On Whether Ouija Boards, Tarot Cards, and the Weather Channel Are Evil

The film Geostorm debuted in movie theaters across the world in mid-October 2017. Earlier in the month, a trailer for this movie was on and it piqued my interest. That is rare because I normally find weather-related films to be boring! This movie was different.

Relying on a unique story-line, Geostorm  featured a future with the possibility of a global network of satellites used to control climate to benefit humanity. The  technology gets hijacked  and apocalyptic storms ensue as a result.

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Along with my interest in the possibility of humanity controlling weather, October is a month culturally dedicated on Halloween. Originating from the Catholic tradition of celebrating the Vigil of All Saints Day, the word Halloween originally referred to All Hallows [holy] Eve. It is a celebration of the officially canonized holy men and women  by the Catholic Church who had such a profound and transformative relationship with God that they are believed to be united to Him in Heaven.

Holiness or ghastliness?

Unfortunately, sometimes Halloween gets associated with witches, ghosts, goblins, magic, fortune telling, and other sorts of divination. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to “unveil” the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone (CCC 2116).

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What exactly does ‘falsely supposed to unveil the future’ mean? A few years ago, a co-worker and I were talking about the weather [go figure]. I do not quite remember how partly cloud with a chance of rain led to the practices of the occult, but my co-worker exclaimed, “You’re Catholic, right?  Don’t Catholics avoid tarot reading, and horoscopes?”

After I confirmed this provided the official Church teaching, he quipped, “Well, what about weather forecasting?”

His question caught me off guard. I did not have a good answer for him. After much reflection on this topic, I will share a few reasons why seeking knowledge from the occult is evil, whereas watching the weather channel to plan your weekend is not bad at all.

Old Testament precedent

The evils of summoning knowledge through the occult is found in the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 28 tells of King Saul’s going to the Witch of Endor to seek knowledge as “He [previously] consulted the LORD; but the LORD gave no answer, whether in dreams or by the Urim or through the prophets” (v.6).

Although this chapter sounds like it came from Middle-Earth [Endor reminds of a Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Universe!!], the first king of Israel went down a path seeking information via the wrong way.  Listen to this brief exchange between Saul and the conjured spirit of the prophet Samuel:

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Samuel then said to Saul, “Why do you disturb me by conjuring me up?” Saul replied: “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are waging war against me and God has turned away from me. Since God no longer answers me through prophets or in dreams, I have called upon you to tell me what I should do.”

e6To this Samuel said: “But why do you ask me, if the LORD has abandoned you for your neighbor?f17The LORD has done to you what he declared through me: he has torn the kingdom from your hand and has given it to your neighbor David.18“Because you disobeyed the LORD’s directive and would not carry out his fierce anger against Amalek, the LORD has done this to you today.g19Moreover, the LORD will deliver Israel, and you as well, into the hands of the Philistines. By tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will have delivered the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 28:15-19).

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Individual gain

Saul’s consultation of Samuel the prophet was not inherently evil. In fact, God encouraged Jewish leaders to listen to His messengers. The problem lay in the fact that Saul sought out Samuel through an improper channel and for ulterior motives. He desired power to defeat his enemies.

If I ever encountered that person from the break room, I would let them know that weather forecasting is definitely not evil. Meteorologists predict the weather for the benefit of society not the individual!

Divination—tarot reading, ouija boards, etc—  occurs when individuals seek specific knowledge to benefit themselves in a selfish manner. What is more, the word occult comes from the Latin occultus which means  “knowledge of the hidden or secret”. Such knowledge is in direct opposition to the knowledge of God taught by the Catholic [Universal] Church!

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Predicting the future

A third and final point regarding the deep gulf between weather forecasting and practice of the occult is found in the nature of how one predicts through those means. Meteorology is established and justified via the scientific process. It is verifiable through series of tests and past data. All forms of divination rely on the paranormal. Man becomes a passive receipt of “secret knowledge” as opposed to learning about knowledge the proper way by faith and reason.

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St. John Paul II in his encyclical letter Fides Et Ratio tells us, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth…Philosophy and the sciences function within the order of natural reason; while faith, enlightened and guided by the Spirit, recognizes in the message of salvation the “fullness of grace and truth” (cf. Jn 1:14) which God has willed to reveal in history and definitively through his Son, Jesus Christ.” 

Relax you can talk about the weather again

Truth is to be for the benefit of all humanity. Because God is our Creator and I am a creature, I am not meant to acquire control of the future of my life—especially through methods of the occult. This would be selfish of me and quite prideful. “Well, what about weather forecasting? Is that wrong too?” I definitively say no.

Weather forecasting benefits the whole of mankind. May we ask for the graces and courage to resist the temptation to control our future! 

 

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5 Tips to Build Your Domestic Church when Time is Limited

Since the advent of the Internet an explosion of information has been accessible to a majority of the world. Social media and the invention of the smart phone only continued the ability to learn new information quicker and at an earlier age.

As a dad to four children I am both excited and terrified of the new advancements technology will afford humanity in the next few decades. Technology by itself is neutral. Its implementation can be used for good or evil. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1656, “In our own time, in a world often alien and even hostile to faith, believing families are of primary importance as centers of living, radiant faith. For this reason the Second Vatican Council, using an ancient expression, calls the family the Ecclesia domestica (domestic church).” Faith starts in the home.

During the Baptismal rite, Catholic parents pledge to teach their children in the faith. In the minutes after the ceremony, it is easy for parents to feel empowered and emboldened by the Holy.  “Nothing can phase us. We has the power of the Holy Spirit guiding us (and our child)!” I thought as I held my oldest son after his Baptism. I felt invincible as a dad. It took less than a week for the Enemy to take advantage of my pride. Sending us temptation after temptation the Devil seeks to wear us down. His goal is to get us to a state of despair.

Life gets busy, messy, stressful, frustrating, hopeless at times, and tons of other inconveniences bombard us daily. It is definitely easy to lose sight and forget about the Baptismal vows we made before God and the Church. I struggle at least every month. On the worst months, I feel the strain almost daily. Recently, I switched to working the night shift. While this schedule has blessed me with the ability to stay home with the younger kids and take the older children to school, the result is less time as an entire family fully together at once.

Fortunately, the Labor Day Weekend provided our family to spend quality time. My wife suggested that I write about the ways we have developed to maintain our church at home despite our schedule. This post will center on five specific and simple ways to build your domestic church with little time.

Morning Prayer

St. John Vianney once said, “Prayer is the inner bath of love into which the soul plunges itself.” If we expect our kids to brush their teeth and wash their faces before school, why should we not also expect them (and ourselves) to wash their souls with morning prayer. My parents were not superbly theological in their articulation about the faith.

In hindsight, I realized they actions and prayer life made a big impact on me. Every morning on the drive to school my mom (in elementary school) and my dad (in high school) would lead us in a daily morning prayer consisting of an Our Father, Hail Mary, and various other prayers at times. This simple practice to begin the day was instrumental in build our church at home. My wife and I adopted this practice now.

Playtime can be Prayer Time

According to Genesis 2:3, God rested after completion of creation. Certainly the creator of the Universe would not tire, it is important because God “rested” as a means to show humanity the importance of taking time away from work. Some days I am too tired to play with my kids. But it is an importance duty as a parent. Play is equally as important as working. “Dad! I want you to play a game or outside with me,” my kids constantly tell me.

St. Francis de Sales in Introduction to the Devout Life wrote, “We must needs occasionally relax the mind, and the body requires some recreation also” (Part III, no 31). Throwing the frisbee with my wife the other day and watching my kids play at the playground had a sacramental quality to it. I felt drawn closer into the Mystery of God’s grace as I calmed my anxious mind through the playful activities of the weekend. The Doctor of the Church lists out good and moral playful activities, all still relevant today. Francis charts out the following:

Walking, harmless games, music, instrumental or vocal, field sports, etc., are such entirely lawful recreations that they need no rules beyond those of ordinary discretion, which keep every thing within due limits of time, place, and degree. So again games of skill, which exercise and strengthen body or mind, such as tennis, rackets, running at the ring, chess, and the like, are in themselves both lawful and good.

Look to Your Family’s Patron Saint(s)

Another simple way to grow your church at home is to reflect on your family’s patron saints. Your family’s patrons could be either the saints that you, your spouse, and your are named after or it could be a particular saint you learned about later in life. For example, if your family enjoys camping in the summer look to Saint Pope John Paul II as your role model.

My family’s patron saints are Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and Gerad of Majella. We also ask for help from the Blessed Virgin Mary and specifically are close to Our Lady Undoer of Knots devotion. Sometimes the “can’t man” or pessimistic attitude invades our house. Mary helps to undo our knots (nots) and turns them into “yeses”.

Celebrate your children’s and spouse’s saints feast days by making food specific to the nationality of that saint. Read a bedtime story about that saint’s life or print off pictures of your patron saint as a coloring activity. If you are super pinched for time that day, simply reflect on the life of that saint throughout the day.

Patience is a Virtue

A fourth reason to develop your domestic church is to exercise the virtue of patience. It is easy to tell yourself to be patient, but it is super challenging to implement on some days! Jesus told his disciples and us in Matthew 7:7, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” If you are running low on patience ask Him. You will receive it. Ask. Ask. Ask. Your children may challenge your belief in that verse, but please know your struggles for the day will day—eventually!

Getting the kids ready for bed is the most challenging part for us. My wife tells me that she constantly prays the Rosary to help prevent her was losing her cool. Mary is an effective intercessor. Mary always will intercede for us and draw us close to Her Son for aid.

Night Prayer

The last strategy to implement to similar to the first—end your day with prayer. Nightly prayer as an entire family may not be feasible daily depending on your schedule. Because I work the overnight shift throughout the week, I can only pray with my wife and kids twice a week.

Frequency is not as important as consistency. I aim to consistently pray as a family even though it is only a couple times a week. Praying a decade of the Rosary or listening to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy sung are two ways my family likes to end the day.

Family that Prays Together Stay Together

As corny as the saying is families that nurture a consistent prayer life do stay together. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:21)—so should you for your family’s sake and for the sake of the Church. Saint John Paul the Great declared, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Serve God, your family, and the world use the time you have to foster the domestic church!

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How Movies Can Affect the Soul and Our Relationships

By: John Tuttle

Human beings remain utterly unique among the living entities of God’s created hierarchy. We have bodies like the members of the animal kingdom as well as immortal spirits, the same substance of the angelic beings, which instill life in us. The human soul exists as the spiritual dimension of who we are.

In a positive atmosphere, developing youth get inspired and spurred on to greater achievements by the ideal that they are individually, intrinsically special. Loving caregivers pass this notion onto the next generation. But why is every human person unique? What makes you special?

You are Special

One of the key elements in the shaping of one’s soul is simply relationships. A soul’s uniqueness lies in its relationships with other people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The soul, though spiritual and unseen, acts as a crucial part of who we are. The inner movings of the soul affect our entire well-being. Likewise, the actions of the body have an impact on the soul. In this wonderful and intimate association between the body and the soul, the senses of the body have a big role to play.

Senses—Windows into the Soul

The physical senses relay information to us about our surroundings, especially about the people we interact with. We learn about other people through the senses. We see them and how they act. If we’re good friends, we’ll listen to what they have to say. This impacts the shaping of a soul. And the condition of our soul affects how we, in turn, react to those around us.

When a great deal of sin taints the soul, the relationships the soul may have are often damaged. In other words, the standing of one’s soul is going to have an effect on the friendships, bonds, and meetings a person has with others.

Eyes

Since we gain knowledge via the physical senses, the senses have to filter through a lot of information. Today, much of the information generated by media has become sensualized or sexualized. Again, the senses feed through to the soul. When the senses intake garbage, the soul is on the receiving end of the deal. When you take in impurity, the soul is the eventual dumping ground.

Temple of the Holy Spirit

The soul, intended on a temple and home to God, does not deserve to be a junkyard. Digital imagery, graphics, and movies have been employed to provide porn and suggestive visuals, invading the mind and soul of the viewer. This is certainly one of the most dangerous capabilities of the media—especially movies . But movies, in their frequently damaging portrayals, offer numerous threats to viewers’ mentalities and interpersonal relationships.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Movies are not merely a brilliant product of man’s ingenuity and a splendid medium for artistic expression, but they have the potential to be moving—to touch us emotionally, speaking to us on a deeply personal level. More than this, when built up by relatable characters and a good soundtrack, films have the power of making their way into the fondness of our hearts. Movies and video content are simply more memorable than many other forms of media. They become ingrained upon the minds of their fans. As you can imagine, movies have a significant capacity for influencing people on a cultural level as well as a more subtle and psychological one.

Sexual License in Movies

One of the most commonly addressed dilemmas that the moviegoer faces is indecent exposure, which modern society softens and dubs as “entertainment” or some raunchy excuse of “fine art.” Pornography on the screen deserves neither title. While the problem has been discussed at length in numerous Christian circles, it remains an element of so much of today’s so-called entertainment industry. Thus, it merits mentioning yet again.

Interestingly, it is this very issue – that of sexual indecency – that plagued the art of cinema in its earliest and humblest of beginnings. The reason vivid sexual representation is so dangerous to the soul is that it subjects the eyes to a frame of potential temptation, the mind to a very specific memory. There is no imagination in many of the clips I’m alluding to. What’s there is there. The eyes, the windows to the soul, have just gotten a graphic image slapped against their transparent panes.

As mentioned earlier, when the soul is damaged, its relationships with other souls are also damaged. A saddening yet common real-world example of this is the effect of porn on the male mindset. When a porn addict experiences sexual attraction toward a woman, he begins to see her as a mere icon, an object, a thing of momentary pleasure. This type of content wreaks so much unhappiness and pain in society.

Catholic Impact on Movie Ratings

Catholics who were aware of what early cinematographers were doing realized something had to change. The Catholic Church was key in helping to purge film-making of its obsessive pornography and other suggestive imagery. During 1930s, less than  two decades after cinematic theaters’ inception, a portion of the American Catholic population constructed and supported the National Legion of Decency. This group called for the censorship of Hollywood productions. They desired a moral standard for movies. Inevitably, it was these foundational steps taken by American Catholics that paved the way to the MPAA rating system of modern day!

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Yet, even with the MPAA system in place, risqué content and outright nudity are common inclusions in today’s cinematic works, and the youth are more than welcome to come experience it. It’s something, like pornography in all its forms, that has to be battled by the entire faithful Christian community.

Watch but do not become the Characters

However, immodest sexuality is only one element which often gets drug into films. Many movie characters, good and bad alike, are portrayed as having rather immoral lifestyles. It’s this inclusion that often makes it possible to bring in some context of a sensual nature. Beyond that, immoral characters produce a toxic atmosphere around themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes these questionable characters appeal to the audience at large.

The personalities and attitudes of fictional characters can begin to affect the mannerisms and mentalities of moviegoers. Just as one’s sight is deeply impacted by sensual depictions, so are many of the senses affected by the on-screen characters and their behavior.

Movies are unique in that they can show a person for who he or she is. It stands as the only art form which captures a genuine living, breathing, talking person. A movie is an expression which falls just short of conversation – conversation with the viewer. But because of its realistic medium, film provides characters that can interact with us, at least in part, like real people.

Be Careful in Your Moviegoing

Similar to how those around us shape who we become, the characters in films and on TV can begin to leave their mark on our own mode of interacting with others. A fictional character can actually have an effect on how we enter into relationships— and how we treat them.

Keep Calm and Stay Safe

Inevitably, the cinematic entertainment industry provides a general good, but a lot of its fruits must undergo our scrutiny and selection. Not every film deserves to be watched. Not every apple deserves to be eaten. The Catholic wishing to keep a conscious clear and a heart and mind in purity is called to be more judgmental in what he or she views.


John Tuttle is a Catholic man who loves discovering and preserving truth and beauty. His work has been featured by Those Catholic Men, Love Thy Nerd, Movie Babble, Publishous, Tea with Tolkien, Catholic Journal: Reflections on Faith & Culture, and elsewhere. He is the founder of the web publication Of Intellect and Interest. He can be reached at jptuttleb9@gmail.com.

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The Prophet of Scripture and the Wizard of Fantasy—Part I: Archetypes and Myths

By. Andrew Garofalo

In her book, Awakening the Heroes Within, Carol S. Pearson discusses twelve archetypes. According to psychologist Carl Jung, an archetype is a symbol or motif that is repeatedly represented in mythology, art and literature. In all forms of storytelling we see universal characters and situations that are unrelated, yet they share many of the same traits. Similarities between creation and flood stories and hero stories from different cultures around the world come to mind. There’s also the monomyth (or hero’s journey) story template that we see in classical mythology and more recently in books and movies like Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings, and the original Star Wars trilogy.

Archetypes

According to Jung, archetypes are not only represented in fictional stories though. He believed archetypes are a kind of inherited knowledge that lives in the unconscious mind of all people and that we unknowingly use archetypes to interpret the world and our place in it. Pearson says archetypes are “inner guides” that exemplify “a way of being on the journey” we call life. Note that Pearson isn’t saying archetypes are beings themselves. They are not angels, demons or spirits, but collective knowledge passed on through the generations. Pearson associates archetypes closely with the monomyth which she envisions in three stages: the preparation, journey and return of the hero (Joseph Campbell saw it as departure, initiation and return and I see the saint’s journey as the call, the cross and communion).

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A Catholic Perspective on Archetypes and Myths

Though Jung and his followers like Pearson are psychologists, archetypes do not appear to be purely scientific or artistic in nature. Rather, there is a transcendent quality to them.

In book one of his four-book series, Finding True Happiness, Father Robert Spitzer, SJ recognizes Jungian archetypes as one of the four major dimensions of religious intuition and experience. “The archetypal story calls each of us to be a hero [in the cosmic struggle between good and evil,] … to resist the forces of evil and to assist the divine mystery in bringing humanity to its proper and full end.”

In his second book in the series, The Soul’s Upward Yearning, Father Spitzer connects archetypes to myths when he asks, “What is it about these three stories [Harry PotterThe Lord of the Rings and Star Wars] that catapults them ahead of other great … [stories]? In a word, they all fit the technical description of myths.” Father Spitzer says myths are not concerned with worldly narratives, but with transcendent and spiritual narratives. “The objective of myths is to express ultimate truth and meaning … ultimate reality. … [M]yths fascinate and captivate not only our imaginations but our very souls.” Mythical stories appeal to our emotions; we feel them.

Great Catholics on Myths

Father Spitzer is in good company in his understanding of myths. While some might fear myths as un-Christian or consider them childish fairy tales, St John Paul II said myths communicate something “more than real” and he called classical myths “more than true” (from The Human Person, by J. Brian Bransfield). Furthermore, JRR Tolkien, a devout Catholic and the author of The Lord of the Rings, said, “[Myths are] the best way–sometimes the only way–of conveying truths that would otherwise remain inexpressible. We have come from God and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God.”

Father Spitzer distinguishes himself from Jung and his followers in their understanding of archetypes in one important way. Whereas Jung believed archetypes derive from a common inherited human memory, Father Spitzer believes archetypes derive from a transcendent reality (the numinous experience, religious intuition, and conscience), i.e., from God. I am in agreement with Father Spitzer.

How Archetypes Affect Our Expectations About Stories

Archetypes might explain why great stories closely follow the monomyth (and the three-act structure we see in stories portrayed in all kinds of media). When people experience a story, they expect it to unfold in a certain way based on the archetypes they know. When stories follow the archetypes, the audience is happy. But when heroes and villains don’t behave the way they’re supposed to and stories don’t follow the patterns we expect, they violate our archetypes. And so these rebellious books and movies collect dust at the bookstore (or in the Amazon warehouse) and bomb at the box office.

The Magician and the Sage

Two archetypes discussed in Pearson’s book are the Magician and the Sage. As I read about these archetypes, I thought of two people. One real, the prophet Elijah, and one fictional, the wizard Gandalf. First, let’s look at the motivations of the Magician and the Sage and then we will review the stories of Elijah and Gandalf through the archetypal lens.

As you read on, please keep in mind that much of what we discuss below is metaphorical. We do not believe people are literally Magicians who cast magic spells, but that the Magician figure in stories represents an archetype or truth which derives from God and which plays out metaphorically at different times in each of our life’s journey.Dragon and magician

The Magician Archetype

Pearson says the Magician archetype’s goal is to transform lesser things into greater things. He fears transformation in a negative direction (greater things into lesser things). He responds to problems by transforming or healing them. His task is to align himself with the cosmos and his gift or grace is personal power. The wounded king must be healed by the Magician in order to transform the kingdom.

Magicians typically work as advisers to kings, but when the kingdom is in disarray, they work alone. Magicians seek to connect with others and with the world (they believe everything is interdependent). They know and tell the stories of their culture. They seek to turn negative situations into opportunities for growth and, through compassion and forgiveness, they try to transform negative people and situations into positive ones.

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Finding Balance

Magicians seek a healthy and balanced body, mind and soul. They invoke the divine help of others, e.g., through the intercession of the saints, and they maintain a close relationship with their deity through prayer and meditation. Magicians seek transformation through ritual, e.g., liturgy. They follow their intuition even when others might think they are crazy. A Magician’s ego, which is necessary for him to achieve his goal, can work for him (in the virtue of fortitude) or against him (in the vice of arrogance).

The Sage Archetype

The Sage archetype’s goal is truth and understanding. He fears deception and illusion. He responds to problems by studying, understanding and transcending them. His task is to attain knowledge, wisdom and enlightenment and his gift or grace is skepticism, wisdom and detachment. The Sage seeks the truth about himself, the world and the universe. His ultimate goal is not just knowledge, but wisdom. He understands that the truth shall set him free.

Sages seek to solve the riddle of existence. They speak in parables and symbols. They know the answers they obtain depend on the questions they ask. The Sage seeks universal truth over subjective truths. They know they must understand themselves and their own biases in order to discover the truth. Sages believe knowing oneself is a journey.

Pearson says Sages understand they can never know everything; this helps them develop humility. The Sage seeks freedom through detachment. Jesuits call it indifference; mystics also call it detachment. Sages believe real freedom and joy lies in turning one’s life over to a transcendent and wiser power than oneself, e.g., God. Suffering opens one up to trust and let go, to stop fighting life and trusting in the process of life, e.g., Divine Providence.

In Part II of this series we will examine the lives of Elijah and Gandalf through the lens of archetypes.

Sources:

1 Kings 17-21

2 Kings 2

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Pearson, Carol S. Awakening the Heroes Within. New York: HarperCollins, 1991.

Spitzer, Robert. Finding True Happiness. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015.

Spitzer, Robert. The Soul’s Upward Yearning. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2015.

Vawter, Bruce. “Introduction to Prophetic Literature.” In The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 186-200.

https://www.quora.com/What-kinds-of-spells-did-Gandalf-cast

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ainur_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_unconscious#Archetypes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandalf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hobbit

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungian_archetypes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maia_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vala_(Middle-earth)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizard_(Middle-earth)


Andrew Garofalo lives in Parkland, Florida with his wife Julie and their three children. He has practiced law for 18 years and is currently discerning a vocation to the permanent diaconate. He is a contributor to Those Catholic Men and Voyage Comics & Publishing and the creator of Saint’s Journey Blog. You can find more of his work at www.saintsjourney.com.

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Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

In this fourth installment of the Spiritual Surgeons series, I will discuss the medicinal teachings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. The moral decay occurring with the fracturing of the family unit, vicious abortion bills signed into legislation, the promotion of euthanasia, and the devaluing of others different from ourselves makes the Italian saint as relevant as ever!

Doctors of the Church

I have been blessed with the opportunity to learn about his wondrous and healing works. In reading his works I have grown closer to God. We will be examining Alphosus’ Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ and Uniformity with God’s Will in this article. The patron saint of confessor possesses an unparalleled ability to synthesize the wisdom of the Doctors of the Church, strong adherence to the will of God, and devotion to Mary.

Following the Will of God

According to Alphonsus in Uniformity with God’s will, “The greatest glory we can give to God is to do his will in everything.” Uniting our will to the Divine Will not only shows great love to God, but only satisfied our internal unrest. We are to follow God’s will in everything—not only in the good times. The Italian saint reminds us that complaining is purposeless—save for increasing bitterness. Suffering, even if God did not actively will it, affords an opportunity for us to grow in union and closeness to Him.

God’s will

Following God’s will definitely is easier when we receive spiritual consolations. However, our character is tested during periods of spiritual desolation. Alphonsus spends his sixth chapter to reflection on spiritual desolation in Uniformity with God’s Will. “When a soul begins to cultivate the spiritual life, God usually showers his consolations upon her to wean her away from the world; but when he sees her making solid progress, he withdraws his hand to test her and to see if she will love and serve him without the reward of sensible consolations,” the Doctored saint tells us. He also makes sure to remind to not think that God has abandoned you in these situations. Alphonsus declares, “When God sends spiritual darkness and desolation, his true friends are known.” Saints endure these dark nights and in the end their faith is rewarded in Heaven.

Comprehensive Catholic

Along with Alphonsus’ strong commitment in following God’s will, his expertise in the faith is second to none. In The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, the moral Doctor demonstrates his theological acumen via his articulate exposition on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and vast references to other Doctors of the Church. No other spiritual work that I have read contains such a concentration of spiritual quotes as Alphonsus’ work.

Check out this powerhouse list of saintly references: St. Teresa of Avila (61 times); St. Francis de Sales (44 times), St. Thomas Aquinas (21 times); St. Bernard of Clairvoux (20 times); St. Augustine (20 times); St. John Chryostom (11 times); and St. John of the Cross (10 times)!

Learning about Love

Alphonsus outlines and expands on St. Paul’s theological definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. Every chapter in The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ focuses on an aspect love. These include love being: patience, kindness, humility, slow to anger, and enduring. In his first chapter Love is Patient, the Italian saint writes, “nothing is more pleasing to God than to see a soul suffering with patience all the crosses sent her by him.” This statement definitely hits home for me.

What is Love

Those that have followed my story over the years know that my wife and I lost children due to miscarriage. This sunk us into despair. God removed his consolations. We patiently endured, not always without complaint, these crosses. Love is also kind. Alphonsus cites St. Vincent de Paul on this aspect, “Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in winning the hearts of men, and in prevailing on them to undertake things most repugnant to nature” (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 2).

Later in the book, Alphonsus spends a chapter to provide a detailed and clear guide to avoid tepidity in the faith. His basic blueprint includes these five steps—desire, resolution, mental prayer, communion, and prayer.

Marian Mentor

According to St. Louise de Montfort, “[Mary] is the safest, easiest, shortest and most perfect way of approaching Jesus and will surrender themselves to her, body and soul, without reserve in order to belong entirely to Jesus.” This path towards holiness is definitely evident in the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. In The Glories of Mary, the Italian saint states, “A true servant of Mary cannot be lost.”

Mary

To conclude every chapter of The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ Alphonsus petitions the Blessed Virgin Mary for help. He uses the following Marian titles: Mother, dispenser of graces, refuge of sinners, Holy Virgin, my hope, Queen, advocate, and spouse of the Holy Spirit. This panoply of appellations demonstrates the saint’s comprehensive understanding of Mariology and his strong devotion to Mary. “As long as temptation lasts, let us never cease calling on Jesus and Mary,” he proclaims (The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, chapter 8).

Individualism dominates our world today. We are constantly being told that seek out your will—that will lead to happiness. Experience proves us otherwise. Selfishness works in the short-term. But it is fleeting. St. Alphonsus reminds of the remedy to these ailments—follow the will of God always! His comprehensive knowledge of the Catholic spirituality and strong devotion to Mary make the Doctor of the Church a great role model for all Christians today.

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My Latest Article for Voyage Comics!

Until recently, Daredevil never appealed to me as an intriguing character or satisfying superhero. I always thought of him as a second-rate hero—he did not seem to possess those “cool” or “unique-enough” powers to captivate my attention.

Batman and the Green Arrow lack superpowers, yet they appealed me. The reason those characters interested me is because of their overcoming of suffering and loss. Only after reading Daredevil comics did I discover I was missing out.

My previous attitude is best captured by Venerable Fulton Sheen’s words, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

My perceptions of Daredevil as that periphery, odd, and “weak” character prevented me from learning how truly awesome Matt Murdock is as a character in Marvel Comics.

https://voyagecomics.com/2019/06/15/why-every-catholic-comic-book-fan-should-read-daredevil/

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Analysis of JPII’s The Splendor of Truth

Pope John Paul II

“Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord,” proclaimed the late Polish pope, John Paul II in his encyclical letter The Splendor of Truth. Promulgated over twenty years ago, this writing can still act as a guidepost for every Christian, both clergy and laity alike, for moral living. Now more than ever, modern man, in a world where moral relativism and ignorance of objective truths abound, needs the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit channeled through the Catholic Church. The Splendor of Truth delineates the Church’s rich moral teaching and sheds light on the underlying assumptions of those dissenting from the Magisterium’s authority.

I will examine three points− one from each chapter. The moral duty charged to all Christians will be looked at first, followed by a survey of the Church’s stance on conscience. And finally, the need for modern-day martyrs in the face of moral relativism will be addressed.

Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?

Rich Young Man Asks Jesus

The initial chapter of The Splendor of Truth centers on the content from the interaction of a rich young man and Jesus in Matthew 19. Here the young man begins his conversation with Jesus with a query: “Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?”[1] At face value this question seemed sincere for it concerned one of the utmost important issues a person must contemplate. As the late pope tersely put it, “It is an essential and unavoidable question for the life of every man, for it is about the moral good which must be done, and about eternal life.[2] To ascertain the difference between good and evil people need to turn toward Christ who provides the answer. Too many times in the modern world humans seek answers to life’s hardest questions in fleeting, temporal sources such as political systems or New-Age philosophies rather than turning to God.

God is the Greatest Good

To truly live out the moral life, one must understand that an objective good does in fact exist− God. Responding to the young rich man, Jesus proclaims, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”[3] Since the ultimate good exists as God himself, it logically follows that only He can provide answers to the question about what is good in life. Not leaving man in the dark, God sheds light on moral matters by granting humans the ability to find out through reason alone the natural law. Article 12 of The Splendor of Truth mentions that God by creating man, ordered him to the good and have an innate desire for wisdom.

Due to original sin, God had to act in history to initiate his saving plan for humanity. Citing again from the encyclical, the Polish pope states, “The gift of the Decalogue was a promise and a sign of the New Covenant, in which the law would be written in a new and definitive way upon the human heart (cf Jer 31:31-34), replacing the law of sin which had disfigured that heart (cf Jer 17:1).”[4] In other words, a strong connection is made between morality and adherence to the commandments. However, the Church, and ultimately God, does not call for a sterile, drone-like obedience, but rather a total commitment to the law through faith in Christ.

Role of the Conscience

Conscience

Along with being aware of God as the supreme good and knowing that the Decalogue serves as the parameters for the moral life, a proper understanding of conscience and its connection to objective truths will enhance the Christian’s need to adhere to the Church Magisterium regarding faith and morals.

John Paul II begins his section on Conscience and Truth by saying, “The relationship between man’s freedom and God’s law is most deeply lived out in the ‘heart’ of the person, in his moral conscience.”[5] According to Church Tradition, conscience and natural law are not in tension with one another. Instead, conscience communicates moral responsibility in light of the natural law. Simply put, conscience aids man in following the natural law− for it is the “witness of God himself”.[6]

Necessity for Proper Formation of the Conscience

Nevertheless, conscience as a human function trying to pick up God’s voice and will is not exempt from error in judgment. The Second Vatican Council succinctly states, “not infrequently conscience can be mistaken as result of invincible [inculpable] ignorance.” In fact forming a proper conscience and developing virtuous habits takes time. This requires constant conversion. The pope declares that the Church and Her Magisterium greatly aid Christians in the formation of their conscience. Not an arbitrary authority, John Paul II speaks of the Church as “putting herself always and only at the service of conscience, helping it to avoid being tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine proposed by human deceit.”[7]

If every Catholic-Christian took the pope’s message to heart on the Magisterium’s role pertaining to faith and morals laity confusion and dissent on hot-buttons issues like abortion and gay marriage, particularly during election years, would decline. Only through obedience to Christ’s authority in the Church via the conscience does man attain true freedom.

Call to Marytrdom

Deny Oneself

 

The best way to combat moral relativism pervading modern society today is not through polemical rhetoric or violence but for Christians to step up as martyrs for the truth. In the third chapter of The Splendor of Truth, the Roman Pontiff calls martyrdom, “the exaltation of the inviolable holiness of God’s law.”[8] He then maps out several examples of people in the Old and New Testament who testified to God’s power through their witness. John the Baptist and Stephen, the first Christian to die for his faith, both laid down their lives in testifying to the Messiah’s teaching. And they also suffered immensely unjust and painful deaths similar to Christ’s death on the Cross.

John Paul II finally points out that the first generation Church, which experienced intense persecutions from Roman emperors, also flourished in holiness due to the witness of saint-martyrs. This leads to his main point, that such witness is a remarkable sign of the holiness of the Church.[9]

The witness of martyrs provides a beacon of light to help illuminate others moral compasses especially in a world with a muddled-up perception of what is truly good and just. “This witness makes an extraordinarily valuable contribution to warding off, in civil society and within the ecclesial communities themselves, a headlong plunge into the most dangerous crisis which can afflict man: the confusion between good and evil,” declares John Paul II.[10] Oftentimes, people can be turned off by an exclusively scare-tactical, fire and brimstone approach to morality. Instilling fear and prodding them with a stick may work short-term, but many people tend to revert back to their old ways without sincere conversion. The witness of martyrs offers a better panacea for moral ambiguity.

An Ugly Term Today?

Modern man likes to shy away from the term “martyr” in part due to the moral duty and responsibility charged to those people who stand as a “sign of contradiction” to the 21st century way of life. The late pope clearly states that, “Although martyrdom represents the high point of the witness to moral truth, and one to which relatively few people are called, there is nonetheless a consistent witness which all Christians must daily be ready to make, even at the cost of suffering and grave sacrifice.”[11] Now in being a witness for the faith necessarily involves sacrifice on some level, albeit not always to the point of a physical and tortuous demise.

Nevertheless, daily sacrifice will lead to a kind of death− a death to sin. Summing up his section on the Christian’s response to morality, the Polish pope explicitly says, “The voice of conscience has always clearly recalled that there are truths and moral values for which one must be prepared to give up one’s life.”[12]

Role of the Church in the 21st Century

To conclude, written over twenty years ago, the encyclical The Splendor of Truth still sheds a ray of light on the moral life of the Church. This document provide an answer to the confusion of the modern world—the teaching of Jesus Christ, safeguarded by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church!

Jesus and Modern Society

Just like the rich young man in Matthew’s gospel who questioned Jesus about how he can attain salvation the human race, in a society pervaded by moral laxity and ambiguity,  must turn to God in order to ascertain what is truly morally good and just. The second point discussed from this moral treatise regarding conscience is important because a proper understanding of it will lead laity to a better appreciation of the Magisterium’s role in helping to form their conscience. John Paul II also mentioned that a properly formed Christian conscience will be able to determine how to act morally in line with natural law. And finally, the high point of the moral life consists of when a person is willing to die for the faith as a martyr. Restating the bishop of Rome, “Martyrdom is an outstanding sign of the holiness of the Church.”[13]

A careful and meditative reading of The Splendor of Truth will hopefully enhance a Christian’s love for the Church and a better following of Christ’s law.


Footnotes

[1] Matt 19:16.

[2] Splendor of Truth, 8.

[3] Matt 19:17.

[4] ST 12.

[5] ST 54.

[6] ST 58.

[7] ST 64.

[8] ST 90.

[9] Ibid., 92.

[10] Ibid., 115.

[11] ST 93.

[12] ST 94.

[13] St 93.

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