Category Archives: Catholic

Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?

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As always, I’m a bit behind when it comes to the latest movies and TV shows. For instance, I finally broke down and watched season 1, episode 1 of Game of Thrones last night. Season 6 just premiered recently, so that shows you how much and how often I watch TV. But everyone seems to love the show, including Christians, so it piqued my curiosity, despite the gratuitous sex, nudity, buckets of gore, and extreme violence that I had heard about and read about.

However, after listening to a Catholic radio program where the hosts mentioned that they watched the show regularly, I thought, What the heck. If they, respected Catholic hosts, watch it, then maybe I should give it a try.

I have always been a fan (not quite geek-boy status) of anything involving the fantasy genre. I played D&D throughout high school, skipped college classes to play Dragon Warrior on my brother’s Nintendo, played World of Warcraft religiously (until my free trial ran out!), and now I am an avid player of the Pokemon card came with my sons.

Regarding Game of Thrones: Boy, was I disappointed. The show is well-written, a serial where the story arc expands over an entire season. And, yes, I’m aware that it was only the very first episode of six seasons so far. Nevertheless, I was sickened and appalled.

Am I telling you not to watch Game of Thrones? No. You can make up your own mind. Am I telling Christians not to watch it? No. Pray about it and follow your own conscience and convictions.

Here are the reasons that I will not watch a single episode more:

 

The Gratuitous Sex

Seriously, I haven’t seen so much doggie-style humping since I took our new pet to the dog park. I mean, it makes The Discovery Channel seem like Sesame Street.

There was even one scene where a fair-skinned maiden from one kingdom was married off to a barbarian. He practically ripped off her clothes, put her on her hands and knees, and started ramming her. Mind you, the whole time the young woman/girl was sobbing (rape, anyone?).

And the pointless nudity. Oh, man. In particular: The scene where the brother is caressing his younger sister’s nude breast? I thought that was only found in the manga that I saw when I lived in Japan. Sheesh. Was I aroused by all this? You may be wondering. Not really, just perplexed.

 

Severed Heads Rolling Everywhere

If I wanted to see chopped-off heads impaled on spikes or gory beheadings, I could just watch Daesh (ISIS) videos on Youtube. I mean, come on. Do the American people want to see more of this in their nightly entertainment? We have become neo-Romans in that case.

If you want to read about the above-mentioned points, then read the Bible! There, I said it. But, the Scriptures are based on true events. Does that give you the right to say the Bible is acceptable and Game of Thrones is not? No. Not really. But Thrones is written for shock value I believe.

Even the website DenOfGeek.com mentioned that the series is full of “gratuitous violence” by the way.

 

And, finally, to a lesser extent…

 

The Portrayal of Religion

In season 1, episode 1 (the only episode I’m going to watch), there is a scene that begins with what looks like a Catholic church, bells tolling away. Inside, stained glass is seen from a distance. Images of Jesus or the saints? I highly doubt it. Turns out it’s a pagan temple resembling a church in architecture (to me anyway). The priests look like they’re the latest incarnation of the Nameless Ghouls in a Ghost video, complete with paper-looking miters emblazoned with pentagrams. Oh, brother, I thought. Really? It’s a fantasy world. At least be creative and make it look like a funky fantasy temple, for crying out loud.

 

And there you have it. So, you decide. You have read my take. As they say in the fantasy world: What say you?

~t


How (I Think) I Ruined Easter for my Kids

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It was a day that my wife and I had been preparing for. Easter morning. Our two sons, both on the brink of still believing in the Easter Bunny, awoke at 7:00 am to search for their baskets.

Let me backtrack a bit. Friday night, I took a full dose of an antipsychotic drug that my doctor had prescribed. I had held off on taking it due to its potency (even after cutting it into fourths).

As a result, I awoke on Saturday morning as a zombie, not able to get out of bed or form a coherent thought. It also happened to be the morning that we were supposed to go to the animal shelter so the kids could walk and play with their favorite dog, Bee. It was their second time to walk Bee. She saw my boys approaching and became so excited, jumping up and down inside the cramped kennel.

See, I was supposed to go with them on Saturday, but due to my medication, I had to cancel that morning. My youngest son, who is 8, came to my bed. “Daddy, are you coming?” It was nearing the time that we were due to leave. “No, buddy. Daddy’s not feeling very good.”

My son sighed. “OK. Next time I guess.” And he and the rest of my family left. I remained in bed where I lay passed out from my drug-induced slumber.

The effects of the drugs were so great that they lingered on even into Easter morning. My heart was not into the tradition of watching the boys look for their Easter baskets that “the Easter Bunny” had hid the night before. When they finally found them, I was thinking about crashing in my bed and certainly not thinking about my kids’ joy in discovering their baskets and opening the toys inside.

I dragged myself to Mass that morning, not wanting to go because of the crowds; one of two days that the “C & E” (Christmas and Easter) Christians would attend, swelling the attendance and leaving the sanctuary standing-room only.

I hurried back home for the egg hunt that my wife and I always do for our kids. Reluctantly, I helped her to hide plastic eggs around the backyard, the whole time my head spinning around and focused only on the thought of my comfy bed.

Kids can tell. They know when something’s not right. Our kids, 8 and 10, wouldn’t let on that daddy’s heart just wasn’t in it; but they had fun, and my wife made up for it.

Afterwards, my sons wanted to hide eggs for my wife and me to look for. At this point I flat-out refused. My wife talked me into in (in front of my sons, I might add). I went through the motions, forcing smiles and filling my own basket with plastic eggs.

Finally it was over. I immediately went back to bed and tried desperately to sleep off the meds. I was awakened at dinnertime, the whole day pretty much gone.

Here it is Monday morning, and my heart aches for my two sons. They seemed to have fun, but their daddy didn’t display the interest that he normally does.

Yesterday is gone. I can’t get it back. My sons are getting old enough to remember things like this. Their days of innocence when they didn’t realize what a jerk I was have come to an abrupt halt.

If only I could make it up to them. I want to blame the damn pills, but it was my decision to ingest them Friday night. It was for a good reason, I keep telling myself. But at what cost? My sons’ 2016 Easter is now a memory, and I wasn’t at the top of my game.

As my boss says when I linger in the office too long after class: “Your kids aren’t young forever. Go home.”

Try harder next time, I tell myself. That’s all I can do.

~t


Unchained: Fear of Going Ballistic in a Public Place

 Here I am in a well-visited bookstore. I sit with a book on one knee (The Name of God is Mercy by Pope Francis) and my smart phone on my other, typing this.

I don’t know if it’s from my Starbucks mocha that I’m still nursing, or if it’s from losing my temper with my two little boys this morning after my younger one’s basketball game.

But I’m suddenly having flashbacks of the mental ward and how I was kept in there against my will — a prisoner cut off from the real world.

I recall pushing my face against the barred window, straining to get a glimpse of some trees or grass.

The feeling of helplessness. Madness. Panic in being trapped.

Now here I am. I’m free. My body. I can go wherever I wish. I can sit here at a bookstore and read while the old, the young, the obese, the hot eye candy, the children pass by, consumed by their Saturday afternoon.

A staff member walks past me, unaware of my thoughts. My feelings. My darkness.

I can simply lash out at anyone — anything — in an instant and ruin lives. Ruin my own. Forever.

The thought scare me. They cut through the medicated complacency that I enjoy.

This book could help me. The entire religion section could. The self help section could. Even the half-nude women on the car mags, on the literary mags, on the _______ mags.

Oh well, just my thoughts. Don’t mind me.

Or should you?

~t

Photo by Topaz


Send Them an Angel: The Less Fortunate at Christmas

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I was driving through a neighborhood street on my way to church about a month ago. I noticed a house that seemed deserted: The garage door was up, revealing torn and battered walls. At one time, the front door was open, revealing an empty living room with battered, torn-up walls.

I thought nothing of it. Just another foreclosure. And I continued passing the house on my way to and from Mass every week.

Recently, though, there was a mountain of stuff (rather, junk) piled in front of the house, taking up the whole front part of the driveway and side yards. What a friggin’ mess, I thought. This is a complete eyesore! Where is HOA when you need them?

On my way back from Mass a couple weeks ago, something made me turn my car around and go back to the house. I saw a Dora the Explorer pink kids’ suitcase sticking out of the rubble of broken furniture, scraps of wood, and old papers and files. I even saw an old battered photo. (I couldn’t bring myself to look more closely at it; it was heartbreaking enough to know that someone’s memory was among this.)

While surveying the destruction, I noticed a stuffed animal and a pink play kitchen. Obviously a little girl had lived here. Where was she now? Where was her family?

One time in college, when I was a Bible study leader for a non-denominational church, I contemplated quitting because I felt I didn’t have what it took to “lead” others spiritually. One young guy in my group, a former Satanist and drug addict, told me I belonged with them as their leader because I “felt.”

I felt.

In other words, I had a gift of seeing people for how they are and accepting them. However, that has come to be my curse. I feel so much for others that it consumes me like a fire.

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What I was seeing in the pile of a family’s discarded life affected me like nothing else. My heart began hurting for the family, especially for the poor little girl who was probably forced to uproot suddenly with her family.

I guess my point to all this is that, had I not stopped my car, I would never have seen those mounds of “junk” as anything other than junk. By stepping outside of my own selfishness, I entered a spiritual state that, I believe, showed me a glimpse of what Jesus sees.

Even if it were .00000001% of the beatific vision of heaven, it was enough to make me lose sleep and to be preoccupied day after day about this poor family.

So, during this holiday season, whether you’re surrounded by family, friends, presents, and tables of food; or whether you’re alone in an empty house with no Christmas warmth, please pray for those whose lives aren’t as blessed as yours.

And please pray for that family wherever they may be.

~t

Photos by Topaz


Sunday Musings: The End of Our Lives

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Next Sunday is a solemnity called Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (colloquially known as Christ the King). It is the end of the Church’s liturgical calendar and is a time to reflect on the end of our lives on earth and on the second coming of Christ. (The priest in my old parish once called it “a funeral of sorts — our funerals.”)

Today’s scripture readings reflect and foreshadow these events. Daniel 12: 1-3 says:

At that time your people shall escape,

everyone who is found written in the book.

In Mark 13: 24-32, Jesus says:

In those days after the tribulation,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light…

He will send out the angels

and gather his elect from the four winds…

The priest at Mass this morning talked about how we should get rid of sinful habits in our lives so that we will be prepared to die and face the Lord. He also talked about the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and the attacks in 2001 on the Twin Towers in New York.

“Do you think anyone was thinking: ‘I’m prepared to meet my Maker’? Probably no one.”

We all have daily struggles. Sometimes it’s hard to stay positive amid all the stress and hardships of daily life. I know it is for me. However, we must hold to the promise that awaits us. This will get us through the tough times. As the adage goes:

Those who persevere through a storm often find a rainbow.

So, in conclusion: Am I ready to meet my Maker if I should die today?

Are you?

~t


Sunday Musings: All Saints Day

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This is a section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass. It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

About a month ago, I was reading an excellent book called Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. (I highly recommend this book to Catholics as well as people curious about or interested in the faith. It is changing my life chapter by chapter.)

The writer suggests taking notes at Mass each Sunday. Before Mass begins, he says to pray the following:

God, show me one way in this Mass that I can be a better version of myself this week.

This prayer and my notes have helped me tremendously. This morning God revealed to me that I need to strive harder to be a saint (which all Christians already are); but, I need to look to the canonized saints from history, ones whose lives were filled with Godly virtues, to do my best for God each and every day.

Give it a try!

~t

 

 


Self-Pity

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I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t


When the Stillness Comes

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Nighttime depresses me. That’s when the demons come out. Don’t say that around the kids, my wife tells me. I don’t. I whisper it to her after they have gone to bed.

But she doesn’t understand. That’s why she is downstairs watching old reruns of Friends and I am upstairs in a dark room, praying that God will let Satan and his demons come after me. If you’re gonna let them come after me, then let them come; I’m tired of my life, I tell God.

Then a thought drifts through my bleak mind: A person in a third-world country would give an arm and a leg to have what I have. A good job. A nice house. A healthy family. Parents who love me. Et cetera.

But, what “normal” people (like my wife) don’t understand is that it’s all meaningless without a sound mind.

Again I tell God to turn the demons loose on me. Let them devour me once and for all. A dark, quiet room would normally freak me out, but the air feels almost tranquil right now. Almost like the night that I put myself to sleep with pills and tequila, never expecting to wake again.

“Who else do we turn to?” St. Peter asks Jesus in the Gospel of John. “You alone have the words of eternal life.”

In the Psalms, King David laments again and again; he always seems to find comfort in the Lord, though.

Lately that comfort escapes me.

My new psychiatrist (the first one I’ve visited since January) put me on a slew of new pills that leave me irritable and groggy. Just doing my basic job at work takes everything I’ve got. Other teachers have fun and are so relaxed and easygoing.

It must be nice.

I pray that I can be like that. I have prayed daily for that. But I’m getting tired.

So tired.

As I end this post, the coyotes (real ones; not ones in my mind) begin howling. They will howl throughout the night, signaling the darkness of night that I fear.

~t


Should Christians Listen to Ghost?

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Ghost (formerly Ghost BC in the U.S.) is a hard rock/metal band from Sweden. I started listening to them when I discovered their debut album, Opus Eponymous, on iTunes; it was rated best metal album of 2010. Back then my Catholic faith wasn’t very strong, so I looked past the whole anti-Catholic/Christian/religion image of the band.

Their music wasn’t run-of-the-mill rock/metal; it was good: a retro 70s vibe, and the mood and lyrics were haunting, like my Halloween trick-or-treating experiences from my youth.

However, the more my mental illness was taking me to those dark places (as mentioned elsewhere on this blog), the more I realized that, tongue-in-cheek stage gimmick or not, Ghost’s lyrics and inverted crosses just weren’t conducive for my walk with God.

Now, before you brand me a “typical Christian right-wing-nutjob-prude,” consider this: I have been a metalhead since the 80s. My first concert was KISS, and Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil was the first cassette (an early version of a CD for you young’uns out there) that I ever owned. One of my favorite live shows in the past couple of years was Kvelertak at a hole-in-the-wall booze hall in Dallas. My latest CD purchase was Cattle Decapitation’s The Anthropocene Extinction.

And I own all of Ghost’s CDs. I even have tickets to see them live in October.

And you still call yourself a Catholic, Topaz?

Yes, I do. And that’s why I finally came to the realization that I had to write this blog post and (reluctantly) cut off ties with this band once and for all.

Since their debut album, I have used every excuse to listen to and jam out to Ghost’s CDs.

Oh, fans say, the Satanic Pope imagery, ghoul robes, masks, and Satanic lyrics are all part of the fun. It’s no different than watching a horror movie.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But my conscience is finally taking the bull by the horns… since my intellect sure as hell isn’t.

Lucifer

We have come

For your praise

Evil one

These are the opening lyrics from “Con Clavi Con Dio,” the first track off their debut album. Oh, it gets worse than that.

I’m not here to rail against Ghost or to tell you not to listen to them. Believe me, up until today, I have found every excuse to listen to their songs. Hell, I even had two different Ghost t-shirts up until last year when my wife finally made me get rid of them.

I could quote all kinds of Bible verses about reasons not to listen to this sort of band. But I like the simple mathematic formula-style argument that my college students are so fond of:

Blatantly Satanic lyrics + anti-Catholic/Christian imagery = not a good idea for Christians to be involved with

I keep telling myself: Just go to the show. You’ve already bought the ticket. It’s on the mezzanine level! Take some Christian tracts and go under the guise of “meeting sinners where they are.”

But that’s just a bunch of BS. I would be going for my own selfish reasons whether I wanted to admit it or not.

Plus, with my fragile state of mental health, anything dark or negative sends me over the cliff. (Actually, I was just there this afternoon, contemplating suicide again.) As I said, I could quote all sorts of verses; however, there is one quote by Alice Cooper, the classic shock-rocker, that states it better than any verse I can think of:

Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s rebellion.

~t


God is With Us in Our Darkest Hour

  
[Rachel] was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper chamber of her house, where she planned to hang herself. But she reconsidered. …

At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works forever!”

At that time, the prayer … was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.
                                   
                               -Tobit 3:10-16

~t

(Photo by Topaz)