I will admit that I as I sat down to write out a Friday Five this morning I was a cranky old man. Or as my five-year old daughter would say “Dad is being a crankypants.” Cranky because I’m sick to death of the election process. Of politicians who will say anything for a vote, despite the evidence of their record to the contrary. Of our choice being between the devil we know and the devil we don’t know. I’m sick of the division, of pitting citizen against citizen; and of the average citizen’s unwillingness to separate their country from the shackles of a political party. And I’m really tired of the attacks on the First Amendment. So much so that I did what for me is a rare thing and put a sign in my front yard. Yeah, I know, big deal. A yard sign. Still…
I’m cranky because despite the incredibly vast array of evidence to the contrary I still have the occasional friend say to me “All religions are the same, you know.” It happened again yesterday. Here’s a hint: If you want to display your complete and total ignorance to me say this with a straight face. Granted, perhaps you don’t know any better and, like most of us, too busy living our lives to check. How else do we explain the ignorance and stupidity of the average American voter? Sorry…I’m digressing. Look, if you want to say something that vapid go ahead. Maybe you don’t know any better. Or maybe you really believe it. But since I like to believe most people don’t spout off about things they know nothing about I will figure you’re saying it because you believe it.
(Did I really just say “most people don’t spout off about things they know nothing about”? [insert facepalm here] My God I’m delusional.)
So I was cranky. Until…
— 1 —
…until this morning when I was able to sit down and watch the first video produced by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston for the Year of Faith. It’s called the Video Catechism for Teens.
On the website’s About page it says:
As we begin the Year of Faith, announced by Pope Benedict XVI, the Diocese of Wheeling – Charleston is proud to introduce the Video Catechism for Teens. We believe in order to effectively reach this generation of teens with the richness and beauty of our Catholic faith, it must be done in new and relevant ways. It is estimated that a teenager consumes a staggering 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content each day. Of that content, 4 hours and 29 minutes is spent watching videos (whether on TV, Internet sites such as Hulu, YouTube, etc.)
Our videos will be:
- Relevant: The videos will use cultural analogies, creativity, humor, and will always try to answer the question, “Why should a teenager care about this?”
- Focused on God’s Love: The beginning of the Catechism states, “The whole concern of doctrine and its teaching must be directed to the love that never ends.” (CCC 25) Every doctrine is a new way in which God reveals His love for us. Our videos will strive to focus on that message.
- Driven by the Catechism of the Catholic Church: At the heart of each video will be a point (or points) articulated by the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Since the language used in the Catechism of the Catholic Church wasn’t written with the intent of communicating the faith to a teenage audience, key points may be paraphrased or re-worded in an effort to make it more understandable.
What it will include:
- Monthly Video
- Discussion Guide for Catechetical leaders, teachers, and youth ministers
- Family Discussion Guide
Creed. Sacraments. Morality. Prayer. These four sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church are going to be introduced beginning with the Creed in October of 2012 through Prayer which will begin in October 2015.
I urge you to bookmark the VCat, especially if you are the parent of a teen or work with or minister to them. If the coming months are done half as well as their initial offering this will be a very nice supplement to the YouCat.
They have more videos and discussion starters on Facebook as well.
— 2 —
The first installment:
The Pursuit – I fled him, down the nights and down the days. I fled him, down the arches of the years. I fled him, down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind and in the midst of tears. I hid from him…
Based on “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson, this narrative short film, directed by Bonnie Gruesen and starring Ruby Kaye, was produced by Outside da Box in collaboration with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. It is the first installment of the 48-film V-CAT (video catechism) series for teens. Films will be released monthly from October 2012 – September 2016
Bishop Bransfield’s reflection is here.
A brief video overview of the Creed is here.
— 3 —
Two things about this video:
One: I thought it was extremely well done. I also like that it fooled me. It wasn’t until after the three minute mark that I got it. I made the mistake that most probably will make, and are in fact making in the reality of their lives. But then I remembered the Hound.
Two: I love that they used one of my favorite poems in this world, Francis Thompson’s “The Hound of Heaven.” I have long remarked that I fancied this poem to be Psalm 151.
— 4 —
A few more items about this poem. A few years ago David Scott wrote an excellent book called The Catholic Passion: Rediscoving the Power and Beauty of the Faith. In chapter three Scott provides some background on Francis Thompson, his poem, and its effect on Dorothy Day when she encountered it in the smoky backroom of a Greenwich Village bar aptly named the Hell Hole as it was being recited by her friend Eugene O’Neill.
. . . I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him . . .
On that cold winter night in 1917, Eugene O’Neill’s audience was a crowd of self-styled freethinkers and artists, free-love bohemians and hangers-on. At his side was Dorothy Day, a 20-something reporter for the nation’s largest socialist daily newspaper, The New York Call. Like O’Neill, she was a lonely idealist with a taste for rye whiskey and lover-done-me-wrong songs. They used to walk pressed together on the late-night streets, lost in conversation about the mystic lyrics of Baudelaire and the “God-is-dead” philosophy of Nietzsche. She had never heard O’Neill speak of this poem before.
I stand amid the dust o’ the mounded years —
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream. . . .
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate . . .
Written in the 1870s by a former opium addict turned Catholic named Francis Thompson, “The Hound of Heaven” could have been O’Neill’s spiritual autobiography. Reared Catholic and educated in Catholic schools, O’Neill had forsaken his parents’ faith in a disillusionment that spiraled down a back alley of reckless excess. He professed a morose and anguished atheism, refusing homage to a God who could allow so much suffering in the world.
Dorothy Day parted company with him not long after that night in the Hell Hole. O’Neill went on to fame — winning four Pulitzers and the Nobel Prize in Literature — but not quite happiness. His plays were studies in loss: he wrote of a God who failed to deliver, of sin and guilt and the burden of memory, of the search for satisfaction and the terror of death.
At first, Day continued along the downward path she and O’Neill had been on. She was wounded in action in the Jazz Age’s sexual revolution — knocked up and then abandoned by a hard-drinking journalist. She had an abortion, married a man on the rebound, and lived for a time as an expatriate in Paris and Capri. Her marriage broke up, and she bore a daughter out of wedlock with another man.
In December 1927, a decade after that winter with O’Neill, she surrendered to the relentless “Hound of Heaven” and entered the Catholic Church. The long days until her death in 1980 were spent not far from the Hell Hole. She lived without income or security, sheltering the homeless, speaking out against injustice and war, and spreading through her writings and her life’s witness a radical belief in the merciful kingdom of God. Many believe she will one day be declared a saint.
She never stopped praying for Eugene O’Neill, who had opened her eyes with that poem. “It is one of those poems that awakens the soul, recalls to it the fact that God is its destiny,” she wrote in her first autobiography, From Union Square to Rome. “The idea of this pursuit fascinated me; the inevitableness of it, the recurrence of it, made me feel that inevitably I would have to pause in the mad rush of living to remember my first beginning and last end.”
— 5 —
A final point about the video. Lest you think it too simplistic or roll your eyes at the use of the “scandal of teens dancing or partying” consider the following:
“National statistics show nearly one in five teens thought about suicide, one in six made plans for suicide and nearly one in twelve attempted suicide,” said Joanne Oppelt, executive director of Contact We Care, a north Jersey based suicide prevention hotline.
Now indulge me a moment and stay with me. I’ve seen these stats before, but a friend of mine who is a tireless crusader against bullying in schools posted them on Facebook last night. So why is this considered an option? What are the reasons teens think this is their only recourse?
While the reasons that teens commit suicide vary widely, there are some common situations and circumstances that seem to lead to such extreme measures. These include major disappointment, rejection, failure, or loss such as breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend, failing a big exam, or witnessing family turmoil. Since the overwhelming majority of those who commit suicide have a mental or substance-related disorder, they often have difficulty coping with such crippling stressors. They are unable to see that their life can turn around, unable to recognize that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Usually, the common reasons for suicide listed above are actually not the “causes” of the suicide, but rather triggers for suicide in a person suffering from a mental illness or substance-related disorder. (Source)
Like the girl in the video we can get turned around. Whether we fall in with the wrong crowd, wrong habits, or expose ourselves incessantly to the wrong messages portrayed in media (music, movies, television, magazines, video games, etc.) we get turned around. Up becomes down and black becomes white because our thought processes become confused…disoriented. And like the girl in the video, or the person in Thompson’s poem, we flee from The One who is most capable of lifting us out of the muck and the mire.
I’ve seen it first hand. I’ve lived it myself. Please be aware of the warning signs.
And adults? It applies to us all the same. When you make that decision to move forward and leave the burdens and trappings of the past behind it is a beautiful thing.
Plus you aren’t as cranky. At least not most of the time. And me? Now after writing this? Not so much.
I’d love to expand this discussion further, but this is the Friday Five and therefore supposed to be brief. And as you can tell I’ve pretty much thrown that out the door already today. Have a beautiful weekend.
In a video that seems inspired by the movie The Devil’s Advocate, I think Don is singing about a woman who guided him forward. For me it was the Church: the Bride of Christ.
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me? – The Hound of Heaven
Will you stand here in this fire with me?
Are you ready for another life? – Don Henley (Everything Is Different Now)