To get you in the mood for Reformation Day…

… you know, Halloween’s equally scary conjoined twin; I thought I’d give you a movie recommendation that, at the very least, will leave you creeped out and emotional as all hell.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only high schooler forced to endure an in-class reading of Arthur Miller’s 1952 play, The Crucible – complete with its weird Puritan-speak, and a plot that makes you just want to get to the hangings already. But then, in 1996, Miller himself adapted the play for film and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay based on Previously Produced Material. But of course, the movie didn’t come out in time to show in our literature class – effectively leaving us in the dark as to what the hell we just read.

I’m featuring someone’s homemade trailer due to the fact I couldn’t embed the official trailer (which you can watch here). Please ignore the sluggish intro and even more sluggish end credits!

The aforementioned film starring Paul Scofield, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Winona Ryder could have just as easily been titled Puritans Gone Wild, or When Calvinists Attack with its portrayal of the 1692 hysteria that gripped Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem witch trials. In terms of the historical accuracy of Miller’s play, Wikipedia states this:

In creating a work for the stage, Miller made no attempt to represent the real, historical people on whom his characters are based: he developed them to meet the needs of the play. The surviving records offer little evidence about their personalities on which a playwright might draw. Miller fused several people into one character: for example, the judges “Hathorne” and “Danforth” are representative of several judges in the case and the number of young girls involved was similarly reduced. Abigail’s age was increased from 11 to 17 to allow a relationship with Proctor, for which there is no historical evidence. However, most of the historical roles are accurately represented, and the judicial sentences pronounced on the characters are mostly the same as those given to their real-life counterparts.

The action of the play takes place seventy years after the community arrived as settlers from Britain. The people on whom the characters are based would have retained strong regional dialects from their home country. Miller gave all his characters the same colloquialisms, such as “Goody” for good wife, and drew on the rhythms and speech patterns of the King James Bible to achieve the effect of historical perspective he wanted.

Now, while I don’t typically view movies for their historical accuracy, I do believe that movies based on or inspired by real events are often the stuff of great entertainment. And I believe that is the case with The Crucible. Whatever liberties Miller took – he took them to the ultimate success of telling this disturbing story of what actually happened (19 people hanged, one pressed to death), and what may have happened (betrayal and corruption within the personal, political, and religious power structures of that time). The film does what the play could not by brilliantly using cinematography, though not excessively, to bring the viewer into what must have become a paranoid, spooked mindset (the creepiness factor) pervading the general consciousness of the people as accusations flew. Through each twisty revelation in the movie, the underlying issues and motivating factors for the accusations gradually become clear as the initial specter of witchcraft and the occult give way to greed and corruption.

My favorite part of this movie is definitely Daniel Day-Lewis in his role as John Proctor. I think he has to be one of the most underrated, talented actors in Hollywood for his ability to absolutely become the character that he is playing. Seriously, if you’re not a Daniel Day-Lewis fan – become one now, I bid you! But the whole cast does a very good job in this film – most notably Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Winona Ryder, Bruce Davison, and Rob Campbell.

So if you’re in the mood for a good Reformation Day/ Halloween movie that won’t have you hiding behind the couch, but more likely glancing sideways at you Presbyterian neighbors (just kidding, Mom), go rent The Crucible and enjoy!

The Church Does Not Need To Come Around

Some day the Church will come around.

I hear this wishful thinking all the time. Doesn’t every person take issue with one or more teachings of the Catholic Church – believing she is in error and must someday reverse or evolve on those faulty teachings? Perhaps not all people are like this, but many are. And for sure, many Catholics are. These days it’s usually when we’re talking about her more polarizing teachings – those regarding same-sex marriage, contraception, female clergy, capital punishment, etc. – that you most often hear the old “oh, don’t worry, she’ll come around” mantra.

But you see, she won’t.

It can be most tempting for us, as humans, to believe that we see truth and recognize it as such merely due to our ability to reason and intuit. But the reality is that there are billions of people currently seeing billions of different truths in the world. More specifically, there are millions of Christians reading the same (or nearly the same) Bible and drawing different conclusions – forming different doctrines. Here in America (and other places too, but most notably here) we have the Christian cafeteria where one can simply look around at all the Christian denominations and then pick one that most lines up with their own current set of beliefs, or truths, if you will. But then, once said denomination has strayed a bit from that original ideal, one must either fracture the denomination to form a more precise faith group, or start over with the search for the Christian community most in line with “the truth”. It can be exhausting and discouraging.

Before we converted and entered the Catholic Church, the search for truth resembled this pattern in many ways, although at some point we made the logical connection that the Church of the Bible was not a democratic one, and therefore could not line up with every one of our opinions – let alone all the opinions of everyone else. I soon realized that the fact that I did not see eye to eye with the Church on every issue was a very good thing. Why? Because it meant that I was not the arbiter of truth. I am not God. And according to Isaiah 55:8, God’s thoughts are not my thoughts and neither are his ways my ways.

And indeed, over time I came to understand the Church’s teachings on so many tough issues when I simply dropped my guard and humbled myself. I am a student. A child. A sheep. How could I presume to know better than the Shepherd? Well, I suppose I could say that Jesus (the Shepherd) and I have a special, personal relationship, where he tells me things that only I understand correctly. Right, that sounds very biblical. Especially given that Jesus specifically asked Peter, the first pope, to feed and tend his sheep (Jn 21:15-17) for him. Jesus shepherds us vicariously. Thus we a have a Vicar of Christ for the teaching of faith and morals.

But wait, you say, couldn’t anyone say about their own denomination that there is dissent from doctrine; so by that standard it must be the unwavering Church that Christ founded as well? Well, no. Not for that reason alone. The very structure of the Catholic Church, along with her historical connection to the first century, is equally important. Truth must come from the top (Jesus) down. The Church is necessarily hierarchical. Doctrine cannot be formulated by the masses and then be enshrined for the time being as truth – only to be reevaluated once the sensibilities of the masses change.

Source: CatholicMemes.com

Those teachings of the Church that I am still having trouble understanding – in light of my own sense of justice, fairness, laziness, or what have you – are exactly what give me faith and peace in knowing that the Church is unchanging. She will not acquiesce to me or anyone else for the sake of being popular or evolving to fit the times. She will not be informed by human greed nor weakness. She will not bow down to anyone but her king, Jesus. The Catholic Church will not change, because God does not change (Mal 3:6).

Trick or Trunk?

Something has been troubling me this year as I noticed more and more places around town promoting “the safe alternative to trick-or-treating” or other similar advertisements. Whether it be churches offering trunk or treating in their parking lots, or malls offering trick-or-treating amongst all their stores; the idea these days seems to be that kids are not safe or treated fairly unless they are herded around, midday, to collect inferior candy. Continue reading

Fallen Leaves card front

This is a graphic card front that I designed using real pressed leaves. It is designed to be printed on a folded letter-size paper, preferably of card stock weight, but regular printer paper will work also. Blank seasonal cards are great for thoughtful notes or even special occasions. Please feel welcome to grab the full size image of this card design for your own printing and enjoy! I hope to add more designs over the coming weeks.