May 25, 2008


In order of when I stumbled across them.

1. The Bible (specifically the New Testament) St. Anthony's Guild version. Acquired from "Friends of the Library" discard sale, Belmont. 10 cents.

The New Testament is truly new. It is the antithesis of what we would normally think/do, and yet it is the true fulfillment of our desires.

2. The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis (found in basement of my house)
devotional, instructional, challenging and comforting

3. In Garments All Red: The Life of St. Maria Goretti

As a teen, I also found this book in our basement. It changed my entire understanding of life, death, and what it meant to be a woman. 

4. Man and Woman He Created Them--A Theology of the Body by John Paul II the Great (& Love and Responsibility and anything by JP2G)
The most revolutionary book after the New Testament, because it arranges all of salvation history according to the body. It arranges the Bible according to the body. It arranges philosophy according to the body. It arranges life according to the body.

5. The Practice of Humility by Pope Leo XIII

6. Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason) by John Paul II the Great

7. The Humility and Suffering of God by Francois Varillon (translated from French)
References only things French. You must like French things to read this book.

8. Power in Praise by Merlin Carruthers    
I read this after joining the charismatic renewal. It teaches you very simply to praise God for everything. It teaches you to praise God for the bad things in your life in particular, because you believe He is working in them RIGHT NOW to bring them to a good end for you. All Carruthers' books have the word "Praise" in the title, and I can vouch for "Prison to Praise" (his life story), and another marvelous book called "Bringing Heaven into Hell," the reading of which partially cured a friend of mine from mental illness. Enough to get ot of an institution.

9. I Believe in Love by Fr. D'Elbee
Unpacks St. Therese's "little way." Will scour the last vestiges of Jansenism and Manichaeism out of you. If you ever have wavered or ever do still waver in your belief in God's love for you, this book is for you.

10. The Wet Engine by Brian Doyle (A book that haunted and pursued me--just by its title, until I bought it and read it. Now its contents haunt and pursue me.)
One of the most beautifully written books ever, about our hearts, our bodiliness. Poetically scientific, scientifically poetic. Funny. Small, hardcover, gorgeous cover design. Great for anyone who ever had heart trouble. Very Irish. Very Catholic. Very Irish Catholic. Lends itself to repeated readings aloud.

Anything by Dave Barry can be pretty life-changing, too. Also, the poems of Hafiz and Kabir (Islamic poets/mystics who are often more direct, intimate and funnier than Christian mystics--except, as a Christian interested in Islam told me--they don't know what do to with the cross/suffering in life).

BONUS IMPORTANT BOOK: The Caged Virgin--An Emancipation Proclamation for Women in Islam by Ayaan Ali Hirsi
Born into an Islamic family, Hirsi fled the Sudan and became a member of the Dutch Parliament. While doing a movie about women in Islam, her collaborator, Theo Van Gogh (a relative of Vincent Van Gogh) was assassinated in broad daylight (stabbed with a machete). The machete pinned a note to his body explaining that he was killed for working on this film. Hirsi was given asylum in the USA where she wrote her life story: "Infidel." She racked up a $2M bill for 24-hr security, and the US informed her that we could no longer provide security, so her fellow atheist/author, Sam Harris is working with Rick Warren ("The Purpose-Driven Life") to find a way to continue to protect her life.

May 23, 2008


Yes, the Mongol is none other than Genghis Khan (called "Temujin" throughout the film). This is an epic, almost mythical portrayal of the famous uniter of the Mongol tribes and world conquerer. However, the scenes of rugged sweeping landscapes; incredibly skilled, full-tilt horseback riding; and bloody battle scenes (reminiscent of "300") never dwarf the simple relationships and iron-clad customs that rule the day. First among Temujin's bonds is with the wife of his youth, Borte. One word to describe her? Moxie. She's as tough as the wife-queen in "300." Mongols pick their own wives when they are boys, but Borte kind of picked Temujin. She is a shrewd tribeswoman, negotiator and counselor to Temujin, who comes and goes in her life because Mongol leaders are constantly out and about settling old scores, challenging and maintaining shifting balances of power by alliances and by the sword.
It's a brutal world, but there is genuine affection among men who are related or consider themselves related. Temujin seems to need Borte more than any of the men in his life, however, and even causes a small war to get her back when she is abducted. And Mongols "never go to war over a woman." The curious thing here is that even though Mongol life seems to be ruled by customs (Temujin's father even drinks from a cup he knows is poisoned because the customs--in this case, accepting a cup offered you by another tribe--are sacrosanct, and if he were to change them "the world would turn upside down"), but they are often reinterpreted in the light of another custom, or higher custom. The customs are few, but tricky. For example: "Mongols don't kill children." So you wait till the kid grows up, and then you kill him. "Never let your enemy live." But Temujin lets his enemy live by calling him "brother." One shouldn't show weakness, yet by being kind at the right time, you can win people's loyalty. "Never betray your Khan (tribal leader)," but when some men kill their Khan who was a sworn enemy of Temujin, Temujin kills them for this deed. Loyalty seems to be fickle, but the custom is: "Mongols have the right to choose new a new master." Some customs trump other customs, and without any Mongol lawyers, you could wind up on the wrong end of a spear by blindly keeping every custom. Temujin later turns the Mongol customs into laws which he enforces: "I will make them obey, even if I have to kill half of them." Forgiveness is often mentioned, but is hardly ever practiced.
This kind of tribal mentality is probably what we are seeing in Afghanistan today. Compared to our monolithic legal system, it seems arbitrary and fluid, but it probably works well--utilitarianly speaking--in an undeveloped, non-industrial society with a harsh climate and inhospitable terrain where survival is always in the balance.
More than once, Temujin is shown praying to the Mongol god Tegri of the Blue Sky. Thunder means he is angry, and the Mongols fear thunder. The dramatic use of thunderstorms in the movie almost makes thunder a character. It made me think of three distinct approaches to thunder: religious/awful-fearful, scientific, religious/awful-glorious!
Temujin gains a friend, Jamukha, while still an adolescent. Again, it is very curious how the terms of their friendship play out. Jamukha saves Temujin more often than the reverse, but Temujin shows him very little gratitude or loyalty. Yet Jamukha is not insulted by this, nor is he a sap. These are power games. Both Temujin and Jamukha know they are born leaders, and as Borte puts it: "you can't boil two rams' heads in one pot." "Mongolia" isn't big enough for both of them. Although friends and "blood brothers," they each instinctively know and accept that only one can gain the ascendency--neither can play second fiddle. This ascendency is won just as often through keen psychological insight into the other, as with force. (It is said that Kissinger wouldn't play chess with Brezhnev because chess reveals too much how another thinks.)
When Temujin asks a shaman to prophesy his future, the shaman simply tells him: "You know your future." So, are leaders truly born? Are they rare, gifted individuals who truly care for the common good? People who "do what they have to do" to make their world a better place? Or are they ambitious, ruthless tyrants who gain fear and respect because they dare to do what no one else has the stomach or conscience for? Do their admirers all suffer from Stockholm Syndrome or a vicarious desire to be as heartless as they? What kind of leader was Temujin?
Mongol culture is simple and rich--their carpets, jewelry, long hair and exotic, flowing coats are more beautiful than our contrived fashions, and you know that their meaning is directly connected with something less mediated than ours. When you see the ruddy faces of the children, the sleeping under the stars, the cooking on fires, everything looks so darn healthy, so darn hardy, so right--as though this is the way human beings were made to live, in a seamless unity of an engaged, kinetic body driven by a sage, brave soul.
The Theology of the Body moment? I think it is primarily the undercurrent of what John Paul II calls "the fundmental essence of human existence: the male/female difference/relationship," that permeates Temujin's life. He needs Borte and she him. Perhaps she represents the best of the Mongols, what he is fighting for, what he knows the Mongols can be. She saves his life more than once, advises him. They are equals in every way. He says a whole universe when he tells her: "You are a good wife." Of course in reality, Genghis Khan had many, many wives, but the Mongols are presented here as valuing "one man, one woman." And why is this man-woman bond so ultimate? Because it is in this bond that we are most in the image of God. It seems, according to historians, that Genghis Khan had a favorite wife in one "Kulan," even though no one was higher than Borte as the first Grand Empress.
I looked away from the battle scenes.They're so awful. I'm so tired of them. I classify ancient warfare movies as "slasher" films. And yet, the mano a mano fighting is so different from today's "incinerate your enemy through a remote device" stuff. Would we still have as great a thirst for war today if we had to do it the old-fashioned way? Perhaps. As teacher-guru, Robert McKee, says with chagrin in his screenwriting Bible, "Story": "Men love war." And I would add: "Men love to film war."
At one point, when Temujin is enslaved in a cage in the Tangut Kingdom, an old Buddhist monk, like Rahab in the Old Testament, has a premonition that Temujin will one day wipe them out. He asks for mercy for his monastery because of the many sacred books to be preserved. Temujin asks him to kill the guard for the key. The monk replies that his faith forbids him from killing. Temujin says that his faith doesn't. Instead, the monk goes on an arduous journey to find Borte. It was such a breath of fresh air to feel another kind of strength coming from this equally-committed holy man who had chosen another way.
Gene Simmons (KISS) once said: "Women don't have a clue about this world domination stuff we guys are into." I couldn't have said it better. But what does it mean now that so many women are warriors, a much rarer occurrence in the ancient world? Is there anyone left to "keep the peace?" What/who is peace for if everyone's a warrior in a perpetual war: babies, the sick and the old? (Cf. John Paul II's Letter: "Women, Teachers of Peace.")
Although Temujin has great pride in his Mongols and his family, there are all kinds of mashups going on. His mother is a "Merkit." His wife's two children are from different fathers, one a Merkit from when she was abducted. Inter-marriage not only strengthens social and politicals ties, it's biologically healthy, just as intra-marriage is biologically unhealthy. Children seem to be a great focus in Mongol life. However, a historian notes that Mongol childhood was brief and harsh--Temujin learned to ride a horse when he was three.
The language--to my ears--sounds like a mix of Chinese, Korean and Russian. It is supposedly most similar to Turkish. There is also a real Tibetan feel--the singing is that low "ohm" growl that we hear Tibetan monks do. Although fierce warriors, the Mongols are also portrayed as a smiling, laughing, good-natured people.
The pacing is perfect, the cinematography and soundtrack masterful. What a great way to learn history! Limited opening in USA, June 2008. Definitely opening in Chicago.
Further notes: 1206--Temujin was made Khan of all Mongols. At its height, Mongolia encompassed China, Tibet, Persia and much of the former USSR. Christianity made inroads into the Mongols. Genghis Kahn had a Christian wife. In the 13th century, the Crusaders and Mongols united against the Muslims.
Off the web: Free Meals for Genghis Khan Family Members.

Give me the food or I conquer you. - Here's a food oddity that the London eatery chain, restaurant Shish, hopes will put it on the map.

They are advertising free meals to descendants of that famous consumer, Genghis Khan.

But first you have to prove your relation via a DNA test.

Ananova™ reports:

The unusual promotion is to mark the Mongolian government's decision to allow citizens to have surnames for the first time since they were banned by the communists in the 1920s.

Some 50,000 Mongolians now proudly claim direct descent from and bear the name of Genghis Khan.

That's a lot of meals. The restaurant teamed up with a DNA research company to do the tests required to find descendants. No mention of where they obtained Genghis Khan DNA to test against, however they might have gotten some of the DNA sampling from the Royal family:

It is estimated that 17 million people worldwide, including the British Royal Family, Iranian Royalty, and the family of Dracula, are direct descendents [sic] of Genghis Khan.




May 16, 2008




NOTES for pages 146--176 of "Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body" by John Paul II  text available from

Fr. Loya can also be heard on the program: "Body of Truth"--answering today's issues/problems from a TOB perspective.

Fr. Loya's DVDs (with art demonstrations) are available from

We are changing our format permanently, starting next month: Father's presentation first, discussion after. Remember, you can join us LIVE, every SECOND WEDNESDAY NIGHT OF THE MONTH: 6:30--8PM CST, 7:30--9PM EST:

Discussion group: "TOB must be read with openness. If we start from a feminist perspective, postmodern perspective, etc., we are already defeated because we are biased, and not open."

"We can say TOB things without using religious language."

FR. LOYA:  [Sr. Helena's superfluous comments in brackets.]

It helps to say "non-sectarian" rather than "secular," when we mean "not a particular religion."

Today, people don't accept what you say from authority, but from their own experience. People today want to "feel" it themselves. And that's OK!

JPII said we all have a body, we can't deny it. Let's start there. But REALLY experience it, totally.

If we thoroughly examine a coffee cup and decide it's for coffee and not a beer mug, we didn't say anything religious, but we all agreed on what it was really best for. It has a gift for us if we use it properly because of its physical make up. Things are talking to us all the time, telling us what they are and what their purpose is. Everything speaks a language. THIS is the new evangelization: to affirm everyone's experience. We are not telling people they're bad, but that they're good and their experience is true/real. [We want to help them unpack the deeper meaning of their experiences.]

RECAP: There is only ONE REALITY: all the arts and sciences are just an unfolding of this.

All heresies have a problem with the INCARNATION ["the Scandal of the Incarnation"—St. Irenaeus/von Balthasar]. The biggest spike in all these heresies and denials was in the 16th century. We are now in the "non-sacramental" age. We have been wearing non-sacramental glasses since we were born. [JPII was an optometrist.] John Paul II wants us to change our glasses. The Pharisees wanted to know "what are the rules?" Jesus said: "it's not about rules, it's about seeing properly." [Find all the Jesus quotes on seeing!]

participant: Could we say that Jesus came to approach us from a subjective POV when He came to earth?

A: Yes, but we don't forget about the objective—we get to the objective through the subjective.

When people want to "talk" about religion, then we need to "capture the words" and talk about the words, and also exhaust our experience of something.

"Secular feminism" comes from the Cartesian worldview of utilitarianism, power, function. (The Catholic worldview is about sacrament, symbol and sign.) So they are operating from a parallel worldview that will never converge with sacramental worldview.

Q online: Is it mostly Western cultures that espouse the Cartesian worldview? Do some cultures still hold the sacramental worldview?

A: Why do we love Rome and European cities? Because the people are laid back and hang out in piazzas doing nothing, "life-ing out." Round piazzas that foster community. American cities are built on a grid, designed for going places. Rome is built on a Catholic/sacramental worldview.

1 Peter: "We partake of the divine nature." HOW? Thru our BODIES!

"Going green" is the world's way of approaching the sacramental worldview. The Church should be leading the way in the green movement, also so that people don't go "overboard."

Q online: What is the non-sectarian language for sacramental worldview?

A: "Honesty," which everyone values, esp. young people.

Q online: How can we get used to "doing nothing"?

A: Being honest about our rhythm of life. The language of the body will tell you what it needs, and the body and mind also need leisure and contemplation.

We have to become mystics. Mysticism mean "what is most real," most concrete. Taking a long, loving look at the real. Recognizing things for what they truly are.

There is no "good use" for utilitarianism! It turns everything into an end with no value in itself.

When we were little and used to wonder and look at bugs, that was prayer. Someone taught us to put the Wow! together with God. Little kids say wow all day long. That's why Jesus said: if you don't become like little children, you won't enter heaven because heaven is wow.

Kids have nature deficit disorder today—so how can they wonder? They are being molested by videophilia, by screens!

A mystic is a TRULY NORMAL NATURAL human being.  Anything else, being out of touch with God, not seeing as God made things and sees, is UNNATURAL. [My friends from Africa say: "You say you are free and talk a lot about freedom in America, but you can't talk about God. We talk about Him all the time." Frankly, it's embarrassing. Let's put God back in our lives, not in a weird way, but with naturalness, with joy and love and thanksgiving!]

p. 151: "Original solitude"

online comment: no one to talk to!

p. 163: "Man becomes an image of God not so much in the moment of solitude as in the moment of communion." VERY IMPORTANT QUOTE

MYSTICAL is the greater reality. One God in three persons is mystical, not RATIONAL. You just live it. You can't figure it out.

Love and life are inseparable!!! (fruitfulness) That's being honest "with the words." You cannot obstruct life in love. You can try, but the potentiality is always there [life is persistent].

We have removed human sexuality from the heart of the Trinity in whose image, male and female, we are made, so we abuse it.

Like the Trinity, we don't lose our individual identity/distinctness, even in the "one flesh" union. Why don't we ever lose our interest in sex? Because it's "divine." The world knows that sex is great, but they don't know why. Maybe we can convert people by telling them what is realest to them IS great, but help them be really honest about it. [Convert the world thru sex!]

No one can say exactly what the Trinity is.

ONE analogy of the Trinity is the family. Father, Son, and then HS who IS the Love between the Father and Son (like husband, wife and child). It's not a perfect analogy. [It's not a numbers thing—that's math. It's community—communion. Also, a human family doesn't necessarily have just one child…]

Mystical marriage of God and His Creation—happened on the Cross.

Salvation history is the story of a Groom courting his Bride….

Reciprocity--initiating love is received and given back. The sun shining on the moon which sends the light back. Baseball: the pitcher throws the ball, the catcher receives it and sends it back. If no catcher, we'll have a one-pitch game.

Adam and Eve had a destiny that was incomplete, even before the Fall. They would have passed into the next life, body and soul intact, without death. They were happy with God in this life, but it wasn't the fullness that God had planned for them. (Theological speculation: Most believe that Jesus would have incarnated Himself even if we hadn't sinned.) How do we know we would have had this destiny of passing to the next life? Because it happened to the new Adam and Eve, Jesus and Mary.

The "first covenant" was an unspoken dependence on God, trust. [Jesus, I trust in you!]

All sin is an attempted "shortcut" to the real thing. Our desires are right, though.
online comment: America is a country of shortcuts!

We are attracted to travelling to European cities because we realize their way of life is more "human."

JPII: "Even if a husband looks at his own wife lustfully—he can commit adultery in his heart."
The feminists freaked out, and so did many Catholics, because they both misunderstood it (looking at it from their own perspective).

online comment: Catholics don't seem to understand Catholic stuff!

We don't know what lust is and don't know what love is, so we confuse them.

Lust=to "appropriate" another for my own self-gratification, treat someone as a thing. Lust is always wrong.

Desire=to appreciate the beauty, goodness of another, be attracted by it. So often men who are trying to do the right thing feel unnecessarily guilty. Involuntary arousal is not a sin—it's what you do with it.

Love=always goes out of self to the other, does what's good for the other.

JPII in his book "Love and Responsibility" says that the opposite of love is USE, to use someone.

Mankind's first words were poetry, the words of a priest, liturgical almost: "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh"—an evocative prayer of praise.

Next assignment: read up to chapter 2

May 7, 2008



YY 1/2


An arms dealer as a superhero? A unique, but ultimately disappointing concept. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) "has it all": he's a suave, good-looking, womanizing, mega-wealthy technical genius, making the world a better place by supplying the good guys (USA) with the best weaponry available against the bad guys (the Taliban). While in Afghanistan demonstrating and selling his latest super-missile to our troops, he personally experiences the devastation of modern warfare, specifically his own technology (the explosive that almost killed him was labeled "Stark Industries"). We would think that the "merchant of death"--who just seconds ago was flipping out one-liners like: "I love peace. I'd be out of a job with peace," and now has a glowing cylinder where his heart used to be--will have some kind of conversion. Not. Actually, Tony has no real transformation throughout the tale. (But maybe superheroes don't always have character arcs--maybe sometimes they're just good and well-intentioned from the get-go?) Tony only has a realization that his armaments are winding up in the hands of the enemy. He wants the system that he's a part of to be more "accountable" (as if arms dealers can actually keep track and control where their goods go). 

Three cheers for South Africa who recently turned away a Chinese ship with armaments destined for Zimbabwe. Kind of a no-brainer: hard to have a war without weapons. I found this entry in my venerable father's diary (April 1935)--wonder what ever happened to the bill!


"The U.S. Senate voted to keep us out of the World Court. A wise decision I believe. Let Europe fight their own battles, and let them pay us what they owe us for the last war. There is a bill pending now to take the profit out of war by making munitions manufacturers sell their products to the government in war-time without profit. This is a good bill. War, to my mind, is wholesale murder, national insanity and proof that we are not yet civilized. Governments give it romance, color, with bands playing, uniforms, big humanitarian slogans (which are all baloney), and make us patriotic by propaganda. The real true experience of the people, however, results in suffering, death, destruction, licentiousness, a breaking down of the social order and setting us back in all our activities that takes lifetimes to rebuild if at all."


Tony Stark sets to work developing an even better weapon in the form of a "Transformers"-like exoskeleton suit that enables the wearer (the soldier of the future) to fly and blast death-dealing streams of fire out the arms. Tony dons the red and gold armor-of-the-future and becomes "Iron Man."


Robert Downey, Jr., with his Al Pacino New York attitude and expressive, huge brown eyes, fits the part of Stark like a hand in a titanium alloy glove. The dialogue is rapid-fire, the special effects pop, the soundtrack pumps, the jokes are clever, but the tone is: war as merriment. War is inevitable--let's make lemonade.


To me, the movie had the flavor of war-porn for the masses. A now-familiar image of a fresh-faced, barely-out-of-his-teens soldier being blown up in a roadside ambush is sandwiched between Stark's last joke at the expense of peace and almost-torture scenes. I wonder what our Iraq/Afghanistan war vets think of a movie like "Iron Man"? I'm sure many would be unnerved by the realistic scenes and thundering gun battles. I wonder if they think war is this much "fun."


Tony Stark makes it clear that peace is not only "carrying a bigger stick," but USING that stick (so much for deterrence). If you were an arms dealer, wouldn't you agree?


In spite of himself, Tony hits the nail on the head when he quotes Jesus: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's." (The rest of the quote is: "And give to God what is God's.") He uses it in a not-really-related-to-anything context, but it is the crux of the issue. Both pro-war and anti-war advocates use this quote. Pro-war advocates say: "See? You have to give to Caesar your military service." Anti-war advocates say: "See? My relationship with my neighbor (and my enemy) does not belong to Caesar, but to God." Jesus, of course, was not talking about military service but taxes. He had been asked if people (the Jews in the Roman-occupied Holy Land) should pay taxes to Caesar. And Jesus says this: "Whose image is on the coin?" They answer: "Caesar's." Then he said: "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and give to God what is God's." So, the question is: whose image is man made in? If in God's, dare I take it upon myself to blow up the image of God, even if Caesar says so?


The women in "Iron Man" consist of a bright, muckraking journalist, who, nevertheless, cannot resist jumping into bed with Tony at their first meeting (we see her again briefly at the end), and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Tony's ever-faithful and capable, but inexplicably quick-witted-one-minute-ditzy-the-next-minute assistant.


Twice, a better use for all the money, time, technology and energy spent on weapons was almost guiltily suggested in the film. They both involved babies: making baby hospitals and baby bottles. I'd like to say, um, why not, Mr. Stark? Why can't healthcare be "inevitable"? Lest I be accused of conversing with a Marvel Comics character Murphy Brown/Dan Quayle style, it's just so scary, knowing us Americans (and young Americans) are watching this. We Americans who are so good at blending reality and fantasy in reality, and oversimplifying what cannot be even simplified. No one makes the case for nonviolence in "Iron Man." It's just good violence against bad violence. As a 60's folk song asked: "When will they every learn?" I guess peace just doesn't sell.


A rather random, but not unAmerican, scene has "Iron Man" flying from Malibu to a little Afghan town to blow up some ammo and save a family. Then back to Malibu.


In "Iron Man" on the screen and on "Iron Man" behind the scenes, the U.S. military collaborates (stay for the credits). As I watched a civilian (Tony Stark) in Afghanistan, it reminded me, eerily, of Blackwater Security in Iraq and other less visible players who are "running the world."


The larger issues are never framed. What does the USA want? What does the Taliban want (and why are they being so cruel to the Afghan villagers?) What are we fighting for here? I guess we're just supposed to know from reality.


The parts I fear most men will like: the swaggering, the bimbos, the invincibility, the destruction, the explosions, the gadgets, the projectiles, the superhuman powers, war. The parts I liked: the hard rock, the moral discourse, the jokes, the fast car and the good acting.


With social unrest and rioting over food prices and shortages, what we really need right now is a superhero who can fight world hunger.