Michael O’Brien: “Twilight of the West”

I have long awaited an analysis from Michael O’Brien on this topic.  His insightfulness – which I do not credit to the man himself, but to the time he has spent in prayer, receiving wisdom from the Lord – is always a gift to me.  His sight reaches further than my own.  I would like to encourage you to read the entire article here.  If you do not have the time to do that, I will provide a few excerpts here for you to ponder, but please go and read the whole thing if you can:

The theme of vampirism seems never to grow stale. In 2009 alone, seven films have been released, including New Moon, based on the second book of the Twilight series, with the third and fourth films soon to follow.

Vampire themes also figure in landmark end-of-the-world films such as The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price, Omega Man (1971), starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend (2007), starring Will Smith. Common to these later films is the deletion of any supernatural content and attributing the evils portrayed in them to purely physical causes. The zombie-vampires in I Am Legend, for example, are humans turned into monsters due to a plague unleashed accidentally by scientists seeking a cure for cancer. The evil is entirely natural in origins. In this film, as in most other grotesque manifestations of the horror genre, the monster has superhuman strength and eerie cognitive powers, is vicious, murderous, and hideously ugly.

But the monstrous is not always portrayed as this kind of tragic aberration. With increasing frequency the monster is presented as a new and advanced breed of human who evokes our sympathy—and even our identification with him. In the most alluring manifestations, he possesses superhuman strength and intelligence, he is more moral than his predecessors, and he is physically beautiful. In the earlier stages of vampire fantasy, the reader or viewer was shaken by terror and rewarded with the thrill of escape. In the present stage, we are stimulated by a combination of fascination with the mysterious paranormal and rewarded with the thrill of sensual desire.

A number of authors have pointed out in their studies of this genre that the thirst for the life-blood of others is a metaphor of lust. It is important to note in this regard that the vampire of legend only sometimes kills his victim; just as often, he infects the victim, turning him or her into a vampire. E. Michael Jones has written that at the root of the phenomenal rise of horror culture is suppressed conscience. Tracing the pattern from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein (first published in 1818) through to Ridley Scott’s film Alien (1979) and its sequels, Jones argues that the denial of moral law produces metaphorical monsters that arise from the subconscious of creative people and spread into society through their cultural works. The monster in the Alien films, for example, is a ghastly abomination of the feminine, and salvation is possible only through expulsion of the offspring it implants and incubates in humans—a subconscious eruption of internal conflicts (and guilt) over abortion.

As Jones points out:

By following our illicit desires to their logical endpoint in death, we have created a nightmare culture, a horror-movie culture, one in which we are led back again and again to the source of our mysterious fears by forces over which we have no control. [3]

Even though modern man denies the authority of moral conscience, he cannot escape it. He is created in the image and likeness of God, and deep within the natural law of his being the truth continues to speak to him, even as he adamantly denies the existence of God (in the case of atheists) or minimizes divine authority (in the case of nominally religious people, the practical atheists). In order to live with the inner fragmentation, which is the inevitable effect of violated conscience, he is driven to relieve his pain through three diverse ways:

a)     He makes open war against conscience and all its moral restraints, and pursues with radical willfulness an aggressive consumption of sensual rewards—generally a plunge into various kinds of addictions and a life of sexual promiscuity;

b)    More passively, he simply ignores the inner voice of conscience and distracts himself from it by sensual and emotional rewards—generally the search for love without responsibility and a restless striving for worldly success;

c)     He tries to rationalize a self-made form of conscience for himself, based in values such as “tolerance” and “non-dogmatism.” Generally this produces a new kind of perverse moralism, a self-righteousness which is, paradoxically, quite intolerant of genuine righteousness. Its anti-dogmatism is its dogma. Here there is no absolute rejection of morality, but rather a rewriting of it according to subjective feelings.

None of the foregoing coping mechanisms need be conscious. Indeed they tend to be largely subconscious processes through which a person feels that he is finding his personal identity, is living out the principle of freedom, discovering his path in life, and getting from it a portion of happiness. Though he is afflicted from time to time by a sense of the inner void, he presumes that the remedy for these dark moments will be found by increasing the dose of the very drug that is killing him.

The Twilight series, it would appear, follows the third coping mechanism mentioned above in c), the one which appeals to the broadest possible audience. The books have won numerous awards, notably the British Book Award for “Children’s Book of the Year” and the 2009 “Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Book,” and to date have sold more than 85 million copies and been translated into 38 languages. This, despite the fact they are poorly written teen romances, pulp fiction with a twist of supernatural horror combined with racing hormones and high school boy-girl relationships. As with the Harry Potter series, blood is a crucial theme, connected with life itself and inextricably bound to the theme of immortality. But where the Potter series is only secondarily romantic, in the Twilight series romance is primary, with vampirism as the thrill that gives it spice.

Another important quote:

One might ask how such a thinly plotted bloody mess has managed to obtain such an enormous worldwide following. Part of the answer lies in the power of romantic fantasy at any stage in history. In the modern age, however, romantic fantasy in both text form and visual form is charged with powerful stimulation of the senses. In the Twilight series the main characters are highly attractive young people. For example, Bella describes Edward as “excruciatingly lovely and forever seventeen.” In the two films released to date, Edward is acted by the “narcotically beautiful” Robert Pattinson, as one feminine commentator put it. Jacob Black’s handsome face is matched by shirtless exposure of his muscled torso, as is the case with others in his werewolf pack. Bella, acted by Kristen Stewart, is very pretty (though not quite as much as her vampire friends). The Volturi look like exotic, exceedingly pale fashion models.

Physical beauty is the glue that holds the whole banal tale together. If one were to dim down the prettiness and subtract the horror from these four novels and their films, there would be little left. They would become no more than mind-numbing Harlequin Romances for very immature teenage girls. The sexual attraction and the appeal to romantic feelings, combined with the allure of mystery, all obscure the real horror of the tale, which is the degradation of the image and likeness of God in man, and the false proposal that consuming the lifeblood of another human being bestows life all around.

Additional analysis:

E. Michael Jones argues that novels about vampire infection appeared precisely at the time in history (the 1800s) when the dreaded disease syphilis was spreading in the wake of the initial post-Enlightenment stage of the sexual revolution. Now in the age of antibiotics, the most horrifying, disfiguring symptoms of the infection can be controlled, if caught early enough, thus “liberating” the promiscuous from the immediate consequences of their immoral acts. In little over a century, untrammeled serial sex has become pandemic, without the grave consequences that once would have inhibited its progress. Similarly, in little more than a century, the universal archetypes of evil have been defused. No longer considered to be demonic, they have retained only their mystique of exotically attractive danger. Corruption of the creative imagination always has its roots in the corruption of the moral order—the order within the individual and within his surrounding culture. But corruption of creative imagination can also have its origins in forces beyond the purely social. In this regard, there is a disturbing inference in Meyer’s account of the original inspiration for Twilight:

I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately. … Though I had a million things to do (i.e. making breakfast for hungry children, dressing and changing the diapers of said children, finding the swimsuits that no one ever puts away in the right place, etc.), I stayed in bed, thinking about the dream. I was so intrigued by the nameless couple’s story that I hated the idea of forgetting it; it was the kind of dream that makes you want to call your friend and bore her with a detailed description. (Also, the vampire was just so darned good-looking, that I didn’t want to lose the mental image.)

Meyer goes on to describe what happened during the writing of the book:

All this time, Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn’t shut up. I’d stay up as late as I could stand trying to get all the stuff in my mind typed out, and then crawl, exhausted, into bed (my baby still wasn’t sleeping through the night, yet) only to have another conversation start in my head. I hated to lose anything by forgetting, so I’d get up and head back down to the computer. Eventually, I got a pen and notebook for beside my bed to jot notes down so I could get some freakin’ sleep. It was always an exciting challenge in the morning to try to decipher the stuff I’d scrawled across the page in the dark. [7]

Of course, one might attribute the foregoing to the inflamed imagination of a sleep-deprived mother, following up on a powerful dream that had no source other than the natural subconscious. However, Steve Wohlberg, in his 2009 article in the SPC Journal, raises another possibility, describing what later occurred in the realm of Meyer’s imagination after the publication of Twilight. He begins with a reflection on the similarities in the original inspirations of the Harry Potter series and the Twilight series:

… [The] Twilight saga received its initial spark when Stephenie Meyer had an unusual dream on June 1, 2003. Eerily, the Harry Potter phenomenon began with a similar “revelation” given to Joanne Kathleen Rowling in 1990 while she was traveling by train outside London. “The character of Harry Potter just popped into my head, fully formed,” Rowling reflected in 2001. “Looking back, it was all quite spooky!” She also stated to inquiring media that the Potter books “almost wrote themselves.” “My best ideas often come at midnight,” Rowling declared.

As with Rowling, so with Meyer. When those mesmerizing tales first burst into the brains of these two women, neither was an established writer. Both were novices. They weren’t rich either. Now they are millionaires many times over. Their experiences are similar, with common threads. Both of their novels are permeated with occultism. Based on this, it’s appropriate to wonder, is there a supernatural source behind these revelations? If so, what is it?

Stephenie Meyer herself provides an amazing clue to the answer. After her unexpected rise to stardom, she later confessed,

“I actually did have a dream after Twilight was finished of Edward coming to visit me—only I had gotten it wrong and he did drink blood like every other vampire and you couldn’t live on animals the way I’d written it. We had this conversation and he was terrifying.” [8]

Who was this “Edward”? Was it the author’s subconscious telling her that she was attempting to tame what cannot be tamed? Or was it an evil spirit manifesting through the image, urging her to give her readers less moralism and more blood? However one interprets it, the question remains: Why did she not realize that the second dream was warning her about something? In her interviews she merely reported it without offering an assessment of what it might mean, then continued to write more of the same. Why did she respond to the first dream and not to the second? Was it because the first was extremely pleasurable and the second disturbing to the point of terror? Was it because pleasure had become her good and unhappy feelings a thing to be dismissed as bad? Conscience cannot be entirely eradicated in human nature, and when it raises its painful, unwelcome truths, the individual (or the culture in which he lives) must either pay attention to it or counteract it with a strategy of denial. Attention is redirected away from the truth about his condition, focusing on overcoming symptoms and ignoring the root cause of the symptoms.

And finally, the conclusion:

In the Twilight series, vampirism  is not identified as the root cause of all the carnage; instead the evil is attributed to the way a person lives out his vampirism. Though Bella is at first shocked by the truth about the family’s old ways (murder, dismemberment, sucking the blood from victims), she is nevertheless overwhelmed by her “feelings” for Edward, and her yearning to believe that he is truly capable of noble self-sacrifice. So much so that her natural feminine instinct for submission to the masculine suitor increases to the degree that she desires to offer her life to her conqueror. She trusts that he will not kill her; she wants him to drink her essence and infect her. This will give her a magnificent unending romance and an historical role in creating with her lover a new kind of human being. They will have superhuman powers. They will be moral vampires—and they will be immortal.

Here, then, is the embedded spiritual narrative (probably invisible to the author and her audience alike): You shall be as gods. You will overcome death on your own terms. You will be master over death. Good and evil are not necessarily what Western civilization has, until now, called good and evil. You will define the meaning of symbols and morals and human identity. And all of this is subsumed in the ultimate message: The image and likeness of God in you can be the image and likeness of a god whose characteristics are satanic, as long as you are a “basically good person.”

In this way, coasting on a tsunami of intoxicating visuals and emotions, the image of supernatural evil is transformed into an image of supernatural good.

PLEASE, go and read more of this important article from Michael O’Brien here – then, email the link to friends or if they don’t have email, print it and pass it along to as many people as you think might read it.  There are major societal/cultural implications here and people need to understand.  I praise God that Mr. O’Brien can present these implications with such clarity.

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Selfishness vs. Love

Today, my son wanted to watch “A Muppet Christmas Christmas Carol”.
True – it is almost April – but it is also two days since the Solemnity of the Annunciation, when we celebrate the Word becoming flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  That means it is only 9 months ’til Christmas!
Also – it is a Friday in Lent.  A penitential day.  A day to reflect on our own sins.  It is actually a great day to watch “A Muppet Christmas Carol”!  Ebeneezer Scrooge undergoes a process of conversion which prompts us to think about ourselves.

Currently, readers of the blog are engaged in a pretty intense debate in the comment section of the page devoted to alerting readers to the dangers of indulging in fantasy.  (See here.)  I’d like to move this discussion over to a new post, and I want to direct the attention of the participants to a specific topic – that being, selfishness vs. love.

Anyone who knows A Christmas Carol (and the Muppet version is my favorite) knows that Ebeneezer Scrooge is a very unattractive character at the beginning of the story.  He is, truly, the epitome of a selfish man.  You may say that he views those around him as parasites – and therefore treats them accordingly.  Ebeneezer is not a happy man, though, in spite of a life dedicated to taking care of #1.  Part of living in community is recognizing that we all need one another.  Individualism is not a virtue.  Ebeneezer cannot see that at the beginning of the story.

During the night, he is visited by the souls of a couple of his damned friends, but also by three different spirits – the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  It is interesting to notice that the ghosts do not sit down and argue with Ebeneezer.  They show him reality.  Is this emotional manipulation?  Of course not.  Emotion is a necessary part of human existence.  It can enable us to experience sorrow, but it also enables us to experience joy.  Putting a brick wall up around our heart (our emotional center) may protect us from certain sorrows, but it also makes us incapable of joy.  It is like eliminating the nerves that enable us to distinguish between hot and cold.  You can’t just feel hot things and not cold things.  If you lose your ability to distinguish, you can’t feel either.

So – Ebeneezer is shown the ramifications of his decisions.  Selfish decisions.  They have cut him off from the rest of the community.  He is particularly moved by his encounter with the Cratchett family.  Tiny Tim – a little crippled boy (or frog, if you are watching the Muppet version) could be considered a parasitic individual.  He takes and takes… can’t even walk home on his own.  What is it that makes Tiny Tim a person?  Does he have human dignity because his parents (Kermit and Miss Piggy) want him?  What is it about seeing Tiny Tim interact with his family that has such a profound effect on Ebeneezer?  Could it be precisely the fact that the Cratchett family love Tiny Tim?  That they see a dignity in him that is utterly beyond their ability to ascribe to him based on their wants?  That Tiny Tim is intrinsically worthy of love?

Perhaps Ebeneezer has never encountered something like that up close before.  If he had, perhaps he had written it off as emotional manipulation or sentamentalism.  Maybe it took an examination of his own life, and the context of his own failures and hurts, to put things sufficiently on the line for Ebeneezer to have his eyes opened.  The world did not change on the night Ebeneezer had this experience.  Ebeneezer changed.  He had been blind, but he – through the aid of others – discovered his sight. 

So – this brings us to love vs. selfishness.  

Love will sacrifice for the sake of the beloved.  In some cases, the only loving thing to do is to walk away from a relationship if it will harm the beloved.  This is why I have argued all along that Edward does not love Bella.  He fundamental decision is to use her for personal satisfaction in spite of where he can see it leading (ultimately Bella becoming a vampire, the hideous pregnancy, etc.).  Theirs is a relationship of obsession.

I think a lot of people reading the series do not see this because they may be experiencing similar challenges themselves – having emotional needs that they are trying to meet through fantasy (which is where the other post comes in).  The Twilight Saga is harmful to a person in that situation.

So – let’s have a discussion of love vs. selfishness.

What is love?  How do we define it?  How do we live it?

March 25, 2009 – Feast of the Annunciation – God becomes an embryo

On March 25th, we celebrate an incredible feast – a Solemnity, in fact – the Annunciation.  At Mary’s “Yes”, all of creation will never be the same.  God becomes man.  Not a full grown, strong, independent, self-reliant fellow… but, a vulnerable embryo, entrusted to this young woman to nurture and protect.  What does this say about the love of God for us?  What does this say about human dignity? Can anyone tell me, from the other posts on this site, how this conflicts with the values presented in Twilight?  (I’m referring to anti-human statements and Meyer’s attitude toward weakness and vulnerability.)

Fr. Z has this to say:
This is the very Feast of the Incarnation.

Today we celebrate that moment when our Lord elevated our humanity by taking our human nature into an indestructible bond with His Divinity.  In the Incarnation God opened for us the path to “divinization”, His sharing of something of His own divine glory with us in the eternal happiness of heaven.

In the sin of our First Parents, offending God and loosing so many of our gifts, the whole human race sinned.  In justice a human being had to correct the offense, but such a correction was entirely impossible for a mere mortal human.  Such a correction required the intervention of one who was both man and God.

He’s only getting started.  Please read the rest here.

Also, check out what Pope Benedict has to say in this article from Zenit
POPE: WOMEN CRUCIAL TO UPHOLDING HUMAN RIGHTS
…The Pontiff called the congress “an exemplary response” to Pope John Paul II’s “call for a ‘new feminism’ with the power to transform culture, imbuing it with a decisive respect for life.”

Faced to the many ways in which life is compromised, especially in “its most vulnerable stages,” he said, there must be a “positive and proactive response.”

He continued: “The recognition and appreciation of God’s plan for women in the transmission of life and”
“The nurturing of children is a constructive step in this direction,” he added.

“Beyond this, and given the distinctive influence of women in society, they must be encouraged to embrace the opportunity to uphold the dignity of life through their involvement in education and their participation in political and civic life.”

The Holy Father asserted that “because they have been gifted by the Creator with a unique ‘capacity for the other,’ women have a crucial part to play in the promotion of human rights, for without their voice the social fabric of society would be weakened.” 

Ladies – we really need to check out what the Church is teaching here.  The Holy Father is telling you that you have the power to transform culture by your decisions in favor of the most vulnerable.  This means cultivating love instead of selfishness.  Avoid wasting time on fantasy!  There is a real world in need of your loving presence.  Spend your time wisely, forming yourself in virtue.  If young women (and older ones, too) are, en masse, wasting their time fantasizing about fictitious vampires and warewolves – their voices are lost.  The social fabric of society will be weakened.  Stay alert and be sober.  You are crucial to ensuring a “positive and proactive” response to the threats to human life so starkly facing us today.

IMPORTANT: Do girls need “fantasy”?

The most common objection I face when critiquing the Twilight Saga is “it’s only fantasy!”  In other words, any of the disturbing questions raised about the series are irrelevant and need not be addressed because the genre  of “fantasy” makes them intrinsically harmless.

Is this true?  Let’s look more closely at “fantasy”. 

“fantasy” – 

  1. The creative imagination; unrestrained fancy. 
  2. An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need.

If we look at the uses of the word “fantasy” given above, how would we apply them to The Twilight Saga?  Well, it seems #1 could be applied to Meyer herself – the experience of writing the series.  I would say that #2 is what fans often engage in when reading or thinking about the series.  (For those who enjoy the series, I would ask if you think #2 applies.)

Now, have a look at this assessment 
by Steven Earll, MA, MS. LPC, LAC in his article Signs of Trouble: Five Criteria for Addiction Assessment :

Fantasy

All addictions and compulsions involve fantasy. If an addiction or a compulsion does not divert a person’s mind from reality, it’s not worth doing. For the addicted person—or the person starting down addiction’s path—life’s stresses often feel overwhelming or unbearable. Fantasy is a method of survival that allows mental escape from pressures.
Fantasy creates excitement and anticipation, which, in turn, often triggers an addiction episode. James 1:13-15 is an excellent description of addiction. 
When tempted, no one should say “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire (fantasy), he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
People are enticed by their own desires, or fantasies, which stimulate the need to act out the addictive behavior. When fantasy is nurtured, it takes on a life of its own. The fantasy about engaging in the addictive act and the emotional rewards resulting from the addiction behavior become a preoccupation. This preoccupation is so strong that many times it triggers physiological responses in the brain and body.
In other words, what people think about, their bodies treat as real. The addict begins to physically respond to the addiction when they fantasize about the physical act involved. A sex addict will experience excitement and arousal by thinking about a sexual encounter or anticipating looking at pornography. A drug addict can begin to feel the warmth and euphoria of intoxication by anticipating the drug use. Preoccupation about food can turn off the physical hunger response of an anorexic. The hardest part of recovery from an addiction is taming the mind and controlling the fantasy process. The power of fantasy is the enduring power of addiction.”

Fantasy is not intrinsically harmless.   But The Twilight Saga – please – how bad can this be?  Let’s recall our attention to comments by Robert Pattinson, star of the movie version of Twilight, regarding the reaction he is receiving:
“How is the Twilight fandom is different from the Harry Potter movies? I think you’ve mentioned that the sound of the screams is even different.
It’s different because I think it’s almost solely females of a certain age group, and they have a very specific tone. It’s much more to do with the sort of sexuality aspect of it. So many girls made this guy [their ideal], so when they see you it’s like all of their energy is projected onto you. It’s a really strange experience. I’ve never been in an experience where people just want to touch you — it’s like being in a boy band.

Is it weird to have girls that are so young have this incredibly sexualized thing around you?
It’s weird that you get 8-year-old girls coming up to you saying, “Can you just bite me? I want you to bite me.” It is really strange how young the girls are, considering the book is based on the virtues of chastity, but I think it has the opposite effect on its readers though. [Laughs] “

 

Is this really something to laugh about?  
Well, we have this article by Rob Jackson, MS, LPC, LMHC, NCC which suggests not:

“Many of the men I talk to who are addicted to pornography had childhood experiences which “sexualized” them sooner than they might normally have experienced. Did you have any sexualizing events early in your life? 
Anonymous: Yes, several different types, in fact. First of all, my family did not practice much modesty or personal boundaries. I regularly was exposed to my Mom completely undressed and my Dad wearing only his underwear. I remember in third grade even drawing a picture of my Mom naked and getting in trouble at school. I was asked to bring toilet paper to my Dad as he used the bathroom quite often, and used the sink and mirror as he showered behind a translucent shower door. There were many other instances like this, which aroused a great deal of curiosity in me about the human body.
RJ: Did your parents give you any teaching about sexuality?
Anonymous: None at all. The subject was “taboo” and made them very nervous. I learned quickly that you didn’t ask questions about sex at our house. This lack of information coupled with my curiosity seemed to fuel in me a compulsive search for sexual information.
RJ: Where did you find information about sex?
Anonymous: At first I would look up the words “sex” or “reproduction” in every dictionary and encyclopedia I could get my hands on. Then, I discovered a stash of explicit romance novels at my grandmother’s house. Whenever I would spend the night over there, I’d stay up all night just overwhelmed at the feeling I got when I read those passages.
RJ: How old were you at the time you were reading the novels?
Anonymous: About nine or ten, I guess. Some of it I didn’t understand, but there was enough I did understand that I could kind of put the rest together in context. I had grown up seeing my parents and one grandmother watch soap operas religiously every day—I remember the days before I started school, our day’s schedule revolved around it—so the dramatic, romantic stories in the books already had a familiar appeal to me. I was an advanced reader, so I just took to them like a fish to water.
RJ: Did this material cause you to seek pornography in other forms or places?
Anonymous: By the time I was eleven or so, I started babysitting. Every single house I went into, I would search to see if there was any explicit material. Whether it was a medical dictionary at a doctor’s house or more romance novels, I would find them.
…RJ: Did you ever try to act out the things you were seeing?
Anonymous: When I was about eleven, I was approached by an older teenager in my youth group who was kind of a misfit and happened to be overweight and adopted like me. I realize now, as an adult, he was also addicted to pornography. He started telling me how beautiful I was and would offer to “teach” me about sex. I wanted more than anything to be adored like those women in the novels, and, even though I fought off his advances because I knew it was “wrong,” I kept wanting to be with him because I wanted to feel loved. 
After several weeks, he forced himself on me even though I was crying and telling him to stop. Even then I continued to see him because I thought being loved was worth performing sexual acts for him. Of course some of the sexual behavior created pleasurable responses in me, so I almost felt betrayed by my own body because I didn’t want him to do these things to me, but I liked them.”

…And this is where “fantasy” becomes reality.  Harmless?
For more worthwhile discussion in these issues see http://www.pureintimacy.org 

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  Luke 12:34

“What a pity to be killing time when time is a treasure from God!”  – St. Josemaria Escriva, The Forge #706

Another quote from Michael O’Brien to help keep us sane…

IMPORTANT UPDATE – there is a new article by Michael O’Brien, written specifically on the Twilight Saga 12/19/09.
I have some excerpts
here but I encourage you to read his entire article here.

Reading Michael O’Brien is like drinking coffee.  Suddenly, you wake up!

Here is a quote for today:

We must ask ourselves why evil concepts, if they are wrapped in the aura of “culture”, now enjoy a special exemption from the normal rules of discernment. Why do we presume that a sensually powerful series of children’s books will not affect a young reader’s interests and activities? Why have we come to assume that the experience of plunging the imagination into that alternative, and ultimately false world, will remain sealed in an airtight compartment of the mind? We must ask ourselves how we arrived at a position where we allow our children to absorb for hours on end, in the form of powerful fiction, activities that we would never permit them to observe or to practice in real life.

Books and films which three generations ago would have been instantly recognized as unhealthy for our children, are now considered acceptable, and those who oppose them alarmist or “hysterical.” Why is this so? Why are threats (recognized for thousands of years as real threats) to our children’s well-being now being interpreted as harmless? To what degree have our judgments been influenced by the pagan worldview — possibly affected to the core? To what degree have we mistaken the assimilation by paganism for legitimate inculturation? What, precisely, is a legitimate adaptation of non-Christian culture? Can we really “baptize” the symbols and activities of the realm of darkness without negative effects? These are particularly urgent questions, because we are no longer the early Christians cleansing a classical pagan temple and consecrating it as a church. We are “Late Western Man,” to use C. S. Lewis’s term, and we are in the midst of a social revolution that is assaulting the truly sacred and degrading it at every turn.

See full text here:

http://studiobrien.com/site/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=59&Itemid=69

Just Fantasy? Think again: “The War for Our Children’s Souls”

(Jae Stellari – this post is in line with your earlier comment.  Many make the claim “it is JUST fantasy/fiction/a book/ a story”)

IMPORTANT: Do girls need “fantasy”?

The finest contemporary writer on the topic of fantasy literature, etc. is Michael O’Brien.  Please visit his excellent website: http://www.studiobrien.com

UPDATE 12/19/09 – O’Brien has just written on the Twilight Saga: “Twilight of the West”.  Please read this very important article HERE – if you want a quick few excerpts, I have posted some here.

The following  excerpts are taken from his article “The War for Our Children’s Souls”, written at the time of the Harry Potter craze.  If you read carefully – especially the third paragraph – I think you will notice an incredible similarity between what he is saying about the Potter series and the comments I wrote about Twilight in the post “Is Twilight Anti-Christian? Yes.”

“…The power of symbols, specifically their transmission through children’s literature, has been examined in depth by scholars as varied as the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, the theologian-ethicist Vigen Guroian, and the philologist-fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien, all of whom emphasize the remarkable beneficial effects of the right use of symbols. They refer to classic fairy tales as an exemplary literary genre that helps form in a child a genuine sense of virtue. This is so, they believe, because such traditional stories reinforce the “moral order of the universe”, regardless of how fantastic the scenes and plots may be. ..

the symbols in our minds exercise a certain power over us (often subconsciously), and this is especially so in the minds of the young. Symbols are keystones in the architecture of thought, indeed in our perceptions of the structure, if you will, of reality itself. If we lose symbolism, we lose your way of knowing things. If we destroy symbols, we destroy concepts. If we corrupt symbols, concepts are corrupted, and then we lose the ability to understand things as they are, rendering us vulnerable to deformation of our perceptions and our actions

There is of course some courage and love in the Harry Potter series, but it is the mixing of these admirable qualities with loathsome behavior that makes it so deceptive. It must be remembered that courage and love can be found in all peoples, even those involved in the worst forms of paganism. The presence of such virtues does not automatically justify an error-filled work of fiction. In Potter-world the characters are engaged in activities which in real life corrupt anyone who practices them, weakening the will, darkening the mind, and pulling him down into spiritual bondage. Rowling’s characters go deeper and deeper into that world without displaying any negative side effects, only an increase in “character.” This is a lie. Moreover, it is the Satanic lie which deceived us in Eden: You can have knowledge of good and evil (youwill decide what is good and what is evil), you can have enhanced life, you can have God-like powers. (EDITOR’S NOTE: SOUND FAMILIAR?  READ STEPHENIE MEYER’S QUOTE AT THE BEGINNING OF “THE TWILIGHT SAGA – A CRITIQUE” EXPLAINING THE APPLE ON THE COVER OF TWILIGHT.) In Potter-world the message is, such powers are a birthright, a natural faculty that needs only to be awakened and informed in order to be used properly.”

Let us pray for the grace to discern wisely.

A Young Man of Heroic Virtue

smiling-frassati

If we take the time to investigate, it is not difficult to find models for the youth of today – for example, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati.  He lived a joyful, pure and authentic Christian manhood.  His brief life was one of self-giving.  Young men, be inspired.  Young women, be hopeful.

St. Irenaeus, one of the Church Fathers, once said “The glory of God is manfully alive”.  To be “fully alive” is to be alive in Christ and radiant with love – not to be an “undead” bad boy!  (Did you ever notice that “Cullen” rhymes with “sullen”?)  When we are filled with love, we are driven outside of the realm of selfishness.  Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati exemplified this truth.  His life was so good, his love was so pure and his generosity so sincere that today, more than 80 years after his death, his body remains incorrupt.  Many Saints’ bodies have been found incorrupt years after their death. This is a miracle- a gift from God who has power over life, death and decay.  Jesus said in the Gospel of John: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn. 10:10) 

Here is an introduction to his life:

Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a saint for the modern world, and especially for the young people of our time. Born in 1901 in Turin, Italy, his time on earth was short-only 24 years-but he filled it passionately with holy living. Pier Giorgio was a model of virtue, a “man of the beatitudes,” as Pope John Paul II called him at the saint’s beatification ceremony in Rome on May 20, 1990. He was described by friends as “an explosion of joy.” As Pier Giorgio’s sister, Luciana, says of her brother in her biography of him, “He represented the finest in Christian youth: pure, happy, enthusiastic about everything that is good and beautiful.”

To our modern world which is often burdened by cynicism and angst, Pier Giorgio’s life offers a brilliant contrast, a life rich in meaning, purpose, and peace derived from faith in God. From the earliest age, and despite two unreligious parents who misunderstood and disapproved of his piety and intense interest in Catholicism, Pier Giorgio placed Christ first in all that he did. These parental misunderstandings, which were very painful to him, persisted until the day of his sudden death of polio. However, he bore this treatment patiently, silently, and with great love.

Pier Giorgio prayed daily, offering, among other prayers, a daily rosary on his knees by his bedside. Often his agnostic father would find him asleep in this position. “He gave his whole self, both in prayer and in action, in service to Christ,” Luciana Frassati writes. After Pier Giorgio began to attend Jesuit school as a boy, he received a rare permission in those days to take communion daily. “Sometimes he passed whole nights in Eucharistic adoration.” For Pier Giorgio, Christ was the answer. Therefore, all of his action was oriented toward Christ and began first in contemplation of Him…

Read more of this biography here
: http://www.3op.org/frassati.php 
And for further information on Blessed Pier Giorgio and the young people inspired by him, click here:

http://www.frassatiusa.org/

Fascinating information on incorruptables can be read here:

http://www.overcomeproblems.com/incorruptables.htm

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