Monday, July 5, 2010

A Study of the Stars

What is it that we think of when we hear the word "stars"? Galactic fireballs to whom the geneses of worlds are owing, ancient gods of the heavens, keys to the future and sources of horoscopes, beacons of light and hope to a despairing world, the foremost players of big screen films or television dramas - all of these are legitimate images conjured up by the mere mention of this simple word. But even amidst the mysteries of the universe, the significance of the image last mentioned is perhaps the most perplexing of all.

In a logically thinking world the popularity of these persons whom we dub "stars" would be a matter quite beyond the range of comprehension - the secular celebrities are generally not renowned for their roles as beacons of light to the world, whether through extraordinary talent or intellect, virtue or accomplishment. Indeed, in most cases, the truth is blatantly the opposite! From whence, therefore, could spring their given appellation of "stardom"? Perhaps it is the result of the often glitzy exterior of these persons -the glamor and bling of the shell that conceals the frequent lack of substance beneath, the escape from reality it promises, while shedding a false glow upon the world around it. Or perhaps it is due to a force outside of themselves, in the adoration and adulation of the world. Indeed, are not fame and fortune, physical beauty and power, looked upon as idols and "lights" in the eyes of this world? It would be a sad, sad place in which we live, if the sickly glows cast by these superficialities were to form the only bright spots in a world left vacant and void by its rejection of Christ, the true light.

While painful to acknowledge, it seems that our culture's choice of its "stars" is largely reflective of its plight as a whole. Just as the ancient pagan cultures looked to the sun and stars, the most powerful things they knew, as their gods, so does our world today look longingly "up" from the humdrum of daily existence to give worship to our "stars", those persons bearing within themselves beauty, fame, or fortune, the qualities recognized today as bestowing the greatest power. Moreover, and likewise in conformity with some ancient cultures, a share in this "stardom" is sought through our world's "worship".

But what are the fruits of abject submission to these "stars", or gods of today? Immodesty, promiscuity, failing marriages, obsession with wealth and instant gratification, whether in love or material possessions - a warping not only of our understanding of freedom, but that even of our comprehension of true love and beauty. In the ways we dress, behave, think, in our concepts of beauty, love, and the purpose of life, our culture continues to prostrate itself in obeisance to the gods of today, the "stars" whom those favored qualities adorn. Inevitably, the consequences of this superficial worship have had a negative impact on the hearts and minds of many, not the least of which are our young people. Bent on finding the true love promised for certain behaviors, whether moral or not, in the world of the big screen, and following the too often wretched examples set forth by these our idols, many young people are effectually forfeiting every chance they have of truly acquiring the object of their desires - losing their likelihood of ever in reality capturing that dreamy Disney princess style happy ending. If things go on as they are now, with each new crop of "stars" influencing a generation more at odds with happiness than the last, the future is bleak for our culture as a whole.

It is high time we as a culture cease to live with our heads in the clouds (or, to be even more cliche, in this case, the stars), to get a grasp on reality sufficient to see the error of the licentiousness we have come to call "freedom". Our "stars", indeed, are destroying themselves - we need look no further than the average length and felicity of "celebrity marriages", the problems with drug and alcohol addictions, suicide, and overall misery to be found beneath the bling of the Hollywood exterior, to see evidence of this; and our world is blindly following in its wake, willfully oblivious to the horrors we are getting into. Despite the gloom of this prognosis in general, though, there is still good reason to hope! For the Catholic Christian in our world today, we are well provided with far brighter and more valuable "stars", in the truest sense of the word. Mother Teresa, John Paul II, Padre Pio, St.s Gianna Molla, Faustina, and Maximillian Kolbe - these holy men and women, far more advanced in the true light of Christ than even the worst of our false idols are in the opposing darkness, are truly unobscured beacons of light, or "stars", as it were, of hope in our world; pointing ever with unclouded brightness to the great star of the universe, our God. These holy men and women, an infinitesimally small fraction of the great communion of Saints, are living proof that true life and love may still exist, in undimmed splendor, shining ever more brightly against the darkening perils of the world.

It is, as this title signifies, a study of the stars.

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