Of Silence, Saint Death and Saint John

Feel free to peruse an article I just finished on Shuasku Endo’s controversial novel Silence, published in 1966, and now soon to be released as a major Hollywood production.  The book follows a Jesuit missionary, Sebastian Rodrigues, forced to choose between apostasy, and saving a whole group of people being tortured.  The tale analyzes the nature of  faith, evangelization and love.  The ‘controversial’ bit is that Endo seems to imply that apostasy can in fact be the deepest form of faith and ‘love’ for others.  Hmm.  I would, and do, argue that the Church thinks most emphatically otherwise.  Give it a read, and let me know your thoughts.

On that note, I read with interest this morning on the rapidly growing cult of Santa Muerte, ‘Saint Death’, a bizarre belief in the ‘deity’ of death, with a disturbing similarity to the Grim Reaper, who brings blessings (usually of the material variety) galore.  This devotion, which apparently counts millions of adherents in Mexico alone, is syncretized with traditional Catholic devotions, but without some of the, well, moral strictures. One of the most significant sentences in the article was the following: (Saint Death) is (m)ore forgiving than the Catholic church – she is said not to punish traditional sins – she grew popular in Mexico’s prisons.  In other words, a talisman, a good luck charm, perhaps even a demonic influence, guiding one to worldly success and a lax conscience, a wide and easy road to, well, who knows where?  As the article goes on:

These actions have only further incensed the Catholic church, which already viewed the folk religion as a blasphemous threat to its standing in Mexico. Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Culture, has declared the faith the “degeneration of religion”

Not quite the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom Santa Muerte now rivals in popularity.  We can only hope that fair Mother of God, the defeater of heresy and idolatry through the ages, will triumph over ‘holy death’, for death, really, is the result of sin, and Christ has defeated both by His own death and resurrection.

And speaking of Christ, today is the feast of Saint John the Evangelist, also called the ‘Beloved’, as the one closest to the heart of Our Lord, likely the youngest, who lived to ripe old age, writing his Apocalypse (Revelation) towards the end of the first century.  He is the only Apostle not celebrated as a martyr, witnessing to his faith in other ways, by his life and writings, and in his exile by Emperor Domitian to the lonely, barren isle of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, where tradition has it that he composed his treatises.  His Gospel follows a different trajectory of Christ’s life from the other three ‘synoptic’ Gospels (literally, with the ‘same eye’), which all follow more or less the same events.  John sees things from a more theological perspective, eternal, heavenly, with the greatest emphasis and clarity on Christ as the pre-existent Logos, always ‘with’ the Father (which is why his symbol is the eagle).  But Saint John also portrayed Christ in His full humanity, the ‘Word made Flesh’, to deny which, as he declares in his first letter (4:3), is the very spirit of the Antichrist (shades of Silence?).  So let us pray to the Apostle today, that we may see things from just such a perspective, far above the passing travails of this world, as time and history move ever onward to the end of the 2016, and, in a broader sense, to whatever personal or worldwide apocalypse we all must face, one day.