Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas Programming from Theater of the Word




Pictured: Theater of the Word programming director, Sid the Christmas Elf, planning Theater of the Word's televised Christmas schedule


My actress Maria Romine, who knows these things, tells me that some of the Christmas-themed programming from Theater of the Word Incorporated will air on EWTN this Advent and Christmas season.


Our episode A MORNING STAR CHRISTMAS will air on EWTN on the following dates and times ...


Tuesday, December 20 at 5:30 pm Eastern / 4:30 Central
Wednesday, December 21 at 11:00 pm Eastern / 10:00 pm Central
Saturday, December 24 at 4:00 am Eastern / 3:00 am Central
Tuesday, December 27 at 5:00 am Eastern / 4:00 am Central


Here's a clip from that episode starring me and Frank Zito




And then Chesterton's THE SURPRISE, in which I play the romantic lead (what else?), and which is a delightful play that's kind of a Christmas story (it's a fairy tale inspired by the Incarnation), airs on the following dates and times ...


Sunday, December 18 at 8:00 pm Eastern / 7:00 pm Central
Friday, December 23 at 1:00 pm Eastern / Noon Central
Monday, December 26 at 2:00 am Eastern / 1:00 am Central




And may we all have a blessed Advent and Christmas season!

Monday, November 21, 2011

I Can't Get Free of Free-Father-Frank


As I've mentioned before, as soon as I got tired of receiving beg emails every other day from Priests for Life and cancelled my email subscription, I began receiving spam emails from some shady outfit called freefrfrank.com. I won't link to their site, as the site tries to run scripts on me when I visit it and locks up Internet Explorer. There are no opportunities to unsubscribe from this spam, and it's coming to an address that only Priests for Life knew. In their latest spam, they carry a statement by Fr. Pavone about his priesthood. Clearly, Fr. Pavone is aware of this website (which, if you do manage to visit it you'll find contains what almost amounts to hate speech against Bishop Zurek). Clearly, Fr. Pavone's organization provided this site with my email address without my permission so that they might illegally spam me. Clearly, Fr. Pavone tacitly endorses these venomous attacks on his bishop. Clearly, when Fr. Pavone publicly supports doing bad so that good may come, we should take him at his word.


Anyone who gives a dime to Priests for Life at this point is a fool.

Shakespeare the Papist




The UK Telegraph reports today that the Vatican newspaper says there are "few doubts" that Shakespeare was a Catholic.


That's obviously the case, as anyone who has read Joseph Pearce's two books on the subject (The Quest for Shakespeare and Through Shakespeare's Eyes ) can tell you. Indeed, the documentary evidence alone (which Joseph covers in The Quest for Shakespeare) is what any unbiased observer would call conclusive, without even looking at the Catholic spirit and Catholic themes of the plays themselves (which Joseph covers in Through Shakespeare's Eyes).


But what a hornet's nest of comments appear on the UK Telegraph site! I haven't the patience to read them all, myself, but I encourage you to take a glance at them at least. If you doubt that anti-Catholicism is alive and well, the fervor and indignation of the commenters on this issue will satisfy you on that score. If there is any logic to be found in the commenters, the logic seems to be kind-of sort-of syllogistic ...


1. The Catholic Church is narrow and shadowy and judgmental


2. Shakespeare's plays are broad and lively and fun


3. Therefore, Shakespeare was not a Catholic.


But this bigotry takes many forms.


One commenter, for example, more or less says, "How dare the Vatican tell us what to believe about Shakespeare!" That comment is so wrong-headed it's hard to know where to begin. Behind it is nothing but confusion. First, it never occurs to the commenter that the Vatican is not exactly speaking with the authority of the Church, far less is one reporter working for L'Osservatore Romano; next, it never occurs to him that the Church is not in the business of issuing fatwas and snuffing out reasoned discussion on any subject, much less literary criticism or historical fact; and most importantly, that the question of Shakespeare's religion is just such a question of Historical Fact, a question that is independent of one's empathy toward or antipathy against the Church.


And there's the great irony that the anti-Catholic bigots in the UK Telegraph comboxes are all worked up that the Church is the enemy of reason, art and (as one Protestant commenter implies) Christ Himself - and they make these points in the most unreasonable, inartistic and antichristian way possible.


Well, Willie Shakespeare (God rest his soul) keeps learning after death what Catholics have known from the beginning - that Our Lord and Savior is a Sign of Contradiction, and that He will be spoken against, or sometimes simply ranted and raved against.


I would suggest that the Earl of Oxford wrote all of the comments in the UK Telegraph comboxes - but they're not the work of one man. They are the hallmark of chaos and contradiction - they are Legion.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Holy Spirit Doesn't Mind Tacky



Anglicans share a "deep seated belief that God always and everywhere is the arbiter of good taste," a friend of mine observed in an email to me.


"But the Holy Spirit doesn't mind tacky," I shot back.


My correspondent thought that in saying this I was, perhaps, advocating bad art, or even tacky liturgical music (Marty Haugen / David Haas), which I wasn't. So I elaborated as follows ...


Not long after my conversion I was reading our local non-conformist alternate weekly newspaper (which is exactly like all the other non-conformist alternate weekly newspapers in America and probably owned by the same company). It featured an article on a Pentecostal weekly gathering in rural Missouri, a holy roller church that was causing quite a stir and attracting large numbers of visitors. Since tired liberals in sweaters (the kind who write for and read the non-conformist alternate weeklies) are the snobbiest of snobs, the article was condescending and sneering. It made fun of fat ladies from Wal-Mart speaking in tongues; red neck teen-agers rolling on the floor; hick young men with mullets dancing in the aisles. And I thought, "Well, you folks might look down on these simpletons - but I doubt the Holy Spirit would." That is to say, Protestant heresies aside, the Third Person of the Trinity would no more mind the bad breath and gun-racks of Show Me State hill-billies than the Second Person of the Trinity minded the smell of animal dung in that stable so long ago.



In other words, the Holy Spirit doesn't mind working through tacky. He'll even work through the snobs who hate tacky. Sloppy "hoosiers" (as we call them) and immaculate "metro-sexuals", both. God embraces the butts of the jokes of cynical yuppies as well as the cynical yuppies making the jokes. We might be squeamish about either kind of neighbor (snobs and red necks), but the Holy Spirit isn't.


This is not to say we should aspire for tackiness - especially in the things we offer overtly to God. For instance, there's no reason the music at the typical Catholic parish should be an affront to all that is human, while the music at the nearly empty Episcopal parish down the block is reverent and beautiful.


But if bad taste alone kept God from redeeming us, there's not a suburban music minister I know of who would make it to heaven.


Yes, we must offer our best to God. But He offers His best to us even when we're at our worst.


That's my point.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

From Faith to Faith


There is an odd phrase in St. Paul that has long been debated by scholars. Romans 1:17 -


For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.


Paul seems to be saying that there is a kind of preliminary faith through which we are led to a deeper faith, in which the righteousness of God is revealed.


What, then, is this original faith? What is the first faith in "from faith to faith"?


Paul tells us right away, as he describes, by contrast, those non-Christians who have no original faith - that is to say who have no "good faith" and who approach the world in "bad faith". These are the unbelievers whose hearts are closed to belief, who see the evidence of God in the world around them, and who therefore know God at least in some inchoate way, but who neither glorify nor thank this not-yet-fully-known God. And though they have at least an inkling of Him, they become "vain in their imaginations", becoming fools with dark hearts who trade the source of creation for some petty part of creation that they worship in His stead. And, as Paul points out, with great psychological and spiritual insight, such folk of "bad faith" descend into a kind of ridiculousness and perversion.


Having been an atheist myself at a young age, I can attest to this. My atheism was not really an intellectual position - it was an exercise of ill will. It was crankiness. It was anger and disappointment. It was not a "good faith" philosophy, for it refused to acknowledge the truth and asserted instead the bile of my own dark heart.


We see this all the time, especially on the internet. Rarely will you find people arguing any subject in "good faith". Instead, you find people doing somersaults to justify their sins, and the venom that springs forth is called "argumentation". But it is not that. It is simply communication in "bad faith".


When (through drama) I began to see the mystery beyond my own petty tyranny, I began to approach the world in "good faith", which by the grace of God led, eventually, to the True Faith, the Catholic Faith.


At least in my case this was the meaning of "From Faith to Faith".

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Bishop Finn is not Finn-ished




The headline in the Kansas City Star is a bit misleading. BISHOP FINN AVOIDS INDICTMENT BY ENTERING INTO DIVERSION PROGRAM. This is true, but only for Clay County, Missouri. Bishop Finn has already been indicted in Jackson County, Missouri and has pled not guilty in that case. Unless a deal is struck there, he will face a trial.


In the Clay County case, the prosecutor has agreed not to seek an indictment if Bishop Finn participates in a monthly program that in effect allows the county government to have a certain degree of hands-on involvement in running or monitoring the sexual abuse response programs of the diocese.


Reaction to this deal, as reported by the Star, runs from satisfaction to outrage. I think the most telling quote is this:


***


" ... For the church to put itself in a position where the only way out of its legal difficulties is to submit to the oversight of governmental authorities, just that is really a tragic day for the church," said Nicholas Cafardi, a law professor at Duquesne University and former chairman of the U.S. Bishops’ National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Youth.


***


I, for one, am pleased that Bishop Finn agreed to use “all reasonable resources” to identify any child whose photograph or video emerges during a child abuse investigation, which is precisely what they did not do in the Fr. Ratigan case, which I explain in detail here and here.


But I still say, all legal questions aside, that the way to deal with this thing is with the use of one of the most powerful spiritual weapons at our disposal as Catholics - public penance by Bishop Finn.


Bishop Finn, we know you are not a monster. We know you are a follower of Christ; we know you are a shepherd in the Church, one of our leaders. Please do not lead by example when your example is merely worldly. Show us the power of the sacraments and of the grace of God for which you have dedicated your life. Cutting a deal for worldly reasons is one thing; doing public penance in sackcloth and ashes is quite another - not only would that act carry tremendous supernatural weight and set the devil scurrying, it would be the most powerful witness to Christians and agnostics alike - the witness to how we all should acknowledge and repent of our sins.


It may be the very act God has ordained you to; it may be the great good He looks for out of this sorry shambles of evil and cowardice He has allowed. Do not let this opportunity pass you by.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Madman and the Sane Man





Here I am as philosopher, madman, atheist, and syphilitic poet Frederich Nietzsche. Chuck Chalberg provides the balance.


From Season Six of The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN.


The moustache was even more frightening in real life, as you can see from the contemporary drawing of the real Nietzsche by Hans Olde (right).

Sex and Success


"God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful," Bl. Teresa of Calcutta.


What do the following have in common:


  • Liberal Catholic support for contraception, abortion, divorce and perversion

  • Conservative Catholic support for Torture and Lying

  • Liberal Catholic support for socialism and Liberation Theology

  • Conservative Catholic support for folk heroes such as Maciel, Euteneuer, Corapi and Pavone

  • Liberal Catholic support for political candidates who advocate policies that help the poor and immigrants but who are otherwise vehemently anti-Catholic

  • Conservative Catholic vilification of anyone who is less than a "super disciple" or of anyone who dares criticize Conservative Catholic heroes


  • Answer: What they all have in common is Sex and Success.


    Let me explain.


    Over at Mark Shea's blog, Mark links to a National Catholic Register article in which he discusses voting and Catholics. "Scott W." of the blog Romish Internet Graffiti comments thus ...


    Actually, it’s not that difficult to find such candidates [candidates who don't support abortion or torture]. It is just difficult to find one with a chance of winning which really isn’t the point as we are called to be faithful, not effective.


    Scott is echoing Blessed Teresa's quote above, and in doing so he gets to the root of things - the root beneath the dissidence and turmoil we see in the Church in America.


    If an American Catholic is confused or dissenting, he is either a proponent of lust without limit or of success-over-sacrifice.


    What I mean by "success-over-sacrifice" is that, for Catholics on both the left and the right, results trump methods and ends justify means.


    This is what I would call the heresy of Activism, the belief that this world matters more than the next and that anything we do to compromise our effectiveness (our success) in this world is to be shunned. Therefore, the leftists will tell you that helping the poor is more important than obeying the Church on matters of faith and morals - for results trump methods and ends justify means. Rigthies will tell you that defeating abortion justifies lying, defeating Islam justifies torture, and being an effective (successful) super-disciple is more important than being an ineffective (unsuccessful) moral and faithful disciple - for results trump methods and ends justify means.


    And what we worship is not the God of Sacrifice and Suffering, but the false idol of Success.


    What they all forget is that this is the only faith where Failure is glorious, where by suffering and dying we heal and live, where the greatest worldly defeat may actually be the greatest worldly (and other-worldly) victory. What they all forget is that nasty item unique to the Catholic Church, not found in any other religion and not embraced by any other philosophy of the world, the cross.


    What they forget is we are called to be faithful, not successful.

    Saturday, November 5, 2011

    Liar, Thou Pants on Fire


    The Church tells us that Lying is intrinsically evil and may never be done under any circumstances. The catechisms of John Paul II and Trent are both quite clear on this, as are bishops and popes all the way back to St. Augustine at least.


    There are those who respond by saying, "This is not Church teaching. This is one of a number of teachings on Lying, all of which contradict each other. The Church is not teaching with any authority on this matter. It is mere theological opinion and may safely be ignored."


    Well, it seems to me that all Christians would respect the authority of Holy Scripture, even if they argue about the authority of the Magisterium.


    What then are the Apologists for Lying to make of this, from Revelations 21:8, where God Himself tells St. John what types of people will be barred from entering into the Heavenly Kingdom of the New Jerusalem ...


    ***


    But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death (King James Version)


    [In other words, all liars go to hell].


    ***


    See also Rev. 21:27 where this is reiterated - he that "maketh a lie" will be kept out of Heaven. In the New American translation, "But nothing unclear will enter it, nor anyone who does abominable things or tells lies."


    It seems to me that when liars are sent to hell along with murderers and idolaters, we had best take Church teaching on Lying seriously - and repent of our own lies, for it is simply the Truth that will set us free.


    And that's more than theological opinion.


    ***


    ADDENDUM - I added this to the combox, but it's worth adding here: it's not clear if it's God the Father telling St. John this stuff about liars going to hell or Jesus Christ, the Son. At any rate, there is a third reiteration of it, in Rev. 22:15, which is either Jesus speaking or John himself recapping the situation under the inspiration of the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit - "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie."


    Now, dear readers, a hallmark of this debate has been that the Lying Apologists do not address points my side makes. They side-step them and throw other objections at us. When we address those other objections, the things we say in reply are ignored and new objections are thrown at us. And so on.


    I'm tired of that technique. So if you wish to comment, please address what this post is about - GOD HIMSELF TELLING US THREE TIMES AT THE VERY END OF SCRIPTURE THAT ALL LIARS ARE SENT TO HELL. Please address that point - as it really can not be safely ignored.

    Obama Follows in the Footsteps of Conservative Catholics


    When President Obama yesterday thumbed his nose at the due process of law by refusing to answer a congressional subpoena (in the stirring tradition of Richard M. Nixon), he put a wonderful spin on it. Obama is above the law because ...


    "I can only conclude that your decision to issue a subpoena, authorized by a party-line vote, was driven more by partisan politics than a legitimate effort to conduct a responsible investigation."


    Now this is really a masterful way of winning while whining. The argument, you see, is not "executive privilege" but something more personal and more petty.


    And this is exactly the way some self-styled Conservative Catholics think.


    The argument is simply a twist on the end justifies the means. It's an argument that not only allows you to do whatever you want if your heart is in the right place, it also allows you to ignore and ridicule your neighbor because his heart isn't.


    Does Congress have the right to subpoena the President? Of course it does, but you may ignore the rule of law if Congress is, in your estimation, poorly motivated.


    Has Bishop Finn behaved abysmally in the Fr. Ratigan case in Kansas City? Of course he has, but you may ignore that if his critics, in your estimation, are out to get him.


    Is the Church clear that Lying and Torture are Intrinsically evil? Of course it is, but you may lie and torture anyway if, in your estimation, you're a good guy doing these things for the right reasons.


    Mark Shea quotes G. K. Chesterton at length here, the most telling quote being ...


    "When Religion would have maddened men, Theology kept them sane."


    Our theology teaches us that we must obey the moral precepts of the Church even when we don't feel like it and even if it hurts to do so. For what is right is more important than our self-sufficiency, our mistaken notion that good people always do good if they mean well - and our inane conviction that we are always good people.


    Take a look at the arrogance of President Obama, flouting law for personal reasons. And then take a look in the mirror.


    ***


    ADDENDUM - I just read the full letter written by a White House attorney rejecting the subpoena. The argument the White House makes is actually more rational than the sentence above quoted, which is the one sentence being reported in the media. The argument is not simply that congress is behaving politically (which it always does) but that the subpoena is too broad in scope. The first argument is utterly beside the point; the second argument at least addresses a legal issue and is a valid argument to make.


    But my point stands. Smearing your opponents' intentions (which you can never know for sure anyway unless you can read minds and hearts) is as much beside the point as lauding your own intentions. But we have fallen into such tortuous paths of subjectivism that we really think if one means well from his own point of view, one may do simply anything and be justified in doing it. The contrary to that is the notion that anyone who gives us grief must perforce have bad intentions. And that's the only sin left under the Dictatorship of Relativism - bad intentions.


    The end justifies the means - as long as one "means well".

    Thursday, November 3, 2011

    Death of the Party




    A skit on death and small talk from The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN. In this scene I appear as myself - the real me.

    An Interview with Kevin O'Brien


    This is an interview David Higbee of St. Irenaeus Ministries conducted with me. Please click on the link and check out the good work David is doing in his apostolate. I'm told his podcasts are especially good. In fact, you'll find one of me performing my one-man Hilarie Belloc show, as recorded last month in Rochester, New York.


    This will be published in the newsletter / magazine of St. Irenaeus Ministries. Thanks to them for allowing me to mirror it here.





    Arts and Entertainment for Christ
    An Interview with Kevin O’Brien


    Q: Kevin, you are known for your one-man shows, like the one you recently put on at the Rochester Chesterton Conference in October, where you portrayed Hilaire Belloc, and, of course, from your theatrical performances on Catholic television. In 2007 you organized a theatrical endeavor with the potential to touch many souls. Please tell us about the origin and concept of Theater of the Word, Inc.

    The Theater of the Word Incorporated is named after the “Theater of the Word”, Karol Wojtyla’s drama troupe, the clandestine theater company of Nazi-occupied Poland. We add the title “incorporated” to our company to emphasize that we are the Theater of the Word-Incorporated, or the Word-become-flesh. For as “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”, we, as actors, flesh out words on the printed page by bringing them to life in performance. And so we travel the country evangelizing through drama, and we also produce material for television, the internet and audio books.



    As to how we came about – well, that’s a long story of the Providence of God acting through a number of seemingly incredible coincidences. But our main benefactors in the beginning were Father Joseph Fessio and Ignatius Press as well as then-Archbishop Raymond Burke of my home archdiocese, St. Louis. They provided the resources and encouragement for us to go forward and to answer God’s call in this creative and challenging way.

    Q: You mention Archbishop Burke (now Cardinal Burke). What have you found or what do you sense of the hierarchy’s attitude toward using the theatrical arts and media to reach souls?

    I am sorry to say that we’ve discovered a kind of institutionalism widespread in the Church, and even in many lay apostolates. A typical diocese or parish settles into the attitude of maintaining the status quo, and, above all, of not taking risks. If you approach a pastor with the opportunity to allow their parishioners to see a live performance that would stir their souls, engage their emotions, and perhaps encourage them to grow closer to Christ, the typical response is, “Well, we don’t do that”, or “There’s no committee for that,” or “That might work as a fund raiser, but BINGO and fish fries do much better.”

    On the diocesan level, it is all too often a question of how much insurance do you carry and what can we do to make sure we don’t get any complaints about this.

    On the other hand, there are enough priests and bishops out there who like what we do and who see the value in it, that we are, in fact, able to spread the Word through comedy and drama – though not without a good deal of resistance along the way.

    Q: You come from a theatrical background. How did the faith come to figure in your life?

    At age nine I considered myself an atheist. It wasn’t until I began to appear in plays as a teenager that I discovered tangible evidence of the realm beyond, of something outside of my control that was best termed “spiritual”. Things would happen to me and to my fellow actors on stage that we could not force, that we could merely prepare for and invite – a kind of spontaneity and authenticity of performance that was in fact a “spiritual” thing. It was an experience you could kill by trying to be in total control of what you were doing; it was an experience you could not make happen, but you could prevent from happening – which is precisely how we stand in relation to God’s grace. Once you were totally rehearsed and prepared, if you lost yourself in performance, you might gain yourself in performance, so to speak. And this is what led me, over a long and adventurous path, into the Catholic Church.



    As to my background in theater, I have been making a living as an actor, playwright or director for thirty years, doing everything from stand-up comedy, magic, and singing telegrams to movies and TV – and that storehouse of experience in “show biz” taught me that you can’t evangelize though drama without at the very least being entertaining.

    Q: I can see that evangelizing and transforming our culture are at the heart of what you do with the performing arts, but could you elaborate on how the idea of entertainment fits into this?

    I think the great challenge facing Christians today is how easy it is for our faith to become “unreal”. A sanctimonious faith, a faith divorced from real life, a faith that is squeamish and diffident, is bound to be a sterile and fruitless faith.

    Thus the gateway to a transformative drama is to make sure that drama or comedy is first of all entertaining. And how is something entertaining? Drama is entertaining by being real at some level; it’s entertaining by engaging the whole person, and not by presenting propaganda, or by presenting a false image of a false humanity. Drama and comedy must deal with the human heart in its fullness, its sinfulness, and its relation to the demanding love and awesome presence of God. A drama that attempts to grapple with real men who themselves are grappling at some level with a real God is bound to be entertaining.

    Q: You’ve done intense, dramatic portrayals, but you’ve also done comic satires, like your portrayal of Standford Nutting, seen by thousands of people on YouTube. Would you explain the creation of this memorable character – and what you hope to get across to your viewers?



    We have two choices in dealing with the Standord Nuttings of the world: to laugh at them or to kill them. It’s more effective to laugh at them.

    Stanford Nutting, who “Stands-for Nothing”, is an amalgam of many real people. For example, two ex-seminarians came to a meeting at which we were discussing Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy, and kept interrupting the discussion by saying really foolish and insipid things. “It sounds to me as if you haven’t even read the book,” I said to one of them. “I haven’t!” he replied, “But I object to the title!”

    Then there was the tired old liberal in a sweater, who worked at St. Louis University High School, and who proudly told me that he teaches his students that “there is no difference between fiction and non-fiction.” At that moment I decided I would not be sending my son to St. Louis University High School, thus saving myself $40,000, and adding another element to the mix that became Stanford Nutting.

    Q: I can see where certain so-called liberal or “progressive” elements might react negatively to your message, but you have also gotten negative reactions from certain so-called conservative quarters. How do you find people reacting, positively or negatively to your message and approach?

    The liberals at least are comfortable with drama and with the idea of people having fun. The more Puritanical conservatives are seriously uncomfortable with the whole concept of drama because it involves fun. The more radical-right elements in the Catholic Church are indistinguishable from Puritans, both the modern and the historical variety. And it was the Puritans who shut down the theaters in England, putting an end to the most rich and beautiful period of dramatic art in the history of the world.

    But the push back comes from both right and left.



    Take, for instance, reactions to our show The Journey of St. Paul. The liberals would complain to me that I included Paul’s admonition to practicing homosexuals that they will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9 and elsewhere). Conservatives would complain to me that we showed Paul confronting Peter, our first Pope, opposing him “to his face because he stood condemned” in his timidity in teaching how Christ fulfilled the Law (see Gal. 2:11). Both scenes in my show come directly from sacred Scripture. And in both cases, the truth of Scripture was being objected to by folks with a certain agenda. And so the fullness of Christ’s message continues to act as a sign of contradiction, even within the Church.

    Q: Kevin, I know that you’re concerned about capturing the moral and spiritual imagination of a new generation and have a unique vantage point in gauging the response of your audiences around the country. You’ve worked closely with Dale Ahlquist, who has been so effective in his work with the American Chesterton Society and a host of projects everywhere. Do you see a revival of interest in the Catholic arts? What do you make of the current climate, its receptivity, and the prospects?



    I have been honored to have Dale Ahlquist as a good friend and to play an important role in the American Chesterton Society for many years now. And I have seen the growth of interest in Chesterton – it’s been a kind of resurrection from the dead of one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century. Chesterton is alive again – and popular.

    As to the receptivity – young people are hungry for intellectual and cultural stimulation, but they don’t know how to think; they don’t know the vocabulary of culture. This is why drama is so important. A high school or college student may not pick up Peter Kreeft’s book Socrates Meets Jesus, which would take several hours to read through – but this same student might come to a 90 minute presentation of our stage adaptation of the book, especially if it’s funny and thought-provoking and if it hits him where he’s at.

    One of my most memorable experiences in this regard happened not on stage but in the men’s room. I was attending a performance of Chesterton’s play Magic produced by the Blackbird Theater Company of Nashville, and during intermission I overheard young college students discussing the theology of the play at the urinals! Now that’s a good sign – a sign that a dramatic work is making an impact.

    But it is almost impossible to explain the reactions we get from our audiences and from the people who book our shows. When people come up to you with tears in their eyes and tell you something you just did was the most moving performance they’ve ever seen, it really strikes you and you realize that it’s not you accomplishing this, but the Spirit working through you. Actors and other artists, in this sense, are like priests – bridges connecting people with something beyond themselves. And our vocation is therefore somewhat sacred.

    And yet I have a better answer to this question. I have a quote from a sixteen-year-old girl who saw our play The Call, our show on vocations, at the Institute on Religious Life Conference in Chicago. She sent me this email:



    I am so glad I got to come and experience seeing “The Call” this last weekend! You guys showing up in my life has got to be one of the best things that has ever happened! You and your crew have been an inspiration! I saw God shine in every single one of your faces! ... Last night when I got home after 11 pm, my grandma and I had a little chat about the conference and of course, about you! I told her how wonderful you guys were and how being with you guys has helped my discernment a lot! I was telling her that whenever I heard a talk on evangelization and missionary work ... my heart felt pulled, and also when I watched the show you put on ... I also felt pulled. So to sum it all up, I feel God might be calling me to go out and evangelize. I don’t know, though, whether it could be through talking, acting, singing ... Not sure on that part ... But I know your prayers will most definitely help!

    An email like this tells you why we do what we do.

    Q: This is all very exciting, very promising. What are your hopes and dreams for the Theater of the Word, Inc? Do you hope to encourage other Christian writers and performing artists?

    I think the future for us will involve much more presence on internet TV. And, yes, I very much want to encourage others in the performing arts. I blog regularly about the relation between acting and the faith and this seems to be encouraging many in the industry. So I encourage people to follow our blog and also our YouTube page, both of which can be reached from our website www.thewordinc.org. I hope all who are interested will follow us, help us, and thereby become a part of the renewal of the theatrical and cinematic arts for the greater glory of God.

    Q: You put on well-received performances at local conferences and in parishes or other venues across the country. How can interested persons contact you to check out the possibility of getting you into their area?

    Through our website (www.thewordinc.org) or by phone at 1-888-840-WORD. We price our shows below what it costs us to produce them, in the hopes that as many parishes, schools and conferences as possible can afford to book us, enabling us to “bring light to the world by bringing words to life”.

    Kevin, I can only wish and pray you God’s good success in reaching our society through the theatrical arts. This is what people are watching and listening to today. I applaud your efforts to use various media and technologies. You have a vision and passion, and this is a vital endeavor. Thank you for sharing your vision with us.

    God in a Box



    One of the most startling things about the Christian Faith is that it is always greater than we are.


    We can't get it under our belts because we can't get Him under our belts.


    One of the problems I keep running into in others is a problem I keep running into in myself. When God becomes a tool for us, either by being an excuse for improving our self-esteem, or a hammer we knock other people around with, we're abusing the greatest of gifts. For instance, there's the Puritan who is convinced that his Faith has given him membership in a special club, and that the rest of humanity, excluded from this club, is doomed to hell - and nothing could make our Puritan happier than the dreadful and eternal damnation of others.


    "I'd like to join a club and beat you over the head with it," in the immortal words of theologian Groucho Marx.


    And then there are those of us who emasculate God, turning (in Peter Kreeft's phrase) Christ the King into Christ the Kitten. Or, as my friend Tom Leith put it, Jesus was Nice, You be Nice, Too. At least the Puritans have a God with a shape.



    Such Indifferentists have a God that is an amoeba. The Puritans at least have a weapon to wield - a club they can beat you over the head with; the Indifferentists have a fluffy pillow.


    And then one might make the mistake of thinking that the true Christians are the ones who make the biggest show of it. But an unlimited number of Hail Marys, daily Masses and pro-life bumper stickers won't stop even a self-styled Devout Catholic from revealing that it's often not a question of the Humility of Christ or the Grace of God, but a question of I Want What I Want When I Want It. Challenge their tribal allegiance, their political affiliation, or their vested interest, and they'll turn on you in a minute.


    And while we can understand the Liberals for Dissenting for the sake of Unlimited Sexual Indulgence, we can only stare in amazement at "Conservatives" standing proud for Torture, Lying, Usury and Criminal Negligence. I can understand selling your birthright for hookers and parties, but for a bowl of pottage?


    But the galling thing is the fault is not just theirs.


    How fun it would be for those of us with a satirical bent to spend all day mocking the Christian Church - a holy Church comprised of sinful men - this disparity of what we aspire to be and what we manage to be is the perfect material for satire. The problem is we're making fun of ourselves when we make fun of all the other misfits and moralists around us.


    For we simply do what they do. We put God in a box. And then when He emerges from it Living and Moving, as He did from the tomb and as He always will, we stare in amazement, certain that the Church can't be what He is making it; it must be what we want it to be in our own little narrow hearts.


    C. S. Lewis somewhere says that once one becomes a Christian, things go pretty smoothly for a while and you begin to think, "This ain't so tough. I've got this Christianity thing in the bag." And then you realize God doesn't fit in a bag. And woe to you if you make the mistake of praying, "God, make me a better Christian," because He'll answer that prayer.


    As Lewis describes it ...


    Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    If Peter Kreeft were a Priest or a Deacon ...



    If Peter Kreeft were a priest or a deacon, this would be the best homily I ever heard. As it is, it's simply the best speech Peter Kreeft has written.


    Some highlights to entice you to click through to the link above and read the whole thing:


    ***


    Yuppie-love, like puppy-love, may be merely “compassion” (the fashionable word today), but father-love and mother-love are war.


    ***


    The theme of spiritual warfare is never absent in scripture, and never absent in the life and writings of a single saint. But it is never present in the religious education of any of my “Catholic” students at Boston College. Whenever I speak of it, they are stunned and silent, as if they have suddenly entered another world. They have. They have gone past the warm fuzzies, the fur coats of psychology-disguised-as-religion, into a world where they meet Christ the King, not Christ the Kitten. Welcome back from the moon, kids.


    ***


    And if God still loves his Church in America, he will soon make it small and poor and persecuted, as he did to ancient Israel, so that he can keep it alive. If he loves us, he will prune us, and we will bleed, and the blood of the martyrs will be the seed of the Church again, and a second spring will come—but not without blood. It never happens without blood, sacrifice, and suffering.


    ***


    Can you imagine what twelve more Mother Teresas would do for the world? Can you imagine what would happen if just twelve readers of this article offered Christ 100% of their hearts and held back nothing, absolutely nothing?


    ***


    The article can be read by clicking here.

    The Humor of Shaw and Chesterton




    Here I am reading from a letter written in 1908 by George Bernard Shaw to G. K. Chesterton - and from another letter from Shaw to Chesterton's wife, Frances. Shaw is quite funny here. It's worth watching.


    My friend Mark Shea follows up with a few observations about Drama and the Faith.


    This is taken from an unaired episode of The Apostle of Common Sense on EWTN.