Archive for the ‘Meditations’ category

Good Friday

April 2, 2010

“And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lamma sabacthani?’ Which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And some of the standers by hearing, said: ‘Behold he calleth Elias.’

And one running and filling a sponge with vinegar, and putting it upon a reed, gave him to drink, saying: ‘Stay, let us see if Elias come to take him down.’ And Jesus having cried out with a loud voice, gave up the ghost.  And the veil of the temple was rent in two, from the top to the bottom. And the centurion who stood over against him, seeing that crying out in this manner he had given up the ghost, said: ‘Indeed this man was the son of God.'”

(Mark 15 :34-39, Douay-Rheims Bible.)

Celts, Pagans, and Superheroes, Oh My!

February 25, 2010

A few entries ago, I told you about my idea for the Celtic League of Superheroes, a team of costumed crime-fighters originating in the Celtic countries and saving the world from various nasties found in Celtic mythology and folklore. It seems I’m not the only one to think of such a thing, because now Pendant Audio. is producing its own original Celtic-themed superhero show, “Genesis Avalon” that has a good many similarities to my Celtic League concept. What’s more, in the director’s commentary for the first episode, the show’s creator, Kathryn Pryde, says she has the first three seasons of the show, 36 episodes, plotted and scripted. After two years, I’m still floundering around with the first draft of my main character’s origin story.

I didn’t listen to the first few episodes of “Genesis Avalon,” first of all, because I didn’t want them to influence my development of the Celtic League of Superheroes concept. I reconsidered my decision because I decided I needed to see how others are developing similar material. After all, if you’re developing a product, you have to know what the competition is up to. The second reason I chose not to listen to the show, however, was that I feared it would devolve into what was essentially a commercial for neo-paganism and its contemporary incarnations such as Wicca—something that, as an author, a practicing Catholic, and a person of Celtic ancestry, I did not want to happen with my Celtic League concept.

Let me make two things perfectly clear. First, I love Pendant Audio. I listen regularly to many of their shows, especially the “fanfic” type shows based on DC Comics characters, and wouldn’t have known about Genesis Avalon at all if I didn’t. They are an extremely talented group of people who do a lot of hard work of very high quality solely because they love it.

Second, I realize that there have been elements of mythology, mysticism, magic, and mumbo-jumbo in superhero comics probably ever since Billy Batson learned to say “Shazam!” and become Captain Marvel. That, in and of itself, does not bother me. What bothers me, both as a Celt and a Catholic, is that certain modern neo-pagan occultists have appropriated names and terms from Celtic mythology and folklore (including the word “Celt” itself) to fabricate a modern religion for themselves and to promote that religion and its ideology—a religion and ideology that are directly and deliberately opposed to my Catholic faith.

My original nickname or handle when I first ventured out onto the internet via AOL was MrCelt (“Mr. Celt”). My user profile listed Catholicism as one of my interests. I was told by some grossly misinformed person in a chatroom, “You can’t be a Celt and be a Christian.” I am wearing a Celtic cross around my neck that says otherwise. Irish, Scottish, and Welsh converts to Christianity brought the gospel to much of the rest of Europe, thank you very much, founding churches, monasteries, and schools that are in existence to this day. I daresay that millions of Celtic Christians in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales today, both Catholic and Protestant, would also disagree with that statement. I resent the fact that the mythology and culture of my ancestral countries is being used to promote an agenda contrary to my faith, which once brought there, took deep root in those ancestral countries.

It’s not hard for me to wonder if there’s an agenda behind “Genesis Avalon.” The pilot episode begins with a prayer to “The Goddess” (to which goddess I’m not sure) and, six episodes in, there have already been numerous direct references to Wicca, and rituals of “The Craft.” The story begins when a young woman finds a mysterious amulet that enables her to become the superhero Avalon, endowed with the powers of the ancient Celtic gods. She invokes these powers by speaking the names of the gods aloud. That in itself wouldn’t bother me so much if the protagonist and other characters didn’t toss the name of Jesus around as if it were a garden variety interjection, a curse, or an insult. I realize that in real life and in fiction, people can and do say the name of Jesus in vain. Regrettably I’ve done it myself on more than a few occasions. However, in a work of fiction, when characters speak the names of pagan gods and receive or invoke great power, and then utter the name of Christ with little or no result, you can’t help wondering if this betrays the author’s bias.

I realize much of what I’ve just said may sound like so much sour grapes because an author has successfully developed a concept similar to mine, while so far I’ve failed miserably to develop my own work. The folks behind “Genesis Avalon” may not have any agenda beyond the desire to tell a good story. Judged purely as an action adventure or a work of audio drama, the show isn’t bad, and it may be possible to take all the New Age, neo-pagan woo-woo with several grains of salt.

Looking critically at my own work, I worried that it too could be construed as promoting a particular theological agenda, which would be the opposite of what I intended and believed, and that’s perhaps one reason that the writing has gone so slowly. I wanted to borrow bits, pieces, and motifs from Celtic mythology and tell cool stories of costumed superheroes slugging it out with evil druids on the streets of Dublin (and other places), not to advocate for a false or fabricated religion. I fretted over this problem with my blog buddy D. G. D. Davidson at Sci-Fi Catholic, and he told me not to worry because, as he astutely pointed out, Christians have been borrowing from pagan mythology to tell stories for centuries.

Will the Celtic League of Superheroes ever be anything more than a vague idea in my head? Should I listen to “Genesis Avalon” or avoid it? I don’t know the answers to either one of those questions. But I’ll let you know when I find the answers.

Whedon Wimps Out

January 19, 2010

Matthew Archbold over at the excellent Creative Minority Report blog posts this item about his dismay with famous writer and director Joss Whedon, creator of the hit TV shows “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.” Matthew really loves Whedon’s work but really took exception to remarks Whedon made when he accepted an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. Here’s a clip:

I find myself in the same boat with Matthew. I’ve never been a big fan of vampires, so I was never a regular Buffy watcher. When I did watch the show, I noticed the frequent snarky swipes at religion, but it was hard not to like “Buffy” because it was so well written. I loved “Firefly,” in part, precisely because of the continuing dialogue between the skeptical, embittered Mal Reynolds and the minister, “Shepherd” Book. I want to like Whedon too, but in this instance, he clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I find it ironic that he says he had to have his value as a person confirmed by a “shout out” from Obama. If Whedon would check the first few chapters of Genesis, he’d find the fundamental statement that all human beings, male and female, are created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore have inestimable value. If he were to check the New Testament, he would find the revolutionary idea that the Son of God gave his own life and rose from the dead in order to redeem human beings from the power of sin and death. This strongly suggests that the God Whedon doesn’t believe in thinks that human beings must have some value.

I find it ironic that he insists that “education” is the answer to the world’s ills, but he either forgets or doesn’t know that the founder of all the great European universities was the Catholic Church. Harvard, the school at which he is speaking, was founded as a a religious institution. Whedon accepts his award from atheists and addresses his audience of atheists in a church on the university campus. No irony there.

Finally, his assertion that “faith in God means believing in something with absolutely no evidence,” while faith in humanism means “believing in something with a huge amount of evidence to the contrary,” has the argument exactly backward. G. K. Chesterton once said that original sin was the only part of Christianity that could readily be proven. Human history is replete with evil, barbarism, and cruelty, and yes, much of it has been done by those who claimed to believe in God. But where is the evidence that human beings can be truly good without God? The two most evil and barbaric regimes of the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism, were either officially or de facto atheistic, with the power of the Church legally subservient to that of the state. The central premise of Christianity, as Flannery O’ Connor put it, was that God looked upon the world in all its horror and decided that it was worth dying for. In other words, God looked upon human beings in all their cruelty, ignorance, and malice but knew human beings and their world could be changed, transformed, and redeemed–but only by Christ’s own sacrifice of himself on the cross.

Sorry, Joss. Even though you’re at Harvard, for that weak attack on Christianity and paltry defense of humanism, I’d have to give you a failing grade.

A Meditation on Gratitude

January 8, 2010

well shure, iz happy!  i haz a hoomin. i haz a home. i haz a fudbole of mi own. i haz a bed. i haz a yard. i haz a warmf in mi heart.
moar funny pictures

An Old Christmas Carol

December 25, 2009

For all my readers who may be facing tough times and may be tempted to despair this Christmas, I present the following. When you’re caught up in the debate between Scrooge and Fred, choose Fred:

“What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? . . . keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.”

“Keep it!” repeated Scrooge’s nephew. “But you don’t keep it.”

“Let me leave it alone, then,” said Scrooge. “Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!”

“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,” returned the nephew. “Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round—apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be
apart from that—as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put
a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me
good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!”

—Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

A New Christmas Carol

December 23, 2009

Just when you thought all the great Christmas songs and carols had been written, along comes this new item from composer Gerald McClain:

This Christmas Joy
by Gerald McClain

In swaddling clothes to us arrive,
This Jesus Christ, our hopes revive!
In Marys arms, her little boy:
This tiny babe, death to destroy.

Was not in clouds, come down to reign
But from a girl in labor pain; (Revelation 12: 2)
Not in a throne was he to lay
But in a manger full of hay.

Welcome to Him from us today,
This Christmas joy, in us to stay.

From foreign lands their homage paid:
To Bethlehem, the star did say.
Fall prostrate where did shepherds come;
Laid out their gifts a costly sum.

Then in a dream: from Herods gaze,
Another path to home was made.
A furious king proclaimed forthright
That innocents shall loose their life.

Though in a world with evil known,
This Christmas joy, Love has outshone.

Give glory to the Fathers Son:
Begotten of the Holy One.
Though evry part is from the same,
The Word to us in flesh he came.

A preview of the coming years,
A final act to wipe all tears:
From nursling small to mature man,
Fulfillment of the Godheads plan.

All praise and laud and glorious powr,
This Christmas joy, tis Jesses flowr.

Gerald McClain
© 2005 Musique de McClain

I think this piece has a lovely “neo-medieval” or “neo-Renaissance” feel that appeals to my antiquarian sensibilities. I like older, more out of the way hymns and carols that haven’t yet been turned into Muzak, and that you don’t hear every time you go to that most godless of places, the mall.

Mr. McClain has also written a French language composition “Une voix dans Rama” (A Voice in Ramah) commemorating the Slaughter of the Innocents described in Matthew 2: 18 (Douay-Rheims version):

A voice in Rama was heard, lamentation and great mourning; Rachel bewailing her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.

Hat tip to Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report for posting some Christmas clips from YouTube, which in turn prompted Mr. McClain to post links to his compositions.

For Veterans’ Day

November 11, 2009