Captain Marvel: A Conversion Story (And A Movie Spoiler-Free Review)

Higher. Further. Faster.

This movie is worth the hype. Even though the marketing behind this movie was a bit on the pushy side, causing a lot of political controversy, I am gonna be judging this movie on its own merits.

When I first saw this trailer, I knew this movie would have me the moment that Captain Marvel fell through the roof of a Blockbuster. What I didn’t expect was that this movie was actually a conversion story a la Saint Paul.

Hear me out.

Saint Paul started out fighting on the wrong side of things. Back when he went by the name of Saul, he took his hatred of Christians to the extreme, going on missions to kill innocent people. Those who’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy and Agents of SHIELD know that the Kree are a bunch of radicals bent on galactic domination and kill anything and everything that won’t bow down to their will. The problem is that the Kree have brainwashed Captain Marvel into becoming their personal living weapon.

When Captain Marvel ends up on Earth, she starts to learn the truth about her past and about the Kree. Once she reconnects with who she really is, she starts fighting for the right side, just like how Paul (once the Truth was revealed to him) became a missionary for Christ.

There are so many wonderful moments I loved in this movie. The first thing I’ll mention are the two, yes two tributes to Stan Lee. Right at the beginning, as the Marvel Logo played, I watched a montage of Stan Lee’s cameos playing in the letters. I started tearing up and the movie didn’t even start yet. Later on, Captain Marvel smiles at Stan Lee as he’s memorizing his lines for the Kevin Smith movie Mallrats. Even though I know Stan Lee didn’t really have a hand in creating Captain Marvel, the captain’s smile was heartwarming as she chose not to smile for a catcaller on a motorbike.

I also loved seeing a softer side to Nick Fury. Some people were complaining about Fury not being his usual badass self. I would like to remind everyone that some of the most popular moments in the MCU were the moments when the heroes were cutting loose. Think of the scene where all the Avengers were playing with Thor’s hammer in Age of Ultron or the cute Homecoming prep montage in Spider-Man Homecoming. We do not get enough moments of the heroes being chill. Also, Goose is the real star of the movie. Nuff said.

One other thing I loved was all the 90s aesthetic. I was born in 1990, so I count myself as a 90s kid. My ears perked up every time I recognized a song from my childhood and in a lot of ways, Captain Marvel reminds me of Buffy, too.

So speaking of feminist heroes, I will address the political aspect of this movie. In my honest opinion, the feminism was done just right. Not all the men in this movie were evil or condescending to Captain Marvel. In fact, Fury basically becomes a “buddy cop” with Carol. The sexism Carol experienced in her past felt realistic. After all, the US Air Force, at the moment, is only 20% women. Best of all, the movie held its own without the need for a forced romantic subplot. (Although if Avengers Endgame follows the comics and shows some ship tease with Captain Marvel and Rhodey, I am more than ready to ship it!)

Basically, I’m saying that politics aside, this movie is amazing. Whatever issues I have with the movie are spoiler-related minor nitpicks at best. I cannot wait to see Captain Marvel and the Avengers kick Thanos’s ass in April.

But I’m still not ready for it, okay?!

Do You Really HAVE TO Vote?

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I’ve been quiet about the election because I don’t like politics. I’m what you would call a swing voter. Back when I was in college, I voted for Obama because I blindly believed in what he was promising the American people. Four years later, voted Republican because I didn’t agree with Obama’s policies.

Now here I am again four years later at another Presidential election. Voting for the lesser of two evils is sadly not an option for me anymore.

I don’t support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I never have and I never will.

Something I’ve been noticing since middle school is that whenever the current political sphere is undesirable, people from Hollywood start doing public service announcements that compel people to vote. You might remember the Vote or Die campaign during the 2004 elections or Lena Dunham’s infamous viral video during the 2012 presidential election.

Joss Whedon has now contributed to the current zeitgeist with this anti-Trump video:

Even the cast of Hamilton is getting on this:

It’s just too bad that Whedon and Lin-Manuel Miranda have also thrown their hats into Clinton’s ring. Bless your hearts, both of you. I love you, but I have to disagree here.

It’s gotten to the point that Blimey Cow has parodied the pro-voting bandwagon:

The problem with all the appeals to get people to vote is that it comes off sounding like voting is mandatory. I understand that voting is a necessity, but I also believe in preserving the right to opt out of voting for a few reasons, most of which are talked about in this awesome video:

So what’s my solution? If you really want to vote, do research on third parties. Look into the Libertarian Party or the American Solidarity Party. Look into any other party that’s not covered by the mainstream media. Inform yourself so that you don’t just vote blindly.

And before you start telling me that voting for a third party will just be a wasted vote, there are a couple of articles that say otherwise. There’s also a history of third party presidential nominees who were able to capture a considerable amount of votes. Not to mention that Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt represented what were considered third parties during the time of their elections. Lincoln can be considered the first Republican and Roosevelt was from the Bull Moose party.

If you really don’t want to vote, you don’t have to, at least when it comes to choosing the next President. We live in a country where we have the right to refuse things as a form of protest. When this election is over, the people will end up complaining about the President no matter who wins. You can rest easy knowing you refused to give your vote to them. You can still vote for candidates you feel would be acceptable, such as Senators, Representatives, and people who will run your state and city. Keep up with local issues as well. Something I learned in my sociology class is that we can’t expect the President to fix our problems. Voting local (on a state-wide and city level) has a better impact on changing our everyday lives than who we pick to run our country.

In the end, I hope that no matter what you do, your decision will be an informed and wise one.

Pray to St. Jude, St. Rita, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception for our country.

History is Happening in Manhattan: The Beauty of the Tony Awards

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“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.”-William Shakespeare, Ask You Like It

Musicals, to me, are like a love affair. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with musicals. In spite of all the tragedy and internet debate, I still looked forward to the Tony awards.

Now I know that award shows can get political and the Tonys are no different. But I stand by what James Corden said:

But as my pastor said today in his homily during Daily Mass, we can only overcme evil with good and be loving in the face of hatred. I don’t agree with all the political stuff being talked about. I just want to remind everyone that in spite of everything, there is always good happening in this world.

On with the show!

Everyone on Broadway knew that Hamilton was basically the selling point, the darling, so it’s no surprise that the show opened with a Hamilton-style introduction of James Corden.

However, the real opening number was a beautiful, inspiring song about how theater inspires people to go into acting.  There’s a magic to theater that can’t be completely captured in film or television and the quick changes in this number shows a little glimpse of that magic. And yeah, I was listing off every single musical he referenced. The Doctor would be proud of you, Craig.

Corden described the Tonys in his opening monologue as “The Oscars, but with diversity.” There were more than a few shots taken at Trump and their support for a certain presidential nominee wasn’t exactly subtle either. She was senator of New York, after all. But I love that actors of every age and race was nominated for a major award.

As of now, my latest musical love affair is with Hamilton, which had a record-breaking 16 Tony nominations. Due to multiple actors being nominated in the same categories, the musical could only win a total of 13 possible awards. They ended up winning 11, including Best Musical. So before I get to squeeing over that, I want to give attention to the other shows that performed that night. Warning, though, I am very sick with a case of Hamilaria, so forgive all the Hamilton puns I’ll be making throughout this blog post.

The first musical number performed featured the cast of School of Rock: The Musical. I admit that I was kind of skeptical about this adaptation, but watching the performance opened my mind to the idea.”You’re In The Band” shows Dewey assembling his rock band, with the kids getting more excited as the song got more bombastic. I love that the kids played their instruments live (although I’m not sure where the electrical instruments are plugged into). It’s a very-high energy performance that I hope inspires future kids to try and take a shot.

The next number was from Shuffle Along, a musical about the making of a Broadway show in the 1920s. The performance featured a lot of beautiful tap dancing that had me considering taking lessons. Audra McDonald’s voice was as gorgeous as always. The melody of the song and all those tap dancers stirred up pure, undiluted joy in my heart.

She Loves Me, nominated for Best Revival, had a performance that starred Jane Krakowski from The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Zachary Levi from Tangled and Laura Benanti aka Alura and Aunt Astra on Supergirl. This musical won the Tony for best set design and I totally get why. I also have to give Jane props for dancing her heart in the first song. She’s absolutely adorable! Zachary Levi is utterly charming, too. But Laura Benanti totally clinched her performance. Never have I ever heard anyone sing so passionately about vanilla ice cream! The romantic comedy role she’s playing is such a huge contrast from her serious role on Supergirl and her role as the Baroness in the NBC live showing of The Sound of Music. I absolutely love it!

Another musical nominated for Best Revival was Fiddler on the Roof. James Corden showed Josh Groban playing Tevye at the age of 17. Josh Groban took it with great stride. (Your face needs to stop, it’s so cute!) The cast of Fiddler performed “Sunrise, Sunset” and the huge wedding reception dance number. You can really see how much work they put into it.

The musical I knew the least about was Bright StarBright Star is a musical set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina during the 40s with flashbacks to the 20s. The play is written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. It was definitely an interesting performance, but I’m not sure if it’s for me.

Two other musicals nominated for Best Revival were The Color Purple and Spring AwakeningThe Color Purple‘s song was perfectly apropos because they sang about how “The Good Lord Works In Mysterious Ways.” It reminded the audience that in spite of the bad things that happen, God will always come through. Then Cynthia Ervio sings a beautiful solo about gratitude and accepting yourself. It’s no wonder that it won Best Revival.

In contrast, Spring Awakening was performed by a cast of deaf teenagers from the Deaf West Theatre. The songs were performed with singers, but most of the actors “sung” the lyrics in American Sign Language. I liked the concept of this revival because, as Marlee Matlin described it, the story of Spring Awakening is “a cautionary tale of lust and longing teenagers and the adults who refuse to hear them.” The musical is skeptical and confusing, much like adolescence is, and this revival shows that even people who can’t hear have a voice.

My dad, who is a huge fan of Gloria Estefan loved the performance from the cast of On Your Feet. He told me that Ana Villafane went to the same high school as Gloria Estefan. The resemblance between Ana and Gloria is very uncanny! Emilio Esetefan, Gloria’s husband, also announced that everyone in the cast is here in the country legally, papers and all. Gloria and Ana had a vivacious performance

Out of all the original musicals nominated this year, though, Waitress was the one that caught my eye the most. I already knew Jessie Mueller from her role of Carole King in Beautiful. The number started with “Opening Up” and ended with a goosebump-inducing rendition of “She Used to Be Mine” featuring Sara Bareilles (who wrote the score and songs for this musical) and Jessie Mueller. The song reminds me of the worst years of my life, when I thought I lost myself. Also, I want Jesse Mueller to be Sara Bareilles in some future biopic.

Now, while musicals were the main feature of the night, a few plays caught my attention. Eclipsed looks into the lives of captive sex slaves living through the Liberian civil war. The Father, a play centering on a man with dementia, stars Frank Langella from Frost/Nixon. King Charles III intrigued me because it’s inspired by Shakespearean tragedy but mixes it with speculative fiction as to what kind of king Prince Charles might be. Other notable plays are the revivals of two Arthur Miller plays: The Crucible and A View from The Bridge. I was also familiar with Noises Off because my college did a production of that during my first year. A View From the Bridge won Best Revival and The Humans (a play set in WWII) won Best Play.

And now, to my favorite parts. Namely, the parts where Hamilton won most of the things! (11/13 ain’t bad as far as I’m concerned.)

It didn’t surprise that Daveed Diggs won Best Featured Actor. I loved Renee Elise Goldsberry‘s acceptance speech. I had no idea that she struggled to have children and I’m so happy that she has two kids now and values them enough to save them for last in her speech. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s tear-jerking sonnet as he accepted his Tony for Best Score made me want to give him a hug. Thomas Kail, the director of Hamilton, won Best Direction of A Musical. I tweeted: “Thomas, that was a real nice declaration.” The surprise of the night, though, was Leslie Odom Jr. winning the Tony for Leading Actor in a Musical for his performance of Aaron Burr.

Then, of course, were the wonderful performances from the cast. The first one, aside from the opening, was a performance of “History Has Its Eyes On You” and “Yorktown.”

Angelhamilfan on tumblr pointed out something interesting about this performance:

I feel like people are missing something really key that happened in the 2016 Tonys performance.

Lin changed one word. But that’s all it took to change the meaning of the performance and the Tonys.

“Weapon with my hands.”

They didn’t just take out the muskets to show solidarity, Lin is trying to teach us that what we do, say and write will change perspective for generations to come. He’s showing us how we don’t need a gun or violence to fight for what we believe in. Like Alexander, we have our hands. Our writing. Our words are immortalized when we write, no matter who takes us away. The massacre in Orlando has devastated our country, but why stay silent? Why give them what they want and silence ourselves? We need to make something that is immortalized. Teach generations that come that you can take away our loved ones, but you can NEVER take our words.

It’s the message of the Schuyler Sisters in the closing number that I love the most, though: “Look around, look around at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” In spite of all the bad things that are happening, we are lucky to be alive right now. We are blessed.

Pope Francis Drops the Mic to Congress

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Mr. Vice-President,

Mr. Speaker,

Honorable Members of Congress,

You have no idea just how much Pope Francis just pwned you with that speech. I’m sorry if I sound like a word that starts with B and rhymes with witch, but I hope you guys were actually listening and not just waiting to applaud.

I expected Pope Francis to mention Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln, but the fact that Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton were also major parts of the speech is also awesome. Although Thomas Merton wasn’t born in America, he did contribute a sense of spirituality to American culture. But I’ll look more into these four in another post. Right now, Pope Francis has the stage.

Without further ado, Top 10 Moments in Which Pope Francis Pwned Congress. (In chronological order.)

1. All political activity must serve and promote the good of the human person and be based on respect for his or her dignity…  If politics must truly be at the service of the human person, it follows that it cannot be a slave to the economy and finance.  Politics is, instead, an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good: that of a community which sacrifices particular interests in order to share, in justice and peace, its goods, its interests, its social life. 

2. (In reference to the Syrian refugees) We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation.  To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.  We need to avoid a common temptation nowadays: to discard whatever proves troublesome.  Let us remember the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” 

3.   The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.  The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.

4.  I am convinced that this way is the best, since every life is sacred, every human person is endowed with an inalienable dignity, and society can only benefit from the rehabilitation of those convicted of crimes.

5.  Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?  Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.  In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

6.  It is my wish that throughout my visit the family should be a recurrent theme.  How essential the family has been to the building of this country!  And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement!  Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without.  Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family.  I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.

7.  In particular, I would like to call attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young.  For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair.  Their problems are our problems.  (This one is one I particularly relate to.)

8. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future.  Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family.

9.  A nation can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to “dream” of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

10. God bless America! (Or as my friend Ana said “What he really means is “Kiss my ass.”)

 

I Pledge Allegiance To…

Let’s talk about flags for a minute.

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Trigger warning: You’re probably not gonna like this post. If you aren’t going to comment with civility, please go to Tumblr and complain there like everyone else.

Flags are symbols. They are both historical and current. They represent a country’s legacy or an idea.

Let’s start with the most controversial flag as of today:

Confederate_flag

 

I distinctly remember driving through Alabama and seeing this flag flying. I don’t have a picture of it, but I also don’t remember people being up in arms about it the way they were with South Carolina. To many people, this flag is a symbol of hate, dissent, and racism.

On the other hand, this flag has historical context, so it should be shown in museums and in historical-based games and on the Dukes of Hazzard merchandise because that flag is still a part of Southern culture.

Rebecca Frech says that the recent controversy over this flag is because the issue was brought up from people outside of South Carolina. “If they were left alone, they’d probably vote to move it elsewhere like we have. But once Yankees start pushing us ignorant southerners around, we dig in our heels and won’t budge an inch. I’m in favor of moving or removing the flag if the people of South Carolina want it moved. But I’m against Yankees coming in and telling them they should move it.”

I am a Yankee by birth. I was born north of the Mason-Dixon line and spent most of my childhood there. However, I’ve been living in Texas for almost ten years. I’ve seen the Southern pride as well as Southern hospitality. Heck, the Texas State Capitol currently flies another form of the Confederate flag to honor the Six Flags Over Texas. (Not the theme park.)

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

The Confederate Flag can be found right next to the Texas state flag.

So while I understand the controversy, I feel like people have gone too far in the name of political correctness.

Speaking of politics, let’s move onto the next flag…

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This flag represents an idea. And it’s been all over my news feed because of the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision to make same-sex marriage legal nationwide. My college was ironically located in the gay district of Houston so if you drove up the block, you would see these flags all over. I’ve been seeing rainbows everywhere on my social media. It honestly feels like a Skittles factory exploded all over my laptop!

I have a good number of LGBT friends. I have friends who support gay marriage. This is for y’all:

I love you. We are still friends. I may not agree with you with where you stand on this issue. I’m still trying to understand what it means to be gay/lesbian/bi/etc and work it into my faith. I also believe that sexuality is part of who you are, but it is not the whole of who you are. We are so much more than our gender/sexuality/race/etc. This “something more” comes from our Divine creator and it reaches out beyond the tangible. I hope that y’all are open to dialogue about ways to be more compassionate towards those on the LGBT spectrum beyond government oversight.

Speaking of government…

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There are days that I love my country. And there are days that I wanna get off this planet altogether. I don’t know if I can say that I am proud to be an American right now because of how people are going to extremes in the name of political correctness. Riots break out in cities over racial issues that never seem to go away. People are taking out historically significant pieces of literature in the name of “safe spaces” on college campuses. We distrust our cops when they shoot African-American young adults, but cheer when a “cop killer” gets caught in New York. In the words of one of my favorite musicals: “How do you document real life when real life’s getting more like fiction each day?” I’m distrustful of politicians in general, especially the blatant opportunists. I want to believe that there is still good in this nation. However, maybe these events and people’s reactions to them remind me that there is a line between patriotism and nationalism. I love the ideas that this nation stands for, but the message is being distorted in the name of entitlement.

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Today is the feast day of Sts. Peter and Paul. This flag would not exist without them. This flag is also covering my face on both my Facebook and Instagram profile pictures. Why do I choose to “pledge allegiance” to this flag as opposed to the other flags I showed here?

Because before anything else, I am a Catholic. I’ve said before that I see being Catholic as something bigger than myself. It transcends beyond my gender, my race, the kinds of people I find attractive, and even the fandoms that I obsess over. The Catholic Church is the glue that binds the pieces of me together. Like Peter, I have a horrible tendency to let my passions overrule being sensible, which ends up with me coming off like a thick-headed idiot. I have the best of intentions, but end up falling short because of the actions I choose. And yet, Jesus chose Peter to be the head of his Church, the foundation that would give way to an entire legacy of popes and bishops and priests who worked hard to make the Church what it is today.

The Church is by no means perfect. Neither am I, for that matter. But through Christ, the Church and I continue to improve and grow. Like Paul, we are filled with a zeal that drives us to go around the world proclaiming the Gospel. We have a missionary spirit that can’t be stopped. We may not say what everyone likes to hear, but at the same time, these things need to be said. Jesus chose Paul, a man who spent time persecuting and killing Christians thinking he was doing the right thing. After his conversion, Paul preached compassion, but he also preached about having integrity.

So when you see this flag over my face, know that I am not doing it to set up some kind of us against the world dichotomy. I’m doing it to show who my heart ultimately belongs to. I pledge allegiance to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

*Mic drop*

Laudato Si, Chapter 1, Part 2: Pro-Earth = Pro-Life

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Being Pro-Life to me means going beyond saving the unborn babies. It also means having compassion for criminals (which means no death penalty), making sure that single mothers find work, education, supplies, and babysitters so that they can take care of their children, and caring for the terminally ill (no euthanasia). In Laudato Si, Pope Francis, in this encyclical, takes the idea of being pro-life and puts it on a global scale.

Part 5 of Chapter 1 talks about the quality of life, or lack thereof as the case may be. He acknowledges that there is a connection between the quality of life in terms of the environment and quality of life in terms of how well people are living. Unfortunately, not many people who have the power to influence the quality of life are choosing to do so outside of keeping up appearances.

Paragraph 50 particularly stands out here to the liberals who are dancing on tables about the Pope apparently agreeing with the party line. (Emphasis mine)

Instead of resolving the problems of the poor and thinking of how the world can be different, some can only propose a reduction in the birth rate. At times, developing countries face forms of international pressure which make economic assistance contingent on certain policies of “reproductive health”. Yet “while it is true that an unequal distribution of the population and of available resources creates obstacles to development and a sustainable use of the environment, it must nonetheless be recognized that demographic growth is fully compatible with an integral and shared development”. To blame population growth instead of extreme and selective consumerism on the part of some, is one way of refusing to face the issues. It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized, since the planet could not even contain the waste products of such consumption. Besides, we know that approximately a third of all food produced is discarded, and “whenever food is thrown out it is as if it were stolen from the table of the poor”. Still, attention needs to be paid to imbalances in population density, on both national and global levels, since a rise in consumption would lead to complex regional situations, as a result of the interplay between problems linked to environmental pollution, transport, waste treatment, loss of resources and quality of life.

Overpopulation Myth Believers, consider yourselves hosed.

Part 6 of Chapter 1 looks into the lack of response and effort people have taken in trying to make the environment better. In his opinion, people in power see the environment as part of their agenda and wars could eventually break out over lack of resources under the guise of being for the greater good. There are positive examples of good change in the world. It’s not much, but it’s a start.  However, Pope Francis warns against sitting on our laurels.

Standout quotes

Paragraph 53

Yet we are called to be instruments of God our Father, so that our planet might be what he desired when he created it and correspond with his plan for peace, beauty and fullness.

Paragraph 54

There are too many special interests, and economic interests easily end up trumping the common good and manipulating information so that their own plans will not be affected.

Paragraph 59:

Superficially, apart from a few obvious signs of pollution and deterioration, things do not look that serious, and the planet could continue as it is for some time. Such evasiveness serves as a licence to carrying on with our present lifestyles and models of production and consumption. This is the way human beings contrive to feed their self-destructive vices: trying not to see them, trying not to acknowledge them, delaying the important decisions and pretending that nothing will happen.

Part 7 is entitled “A Variety of Opinions,” which looks into the differing POVs on the issue of the environment and asks for genuine dialogue in order to find solutions.

Standout quote:

Paragraph 60:

At one extreme, we find those who doggedly uphold the myth of progress and tell us that ecological problems will solve themselves simply with the application of new technology and without any need for ethical considerations or deep change. At the other extreme are those who view men and women and all their interventions as no more than a threat, jeopardizing the global ecosystem, and consequently the presence of human beings on the planet should be reduced and all forms of intervention prohibited.

 

Looking Into Laudato Si Part 1: Charity Begins at Home

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One of my friends from college asked me this question recently in regards to Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Laudato Si.

No liberal, democrat millennial is going to read the encyclical so why in the world did he highlight the saving the environment (even though Catholics take care of it most) and not something else? There are so many lax Catholics and young Catholics who are missing something: The teachings of the Catholic Church. Why couldn’t he highlight that? Why aren’t things like that coming out from reading the encyclical instead of the environment?”

I’ll be honest when I say that I don’t have an answer for that right now. Pope Francis has never been one to go with expectations. And I’m not even halfway through finishing this encyclical!

From what I read so far, I’ve gotten two things. First of all, it reminds me of something my mother always said: “Charity begins at home.” Even though we were created for Heaven, the Earth is our home. A temporary home, yes, but still our home. So if we’re gonna start changing ourselves, we have to start by taking care of our home first.

I also felt major Josemaria Escriva vibes from this encyclical. Yes, Pope Francis is channeling major Franciscan spirituality, but there’s also the challenging tone that only St. Josemaria Escriva can bring to the table. The encyclical is direct and challenging, forcing us outside of our comfort zones, forcing us to think outside of ourselves. It could also be the Jesuit spirituality as well, given that St. Ignatius has a military background.

Tom McDonald of God and the Machine has been live-tweeting the encyclical, which has inspired me to do something similar here. I’ll be going through a chapter of the encyclical (or as much as I can, depending on how long the chapters are). Today, I will start with the introduction.

The encyclical opens with where the title of the encyclical came from: St. Francis’s Canticle of the Sun. He refers Earth as a sister, which makes sense because ontologically, we are related to the Earth by the fact that both the Earth and us are created by us. He also reminds us that we are created from the Earth and we depend on her to sustain ourselves.

Paragraphs 3-6 cite his predecessors’ viewpoints on the importance of taking care of the Earth. He starts with Pope Saint John XXIII and ends with Benedict, showing that this issue isn’t just a hot-button trend, but something that previous popes have brought up before.  The ones that stand out the most to me are, of course, the paragraphs where he refers to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Standout quotes from Paragraph 5:

The destruction of the human environment is extremely serious, not only because God has entrusted the world to us men and women, but because human life itself is a gift which must be defended from various forms of debasement.” “Authentic human development has a moral character. It presumes full respect for the human person, but it must also be concerned for the world around us and ‘take into account the nature of each being and of its mutual connection to an ordered system.’

Being pro-environment is being pro-life.

Standout quote from Paragraph 6:

Pope Benedict asked us to recognize that the natural environment  has been gravely damaged by our irresponsible behavior. The social environment has also suffered damage. Both are ultimately due to the same evil: the notion that there are no indisputable truths to guide our lives, and hence human freedom is limitless. We have forgotten that “man is not only a freedom which he creates for himself. Man does not create himself. He is spirit and will, but also nature.

Have I ever mentioned how I hate existentialism?

Paragraphs 7-9 emphasize the universality of this issue by citing Patriarch Bartholomew’s views on the issue. The Patriarch’s opinions support Francis’s views on the connection between the fallen state of humanity and the fallen state of the world as a whole.

Paragraphs 10-12 brings up Pope Francis’s namesake, St. Francis of Assisi, and how exactly the saint inspired this encyclical. His love for nature isn’t “naive romanticism” or flower child delusions, but comes out of a genuine awe and wonder. And the lifestyle St. Francis chose to lead wasn’t done for show, but from “a refusal to turn reality into an object simply to be used and controlled.” (Again, take that, existentialism!) I also liked that Pope Francis brings up Scripture a few times in this introduction.

The last four paragraphs of the introduction focus on Pope Francis’s appeal. He knows that the world is not beyond saving and he knows that “young people demand change.” He calls for a new dialogue about how to make the world better and for cooperation. He also says that there won’t be any easy answers to the questions that my friend asked me, but layers.

I look forward to continuing my commentary, but before I do, I have some snarking that I’ve been saving since last weekend.

Dear pundits and politicians, I really hope that you actually read this thing and aren’t just citing the party line script. I don’t care if you’re liberal or conservative, but the fact of the matter is that this encyclical is challenging you. So if you’re gonna go on your cable news program and talk about how you know more about economics and the environment than a man who actually lived in a country that had constant economic struggles and studied about the environment as part of his science degree, then do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut. Your logic is not compatible with our earth logic.