Remembering My Father — How John Wayne Grew Old

Deal W. Hudson

June 6, 2018

He was the strongest man I ever knew. He had will-power of iron. The doctor said to stop smoking. After that day he never smoked another cigarette. Years later a different doctor banned alcohol—not another drink passed his lips for more than thirty years. Of all the money he inherited from his mother and aunt, not a penny of these assets was spent on himself; all of it was saved and reinvested for his three children. Heart failure and a stroke put him in a hospital bed. I went to his bedside in Houston, where I cut up his dinner and placed it in his mouth, piece by piece.

I guess you could call my dad part of the Saving Private Ryan generation. Fresh out of Texas in his early twenties, a captain in the Army Air Corps, he flew his missions over Germany and Yugoslavia and, I was told by my mother, never lost a man. Dad never talked about the war, but over the years it became clear his soul had suffered much from the experience. After seeing the Spielberg movie, and listening to the reaction of many World War II veterans, it was also clearly an emotional catharsis of sorts had been long overdue for them.

I took the occasion of that film for my daughter, Hannah, and I to interview him about his war experience. Dad seemed finally ready to talk about those years where every morning these young men wondered if they would survive another day. No wonder, he said, they all learned how to drink, pretty hard. His best story was about his plane being shot down in Yugoslavia and the local women who hid the flyers in hay wagons until they were rescued.

I already knew that story because a few months earlier providence had arranged for Dad to play golf with my friend and Crisis supporter, the late Jim Matthews. On the 18th hole, I noticed that Jim and my father were still on the tee by the time I reached my ball in the fairway.  When they arrived at the green, I asked why they were dragging behind. My father looked up from the ground with a look on his face I had never seen. “Remember that story about being picked up after being shot down in Yugoslavia? Jim, was the pilot of that plane.” The last few words were almost inaudible because my father, this strong man, was choking with emotion.

Age did not diminish Dad’s will-power. In the summer of 1998, I went to Rockport, Maine, to play with him in a two-day golf tournament at the local country club. This had become a yearly ritual for us—we had never played that well but we knew we were running out of time, and we were determined to make a good showing.

Dad was 78 that summer but still a solid mid-80s player. He loved to make putts under pressure. After making them, he would almost dance to the hole to pick up the ball.

After the first day’s scramble format, we were in the lead. We always liked scrambles, where you pick the best shot and play from there since I usually drove well and Dad has always been an extraordinary putter. The second day was the best-ball of our twosome, meaning we choose the best of our two scores in each hole. I played well for about 13 holes but then started to fall apart. My trusty driver was letting me down. We knew we were probably in the lead for the championship flight but could not afford a single bad hole.

To this day I have no idea how he summoned the strength. While I looked for my lost game, Dad parred the last five holes, making all the putts required of him. We had been teaming together since I was eleven, and now father and son had finally won a golf tournament.

Two weeks later, at a hospital in Houston, my father was told he suffered from congestive heart failure, and his heart was pumping only 20 percent of the blood his body needed. How did he do it at Rockport? These men from ‘the greatest generation’ had guts, a courage acquired in the midst of the ultimate self-sacrifice — fighting against tyranny that threated the freedom of nations and peoples, country, a cause that outweighed their need for home, family, and their very lives.

Many readers, I am sure, have been down this road of watching a father, or a mother, become child-like through the ravages of age and disease. I was once told losing a father is like standing in a clearing where all of a sudden the last row of trees are blown away and you feel a storm smacking you in the face. I have gone back to that image many times to understand the strange reversal of roles. My father died not long after, I felt the force of the wind rising against me.

At his burial service in Austin, I felt conflicted because my admiration for my father was mixed with bitterness over years of conflict with him over finances and my choice of occupation. Much to my regret, my eulogy did not do him justice. I described his ‘toughness’ more as a rebuke of how he treated me than the making of a man who was born in the Depression, who lost his father at age 12, who loved breaking horses, who was part of the Corps at Texas A&M, and who captained a B-24 over Europe in his early twenties.

Since his death nearly twenty years ago, I have thanked him in my heart hundreds of times for the strength and perseverance he passed on to me. Not everyone is given that gift by their parents. And, when given, it’s a gift rarely wrapped in a pretty package. My father cared little about packaging of any kind, only what’s underneath, what could be called character.

For all this, as Father’s Day once again approaches, I am grateful. I pray I have passed on some of his patrimony to my two children, with, perhaps, some kinder packaging.

Julian Green — A Turbulent Passage — from Crisis Magazine, Feb. 1, 1996.

The penultimate volume of Julian Green’s four-part autobiography, anglicized as Love In America, borrows its haunting epigraph from Francois Villon, “In my own country I am in a distant land.” Certainly, no writer’s personal situation was ever more appropriately limned by this striking verse than that of Julian Green. Born ninety-five years ago in Belle Epoque Paris to a genteel Southern family, Julian Green is an internal exile twice over. Another fact equally important for our understanding of Green’s literary art is his sense of being a pilgrim on this earth.

Following his demobilization from the French Army at the conclusion of the sanguinary 1914 War, young Julian Green takes ship for an unknown America where he is to matriculate at the University of Virginia. Green would remain there for three years with profound repercussions for his entire life.

His initial impressions of his ancestral country were none too complimentary. Julian Green believed that Americans were “barbarians.” For this mannerly, French-reared Southerner spending his first American night in brash New York City, surely the culture shock must have been immense—at the very least. On that same evening, Green attends the fabled New York theater with his maternal uncle Walter and cousin Sarah, the vivacious Savannah belle who previously had lived with the Green family in Paris for five years.

As he watched the performance of La Befta, a swashbuckling melodrama starring John and Lionel Barrymore, Green recounts, “I could not understand a word…. It seemed to me that the actors were speaking in a foreign tongue, so different was their accent to the one I was used to.” Turning to his pretty cousin Sarah, Green tells her that the eminent Barrymores “spoke like Yankees.”

Fortunately, Julian Green experienced a change of heart about American visigothism when he and Uncle Walter crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Virginia. Green recalls his first reaction to being in the South: “This was my first night in my mother’s country, the South, and everything she had told me about it those long years ago came flooding back into memory. It was as if that whole world which she had loved were being offered to me in one simplified image because I saw it through the eyes of my mother. Within a few seconds, I understood everything: the Secession, the will to survive and not to be absorbed into a nation that was too vast.”

The school at which Green found himself a freshman in 1919 was like no other university in either the North or the South. It bore the indelible imprint of its remarkable founder, America’s renaissance man par excellence, Thomas Jefferson. Like so many students before him and after him, Julian Green would never forget his first sighting of Mr. Jefferson’s lovely box-trees, neoclassical pavilions, and the famous winding wall. Throughout the beautiful landscape of the University (which Green always capitalizes in French), one begins to appreciate symbolically the classical mind of Jeffersonian Virginia, which stood for what was truly best about the Old South.

Julian Green took in Mr. Jefferson’s academic village and thought that the Sage of Monticello must have known dreams in which he “must have walked among [Rome and Pompeii] through a forest of white columns, for I have never seen so many in my life: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, they rose up on all sides to such an extent that one might think it was a hallucination.” It would seem that only a writer like Julian Green whose novels Andre Gide termed “visionary” could perceive the hallucinatory recesses behind the harmonious, classical facade of Jeffersonian architecture. One wonders how Edgar Allan Poe, another haunted alumnus of Mr. Jefferson’s academic village, and a “visionary” writer favored by Green, might have responded to his kindred spirit’s singular comments.

It is, however, undoubtedly true that young Julian was terrified of being surrounded by so many Anglophones, even though they were fellow Southerners. In Paris, his schoolmates had taunted Green for being a member of a vanquished Southern nation that had disappeared from history. In Charlottesville, Green’s Virginian classmates regarded him as a Frenchman, or, at the very least, an eccentric cultural hybrid no doubt destined for the cloister.

Young Virginia gentlemen were expected to conduct themselves with studied nonchalance, something which Julian Green emulated with high seriousness. But as for the fraternity carousing that flavors much of Southern collegiate existence to the chagrin of deans of student affairs, the ever-fastidious Green condemned it as both “disgusting” and “bestial.”

Another Southern cultural lesson Julian Green acquired at UVA was the revered “Honors System.” Any student caught cheating at Mr. Jefferson’s University “no longer existed for either the authorities or the students.” Green notes that during the three years he studied at the University, there was not one reported case of academic misconduct. Our autobiographer makes this wry comment about Southern student mores: “In this way, all the boys came to form their idea of what was known as ‘a Virginia gentleman.’ You could do whatever you wanted, except to cheat.”

Perhaps the first thing the pious Julian Green sought out besides textbooks was an islet of Catholicism within the Protestant realm of shady Charlottesville. At the time there existed in the old town a homely Catholic chapel made of wood. Green describes its “miserable little bell-tower… that would discretely summon the faithful to Mass.” During the weekdays, the “faithful” at Mass meant Julian Green who punctiliously attended the early Eucharist sleepily celebrated by a constantly yawning priest. The young would-be monk found much comfort within the chapel’s quiet walls. Green reminds us that “to be seen by God in silence is also a form of prayer.”

The Southern education of Julian Green reached a pivotal moment in Dr. Fitzhugh’s Latin class. It happened one day when Julian and his classmates busied themselves with the translation of a perplexing passage from Virgil. Professor Fitzhugh interrupted the students’ declensioning with words that silenced the classroom: “Gentlemen, it seems pointless for me to disguise the meaning of this passage: we are dealing with the shame of Antiquity.”

Professor Fitzhugh’s unambiguous explication de texte elicited an epiphany in Julian Green’s mind. Suddenly, the revelation of “Greek love” answered questions Green had regarding the unsettling desires troubling his whole being. Green recalls, “In a second I understood a thousand things, except for one which was essential. I realized that the strange passion of which Virgil spoke resided in me. A blinding flash that had clarified my entire life. I was frightened by this revelation which identified me with the young men of antiquity. So I bore the shame of Antiquity. I alone bore it.”

The epiphanic discovery of his own inversion made Green feel cut off from the rest of humanity, beginning with his Virginia classmates. His extraordinary sexual innocence compelled him to feel that he alone had inherited the shameful virus of Antiquity. Once more, Julian Green withdrew into the “interior homeland” of his Catholic faith. Green’s painful self-isolation due to his sexual discovery drove him to replay old conversations between himself and his erstwhile spiritual director, Father Crete. In his Charlottesville boarding house room, Green eagerly reread the good abbe’s letters of spiritual instruction. Father Crete’s great wish was for Julian to embrace the monastic vocation (Benedictine no less). Father Crete appreciated the fervent young convert’s spiritual qualities; moreover, the mature Green has intimated upon more than one occasion that his beloved confessor might not have been innocently unaware of Green’s private proclivities, which were to cause him so much future suffering. In desiring Julian’s embrace of a religious vocation, Father Crete hoped to see him saved.

A particular trait of Julian Green’s fictional characters is their frequent vulnerability to the coup de foudre, or love at first sight. Romantic love exists in Green’s universe as a powerful, ineluctable response to the beloved at first glance. The original French title of the third volume of Green’s autobiography is Terre lointaine, meaning “the distant land,” hence the Villon allusion. But when the book was translated by Euan Cameron, the title Love In America was chosen instead. We shall shortly understand the crucial reason for this, rooted as it is in Green’s experience of the coup de foudre at the University.

Early on in his collegiate career, Julian Green fell deeply in love at first sight with a handsome Virginia student identified pseudonymously as “Mark.” The event occurred one cold winter day as young Julian walked from Cabell Hall to the Rotonda. He remembers: “Suddenly, I was no longer a free man. Because of someone, I had seen for only three or four seconds, I was now enslaved… Love, I could only see only too well, brought unhappiness.”

The Catholic Church’s teaching on homosexuality is unequivocable. Humana persona states that it is an unnatural and disordered condition. The Holy Trinity is best mirrored in the sacramental marriage of man and woman and the family God may bless them with. The Church, however, does not condemn an individual for having homoerotic inclinations. She simply disallows its sexual practice as “intrinsically disordered.” The road to salvation for the homosexual person will be achieved through embracing chastity for Christ’s sake. “By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom,” declares the Church, “at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.”

The Catholic Julian Green fully understands the Church’s distinction between nature and volitional acts. Of his love for Mark, Green writes, “It was all the more painful for me for I did not feel that I was to blame in any way. There was nothing carnal about this love. And that was the strangest thing in all this. In my own mind, love could only be pure. Desire was something quite different. Desire was a sin.”

Perhaps the major theme underlying Green’s literary work besides that concerning the hell of a loveless self-isolation from God and other people is the unceasing war between the desires of the flesh and the yearning for God. Obviously, this dualistic theme provides the central matrix of Julian Green’s emotional life.

The explosive awakening of sexual yearning during a normal adolescence produces sufficient trauma, but when this desire is identifiably homoerotic and felt by an unusually sensitive Catholic intelligence such as the one possessed by Julian Green, the ensuing pain must reach the highest decibels of inner agony. Young Julian reeled from acute bouts of melancholy. The mature author somberly confesses to his readers: “Now I know that until my dying day, my desires will always be forlorn ones.”

This remarkable self-knowledge is missing from the debate over homosexuality in our disordered age. By its very nature, homosexuality is sterile and unfulfilling because it cannot attain the right complementarity found within the sacramental relationship between a man and a woman. For Julian Green, the Christian, his strong attraction toward handsome young men became an unending torture. He cries out, “How did people manage to live, if, like me, they had this strange craving? What did the future hold for me? I did not wish to know, and this was where religion eventually intervened powerfully and irresistably. There was quite enough evil in a single day.”

The crescendo passage of Green’s Southern autobiography is played on one April evening. It was following supper that Green walked in a trancelike state along East Gallery. Mustering up his courage, Green knocked on the door of number 34 directly across from Poe’s old room. The door opened to reveal Mark. The young Virginian smiled warmly and invited a nervous Julian to come in. After the two had settled themselves comfortably, Mark explains to Green that he had heard about him and was “glad” to see “Julian.” For the two seated students, this moment was the debut of a lifelong friendship. They saw one another daily. Julian agonizes over the lost years of friendship that he might have enjoyed with Mark. This young Virginian who was Green’s first great love seems to have been a truly kind, upright Southern gentleman able to put people quickly at ease, even people as self-conscious as the young Julian Green.

Green admits, “I was in another realm, that of perfect passion which lies beyond our physical bodies. I had been purged by the purity of Mark’s expression. I loved someone of my own sex without having committed any sin against the flesh.” Being only human, Green discretely asks Mark one evening if he had ever loved a woman. His friend replied, “No one from here, but I was in love with a girl from home who died last winter.” Of this kind, generous, and deeply ethical human being, Green makes the following pronouncement, “There was something aloof about his manners. I have never known anyone who so typified all that is best about the South.” Mark’s avatars reappear in several Green novels “as the person to whom no one declares his love, and he is a cut above anyone else.” Apparently, Mark came to his own judicious conclusions about the nature of Green’s affection for him; however, this did not cause him ever to withhold his friendship from his unusual Southern friend from faraway Paris.

The time eventually came for Julian Green to quit Virginia for France. By now he noticed that, despite his inner sufferings, he had become quite attached to the University and to the South. Moreover, there would also be the painful separation from Mark.

Once more Julian Green found himself at home in the family drawing-room. Finally, he was back in the Paris for which he had so long yearned. Except during the years of the Second World War, Green would never again be separated for such an extended period from his cherished France.

“Everything,” Green observed, “was still, or so it seemed to me, in order that I should receive that silent voice, not a voice that emanated from books, but one that came from much further away. The Lord was giving a pledge.” God would thus grant Julian Green “the one cross which, had the choice been given to me, I would have taken care not to adopt.”

According to Humana persona, individuals in Green’s moral situation are “called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and… unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross.” By taking up the cross of the Lord he loved, Julian Green created original works of literary art. His autobiography, Love In America, is a courageous and elegantly written confession of the moral education of a great Christian writer who delineates the struggles that all human beings must face regardless of their sexual orientation if they are to achieve Christ-like holiness. However difficult it may have been for Julian Green (he spent a decade during the thirties outside the borders of the Church), a day would come for him in God’s good time, when a spiritual spring appeared following what had been an unusually long, hard winter of the soul.

The Day a Red Bird Sang St. Thomas Aquinas

Deal W. Hudson
January 28, 2016

I was coming to the end of my first year as a college professor at Mercer University Atlanta. I was still a Southern Baptist though I had been wrestling with that affiliation since being introduced to St. Augustine at Princeton Theological Seminary.


The Danish theologian and philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

One of the greatest Protestant theologians, Soren Kierkegaard, had provided the base motif of my dissertation, a critique of Romanticism. But after dismantling the Romantic pretenses to spirituality, as I thought then, Kierkegaard had not offered me the tools to put my worldview back together. (The target of my dissertation had actually been my own pretensions.) Nothing much was left after seeing through the limitations of aestheticism and ethical earnestness.

What was left of the Romantic in me, however, still yearned to view the totality of things, the truth behind the appearances? This desire comported with my fledgling knowledge of the Catholic faith which had been acquired through the agency of two friends at Emory University where I spent three years getting my Ph.D. Like a Gothic cathedral, the Catholic faith appeared to teach the fundamental connectedness of things. Faith, rather than being a leap into the abyss, could be assisted by reason both before and after conversion.

That spring day I put a chair in the backyard under a bird feeder and went inside to find a suitable for a book to read and relax. I noticed the red spine of a paperback by St. Thomas Aquinas on the top shelf. It contained the Question 2, the Treatise on God, from the Summa Theologiae (Gilby trans.), which I had been assigned to read at Princeton but had failed to do. Feeling pangs of guilt, I took it down and decided to settle my debt with that class on Medieval Theology at Princeton.

It took me a while to realize that St. Thomas always started out stating positions he did not agree with, but once I got a handle on reading the article form I found him easier to read than I had anticipated. Then I got to the section in God’s goodness (ST 1a.2) and, specifically, to the question, “Whether all things are good by the divine goodness?”

I’ll be honest and say that this led me to think about myself and ask whether I was good. The tradition of Christianity I knew best did not have a very positive view of human nature. The propensity to sin — human fallenness — took St. Paul’s notion of carnality, in thinking and behavior, to its extreme. In practical terms that create a negative attitude towards oneself, especially towards one’s sinful practices.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

As I read through St. Thomas’s reply to his own question, I came to the final paragraph, “Everything is therefore called good from the divine goodness, as from the first exemplary effective and final principle of all goodness.” And as I read a red bird started to sing standing on the bird feeder overhead — it seemed as if the words of the Saint and the song of the bird merged into one. That day not only did I discover the source of my own good but I experienced a heaven-sent joy mediated by the beauty of this bird and the song.

What had stunned me was this: the goodness I possessed, and all creation possesses, could not be taken away from me, or destroyed by my own agency, even my sins and vices. It was good, St. Thomas says, added to my being by the Creator. Even the fallen angel, Lucifer, could be said to possessing goodness through he lives eternally separated from God. The connectedness of things was grounded in God’s own goodness which He chose to share with His creation.

Some might smile and think that the moment I describe was imagined, or was the product of young man struggling with his own penchant toward Romanticism, finally merging it with the teaching of a medieval doctor of the Church. I’m not given to mystical experiences, per se, but I’ll never doubt what was given me that day, a moment of sensual beauty and intellectual clarity that led me into the Church and rerouted my life completely.

I couldn’t let my Saint’s day pass without paying him tribute and expressing my gratitude.

Forget ‘Faithful Citizenship’ – What Would Saint Mother Teresa Do?

Deal W. Hudson
October 1, 2016

Once upon a time some Catholics who have heard all their lives that abortion is an intrinsic evil and must be opposed took a look at Clinton and Kaine ticket and thought, “There’s no way I can vote for them. They’re both abortion extremists.”

They looked at the Trump/Pence ticket and, though they didn’t like some things about Trump’s manner and occasional rudeness, these Catholics were impressed by his choice of Supreme Court Justices, his defense of the Hyde Amendment, his promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and his promise to sign the “Pain-Capable Infant Protection Act.”

The choice seemed pretty simple to these Catholics. But when they mentioned it to their priest, he replied, “Well, there are other factors to consider you know, immigration for one, Trump wants to build a wall, that’s deplorable!”

These Catholics were confused, why would Father brush aside the abortion issue and talk about immigration and the wall. They actually had been quite worried about uncontrolled immigration for a long time, especially with the rise of ISIS, and thought Trump might be a bit extreme but they wanted the border made secure.

Father handed them a copy of the Bishop’s guide to political participation, “Forming Consciences to Faithful Citizenship.” These Catholics tried to read the bishop’s document, but it was very long and complicated.

So they flipped to the section on abortion where they expected to verify what they had always been taught about the importance of opposing abortion in both private and public life. When were really perplexed by one sentence, in particular, “A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil, such as abortion or racism if the voter’s intent is to support that position” (34 Emphasis added)?

These Catholics looked at each other, and one asked, “But would my vote for Clinton and Kaine help them kill more babies? Does it really matter whether I intend to support their killing?”

Another Catholic spoke up, saying, “Am I missing something or aren’t the Bishops telling us that we can vote for abortion supporters if we don’t agree with them on that issue?” None of the Catholics could interpret it any other way.

They decided to talk to some pro-life leaders in the parish about their confusion. These Catholic leaders showed them the Bishop’s Pastoral Letter, “Living the Gospel of Life,” which said,

“As Americans, as Catholics and as pastors of our people, we write therefore today to call our fellow citizens back to our country’s founding principles, and most especially to renew our national respect for the rights of those who are unborn, weak, disabled and terminally ill.   Real freedom rests on the inviolability of every person as a child of God.  The inherent value of human life, at every stage and in every circumstance, is not a sectarian issue any more than the Declaration of Independence is a sectarian creed” (6 Emphasis added).

Now, these Catholics were really confused. They explained to the pro-life leaders what Father had said and what they had read in “Faithful Citizenship.” The pro-life leaders told them that they were frustrated too. Very few bishops had proclaimed the Gospel of Life in the months prior to the election, and now it was just over a month away.

“What’s going on?” they all asked themselves.

Then one of them said, “We can’t be wrong. Didn’t the Church just canonize the greatest defender of life in the past century, St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta? Remember when she spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast when Bill Clinton was president, and how he and Hillary refused to clap after her speech?”

Then, one of the ladies presents said, “I don’t know what’s wrong with so many of the bishops and priests, but I know what Saint Mother Teresa would do, and would want us to do – there is no doubt about that.” Everyone nodded their head in agreement, and several said, “Amen.”

These Catholics decided to talk about the example of Saint Mother Teresa between now and the election and not worry about the silence of the bishops or what “Faithful Citizenship” had to say.  And they would carry with them a card with the words she spoke to the Clintons at the Prayer Breakfast:

“But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?” (Emphasis added)

Today We Remember the Millions Who Were Killed for Communism

Deal W. Hudson
November 7, 2017

One hundred years ago today — Nov. 7, 1917 — the Russian Revolution began in Moscow leading to the creation of a communist state in the former empire of Russia. It’s an anniversary worth thinking about not only for its historical significance but also because of the recent poll of millennials, ages 15-35, that found a majority of them would prefer to live in a social, fascist, or communist state.

Even for those who have faced squarely the demise of education at all levels, this is sobering.

The poll itself was commissioned by the Communist Memorial Foundation that tracks public attitude towards the regimes responsible for murdering 94,000,000 persons in the twentieth century. (28,000,000 were killed under fascism.)

Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, said the report showed,

“This troubling turn highlights widespread historical illiteracy in American society regarding socialism and the systemic failure of our education system to teach students about the genocide, destruction, and misery caused by communism since the Bolshevik Revolution one hundred years ago.”

“Historical illiteracy” is putting it mildly. This is an ignorance that puts the future of our nation in jeopardy. We have 82,000,000 young people entering college, in college, or the workforce who lack any understanding of how a misplaced sense of compassion has led to militarism, dictatorship, genocide, and the total loss of personal freedom.

It’s natural for young people to feel touched with the idealism of helping other, of relieving suffering and raising the standard of living of those who live in poverty. This was why the overthrow of Czar Nicholas II and the Russian Revolution held such an attraction for several generations of the politically engaged.

Whereas the graphic films of Hitler’s concentration camps quickly doused any lingering admiration for his promise of a Reich, the revelations of the Soviet death camps, the deliberate starvation of millions in Ukraine, and the takeover of Eastern Europe failed to convince many hard-core communist sympathizers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Sir Oswald Mosley.

Communists in England, the Cambridge Five, successfully infiltrated British intelligence (MI16) after WW II, supplying the Soviets with vital information in the early years of the Cold War, while a cadre of French intellectuals led the French Communist Party in capturing enough support for it to be included in the Fourth and Fifth Republics.

In America, the ongoing grip Communism among political elites, rightly challenged by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, was exposed by the testimony of Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist Party member, about Alger Hiss, a senior official of the U.S. State Department who was part of U.S. delegation under to the Yalta Conference where FDR, Churchill, and Stalin decided on postwar division of Europe.

Chamber’s subsequent 1952 memoir, Witness, remains one of the most eloquent refutations of the communist ideology in both theory and practice. (Give your millennial Witness for Christmas!)

What to do? To begin with, Parents should be paying more attention to how their children are being educated, especially regarding history and politics. Oftentimes, it’s not the textbooks that need policing but the offhand comments of teachers who feed their students with vacuous criticisms of our nation, capitalism, and the treatment of minorities.

Parents themselves should have bullet points ready-to-hand when and if their children or grandchildren start criticizing the United States and assert the superiority of other systems of governance.

For example, Did you know that Lenin himself started the Gulag system of forced labor, incarceration, and summary execution the with the decree, “On the Red Terror,” issued September 5, 1918? The Gulag was Lenin’s response to the peasants — yes, the peasants! — who were rebelling against Lenin’s Bolshevik leadership? Lenin’s 1922 New Economic Policy (NFP) initiated Bolshevik control of banking, industry, and transportation, as well as the censorship of all printed materials.

In other words, Lenin’s promise to redistribute wealth, from the landowners to the peasants, to bring economic well being, and better lives to the unprivileged quickly became a brutal dictatorship of the party elite.  Lenin promised compassion and delivered tyranny, servility, and death. Needless to say, Stalin would far surpass Lenin in ruthlessness.

The millennial generation has a lot to learn. Surely much of the fault lies with the parents who never found the time, or recognized the need, to provide their children a roadmap to the atrocities of the 20th century.

The 100 Best Catholic Films for Christmas

Deal W. Hudson
December 5, 2017

In offering this list, I am not following any theological guidelines, rather I am concerned with those films that display the highest level of artistry in exploring how the birth of Jesus Christ impacted the world, its history, and all who have lived before and after.

Thus, I hope that you, the reader, put aside concerns about what constitutes an orthodox Catholic film, and discover on this list some films that will bring you enjoyment. In addition, you may find some films to be inspirational or edifying and, as a result, receive a renewed aspiration toward seeking the source of all beauty.

It’s regrettable that Catholic educators have yet to regard cinema as an important artistic tradition, one that should be studied along with literature, painting, theater, and music. The advantage of studying film is its relative youth, having been born only a little over a century ago. The other, more obvious, the advantage is that students will have spent literally hundreds of hours watching films of various kinds, as opposed to their time spent with books, or much less in a museum with the masterworks of painting and sculpture.

Here’s the good news: It’s still not too late for the diligent and perhaps obsessive student, with a few years of study, to gain a satisfactory overview of film history. The “Catholic film” is actually a good place to start on such a journey, since both Catholic filmmakers and Catholic subjects have been a part of film’s history from the beginning of the “silent” era to the present. (Remember, there were very few silent films since musical soundtracks were used in films since 1920. And, to add a curious side note, the capacity for “talking” films had been available for several years prior to the 1927 Jazz Singer but was considered unnecessary to film as a rapidly developing, and primarily visual, art form.)

You will see below my list of 100 Best Catholic Films in chronological order. The only difference between this list and the book list is that I am not insisting that the author be Catholic. My choices are made on the basis of the film alone, not by any reference to the faith of the producer, director, or writer. A work of art should be experienced in itself, apart from the biography or values of its creator. We all are often visited by angels “unawares” in the course of our lives, especially in act of creating.

Thus, I ask the reader not to take me to task if the director of a particular film is a notorious this-or-that, as is definitely the case with a number of the films listed below. And, after all, how do we know under what inspiration, or whose inspiration, an “unbelieving” director brought a film into being.

I have not added links to all my recommendations. The reader can easily search them out on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, or any of the many film vendors on the Internet. If you don’t wish to buy them, you can find out the basic information on any of the films by making use of the International Movie Database at in bold are my personal top ten…..

1.Cecil B. DeMille, King of Kings, 1927.

2.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928.

3.Frank Capra, Lady for a Day, 1933.

4.John Ford, The Informer, 1935.

5.Leo McCarey, Make Way for Tomorrow, 1937.

6. Frank Borzage, Strange Cargo, 1940

7.Henry King, The Song of Bernadette, 1943.

8.John M. Stahl, The Keys of the Kingdom, 1944.

9.Leo McCarey, Going My Way, 1944.

10.Leo McCarey, The Bells of St. Mary’s, 1945.

11.Frank Capra, It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946.

12.Michael Powell, Black Narcissus, 1947.

13.John Ford, The Fugitive, 1947.

14.John Ford, Three Godfathers, 1948.

15.Vittorio De Sica, The Bicycle Thieves, 1948.

16.Roberto Rossellini, Stromboli, 1950.

17.Roberto Rossellini, The Flowers of St. Francis, 1950.

18.Gordon Douglas, Come Fill the Cup, 1951.

19.Robert Bresson, The Diary of a Country Priest, 1951.

20.Akira Kurosawa, Ikiru, 1952.

21.Vittorio De Sica, Umberto D, 1952.

22.Alfred Hitchcock, I Confess, 1953.

23.Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront, 1954.

24.Charles Laughton, Night of the Hunter, 1955.

25.Carl Theodore von Dreyer, Ordet, 1955.

26.Alfred Hitchcock, The Wrong Man, 1956.

27.Luis Bunuel, Nazarin, 1959.

28.Fred Zinnemann, The Nun’s Story, 1959.

29.William Wyler, Ben Hur, 1959.

30.Robert Bresson, Pickpocket, 1959.

31.Mervyn LeRoy, The Devil of 4 O’Clock, 1961.

32.Richard Fleischer, Barabbas, 1961.

33.Nicholas Ray, King of Kings, 1961.

34.Otto Preminger, The Cardinal, 1963.

35.Peter Glenville, Becket, 1964.

36.Pier Paolo Pasolini, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1964.

37.Carol Reed, The Agony and the Ecstasy, 1965.

38.Luis Bunuel, Simon of the Desert, 1965.

39.Robert Bresson, Au Hasard Balthasar, 1966.

40.Fred Zinnemann, A Man for All Seasons, 1966.

41.Robert Bresson, Mouchette, 1967.

42.Michael Anderson, The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968.

43.Franco Zeffirelli, Brother Sun, Sister Moon, 1972.

44.William Friedkin, The Exorcist, 1973.

45.Anthony Harvey, The Abdication, 1974.

46.Joseph Hardy, The Lady’s Not for Burning, 1974.

47.Franco Zeffirelli, Jesus of Nazareth, 1977.

48.Robert Bresson, The Devil Probably, 1977.

49.Ermanno Olmi, Tree of the Wooden Clogs, 1978.

50.Autumn Sonata, Ingmar Bergman, 1978.

51.John Huston, Wise Blood, 1979.

52.Francesco Rosi, Christ Stopped at Eboli, 1979.

53.Hugh Hudson, Chariots of Fire, 1981.

54.Charles Sturridge & Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Brideshead Revisited, 1981.

55.Ulu Grosbard, True Confessions, 1981.

56.Paolo & Vittorio Taviani, Night of the Shooting Stars, 1982.

57.Jerry London, The Scarlet and the Black, 1983.

58.Robert Bresson, L’argent, 1983.

59.Norman Stone, Shadowlands, 1985.

60.Alain Cavalier, Therese, 1986.

61.Roland Jaffe, The Mission, 1986.

62.Wim Wenders, Wings of Desire, 1987.

63.Gabriel Axel, Babette’s Feast, 1987.

64.Rodney Bennett, Monsignor Quixote, 1987.

65.Maurice Pialat, Under the Star of Satan, 1987.

66.John Huston, The Dead, 1987.

67.Krzysztof Kieslowski, The Decalogue, 1988.

68.Krzysztof Kieslowski, A Short Film About Love, 1988.

69.Ermanno Olmi, Legend of the Holy Drinker, 1988.

70.John Duigan, Romero, 1989.

71.Denys Arcand, Jesus of Montreal, 1989.

72.Bruce Beresford, Black Robe, 1991.

73.Stijn Coninx, Daens, 1992.

74.Nancy Savoca, Household Saints, 1993.

75.Mel Gibson, Braveheart, 1995.

76.Liv Ullmann, Kristin Lavransdatter, 1995.

77.Lee David Slotoff, Spitfire Grill, 1996.

78.Marta Meszaros, The Seventh Room, 1996.

79.M. Knight Shyamalan, Wide Awake, 1998.

80.Joe Johnston, October Sky, 1999.

81.David Lynch, The Straight Story, 1999.

82.Agnieszka Holland, The Third Miracle, 1999.

83.Jim Sheridan, In America, 2002.

84.Alexander Payne, About Schmidt, 2002.

85.Bruce Beresford, Evelyn, 2002.

86.Denys Arcand, Barbarian Invasions, 2003.

87.Mel Gibson, The Passion of the Christ, 2004.

88.Tommy Lee Jones, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, 2005.

89.Christian Carion, Joyeux Noel, 2005.

90.Pavel Lungin, The Island, 2006

91.Alejandro Monteverde, Bella, 2006.

92.Jean-Pierre Dardenne, L’Enfant, 2006.

93.Alfonso Cuarón, The Children of Men, 2008.

94.Martin Provost, Seraphine, 2008.

95.Mark Pellington, Henry Poole is Here, 2008.

96.Klaus Haro, Letters to Father Jaakob, 2009.

97.Xavier Beauvois, Of Gods and Men, 2010.

98.Philip Groning, Into the Great Silence, 2007.

99.Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life, 2011.

100.Anne Fontaine, The Innocents, 2016.

Why Is Tomorrow, or the Next Moment, More Important Than Today, or the Present Moment?

Deal W. Hudson
January 11, 2018

My title may seem a bit pretentious, but it poses the central question of Francis O’Gorman’s 2017 book, Forgetfulness: Making the Modern Culture of Amnesia.

I interviewed Francis yesterday on ‘Church and Culture,” to be aired this coming weekend, about his rich and unsettling book. Its richness lies in O’Gorman’s seamless intertwining of his expertise in 19th-century English literature, especially the Victorians, and his critique of modernity.  It is unsettling because this is not the kind of critique to which we have become accustomed — focused on themes of genocide, moral decline, and subjectivism.  O’Gorman rather focuses on the creation of a culture of amnesia, meaning the attempt, since the French Revolution, to postulate life’s meaning without any attention to the past.

This dismissal of tradition, with its deeply rooted narratives what it means to be mortal, entered into the mainstream of Western culture giving birth to a succession of intellectual movements, such as Marxism and Communism, with their promises to create a world of perfect equality. Among intellectuals, this amnesia gave rise to existentialism, phenomenology,  structuralism, deconstruction, multiculturalism, ethnic studies, and gender studies, each one more destructive of our connection to the wisdom of the past than the previous.  His insights, however, only begin at a theoretical level but expose the impact at every level of human life, beginning with the millions of millennials walking the streets with their head bowed before the glimmering screens of their iPhones.

Our Trenches, Our Civil War

Deal W. Hudson
January 13, 2018

There are no bayonet attacks or cannons firing away into the night, but there are trenches.  Take one small town I recently visited in Maryland. “We don’t get invited to any dinner parties, or anything, anymore,” my hostess told me.  The street itself is only four short blocks long with no more than twenty houses, but its colonial layout gives it the feel of a small community inside the city, only a street away from downtown. Couples along the block who used to be friends now won’t make eye contact my hostess and her husband as they walk down the street.

The reason, of course, is Donald Trump.

The man of the house, a friend of mine for thirty years, had the temerity to set them right on the downsides of Obamacare. He told me that he had not wanted to say anything, but when one of the ladies at the table expressed with delight — “But isn’t it good that we pay more!” — he couldn’t hold himself back any longer. ( Who could?) The mood around the table turned dark, and my friends soon left never again to be invited back.

I’ve stumbled across the same trench many times since the 2016 presidential campaign began — even on my beloved golf courses where I learned some guys just don’t want you to show up if you’re for Donald Trump.  I also meet it regularly, of course, in various arts communities which I inhabit regularly, in spite being occasionally “caught out” and left to spend intermission by myself.

Yes, we are in a kind of Civil War, one that has produced trenches stretching across the ground where we live among families, communities, businesses, and institutions; hardly any portion of our lives remains untouched, where we work, where we play, where we worship. Overall these spaces hang now an air of suspense anticipating the next person or persons to be judged to be living “on a different planet,” at the former president, Barack Obama, described viewers of FoxNews yesterday.

That small town in rural Maryland isn’t the only place where us aliens are no longer welcome

Sed Contra: Lessons From Two Decades as a Catholic

Deal W. Hudson

Twenty years ago this month, I was received into the Catholic Church. The late Archbishop Thomas Donellan of Atlanta had given Rev. Richard Lopez permission to perform my confirmation privately. Father Lopez chose the chapel at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the cancer home run by the Hawthorne Dominican sisters, where, some years earlier, Flannery O’Connor had sought to recover from the lupus that eventually took her life.

At the time, I thought of confirmation as the end of a journey that started in earnest with my acceptance of Jesus Christ twelve years earlier at a Southern Baptist Church in Texas. Silly me! In truth, it was the continuation of a journey that is, literally, unending.

If I ever write a book about my conversion, it’ll begin with this sentence: “This is a story of a convert who has never stopped converting.”

Rereading the short essay I wrote about my conversion for Homiletic and Pastoral Review in April 1989, I’m struck by the celebrative tone of a Protestant convert still giddy from dis-covering the stores of Catholic wisdom.

While I remain very much an enthusiast—especially on the subject of St. Thomas Aquinas and his great interpreters—the occasion of my 20th birthday as a Catholic inclines my mind toward another issue: how the Church flourishes in spite of its conflicts, quarrels, and imperfect practitioners.

I’m not sure why I expected life among Catholics to be peaceful. Maybe I felt so privileged to be a Catholic I assumed everyone else felt the same. I wasn’t prepared for the many cradle Catholics I met who bore the faith of their parents like a mill¬stone. Everything distinctive about the faith—priesthood, pope, sacraments, Mass, morality—was viewed back-ward, as an obstacle, rather than a guide to happiness.

I’ve often found that our clergy fail to counter this attitude with boldness. Instead of arguing creatively for the advantages of Catholic teaching over other worldviews, they grant the premise that the faith is needlessly restrictive and look for ways to make it more fashionable. The disastrous result has been chronicled too many times in these pages to need repeating.

Pope John Paul II, of course, has ceded nothing in the debate. Instead of adopting fashion, he has done the hard work of revealing the beauty and discursive power of the Catholic tradition—something that was supposed to be impossible in the present age.

His teaching is now infusing the minds of seminarians around the world. As they enter parishes, they’re bringing a renewed and inspiring vision of what it means to be a Catholic in the modern world.

I also was surprised, and still am, by all the fighting among so-called conservative or orthodox Catholic groups. Hardly a season passes without an attack by one group or leader on another, and the complaint is usually the same: Someone is not “Catholic” enough and must be exposed.

The “Protestant principle” is at work here. Once a group defines itself as “pure” or “true” Catholic, it must continue to root out the defects of others to justify its identity. Inevitably, these groups grow smaller and smaller, because few believers can be found who measure up completely. In short order, the only “true Catholics” will be meeting in someone’s basement.

Something is being done about this. The Catholic Leadership Conference founded four years ago is comprised of leaders from more than 125 organizations who meet yearly in Philadelphia to find ways to collaborate. It’s harder to see horns on the head of your fellow Catholics who you’ve gotten to know face-to-face.

Father Lopez taught me during my two years of instruction (yes, it took me longer) that the Church was in the grip of the Holy Spirit. Over the years, I’ve found myself going back to that simple teaching. We who serve the Church are not the ones who do the work—He does. And the Spirit works best when we get out of the way.

The best advice I’ve received in recent years is to “let the Spirit blow through your work.” Many things make this difficult, pride most of all. Yet if we’re to be lifted up into the life of God, we cannot lift ourselves.

This is the reason why Catholic converts don’t need their arms twisted—the Church has invisible and visible resources enough to bring them home. And this is why after 20 years in the often tumultuous life of the Church, this convert thanks God for the graces of his journey, which are surely beyond his ability to count.

The Spin to Come-The Death of John Paul II

By Deal W. Hudson

The television and radio interviews are already taped and waiting to be broadcast. The passing of Pope John Paul II will unleash a media spin on his papacy guaranteed to make you nauseous: This was a pope who cared about the poor but did not engage in dialogue, a pope who traveled the world to speak but not to listen, a pope who electrified crowds with his charisma but did not trust the leadership in his church, a pope who was a serious and prolific writer but rolled back the reforms of Vatican II, blah, blah, blah.

This will be the spin of dissenters and left-wingers frustrated by a pope who didn’t give them what they wanted, what they thought should belong to them—namely, a Church reorganized along the lines of the Episcopal church (which is presently falling apart over the appointment of an openly gay bishop).

I’m confident that CRISIS readers will be ready to challenge this spin for the rot that it is. The talking points are simple. The pope did listen to dissenting opinions on Humanae Vitae and the priesthood, rejecting their arguments and offering his own in 14 encyclicals, along with the new Code of Canon Law and Catechism of the Catholic Church. The pope did participate in dialogue, not only within the Church but with leaders of all religious traditions—especially the Jews—with whom he met on his travels. The pope did implement the reforms of Vatican II, not the ersatz “spirit of Vatican II,” accomplishing a genuine updating of theology, liturgy, and lay participation in ministry. Finally, the pope did trust his bishops, by forging close working relationships with cardinals like Ratzinger, Schonborn, and Arinze, thus bitterly disappointing the self-appointed leaders of democratization in the Church.

The authors of this spin were youthful in 1978 when John Paul II took office and expected the millennium to herald a Church of woman priests, birth control, and localized control of parishes and chanceries. Now they’re older and have left Call to Action to seek legitimacy in Voice of the Faithful and other organizations. They talk openly about a successor to John Paul II who will “listen,” but what they actually mean is a pope who will do their bidding.

At present in the United States, there are Catholics who hope the next pope will be more “open” to the selection of priests and bishops by the laity. Jim Post, cofounder of Voice of the Faithful, has finally come clean expressing his support for the lay selection of bishops and providing an example of what his organization means by “structural change.” Post and his supporters want to reverse the authority structure of the Church by making it democratic. Democracy is good for government but undermines the tradition and form of the Catholic Church. The legacy of John Paul II—particularly his enormous paper trail—has insured that it will never happen.

Other mainline Christian denominations have listened to such voices and, as a result, have been lured into the irrelevancy of cultural assimilation. One denomination after another has adopted modish, politically correct causes at the expense of the faith’s core message of spiritual salvation. Christianity is not primarily an earthly program for political change, psychological comfort, or the satisfaction of media outlets. John Paul II took his message directly to the people, thereby forcing the media to cover his message and leaving the malcontents to fume at the outer boundaries of cable news and talk-radio shows.

The brief feeding frenzy after the passing of John Paul II will be a period of payback against the pope whose wisdom and goodness overwhelmed the cunning of his detractors. But have no fear. The white smoke will herald the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing the Church another leader who will again. outsize those who would tailor the Church to their own measurements.

Published in Crisis Magazine, November 1, 2003