Mary Points the Way

the-nun-movie-posterToday, for the Feast of Mother Mary’s birthday (every September 8th!), I decided to take a break and celebrate with a show: The Nun (a prequel to the excellent Conjuring movies). Though I had high expectations for the film, and was disappointed, it did leave me with enough surprises to merit a review! Here’s what’s worth sharing:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. The Nun is Marian… very Mary focused! Throughout the film, we hear the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) prayer in LATIN, almost constantly! And not only are the characters praying Rosaries to fight off evil, a statue of our Blessed Mother actually (and literally) points the way to Jesus. So, I was very happily surprised to see the Divine timing here (today is Mary’s birthday, after all).
  2. And the Divine timing continues: during the last month, the scandal in the Catholic Church has been rising to terrible heights. We see in our present time that hell has hijacked our priests, bishops, and perhaps even our Pope. We see Satan has taken on the look of our ordained servants of Christ and His Church, and have corrupted the image of the holy priesthood. We see in this movie the same: a demon has disguised itself as a deformed nun, using the distortion to terrorize us. May we not let this deception of Satan continue!
  3. 5b9148b872977-imageLastly, the film started drawing some tears from me when the lead character–Sister Irene–decides to profess her final vows amidst terrible evil attacking her. You would think that any sane woman would flee if she knew that the closer she drew to Christ, the more Satan would attack her. But not so for Sister Irene: she knows the truth that Satan would keep attacking anyway, and that her love for Christ was worth the onslaught.
  4. Which leads to Sister Irene being a bride of Christ “worthy of carrying something so sacred” as the Precious Blood of Jesus. Here, the priest in the film surrenders the care of the holy relic of Christ’s Blood to Sister Irene. And of course, she knows how to use this relic, and isn’t afraid to! But even how exactly she uses Christ’s Blood to defeat the demon is insightful:
  5. She puts the Precious Blood into her mouth (as in receiving Holy Communion). By doing so, this allows her to ambush the demon with the secret weapon. The symbolism shouldn’t escape us: when we receive the Eucharist worthily, we all become bearers of the secret weapon against hell.

So, the Nun was an overall surprise for me, especially during the current crisis in our Church. The movie could have easily taken advantage of the evil events plaguing us today, but decides to show us a Church with good nuns and priests who are doing their job following Jesus: caring for souls and fending off the true wolves in wool.e2842e035b9195c11199d2-31682311_

Note: see here for another positive review.

 

Advertisements

Music for an Intense Lent

Are you a Christian? Are you a Catholic? Stop settling for weak Lents. Make your Lent intense with these choral and chant tracks (or with these movies). Listen with the volume nice and high, and you’ll see what I mean:

This first track is a choral piece I discovered a few years ago, and its ability to creep is unequaled. For the majority of the piece, the choir is only singing one word: crucifixus… crucifixus… crucifixus… (The Crucified… Crucified… Crucified…) and the effect is stunning.

This next track is also a choral piece on the Crucifixion, by Antonio Lotti from the 17th Century. This piece is from his larger work on the Nicene Creed, but it stands alone incredibly well as a meditation on Christ’s crucifixion.

Here is Parce Domine, a chant of longing for God’s mercy, recalling the complete and profound repentance of Nineveh at the [reluctant] preaching of Jonah from the Old Testament. Lyrics, both Latin and English here, and an updated version here that is worth your ears, and don’t miss this polyphonic version!

The Dies Irae is not specifically a Lenten chant, but for funerals and for All Souls’ Day. Yet, it seems mighty appropriate, reminding us that death and judgment is our destiny, but our death can be transformed to eternal life if we surrender our life to Christ. Don’t miss this neat little documentary on this timeless piece, which has appeared in many famed movies to date! The epic lyrics here.

This last piece is the Gregorian chant of the Stabat Mater Dolorosa (The Standing Mother of Sorrows), the scene when Mary suffered and stood before Jesus nailed on the cross. The Latin/English lyrics can be found here, and a video with the proper notation is here, but presented is my favorite chanted rendition:

So there you have them, three of my favorite tracks for contemplating what Lent is meant to be. I hope these help, and maybe become your faves, too.

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:

Tridentine Triduum

This past Holy Week was a first for me. I not only survived the taxing liturgies of the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday’s Paschal Vigil), but I found myself thriving in the Tridentine Triduum.

Not only did the usual Tridentine expressions help me, but I found the differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms (EF) of the Holy Week liturgies subtle yet rejuvenating to my soul and devotion. Here are a few points:

—–1) The priest truly disappears. The ad orientem posture of his prayer, the demands the rubrics places on him, the centricity of Christ, really shows how the priest is another instrument of Jesus. He wears what the Church commands him to wear; moves as the Church commands him to move; chants, speaks and whispers as the Church commands; does everything as the Church commands: all through which Christ Himself commands! The human priest merely becomes part of the whole thing: chalice, corporal, candles, altar, priest, patens, bells, thurible, servers, etc. Just another instrument among the many. And the more he disappears, the more He, who is Lord, appears. What made me see this clearer was the several times the priest had to vest in different vestments, outfitted for the specific task at hand, with no opinion of his relevant, necessary or appropriate. He was a slave to the liturgy, a slave to Christ and His Church.img_0531

—–2) Tenebrae took three hours. Holy Thursday’s Mass of the Last Supper started at 7:00pm. Two hours later, Tenebrae began and lasted until midnight. I was in liturgy for five straight hours. This was the single longest liturgy of the Triduum! But it’s length was vital, because it helped me feel the exhaustion that Peter, James and John felt while they waited for Jesus in Gethsemane, while they struggled to stay with Him and keep prayer. And those who chanted never stopped until midnight! Here we were then, doing what the apostles had failed to do: keeping watch with Christ in His agony. We were atoning for all the times we and others had failed to stay with Jesus.

Yet, going into Tenebrae, I had no idea it would last that long (not sure how long they last elsewhere). But I found myself just thinking, “Why not? Why not go the distance? Why not spend this time as I would with my other friends, talking late into the night, into the tenebrae (darkness)?”

So my advice: if you get the chance next Holy Week to attend Tenebrae, do it. But get ready for some spiritual struggle. Bring a devotional book with you (I suggest any of Fulton Sheen’s), your prayer journal, and get ready to reap and weep.tenebrae-hearse

—–3) Finally, the Paschal Vigil on Holy Saturday: two hours of which was in pure candlelight. Usually, in Ordinary Form Masses on this night, candles get blown out and lights turned on way too soon. Ever since I was a kid, I always thought the darkness should linger longer. Truly, I felt myself deprived that I did not yet feel deprived of full lighting. It seemed the candles were all for show, and not for something more.

Yet at this Extraordinary Form Mass, the darkness endured. So much so that I started worrying my candle would not last the Mass! As the wax waned, and the flame flirted with my fingers, I started noticing how dark the church was. Others had already lost their candles to the shadows, and mine was next. The desperation started to set in: should I find another candle? Should I save mine? Should I use my cell phone’s flashlight? And as I thought, I realized I was experiencing the darkness of being without the Light of the world. I tried to rely on myself, but this light was only going to go out anyway. I needed Christ to be my light. I needed Him to come back from the dead. I was awaiting His Resurrection.

And when the lights of the grand church came on amidst bells, organ and choir, I welcomed it in my deprivation. The darkness encroaching on my eyes taught me to receive His Light into my soul, because I had been in the dark for so long….easter2bvigil2b20152b042

—–So, if anything here has sparked your curiosity, please consider trying a Tridentine Triduum next time around, and you may find yourself not merely surviving, but thriving.

*Note, none of the photos shared here are mine but belong to their respective owners.

My First Rorate Mass

This morning was my very first Rorate Caeli Mass (please click link for stunning photos), a unique votive Mass starting in the dark of night’s end and ending at dawn, presenting for us how we are to wait for the true Light of the world (the whole point of Advent).

RorateMass-1024x490

The entirety of the liturgy is in candlelight. The shadows of the saints adorn the vaulted ceilings and walls. The altar shimmers in the firelight. The pews and handmissals glow under the candles. Everyone has their own little censer of wax, wick and fire.

Yet the moment that moved me most was the very end, at the Last Gospel (John 1: 1-14), the same Gospel read at the end of each Tridentine Mass. But today, as I was listening to the priest read the holy words, as I was wandering lost in the Latin and in the silence, waiting in the darkness of daybreak, waiting with a church full of people, waiting with my dwindling candlestick succumbing to the dark, waiting… waiting to genuflect at the very moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH.

My knee hits the floor.Nativity by Rembrandt.jpg

And then I understood. God Himself came down from Heaven and hit the ground. He covered Himself in the dust of earth, clothed Himself in the mortality of man, smothered Himself in our fallen nature. Touchdown: the Lord touched the ground, touched Creation and began His reclamation. He wore our worn world, but adorned you and me with Himself, with Divinity. And the least we could do was genuflect when we remember He did all this to be with us (Emmanuel), and for us to be with Him.

The world waited for the moment THE WORD WAS MADE FLESH. And the girl the world waited for, and for her yes. The pathetic candlelights waiting for the sun. The blind and those in darkness waiting to wake. Hopeless and helpless sinners waiting for more to life, waiting for a way to become saints. All of us waiting for a way to Heaven.

Let’s stop waiting.

Because it’s all been accomplished. All that’s left to be done is for you and me to decide: will we say yes, too?

Merry soon Christmas.

*All this meaning in the simple gesture of genuflecting…

**More awesome photos of Rorate Masses around the country.

img_0518

Select Chants for DHHT

Hello Beloved HT of Miền Trung (and any eavesdroppers)!

This DHHT XI, we get to go a bit old school and do Adoration with some Latin chants. These chants are ancient, and the Latin is a major heritage of Roman Catholicism (stretching back over 1000 years). If you want to know more about Latin, please look here: The Romance Tongue and Why Chant Can’t Speed Up.

But, to help us all prepare, please put these three chants on repeat for the next month, and we’ll get together in mid-July to praise the King in the Church’s mother tongue. We’ve never done this together on such a large scale, so we’re a bit nervous… but let’s do this!

—–1) O Salutaris Hostia (by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–2) Tantum Ergo (the last 2 verses of the Pange Lingua, also by St. Thomas Aquinas)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

—–3) Salve Regina (anonymous and ancient)

Translation, history and full lyrics here.

Cry Room Outcry!

Baby cries. There’s something about them. They do something to you.

If you don’t believe me, then have a look at Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men”. In that 2006 film, the world is old and sterile, aging and dying out. For reasons unknown, human fertility and pregnancy is no more, and the youngest person alive is 18 years old:

In a world where children are extinct, adults go mad. And trust me, the film is worth your time, considering it was Cuaron’s last film before his latest “Gravity“.

That brings me to what I noticed one day at Mass. Most Catholic church buildings constructed after the 1950s have a few things in common that older churches just do not seem to originally have. Actually and unfortunately, the “new” churches have many things I find irritating on good days and barely tolerable on bad days, but the thing I noticed this one day were the quarantine cells.

Cry RoomThat’s right. Isolation chambers. Also known as baby rooms, or cry rooms, where parents attend Mass with their infants and toddlers, safely behind soundproof windows and walls.

A few questions: how did young families at Mass handle their crying babies before the invention of modern soundproofing? And what did priests and people in the pews do with the cries and yelps and whimpers in the old days?

My thoughts: Baby cries are closer to the songs of angels than we think. I mean, if Jesus said that only the childlike will enter Heaven, then it makes sense that babies belong in the nave, not in some outlying room removed from the Mass, as if they were dangerous to everyone else’s prayers. I even dare say that people at Mass need to hear those whimpers and yelps! It reminds them, it reminds all of us that the Church is young! The Church has young husbands and wives with young children! The Church has loving and patient parents! The Church is fruitful and multiplying!

We need to learn how to listen to babies again. Too many of us find it excruciating and annoying. We throw death stares at hungry and tired children, and we roll our eyes at their parents. Sometimes, we even dream of snuffing out their breaths to gain some peace, and that’s not far from the culture of death…

Shame on us. As if we were never that way ourselves. As if we saw the hungry and tired brothers and sisters on the street and thought them annoying and needing to be quarantined. Those cries convict us if we are bothered by them, and those cries convince us if we could only hear their beauty: that we are all crying to God, crying for mercy, forgiveness, beauty. Crying for justice, love and Heaven.

We’re all supposed to be weeping at Mass. Tears of joy at the Kyrie, tears of sorrow at the sacrifice, tears of ecstasy at Holy Communion. And the whole world is meant to hear our cries, our cries that remind it that the Church is young! The Church has a loving and patient Father and Mother! The Church is fruitful and multiplying!

P.S. Check out what one parish is doing to help parishioners cope with the kiddos.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this. Check out what Pope Francis has to say about bawling babies at Mass.