Sunday, January 25, 2015

“Homo faber” – Man the Builder by Fr. George W. Rutler

“Homo faber” – Man the Builder by Fr. George W. Rutler metropolis1_0
FROM THE PASTOR
January 25, 2015
by Fr. George W. Rutler

The great edifices of classical cultures are also morally edifying by their anonymity. The artists and artisans who embellished them are generally unknown because they were honoring something greater than themselves.

The desire to be known, however, is not unworthy of human dignity, provided it is not just selfish pride. Homo faber, man the builder, is entitled to take just satisfaction in an accomplishment, provided thanks for the inspiration are accorded to the Divine Inspirer.

Humility refers all things to God, but it dispenses with the false modesty, like that of Dickens’ Uriah Heep, that solicits praise but pretends not to want it. When Michelangelo carved his name very visibly on his Pietà, he wanted people to know that God had done a great thing through him. That is different from those who want their names known just to advertise themselves. “Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names” (Psalm 49:11).

Once a man desires to please God first, he will begin to understand that he is not just a statistic in the divine regard. “Non nobis, Domine, sed nomini tuo da gloriam—Not unto us Lord, but unto thy name give the glory.” St. Paul warned St. Timothy not to be a “man pleaser” because that distracts from the primary relationship with God who made us for his delight. To be dependent on human recognition is to forfeit the radical dignity that God alone gives us. “We love him because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

No one wants to receive mail addressed only to “Occupant.” Christ does not address us as statistics, the way a bureaucrat does. St. Paul wrote his epistles to churches composed of individuals, each of whom he was willing to die for, as Christ died for him. He does not end his letter to the Romans without naming them: Phoebe, Prisca, Aquila, Epaenetus, Mary, Andronicus, Junias, Ampliatus, Urbanus, Stachys, Apelles, Aristobulus, Herodion, Narcissus, Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Rufus, Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, Philologus, Julia, Nereus, and Olympas. It is quite like the list of names with which Cardinal Newman ended his Apologia pro Vita Sua. That is the greatest modern autobiography in the English language, and he named his friends because he had shown them that they were friends of God.

The pantheon of fame has its cracks. I recently spoke with a college student who had never heard of Bing Crosby. The only recognition that matters is how we are known to the Lord. Should we be blessed to meet him in glory, he will not say, “How do you do?” He will not even say, “I think I remember you.” He will say, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5).

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[Hat tip to JM]

Taking the measure of where we are and where we're headed

The underground correspondent we keep on retainer in an Atlantic Seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir - Private Eye, has been earning his keep lately and keeping me on my toes with as many questions as insights. And here came his three-page telegram today with a gin and tonic to boot (which always helps).

Citing an Ignatius Press add for a new book by Cardinal Schoenborn, he writes:
Ignatius Press has been instrumental as a source in my own journey as a Catholic. I hate to criticize them. And as a major contributor to the CCC, Schoenborn’s has been a name I esteem [in fact, I recall thinking he would be a good replacement for JPII back when his name was being kicked around: now I think, “Hey, either give me a Burke or give me a bonafide conservative. It is easier to steer between clear lines!” Hence Francis may not be quite the pox some think?] . Yet that is actually WHY his waffling on the homosexual question has been a turn I could not help but notice and one that makes me wonder at the theological assumption that enable his turn. “I thought you thought like me,” also means “I thought you thought like the Church,” and most importantly, “I thought I understood the Church and thought like it taught me to think!"

[Mary] Healy’s name is only one here form a list of blue chip names. All of whom I figure are much farther along the road to sanctity than am I. So I will only pose this question:

How are we to know what to believe or who to trust, other than from some party line as it floats from Rome, disconcertingly different in tone each decade? Theological assumptions seem fuzzy, official statements are fuzzy, and regardless of what detours the popular names take, they seem to unflaggingly receive the same hearty endorsements. No, we do not need to be orthodoxy police. On the other hand, if you praise Rowan Williams-types to the sky, don’t be surprise when Rowan Williams-type thinking becomes the reigning paradigm. Evangelicals were relieved when Welby succeeded Williams, but to and behold, it turns out the difference between the two, and their respective ways of thinking, has diminished to the point that one could be the other. When concern for orthodox morality or theology is de-emphasized, religion as human flourishing becomes the mantra. Schoenborn and von Balthasar are IP’s heavy-hitters and yet to me, IP seems, rather naively, stunned and dismayed when anyone pursues a novelty, unless of course it is a novelty already normalized by one of their own over the past 50 years or so. "Tradition matters!" Fr. Fessio’s team seems almost to shout… “As long it is that tradition as espoused by our own orthodox players. If you are part of the JPII-Benedict XVI coterie, you are by definition Truth as we know it.”

As Bonifcae notes,
. . . this thread demonstrates some inherent problems in the neo-Cath position: To what degree will we see that alleged orthodoxy to the Church is really just a matter of supporting what is viewed as “current policy”? Is there not a problem with viewing a perennial discipline as merely “policy”? Is not the value of discipline and tradition severely downgraded. if so? And if these sorts of matters are simply the “current policy” that can change the way it changes with each American presidential administration, what tools does the Church really have to ensure discipline and continuity in the long run?

Ultimately, the neo-Cath strategy is to insist loudly that certain things can never be changed so long as the current Pontiff does not want to change them; then, when the “policy” changes with another pontiff, suggest just as loudly that such matters were never immune from change to begin with. I’m not suggesting the practical question of whether or not to admit persons with deep-seated homosexuality to the seminary is a doctrinal question or that infallibility is on the line here; I am suggesting that reasoning that the Church’s very old discipline on this matter (it goes back to Trent and before) can be seen as merely “current policy” is destructively reductionist.
[From Boniface, "Facebook fun with His Sheaness" (Unam Sanctam Catholicam, January 23, 2015)]

A bit about angels

Peter Kreeft has a book about angels, which shares (except for the subtitle) a title with a nefarious novel by Dan Brown. It's called Angels and Demons: What Do We Really Know about Them?(Ignatius, 1995), which, I'm glad to see, is now back in print. It's written for a popular audience, but contains a great deal of classic angelology in an accessible format.

Some of it's highlights, as a reader recently pointed out, can be found on this post by Kreeft entitled, simply, "Angels."

This same reader went on to write:
Yesterday I lost a close family friend, a 94 year old widow I have known since I was... 1! She leaves a 60+ unmarried daughter, so please say a prayer on both their behalves. I thought particularly of this line:
"Angels are sentinels standing at the crossroads where life meets death. They work especially at moments of crisis, at the brink of disaster—for bodies, for souls, and for nations." [quoted from the CCC]
Kreeft in fact also quoted the CCC in this book (An appendix, I recall), and I remember, pre-conversion, feeling more than a little compelled by the ancient-sounding authenticity of the words. Say what I will about some of Schonorn's recent slippage, or Ratzinger's Modernist-intimidation complex, those guys more often than not hit a home run with the CCC. Overall it is an exceptional -- and given Roman hijinx inexplicably orthodox, LOL -- I think Angels -- most likely Gabriel for one -- were most definitely dispatched for composition intervention there as well ...!
So here are the relevant quotations from the CCC. Quite good!
332 Angels have been present since creation and throughout the history of salvation, announcing this salvation from afar or near and serving the accomplishment of the divine plan: they closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham's hand; communicated the law by their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings; and assisted the prophets, just to cite a few examples.[194] Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and that of Jesus himself.[195]

333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God "brings the firstborn into the world, he says: 'Let all God's angels worship him.'"[196] Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church's praise: "Glory to God in the highest!"[197] They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.[198] Again, it is the angels who "evangelize" by proclaiming the Good News of Christ's Incarnation and Resurrection.[199] They will be present at Christ's return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.[200]

The angels in the life of the Church


334 In the meantime, the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels.[201]

335 In her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy God. She invokes their assistance (in the Roman Canon's Supplices te rogamus. . .["Almighty God, we pray that your angel..."]; in the funeral liturgy's In Paradisum deducant te angeli. . .["May the angels lead you into Paradise. . ."]). Moreover, in the "Cherubic Hymn" of the Byzantine Liturgy, she celebrates the memory of certain angels more particularly (St. Michael, St. Gabriel, St. Raphael, and the guardian angels).

336 From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.[202] "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life."[203] Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.
[Hat tip to JM]

Maisie Ward's "commentary" on Downton Abbey

From our underground correspondent, Guy Noir - Private Eye:
Excellent commentary here on the show "Downton Abbey."

Catholics who enjoy the show will do themselves a favor by reading Maisie Ward's thoroughly enjoyable history of her family, The Wilfrid Wards and the Transitionand Insurrection versus resurrection (The Wilfrid Wards and the transition: II). She offers the Catholic reverse reflection of the show. The books document the changing of the guard quite in England and the English Church quite remarkably. Massie Ward admitted to having memorized hugs chunks of passages from Jane Austen, and at points her story reads like a Catholic version of Pride & Prejudice. Of it husband Frank wrote,
We find many people in their natural state. We see the poet Tennyson with his “Block up your ears, Josephine Ward, I am about to tell your husband an improper story”; Newman out driving with Hope-Scott, his face growing longer and longer at the endless stream of puns that poured from his companions lips; Newman again, called upon to speak impromptu and breaking down, unable to finish so much as one sentence; Ruskin drivelling forth a lecture he had not bothered to prepare, and Cardinal Manning giving forth a lecture he had stolen bodily from the speaker he was introducing; old Ideal Ward roaring with laughter at Manning’s invitation that he should come and spend an evening with him whenever he felt depressed; Baron von Hugel thumping the table and addressing Bishops and cabinet ministers, as "you fellows”; Gladstone roaring with laughter at a vocal imitation of Manning, then recollecting himself and becoming doubly statesmanlike; Balfour embarrassed because a relation had indiscreetly told the truth about him; Leo XIII searching for his snuff box and pretending not to hear something he preferred not to hear. And we feel, at the end, as though we had been in the company of giants. But it is not only individuals who are shown with their private faces. The Church herself is similarly shown. The Wards have for the best part of a century been in the unusual position of devoting themselves as laymen exclusively to the service of the Church. They began it with the terrible old man, William George Ward, who had “the mind of an archangel in the body of a rhinoceros” — the first of the Oxford Movement converts, with his thirty years of unrelenting, maddening, half-wasplike, half-lionlike warfare against the Newman he adored. His son, Wilfrid Ward, biographer-in-chief of the Catholic Revival in England, had thirty years of liaison work between Catholicism and the English mind. And Wilfrid Ward’s wife, Josephine, one of the creators of the Catholic novel, began life under the shadow of Newman and the austere old Duchess of Norfolk, and lived to speak on the streetcorner platforms of the Catholic Evidence.
“Such a family,” Sheed hardly needed to say, “grows to a special kind of intimacy with the Church as a living organism going about its daily work — Church, to return to a previous metaphor, in shirt-sleeves." And when such a family interacts with people like Loisy, Tyrell, and the early Modernists, they also have lessons that seem 100 percent timely today. [emphasis added] Those people who love the Church and also like "Downton Abbey" -- they will also very much like the family history of Maisie Ward.

Extraordinary Community News - historical ordinations, news, the Ánima Christi, Latin Mass schedule


"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (January 25, 2015):
Assumption Church Update

The Windsor Star newspaper reported last week that a major donor has stepped forward to fund the bulk of the cost of restoring Assumption Church. The Diocese of London is evaluating the credibility of the offer. Let us pray that all parties find a way to save this beautiful and historic edifice.

Ordinations in the Field

The Pópulus Summórum Pontíficum Facebook group published the below photo this past week. This intriguing scene is a mass ordination of priests at the XXXV Eucharistic Congress in Barcelona in 1952. An incredible 842 ordinations were performed that day, outdoors.


After the event took place, the Vatican prohibited simultaneous ordinations like this, presumably because of their spectacle nature. By today’s standards, such an event seems less of a liturgical abuse and more of a miraculous occasion, having so many men ready to be ordained at the same time.

Bloomfield Family Books

The Bloomfield family is well-known around metro Detroit for their dedication to Traditional Catholicism and the Sacred Liturgy. Deacon Richard Bloomfield is the area’s most experienced – and available – deacon for the Extraordinary Form. His wife Debbie is one of the most energetic and effective promoters of local Catholic events, most notably the Call to Holiness conferences. It should come as no surprise that the next generation of Bloomfields is making its own mark on the Catholic world, among other ways with some recently published books:
I’m Bernadette! by Emily (Bloomfield) Ortega is especially for Catholic girls ages 6-10. In Bernadette, they’ll meet a modern, relatable character finding her way through real world troubles in a Catholic family.

A Collection of Christmas Carols by Benjamin Bloomfield is a spiral-bound collection of sheet music of a wide variety of Christmas carols, Latin and English, many not widely known.

Sacred Art Series Rosary Meditation Book by William Bloomfield comes in two sizes, 4”x5” and 8”x10”. It is a flip book with a built-in desktop easel which contains full page color images, each depicting one of the mysteries of the Rosary.

All are available on Amazon.com.
The Ánima Christi

One of the most famous prayers in the Catholic canon, sometimes set to music, is the Ánima Christi. Holy Mother Church has enriched this prayer with a Partial Indulgence when said as an act of thanksgiving after Holy Communion.
Ánima Christi, sanctífica me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
Sanguis Christi, inébria me.
Aqua láteris Christi, lava me.
Pássio Christi, confórta me.
O bone Jesu, exáudi me.
Intra tua vúlnera abscónde me.
Ne permíttas me separári a te.
Ab hoste malígno defénde me.
In hora mortis meæ voca me:
et jube me veníre ad te,
ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te,
in saécula sæculórum. Amen.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within Thy wounds hide me.
Suffer me not to be separated from Thee.
From the malicious enemy defend me.
In the hour of my death call me.
And bid me come to Thee,
That with Thy Saints I may praise Thee
for ever and ever. Amen.
No OCLMA Mass on February 8

There will be no Latin Mass at the Academy of the Sacred Heart on Sunday, February 8. The school needs the chapel for a special event. The Tridentine Mass will resume as usual the following Sunday, February 15 at 9:45 AM.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 01/26 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Polycarp, Bishop & Martyr)
  • Tue. 01/27 7:00 PM: Low Mass at Holy Name of Mary (St. John Chrysostom, Bishop, Confessor, & Doctor)
[Comments? Please e-mail tridnews@detroitlatinmass.org. Previous columns are available at http://www.detroitlatinmass.org. This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Albertus (Detroit), Academy of the Sacred Heart (Bloomfield Hills), and St. Alphonsus and Holy Name of Mary Churches (Windsor) bulletin inserts for January 25, 2015. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

Tridentine Masses coming this week to the metro Detroit and East Michigan area


Tridentine Masses This Coming Week

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Flea market? Archdiocese of Chicago recycles old threadbare Protestant social gospel, and much, much more

In "A Listening Church," a Commoneweal interview with Chicago Archbishop Kaput, published on January 22, 2015, we get an opportunity to see Kaput up close and personal.
On how to deal with the overall decline of the Church in the USA:

... The way to do it is not by saying, “You’re not going to Mass and so there’s a problem.” Rather, we can say, “We have an opportunity to better society and to better the common good. We work for the poor. Come and work for the poor with us.”

On the 2014 Synod:

I think the media reported what actually took place. What really took place at the synod was that a majority of the bishops voted for all the proposals that were there in the final summary document.... It’s true that three of the paragraphs [about divorce and gay people] did not get two-thirds majority support, but they got more than a majority. That’s what’s new. That’s the story.

Promoting Kasperite theology and the theology of the 2014 Synod "Relatio" in Chicago:

I have met with my archdiocesan women’s council, the presbyteral council leadership, and my archdiocesan pastoral council. I gave them the relatio of the synod [the summary document] and asked them to propose a way in which there can be an effective—not necessarily widespread—consultation with their various constituencies ....

What I did last year in Spokane I want to do here too. We’re going to have a day-long presentation for priests on two things: First, what are the canonical issues here? A good canonist will tell you that there are multiple ways in which we can be sensitive to our people’s needs. Second, we have to unpack this notion of the theology of the family. Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a talk about this to the cardinals last year, which has been published as a book called The Gospel of the Family. In Spokane, I gave all my priests a copy. Then I brought in a priest who knows Cardinal Kasper’s theology quite well, Msgr. John Strynkowski, and he helped them understand what Kasper is saying.

And on doctrine:

[The Church's doctrinal tradition] is a living tradition not because of anything we say, but because the risen Christ is always doing something new in the life of the church. In Pope Francis’s Evangelii gaudium, there is a whole section in which he talks about the idea that Christ is always doing something new in the lives of his people as he accompanies them.

Read more >>
The link to the above article was sent to me by Guy Noir, who said in his own remarks:
You have to admit, he is much easier to understand than Francis! Maybe we can call it Concupichscence? [Or, I would add, Kaputscence.]

Note that now we will be getting lectures on Kasper's Theology of Mercy. Attach these to Theology of the Body and you have the key ideas of modern Catholicism: 1) a strong affirmation of pre-emptive forgiveness and a retreat from non-contradicting doctrine or hard sayings found in Scripture, and 2) a strong pre-emptive affirmation of sex and a retreat from a prohibitive morality. Someone's Jesus is certainly doing something new. But when you're essentially handing out loan forgiveness, condoms, and smiles, forgive me if I can't tell if this is a Jesus seminar or a Jackson Browne concert.

Kasperite Indoctrination for the Archdiocese of Chicago? Cupich on the 2014 Synod: "the media reported what actually took place" (Rorate Caeli, January 23, 2015).
[Hat tip to Rorate Caeli and G.N.]

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cardinal Bergoglio: "Interviews are not my forte"

Phil Lawler, "Guess who thinks Pope Francis shouldn't give so many interviews?" (CatholicCulture.org, January 23, 2015):
"Nearly two years into his pontificate, with a whole series of puzzling and/or damaging statements on the record, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Cardinal Bergoglio was right [when he once said] interviews are not his forte."
Ya think???

Did Pope Francis inadvertently condemn Muhammad???

So suggests intrepid Islam-critic David Wood in "Pope Francis Condemns Muhammad!" (Answering Muslims, January 22, 2015):
Following the recent Charlie Hebdo Massacre in Paris, Pope Francis condemned Muhammad ... without even realizing it. According to Pope Francis, it is wrong and immoral to insult another person's religion. Yet history shows that Muhammad and his companions regularly insulted other people's religion. Hence, the Pope has declared that Muhammad and his companions were immoral!

Magister on the Curial reform, Papal flogging, and gap between words and deeds

Sandro Magister, "Francis Flogs the Curia. But What a Gap Between Words and Deeds" (www.chiesa, January 23, 2015): "The summit on the reform of the Church’s central government is approaching. But in the meantime, the pope is moving forward on his own. In some cases, driving out the good and rewarding the bad ..."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Post-Epiphany blues, Cardinal Burke, pornography, and the recovery of a healthy masculintity in the Church

Fr. Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [Temporary link] (Assumption Grotto News, January 18, 2015):
Are you suffering from those proverbial post-Epiphany blues? Well, that may not be the name of the malady but it’s a common experience. After the excitement of the Christmas season we’ve had to resume the humdrum of life, though many of you may do this with greater equanimity than your less temperate pastor. The duties of every day, the far-away distance of fulfilling goals, the length of winter with its often dreary skies can leave one in a rather sour mood. There is a spiritual lesson hidden in this, as there is in so much else of life. We are ordinarily perfected by the regularity of life, by the faithful fulfillment of our daily duties, uneventful as they often seem. Recall the commendatory words our Lord directed to the dutiful, “Well done, good and faithful servant, since you have been faithful in small matters you will be awarded greater.” And so: patience, forbearance. Better days inevitably come. This can be said confidently by the virtue of hope.

Cardinal Raymond Burke has apparently been under fire for restating what would be considered, in a more sane age, ordinary Catholic teaching. His Eminence seems not to notice or care about the reaction to what he says. He speaks the truth as his high office and calling demand of him, though many of his peers, sad to say, do not follow his example. Recently he voiced his concern over the feminization of the Church, an undue emphasis on so called women’s issues, to the detriment of the men of the Church. The Cardinal cited the neglected issues of concern as the importance of fatherhood, the masculine character of the priesthood, virility in general, and a man’s self-sacrificial devotion to work for the sake of the family. The outcome of the eclipsing of the masculine presence and manner of conduct is that children now often suffer growing up without that sense of stability, responsibility and discipline which are–no matter how poorly exemplified in practice–characteristic of the husband-father of a home and communicated through him. (The corresponding aggressive assertiveness of women has further exacerbated the diminishing manliness.) This remaking of the male may not be noticed, masked by the apparent brutish power of ubiquitous pornography which can seem so manly but which is actually a pitiful weakness. Manly character is essentially something spiritual, though it may also be manifest in the body. It takes fortitude to be a good man (and, of course, the same virtue, manifest in different ways, is needed for good women as well). Clear Catholic teaching and upright Christian living produces healthy people, psychologically speaking. I know that the contrary is being asserted over and over again, but falsehood does not become true by repetition. “The culture in which we live is bankrupt and young men, especially, recognize the brokeness of the culture... We have to be very clear with men about purity, chastity, modesty and even the way men dress and present themselves...in a way that is respectful to themselves, to women and children.” Needless to comment that such frank talk bristles those who have compromised their sexual identities or evaded the duties inherent in them.

Cardinal Burke is also convinced that the way Mass is celebrated reflects (I might add, in a somewhat mysterious, subliminal way) the basic psychological reality of our human constitution, as men and women. And so it is that men often drop out from the ‘burb Masses of good feeling and sentimentality. Not only do real men resent them but well-adjusted women do as well.

Whether it is the effect or the cause, I don’t know, but porn is a real nemesis with which we must contend today. Whatever its more essential evils (mortal sin, damnation for the unrepentant, the ruination of marriages, etc.), produces sissies. It weakens, enfeebles manliness and reviles true womanliness. Again the Cardinal: “We are so blessed God gave us this gift of being a man or being a woman. It’s a matter of us to respond to God’s will to develop our gifts of being a man or a woman.”

Oh brother. Not again.

Mark Brumley, "Should We Hope "That All Men Be Saved"? (Catholic World Report, January 19, 2015). "Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar's soteriology has often been misunderstood or misrepresented. Here is a short primer on what he actually wrote." Say it ain't so, Joe ... Yes, Virginia, there is a hell, and you can bet your bottom nickel it ain't empty.

[Hat tip to JM]

Demythologized marriage is far more romantic than anything written by Nicholas Sparks

Some good thoughts on marriage by Matt Walsh in "My Marriage Wasn’t Meant to Be" (The Blaze, January 13, 2015).

[Hat tip to JM]

C.S. Lewis on Mere Liberty and the Evils of Statism

David J. Theroux, founder and president of The Independent Institute and the C.S. Lewis Society of California, discusses the writings of C.S. Lewis and Lewis's views on liberty, natural law and statism.

The presentation was the keynote talk at the first annual conference of Christians for Liberty, that was held at St. Edwards University in Austin, TX, August 2, 2014.


[Hat tip to D.J.T.]

Hands down, the most inspiring native autobiography from the Vietnam War

Le Ly Hayslip, with Jay Wurts, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese woman's journey from war to peace(New Yori: Doubleday, 1989; Plume, reprint edition, 1993). "This is the haunting memoir of a girl on the verge of womanhood in a world turned upside down. The youngest of six children in a close-knit Buddhist family, Le Ly Hayslip was twelve years old when U.S. helicopters langed in Ky La, her tiny village in central Vietnam. As the government and Viet Cong troops fought in and around Ky La, both sides recruited children as spies and saboteurs. Le Ly was one of those children.

"From the age of sixteen, Le Ly had suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members—but miraculously held fast to her faith in humanity. And almost twenty years after her escape to Ameica, she was drawn inexorably back to the devastated country and family she left behind. Scenes of this joyous reunion are interwoven with the brutal war years, offering a poignant picture of vietnam, then and now, and of a courageous woman who experienced the true horror of the Vietnam War—and survived to tell her unforgettable story." (From the back cover)

The story is told alternately from the point of view of the author growing up during the Vietnam War, and from the later point of view as an American citizen returning to Vietnam to visit her family for the first time since the war. The cross-cultural observations are telling, penetrating, but also graced with good will. The writing is engaging, elegant, even lyrical in places, something for which Jay Wurts undoubtedly deserves major kudos.

Readers familiar with the book will also likely know of the 1993 film directed and written by Oliver Stone, the third and final film in Stone's Vietnam War trilogy, which also includes Platoon (1986) and Born on the Fourth of July (1989). Based on Hayslip's When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, as well as her second book, Child of War, Woman of Peace (New York: Doubleday, 1993), the film is called, simply, Heaven and Earth. It stars Tommy Lee Jones as Hayslip's American husband, along with Haing S. Ngor, Joan Chen, and Hiep Thi Le. The cinematography is beautiful; and for most viewers, particularly if they haven't read Hayslip's autobiography, the film would seem nearly perfect. But the book is far more detailed, and more compelling. In the first place, while Oliver Stone does a masterful job, he simply bites off more than he can chew, and tries to pack too much into the film. In the second place, some of his "ugly American" biases do come through a little too ham-handedly at times. By all means, read the book. Skip the film, unless you're just not a reader.

Heck, I just discovered that the whole film is available on YouTube. Enjoy: