The Worthy War for the Planet of the Apes

war-for-the-planet-of-the-apes-launch-quad-finalTrilogies have a history of falling short in the last movie; even the Dark Knight trilogy’s third film didn’t measure up to its predecessors. But, it is safe to say that War for the Planet of the Apes is the crown of the rebooted franchise. Going into the trilogy with Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the films were decent and well done, but not compelling to me. But War is very worthy. Here’s why:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Hands down, my favorite character in the trilogy is Nova. She is the young girl whom the apes adopt after orphaning her. Her name itself is full of meaning: not only does it allude to the Nova of the 1968 Planet of the Apes film, but it alludes to the Nova Eva, the “New Eve”, which is a title for the Blessed Virgin Mary as the New Eve whereas Christ is the New Adam. I suppose the name for the girl hints at her role as the new humanity, though with poignant irony (watch this video)…
  2. The girl carries the Simian Flu virus which has advanced ape brain and speech development while killing human hosts. In War, the very contagious virus has evolved to also debilitate speech and higher cognition in surviving human populations. This means the girl has become mute, and her beautiful rational mind has regressed to a primitive and lowly state. In other words, the Nova Eva is less human, the New Eve is a degenerated girl, the new humanity has become a sub-rational animal. This is even more tragic when Maurice (the ape who first and most advocates for her care) says to the girl when she asks if she is one of the apes: “You are Nova”… you are New. But we know that her newness actually means a regression of her full humanity (she is so degenerated that she even neglects her dead human father, not mourning or responding to her loss).
  3. Nova’s muteness struck me very deeply, since she wasn’t born mute but was rendered mute by the virus, since she became deprived of her speech and reason. Watching her try to speak, hearing her pathetic squeaks, and her dead voice unable to sound: this helped me see how precious is our gift of speech. As an English major with a small background in linguistics and one who loves to teach the Faith, how often have I taken my speech and thinking for granted. How many times have I misused and abused these gifts, speaking lies, evil, hurt, and hatred when I could have spoken truth, goodness, aid, and love? How often have I wasted my intellect on the superficial, the mediocre, and the stupid when I could have focused on the profound, the transcendent, and the wisdom of God?Nova
  4. But that’s where Nova is unique among all the trilogy: she is the only significant “she” in the entire series. No other female characters have carried the story, and her character’s feminine genius shines where no male character could. Though compromised in her thought and speech, her heart and soul survives without the baggage of a fallen mind (a sinful mind). This allows her to have incredible courage driven by her love for her friends, especially for Caesar who we can see she is wary of because of his initial coldness toward adopting her. Her courage, her care, and her nurturing help Caesar survive, and even help bring down the Colonel who threatens ape and infected human alike.
  5. In the Colonel and Caesar, we see a number of Biblical allusions: from the Colonel saying he was willing to sacrifice his only son to save humanity, and his crucifixion of apes, and the crosses he wears and gestures, to Caesar playing a Moses role for the apes. However, the most prominent Biblical gestures involves the Colonel’s mad attempt to wipe out the virus and Caesar’s sinfulness:
  6. The Colonel, in trying to kill and cull all the infected humans, reminds us of the Great Flood as an attempt to show us that even if all evil people were drowned, our fallen nature would persist because we are all fallen. The only way to drown evil is for Christ to drown it within ourselves, to drown it in His precious blood and water, drowning it with true and sacrificial love. And this must be done for as long as we live. Killing and culling the innocent will never save anyone, because the murderers always lose themselves in the killing and culling. We see this play out for the Colonel who ultimately contracts the virus himself.f6e3d832330642c6b9828da378b2a729_7e9007f462214af490bb432418b8b602_header
  7. And we see this in Caesar when he realizes that the ghost of Koba (the ape who turned on Caesar and plunged the ape and human worlds into relentless war) is in his own mind, and that he is like Koba, not above unforgiveness and evil. Because Caesar seeks vengeance against the Colonel, he exposes himself to further attack. becomes wounded, and ultimately is unable to enter the Promised Land with his tribe after a long desert journey (an Exodus) and the drowning of the enemy’s soldiers in a scene that mirrors the Red Sea. This echoes Moses’ prohibition from entering Canaan, as a penalty for his disobedience and arrogance.
  8. The film closes with us seeing that neither the human nor the ape world is perfect. Both are fallen creatures in a fallen world, but in the character of Nova, we see that we need not stay fallen. We can become new in the New Eve and the New Adam, and enter the New Promised Land: the New Heaven and New Earth.
  9. For another review with a Catholic mindset, please see Dcn. Greydanus’ take.
  10.  And don’t forget this excellent insight showing the Biblical side of the film. e86bb895d339a574b84cf0c77904f8173f9c79c9

The Better Beauty and the Beast

large_tnml0g604pdrjwgj5fsusykfo9After months of fasting from watching the latest Disney live-action remake, I finally got to look over Emma Watson’s most anticipated film. And actually, after all the negative views I’ve read on it, I still walked away with some surprises. This version of the 1991 classic is slower paced, and not as compelling (some scenes actually bored me enough for me to pull out my phone and check the news, waiting for the lame parts to pass). It’s lacking musical beauty, the CGI was sub-par, and the story is too top heavy, trying desperately to out-do its origin by adding tacky changes. From the start, this remake was in trouble since it was trying to perfect an already perfect original, and you just can’t fix what ain’t broke. Instead of trying desperately to improve, they should have desperately tried to honor the original. But despite these failures, here are some things I appreciated more than I thought I would, and things I think you never noticed:

—SPOILER ALERT—

  1. Right from the get go, I noticed the fly-by camera in the opening Disney Castle logo sequence. I wondered and replayed it, and took a screenshot. Here’s what I saw:StMikeDisneyThat’s right! Atop the Disney Castle logo in this film (it’s usually a flag in other films) is a gold statue of St. Michael defeating Satan. And then at the end of the film, when the curse is broken and the Beast’s castle transformed, we see yet another gold statue of St. Michael, transformed from a gargoyle into the Archangel slaying the evil one. This leads me to wonder why Disney and the director (Bill Condon) okayed these clearly traditional Christian images, especially in a film that was supposedly designed in some scenes to push immoral same-sex relationships. Could it be that despite the attempts at evil, St. Michael was snuck in to show that Mickey and company belongs to St. Michael and company?6f17a9903a9e5487675b308eec8e8f28-hamburg-germany-munich
  2. Continuing the peculiar positive portrayal of the Church is the reverend/priest in the movie, who Belle meets with regularly to borrow his books. Granted that not many were literate in that time, it’s still strange to change Belle’s connection to literature from being with a bookstore (in the 1991 version) to a Catholic priest in the remake. And how do we know it’s a Catholic priest? Because there’s a giant crucifix statue, and Protestants and Orthodox don’t use crucifixes or statues. Also, the setting is France: a traditional stronghold of Catholicism (think St. Joan of Arc).
  3. Beast also has an almost throw-away line rebutting Lumiere’s claim of Belle being “the one” for Beast. Beast says: “there’s no such thing as the one.” This immediately reminded me of the correct understanding of love and marriage without the false fantasy of fate that negates freedom, without the this-was-meant-to-be lies. Blogger and author Matt Walsh explains this hilariously and clearly in this article: My Marriage Wasn’t Meant To Be. Here’s an excerpt (but seriously read it all):

    We think that our task is to find this preordained partner and marry them because, after all, they’re “The One.” They were designed for us, for us and only us. It’s written in the stars, prescribed in the cosmos, commanded by God or Mother Earth. There are six or seven billion people in the world, but only one of them is the right one, we think, and we’ll stay single until we happen to stumble into them one day.

    And when that day happens, when The One — our soul mate, our match, our spirit-twin — comes barreling into our lives to whisk us off our feet and take us on canoe rides and deliver impassioned romantic monologues on a beach in the rain or in a bus station or whatever, then we’ll finally be happy. Happy until the end of time. We can get married and have a perfect union; a Facebook Photo Marriage, where every day is like an Instragam of you and your spouse wearing comfortable socks and sitting next to the fireplace drinking Starbucks lattes.

    Yeah. About that. It’s bull crap, sorry. Not just silly, frivolous bull crap, but bull crap that will destroy you and eat your marriage alive from the inside. It’s a lie. A vicious, cynical lie that leads only to disappointment and confusion. The Marriage of Destiny is a facade, but the good news is that Real Marriage is something so much more loving, joyful, and true.

    We’ve got it all backwards, you see. I didn’t marry my wife because she’s The One, she’s The One because I married her. Until we were married, she was one, I was one, and we were both one of many. I didn’t marry The One, I married this one, and the two of us became one. I didn’t marry her because I was “meant to be with her,” I married her because that was my choice, and it was her choice, and the Sacrament of marriage is that choice. I married her because I love her — I chose to love her — and I chose to live the rest of my life in service to her. We were not following a script, we chose to write our own, and it’s a story that contains more love and happiness than any romantic fable ever conjured up by Hollywood.

    Indeed, marriage is a decision, not the inevitable result of unseen forces outside of our control. When we got married, the pastor asked us if we had “come here freely.” If I had said, “well, not really, you see destiny drew us together,” that would have brought the evening to an abrupt and unpleasant end. Marriage has to be a free choice or it is not a marriage. That’s a beautiful thing, really.

    God gave us Free Will. It is His greatest gift to us because without it, nothing is possible. Love is not possible without Will. If we cannot choose to love, then we cannot love. God did not program us like robots to be compatible with only one other machine. He created us as individuals, endowed with the incredible, unprecedented power to choose. And with that choice, we are to go out and find a partner, and make that partner our soul mate.

  4. And now the question of freedom and love: Beast finally learns this when he frees Belle from being his prisoner, even though she has become a willing prisoner. Being yet not fully free, her love is unable to be true, and his love is prevented from maturing also. But once Beast let’s Belle leave, once he allows himself to lose and become incredibly vulnerable to Belle’s rejection and abandonment, only then does Belle’s return mean anything. This insight isn’t unique to this remake, but is also in the original, and is a timeless truth about how love becomes true love. It reminds us that only a heart that can break is an honest heart, a real heart. And when Beast accepts his broken heart for love of Belle and her freedom and dignity, then does love truly bless and bloom, not wilt as the cursed rose.beauty_and_the_beast_emma_watson_rose
  5. That’s all I have to say about the remake. For more about the 1991 original masterpiece and all the bursting Christian and biblical symbols in it, please see Beauty and the Beast and the Bible. Finally, it should be obvious that I believe the better Beauty and the Beast is certainly not this remake. Sorry fans. Everything that was good in this version was already in the original.
  6. For another, more thoughtful review, please see here.

BeautyBeast

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.

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).

Revenant3.jpg

The Confessions of the Joker

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That’s right… even the Joker is serious about the Sacrament of Confession and Reconciliation! Have a listen to his conversion story!

Here’s the transcript:

Hi…

Most of you know me as the Joker. When Evan heard about my conversion, he contacted me and asked I could share my experience on Holy Smack. I said, I’d love to, but only if I could say whatever I wanted. He said okay. So here goes…

Last time you saw me, I wasn’t in a really good mood.
I killed people.
For fun.
I almost destroyed Gotham.
For fun.
And I tore down Gotham’s White Knight.
But her Dark Knight… oh, that Bat Man flipped my life around.
You see, while I was in prison, I was kept in isolation, and for good reason. I was insane.
And I never had any visitors. Except for one man.
He was a Catholic priest.
And he told me something I’ll never forget. In fact, I’m gonna tell you what he said, and I hope you’ll never forget it either:

You see, in confession, all your sins just… disappear.
You go into the confessional, and there’s the priest. Just sittin there. You can be anonymous to him, and he doesn’t care. You can tell him anything, even everything, and he doesn’t care. You think you’re sins are special? Original? Yeah… right… there was only one original sin, and Adam and Eve beat you to it long time ago…

Anyway, the priest can’t tell other people what you confess. What’s spoken in confession, really does stay ONLY in confession. He can’t tell your friends (if you have any), he can’t tell the police (yup, separation of Church and State at its best and original form), he can’t tell a recording device, he can’t tell another priest (not even the Pope!), and he can’t tell even your own sweet mother…

That’s called the seal of the confessional. And whatever you confess stays between you and Jesus. In fact, most priests even forget your sins as soon as you walk out the door. The Holy Spirit gives them a holy amnesia, otherwise, can you imagine living life knowing all the sleaze people do? It’d drive you crazy! Not to mention that confession can even get boring after you hear the same sin for the thousandth time… but don’t go out and try to impress a priest now! Trust me, that’s beside the point.

But in confession, you’re in hand to hand combat with the devil. Satan is a fiend. Worse than what I ever was. And he doesn’t want you there. He doesn’t want you anywhere near confession, because in confession, you’re really near the Lord. Confession is actually more powerful than exorcism! And in confession, you’re humbling yourself, and the devil is one prideful, stuck up jerk. And in confession, he’s hiding in the shadows of your past.

And the closer you get to Jesus, digging up your history of sins (and it might me from 5 years back, 20 years back, or maybe even just 20 minutes back), the stronger the light breaks in. Oh man… that light burns, like 10,000 UVA and UVB. And it obliterates the shadows. That’s when you can see the worst sins trying to get away from confession — they want to hide from being exposed. They first try to convince you that they’re no big deal, small fry, no more sins here, just move on. But keep going after them, and they get nasty. Then they try to convince you they’re too big for forgiveness, way too big to be rid of, way too much and you can’t handle it… you’ll be so embarassed by them.

Don’t listen to those lies. In fact, that’s when you know for sure this festering thing has to be purged. So grab it, and it’s black greasy tentacles will freak out. Like some leprous octopus. So drag it out into the light, spit it out in confession, and it’ll scream: “Let me go! Jesus can’t forgive you! You’re disgusting! Leave me alone!”

But that’s it’s last words. Because Lumen Christi — the light of Christ, that’s right, I know my Latin — His light sears and cuts that demon down, and it fizzles off like a fart in the wind. Nothing left. Just… gone.

That’s the power of the priest’s absolution: Christ working through the obedient and docile man, so he can pluck off and chop up the leeches that sucked on your soul. If you need to know how ugly sin is, just look up images of leeches and lampreys and pelican eels, and remember that sin is even uglier.

And now, why am I telling you this? Well because it worked for me.

I went to confession. And I confessed a sin that was festering in me since I was a little 10 year old boy. No matter how much a tried to stop, I just couldn’t keep clean. It haunted me, perverted me, and I lost control of my childhood. I was addicted; I became evil. But I didn’t want to stay this way.

So thank God. Because after that confession, that sin no longer had any control over me, and today, I’m free. Even in prison, my soul is free. I feel stronger and better today than I can ever remember!

And if it can work for me, it can work for you.

Now, all I need to do is try and talk like a normal person again… baby steps… baby steps…

God love you.

Choose Better News

ProdigalPress

[definitely start with this book if you want more info]

Journalism ain’t what it used to be.

It used to be about getting the truth out. But now that relativism is the philosophy of life, any lie can be the truth and any truth can be a lie.

It used to be about fairness and awareness. But now there are only politics and propaganda, and a whole lotta news that is actually more like gossip and gimmick than informative.

And it used to be honest and modest. But now the news is shamelessly attacking people’s reputations, slandering them, and even selling porn like it’s part of the programming.

If you cannot tell, I am more than angry. Especially when the media talks trash about the Bride of Christ: aka, Mother Church. And you just don’t talk smack about someone’s momma, and that goes infinity-mode for Jesus’ Momma!

I’m thinking we all need a New Year’s Resolution that goes something like this: I will be more critical and skeptical of Big Media, and fact check when it comes to politics and religion. If I am Catholic, I will do this by actually reading news reported by Catholic journalism that is faithful to Church teaching. After all, faithful Catholics probably know more about Church news than a bunch of non-believers (and sometimes even anti-believers!) who don’t know transubstantiation from transportation, or the papacy from pepper spray, or excommunication from miscommunication, or exorcize from exercise!MediaBiasThink about it: why let someone who knows nothing about your family heritage tell you what to believe about your legacy? Would it perhaps be better to, I don’t know, listen to your great grandmother? Ask your grandfather? Eh?

So if you are Catholic, and actually want to be more Catholic (yes, that’s a challenge and a dare), then give these sites a chance during this new year and drop TIME, New York Times, Yahoo!, CNN, FOX, NBC, CBS, ABC, ETC.*

And if you are not Catholic, then why listen to a bunch of biased anti-Catholics talk about the Church? Shouldn’t you let the Church speak for herself? Get both sides of the story? Fairness and awareness, ya know?

Because who knows? You might stop missing out on big things happening with the Church, and you might even actually start picking up the treasures of the Church that were yours to find all this time…

1) National Catholic Register (I check them every day)
2) Catholic Vote (ah… politics without heretics)
3) Catholic News Agency (I admit some bias here, since they once interviewed me about Yuna Kim)
4) Catholic Exchange (not as informative, but always good to skim through)
5) LifeNews and LifeSiteNews (these two are pretty intense and never boring. You have been warned)
6) Ave Maria Radio (if you prefer listening instead of reading news)
7) Catholic Answers Live (if you wanna call in and ask questions)

*Note that I am not saying never consider those news sources anymore, but only that they should be compared and checked with Catholic sources regarding reports about Church topics.

Closing Thoughts on Korra

The Legend of Korra has ended, and what a series of surprises! I have to say my favorite Books of Korra have to be One and Three. Amon was such a tragic and complex villain, and the peril inflicted on Korra by Amon and the Red Lotus really tested our heroine’s character.

—–1) But let’s take a closer look at Book Four‘s episode 8: Remembrances. This episode was more like a recap to prepare us for the finale stretch, but this was no filler episode. Some intense insight was to be seen:

KorraMakoWhen Mako and Prince Wu are sharing their stories with each other, Mako shares with us what he learned from his time with Korra, and then with Asami. The takeaway here is that when we date, we should be able to breakup without turning our girlfriend/boyfriend into an enemy. If the two do become enemies, then what was the relationship worth in the first place? Obviously then both were too immature and irresponsible with one another’s hearts. Now, this doesn’t mean the two cannot argue. Arguing is actually a healthy thing if the argument is over something extremely important! But it’s vital not to tear each other down in the argument, but to work together and find out the truth. Arguing should strengthen your relationship, not bomb it into oblivion.

But here’s the gem from Mako’s experience, when he says: “I had to figure out who I was without a lady in my life.” This is exactly why it’s so important for boys and young men to have good fathers and big brothers. Boys will stay boys if they don’t have a mature man to guide and challenge them. Boys will stay boys and really mess up their girlfriends if they don’t learn from their fathers how a women should be respected and honored. For Mako and Bolin, they grew up without a father or mother, so we can see now why it took them so long to mature, and to do it the hard way with much hurt and hurting others involved.

This is also a reason why seminarians focus so much on fraternity (the good kind, not the college frat-boy kind) and put dating on hold (either temporarily or permanently). We’re finding out who we are, so that we can better serve and sacrifice in whatever vocation God is calling us to. Because without this self-awareness, then we have no idea what our flaws and strengths are, and without this understanding we can never better or humble ourselves. Chastity and modesty are the virtues that help us achieve this. Men also need more time alone in prayer with God, without the distractions of dating (because dating should only happen after our relationship with God [Love itself] is on the right path — after all, how can you hope to love anyone if you don’t first know Love?). For more about this, please visit ChastityProject.com.

And there’s seemingly a throwaway line from Prince Wu: “I’m not strong like you, Mako! I can’t help being weak! I was born this way.” Yet, there he is, Prince Wu learning to toughen up under Mako’s training. It goes to show that yes, we are all born weak, illiterate, ignorant and with a bunch of other deficiencies, but does that mean we should stay that way? Heck no! And we see the Prince really mature as the season progresses.

—–2) And as for the series’ finale with episode 13: The Last Stand? A few things stuck out to me:

KorraSavesKuviraFirst, the whole series has been recurrent with self-sacrifice. We see this again, but this time Korra sacrifices herself to save an enemy (no one before Jesus ever taught us to do this!). Especially noteworthy is that it’s Kuvira’s own weapon that is going to kill her, until Korra steps in as a body shield. This analogy fits well with how Jesus took on our fallen nature and our sin (our own weapons, our own mess and selfishness was going to condemn and kill us) and died in our place.

KorraBrokenSecond, after both Korra and Kuvira are blasted into the Spirit World, Korra shares that she has finally realized that all the suffering she has gone through actually were blessings in disguise — without them she would not have matured and grown in wisdom, humility and compassion. Throughout the season, she was struggling to find meaning in her near-death experience and past trauma, and it was only after saving Kuvira that Korra understood. This is one reason why Christians believe suffering is permitted (not caused directly) by God, and that just because someone is suffering does not mean it is better for them to die, thus why euthanasia is morally evil (because murder is a sin, but suffering can be for our good as long as we suffer with Jesus).

Third, forgiveness of one’s enemies was found three times in this episode alone: when Asami forgives her father’s betrayals and deceptions, when Korra forgives Kuvira and saves her out of compassion, when Kuvira herself forgives Korra. Earlier in the season, we saw Korra forgive even Zaheer and accept his help! And it’s important to understand that forgiveness does not necessarily mean trusting the offending person again. It means you let go of the resentment you have for the person who hurt you and move on.

BONUS: the final scene of The Last Stand has most viewers interpreting it in a way that advocates for LGBT issues. All we see is Korra and Asami walking into the Spirit World hand-in-hand and turn to face one another. To me, this is more likely to be about the two becoming closer as sisters. We saw earlier how Mako and Bolin grew as brothers, but now we also see how Asami and Korra grew in their sisterhood. This is supported by the fact that the whole series moved from the romance between the friends in the beginning (Mako and Korra, Mako and Asami) to their love of one another as close siblings at the end. To see this love between Asami and Korra as romantic seems a far stretch to me, and is a sign of how lustful and perverse our society has become to see even this simple innocent gesture between them as sexual.AsamiKorra

Yet, even if our two leading ladies have same-sex attraction: all persons are called to love and to be loved, including those of us with same-sex attraction! And to have same-sex attraction itself is not sinful (despite what many Christians wrongly believe), but to act on that love in a sexual way is a sin, because love need not be sexual (if it needs to be sexual, then it ain’t love). In fact, sexual expression is only appropriate in a holy marriage between one man and one woman (not a marriage done for lust, for social gain, for politics and power, for money, for polygamy, etc.), because the marriage vows [of sacrificial love] help the husband and wife prevent sex from becoming lustful, abusive, perverted and harmful to their love. Catholic teaching pushes back against this culture’s lust and perversion with true love that is understood to be genuine and selfless, chaste and courageous. I hope to share more about this in a more in-depth post, but for now, please let me share these insightful videos and interviews of persons with same-sex attraction instead: The Third Way, and the Desire of the Everlasting Hills. And for more authentic and compassionate Catholic wisdom on this topic, please start here.

Well, that’s all I have for now about this latest Avatar series. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey it put me on, and I hope the best for the creators and cast of the Legend of Korra. Pray for them all!

For more about Korra on HolySmack, look here: The Avatar and the Pope and the Passion.