April Faithful Questions slides

OK, I know this is ridiculously late. I stumbled across the “finish line” of my Holy Week activities and April Faithful Questions session and then more or less collapsed for a week. It didn’t help that I caught some respiratory bug right about that time. By the time I started being productive again, I had a big backlog of things I needed to get done and thus posting the slides is now 2 1/2 weeks late.

In any case, here are the slides:

http://deaconken.org/presentations/Easter_symbols.pdf

Q and A topics

For my May Faithful Questions session we’re going to change things up a little and do a Question and Answer session. Hopefully I can get 6 to 10 questions that each take 5 to 10 minutes to answer. Use the commend section to propose a question for the talk.

Books for Lent

As I mentioned in my ‘Movies for Lent’ post, at my ‘Faithful Questions’ talk on Tuesday found myself looking like a babbling idiot. I mentioned that one of the ways we can make the most of Lent is to watch movies and read books that help us to delve into the divine. When during the Q&A portion, someone asked for a list I was only able to spit out one or two titles.

So now that I’ve redeemed myself with a good list of movies, here’s a list of books I think can be of value during Lent:

  • ‘Crossing the Threshold of Hope’ by St. Pope John Paul II: A wonderful book that was the result of an interview with the Pope. In it he repeats his oft-used refrain of “Be Not Afraid!” again and again. Sometimes when we get into Lent, we’re afraid to commit too fully to it, for fear of where that might lead. This book will help you find that courage.
  • ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C.S. Lewis: A fictional work of a series of letters from one demon to another, Lewis manages to delve into the motivation and methods of the demonic in a way that few others have. Sometimes to confront evil, we must stare it in the eye. Lent is as good as a time as any to do that.
  • ‘Resisting Happiness’ by Matthew Kelly: While the tone of the book may be a tad bit upbeat for Lent, the message fits well with the penitential themes of Lent. Kelly wants us to transform our lives so that we can find true happiness with Christ. What better time to do that than Lent?
  • ‘Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness’ by Warren H. Carroll: This short history book covers the conquest of Mexico by Cortez through the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego a mere 14 years later. Cortez and the Spaniards are often criticized and not entirely without merit. However, missing from that criticism is the grave evil that Cortez discovered when he arrived in Mexico and the heroic steps he took to put an end to human sacrifice in the New World. Similar to some of the movies suggested, this is a combination of the heroic virtue that can inspire us as well an educational read that helps us to see beyond the modern secular view of things.
  • ‘The Bones of St. Peter’ by John Evangelist Walsh: This book was sadly out of print when I first came across it, but has since been re-published in paperback. Hooray! In any case, sometimes what we most need during Lent is to connect with our roots, to know that our faith comes from an ancient and unbroken lineage. The Bones of St. Peter covers the 20th century excavation under St. Peter’s basilica as they attempted to find the bones of St. Peter that tradition said were buried under the high altar. It’s an inspiring story that will help you remember where we come from.
  • ‘Render Unto Caesar’ by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput: Continuing down the educating and challenging our faith path, this book discusses the relationship between Church and State. I think it’s an excellent work and will challenge you. Hopefully from that, along with general Lenten reflection, you’ll be emboldened to bring Christ more into the public sphere (but in the right way).

OK, those are the religious books I can recommend right off the bat. I’ve read them all and whole-heartedly recommend them. However, how could I recommend that others read books during Lent and myself ignore that advice? So, here are 3 books I hope to read between now and the end of Lent. Since I haven’t read them, I can’t yet give them my stamp of approval, but they all come highly recommended:

  • ‘Why Preach’ by Father Peter John Cameron: Fr. Cameron is best known for his work with the Magnificat publications. As a deacon who has to give a monthly homily, I want to make sure I’m doing a good job and so I frequently read articles or books on how to get better. I’m about 20 pages in so far and I’ve been surprised by the path it has taken. It is far more theological than practical thus far.
  • ‘Dark Knight of the Soul’ by St. John of the Cross: I’ve read many of the great classical works of Catholicism, but this one has yet to bubble to the top of the reading stack. A reflection on how to survive dark times, hopefully it will give me courage to delve even deeper into Lent knowing I have the tools to survive any interior darkness I might find.
  • ‘Interior Castle’ by St. Teresa of Avila: Another great classic that I’ve yet to tackle and ironically by someone so closely tied to St. John of the Cross. But the time has come to read this important work by the first woman to be named a Doctor of the Church.

Finally, here are two secular works that I think are worth reading during Lent. I’ve read both books at least 4 or 5 times. They are two of my favorites and fit well in Lent:

  • ‘Earth Abides’ by George R. Stewart: Technically a science fiction book, although it doesn’t read like one from my vantage point, it’s a story of a man’s journey after civilization is wiped out by a plague. Written in 1949 it is surprisingly timeless. It uses a ton of religious symbolism, starting with the title coming from the King James translation of the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1:4). At its root, it contemplates what the purpose of our existence is against the backdrop of a man must completely re-evaluate the purpose and value of his life after society is no more. Despite the religious title and imagery throughout, the book strikes a mostly agnostic tone, but for a person of faith, it opens up a wonderful space for contemplating this wonderful creation that God has made for us.
  • ‘The Sea Wolf’ by Jack London. I’m a big Jack London fan and I can never understand why this book is not considered his definitive work. Call of the Wild is child’s play compared to this. The book follows the journey of a rich socialite who’s swept out to sea in a ferry accident and picked up by a seal ship. There he is confronted by a captain who has embraced a completely Darwinian view of life. London remains fairly neutral to whether nobility or survival of the fittest is right, but for those of us who know where we stand, the book is a fascinating read. In some sense it is like The Screwtape Letters, but instead of the explicitly demonic, we get to see into the heart of the most troubling form of modern atheism.

So there you have it. More books than you could possibly read during Lent, particularly if you spend all your time watching the plethora of movies that I suggested.

And just as with the movies, feel free to add any additional suggestions in the comment section.

Movies for Lent

At my ‘Faithful Questions’ talk on Tuesday I mentioned that one of the ways we can make the most of Lent is to watch movies and read books that help us to delve into the divine. Later, in the Q&A portion, someone asked for a list. And I proceeded to sound like a babbling idiot only able to spit out one or two titles. So to redeem myself, here’s a list of movies I think can be of value during Lent:

  • ‘The Mission’: This is a movie about redemption set against the backdrop of conflict between the Jesuits trying to bring the natives to Christ and the powerful who want to see them exploited, in 18th century South America. One of the slave traders kills his brother in a jealousy induced rage and goes into a self-inflicted depression and isolation. The movie centers on the relationship between him as he seeks redemption and one of the lead Jesuits. A great Lenten movie.
  • ‘Pius XII: Under the Roman Sky’: During the Nazi occupation of Rome, the Pope must navigate the treacherous waters of somehow protecting the persecuted Jews without causing an even greater crackdown. The movie follows his heroic actions as he tries to find the best combination of direct confrontation and rebuke, against secretly undermining the Nazi’s efforts. It’s a little bit more subtle how this is connected to Lent, but sometimes what we need to see is heroic virtue to evaluate where we are falling short in following God.
  • ‘Bella’: The story of a man who can’t forgive himself for a life he took away and a single and struggling woman who’s recently found out she’s pregnant, and their unexpected friendship. It’s a story about the search from redemption through service and accompaniment of another who needs to know that she is loved.
  • ‘There Be Dragons’: Another movie about relationship, this time between a future Saint and a man who loses his faith in God through the Spanish Civil war. The value of this movie as a Lenten movie is similar to Pius XII, in that we see both sides of what one might choose in difficult circumstances: the heroic and the tendency towards self-preservation.
  • ‘Doubt’: The story of a nun who is the principle of a parish school who suspects, but doesn’t have proof, of sexual abuse by the pastor. While the movie itself doesn’t strike a particularly redemptive tone, I think in our current situation, spending the time to reflect on this shameful area of our Church is very important, and definitely fits the penitential spirit of Lent.
  • ‘The Exorcism of Emily Rose’: This might be the biggest stretch in the list, but I think it still is worth a watch during Lent. It follows the trial of an exorcist priest who is charged with a crime for the death of a young lady who was in his care. He was convinced she was possessed, but the prosecutors argued that she had a mental health issue and the priest did her great harm by dissuading her from receiving psychiatric help. Lent is a good time to reflect on what we really believe and this is a movie that exposes the difficulty of discerning when a person’s difficulties can be attributed to the demonic or instead whether mental health issues are to blame.
  • ‘A Man For All Seasons’: The story of St. Thomas More and his martyrdom. This is a bit of mix between being challenged by the heroic virtue of a saint who chooses martyrdom instead of compromising his faith, and a movie that challenges us intellectually to this about the right relationship between Church and State.
  • ‘The Passion of the Christ’: The most obvious movie for the list and thus saved for last. There couldn’t be a more Lenten movie than one about Christ’s crucifixion. The one point I would make is to make sure you watch for the specific parallels between the 14 Stations of the Cross.

In addition to movies specifically intended to have a religious theme, here are a number of more secular movies that I also think are of value. Each of them are more focused on a lesson we can learn about life. I will mention that some of these movies have some objectionable content, both sexual and violent. Particularly considering my background, I tend to be less sensitive to these sorts of things than some, and do my best to not let those scenes distract me from any overall good that can be found in the movie. I’m also more willing than some to overlook the troublesome but common morals of society that show themselves in secular movies, as long as their is something that stands out as of value among them.

So with that caveat aside, here is that list:

  • ‘The Painted Veil’: A wonderful movie about true love. It centers on a newlywed couple. Infidelity tears their young marriage apart, but then they find themselves in a difficult situation and must find their way toward forgiveness and redemption. Fair warning: It’s a tragedy, not a Hollywood ending.
  • ‘Up In The Air’: A movie about a man who has purposely chosen a life of nomadic solitude and material indulgence being challenged by a young woman who has much more interest in a traditional domestic life. While the ending is a bit muddled as I think they tried to give a Hollywood ending to what is fundamentally a tragedy, I think it is a wonderful movie about what makes life both valuable and joyful. (Caution: definitely a couple of pretty explicit sexual scenes in this one)
  • ‘Braveheart’: One of the greatest movies of all time in my opinion. I see St. John Paul II’s dual admonition to ‘Be Not Afriad’ and to cherish Freedom, in the lead character of William Wallace. This is another movie that challenges us by showing us what heroic virtue looks like. (Caution: There’s tons of violence in this one.)

(Expect to see a list of books similar to this in the next day or so.)

Finally, feel free to add any additional suggestions in the comment section.

Topics for upcoming Faithful Questions seminars

I’ve been asked in a couple of different forums what my upcoming topics for the Faithful Questions seminar will be. I put them in my slides for the previous couple talks, but I figured I should publish them separately:

  • February 19th: What is the point of Fasting?
  • March 19th: Were the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus?
  • April 23rd (delayed from 3rd to 4th Tuesday due to Holy Week):
    What do eggs and bunnies have to do with the Resurrection?
  • May 21st: TBD – perhaps general Q&A, ideally with pre-submitted questions

I will then take June, July and August off and re-start in September.

Faithful Questions – Is there a conflict between Faith and Science? – RAW

Last nights topic was ‘Is there a conflict between Faith and Science?’  It was attended by 40-50 people and overall it went pretty well.  Sadly, the better of my two phones that were recording video had a cap of 30 minutes and so only caught about 25 minutes of the presentation.  Luckily I have full audio of me, so I’ll still be able to put together the summary video in the days to come.  It will just be slides and audio after I lost the video.

In the meantime, here is a link to the slides:

http://deaconken.org/presentations/Faithful_Questions_Faith_and_Science.pdf

The raw audio is at the top of the post.

Faithful Questions kickoff

Last night at my parish I started a lecture/seminar series titled ‘Faithful Questions’.  Each month I’ll talk about a new question that average Catholics have about their faith.  Many Catholics believe in the faith, generally accept the Church’s teaching as correct (even if they struggle with them), but at the same time, don’t know as much about what the Church teaches as they’d like.  They lead busy lives and educating themselves on Church teaching isn’t the highest priority.  Often the result is they have many misconceptions about Church teaching.

My goal is to help Catholics like this better learn about their faith.

Expect to see at least two posts for each month.  The first will be a raw posting of audio and the slides.  A few days (OK, maybe it’ll be a week or two) later, I’ll post a link to a YouTube video that combines the slides, video of me pacing back and forth (gripping stuff I’m sure) and the audio.