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

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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

Zombie Theology

IAmLegend.jpgThe film “I Am Legend” is a far too underrated zombie story. It is well acted, well written, well scored and well played over all. Though a few years old now, it is still a fine viewing film, especially for the Advent and Christmas seasons (yep! you heard right, and they did indeed release the film during Advent 2007, after all). Let me show you why zombies and theology mix well here.




—SPOILER ALERT—


—–1) Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and the Krippin Virus: both are good, and made with good intentions. The Tree that God made is by default good because He does not create anything less than good, because He is Goodness itself. The only bad was when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and doubted His goodness and love. They believed the lie and tried to usurp God. the consequences of this Original Sin are death, hatred, and evil in man. In the movie “I Am Legend,” the Krippin Virus is also made for good, but its consequences are too devastating to man.

IAmLegend3.jpg—–2) Season of Advent: the movie shows us that the beginning of the Krippin Virus (K.V.) outbreak was during the season leading up to Christmas time. Decorations are everywhere, and the decorations stayed up because the world fell apart waiting for a cure, a savior (magazine cover). We see that the effects of the virus are horrific
and ravaging, affecting soon all of mankind. This is an allegory for Original Sin and its consequences for all of us. The world is weary in fighting the illness of sin, with no hope of Heaven. At the same time, there are signs that God still loves us (throughout the movie). A motif representing this is the butterfly: a transformation from illness to health, from sinner to saint (i.e., same creature, different existence). So there is indeed hope, if we know how to read God’s signs, which increasingly become less and less random and more intentional. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for Christians, and waiting for three things: a) Christmas as a memorial of Jesus’ birth, b) the coming of Jesus into our lives and hearts, c) the future Second-Coming of Jesus to judge the world in glory. And so we see int he film a perpetual advent, waiting for a cure, for salvation.

—–3) We are the infected in the film, sinners infected with concupiscence and death. Instead of destroying us in our evil (our illness), Jesus comes to redeem us. In the film, Neville does the same and seeks to cure us of our ills. Jesus is immune to our sins. Neville is immune to the virus. And Neville does not seek to wipe out all who have K.V., but rather hopes to help them, to save them.

—–4) In order to help us though, Jesus was born of a woman, Mary, who is a woman of great faith. Neville, in order to help us, also needs to be cared for by a woman of great faith. Please see points #9 and #11 for more about this.

—–5) As sin is atoned for by the shedding of blood (think of the Israelite animal sacrifices), Neville also sheds blood in order to cure us (i.e., he sacrifices himself for us, and the immunity to K.V. is in his blood). Jesus, of course is the true sacrifice who died to redeem all of us; it is Christ’s precious blood that saves us.IAmLegend2.jpg

—–6) Fisherman: Dr. Neville is shown to be a fisherman a few times in the film, either when he says “Like fishing in the dark, son” or when he is actually fishing. Now, the fisherman is a metaphor Jesus used also in the Gospels, not to mention that most of His apostles were actual fishermen (Peter and Andrew, James and John).

—–7) There is also the display of prayer in the film: Neville’s wife praying with Robert and their daughter before the family separates. We see here that the family is Christian and prayerful, devout enough to pause during an intense evacuation to petition Christ. They know who is the Lord and who is in charge (even though Neville later loses his faith).

—–9) “They won’t stop.” Neville says this toward the end of the film, realizing that the infected (the dark seekers) will not stop trying to kill him. This applies to Christian theology in that we sinners will not stop sinning, because we cannot stop on our own strength. We will live forever in our sins, unless we have help from someone above us (above sin), greater than us (greater than sin and its effects [death]), someone who is not ill (not a sinner) and has never been ill (never sinned) and cannot become ill (cannot sin). Coupled with all the talk and symbolism about “listening” and “light” and the analogy of the film to Christian theology only grows.
“I’m listening,” “the world is quieter now, if you listen, we can hear God’s plan,”: listening and finding the space, time and silence to listen in our prayer is essential. See how Neville misses all the signs God has provided for him (the butterflies), to encourage and assure him in his waning faith. See how Anna (the name of St. Mary’s mother, by the way) has learned to hear God and hold fast to Him in the darkness. See how the light works in the film: sinners (dark seekers) live and hide in the darkness, and those who are redeemed in Christ (those immune to K.V.) live in the light. Jesus, the Light of the World, is what the film is hinting at with this symbol.

—–10) “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right…” This song is not only optimistic, but it’s the Christian way to live, because we know Christ not only was born to save us, but he died to save us, and he even came back from the dead for us! A God who loves that much, who is that powerful and close to us means we have nothing to worry about. True Christians do not worry about a thing because every little thing is gonna be all right, because the Lord is in charge — not us, not the devil, not the universe. Only Him. And He loves us.

—–11) Now if all these subtle nudges that the movie is a Christian allegory does not work enough, then there is the obvious rosary. Not only does it appear on Neville’s birthday (symbolizing Christmas, Mary, Jesus’ birth), but it also appears right at the moment when Neville is nearest to death, nearest despair. Yet, because he is meant for a mission, a woman arrives to help him bearing a rosary: the symbol and prayer of THE WOMAN: MARY, the Mother of God. This is not only important in the film, but also for us: we need the help of our mother’s (St. Mary) prayers. Jesus entrusted us to her care (John 19:25-27), and she is His mother. Think about this: she is His mommy, which means she loves Him more than any of us can, and He (because he is the perfect human being, and therefore the perfect child) loves her more than any of us can. “Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus does.” -St. Maximilian Kolbe.

—–12) Finally, once at the survivor’s colony (sort of like a promised land, a haven… a heaven), the first thing we see when the gates are opened is… a church with bells ringing. And Anna and Ethan would never have made it were it not for Neville’s sacrifice: we will never make it home to heaven if not for Christ’s.IAmLegend4.png

—–13) And the date of the cure’s discovery is September 9th. If you are reading this and this date means something to you (you know who you are), then you know why this detail is important to me.

 

*Special thanks to HLD, an old friend who shared most of these insights with me years ago.

Do What the Devil Don’t Want

In the last few years, I’ve come to see more clearly when the serpent is tempting me. I don’t always know, but it’s been easier to notice, especially when I keep in mind that I want to do what the devil doesn’t want me to do. I think it’s a pretty good motto for a Christian to live by: DO WHAT THE DEVIL DON’T WANT. Some examples:

  1. The last thing the devil wants me to do when I see a beautiful person is to pray for her. Instead, the devil would rather have me lust and abuse the woman. So what do I do?
  2. The last thing the devil wants is for me to start my day by offering it to God’s will. Instead, the devil would much rather have me forget God and go on with my life in my own selfish way.
  3. The last thing the devil wants is for me to forgive my friends when they betray me. The devil would rather me lash out and plot revenge.
  4. The last thing the devil wants is for me to ask God for help and trust in the Lord when chaos and danger happens. The devil really wants me to curse the day and turn my back on Him who is the o
    only person who can truly help me.

I think you get the trend, right?BetterWay

The better way is always the way the devil hates. So always choose the better, not the easier!

And I think you realize also that by doing what the devil doesn’t want, you almost automatically do what Jesus wants.

So do not let the devil win, because if he wins, you will always lose. But if Jesus wins, then you win too. And don’t you want to win?

A Barefoot Lenten Journey

Holy Stomp!There’s that stereotype about ladies and their shoes. I’ve known of some who owned upwards to 50 pairs! Whereas I have had just four pairs in the last six years — and I’m still wearing them!

But then there’s my friend, Angel.

Angel just surrendered her shoes for the next 40 days of Lent 2014, and she forfeited them for some great prayer and fasting intentions. That means she’s going barefoot, and that means she’s going to have some very interesting experiences to share on her tumblr, like this:

Hi there! 🙂 So today is Day 2 of Lent. It’s March 6, 2014, I’m sitting in my 8 am college biology lecture, and my feet are freezing. Thinking back to how I got here, it was pretty much how all of my decisions are made: spur of the moment and really, really impulsive. I had been thinking for weeks about what to give up or add to my life for Lent and I kept drawing blanks. In previous years, I gave up things for the wrong reason. My older brother and I used to give up meat for Lent. While he had real reasons behind his fasting, I honestly just did it for the heck of it because it seemed fun. But this year, I knew I couldn’t do that again. First, because my brother isn’t around anymore to monitor the crap out of me. Second, because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. What’s the point of giving something up, if it has nothing to do with your relationship with God or improving your spiritual life?

So this year I gave up shoes. You’re probably thinking, “Angel, you’re an idiot.” And I won’t argue you there. But hear me out! This year’s theme is evangelical poverty. This past year I blew so much money on a lot of new shoes that I didn’t need. Meanwhile, there are people in the world who don’t even own one pair. And I can take something like that for granted. Do you realize how blessed we all are that I can give no second thought to putting on a pair of shoes? Giving up something that I use literally all day, every day, makes me reflect all day, every day. It reminds me to be thankful for what I have, to pray for those who are not as fortunate, and to not just abstain from sin, but to fully and truly convert my heart and mind as a follower of Jesus Christ.

So, blessed Lent everyone! Take some time out of your day to count your blessings, and thank God for what you’ve been fortunate enough to have and experience.

So please, don’t just read about Angel’s sacrifice here on HolySmack! Visit her humble little home on the world wide web: DownToMyToes.

Down To My Toes

Yuna Kim Taught Me How to Pray

After I saw her, I was never afraid again.

Yuna Kim

She is Yuna Kim, South Korea’s most popular celebrity/athlete/pop icon/etc. I knew nothing about her until she demolished her competition at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

And she demolished with grace! After earning her gold medal (and South Korea’s first gold in skating ever), the sports channel showed a montage of athletes in various states of competition and ecstatic victory. But for Miss Kim, I saw something that made me scour the internet for an explanation. I was confused when I saw:

As she skated onto the ice for her final program, she made the Sign of the Cross, clasped her hands together, bowed her head, and prayed.

There she was: on Olympic ice, before dozens of HD cameras broadcasting to billions of TVs, LCDs, smartphones, before millions of her adoring fans (especially the boys — duh) at home and around the world. And there she was, praying in public.

She was so humble about it, that you’d almost miss it! Unless she actually prays this way before her every skate. WHICH SHE DOES.

And it occurred to me, that if Yuna Kim could be that devoted to Christ before the world’s gaze, then what reason do I have for cowering? What reason do I have to be afraid of praying before others? Who was watching me? Do I have dozens of cameras broadcasting my public prayer around the planet? Do I have millions of fans ready to judge my next move? Does anyone care what Evan does?

No.

And even if they do care, I’m not about to let Yuna pray alone.

P.S. after investigating the internet, I found out that Miss Kim had decided to be baptized Catholic in 2008 as Stella Yuna Kim, named after the Blessed Virgin Mary – Star of the Sea. In a world like today, deciding to be Catholic takes guts and grace. Seriously.

P.P.S. My personal favorite Yuna Kim skate (trust me, you gotta see this):

Keep an eye out for Yuna in February during the 2014 Sochi Olympics!

Happy New Year!

Sochi 2014

[See the next posts about Yuna Kim here (The Forbidden Christian) and here (A Meme for the Queen)!, and my interview on CNA!]