Thursday, May 25, 2006

'Death to their God!'

As a kid, I just loved watching Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments'. We had it on VHS on 'extended loan' from my grandparents, and everytime I would get the chance I would play the second half of the movie, when Moses finally summons the guts and confronts the Pharaoh about God's demand, that he 'let My people go'. I had fond memories of the incomparabley villainous Yul Brynner, in full royal vestments, literally a god to his people, confronting this old, dishevelled husk of a man whom he once considered his brother. Yes, I know all about the creative license the producers took with the Biblical narrative, but today, the kitschyness of the film still gets me. Nothing beats that classic line, 'Your fragrance is of the wine of Babylon'. Pure genius.

Of course, the title of this post refers to the Pharaoh's infamous remark, when he decides to give chase to the Israelites and bring them to slavery once more. Here was a classic line that expressed the ancient Egyptian Pharaoh's sentiment of superiority and divinity, crystalllized and distilled of any sort of pretentiousness, a raw challenge, as it were, from one god to Another.

Well, doesn't this just remind you of that scene?

They Have No Decency
Too many in media bash Catholicism - and get away with it

She's a mother who is very protective of her children. She is a believer who accepts the tenets of her faith. And yet, she continues to vent her hatred of all things Catholic. She's Madonna.
In her "Confessions" tour, the former Catholic and now practicing member of kabbalah appears with a crown of thorns while suspended from a giant mirrored cross. It's vintage Madonna: She went back to the well of anti-Catholicism one more time, proving that the old diva cannot dance and sing without exploiting Catholic iconography.

It's not just her. In February, hip-hop artist Kanye West graced the cover of Rolling Stone wearing a crown of thorns with "blood" streaming down his face. The piece, titled "The Passion of Kanye West," divulged the rapper's passion for pornography. It also revealed the Catholic-bashing agenda of the magazine and the musician.

It may be that "The Da Vinci Code" is one of the most inane movies to appear in some time, and it may be that its failure to persuade means Catholics have nothing to worry about. But if so, this is by default. After all, the book upon which the film is based is built on malicious lies about the Catholic Church.

One of the co-producers of "The Da Vinci Code," John Calley, was quoted last year saying the movie was "conservatively anti-Catholic." Leaving aside the silly qualifier, ask yourself: Is there a single producer in all of Hollywood who would boast that his movie is anti-Semitic, racist or homophobic? And to top it off, ask yourself why inoffensive depictions of Muhammad are rarely shown on TV or in newspapers?

The bias against Catholicism is palpable. No other segment of society is continuously the target of vicious jokes by the likes of Penn Jillette or Bill Maher. No other segment of society is subjected to the obscene assaults like those "South Park" delivers over and over again. And no other segment of society is routinely held up to derision on college campuses.

Consider that a student newspaper at the University of Oregon recently put a depiction of a naked Jesus Christ on the cross with an erection. It also showed a graphic of a naked Christ kissing a naked man, both sporting erections. And the response from the university's president? It was so weak that state lawmakers — after receiving color copies of the offensive pictures from the Catholic League — have decided to deal with this incident themselves. All because the president of the university found it politically incorrect to morally condemn the newspaper.

It's not just Catholics who are on the receiving end of these attacks — all Christians are fair game. NBC dumped "The Book of Daniel" because there was no audience for the script, but the producers surely thought there would be one. After all, who wouldn't want to watch a show where an Episcopalian priest dabbles in drugs, the wife is a boozer, the daughter is a dope dealer, one son is gay, the other is a womanizer, the brother-in-law is a thief and the father's father is an adulterer? Just your ordinary Christian family — in the eyes of Hollywood, that is.

To understand what's driving this, consider that our culture teaches that freedom means the right to do whatever we want to do and Catholicism teaches that freedom means the right to do what we ought to do. There's a natural disharmony here, a tension so taut that something's got to give. Never mind that a libertine idea of freedom — liberty as license — is spiritually, psychologically, physiologically and socially deadly in its consequences. It's what sells. Sadly, what is attendant to this perverse interpretation of liberty is a need to lash out at any creed that preaches the virtue of restraint.

The scandal in the Catholic Church did not help matters, but the frontal assault on Catholicism antedated the revelations of 2002. No matter, the kind of hate speech that spews with regularity toward the Catholic Church can never be justified. That it occurs amid all the chatter about tolerance and respect for diversity makes it all the more repugnant.

Donohue is president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

This story originally appeared on The New York Daily News on 23 May 2006

I'm hardly surprised. Hollywood is perhpas the most godless place in the world, yet at the same time, it is god to many people drawn to the life of prestige and immeasurable wealth it offers. It regularly vomits forth films that are thinly-disguised attacks on the Church, starring, of course, equally godless men who will be reduced to dust and ashes in a matter of years. Yet they have the gall wo parade themselves as gods, perhaps convinced of their own immortality. Just look around you. Watch a couple of movies. The Catholics are always depicted as superstitious, ignorant of their own faith, and devoid of morals. Catholic priests are always sleaze bags, gluttons, alcoholics, homosexuals, bigots and the like. Irony of ironies, however, the only good depiction of Catholics can be found in Horror movies. Mostly. When there's a question of some weird, obscure prophecy or the date of the Anti Christ's birth, the Church is always depicted as the one with all the answers. Yet how the world vilifies Her.

'Tis a far cry from the 50s or 60s when Catholics were treated with respect. Have you ever seen Alfred Hitchcock's 1953 classic, 'I Confess'? It was an excellent film which plays on themes sacred to Catholics like the seal of the confessional. The priest is depicted as a man of conviction, dignified, as opposed to the bastardized portrayal of priests found in films today.

Even 'The Exorcist', for all its expletives and controversial scenes, depicted Frs. Merrin and Karas as men worthy of respect, men who were really concerned with exorcising the demon out of young Reagan.

*Sigh*. Isn't it odd that Hollywood, sans one 'l' and given a space in the middle, spells out the words 'Holy Wood'? An obvious reference to the Cross of Christ, 'in quo salus mundi perpendit'-- on which hung the salvation of the world. It is indeed lamentable that we are crucifying our own Saviour by tolerating these things.

Movie review: 'X-Men: The Last Stand' *SPOILERS*

Time for another secular post :)

While 'The Da Vinci Code' was the darling of the media with all its hype, glitz, and promotional tie-ins, there is no doubt that 'X-Men: The Last Stand' was awaited by its loyal fanbase with an event more fervent anticipation. It concludes the trilogy of X-Men movies [ although as of this moment I read that X4 has been confirmed already ], which, in my opinion, brought a new level of dignity to superhero movies. Think of it as what 'The Day The Earth Stood Still' did to the science fiction franchise.

Anyway, I saw this movie today with my family. And the cinemas were packed. Literally PACKED-- from the excited kids to the throng of ex pats who grew up with the comic-- the theater was filled to capacity.

As you may already know by the now, the plot of this third installment focuses on a supposed cure to the mutant problem. This cure, culled from the cells of another mutant, would permanently suppress the X-gene in mutants, thereby making them 'normal'. This naturally causes a huge controversy in the mutant community, with the evil Magneto rallying disenfranchised mutants to his cause. Meanwhile, in the midst of all these happenings, a new, powerful mutant has emerged-- greater thatn even Magneto or Charles Xavier, the leader of the X-Men. The mutant in question is, of course, Phoenix, the twisted and violent personality of the psionic Jean Grey [ who miraculously returns to life after being presumed dead at the end of the second installment ].

X3 is a no-holds barred, extremely fast paced movie. Once it starts, it does not relent. I thought that the tension surrounding 'the cure' was palpable from the beginning. There are some very poignant moments in the film. Especially shocking was a pivotal scene in the middle of the film. This scene was so shocking, that many fans of the comic book reportedly walked out. It literally brought things to a standstill, and many of the people in the theater were teary-eyed.

* * * SPOILERS!!! * * *

This scene which I am referring to is of course the death of Professor X. This happens during a confrontation in Jean Grey's house, where Magneto and company also follow suit. The scene is very powerful. You literally see the Professor being carried into the air by the awesome power of Phoenix. His skin begins to flake away at every contact with her unlimited power. After a brief pause wherein the Professor takes one last look at Wolverine, he shatters into a million pieces. It was a very hard scene for me to watch, since the Professor was one of my favorite characters.

Phoenix also kills Scott/Cyclops after their reunion at Alkali Lake. After sharing a passionate kiss, we see Scott's face flaking away. Then it cuts to a scene in the mansion. When Wolverine and Storm arrive on the scene, all that remains of Scott are his glasses.

* * * END SPOILERS * * *

The confrontation between Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants and the remaining X-Men was one of the best battles I've seen in years. The desperation and the conviction in either team's resolve was chilling. I won't tell you how they beat Magneto, but res assured, it will leave a smile on your face.

Overall, 'X-Men: The Last Stand' is definitely my favorite movie thus far in this year. My only complaint was that the script was a little... scatterbrained. Compared to the atrocious 'The Da Vinci Code', though, X-Men lives up to the hype and leaves the audience literally wanting for more.


PS: Make sure you don't miss the scene at the end of the credits. IMHO it leaves a lot of things open for possible future installments.

A follow up to 'A moment with Mary'

Well what do you know! I figured that post would be the first to get any comments. Props to Francis and Spooky for being the first ones!

Anyway, here's a little background on our retreat, where I took that picture of Our Lady's grotto. Part of our school's tradition was to hold an annual retreat for the graduating batch of seniors. This is usually done in March, but sources tell me that the school is considering moving the date to the fourth week of June.

The place was called 'Laguna Hills Study Center', which is a compound run by the Opus Dei prelature. The main residence of the Numers was around five minutes walk from the house we stayed in. Anyway, it was a beautiful, well-kept residence. There was a chapel inside, as is typical of the Opus Dei. The entire house was decorated sparsely, although not to the point of horror vacui. There were also various libraries containing all sorts of books, from the writings of Josemaria Escriva, papal encyclicals, and the occassional 'Confessions' of St. Augustine.

We stayed there for three days. There were no televisions or cell phones allowed. Even reading the newspapers was discouraged.

Our typical day would start at around 6:00 am. We used this period to freshen up, take baths, fix our quarters, and prepare for Mass. Before the Mass itself, there was a fifteen minute medidation at the chapel, led by our chaplain. Next, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated, followed by breakfast. Talks were given at around 10:00am to 12:00pm, at which time we would prepare for lunch. Before I forget, there was an average of five to six meditations per day, and I have to admit, I wasn't always paying attention [ mea culpa! ]. After lunch we would have a grace period, wherein we can engage in the activities we like. We also had the Via Crucis everyday; daily examination of conscience; spiritual reading; Rosary thrice a day; spiritual direction and lots of other pious activities.

Needless to say it was a thoroughly alien experience to most of my classmates. This was my first time to attend a retreat as well, but I already had an inkling of some of the things to expect.

Overall, it was a refreshing experience. I really felt rejuvenated after that, and I hope to be able to attend more in the future.

Some more pics:

Picture of the chapel where we held Mass, meditations, and Via Crucis everyday

This is the environment in which the grotto of Our Lady was located.

Interior of the Opus Dei center we stayed in. Note the spartan ornamentation of the room

Monday, May 22, 2006

Gotta get me one of these

Aside from matters religious and liturgical, I think it would surprise many to know that I am absolutely fascinated with melee weapons. That, and Godzilla movies. In particular, I have a thing for Southeast Asian/Indian melee weapons. I've been researching them for a couple of weeks now, and I have to say that I am very impressed at the genius and cleverness of their designs. There's literally an enchidrion of weapons, ranging from the more common [ like the talwar, kukri ] to the ram's horns used solely by Indian holy men [ they're forbidden from using common weapons ]. There is just something about them that beats any run of the mill gun any day of the week. Take, for example, the Indian Urumi, also known as the Chattuval.

Says Wikipedia:

The Urumi or Chuttuval is a long sword made of flexible steel, sharp enough to cut into flesh, but flexible enough to be rolled into a tight coil. It was used and still can be found in south India, and is one of the weapons learnt by practitioners of the martial art of Kalaripayattu. It was most popular in the North Malabar coast of Kerala State, India, and is often mentioned in the ballads of the region.

The sword is a flexible band of steel three-quarters to one inch in width, and long enough to reach from the fingertip of one hand to the finger tip of the other hand when the hands are held outstretched. . . Often there are Urumis with multiple belts on a single handle, which makes it more dangerous to the opponents and wielders alike.

Wow. Just wow. I really, really, and I mean REALLY have to get me one of these very soon!

A moment with Mary

They say that a picture is worth more than a thousand words, and I believe that to be escpecially true with this picture. This was taken around two months ago during a retreat. I had just taken a swim at the pool, and as I was going back to the retreat house, I chanced upon this grotto of our Blessed Mother. I'll stop my rambling now and just let the picture speak for itself.

A visit to Old Manila's churches

I had the tremendous opportity to visit Intramuros [ literally "within the walls" ], the "walled city" around three weeks ago. Intramuros, as some know, was the original Manila during Spanish times. Built in 1571 by the conquistadors Martin de Goiti, Juan Salcedo, and Miguel Lopez de Legaspi, Intramuros remains today a monumental symbol of past times, a forgotten shard of the ancient past thrust in the midst of a glittering megalopolis. One literally steps into a time machine upon entering the alled city-- here the police officers dress in the same manner as the guardia civil, complete with horses and period costume. Intramuros has historically been the home of the See of Manila; the Cathedral is located here, traditionally right next to the ayuntamiento or city hall.

Pulpit, San Agustin church. Note the out of place fan

Another hallmark of Intramuros is the beautiful, if ostentatious San Agustin Church. Built and staffed by the Augustinian friars, San Agustin is one of the few churches which managed to escape the ravages of the Vatican II 'uglification'. Here one will find rows upon rows of images of saints, some carved from ivory. The main altar is made of beaten silver, if I am correct. But if tat weren't enough, there is a museum located next door, containing a truly beatific collection of Spanish era religious art. Among the treasures found here are statues of the saints made fromivory and lavished in gold-thread vestments, altar ornamentations, whole retablos [ altar screens ], vestments, and 400 year old psalters. No pictures were allowed, however.

Right: Ceiling of San Agustin church

As well as these the church is gifted with a magnificent trompe-l'oeil ceiling. San Agustin is a favorite venue for weddings of manila's old money couples. Perhaps nothing recalls Manila's unique Spanish identity more than the fact that a good fraction of the confessionals in the church allow for penitents to confess in Spanish.

Left: Altar Mayor of San Agustin. The pictures odes not do it justice

The church is among four churches designated as UNESCO world heritage sites in the Philippines. The other three are, Santa Maria church in Ilocos, San Agustin church is Paoay, and Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Iloilo.

The Manila Cathedral is also in Intramuros. Also known as Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, 'is the only cathedral in the world that was built and renovated six times. It was the seat of the Archbishop of Manila during the Spanish Colonial Period in the Philippines, and still remains to be the ecclesisastical seat of the Archdiocese of Manila.'

'The See of Manila, with jurisdiction over all the Philippine Islands and suffragan to the See of Mexico, was erected in 1578. The first bishop, Domingo de Salazar (born 1512), arrived in Sept., 1581.

Left: Statue of St. Peter, Manila Cathedral

The first cathedral, made of nipa and bamboos, was built in 1581. It was damaged by a typhoon in 1582 and razed by fire in 1583. The new cathedral, which was made of stone, was made in 1592. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1600. The third cathedral, with three naves and seven chapels, was started in 1584 and blessed in 1614. It was toppled by another earthquake which shook Manila in 1645. The magnificent fourth cathedral was constructed in 1654 to 1671 under Archbishop Miguel Poblete. It was severely damaged in 1863 by a very strong earthquake that even toppled the Palace of the Governor General of the Philippines. In 1880, another earthquake toppled its bell tower and since then until in 1959, the cathedral remained towerless. '

'The fifth cathedral was constructed in 1870-1879. It was solemnly blessed in December of 1879. The center cross of the dome is a reference point of astronomical longitudes of the archipelago. The magnificent cathedral was toppled into ruins by the bombs of World War 2 in 1945.'

'The present cathedral was constructed in 1954 to 1958 under Archbishop Rufino Santos of Manila and under the supervision of National Artist for Architecture Awardee, Architect Fernando Ocampo. It was elevated into the rank Basilica Minore in 1981 by Pope John Paul II.'

Unfortunately, the lighting inside the Cathedral made it almost impossible to take a good picture. The main altar is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, and there are numerous shrines and side altars dedicated to various Spanish saints. Among those interred in the Cathedral are Rufino Cardinal Santos, the first Filipino Cardinal, and the late, and much beloved Jaime Cardinal Sin

Fr. Adrian Fortescue: A Remarkable Life

I've been reading about the life of the late Fr. Adrian Fortescue ( 14 Jan 1874 - 11 Feb 1923 ) for the past couple of days. For those who do not know, Fr. Fortescue was the pre-eminent liturgical scholar of the early twentieth century-- not only that, but this great man 'was an artist, calligrapher, composer, adventurer - and a devoted parish priest'. He is also the author of 'The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described', considered THE authoritative guide to the proper and dignified celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

Read more about this fascinating man here.

Or, if you want:

Click here to purchase the book 'The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described'.

Why we oppose 'The Da Vinci Code'

As of this moment, there is a new icebreaker in town. The question everybody will be asking each other within the next few weeks is remarkably similar to another old icebreaker. This time, though, people will be asking, 'Have you seen The Da Vinci Code?', and one can honestly expect this in the watering holes of the elite to the most commonplace neighborhood. For the people who have seen the film but have not read the book, this is their time to revel in their ignorance.

Just why is there such a big fuss over this movie?

We know for a fact that the book claims that Jesus was never divine; that he was married to Mary Magdalen: that the Church knew all about this and committed murder to maintain its power and prestige. All very good material for a film, especially in godless Hollywood. Ask yourself a question, when was the last time you saw a movie wherein the priest was the good guy? Where the priest was not a drunkard, a pedophile, or a thief? Well, you might say there was 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose', but then again, films like these are almost NEVER shown.

I think 'The Da Vinci Code', more than anything, removes the sense of the sacred. Look at it like this: say that you find yourself before a cave, which legend says is the home of an ancient, evil dragon. Then you see a little kitten come out. This incindent is more than adequate to dispel any myth and legend surrounding the cave. The same is true, I gess, with the movie. Once we allow something that questions the most sacred doctrine of Christianity for public consumption, what's next? A film about the Blessed Virgin as a transsexual? A propaganda film about 'Adam and Steve?' A film which shows that Our Lord was gay, and that Peter was really the beloved disciple? Just recall the infamous 'Piss Christ' photograph, or the portrait of the Blessed Virgin made from elephant dung. Allowing these things is but the first step in 'desacralizing' the Faith.

Our Lord said in Mt. 10:34 'Think not that I am come to give you peace, I am come to give you the sword'. Christianity is not a pacifistic love-em-all religion. Often the Gospels would have more examples of 'tough love' scenarios than it does lovey-doveyness. When Our Lord saw the moneychangers at the Temple, He did the right thing to do: He drove them away. What then of a film which might potentially undermine the faith of so many millions who see it?

To put it another way, let us pretend that the Church is a real flock of sheep. You have your shepherds-- the pope, his bishops and priests-- and you have the mastiffs-- the government officials and the patricians. The rest are sheep, who are made up of the common folk. Now, pretend that several of these sheep drink or eat at a poisonous grove. They will naturally get sick, and their interaction with the other sheep will only cause the strange, new disease to pass to the other sheep. Eventually it will reach the mastiffs, and ultimately, the shepherds themselves.

The scenario above is similar to the effects that 'The Da Vinci Code' will have. While it is true that Christ promised His apostle 'that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it', the threat of apostasy is never diminished by Our Lord. In Lk 18:8, He warns us: 'But when the Son of Man comes, think you, will He find faith on earth'?

We have been warned. The evrlasting reward will not come without a fight. Let us draw inspiration from these words of Scripture: Vigilate, state in fide, viriliter agite, robusti estote -- 'Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong' [ 1 Cor 16:13 ]

Good Lord-i...

Nope. This picture isn't from the latest cosmopolitan Austrian Mass [ at least not one of those experimental NOs you so love to hate ], but from the recently concluded Eurovision contest, which is similiar to a pan-European version of American Idol. Only, of course, a bit more insane.

All I can say is... those costumes rock.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

A most vilified group

Opus Dei chapel at my school

The recent brouhaha concerning the controversial movie 'The Da Vinci Code' has, among other things, brought an unprecedented amount of transparency to the mysterious Opus Dei prelature. Portrayed as the villain in Dan Brown's overhyped book, the author claims that 'The Work', as the prelature is colloquially referred to by those close to it, is a murderous, Machiavellian group, a mafia shrouded in white that would do anything in its power [ and financial clout ] to further its agenda in the Roman Catholic Church. Among the myths surrounding Opus Dei are that it is a power-hungry cult, with connections to many a government in the world. It is also claimed that Opus Dei members are masochists, that it is a Judeo-Masonic organization, that it brainwashes. . . ad infinitum.

Opus Dei seems to be universally hated by Leftists-- apparently because they are seen as a reactionary movement that is hostile to progressive factions in the Church-- and surprisingly by tradionalits, who decry the group's alleged secrecy and 'prima facie reverence'. They are also opposed to its secular mentality, and say that it blurs the line between the laity and the priesthood.

As one who spent eight years in an Opus Dei run school, let me help set the record straight.

1) What is Opus Dei, and what is its mission?

Opus Dei is a personal prelature of the Catholic Church, meaning, in the broad sense, a diocese without borders. It is obviously a part of the Universal Church. Opus Dei is largely composed of lay members: some, who are married, called supernumeraries, make up some 70-80% of the membership. Numeraries, who are laypeople who live celibate lives and live in Opus Dei centers, are the next largest group. The smallest group is composed of priests. Currently, Opus Dei is governed by Bishop Javier Echevarria.

The mission of Opus Dei is to 'Christianize the world'-- without ever leaving it. St. Josemaria Escriva taught that everyone, including laymen, are called to be saints. Obviously these laymen cannot be in church all the time. St. Josemaria taught that we can sanctify out lives by offering our sufferings, works and intentions for the glory of God. Recall that the Holy Family led ordinary lives, and part of that was work. The frown we supressed when we were reprimanded by the boss, the glass of water we momentarily did not drink, that last slice of pizza you did not eat -- all of these can be offered as a pleasing sacrifice to God. St. Josemaria often noted how the world thinks so very little of small sacrifices. Opus Dei aims to help its members live out their daily lives for God.

Most important, however, is making the Holy Mass 'the root and center of our interior lives'. St. Escriva had a great love for the Mass, and he encouraged everyone to attend daily. Remember, the Mass is the most pleasing prayer we can offer God-- it is the Sacrifice of His own Son, the same Sacrifice of calvary, made present for us for the expiation of our sins and our spiritual nourishment. In the Mass, the bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Blessed Lord and Savior. It is truly the supreme oblation, the most sublime tribute we can offer to the divine majesty of God and the source of infinite graces.

There are no monks in Opus Dei.

2) Do Numeraries really whip themselves?

Yes. Corporal mortification, specifically the cilice, has always been part of traditional Christian piety. St. Serafino da Montenegro, for example, is one saint known to have used the cilice. However, the pain and discomfort that they cause have been widly exagerrated in Dan Brown's novel. For example, the cilice induces only minor itching to most people who wear it. These tools are not for masochistic purposes, rather, they help us to share in the agony of Our Lord more intimately. However, these are not the only acceptable forms of mortification. St. Josemaria Escriva always taught that any discomfort can be offered as a sacrfice to God. Thus, refusing a glass of water or abstaining from one's favorite snack can also count as mortification.

3) I've heard that Opus Dei is an elitist organization. Is this true?

Certainly not. In Latin America, for example, Opus Dei is more associated with the working class. There are members who are taxi drivers, firemen, police officers. Opus Dei does not look at a person's financial background as most people would think. Granted, there are many in Opus Dei who belong to the upper crust. Businessmen, senators, lawyers, journalists-- admittedly Opus Dei has them for members. However, this is only a misconception. Here in the Philippines, Opus Dei runs several schools in the provinces for children of less fortunate background. Here the children are taught the basics of farming, for example, or in engineering. AS well as this, they are also given sound doctrinal formation, and Mass is celebrated whenever possible.

St. Josemaria once remarked that a gift of bread will sustain a child for a day-- a gift of books will sustain him for a lifetime. Although admittedly Opus Dei also has schools for the wealthy, they also teach street children in afternoon sessions in the same schools. This allows less fortunate students to have the same education as their wealthier counterparts in the day sessions.

Corporal works of mercy are held traditionally in December. Many numeraries also volunteer to teach catechism to the urban poor.

4) I've heard that Opus Dei brainwashes people. Is this true?

Far from it. Love for freedom is a central doctrine of Opus Dei. If one does not wish to join, it is his choice, and Opus Dei members cannot change that. My own experience with the Work has been very positive. The people are friendly and highly respectful of each other.

5) What about the testimonies of former members and allegations of it being a cult?

One should recall that the Jesuits were originally met with hostility upon their inception. In fact, up to a few years ago, the Society of Jesus was the favorite target for conspiracy theorists and overzealous Fundamentalist Protestants. Opus Dei is new, therefore many people will naturally be suspicious of it. These are normal feelings, and the members of Opus Dei will be more than happy to answer.

Many people have left the Church-- laymen and clergy alike. But do their testimonies validate the claim that the Church is the 'whore of Babylon'? Certainly not. The priest-apostate, Martin Luther, called the Church many a derogatory name: stench-church of the devil, arch-whore of Babylon, among others. Does this, then, make Lutheranism true? No. We know that the Church is true, because anyone who examines Scripture closely will find the Church's teachings in them. Admittedly, the spirituality of Opus Dei is not for everybody, and the Work makes no pretensions that not everybody should join it.

Expect updates on this post

'The Da Vinci Code' is a bloated, discombobulated mess

I count myself one of the "lucky few" who were able to watch 'The Da Vinci Code" on its opening day. As many of you know, that movie was met with militant opposition here in Manila. Even the government, in the person of Sec. Eduardo Ermita, a high-ranking cabinet member, publicly stated that it ought not be shown here, as it might scandalize millions of the Christian faithful. It was even called, I believe, and I paraphrase, "the most pornographic film in history" by an an anti-pornography group, whose leader's name escapes me at the moment.

Well. Okay.

The bottom line: it sucked. Yes it did. I and several of my friends [ curiously one of my friends was the scion of Opus Dei supernumeraries-- the both of them! ] decided to watch it last Thursday, the 18th, mostly because it will be the last time we will be able to go out this summer. Remember, the school year starts here at June-- but for those unlucky souls stuck in the trimester system, it starts in May.

Anyway, the movie largely follows the book's narrative, perhaps a bit too much. I personally thought that Ron Howard did a lackluster job as director. There was so much to be done with the storyline, yet this already campy book turned out to be an even campier film. Tom Hanks carried himself in a lifeless, almost zombie-like manner. Sir Ian McKellen, who is the only good choice in this film, was melodramatic, eclipsing your average Jeremy Irons performance, I thought. The only good thing about the movie was the music by Hans Zimmer-- and yet even that was overused and drowned out most of the film.

Oh, did I mention that Tom Hanks' hairdo is atrocious? Not just plain atrocious... It's atrociously atrocious. So bad that it must only have come from the Devil himself. Or Dan Brown.

In retrospect I realize I probably should not have watched it at all. This is a film which threatens to undermine the faith of so many millions of Catholics in this impressionable country. As the Archbishop of Manila, Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales said, 'Not since the time of the presbyter Arius has there been such an attack on the Divinity of Christ'. I think this is especially true: just 10 years ago, I remember that my relatives would reprimand me if I even mention the words 'Iglesia ni Cristo'. Nowadays, more and more people watch the INC's shows [ mostly for entertainment reasons ]-- and all the while their faith is very subtly eroded without their knowing it. For those in the dark, the Iglesia ni Cristo [ INC ] is a pseudo-Christian cult with deep roots here in the Philippines. Among their claims is that they are the one true church [ after the original apostolic church was supposedly overtaken by pagans and therefore apostasized, creating the RCC ], that their founder was literally the fourth angel of the apocalypse, and perhpas their most central doctrine, that Jesus was only human.

I think this movie might be a double-edged sword. While it may strenghten or encourage most Catholics to learn more about their faith, the majority will undoubtedly start to believe its claims. Let's face it-- Filipinos are very impressionable people. If it looks genuine, Filipinos will probably think it is the real thing. I'm not trying to deride my fellow countrymen here. It's just that the reason more and more Catholics are leaving the fold for sects like the INC is because there is very little catechesis ingrained on them. Granted, we are a much more reverent people compared to, say, Americans or Germans or even the Spaniards who reared us and nurtured us in the Faith. Here, much of the old ways remain: processions, traditions, customs; we haven't forgotten to decorate our altars as many in the West have. The sad fact is that a Lutheran or Anglican church is likely to look more Catholic than most Catholic churches themselves, particularly in the United States or Europe.

*Sigh*. I don't know what to think anymore, as I am very tired. All this brouhaha over this movie has apparently overwhelmed the movie itself. Panned at the Cannes, laughed and jeered by the critics... it really didn't live up to the hype. One thing is sure, though. The Opus Dei, vilified in the book and movie as being the 'Mafia in white', has come out the victor against Hollywood.

Domine, ut videam!

"Lord, that I may see!"
Lk. 18:41

The purpose of this blog is to serve as a place where I can put all my thoughts in an easily accesible place. As you may glean from the title, the blog will have a very religious bent, specifically regarding the Roman Catholic Church, of which I am a devout member. Here you will also find the scattered thoughts of a hopeless scatterbrain about society in general, extreme sports, and yes, hopefully the occassional movie review. Aside from these things, I aslo hope to be able to reflect on many things which have seized my brain as of late. Having read these, I implore you, dear reader, to be patient with me, as I will be attending college in a month's time. My hope is that this is the one place i will be allowed my indulgences come the raging onslaught of the academic life. With these in mind, I bid you welcome, and I hope, God willing, you will learn a thing or two from here.