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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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.

How Women in Veils Inspire Males Like Me

[The following post is in honor of Pope Saint Pius X, whose memorial is today, and the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which we honor tomorrow.]

Ever since I rediscovered the Extraordinary Form of Mass for myself, being Roman Catholic has never been the same. In fact, three big markers pop out of my timeline of Catholic living: when I encountered the Theology of the Body, when I met Mary, and when I discovered the Tridentine Mass.

Over the past few years of attending Tridentine Masses whenever I could (each time a wonderful treat!), one of the things most noticeably distinct to me are the number of women — young and old — who don the chapel veil (aka: mantilla). I always felt different at Mass and worship in the presence of these women in veils, but I didn’t know why (or how so) until this past weekend in the most unlikely of places…

Mass at CampI was at the Midwest’s annual weekend training camp for leadership in the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement of America. Just before our opening Mass in an open field, in the humble shade of a tree and under the gaze of the morning sun, one of my dear friends beside me pulled out a white lace veil and draped it over her hair. It was out of the corner of my eye, but I saw everything in slow motion. I could not believe what I was seeing, and how it lifted my heart. Instantly, I felt a rush of reverence: if she could humble herself so much before Jesus… then how much more should I long to join her in worshiping Him! Her simple gesture to honor Christ floored me, and inspired me to show at least as much reverence.

And then, I found out she was not the only one. Throughout the Masses we shared at camp, I saw another young woman under a veil. As she approached Jesus in the Eucharist, as she knelt before our King and received His Communion, I found myself no longer able to stand before the Lord. The simple and passing beauty of the scene between the King and His daughter made me feel unworthy of beholding it so. I turned my eyes down… I wanted to crawl to Communion because my soul could sense the holiness present. My humble little heart could not handle the beauty.

I know not why it was this setting, this weekend, this event that helped me see how women in veils could help males like me worship, but I praise the Holy Spirit for the gift of this experience, for the gorgeous gift of these women. Thank you. And to further the glory of God, I asked these women to personally share with you their beautiful story…

I’m an all-in-kind-of girl, and as of that, I’ve come to realize that my inability to commit partially is both a blessing and a curse. In any case, it is most definitely the reason why I usually find myself, either, fatally wrong or unshakably confident.

My decision whether to veil or not to veil was no exception. Unbeknownst to me, my discernment process started a few years ago as casual curiosity and admiration. I didn’t have any strong feelings towards it, other than, “Wow, that’s beautiful and holy looking……. I probably shouldn’t wear it.”

But then, through my encounter with the Theology of the Body and the Blessed Sacrament, my understanding for the Church, worship and the nature of God developed — and I wanted to participate in my faith more fully.

It started with my decision to dress more modestly — by replacing my skimpy bikinis with one piece bathing suits.  I avoided controversial situations, like getting drunk while bar hopping in leotards — or just getting drunk, period. (I’m not really sure why I ever thought that it was appropriate to wear leotards as a complete outfit). But bit by bit… all these little changes restored my self image as a child of God. It helped me see myself how my Creator intended me to be. I became more aware of how I needed to represent myself as part of Christ’s body, so much so that I became uncomfortable when I misrepresented myself — and thus misrepresented Christ.

But the holy smack didn’t happen until a few months ago, when I was listening to Tim Staples, an apologist, talk about how Catholics are missing the point of Mass. It’s not just about us ‘getting fed’ but instead the Mass/Sabbath is a day, set aside to give God the praise and worship that is just.  It’s the time to fall to our knees to ask for forgiveness, grace and mercy. It’s the time to glorify Him and hail Jesus to be our true Savior.

Worship is not a matter of my feelings, it is our response to faith.

Furthermore, when I reflected on Scripture, and saw how Jesus references the Church as His bride. The pieces started to fall in place and I understood more clearly, what my Living God was doing. Day-in-and-day-out, upon that altar, He was keeping His Word. He was coming to us, as a MAN. He was offering Himself — completely and fully to us. He was re-establishing a covenant.

Jesus was all in.

[Korean Figure Skater, Yuna Kim, wears the veil.]

[Korean Figure Skater, Yuna Kim, wears the veil.]

This brought me to my knees — literally. I not only genuflected before the Eucharist, I went down on both knees. I am a mortal human that has been chosen to be a temple of God…! I was in the presence of a king. I was receiving Christ! And I wanted to do what was just and deserving of that honor.I begin to prepare for Mass differently. I hung onto every word of the liturgy. I humbly, surrendered and re-committed my life to Jesus, each and every time I received Him.I am a woman, claimed by Christ, Himself.So, what about the veil? Well, there’s no high theology here. It just made sense and was fitting. I want to submit myself before the Lord.  I want to embrace my role as a woman in the Church. The veil represents something that had changed WITHIN me. It is an outward sign of a commitment made in the depths of my heart and soul. So with unshakable confidence — I wear it…’Cause I’m an all-in-kind-of girl.

-Santa Thérèse

The beauty of the mantilla never struck me until reading Crystalina Evert’s blog on the Chastity Project; before, it had just been some weird headdress that old women and younger, presumptuous girls wore to Mass to show off their holiness.  Little did I know that those women didn’t wear those veils because they thought they were holy – it was because they needed to be holier.

Before Vatican II, women were required to wear a chapel veil to Mass in order to show reverence to the Lord on His day, as well showing the world that they, as women, were sacred enough to veil and be protected from the world around them.  The sacred should be veiled, as the Eucharist is protected in the monstrance, the tabernacle, and under the veil during Mass.  After Vatican II, the requirement of wearing the mantilla was taken out of Canon Law, and feminists in the 60’s denounced wearing it because they believed that it was a symbol of slavery to men and to the church, and so the beautiful tradition of the mantilla faded away.

When I read Crystalina’s thoughts on the mantilla, the idea of wearing one intrigued me, but I brushed it off because I didn’t want people looking at me funny or thinking I was getting above myself.  But the image of the veil kept popping into my head, incessantly and constantly.  I decided to pray about it and leave it up to God to show me what I should do, because if I was going to go all out Mary-style, I needed to know exactly why I would.  In the meantime I did some research on it.  I found that several First Ladies, including Jackie Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, and Michelle Obama, all wore veils upon meeting Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis.  If powerful women felt the need to veil themselves in the presence of the Holy See, why shouldn’t we veil ourselves in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?  Not only does the veil show that women are sacred, it also helps you grow into your sacredness.  The wearing of the mantilla promotes the growth of virtues such as chastity, purity, humility, and modesty, all of which are exemplified in the Virgin Mary, who is always depicted wearing a veil.

[Icon by Mina Anton]

[Icon by Mina Anton]

The more I read, the more I felt that God was calling me to be more like our Mother, and to emulate her in everything that I do. Like Crystalina, I loved the idea of being covered by the Holy Trinity and being protected by it.  My boyfriend bought me a white mantilla, which is the traditional color for unmarried women, made of Spanish lace as an homage to my patron saint, Teresa of Avila.  Wearing the mantilla makes me feel like I am alone with Christ during Mass; everyone else melts away, and it’s just me and my maker. I feel more alert, more open, more joyful, and even excited when I get the chance to put it on. I feel even more excited when people ask me about it, because it gives me a chance to share my love for the Holy Family and Holy Trinity.  I love the feel of the lace on my hair, like the caress of a parent’s hand on their child’s head.  I love the way the veil frames my line of vision when I look at the Eucharist.  And I love being able to grow closer to my heavenly Father and my Blessed Mother.

-ANonymous

“And this is why the female body should be veiled because everything which is sacred calls for veiling. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, he veiled his face. Why did he veil his face? Because he had spoken to God and at that very moment there was a sacredness that called for veiling… Veiling indicates sacredness and it is a special privilege of the woman that she enters church veiled.” –Dr. Alice von Hildebrand

More thoughts on the mantilla from around the Catholic blogosphere:

1) I Love My Chapel Veil

2) Notes from Beneath the Veil

3)And here’s a video on the veil! 

When Demons Ask For Prayers (again)

SO! Here we are again with another Satanic group trying to hold a black Mass in the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 21, 2014. What do I have to say about this? Same thing I said back in May:

Just heard news of the supposed Satanic Black Mass coming up on May 12, 2014 (it was eventually cancelled) on the campus of America’s ”finest” university: Harvard. You can read more about it here and here, but for the most part, some student group wants to reenact the Satanic ritual for curiosity and ”educational purposes” as if it was nothing serious, but…

A black mass is a sacrilegious ceremony that invokes Satan and mocks the Catholic Mass. Connected to witchcraft and demonic worship, it involves the desecration of the Eucharist, often by stealing a consecrated host from a Catholic Church and using it in a profane sexual ritual.

[It sees you, but you don't see it.]

[It sees you, but you don’t see it.]

So even if this student club doesn’t use an actual consecrated host, and even if none of them believe in what they’re doing, the danger remains that the devil doesn’t care if you believe or not. In fact, he would much rather go undetected while he ravages lives, like the alien man-hunter called PREDATOR. And even if everyone in the club is atheist, that doesn’t change a thing. In fact, that helps the devil hide even more! But ironically, what might end up happening is that Harvard becomes infested with demons, and then must resort to having a Catholic priest exorcising the place. But would the school do such a thing as to endorse the Church and ask her aid? That would be the bigger surprise, actually.

Anyway, don’t merely read about this and shake your head in defeat! That’s exactly what Satan wants us to do!

[O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.]

[O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.]

Instead, learn to turn evil on its head! Whenever something like this comes up, I interpret it as a call for prayers… much much prayer! Whenever I see a Satanic symbol, a demonic act, a temptation to sin, etc., I go right to praying for the persons involved (and all their beloveds, too). That’s right, I see these provocations of spiritual warfare as promptings to launch a barrage of blessings and prayers. I ask my priests, my brother seminarians, my siblings in Christ, and all the angels and saints to join me.

Usually, I turn to my favorite prayer from the Miraculous Medal:

And then I add on a prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

— Pope Leo XIII

[Samurai Saint Michael the Archangel, by Daniel Mitsui]

So! Turn that worm’s schemes into the its worst nightmare — pray for mercy, forgiveness, love and conversion! It’s the absolute last thing the devil wants you to do, so make it the first thing you do! Because doing what the devil doesn’t want you to do is actually the best thing to do!

And feel free to use your own favorite prayers! But remember…

MissalMissile