Hope you had a blessed Pentecost! Today marks the official start (or resuming) of Ordinary time in the Liturgical year. But Monday are anything but ordinary. In case you’re having a typical Monday melancholy here’s some Catholic memes to inject humor and inspiration into your day!
That’s all I have this week. Stay alert for next week’s Catholic Meme Monday. Receive updates straight to your email inbox by subscribing to The SimpleCatholic blog.
Throughout history humanity has experienced periods of suffering and loss. Suffering often causes people to question previously held beliefs—even belief in God. Why does God allow pain and torment? How can He be good if disease, war, and domestic violence exist? If you are asking these questions don’t think you’re alone. I’ve wondered these things before (especially in the days and months after losing babies to miscarriage).
Suffering Unites Humanity
Suffering is humanity’s common denominator. It’s inescapable. And it comes in many different forms. Financial. Mental. Emotional. Physical. Spiritual. You’ve likely suffered multiple different ways the past year. The Covid-19 pandemic caught many people off-guard and upended (and eneded) countless people’s lives. I contracted the coronavirus in late April 2020 and it was a miserable experience. Prayers helped sustain me during the lowest points.
Some of the unexpected blessings from my experience was getting to know other Catholics online and developing regular correspondence. Another fruit has been people emailing me opportunities to review books related to the suffering that occurs during pandemics.
The Saint of Suffering
Our hope is in the Lord. How often have you heard this? My mom has told me this over and over. And I read about this message in the writings of the saints. One of the best spiritual role models from the last century is Saint Padre Pio.
The book The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows by Stefano Campanella and translated by Bret Thoman is a timely read for our current suffering.
Divided into two sections this book focuses on Padre Pio’s experience of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Campanella tells of the saint’s experience using several letters he wrote. He accepted the suffering from contracting the virus as a way to save souls and bodies by offering his pain to God.
Padre Pio’s Marian Devotion
While the first part of the book provided more historical context, the second half gave a glimpse into Padre Pio’s spiritual life. Campanella wrote, “The maternal presence of Mary was constant, visible, and concrete in the life of Padre Pio” (page 57). The Capuchin priest had mystical experiences often (he received the gift of the stigmata too!). One of my favorite parts of the book is this quote below:
I feel everything burning without fire; I feel tight and tied to the Son through this Mother without even seeing the chains that hold me so tightly; a thousand flames consume me; I feel as if I am dying continuously, and yet I still live (page 60).
The fiery imagery to describe his connection to Christ reminded me of Saint Catherine of Siena’s description of God’s love as a “furnace of Divine Love”. She too was gifted with stigmata.
I highly recommend The Pandemic of Padre Pio. At only 83 pages you could complete this book in one sitting or digest his wisdom little by little. Reading about his direct experience with a pandemic was both informative and comforting. My only regret is that I didn’t discover this book earlier in the Covid-19 pandemic. Padre Pio will gave you spiritual insights on how to deal with pain and found joy in carrying your cross. Get your own copy of The Pandemic of Padre Pio: Disciple of Our Lady of Sorrows today!
P.S. Special thanks to translator Bret Thoman for reaching out to me about writing a review on this book.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 23, 2017.
We already looked at the first novel in C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy—Out of the Silent Planet. Here’s my thoughts and analysis of his second installment of his Space Trilogy—Perelandra. Like the diversity of the planets of our solar system so too does Lewis paint another vivid portrayal of Dr. Ransom’s trip to Earth’s other neighbor: Venus.
Perelandra: Lewis’ name for Venus.
The book opens up with Dr. Elwin Ransom a few years removed from his celestial journey to Malancandra [Mars]. Here he receives an assignment from Oyarsa—the angelic ruler of Malacandra—to travel to Perendra [Venus] to thwart an attack by Satan! Before I continue on with the synopsis, I want to point out something interesting I discovered about the first name of Dr. Ransom. While I do not necessary know the exact motivation for Lewis’ selection of appellations I think it is telling, along with a type of foreshadowing, that Elwin is a splicing together of the ancient word for God plus win thus equaling God wins as a meaning of the main character’s name!
Now to go back to the story, Ransom travels to the second planet from the Sun in a coffin-like spaceship and wakes up to a vastly different world from his time on Malancandra. Kaleidoscopic and oceanic, Perelandra is largely composed of fluid raft-like islands and the planet contained a singular geographic feature called the Fixed Land.
New Mission (and Planet) for Dr. Ransom
Unlike his first space adventure, Ransom initially only encounters a single rational being—known as the Queen of the planet, an Eve-like figure. The green-skinned Queen hints at Ransom’s mission of savior and prevention of a reenactment of the Genesis Fall when she says, “that in your world Maleldil [Jesus] first took Himself this form, the form of your race and mine…Since our Beloved became a man, how should Reason in any world take on another form?” (p. 54). What the Queen refers to is that the Incarnation of God only happened once—on Earth.
Perelandra represented a “New Garden of Eden”.
Another Garden of Eden/The Fall
It is not until the antagonist Weston from the first novel suddenly arrives on the scene that the battle over Perelandra begins. Through a constant onslaught of materialistic arguments Weston, who is possessed by the Devil, tried to get the Queen to disobey Maleldil’s order to avoid sleeping a night on the Fixed Land.
Weston continues to charismatically expand on his reasons for the Green Lady to disobey Maleldil and spend a night on the Fixed Land. He focuses on the fact that this command does not really seem to make much sense and urges her that rules are meant to be broken.
The possessed Weston says,
These other commands of His—to love, to sleep, to fill this world with your children—you see for yourself they are good. And they are the same in all worlds. But the command against living on the Fixed Land is not so. You have already learned he gave no such command to my world. And you cannot see where the goodness of it is. No wonder. If it were really good, must He not have commanded it to all worlds alike? For how could Maleldil not command what is good? There is no good in it. Maleldil Himself is showing you that, this moment, through your own reason. It is mere command. It is forbidding for the mere sake of forbidding (p. 100).
The Incarnation Happens Only Once
Eventually, the diabolical argument posed by Weston crescendos when he tells the Queen the side effects of the First Fall on Earth—namely Maleldil becoming Incarnate to save humanity.
While hope is seemingly lost, Dr. Ransom realizes through a guidance of the divine voice that he himself is the savior of Perelandra. Lewis writes,
What happened on Earth, when Maleldil was born man at Bethelham, had altered the universe for ever. The new world of Perelandra was not merely a repetition of the old world Tellus. Maleldil never repeated himself. One of the purposes for which He had done all this was to save Perelandra not through Himself but through Himself in Ransom (p. 123)
Ransom eventually defeats the Un-man [Satanic possessed Weston] and the Queen is reunited with the King and the heavenly bliss continues on Perelandra. Finally, Ransom returns to Earth and continues to follow Maleldil’s mission to fight evil.
I loved reading this book! Like Out of the Silent Planet I give Perelandra four out of five stars. The only real downside to the book was the minimal amount of characters used throughout the novel. Aside from that issue, I enjoyed the abundant and colorful descriptions of the planet and the theological insight provided by Lewis.
So far this is the only book I have ever read that satisfies my speculative theological appetite and scientific curiosity about extraterrestrial life. The author also provides a compelling explanation for how life may exist on other planets without contradicting the Christian truth of Jesus Christ as the sole mediator.
Due to the linear nature of time, God never repeats Himself and as a result only one Incarnational event took place—2,000 years ago in Israel. Our mission as Christians if intelligent life exists outside of Earth is to unite ourselves to the One Mediator and evangelize. I highly recommend this book to any curious soul that loves C.S. Lewis, space travel, or theology!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 16, 2017.
Growing up I had those glow-in-the-dark planet decals attached to the ceiling of my bedroom. Space exploration and the study of astronomy always fascinated me and still grips my attention. As a kid, I even made sure my planet decals were proportionately spaced from the sun [the light in the center of my bedroom ceiling] as the real planets’ orbit around the sun!
I have maintained a love of space through my reading of both scientifically based works like Stephen Hawkings’ A History of Time and Space to sci-fi works like Spin by Robert Charles Wilson.
About five years ago, my cousin introduced me to another sci-fi series related to space—one by Clives Staples Lewis! You heard me right, the same C.S. Lewis who wrote great Christian apologetic works of The Screwtape Letters and Mere Christianity. The same C.S. Lewis who his endeared children with the Chronicles of Narnia.
Penned by the motivation of a literary challenge to delve into the genre of science fiction posed by his close friend J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis branched out and wrote three tales in The Space Trilogy. Because I want to share this amazing work, here is a brief review of the first book— Out of the Silent Planet.
The basic theme of the book centers around the idea of what life would look like in an unfallen [without Original Sin] world. Out of the Silent Planet opens with the primary antagonists—Devine and Weston— kidnapping main character, Dr. Elwin Ransom. The kidnappers’ aim is to find another planet to colonize in hopes to perpetuate the human race. Ransom, Devine, and Weston end up on a mysterious planet known as Malacandra [more commonly known as Mars!].
Malacandra: Lewis’ name for Mars.
Most of the book focuses on Dr. Ransom’s interactions with the planet’s hnau [a word used to describe rationale beings]. Ransom learns that the inhabitants of Malacandra do not suffer from the effects of Original Sin like humans from Earth do. A mutual respect between the species and self-less obedience to Maeldil [Jesus Christ] exist. Furthermore, he learns that angelic beings known as Oyarsa guides each planet in the solar system. What is different about Earth’s [called the Silent Planet] guardian is that our Oyarsa became Bent and led humanity toward a path of selfishness and destruction.
What Does it Mean to be Human?
The remainder of Out of the Silent Planet explores the relationship between the various Malacandrian species. Lewis juxtaposes this harmony against the strife daily seen on Earth. What I really enjoy about this book is Lewis’ ability to imagine an unfallen world and ponder how that would concretely exist. His portrayal of the various species on Malacandra assumes that being a hnau [person] is not limited to a particular species. Image a world where humans, dolphins, dogs, and chimps all are viewed as rationale beings who mutually respect each other and worship the same God!
Hrossa: the humanoid-otter species Dr. Ransom first encounters in Out of the Silent Planet.
Reading Lewis’ tale is both a fantastical and metaphysical experience. The language of the hrossa, the first species Ransom encounters, is fun to learn. Moreover, the idea of an unfallen world definitely puts a new spin on space travel for me. Despite the book ending a bit philosophically, Lewis’ wit pervades Out of the Silent Planet. Without giving too much of the ending away I want to share a small quote from Out of the Silent Planet.
The chief Oyarsa [angel] in charge of Malacandra tells Weston,
“The weakest of my people do not fear death. It is the Bent One, the lord of your world, who wastes your lives and befouls them with flying from what you know will overtake you in the end. If you were subjects of Maleldil you would have peace” (p. 138-139).
Overall, I would give Out of the Silent Planet four out of five stars. My only real concern was initially the style of writing at the beginning of the book took a little getting used to. Nevertheless, I loved the theme and the relationship between Ransom and the three alien species. Having re-read this book multiple times I encourage you to check out your local library or search for this book online. This is a must have work for any ardent C.S. Lewis fan!