Recently, I received a couple of questions from Luminas, a great follower of this blog, through the “Ask Medieval” page. The first will be answered in this post and the second in a later one. After that, I have high hopes of answering my next dear reader and hope for many more questions to follow!
This question concerns why I am so devoted to Padre Pio over other saints who are similar in many ways. First, let me start by describing Catholic worship and devotion for those who might not be so familiar with it. It consists of three levels denoted by their Greek names: latria, hyperdulia, and dulia. Latria refers to worship giving to God alone as Author of the Universe, Savior of the Human Race, and Source of All Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. Hyperdulia refers specifically to the reverence paid to the Blessed Virgin Mary for being the Mother of God, the human being whose cooperation was most essential for humanity’s salvation, and the most graced human being in all of history. Dulia refers to the reverence paid to the saints and angels for being devout servants of God and dear friends of God deserving of imitation. Latria is absolutely necessary for salvation, hyperdulia morally necessary, and dulia necessary to practice when obligated by one’s diocese (as in a saint’s feast day being declared a holy day of obligation) but mostly subject to personal taste. Having said that, many spiritual authors strongly recommend devotion to St. Michael, St. Joseph, and the holy angels as a group. Be sure to thank your guardian angel for putting up with you so patiently since your days in the cradle!
TWWK of Beneath the Tangles wrote a very good article on what Christians need to think about when deciding whether to watch anime or not. I highly encourage my dear readers to peruse it. I’ve linked to it below.
You’ve probably read many posts about which anime to watch in celebration of Halloween. I missed the boat on that, but Halloween is actually part of a three day observance. An alternate name for Halloween is All Hallows’ Eve, referring to it being the night before All Saints’ Day. Today, after All Saints’ Day, comes All Souls’ Day.
And so, we ought to be thinking about the afterlife over the course of these days. While Halloween’s original purpose in time immemorial may have been for people to prepare for All Saints’ Day, the ghoulish costumes along with the emphasis on horror movies in October brings to mind hell rather than heaven. On November 1st, we think of the blessed in heaven. Today, we think instead of the poor souls who yet await the final cleansing of their souls before they enter the Pearly Gates.
I wrote a rather detailed post about some themes I discerned in the Read or Die manga. It’s now posted on Beneath the Tangles, and I hope to get back to posting twice a month on this wonderful site–the best anime blog for describing anime according to a Christian worldview. May you enjoy the post linked to below!
One conversation between a couple of Nazis in “episode zero” of Dies Irae caught my attention:
There is only one priest to whom she could be referring to; though, the gift of reading hearts has not been confined to one priest of the twentieth century–or to Catholic priests for that matter. This particular priest almost certainly Padre Pio.
I have dubbed Padre Pio–more formally, St. Pio of Pietrelcina–“the last medieval saint.” Though he lived from 1887 to 1968, accounts of the miraculous phenomena surrounding Padre Pio seem to belong to the saints of the thirteenth century, like St. Francis of Assisi whom Padre Pio referred to as “Our Seraphic Father.” For, Padre Pio was not only a priest, but a Capuchin monk whose order followed the Rule of St. Francis. Among the accounts of the miraculous surrounding Padre Pio, he saw visions of Jesus, Mary, and other saints, read hearts, received the stigmata, prayed successfully for the healing of people’s bodies and souls, bilocated, spoke in foreign tongues which he never studied, and had the gift of prophecy.
Most of you have not heard of this historical novel of Mark Twain’s; yet, he regarded it as his best work. In his own words, “I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none.” Mark Twain is known as something of a humorist, and many humorists see the dark side of life and turn to humor as a way to cope with it. For example, many people know that Twain often wrote to underscore the injustice of Southern society towards blacks–both before and after the Civil War. Twain loved fairness and justice above all, and these things shone yet more gloriously when painted against a background of villainy.
Here is a little reflection I made on the role of mediation in religion, noting differences in Catholicism and Protestantism as well as differences between modern and ancient societies. The article does not come to a proper point, but I hope that it can give my dear readers food for thought.
Happy Easter, my dear readers! Christus resurrexit! Resurrexit sicut dixit! Alleluia! Today, we celebrate Christ’s double victory over sin and death, a share of which victory Christ offers to all humanity. Though we are yet troubled by sin in this life, we shall one day cease to offend God and men and no longer be troubled by the effects of human wickedness in ourselves and others. Though we all shall die, death has been transformed into the entrance to life illimitable. How great the reward, and how little God asks of us! Even if our malice, weakness, and ignorance frequently cause us to fall short of God’s commands, repentance continually brings us ever closer to God despite many falls.
Recently, I made the happy discovery of another “Dante class anime”: Blood Blockade Battlefront. (See the page “Anime for Christians“ for a description of “Dante class anime.”) Many who have seen this anime might thinks that monsters are the only thing Blood Blockade Battlefront has in common with The Divine Comedy. But, Christian themes are intentionally used throughout the show. I was first alerted to the possibility of this when Mary MacBeth says that people commit the same wrongs they did two thousand years ago when Christ came to earth.
Theological questions are rather muted in Chaos; Child until the depths of Onoe and Takuru’s relationship is revealed at the end of the series. The odd and poorly Englished subtitle to Chaos; Child reads: “If you are God, and the delusion becomes reality. About what kind of noids you get? Is it the sensual world? The despotic society? The destructive sanctions? Or…” Or, will your lust to solve a convoluted and macabre mystery materialize? By the end, I realized that Takuru is essentially a God character and Onoe is his creature, created by his psychic powers during his hour of need in the Shibuya earthquake set off by the events of Chaos; Head. For this reason, Takuru holds himself responsible for Onoe’s murders: they were committed to fulfill Takuru’s subconscious desire for solving a complex mystery and being a hero.
The first thing to notice about Takuru’s Haruhi Suzumiya-esque existence is his intrinsically flawed godhood. The real God does not need His creatures (Psalm 50:6 – 13) and His care of them is for the sake of their happiness, even if God delights in the happiness of His creatures. Conversely, Takuru needs Onoe, and she exists for him to be happy and rejoices in Takuru’s happiness. This reversal must happen whenever one incomplete being takes another incomplete being for its god.
Recently, I have been watching You’re Under Arrest: Full Throttle. Those of you who watch the show know that one character named Aoi is a transvestite/trap, who gives no indication of masculinity save for his height. In episode six, a former superior who knew Aoi when he transitioned shows up and tries for a second time to make a man out of him. He puts Aoi through judo and other tough training in order to accomplish this, but Aoi persists in being more feminine than the female heroines. In the end, this superior gives up, and assumes that Aoi is fine living the way he does.
Here, I don’t want to discuss the ethics of changing a transvestite to conform to their sex. Instead, this episode reminds me of the difficulty of changing one’s ways–whether they be habits, opinions, vices, or sins. A friend once told me that a man doesn’t change much after reaching the age of twenty-five. (Though, many great saints experienced conversions around this age.) I assume the same rule applies to women. There is a strong likelihood of retaining all the evil habits one has acquired by this point to the grave; though, they will naturally ameliorate or worsen depending on our recognition of these faults and our attempts to overcome them. Sometimes, one does succeed in uprooting a vice entirely through time, effort, prayer, and the sacraments. During the long period of struggle, victory seems impossible as the long force of habit draws us again and again to sin–even over the course of decades.
Watching Chain Chronicle has proven quite fun so far. This classic fantasy provides the viewer with a bevy of strong heroes, implacable foes, beautiful warrior maidens, and a Luke Skywalker-ish hero for its viewers to engage in “egocentric castle building,” as C. S. Lewis termed it in An Experiment in Criticism. This is a fantasy fully in the spirit of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s fun, but nothing within the story thus far has struck me as uncommon.
Bruckhardt’s fall from grace counts as the most interesting event of the story thus far. From the first, my ears heard “Blackheart” when the seiyuu pronounced the knight’s name, and episode three revealed his transformation to a Blackheart indeed. The twin scourges of pride and melancholy oppressed him on account of the preferment Yuri gave to Aram. This allowed him to fall easy prey to the evil influence of the Black King’s demon. There is no faster way to hell than pride: the way Lucifer fell and the chief fault of Adam. Even the early Church Fathers wrote that pride alone suffices to send one to hell, even as humility provides the surest means to salvation among the virtues.
A Christian ought to daily nourish his spirit with theology or the good example of the saints. The Bible accomplishes both admirably; yet, it can sometimes strike one as too abstract or its familiarity blocks us from receiving new insights. This is where spiritual books are an enormous help.
St. John Bosco, pray for us!
Below, I have included three recommendations and write a little about what makes them unique. Hopefully, one or more of these will make your reading list in the near future.
1) Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson
This is probably the most prosaic version of the world’s end I have ever encountered. Written prior to WWI, Benson actually predicted that war and posits that the world will end in the early 21st century. Readers of the Apocalypse know that there shall be widespread irreligion at the end of the world: the religious shall be few and far between, and God’s punishments will cause the impenitent to curse God rather than amend their lives. What is the primary cause for the world ending around the beginning of the 21st century? The rise of communism and the culture of death.
Calumniating the memory of the saints and great men counts as one of the blackest crimes a writer can commit. Not only does the calumniator blacken someone’s reputation, but he damages the heritage of new generations. Each generation has a right to have heroes to look up to and emulate. One can claim that Drifters‘ portrayal is mere fiction, but most people get their information about the past from media, especially because schools don’t properly educate the youth on the subject of history. Many people do believe that St. Joan of Arc was insane and delusional.
While watching Berserk (2016), one cannot but be struck by how much evil exists in that world. In that way, it imitates our own world, where every depravity has been committed at least a thousand times over. Most figures in the story strike one as villains or mindless drones. Few are like Guts in taking a stand against the forces of evil. Decent people are mostly powerless against evil, and the majority only want to save their own skin–even at the expense of another’s life or hundreds of other lives. This anime provides as bleak a picture of humanity. Even death does not provide rest, as souls swallowed by demons remain trapped in their anger, hatred, and despair.
But, I repeat that this world is much like ours: there is even the presence of grace though characters deny the efficacy of prayer and claim that only deeds count. The concepts of grace and providence apply more to Nina than any other character. Her surviving merciless soldiers, monstrous executioners, a fall of several stories, an ogreish inquisitor, and an army of infernal blob demons can only be considered providential and gracious. Did she deserve it? No, all her actions are selfish and call for punishment, from her clinging to life at all costs and participation at Satanic orgies to her consistent betrayal of associates and friends.
The latest episode of 91 Days inspires this topic, especially in light of what happened at the end of that episode. Angelo has lived without purpose for the seven years following the murder of his family. He exists in a cheap apartment with no signs of individuality and makes a living through theft. He constantly thinks about his one great treasure, his deceased family, and has no desire to really live. This makes him easy to manipulate as Angelo becomes embroiled in the power struggle within the Vanetti mob. While he shows himself resolute, resourceful, and tough, he soon becomes a pawn barely able to exercise his own will.
The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself. Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy. The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist. In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist. Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland. But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers. In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration. Contention and ostracism are feared above all. At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for. Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth. The relativist blows with the winds of expediency.
I’ve known about Princess Tutu since around 2004, but have only just decided to watch it due to Josh W’s influence. One does not expect a fantasy show revolving around ballet to be this good, and part of the entertainment lies in how little of the plot is straightforward. In the city where the tale takes place, storybook characters can enter the real world. Prince Mytho stands as one such person and so is his antagonist, the Raven. According to the book, written by an eccentric named Drosselmeyer, the Prince sealed the Raven’s power through shattering his own heart. Though Mytho succeeded in his object, he has become the shell of a human being. The heroine, Duck, is approached by Drosselmeyer and given the power to transform into Princess Tutu so that she might restore Mytho’s heart to its proper condition. However, restoring Mytho’s heart brings him pain and sorrow which he would never experience without a heart. Also, the advent of the Raven’s release from his imprisonment is simultaneously advanced by the restoration of Mytho’s heart.
Here is the article I promised on magic in anime, which will especially focus on Flying Witch. My arguements proceed from several premises, developed from Catholic theology and my years reading fantasy fiction, which I shall list here:
All occult magic–i.e. not the kind resorting to deception or sleight of hand–in the real world is evil.
Magic in the real world is evil because it involves the diabolic.
To encourage or to support magic or the occult is always wrong.
In fiction, there can exist types of magic not associated with the diabolic because the rules of fictional world and settings are not those of the real world.
The decision to approve or condemn a fictional work’s portrayal of magic depends upon its similarity to the occult and whether it presents the magic as positive or negative.
The seventh volume of the Spice and Wolf novels offers a break from the main story. This annoyed me because of how little happened in volume six: the worst volume thus far. Volume seven features the usual bad religion, especially in the novella which forms the first part of the book. (You can tell already what most of my comments shall be about.) This novella and one of the short stories were as bland as the prior volume. Only “The Red of the Apple, The Blue of the Sky” showed Isuna Hasekura at his best. The second short story was interesting in how it took Holo’s perspective, revealing how terribly insecure and anxious Holo is behind her quick-witted and capable facade.
The novella takes place before Holo settles down as the goddess of the harvest and concerns two children, Aryes and Klass, who are forced to flee their lord’s estate and find a new life for themselves in a far off town. On the way, they run into Holo, who makes herself extremely useful and extremely annoying by turns. (Holo appears unable to help teasing any man or boy in her company.) The story ends with a thrilling chase, which would have been better without the twist.
The anime Bungo Stray Dogs, another called Shigofumi, and certain blog comments have inspired me to write this article. Shigofumi, an anime highly reminiscent of Kino’s Journey, (For interesting me in the latter series, my thanks go to Genki Jason of the blog Genkinahito.) hits the nail right on the head in the way it portrays evil as the negation of being in the first couple of episodes. Since many of my fellow bloggers watch Bungo Stray Dogs, my article will focus on that series rather than Shigofumi, but I highly recommend it to those who love introspective dramas. There are some spoilers, but you should be fine as long as you have watched the first seven episodes of Bungo Stray Dogs.
In this series, I have been flabbergasted by both Osamu Dazai’s predilection for suicide–which is treated as absurd–and his nihilistic outlook, which shows his predilection for suicide to be no laughing matter. His statement “Justice is a weapon” stands as the most nihilistic statement I have heard all year. (By the way, if you wish to read an excellent article on Dazai’s statement and the nature of justice, read Annalyn’s article here. No more digressions–I promise!) Dazai, even if he works for the good guys, counts as an anti-hero if not a downright villain. Though he pooh-poohs ideals, his statements prove that he has his own ideology, which is not far from the ideals of some of the worst villains.