The Conjuring is Conquering

conjuring-posterWhen I first saw The Conjuring (2013) by director James Wan, I knew the film was special in its class. The sequel, The Conjuring 2 (2016), affirms the series’ uniqueness. At the end of my review, I’ll mention the standout point from the first film, but for now, let me share how The Conjuring is conquering its genre (see here for my thoughts on The Nun).

—SPOILER ALERT—

—–1) In this earlier review here, we learn that the writers for the movie series are devout Christians, and not only that, but are also devout Catholic Christians. Now although all Christians are similar in that we love and follow Jesus Christ, other Christians differ in that they broke away from the Church Jesus originally founded on St. Peter, our Lord’s first pope. Perhaps in a later post I can share more about this schism (to break away), but for now, we see in the film a few examples of why the Catholic Church stands apart from the Christian denominations that broke off from her to start their own churches. The first example is when we see Ed and Lorraine Warren discuss that any work they do must be cleared by “the Church.” And we all know that “the Church” refers to: the Catholic Church. Not the neighborhood community church, or the city central church, etc., but the Catholic Church. This reminds me of a quote from renowned movie critic Roger Ebert:ExorcismMeme

—–2) The second example of the Catholic Church’s primacy is the use and display of crucifixes in the film. Catholics and Orthodox Christians use and prefer crucifixes, and a crucifix is different from a mere cross: crosses do not have the little statue or image of Jesus affixed, but crucifixes do. In the film, we see a room covered in crosses, but the crosses are playthings to the demon. Evil does not fear two sticks glued together. However, when a crucifix comes out, especially when it comes out in the hands of a faithful and prayerful Christian, the demons freak. The key is that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ changes the mere cross into a weapon against sin and Satan. Without Jesus, a cross is merely an instrument of terrorism and torture, but with Jesus’ sacrifice, the cross becomes the beams that crush Hell. Here’s a little meme to summarize:CrossWithChrist

—–3) An extra sign of the Church’s power is in Ed’s use of Latin in his prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. We saw this in the first Conjuring (and in many other exorcism films), and it is reinforced here. To keep this short and sweet: Latin is the language of the Catholic Church, it’s the mother language of Catholics, and whether we know it or not, Latin remains our inheritance. In fact, real exorcists have claimed that Latin prayers have a extra punch to them than prayers in usual languages. Demons seem to despise Latin prayers, perhaps because the only culture that uses Latin in conversation today is the Church. In Latin prayers, the Church converses with her Lord Jesus Christ, and it’s a conversation most worthy of being had. Latin, because no other society uses it conversationally and daily, has become set aside (reserved) for the Church’s prayers. Latin, in a sense, has become holy (set apart, and in this case for serving God).

—–4) Next, it is true demons use fear to destroy us. When we fear, we tend to forget we are actually loved, actually guarded and prized by God and all Heaven. Many of us would do things exactly as the characters in the film: run, hide, scream, cry… and we should! But we should run to Christ! Hide in God’s light! Scream for the Lord’s mercy! Cry to the saints to pray with us, for us, to the Holy Spirit! Demons want us to be so afraid that we forget God, that we doubt He can help, that we dismiss His presence and focus on the demons and the crisis. Instead, we must turn to God immediately. As soon as trouble starts, and even before it starts, whip out your faith and call on Our Father who art in Heaven. In the film, we see Lorraine bust out her rosary when things get crazy. Don’t pay the demon any attention, but shower your gaze on Jesus, invite the Holy Spirit to nuke the sins and the demons. Get into the habit of using troubles as reminders to pray.Be Fearless

—–5) And at last, Janet, the star of the film, says something subtly profound at the end. After the literal Hell she has been dragged through by the demon, she believes she is so lucky! She actually says, “I’m so lucky!” and is not being sarcastic! She sees that all the terrors have been a way for God to lead her to love, to lead her to know two amazing and faithful friends in Lorraine and Ed. The evil was wicked and deadly, but God somehow knows how to work the horrors for Janet and her family’s benefit in the end. This is also true for the Warrens, when we see them realize that God has given Lorraine her gifts, and has allowed her to see the terrifying visions in order to help her save Ed and Janet from death. Most importantly, it must be said that we believe God never causes any evil, but He does permit evil to happen when we humans or when spirits (angelic or demonic) choose to commit evil out of our own free will. He might limit some of the consequences of our sins, out of His mercy, but He does permit us to use our free will, and only He knows how to set things up for our benefit. We must trust Him and do our best to do His will. To find out why God would take such a risk to let us have free will, please see this post.the_conjuring_-_uk_1757631a

—–And about the first Conjuring film: there was one line that jumped out at me. The mother in the film, after learning that the demon harassing her is the damned spirit of a woman who murdered her own child, says: “What kind of mother would kill her own children?” As soon as I heard this, I thought immediately of the millions of children aborted because their parents did not want them, did not love them enough to share life with them. The numbers are sobering: over 55 million children in America have been aborted since 1973, over 336 million Chinese babies have been aborted since the 1980s. And if you don’t really know what an abortion is and how traumatizing and violent it is for the mother and child, please see the abortion procedures here. So the question from the first film is actually pointing a finger at us as a nation, as a culture: what kind of society kills its own children?

—–The Conjuring 2 was a treat. It’s rare in film to see faith presented, the Church respected, and at the same time not in a cheesy lame way. I am grateful I got to see the film, and to share my thoughts. May God bless you and all those involved in the film in any way. Amen!

—–For a thoughtful and much more thorough review, please see Dcn. Steven Greydanus’ here.patrickwilsonconjuring2

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X-Men: Days of Future Past, now with Catholic Symbols!

The X-Men films have been more and more surprising to me! First, there was First Class’ symbolism of Professor X choosing a life of Catholic priestly celibacy for the sake of his beloveds, and now there’s even more Catholic symbolism in Days of Future Past! Here’s what I saw (warning – possible spoilers!):

  1. X-Men: Days of Future PastThe Chinese temple the X-Men hide in during Logan’s time-travel doesn’t seem pagan to me… not at all! For one thing, I’ve never seen Chinese pagan temples with an altar like that, much less use stained-glass windows like that! I mean, when I say “stained-glass”, most people think “church!”
  2. Logan rests upon the altar during his time-travel. Why an altar? Why signify that this is a sacrificial act for Logan? Why the intimate symbolism with Christ’s sacrifice at the Mass upon Catholic altars?
  3. Then there’s Professor X almost breaking out a gospel song/psalm/hymn with: “Lead me… guide me…” If you don’t believe me, just Google “Lead me… guide me…” and you’ll see how Christian that line is.
  4. And despite Jennifer Lawrence’s (as Raven/Mystique) butchering of the Vietnamese language (nice try! But no.), she too was involved in Catholic symbolism. When she sought help for her wound, where did she go? A Catholic hospital! With a crucifix smack dab in the middle of the opening shot! And when the world reacted in terror of Mystique and other mutants on the news, what did the Catholic religious sister wonder? She wondered if the woman – the mutant – has a family. She wondered with concern and compassion. When the world freaked, the Catholic sister loved and nursed.
  5. Audrey Hepburn as Sister LukeAnd if that wasn’t enough, when Mystique flees from an insane Erik (Magneto) in a crowded subway station, who do we see file into the shot and veil Mystique’s escape? A half-dozen or so religious sisters in full habit! I bet Mystique morphed into one of them and slipped away… I bet!
  6. Finally, the last scenes in the movie invoked in me a glimpse of eternal life in Heaven. Wolverine wakes to find that despite the terror and horrific sacrifice he witnessed in his life, when he wakes… everything is okay. And not merely okay, but perfect. In this life, we face terrors and are called to make incredible sacrifices for our beloveds, for our Beloved. And by doing so, we experience in Heaven that it was all truly worth every drop of sweat, blood and tears. Everyone who loves is there with us, and it is the greatest reunion ever – replete with sharing epic stories of how we struggled with life and faithfully finished the race. Well done, good and faithful servant, good and faithful friend.
  7. And a bonus: The overall story arc that the future is not set, that our decisions have weight, that we have free will is a holy smack against the heresy of Calvinist Predestination. We Catholic Christians believe God is love, but if we have no free will, then love is only an illusion. I don’t know about you, but love is pretty real to me. [More about this in detail here.]
  8. Now don’t take my word for it… see for yourself!

*Want more? Here’s a great Days of Future Past review by Steven Greydanus.

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P.s. I have no idea why these symbols are present in the movie… but I like them!