Coco: Pixar’s Most Catholic Movie

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I realize that I’m late to the Coco party. However, with Divine Mercy Sunday around the corner, I decided that this would be a #FlashbackFriday type of review. I honestly think that Coco is the most Catholic movie that Pixar ever made and I’m not just saying that because the movie is inspired by Mexican culture. What makes this movie Catholic are the themes: family, forgiveness, and never forgetting to honor the dead.

Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen this movie yet. I highly recommend at least renting the movie. It’s available on Redbox. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The emphasis on being loyal to one’s family is established early on in the movie. It’s clear from the beginning that Miguel loves his family, in spite of the fact that his abeulita tries to keep music from their lives a little too much. Miguel is especially close to his great-grandmother Coco.

Side note, but I think this is the first Disney/Pixar movie to feature an entire family unit. Both of Miguel’s parents are alive and aside from the relatives who are living in the land of the dead, nobody in Hector’s family gets killed off. Not only that, but you see a family working and living together.

The conflict that drives the movie is Miguel’s desire to pursue music, even if it means ignoring or even outright cutting himself off from his family. It’s clear that he’s a great musician and for a while, it feels as though his family takes the anti-music stance way too far, especially when Miguel’s abuelita destroys his guitar. However, the events of this movie show Miguel that it’s important to stay connected to your family, especially when he learns that Ernesto got his fame by murdering his songwriter friend Hector.

I love the character of Hector, by the way. The movie does a great job at making you suspicious of Hector at first, but he slowly becomes more endearing, especially when he encourages Miguel and shows that he cares for him and is protective of him, even though Miguel is just a stranger.

The theme of remembering the dead is what drives the subplot of the movie: Hector wants to visit his daughter and be remembered or else he will disappear into oblivion. It’s never said where the souls of the forgotten go after the “Final Death,” but it compels the audience to take on a very Catholic tradition: to pray for those who have no one to pray for. In that way, no soul is ever really forgotten.

On a similar note, the land of the dead really reminds me of Purgatory, final death thing put aside. It’s not exactly heaven, given that a murderer like Ernesto is living there, but it’s not Hell, either. It’s a place for departed souls to live and there’s still a link to those who are living, even if it’s just one day a year.

One good thing that came out of the broken pedestal experience though is that Miguel finds out that Hector is his real great-great-grandfather. This leads into the second Catholic theme of the movie, which focuses on forgiveness. When Miguel and Hector are reunited with Miguel’s deceased relatives towards the end of the second act, his great-great grandmother Imelda is reluctant to forgive Hector for leaving her.

What makes the relationship with Hector and Imelda interesting is that Imelda never remarried. She cut Hector and her love for music out of her life, even though she loved both very much. When she confronts Ernesto, she berates and hits Ernesto for “murdering the love of my life.” In classical tsundere fashion, she still claims to be mad at Hector, but she at least loves Hector enough to know that he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

I love that forgiveness is shown to be a process. Imelda goes from hating Hector to defending him to finally allowing him to be in her life and her family. This is shown in the climax, when Miguel has to return to the land of the living. At the start of the movie, Imelda wants Miguel to promise her to never pursue music again when he returns to the land of the living. In the second attempt to get Miguel back, Miguel is actually willing to make good on that condition. The third attempt, however, is made with no conditions. Just the type of selfless love that seriously has me reaching for the tissues.

The two themes of family and forgiveness get tied together in what I feel is my favorite scene: Miguel plays “Remember Me” for Coco in front of his family. His abuelita tries to stop him, but his father allows Miguel to play. The song restores Coco’s memory and allows her to tell everyone in her family about all the mementos she kept from her father and how her parents both loved music.

One year later, Miguel’s deceased relatives, Hector and Coco included, get to spend time with the living on the Day of the Dead. Miguel and his family join in on a song and it’s shown that Hector is playing along with him. All is forgiven and music has returned to the lives of the Rivera family. I love the ending of this movie because it shows that pursuing one’s passion should never come at the expense of family.

One last side note: I love the animal sidekicks in this movie, especially Dante the Xolo dog. He’s a lot like Scooby-Doo in that he seems so goofy and is kinda cute even if he’s a hairless street dog, but he is also foreshadowed to be a true guide in the land of the dead, instinctively throwing Hector and Miguel together a lot. Plus, the name is very fitting as those familiar with The Divine Comedy or at least Inferno recognize the name from the protagonist of those stories, who literally goes through a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

This movie isn’t just great to watch for the Day of the Dead. It’s one I recommend watching for Lent and even now, in the Easter season.

Pray for the souls of those who’ve died, especially those who have no one to pray for.

 

What Do You Do With The Mad That You Feel?

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AKA: How to Deal With Anger Without Tweeting About It

It’s no secret that people have a tendency to unleash their anger onto social media. Everyone does it, no matter where they fall on the political spectrum. To some extent, the anger people express is probably justified. There is a lot to be angry about in this world and we want to set things right. We want to see justice done.

So what’s the problem?

The anger that I see on social media isn’t so much “righteous anger” so much as outright wrath. People don’t just want justice. They want vengeance and cling onto their anger, screaming “Look what you did to me!” (Or, to quote Taylor Swift “Look what YOU made me do!”) Some go as far as to curse those they hate and condemn them. The words I see on Twitter and Facebook become as violent as any weapon.

I’m not going to blame the victims or try to ask people to “Forgive and Forget.” I’m asking for people to practice legitimate forgiveness and peace with those they hate. Don’t give into the endless cycle of vengeance and anger where you simply react to the words or actions someone says. I’m asking everyone who feels anger about something to let it go. Don’t condemn or hate those who’ve hurt you.

I’m not saying that it’s easy. I’m not gonna promise that those people you hate will ever change. I’m just asking people to let go of the desire for vengeance when what they really seek is truth and justice. If you’re seeking validation for your hurt, know that you are loved. If you’re seeking for things to get better, know that they will. But don’t cling to anger or react to the ignorant words of people who are just as broken as you are. News flash: The people you hate? They’re human beings just like you, no matter how their words or actions may indicate otherwise.

There are better things to do in this life than cling onto our anger. One thing that helps us keep this in mind is the phrase “Memento Mori.” Thanks to Sister Theresa Aletheia for sharing this old Church tradition with me.

As we get close to Halloween/The Day of the Dead/All Souls Day, the knowledge that we could pass from this world at any minute gives a sobering edge to all the “Carpe Diem/YOLO” you hear amongst millennials. Do we want our last words or actions to be ones of anger or reckless impulse? Probably not.

Live this life with authentic love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and gratitude.

Why We Still Need Mercy

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Why Do We Still Need Mercy?

The year of Mercy may be over, but as we enter into 2017, we are in need of mercy now more than ever.

Someone once said to me that they would rather go to Hell than forgive the people who hurt them. To my surprise, a friend of mine who converted from Protestantism said that it’s something a lot of so-called Christians say. It’s hard for me to believe that people who claim to love their neighbor can hold on to a grudge so badly that they are willing to go to Hell for it. Believe me when I say this: Hell is not worth it.

There is a reason why CS Lewis said “The doors to hell are locked from the inside.” Hell is not worth staying angry or being judgmental or believing the lies of opportunistic politicians and fake news. Mercy and forgiveness aren’t just part of being a Christian, they are a part of having a healthy life.

I’m not saying to “forgive and forget.” I’m not saying you should reconcile to the people who hurt you. I’m not saying you should act like nothing happened. I’m asking you to let go. Let go of your anger. Let go of the hatred you feel. This is the greatest act of mercy you can do for the ones you and for yourself. The healing can’t begin until you let it all go.

How does forgiveness tie into mercy?

Whenever some bad news about a shooting or certain political groups comes up, volatile reactions on Twitter often follow afterwards. People blame others or buy into false rhetoric. What nobody seems to realize is that mercy is the real answer. Mercy is given to those you don’t think deserve it because they’re the ones who need it most. Without mercy, we are no better than the people who commit those violent acts and the ones we see as arrogant and overly powerful.

Through mercy and forgiveness, we can find the hope and a renewal of trust we have been lacking this year. We may not be able to trust the ones who’ve hurt us, but we can hope for the best for them and trust that we can be smarter going forward. We can avoid the fate of those who lost someone to death without making amends.

I know that right now, practicing mercy and forgiveness can be an unimaginable thing. But nothing is impossible with God.

What can we do?

I know that right now, everyone’s saying that 2016 has been the worst year in history. Believe me when I say that history has seen worse years. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. The year of Mercy may be over, but since we are in the last week of Advent, I think it would be a good time to start practicing mercy and forgiveness. It even says so in the Bible!

If you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

– Matthew 5:23-24

Give someone the gift of mercy and forgiveness this Advent.

Why Brock Turner Needs Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli

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There is a reason why justice and mercy go hand in hand. Like the rest of the internet, I was disgusted over the way-too-lenient sentence that Brock Turner received from the judge. While I am devoted to Divine Mercy and advocate forgiveness, I also know that six months in jail is not actual justice. Brock Turner isn’t sorry.

Which is why, instead of screaming “Rape culture” and “Check your privilege,” I am asking Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli to pray over this situation.

Why Maria Goretti?

For those who don’t know, Maria Goretti, like the victim of the Stanford rape case, was damaged by the guy who sexually assaulted her. In fact, she died as a result of her trying to defend herself from her would-be rapist.

I’m already asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession for the victim of the rape case because she needs all the support she can get. In some ways, the victim will have to suffer a lot more than Maria Goretti did because she has to live with the trauma for the rest of her life.

But why does the perpetrator need the intercession of the victim of attempted rape and murder? And how would the man who killed Maria Goretti help?

I’m asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession because the scales of justice and mercy are thrown out of balance. Alessandro got a proper sentence for the murder he committed. He began his thirty-year jail sentence angry and unrepentant. He blamed Maria Goretti for everything and he was very violent around his inmates. Six years later, Maria appeared to Alessandro in a vision. In this vision, she was in a garden picking 14 lilies and she gave those 14 lilies one by one to Alessandro. Each lily represented a stab that Alessandro inflicted upon her. Through this gesture, Maria showed that she forgave her murderer for what he did and what he wanted to do.

I understand that there is no frickin way that Brock Turner deserves forgiveness.  Improper justice was given to Brock Turner. Binge-drinking and whatever the victim was wearing did not cause this rape to happen. Brock Turner chose to rape her. And sadly, he’s not sorry for that particular action. His father and the judge aren’t sorry, either. The victim will probably never forgive them.

Here’s the thing, though. None of us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget what happened, either. Mercy demands justice. The reason I’m asking for Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli’s intercession is because the scales of justice need to regain their balance. I pray that Brock Turner will feel the weight of his actions. I pray that the victim will not be a prisoner of her trauma nor will she be labeled a “slut” for what happened. I pray that people will understand that drinking and going out to a nightclub aren’t to blame here.

People these days feel entitled to have whatever they want. It’s not just a privilege issue because entitlement can be found everywhere. But I’m not here to rage against the fallen state of this country. There are too many people doing that already.

I’m here to ask for justice and mercy to be rendered to everyone involved. I’m asking people to look at each other and see a person and not someone to use for their own means. I’m asking for harsher sentences for rapists and for judges to have a little more wisdom. I’m asking for you to look into what mercy and forgiveness really mean and try and apply that to your life. Most of all, I pray that somehow, someday, all the people involved will learn to forgive each other and to forgive themselves, but to never forget what happened.

If you want to know more about Maria Goretti, read this post I wrote from last November when I venerated her relics. There’s also a video from the Mass that I went to that night. I linked the video to start at the homily:

P.S.: Who wants to bet that Law and Order SVU will totally do a ripped from the headlines episode based on this?

Struggling With Habitual Sin: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 10

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From today’s reflection:

Everyone has their weaknesses, their vulnerable spots, the parts of their souls that are the most susceptible to temptation. Some people have a very bad temper. Others struggle with gossiping or lying or with emotional chastity. Even if we’re not addicted to “hard substances” like alcohol or drugs, our tendency to desire sin can lead us to one of four addictions: wealth, pleasure, power, and honor. Sin can be a bad habit to have and at some point, you might be wondering “Why do I keep going to Confession for the same sin over and over again?”

Find out the answer here.

Admitting You Have a Problem: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 9

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From today’s reflection:

Today’s passage is definitely soap opera worthy. Heck, give this story to the writers of Game of Thrones and you could easily see this happening on HBO: A king lusts over the wife of one of his soldiers, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then kills her husband by sending him over to the front lines where he was guaranteed to die.

This is one of King David’s worst moments. If this was a Shakespeare play, it could’ve been a serious permanent tragedy. And yet, in spite of all the drama, there was some good that came out in the end.

But what can we learn from all the tragedy and heartache?

Find out here!

The Fruits of Confession: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 8

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From today’s reflection:

Let’s take a look at a person who committed a sin that some people still haven’t forgiven. He betrayed Jesus around the hour of his death, abandoned Jesus even when he swore up and down that he would always be there for his Savior. In spite of the fact that he betrayed Christ, though, he still became a great leader. In fact, he becomes the head of the Church.

Yep, Saint Peter had an experience with confession, just as every other sinner who came to Jesus. The denial he made during that night that Jesus was put on trial was forgiven when Jesus asked Peter “Do you love me?” three times.

My friend Kristin shares her conversion story here!

 

Learning to Forgive Yourself: Forgiveness Bible Study Day 6

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From today’s reflection:

One often misunderstood aspect about God’s grace is that we have to deserve it. Nobody deserves God’s grace or mercy. It’s instead given as a gift, whether we feel like we deserve it or not.

The Catholic Church holds everyone up to a high standard because our purpose in life is to be a saint. At the same time, the Church loves us so unconditionally that no matter how far we fall, we can return to the Church, ask for forgiveness, and receive that grace. It does not mean that we take advantage of that grace. It doesn’t mean that we don’t deserve that grace.

So what does it mean?

It means that God is asking a lot from us when we receive His mercy.

Read the rest here!