Nourishing an Appetite for the Marvelous
With a word on the vulgar animated movie Shrek
Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
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When a child is born, his soul leaves the hands of God with the seal of God’s image and likeness. This image and likeness, a potential of great force, will attract the soul to God throughout his life.
For this reason a child has a strong tendency to see the image and likeness of God in the ensemble of the universe or in each one of its parts. This tendency toward contemplation, nourished in the child, can develop in the man and become one of his most precious possessions. “The child is father to the man,” wisely observed the poet. Thus the man, to the degree he keeps his innocence, continues to see the reflection of God in the things around him.
In this state of innocence the child has a tendency to communicate with the angels. This makes the child open to a kind of world that is different from the concrete and pragmatic world of adults who have lost their innocence.
Catholic pedagogy demands that this good tendency of the child be nourished. Of course, one way to do so is to teach the marvelous truths of the Catholic religion, especially the world of the angels and the great and epic deeds of the saints and Catholic heroes.
However, another avenue to nourish the sense of the marvelous is the world of fairy tales and what we call “children’s stories.” One can see the thirst for the marvelous in the first innocence of a soul that turns toward things that are beautiful, charming and good. The bad witch puts a spell on the beautiful princess, who is saved by the good prince. In the charmed world of the fairy tale, there are boundaries of good and evil, which correspond to the beautiful and ugly, and reinforce a child’s certainties about the abstracts.
Another way to quench this thirst for the marvelous is to tell the legends of the Saints, like those in the Golden Legend of Jacques de Voragine, which have a bit of both worlds – a bit of religion and a bit of the fairy tale. The Golden Legend tells many wonderful stories, like the one about the knight in the tournament (in the box at the end of the article) in which the Blessed Virgin intercedes for those who have a devotion to her.
The important reality that lies in the marvelous
Yet there are some pragmatic scholars who would like to relegate the Golden Legend to the dust heap. After all, they argue with reason, the stories are not all historically correct, you can’t prove all the facts, some of the miracles are just too outrageous. Better to rely on the dry but scholarly Butler’s Lives of the Saints.
They simply don’t see the profound sense of reality that exists in these charming legends. I am not saying that everything in them is indisputably true. What I’m saying is that, true or not, they feed the sense of contemplation in children. With age, boys and girls will discern, with the help of grace - which never fails - what is true or not in these legends. But they will keep an openness to the marvelous that can be refined, mature, and produce great fruit. The cathedrals, castles, festivals, and crusades, all marvelous fruit of the medieval age, an Age of Faith and innocence, provide a prime example of this.
Thus, the skeptical scholar, who, in the name of science and progress, robs children of this kind of nourishment and confines them to a diet of scientific facts, dry data, and endless classifications, in reality, unconsciously or not, is killing the sense of the marvelous, the innocence of the child. The disastrous result: they become almost incapable of contemplating God in His creatures. Seeking only the objective reality, they became blind to the marvelous, the most important part of the reality. A sad consequence!
Perhaps this explains the response of the famous French writer Alexander Dumas, who asked himself this question: “How can we explain why children are so intelligent and adults are so stupid? The answer is simple: By means of the education.” He is referring, I might add, to this “scientific” education that had already become popular in his day.
Today, the Revolution tries to crush this sense of the marvelous in souls by trying to make us indifferent to beauty and instead thirst for the horrendous and vulgar. This would be, in my opinion, the primordial sin - among many - of a mock “fairy tale” film like Shrek, which offers vulgarity and irreverent “sassy” humor to children as a substitute for enchantment.
Those who desire marvelous things will obtain them
Why do I bring up this topic? It is more than just to present a method of forming children. I have received many letters from The Remnant readers who confess to feelings of discouragement at times over the present crisis in the Church. The progressivists can appear so strong, in control of almost all of the institutions; we can seem so few, so powerless in human terms.
These are times, then, when it seems to me very important that this sense of the marvelous be nourished not only in our children, but also that it be restored in ourselves. The more we have the love of the marvelous, the more we will have faith and confidence in these times of chaos and chastisement. Hearing stories like those in the Golden Legend help to prepare our souls for something extraordinary, for the great miracles that will have to take place to destroy the Revolution in the Church and bring us into the Reign of Mary.
Souls who are incapable of enthusiasm for the marvelous do not desire marvelous things. And the person who does not desire marvelous things will not obtain them. On the contrary, one who has great desires, who understands it is normal for God to work miracles, will ask with confidence for great feats to be done, for a grand restoration to be made. And those requests will be answered.
By opening our souls to that which is marvelous, above all in the Catholic Church and Christian Civilization, we gain confidence in the great goodness and mercy of God, who intervenes in History and the lives of men in marvelous ways. One who knows the story of the conversion of Constantine on the Milvian bridge, or the instantaneous conversion of the obstinate Jew, Alphonse Ratisbonne, before the altar of Our Lady at Sant’Andrea delle Fratte in Rome, understands well that marvelous things do indeed lie within the plans of God. One who realizes that Our Lady could, indeed, have taken the place of her faithful knight and done wondrous feats at the tournament, has an idea of what she can and will do for us, if we remain faithful in these difficult times. When we believe these things, then we dare to ask for great things, for impossible things. We know that we are asking for something that lies well within the boundaries of the marvelous.
But the marvelous also demands a fidelity from us. It asks that we confide in Our Lady’s promise of triumph at Fatima, that we believe in her timely intervention, which is sure to come. It asks that we trust completely in her mercy and goodness and beg her to make us what we need to be in order to be part of the company that enters the doors of the Reign of Mary and a new era of fidelity and grace.
The antithesis of the marvelous...
From the opening scene that depicts the green, snaggle-toothed ogre sitting in an outhouse, burping and making other boorish sounds meant to provoke laughter, Shrek relies on vulgarities and twisted slapstick humor as entertainment. Those who made this animated comedy admit that their object was to explode myths like beauty and to mock all the fairy tale heroes and heroines. (In Shrek, the prince is the villain, the princess is always beating up everyone and ends as being ugly – not beautiful, and the hero is the ogre). I do not deny that this kind of dry, cynical humor will appeal to grown-ups who devoured MAD magazines. But it is not a film that will either nourish the marvelous or stimulate innocence in children.
How Our Lady fought in a tournament for her devoted son A soldier who was mighty in war, and not less devoted to the Blessed Mary, was on his way to a tournament, but stopped at a wayside monastery of the Blessed Virgin, that he might hear Mass in her honor. Mass followed Mass, and he would forego none of them, for the honor of Mary, until at last he came out, and hastened with all speed toward the site of the tourney. And as he drew nigh, those who were leaving the tourney came abreast of him, and applauded him loudly for having jousted with such valor. And all who were there proclaimed this. Weighing all this in his mind, the soldier discerned that the courteous Queen had done him a courteous honor. And so he revealed to all present what had happened, went back to the monastery, and thereafter soldiered for the Virgin’s Son.” (The Golden Legend of Jacques de Voragine, “Nativity of the Virgin Mary, September 8”)
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