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.

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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.

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.

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.

 

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.