Really Hate the Church

Do you disagree with the Catholic Church?

If you do, let me share how you can disagree successfully and completely! A hundred percent! And even if you don’t disagree, you should keep the following point in mind:

Once upon a time, there was a basketball player and a hockey player. The basketball player hated hockey with malicious viciousness. We’ll call him Piston (cawz dis be Deetroit!) and we’ll call the hockey player RedWing (because I’m out of ideas.)

RedWing: Dude, Piston — what’s hockey ever done to you? Why do you hate hockey so much?

Piston: I just do! I hate hockey! The game sucks!

RedWing: (Instead of high-sticking Piston in the face on the spot, he asks) Well… what about “hockey” sucks?

Piston: Well! For one thing, it’s too cold! Why do they need to make to whole arena like a freezer? I went to a game once and I got the sniffles! That’s just wrong.

RedWing: Oooookay… anything else about the game of hockey?

Piston: Yeah! The net around the rink! What’s up with that? It blocks the view, and the plexiglass has a stupid glare. So, even if I wanted to watch the game, I can’t! Dumb as crap! Dumb…

RedWing: Right… right… and the skates are dumb, too?

Piston: That’s the worst part of hockey! It’s already cold and slippery on the rink, who needs skates to make it even slippier?! You should all use snowshoes instead. Safety first man… safety first.

END OF CONVERSATION

(Note: I am NOT saying basketball players are dumb and that hockey players are smart. If that’s what you think the point was, please go back to school.)

So what does that have to do with disagreeing with the Catholic Church? Well… consider this quote:

“There are not 100 persons who hate the Church, but there are millions who hate what they think is the Church.” -Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

That’s a big claim! So is Bishop Sheen thinking about you when he said that? Are you a basketball player who hates the legendary sport of hockey for all the wrong reasons? Are you a Catholic who disagrees with what you THINK the Church says, instead of what she actually proposes?

Here is the challenge to you: If you think the Church has to change her teaching on Holy Matrimony, sanctity of all human life, love and relationships, worship, liturgy, Sacred Scripture, human sexuality, stem-cell research, Heaven, Hell, Confession, cloning, etc., IF YOU THINK THE CHURCH IS WRONG on any of the above and more, then do your research before you speak out like you know 100% what’s on her mind and what’s in her heart (which is ultimately what her Lord (Jesus Christ) thinks too).Mr_Silly

Because someone who acts like they know what they’re talking about (but actually doesn’t) is called… ignorant and prejudiced. So please, take my advice, because I don’t want you to be ignorant and prejudiced. I want you to know the full case, the full teaching of the Church, so that if you do disagree, then you can disagree 100% and not just disagree with some misconception or misinformation (that would be unproductive, wouldn’t it?).

So if you’re against the Church, make sure you’re actually against her and not just your fantasy of her… because then you’d just be against YOURSELF! And that’s kinda silly.

P.S… keep in mind this meme:

gotohell

The only way to leave the Church forever is to go to Hell, because anywhere else is still the Church! Life on Earth is the Church Militant, Purgatory is the Church Suffering, and Heaven is the Church Triumphant (hope to see you there!).

 

Figuring Hidden Figures

hidden-figures-750x315_origThis film is not one I would normally pay any attention to, yet someone I love enlightened me to it! And so, in her honor and in the honor of the hidden figures, may I share my insights:

—NO SPOILERS—

——1) The film tells the story of three Black women working for NASA during the American Space Race with the USSR. During this heated time between the two world powers, we see the Soviets outpace the U.S. time and again: they get to space first, they send animals to space first, and they send a human to space first, and they bring him home safely, first. It’s all about first.

That leads me to my sole criticism of the film: it overemphasizes the worth of being first in something, it seems to claim that being first is the reason something should be done, but this is a dangerous idea. Sure, being the first female engineer at NASA is great! Sure, being the first person to explore a jungle is great! Sure, being the first in your family to finish college is great! But what about being the first sinner (Adam and Eve)? The first murderer (Cain)? The first to betray Jesus (Judas)?

And so, being first in something does not automatically make it meritorious or worthy. One must be first in something virtuous, just, holy and true; yet even if one cannot be first in those things, being last also works because goodness doesn’t matter if you’re at the top or bottom, but only if you are faithful.

——2) This film is also not just about women! It’s about healthy women who are in healthy marriages and good families. In sum, it is about the feminine genius that St. John Paul II talked about a lot, about how there is a false feminism and a true feminism. Here are the differences between the two:

False feminism advocates that women must be exactly like men in order to succeed, that men and the male lifestyle are the standard, and in order to win, that women must crush men and replace them. The woman must become manly in order to beat the man.

True feminism sees that women and the female lifestyle have their own standards, that a woman never needs to compare herself to a man, because she is incomparable! Men have their own weaknesses and flaws, and so they should not be imitated, but rather challenged and inspired by the women around them to rise to greatness. The feminine genius, and the way God meant for men and women to be, is to support one another as each grows into greatness! We are not opposing teams, but we are a family!

And Fulton Sheen summarizes this well:

To a great extent the level of any civilization is the level of its womanhood.  When a man loves a woman, he has to become worthy of her. The higher her virtue, the more noble her character, the more devoted she is to truth, justice, goodness, the more a man has to aspire to be worthy of her. The history of civilization could actually be written in terms of the level of its women.

hf-gallery-05-gallery-image——3) We also see that a nation that is divided by racism and sexism is unable to accomplish great things. A nation suffering from prejudice and unjust discrimination is wounding itself. This point is clear when we see that only when such unfairness is set aside do we see America rising and outpacing her opponents. I hope we have learned this lesson.

——4) Lastly, in President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 speech about America’s lunar mission, we hear him say that:

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win …

From this, I saw that the hardest thing to do of all is not going to the moon, or going to Mars, or wherever/whatever. The hardest thing to do in life is to love! Real, true and selfless love for God and for others! And only through this love do we have a chance to accept God’s invitation to enter Heaven!

Common misconceptions of love see it as a good, mushy feeling, but true love is actually a pure decision to keep caring even when everything feels terrible, even when being devoted feels tortuous. In fact, if all those NASA engineers and staff did not love the astronauts they were blasting into orbit, didn’t love the country they represented, didn’t love the mission, then nothing would have happened! John Glenn would never have reached the heavens!

And we will never reach Heaven either if we do not love truly and selflessly.

I Love La La Land

942e8cfb6448873d60ac9821b77b44e5La La Land got me as soon as its trailer came out the past summer. It’s not the usual fare that I like to chew on and sift for Catholic Christian insights, but it is what I love to enjoy: a well-made film with great score and music. Yet, here are a few highlights it made me think of (no spoilers):

——1) I smiled during much of the musical. It was so happy (except for the sad parts, of course). It reminded me of a particular philosopher’s (Peter Kreeft, to be exact) speculation on the after-life. Paraphrased quote goes:

The language we speak in Heaven is music.

And I agree wholeheartedly. Song is super expressive, universal, personal and social, and every time we sing, it comes out new. Even the angels sing for eternity. St. Thomas Aquinas lays bold claims that music is the highest and most spiritually-tuned of all arts, and St. Augustine says:

He who sings well prays twice [as much].

Meaning that when we sing our prayers well, the prayer becomes worth double! (Which is why the Church always prefers Gregorian Chant [or similar] in her liturgies). And this leads me to my own speculation that when God said “Let there be light…” He did not just say it–He sung it. God sang creation into being, into reality. God sings us into existence. This makes sense to me because if we, who are His children, love music so much… then how much more does God Himself, since He created music and our ability and capacity to recognize it, appreciate, love, and create it. Answer: infinitely more.

And think about this: music is just highly organized noise. The order of the sounds is what makes a song, and nobody teaches us how to recognize a song as different from a pandemonium of noise: we’re just created with this capability to hear it, conceived ready to love it.

——2) Speaking of our creation: God did not make us to sit an offices and push papers. He did not make us so that we can stand on assembly lines, or wait in waiting rooms, or slave over tiresome toil. God made us to sing! To dance and to play! To live lives of music! The world was meant to be our playground and dance floor, but our sins (i.e., Original Sin) made us forfeit it all. So watching musicals like La La Land remind me that we who make it to Heaven will find an incredible musical experience waiting for us. An eternity of play and dance, enjoying what God meant us to be and to do: exploring His creation, meeting His creatures, and wandering His infinite creativity and love.movies_imgs_431478241912

——3) As for dance, the numbers in the film remind me of what a truly great dance between a man and a woman should do. Quoting myself from Just Too Beautiful:

A woman’s beauty and a man’s beauty are not the same, not equal, not interchangeable.

A woman is as different as she can be from a man – and still be 100% human. A man is as different as he can be from a woman – and still be 100% human.

Anyone who believes a man can become a woman must also believe that the night sky can become the stars, that the frame can become the painting, the page can become the story, the dress can become the body.

But no matter how similar the two – it is impossible for one to become the other, because the one is meant for the other, and the other for the one…

Because when man holds woman – he supports the stars, he protects and presents the painting, he carries the tale, he embraces the beautiful body. He gets to hold beauty, gets to be with beauty. He gets to care for beauty. He gets to love her.

la-la-land-movie-soundtrack——4) Finally, the prolonged car horn in the musical tells me something. The first time we see and hear Sebastian honk the car horn, it’s out of his hatred for Mia. He is disgusted with her and insults her.

But later, as they learn to love each other, the car horn becomes a sign of love. In fact, each time we hear the horn again, the love is at a higher level, until it becomes an even sacrificial love to care for the other person even if the “feeling of love” is absent (meaning only a pure love based on selfless concern remains).

And that wraps up by first impressions of LLL. I’ll probably be savoring this musical again and will update if I see more depth in the film. But I leave you with a bonus:

——Bonus) Might be a stretch, but Sebastian’s name originates from St. Sebastian, a Roman martyr who competed in life as an athlete and died when he refused to abandon his love for Jesus. Kind of reminds me of how Sebastian in the musical competed and refused to abandon his dreams and Mia’s, also. He urged Mia to not give up and not give in, and they encouraged each other when the other started stumbling. This is exactly how fellow Christians should encourage each other! Never give up faith, hope and love. Never give in to sin. Always reach for the dream of Heaven.

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.

DaysFuturePastBanner

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

The Key to Immortality

Hello readers of Holy Smack! Happy blessed Thanksgiving to all you Americans of the United States.

Mao

Because of my Chinese background, I was thinking the other day: who is the most widely well-known Chinese person in the history of mankind?

Could it be Mao Zedong? The infamous and notorious butcher of a chairman? Who was responsible for at least two failed class revolutions in China that resulted in at least 30 million deaths each.

Christ have mercy on him and their souls.

Emperor Qin

Could it be Qin Shi Huang Di? The infamous and notorious butcher of an emperor? The one who mandated that construction workers of his Great Wall improvise when they ran out of bricks. And so the bodies of workers and peasants were used instead. The Great Wall is the world’s longest mass-grave, visible from space they say.

Lord have mercy on them all.Great Wall of Death

… Or could it be Bruce Lee? The famous and celebrated martial artist of the body and the mind?

Yes, my friends — Bruce Lee read, studied and loved philosophy. And now that I’m in the philosophy program at seminary, I’m also discovering the intrigue and intensity of what our human minds can do. But before I am articulate enough to share that aspect, let me share this:

A lover of life!

A lover of life!

Bruce Lee and his son in 1966.

And what a life Mr. Lee lived! In 32 years, he went from awkward skinny kid stuck in Hong Kong and awkward Chinese immigrant stuck in San Francisco, to Amazing. Just Amazing. It makes me think if he had lived on, what else could he have done? What else? (Reminds me of Jesus Christ, who in 33 years went from unknown to UNIVERSAL SAVIOR… but we’ll talk more about Him another time, aka: Christmas?)

And then I realized that even though Bruce Lee died so early, that I doubt anyone would think his life was wasted. In fact, no matter how short a life is lived — if lived worthy of honorable memory — it is a life of immortal importance. Because we are all immortal. What we leave behind: our legacy, our children, our friends, our love and contribution is all forever. What we leave behind: our crimes, our orphans, our enemies, our selfishness and deprivation is all forever.

So we are all immortal, only the question is: in what way will we be immortal? Will you be immortal in Heaven? and leave tracks behind that help others aim for Heaven? Or will you be immortal in Hell? and leave snares behind you…

For your consideration, please have a look (satisfaction guaranteed):

The World Is Not Enough

I am thinking of some of you… perhaps most of you — maybe.

I am asking the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. The following is an actual prayer journal entry of mine from the morning of November 15th, 2013:

Jesus? how do those who used to believe in You stop believing? How would anyone un-believe after realizing the Beauty? When in unbelieving, the cessation would limit their gaze on Beauty?

BrideSilhouetteHow did they decide there was enough beauty, that they were satisfied with the world and all its temporary aesthetics? Whereas myself… in love and in need of greater and greater beauty, in hope of deeper and deeper drowning in Beauty, drowning in Her. I could never settle for the beauty of mere creation, not because Creation is cheap… no! But because She is so sensuous and luscious that I must find Her source! I must reach for it to reach it! Did man who gazed upon the blush of the moon rest content on merely gazing? Does man shrug at the tropical beach and leave perfectly happy to have seen it from afar? Does a bridegroom just married to his bride find satisfaction in merely beholding her silhouette?

What man would not hope instead to stroll the cheeks of the moon? to rest upon the beach, upon her warm sands, wade in her warm waters, wander her gardens and taste the sweets of her groves? What husband would not desire to embrace and behold fully his wife? All of her!

WeddingCoupleTunnelAll of Her! All of Beauty.
And only All will do for me.

And who does not want even more? Who would settle for less than Heaven?

And I believe in You, God, for I cannot believe that Beauty ends, as this mortal creation ends. My appetite for Beauty is too great, it is too devoted to accept that it all perishes, and perishes forever. But, it is just barely great enough to have faith that Beauty is eternal, forever.
I will only be sated with Her forever.

“If love is not forever — it is nothing.” -Saint Teresa of Avila

Everybody Learn Heavenese!

Someone once challenged me that the English language cannot express everything — that it’s limited… like all languages are.

True.

That’s why we won’t be speaking English in Heaven (sorry British-accent lovers!).

But think about the reason why we have to learn languages in the first place… it’s because we’re not endowed with linguistic abilities at birth, at least not like we’re endowed with —

Before I finish that thought, think about this: you’re listening to a song in a language you have no idea how to use. The song seeps into you, and you start sleeping with the song on, driving with it on, dancing with it, and after a day or so… you start singing it in the shower, then wherever. Yes — it’s stuck in your head. EVEN THOUGH you don’t know the language. And even if you did, maybe there’s that one part where you’re not sure what they’re singing, and you make up words of your own.

Has that ever happened?

Happens to me all the time, especially since I semi-speak Cantonese, Vietnamese, and Mandarin (keyword: semi-speak). There’s always that line I’m not sure about, and I just blah and sing on – sing on… even those Latin words at Mass, even if my voice is an ear-ache, the song must be sung!

That’s it then: MUSIC. We’re endowed with musical abilities like no other creative essence. I can’t cite the sources, but I’ve heard so many times about the ways music and song effect life. Babies who can hardly speak can tell when a note skips in a song they’ve never heard before. Most animals in some veterinarian care are soothed by song and music – and interestingly, the harp is the second most potent instrument to soothe animals. The first is our human voice.

Our human voice is a powerful force, especially when we use it in Gregorian Chant. Research has shown that the chant of the Church has a healing and energetic effect on our physique. Prolonged exposure to the rhythms and prayers (especially when you chant them yourself) have been shown to cause monks to be alert, healthy, and happy — even if they sleep only two hours a day, never eat meat, and work hard labor! Check out this page for more.

gregorian_chant3
Music. Can’t see it, but it makes you see. A character in my first novel regains her sight partly from when she hears powerfully moving music. But you don’t have to be blind to see what music does for your eyes. It makes memories come back. The imagination tries to fit the tune with an event — a soundtrack. And what’s with soundtracks anyway? Watch a film in mute and how long will you stay awake for? Drive across the country without a CD or the radio and what’ll happen?

You can even feel music. The vibrations in the air wrap around you – tingles and tickles. Sometimes it beats on your heart and you wonder if it’s safe.

Then the music picks you up. Your fingers tap and snap, arms flail, shoulders hop, head whips, and your legs… and feet – they’re not just for transit after all. Suddenly you are a dancer — like when you were three and your mom or dad let you stand on their feet and held your hands up so you could waltz and tango.

But it’s just noise! ORGANIZED NOISE (keyword: organized)! And it’s an organization that babies are born able to recognize. So… if we’re born able to, then even a deaf baby can — even though they may never get the chance. But they can. That is key… that they can. Because organization means something caused it [noise] to be organized – something intelligent and creative… an ORGANIZER. Even a thunderstorm sings a song, but its song is less composed than a bird’s, and its is less composed than ours, and ours is less composed than…

And Music is what we speak in Heaven. Finally, we get our own soundtracks when we share our dramatic life story with others. We get to dozy-doe with billions of buddies, sing a musical with friends we never thought we’d see again, karaoke with the original artists themselves, and be as expressive as God made music to be. Why? Because everything about Heaven makes us more human than we are now. We are more ourselves then than we can ever be now.

Hope to see you there one day…

[Inspired by Dr. Peter Kreeft’s quote]
[FYI: ever wonder who set up the modern form of written music as we know it today? (It’s Guido D’Arezzo, a Benedictine monk)

[Psst, this is an edited re-post of a piece I wrote in Dec. 2009.]