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.

—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

An Exorcism Experience

IMG_20141003_145844By now, most of America is in Halloween mode.

And I’ve been saving a special something for Halloween mode.

A few months ago, a dear friend shared with me about her exorcism experience. Now, just to be clear, she did not undergo the Ritual of Exorcism. What is meant is that she experienced the power of the exorcism prayers in the Medal of Saint Benedict (do yourself a favor and click the link!). And when I heard her story, I felt she should share it with others also, and so I offered her the chance (and SO glad she responded generously! Thanks, Sarah!). In many ways, it reminded me of the Exorcism of Emily Rose, and ultimately because both Emily and Sarah became witnesses not to the devil’s tricks, but witnesses to Christ’s power and love.

But that’s enough from me. Have a look and a listen yourself:

 

Sed Libera Nos a Malo

DeliverUsFromEvil“But Deliver Us from Evil…”

And does Deliver Us from Evil deliver?

I love a good exorcism story. But over the last few decades, they’ve been less and less original. My favorite is still Scott Derrickson’s The Exorcism of Emily Rose (yes, I prefer it over the original Exorcist).

This latest film from Derrickson wasn’t bad at all, but it did leave me feeling disappointed. No one in the film industry seems to know what to do next with the genre (which is why I wrote Little Miss Lucifer); the same story runs over and over. Hey Hollywood! It’s getting a bit redundant!

But let’s focus for now on the positives from Deliver Us:

1) It’s Catholic. The director himself, in a lengthy interview, admits that he “has nothing but love for Catholicism” and would convert if it weren’t for one reason: he doesn’t know how to raise his kids Catholic. So, here’s to praying he finds out how!

St. Benedict Medal2) It boldly features the Medal of Saint Benedict! Today is the Memorial of Saint Benedict! I have more and more friends who sport the Medal of St. Benedict. If you want to know more, check out this page (note: the medal bears exorcising properties.)

3) It calls out anti-Catholic stereotypes, especially about priests. No priest is perfect, just like no police officer is perfect, just like no person is perfect: “Every saint has a past — every sinner has a future.”

4) It takes the Sacrament of Confession dead seriously: meaning that if you’re going to battle the devil’s tricks and temptations, you must be free from your tainted history, and the only one who can liberate you from your guilt and lies is Jesus Christ. Confession is not only for healing, but also for shielding!

5) And of course, the Latin!

ExorcismMeme

The Romance Tongue

VaticanAnd when I say Romance, I mean as in relating to Rome, as in the Roman tongue, aka: Latin.

The Roman Catholic Church [aka: the Latin Church] still uses Latin today. Sure, it causes some to wonder why, and causes others to be suspicious. After all, isn’t Latin a dead language? Does anyone even understand it anymore? Why keep up with it when it’s irrelevant?

Well, I’ve heard many of those thoughts throughout the years, and I’ve had many of those years to reflect and pray about it. Here’s what I think:

1) Latin is Mother Church’s language. I mean, wouldn’t you wanna know the language your own momma speaks? Don’t you love her? It’s a part of your heritage, your legacy! (Which explains why I love learning Chinese, academically and for fun.) If you don’t know a lot of Latin, at least know how to goo-goo-gah-gah in Latin, and lip-sync some of her favorite love songs!

2) Latin isn’t so much a dead language as it is a language that has been left alive for one thing, and one thing only: worshiping God. Think about it: we use common languages (like English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Afrikaans, etc.) for common things. We use those languages to work, to curse, to joke, to love, to hurt, to heal, etc. When we use any language well, then it’s all good. But we can also easily use those languages to harm… except we can’t really use Latin to harm! Not enough of us know it well enough to use it for evil. And so Latin’s limited use has left it off limits to common use/abuse, and has dedicated it now as a custom-made language for praying and serving God.

3) Common languages (aka: vernacular languages) are changing constantly. Words in English have changed since Shakespeare. Styles of Chinese have evolved since the Oracle Bones. They change because people use them, and people change. But God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Latin today symbolizes our unchanging God superbly, because Latin does not change! It hasn’t changed since the Roman Empire went to ruin. And now it’s not going to change anymore because it’s a “dead” language: what a Latin prayer meant 1,000 years ago means the same today, and always. Whereas maybe 100 years from now English will be too different to even read an English dictionary!

The Latin Missal4) I cherish being able to pray in Latin. I pride myself in learning new Latin hymns and prayers by heart because it humbles me. I love it because it’s like the trust-game: even though I don’t understand every word and nuance of the Latin prayer, I do know that Mother Church has been praying this way and teaching us these prayers for centuries, and countless saints have said the same prayers, and it worked for them! It teaches me to trust my Church, my Faith, and pray the way she has prayed to her Lord and Savior for ages and ages.

5) Lastly, if some exorcists claim that the demon corrects them when they stumble through Latin in the Ritual, then who am I to think Latin is inferior?! Hell don’t care if English prayers are mispronounced, but mutter a Latin error and the devils go out of their way to correct you while you’re thrashing them??? I don’t know exactly why, but that just means there’s something about Latin you just don’t mess with or brush off. After all, some exorcists even claim that the prayers in Latin are just more effective.

So there you have it: five little reasons why I like to have some Latin in my pocket and in my prayers.

P.s. Did I mention that dinosaur names are in Latin?

[Tyrannosaurus Rex!]

[Tyrannosaurus Rex!]

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

LML: Secrets of Another Annunciation (CH:01)

[WARNING: what follows is an interview that reveals the details and depths of Little Miss Lucifer: The Legend of the Exorcess. SPOILER ALERT.]

CH01 Another Annunciation—You: So let’s skip to where the story seems to start. Just before the first chapter, I’m noticing the Flutterfly again, but this time without a heart… just has its horns. Does it have to earn its heart or something?Flutterfly

—Evan: Not only that, but it has to trade something to gain a heart…

—You: What about the words on the page opposite the Flutterfly? It sounds like a taunt. From what I gather so far, is it the Devil taunting God?

book_of_job—Evan: If you’ve never read the Book of Job in the Old Testament, then you definitely should look into it! It’s exactly that: the Devil testing the limits of a person’s morality, daring God to let him – the Devil – tempt us to show our true colors. It’s quite fascinating, and also not a very long book to read.

—You: Maybe I will! Is that a taunt?

—Evan: It’s a dare.

—You: Well, perhaps when I finish Little Miss Lucifer. But opposite the first page of the story, there’s a quote by Saint Paul from his letters to the Corinthians. It’s 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 3: “Did you not know we shall judge angels?” I have to say, I’ve never heard that ever.

—Evan: Me neither, not until about Lent 2012! I was praying the daily Scripture readings at Mass that day, and when I hit that line from Saint Paul… I stopped and read it again, and again. I remember thinking, “What is this?! I cannot believe this! This is what the whole story is about! Saint Paul… I stole your idea!” So I knew then that I absolutely had to open the novel with that quote.

—You: But, what does it even mean? For us to judge angels?

—Evan: Well, Saint Paul is talking about the saints of Heaven, which is the Church Triumphant – the Church that’s actually made it to Heaven. The saints (and I hope you and I are among them one day!) along with Jesus Himself will be pronouncing judgment on the Last Day. At that time, as Saint Paul says, we’ll be judging and sentencing, and if we can judge, we can also dismiss… we can also pardon… we can also forgive. I don’t know about you, but that’s BIG news to me… us mere mortals judging walking shards of lightning? Craziness…

And anyway, what kind of angels need judgment? The good ones? Of course not… of course it’ll be…

—You: It’ll be the fallen angels. The devils.

—Evan: And Satan himself. The first of the fallen. The fact that the Lord would even let the saints judge angels shows us how humble He is. The only analogy I can think of is a farmer asking his cattle to judge his children! Baffles me… in a good way! The honor He would give those of us who love Him… despite how unworthy we are. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not for a prize that we should love Him, not at all, because then it’s not real love… but it’s shocking how generous He is…

—You: Wow. I heard of forgiveness of enemies… but forgiving even the Devil…

An Exorcist Tells His Story—Evan: That’s the ultimate enemy. In fact, when I was doing research for the story, I read plenty of accounts by exorcists. One who I looked up to most is Father Gabriel Amorth, the chief exorcist of Rome. I will never forget when he explained that even Satan must be respected. Because the Devil is still a creation of God, that we must respect all Creation.

—You: What? Why? Isn’t Satan a fallen angel? Evil?

—Evan: But that’s not what defines Satan. Satan is still an angel. It’s the same with us humans. Just because someone grows up and becomes the Nazi fuhrer does not mean he’s no longer human. No matter how twisted, corrupt, wicked… Hitler was still a human being. Though he chose to be evil, his evil did not define him. Because if it did, then all of our own immoral actions also define us… but what defines us is permanent and unchanging. A definition cannot change. But our actions can change, because we can choose.

—You: So what defines Hitler then? What defines Satan?

—Evan: Well, same thing that defines you! You are the child of your mother and father. That is your identity, your unchangeable definition. Even if a person is disowned, they still are the child of their parents. And as Christians, we believe that everyone is a child of God. The angels are, and we are too.

—You: You’re saying that God still thinks of Hitler as His child? Still thinks of Satan as His?

—Evan: If a mother has a son who murders, is he not still her son? And does she not still want her son to become a better person? Hoping against all hope?

—You: This is going pretty deep… and we still didn’t start the chapter yet!

—Evan: Here we go then! Chapter One: Another Annunciation. The best visual aid I can share for this chapter is a painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Annunciation is the event when God sent the Archangel Gabriel to announce God’s proposal to a young Jewish peasant girl. Her name was Mary, and we all know she said yes. I find Tanner’s depiction of the Annunciation as very real. I mean, just look at it! You can see how nervous and shy Mary is. She’s just getting over the fact that a beam of fire is speaking with her, without razing the whole house down.Henry Ossawa Tanner's "Annunciation"

—You: I’ve never seen this picture before! I really like how the angel is unintelligible… just brightness, just heat.

—Evan: Would you say it’s HOT? Just like the artist’s initials?

—You: Haha! You would notice that, of course.

—Evan: Thanks. And so the first chapter is merely another annunciation, and HOT’s Annunciation inspired me to present how it might’ve happened, but on another night, in another place, before another young lady in another time. One image I tried to describe was that the room became so bright, that it was like looking at the sun with our eyes shut.

—You: I don’t think I’ve ever done that.

[Almost like the Earth is bleeding.]

[Almost like the Earth is bleeding.]

—Evan: Try it next time on a sunny day. Close your eyes and turn to face the sun. The red you’ll see is intense… like staring at lava. But of course, it’s the blood in your eyelid that you’re seeing. That reminds me of a friend who slept under the open sun before. I have no idea how he fell asleep with a redness that bright glaring down at him…

—You: He must’ve been wiped out! But this chapter… this another annunciation is different, isn’t it? It could be Gabriel the Archangel again, but it’s not like the first one with Mary?

—Evan: No, you’re right. This one ends in violence, almost a rape. But not by the Archangel or by God. Never. Instead… we meet abductors, body snatchers, kidnappers. In a trance on the angel’s message and the angel’s beauty, she doesn’t realize what’s happening…