Friday, April 18, 2014

Book Review: The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot

Caravaggio - Taking of Christ in the Garden
What if Judas was a Vampire?

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
             I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith

I'll never forget a homily I heard on Spy Wednesday of  Holy Week where the priest asked "What if Judas asked for forgiveness? What if he turned back and went to the cross and accepted Jesus' Mercy? What if he professed faith in the Giver of Life himself and not chosen death instead? We'd now be calling him St. Judas the Penitent instead of a traitor and a thief." 

                                                        And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate 

Judas, like us, had two paths to choose from - one easy, one hard. He could choose the tree or the cross. Our faith tells in that no matter what we do, Jesus will forgive us if we are truly sorry and we ask for it. Through the ministry of the Church in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God will grant us pardon if we are truly sorry, but that's not always the easy choice. To overcome sin, we must swallow our pride, be contrite, and desire to sin no more. Of course we know from the Gospels which path he ultimately chose.

Pleased to meet you,
hope you guess my name!

David Vermont's novel, The Last Confession of the Vampire Judas Iscariot, Judas' story didn't end by hanging from a rope that day in Jerusalem. "He is restored to life by the Devil and made into a vampire apostle. The Devil teaches Judas to manipulate men and history. He becomes a king, a general, a teacher and a blacksmith, whatever is needed to effect the outcome of history and move it towards the goal of his new master."  The author takes us on a tour through Christian history and weaves a story of heroic virtue, suffering, and the hope of salvation, from 33AD to the present day. In the end, he sets his sights on laicized priest to try to obtain the one thing the Devil cannot give him. 

The book is enjoyable to read and moves quickly. It also makes the reader think about more than the action and storyline - mainly life, death, Heaven, and Hell, but not to the point of being overwhelming. It allows you to relate to the main characters- both good and bad. I found myself experiencing the humanity of Fr. Breviary, almost weeping with him in his personal sorrow and part of me also understood the confusion and despair of Judas, who despite his superhuman abilities, still found himself longing for what he could never attain on his own. 

Although it can be considered to be in the vampire genre, it's not really about vampires. It is, however, very Catholic, which is refreshing given some recently popular novels which I will not mention. In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a copy in exchange for a review. I give the author credit for tackling such a story and it was a welcome addition to my lenten reading this year. As I meditate on the Passion of our Lord on this Good Friday, I'm sure at some point I will think about Judas and all the "what if's" and what could have been. Of course we know that only God has the answers and everything, including the reasons for our own sufferings and joys, are according to His plan, done in His time, for the good of all his people. 

Have a blessed Holy Week! 

Holy Name Church, Fall River, MA. 

Sympathy for the Devil
Writer(s): Mick Jagger, Keith Richards
Copyright: Mirage Music Int. Ltd. c/o Essex Music Int. Ltd., Mirage Music Int. Ltd. c/o Essex Music Int. L

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Caught Up In Appearances

Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, 
because I have rejected him.
Not as man sees does God see, 
because man sees the appearance 
but the LORD looks into the heart (1 Sam. 16:7)

We'll, we're more than halfway through Lent, so us procrastinators better start to buckle down and get serious about it. Now what should I give up? Actually, for me, this Lent has been very spiritually productive, especially in my contemplating God's plan and trying to be less bogged down by my own struggles and falling into self pity from thinking how hard I must have it. Last Sunday's readings were exactly what I needed (they usually are) to help keep me on course in my Lenten journey.

 Whenever I hear the account of David being chosen from among his brothers, I can't help but think of this. That's what having children...or at least the mind of one will do. In the Veggietales version, young David is given the Sisyphean task from his brothers of propping up their ever-falling sheep. He was the youngest of eight, and as we know, s**t flows downhill. David had no shot at his father's inheritance and probably resigned himself to the fact he'd be tending the flock for the rest of his life. Little did he know God's plan would be beyond his wildest imagination.

 I'm sure we all feel this way from time to time - I know I do often. We get discouraged by our daily labor and lost in the darkness of self-pity. Then we run the danger of getting caught up in appearances as Samuel did. He saw the oldest brother as big, strong, and handsome and figured he was prime king material. However, while man judges appearances, God judges the heart. He calls us to see His plan that is far beyond our routines and what we can see on the surface. Our struggles are temporary, but God wants us forever. 

My friend Kevin mentioned the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Yoda chastises Luke for judging him but his stature and appearance. He's looking beyond the odd little green guy in the swamp to find the great Jedi Master, which is a great comparison to the scripture. The people of Jesus' time also looked beyond the simple carpenter for their great Messiah, not realizing the great I AM was in their midst.  

We've been praying the St. Padre Pio Novena together as a family. I'd like too close with part a prayer from that Novena which he composed for confidence and trust in God's Mercy. 

O Lord, we ask for a boundless confidence 
and trust in Your divine mercy, 
and the courage to accept the crosses and sufferings
 which bring immense goodness to our souls 
and that of Your Church.

Of course now I'll never get this image out of my mind when I read Samuel. Have a blessed week.