Movies about Saints my way

Temptation

Salvador Dali’s Temptation of St Anthony

With the Golden Globes finished, and the Academy Awards around the corner, I wanted to publish this long overdue. I often find Catholic Saints film a bore. For fifth grade catechesis, maybe, but not much for inspiration in my faith. For Greater Glory & There Be Dragons pushed the Action and Intrigue. They attempted to make Saint stories suitable for Big Budget / Big Screen Cinema. In 2014, we had Biblical epics picked up by Directors who may have been atheists. The Gospel According to St Matthew, directed by atheist, marxist, homosexual Pasolini, is on the Vatican’s list of top faith films.

While many Catholics dream of big budget, suround sound, 3-D, nationally screened Saint films, I wonder what could be lost. Some saints might get their action sequences. Most saints are dealing with interior dilemmas that just cannot be communicated in the same manner as Big Budget / Big Screen Cinema. You might have to talk to directors who have dealt with smaller scale, intimate portrayals, accompanied by character development. On the one hand, you might limit the audience. On the other hand you might reach an audience (that wouldn’t waste their time on a cheesy sentimental saint film) for an intelligent, thoughtful, artfully crafted film experience around a particular saint.

Classic Film Biopics often portray the subject’s life through a series of episodes. Contemporary Film Biopics typically center around a crystallizing event in the subject’s life. Unfortunately, most Saint films tend to rely exclusively on the classic biopic style. For example, Lincoln dealt with the passing of legislation, rather than entire series of episodes of his life. While the Song of Bernadette (1943) attempts her entire life, Bernadette (1988) captures the apparition event. Most Saint or Pope movies employ the Classic Episodic style Biopic.

Finally, they are portrayed as spiritually unconflicted and morally uncomplicated. That is not always a bad thing, but that would not work for many of the subjects that I haveselected. When I speak of character development, there has to be a mountain in the heart that is moved by faith. There has to be some sort of challenge that they are to face, and that is more meaningful and inspiring than watching a subject never flinch in the face of adversity. I am sure that some people would like to see movies about miracles, stigmata, or zapping fireballs at pagans (see Patrick below), but were we to be approaching stories of human persons becoming saints, it might be the most effective and powerful method. Besides, when you are focusing on covering 60 years in 100 minutes, you miss a the emotion, or you miss the passion

For my proposed ideas, some I have thought about for the past several years. A few have suggestions for a director. I have no interest in suggesting actors, so that it is clear that this list is meant to emphasize how having a skilled director could do a lot more for a film than having some attractive faces.

Augustine
One of my saint film disappointments in recent times was Restless Heart about Augustine. As an Augustinian, I certainly had high hopes. The central theme of Augustinian Friendship as a communal discovery of Truth was absent. The sort of personal conversations among confidants was missing. Sometimes I wonder if you had a director like Richard Linklater, you might be able to capture some of the banter which is essential for a film portraying Augustine. It wouldn’t hurt to also have an Augustinian scholar brought on board to consult, as they do in many other historical pieces. We are, after all, entrusted by the Church with the Spiritual and Theological Legacy of Saint Augustine.

Martyrs
Almost any group of martyrs in the history of the Church could be portrayed as a compelling drama for the big screen. Unfortunately, most Catholics filmmakers are more interested in making something that is okay for children. Films have been made portraying violence while minimizing gore, this would not be that hard. I do think of Cecilia, Felicitas, or Perpetua as possible protagonists if we are dealing with early Rome. Alfonso Cuaron, of Gravity and Children of Men has taken on complicated nuanced dramas, and I could see something like this being taken on by him.

Antony of Egypt
Lets face it, the early desert monks don’t look good on a vintage kitsch prayer card. They are not pasty-skinned enough, dainty blonde enough. Think, weathered face, squinty eyed (Clint Eastwood). The Temptation of Antony is one of the oft-repeated paintings throughout art history, and I wonder what an intelligent film director would do with it, and add his twiest. Because, let’s face it, a film like this could subvert the modern cultural paradigm which sees temptation as either insurmountable or as pleasurable. Out of the other ideas mentioned, this one wouldn’t lend itself easily to lighthearted humor. David Fincher and Tim Burton are two completely different director’s, who would take this in very different directions, but could do something awesome with it.

Francesco d’Asis
Many people’s visions of Francis are as a gleeful sprite gracefully prancing around Assisi singing like Snow White to the little birdies. They completely miss the fact that he left behind his urban dandy of a cloth-merchant old man for the callous hands of a wild and rugged stone chapel. Francis was a short man, kind of like X-Men’s Wolverine. I do believe that a Francis movie can find a good way of mixing playfulness with manliness. After seeing Prince Avalanche, something I would like to find in a Francis movie, David Gordon Greene might be able to pull something similar.

Thomas the Apostle
Christianity has existed in Southern India within a century of Christ’s crucifixion. All of the Eastern Christian Churches often appear different than what we expect Christianity to be. Having a film portraying early Malabar or Malankara Christians would, in many ways, be earth-shattering for our stereotypes of Christianity as a Western Religion. This could even be an enthralling story with Thomas as a supporting character or catalyst, rather than a protagonist. Slumdog Millionaire was a joint operation in England and India, and this would be what I would hope for with something like this, however, I wouldn’t want to see Danny Boyle (who did a work about Saints in Millions), as much as a local director.

Patrick
A few years ago, I saw a Saint Patrick movie, where he was going around zapping pagans with fire. There is a desperate yearning to make a Catholic movie into a big screen spectacle. I find my heart moved by his story, and would prefer to have something more dramatic. Years ago, there was a little Irish animated feature The Secret of Kells (2009). It portrayed a group of Christian Monks creating the Book of Kells. It had its share of fairies and folklore, and was meant to be for children. I have wondered what it were like to have short stories of some of the important Irish Saints: Cuthbert, Brendan, Brigid, and of course Patrick.

Mother Theresa
Here is someone that is still in the popular imagination among Catholics, as well as some secular humanist types. Younger Catholics don’t know who she is. I admit, that I am not a card carrying member of her fan club, and there could be a moment or two in her life that is worth capturing. I am impressed that she caused a ceasefire, she got a Nobel Peace Prize. These could be instances. It is also known that she did not feel internal spiritual consolations for the last part of her life. This is the sort of thing that works good on film. I don’t know that I have an idea of a director for this one (as I am not as familiar with her), but one person suggested Parish Hilton should be cast to play her.

Bonus: Hipster Pope Benedict
Ratzinger was forced to join the Nazi youth. He deserted, broke the law by going to the seminary, and became a priest. It could be a sort of wartime star crossed romance, except falling in love with God, and perhaps enjoying beer and having a friend cat. This wouldn’t go through the rest of his life, in fact becoming the pope would be irrelevant to this story that could be wrapped up in the climactic event of him being accepted into the seminary.

4 unusual, although typical priestly encounters

When random people encounter a priest, they are often ready to open up about their entire life. I find, that when I visit different parishes to preside at Sunday Masses, there is always a person or two who will briefly tell me their life story, or want to know mine.

As I am a “young” or “cool” priest, or perhaps a priest without grey hair or a gut, somehow they find me strangely fascinating. My actual ministry is to high school students at an all boys school, and so these sorts of encounters don’t happen at all where I work. Most adolescent boys like to hear stories from their teachers. Myself included. Yet, they never ask me for my vocation story, quite like the adults or elderly people that I encounter at parishes.

Just yesterday, I literally had 4 encounters that I think could virtually sum up what all such encounters.

Some context: The sophomore class had their retreat at a Catholic Parish. During the day, we used the Parish Hall, the Church, and one of the annexed parking lots for all the activities. We had over 100 students that I was responsible for throughout the day. These encounters were with people who were around the parish, and not any of the students (or faculty members involved with the retreat). It is also worth mentioning, that I was in the Augustinian habit, and that probably had them begin to open up to me.

  1. There to open the Parish Hall, there was a man who quickly asked me to pray for him. He was there the previous day, and I had a chance to interact and greet him. This day, he probably thought he could seize the opportunity and ask me to pray over him and bless him. It often amuses me, that after mass, after the priest has just given everyone in the congregation a blessing, sometimes a person will come up to me for a blessing. I have blessed people after a young adult event, and a line of very young adults come up to me for a blessing. I think sometimes they mistake youth for sanctity, but often I have to remind them that they just received a blessing. In this case the man didn’t. The man, that morning of the retreat, ready to open the Parish Hall, asked me to pray for his family to return to the faith. As an Augustinian, I thought of St Monica. So I prayed with him on the spot for a minute, and asked for the intercession of Saint Monica.
  2. Later in the morning, a woman shouted to me from across the parking lot. She asked if I was a monk, and what kind of monk I was. I had stepped outside of the hall of 100+ students, to move my car. It was near the entrance to unload supplies, and I wanted to keep the entrance wide open. Before I could get to the car, she was already within a foot in front of me, ready to spill out her entire life story. Interjecting her attempts to tell her life story, and how she ended up in San Diego, she wanted to know what kind of priest I was, and if there was an association with the priests that staffed a St Augustine school where she was from. She continued opening up about her life, on several random tangents. I was unsure if she was going to stop to catch her breath. As a pastoral minister, I realize that many people expect me to drop my entire life on the moment of their need. She wasn’t terribly needy, she was obviously a devout Catholic. I had to remind her that I was overseeing an event (I was not just the chaplain there to say mass, I was the man responsible for the retreat, meaning if a student got injured I had to contact parents, I had to ensure they got to the hospital, etc). She literally followed me around to the door of my car, as I was apologizing to her for not being able to set aside the retreat to hear her tell her life story. It is sort of amusing when you think about it. These sorts of encounters do happen at least once at every single parish or Catholic place that I visit, they either want to tell their life story, or want my life story.
  3. During Lunch time, I had just finished saying Mass for the students in the Church, and a Fire Dept inspector was checking the extinguishers. He was ready to open up not so much about his life stories, but about some of his faith experiences. He was the sort of person, who probably rarely has an opportunity to talk about those sorts of things. As he was looking over the extinguisher, and I was cleaning up the sacristy, he was telling some of his story. He was kind of excited to meet a young priest, I don’t think he ever met a priest younger than him, which probably also made him more excited to talk about faith, religion, church stuff, sacraments, etc. Often I will meet people who are somewhat unchurched, but go to Mass with some kind of regularity. They typically favor their religion, but don’t talk much about their faith. Seeing a young priest often gets them expressing their faith. Sometimes I am told (more often by women), that I am too young to be a priest. When I meet men like this Fire Fighter, I wish that there were more young guys in the priesthood that are easy for him to open up about.
  4. Okay, this guy probably wasn’t Catholic, he probably wasn’t there for Church. He saw me in habit on the street as we went between the Parking Lot and the Parish Hall. He wanted to know who we were, and what we were doing. He seemed disturbed by the fact that we were an group of students that were all boys (almost the complete opposite of most people that I encounter). When I explained that we were an all boys school, and that we were on retreat, he responded “Retreat from what?” I could scientifically explain to him the value of single sex education from a secular perspective, and there are enough secular retreats out there. I sort of felt bad for him.

Anyways, that about sums up the four encounters, fourth being a bonus, and not your typical Catholic encounter.

Hotel vs Hostel

On my summer vacation in Portland, I made the decision to stay in a hostel instead of a hotel. I had stayed in Hostels in Europe and South America. It was probably after having stayed at them, I found that Americans generally have a bad impression of hostels.

So it did make me think about, in our consumer, brand name culture, our unnecessary hotels are, compared to most brand name items. Scouting and choosing a hostel may be more work, but not only is it a money saver, it is probably still well worth it.

As I have talked about this, I have found that many people are either scared of hostels, or don’t even know what it is. A hostel is a somewhere between a dormhall and a hotel. There are often rooms with bunks, private rooms, shared kitchens and bathrooms.

  1. Shared Space: As an Augustinian, Augustine’s Rule puts a lot of value in the sharing of goods (whether spiritual or material). Having shared spaces is very Augustinian, and perhaps Augustine may have preferred a hospitality where there is shared space. For Augustine, we encounter God in the places we set up unity, and so we don’t encounter God by locking ourselves up in our hotel room. A Carmelite, therefore needs a cell, and might like a hotel room if it weren’t so extravagant.
  2. Entitlement and Customer Service: American Consumer Culture has taught us that expressing your dissatisfaction gets you results. It is part of our customer service culture. Nobody likes a complainer still. Being in a hostel where you have to share space, requires you to be considerate of other people around you. How Gospel is that?
  3. Passionate Staff: Many hostels do not have large rosters of indifferent staff clocking in and clocking out. Usually the smaller staff is younger, they take ownership of the hostel, and are interested in connecting with the customers. Although you are likely to encounter more people who are not super churchies either working or staying at a hostel, you will find good people.
  4. Wi-Fi: Many hotels see Wi-Fi as an added expense. Forget that you are paying hundreds of more dollars at a hotel, heaven forbid it cover internet.
  5. No Television: Hostels almost never have televisions in the bedroom, some will have televisions in shared spaces, or none at all. Who needs television on vacation?
  6. Unnecessary Amenities: If I saved ~100+/night where did that money go? Shampoo bottles? bed made daily? continental breakfast? Private Television with pay per view porn? Are any of these really worth the extra hundreds of dollars?
  7. Safety: With so much shared space and so many strangers, hostel staff, who are very passionate about what they do, are very keen on not allowing random people to walk in. Hostels set up lockers, where you bring your own combo lock. It might feel obvious that a hotel appears safer, but most hostels care about the safety of their customers.
  8. Food: Although there are hotels with kitchenettes, most hotels expect you to fork out extra cash for room service. Sometimes the nicest part of having a vacation is being able to make delicious food for yourself, and not have to pay 7.50 for a bagel and coffee daily, when you can buy several bagels, and enjoy hostel coffee for five bucks. Having a few budget meals in a hostel can expand your possibilities for finding places.

I have a few caveats. I think an older person who needs a private bathroom, elevators, etc, is in an entirely different state. Also, hostels are great in urban areas, where you can go out and do a lot of walking or using public transportation. Rarely are hostels in remote areas, where you would be better off staying at a resort. Although I don’t mind sharing spaces with others, I still need my own private bedroom. Hostels can be a good thing to do with a group of people, but wouldn’t work for business purposes.

For those curious, while I was in Portland, I ended up staying in two separate hostels located next to two really cool neighborhoods. The first one was Portland Hostel Hawthorne District. Hawthorne had some of the coolest restaurants, bars and culture. The building itself is an experiment in eco-sustainability. This hostel is also part of Hostelling International, which tends to take older nice buildings and fix them up for their use. Hosteling International also separates boys and girls into separate dorms, and prohibits alcohol on the premises. Private rooms are typically available.

The other Hostel was Travelers House in the Alberta neighborhood. This hostel was owned and operated by a younger couple who lived upstairs, and used the bottom house for the hostel. The place was fixed up really nice, and cost a little more than the other place. It may have been somewhere between a hostel and a bed and breakfast.

Making Augustine Viral

Several years ago, I created a tumblr and twitter page for Augustinian posts. These posts primarily consisted of photos, quotes, and other paraphernalia of our Augustinian Life, Spirituality & Tradition. I also wrote several brief didactic posts on these topics. If you viewed my WordPress page, you may have found links to several of the blogs that I have posted there.

I recently brought in another student Friar, Maxime, to collaborate with me on this. I however, have decided to make a few design revisions, and plan on making several posts in the near future. Please consider viewing, following, sharing and linking!

The Needs of the People of God Never End: Crisis Mode & Burn Out

UntitledLet me start off by saying that I have not burnt out, I am not unhappy, I am not miserable, I am not depressed, I am not in bad shape overall. Crisis Mode is acknowledging an impending crisis and taking prudent measures, rather than being haplessly swept into it.

The irony is that I am going to have to curtail my ministerial service over the next several months, coinciding with Lent when people typically give things up. It will be summed up in a few areas: The ministry assigned to me by my superiors, my current family situation, and the gratuitous ministries that I have chosen to limit. Things will not get better magically, but they will ease up on me by summer. Let it be clear that I owe it to everyone I will ever serve to commit to the summer vacation I am currently planning.

Pray for your priests!

This is obvious. Even for those devout Catholics who do seriously care about your priests, and would jump at a chance to help them, and support them in any way, my experience is that the majority of Catholics expect their priests to be impervious to pain, suffering & stress. That, and the needs of the People of God never end. Sometimes people will expect the priests to drop everything that they are doing to minister to them, even drop solitary prayer… Yet, all people still expect all their priests to spend a considerable amount of time in daily prayer.

Since I am a Young Priest, or merely a priest without grey hair, belly, wrinkles, or balding head, I have been in demand. This is not due to any excellence on my part, as for lack of viable alternatives. For instance, I go to various youth ministries or young adult gatherings scheduled on Thursdays, Fridays, or Saturdays when Pastors are at their busiest. On campus, when there is a need specifically for a priest, I am not likely the first (or second) person that is requested.

The work of a Religious Priest, particularly one in a High School was very different before the Council. I often find myself jealous for priests of that era. They could spend all week in front of a crowd of teenage boys, then spend their Sunday mornings facing an alter, offering, and tabernacle. They did lesson plans all week, and weren’t expected to have a homily every Sunday. It is impossible for me to not feel incredibly worn out to be expected to stand in front of an assembly of Catholics, who often imagine that my entire priestly ministry is their exclusive right, and not the students that I have been assigned to serve. I rarely go to Parishes for Sunday Masses.

700+ teenage boys under my Pastoral Care

This ministry is important to me! It really is! Even though the needs of the People of God never end, If I gave myself half-heartedly to fifteen different ministries, where’s the value in that! I have been committed to giving myself whole-heartedly to one particular ministry. Any other ministry I do ought to not interfere with this one.

Catholic High School ministry is a real priestly ministry. Because I am not presiding at several Sunday masses, several baptisms, marriages, quinceneras, etc., it does not mean that I don’t have a full priestly ministry. It boggles the minds of many young Catholics that I am not saying several Sunday Masses in several parishes every Sunday. Each month I coordinate a retreat, that includes: planning, training leaders (many of whom are teenage boys who need a lot of coaxing), cajoling faculty members into participating, booking sites, booking buses, booking catering, chasing down students who don’t hand in permission slips and retreat related reflections. This involves more yelling at kids then I ever imagined my priestly ministry would require, and I think this is because everyone expects the young priest to be more like a sports coach than a spiritual sage. I merely remind people that their pastor keeps the Sabbath Holy on a weekday, I do it on a Sunday.

But let me conclude by saying that I really enjoy doing this. Working with these kids is really meaningful for me. I want it to be clear that I am grateful to be where I am at. Despite their being a full work load, NOT AN INORDINATELY OR DISPROPORTIONATELY HIGH WORK LOAD, this is totally worth every minute. This ministry, all by itself, will probably not burn me out.

My dad’s health crisis and family situation

If you look back to these posts in October & November, you can get some details about this, and maybe see how this has been a psychologically exhausting issue for me. My dad got West Nile Virus in September, recovered from the infection in October, bedridden for a couple months, recovered a bit in November, but since Thanksgiving has shown minimal recovery. Let me make it clear, West Nile Virus infection does not cause permanent physical damage.

My dad has taken a long time to physically recover, such that he will take a really long time to recover. It could be six months, it could be a year. At least he is recovering. This has confronted our family with several very difficult financial decisions. One small mosquito bite has altered the course of my family forever, and there is no return to the way things were before any of this.

For myself, it is a challenge to drive up to LA from SD every weekend when I am free. It is a challenge to spend more time running errands for him than actually spending time with him. It is a challenge to have to get a few voice mails from him every day.

I am sure that people might wonder if I could request a reassignment to something closer and less demanding. Yet, I am filling a position in an institution, and if I leave, the lay administration at school will have to hire someone. I cannot get a substitute for several months. Besides, this would still be quitting, and that is hardly good discernment. A lot of the challenges my family faces will ease up by the time the next school year starts, so I even think it would be incredibly imprudent to just run away and start a whole new stressful transition in life.

Other Ministries

Immediately before all of this happened, I was committed to hearing confessions for a large youth group. I lost track of this. A month ago, I got a request to attend a small bachelor party retreat in a small rental cabin, the groom to be was more a friends friend than my own. All week long my dad was calling me asking me when I was going to visit, and I hadn’t been up in several weeks. I know is seems selfless for me to answer the need that someone has for a priest. Is it not also very selfish and egotistical of me, to pretend to be an invulnerable superhero, who neglects his sick father and students who he has been assigned to minister to?

First Fridays, I assist a young adult ministry. Adoration, Confessions, Benediction, Mass, Praise & Worship, Social & Talk are included. Typically I take Confessions, and concelebrating Mass. I preside a few times a year. Unlike Parishes on a Sunday, this has been the only regular ministry outside of school I find consistently refreshing. Practically, Fridays are the time I can finally drive up to LA to help my dad. Although I might be able to show up at some point over the next few months, I am no longer in a position for them to rely on me. There are a few other reasons.

All Catholic Young Adult Events are off the list. sometimes exhausting, because, even if I go, I am placed on a pedestal, while simultaneously being expected to serve. I can only go to these sorts of things to serve, and never to receive or be refreshed, what a way to end a long day of serving 700 adolescents! One time I remember being asked to give a blessing at the end, only to turn around to find a short line of people in attendance asking for their own special blessing. I am tempted to remind them not to mistake my youth for actual genuine holiness.

Women are another reason. Priests who have abandoned their ministry for a woman have actually hit a crisis, perhaps like the crisis I have. Sometimes I am exhausted at these young adult things because of the looks I get from them. I do remind myself that this shallow affection isn’t for me personally, but for what I do or what I wear. I would rather withdraw than pretend that no risk exists. There are several women I know and trust that would protectively give a talking to to any immature desperate girl who tried to take advantage of me at this time. Since I am not actually required to be here by holy obedience, I don’t see why I would be imprudent in that regard.

Unfortunately, I may also have to limit my activity on this blog.

I do live in a Religious Community, and having them has provided me with much of my sanity. How good and how pleasant it is! Also, I have several awesome friends who have been good to me during this time. Since I really like what I do, and want to have many years serving the people of God, it is urgent that I be mature in this regard. I am sure there are many other priests out there much holier than I am, many priests who are much better at it than I have been in my 19 months, who could do more than I can.

iWorship and the Analogical v Dialectic Imagination

judgmentOne time I went on a rant about iWorship. I saw the thing come up in my Google Play store. I just threw up my arms as another indication of how evangelical christian culture has for decades recycled pop culture gimmicks in order to create a family friendly bubble.

I am referring to all the media, music, books & tshirts which take an item, image, slogan, or idea in pop culture, and spin it for Jesus. While rebranding something as Christian, or Jesus, they will take the exact graphic design, color scheme, or jingle to “give God the Glory!

Nearly 2 decades ago, an LA-area rap group LPG (for living proof of grace), would spend time rapping at non-Christian venues. They went to open mics, and had a lot of street cred. On one of their records, they made the claim that you shame God with lousy art. Being prophetic while maintaining street cred, I imagine it would be difficult to gain a foothold in either the pop culture entertainment industry or the Christian media industry which had become pop culture’s hapless wannabe fangirl.

So there is, among non-Catholics, plenty of contention. The position of favor is still lopsided for superficial swapmeet knockoff media. These sort of debates just do not happen among Catholics. In addition, there are just no noticeable Catholics trying to create an alternative family-friendly media industry. Perhaps there are Catholics who like this alternative family-friendly bubble, perhaps there are self-identified Catholics without backbone who are complete sell-outs to the culture. Perhaps most Catholics don’t guess that there is a dichotomy between faith and culture, and there may be some evangelicals that presume that there is.

I have referred to the way some of these debates have played out in terms of “Whether Reform Rap Music is Valid.” There are just not debates among Catholics on what is an appropriate means to proclaim the faith. There are old Catholics who just don’t get the New Evangelization, but may still support it, and there are young Catholics looking for creative methods to Evangelize. The Dichotomy between believers and the world is not a central issue.

I do believe that some of this is rooted in Calvin. I also think some of it is rooted in what Theologian David Tracy refers to the Analogical v Dialectic Imagination. Although there are many exceptions, and things can get very complex, the Protestant Christian has traditionally put emphasis on the Proclamation of the Word of God, while Catholics (as well as Orthodox & some other non-Catholic Christians), have emphasized the Sacramental encounter with the Living God. Whereas the Analogical Imagination emphasizes the ineffable and what is beyond the senses, the Dialectic Imagination emphasizes what is immediately before you. While the Analogical Imagination keeps things open ended, the Dialectic Imagination attempts to be conclusive. The Analogical Imagination rests on a liturgical & sacramental encounter of cosmic proportions, while the Dialectic Imagination rests on a very clear and quantifiable proclamation of the Word of God.

Both have their strengths, and benefits. Set apart, the two can become problematic. Vatican II has attempted to help most Catholics rediscover the Dialectic through an emphasis on the Word of God, the accessibility of Church Documents, and the New Evangelization. Many smaller visionary non-Catholic Christian communities have attemptedto recapture Liturgy, Ritual, the Season of Advent.

One place where the chasm between the Analogical and Dialectic has reached its extreme would be Evangelical Mega-Church Christianity.

When a group of devout Evangelical non-denominational Christians get together and make a movie, they hope to create a movie with major box-office appeal. Christians gather at special screenings hosted by Churches/Christian Communities across the country. Critics of film dismiss the movie. Christians consider it the manner of the world to “hate Jesus” or “hate Christians” or whatever.

While most basic students of film know that what makes film true art is the ability of a filmmaker to tell a story with a wide variety of strong images. Instead, the Dialectic Imagination proclaims. It does not conceive of communicating itself through images, symbols and emotions as much as by explicit words. It does not imagine the possibilities that are crafted subtly and expressed with nuance on film.

Although anyone with a balanced imagination will make room for a variety of expressions, some Evangelicals might believe that it is good to proclaim Jesus explicitly. That if Jesus name, or the Sinner’s Prayer, or the right formula of the Proclamation of our Salvation is omitted, somehow people will not come into a personal relationship with Jesus. If it is not spoken, it cannot be heard. The analogical imagination will admit that there is much that can be heard without having to be spoken.

To continue, a mega Church might have a Cross. Crucifixes, Statues, frescoes, mosaics, and the like or generally forbidden. Jesus is not venerated with the eyes, therefore nothing as heartfully enthralling as the Sinai Christ could occur in a Mega Church. You might get this. But most likely, you will have powerpoint Praise & Worship lyrics over altered images of grandiose nature.

My home parish, the San Gabriel Mission has stations of the Cross painted by the local indigenous of the 18th century. Jesus had brown skin, and the Roman Soldiers wore the armor of Spaniards. A Catholic Church in Lagos & A Catholic Church in Nagasaki will look very different, but they will both attempt, with what is sensible to the locals to reflect in wonder at the possibilities of the Divine. A Mega-Church outside of Austin TX & a storefront Pentecostal community in Baldwin Park CA may appear as different structures, but are still the same humdrum structures. Neither admits a structural purpose to communicate a unique wonder of the possibilities of the Divine.

iWorship can only bud in a lopsided Dialectic world. Swap meet knock off Christianity is nourished where no credence is given to art, imagination, or poetry. That’s why there are many non-Catholics who love Jesus madly and refuse to take part in these shenanigans, while also recognizing that the Secular Pop Culture is not as antagonistic towards Christianity as they were told.

But for all the Catholics reading my post, wonder if they are in danger of getting lost in Analogical Reasoning? Hardly.

My experience is that many American Catholics have become lopsided and thoughtless Dialectics. The Analogical is so absent today, that I can’t even think of the dangers of it’s extreme unbalanced realization. Many Catholics have tossed out their Analogical Imagination, with it’s mystery, poetry, and ineffability for clear expositions of Doctrine & Morals. Many Catholics have forgotten brilliant fiction Flannery O’Conner, Graham Greene & Evelyn Waugh, and opted to experience their faith exclusively through the Catechism, Theology of the Body, or the Blogosphere. While I am glad there is still interest in Tolkien, Peter Jackson’s Hobbit has banalized the masterpiece. In the same way, most Catholics are too timid of contamination to thoughtfully engage in art, film or music.

American Catholics are desperate to have it all spelled out conclusively, and are quick to banish as heresy, heterodoxy, or vaguely suspicious anything without a preface stating absolute obedience to the Magisterium. It is as if the standard ageless profession of faith cannot be taken seriously these days, because some Catholics have failed to keep it. Likewise, they are so jaded by modern failures in art, that they imagine truth or beauty exists in some scientifically quantifiable medium that ought to be revived, such as baroque or polyphony. Unfortunately, they are not always doing so to be captured by the magnificence & beauty of long forgotten forms of liturgical worship, as much as they are looking for an objective standard by which to crusade against and banish folksy washed-up-flower-child-happy-clappy-Masses.

To an even greater extent, Catholics that dismiss dogma, are radically Dialectic. They dismiss the dogmas traditionalists defend with their own dogmas of modernism, peace, tolerance or social justice, that are primarily Dialectic. Dialectic Reasoning too often relies on antagonism. Our faith is only consequently antagonistic with the flesh, because it is primarily a love affair with the Incarnate Son of God.

Yet, the Dialectic Imagination is not in itself awful. It has become the exclusive obsession of Evangelical Mega-Church Christianity, and sometimes among American Catholics. Even in our faith, it has it’s time and place, and is not hierarchically subservient to the Analogical Imagination. The two can be mutually complementary, but the Analogical Imagination is all too often dismissed. It may very well be that an academic work by a Catholic on the faith be subject to the CDF, but it would seem a categorical error to subject an artistic work on the faith to the CDF.

I once read a quote that “Atheism is having a broken imagination.” I think that many Catholics have a broken imagination if they can only imagine Dialectical. If you find the thought of the Analogical Imagination terrifying, you might be a child who can’t swim in an ocean. No one who has masterfully explored the ocean would blame the terror exclusively on the ocean as much as the child who can’t swim or navigate it with the proper equipment. The Analogical Imagination is always a little risky compared to the Dialectic Imagination’s risk management. However, the Dialectic Imagination is still a very small world often unbalanced of wonder as the Analogical Imagination.

Viral Video Charity & Trendy Hashtag Causes

ice-bucket-challenge-e1408505819382Anyone remember Kony 2012? Or was it 2013? Invisible Children Lately? Or specifically, the Ice-Bucket challenge of 2014?

I am very glad that the internet makes it easier to raise awareness (or money) for an issue.

Next month, there will be a new viral video, and in ten years VHI will have a special with celebrities talking about the Ice Bucket thing. They did good, they raised awareness. They raised money. Maybe there is more work to be done. As for myself, no thank you.

Sometimes at the mall, a person with a clipboard will ask me if I want to help protect the earth, or whatever. I tell them I already am. Maybe not in the precise manner they advocate. Those who know me, will understand what I have done in this area, and I don’t want to brag about being eco – ma – logical.

I am certainly no Saint, no Dorothy Day. I have committed  at times to giving 10% of my vow of poverty stipend toward some cause (Sometimes it has been New Media Evangelization, Hip Hop, and of course my favorite children’s home in Tijuana). I give proceeds from my own hip hop music to charity. The Religious Community I live with gives money to charity. I really don’t want to go into detail about this.

Neither do I want to go into detail about my life given over to service. It is genuinely unremarkable, and quite ordinary.

I do not believe that Jesus is calling me to CURE EVERY DISEASE, RESTORE EVERY SINNER, FEED EVERY POOR PERSON, DONATE TO EVERY CHARITY. I believe that Jesus is really calling me to Love a few people that I meet, rather than “love” a cause.

I am not against people giving money for whatever is trendy to give to at the moment. I highly encourage people to consider Disaster Relief when it arises. Unfortunately, the bandwagon mentality of giving money to the trending hashtag cause makes it difficult for charity to actually become a developing relationship, one in which the poor enrich us.

I also find it highly problematic when people (often pro-life) will steal a trendy hashtag or viral video meme, and switch it around for themselves. It doesn’t make them look better or help their cause by hijacking someone else’s creativity.

So, if you are already committed to giving time in service to a community, a cause or a charity, (or even money), then feel no guilt in declining to participate in an ice bucket video, a trendy hashtag cause, or whatever. I won’t. You shouldn’t either.