The Snow Children: Human Life from Zygote to Zombie

SnowChildrenSince completing my MA Theology thesis on Our Lady of the Eschaton, I just thought I’d finally get around to sharing the thesis from my past B. Philosophy studies as a seminarian (2015), fully titled The Snow Children: Human Life from Zygote to Zombie.

That’s right: I used the word zombie in my thesis title (I considered posting a picture of zombies here, for effect… but am afraid it would have been a tad too effective in the wrong direction).

The thesis is about the consequences and controversies behind freezing human embryonic persons–namely how are they actually persons, and how should we care for them? And there are perhaps millions of them, frozen and forsaken.

If that sounds interesting, it’s because it is! And very important as medical science continues to creep on human rights and the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. So take a look for yourself at my attempt to tackle this question philosophically (not theologically, though that can be done as well and in a different post).

*May our Blessed Mother watch over these poor banished children, forgotten in storage.

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Our Lady of the Eschaton

OLOEI could have graduated with my MA Theology last year. I could have been done with everything way sooner. But because I overlooked a few things (like taking enough credits), my thesis defense was yesterday, and my commencement was today: April 28th, 2018–also the feast day of St. Louis de Montfort.

The same saint who I based my thesis work on (his True Devotion text is a must for any serious Catholic Christian).

The saint I once dismissed as a mushy Mama’s boy.

The saint who helped me know our heavenly Mother in a deeper way.

Not a coincidence.

In hindsight, this seems quite obvious. After all, I had handfuls of strange, mystical-like experiences with our Lady, for five years I carried a mini-statue of Our Lady of La Vang to all my classes throughout seminary and the Masters program, and my wall is an iconostasis of Marian icons and images.

And to think I was once unsure what I would research and write about for my thesis!

Our Lady of the Eschaton: The Blessed Virgin Mary’s Mission in the End Times According to St. Louis de Montfort, is posted here for you to peruse and enjoy. Like the title says, it’s about Mary’s Second Coming at the end of time. That’s right… it’s about the big bad end of the world and how Mary has a role in it.

Got your attention yet?

If not, here’s more: the devil is trying to stop Mary, and he’s trying to trick you into doing his dirty work.

*click here to find out more*

Blessings this Feast of St. Louis de Montfort!

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Her Creation

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Unveiled from man’s side,
From Adam’s blood and bone, arise.
Arrive as a dream prevailed
From lonesome nightmare,
From solitude of despair.

Warmth of his breath,
Beat of his breast:
From your lungs come song,
Your bosom come milk and rest.

Your halo of hair, man longs
To wander as forests of Eden,
To gaze deep, combing for stars,
Diving deep, steeped in reefs,
Wading the seabed’s scars.

Light of his sight,
Vision of his mission:
In your eyes he finds purpose,
To guard your soul unto Heaven.

Your womb: a room, a haven
For his love and your love,
For My love to beget new children:
New Adams and New Eves,
All new keys to My Kingdom.

Face of his faith,
Love of his life:
His love and fidelity to thee
Are signs of his hope, love, and faith in Me.

Be loved, beloved daughter,
Accept him as My gift
Bestowed from My power, for your honor.
Unveil to him your beauty:
His reminder to pay any price for Paradise.

By Evan Pham . Sept 29, 2016 . Michaelmas

Masterpiece

Our Lady of La Vang

I am the most brutal critic of cheesy Christian art.

We are beautiful. The angels and saints are beautiful. Our Lady is beautiful. Our Lord is beautiful. All because God is beauty itself.

So when I see a piece of art that fails to capture at least 1% of that true and infinite beauty, I get into a fury. My soul aches at the injustice. I have seen countless statues worth smashing, paintings worth torching, icons worth dissolving in acid, and songs never worth listening to again. You could say I’m almost an iconoclastic heretic…

Except I cherish the truly beautiful images of our Faith. And Beauty should do just that: draw us away from heresy.

With that said, let me feature a work worthy of Our Lady of La Vang (aka: Our Lady of Vietnam), one that captures the seriousness and royalty of Mary as Christ’s (and our) Queen Mother, one that shows the sweet Child Jesus as exactly that: sweet. This one masterpiece finally cancels out the tons of horrid images of Our Lady of La Vang that I have suffered through (of which I will spare you from).

OLLaVang

Drawing by Tracy L. Christianson, prints available from PortraitsOfSaints.com

The little statue in the photo is a decent sculpture of Our Lady of La Vang, and I am so grateful to the artists who have given their talents to doing some justice for the beauty of our Lord and Lady. Please support Tracy in her ongoing work by ordering your own prints, by praying for her, and all these artists who have shared their work here on HolySmack.

Oh Mary, conceived without sin, please pray for all your artists, for they have recourse to thee. Amen.

Freakin Freakonomics

freakonomics_movie_2010_freecomputerdesktopwallpaper_16001The popular Freakonomics book really does have some great insights into our world. Though I did not read the text, I did watch the film version, and I found it rewarding, then disturbing…. Here’s why:

The authors’ analysis on the steep crime drop of the 1990’s is enormously inaccurate. I post here, for your viewing convenience, their segment on the fallen crime rate:

So there you have it! The reason is simple math: the less unwanted babies who are born, the less people who may potentially become criminals! Put another way: subtracting unwanted children in the past equals less unwanted adults in the future, which means less criminals and crime! Voila!

800x-1But Freakonomics fails–it fails to mention that at least 50 million murders have occurred in America alone to force this false peace. And when murders occur, murderers are always nearby, and our culture is full of them.

So, there is not a drop in crime in America. There is actually a surge, a flood in murders, a genocide against children whose only fault was that their parents and their culture did not love them enough. The crime rate has never dropped; murder was only legalized and disguised.

What a tragedy of a nation when it believes that unwanted people are better off dead, just because they might become criminals, when actually, those who believe and live such a lie are the criminals themselves! Unwanted children are none other than unloved children, and all unlovers are also known as haters.

And since when did murder and hate become prime solutions to crime in America?

Since January 22nd, 1973.

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*In dedication to, and in defense of, the millions of Holy Innocents who have been massacred by the Herod-like.

The Worthy War for the Planet of the Apes

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-launch-quad-finalTrilogies have a history of falling short in the last movie; even the Dark Knight trilogy’s third film didn’t measure up to its predecessors. But, it is safe to say that War for the Planet of the Apes is the crown of the rebooted franchise. Going into the trilogy with Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the films were decent and well done, but not compelling to me. But War is very worthy. Here’s why:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Hands down, my favorite character in the trilogy is Nova. She is the young girl whom the apes adopt after orphaning her. Her name itself is full of meaning: not only does it allude to the Nova of the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, but it alludes to the Nova Eva, the “New Eve”, which is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve whereas Christ is the New Adam. I suppose the name for the girl hints at her role as the new humanity, though with poignant irony (watch this video)…
  2. The girl carries the Simian Flu virus which has advanced ape brain and speech development while killing human hosts. In War, the very contagious virus has evolved to also debilitate speech and higher cognition in surviving human populations. This means the girl has become mute, and her beautiful rational mind has regressed to a primitive and lowly state. In other words, the Nova Eva is less human, the New Eve is a degenerated girl, the new humanity has become a sub-rational animal. This is even more tragic when Maurice (the ape who first and most advocates for her care) says to the girl when she asks if she is one of the apes: “You are Nova”… you are New. But we know that her newness actually means a regression of her full humanity (she is so degenerated that she even neglects her dead human father, not mourning or responding to her loss).
  3. Nova’s muteness struck me very deeply, since she wasn’t born mute but was rendered mute by the virus, since she became deprived of her speech and reason. Watching her try to speak, hearing her pathetic squeaks, and her dead voice unable to sound: this helped me see how precious is our gift of speech. As an English major with a small background in linguistics and one who loves to teach the Faith, how often have I taken my speech and thinking for granted. How many times have I misused and abused these gifts, speaking lies, evil, hurt, and hatred when I could have spoken truth, goodness, aid, and love? How often have I wasted my intellect on the superficial, the mediocre, and the stupid when I could have focused on the profound, the transcendent, and the wisdom of God?Nova
  4. But that’s where Nova is unique among all the trilogy: she is the only significant “she” in the entire series. No other female characters have carried the story, and her character’s feminine genius shines where no male character could. Though compromised in her thought and speech, her heart and soul survives without the baggage of a fallen mind (a sinful mind). This allows her to have incredible courage driven by her love for her friends, especially for Caesar who we can see she is wary of because of his initial coldness toward adopting her. Her courage, her care, and her nurturing help Caesar survive, and even help bring down the Colonel who threatens ape and infected human alike.
  5. In the Colonel and Caesar, we see a number of Biblical allusions: from the Colonel saying he was willing to sacrifice his only son to save humanity, and his crucifixion of apes, and the crosses he wears and gestures, to Caesar playing a Moses role for the apes. However, the most prominent Biblical gestures involves the Colonel’s mad attempt to wipe out the virus and Caesar’s sinfulness:
  6. The Colonel, in trying to kill and cull all the infected humans, reminds us of the Great Flood as an attempt to show us that even if all evil people were drowned, our fallen nature would persist because we are all fallen. The only way to drown evil is for Christ to drown it within ourselves, to drown it in His precious blood and water, drowning it with true and sacrificial love. And this must be done for as long as we live. Killing and culling the innocent will never save anyone, because the murderers always lose themselves in the killing and culling. We see this play out for the Colonel who ultimately contracts the virus himself.f6e3d832330642c6b9828da378b2a729_7e9007f462214af490bb432418b8b602_header
  7. And we see this in Caesar when he realizes that the ghost of Koba (the ape who turned on Caesar and plunged the ape and human worlds into relentless war) is in his own mind, and that he is like Koba, not above unforgiveness and evil. Because Caesar seeks vengeance against the Colonel, he exposes himself to further attack. becomes wounded, and ultimately is unable to enter the Promised Land with his tribe after a long desert journey (an Exodus) and the drowning of the enemy’s soldiers in a scene that mirrors the Red Sea. This echoes Moses’ prohibition from entering Canaan, as a penalty for his disobedience and arrogance.
  8. The film closes with us seeing that neither the human nor the ape world is perfect. Both are fallen creatures in a fallen world, but in the character of Nova, we see that we need not stay fallen. We can become new in the New Eve and the New Adam, and enter the New Promised Land: the New Heaven and New Earth.
  9. For another review with a Catholic mindset, please see Dcn. Greydanus’ take.
  10.  And don’t forget this excellent insight showing the Biblical side of the film. e86bb895d339a574b84cf0c77904f8173f9c79c9

The Better Beauty and the Beast

large_tnml0g604pdrjwgj5fsusykfo9After months of fasting from watching the latest Disney live-action remake, I finally got to look over Emma Watson’s most anticipated film. And actually, after all the negative views I’ve read on it, I still walked away with some surprises. This version of the 1991 classic is slower paced, and not as compelling (some scenes actually bored me enough for me to pull out my phone and check the news, waiting for the lame parts to pass). It’s lacking musical beauty, the CGI was sub-par, and the story is too top heavy, trying desperately to out-do its origin by adding tacky changes. From the start, this remake was in trouble since it was trying to perfect an already perfect original, and you just can’t fix what ain’t broke. Instead of trying desperately to improve, they should have desperately tried to honor the original. But despite these failures, here are some things I appreciated more than I thought I would, and things I think you never noticed:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Right from the get go, I noticed the fly-by camera in the opening Disney Castle logo sequence. I wondered and replayed it, and took a screenshot. Here’s what I saw:StMikeDisneyThat’s right! Atop the Disney Castle logo in this film (it’s usually a flag in other films) is a gold statue of St. Michael defeating Satan. And then at the end of the film, when the curse is broken and the Beast’s castle transformed, we see yet another gold statue of St. Michael, transformed from a gargoyle into the Archangel slaying the evil one. This leads me to wonder why Disney and the director (Bill Condon) okayed these clearly traditional Christian images, especially in a film that was supposedly designed in some scenes to push immoral same-sex relationships. Could it be that despite the attempts at evil, St. Michael was snuck in to show that Mickey and company belongs to St. Michael and company?6f17a9903a9e5487675b308eec8e8f28-hamburg-germany-munich
  2. Continuing the peculiar positive portrayal of the Church is the reverend/priest in the movie, who Belle meets with regularly to borrow his books. Granted that not many were literate in that time, it’s still strange to change Belle’s connection to literature from being with a bookstore (in the 1991 version) to a Catholic priest in the remake. And how do we know it’s a Catholic priest? Because there’s a giant crucifix statue, and Protestants and Orthodox don’t use crucifixes or statues. Also, the setting is France: a traditional stronghold of Catholicism (think St. Joan of Arc).
  3. Beast also has an almost throw-away line rebutting Lumiere’s claim of Belle being “the one” for Beast. Beast says: “there’s no such thing as the one.” This immediately reminded me of the correct understanding of love and marriage without the false fantasy of fate that negates freedom, without the this-was-meant-to-be lies. Blogger and author Matt Walsh explains this hilariously and clearly in this article: My Marriage Wasn’t Meant To Be. Here’s an excerpt (but seriously read it all):

    We think that our task is to find this preordained partner and marry them because, after all, they’re “The One.” They were designed for us, for us and only us. It’s written in the stars, prescribed in the cosmos, commanded by God or Mother Earth. There are six or seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the right one, we think, and we’ll stay single until we happen to stumble into them one day.

    And when that day happens, when The One — our soul mate, our match, our spirit-twin — comes barreling into our lives to whisk us off our feet and take us on canoe rides and deliver impassioned romantic monologues on a beach in the rain or in a bus station or whatever, then we’ll finally be happy. Happy until the end of time. We can get married and have a perfect union; a Facebook Photo Marriage, where every day is like an Instragam of you and your spouse wearing comfortable socks and sitting next to the fireplace drinking Starbucks lattes.

    Yeah. About that. It’s bull crap, sorry. Not just silly, frivolous bull crap, but bull crap that will destroy you and eat your marriage alive from the inside. It’s a lie. A vicious, cynical lie that leads only to disappointment and confusion. The Marriage of Destiny is a facade, but the good news is that Real Marriage is something so much more loving, joyful, and true.

    We’ve got it all backwards, you see. I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

    Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

    God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

  4. And now the question of freedom and love: Beast finally learns this when he frees Belle from being his prisoner, even though she has become a willing prisoner. Being yet not fully free, her love is unable to be true, and his love is prevented from maturing also. But once Beast let’s Belle leave, once he allows himself to lose and become incredibly vulnerable to Belle’s rejection and abandonment, only then does Belle’s return mean anything. This insight isn’t unique to this remake, but is also in the original, and is a timeless truth about how love becomes true love. It reminds us that only a heart that can break is an honest heart, a real heart. And when Beast accepts his broken heart for love of Belle and her freedom and dignity, then does love truly bless and bloom, not wilt as the cursed rose.beauty_and_the_beast_emma_watson_rose
  5. That’s all I have to say about the remake. For more about the 1991 original masterpiece and all the bursting Christian and biblical symbols in it, please see Beauty and the Beast and the Bible. Finally, it should be obvious that I believe the better Beauty and the Beast is certainly not this remake. Sorry fans. Everything that was good in this version was already in the original.
  6. For another, more thoughtful review, please see here.

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