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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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.

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American Idolatry

m_americanidollogo630_113011As 2017 begins, I’d like to share how we all can make this new year a better one. First, we can must stop committing American idolatry. Here’s what I mean:

  1. Idolatry is worshiping, loving and serving someone/thing other than God. Here’s why idolatry is stupid and wrong: because no one except God can save you. He made you, He saves you, and He raises you from the dead (no matter how decayed you are in the grave). No one and nothing else can do that. So when we love a person more than we love God, when we love a thing more than we love God, we’re entrusting ourselves to something that will fail us in the end. Even we ourselves will fail ourselves in the end.
  2. And that’s the problem. We entrust ourselves to money, science, technology, education and career. Those are all great tools to help us serve God and others, but they are not gods! And we’re the dumber for thinking and living like they are.
  3. Even worse, we trust in our favorite celebrities and politicians as if they are all mighty and all perfect. We think Taylor Swift will save the world, we have recourse to Donald Trump, we find hope in Hillary Clinton, we hang on Pope Francis’ every word, and we believe in ourselves.
  4. But the only person we should ever really believe in is Jesus Christ. We cannot believe in anyone else! Because everyone else dies! And they stay dead! But only Christ came back to life, and only He can make you come back, too.
  5. Never believe in yourself. It’s a useless lie. Because even you die. I stopped believing in myself long ago when I realized the problem with me is me, and the only solution is He who made me and can remake me into a saint. Just think about it, really think about it…
  6. So if we all let God remake us into saints, this 2017 and forward will be really something. The best way to start is to pray, asking Him to give us the grace to let Him do what needs to be done.

 

Hillary and Donald Are Just Like Me

presdebate

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…

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:

—–1)

“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.

—–2)

“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.

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Judgment Day Jesus

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.

My Worst Fear

Recently, a friend and I were talking about our greatest fears. Among all the truly terrible things in this fallen world, from terrorism to child abuse, from torture to betrayal, from murder to rape, from among all these things and everything between, I am most afraid of this:

I fear becoming evil.

I fear becoming a terrorist, I fear being an abuser, a torturer, a betrayer, a murderer, a rapist. I fear becoming evil more than I fear being terrorized, abused, tortured, betrayed, murdered, raped.

The only thing worse than being a victim is being a victimizer.Murderer

Because I never want to hurt the people I love. I never want to take away someone’s beloved. And I never want to forfeit my soul, forfeit my God and the New Heaven and New Earth He will make for you and for me when He returns.

If I am a victim, the Lord can heal me (as he has before). If you are a victim, the Lord can heal you, too (just ask Him, let Him). Some of the most abused victims in Church history (e.g., St. Maria Goretti, St. Joan of Arc, St. Jean de Brébeuf, and even the Lord Jesus Himself) even went on to become beloved, beautified and beatified in God’s grace!

But if I am the evildoer… if I choose to be malicious and to remain in evil, if I refuse to repent and persist in perversions, then I am lost. I lost myself and hid myself from Heaven. Then I become evil: forgotten, forsaken, forever.

And the more evil I do, the more evil I remain. Until it is almost impossible to turn around… because I might even forget and even doubt I can turn back to God. He forgives all who repent (see Luke 15:11-32), but what if I do not let Him love me? What if I become so prideful that I believe my sins are greater than His mercy?

It could happen. I can be that stupid. And I am that free to choose.

And that is why becoming evil is my worst fear, and it should be yours also.

Please pray our worst fear remains merely a possibility.

But if it has become a reality, let us pray we turn back to the King so He can make us new.