Friday, January 22, 2016

Why Do So Many Millennials Become Catholic?

Why Do So Many Millennials Become Catholic?: Why do so many millennials become Catholic? It’s not because they’re hipper than thou, and it’s certainly not because they’re holier. Michelangelo’s writhing, unfinished statues of slaves, struggling in their prisons of stone, are a picture of millennial converts to Catholicism: broken and banished from Eden, stuck in the fallen flesh of Adam, yet baptized …

Friday, May 22, 2015

The blood of Jesus

The blood of Jesus

The blood of Jesus

A still from "The Blood of Jesus." Source:
“The Blood of Jesus” (1941, 57 min.), written and directed by Spencer Williams, became the first “race film” to be added to the U.S. National Film Registry. Time magazine included it among its list of “25 Most Important Films on Race.”
At a recent screening at REDCAT, Jacqueline Stewart, professor in the department of cinema and media studies at the University of Chicago, provided some further background.
Williams — about whom Stewart is writing a biography — achieved popular success as the actor who played Amos on the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” show. Along with the better-known Oscar Michaeux, he is also a notable figure in early black film-making.
Born circa 1893 in Vidalia, Louisiana, Williams studied mechanics and engineering and served in the military. He landed in Hollywood at the tail end of the silent era and worked as a sound technician and script doctor before he began directing around 1928. Writing followed: “Harlem Rides the Range” and “Son of Ingagi,” billed as the first black-cast horror movie, are among his early credits.
He directed “The Blood of Jesus” in 1941 after securing funding from the Jewish producer Alfred N. Sack. The Village Voice’s J. Hoberman called it “a masterpiece of modern cinema that has scarcely lost its power to astonish.” Stewart spoke of a “layered aesthetic that reflects multiplicities of content, form and style.”
Maybe, but let’s be clear: Low budget would be an understatement. The film, a story of sin and redemption shot in Texas, was produced on five grand and at times called to mind “Plan 9 From Outer Space” (I mean that as a compliment).
It’s all here: the trope of the fallen woman, the saints, the gospel hymns: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” “Go Down, Moses,”  “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” sung by Reverend R.L. Robinson’s heavenly choir (several members did double duty as actors).
The plot is roughly as follows: Down by the river, Martha (Cathryn Caviness) gets baptized. Her new husband Ras (Spencer Williams), an atheist, spends the day hunting. Back home, his rifle accidentally discharges. The bullet goes straight through both Martha and a dime-store image of Jesus that hangs on the wall, striking just beneath the Sacred Heart. Martha, arrayed in white, lies abed, possibly dying. The neighbors come to sing, kneel and pray. Ras, distraught, wrings his hands, stares out the window, and begins to pray himself.
An African American angel leads Martha’s spirit on a journey. Their first stop is the local cemetery. Sample voiceover, backed by throbbing organ music:
“This is the end of the trail. Here, all is silent, save for the murmurs of grief and the muffled sobs of those who have long since departed from the land of the living.”
Martha stands at the crossroads of heaven and hell. She’s tempted by Satan and one of his minions, offered a job at a roadhouse floorshow, and accused by a customer of robbing him. A mob pursues her, the angel appears, and as Martha writhes moaning on the ground in a white satin gown, the blood of Jesus begins dripping on her face.
Martha comes to. Miraculously, she’s at home, alive and well. Ras has found religion. The angel appears one last time to bless the marriage.
As Stewart summed up: “Striking, if not downright weird.”
Indeed. Williams scratched the emulsion in order to give the effect of gunfire, incorporated actual footage from a 1911 Italian film called “L’Inferno,” and clearly refrained from splurging on the costumes.
Still, the baptismal scene, with white-garmented subjects being solemnly dunked in the river, has a crude power. An angel in white, Satan in black, a ladder climbing gauzily to heaven, gossiping neighbors, lustful men, suffering women, the golden gates of paradise: snicker all you want, but look back at your day and see if those exact elements didn’t shadow and inform it.
The film was billed as “a mighty epic of modern morals” and played to great acclaim in churches, dance halls and theaters across the South for a number of years.
The great Catholic southern novelist and short story writer Flannery O’Connor would have recognized the character and themes as very much her own: “My subject in fiction is the action of grace in territory largely held by the devil,” she observed.
“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs as you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock; to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.”
Long after the screen went dark, a single image remained in my own mind’s eye: a stark wooden cross, raised aloft. One side, with an arrow pointing left, reads “To Hell.” Opposite, the arrow beckons right: “To Zion.”

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Had a terrible night's sleep, one of those nights were you sleep for a short little bit and then just lie there...hum-dee-dum.  Did have a extremely vivid dream though.  One of 'those' type of dreams, had them all my life and when they occur I have to take note and keep my ears perked to the world around me.  A warning dream of dramatic and sudden change is coming that while have difficulty or emotional upset with it.  For those who know me, a flood dream but interestingly with a bit of twists normally not seen in these dreams.

The dreams starts off as a dream within a dream and my awakening on the floor unable to wake up, barely able to open my eyes the weight of sleep so heavy on me.  A messy living room decorated for Christmas, tree and lights in a spartan room with no furniture just a tv/computer screen, the tree and in the corners and along the wall handmade paper nativity scene I supposedly made years ago.  Lights lay on the floor and I set about putting them around the Christmas decorations to light them and make them prettier looking. Kept waiting for someone to come home that I did not want to see, rather reminiscent of being at home waiting for my ex to show up and ruin a perfectly mundane moment.  Was night outside and dark, no lights other then those within the room casting colorful glows despite the burnt-out lights on many of the strings.

Scene shifts to large open area like a farm by a river with the house on the banks, many people who I know and company I enjoy are there and we are going about the day suddenly the fields are being covered by flooding water at first clear then turning a muddy brown.  Furrows are soggy and the feet sink into the soft plowed soil, as waters fill in faster and faster all around us.  Nobody panics, my only statement to another woman was" Well guess my computer is gone" referring to the lower-lands were my apartment with the Christmas decorations was, and how I wish I could have saved my I Pod( wish I did own one, it'd be pretty cool).  But also realizing as I said it that it was just an attachment, but I so love music.  The dog is walking beside my on the higher peaks of the plowed land and my feet are sinking in muddy swirling icky flood waters and the woman is somehow higher up on more solid ground saying don't worry we won't get harmed.  As I remind them I don't swim.  Despite the fast growing disaster there is a calm and almost detached wonder at the beauty and destructiveness of the flooding raising waters even tho there is no rain around.

Turning back to the sound of people I see some folks from town running to the river banks to watch the unfolding disaster with complete unawareness of the dangers around them as they snake along the one small pathway leading to the edge.  A few nuns in habits made of multi colored grey patches are watching their charges, all children young run to the waters edge and they sit at a picnic table to view the raising flood.  Curious I wondered why nuns of all people would bring children to such a precarious place in such a casual manner and then sit and act like it is a picnic. As I turned and went walking back following the lady heading my group to the safe part of the farm, I felt no fear for myself, we were all calm, as the city folks kept coming to watch and be surrounded by the rising flood.  They were not even cognizant of the water trapping them next to the river's bend and swift deadly waters leaving them no place to run.

Woke up instantly knowing big change was coming and I was going to be drawn into the middle of it, that while it will be challenging and difficult like feet stuck in mud, it will be a hardship that will in the end turn out ok.
In light of today's Scripture readings, Fr. Bob's Prayer is:
Great Shepherd, the look in your eyes is riveting, deep and soothing! You seem to look to and through me! As tired as we get, grazing in the busy pastures of our lives, it is good to know that you are watching over us and waiting within us. Let our actions praise you by the way we respectfully treat each other. Give us generous and obedient hearts. Help us to listen to the wisdom of others, rather than always munching on our own insights, insecurities, and intolerance. As you did with your apostles, Jesus, take us to an out- of-the-way place where we can rest, reflect and be renewed by you. Amid the hectic pace of our pastures, we forget and don't carve our caves of silence and solitude. Slow us down and lead us to take time and space to be with you and be refreshed by you, Gentle Shepherd. Hoist us on your broad, strong shoulders today. Your eyes are so warm! Your touch is so embracing! Your voice is so inviting! I'll follow you anywhere, Good Shepherd of Peace!