Thursday, October 28, 2010


*Note* This post is about fictional zombies in stories, not any voodoo actual people may attempt to practice.
*Note #2* This post is just my odd musings and thoughts. I'm not trying to teach any Catholic doctrine today.

Somebody asked me recently why Catholics like zombies. I wasn't aware we were known for that. (Though I was able to include an alarming number of Catholic/zombie links at the bottom of this post)

A Zombie

If Catholics are drawn to zombies, and I'm not saying we are as a whole, it may be because we are willing to face our own mortality. We challenge ourselves to look death in the eye- examine our souls- do a preflight check to see if we're prepared for eternity with God.

We, as Christians, are aware that death isn't an ending. We will have everlasting happiness or everlasting torment. Maybe zombies symbolize undying misery.

Perhaps the survivor trying to outrun, outwit, dodge, or otherwise escape the zombies, the death-bringers, illustrates our struggle to focus on our soul's survival. Keep your eye on the prize or you become zombie meat- food for the enemy. It doesn't end there. You'll not only lose your own soul, but you may become one of them and drag down your former companions. Those of us who've strayed from the path and led others down the dark road to sin have played the part of "the infected."

In a sense, zombies are tormented souls, still living humans who've strayed from God- lost lambs. (zombie sheep?) Many zombie apocalypse stories deal with seeking a cure for the infected, after all, they are us, but fallen further. At any time, we could become like them. By curing them, we protect ourselves. We are all part of the human race. To take it a step further- We are all meant to be part of the mystical body of Christ. see this art. in New Advent

But, more often in stories, zombies are the enemy- are no longer human, and must have their heads lopped off or their brains smashed to render them inoperable. Here we are doing whatever it takes to preserve our own humanness, preventing the undead from taking us down with them. Fighting evil with fire and sword (or hatchet and baseball bat) is seen as necessary for survival. Except when some freaky character enjoys zombie destruction.

Which brings me to the next point; post apocalyptic zombie scenarios bring out both the best and the worst in characters. This is the second reason I love the genre. (The first being the exploration of human ingenuity as characters figure out how to survive.) To observe some break and some grow stronger is fascinating, inspiring, and sometimes frightening. Would I become a hero, a villain, or a cowering mole when darkness falls and the zombie horde scratches on my walls?

When I saw this t-shirt I snickered.

But I hope I would be a hero.  However, the real question is, am I a hero today? The zombie horde is out there- folks going along with what the world values instead of what God values. Jesus is the cure. (Sounds like a slogan but it's true.)

Unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood you have no life in you. (paraphrasing John 6:53) Am I promoting his cure or letting myself blend into the crowd to be absorbed? Am I crouching in the dark waiting to be rescued or hanging Christmas lights in the window to signal others there's shelter waiting for them?

Frank's apartment in "28 Days Later"

Some Zombie Links- Catholic and otherwise:

Monday, October 25, 2010

Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day- Let's Sort it Out

Although it is often associated with the pagan Celtic new year festival Samhain, Halloween is the Catholic "All Hallows Eve." That is- the Eve of Hallowmas, more commonly known as "All Saints Day" (Nov. 1st). The Mass of the Holy Ones- Get it?

So, there is nothing inherently evil about it- unless you count the damage it does to my waistline. (Can't resist those fun-size Mounds bars.) But like anything that's become secularized, you'll have to reclaim it if you want any use to come of it. Some Catholic families encourage their kids to dress as saints and angels instead of cats, ninjas, and superheroes. But even if you allow the little (or not so little) darlings to dress in secular costume, you'll probably want to discourage the glorification of devils and Freddy Krueger.

But what about ghosts, zombies and other walking dead? That's up to you. All souls day (Nov. 2nd) arrives on the coattails of All Saints Day. Images of skeletons abound if you're a Mexican Catholic. At my parish we have many Mexican parishioners, so a special ofrenda (altar of the dead) is always set-up in the narthex throughout November. (See the sugar skulls my family made last year.)

The point I'm failing to make is I don't think the image of death need be avoided at Halloween. Painting bloody wounds on the neck of your little "Saint Cecilia" seems perfectly logical and Catholic. Generic dead things- skeletons et al., are a reminder of our mortality and our dependence on God.

Speaking of which- Read the story of Jack o' the Lantern - (included in this article at American Catholic) It's a morality tale as well as an explanation of why we carve up vegetables and stick candles in them on Halloween. You may want to make the reading of this story a Halloween tradition in your home.

"Taking Back Our 'Holy' Halloween" on Catholic Answers  will give you tons more info on Halloween.

*Zombies are on tomorrow's blog menu, so stay tuned.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Papal Infallibility and That Funny Phrase, "Ex Cathedra"

I was asked about papal infallibility the other day, because of course I am the family Catholic. Actually I'm one of the few Catholics in my circle of friends and family. Sometimes it feels like I'm supposed to have over 2000 years of religious history at the ready at all times. I must remind myself it's an honor, not a burden.

Luckily I had a wee bit of info in my peanut-like brain to offer on the spot, but promised to find out more- such as "When was the last time a pope spoke infallibly?" That question arose after I informed the questioner that he doesn't speak infallibly all the time. He cannot declare "That restaurant on the corner of Main and Sciocco Street makes the best pizza in all of Rome!" and it is infallibly so- even if they do use fresh oregano and five cheese types. Nope. Doesn't work like that.

But before you can discuss papal infallibility, guess you gotta establish papal authority.

Matt. 16: 18-19 "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

To learn more about this passage and to read about the Aramaic vs. Greek translation of the word "rock," go here. I hear tell that some Protestants aren't satisfied with the Catholic interpretation of Peter's name and this will explain our position.

Matt. 28:18-20 "Then Jesus approached and said to them, 'All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.'"

Luke 22: 31 "Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers."

But this post's purpose isn't to prove papal authority, it's to explain papal infallibility.

The Pope only speaks infallibly when he speaks ex cathedra which is Greek for "from the chair." He's not speaking as himself, but from his position as official shepherd of the church, as Peter's successor. And it's only on matters of faith and morals. (Take a peep at your Catechism 891 if you want to read some official type verbiage.)

Yes, God can use humans, even sinful ones (and who of us isn't), to do His work.

Matt. 23: 2-3 "The Scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair (cathedras in Greek) of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice."

But Jesus assures us that The Holy Spirit will be here to guide us until the end of the world.

John 16: 13-14 "But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will take from what is mine and declare it to you."

Matt. 28: 19-20 "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age."

Oh, and the question of the day- when was the last time a pope spoke ex cathedra?
It was Pope Pius XII in 1950 when he defined Mary's Assumption into Heaven. He, of course, wasn't declaring anything new. He was simply setting it down as official dogma. Click here to read my blog post about why dogma isn't a dirty word.

Useful Links:

Pope Pius XII's official statement on Mary's assumption at EWTN's library
Interesting thread on Catholic Answers
Article at the Vatican web site on infallibility

Monday, October 4, 2010

Telling You About an Amusing and Useful Catholic Book

Dear Communion of Saints: Amusingly apt advice for foolish Christians by The Ironic Catholic (Yeah, one with the blog.) is witty, clever, and full of Catholic teaching. She answers questions that concern modern Catholics the way the saints probably would, all the while keeping true to each saint's unique voice and style.

Job answers a question about why teeth are so poorly made. Saint Cecilia addresses the issue of playing a Lady Gaga song at a wedding. And Saint Faustina Kowalska takes on a question about Hell. The list goes on.

Like everything the Ironic Catholic writes this book succeeds in both amusing and teaching. I only hope she'll write a sequel.

I bought my e-copy at Smashwords for $1.99- Link Here. (There is also a link to lulu on the site where you can get it in print.) This is a bargain to be sure. I began reading the free sample and couldn't stop. I had to buy it right off so I could continue. It's the sort of book I'll go back to again and again.