Eifelheim’s premise is a little zany. Aliens crash their spaceship in Medieval Germany, just outside a small village in the Black Forest. While one might expect ridiculous scenes of medieval knights fighting alien soldiers to fill the novel, nothing of the sort follows from this initial premise. Instead, the novel is a slow unfolding of a multi-layered plot which builds towards a conclusion that is not clear for most of the novel. The joy of Eifelheim is in experiencing this meticulously researched medieval setting coming into a complex intellectual and theological relationship with otherworldly visitors.
As Christmas draws near each year, it serves as an invitation to peoples of all stations of life. It is in this season above all that people experience the story of Christ, on some level, even if it’s just passing a nativity scene or seeing an advertisement for Christmas Mass. If people go but once a year to church, it’s likely over Christmas. Even the figure embraced as an icon of commercialism, Santa Clause, has deep roots in the Christian tradition.
A Canticle For Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. is the sort of book I wish I had known about sooner. A post-apocalyptic novel that tracks the fortunes of an abbey dedicated to St. Leibowitz (blessed Leibowitz at the beginning of the novel), A Canticle for Leibowitz is engrossing, amusing, and minutely detailed. It’s Catholic, it’s Science Fiction, and an award winning novel. What’s not to love? To be entirely futuristic, I listened to the audible audiobook version rather than reading it. Here are my thoughts.
I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.
– Man in Black, Johnny Cash
In honor of Reformation Day, 500 years since Martin Luther’s theses.
Reformation day has always seemed a sombre sort of thing to me, even when I was a Protestant. I understand the desire to celebrate. From a Protestant perspective, Luther is the catalyst that makes it possible for later generations of Reformers to bring the fullness of the Gospel back into public consciousness. I’ve already seen a video in my Facebook feed celebrating his triumph over the “dark” “empire” of the Catholic Church, and remember how well I identified with that narrative.
In a month and some days, an event of monumental significance for history and the Christian faith will be commemorated. 500 years ago, Martin Luther wanted to stir up some discussion about the theology around indulgences. Like any good professor, he took a hammer and nails and went to the church door in Wittenberg and nailed up a set of 95 debating points, written in Latin. Someone took them down, translated them to German, and used the then state-of-the-art printing press technology to copy and distribute them. For good and ill, he sparked a conversation that radically reshaped Western Christianity, all of Europe, and from there through the colonial era, the world.
My wife and I recently celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary, and as part of the festivities we decided to dive into a genre of movie that we rarely watch: romantic dramas. As we surfed Netflix, we saw oodles of titles we’d never heard before juxtaposed against “romance” films that looked like mis-categorized action flicks. There seemed to be a lot of lesbian romances and films with pornographic promotional images in the mix. Christian Mingle jumped out at us. We giggled; it was bound to be terrible, but at least it would be cleaner than many of the alternatives.
Occasionally, I’m going to try to write a brief “check-in” covering the readings from my “read the Bible and Catechism in a year” plan. This should help keep me accountable and get me to think a little more deeply about the readings. We’re four readings in. My wife and I currently do them together after our daughter is in bed; once the school year starts, this will probably change.
Yesterday, my wife and I began a reading plan we found in a pamphlet from the Coming Home Network to read through Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in one year. Reading through Scripture is a valuable experience, and trying to read through the whole thing periodically makes sure that you read everything and see how it all fits together. This will be the first time I’ve tackled this with the full Catholic Bible and the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson ought to be called The Lords of the World, since it features more than one. It’s an obscure book about a science fiction dystopia. It was published in 1907 and is perhaps the first modern science fiction dystopia novel. Despite its relative obscurity, it’s been recommended by both Pope Francis and Pope Benedict XVI. So, what’s it like?
Few Westerners think of China and Japan when asked to name atrocities in World War II. Yet the rape of Nanjing by the Japanese is a horrible and brutal event from that war that rivals atrocities in the west. During the war, Japanese forces entered the city of Nanjing and, though the exact scale is hard to determine, perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians were murdered and tens of thousands of women were raped. Only a tendency to focus on Western problems keeps us from fully realizing this catastrophe.