The Idol of the Narrative

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In Strange Gods, Elizabeth Scalia went into detail on how we create idols out of our own egos and ideas. In Little Sins Mean a Lot, there’s a whole chapter about the dangers of clinging onto unhealthy narratives. As a writer, I pay a lot of attention to the narrative. Every person has their own version of what they think their lives were like and their perspectives of the people around them.

For the longest time, I had this narrative in my head that I spent a lot of my life alone. In spite of the fact that I had a good family and went to a good school, the story of my life always focused on the times that I was bullied or neglected. I also have a tendency of using this tactic of focusing too much on the negative when it comes to remembering my exes. I think it stems from some kind of self-preservation, a tactic to keep myself safe and remind myself to avoid getting into those situations again.

However, during my recent vacation to New Jersey, I met with a couple of old friends. We reminisced about my childhood, as childhood friends always do. Then one of my friends told me something I never knew. Way back when I was in kindergarten, the seventh and eighth graders were making ants on a log (peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins) when one of them realized that having the peanut butter around could trigger my allergy. Even though I wasn’t even in the same building as them and wasn’t as sensitive to peanuts as other kids, they decided to throw out their snacks, peanut butter and all, just to make sure that I would be safe.

I also learned that my childhood best friend was very protective of me. I knew that she and I were best friends, in spite of us being complete opposites, but I never knew that she protected me as if I was part of her family. Of course, she was the youngest of four sisters so it made sense that she treated me like the little sister she never had. I was loved and cherished even by people I never really knew. The crappy stuff I went through in middle school wasn’t all bad because I still had people to talk to. I was never as alone as I always believed I was.

The narratives we tell others reveal a lot to them about how we see ourselves and how we see other people. It’s basically why I’m trying to remember the good times I had with my exes as well as the bad. While I still joke that my love life is a veritable “comedy of errors,” I don’t want to condemn the people I connected with and paint them as the worst of humanity. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ever want them back in my lives. It’s just part of me learning how to forgive them. I always like to believe that people are inherently good, but at the same time, they also have damage that they haven’t completely healed from. Some people hide this damage behind a mask while others cling to their broken narratives and play the victim. None of these are healthy coping mechanisms.

If we want to start becoming the best versions of ourselves, we need to rewrite the narrative we have for our lives. We are never as alone as we think we are. We are loved so much by people we may not even know. The people in our lives have their own narratives as well. If you have hurt someone or received damage from somebody, I’m not asking you to contact them and try to work things out. Instead, go into prayer with God and ask Him to heal the wounds in your heart. There’s a wonderful prayer Leah Libresco shared with me that honors the Five Wounds of Christ that you can pray here. If you have some emotional ties with someone, I highly recommend praying a novena to Our Lady Undoer of Knots.

As the musical Hamilton often repeats, we have no control who lives, who dies, and who tells our story. We have control over our actions and the stories we write for ourselves, but we are all in need of guidance as to how we can act and perceive things in a good way. Today, I ask you to let God write your story. Hand the narrative over to Him and see what he can do.

Star Trek Beyond: An Interstellar Phenomenon

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For those who don’t know, I am neither a die-hard fan of Star Wars nor of Star Trek. I am a Browncoat first, thank you very much.

However, I do like the new Star Trek movie series, for the most part. The first one was a very accessible movie, as it introduced me to the world of Captain Kirk, Spock, and Starfleet. I didn’t like the second one as much, however, because it tried too hard to be (essentially) a remake of The Wrath of KhanStar Trek Beyond, however, blows the other two movies way out of the water. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first because of the trailer, but this film is definitely a thrill ride from beginning to end. I haven’t felt so breathless after the end of a movie since Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The theme of the movie returns to the themes of the original series: Growing up and dealing with life in a seemingly endless journey towards discovering the unknown. I’m hoping to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible because I went into this knowing next to nothing about what the movie was about beyond what I saw from the initial trailer.

Captain James Tiberius Kirk, played by Chris Pine, records a very contemplative captain’s log. He feels that the five-year voyage has become “episodic” and he wonders if there’s any meaning to it all. This newfound maturity is a breath of fresh air compared to the immature attitude he had during the previous two movies. He’s also celebrating his birthday. However, unlike the original Kirk, he’s not scared of getting old. He’s realizing that he’s one year older than his father, who died at the same time that he was born. Chris Pine, btw, is 35 years old. He does not look it, obviously, but I like that Kirk’s character arc is centering on defining himself beyond his father’s legacy.

Speaking of legacy, Spock’s character arc centers on what he thinks is the logical choice for the continuing of his species and following his heart to keep his relationship with Uhura intact. His contemplation to leave Starfleet would also mean not seeing his best friend. He gets a change in his logical plans when he learns of the death of Spock Prime, played by the late Leonard Nimoy.

While the previous two films could be argued as centering on Kirk and Spock too much, this movie is a great example of how to handle an ensemble cast. Even the so-called “supporting members” of the crew (Uhura, Sulu, Chekov, and Scotty) play major roles in this film. As Uhura says in the film, the strength of the Enterprise crew is the fact that they stick together, even when the odds are against them. Justin Lin has a lot of experience directing ensembles in movies such as Fast and Furious and TV shows like Community and it shows in this film when the crew gets stranded on a remote planet, with limited communications.

I don’t want to say how the crew of the Enterprise ended up stranded, but I will say that the journey of the first act is a crazy thrill ride. I was legitimately scared that any one of the characters could die, even knowing that they probably have plans for the sequel.

The crew gets separated after getting stranded on the remote planet, with Kirk and Chekov trying to handle a supposed alien damsel in distress. Uhura, Sulu, and the rest of the Enterprise crew are taken captive by the main bad guy, Krall, and his band of ravagers. Bones and Spock are stranded on another part of the planet and spend a lot of hilarious moments together, even as Spock deals with a wound he received from the Enterprise’s crash landing. And Scotty, stranded in yet another part of the planet, meets Jaylah, a young alien lady who’s familiar with the territory and strikes up a good friendship with the engineer.

One thing I loved about this movie is that the only romantic relationship in the spotlight is Spock and Uhura’s. Kirk has abandoned his playboy ways since, as captain, he doesn’t want to get entangled with any of the crew and cause unnecessary drama. (Incidentally, Dr. Marcus does not appear in this movie. Which is an honest relief for me because I didn’t like her to begin with. My headcanon is that she and Kirk had a fling and she eventually left the Enterprise after the fallout of said relationship. But I digress.) The character of Jaylah stands out as a great female character who’s managed to survive on the dangerous unnamed planet in a 100-year-old starship. She spends a lot of time bonding with Scotty, but the two of them are never romantically involved. Kirk also helps Jaylah, but doesn’t get involved romantically with her, either. My usual shipping radar drove me to expect Jaylah to hook up with somebody, but it’s a breath of fresh air that she is instead a great ally who doesn’t hook up with anybody. It’s implied at the end that she’s young enough to enroll in Starfleet and Scotty pulls strings to help her on that path. I hope I see her in the next movie!

Speaking of romantic relationships, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the fact that there was a short scene in this film that shows that Sulu is gay. There is a lot of controversy over it and understandably so. However, the point of Star Trek was to show that the citizens of earth lived in a future with no racial tensions and that anything was possible for them. I honestly thought that Sulu was gay in the original anyway, so it’s no big deal for me that his sexual orientation is acknowledged here. I’m just glad that the film itself didn’t make a big deal out of Sulu being married to another man and having a daughter.

The sad part of this film, though, is that it’ll be the last film that Anton Yelchin, the actor who plays Chekov, will ever be seen in, as he died in a car accident a week before the film premiered. Chekov played a huge role in this movie, helping Kirk search for the Enterprise crew. His sweet demeanor provides for great comic relief at times. Of course, Spock and Bones provide most of the humor in this movie. Again, though, the shadow of Spock Prime still lingers in this film. I started crying during the part when Spock looks at an old photo of the original cast.

I can’t talk much about the bad guy here, though, for the sake of spoilers. All I can say is that these bad guys were a legitimate threat. There were scenes with this guy that are the stuff of nightmares!

Don’t be deterred by the trailer because all the action actually serves the plot here, crazy awesome rock music and all. It reminded me of Guardians of the Galaxy, but with a touch of philosophy from the original series. Overall, I highly recommend you see this movie.

Star Trek Beyond is copyright to Paramount. Image is used for editorial purposes only.

St. John Vianney Novena Day 8

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O Holy Priest of Ars, a witness of your life made this magnificent praise of you:
‘We would have taken him for an angel in a mortal body.”
You so edified others: the modesty and the exquisite purity radiated from your body. With such charm and with such enthusiasm you preached to others about these beautiful virtues which you said resembled the perfume of a vineyard in bloom.
Please I beg you to join your entreaties to those of Mary Immaculate and Saint Philomena in order that I guard always, as God asks me, the purity of my heart. You, who have directed so many souls towards the heights of virtue, defend me in temptations and obtain for me the strength to conquer them.
Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

St. John Vianney Novena Day 7

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O Holy Priest of Ars, the infamous attacks of the devil which you had to suffer and the trials which disheartened you by fatigue would not make you give up the sublime task of converting souls. The devil came to you for many years to disturb your short rest but you won because of mortification and prayers.
Powerful protector, you know the temptor’s desire to harm my baptized and believing soul. He would have me sin, by rejecting the Holy Sacraments and the life of virtue. But good Saint of Ars dispel from me the traces of the enemy.
Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for … (mention silently your special intentions).
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

St. John Vianney Novena Day 6

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O Holy Priest of Ars, whose only comfort in this world was the real presence of Jesus in the tabernacle, was it not your great joy to distribute the Eucharist to the pilgrims who visited you? You refused Communion to the souls who refused to reform but to souls of goodwill you opened wide the doors of the Eucharistic Feast.
You, who each day at Holy Mass received Holy Communion with great loves, give me some of your fervor. With freedom from mortal sin, obtain for me a sincere desire to profit from receiving Holy Communion.
Holy Priest of Ars, I have confidence in your intercession. Pray for me during this novena especially for… (mention silently your special intentions).
Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.