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EPISODE #51
TRENDING WITH CHRIS & TIMMERIE: CIVIL DISCOURSE

Civil discourse has gone out the door in an aggressively polarized society. Father Tim Grumbach guest hosts Trending with Timmerie Millington.. as they discuss initiating civil discourse for the sake of authentic relationships. As a mass exodus from social media ensues, they discuss how technology can be a virtuous tool rather than a bad habit pulling you from virtuous relationships. Based off of President George Washington’s rules for civility and conversation, Father Tim and Timmerie discuss the long forgotten manners of the past. Lastly, they cover the challenges of modern movies.. as men face degrading roles and portray authentic struggle in movies like the Incredibles 2 & Star Wars.

Washington’s Rules for Civility and Conversation: https://www.dailycaller.com/2018/07/04/george-washington-rules-civility-jesuits/

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 7/22/18

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY

NEW YORK (CNS) — Before he grew up to be Harrison Ford, intergalactic freebooter Han Solo was Alden Ehrenreich — or so at least the folks behind “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (Disney), the pleasing but insubstantial latest addition to the blockbuster franchise, would have you believe.

And, since Ehrenreich’s ability to exude cheeky charisma is one of the film’s major assets, why not?

Working from a script by the father-and-son team of Lawrence and Jonathan Kasdan, director Ron Howard explores his protagonist’s origins and early adventures. Though he manages to serve up action aplenty and some engaging plot twists, depth of character is lacking.

After a Dickensian childhood tyrannized over by Fagin-like alien Lady Proxima (voice of Linda Hunt) and a stint in the forces of the evil Empire, Han hits his stride with a couple of good-hearted capers — one botched, the other complicated.

The failed heist leaves Solo and his partners in crime, cynical thief Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) and furry newfound friend Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), indebted to Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany), one of the villainous chiefs of the intergalactic crime syndicate Crimson Dawn. (Chewie is, of course, destined to become Han’s sidekick and first mate.)

As it happens, Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke), the fair maiden for whom Han fell way back in his Lady Proxima days but from whom he was tragically separated, has since been ensnared by Crimson Dawn and now serves as Vos’ top lieutenant. So when Han and Tobias manage to convince Vos to let them square things with him by purloining a stock of valuable fuel, Qi’ra is dispatched to supervise their against-the-odds scheme.

Like the combat mayhem in earlier scenes, the violence that follows is sometimes harsh but mostly bloodless. And, though the movie doesn’t dwell on moral issues, Han’s rough-and-ready approach to property rights is offset, in keeping with his older persona, by his weakness for a good cause. At least some parents may consider that enough to make “Solo” acceptable for older teens.

Publicity in support of the picture has included references to the supposed “pansexuality” of Lando Calrissian (once Billy Dee Williams, now Donald Glover), the suave gambler from whom Hans wins his prized spacecraft, the Millennium Falcon, in a card game.

Though there are lines in the screenplay exploring the possibility of a relationship between Lando and his female android co-pilot L3-37 (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), these are phrased in a vague and joking way. Thus viewers unfamiliar with what has been said off-screen would hardly imagine that anything bizarre was being proposed with serious intent.

The film contains much stylized violence, occasional innuendo, a few mild oaths and a couple of crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

EPISODE #137
EMPOWERED BY THE SPIRIT: SPIRITUALITY OF STAR WARS

On today’s entertaining episode, Deacon Steve welcomes a couple of special guests who just happen to share his enthusiasm for the “Star Wars” films. Interestingly, they make a compelling case for how these films actually have strong spiritual principles weaved into the story lines.

Our special guests today include Dr. Anthony Lillis and Deacon Spencer Lewerenz.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 3/11/18

HOW THE “STAR WARS” FRANCHISE LOST ITS WAY

I  fell sound asleep for about ten minutes during the most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi. This was not only because the narrative had wandered down a very tedious alleyway, but because Star Wars in general has lost its way. What began as a thrilling exploration of the philosophia perennis has devolved into a vehicle for the latest trendy ideology—and that is really a shame. 

Like so many others in my generation (I was seventeen when the first film in the series came out), I was captivated by George Lucas’ vision. We all loved the explosions, the spaceships, and the special effects (corny now, but groundbreaking at the time), but we also sensed that there was something else going on in these films, something that excited the soul as much as it dazzled the eyes. 

Lucas was a devotee of Joseph Campbell, a scholar of comparative religion and mythology at Sarah Lawrence College, who had spent his career exploring what he called “the monomyth.” This is the great story which, despite all sorts of different accents and emphases from culture to culture, remains fundamentally the same and which conveys some pretty basic truths about nature, the psyche, human development, and God. It customarily unfolds as a “hero’s quest.” A young man (typically) is summoned out of the comfort of his domestic life and compelled to go on a dangerous adventure, either to secure a prize or protect the innocent, or subdue the forces of nature. In the process, he comes to realize and conquer his weakness, to face down enemies, and finally to commune with the deep spiritual powers that are at play in the cosmos. Usually, as a preparation for his mission, he is trained by a spiritual master who will put him quite vigorously through his paces. Campbell was particularly intrigued by the manner in which this story is concretely acted out in the initiation rituals among primal peoples. Lucas’ mentor was Campbell, and Campbell’s teacher was the great Swiss psychologist, C.G. Jung, who had spent his career exploring the archetypes of the collective unconscious that play themselves out in our dreams and our myths. 

Now one would have to be blind not to see these motifs in the original Star Wars films. Luke Skywalker is compelled to leave his mundane home life (remember Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru?), and under the tutelage of Obi-Wan and Yoda, he overcomes his fears, discovers his inner strength, faces down the darkness, and learns to act in communion with the Force. Attentive Star Wars fans will notice, by the way, that Yoda pronounces a number of the well-known sayings of C.G. Jung. I referenced the philosophia perennis (the perennial philosophy) above. This is a standard set of philosophical and psychological insights shared by most of the great spiritual traditions of the world, and it provided the inspiration for Jung, Campbell, Lucas and hence the Star Wars films. 

Certain elements of all of this remain, of course, in the most recent episodes, but the mythic and archetypal dimensions are all but overwhelmed by an aggressively feminist ideology. The overriding preoccupation of the makers of the most recent Star Wars seems to be, not the hero’s spiritual journey, but the elevation of the all-conquering female. Every male character in The Last Jedi is either bumbling, incompetent, arrogant, or morally compromised; and every female character is wise, good, prudent, and courageous. Even Luke has become embittered and afraid, bearing the stigma of a profound moral failure. The female figures in The Last Jedi typically correct, demote, control, and roll their eyes at the males, who stumble about when not provided with feminine instruction. I laughed out loud when Rey, the young woman who has come to Luke for instruction in the ways of the Jedi, shows herself already in full possession of spiritual power. No Yoda or Obi-Wan required, thank you very much. The movie ends (spoiler alert) with all of the men off the stage and Leia taking the hand of Rey and saying, “We have all we need.” 

Contrast this overbearing and ham-handed treatment of men and women with the far subtler handling of the same motif in the earlier Star Wars films. In accord with Jungian instincts, the twins Luke and Leia—both smart, strong, and spiritually alert—represented the play of animus and anima, the masculine and feminine energies, within every person. And the relationship between Leia and Han Solo was such a delight, precisely because they were evenly matched. Leia didn’t have to dominate Han in order to find her identity; quite the contrary, she became more fully herself as he pushed back against her. Whereas a sort of zero-sum game obtains in the present ideology—the male has to be put down in order for the female to rise—nothing of the kind existed in the wonderfully Tracy and Hepburn rapport between Leia and Han. 

Now don’t get me wrong: I fully understand why, in our cultural context today, women are feeling the need to assert themselves and to put powerful men in their place. I even see why a certain exaggeration is inevitable. It’s just disappointing that this concern has hijacked a film series that used to trade in more abiding truths.  

 

Bishop Robert Barron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the founder of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries. 

EPISODE #27
TRENDING WITH DON & TIMMERIE: STAR WARS & CONSENT

Catch Don and Timmerie on the podcast or Facebook Live archives.

On this episode, they discuss Star Wars and the challenges of modern storytelling.

They also discuss the blurry lines of so-called “consensual” sexuality.

 

 

 

 

 

Originally broadcast on 1/07/18

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI

NEW YORK (CNS) — Despite the high price of a movie ticket these days, patrons are unlikely to come away from a showing of the engrossing sci-fi epic “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (Disney) feeling shortchanged.

Vast in scale and operatic in intensity, this 152-minute visit to that galaxy far, far away is both satisfying and, for the most part, family-friendly.

With the mayhem inevitable in a movie about a war kept gore-free and only minor blemishes on the dialogue, parents may be more concerned about the nonscriptural notions centering on the famous Force that are here collectively referred to as the “Jedi religion.” Teens able to take this fictional faith, a sort of dime-store Taoism, as just one more element in a fantasy world will benefit from lessons about the value of hope and the true nature of heroism.

The “Star Wars” saga has often been characterized as the Iliad of contemporary culture. So perhaps it’s fitting that the opening of writer-director Rian Johnson’s eighth episode of the narrative initiated by George Lucas in 1977 finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) imitating Homer’s Achilles by holding aloof from the great struggle in which he once took an active part.

Rather than sulking in his tent, as Achilles did, Luke is leading a solitary life of self-imposed exile among the small stone huts of a distant planet. (These scenes were shot on the Irish island of Skellig Michael, site of a medieval monastery.) His isolation is interrupted by the arrival of Rey (Daisy Ridley) who has come as a messenger from Luke’s twin sister, Leia (the late Carrie Fisher).

As the leading general of the embattled Resistance — the latter-day version of the Rebel Alliance for which Luke once fought — Leia urgently needs her brother’s famed skills as a warrior if the struggle against the fascistic First Order (successor to the evil Galactic Empire), and its malignant leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), is to continue.

Luke refuses to join the conflict. But he does agree to train Rey in the ways of the Force. Rey will need the power of this mysterious spiritual energy, the source of Luke’s own prowess, when she eventually confronts Leia’s son, Ben Solo, aka Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Originally a good person, Ben has gone over to the side of darkness, and now serves as Snoke’s chief lieutenant. Even so, he still has some elements of good remaining in him, and his ongoing moral struggle has the potential to sway the outcome of the intergalactic battle.

Though it gets off to a slow start, once it hits its stride “The Last Jedi” sweeps viewers along with stirring action and audience-pleasing plot twists. While not as taut as last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” this sprawling installment of the great franchise makes, in the end, for a more memorable experience.

The script’s portrayal of the Force as capable of endowing those who cultivate it either with goodness or iniquity may strike moviegoers of faith as establishing a false equivalence of power between these two poles of morality. Some may even see in this an implicit denial of the rule of divine providence and God’s ultimate supremacy over sin.

Yet, in keeping with a Christian worldview, characters do make their ethical choices more or less freely. And the idea that a change in basic identity should be reflected by a change of name echoes a recurring trope in Scripture — and in the church’s sacramental practice.

Audience members young or old are unlikely to spend much time meditating on these aspects of the picture, however. Instead, they’ll be content to ride this cinematic whirlwind while it lasts, and leave its mythos behind them like so much popcorn on the theater floor.

The film contains frequent but bloodless combat violence, a scene of torture, a couple of mild oaths and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

A PRIEST AND AN ALIEN WALK INTO A BAR…

Chewbacca doesn’t talk much – at least not in English – but the Big Guy, clearly, is one intelligent alien.

Ditto for the menagerie of other smart creatures who inhabit the “Star Wars” universe, the latest installment of which, “The Force Awakens,” is on pace to become the most popular movie of all time.

Which got us here at OC Catholic to thinking:

If intelligent life a la Chewy were to be discovered on another planet – a life form with an intelligence akin to that of a human – what would that mean for Catholics and the Catholic Church? What does doctrine say?

Long before the hype about the latest “Star Wars” flick went into hyperdrive, Pope Francis made headlines when he said, during a morning Mass, that if Martians came to him asking to be baptized, he wouldn’t turn them away.

The pope, during that Mass in May 2014, went on to tell a story of inclusion from the Acts of Apostles in which Peter sees a group of non-Christians receiving the Holy Spirit and later is criticized by non-Christians for consorting with them.

The pope’s point was that Catholics should have an open-door policy when it comes to Church teachings.

Right, but would the same apply to intelligent life forms from another planet?

Guy Consolmagno, a research astronomer and director of the Vatican Observatory, echoed Pope Francis when, in 2010, he says any intelligent entity has a soul and therefore could be baptized a Catholic.

Some guidance on the issue can be found in the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. The teachings – reflected in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” – make it clear that Jesus’ offer of salvation is universal:

“Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”

Again, all good – but what about intelligent aliens from a distant planet? Would “all men” apply to them, too?

For some clarity, OC Catholic turned to Fr. Robert J. Spitzer, S.J., founder and president of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith (magiscenter.com). The Magis Center is a non-profit housed on the campus of the Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove that develops educational materials on the complementarity of science, philosophy and faith.

Spitzer says he would be “shocked” if alien life forms aren’t discovered in the countless exoplanets (planets that orbit a star other than the sun) believed to exist – but he was referring to non-intelligent life forms such as single-cell organisms and algae.

Intelligent life forms – aliens who, like humans, could do things intellectually that defy the limits of physical processes; that would have, as Spitzer put it, a “transphysical soul” that yearns for such things as perfect love and perfect beauty – well, that would be another story.

If such beings ever are discovered, Spitzer says, it would mean that God would have created them – and, therefore, the Catholic Church would have absolutely no problem with them.

Nothing in church doctrine says God put limits on his creation – that God limited his creation to Earth alone, Spitzer noted. Therefore, he says, God’s offer of universal salvation would extend to any intelligent being found in any galaxy– even a 7-foot-tall furry creature with the ability to copilot a space ship.

“Our yearning for God is built into our soul,” Spitzer says. “And any alien life form that would be found to have an intelligence comparable to ours also would have a soul and would, like humans, also have a heart and mind that would be yearning for God and yearning for redemption from darkness.”

Human intelligence, Spitzer says, cannot be reduced to physical or evolutionary processes – proof, he says, that God created us. So if intellectual life exists elsewhere, God created that form of life, too, he says.

And God’s intention to save is universal, he added.

“Therefore,” Spitzer says, “if we ever met one of these creatures, our first obligation would be to evangelize them, and our second would be to baptize them in the Catholic Church. There would be no issue to debate.”

Got it?

Wow, this may even be a lot for Chewbacca to, err, chew over.

 

CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE MOVIE REVIEW: ‘STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS’

NEW YORK (CNS) — With “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (Disney), the most popular series in film history resurfaces after a 10-year hiatus.

This is the seventh installment in the franchise as well as the first feature in a planned third trilogy. Like its predecessors, it’s essentially a family-friendly piece of entertainment, with only interludes of peril and combat barring endorsement for all.

At the controls is J.J. Abrams, creator of the television show “Lost” and the man who rejuvenated another iconic science-fiction franchise via 2009’s “Star Trek.” Hiring Abrams was a smart decision, not least because the savvy director — who also co-wrote the script with Lawrence Kasdan and Michael Arndt — could bring a steady hand to the project and allow producer George Lucas to concentrate on selling Lucasfilm to the Walt Disney Co.

Few risks were taken, particularly on the technical side. The visuals aren’t novel or awe-inspiring, but they’re sufficiently well-crafted to transport viewers where they need to go.

The primary objective seems to have been to safely pass a beloved and lucrative property from one generation to the next. This applies to the behind-the-scenes talents (as mentioned above), the fan base and the cast of characters. Abundant humor and the introduction of a pair of compelling new heroes, both portrayed with irrepressible vitality, are the keys to a successful hand-off.

Thanks to an accessible plot, “Star Wars” neophytes, if they exist, won’t find themselves adrift in a forbiddingly alien galaxy, however far away. And there’s enough complexity and allusive layering to satisfy those fully immersed in the saga.

“The Force Awakens” takes place 30 years after Episode VI, “Return of the Jedi.” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last warrior battling on behalf of the chivalrous Jedi Order, has exiled himself.

His twin sister, Leia (Carrie Fisher), the general leading the Jedi-friendly Resistance (successor to the Rebel Alliance), wants to find him. So, too, does the First Order, an army in the service of the Dark Side. Masterminded by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), this fascistic sect is bent on killing Luke and forestalling a Jedi uprising.

Leia sends her best fighter pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), to the barren planet Jakku to retrieve information on Luke’s whereabouts. When Poe and his droid BB-8 separate during a skirmish, the spheroidal machine meets a young female scavenger, Rey (Daisy Ridley), and a disaffected First Order Stormtrooper called Finn (John Boyega).

With the First Order mounting another attack, Rey, Finn and BB-8 commandeer a familiar looking, rusted-out freighter lying in a desert junkyard. Since this turns out to be the Millennium Falcon, it’s not long before that vessel’s famed commander, Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and his furry co-pilot, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), appear. (Droids C-3PO and R2-D2 make brief appearances later.)

The good guys’ principal antagonist is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a descendant of arch-villain Darth Vader and a disciple of Snoke’s who’s so torn between the upright and evil sides of the conflict that he has terrible anger issues. More ominously, First Order has a new, highly destructive weapon that makes the Death Star of earlier chapters look like a child’s toy.

The action builds to a gripping lightsaber duel in a snowy forest that ends all too quickly. Abrams never dawdles, which, as a rule, is a virtue. Yet, because he’s not a great visual stylist, his staging and framing often lack artistic flair.

This makes viewers long for Abrams to linger over sequences that do have more panache. His focus, however, is on lucidity and character development. When it comes to the movie’s look, he sticks to the “Star Wars” template. On balance, that’s a more than acceptable trade-off.

If there are moments you suspect you might be watching the cast-reunion special of an old TV show — John Williams’ majestic music counters that feeling to a degree — it’s largely attributable to how stiff and weather-beaten Ford and Fisher appear.

That’s not ageism. It’s a criticism of the pair’s acting and, more positively, a result of the contrast between their turns and the fresh, energized performances delivered by Ridley and Boyega. The senior duo can’t help seeming superannuated in comparison.

It’s doubtful that a movie has ever been more widely or intensely anticipated. Fueled by marketing ploys, a publicity avalanche and a glut of merchandise, this frenzy can obscure some of the things that have made “Star Wars” such a cherished and enduring cultural hallmark.

They include: entertaining story lines about the perennial struggle between good and evil; lovable heroes and hiss-worthy villains, both drawn with mythic characteristics; an integrated science-fiction vision; riveting chases, battles and action set-pieces; and the celebration of classic values such as courage, honor, and fealty.

Early on, Ray and Finn buck themselves up by repeating the same line, “I can do this. I can do this.” Perhaps an awareness of the utility of self-confidence and the necessity of trying your hardest are the best takeaways from “The Force Awakens.” By displaying these qualities themselves, director Abrams and his team get the job done — and then some.

The film contains much stylized fantasy violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.