Learn from the mistakes of others. You can never live long enough to make them all yourself.
1. 2016: THE YEAR OF CELEBRITY DEATH
2016 has been a horrible year of mortality for famous people. Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and all the rest have served as a potent reminder that we are all doomed to die. No one gets out of this place alive. We like to think of death as something that happens to other people, but we must realize in every death that we will also die and give an account of ourselves to the Almighty.
How does one get to Heaven? Despite the distortions of various Protestant theologians about Catholic theology, good works do not get you to Heaven as if somehow you can alter the balance with a few Hail Marys and volunteering at a soup kitchen. God can never be in our debt. The Catholic Church does not teach a salvation by works. But it does teach that we should work towards our salvation. This is what the Bible teaches when St. Paul tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
Entrance to Heaven requires that we be saints. All are invited to the banquet, but as the parable teaches us, we need to be clean and suitably attired for the affair. Otherwise, we will be cast into darkness. Ultimate salvation is secured only at the moment of death and dependent upon dying in the state of grace.
I do not presume on the fate of any person's soul. But there are those people who I have hope are in Heaven now such as Cardinal George, Mother Angelica, and Bishop Echevarria. Others I am not so hopeful about. When I see a life lived in defiance and decadence, I don't expect to see those people in Heaven. But God can save even those people at their final hour if they turn from their sins and repent like the thief on the cross. Likewise, many religious people can lose their salvation in their final hour by becoming bitter or letting their love for God wax cold.
I divide the world into two basic camps. There are those who love God, and there are those who don't. I agree with St. Josemaria Escriva when he said, "If I love, there will be no hell for me." When discussing religion, it strikes us as preferable to resort to Bible quotes and theological language because such things save us the embarrassment of revealing our feelings about God. But I tell people the Gospel in the simplest terms I know. God loves you. Love Him back.
A saint is simply someone who loves God very much. That is what I look to see in a person. Do they really love God? Sanctity is simply living and offering love back to God. This can take many forms such as prayer, attending Mass, going to confession, performing works of mercy, and other things. But what matters in these things is not just the acts themselves but the intentions behind those acts. Are they done with love?
I don't see how a person can spend a lifetime hating God and then want to spend the rest of eternity loving Him. This is what crosses my mind when I see a proud and defiant person enter their eternal reward. It seems ludicrous that people want Hell, but it makes sense that Hell is spending eternity hating God. God allows you to hate Him. Love cannot be compelled. It must be freely offered to be love.
My prayer is that all souls die loving God.
2. GRITTY STORIES
In reading reviews of Rogue One, people mention that the movie is gritty in contrast to the other Star Wars films. Where the original movies were like Sir Galahad, Rogue One is a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. Somehow, this grittiness is a betrayal of the spirit of the films. I don't see it that way.
There are two authors that loom large in Catholic literature--J.R.R. Tolkien and Flannery O'Connor. Yet, they are profoundly different writers. Tolkien was a fantasy writer, and his stories are more straight ahead when it comes to good and evil. Flannery was a Southern Gothic writer with a gritty view of the world.
I don't see these two types as being opposite to each other. I see stories set in moral contexts, and these stories can be simple or complex. The context remains the same. But when there is no moral context, the stories are truly bad. This would be the disdain Flannery had for Carson McCullers who wrote in a similar vein but a different moral place.
I prefer the grittier stories and characters. I like Han Solo way more than Luke Skywalker. But I also know that a dark world is not the same as a nihilistic world of chaos and horror. I have written stories in a moral vein and a nihilistic vein. Those stories I wrote as an atheist are utter garbage and unreadable. They were supposed to shock and entertain, but they were banal and empty. Similarly, stories without grit tend to be saccharine and syrupy. Even Lord of the Rings can be gritty in places.
A gritty story is simply one where the characters are a mix of good and bad as opposed to having characters that are all good or all bad. This is why gritty stories seem more realistic because they more accurately reflect the human condition. I think the concern people have about Rogue One is that it is more for grown ups than kids.
3. OBAMA'S MIDDLE FINGER
Barack Obama seems intent on settling personal scores in the waning days of his administration. He clearly has no love for Russia, so he is putting the smackdown on Russia. Then, there was that backhanded slap on Israel. I am with Mark Levin who says that Obama is a closet antisemite. Though he seemed to be classy at first with the Trump victory, Obama has since made a complete ass out of himself. I wonder if he will trash the Oval Office like some rock star at the Hilton.
Obama is a disgrace as a president. I think he knows it, too. He has surpassed Jimmy Carter as the worst president in US history. We have 20 days left with this guy, and they can't go by fast enough. Obama has been like a disease on this nation. It still blows my mind that this disgrace was elected twice to that office. And then, he has the gall to say he would have easily beaten Trump for a third term if he could have run. If Obama could run against himself, he still couldn't win.
Obama won for the simple reason they gave him that ridiculous Nobel Peace Prize. He was a black guy who ascended to the highest post in the land. The postscript is that he then lowered it to mediocrity and stupidity. The man has been an utter disgrace as a president. Now, he has to make this one of the messiest transitions in US history.
4. Q & A
Q: Which superhero would you be?
A: This question was gleaned from Father Z's blog. I'm not a big fan of comic books and superheroes. I think Superman is a boring character. I tend to like heroes like Daredevil and Batman because they live in a world much like our own tinged with darkness and have abilities more on the human level than on the godlike level. Daredevil is a Catholic, so that makes me like him. But I can see Batman being Catholic as well. Batman is the superhero that appeals to me most, so I'd probably be him.
I think of great franchises in entertainment and what I think are wrong with their stories and characters. For example, I always hated that Star Trek would always send their top officers down to a planet when that makes no sense at all. You know Starfleet had to have guys on par with Marines and Navy SEALS. I have toyed with making a more realistic version of the Trek franchise. Similarly, I wish Batman was less clowny, and the character was explicitly Catholic. That makes me want to invent my own character and stories. It is something I will consider.
5. JOKE OF THE WEEK
A Jesuit and a Franciscan were involved in a car accident. Hurriedly they got out to make sure the other person was OK, each insisting that it was probably his own fault.
Then the Jesuit, very concerned for his fellow religious, said, "You look very badly shaken up. You could probably use a stiff drink." At that he produced a flask, and the Franciscan, who was indeed a bit shaken up, took it gratefully.
"One more and I'm sure you'll be feeling fine," the Jesuit said, and the Franciscan took another. Then the Jesuit took the flask and put it safely away.
"You look a bit shaken up yourself," the Franciscan said. "Are you sure you don't want to take a bit?"
The Jesuit replied, "Oh, I certainly will; but I think I'll wait until after the police arrive."
6. QUOTABLE QUOTES
Christian optimism is not a sugary optimism, nor is it a mere human confidence that everything will turn out all right. It is an optimism that sinks its roots into an awareness of our freedom, and the sure knowledge of the power of grace. It is an optimism that leads us to make demands on ourselves, to struggle to respond at every moment to God's call.
SAINT JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA
Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tides of rivers, the compass of the ocean, and the circuits of the stars, yet pass over the mystery of themselves without a thought.
Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other peoples' freedom and security.
WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY, JR.
The black family survived centuries of slavery and generations of Jim Crow, but it has disintegrated in the wake of the liberals’ expansion of the welfare state.
Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.
7. ODDS AND ENDS
--It is ironic that Pope Francis demoted Cardinal Burke to duties with the Knights of Malta to get Burke out of his business only for the Pope to stick his nose in Burke's business.
--God still looks out for Israel. Going against Israel is the same as going against God.
--You can't be a Christian and be a Democrat. If you doubt this, the Democrat Party will tell you the same thing.
--Defund the UN.
--I admit it. I have felt optimism in the wake of Trump's election. I have even been cheerful. Is my pessimism doomed?
8. LINKS OF INTEREST
The Myth of the Good Old Media
Christus Apostata: Scorsese’s “Silence”
On the Necessity of Prayer
Martyrs Know Apostasy Can Not Be Justified
Secrets of the Spiritual Realm: 12 Angelic Facts Every Christian Must Know
Barack Backhands Bibi
The Untold Story of Napoleon Hill, the Greatest Self-Help Scammer of All Time
When Christians Turn Against Freedom