own limited love, then for God’s infinite love.

—–BONUS) Two mothers fighting to keep/regain a child… sure reminds me of the case King Solomon once heard (1 Kings 3:16-28). Yet, in “The Light Between Oceans,” we see both women willing to part with the girl when they realized she was better off with the other. How beautiful a twist to put on the renowned Biblical story.

—–Note: I also appreciated the sound baptism and Christian marriage being celebrated, and the chastity portrayed in the couple’s relationship. But religiously, what caught me most was the solemn chanting of prayer in the score when Tom first encountered his daughter’s true mother, and the truth staring him down and demanding him make things right. In the background, a minister’s words about sin, and our mission to oppose it and refuse it, also adds to the theme of the story: A lasting love and family must be built on truth.

Kubo and the Two Stings

kubo-and-the-two-strings-kubo-legenda-samuraizeIt is very easy for me to critique and focus on negatives, so on Holy Smack I try my best to be positive, but sometimes exceptions must be made. This is one of those times. See what I mean here:


—–1) Kubo and the Two Strings (2016) is a movie I really wanted to not only like, but downright love. From the trailer I could tell the artistry of the film was epic. They even had animated origami, which has been a dream for me to see realized on film ever since I wrote scenes of it in Little Miss Lucifer.

But alas, despite how beautiful Kubo is visually (and it really is stunning), the film falls short of a beautiful story. The tale is generic, and lacking catharsis (a smacking-good ending that truly satisfies deep down). When the show ended, I actually could not wait to leave the theater because I was so let down (sting #1).

This taught me that a story must be as compelling and dramatic as the visual effects and cinematography, otherwise it doesn’t have a lasting effect: like a stunning sunrise on busy commuters. As gorgeous as the scene is, people just walk by and get to work as if it was nothing more than a glare off the mirror. They live the rest of the day, and repeat the next morning, with not a care at all about the sunrise, because there was no compelling story accompanying it.torontohenge-sunrise-april-2016

Imagine instead however, if the sunrise coincided with the reunion of long lost lovers, lovers who traversed all night to reunite… if that dawn meant the revival of past love, restarted after decades apart and years of loss: now that’s catharsis. Now that’s a story I want in on.

—–2) What I really liked was the dynamic between mother, father and child. In the film, we saw easily how both the mother and father are essential to Kubo, yet we also see how each contributes in different ways to raising their child. In today’s world, this uniquity of fatherhood and motherhood is being smothered with people who actually think fathers are not necessary, or mothers aren’t special. In reality, every child deserves to have a father and a mother, specifically the very mom and dad who gave them their biological being. Yet, even if this is not the case, a substitute mom and dad should be found for the child. Yes, BOTH an adoptive mom and dad should be sought, since both are vital and can offer things only a mother and a father can.19919315-mmmain

—–3) Lastly, the big lie at the end of the movie is unacceptable (table-flipping unacceptable). We see the entire village dupe Kubo’s amnesiac grandfather into thinking he is a saint, when actually he was a murderer and monster. The reason this does not work is because forgiveness and love will never last when built on a lie. Nothing lasts when it is founded on a lie! It might be nice to lie at first, but in the end, when the truth comes out (it always does), the wound gets even worse because all that friendship and love was a fraud.

This film, by ending this way, seems to be incredibly misleading. It may even think that the only way to forgive someone is to lie to their face and say that the bully, criminal, rapist or murderer is actually a great person! First, this lying does not let the evildoer learn from his mistakes, and also does not let him repent and seek forgiveness and make amends. The lie is only a soggy bandage on a festering sore.


Photo credit: Favim.com

A common line is “Forgive and Forget,” but this is actually inadequate. Imagine: it is easy to forgive someone if you completely forgot they maimed you and thought it was a falling rock instead of them smashing you with a hammer. It is easy to forgive if you forgot your friend backstabbed you with a secret that you confided in them, but instead thought that you had posted the secret online yourself. It is easy because to forget is not real forgiveness (sting #2).

Real forgiveness: you remember exactly what happened, the betrayal, the evil, but you decide to love them enough to forgive them and help them, you love them enough to give your friendship another shot, to let lost trust a chance to heal. And do I wish Kubo had that kind of ending…

—–4) For more thorough and thoughtful reviews on Kubo, please see here and here.


Scary Jesus

jcjudgeenhMost of us are familiar with merciful, loving and forgiving Jesus…

But there is a side of Christ we often overlook, a side that is justice, holiness, judgment, and power. And it is scary, especially for us who love the Lord and do not want to sin.

Here are two things that Jesus says that frightens me (really smack me with holy fear and trembling), because I never want to hear Him say these to me or to those I love:


“Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.‘ (Matthew 7: 21-23, RSV)

Can you tell which part scares me? Yes, the part I italicized and bolded: “I never knew you…”
Think about it: for God Himself to say that He never knew you, you who He created, you who He knew from even before He made the universe, and suddenly He “never knew you.” What does that even mean?

It means that God made us and does know us through and through, better than we know ourselves. But, He made us to be a certain way: He made us to be good, true, beautiful, loving, and holy. But when we choose to live in sin, when we choose to be evil, to be liars, to be disfigured, hateful and wicked, we become unrecognizable to God. He did not make us to be cheaters and murderers and demons. He made us to be His beloved children.

And so, our sins alter who we were destined to be, our sins deprive us of our destiny, and we choose (through our lives of sin) to become disfigured and unfamiliar to God, because we ourselves have become unfamiliar with God and no longer know Him either.

If God, almighty maker Himself does not know us, then who can? I am truly lost if He never knew me. I am truly gone if He tells me to depart. I am truly evil if He calls me that.


“But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.” (Matthew 22:29, RSV)

As for the scary part here: if God Himself says that I am wrong… then I am wrong absolutely. Think about it: the Creator says you are wrong! The sculptor of stars, seas and summits has declared you to be wrong. The omniscient, all-knowing, and infinite mind! I cannot be any more in error if Truth Himself says I err, and since I want to know the truth, to live in the truth, and to be truthful, being so wrong terrifies me.

For me, those are the two most horrific things that Jesus says in Sacred Scripture. I have many favorite, non-scary, lines from the Bible, but those are for another post. For now, just know that we must read God’s Word seriously. When He Himself who made time speaks, His words are forever. When Truth Himself speaks, His words are THE truth.


Judgment Day Jesus

Children of Crime

Quite simply, it is never fair and never just to punish the innocent children of guilty criminals.

If a man or woman are guilty of any crime, why would anyone also jail their uninvolved and innocent children? Think about how absurd this would be, if we as a society and culture punished the children of criminals who had nothing to do with the crime of their parents:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and does not survive the accident himself. Punishment: Throw the man’s daughter in jail and torch her license.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and does not survive the accident herself. Punishment: Throw the woman’s son in jail and torch his license.

Sounds insane, does it not? Yet, it gets crazier still when the criminal survives but his/her innocent child is punished instead! Imagine this:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Throw the man’s daughter in jail and torch his license, but let the man go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Throw the woman’s son in jail and torch his license, but let the woman go free–no questions asked.

Now, mix in the death penalty, and it goes manic-mode:

  1. Crime: Dad gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Execute the man’s daughter, but let the man go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom gets wasted and starts driving on the road. Kills another driver, and survives the accident unscathed. Punishment: Execute the woman’s son, but let the man go free–no questions asked.

Now consider this:

  1. Crime: Dad cheats on Mom. The mistress gets pregnant and carries Dad’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Dad’s daughter, but let Dad and his mistress go free–no questions asked.
  2. Crime: Mom cheats on Dad. Mom gets pregnant and she carries the boyfriend’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Mom’s son, but let Mom and her boyfriend go free–no questions asked.

And does it really make any more sense if this was the case:In Expectation

  1. Crime: Dad rapes a woman. Woman gets pregnant and carries Dad’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Dad’s daughter, but let him live, and the woman no longer needs any help since her problem is gone (please ask questions).
  2. Crime: Mom is raped. Mom gets pregnant and carries the rapist’s child. Punishment: Abort (execute, kill, murder) Mom’s son, but let the man live, and Mom no longer needs any help since her problem is gone (please ask questions).

So how much sense does it make to murder innocent children when their parents are the criminals, the adulterers and adulteresses, the fornicators and betrayers and cheaters? Why slap capital punishment onto guiltless babies when their mothers and/or fathers are responsible for the crime, the evil? Why is abortion even seen as a solution when it butchers innocent babies? And if the parents are innocent victims themselves, why also victimize the children, and how does doing so solve anything?

These are questions we must ask ourselves as a culture and society, because innocent children are dying and their own guilty parents want them to, so they [the parents] can live freely without them, without punishment, and yet… without the chance to learn to love their children.


CNS-LIFE-GENDER — Behind the scenes- the model of a fetus in the womb. On Mother’s Day, one of the most startling broadcasts will be In the Womb on National Geographic Channel. Pictures of unborn infants are not new but this two-hour Brit documentary uses the latest in 3-D scanning technology to provide exceptional images of a baby girl from conception to birth. Her mouth opens, she swallows amniotic fluid, hiccups, learns innate reflexes when startled, seems to recognize familiar voices and music, selects a favourite thumb to suck (at 11 weeks), dreams (but of what?) and generally is awake about 10 per cent of the time. (CP PHOTO/ Alliance Atlantis/ HO) *Calgary Herald Merlin Archive* DATE PUBLISHED THURSDAY, MAY 5, 2005 DATE PUBLISHED THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2005 *Calgary Herald Merlin Archive*FOR CNS LIFE PACKAGE, APRIL 2, 2010


The Conjuring is Conquering

conjuring-posterWhen I first saw The Conjuring (2013) by director James Wan, I knew the film was special in its class. The sequel, The Conjuring 2 (2016), affirms the series’ uniqueness. At the end of my review, I’ll mention the standout point from the first film, but for now, let me share how The Conjuring is conquering its genre.


—–1) In this earlier review here, we learn that the writers for the movie series are devout Christians, and not only that, but are also devout Catholic Christians. Now although all Christians are similar in that we love and follow Jesus Christ, other Christians differ in that they broke away from the Church Jesus originally founded on St. Peter, our Lord’s first pope. Perhaps in a later post I can share more about this schism (to break away), but for now, we see in the film a few examples of why the Catholic Church stands apart from the Christian denominations that broke off from her to start their own churches. The first example is when we see Ed and Lorraine Warren discuss that any work they do must be cleared by “the Church.” And we all know that “the Church” refers to: the Catholic Church. Not the neighborhood community church, or the city central church, etc., but the Catholic Church. This reminds me of a quote from renowned movie critic Roger Ebert:ExorcismMeme

—–2) The second example of the Catholic Church’s primacy is the use and display of crucifixes in the film. Catholics and Orthodox Christians use and prefer crucifixes, and a crucifix is different from a mere cross: crosses do not have the little statue or image of Jesus affixed, but crucifixes do. In the film, we see a room covered in crosses, but the crosses are playthings to the demon. Evil does not fear two sticks glued together. However, when a crucifix comes out, especially when it comes out in the hands of a faithful and prayerful Christian, the demons freak. The key is that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ changes the mere cross into a weapon against sin and Satan. Without Jesus, a cross is merely an instrument of terrorism and torture, but with Jesus’ sacrifice, the cross becomes the beams that crush Hell. Here’s a little meme to summarize:CrossWithChrist

—–3) An extra sign of the Church’s power is in Ed’s use of Latin in his prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. We saw this in the first Conjuring (and in many other exorcism films), and it is reinforced here. To keep this short and sweet: Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, it’s the mother language of Catholics, and whether we know it or not, Latin remains our inheritance. In fact, real exorcists have claimed that Latin prayers have a extra punch to them than prayers in usual languages. Demons seem to despise Latin prayers, perhaps because the only culture that uses Latin in conversation today is the Church. In Latin prayers, the Church converses with her Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s a conversation most worthy of being had. Latin, because no other society uses it conversationally and daily, has become set aside (reserved) for the Church’s prayers. Latin, in a sense, has become holy (set apart, and in this case for serving God).

—–4) Next, it is true demons use fear to destroy us. When we fear, we tend to forget we are actually loved, actually guarded and prized by God and all Heaven. Many of us would do things exactly as the characters in the film: run, hide, scream, cry… and we should! But we should run to Christ! Hide in God’s light! Scream for the Lord’s mercy! Cry to the saints to pray with us, for us, to the Holy Spirit! Demons want us to be so afraid that we forget God, that we doubt He can help, that we dismiss His presence and focus on the demons and the crisis. Instead, we must turn to God immediately. As soon as trouble starts, and even before it starts, whip out your faith and call on Our Father who art in Heaven. In the film, we see Lorraine bust out her rosary when things get crazy. Don’t pay the demon any attention, but shower your gaze on Jesus, invite the Holy Spirit to nuke the sins and the demons. Get into the habit of using troubles as reminders to pray.Be Fearless

—–5) And at last, Janet, the star of the film, says something subtly profound at the end. After the literal Hell she has been dragged through by the demon, she believes she is so lucky! She actually says, “I’m so lucky!” and is not being sarcastic! She sees that all the terrors have been a way for God to lead her to love, to lead her to know two amazing and faithful friends in Lorraine and Ed. The evil was wicked and deadly, but God somehow knows how to work the horrors for Janet and her family’s benefit in the end. This is also true for the Warrens, when we see them realize that God has given Lorraine her gifts, and has allowed her to see the terrifying visions in order to help her save Ed and Janet from death. Most importantly, it must be said that we believe God never causes any evil, but He does permit evil to happen when we humans or when spirits (angelic or demonic) choose to commit evil out of our own free will. He might limit some of the consequences of our sins, out of His mercy, but He does permit us to use our free will, and only He knows how to set things up for our benefit. We must trust Him and do our best to do His will. To find out why God would take such a risk to let us have free will, please see this post.the_conjuring_-_uk_1757631a

—–And about the first Conjuring film: there was one line that jumped out at me. The mother in the film, after learning that the demon harassing her is the damned spirit of a woman who murdered her own child, says: “What kind of mother would kill her own children?” As soon as I heard this, I thought immediately of the millions of children aborted because their parents did not want them, did not love them enough to share life with them. The numbers are sobering: over 55 million children in America have been aborted since 1973, over 336 million Chinese babies have been aborted since the 1980s. And if you don’t really know what an abortion is and how traumatizing and violent it is for the mother and child, please see the abortion procedures here. So the question from the first film is actually pointing a finger at us as a nation, as a culture: what kind of society kills its own children?

—–The Conjuring 2 was a treat. It’s rare in film to see faith presented, the Church respected, and at the same time not in a cheesy lame way. I am grateful I got to see the film, and to share my thoughts. May God bless you and all those involved in the film in any way. Amen!

—–For a thoughtful and much more thorough review, please see Dcn. Steven Greydanus’ here.patrickwilsonconjuring2

Child Will Miss This

Child will miss this,
Will miss wind on her skin,
Miss this air lifting her cries,
Whisping her voice to the skies.

Child will miss sun on her hair,
Warming each strand
As Mother’s hands braid
And comb them into a crown.

Dad will miss the sound
Of Child’s laughter,
The only sound that
Blooms into music in life hereafter.

Child will miss Brother and Sister,
Will miss the rivalry
And the revelry of sharing
Family together.

Child will miss this world
As much as the world is deprived
Of who Child could have been
If only Child had not died
While yet inside

Mother misses Child,
As her tears have testified.
And Dad prays for Child,
Never to neglect.

Brother and Sister neither forget
Their friend,
Though they have never met,
They long a reunion

Perhaps in dream and pondering,
Merely wandering their fantasies
At who Child could have been
If Child were named rather than maimed.

Child will miss herself,
Will miss discovering her life
And miss knowing the love
We were meant to give her.


Evan Pham – May 12, 2016 – In honor and memory of children, motherhood, fatherhood, and siblinghood lost to abortion.