C.S. Lewis Blog Post Round-Up

Last time I posted a round-up of C.S. Lewis blogs; this time it’s a round-up of particular posts of interest. I’m still working on the series about my journey to the Catholic Church; Part 2 will be up soon.

The Inklings posts an article from the Church Times on the history of Perelandra the Opera, which had its first performances in 40 years this weekend at the Keble College Chapel in Oxford. (If anyone attended, please let me know, and I’ll post your account of the event in full.) More information is available at the Perelandra Project website.

-The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog announces that Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, will be speaking on theories of astronomy in Lewis’ books at Oxford Science Live on July 2.

-Not completely Lewis-related (though there is a Lewis quote at the end), Victor Reppert has a must-read post on “Some confusions about truth and religion”:

[I]f we define God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then either God exists or God does not exist, and if God does exist, then the people that believe that God exists are correct, and the people that do not believe that God exists are mistaken. On the other hand, if God does not exist, then the people who believe that God does not exist are correct, and the people who believe that God does not [sic] exist are mistaken. The idea that if you truly believe in God, then God exists for you, but if you don’t believe in God, God does not exist for you, is nonsense.

This “subjective truth” argument is one I have run into several times, and it’s infuriating. Dr. Reppert (the author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason) does a good job of showing why God either must or must not exist, however “intolerant” it may be to insist on that fact.

-The C.S. Lewis Society of Frederick, MD has a brief post on Joy Davidman’s Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments.


Review of A Man for All Seasons

Just thought I’d put up the review in the Pasadena Voice that the Pasadena Theatre Company got for our April/May production of A Man for All Seasons. It’s the first non-school review I’ve received that mentions me by name (bolded)!

Pasadena Theatre Company’s A Man For All Seasons Riveting Theater

By Mary P. Johnson

I’ve seldom experienced more riveting entertainment provided by Pasadena Theatre Company than their recent production of Robert Bolt’s classic play A Man For All Seasons presented over two weekends in late April and early May at Chesapeake Arts Center Studio 194.

Bolt’s play first appeared on Broadway in 1961 where it ran for more than a year and was awarded the Tony for best play in 1962.// Actor Paul Scofield played the Sir Thomas More role to win both the Tony and later the Oscar for his film portrayal.

The plot is based on the historical 16th century Chancellor of England cleric destined for sainthood Thomas More who refused to endorse Henry VIII’s wish to divorce Catherine of Aragon because she could not bear him a son as his excuse to marry Anne Boleyn.

A man defined by his conscience, loyal to the dictates of the Church despite the Pope’s being described as corrupt, Thomas More eventually resigns the Chancellorship but remains loyal to King Henry, refusing to support a rebellion on the Scottish border. Despite relinquishing his Chancellorship, Sir Thomas More was eventually brought to trial on false charges and executed.

Pasadena’s production was directed by Stephen Deininger, who is perhaps better known as a skilled versatile local actor. Here he proved a capable director pacing action in this demanding play and selecting a first-rate cast with every actor well suited to each role.

PTC stalwart Chuck Dick plays Sir Thomas More, the veteran actor delivering a thoughtful, nuanced performance in this demanding role requiring his presence in almost every scene for nearly three hours of philosophical debate.// His Sir Thomas expresses every line to evoke thoughtful responses from the audience along with their welcome occasional smiles.

Dick had a fine supporting cast to play loving family members and scoundrels of varying degrees.

Each role contains faceted elements, expertly revealed.

In the role of the Common Man and Narrator, Tom Rendulic amusingly guided the audience through the narrative while proving his versatility in the roles of More’s servant, a boatman, More’s jailor, the jury foreman and More’s executioner, always adding wry humor and conveying a sense of reluctance in his need to survive by recognizing the weaknesses of his superiors.

James Poole as Cambridge student Master Richard Rich gave a credible portrayal of a young man who has few restraints imposed by his conscience, moving ahead by befriending others lusting for power. Poole’s Rich is eventually commits perjury that results in More’s execution.

Outstanding players include Keith Thompson as the Duke of Norfolk, who remains loyal to Sir Thomas but is inclined to go along with the crowd rather than take the higher road of conscience.//

Elizabeth Simonaire plays Sir Thomas More’s wife Lady Alice, growing in the role as she witnesses the unjust fate of her beloved husband. Playing their daughter Lady Margaret is Morgan Wright, who delivers a sensitive performance. Her husband the impetuous William Roper is strongly played by Cole Matson.

As the enigmatic villain Oliver Cromwell, Tim Sayles commands his every scene.

In summary PTC’s A Man For All Seasons will remain in the memories of audience members who were fortunate to attend any of the six performances at Chesapeake Arts Center Studio 194.

I’ve decided to choose St. Thomas More as my patron (although you might say he chose me). It’s partially through his story that I came to the Church, and he’s one of the first true historical heroes I was inspired by, back in high school when I saw the Paul Scofield film for the first time in A.P. Modern European History class. More said about Will Roper, his Lutheran son-in-law, “I will clean give him over, and get me for a while to God and pray for him,” after which Will returned to the Church, which he never left again. It was an honor to be able to play Roper, and for me doing the play felt somewhat like a re-enactment, during which I came to believe that St. Thomas was praying for me as well.

I admire St. Thomas for his:

1) Integrity and commitment to conscience (although not with the same emphasis on the self that one could interpret the Bolt play to have)

2) Loyalty and deference to proper authority (even the King, when the King was his enemy, as far as was lawful)

3) Commitment to religious discipline and study, even as a layman, and joyfulness and thoroughness in leading his family in the practice of the Faith

4) Gentleness, meekness, and charity toward those who persecuted him

5) His refusal to judge others, and only judge his own actions, following the precept of Thomas à Kempis in the Imitation of Christ: “Judge yourself, and beware of passing judgement on others. In judging others, we expend our energy to no purpose; we are often mistaken, and easily sin. But if we judge ourselves, our labour is always to our profit” (trans. Leo Sherley-Price, 1952 – I’m reading a selection of this every day, and this was from today’s reading).

St. Thomas More’s virtue is so very far above my own, but I hope, through his intercession, to get a wee bit closer by the end of my life.

(Oh, and Sir Thomas studied at Oxford as well, at Canterbury Hall, which was subsequently absorbed into Christ Church College. Oxford men unite!)

Why I’m Becoming Catholic – The Beginning

On Monday, May 11th, 2009, I decided to become a Roman Catholic.

The pin-pointing of a particular date and “conversion moment” may sound a little Protestant (even evangelical) of me, but it was far from a road to Damascus experience. It was more like the road to the Whipsnade Zoo. If I may be permitted to reference the conversion story of our beloved C.S. Lewis:

I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion. “Emotional” is perhaps the last word we can apply to some of the most important events. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.

Surprised by Joy

Like Lewis, I was on a relatively unimportant car trip, mine from home to my job as an actor with a touring children’s theatre company. It was about 7:00 in the morning, and I was just at the start of my 20-minute drive. Rolling down a gentle, forest-shaded road near my Baltimore apartment, I was thinking about states in life, vocations, and what I could and could not do if I joined the Church. I had the thought, “Well, I’ll just wait and see what I decide about joining the Church. Option A is open to me if I determine the Church has the authority it claims to have, and Option B is open to me if I determine the Church doesn’t have that authority.” My next thought was, “Wait. I already believe it has that authority.” It was at that moment that I realized that my spirit had already submitted to the claim of the Church upon me some time ago, and was simply waiting for the rest of my mind and heart to catch up.

I was raised in the Presbyterian Church (USA), a mainline Protestant denomination. I was baptized around my 14th birthday, at the same time I was confirmed, because the church we attended in Texas when I was a child practiced adult baptism only (I don’t remember its denomination). In confirmation class, I remember learning about total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and the perseverance of the saints (the five points of Calvinism, i.e. TULIP). The idea of limited atonement (that Christ died only for the elect, not for everyone) didn’t seem quite fair to me, but my pastor gave me what I now know is an Arminian understanding of atonement and of predestination. (He basically said that God is like a parent who knows that, given a choice between peas and carrots, you will choose peas, because he knows that you hate carrots. He doesn’t make you choose the peas, he just knows that you will.)

I love my church (especially the bagpipes on Heritage Sunday!), but it always bothered me a little that the Presbyterian Church and other Protestant churches came out of schism. I respect the reformers for taking a stand on conscience, but there were also reformers who stayed in the Church and worked from within, and since the Body of Christ is meant to be whole, it always made a little sad. But I had never even thought of leaving my church until I came to Loyola College, a Jesuit institution, as a doctoral student in clinical psychology.

This is Part 1 in a multi-part series of my journey into the Catholic Church. Next up: Jesuits and C.S. Lewis.

Christian Artist Seminar

There’s a post on the C.S. Lewis Foundation’s blog about the Christian Artist Seminar, an ecumenical Europe-based organization of Christian artists of all disciplines, with the mission “to practice love, compassion, freedom, solidarity and justice to the ends of shaping the culture in a creative way and influencing society by various forms of proclamation.” They’re having their annual conference in the Netherlands in the first week of August. Go here for more information:

CSL Foundation post with press release

Christian Artist Seminar website

The Art Monastery

First of all, sorry I’ve been delinquent for a couple of weeks. Life has been very busy, with major events happening at the first day job, and the second day job finishing up the season. (Strike for our last show is tomorrow!) Plus I’ve been without Internet access for much of the weekend hours, as I’ve been squiring for the Joust at the Virginia Renaissance Faire.

Second of all, as I announced on Twitter, I’ve decided to join the Roman Catholic Church. I plan to begin the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults this September when I arrive in Oxford, possibly at the Oxford Oratory Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga, although I haven’t yet decided between that church and the two parish churches of Headington (where the Kilns is located) – Corpus Christi (which contains Stations of the Cross carved by Faith Tolkien, J.R.R. Tolkien’s daughter-in-law) and St Anthony of Padua (where J.R.R. Tolkien worshipped). RCIA will hopefully result in my reception into the Church at the Easter Vigil next spring.

I am preparing a lengthy (probably multi-part) blog post on my reasons for converting from Presbyterianism to Catholicism. I have discussed my conversion with my parents and with my pastors, all of whom are supportive. I’ll be happy to answer any and all questions. I’ve also enjoyed reading the conversion announcement this past Sunday of an Anglo-Catholic priest, Fr. Jeffrey Steel, who has also decided to join the Church, along with his wife and six children. Check it out at his blog, De Cura Animarum. His reasons are similar to mine, including the desire for communion with a Church that can claim a direct line of authority back to Christ through St. Peter.

In the meantime, though, after having just attended the recent TCG Conference held here in Baltimore this past weekend, I’m afire with thoughts for the Baltimore Theatre Alliance, where I currently work, and my future planned theatre company. I did a Google search this evening for “artistic monastic communities,” which didn’t come up with much, but then I search for “artist monks,” and found the Art Monastery Project.

This group has turned a medieval Italian monastery into an intentional artistic community and arts incubator influenced by monastic tradition and ritual, including communal life, meals, and daily sung compline. They will be having their first arts festival this coming summer. I’ve joined their list and their online artists’ network. They’re doing work that’s pretty close to what I would like to do, and I hope to learn much from them, and hopefully visit them next summer. (Anyone up for a joint researching trip to Italy?)

Check them out and let me know what you think. Does this strike a chord with anybody else? Does anyone know of any other monastic arts communities, especially those that are explicitly Christian and/or part of a religious order?