Quick Hits: Friedkin, Scorcese, Tolkien, Lewis
Several things that caught my eye over the past two months:
- Some big names in the world of film have been getting an inside look at Catholicism. Earlier this year William Friedkin, who directed 1973’s The Exorcist, received permission from the late Fr. Gabriele Amorth to witness and film a real-life exorcism. He wrote an article in Vanity Fair detailing the experience, as well as interviewing some prominent psychologists and neurologists about the case. Though Friedkin makes skeptical noises about the Church in a tangent about the authenticity of the Gospels (and misidentifies the Pauline Fathers as the Paulist Fathers), he ultimately affirms the reality and necessity of exorcism. (Though the article itself is worth reading, I wouldn’t necessarily advise watching the accompanying 45-second slideshow which includes some audio of the exorcism.)
- Meanwhile, actors Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver went on a seven-day silent retreat based on St. Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises to prepare for their role as Jesuit missionaries to Japan in Martin Scorcese’s upcoming adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s classic novel Silence. Garfield (known for playing Spider-Man and also for his role in Mel Gibson’s recent Hacksaw Ridge) went even further, undergoing the Exercises for a full six months and preparing spiritually for a full year.
- A friend of mine recently gave me a Pardon Crucifix to wear. Few have heard of this forgotten sacramental, but it deserves to be better known: Pope St. Pius X attached both partial and plenary indulgences to various pious acts associated with the item. Read about it, and get one for yourself if the Spirit moves you!
- In case you missed the story about the recent opening of Jesus Christ’s tomb, here’s the National Geographic feature on the event, and an interview with the man who got to photograph it. One interesting development is that there were reports of strange electromagnetic disturbances of the scientific instruments when the tomb was opened.
- Remember in The Lord of the Rings, when Aragorn ventured into the terrifying (at least in the book) Paths of the Dead? He wasn’t the first man to attempt the journey. That was Baldor the Hapless, and as the name indicates, he didn’t come to a good end. The story of Baldor the Hapless teaches us that true courage doesn’t make a show of itself, attempting dangerous tasks just for bragging rights. It also teaches us that even the most minute details of Tolkien’s legendarium reward investigation.
- Some good friends of mine, the Virginia-based indie rock band The Duskwhales, were interviewed by the Arlington Catholic Herald. They discuss how one of their songs was inspired by St. Therese of Lisieux, and their unique position as a band playing songs with subliminal Catholic messages to a primarily secular audience.
- C.S. Lewis was known for his gallantry in argument, for his ability to disagree vigorously without letting it become personal. But it didn’t come naturally to him; it was a virtue he worked hard to attain. This virtue is much-needed today, especially on college campuses. Michael Ward tells the tale in the Intercollegiate Review.
- In Catholic World Report, Amy Welborn explains how the Protestant Reformation was bad for women. Luther’s war on the evangelical counsels meant that women were forced out of convents—the place where they had the best chance at independence, education and self-rule—and into married and domestic life. And with the denigration of female spirituality, no more would there be great female saints and mystics revered by men and able to sway the will of Popes and bishops. Mary “was no longer a powerful intercessor or protector—she was instead, the Reformers preached, a model of domesticity.”
- Aside from the Church’s teachings on sexual morality, probably the most offensive to modern sensibilities is the doctrine of hell. Modern people, modern Catholics unexcepted, have trouble accepting that punishment can have any purpose other than rehabilitation and deterrence. We often try to make it more palatable to ourselves and others by emphasizing that those who go there choose to do so, but that is only part of the story. But even if we accept punishment for justice’s sake, we may ask, why should the punishment be eternal? And even if chosen, why must the human will be fixed after death. But fear not—and by that I mean, fear hell! Drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher Edward Feser has offered some very helpful thoughts on these questions in two blog posts: “How to go to hell” and “Why not annihilation?”
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