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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

WHAT HAPPENED TO EMILY?

       The true story on which the movie is based

‘The
Exorcism of Emily Rose’ is a well-crafted, creepy film that explores
profound questions about the nature of God. Does He exist? Do you
really want to know?

       

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Looking
for a feel-good movie this weekend? Something for grown-ups that
addresses the everyday crises and disappointments of life, but ends
with a warm, suffusing sense that all is well, and every problem, if
honestly faced by a genuinely good-looking protagonist, can be solved
within 120 minutes? Then this is not the movie for you. Go see Wedding Crashers instead.

The film raises and addresses profound questions about the nature of evil but doesn’t pretend to answer them.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the kind of movie that disturbs while it entertains. The film depicts (employing poetic license) the true story of a bright, young college student, Emily Rose (played by the gifted Jennifer Carpenter) who seemingly became possessed by six demons and was approved for exorcism by her local diocese. The exorcism was protracted, horrific, and futile. She died of malnutrition, and the priest in charge was prosecuted for criminal neglect.

The film is a courtroom drama centered on the trial, suffused with flashbacks to apparently preternatural,
and profoundly disturbing events. The protagonist is the priest’s
lawyer (played by the ever-brilliant Laura Linney), a cynical agnostic
driven by ambition, hired by a shame-faced diocese to hush the whole
thing up. But the priest (portrayed by the compelling Tom Wilkinson),
refuses to cop a plea—insisting that he must take the stand and "tell
Emily Rose’s story. That’s what she wanted." The prosecutor, a dour
Protestant (played with silk and steel rectitude by Campbell Scott),
brings an army of expert witnesses to try to prove that Emily had a
diagnosed, treatable psychiatric condition—"psychotic epilepsy"which
the priest culpably ignored in favor of exorcism. Thus the film
presents forensically the clash between contemporary scientific
humanism and spiritual warfare.
The contest is presented impartially, with men of each tradition
speaking cogently and persuasively for their points of view—including
the priest. As the director said, "It really was one of my goals to
present a Catholic priest as a character with dignity and respect. I
think Catholics and priests are such easy fodder for stereotype and
vilification. I wanted to create character you couldn’t help but
respect for his passion and integrity."

The film raises and addresses profound questions about the nature of evil and why God permits the suffering of the innocentbut
doesn’t pretend to answer them. And that’s just what the filmmaker
intended. Scott Derrickson, a graduate of the artsy Christian liberal
arts university, Biola, calls himself an "orthodox Christian" and confesses that he’s addicted to the novels of Walker Percy, and to reading and re-reading G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy.
In fact, as Derrickson told me in an interview, Catholic screenwriting
maven Barbara Nicolosi warns him, "You’re just one Chesterton book away
from crossing the Tiber," and becoming a Catholic. Whatever his
background, Derrickson has crafted a compelling drama which sends you
out of the theater feeling queasily fascinated, wondering if you need
to seek some kind of protection, despite your faith or lack thereof.

I expect that this film will drive some
people afflicted by unfamiliar voices and eerie occurrences to pester
priests with the suggestion that they might be possessed. And the
priests will do what the Church tells them to do—send these poor souls
to the doctor. As the film makes clear, Church officials are extremely
skeptical about such claims, insisting that every natural explanation
and treatment be completely exhausted before a spiritual cause is
inferred for a person’s distress. When Catholics get a toothache,
they’re supposed to go to the dentistnot to Lourdes.

When Catholics get a toothache, they’re supposed to go to the dentist—not to Lourdes.

I raised with the director the possibility that the film might provoke a panic about demonic possession—as had The Exorcist,
which some said inspired the delusions endured by Anneliese Michel, the
real Bavarian girl upon whom "Emily Rose" is based. Derrickson admitted
that it was a danger. "But as a filmmaker, I feel responsible for the
effect my work would have on normal, balanced peoplenot
on the small number of troubled souls. I mean, you can point to several
serial killers who carried around the Bible. They just didn’t
understand it. The Bible’s full of provocative, dangerous stuff."

(To read how the movie The Omen screwed me up almost irreparably, click here.)

Derrickson admits that he didn’t follow the facts of the case as closely as one would in making a biopic (such as Kinsey).
"I felt obliged to take this true story and do it justice by creating a
thought-provoking film that caused people to think deeply about the
subject of whether there’s a spiritual realm. I thought this was a
great way of getting into those questions. It’s a work of fiction based
on a real thing that happened."

The real things that happened, according
to the film, are fairly disturbing—especially for a believer. Emily
Rose was not a Satanist or an aspiring witch; she’d never even touched
a Ouija board. Indeed, she was the pious, virginal daughter of a
devoutly Catholic familythe last
person who’d open herself to demonic possession. But demons seem to
have kicked down the door, and tormented her for years, until Fr. Moore
undertook a course of exorcisms—which failed. If a faithful and holy
priest like Fr. Moore cannot expel the forces of evil from the soul of
an innocent by invoking the name of Jesus… one begins to wonder:
What’s the point? Which side is really stronger, after all? What kind
of a God permits such innocent suffering; is He sadistic, incompetent,
or merely distracted? Is the Creator an overworked cosmic chef who’s
put one too many universes on the stove, and hasn’t noticed that ours
is bubbling over?

Derrickson says he wanted to raise such
questions, rather than answer them. "I’m kind of a doubter by nature.
That’s been a big part of my spiritual journey. What I found personally
compelling about this tale is that there’s no easy way to resolve the
questions the movie presents. There’s no simple, clean-cut obvious
answer. But the questions it raises are important for everybody. I’m
not interested in trying to propagate my own view. It’s much more about
asking the right questions," he said.

If a holy priest cannot expel the forces of evil, then one begins to wonder: Which side is really stronger, after all?

The answer offered by the film’s most heroic charactersFr. Moore and Emily Rose herself—is that Emily is a "victim soul," an innocent who willingly offers to "make up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ," for the benefit of sinners on earth. We don’t like to think about saints like thisand
personally, I don’t recommend reading about them—but the Church has
recognized quite a few, most famously St. Lidwina of Schiedam. Emily
suffered, the film’s heroes suggest, to prove to the world the reality
of the preternatural and supernatural worldsby showing men the devil, she would turn them to God.

Which led this viewer to ask the director
if he wasn’t encouraging us both to believe in God and to dislike Him?
Derrickson responded: "I often find myself troubled when I think deeply
about this and the nature of God. It is perplexing. But isn’t that the
story of the saints, the apostles themselves? People who suffered
tremendously so that God’s nature could be revealed to the world. That
does give me questions and apprehensions about God, but I always come
back to a place of comfort when I think that God Himself endured
that—if you believe in the incarnation. I hope agnostics will be
troubled by the spiritual possibilities the film presents, but that
Christians will also be troubled into thinking about issues like this."

It remains to be seen if audiences will be challenged, troubled, and fascinatedas
I was—or if they’ll leave the theater unsatisfied, because the film
leaves unanswered questions. Even after 9/11, and now Katrina, most
moviegoers may not be interested in listening to subtle arguments about
God and the existence of evil, especially on a Saturday night. I
suspect they’d prefer a demon movie that delivers the "moral of the
story" nicely packaged up, with a bright red bow. I can’t say I blame
them. Will "Emily" tap into the mass Christian audience that made The
Passion of the Christ a huge success? It remains to be seen. I hope so.

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Living A Life Of Grace 


Grace exists inside of all of us and around us. It is our inner beauty
that radiates outward, touching everyone we meet. It is that unseen
hand that comes from the divine, raising us up when we most need it. To
be able to live in a state of grace is not based on worthiness, nor is
it earned through good deeds, ritual, or sacrifice. Rather it is an
unearned favor, freely bestowed and available to all, that is inherent
to our birthright. All we must do is open our eyes to its presence and
we will find and experience grace everywhere.

Grace is in the rain bringing relief to drought-ridden farms, and the
unexpected lead for the perfect job opportunity that comes from a
stranger. Grace is what happens to someone when they miraculously
escape injury; it is even the simple events that happen to us that we
call "good luck," like when we don’t get a parking ticket after are
meter has expired. Grace resides in the love between two people, the
gift or check that comes unexpectedly in the mail, the cozy comforts
that make up a home, and in the acts of forgiveness we bestow upon
others. It is grace that moves us to go out of our way to help a
stranger. In music, a grace note is the pause between notes that is so
important to the pacing of a song. Grace is the state we are in when we
are doing nothing but just being who we are.

When we accept that we always exist in a state of grace, we are able to
live our lives more graciously. Knowing we are graced gives us hope,
makes us more generous, and allows us to trust that we are taken care
of even when we are going through difficult times. Grace is our
benevolence of heart, and our generosity of spirit. Grace is
unconditional love and the beauty that is our humanity. When we know
that we are blessed with grace, we can’t help but want to live our
lives in harmony.

               


 

Forgiveness Equals Freedom
                  

by Charles Lightwalker 

reprinted with permission

       
         
            
             
               

 

Forgiveness
is a journey to freedom. It is a process that takes some effort, a path
with many plateaus. We may think that forgiveness is complete at these
resting points, and then something comes up to show us that there is
more work to be done.

The
process of forgiveness is transformational. It is complex, not to be
taken lightly, and not something that can be done on command. Be
patient and tender with yourself on your journey to forgiveness. How
often do we accept an apology without thinking twice about what we are
really feeling around the issue? How often do we say we’re "sorry"
without ever taking the time to understand why we did what we did in
the first place?

When
we can resolve an issue and consecrate it with forgiveness, we are free
to move forward unencumbered by the past. We are empowered to move
forward with a deeper understanding of who we are, but we have to let
go of some emotional energy in order to do this.

Think
about how great it feels when you complete a project. Unfinished
business, whether it’s on the inside or the outside, is energetically
draining. When we are giving away too much energy, we can’t keep
ourselves healthy and creative. Then we’re merely in survival mode. We
have energetic cords coming from us that feed our "stuff" – everything
that has yet to be resolved. It’s no wonder we feel so tired at times.
Completing unfinished business on the inside will free up space for
unfinished business to resolve itself on the outside. This is why we
feel free and energized when our unfinished business is complete.

Pretending
to act from a place of love is another plateau on the forgiveness
journey. We all long to act from a loving place, but we can’t pretend
to do so – it’s energetically impossible. When our emotions are not in
line with our words or actions, we send mixed messages. Regardless of
what we say, the person on the receiving end is aware at some level of
our true emotions. Unconscious fuel can leave energentic scars on
relationships at emotional and spiritual levels. Instead of pretending
to act from a place of love, it would be more loving to be honest and
let others know if something that occurred between you brought up some
feelings that need to be resolved.

Also,
don’t confuse feeling sorry for someone with forgiveness. Forgiving
someone because you feel sorry for them is arrogant. Feeling sorry for
someone is judging them, looking down on them, and assuming they can’t
change or help themselves. Feeling sorry for someone can feed their
self-pity and keep them stuck.

Feeling
an emotional charge is a clue that more work needs to be done in the
process of forgiveness. Avoiding our feelings will leave us on another
plateau. Rationalizing and intellectualizing our feelings in our heads
and judging them as unacceptable will not release them. We need to
bring our emotions up into our conscious awareness so we can feel them.
In feeling them, we can begin to understand why we are experiencing
them and trace them back to their roots for healing. Only by feeling
our emotions can we begin to release them.

If
an issue affects us on a cellular level, it is often difficult to
release and forgive, and we may need some assistance in our process.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. We have an abundance of
Divine assistance (guides and angels) available to us when we ask. It
takes some work to get to the place and the space of forgiveness. The
forgiveness process teaches us to be gentle with ourselves and others.
In order to give the best of yourself, it is necessary to love yourself
first.

Forgiveness
is truly a journey to freedom. When the emotional charge from the pain
incurred has shifted to the memory of what you have learned from the
experience, and only love and gratitude remain in your heart for
yourself and those you have forgiven, you will know that forgiveness is
complete. A greater understanding of the deeper meaning of your earthly
experience and destiny will be revealed, and you will probably choose
to learn in a more elegant way in the future. Then life will be more
fun.


relationship

 

Releasing a Relationship: Recovering from a Break-Up or Divorce

Charles Lightwalker

reprinted with permission

When
John’s girlfriend broke up with him, he couldn’t seem to recover. He
invented excuses to call her and took any warmth from her as a sign of
hope for their reunion. His friends got sick of hearing about her. Even
after she got serious with someone else, John continually tortured
himself by obsessing about her.

This
fixation on a former love is not unusual. Many have trouble letting go
after a relationship is over. The depression that follows the break-up
of a relationship is considered by mental health professionals to be a
normal part of grieving. However, to those going through it, the pain
can seem unbearable, and the accompanying behavior, embarrassing.

Why
do we get so attached to another human being? Spiritually, the
closeness that we feel serves us by propelling us into a sense of
oneness that reminds us of our connection to Source. Sociologically,
attachment keeps us together for the purpose of raising healthy babies
and continuing the species. Physiologically, a chemical reaction occurs
when we meet and bond with a partner.

When
a relationship is no longer flowing because one partner wants out or
for any other reason, however, it’s time for release. While the magic
of releasing gracefully may actually bring a partner back, one must
truly release without expectations for the future. As hard as it may be
to let go, it is actually much easier to release someone than to go
through the agony of holding on after the relationship is over.

Below
are some guidelines for releasing when it’s necessary. They make it
easier to let go and even expedite the process so you can free yourself
to move on.

1.
Allow yourself to cry and grieve without judgment. Embrace the tears –
welcome them even – because they are healing. Don’t fight your feelings
of depression and sadness. Let them be with trust that they will pass.
By letting your grieving flow freely, you will recover quicker.

2.
Surrender to the Divine moment-by-moment and day-by-day, especially
during the hard times. Trust that if you’re meant to be together,
eventually it will be. For now, however, you must release. There is a
certain magic in this. Each time you manage to surrender your pain to
the Source, you will be met by some unexpected good. I’ve seen this
come in the form of a distraction, a visit from a caring friend, or an
inspirational, uplifting email. This will build your trust. Understand
that you are and will be taken care of, even in the midst of your
sorrow. Watch for what shows up for you each day in the form of support
and love.

3.
One of the best ways to stop thinking obsessively about the other
person is to focus on yourself and your own life instead. What we look
for in a lover is usually something we think is missing in ourselves,
so it makes sense that attention to the self is what can actually fill
this void. By turning your attention to yourself, you heal. Open to the
Divine vision of yourself as a fulfilled, sacred being with an amazing
life. Declare that it is time that you come into your own. Be
self-empowered.

4.
When pain arises, embrace it, but don’t feed it. Yes, you must allow
the pain, but there are times when you must put it on the back burner
and get on with life. There is too much loving and living waiting for
you. Notice ways in which you feed your pain. Practice what psychology
calls the "observing ego," and spirituality calls "witness
consciousness." This is simply noticing that you’re allowing the pain
to mushroom. By noticing it, you dis-identify with it, and effectively
make a "break" with it. You can’t both be aware of your pain and let it
take you over at the same time. The act of simply noticing that you’re
wallowing in your pain will help you transcend it and move on.

Here’s a step-by-step approach to begin using your witness consciousness:

*Notice when you think of the person or your pain, and how often. This alone will begin to dissolve the pattern.

*Say
to yourself, "I’m thinking of him/her again." Watch yourself do this as
if you suddenly realize you’re sitting in a movie, instead of being
completely caught up in the movie.

*As
the pain dissolves, take a moment to feel the life spirit that animates
your being. Feel your body deeply. This puts you back in touch with
Source.

*Become
aware of this present moment. Look around to see what’s going on around
you, and find something to be grateful for, even if it’s simply the
gift of being alive.




reprinted with permission

 


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