GUEST REVIEWER FATHER TREY ANGE’S ALL SAINTS’ DAY HOMILY REFERS TO MOVIES ABOUT – WHAT ELSE? – SAINTS

If you are a regular reader you know I enjoy posting guest-written reviews. This morning I had the singular privilege and pleasure of hearing a homily from Father Trey Ange which I thought would make a DELIGHTFUL guest post on saints, appropriately enough, for All Saints' Day. I added the pictures, so any inaccuracies, errata, or plain old dumb mistakes in the visuals are NOT Father Ange's fault but entirely my responsibility. So – without further ado, please enjoy this guest review from Father Trey Ange, Parochial Vicar, Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Lake Charles, LA:

Our Lady Queen of Heaven Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018

Solemnity of All Saints Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; Matthew 5:1-12

So, I’m a big movie fan. I enjoy movies and there’s SO many great stories! Yes, most get recycled, re-made & re-booted. But some of the best true stories are the stories of the saints. Some saints movies are incredible! Becket, A Man For All Seasons, and The Reluctant Saint are just a few. But to be honest, the majority of movies about saints are just …terrible, low budget, not well done – at all, unfortunately.

I do enjoy other movies too, like a good superhero movie! This summer, my brothers and Fr. Jeff Starkovich watched the new Avengers Infinity War which was fantastic and lots of fun! Now just imagine if ALL of the Avengers AND the Justice League characters were all together in one place! Let’s throw in X-Men, and ALL the superheroes from the Marvel Universe, the DC Universe and every comic hero ever! It would be a pretty incredible gathering, wouldn’t it?

Not compared to Heaven. Just imagine all of the SAINTS together in one place. Jesus’ disciples, the apostles, religious sisters, popes, the many martyrs who were killed for their faith – they are our real heroes. And they are already together in one place singing God’s praises. And since THEY are so close to God in Heaven, since THEY can intercede to God for us, – together, their prayers have far more power than ALL of the combined Superheroes EVER. The power of God is greater than anything we can EVEN imagine in fiction. And this is actually REAL.

Our first reading paints this picture for us! John receives this revelation – this "vision of a great multitude… from every nation, race, people, and tongue… wearing white robes and holding palm branches" crying out in a loud voice. These are the saints in Heaven. "These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb." Where did they come from? And how do WE get to be – in that number? That number when the saints go marching in? The Gospel gives the answer.

BLESSED ARE: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, clean of heart, peacemakers, and ones persecuted for the sake of righteousness. When we are persecuted for our faith, – take it. Take it like the saints. "Rejoice and be glad" Jesus tell us, "for your reward will be great" not on earth necessarily. He says: they will be comforted, satisfied, shown mercy, inherit the land, called children of God, and the Kingdom of HEAVEN will be theirs. Not earth. Saints don’t seek glory on this earth.

Although their stories might not be as action-packed as superhero films, the lives of the saints are far more real and inspiring than any superhero. Because they lived life with virtue, many of them survived some of the worst conditions on earth, and they made it to Heaven. We come to Mass today to celebrate their triumphant glory, and we ask for their intercession. We here on earth – give thanks to God for the lives of the saints, who inspire us and pray for us. We hope to live like they did.

Do we have a chance to become a superhero? Possibly. Someone may already look up to us as their hero. But the reality is: we have an even greater chance to become a saint! A saint is someone who is in Heaven. And in his Gospel, Jesus gives us many instructions on how to become a saint with Him in Heaven. Our Church teaches and preaches how to become a saint. Don’t let the enemy convince you that you’ll never make it, or that you should just aim for Purgatory. Don’t be content with Purgatory, aim for Heaven. Don’t believe any lies that tell you to be mediocre or worldly. Look to the life of Christ – like the saints did – STRIVE for virtue and holiness – and become a saint. – Father Trey Ange

 

BISHOP BARRON: A QUIET PLACE – MODERN BOOK OF REVELATION

While my review of A Quiet Place focused on the monsters as allegory for all of the evils from which we, as parents, try desperately to protect our children, Bishop Barron, in breathtaking insightfulness recognizes the allegory of Revelation used by the Polish/Irish Catholic raised Krasinski to structure the story.

PLEASE READ BISHOP BARRON'S FAR SUPERIOR REVIEW:

(PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF MAJOR SPOILERS IN BISHOP BARRON'S REVIEW)

BISHOP BARRON'S REVIEW OF A QUIET PLACE

LADY BIRD – TO ANYONE WHO KNOWS A TEENAGED GIRL – A VERY FAMILIAR AND FUNNY CHARACTER

SHORT TAKE: 

A very familiar and funny story abut the growing pains of a teenaged girl having to face the prospect of adulthood and  her family which must endure the process with her.

LONG TAKE:

My oldest son pointed out to me that the Chinese symbol for war is two women under a single roof. He would know that because he has four sisters and a mother. And one might keep that in mind when watching Lady Bird.

Lady Bird tells the story of a girl (Saoirse Ronan) in her last year of high school who doesn't know what she wants. All she knows is that she does not want to be associated with her modest middle-class family or life in her hometown of Sacramento. She even rejects her providentially chosen given name Christine, inexplicably preferring the appellation of Lady Bird. Her father, Larry, (playwright Tracy Letts) is kind and sensitive and tries to help her but is older and kind of beaten down by life. Her mother, Marion, (Laurie Metcalf from The Big Bang Theory as Sheldon’ mother and the voice of the Mom in the Toy Story franchise), and she are too much alike to be close. They try but it always ends up in acrimony. They cry at the same things and they spend time with each other, but their relationship is like a mosquito bite, they can't seem to keep from scratching at it until it bleeds.

One example: they are shopping for a prom dress for Lady Bird at a discount store. Lady Bird finds what she thinks is the perfect dress. Marion can't help herself but says: "Don't you think it's too pink?" setting Lady Bird off. Additionally, Marion is constantly plagued by money worries and she sometimes takes it out in acrimonious comments to her immature daughter. Example: Lady Bird can't wait to come home and tell her parents about her first kiss but when she arrives all bubbly enthusiasm, Marion, while not quite going full boar Joan Crawford/Mommy Dearest on her, mercilessly rags on her for not putting her clothes away "properly".

Conversely, Lady Bird, herself, is a big bag of dissatisfaction and teenage angst who longs for the material world, to the point where she thoughtlessly hurts others by what she says. For example: Lady Bird tells her new wealthy boyfriend that she comes from "the wrong side of the tracks," which the beau artlessly elaborates on when he first meets Lady Bird’s parents, noting with some enthusiasm that he really DID have to cross railroad tracks to get to their house!

The father, Larry, an understanding soul, tries to explain to Lady Bird that she and her mother have very strong personalities. Being a sister, a daughter, and the mother of four daughters, I can tell you the interactions and dialogue are spot-on.

The parents, while not Catholic, fear for her safety and have sacrificed significantly to send Lady Bird to a Catholic School. The school is populated by beautifully and humanely portrayed nuns and priests who are at turns wise and endearingly funny. 

The staff of the school meets occasionally with Lady Bird to give her advice and in a charming scene which reminds me of the old Hayley Mills-Rosalind Russell movie The Trouble with Angels, the Mother Superior (Lois Smith) even "confesses" her amusement at some of Lady Bird’s antics.

Another time when an older priest (lovingly portrayed by Stephen Henderson) has to take medical leave from his position as head of the Theatre Department, another priest, (played by Bob Stephenson), the school football coach, takes over. The resulting pep talk with the kids as he explains his plan of organization for directing The Tempest is priceless.

Unlike Juno, which involved an illegitimate mother, or Pretty in Pink, which culminated at a long anticipated school dance or Rebel Without a Cause, which finds its watershed moment of truth in tragedy and death, there is no real catastrophic or milepost moment in Lady Bird. Instead, we watch as Lady Bird slowly matures through her senior year from self-absorbed, conflicted angsty brat into an uneasy but promising adulthood. Not to give any spoilers, but rest assured there is closure to the story and a complete arc. But the significance is not so much in the finish line as the observation of her journey and the companions with whom the trip is taken which is most interesting.

 The Catholic Church and the religious who occupy it are refreshingly shown in a very positive, supportive, kind and wise light. Lady Bird is even at times gently framed in shots by crosses and pictures of Our Lady of Guadalupe – not overtly but in fortuitous natural background.

Bishop Barron in his Word on Fire podcasts often reviews movies. I find him extremely insightful. One of the comments he makes about Lady Bird is that he suspects even the Saints might have had troubled or stressful youth and teenage years. And that it is necessary, especially for a strong-willed character, to go through these difficult antagonistic stages before they can become the people that we know. In other words, even Saint Peter, Saint Augustine, Mother Teresa and even St. Pope John-Paul II may have been pains in the butt as teenagers as most people are. But that God worked with and through those weaknesses and foibles to mold them into the brilliantly spiritual people they would become. And He will do the same with us if we give Him a chance. And that the writer/director, Greta Gerwig may have been showing us what she perceives as the undeveloped beginnings of such an embryo saint, even if she herself was not aware of it.

Lady Bird has garnered a number of awards, including best comedy for writer-director Greta Gerwig and best actress in a comedy for Saoirse Ronan. Every allocade it gets it will have earned.

Cautionary note: there are a few harsh profanities, though not the avalanche that can sometimes accompany films aimed at this demographic. In addition, there are subjects and at least two scenes I would not have wanted to explain to my 15 year old daughter. As a date movie I wouldn’t recommend it for your first.

There is great charm and insight into these obviously well loved characters created by Ms. Gerwig. And much to be learned and appreciated in this textbook example of the Chinese symbol for war, ironically made into a love letter for the turbulent teen everyone must pass through to adulthood.

The Orville – an update – NOW A WARNING?!!: Seth MacFarlane’s stand against science

On October 12, 2017 I posted a tentative but positive blog review of The Orville and told you I would update with any new insights or concerns. The very next show, "Krill," provided one. Originally I endorsed the show for mid teens and up. And while that continues to be true as far as content, visuals and violence go, I must in good conscience add a caveat. I would NOT encourage ANYone young or adult to watch who is not spiritually mature and confident.

The latest show, "Krill" while well written and in all fairness approaches the subject matter with an intelligent script, does state up front and baldly that the characters believe there is no place for religious belief in their society.

To give the writers their due – unlike a lot of other shows and movies – they do NOT disrespect or place as strawmen any Judeo-Christian philosophy or representative. The religion they face is more of an Aztec one held by the Krill, who apparently, as the writers created them, believe that all other creatures who are NOT Krill are like animals without souls and can be treated as cattle.

The premise of the episode addresses the hostilities between the Krill and the Union. During a firefight, the Orville manages with a Picard/Stargazer type maneuver to outfox and destroy a much more powerful Krill ship. They retrieve a Krill shuttle from the wreckage and Gordon and Ed are sent undercover as Krill to retrieve a copy of the Krill sacred book, the Ankhana, in order for the Union to study and perhaps find grounds for detente between the cultures.

While this all sounds like serious stuff, and the topic is treated with respect, in Orville fashion there are light moments. When Ed and Gordon, in the guise of the Krill and their far bulkier uniforms, approach the bridge of the Krill ship to pay respects to the captain, they get stuck trying to go through the doorway at the same time. It’s the kind of thing that happens that you suspect would have occurred in the course of all the Star Trek shows – something that would happen to normal people. Which is why in the previous blog I suggested that The Orville is what REALLY was going on behind the sanitized version brought to us by Kirk’s Star Trek and all of its conceptual descendants.

When Gordon finds out the Krill god is named Avis, the smart alec Gordon has a field day. Sidestepping the question of why Gordon would know of a 400 year old car rental company as irrelevant, when confronted by the Krill spiritual leader in unauthorized perusal of the Ankhana they explain they were seeking solace on the loss of their ship, to which Gordon intones: "Oh wise and powerful Avis cover the loss of our vehicle."

And yet this episode still manages to creatively and intelligently include issues on the morality of war time actions, respect for other culture’s beliefs and how far does one go to protect innocents in the line of fire. Heavy stuff in a show which still manages to evoke laugh out loud scenarios.

I respect people who honestly speak their minds and MacFarlane does exactly that. With no pussy footing around, in the course of being briefed on the Krill political situation the Union Admiral Ozawa says "…generally when a civilization becomes more technologically advanced their adherence to religion declines…" and everyone nods sagely and approvingly. Of course, this is a blind denial of the devout men upon whose shoulders those "technologically advanced civilizations" stand: Galileo, Newton, Mendel, Pascal, Descartes, Pasteur are just a handful of the most famous superstars. And it might comes as a shock to these sadly ignorant writers that the theory of the Big Bang on which they hang so many of their hats was FIRST postulated by a Roman Catholic priest, WHILE a Roman Catholic priest – Georges Lemaitre TWO YEARS BEFORE Hubble suggested it, and whose theory was lauded by none other than Albert Einstein, who publically endorsed Lemaitre’s theory even as Hubble’s was being published.

There are literally thousands of devout Catholic contributors to the sciences who were trained in Catholic founded and funded universities. Not to mention the devout Christian Protestant contributors NOT to mention devout practicing Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and Muslims who – all the while adhering to and practicing their faith, believing in a Divine Creator and PRACTICING THEIR RELIGION, discovered brilliant insights in every discipline: biology, astronomy, paleontology, optometry, genetics, physics, chemistry, algebra, calculus – etc. BELOW FIND A SAMPLING OF CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS AND A SMALL EXCERPT A-C FROM AN EXTENSIVE LIST OF CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS THROUGHOUT THE AGES.

Sadly, it never occurs to anyone to mention that the likes of Pasteur and Mendel were as cutting edge and "technologically advanced" for their time as the people of The Orville believe they are…or that WE, in our egotism, believe WE are. It is what CS Lewis might have called chronological bigotry – wherein people who are anti-theists rely on a false assumption that events and concepts closer in time to their point in history – the "NEW" – have more merit, JUST because they are "new", than those events or concepts which preceded them.

It is tragic that Mr. MacFarlane's atheism, based upon what I have read from his interviews, stems from a hero worship of Carl Sagan and the classic misapprehension that science and religion are at odds – that to believe in one you must dismiss the other. This is, of course, absurd on a number of counts, not the least of which is the Catholic Church's support – at periods in time the SOLE support – for scientific study in the West. AGAIN – CHECK OUT THE TRUNCATED LIST BELOW THEN CHECK OUT THE WIKIPEDIA.COM PAGE FROM WHICH JUST THIS SMALL ENUMERATION COMES: LAY CATHOLIC SCIENTISTS then TAKE A LOOK AT THE CATHOLIC CHURCHMEN SCIENTISTS:

Although the ethics of waging war are treated with a balanced hand, the treatment of belief in God is not. The belief in even a philosophy as nebulous as an Intelligent Designer is dismissed out of hand and assumptions are made from that premise with no counter argument.

So while I still conclude I can endorse The Orville as a clever, well written, mostly balanced view of social issues from a humorous Star Trekkian POV, I must in good conscience, temper my praise with a warning for those who are unsure of their belief system. While I commend MacFarlane for his openness on the subject, I must warn that you will find neither answers nor a constructive contribution to your search from MacFarlane’s theologically biased anti-theistic Universe-view.

IRONICALLY – as Seth MacFarlane stands against the very institutions which produced, is populated and defended by priests and churchmen who broke frontier scientific grounds aided and funded by the church –  by his own words Seth MacFarlane stands against science.

Ampere  Pasteur  Lavoisier  Kolbika  Eccles Zahm

 Chardin  Copernicus  Gassendi  Bacon  Ockham  Pacholczyk  Mersenne