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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In my previous post, I discussed the correlations between Sartre’s Atheistic Existentialism and Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In this post, I would like to explore some Sartrean conceits in Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel, Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley 

The novel consists of a frame narrative, whereby one story enfolds another, which enfolds yet another story. The first narrator is Robert Walton who is sailing towards the “northern pole” (Shelley 20).  On his way, he encounters Victor Frankenstein whose sledge is carried to Walton’s ship via an ice fragment.  Frankenstein is carried onto the ship, and after becoming acquainted with the captain of the ship, he begins telling his story in hopes of deterring Walton from his ambitious pursuit of “knowledge” and “dominion,” which he desires to bestow upon humanity (Shelley 24).  Frankenstein comes from a well-to-do family in Geneva. His goal in life is to gain “glory” and recognition that would “attend the discovery” of medical means to “banish disease from the human frame and render man invulnerable to any but a violent death” (Shelley 42).  Victor goes to Ingolstadt for his post-secondary studies, and he is extremely successful in gaining the recognition of his colleagues and professors due to his genius and dedication.  Natural philosophy, Chemistry and Physiology in particular, becomes the object of Victor’s interest. He seeks to create a “new species” that “would bless” him “as its creator and source” (Shelley 61). This new race “would owe” its “being” to Victor, and “no father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as” he “should deserve” the gratitude and appreciation of this new and perfect race (Shelley 61).   After spending many sleepless nights in his “secret toil,” disturbing the “unhallowed damps of the grave” and torturing “living animals to animate the lifeless clay,” Victor is successful in constructing a giant human frame and bestowing life on this “lifeless” cadaver (Shelley 62).   Much to Victor’s horror, the creature comes to live, not with the “beautiful” features and proportionate “limbs” with which Victor constructs it, but rather as a “wretch, miserable monster” whose “yellow skin scarcely covered” his “muscles and arteries beneath” (Shelley 66, 67).  Seeing this giant wretch, Victor is incapable of beholding the miserable work of his hands; he flees his house, leaving the monster he has created all alone. 

The monster flees into the woods. Then, he goes into a village where his fearful countenance sparks horror around the villagers who end up chasing him off their village with shovels, stones and other harmful projectiles. Finally, he finds a hovel attached to a cottage where a French family resides. Here is where Sartrean motifs become more pronounced. As of now, it is unclear whether the creature could be considered a human being, a beast or maybe even a combination of both. Despite his humanlike frame, his inner character still has an undefined nature. It is clear that prior to his existence, the beast has no essence or nature. It is only after he comes into the world and begins experiencing reality that he begins to assume some defining attributes that help the reader understand his essence. One night, the creature goes out on a walk and finds a “portmanteau” that contains three books (Shelley 171). John Milton’s Paradise Lost is one of them. He reads the book and begins reflecting on some existentialist questions such as “Who was I?” and “What was I?” (Shelley 172). These questions demonstrate that the creature has a rational human soul that is able to reflect on itself, which indicates his humanity. However, when he encounters a savage treatment at the hands of other humans, he goes into the “wood” and gives “vent” to his “anguish” with “fearful howlings” (Shelley 183).  His conduct degenerates into an animal-like behaviour.  Both instances demonstrate that the creature’s nature is defined after his existence and through the experiences he encounters in life.  His “existence precedes” his “essence.” Initially, the monster goes to great extents to win the favour of mankind. His fervent desire to please and satisfy others is an indication of the grave responsibility he feels to project an exemplary behaviour and serve as an example to be followed by others. The attempt to behave in the best manner possible makes the creature experience a great deal of “anguish” and pain, especially when he sees others resolved to mistreat him regardless of his decency. 

The creature has no divine revelation to help him understand a sense of right and wrong. However, he is able to develop a code of ethics simply by watching the behaviour of others. At one point, while he watches the affectionate treatment of the family members, he is greatly moved by their love and kindness towards one another.  Their example inspires him to stop stealing food from their “store” for his own “consumption” because he could see that his action is inflicting pain on others (Shelley 148).  He is able to develop a code of ethics, not by reading a religious book or a divine revelation, but rather through observation and emulation. In this sense, the monster fulfills a Sartrean vision of “abandonment.” The absence of the creator is the epitome of “abandonment” for the creature because he is left all alone to form his own moral code.

In spite of his virtuous behaviour, everyone abhors the monster because of his ugliness. When the monster finally meets his creator, he petitions him to create a female monster whose hideousness is equivalent to his own. At first, Victor consents to this supplication and begins working on it. However, when he is nearly finished with the female monster, he reflects on the consequences of his action and decides it is unethical to proceed with his design. He destroys his work. The monster sees this and is outraged.  Due to the creator’s inaction, the possibilities in the monster’s life become very limited. He is bound to live in reclusion, isolation and loneliness.  There is no prospect of change occurring in his life. For this reason, he falls into “despair.”  Of course, his “despair” makes him go on a rampage that results in the total annihilation of the Frankensteins.

Sartre’s philosophy once more produces a tragic ending that is indicative of the injury and damage his atheistic views inflict on humanity.  Despite the endless effort the monster makes to remain a virtuous creature at first without his creator, he fails miserably in continuing to uphold his noble sentiments.  When faced with injustice, the monster feels justified in inflicting harm on others.  The burning flames of vengeance and retribution devour him simply because there is no loving God who is willing to share in his miseries and afflictions.  There is no compassionate God whose sacrificial love makes Him come down to earth and live the miseries of all humanity. Victor certainly fails in fulfilling his role as a creator. Moreover, the monster’s personal moral code is skewed because it is his own and not something that is given to him by a perfect Being like God.  Both works, Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Shelley’s Frankenstein, reveal the darkness that resides inside the human psyche.  They both testify to the fallen nature of humanity and the mortal wound with which human beings are born.  Sartre’s atheistic views emanate from the same fallen nature as Macbeth’s lust for power and Victor’s desire for glory, which produce a monster with a burning desire for revenge. This only proves that human beings need an exterior force to heal their fallen nature. It is only through God the Creator, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that humanity will be healed.

Works Cited

Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Atheistic Humanism.” Issues in Religion 2. Ed. Allie Frazier. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing, 1975. 388-394. Print.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus. Manila: Lampara Publishing House, 2011. Print.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Jean-Paul Sartre and Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Jean-Paul Sartre is an atheist philosopher who has recently been labeled as the “Apostle of Absurdity” in a series of articles called  “Pillars of Unbelief” by Peter Kreeft, a professor of Philosophy at Boston College.  In his articles, Kreeft outlines the dangerous impact of six modern thinkers on contemporary culture.  Sartre’s name qualifies to be in this list, and rightly so. 

Sartre’s version of atheism is called Existentialism because it sees life as the outcome of choices made by each individual in accordance with his will.  Sartre goes a little further than most 19th century atheists.  For atheists such as Marx, Nietzsche and Strauss, the concept of God has a looming presence somewhere in the background despite all efforts done to suppress it.  This is clearly manifested in the manner in which they conceptualize humanity.  Throughout their writings, human beings are endowed with a preset nature that leaves the reader pondering, ‘if God does not exist, where does this nature come from?’

Sartre seeks to distance himself further from the Christian mindset, which has overwhelmingly enveloped the western culture for centuries, and resolves to answer this question with the famous phrase, “existence precedes essence.”  Since God the Creator does not exist, human beings are not a platonic projection of a preconceived and predefined blueprint.  Instead, they gain essence or nature through their will, which is manifested by the choices they make in this life.  Prior to their birth, human beings do not have a nature or essence. Their nature is only developed gradually and progressively by their choices after they are born. Sartre defines a threefold doctrine that is a result of this worldview. 

Human beings are in constant “anguish” due to the “profound responsibility” that accompanies every decision (Sartre 390).  When deciding on something, each person is a “legislator deciding for the whole of mankind” (Sartre 392).  His actions constitute a template for the rest of humanity. Therefore, he bears the liability and blame for the consequences of his decisions.

Human beings are in a state of “abandonment” (Sartre 392). God’s omission necessarily implies that man is left to his own devices. This means that man is left to himself to construct a code of ethics because there is no God who issues or decrees precise definitions of good and evil.  All things are “permitted if God does not exist” (Sartre 392). This concept is exceptionally significant because its ramifications are prevalent in the moral code of contemporary ethics.

Finally, due to the limited “possibilities,” a human being is bound to fall into despair (Sartre 393). There is no God to save or to intervene in any given situation, and the outcome of each action is limited to the few possible outcomes that must follow the action.  Hence, there is no hope to expect something beyond these possibilities. It follows that human beings are in a constant state of despair. 

The application of this worldview turns reality into a horrifying experience that leaves its subscribers in a state of constant grief, dismay and struggle.  Shakespeare’s character Macbeth is a testament to this fact.  As the play begins, Macbeth is a faithful soldier in the service of his country and his king. On his way back home from the battle, Macbeth is accompanied by Banquo, another brave and loyal soldier who fights by Macbeth’s side and assists Macbeth in securing victory for Scotland against the Norwegian transgressors and Scottish traitors. Macbeth’s initial success stirs him into lofty ambitions and grand designs.  Three witches appear to him and stir his ambitions further by suggesting that he will be the King of Scotland. Macbeth takes this for a prophecy that must be fulfilled in one way or another.  He begins to harbour a murderous “thought” in his mind for which, up till now, the “horrid image” of murder is “fantastical” (I.iii.136, 140).  He plans to murder the king and take his throne. At this point, Macbeth’s religious beliefs, at least his creedal affiliations (as opposed to his sanctity, see the Catholic doctrine of Justification), are not atheistic. This is clearly demonstrated in his constant references to Christian concepts such as “heaven’s cherubin,” a Christian angelic rank, or Judgment in “life to come” (I.vii.7, 22).  He makes these references when he is pondering the nature of his ambition.  His murderous intention is temporarily thwarted for several reasons among which his religious fear of eternal damnation is listed as the first deterrent. 

Macbeth’s wife, Lady Macbeth, bullies him into committing the murder and usurping the throne of Scotland.  After King Duncan’s murder, Macbeth’s character changes drastically.  He finds himself degenerating into a bloodthirsty murderer who is willing to cut his friends’ throats and slaughter his cousins’ families.  Perhaps without even realizing it, he gradually sheds his Christian morality and begins to discover the true nature of his belief system.  There is no clear indication as to when exactly this takes place before his famous Aside, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” (V.v.19).  However, in this speech, Macbeth shows that he has completely deserted his Christians beliefs. Here is the speech in its entirety.

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Patrick Steward’s performance of this speech)

Setyon, Macbeth’s armour bearer, brings Macbeth the news of his wife’s passing. Macbeth responds to this news with purported indifference; he says that she would have died sooner or later.  The lines that follow depict Macbeth’s new perspective in life.  Finally, Macbeth is in touch with an inner reality; his worldview is more Sartrean than it is Christian. Under this alleged indifference, Macbeth feels the sting of his wife’s death, and all the “anguish” that accompanies the bereavement of a life’s companion is masked under a dismissive attitude. Not only is Macbeth responsible for his wife’s death, but also for his own ruin as well as his kingdom’s descent into civil war. Considering the overwhelming sense of responsibility and the tremendous “anguish” that Macbeth feels, he chooses not to face the consequences of his actions. Rather, he reacts with a dismissive speech about the meaninglessness of life.

The speech begins with a monotonous description of time, “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow.” Macbeth sees time as a cyclical motion whereby a repetitive and meaningless routine is constantly recurring.  Nothing in life is meaningful for Macbeth because all human actions are inconsequential.  Life after death is no longer of any significance. This can only signify that Macbeth’s belief in God, regardless of its authenticity, has finally subsided, and he sees life as a short time lived here on earth.  While alive for a short time, Macbeth feels “abandoned,” forsaken, forgotten and forlorn.  This notion is further solidified when he sees all his thanes and noblemen leaving him and “mingl[ing] with the English epicures” (V.iii.8).  Of course, he feels deserted and estranged because God is no longer a real force and an existent Being for him.  Instead of living in fellowship, grace, and consolation of God, Macbeth feels alone, alienated and “abandoned.” As a result of God’s absence, Macbeth turns to his own constructions of good and evil. He legislates his own code of ethics.  Morality for him becomes a personal endeavour He feels that there is nothing wrong with a “false face” hiding “what the false heart doth know” (I.vii.82).  Nor is there anything wrong with “things” that are “bad begun” being sustained and made “strong” by further “ill” (III.ii.55).  Macbeth’s distorted sense of right and wrong is a direct result of not having a measuring stick to guide and steer him towards the right path that is untainted by his own crooked whims, biases and persuasions. Self-aggrandizement and selfish ambition are the driving force, or the supreme ruler in his life.  Of course, this supreme ruler, the god, which has become the new object of worship for Macbeth, stands in direct contrast with the Supreme Ruler, God the Creator and Author of all morality. In either case, Macbeth, just like everyone else, is bound to worship someone or something. Rejection of God means another god will creep in and take control of people’s lives.  In this case, Macbeth’s ardent desire for the throne and the power that comes along with it has become the god, which has gained his total devotion, veneration and worship. 

All thanes and noblemen desert Macbeth and join Malcolm. Macbeth fortifies the castle at Dunsinane Hill and awaits Malcolm’s advancing forces.  The possible outcomes at this point are limited. Malcolm’s “push” will either “cheer” Macbeth, in which case Macbeth will rule over Scotland tyrannically and with an iron fist, or it will “disseat” him, bringing death along with it (V.iii.20, 21).  For Macbeth, it is either death or a life that is empty of “honour, love, obedience and troops of friends” (V.iii.25).  The number of limited possibilities excludes divine involvement or a miraculous intervention by God to save Macbeth or offer him a safe exist out of this dire situation.  This is precisely why Macbeth falls into “despair” and feels that life is not worth living; it would not make a difference for him if the “candle” were to be put “out.” Macbeth clearly feels Sartre’s sense of despair. 

Now that Macbeth has consciously adopted Sartre’s views, he looks at life and describes it using four metaphors.  First, it is a “brief candle,” because it does not last for a long time. Life is short because there is no eternity to prolong it and make it worthwhile.  Due to its brevity, life is not worth living, and extinguishing this life would not make a difference. Note the sense of despair and hopelessness in this life that is lived far from God.  The second metaphor compares life to a “walking shadow” because there is nothing authentic in this life.  A shadow is not an authentic and a real object. It is weak, fickle and erratic. All these traits make a shadow unimportant or insignificant.  Life is just a “shadow” because it is insignificant.  Third, Macbeth compares life to a “poor player” who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage.” After that, he is “heard no more.” Again, the “hour” signifies the brevity of life. The performance of this “player” is incomprehensible and senseless.  Finally, life is compared to a “tale” that is told by an “idiot” whose speech is incoherent and unintelligible.  All his passions and enthusiasms are “sound and fury,” which signify “nothing.”  The stark contrast between Macbeth’s character in the beginning of the play and his character in the end demonstrates clearly the dangers in the Sartrean worldview.  Macbeth is no longer the loyal servant of Scotland who is full of vigour and life. He has completely abandoned God, and along with God, all desire to live a life of service and sacrifice. 

The development of Macbeth’s character demonstrates a movement from a Christian worldview to a Sartrean way of life.  It is not a coincidence that Macbeth ends up lonely, miserable and dead.  Often, experts are quick to point out the absurd violence in this play.  This violence denotes the sense of pain and depravity a human being suffers in his denial of God’s existence. During the battle against Macdonwald the rebel, Macbeth advances through the ranks and “unseam[s]” him from his “nave” to his “chaps” (I.ii.22).  In the final scene, Macduff walks in a room where the rest of Scotland’s nobility are gathered while carrying Macbeth’s head in his hands.  The visual imagery is that of a surgery being conducted. Cutting a person open and purging him from any devotion to God the Creator is a painful process, and will only result in a dreadful conclusion. Sartre’s atheistic views are extremely dangerous, and their consequences will only slice the belly of humanity open and decapitate it, rendering it miserable, hopeless and dead.

Works Cited
Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Atheistic Humanism.” Issues in Religion 2. Ed. Allie Frazier. Blemont: Wadsworth Publishing, 1975. 388-394. Print.

Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Mary Ellen Snodgrass. New Jersey: Wiley Publishing, 2006. Print.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Silent Words (A Tribute to my Chinese Students)

The worst time of year for me is the month of June. The students are exhausted and agitated, and any task that has a touch of complexity will only be received with rolling eyes, heavy sighs, slow-moving pens (or pencils) and half-opened eyes.

Worse yet is the constant awareness of the imminent separation after the last days of school. Suddenly, losing the habitual routine of a typical school day and the familiar faces that accompany that routine becomes an agonizing prospect.  A desire springs up in both students and teachers (maybe it’s just me and not all teachers). This desire seeks to imprint every last, precious moment spent together into the banks of eternal memory.  The most appealing thing about these last moments is that few thoughts are actually verbalized, few words are said; and yet, the meaning conveyed in these silent words is of such great magnitude that eyes are unable to hide it and tears are unwilling to ignore it.  The human soul begins to wrestle with two forces, a yearning for an everlasting fellowship and a fear of loneliness.

The soul longs for an eternal fellowship, a permanent friendship, a never-ending companionship that lasts forever.  This longing is a deep-seeded passion that signals something yet deeper inside of us. It shows that deep down inside, every human being yearns for a sense of belonging to a community that never dissipates or scatters. Unfortunately, nowhere on earth will that community ever be found. Every gathering disperses, every assembly disbands and all communities eventually scatter.  Since this desire exists inside human beings, there must be a real place where it is actualized. Naturally, one is bound to look at the most idealized concept known to humanity, heaven. It is only in heaven where a joyful and eternal fellowship never ends. How else can I describe my students’ yearning for an eternal fellowship, other than a prayer, a petition or a supplication for a never-ending gathering where joy is constant? 

The usual method of capturing these last moments is by resorting to pictures.  What do these pictures indicate? What do they mean? We carry pictures of our loved-ones in our wallets to be a reminder for us everywhere we go. Likewise, when pictures are taken during the last days of school, it is almost as if to say, “I would like to take you with me everywhere I go,” or “I would like a piece of you to accompany me everywhere,” or better yet, “I would like this moment to last forever,” which are all unrealistic sentiments that are impossible to fulfill.  As I already stated, the pictures constitute a memory. The attempt to obtain memories by capturing these last moments of departure is inspired by a fear, a fear of being forgotten and abandoned. For this reason, we implore one another, “do not forget me,” or “please remember me.”  Consequently, we begin to write short anecdotes or pass souvenirs to one another, which often include pictures.  Just like every human being yearns for an eternal fellowship, likewise this fear of being forgotten is also a common sentiment found inside every human being.  It is impossible to be accompanied by a friend at all times. At one point or another, we are bound to be alone with no familiar faces around us. Since this fear of loneliness is a real experience that everyone undergoes at one time or another, there must exist a place where this fear is non-extant. It is impossible to recognize a fear if there were no real experience that stands in contrast to this fear.  A child would never fear darkness if there were no light. A student would never fear failure if there were no success. Likewise, the existence of fear indicates that there is a place that is fully secured at all times. Where else can a person find this place other than heaven? Where else can a person not worry about being forgotten other than heaven?  The pictures indicate that we are all looking for heaven, a perfect state of being where a person never feels lonely and forgotten.

Silent words are louder than spoken ones.  The expressive eyes of my students on our last day were like the eyes of a dead deer, seeking to communicate their dissatisfaction at this moment of departure. The words I thought I heard were “please don’t go,” or “please stay here.” I, in turn, did not verbalize my thoughts either. All I could think of was “I am afraid you will forget me,” and “I will miss you.”

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Chaldean Renaissance?

       His Excellency Sarhad Jammo, Bishop of St. Peter Chaldean Diocese in San Diego, California, has recently repeated what he heralds a “Chaldean Renaissance” taking shape, much to the surprise of what one would expect in the current state of affairs regarding Iraqi Christians. Before we look at some of the things that solidify an assertion that there is something such as a renaissance taking place amongst the Chaldean people and Church, it’s important to note why one would expect otherwise.

In the opening paragraph, the Bishop addresses a certain pessimism that still hovers in the perceptions and feelings of many fellow Chaldeans or Christians of Iraq for that matter. He as anyone else is not slow to link this expression to the socio-political-economic conflict that has inflicted Iraq during the war and insurgency in the last 9 last years, decreasing in gravity yet latent nonetheless. The Bishop has in fact for many years tirelessly addressed and dialogued on this topic of Chaldean “Identity”, a setting that has had war and Diaspora as its point of departure. He notes that our script currently is summed up as being the “conquered”. He divides the areas in which this is concerned, ecclesiastically, politically, and language wise. The Chaldean people seem to be vulnerable to whatever nearby influence exists whether it’s Arabs or Western culture. What has been engraved in the Iraqi or Chaldean mental and moral horizon is drawn from the dense history of trial and tug-of-war between varying ideologies, cultural exchanges, religious movements, imperial banners, wars, loss, and the like. More than a dozen different empires have occupied or called the land between the two rivers home, from the pre-Christian Hellenistic period, Babylonian and Assyrian empires, the Abbasid Islamic Caliphate, the half a millennium rule of the Ottoman Empire to the Ba’th political/Saddam Regime. However, many places around the world can provide a list of occupants or empires that have covered their land, so what I would contend that the Bishop wishes to address in our pessimistic symptom is the gravity of recent trajectory events, of at least this century, past and present. It’s a historical fact that much of Europe relatively solidified their nationalistic movements in the 18th and 19th centuries from “empires” to the “modern nation state” as we have it today, different political-geographic boundaries, a more democratic style of governing, and an overall increasing awareness of ethnic and national identity. Whether this took place in France during Napoleon, Greece’s independence from the Ottomans in the 1820’s or even Italy’s Risorgimento of the 1860’s. Things had pretty much settled down by the time the era of modern military technology ensued at capacities unparallel in history. This is what the “20th” century has been known for compared to the two previous we mentioned. In this latter, we see those genocides and mass killing of people which is still “embedded in the memory and vigilance” of people today, specifically Iraq. Its people have faced toppling of monarchial power, then Saddam and his campaign of strife with Iraq during their war of the 80’s, Kuwait/U.S, sanctions during the 90’s and then the recent Iraq War. It would not be surprising to identify a subtle yet mental tone among those generations of Chaldeans which is a bit strenuous at times. Regardless of setbacks, our people are known for being hard working, talented, cultured, pious, and faithful, all the qualities that are a witness to this modern age. Hence, cultivating a stable identity remains an important goal in the midst of uncertainty in a time of external influence, understandable for a shepherd seeking the welfare of his people. This stands as an important reason for why we share an interest in pursuing a similar report and if possible, a vision for the current future. As our Lord pressed Peter to feed his sheep as a testament to his love for Him, so do we assent to such an endeavor of taking care of those entrusted to us, whether priest or lay person, as a thanksgiving for the impact our Chaldean Christian heritage and faith has had on our identity, morally and spiritually. This “awakening” is exactly the kind of terminology we can fit to explain the increasing investment in once again establishing ourselves as people capable of something to offer, of something worth passing on.
In September of 2008, I attended a conference, first of its kind for our family in our limited experience; this was the ECRC “Awake my soul” conference at St. Joseph Chaldean Parish in Troy Michigan which is held annually. Let’s just say that the experience left us feeling on cloud nine; it was a truly Catholic experience. Whether it was the guest speakers from Catholic academic institutions and organizations, singers, bishops, adoration, night vigil, or books and media on sale, this one out of many events put on by this dedicated and efficient team of people has been a noted success for the people of St. Thomas Diocese in getting people to Church. The other really popular event noted for reviving the faith of many has been the Kairos Retreat, the sister one being the Emmaus Retreat, held in California. The ECRC by the Chaldean Diocese in Michigan is a testament to the vital efforts and success in reaching out to the Chaldean people and getting them involved in the faith through extensive resources and a community centered approach. Another sign of a visible renaissance in the Chaldean Church is in the growing vocations in diocesan and religious life; the number of seminarians in the United States is steadily growing, even though vocations back in Iraq took a hit because of war. These men and women are a joyful, energetic and increasingly dedicated group who wish to become involved in every area of Church and community life. On the side of the airwaves, there is the recently opened Chaldean Media Center or Kaldu TV from San Diego, providing viewers the Chaldean Mass, liturgy of the hours, community events and much more.
Yet another personal inspiration to me is the great witness of the Pontifical College of Babel. This place of higher learning for philosophy and theology continues to seek and preserve its freedom in teaching and cultivating with the mind of the universal church. Much gratitude must go to the western missionaries such as the Dominicans and Carmelites who helped the Church of the East broaden their horizons in terms of all that the Catholic Church had to offer, starting in the 14th century onwards. They were instrumental in deepening our understanding of logic, philosophy, theology and spirituality. To this day, there are Chaldean Dominicans and Carmelites, playing an active role in the Church; in fact just up to a decade ago, there was a French Dominican Seminary in Mosul Iraq.           
Overall, these are just a few things that are a sign that indeed the Chaldean Church is undergoing a renaissance not because of something extrinsic to it but by God’s grace leading the people and its leaders to a renewed enthusiasm for its rich heritage. Whether it’s preserving and promoting the Chaldean language for the next generation in the Diaspora or the rights of the Chaldean minority in Iraq, the message is the same.
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Written by Mark Owdeesh