Shameless Papistry, Fantastical and Paleontological Musings, General Hilarity

Latest

Fully Realized Catholic Avatar

In case you are curious, yes, the title means exactly what you think it means. I am surely and truly about to use a show drenched in Eastern mysticism and legends to demonstrate an ideal way to behave as a solid member of the Roman Catholic Church.

If at any point you should find me mad or kooky (say, the moment you read the previous sentence), I suggest you gather an elite team of cheerful heroes complete with some dark and brooding types for balance, and come meet my friends and allies for battle in New York. Because the Avengers fought there in their new movie and it seems to be a place where people like to throw down, IN THA STREETZ. Our feud will be a bitter and destructive one, for I have powerful friends, and terrors yet unknown to you lurking in the depths of my own shadowy and sinister talent for unhindered destruction…

I could, for instance, take over an urban area with the moniker “Metrocity”.

Oddball tangent done. On to the Main Point.

I think that each Element in Avatar: The Last Airbender can embodify a certain method of behavior or philosophy present in Catholicism, and give an excellent model for us to work from so that we might better serve the Bride of Christ, and therefore the Bridegroom. So, onward and upward!

Earth

Many might say this is the only Element that can be detected in the confines of the Catholic Church, and for good reason. You don’t look at something that has been in existence for 2,000 years and say to yourself “Gee, that looks really short-lived and unstable”. Holy Mother Church, like the bedrock beneath your feet, has been around for a long time now, and I have it on good Authority that She will be around forever more. So, what as Catholics must make us Earthbenders?

Simple.

That ain’t goin’ nowheres.

It is tenacity.

The Rock of Ages is what we cling to, and it holds fast through any storm. We do not build our house on sand if we are wise, but on solid stones. Faith is our shield and our root, and if it is strong enough, through it we weather any obstacles or hardships placed before us. This is the unchanging Truth of our Religion, and in it we take refuge, and from it we have our armor and shield. We must be implacable and resolute, with faces like flint, to overcome the Adversary in the grand Eternal Revolution against Sin and Death. When all else falls, we must endure. As others bow, we must remain unbent. Steadfast in our Hope, we must be unyielding like the Earthbenders, unconquerable like the Earth itself.

Water

Yet even in our ironclad defense and firm footing lodged in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, we must also be adaptable, and able to change our stance and state in life, so that we are always doing the most good according to the Will of the Lord. This seems counter to what I have just urged you to do. It is not. Water, no matter what form it takes, is still H2O, be it steam, liquid, or ice. The very nature of water is its own Earth-like stability, despite its adaptability.

When we are placed in a situation where we seem powerless, much as humidity and condensation does little but rust and corrode, and is heavily subject to an outside influence (namely the movement of Air, which we will get to next), we must rely more directly on the Power of God. We must increase our prayer in magnitude equal to the degree of our powerlessness at that time in our lives. And, when moved properly by air currents, just as we are moved properly by the Sovereign Will of God, water droplets coalesce and form rain, which renews and replenishes the Earth, just as we are called to renew and replenish the world.

Drench the World with Holiness! Or something like that.

Liquid water is a beautiful thing in that it covers and fills any nook and cranny it is in contact with. It is also cohesive and adhesive, as we must be in our Evangelization of others. We are called to stick together as the Body of Christ, and we should cling to those who have yet to hear the Good News in its fullness like a refreshing morning dew. We must slide into their hearts and minds whenever and wherever we can, filling their empty void spaces with the Light of Christ, just as water permeates into the gaps of rock and soil. We must saturate our society with Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

Then, like ice, when we have filled all those spaces and cracks, we must harden and become resolute, like water turns to ice during the bitter months. Ice, especially in glacier form, has immense erosive power. It plucks up rocks as it moves downhill, just as we must gather those we can as we move forward under the momentum our proselytizing has given us. In our rigidness after new gains, we keep what we have now baptized and prevent the retaking of those souls by the worldly means of the Adversary, like ice keeps small rock particles frozen within it from being washed or blown away.

In fact, I would even go so far to say that the essence of Evangelization is similar to the essence of Waterbending, for both are required to keep that same sort of rythmic balance. Waterbending is based on Tai Chi, which is all about guiding your enemy’s strikes to your own advantage. We must learn to even use our defeats in apologetics to guide our unredeemed brothers and sisters ever closer to God.

Air

Air is the most elusive of elements. Most of us do not know what is even meant by the “spirit” that drives the essence of Airbending, though we can tell when someone possesses it. Intangible and lacking in definition, this Element is a perfect comparison for our own Un-Worldliness. We are, of course, meant to live in the World, and love it, but we are not of it anymore. We have one foot in Heaven, and our souls are held aloft by the Sovereign Will of God, expressed through the Holy Spirit. This “Catholic Spirit” is seen in the sort of unclear but easily recognizable joy and purity of one who shows this Blessed Light to the darkened world. You probably know one or two of them yourself, men and women who calm and heal others by their presence and Faith, or drive them wild and berserk, because Evil cannot stand the presence of uncorrupted Good.

“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.”-G.K. Chesterton

The secret to this profound Joy is not detachment, as the Tibetan-style Airbending monks of the TV series might tell you, but attachment. Seek the goodness of everything, as Saint Francis did. Even Death he called Sister, and his love for even the deadliest of God’s creatures is well known. As Paul commands, seek what is True, seek what is Good, seek what is Beautiful. Attach yourself to it, lose yourself within, and become a white-hot candle of Holiness through the Power of the Holy Spirit. The heat of that flame shall keep you aloft and not of this world, and people will love you and hate you for it.

Fire

Speaking of bringing on the heat, what does Firebending have to do with the Catholic Church, aside from the Heretic Roasts, hosted by the Good Ole’ Inquisition?

MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

What? I’m Catholic, I get to make fun of that, just like black people get to use the N-word. (Cricket…cricket…cricket…)

Well, actually, Firebending isn’t all about destroying the living snot out of your enemies with an unstoppable wall of iridescent flame and doom. As fun as I am sure that sounds to many of you (I have a particular young lady in mind, actually…she’s probably torching someone to fuel her oven right now.), Firebending is about drive, purpose, and energy. And to me, NOTHING seems more Catholic.

I bet he and Iroh would convert if they were real.

Why? Well, what more all-consuming purpose can you think of than to get yourself and everyone around you to Heaven? Following Christ is not a by-degrees thing, as our sinful nature forces our fiats to be. It IS all or nothing. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to bring as many people as close to God as possible, every moment of every day. What sort of madman, what sort of Herculean Will chooses this sort of life? Oh, I can think of a few people. All of them, and myself, fall horribly short of our goal, but though we are so terrible at being Good, as Prince Zuko complains, and though we fail repeatedly, as he warns us we will, surrender is not an option. Christ’s call to die to yourself, inch by bleeding inch, stands out a stark, blazing white against the background of swirling shades of grey (yes, all 50 of them…ick), and smolders ever brighter when placed against the Darkness rent free from its deceptive shrouds.

That’s a full-tilt run Home if I ever saw one.

The inextinguishable Will of the Catholic Church has painted billions of its men and women red with their own blood. Whether you exsanguinate yourself slowly as the average struggling soul, or all at once in a rush of pain and Glory as men like Saint Peter and women like Joan of Arc did, you are called to do the same.

Masters of Mastery

Aha! You thought I was done! Nay! There is more yet to come!

Chiefly, the fact that the Avatar is not merely a Master of all four Elements. The Avatar is a Master of Mastery. A mere Master of the Elements can take the styles one at a time and apply them to situations as needed, but a fully realized Avatar must actually be able to use the Elements cohesively. To be very good at each one individually carries a risk of unbalance and a resulting over-correction. Say, for example, you are in a situation that requires you to be quick and adaptable, say, Evangelizing an emotional, easily ticked-off friend. You also need to put drive and willpower into keeping that up for a long period of time, most likely months or years (Hint: conversations rarely happen on the spot.) If you lose sight of the end goal and forget your purpose, you lock yourself into a watery dance of not pushing things too far and never actually get anywhere with your friend. If you become to end-game oriented, you lose track of the now and become to intense for your friend to handle. Or, say you have to deal with a very angsty Anti-Catholic stranger. Fly too high and get too mystical and joyous, and they will write you off as a fruitcake and forget anything important you might have said. Or become to set in stone and intractable and they will also write you off, this time as a reactionary stick-in-the-mud, and likewise ignore anything pithy you have said in defense of the Church.

Gee, doing all of that sounds hard. Probably because it’s the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do: be worthy of Heaven in your perfection. Did I mention that unbalance leads to corrupting your Faith with Sin? Burning others needlessly or crushing them underboot when you are feeling all high and righteous is the most lethal kind of Pride there is, for it is what caused Satan to challenge God. Being lukewarm in the Faith for the sake of not driving everyone off is an insidious kind of Sloth. I could go on and on ad nauseum.

Fear not. You have the redeeming Blood of Christ, the whole of the Church and her Sacraments, and a legion of Martyrs and Angels at your back. It will end well if you choose to end it well. So go out there, and fully realize your Avatar potential!

Advertisements

Bender Identification

Ahhh it feels good to be done with exams for the Summer. In the interest of doing something completely unrelated to anything that might be considered serious in any way, shape, or form, I have dedicated my first post to something completely frivolous: Avatar.

No. Not the blue Native Americans that re-enacted Pocahantas mashed together with Dances With Wolves on a visually pleasing planet. Avatar: The Last Airbender. From what I have seen, it was the last best chance at children’s/teen television getting something well written and beautifully crafted on air, and I can only say it passed with flying colors. I still have my reservations about the sequel series, Avatar: The Legend of Korra, but those are primarily due to my personal aesthetics and nothing more. While like anything well-written, Avatar has spawned a great deal of musings in my mind, I will stave off those more pithy things to make room for some light-hearted fun. Primarily, a description of each Bending Element that will allow you and your friends to discern which sort of Bender you would be if such fun and powerful magicks were real.

I first had the idea when I wound up waiting to meet with a compatriot and happened to be sailing the Internet. I had been taking online bending quizzes to pass the time, and was amused by the lack of anything really comprehensive. For example, my results were so mixed that there was not an element I was not classified as, and once or twice, I was selected as an Avatar. However, the more complete ones tended to classify me as Earth or Fire, and the most exhaustive actually used percentages, giving me, if I recall correctly, an 86% Firebending aptitude and a 66% Earthbending aptititude, with everything else in the low 40’s or 30’s. Many of the questions related more to what nation you would fit best in, as opposed to what element best suited your personality. For example, just because I like komodo dragons and actual dragons more than I do flying bison or ostrich-horses, it does not mean that I have the personality and attributes most commonly found among Firebenders.

The thing is, part of what makes deciding what style of Bending someone is so difficult is that it doesn’t always quite link up with their personality, or it may do so in a hidden way. For example, Uncle Iroh is very reserved, aloof, and humorous for a Firebender. King Bumi appears to be extremely unstable and not nearly serious enough to be your typical Earthbender. Master Pakku on the other hand, seems more rigid than his Element would suggest. The key to figuring out the correct Element is looking at the whole spectrum of what an Element is, and applying that to the uniqueness of the individual.To that end, I am going to provide a summary of each Element and its relation to its Benders for your enjoyment and use, along with examples of the Benders seen in the TV show, and examples taken from real life.

Overview

I classify the elements into two sets of brackets that halve the set according to each classification. Tangible Elements include Earth and Water, while Intangibles include Wind and Fire. Intensity Elements include Earth and Fire, Passivity Elements include Wind and Water. The combination of classifications, along with some unique attributes of each Element and some help from the fictional Masters of the Avatar Universe, will make up what I am basing my summaries on. It is important to remember that all Elements at their extremes seem a great deal like another Element in the scheme of things.

Water

Water is both Tangible and Passive. It is something you can readily feel, and in some cases, hold onto, while being able to go with the flow of things and adapt to its spatial environment. The movement of Water is governed by the push and pull of the tides, a balance of negative and positive energy. While all mortal persons have this sort of make-up (even sinners can do God’s Will, and even Saints sin) at their core, the nature of this duality in relation to Bending and Benders is more along the lines of a mutability in their personality. Waterbenders may hang back and take measure of the environment if they feel new to a situation, and become energetic and unreserved when they feel it wise to do so. They may be pushed and pulled in opposing directions if they do not watch themselves, and are, oddly enough, like their opposite Element, Fire, easily thrown out of wack when things get too dicey or hectic. This is due to their high level of adaptability, for like water itself, it can flow around any obstacle, or solidify into ice and push things out of the way or hold them in place almost the same way Earth can. Waterbenders may seem highly mercurial, and that is to be expected, as rivers, depending on the seasonal rainfall, or seas, depending on atmospheric conditions, can go from placidity to raging fury in a matter of moments. Water is a deep and complex thing, and so are Waterbenders. There usually is something more beneath the surface. Water can be hard to nail down accurately, as it covers such a wide range of things in a person. A Waterbender could be extremely easy-going and relaxed, like a stream, or as unmoving as a glacier. However, they also have to have a portion of themselves that is the opposite of what they usually are. The glacier is solid through most of its volume, but its bottom is highly plastic and nearly liquid, which is what allows it to move. Master Pakku in particular is this type of Water Bender. The highly adaptable flowing brook would be most like Avatar Kuruk, the hands-off Avatar who wound up fighting Koh the Facestealer. Note that like ice under pressure, Pakku’s stone-face melts if you try hard enough, and when sufficiently given reason, Kuruk will come down like a raging tsunami on an enemy. The final common thread that Waterbenders share is a strong sense of community. Every drop adds to the ocean. Water droplets do not do much individually, but together they can cut straight through rock, or slow down a speeding bullet. Fire can start up an inferno from just one spark, a single pebble retains the same sort of toughness when broken from a mountain, and air is almost indivisible from itself, but water works in numbers. Waterbenders will do best when secure among people they trust and feel like they are a part of. Examples of real Waterbending personalities are master tactician Sun Tzu and politician Mitt Romney.

I had to use this picture of Sun Tzu…it came up randomly on Google Search.

Here is Mitt Romney demonstrating his “flip-flopping cold fish” Bending technique.

Earth

Earth is Tangible and Intense. It is firm beneath your feet, and is still used as a highly durable building material today, despite the advances in metalworking, which, by the way, is simply refining rock (ore) into an even more durable substance. Its chief quality is stability, for even when shaken, it usually just vibrates, and it takes a great deal of force to shatter it completely. It is hard to ignore and hard to move aside. Earthbenders are resolute, indomitable, and often unforgiving. Their manner of living is rigid, stern, and tough. They prefer the unrefined things and unrefined approaches to life, and have a rich connection to their roots. They are usually not the center of attention, despite their strong presence, due to their often reserved nature. They can be rigid to the point of unfeeling stoicism, and out of touch with their emotions. When they do finally crack under pressure, it is only after an unbelievable amount of stress, and one of two things happens. Either they completely fragment and collapse into rubble like Tyro after his capture, or they lash out with all the rage and condemnation of an earthquake’s tremors. Earthbenders are often like oxen or mules, or any hardworking, solidly built animal. They often prefer here and now values as opposed to high ideals of futures yet to come, or intangibles, and if they focus on anything it is the past, where they draw their roots from. They accept change with a lowered head and a steady and complete resistance to it. Adaptation comes slowly to them, and they are not renowned for their flexibility. This is especially true for Long Feng and the Dai Li, who have become so unbending, they force those around them to comply with their own agenda by overt and covert means. One could almost say that a solid stereotype for an Earthbender would be any comparison to the common hardworking farmer. Tough to break down, reliable, and extremely dangerous when provoked. That is what being an Earthbender is all about. Real examples of Earthbending personalities, both positive and negative, are Pope Benedict XVI, the current Pope, and Emperor Hirohito, WWII Emperor of Japan.

The Holy Father demonstrating how to throw boulders. HU-AH!!

Air

Air is Intangible and Passive. You can feel it there against your skin, but never really hold any of it. While it moves, it appears to exist, but confine it and it does little but sit in the jar you trapped it with. Air is about spirit and soul, and it has surprising depth despite its lack of being tied down to anything. The most notable quality of an Airbender is that they are zephyrous. Airbenders, like Waterbenders, have a sense of community, but it is different in practice. Air touches all things and moves around it, but never really mingles that much with anything. Airbenders will have a somewhat universal sense of community, and like the wind itself, mold seamlessly into the like company of other Airbenders. This universality comes at a price, though: Airbenders are not quite fully accepted into the company of differing personalities than their own, though they are tolerated and in many cases celebrated by all. They have an aloof quality about them, something that is often coupled with a sort of reserve or holding back, or on the opposite end of the Element, an airy and exuberant lightheartedness and highly developed sense of the humorous that singles them out in a crowd. Like the atmosphere in an enclosed room, Airbenders who take themselves too seriously can be stuffy and oppressive, and like the breeze in a sunny field, the more exuberant members of this style can be uplifting and freeing. They also tend to be a very spiritual people, whatever their religious beliefs, and hold fairly staunch codes of ethics despite the easily yielding nature of their Element. When it comes to conflict and confrontation, they can be even more evasive than Waterbenders, and almost never come at a situation directly, harsh words and raised tempers are nearly anathema to them. The most ideal position for one of their ilk is simply that of distant observation if friendly mingling becomes impossible. Only when extremely pressed and pushed to the limit will an Airbender ever start to lash out at anyone, and after the sudden storm, there is a good chance that they will be gone with the same suddenness that they came. Airbending personality examples would include Pope John Paul II and Professor Carl Sagan.

The master Theologian shows off his Airbending skills.

Billions and Billions of Bending techniques….

Fire

Fire is Intangible and Intense. Like its Intense counterpart, Earth, Fire is not subtle, but like its Intangible counterpart Air, it flows wherever there is space for it to do so. Firebending is power in its most raw, unconstrained form. Earth is also about strength, but is far easier to contain by nature of its solidity. Fire is explosive and easily spread beyond the will of the Bender, whereas the problem with Air is calling it up at all due to a similar lack of containability. Firebenders are passionate, strong-willed, and determined. They have so much drive and spirit that it is easy for them to burn themselves out quickly. Firebenders are often the center of attention or in a leadership role in life, because, like the sparks of their Element, their drive and will is easily spread among those around them. However, they can be so goal oriented that they begin to spurn or even sacrifice the well-being of the people around them for the sake of achieving whatever it is they desire. Like Waterbenders, they are easy to unbalance, though their problem stems from their inability to change direction easily, whereas their counterpart Element changes direction far too well. Fire tends to be a one trick-pony, as there is little it can do besides burn. Firebenders are often very emotional, and this unbalance can lead to the embracing of something that is initially confusing for those who see run of the mill Firebenders like Admiral Zhao or Prince Zuko in his early stages of the series. If a Firebender is either quick on the uptake, or has the misfortune to cause himself or someone he cares about great harm because of the dangerous and poorly tameable nature of the Element, they often learn to use a countermeasure to control themselves. They become stern and retain their intensity like Jeong Jeong, living a life of harsh ascetic discipline in an effort to control their unmatched power and ferocity, or they rely on their sense of humor and general lightheartedness, coupled with a more relaxed sort of discipline, like Uncle Iroh, to take the edge off of their drive and convert it into a general zest for life and living. Some, though, lose their sense of purpose, and when that happens, they go out like a snuffed flame. It is rare that they will pull a Prince Zuko and regain their drive rapidly, for like pilot lights, Firebenders are hard to start up again once they are put out. Real Firebending personalities would include Martin Luther King Junior and Adolf Hitler.

That finger just held lightning, I swear.

Here’s Hitler with his trademark technique.

Now, to do some sample analysis, using myself as the guinea pig.

I might strike people as an Earthbender due to my size and build, as well as my deeper voice and quiet intensity. I agreed with their assessments at first, because I do very much like the tradition and cultural roots I have been given by my parents, and have a strong root in my Faith and my friends. I am a very intense person, and inclined to brood and think over things silently for long periods of time. I do prefer to meet things head on, and do not enjoy backing down from difficult situations. When I thought about myself more, though, I came to the conclusion that Firebending made the most sense. See, I started out extremely aggressive and passionate, and while I am still very intense and passionate, my aggression has been curbed with discipline and time, coupled with sound religious practice. I am still easily sidetracked and have difficulty not going full-steam ahead on issues that catch my attention. If I am not careful, I snap at people easily, and when angered, I go off like a volcano. My energy is clearly present in any group, I am usually one of the loudest and most physically active people there. When I do get tired, though, I collapse and sprawl over the nearest available comfortable surface. Depending on my mood, what passes for a comfortable surface could easily be a patch of pavement. I burn out.

The problem present in classifying myself is a common thing, many people are hard to define. I am like magma, Fire so close to Earth that it’s almost solid. Waterbenders can be so cold and icy that they seem rock-like, and so flowing that they are nearly Air. Fire can be so brief and explosive that it might behave like a gust of wind, in fact, fires can cause powerful winds, like backdrafts in a burning building, for example. Fire also has the potential to be cheery and friendly, like a hearth or a candle at Midnight Mass. Water can be explosive like fire under pressure, and Earth, when eroded enough, is soft and yielding like water as sand. The important thing is the attempt to get a whole picture of the person, and work from that.

So, that all said and done, classify away, my friends! Feel free to use this guide anywhere you please, as long as you give me the proper credit for its creation.

Filler Because I’m Responsible

So, Final Exams are coming up, and I am awash in papers and tests of all varieties. As opposed to writing for this, I’ll just drop in with the occasional tidbit or artwork that I’ve muddled with to relax between pounding the intellectual turf. Have a taste!

 

This has to be one of my favorite pictures of Christ. I know, I know, it looks hippy, but I like the Universality of it. He’s just beckoning to each and every one of us, wearing a robe that shows in no uncertain terms that He really is the Lord of All Nations.

I recently began watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. I highly doubt that I need to explain why I love this picture. Also, props to Bad Catholic for introducing me to it.

I first read the quote “He went consenting, Or else he was no king…It was no man’s place to say to him, “It is time to make the offering.” from Mary Renault’s “The King Must Die” as the chapter header of some portion of Watership Down. I instantly thought of my own Bleeding King. To that end, I butchered the construction of this on Picnik.

I made this based off of a Full Metal Alchemist one my friend the Catholic Chaoticist over on tumblr had posted up. As many flaws as Bleach had to begin with, and as many as it developed, I did enjoy what I watched of it, especially these two fellows. To date, Kubo Tite is the only man who has created a main character I can identify with fairly well. What that says about me, or more importantly, Kurosaki Ichigo (the serious looking gentleman with the glorified carving knife), is besides the point. On a side note…Abarai Renji is holding his sword in the most uncomfortable way possible. I’m estimating that monster weighs about 15 Ilbs…so why would you ever rest that weight on your body, blade down?

Expect more to come!

Dark for Dark Business

(Names replaced to avoid any breaches of confidentiality.)
It was fairly cold out around 1 AM Friday Morning. A few hours ago I had been at a Latin Holy Thursday Mass with some friends, muddling through a wonderful Sacrament that I knew well in a language that I did not. My friend Perry and I were sitting on the inside of the giant metal modern art sculpture, hiding far back in the cleft facing the NKU University Center, keeping to the shadows and keeping nearly silent. Last night had been easier, as me and my two other friends, Jackson and Mark, had been blessed with more shadow to hide in. The nearly full moon had been covered by clouds then. It had also been warmer and the wind had not bitten half so harshly. Earlier Perry, Jessa, Sally and I had been hiding among roughly broken rocks underneath the UC/BEP walkway. The wind had knifed through the support pillars, howling and chilling us to the bone as it went.

It is entirely reasonable to ask why on earth we were hiding out like this, and why myself and other compatriots had been hiding out the previous night until 3 AM.

The answer is simple. We were hiding near the Northern Kentucky University Right to Life Onesie Display, to protect it from vandals. You see, a simple sign with a properly researched and cited fact on it, coupled with a few clotheslines that had baby clothes hung on them, is apparently enough to warrant the destruction of property under the cover of darkness. Did I mention that the display was approved by the University, or else it would have never been put up in the first place? Or that once used, the baby clothes, of which every fourth article had a red X in tape that was easily removable, were to be donated to babies in sore need of help? Yet, of course, because our stance is not the most popular, on Monday and Tuesday night our display was torn down, with all the onesies picked from their clothespins like cherries and dropped to the dirt. We do not know what time this happened on Monday, but, Tuesday, we know it happened before 1AM, as Perry, Jackson, and I, along with several of our friends, had gone to check on it and found the onesies taken down again. We also know the deed was done after 11 PM, thanks to a passerby who remarked that she had been out smoking around then, and the display had been just fine at that time.

Being very tired of this sort of guerilla trampling of our Right to Free Speech, we called the Campus Police, and various measures were taken to ensure that if it happened again, the perpetrators would be identified and caught. However, we decided that we would do what we could ourselves, after making sure our methods were legal by checking with the proper Authorities. You see, this is not the first year this sort of thing has happened. When our club was founded, one of NKU’s Professors took her class outside to tear up the crosses in our Cemetery of Innocents. Each cross represents a varying number of children slain daily by abortion in the USA, depending on the space available. She was let go and soundly chastized. Year after year, semester after semester, despite constant recriminations and condemnations from the University, displays have been damaged, and flyers torn down. With the flyers at least, some of our members have caught those responsible in the act. They were almost always unrepentant and hostile.

To that end, on Wednesday and Thursday night, several of us stayed out of sight and in the cold, watching our display to make sure that this would not happen again and that the vandals would be caught. We were lucky Wednesday, nothing eventful occurred. It originally seemed to Perry and I that the same would hold true for Thursday, and up until around one we waited, wedged in a cramped, freezing, steel hideout, whispering back and forth to pass the time. Then, he motioned for me to be silent. He had heard the distinct snip of scissors when I had not. I saw one of the clotheslines jerk, and it half fell. I was calling the police that instant, and Perry was readying his camera. I saw a short man steal up and cut down the remaining end. Then, I was busy trying to whisper into the Police Operator’s ear. My voice came out so hushed and garbled that they originally thought I was telling them that someone had pulled a gun. While I was sorting that out, Perry stepped from our hiding place and began snapping pictures. He saw four men rushing to stuff the clotheslines and baby clothes into the trash cans outside of the Art Building. By the time I had exited the art and found my bearings, after I was sure I had gotten the situation through to the Operator, I saw them running hard and fast towards the Natural Science Center. Perry was already in hot pursuit. I followed, but being slower and fatter and more out of shape than my speedy friend, remained far behind. I was roaring into the phone by that point, having figured that any noise could only help our cause. My own voice and heavy breathing, combined with my pounding footsteps, drowned out Perry’s yelling. Afterwards, he explained that in the rush, what he had meant to say got mixed up in his head, and he had bellowed “RUN, YOU COWAAARDS!!!!” instead. I sincerely wish I could have heard that.

A few moments later, both he and the fleeing vandals had vanished around the front end of the Science Center, and I was beginning to catch up, having finally found strength in my tightly-cramped legs. I kept talking to the Operator, and realized that it was very likely my good friend was alone with four criminals who had at least one cutting blade between them. I had no knowledge of whether they carried scissors or buck knives, and so when I caught sight of one of them doubling back, possibly to see if I was still on the chase, I was ready to charge in, fighting like a madman, in the event that they had turned back upon him. Praise God that such evil did not take place. When I rounded the corner, I could not find the man I had seen before, and saw two of them standing by Perry and a squad car with its lights flashing away in the parking lot behind the Norse Commons Cafeteria. Still relating everything to the Operator, as best as I could between breaths, I stopped running and shakily walked up to the Officer who was now questioning the two that had been stopped. The Operator left me in his capable hands. Officer Serious demanded that they call their fellows, and the man I had seen by the Science Center did not abandon them and reappeared in a few minutes. Their fourth man, I found out from Perry, had ducked into a building somewhere along the way, and could not be reached.

While they were standing there, I asked Officer Serious if I might say some polite words to them. He allowed it, and I asked them why they had done this, when none of us had ever torn down any Pro-Choice Display at this school. Their response was unified, instantaneous, and loud. The three began leaning forward, angry and belligerent, speaking about how horribly offensive and vile our simple baby clothes had been. One barked that the information of the sign had been a lie, that the phrase “1 out of four babies die from Abortion” was untruthful. I explained that the Guttmacher Institute, which was where we had gotten that fact, was founded by a man who had once been the President of Planned Parenthood. I was shouted down and told that Mr. Alan Frank Guttmacher, an obstetrician and gynecologist as well as a member of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization, had no idea what it was like to be a woman. As if womanhood had anything to do with the ability to report valid statistics. Perry coolly remarked, “Yes, and it seems that the three of you have much experience with knowing what it’s like to be a woman.” During these few sentences, which had originally begun as an innocent request for an explanation, they had moved forward several steps, and Officer Serious found in necessary to step in front of me and tell them to shut it because there would be no debating here. To be frank…I am six foot three, two-hundred and twenty pounds. The biggest one of them was probably two-thirds my size, at the greatest. One of them could not have been more than ninety pounds. If you are willing to be that aggressive to a man that much larger than you, WITH an Officer of the Law present, to the point where he has to literally move in front of you to block your path, and YOU are the one who has committed the crime, you might want to seriously reconsider your position.

They were already trying to downplay what they had just done, and had begun apologizing like children caught with their hands in the candy jar. I was more than somewhat amused when they declared that “surely, we can work something out, come to some sort of resolution”, considering what had happened minutes before. Perry and I accepted their apologies personally, but I warned them that I was not the President of NRTL, and that if my Club Officers asked my opinion of the situation, I would advise them to do whatever the University Code and the Law required, without any thought for pleas for leniency. Given the history of actions like theirs, a strong and clear example needed to be made that this sort of behavior was intolerable. Their faces darkened then, but they remained silent, probably because they had learned overt aggression would not be looked kindly on by the Lawmen present. I gave them a brief lesson on all that had taken place before that night, starting with the first destruction of our displays and going all the way to the present moment. Now, by their own admission, they were not the ones who had taken down the onesies earlier in the week. It does bother me that the vandals were not contained in one isolated group, but, we at least caught somebody. During this, two other Officers, Jogger and Comedian, pulled up and took over the parking lot situation, while Officer Serious took Perry back up to the display. Officer Comedian took over further questioning, from which we all learned several things. It turns out that they had planned to do this earlier in the day during classes, and that all three were Theater Majors at NKU. They also had been drinking beforehand, even though one of them was only 18. The other two were 21. It turned out later that the 18-year-old tried to tell my President that he was actually Pro-life and that he had been a lookout. His behavior towards me on this night proves that statement an outright lie. I saw no disapproving look in his eyes when the three of them began shouting at me in unison. They had used scissors, thankfully, so my fears of having to face knives had been unnecessary, though not entirely unfounded. They repeatedly gave their reason for vandalism as the terrible offensive nature of our display. Officer Comedian, who has my undying applause for his handling of the situation, detained them, made them wait on their knees in the cold, and then took them off under arrest to jail. While he was doing this, he kept up an impressive stream of humorous and educational banter. When the underage man remarked that he had relatives in the military, he asked him how those relatives would feel when he told them that he had violated the very Constitutional Rights they had been fighting for. His weak response was a mumbled ‘Disappointed”. He also managed to sum up the stupidity of what those three had done by explaining that if he saw a sign declaring “Kill the police!” in someone’s yard, he did not have the right to go tear it down, break their windows, raid their fridge, and eat their food in their easy chair.

One of the vandals complained that the pavement was really hurting his knees. I remarked that the large chunks of rock and cold wind under the walkway by the University Center had hurt while we were waiting for them earlier. They responded that that took dedication. “Well, we’re tired of you tearing our shit down.” I said.

In summation, all three planned this ahead of time, got themselves a little drunk, and came up to campus to cut this display down and throw it in the trash. They seemed unphased when I explained that the clothes were to be donated to needy children. So much for their love for those in need. All of their behavior was admitted to Campus Police Officers, who promptly processed them, including the fourth man, who turned himself in later that night. In addition to various alcohol related charges, the have been charged with Criminal Mischief. the University, while unable to tell us what punishment they would receive due to confidentiality rules, made it clear that they would handle the situation, and I have full confidence in their ability to do so.

There is something about waiting in silence in the dark of the night which tests the soul. Even laying in wait with a group of people can be a trying experience. As the time wears on, and you become accustomed to your surroundings, the initial nervousness and shock wears off, only to be replaced by a feeling more pervasive and paranoid. At the start of things, every skitter of leaves across the ground, every bit of movement, every stray person walking past your field of vision, they all spook you a little bit. You get jumpy and your head darts around, trying to investigate anything that seems like a possible threat. Late at night, everything does. Once that period subsides, you can relax a bit, and let yourself breathe a little more easily. The tension never leaves the depths of your mind, though. It is the background melody to your evening symphony, playing throughout the whole piece, and rising to a thunderous crescendo every time thereafter that you hear something that might be amiss. I do not recommend doing this for an hour, let alone five of them at a time.

There is a kind of madness in being forced by necessity to stand guard over your own Freedom of Expression at a University dedicated to helping you develop your ability to use it. The madness is trebled when at that University, which for you has become a place where you come to learn and grow, a place where your friends and loved ones reside, a place that stands for something good and wholesome in your life, you are made to feel, even for an instant, that you are about to fight for the life and limb of one of your friends simply because someone disagreed with what you said. The full weight of this outrage did not sink home until recently, as in the moment, I was actually too full of adrenaline and get-at-them to be afraid of much of anything, or give any thought to the issue beyond resolving to knock some heads together should it come to that. But now, with the anger and rush of the chase gone, I look at those brief five seconds of time in shock and horror. For in those five seconds I was forced by the unknowns of the situation to prepare myself for something almost unthinkable: I had steeled myself to come snarling around a corner and begin unleashing my wrath upon four armed men, with my bare fists, in an effort to preserve the well-being of my friend and myself. Because someone had decided that the way were talking was offensive. This may sound silly or paranoid to you, but you try chasing down four strange men who, by any stretch of reasoning, have to have some sort of blades on them. Then imagine losing sight of your friend and your marks, and having all sounds but your own voice and the wind vanish with the suddeness of the Big Bang. Do I sound overly concerned to you now? Again, I thank God that the men we hunted down were too frightened initially to turn on us instead of flee, and that they were not armed, but we had no way of gauging their intent or equipment. This point is especially poignant, for after hearing of the events I have just described, some of my friends and relatives have noted that their behavior indicated that were the police not present, we may very well have had a fight on our hands. I am inclined to agree with their assessment of things.

What kind of mongrel do you have to be to decide that another’s voice should be silenced merely because it makes you angry? This is even lower than silencing a voice for the “greater good”, for at least that requires that the silencer gag their victim in a badly executed attempt to save or protect society. But simple disgust with another’s opinion? Please, the Propaganda machines of Red China and North Korea have more honor than you. They at least have an ideological reason to eliminate Free Speech, you are just a cantankerous child complaining because somebody said something you find ugly. Your reaction to opposing opinions is akin to a man punching another in the nose because he just stated that he did not like rutabagas.

Folks, I sincerely ask that if you know men or women like the ones my friend and I dealt with, you counsel them on a better way to get out their frustrations. There was one such man who did so, with this very display. He calmly sat in front of it, for two days, with his own homemade sign, answering questions when asked. At no time was he offensive or impolite. He staunchly disagreed with our ideals, but handled that disagreement the appropriate way. I thank that lone man, for those like him remind me that not all those I face when it comes to standing up for what I believe will be dogs and swine, regardless of the evils I have seen done for the sake of trying to tear myself and those like me down.

Oh, and of course, if you know anyone preparing to vandalize something, call the Police. And get yourself an ice cold beer afterwards.

Brace Yourselves, the Pro-Choicers are Coming

At my University, the campus pro-life group currently has a display against Abortion up. It is an entirely legal and approved display in the correct provided display area. And yet someone, or some group of people, has decided that it is not okay for us to have such threatening things as baby clothes, red tape, and a sign explaining that 1 out of 4 babies is murdered through abortion. They have voiced this through the only reasonable means they could come up with, probably after a long, drawn out meeting. They have vandalized our display twice in as many days. Both times the damage was done under cover of darkness, with only the eyes of their possible fellow transgressors and God upon them as they went about their criminal business.  I am sure they all congratulated themselves for being champions of Truth and Justice, or if they were of a more juvenile bent, champions of rebellion and their own puerile pride.

“Look at me, girls! I’m rebelling against something tied to symbols of authority! Mate with me!”

I am almost certain that was said, if any of the perpetrators were boys. I do not say men, because  to be a man one must have courage. Of course, courage is not what is required to simply run up and tear down baby clothes off of clotheslines, a task that probably takes at most a few minutes to complete. Even if you did it during the middle of the day, you could be gone into the swarm of students changing classes during lunch before anyone could stop you.  In the evening, the job is infinitely easier. There are many twenty-minute windows in which you could run up and not be seen. Did I mention that this part of campus does not have cameras pointed towards it? Now think about how easy it would be to sneak up and do that in the dark between 11pm and 1am. Yeah. That takes bravery. It takes immense mettle to throw to ground clothes that, once used for our purposes, will go to needy babies.

There is one counter protester who made his own sign and sits in front of the display. I debated him for some time on his message and mine. He was polite, clear, and rational. He did not block the view of passers by. He was bothered, to say the least, by the fact that folk were tearing down our displays. Though our views are antithetical, he has my respect for knowing how to respect the views of others without conceding his own. I bear him no ill will.

As for the vandals? Though I pray for their souls, I sincerely hope that they are caught and publicly humiliated by an onrush of condemnation, so that they might learn that theirs is not the correct path.

It is truly sad. Those who shriek the loudest for Freedom and Truth and Fairness are those who are denying myself and my associates the Freedom of Expression, our right to assert what we believe as Truth, and our ability to fairly represent ourselves. This sort of behavior has been a part of the local environment since the founding of the campus pro-life group, when a Professor, who was let go on account of her behavior, took her class outside to tear down the crosses in our Cemetery of of Innocents display. There has not been a year when flyers, crosses, and other displays have not been torn apart or broken. Some of our members have caught people in the act of tearing down our flyers.

We have endured despite this, and we shall continue to do so. Though of different creeds, we are united in purpose. We will not stop until Abortion is dead, or we are, even if it takes our whole lifetime and the lifetimes of those that shall take our place when we pass on. We will take buffets, spitting, and curses. You can beat us, chain us, gag us, even slay us. We shall not be silent. We shall not admit defeat. This is our resolve.

Your meager mite of temerity, if you could call it that, will wither in light of the fury and might of our own.

To those of you who side with us, pray to whatever God or gods you serve, and be prepared for the fight of your lives.

To those of you that have pitted yourself against us, those of you willing to degrade and abuse and discredit us, be prepared for humiliation, for weakness of your level is not tolerated by the Just of any Creed, Theist or otherwise.

The Swarm and the Saint, the Horde and the Hero

My interests, when it comes to the tabletop strategy game Warhammer 40,000, can be summed up quite easily with two simple strokes that divide my favorite armies into four overlapping categories. On the side of “Good”, or what passes for it in the Great Galaxy of Grimdark, I favor strongly the Blood Angels and Space Wolves, both Space Marine Chapters of the Imperium of Man. On the side of Evil, which does not need parentheses, for in such a harsh fictional background, even the heroes could be labeled as villains, I prefer the Orkz and the Tyranids, the first a race of brutish warriors equipped with legendary toughness and ferocity, and the second a Hive Collective of insatiable hunger and incalculable size.

Ah, so you have never bothered to look into the cobbled together mess that is the fiction of Warhammer 40,000? Well, I think then, it is time for a brief lesson on this hodgepodge of science fiction and and fantasy concepts. The general overview of the Universe is something like this:

Yes. It is like that.

Mankind was originally in a bit of a fragmented position, occupying random chunks of the Galaxy and mainly trying to live day by day while fighting one another and invasive alien species. Suddenly, this superman who turns out to be a demi-god with vast psychic powers conjured up by a bunch or primitive far-seeing shaman-mystics back in the B.C. years shows up.  Supposedly this guy was behind the scenes for everything major in history, and finally decided to say screw it and become the Emperor of Mankind. In the process of doing so, he creates a bunch of genetically enhanced super soldiers, including a dozen or so Primarchs, super-warriors he created using his own DNA. Some have psychic powers, some are charismatic, some are really, really, really (emphasis on all three reallys) good at organization. One has angel wings. One is really bloodthirsty. Another likes to drink and fight all the time. So he uses this mixed bag of deadly supermen and genetically enhances entire legions of men with their DNA, and puts each legion of “Space Marines”(note the wonderfully creative name) under the command of their own “father”. So, joined with the military of any planets they conquer, they run around the galaxy spanking the snot out of any aliens in a xenocidal rampage somehow held together by the iron will of their entirely (well except for Lorgar, but let’s forget him) secular leaders who follow their “father’s” even-more-iron will and insurmountable charisma.

Now, all this time, what has been allowing various gifted people to have psychic powers is this thing called the Warp. Now, in the Warp, there are creatures that can take physical form when the Warp tears. Many of these things are not nice, as the Warp is made up of the combined psyches/souls/what-have-you of every living thing in the universe. The most powerful Warp entities are the Chaos gods, Tzeentch, the bird-like fiend of Hope and Change (which makes our current president’s campaign slogan highly ironic), Nurgle, the rotting beast of Disease, Decay, and Death, Khorne, the warrior of destruction, violence, and blood, and Slaanesh, the creepy Dr. Frankenfurter of Warhammer, a being of excess and desire, Lord/Lady of Pleasure, spawned by the drug induced orgies of the Eldar (Space Elves, to be simple about it). Yup. Those darn fickle elves partied so much they birthed a hideous entity they would come to call She Who Thirsts. There’s nothing like creating a soul-devouring deity with your unchecked desires.

You always want to wear a hat when fighting Tzeentch.

Papa Nurgle is not the kind of dad you'd enjoy spending time with.

Always angry. All the time. That's Khorne for you.

I won’t even post a picture that has anything to do with Slaanesh. They’re all creepy and give me the heebie jeebies.

So, these four Chaos gods start whispering things into various ears within the Primarchs, and the New Imperium of Man suddenly has a giant civil war on its hands. After a long war costing countless billions of lives, they manage to fight off Chaos by a hair, but the Emperor is mortally wounded in the process and is kept as some sort of mostly-dead-mortal-shell thing by the Golden Throne, a contraption that uses the souls of Psykers (people with mind powers) to keep him from being completely dead. It takes a thousand of them a day to keep him kicking. And if you think that’s grisly, well, suddenly this religion based around the Emperor as a god-figure springs up, and they get an Inquisition, and it’s like a very hideous version of the Catholic Church with lasers in space, in what is left of an Empire that once spanned the Galaxy. Technology barely advances and is treated like religion, heresy abounds, atrocity is the name of the game, and aside from the corruptions of the Chaos gods and their servant daemons, a handbasket full of violent alien races are making inroads into Man’s home as well. When the tagline says “In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war.”, it is not kidding. What they don’t quite tell you until you read further than that is this: the entire concept is so over the top and exaggerated that the sheer insanity of it becomes humorous.

So, now that you have been educated about where these freaks come from, on to the specific groups themselves.

On the side of “Good”, I will begin with the Space Wolves. Now, Space Marines do need some preparatory description. The best way to think of them is simply as genetically enhanced super-warriors inside nearly impervious robotic armor, which are also monks. These are not the peaceful, simple-laborer Catholic or Buddhist monks, though. These are monks who worship the god-Emperor of Mankind and their founding Primarch, and recite Litanies of Hate and invoke blessings to turn on their machinery before going to war. These are psycho-indoctrinated soldiers who come screaming out of the sky and open fire on you with what are essentially hybrids between machine guns and rocket launchers. One fully armed Space Marine could probably take out a division of any modern day armed force by himself. A squad of ten is capable of taking over a planet by utilizing brains, stealth, and superior firepower. They are roughly seven feet tall without the armor, and hit eight or nine feet when wearing it. They can spit acid, crush a man’s skull with one hand like an egg, eat almost anything they can chew, and go weeks without eating and days without sleeping with no performance loss. They have heightened senses, a reinforced skeleton, two hearts, an assortment of other organs that let them do things like survive in extreme heat, cold, or temporary vacuum. In their armor, they can punch through metal walls, withstand blasts that would wreck our tanks, and carry what amounts to an SUV around without any real trouble at all. Each is trained in every conceivable mode of warfare and all manner of battle tactics, and is required to be proficient in each. This description only concerns the rank and file Battle Brothers of each Chapter, not the specialists or commanders of those thousands of different mini-cultures with their own heraldry, traditions, and customs.

You do not want this angry at you.

The Primarch of the Space Wolves, Leman Russ, was raised on a an icy planet called Fenris (you will find this heavy-handed naming common throughout the Universe of Warhammer), where the people were pretty much hyper-vikings constantly warring with one another for survival. He joined the Imperium when the Emperor beat him in single combat. This Chapter has strong Norse themes and roots, and are somewhat genetically modified further than their peers with even keener senses and longer canines than is normal. They use wolf imagery like mad, and wear pelts and claws and teeth and skulls as adornment on their armor. They are notorious for rushing into fights and enjoying long bouts of tale-weaving and heavy drinking afterwards. They are proud warriors with a respect and admiration for the forces of Nature, and more humanitarian than most Chapters, fully embracing their role as protectors of the Imperium. They tend to buck all manner of authority but their own, and like all Space Marines, hold their forebears and traditions in unshakeable regard. A summation of their philosophy can be found in this quote: “It is the way of Fenris. We stay as long as we can. Fight as hard as we can. Kill as much as we can. Only when we can do no more do we move on.”

Ice and snow? Enemies? No problem. They've got this.

The Blood Angels are similar to the Space Wolves in their Humanitarian aspect, and their Primarch, Sanguinius, was angelic in more than his winged and noble appearance. When the Emperor was besieged on Terra, in the heartland of the Imperium, he died protecting him and thereby saved Humanity with his sacrifice. I do not think it so strange a thing that this Chapter has extremely Catholic imagery and rituals, down to drinking the preserved blood of their Primarch from ornate chalices as part of their religious observances. In fact, the Chapter has often been described as a bunch of Catholic Vampires. All tend to be fair and long haired, and like the Church, enjoy the arts, especially painting. Also like the members of the Church, they struggle with an innate flaw, although instead of Original Sin, it is the Red Thirst, which leads, if not kept in check, to the Black Rage. This anger and hunger stems from some sort of psycho-genetic link to their Primarch, and the moment when he was slain. The Black Rage is a nearly insensate state of madness and battle lust, and those who fall into it must be shepherded by the spiritual masters of the Chapter, and are only unleashed upon the enemy when the need is great. They have a special organization titled the Death Company which these men are organized into, and they fight with a cold fury until killed. This flaw is combated by an intense life of prayer, meditation, and the release of artwork, mostly painting, as mentioned before. You have to admit, this is all strikingly familiar.

Yeah. He's like that.

Now for the Bad Guys.

Orks are a simple bunch. They were originally genetically engineered to combat one of the other races in Warhammer 40,000, the Necrons, a bunch of stone-cold killing machines, literally. Their sole purpose is to fight. An ork starts out as a spore in the ground, then eventually claws his way to the surface and right away begins beating on other orkz. You see, the more orkz fight and survive those fights, the tougher and larger they get. They thrive on violence.  Eventually, when one ork gets big and tough enough, he starts to lead a band of them, and they fight other bands. If he survives, and becomes more massive and nasty in the process, he leads what is left of all the other bands as a Warboss. Repeat this process a hundred or so times, and you have what the Orkz call a Waaaaaaagh!!!, or a massive army of the creatures bent on looting and destruction. The more Orkz there are, the meaner and tougher each ork gets. The race has been described, with only a small degree of exaggeration, as one where you could shoot their arms and head off, and put a few rounds in their chest, and you’d still have to do some hard arguing to convince one wounded in such a manner that it was dead. Combined with this natural durability and ferocity is a queer sort of cunning, which allows them to master and loot pretty much anything they can get their hands on, and turn it into weaponry. They also have a few odd members of their breed with psychic ability, the power of which fluctuates with the number of ‘boyz, as they call their average soldier, present. It is often said that if there were a way they could stop infighting and unite, the Orkz would blaze through the Galaxy like fire through last week’s newspaper.

They are this crazy. Every time.

The Tyranids are a sort of Horde as well. It is unsure from whence they came, but the multiple times they have entered the Galaxy to prey upon its denizens, they have devoured everything in their wake indiscriminately and barely been repelled. They are highly evolved swarms of organisms that function with one Hive Mind. It is unsure what the exact nature of this Hive Mind is, whether it be a collective of all the smaller primitive minds of each organism or a central intelligence, but what is certain is that the Swarms evolve at a rate unprecedented by anything else. Their claws and teeth are engineered to the point where they can rend metal, and various bio-plasmas and acids make up their arsenal of firepower. All who stand against them fall under wave after wave of utterly fearless single-minded beasts refined entirely in a way that befits wholesale slaughter. Those who have been defeated are then absorbed as biomass to create yet more monstrosities, along with their own dead and creatures too wounded to be useful. After a victory, a planet is stripped of all organic material, which is then converted into biomass for the Hive Mind to use. It has been estimated that the Galaxy has only seen the tendrils of a much larger force that is slowly investigating a new territory.

Yes. It is going to eat that tank.

So, why I have I gone on for so very long about a fantastical Science Fiction Universe setting for a game most of you will never play, and many of you will find strange, stupid, or both?

Because, I think, my favorite factions in this game parallel ways of thinking, both ancient and modern, secular and religious. One of these patterns of thought happens to apply to mine own.

In the olden days, when Vikings actually existed and men cherished far more dearly tales of combat and strife, as opposed to “RAAHN, STAWP IT” being cried out incessantly by whoever that tanned creature of a woman was on Jersey Shore, there were grand sagas of legendary heroes that opposed foes of massive dimensions, either in numbers or with one really big bad dude. Beowulf, Sigurd, Thor, and the like, all of them were legendary warriors of intense stature and martial prowess. They possessed the courage, the mettle, the fighting spirit that all Pagan heroes require to be heroes at all. They are also extremely individual people, in that they are men who stand out, who go their own way, though bound by custom and duty. They are not unthinking, nor are they brutes despite their bloodlust and strength, but are skilled and tempered by experience and cunning. This is something quite readily apparent in the way the Space Wolves are treated. Despite their over-drinking and unnecessary celebratory fighting, they are skilled and brave warriors, always ready to give their all for Lord and Land and Honor. They keep a rugged individualism about themselves, keeping their own council and spitting in the eye of those would keep that right from them.

On the other hand, you have the dragons, the monsters, the ogres, the raging hordes of killers who do nothing but pillage and rape and slay and steal. You have the darker side of ancient pagan nature here, a monster craving flesh for its gullet and other satisfaction for the various desires given to it by nature. It does not put overmuch thought into things aside from getting those wants, it has a hunger, and it must keep that hunger sated. Like Fafnir, like Grendel and Grendel’s mother, the Orkz too have needs, a bloodlust they must fill, but due to their nature, they never can get enough. There is no real self here, no real individuality, no dream beyond satisfying their innermost desires. They go where they please, sure enough, and individuals here and there might distinguish themselves as particularly good at satisfying their universal craving for wanton destruction. But they are all of too like a mind and a too much a servant of their own passions and wants to have any sort of real individuality.

Since the Advent of Christianity upon the Globe, something quite new and wonderful has arisen. A Blessed sort of Individualism that at first seems like it crushes the individual itself as part of a larger whole has sprung forth into Creation. The Catholic Church seems to many like a large number of brainwashed zombies lurching in the same direction. Nothing could be further from the Truth. The intent of Catholicism is not to take away Man’s Will, but to return it to him from the bonds of Sin and Death. A man still has passions if he is Catholic, but he meets them in a manner not unlike that of the Heroes of Old meeting a foe in battle. He must become a rugged individual, a man well versed in the Inner War of the Soul. His temptations prowl about like hungry curs, seeking his life and lives of those around him. In his Heart, he stands alone but for the Aide of God. He must learn skill, and cunning, and strength, and courage. He must become the consummate warrior, a hero, a Saint. The Church is not a gathering of zombies. It is a gathering of Men who chose to free themselves, and then free others, the way all true Heroes must. So do the Blood Angels behave. They fight enemies within and without, training and praying hard and with great vigor. They are both scholarly and adept at portraying the beauty in things. While they do all have one cause, they have chosen that cause. They bow respectfully to higher authority, but do not allow secular needs to overrun their own conscience, and are all the more respected and righteous for doing so. They come to the aide of those besieged by darkness, as befits their name. They, like the Church, are made up of individuals seeking the good, organized by a higher power into a work of art that goes about saving the Universe.

What are the Tyranids then? Secularism, or as I prefer to call it, the New Paganism, for the parallels are deliciously funny(and something I will most likely touch on in a later post), is quite similar to them in its function. Among the Tyranids, you have a massive group shackled together for the purpose of doing one thing, and one thing alone; what it is programmed to do by its nature. Tyranids devour because they were born to devour. Secular thought, Secular Humanism in particular, emphasizes the ability of Humanity to solve its own problems, by way of the equipment we are given by Evolution and the processes that govern it. Under this school of thought, the entire human race is simply this sort of machinery, this group of organisms doing what they do best, doing as they were birthed to do. The individual is subservient to the many, and able to be cast off if needed, for it is only as valuable as it is useful. Now, at this point, many will claim that this is not so, that you see strong individualism all the time. I say, not so! The Tyranids again serve me well as example. There are many forms the organisms in the swarm may take, even members who stand out in stature or individual intelligence or function, but a part of the swarm they remain. Social creatures without a Hive Mind, but enslaved to the ultimate survival of the many in this way, fare no better. The “individuals” you see are merely useful in their skills or their special adaptation, and if the usefulness fades, so does their value. This pseudo-individualism is the rallying cry of many in the Secularist movement.

Another part of the problem with this is the lack of Objective Right and Wrong. The current moral mode of the day is that right and wrong are subjectively determined by our needs as a people (read, as a species). There is therefore no real choice, no individual decision at all to be made in that kind of moral system. When making a moral decision, you are now choosing between varying degrees of function and usefulness, and you are serving the purpose for which the species created you. If you choose poorly many times, or your morality is not helpful to the race, you become detritus that is merely something that will be removed in the next generation. There is no choice in this kind of choosing, there is no real choice in selecting a different shade of gray. Their is no Individual in this kind of lazy and weak individualism, where in the end you serve the same function as everyone else, just in a different manner or form.

And from this I conclude that the Catholic Church, and Christianity as a whole, is the most rugged Individualist group on the planet.

An Ally Has Entered the Arena!

It would be swell of you to get your tumblr watching behinds over to this guy and start following his stuff. Also, if you don’t, I will sic my Papal Velociraptor upon you when you least expect it.

http://catholicchaoticist.tumblr.com/

Psssst, we’re buddies.

A Certain Flaw

Many folk out and about in the high and mighty halls of academia today, and a handful here and there not quite so educated but willing to throw their lot in the same communal pot, have come to the conclusion that Science is the be all and end all of Humanity, and that it shall eventually solve all human problems. They claim that it needs no aide from any other school of thought to accomplish this goal. I will not bother to discuss whether this is actually possible or not, there are many lengthy arguments for or against this concept, and none of them have any bearing on what I am about to say.

There is a problem present in this worldview that is not readily present to the eye of the public, or even the eye of those men and women, myself included, that consider themselves students of the School of Scientific Thought. There is a potential and potent danger in removing Science from the constraints of Philosophical or Religious Ethics. Now, one could easily turn this argumentative thrust aside by remarking that many scientists do not desire the removal of Philosophy, or even Religion from the minds and hearts of the human race. I would be happily inclined to agree, as I am one of those people, despite my “in-training” status. Yet there is a growing faction within the Intellectual Community that holds this to be true. Part of what these men and women have forgotten is that Science is a wonderful tool, but that from its conception was never intended as a master. There is a very strong reason for that.

Who are Scientists, anyway? The general public today thinks of several things when that word comes to mind. It conjures up images of staunch, possibly socially awkward and shy men in lab coats and glasses, pontificating on various subjects with a cold, alien self-assurance that they know exactly what it is they speak of. On occasion, they are envisioned as hyper-critical, rationalist men with a flair for keeping absolutely calm and detached positions even in the most heated debates, sometimes stoically like the stone-faced Mr. Spock, or with a face painted in some sort of clever little smirk and a dash of twinkle in their eye. Very rarely, they are cruel and unforgiving folk with an acidic tongue and a distinct hatred for any kind of thought they find wanting in intelligence, lacking in wit, or from someone who dares to oppose their intellect.  The general idea of all of these conceptions boils down to extreme intelligence and a nearly absolute knowledge of their field, almost to the point of infallibility.

This is not only false, it is dangerous. When you give any one group of men, or any school of thought, for that matter, total domination over a society’s way of thinking, history shall show you that bad things will most certainly happen. What I am willing to bet that a large portion of the world, America included, has forgotten, is that Science is not an absolute. That Scientists are not perfectly logical machine-men who only serve Humanity or Science or Truth itself. We have this problem of image where we see the men of Science as people who live austere lives, almost as separated from the rest of us as Trappist monks are in their monasteries. We look and find a supreme superhuman dedication to rational thought and the betterment their own field which consequently betters the lives of our species. The title PhD has become as significant and respected as the title Rev. or Fr., which, in itself, is nothing wrong. What is wrong is awarding those possessing such titles the same sort of confidence and devotional respect. What is wrong is that to many I have met, the white lab coat a Professor may wear is viewed in a like way to the raven cassock of the Roman Catholic Church.

At this point you might begin to feel that I am taking things a tad too far; I assure you, I am not. As a man of Faith myself, I can recognize it quite clearly in others, even others who are so wrapped up in their own thinking that they fail to notice where they have left rationality behind for, strangely enough, the sake of rational thought. I can guarantee that those of the secular mindset, especially those raised in that manner of thinking, have a much harder time recognizing their own pseudo-religious behavior or thought. We, who live and breathe such things, can see it as plain as the nose on their faces.

Any man who has attacked Religion or expressed the dangers that come with it, and even as a practicing Catholic I assure you that I acknowledge some of those dangers myself, for they do exist, can tell you that such a view of men in the sort of financial, political, intellectual, and governmental positions is no good thing. Like Priests, and Bishops, and even Popes, contrary to what some Protestants would have you believe, Scientists are flawed, fallible, and human. Unless guided by some outside source (I.E., in the cases of Church Council or Papal Infallibility, which relate only to Church Teachings and not personal thought or behavior, basically, no Church Council or Pope can order me to jump off of the Empire State Building, or shoot a heretic, for that matter, and claim that it is the direct Will of God that I do so), they will continue to be flawed, fallible, and human. And still, I cannot count the number of times I have voiced a disparate opinion or hypothesis regarding some bit of evidence or data and been told that Science has decreed that this or that Theory is absolute and final. Any proper Scientist should scoff and deride such madness. The very way Theories are given life is by the interpretation of data. All because we have begun to view Science and its practitioners as a strange sort of secular priesthood.

Scientists are subject to great pressures in their daily lives, which increase or decrease depending on their field. One such pressure which remains ubiquitous for all of us is the need to find funding for research, or even just to support ourselves. We are not humble hermits working in secluded labs for the betterment of all, while what we do might involve that. Like any other lay (as in not of a religious order) person, we work to feed ourselves and keep our families afloat. Now, because I am a Papist, I will take this moment to congratulate the Church for creating a class of men and women freed from that grind by providing them a reasonable amount of food and shelter while removing their need to provide for a family. It was a stroke of immense brilliance, though part of the celibacy issue is Divinely given and the credit belongs to God, not us. You see, Priests and Nuns and all the rest can go about their work completely out of a desire to help others, as opposed to worrying over keeping themselves and their loved ones taken care of.

I have already witnessed firsthand the sort of jockeying that can occur over funding. I have been edging closer to it as my undergraduate research becomes more important and meaningful to the field of Paleontology at large. I have not liked what I have seen, and had several ugly realizations that shattered my own false imaginings of who and what scientists were. We are anything but intellectual ascetics. My experiences, I am told, are still not fully what “things are really like” in Academia. Aside from all the ego-fanning, fame-mongering, and political jockeying within the Universities and other institutions that put clothing on our backs, food in our mouths, and our names into magazines and newspapers, there is even the monetary angle to consider. I am a mere meddler in things long dead that at best bring media attention, that, while valuable, can also be drawn in by other more lucrative research. Can you comprehend the pressure placed squarely upon the shoulders of researchers in genetics, pharmacology, or any number of other fields where they are by nature part of a multi-billion/trillion dollar industry? Especially in an environment where the University has in many ways become more of a business than a place of learning, such things are rife with temptations and all manner of corporate espionage/backbiting/assorted treachery. Or consider yourself as a member of the American Psychological(or Psychiatric) Association, both of which have ties to our Government and the Pharmaceutical Industry. The point is, just because a nice man with the looks expected of his profession says something, you should not immediately consider it to be the truth and nothing but.

With all of that said about those who are in the Sciences, it is time to move on to Science itself. I would say that the best description of the purpose of Science is to explain the how the Universe works through Empirical study. This is a good and wholesome thing. However, left unshackled, what was once a blessing can become a curse. The logical progression which leads to the End Goal of Science is one very few have bothered to give more than a cursory glance at. This End Goal is Omniscience. For man to understand the Universe, completely and with certainty, man’s knowledge must become virtually Omniscient. And it follows that man would then be virtually Omnipotent. The other “Omni’s” follow as part of that first goal, likewise in a virtual manner. Plain and simply, Science with no outside guide is the pursuit of ultimate knowledge and therefore ultimate power. It does not take a Religious man to feel a bit of trepidation when confronted with the idea of Man attempting to become as many view God. This has even more weight to it when you consider that by many philosophical definitions, mine own included, it is impossible for Man to reach that state of perfection (hence the use of the word virtual). What horrors would a demi-god race wreak upon the stars and themselves in their search for ever-more growth and perfection? Considering our own herky-jerky chaotic advancement thus far in our history, we have little to hope for and much to fear as far as this is concerned.

In closing, Science is one of the greatest tools of Man. But any object or tool pursued for its own sake becomes an unforgiving slave-driver of a master, one more likely to consume its wielder than bring about anything good.

Dashing Debonair (And sometimes Dastardly) Dragons

I am a man who very much likes dragons. Strange, is it not, this orthodox fellow who likes Roman Catholicism and Christ Jesus so much, liking something the Devil is described as in the Bible? Liking such a Western symbol of Evil and Destruction does indeed seem out of place when it comes right down to it. My fondness for the great scaly beasts is probably harmless, but many of the more Fundamentalist Christians, and even some Catholics, I have spoken to seem to find it slightly unnerving, or even blasphemous, for my tastes to lean in that direction. One such couple went so far as to say that I had within me a desire for the Occult that needed to be eradicated, along with my love of music that is not explicitly and overwhelmingly Christian. I believe they were Independent Baptists, who according to some other denominations which contain people I know, tend to be overly sour-puss in their beliefs and very uncompromising on any matter whatsoever related in the slightest to Faith. I wonder if they and the Westboro Baptist Church have anything in common? After all, I highly doubt Hell awaits me if I wear a shirt that has a dragon on it. I own so many that I would surely burn. As I write this, I am in front of my giant blue wyvern poster. Next to a book shelf chock full of tales involving or centering around dragons, among other things so many miss out on because they automatically assume that looking foul means being foul, as opposed to the fact that Evil often wears a noble face and has a nasty habit of being the most busy in God’s own house. I would wager that the Devil does not attack through so obvious means as to only use fantastical trappings as his vehicle. He has better weapons, ones that I sadly am familiar with.

But I digress. Why do I like dragons anyway? I have a few answers, probably both profound and yet as childish and simple as tiddlywinks. The best answers are that way by nature.

The most simple of these explanations ties in, as many things do, to Dinosaurs. These great reptilian creatures have stalked the halls of my mind since before I could name more than one of them. There is something vast and glorious about their size, be they diminutive like Compsognathus and Avimimus, or gargantuan like Giganotosaurus and Ultrasaurus.

Need I say more?

 

They have a distinctness that to my aesthetics, encompasses the Glory of Creation the way whirling galaxies and nebulae might in the eyes of an astronomer or astronaut. To me, dinosaurs reveal the Power and the Glory of what the Lord has made, and it is a beauty too great to be ignored, though many might deny its link to God. There is no child who will look at an Allosaurus raising its toothy maw to the sky in a triumphant roar, hooked hand-claws extended in primal fury, and not be moved. Some might fear, and others might stand in awe, but all shall be moved. And so it is with anything that displays the Greatness of God.

What the heck, I'll say more anyway.

 

So I ask you. What are dragons but dinosaurs scaled up and with more decoration in various places, physical or otherwise? Man has an innate respect for that which is larger than himself, and what is more overmastering than a creature millenia old, with wings that blot out the sun, breath that turns steel molten, claws that tear down castle walls, muscle and sinew that crumble mountainside in their grip, a gaze more intense than any bird of prey, and an alien intellect that almost breaks down your very will as it speaks with a voice that rocks the roots of the stone you stand upon. What are dragons and dinosaurs, or indeed, the vastness of Creation, but a mirror or window in which to see the Divine?

I think this would move anyone. Especially their bowels.

 

I also like to look at how Dragons, and their opposites, the typical Knight, fight. Knights, after a certain point, to me, seem more than a little weak. They find an animal, and bend it to their will, and call it a noble steed, and ride into battle dominating another of God’s Creatures. They press a blacksmith into their service, and have him forge armor and weapons with which to fight, again asserting mastery over another. The very armor and weapons themselves are not what the Good Lord has given them. There is a distinct lack of trust there, in relying not on what God has given you, but on what you can squeeze out of Creation and your fellow man. Dragons, however, are different. Their only weapons and armor, despite their effectiveness and lethality, are those granted to them by the Creator. All a dragon’s fiery breath, impenetrable scales, cruel talons, cunning intellect, colossal size, vast wings, and hideous strength are what he is born with. The very fact that he takes to the wing on the wind, something that has long been poetically called the Breath of God, implies a sense of trust in something he does not control, something he must learn to work with and not against, or be cast to the ground. I see no reason why this utter reliance on using the Gifts given to you by the Grace of God and this complete reliance on His machinations that you cannot always see but trust to support you should not be upheld as Righteous and Good. In short, my view of dragons is something anything good Christian should aspire to be.

Righteous Dragon

Those who live by the sword...

 

For fairness’ sake, I will flip the fairy story right-side up again. A righteous Knight can be just as good, and more identifiable of a character. His struggle seems far more akin to our own, by nature of his very humanity. A righteous Knight knows what God has given him is good, yet he also knows that such gifts include hands to craft and a mind to conceive wondrous things for the greater Glory of God. In kindness and humility, he asks the smithy to craft him weapons on protection of the finest steel, for there is a scaled terror to slay. He treats those items with respect for the power they hold, and finds a horse that he makes a bond with, and trains and cares for, with whom he rides to battle. Before he fights, he kneels and prays for the Grace to do as God Wills in this fight. As for the wicked Dragon, he wakes and wallows in his own strength and might, though it was all a gift from On High. He uses these gifts blasphemously and with great selfishness, killing and devouring all before him. He feels that no one is more powerful or more cunning than he.

 

Righteous Knight

The Adversary

In summation, to paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, even a dragon can be Holy when it is pointed towards the Glory of God.

Go Go Catholic Priesthood, Part 2!

On with the show!

I think I will write on Father Jester next. He was the Chaplain of my University’s Catholic Newman Club for the first two years of my membership, and is also the Vocations Director for my Diocese. In layman’s terms, he goes out and finds new young men to take a crack at joining the Priesthood. I first met this man at the tail end of a dark time in my life. I will not go into gory exposition about my past sins, to call them hideous suffices. I was very lost, and in searching for my footing (and running from my true calling, as far as I can discern what it is right now), and for whatever reason I got it in my thick skull that I should be a Priest. I think some of this was me wanting to play the hero, which I confirmed later when reading The Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton and realizing that he had done the same. So I made the call to Father Jester, and met with him to discuss the situation. Shortly afterwards I wound up being forcefully removed by the Hand of God from my own Darkness, and had to bashfully admit that I was mistaken in my choice.

When I showed up at the Newman Club a few months later, it was shocking and uncomfortable to find that he was our assigned Priest. My fears were unwarranted, for he has never once, ever mentioned the fact that I even spoke to him about becoming a Priest. Not even breathed a syllable. He was also uncompromisingly friendly towards me, with no hint of being let down by my awkward decline. He was generous to all, often taking us out to dinner or buying the entire Club pizza with his own paycheck, so that our group had more funds for greater works on campus. I can hardly remember a time when he was not cracking some sort of sarcastic joke at his own or our expenses, in fact, his good humor was the chief thing I remember about him, even though his complete lack of self-importance and other finer qualities were by far more important. I recall one day while we were all sitting around, that he was talking about the larger than average Seminarian group that had joined up this year. As a result, his budget had been boosted, and other departments had received cuts. He quipped that the Pro-life Office probably had a hit out on him for that.

Father Hippie is the Pastor at a Parish very near to my house, in my hometown. I see him fairly often, as the church has an attached 24-hour Eucharistic Adoration Chapel that I attend. He also taught some Religion classes at my High School, though I never had him as a teacher. Like Father Kinship, he usually sports a nifty sweater-vest, though his are generally patterned argyle, or whatever those patterns are called. I am no fashionist. When you meet him, you will note that his hand gestures and posture are somewhat like Obi-wan Kenobi’s, or some other venerable Jedi Knight. He is the least intimidating man I have ever met, despite his height being about mine, for he is soft-spoken and nearly unflappably even-tempered. The only time I have ever seen him become annoyed is when I tried to wheedle around a sin in Confession. I was caught off-guard by the look he gave me, and quickly silenced myself like a tiny child. His temperament serves him very well in his position, and moreso in his Ministry, which involves regularly counseling mothers who have aborted their own children. He is so non-threatening that his powerful words are like harmless dust that floats about your head, which are subsequently inhaled. Once in the body, they reveal their true nature as powerful anti-biotic agents, destroying sinful or poorly thought out morality and eating away at your inner fears. His keen insight echoes into his homilies as well, it is a rare day when I come to Mass at his Parish and come away having not learned something awe inspiring that should have been obvious to me from the beginning. Father Hippie’s manner of speaking is light and airy, like the whisper of wind that is God passing by. He is very much in awe of his Creator and Creation, and were he not so excellently Catholic, it would not be amiss to see him in a tie-die shirt and bell-bottom jeans, in the middle of an aggregate of Flower Children. He moves and breathes to imitate Christ in his demeanor, and has that Meek and Holy Strength that few ever attain with any degree of accuracy. Again, like so many of his compatriots, he walks through life blissfully unaware of his own greatness, and turns all the Glory back to the Son of Man who set him apart for this noble task.

Speaking of humility, I know no man more humble than Father Humble. He, like Father Hippie, has a quiet and reserved nature, and remains calm through much. He is the current Chaplain of the Newman Club, and Pastor of a local Parish at the same time. Some may overlook the man due to his simplicity and unassuming posture, and those souls that do would be unfortunate to an extent that is disheartening. He holds Saint John Vianney in high regard, and tries to emulate him as the ideal Priest. He is resoundingly successful. The man is a spiritual workhorse. He goes about his duties without complaint, and without the slightest sense of fanfare. I have never seen him once mention being tired, or needing a break, though lesser men, myself included, regularly do, for far less difficult tasks than managing an entire congregation and a group of college students simultaneously. His homilies are practical, short, and to the point, as are his Confessions and his helpful spiritual advice. Yet, all these qualities are nothing compared to his reverence before the Lord. How Father Humble prays, and how he celebrates Mass, are things I have never seen before. He stands before the Lord as a little schoolboy receiving instruction from an Almighty Schoolmaster. His reverence is complete, and flawless as far as my mortal senses can tell me. Surely, such humility before the Lord has led to his miles-above-par servant leadership throughout his Vocation.

On to the Religious Priests. We shall begin with The Most Interesting Priest in the World. For shorthand, I shall call him Father Interesting. This man has been all over the place. South America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and I think even a few places in Asia, though I am not entirely sure. He has several degrees beyond his schooling at the seminary, most of them in Science and Engineering. His interests include being epic, military history, history in general, various branches of science, philosophy, theology, and sports. The man is an embodiment of the life of the party. He has more anecdotes, and ones of a more wholesome nature, than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined. He is a member of Legionnaires, a roving order of Missionary Priests. Father Interesting has fished for marlin, and done well at it, catching at least one massive swordfish while in South America. His order is devoted to traveling wherever they will exercise the most spiritual influence on people, be it hundreds of schools that they visit and/or run, or the offices of prominent businessmen and politicians seeking moral guidance. He can lecture and discuss almost anything under the sun for hours on end, and, like all great men, loves J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. He serves as co-Chaplain at my campus Newman Club, and helps proselytize the campus and invigorate our hearts and minds with the Gospel at every opportunity. Often times he is called upon to run games of Mafia at our parties, during which he carries a large NERF rocket launcher that he fires at those who the Mafia has murdered during the night. His order runs a camp for boys somewhere in the wildlands of Indiana, where the theme ranges from sports to Lord of the Rings. The camp itself is on top of a steep hill, by a pond, and at its base is what I have dubbed “THE Catholic Man Lodge”. It is a beautiful three story house heated by fireplaces and nothing else, with enormous windows to look out at the farmlands and woods surrounding. It has a wonderful rustic and outdoorsy feel, complete with multiple animal heads (all named, of course), antler racks, pictures of Mary, Blessed Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, rosaries, battle maps, and crucifixes. Attached is a large wooden shed that is more of a barn, and on the second floor a chapel for Mass, and a giant plasma TV for movies. My compatriots and I are taken on Men’s Retreats there, and oh, the grand tales of feasting and laughter, the quiet, solemn Masses, the excellent discussions of Faith and Manhood, and joyful hours of hard labor chopping wood or making repairs, or expanding the boy’s camp at the top of the hill.

Among men, Father Interesting is a natural leader. He knows how to master a situation, directing people where to go and what to do, and jumping in himself wherever things are going slow or there is a gap in manpower. Person to person, he is concise, to the point, and practical, and becomes even more so when in Confession. He is a man who gives the impression that he knows exactly what he is doing, and that impression is anything but false. Again, like so many others, he does not seem to understand, or even care to dwell on, how amazing it is that he travels the world in the name of Christ,with no permanent bed to call his own, relying on his Order and the kindness of strangers for his sustenance and the very roof he sleeps under. To us, he is a General decked out in medals. To himself, he is an average man who happens to be a Priest, one who sees his Vocation as important, but at the same time views it as one among the millions of different jobs contained within the Body of Christ.

Brother Canadian is, in fact, a Canuck. He is Father Interesting’s apprentice of sorts, a Priest-in-training, if you will. I would be hard pressed to name a more helpful and friendly person than him, if you asked. He looks like the image of any popularly depicted younger Priest from the 1940’s-50’s, and behaves with the same quiet grace and dignity. As he cannot do much aside from give us spiritual advice at this time, there is little to say about his capabilities in that regard, although judging from all his other attributes, when he does turn his hand to that branch of Ministry he will no doubt be exemplary at it. He is an inquisitive fellow, always full of questions about what the rest of us have been up to, and his eagerness to know our habits and our hearts is entirely genuine, as opposed to the current trend of asking after someone out of empty formulaic politeness. It is rare to find him at rest, even during these conversations, as he has a sort of dynamic energy about him that usually gets spent on tidying up, gathering things, or hustling through tasks he has been assigned. I have often spent the first hour or so during our Men’s Retreats talking with him while we prepared dinner, myself answering his questions and taking things he hands to me while he is shoulder deep in the expansive refrigerator searching out choice bits from the vast quantity of food therein. One might think him overly submissive, but I would have to adamantly disagree. The young man, not much older than myself, actually, is simply incredibly considerate and polite, in the honest manner that so many of us have forgotten or deemed anachronistic. In a nation of rowdy, angry, often-rude, ill-contented people, he is a startling and wonderful breath of fresh mountain air. Speaking of mountains, he may not look like it, but he goes rock-climbing and hiking all the time. The gentleman who seems so meek and mild in a kitchen or domestic environment is exactly the man you want at your side when you happen to be facing a trek through some very real and very dangerous wilderness.

Father Aragorn I had the pleasure of meeting through The Most Interesting Priest in the World and Brother Canadian. Now, my friends and I have mock combat with full-contact LARPing weapons on a regular basis (think Role Models without the uncalled for vulgarity, perversion, and weird costumed finery), and I was explaining the principles of the various weapons to Father Interesting on one of the Men’s Retreats. He explained that every Summer at the Boy’s Camp, they hold a Lord of the Rings week-long camp that deals with virtues and basic concepts of Good and Evil, and that at the end of the week, they have a mock battle with similar weapons. I was promptly told to contact Father Aragorn and explain to him what I did and how to construct more effective safe weapons for the boys. After a few phone conversations, I was invited to their local Order House that they stay at when in our area to show them the weapons I had made and explain some of their options and tactics they could teach the kids. After an introduction over breakfast we talked for an hour or two, I did as I was asked, they found out I had a Ringwraith costume, complete with sword, and I lent it to them. I was then invited to give a talk on proper use of the weapons they had available, basic group tactics, and spiritual warfare. While I waited for the boys to be assembled, I had another chance to talk to Father Aragorn about a range of things, including their plans for the camp. It turned out that Father Interesting and Brother Canadian were running a Work Camp at the Catholic Man Lodge down the hillside, and that the ten or so teenagers they had there had played orcs that occasionally attacked the young boys on nighttime raids, with all sorts of special effects and sneaky optic tricks. For example, they had flaming arrows powered by ignited hand sanitizer, and one of the Priests pretended to be shot and run away with a burning arm that was literally on fire. I was summarily invited back to be an Uruk Hai (I was the tallest person there, barring Brother Canadian who like me is around 6’3″, but he was with Gondor for this fight) at their battle at the end of the week. It was great fun, with charges and continuous retreats (You try fending off 30-something smaller people you have to go easy on for fairness’ sake, especially when they have arrows and you have no shield…), firecrackers and smoke bombs, and, at my suggestion and Father Aragorn’s gleeful assent, my return as a cave troll with my home-made 6’6″ sword. Words will never express those boy’s faces when they had the orcs on the run and I came lumbering up behind them, bellowing like mad, while Father screamed, “CAAAAVE TROOLLL!!!! CAAAAVE TROLLLL!!!!” I will admit, I have not gotten to know the man very well, but you cannot deny, awesome is a perfect word to describe him.

And that is everyone. Now that all is said and done, I suggest that the next time you see a Priest, you thank him for his work. They deserve every drop of gratitude we give them.