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.

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Scripture Study Tools

prologus_ioanni_vulgata_clementinaSt. Jerome: if you don’t know anything about him, here’s all you need to be properly introduced:

Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.

That’s right. If you don’t know the Bible, you don’t know God. That doesn’t mean you have to know everything in Scripture, but it does mean you should be reading the Word, thinking on it, praying with it, and starting your journey. This is standard for all Catholic Christians, especially if we work with teaching others the faith. Over the years of being a TNTT youth leader and trainer, I’ve come to realize this as more and more true (I see it especially when reviewing countless post-camp assignments). So, to help, may I recommend these resources (in addition to the TNTT workbooks) for you and your beloved seedlings, searchers, companions, knights, and fellow leaders.

The original Christian Bible is a small library of 73 select books, books specifically selected by people inspired by God. The Old Testament was assembled by the ancient Jews, the New Testament by the Church Fathers, and the Christian Canon of Scripture was determined by the Church Fathers also. Every Christian owes it to these people who chose these books, which is why we read only these 73 today, and not the other rejected books. You can find more on the Bible’s history and deeper meanings here:

Handouts to prepare for: Seedlings (AN), Seekers (TN), Companions (NS), and Knights (HS)

  1. The 2nd Edition Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition (RSV-CE). I love this Bible… the leather bound and hardcover versions are bomb.
  2. Study Bible of the 2nd Ed. RSV-CE, aka: the Ignatius Study Bible. For now, only the New Testament is available in one volume. The Old Testament is being put together right now, and so is only available in individual issues (I have the Genesis issue, which is amazing… I used it to create HTDT based on the whole Torah/Pentateuch). Dr. Scott Hahn is one of the faithful minds behind this study Bible.256x256bb
  3. Free app to read the whole Bible with interactive and in-depth commentary from the Church Fathers. Don’t miss out on this neat tool, called Catena.
  4. Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: this series on the New Testament is indispensable for anyone who wants to know the way the Church reads the Word of God. I highly recommend starting with the Gospels (my seminary’s Scripture classes use this series).mark_small
  5. Pocket Guide to the Bible: great introduction to what the Bible is, its history, how to use and read it, and how it’s organized.
  6. Where We Got the Bible: something I read to learn how the Bible came into existence, and how the Catholic Church assembled it and maintained it throughout the ages. Pretty fascinating, considering the Bible is the Church’s book.
  7. If you really wanna get into more Scripture treasures, then read anything by Dr. Scott Hahn and listen to his talks on YouTube. He’s a great speaker to start with. A Father Who Keeps His Promises is a great treat for us who want to know the main theme of the Bible.
  8. Great Adventure Bible Timeline of Salvation History: we all prefer a slick timeline chart instead of a chunk of words, so this is a great visual aid to exploring how the Jews, Jesus and His Church all fit together.
  9. An online Bible in Greek, Latin and English, if you’re down with exploring the Scriptures in the ancient Biblical languages (I haven’t found one for the Hebrew, yet).
  10. And for serious step into deeper Scripture study, try Bibliaclerus. I’ve only used it a handful of times, but it is very thorough and powerful. Almost forgot about it until a friend reminded me!
  11. Don’t forget a Bible Dictionary, too. Yep… handy for looking up key words and names when they come up.
  12. The BibleSmack Game (yep, I finally found a good name for it!). Here are BibleSmack‘s rules and files you need to play this game with others:

BibleSmackNewTestament Cards

BibleSmackOldTestament Cards

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Really Hate the Church

Do you disagree with the Catholic Church?

If you do, let me share how you can disagree successfully and completely! A hundred percent! And even if you don’t disagree, you should keep the following point in mind:

Once upon a time, there was a basketball player and a hockey player. The basketball player hated hockey with malicious viciousness. We’ll call him Piston (cawz dis be Deetroit!) and we’ll call the hockey player RedWing (because I’m out of ideas.)

RedWing: Dude, Piston — what’s hockey ever done to you? Why do you hate hockey so much?

Piston: I just do! I hate hockey! The game sucks!

RedWing: (Instead of high-sticking Piston in the face on the spot, he asks) Well… what about “hockey” sucks?

Piston: Well! For one thing, it’s too cold! Why do they need to make to whole arena like a freezer? I went to a game once and I got the sniffles! That’s just wrong.

RedWing: Oooookay… anything else about the game of hockey?

Piston: Yeah! The net around the rink! What’s up with that? It blocks the view, and the plexiglass has a stupid glare. So, even if I wanted to watch the game, I can’t! Dumb as crap! Dumb…

RedWing: Right… right… and the skates are dumb, too?

Piston: That’s the worst part of hockey! It’s already cold and slippery on the rink, who needs skates to make it even slippier?! You should all use snowshoes instead. Safety first man… safety first.

END OF CONVERSATION

(Note: I am NOT saying basketball players are dumb and that hockey players are smart. If that’s what you think the point was, please go back to school.)

So what does that have to do with disagreeing with the Catholic Church? Well… consider this quote:

“There are not 100 persons who hate the Church, but there are millions who hate what they think is the Church.” -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

That’s a big claim! So is Bishop Sheen thinking about you when he said that? Are you a basketball player who hates the legendary sport of hockey for all the wrong reasons? Are you a Catholic who disagrees with what you THINK the Church says, instead of what she actually proposes?

Here is the challenge to you: If you think the Church has to change her teaching on Holy Matrimony, sanctity of all human life, love and relationships, worship, liturgy, Sacred Scripture, human sexuality, stem-cell research, Heaven, Hell, Confession, cloning, etc., IF YOU THINK THE CHURCH IS WRONG on any of the above and more, then do your research before you speak out like you know 100% what’s on her mind and what’s in her heart (which is ultimately what her Lord (Jesus Christ) thinks too).Mr_Silly

Because someone who acts like they know what they’re talking about (but actually doesn’t) is called… ignorant and prejudiced. So please, take my advice, because I don’t want you to be ignorant and prejudiced. I want you to know the full case, the full teaching of the Church, so that if you do disagree, then you can disagree 100% and not just disagree with some misconception or misinformation (that would be unproductive, wouldn’t it?).

So if you’re against the Church, make sure you’re actually against her and not just your fantasy of her… because then you’d just be against YOURSELF! And that’s kinda silly.

P.S… keep in mind this meme:

gotohell

The only way to leave the Church forever is to go to Hell, because anywhere else is still the Church! Life on Earth is the Church Militant, Purgatory is the Church Suffering, and Heaven is the Church Triumphant (hope to see you there!).

 

Bill Nye’s Lie

An educator from my childhood, from our childhoods, has released a video of him explaining a few things. Here is the short video:

And now here are the reasons why Bill Nye’s argument has fallen short of scientific (and logical) reasoning, which is a shame because I admired him greatly! I love biology and anatomy/physiology and chemistry. I love science!

——1) From the overall comments in the video, we can assume Nye is addressing abortion, claiming that it should be a moral right because the procedure does not terminate human life. Nye repeatedly claims that the fertilized egg is not human. But then what is it?

What if we took all the fertilized eggs (viable embryos) of pandas, and then terminated them (aborted/killed them)? What would happen to the panda species? Surely then, those fertilized eggs in female pandas are pandas.

And surely a fertilized egg in a female human is also human. And surely the embryo is alive, for otherwise why would it have to be killed in order to be aborted?

——2) Nye claims that fertilized eggs pass through the reproductive tract regularly, failing to implant and thus resulting in miscarriages. But these are caused by natural processes. When an egg fails to implant, or implants incorrectly (e.g., ectopic pregnancies), there is nothing medical science can really do (at this time) to recover/rescue the embryo, nor are we obliged to. These are not defined as abortions because an abortion is a deliberate act to kill the embryo/fetus/unborn child.

There are many forms of abortion, but they all involve the unnatural and forced intrusion of materials into a mother’s body, which her body resists to protect her. Some abortions involve injections of chemicals that attack the child in the womb. Some use artificial hormones to alter a healthy woman’s body to becoming infertile and hostile to fertilization and/or implantation, which also damages her body and brain (these artificial hormones are classified as class one carcinogens by the World Health Organization). Other abortions forcibly dilate the cervix in order to allow probes, forceps and other instruments into the womb to tear the fetus/unborn child to pieces before extracting her body parts. Still, partial-birth abortions have the child delivered and decapitated before she is fully born.

——3) The question at issue then is whether miscarriages and abortions are the same. They are not. One is caused by natural bodily functions, and one is a deliberate killing of embryos/fetuses/unborn children.

Yet, I’ve met mothers who have experienced miscarriages, and the pain they suffer from losing their child is difficult to understand–it is a very deep pain. They know profoundly that they lost a child.

I’ve also met mothers who have aborted, and the pain they suffer from losing their child is difficult to understand–it is a very deep pain. They know profoundly that they lost a child… even if they wanted to abort… even if it was years ago.

——4) As for Nye’s claim that abstinence fails, I’d like to see evidence that human beings don’t have free will and cannot control their urges, whatever they be. To say we cannot have self control is derogatory and insulting, and also prejudiced and untrue. We are constantly called to be under self control, otherwise rape would be rampant, abuse would be the norm, and maybe even murder would be a hobby. Even right now, chances are we are abstaining from sexual activity! So instead of downplaying abstinence encouragement, we should be motivating each other to have self control, because self control in this area would automatically help us have self control in other areas of life (studying, working, defense, exercise, saving money, thinking, etc.).

——5) And I’m glad Bill Nye’s mother was a woman. Mine is too. All moms are, and all are irreplaceable. And I’m grateful she didn’t treat me like a blob of tissue, but allowed me and loved me enough to let me live and love her in return. I’m glad Nye’s mom did the same for him, too. And I’m glad yours did, too.


Please see these videos for another scientist’s perspective, a scientist doctor who has spent years aborting children. He shares his experience and scientific knowledge, as well as detailed explanations of various abortion procedures.

Will You Also Leave?

Even when Jesus walked this earth, even when people saw His miracles, even when some followed Him, many more left Him when they did not like hearing what He taught.

They abandoned Jesus because His words were too difficult, too harsh, too extreme, too loving and honest (think of his teachings on divorce, marriage, lust, and the Eucharist).

They left because they never believed in Him in the first place.

Today, people who once walked with Jesus are now deserting Jesus, again. It’s called a great apostasy. And this time, the difficult, harsh, and [one of] the extreme issues is this: choose life for every child, do not murder children anywhere, including in the womb. And there really is no acceptable excuse, despite what fakeful Catholyks may say (e.g., Tim Kaine, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, etc.).

If you knowingly vote for pro-abortion politicians, then you automatically vote against Christ. Then you are no Christian. You have become a hypocrite.

If you are voting pro-abortion politicians, here is why I cannot do the same (please watch this video and listen carefully, for your own awareness and informed conscience):

(Find the video transcript here)

Is that too hard for you to accept? Will you leave Christ and His Church over this difficulty? Is it really that tough to want babies to have birthdays?

Is it really that confusing which presidential candidate you must not vote for, because they are against Christ and His Church?

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PowerBall and Poverty

Nice try.

But dividing the 1.3 billion dollar PowerBall by America’s population will not fix poverty. Here’s why:

  1. Not only because 1.3 billion/300 million = $4.33,
  2. But because poverty is global, and worse around the world.
  3. But even if every person on earth got millions, poverty will worsen:
  4. Because nobody would work; everyone would go into retirement
  5. So nobody will grow your food, run your government, keep your emergency services going, run your schools and universities, open your restaurants, stock your favorite stores, make your merchandise, sell your wares, etc.
  6. Suddenly all that money will be worth nothing.
  7. Civilization falls apart
  8. Culture of bums
  9. Because the motivation that drives most people is making a living
  10. Besides, if Jesus did not fix poverty, what makes you think we can? (see Mark 14:3-9)
  11. There’s a reason Jesus did not rid us of poverty and suffering:
  12. Because poverty and suffering teach us that life is more than about having stuff and stuffing ourselves:
  13. It’s about loving others, which requires sacrifice to be real:
  14. And sacrifice means enduring and struggling, about putting another’s well-being before yourself.
  15. So no, money will never solve poverty. Only real love, hard work, and self sacrifice.

But having some money would be nice (so please share some my way if you win!). Money is only meant to be a tool to help with the tasks of love, work and sacrifice, not be a substitution!

Here’s the stupid (no other word for it) meme, edited:PowerBall

Reviewing The Revenant

During the little blizzard today in Detroit, I got the chance to see “The Revenant“. Though the movie is set in the winter of the American Midwest, it was a film on fire. Here are three major points in the movie worth a Holy Smack about:RevenantPoster.jpg




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) The misuse of Christianity: we see Tom Hardy’s character (Fitzgerald) spouting the Lord’s name and calling on God for all the wrong reasons. Most of us do this when we curse God, or use His holy name as a curse, or worse! This is extremely insulting to God, Whose name is power, love, grace, life, truth, beauty, goodness, almighty. To use His name for pathetic things, for things against His will and identity, is offensive. We also see an example of this wickedness when people use God and Christianity as an excuse to do evil: American slavery’s justification that Africans are descendants of Cain (their “mark” is the color of their skin).

In the movie, we also see misuse with the “Our Father” prayer (aka: the Lord’s Prayer) when the captain forces someone to say it under distress and threat of death. Prayer is not a tool for threatening or torturing someone. Prayer is a gift we get to have to talk with God. Its use any other way is a depravity.

—–2) But then the movie shows the correct use of God’s name and Christianity, in two ways. First we see Leonardo DiCaprio’s character (Hugh Glass) approach a Catholic church in his dream. The church is in ruins, its bell is hanging on edge but still tolling away, and its icons are aged but dazzling: it’s the most colorful thing we see all film long. We see the saints, and then we see the crucifix: Jesus on the cross. We realize that it is Glass’ son, Hawk, who is in the church waiting for his father. He holds a fire to the crucifix, letting us see the Lord’s feet.Revenant2.JPG
As Glass enters the church, he finds his only son waiting for him. We also know that his only son had died for him already, earlier in the film. The connection becomes apparent: God lost His only Son, and Glass lost his only son. Glass suffers here with God the Father. At this point, we see a connection with what Glass told his son before: “You are my son”, as in “You are my beloved Son” when God speaks at Jesus’ Baptism (Matthew 3:17). The film is truly a film about a father losing his only son, and learning to suffer with God.

Another insight about this church scene: no matter how broken down the Church appears, the Church remains a place where our loved ones can be found. In the Church Triumphant (Heaven) and Church Suffering (Purgatory, enroute to Heaven), we find reunion with those beloveds we lost. They await us! They are in the Father’s home and they are waiting; we only have to go to the Church to find them. The Church is the family of God, the body of the Lord. So next time you are at Holy Mass, realize that all Heaven is there with you. All the angels, all the saints, Almighty God is there with you, for you.Revenant1.jpg

—–3) Finally, the film shows us Glass surrendering justice and revenge to God’s control. Whenever anyone is so close to a climax, so close to completing (achieving) an intense act, it takes incredible self-mastery and will power to stop. In this case, Glass stops just short of killing Fitzgerald. He remembers that his friend had also lost his family and home to murderers, and his friend said “Revenge is in the hands of the creator.” His friend’s act of letting God be God comes back to set an example for Glass, who says here, “Revenge is in the hands of God.”

Surrendering his quest for vengeance to God is the same as surrendering our quest for justice to God. Actually, it’s the same as surrendering anything to God. When we let God have control, we are letting the person who knows everything, who knows every perspective and nuance and secret, make the call. We don’t know it all to make a good call, but He does.

We also must realize that God loves us more than we love ourselves. Hawk’s murder hurts Glass. But it offends God even more, in fact, infinitely more because God is infinite! And so His love is infinite! So murdering Hawk offends Glass, but offends God forever (unless it is atoned for and repented of). Even more: since God loves us so much and went as far as dying for us, anyone’s murder means that the murderer is spitting in God’s love, saying effectively that He died for nothing. Example: I love my wife, I love her enough to die for her. Someone comes along and says I shouldn’t die for her because she’s not worth it, that in fact she is so worthless that she should be killed. I would be very insulted, because I love her enough to die for her!

But God already did die for us. And everytime we murder, cheat, betray, hate others, we insult God because He loved enough to die for them. We are telling God that He died for worthless people.

And so, Glass’ surrendering of vengeance to God’s providence shows us we should do the same. And by doing so, Fitzgerald’s last taunt falls limp: he says that getting revenge will not bring back Glass’ son. Hawk is dead regardless. And that’s true…

But God can resurrect us all.

And Glass’ act of virtue (surrendering revenge to God) guarantees he and his son will rise and be together again.

—–So as you can see, you should see “The Revenant”.

—–Bonus) Anyone else get the feeling that Glass’ wife was a type of Mary? The way she whispered to him in his memories was like prayers, the way she appeared was like apparitions, guiding him and encouraging him.

—–Bonus 2) Being that the film is set in 1800s America, the church shown most likely had the Traditional Latin Mass (I just had to say it).

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