Tag Archives: Theology

How Jedi Knights are Less Awesome than Priests and Religious

25 Nov

In light of Disney’s recent acquisition of an entire solar system, history, and zealous fanbase,I decided I was going to write an article about the sheer awesomeness of the priesthood and religious life using the slightly less awesomeness of Jedis (Jedii? Jedipods?), which is something I’ve always pondered as a correlation but never really had the evidence to back up.

However, shortly after setting out in this endeavor, I came face to face with my own woeful inadequacy. I am nerdy enough to have a favorite Jedi (Obi Wan Kenobi, of course.) but not nerdy enough to remember what color his lightsaber is. And because I am 600 miles away from my little brother, I resigned myself to research.

And luckily, this project has coincided with my class on early Church history and my completely impractical acquisition of Cardinal Dolan’s Priests for the Third Millennium, which I purchased two weeks ago off of Amazon for $4 while spazzing over Dolan’s goobery wonderfulness. Because come on. Four dollars.

So here we go. Research.

Then about three seconds into a wiki-style (or… wookie-style…) website article on Jediism (which is apparently also a real thing, although, their whole creed seems to be “We’re not roleplaying”) I stumbled upon a quote attributed to “Unidentified humanoid Jedi, 5,000 BBY” and knew I was once again in over my head.

So this is me, admitting that I am totally incapable of writing this article with the expertise it deserves.

And this is me writing it anyway.

So besides the awesome similarities of the uniform, what is there?

How about morality, discipline, and self-sacrifice.

The first and most obvious similarity lies in the gift itself. Not just anybody can be a Jedi, and not just anybody can be a priest (or brother or sister!). Or maybe more appropriately, being a priest or religious makes you no longer able to be just anybody. Once you are in harmony with the Force of Christ in that manner (see what I did there?), you are changed. You are somehow above and beyond what you were before. You are no longer your own, and you serve a higher purpose. This specialness, this other-worldly nature, is what makes both parties so remarkable, and on top of that, what makes them so hard to beat. You can’t beat a handle of Jedi with an army of clones. You can’t beat a handle of consecrated celibates with an army of evil. They’re just.too.good. For every hour a padawan (or… seminarian) spends practicing his art, he is increasing in the skills necessary to conquer any evil with which he is met, to be indelibly good and moral and just, and take care of and guard those around him. They (and Catholics in general!) are given the entire arsenal of elegant weapons, from a more civilized age, with which to fight this battle for holiness and souls.

Secondly, discipline is necessary in both… orders. Since the earliest days of organized monasticism, St. Benedict recognized the absolute necessity for obedience and discipline in the life of a monk –not only for the sake of his own holiness, but for his brother monks’ as well. Without the continual subordination of the will to your spiritual Father (the Abbot, in their case, but only as a vicar to our Heavenly Father), you remain in a state of pride and self-reliance, and cannot reach your own potential. When Anakin refuses to subordinate himself to the wisdom of dear Mr. Kenobi, he is eventually overtaken by his own malicious pride. He cannot stand under the weight of all that power, in the same way that any given monk or priest could not stand under the weight of the grace given him without the continual spiritual humbling gained in self-discipline and obedience.

St. Benedict, the Original Jedi.

And of course, the total gift of self. When a man becomes a priest or monk, when a woman becomes a nun, they give their whole self to a cause worthier than they. It is a total outpouring of all their desires, wishes, plans, and lives. They give up their families (current and potential), careers, and sometimes even personal safety to become unlike anyone our society has ever seen. This act of total gift can only be embraced as a mirroring of the total gift Christ gave on the Cross, and for it, these remarkable men and women give up their lives. Jedi Knights give their whole selves to their art, giving themselves to die for the cause of justice and peace.

But ultimately, Jedi Knights pale in comparison to celibates. There is a Dark Side to the Force where there is no Dark Side to grace. They fight for temporal goods where others fight for eternal. And honestly, seeing a monk walk around in the rain with his hood up and his rosary in hand is about 8 billion times cooler than a Jedi in a kimono with a lightsaber.

Don’t deny it. You’ve made this joke, too.

PS. You are also allowed to use this analogy while having debates about whether religious should wear habits. Because if I’m gonna be a nun, I want to darn well look like a Jedi. (Wait… do normal students not have this debate? #catholiccollegeproblems)

PPS. This.

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How Zooey Deschanel Embodies the Mystery of Femininity (And the Church)

23 Oct

We all know that story. It’s been and continues to be a Hollywood staple from the time of Hepburn. It’s the story of the quirky girl.

The quirky girl is an archetype of sorts, and the stories of her grand and whimsical adventures almost always turning topsy-turvy the life of some random, slightly stodgy, unsuspecting man. From What’s Up, Doc? (Let’s be real. Streisand is adorable) to Liza Doolittle to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the story remains the same.

And no contemporary embodies this archetype to a greater extent than our dear Zooey.

Anyone with a Pinterest or a Tumblr has undoubtedly seen this picture. But just short of crying over tea kettles, what’s she really saying? Why do we love the quirky girl so much?

Because, um, hello. Women are thebomb.com.

What’s even cooler is that the Church has known this for centuries. The Church is obsessed with femininity. Because in it lies the nature of the Church herself.

While the Gnostic heretics saw the feminine principle as representative of the earthly, fleshly matter and negativity they so loathed, the early Fathers of the Church saw it differently. The Feminine principle, to the Church, is the perfection of active receptivity. In no way is this the same thing as passivity, as only waiting and be done unto.

Women are the image of the soil in which the seed falls. The soil receives the seed and provides the nutrients and matter it needs to grow into fruit. There is nothing passive about it. The soil pours itself out, gives all of its goodness to create life. The seed by itself cannot do anything; it needs the environment, the acceptance into something greater.

Femininity in its deepest nature is this amazing receptivity, this ability to grow something from within yourself. Where masculinity is focused on the external output, femininity is deeply and interiorly rooted. Be it emotional, spiritual, or physical, women grow from inside themselves, produce the greatest wonders from an internal well-spring of being and emotion.

This is why a woman is so priceless to the life of the world. We cultivate the art of being a human within our very hearts. We grow wonder and feeling and truth in our very souls by the pouring out of our feminine being.

Femininity is astounding.

People often think of the Church as a masculine entity. In truth however, it is theologically only ever referred to as “She”, and the early Church Fathers were obsessed with her nature as the Bride of Christ. It is not intended to have an industrialized mentality of numbers and productive output.

Papa Ben, before he was our Papal pal, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar (a theological Batman) wrote excessively and passionately on the power and necessity of the feminine interiority, especially in its perfection in Mary and her example. Il Papa said,

“Only the Marian dimension secures the place of affectivity in faith and thus ensures a fully human correspondence to the reality of the incarnate Logos. Here I see the truth of the saying that Mary is the “vanquisher of all heresies”. This affective rooting guarantees the bond ex toto corde -from the depth of the heart- to the personal God and his Christ…”

The Church is not a manufactured item, but a Marian mystery. It is, at its heart, holy soil for the Word. The Kingdom of God on earth is intended to be the constantly emptying, growing, loving, richly receiving heart of a woman. It is founded on the vulnerable imperfection of its members and a home for the life of the world. All the Church, laity and religious, men and women, are called to grow in the feminine principle of the Church. Every single person is designed to be receptive to God and His Word in the same way that women already bear in their very beings, their very design. Every person is called to be the soil that gives itself up to grow the beautiful, the true.

If you’re not absolutely terrified by the exquisite power of the feminine,  you’re not thinking about it extremely enough.

And nobody displays the sheer might of affective interiority like Mary. She’s not messing around.

Without woman, without Eve, without feminine receptivity, the world is a seed that can never flower.

Quirky girl is such a staple in our culture because she represents something true: The fact that your utterly unique instance of being feminine (because each way is as unrepeatable as it is united in the common wonder of the feminine heart) is meant to change the world. In fact, if lived right, it can’t not change the world. If you accept whole-heartedly your ridiculous, epic worth as a woman, you step into the shoes of the quirky girl. You are the one who will turn the life of not only a man (although, he’ll luck out!) but the whole world upside down, simply in being your unique feminine self. And you don’t need bangs, cat-eye framed glasses, and polka-dotted dresses to do it (but that would also be adorable). You are already that powerful. You can already cultivate the beauty of the world. Admire things. See the world. Think things and have ideas. Read books. Listen to music. Someday, maybe have children. Love others. Love Christ. Because from your interior springs the life of the world.

So, woman, “Don’t let someone steal your tenderness.”

How Doctor Who is Good for Your Prayer Life

21 Oct

Imagine the most wonderful man you’ve ever known. He’s passionate and loving, intelligent beyond compare but infinitely understanding rather than arrogant and unapproachable. Imagine someone who is totally enthralled with all of creation, discovery, learning; a lover of ideas and growth and the amazing limitless depths of the human person. Imagine someone who pours out their whole self to redeem and improve. He gives his whole self to save you, but also to make you see how special and indispensable and unrepeatable you already are. He is totally preoccupied with you, so much so that he wants to share with you the intense and unimaginable splendor of everything made, as he sees them. He desires you to take pleasure in and care greatly for the universe along with him, and he has called you out of your normalcy to pursue this, for both your sake and the sake of the world.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you have very strong feelings about this man. Regardless of who might be your favorite (bowties are cool), you’re with the Doctor till the end, you can’t remember a time before you had the something-exciting-is-happening music stuck in your head, and secretly (or publically), you’re hoping you’ll be the next companion.

The other day, not uncharacteristically, I was obsessing over this show. I was thinking about the nature of the character the Doctor, and was utterly confounded by how so much goodness could be packed into one fictional person. He is relatable, even in his alienation. He is kind and wise and great and knowable and mysterious all at once. He wants to know his companions, has great affection for them, even as he is, in reality, so far above them. And in thinking about this, I realized two main things.
A. I am totally 100% jealous of the companions.
2. I have no reason to be, because maybe I am one, too, and maybe my Doctor is even better than the BBC’s.

Maybe Christ is the Doctor, and I am Amelia Pond.

All my prayer life, I have dehumanized Christ. I strip Him of His personhood and replace it with an unreachable and impersonal statue, a historical name, a fact to be memorized, a far-flung idea of a Divine Being on a proverbial cross. But what I realized in that moment is that He is totally and utterly real. He is vibrant and dynamic and unique and absurdly wonderful. And He is desperately preoccupied with me.

I sat there thinking What if it’s real? What if Jesus is an endlessly fascinating Being who is funny and wise and colorful and brilliant and infinitely more things, and what if He wants to be my absolute best friend? What if it’s real?

The morning after I had this realization, I was chilling at my kitchen table, praying Morning Prayer (try it here!) when this happened:

Lord, send your mercy and your truth to rescue us from the snares of the devil, and, happy to be known as companions of your Son, we will praise You among the peoples and proclaim You to the nations.

Roommate can attest to this, I actually burst out laughing. I cannot account for a single other time I have ever seen the Church referred to as “companions of your Son”. Maybe the Apostles. But even with them, it’s not a frequent expression.

It’s so personal, so mutual, so Whovian.

All I could do was sit there in total awe. Everything I had been thinking about, how maybe He is just as ridiculously wonderful and loving and brilliant as the Doctor, but on top of that maybe He is a real person; how maybe He is as caught up in me as the Doctor is with his friends; how maybe He is calling me out of my normalcy to pursue some great adventure with Him, (in which I get to know Him and myself simultaneously, wherein I see the great worth of all created things, and learn to hope big ridiculous hopes and dream absurd dreams and be given opportunities to love heroically). Maybe it’s all true.

So here’s how Doctor Who improves your prayer life:

Think of all the reasons why you love the Doctor (sweet mercy, bowties are cool), all the ways in which he amazes you and is wonderful and brilliant. Think of how much you want to go with Him, see the universe, be so important to someone that they want to bring you along to save the world with them. In this lies the reality of the Person of Christ. He is wiser, insanerer (“is that a word?”), more brilliant, more epic, than the Doctor, and more madly, desperately in love with you, His companion. You are Rose Tyler. You are Martha Jones. You are Donna Noble. You are the Ponds. But you are even more important and wonderful than they, because your adventure is real life, real souls, the real world waiting for your part in it, and your Doctor is a real being.

The metaphor is imperfect of course. All metaphors conceal as much as they reveal. But it’s still crazy beautiful. Take a moment, know your worth, and address Him as you would the Doctor. Watch an episode, revel in how much you wish someone that uniquely wonderful felt about you the way the Doctor feels about his friends, and then know beyond a doubt that you mean so much more than that to Someone who is infinitely more brilliant than him.

And then come along, Pond.