Wowed By The Shroud

This picture taken on February 20, 2012Over the past few years, dozens of documentaries on the Shroud of Turin have appeared, from History Channel, CNN, National Geographic, and even the BBC. It seems every cable channel thinks it needs to make its own documentary on this mysterious cloth which seems likely (and more so with each new research initiative) to be the genuine burial cloth of Jesus Christ at His entombment and resurrection.

After going through a few of these documentaries, I can confidently recommend these few for your consideration. Here, you can find interviews and analyses from everyone: from technical photography experts, NASA engineers, Catholic priests, Protestant scholars, Jewish skeptics, world-renown chemists, forensic scientists (they even had custom designed 3M technical tape), and more. Then, when you’ve seen and heard the mounting evidence, decide for yourself what the Shroud is.

I, for one, believe it to be authentic. And that means major repercussions when proven true. But keep this famed quote from St. Thomas Aquinas in mind:

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

  1. This is a History Channel documentary on the Shroud’s unique embedded 3D aspect. It’s very well done and even purchased a copy, but beware of the heretical and nonsense gnostic material inserted awkwardly (and unnecessarily) in the middle of the documentary:
  2. Here’s a BBC documentary that investigates the historical timeline of the Shroud. Also well done and worth the watch:
  3. This is a super documentary from the Discovery Channel that details why the notorious 1988 Carbon-14 dating of the Shroud is misleading because of a poor sample. Very scientifically convincing and essential:
  4. A CNN documentary that is mostly well done at recapping the Passion of Jesus that led up to the Shroud, but it fails when it tries to show that the Shroud can be a photographic fake (because technical photo-experts have said it is not a fake, again and again):
  5. And a TEDx talk on the technical photo-expert’s story and claims, after his 35+ years of researching and directly studying the Shroud (short version):
  6. And a longer and more thorough version of his inside-story:
  7. And a documentary detailing the pollen samples and other foreign elements found on the Shroud, explaining its geographic and historical origins:

So! Take your pick (or pick them all) and enjoy the ride with these top scientists. Also, check out this HD digital scan (or this app)of the Shroud for you to peruse.

All Things New

Just watched The Passion of the Christ again.

Just teared up again at only one scene.

Just watched said scene twice.

Just teared up again.

Each time.

This:


Of all the truth in Sacred Scripture, only this line from Revelation 21:5 gets me every time. I’ve written and thought on it so much (like here, about strawberries in Heaven), and yet these words of the Lord at the end of time still do something.

It’s because I have sinned. The people I love dearly have sinned. We all have sinned and  our sin has made us hideous. The world is ugly because of us. And we cannot do a thing about it. The sun isn’t as sunny because of our sin. The breeze isn’t as fresh because of our sin. The peony isn’t as fragrant because of our sin. The strawberry isn’t as sweet, the birdsong isn’t as breathtaking, and we are not as glorious as God made us to be (not even close) — all because of my sin.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s words on sin have affected me deeply this past Triduum:

SheenSin

Because I now know the horror of my past sins. I don’t know them in their full terror yet: that I will know only when Jesus makes it known when He judges me before everyone. But I do know now how ugly my sin made me. And I need Jesus to make all things new: I need Him to make me new.

*Note: Though Jesus does not speak “See, Mother, I make all things new” in the Gospels (He speaks so in Revelation 21:5), Mel Gibson’s decision to have Him say this during His Passion is very worthy. He tells Mary, His Mother, not to worry, because He will make all this suffering and sorrow into a beautiful new creation. Jesus is only beginning to re-create and renew.

allthingsnew

Silence is Violence

tumblr_oeag54jrop1qciy3ro1_1280There is a first time for everything, and this is the first Holy Smack movie review that is focused on the flaws of a film. I was not impressed by Martin Scorsese’s latest “Silence” and I cannot recommend it to anyone whose faith in Christ and His Church is not mature and convicted. This movie can be incredible violence and poison to a soul still searching for sure faith (which is most everyone).

That said, this review is also an anti-venom to help prevent confusion, heresy, blasphemy, or apostasy from taking root in viewers. Here we go:

— (NO SPOILERS) —

——1) The mistake of the “Silence” story is the same mistake some of the disciples make in the Gospels (Matthew 26:6-13), namely that they are more concerned for creatures than for the Creator, they prefer helping the poor instead of honoring the Lord. The answer is, of course, they should do both, and prioritize serving and honoring God first, and everything else second, and themselves last.

——2) The logic is because God loves His poor creatures more than anyone can ever! Only God can die… and rise for them! Only God can heal them perfectly, feed them perfectly, save them perfectly, and raise them from the dead, ever perfectly! So to value creatures over the Creator is an unacceptable error. In fact, since God is truth, goodness, beauty, life, and love itself, to not trust Him (and entrust to Him) our efforts would be counter productive at best. The closest analogy to show this futility: trying to put out a house fire but refusing to call the fire department for help, and even blocking the firefighters from approaching… STUPID.

——3) Why would anyone do such a thing? A few reasons: maybe they do not know there are people who can actually help, or more likely: they only trust themselves. When it comes to God, we always must trust Him. Only He knows every perspective, every intention, every ulterior motive, and every possibility. Only God deserves our full trust, so when we put that same trust in just ourselves, we are being prideful and ultimately powerless. Even if things work out in the end, it’s only because God did something to help without us knowing. In other words, there is no luck, there is only God’s grace.

——4) The film also does not seem to realize that Jesus will raise the dead, that He Himself rose from the dead, that this is the most important miracle that gives a basis to all faith in Christ! That to doubt His resurrection is to doubt God! The countless martyrs and saints of the Church all went to their deaths trusting that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and that even though they are suffering and dying, Jesus will vindicate them and glorify them in eternal life. That is why the martyrs have the courage and the love to endure suffering, because to endure eternal life without God would be terrible to them.silence-movie-martin-scorsese

——5) The movie goes so far as to even claim that Christ would want us to betray and deny Him if doing so would spare people suffering and death, yet this totally disregards what Jesus actually promises in the Gospels (Matthew 10:32- 33) that:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven; and whoever disowns me before men, before my Father in heaven I too will disown him.”

So for Scorsese to overlook this and have Jesus contradict Himself in the movie is absurd and even offensive. If Jesus contradicts Himself here, how do we know for sure He isn’t lying? And if He is lying (which would be the case automatically)… then it ain’t Jesus talking; it’s Satan.

——6) So there they are, the greatest flaws of “Silence”. There are plenty more, but to list them all would be exhausting right now. If you find something and want it discussed, please feel free to leave a comment! But I leave you with this: Christ came not to rid suffering, for He Himself endured great suffering out of love, but He did come to fill it with Himself. Thus, to deny Christ would be to deny the very person who can and wants to help us endure and triumph.silence-martin-scorsese-andrew-garfield-adam-driver-liam-neeson-2-pm

——Bonus) One thing I did appreciate in “Silence” was that the prayers and clandestine Masses were in the historically accurate Traditional Latin Form, and also to see that the Traditional Latin Mass was powerful to the Japanese faithful who suffered to the end with dignity and love for God. One of the martyrs even sang either the Tantum Ergo or the O Salutaris Hostia (I forget which) during his martyrdom.

And for another perspective, please see:

Figuring Hidden Figures

hidden-figures-750x315_origThis film is not one I would normally pay any attention to, yet someone I love enlightened me to it! And so, in her honor and in the honor of the hidden figures, may I share my insights:

—NO SPOILERS—

——1) The film tells the story of three Black women working for NASA during the American Space Race with the USSR. During this heated time between the two world powers, we see the Soviets outpace the U.S. time and again: they get to space first, they send animals to space first, and they send a human to space first, and they bring him home safely, first. It’s all about first.

That leads me to my sole criticism of the film: it overemphasizes the worth of being first in something, it seems to claim that being first is the reason something should be done, but this is a dangerous idea. Sure, being the first female engineer at NASA is great! Sure, being the first person to explore a jungle is great! Sure, being the first in your family to finish college is great! But what about being the first sinner (Adam and Eve)? The first murderer (Cain)? The first to betray Jesus (Judas)?

And so, being first in something does not automatically make it meritorious or worthy. One must be first in something virtuous, just, holy and true; yet even if one cannot be first in those things, being last also works because goodness doesn’t matter if you’re at the top or bottom, but only if you are faithful.

——2) This film is also not just about women! It’s about healthy women who are in healthy marriages and good families. In sum, it is about the feminine genius that St. John Paul II talked about a lot, about how there is a false feminism and a true feminism. Here are the differences between the two:

False feminism advocates that women must be exactly like men in order to succeed, that men and the male lifestyle are the standard, and in order to win, that women must crush men and replace them. The woman must become manly in order to beat the man.

True feminism sees that women and the female lifestyle have their own standards, that a woman never needs to compare herself to a man, because she is incomparable! Men have their own weaknesses and flaws, and so they should not be imitated, but rather challenged and inspired by the women around them to rise to greatness. The feminine genius, and the way God meant for men and women to be, is to support one another as each grows into greatness! We are not opposing teams, but we are a family!

And Fulton Sheen summarizes this well:

To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.  When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

hf-gallery-05-gallery-image——3) We also see that a nation that is divided by racism and sexism is unable to accomplish great things. A nation suffering from prejudice and unjust discrimination is wounding itself. This point is clear when we see that only when such unfairness is set aside do we see America rising and outpacing her opponents. I hope we have learned this lesson.

——4) Lastly, in President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech about America’s lunar mission, we hear him say that:

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …

From this, I saw that the hardest thing to do of all is not going to the moon, or going to Mars, or wherever/whatever. The hardest thing to do in life is to love! Real, true and selfless love for God and for others! And only through this love do we have a chance to accept God’s invitation to enter Heaven!

Common misconceptions of love see it as a good, mushy feeling, but true love is actually a pure decision to keep caring even when everything feels terrible, even when being devoted feels tortuous. In fact, if all those NASA engineers and staff did not love the astronauts they were blasting into orbit, didn’t love the country they represented, didn’t love the mission, then nothing would have happened! John Glenn would never have reached the heavens!

And we will never reach Heaven either if we do not love truly and selflessly.

I Love La La Land

942e8cfb6448873d60ac9821b77b44e5La La Land got me as soon as its trailer came out the past summer. It’s not the usual fare that I like to chew on and sift for Catholic Christian insights, but it is what I love to enjoy: a well-made film with great score and music. Yet, here are a few highlights it made me think of (no spoilers):

——1) I smiled during much of the musical. It was so happy (except for the sad parts, of course). It reminded me of a particular philosopher’s (Peter Kreeft, to be exact) speculation on the after-life. Paraphrased quote goes:

The language we speak in Heaven is music.

And I agree wholeheartedly. Song is super expressive, universal, personal and social, and every time we sing, it comes out new. Even the angels sing for eternity. St. Thomas Aquinas lays bold claims that music is the highest and most spiritually-tuned of all arts, and St. Augustine says:

He who sings well prays twice [as much].

Meaning that when we sing our prayers well, the prayer becomes worth double! (Which is why the Church always prefers Gregorian Chant [or similar] in her liturgies). And this leads me to my own speculation that when God said “Let there be light…” He did not just say it–He sung it. God sang creation into being, into reality. God sings us into existence. This makes sense to me because if we, who are His children, love music so much… then how much more does God Himself, since He created music and our ability and capacity to recognize it, appreciate, love, and create it. Answer: infinitely more.

And think about this: music is just highly organized noise. The order of the sounds is what makes a song, and nobody teaches us how to recognize a song as different from a pandemonium of noise: we’re just created with this capability to hear it, conceived ready to love it.

——2) Speaking of our creation: God did not make us to sit an offices and push papers. He did not make us so that we can stand on assembly lines, or wait in waiting rooms, or slave over tiresome toil. God made us to sing! To dance and to play! To live lives of music! The world was meant to be our playground and dance floor, but our sins (i.e., Original Sin) made us forfeit it all. So watching musicals like La La Land remind me that we who make it to Heaven will find an incredible musical experience waiting for us. An eternity of play and dance, enjoying what God meant us to be and to do: exploring His creation, meeting His creatures, and wandering His infinite creativity and love.movies_imgs_431478241912

——3) As for dance, the numbers in the film remind me of what a truly great dance between a man and a woman should do. Quoting myself from Just Too Beautiful:

A woman’s beauty and a man’s beauty are not the same, not equal, not interchangeable.

A woman is as different as she can be from a man – and still be 100% human. A man is as different as he can be from a woman – and still be 100% human.

Anyone who believes a man can become a woman must also believe that the night sky can become the stars, that the frame can become the painting, the page can become the story, the dress can become the body.

But no matter how similar the two – it is impossible for one to become the other, because the one is meant for the other, and the other for the one…

Because when man holds woman – he supports the stars, he protects and presents the painting, he carries the tale, he embraces the beautiful body. He gets to hold beauty, gets to be with beauty. He gets to care for beauty. He gets to love her.

la-la-land-movie-soundtrack——4) Finally, the prolonged car horn in the musical tells me something. The first time we see and hear Sebastian honk the car horn, it’s out of his hatred for Mia. He is disgusted with her and insults her.

But later, as they learn to love each other, the car horn becomes a sign of love. In fact, each time we hear the horn again, the love is at a higher level, until it becomes an even sacrificial love to care for the other person even if the “feeling of love” is absent (meaning only a pure love based on selfless concern remains).

And that wraps up by first impressions of LLL. I’ll probably be savoring this musical again and will update if I see more depth in the film. But I leave you with a bonus:

——Bonus) Might be a stretch, but Sebastian’s name originates from St. Sebastian, a Roman martyr who competed in life as an athlete and died when he refused to abandon his love for Jesus. Kind of reminds me of how Sebastian in the musical competed and refused to abandon his dreams and Mia’s, also. He urged Mia to not give up and not give in, and they encouraged each other when the other started stumbling. This is exactly how fellow Christians should encourage each other! Never give up faith, hope and love. Never give in to sin. Always reach for the dream of Heaven.

I Saw Hacksaw

imgNot many directors have my full trust in their story telling; besides Christopher Nolan, there is only Mel Gibson. After a decade of recovering and rehabilitation from his downfall, Gibson’s first film since Apocalypto and The Passion of the ChristHacksaw Ridge (based on a true story)—is very telling, even if I did not like it as much as I thought I would.

—SPOILER ALERT—

——1) Heroes are not spotless, they have pasts and histories, and Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) is a fine example. His youth is peppered with violent, even homicidal episodes, and he exemplifies this famed quote well: Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future. And most importantly, a saint is someone who starts on the path of sainthood again and again, never staying down, never giving up. If you apply this to Gibson, or to St. Paul, or to St. Peter, St. Mary Magdalene, then you see what I mean. And if you apply this to yourself, then you have found the path to Heaven.

——2) Of all the things she could give Desmond before he ships off to war, his beloved Dorothy gives him her tattered Bible. They share their faith with one another, and in this love for God, their own mutual love grows. If couples do not ground the roots of their love in the infinite Love, into infinite Life, then how can they hope their love will survive? If you do not believe in something greater than yourself, then you will never have anything greater than yourself. And if you do not anchor your love first in eternal love, then your love does not get any greater: it will not survive when you die (and we all eventually die).327

——3) Speaking of death, we see also the jarring juxtaposition of two cultures with clashing values: one that tries to preserve and save life at the risk of one’s own (the devout Christian West), the other disregarding life and glorifying death through suicidal kamikaze tactics and seppuku  (the Japanese). In today’s culture we see a similar struggle: one that strives to honor all human life from conception to natural death, the other advocating that life is only valuable if we want it to be. In other words, the Christian rooted cultures know each life to be of infinite worth and not to be given up on lightly, whereas certain cultures see human life as expendable as if it were a mere resource. Most importantly, if human life is only a resource, only valuable if we decide so, then who is the judge for whether another life should be ended? Who is so “enlightened” and “fair” that they can decide who lives or dies? And who says that judge has to be yourself? It can easily be someone else… in fact, if it is not God, then it very well might be someone else much less loving and merciful.maxresdefault

——4) Love for enemies is never easy, but here in the film we see Doss even extend mercy toward the enemy soldiers. He treats them as his own, only hesitating because of fear they would attack him, not because he hates them. In fact, we do not see Doss express any malice toward the Japanese troops! For a war film, it was strange to see such little animosity from the protagonist against the foe. But there we see the point of the story: the primary foe is not the Japanese military: the foe is Desmond Doss himself.

——5) The foe is Doss himself because we are waiting to see if he will drop his promise. We are watching to see how committed he is to non-violence, how long he will go before picking up a rifle and shooting the Japanese. We expect to see him cornered, desperate, and succumb to breaking his vows. We wonder how much will it take before he snaps. Yet, he does not. His resolved conscience is so solid that we are forced to think whether we ourselves are that resolved on anything!

——6) It is there the film reaches out to us, Doss reaches out to us, to challenge us whether we have the courage to keep our promises, to stay faithful, to try over and over, praying God helps us one more time, and always one more time, no matter what came before, which reminds me of a prized quote from St. Paul (so prized I made a meme for it):

 

Malice and Maleficence

MALEF_001A_G_ENG-SG_70x100.inddRecently, a dear friend of mine requested I should view and review one of her favorite films. At first I was reluctant, because I had heard negative reviews about Maleficent, and I also secretly dislike Angelina Jolie as an actress (yes, she bores me). But after giving the film a look, here are the really powerful moments of the tale:

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) The reviews I tend to read before considering an unknown film saw Maleficent as a poor remake of the original Sleeping Beauty. Now I am not a fan of the original, so this gave me even more reason not to see the remake. However, seeing Maleficent as a standalone (isolated and without memory of the original) film is the perspective I am sharing from, and from this point of view, let me continue…

—–2) “Don’t curse in the first place! You will spend your lifetime regretting it.” In the film, we see Maleficent take revenge on the selfish Stefan by cursing Stefan’s most loved one: his daughter Aurora. As the film progresses, we see that Maleficent seeks to undo the curse, but it is impossible.

This reminds me of some advice from St. Philip Neri about gossip (and other sins we commit). The story goes: Once a woman came to confess her sins, and the priest gave her a penance to help her make better choices in the future. He told her, “Take a pillow filled with feathers, and climb to the highest point in the city. From there, shed all the feathers from the pillow and let the wind catch and scatter them across town. Afterwards, climb down to the ground and collect every feather, stuff them back into the empty pillowcase. This is to show you that when you sin, even when merely gossiping, your sins and malicious words spread out and cause evil everywhere. And you can never undo and unsay everything.”maleficent536acd244e2df

—–3) From this tragic and irrevocable curse, we see that it is never right to punish a child for the sins of the parent! NEVER. So what Maleficent does is unacceptable, is evil, and malicious (hence, her name). This may seem obvious, but there are many people who indeed even murder their children in order to escape the responsibilities and consequences of their actions. I wrote about this just a few weeks back, so please check it out here: Children of Crime.

—–4) Once the curse takes hold and sends Aurora into indefinite sleep, we see the metaphor: her perpetual sleep is a death, with only a glimmer of hope that is more like hopelessness. Desperate to raise the girl from sleep (think of Luke 8:40-56 when Jesus woke Jairus’ dead daughter!) but unable to because the Prince has no real love for Aurora, Maleficent (who at this point has become like a mother to the girl) kisses Aurora’s brow, saying goodnight and goodbye.

It is here where we see that true love is not necessarily romantic or sexual! In this world, so many people confuse sex and romance for love, when actually the greatest love does not depend on those things. When parents love their children, when friends love one another, when children love their parents, when God loves us and tells us to even love our enemies, none of these loves should ever be sexual or romantic, and they are all powerful examples of love, true and chaste.

Of course, the love between a husband and wife have romance and sexual aspects, but the point is that their love is not based on those aspects, that even when their is no sex or romance, their love is still true because they choose to be faithful, loyal, selfless, and generous. Love is based on how we help get each other to Heaven, not on how much we can get from each other.maleficent-kiss-aurora

—–5) Lastly, we see that despite the evil Maleficent did, forgiveness is always possible if there is love, and only if there is love. Her many sins are forgiven, for she loved much, and love makes forgiveness always possible! Evil does not win unless we let it. For a great post about this, please see: Forgiveness is For Giving.

—–End) All in all, though not a film I think everyone must see, if you do see it, it wouldn’t be a waste!