Wowed By The Shroud

This picture taken on February 20, 2012Over the past few years, dozens of documentaries on the Shroud of Turin have appeared, from History Channel, CNN, National Geographic, and even the BBC. It seems every cable channel thinks it needs to make its own documentary on this mysterious cloth which seems likely (and more so with each new research initiative) to be the genuine burial cloth of Jesus Christ at His entombment and resurrection.

After going through a few of these documentaries, I can confidently recommend these few for your consideration. Here, you can find interviews and analyses from everyone: from technical photography experts, NASA engineers, Catholic priests, Protestant scholars, Jewish skeptics, world-renown chemists, forensic scientists (they even had custom designed 3M technical tape), and more. Then, when you’ve seen and heard the mounting evidence, decide for yourself what the Shroud is.

I, for one, believe it to be authentic. And that means major repercussions when proven true. But keep this famed quote from St. Thomas Aquinas in mind:

To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.

  1. This is a History Channel documentary on the Shroud’s unique embedded 3D aspect. It’s very well done and even purchased a copy, but beware of the heretical and nonsense gnostic material inserted awkwardly (and unnecessarily) in the middle of the documentary:
  2. Here’s a BBC documentary that investigates the historical timeline of the Shroud. Also well done and worth the watch:
  3. This is a super documentary from the Discovery Channel that details why the notorious 1988 Carbon-14 dating of the Shroud is misleading because of a poor sample. Very scientifically convincing and essential:
  4. A CNN documentary that is mostly well done at recapping the Passion of Jesus that led up to the Shroud, but it fails when it tries to show that the Shroud can be a photographic fake (because technical photo-experts have said it is not a fake, again and again):
  5. And a TEDx talk on the technical photo-expert’s story and claims, after his 35+ years of researching and directly studying the Shroud (short version):
  6. And a longer and more thorough version of his inside-story:
  7. And a documentary detailing the pollen samples and other foreign elements found on the Shroud, explaining its geographic and historical origins:

So! Take your pick (or pick them all) and enjoy the ride with these top scientists. Also, check out this HD digital scan (or this app)of the Shroud for you to peruse.

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All Things New

Just watched The Passion of the Christ again.

Just teared up again at only one scene.

Just watched said scene twice.

Just teared up again.

Each time.

This:


Of all the truth in Sacred Scripture, only this line from Revelation 21:5 gets me every time. I’ve written and thought on it so much (like here, about strawberries in Heaven), and yet these words of the Lord at the end of time still do something.

It’s because I have sinned. The people I love dearly have sinned. We all have sinned and  our sin has made us hideous. The world is ugly because of us. And we cannot do a thing about it. The sun isn’t as sunny because of our sin. The breeze isn’t as fresh because of our sin. The peony isn’t as fragrant because of our sin. The strawberry isn’t as sweet, the birdsong isn’t as breathtaking, and we are not as glorious as God made us to be (not even close) — all because of my sin.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s words on sin have affected me deeply this past Triduum:

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Because I now know the horror of my past sins. I don’t know them in their full terror yet: that I will know only when Jesus makes it known when He judges me before everyone. But I do know now how ugly my sin made me. And I need Jesus to make all things new: I need Him to make me new.

*Note: Though Jesus does not speak “See, Mother, I make all things new” in the Gospels (He speaks so in Revelation 21:5), Mel Gibson’s decision to have Him say this during His Passion is very worthy. He tells Mary, His Mother, not to worry, because He will make all this suffering and sorrow into a beautiful new creation. Jesus is only beginning to re-create and renew.

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Silence is Violence

tumblr_oeag54jrop1qciy3ro1_1280There is a first time for everything, and this is the first Holy Smack movie review that is focused on the flaws of a film. I was not impressed by Martin Scorsese’s latest “Silence” and I cannot recommend it to anyone whose faith in Christ and His Church is not mature and convicted. This movie can be incredible violence and poison to a soul still searching for sure faith (which is most everyone).

That said, this review is also an anti-venom to help prevent confusion, heresy, blasphemy, or apostasy from taking root in viewers. Here we go:

— (NO SPOILERS) —

——1) The mistake of the “Silence” story is the same mistake some of the disciples make in the Gospels (Matthew 26:6-13), namely that they are more concerned for creatures than for the Creator, they prefer helping the poor instead of honoring the Lord. The answer is, of course, they should do both, and prioritize serving and honoring God first, and everything else second, and themselves last.

——2) The logic is because God loves His poor creatures more than anyone can ever! Only God can die… and rise for them! Only God can heal them perfectly, feed them perfectly, save them perfectly, and raise them from the dead, ever perfectly! So to value creatures over the Creator is an unacceptable error. In fact, since God is truth, goodness, beauty, life, and love itself, to not trust Him (and entrust to Him) our efforts would be counter productive at best. The closest analogy to show this futility: trying to put out a house fire but refusing to call the fire department for help, and even blocking the firefighters from approaching… STUPID.

——3) Why would anyone do such a thing? A few reasons: maybe they do not know there are people who can actually help, or more likely: they only trust themselves. When it comes to God, we always must trust Him. Only He knows every perspective, every intention, every ulterior motive, and every possibility. Only God deserves our full trust, so when we put that same trust in just ourselves, we are being prideful and ultimately powerless. Even if things work out in the end, it’s only because God did something to help without us knowing. In other words, there is no luck, there is only God’s grace.

——4) The film also does not seem to realize that Jesus will raise the dead, that He Himself rose from the dead, that this is the most important miracle that gives a basis to all faith in Christ! That to doubt His resurrection is to doubt God! The countless martyrs and saints of the Church all went to their deaths trusting that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and that even though they are suffering and dying, Jesus will vindicate them and glorify them in eternal life. That is why the martyrs have the courage and the love to endure suffering, because to endure eternal life without God would be terrible to them.silence-movie-martin-scorsese

——5) The movie goes so far as to even claim that Christ would want us to betray and deny Him if doing so would spare people suffering and death, yet this totally disregards what Jesus actually promises in the Gospels (Matthew 10:32- 33) that:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I too will acknowledge him before my Father who is in heaven; and whoever disowns me before men, before my Father in heaven I too will disown him.”

So for Scorsese to overlook this and have Jesus contradict Himself in the movie is absurd and even offensive. If Jesus contradicts Himself here, how do we know for sure He isn’t lying? And if He is lying (which would be the case automatically)… then it ain’t Jesus talking; it’s Satan.

——6) So there they are, the greatest flaws of “Silence”. There are plenty more, but to list them all would be exhausting right now. If you find something and want it discussed, please feel free to leave a comment! But I leave you with this: Christ came not to rid suffering, for He Himself endured great suffering out of love, but He did come to fill it with Himself. Thus, to deny Christ would be to deny the very person who can and wants to help us endure and triumph.silence-martin-scorsese-andrew-garfield-adam-driver-liam-neeson-2-pm

——Bonus) One thing I did appreciate in “Silence” was that the prayers and clandestine Masses were in the historically accurate Traditional Latin Form, and also to see that the Traditional Latin Mass was powerful to the Japanese faithful who suffered to the end with dignity and love for God. One of the martyrs even sang either the Tantum Ergo or the O Salutaris Hostia (I forget which) during his martyrdom.

And for another perspective, please see:

Risen to the Occasion

risen_posterLast week, I viewed the newest film on Jesus: Risen, and while it did not rise to the occasion of my expectations (I had great hopes for it), I did come away with a few highlights (I try not to focus on negatives). Here’s what I mean:

SPOILER ALERT

—–1. All about the Resurrection. We have a film on the Passion of Christ, and here is one about the implications of a man coming back from the dead. Many of us, Christian and non-believer alike, seem to forget that people do not do this: nobody comes back to life after being definitively dead, entombed, and decaying (you bet decay started after three days!) No near-death-experience is possible after a person’s heart is lanced and his body is wrung of blood and water.

Yet here Jesus is, alive (yes, we Christians believe this absolutely, even to the point of death), and not merely a resuscitated zombie of a corpse with gangrenous flesh. Jesus is healthy, strong, powerful, and yet still gentle and smiling. Jesus is glorified.

I don’t know about you, but if my friends abandoned and betrayed me, and my enemies tortured and massacred me, first thing I would do after my resurrection would be vengeance. Vengeance! (Be thankful I’m not God.)

But Jesus? He actually lived (and lives again) what He preached. He loves His friends and His enemies. We see this in the film especially when He even welcomes Clavius, the tribune who ordered Jesus’ heart stabbed, to join Him and His Apostles on their journey.

—–2. Which brings me to the point about Clavius when he says what he wants most in life: “a day without death, peace.” Isn’t that what we all want? A day when life kills death? When death no longer has the final say? When death is not the end? Well, that is exactly what Clavius and we have now in Christ.

Once the resurrection happened, death lost its final say: death died. It means that God is greater than death, that death is nothing, that we should not fear death since Jesus can flick it away like it was a leaf. Imagine Jesus: Oh, I’m dead… boo hoo, what can I do, what can I do… hmmm… I know — I’ll just get up!

It’s really that easy for God. And if He can raise Himself up, what makes anyone think He cannot raise others?risen-an-exclusive-movie-clip-for-tbn-youtube-370

—–3. Lastly, now that Jesus is resurrected, that also means that everything He teaches and says is true (and we gotta follow Him). He really is God. Because if He died and stayed dead, even though He said He would rise, then we would just dismiss Him as a liar or an idiot. But He actually came back. Just remember this: God not only became a human for you, not only was born for you, not only lived for you, suffered and died for you, but He even came back from the dead for you, to love you.

You must be pretty special to Him, for Him to go through all that trouble for little old you…

—–4. So go see Risen if you wanna. Nothing in it really put me off or can make me ward you off, but one thing’s for sure: once I saw it, I don’t think I’ll ever make time for another viewing. It wasn’t that special. The book is definitely better. And yet for a better and more thoughtful review, please see Dr. Taylor Marshall’s here.

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Gauging the Age of Adaline

AgeAdaline0As soon as the trailer for the Age of Adaline hit me (during my date with Cinderella), I knew I had to see it: a story about a person made immortal has been gestating in my mind since 2009. I needed to see if Hollywood stole my idea, and if it did, to see if it was good enough.

Fortunately, the Age of Adaline takes a different route, so I guess I’ll continue nurturing my baby. Phew!

Anyway, I thought the Age of Adaline was decent enough. Definitely did not feel my time and money went to waste. Here’s what I thought was most thoughtful of the film:




—SPOILER ALERT!—


—–1) The opening scenes of Adaline’s (Blake Lively) life feature one thing in common: the Catholic Church. We see her daughter’s baptism, we see her father’s funeral, and we even see her wedding in St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco (before the cathedral was “remodeled”). I’ve been trying to figure out why the Church is so prominent in the film’s beginning, but not so throughout the rest of the film. At no point is the Church mocked or even ignored in the film, but actually churches keep reappearing in later scenes. Not sure why the director included all these churches, but not much seems to come of them plot-wise.AgeD12

—–2) The emphasis on faithfulness in marriage as union of husband and wife. We see this clearly when William (Harrison Ford) strongly reaffirms his love for his wife after she becomes upset with his reminiscing of Adaline (you are not second pick!). We see this even more when William gives a toast to his wife on their 40-year anniversary: “to the love of my life, the mate of my soul…” Heck, in this culture of divorce and promiscuity, any focus on the beauty and fidelity that marriage demands is a win for me!AgeAdaline1

—–3) Unfortunately however, the emphasis on marriage’s demands for fidelity is conflicted with Adaline and Ellis sleeping together. What is really jarring though is when Ellis tells Adaline that he is falling in love with her… but only after they had been sleeping together for a few weeks. Now doesn’t this seem strange? That they had been sharing their nights together before there was love in the relationship? Did Ellis not love Adaline all that time prior? It sure seems that way in the film’s dialogue. So then what… love comes after sex? Doesn’t that seem backward? Shouldn’t love come first? Before anything? Before everything? Sex is meaningless without love, and for Ellis to bring up love this late in the timeline is lame to me. First, you meet her, get to know her, then love her, commit to her, vow to her before witnesses that you’ll be hers, be married to her, and only then give your body and soul to her, all the while choosing to love again and again. That’s the order. Going backward, or hopping around is just weird when the rest of the film encourages faithfulness and seriousness in marriage. This was one messed up moment in an otherwise decent film.

—–4) Lastly, the recurring theme of resurrection. I did not notice this until I came home and looked up the movie’s score. Two tracks: First Resurrection and Second Resurrection. Furthermore, other Church-sounding tracks are: The Scar, Hospital Confessions, Coming Back to Life, and Start Again. First, in the film we see Adaline come back from the dead in a semi-glorified state each time. The first time she cannot age past 29 years old. The second time, she resumes aging and finds it to be an even greater blessing.* In fact, her first time rising from death is obviously like a baptism! As for The Scar, recognizing someone by their scar reminds me of how we recognize Jesus from any wannabes: only the true Lord has the scars of His Crucifixion, which reveal His true love for us. Relating to Hospital Confessions, the Sacrament of Reconciliation always gives us great healing and forgiveness, which allows us to Come Back to Life and Start Again. Anyway, funny how much meaning is in the titles of a score’s tracks!

*—–BONUS) Getting back to aging actually being a blessing, it’s much like the happy fault: that if Adam and Eve did not sin, then Jesus would not have been our Savior. God makes goodness and beauty out of ugly things, and aging can be beautiful! In the case of marriage, aging allows us to grow closer, it allows our souls to grow closer. Because our bodies weaken and deaden, we rely more on our souls to shine and show love. Because an elderly body is not attractive, we see more easily where the beauty of the person truly is (kind of like Beauty and the Beast!).

All in all, not a bad film, could have should have been better, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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Stations of the Cross

Christians around the world will soon be in the holiest time of year: the Triduum. Those few days are known as: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Vigil and Easter.

One way to help us meditate on Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection is the Via Crucis, aka: the Stations of the Cross. Please let me share with you my favorite set of Stations, by an artist named Sarah Gorss (please visit Gorss’ Flickr page for more information).

I particularly find these Stations beautiful and solemn. Their grittiness, and the fact they are made of rice paper really helps me feel how organic and alive the Lord’s suffering was. I hope you find these icons as inspiring as I do.

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[the first station: Jesus is Condemned to Death]

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[the second station: Jesus Carries His Cross]

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[the third station: Jesus Falls the First Time]

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[the fourth station: Jesus Meets His Mother]

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[the fifth station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross]

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[the sixth station: Veronica Wipes the Face of Jesus]

[the seventh station: Jesus Falls the Second Time]

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[the eight station: Jesus Meets the Women of Jerusalem]

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[the ninth station: Jesus Falls the Third Time]

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[the tenth station: Jesus is Stripped of His Clothes]

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[the eleventh station: Jesus is Nailed to the Cross]

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[the twelfth station: Jesus Dies on the Cross]

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[the thirteenth station: Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross]

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[the fourteenth station: Jesus is Laid in the Tomb]

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[the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Lord, on Easter Sunday]

I Snuck Out For Cinderella

CinderellaPosterFull disclosure: I snuck out of seminary early today and went to see Cinderella alone. Being that I didn’t know what to expect, I was unsure of dragging any of my brothers along. And solo I went.

And I was glad to have gone alone, because then they didn’t see me cry with Cinderella.

This is the kind of film Disney will have to keep striving to match in the future (and I hope their upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake is up to the task). It isn’t a perfect film, but it’s an extremely great one! Here’s a list things that floored me:




SPOILER ALERT


—–1) I was amazed at the emphasis, over and over again, on some solid traditional virtues: courage and kindness. We see Cinderella live these twin virtues throughout her life, for love of her mother and father. We see time and time again how these virtues beautified her, because holiness is attractive!

—–2) Ella’s mother and father were exemplary. In a culture that deemphasizes the importance of family, of motherhood, and of fatherhood, I was so grateful to see encouragement here for others to work to have a family like theirs. In fact, notice that both Ella and the prince have solid childhoods in solid families that prepare them for a great future!

—–3) Kit, the prince, was actually more than just a stereotypical Disney knight in shining armor. He repeatedly reminded me of St. Joseph: chaste, humble, decisive, loyal, filial (a good son who loves his dad), gentle and inspired by Ella’s virtue and character. We see in him how every man should treat every lady, and most importantly we see him receptive to Ella’s virtue. In one scene, we hear Kit openly admit to his friend that Ella’s goodness of character greatly draws him and urges him on. I’ll say it again: holiness is attractive! And the woman’s goodness and beauty inspire the man’s love to rise and meet her standards (click here for more of what I mean).

EllaServant—–4) As Kit is to St. Joseph, Ella is to Mary. Yes, Cinderella is very Marian. Not only do we see this in both her servant’s robes and transfigured ball gown (Marian blue!), but we see it in her humility, docility, and how she served even her enemies as a handmaid (and even accepted the name they snickered at her). We see the analogy also in how she bore her suffering, her losses and sorrow, and finally: in her ravishing beauty. Her humility is most manifest when she accepts even the lost chance of being found by Kit! I was astonished to see her content with merely keeping the mere memory of Kit in her heart, pondering and cherishing it there for the rest of her life!

—–5) Which brings me to the reason why Ella’s stepmother hates her so much, and in the stepmother’s very own words: “Because you are young, and innocent… and good!” Wow, if that doesn’t say a lot about Ella’s holiness! In this fallen world of sin, we frequently are either inspired by the good and beautiful to be like them… or are tempted to destroy them! The wicked cannot stand the sight of true beauty and goodness and will try to eliminate what makes themselves look bad, and we see this clearly in the stepmother. But then you have those of us who are inspired by true beauty and goodness and try to emulate them! So that we’re all beautiful and good! [hint: don’t be like Ella’s stepmomma]

—–6) And that brings us to see the stunning beauty of forgiveness. Ella, when she sees her stepmother for the last time, offers her forgiveness… with all sincerity. Heck, we even see the stepsisters apologize to Ella! And what a virtuous way to love thy enemy. Sure, it would have been satisfying to see Ella smack them and lock them up for treason, but it was so much more inspiring to have seen her forgive them. And I argue that she could only do such a thing because she truly lived a life of love.

CINDERELLA—–7) Also wanted to point out the indissolublity of marriage: we see the Prince deliberate intensely about it, and everyone takes it as a given that divorce is impossible. Because if divorce was possible, then marriage wouldn’t be such a big deal — just marry a substitute princess for now, and then divorce her when you find the mysterious princess! Make the King happy, the kingdom happy, and avoid all this drama. But nope. That’s not even a possibility. And our culture needs to see more examples of the seriousness, beauty and dignity of marriage (and that it must not be done for selfish gain or for others’ wants!).

—–8) Bonus: the changing of the lizards, mice, pumpkin, goose and of Ella’s ballgown all reminded me of Christ’s Transfiguration on the Mount, which in itself is a preview of what we are all meant for in the resurrection. While in this earthly life, our sins and the sin of the world still scars us and mars our beauty. We find it difficult to see who each other is: miracles of God’s creation. In Christ’s transfiguration, the three apostles with Him saw God’s true beauty. In the fairy godmother’s transfiguration of Ella’s friends and dress, we see the scars melt away to reveal a miracle. And just like in the Gospel, the transfiguration doesn’t last, because it’s only meant to show a glimpse of beauty to come.CinderellaCarriage

So yes, I loved Cinderella. And I think you would too.

P.s. here are more reviews from critical Catholic movie viewers: Fr. Robert Barron and soon-to-be-Deacon Steven Greydanus.