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.
Lots of people wonder why young people leave the church. Most people that look at this question ask those that left why they chose to leave. They then analyze the data, and select reasons that seem satisfactory to them. Secular or liberal-minded folks conclude that the church is too backward on social issues like sexual orientation and the status of women. The church needs to “change” to “get with the times.” Progressive-minded folks conclude that the church is not accessible enough. More music, louder music! Create great social opportunities. Invite even the lukewarm to participate in everything. Above all, people ought not to feel judged or like there are rules they ought to abide by to be welcome. Maybe then people will come back.
My favorite movie about Jesuits (thus far) is The Mission. It’s got beautiful music, sweeping scenery and a simple, sad, but hopeful story about missionary priests who are willing to die for their faith. I like unambiguous stories that give me a clear side to root for. About two and a half years ago, I got to read Silence, a masterpiece by Shusaku Endo. Silence is a grim and complex book/film. The film adaptation is not the sort of feel good Christian movie that pastors urge their congregations to go see.
Silence was made by the acclaimed director Martin Scorcese. Even though you may not have heard of it (it was beloved by critics but a box office flop) it was a labor of love and packed with talented, well known actors. You really owe it to yourself to see it. It’s beautiful, thoughtful and uncomfortable; and the main character is deeply flawed.