“In the year 1864, Lucifer together with a large number of demons will be unloosed from hell; they will put an end to faith little by little, even in those dedicated to God. They will blind them in such a way, that, unless they are blessed with a special grace, these people will take on the spirit of these angels of hell; several religious institutions will lose all faith and will lose many souls.
“Evil books will be abundant on earth and the spirits of darkness will spread everywhere a universal slackening of all that concerns the service of God. They will have great power over Nature: there will be churches built to serve these spirits.”
– Our Lady at La Salette, the secret to Melanie Calvat
The Hulk, is a 7 foot goliath of indomitable strength that has fascinated the imagination of science fiction fanatics since the 1960s. Created in 1962, by the architect of the Marvel mythical universe, Stan Lee, the character is a fictional superhero who as other superheroes within the Stan Lee universe, is inherently flawed. His true self, the timid and unassuming physicist Bruce Banner, a man of unparalleled intellect and scientific achievement, is created into the green behemoth due to an accidental exposure to gamma ray radiation. Consequently, he becomes a tortured creature ruled by emotion whose exposure to continual anger increases its already unparalleled superhuman strength and causes it to act out against friend, ally or foe alike, in a savage rage of destructive power. In true fashion and in consistency with Stan Lee’s creative vision, the character is inherently “cursed” by his new found quality, as his meta-humanity prevents him from acting in accordance with reason, and in this case, with his scientific reason, and yet, his heroism is evident despite this real flaw of character as the Hulk is ultimately a force for good that is able to overcome with the help of science but also through sheer power of will, the deranged demons released as a result of his metamorphosis.
The hero is someone who conquers for the cause of good, in the face of adversity. The superhero, however, is one who blessed with preternatural powers, that is, powers over the natural world, bequeathed upon him by a singular election, obtained either through circumstance and chance, or because of his special, racial, or biological origin and genetic make up, despite an inherent internal conflict, and the imperfection of his nature, conquers also, for the cause of good. In its essence, the superhero incarnates for the modernist, a rational mythology based on the materialist theology of science fiction that presents reality, and being, for that fact, conceived as nature, composed of the atomic constitution of matter with its undeniable supernatural potentialities – that is, with the ability of material nature to transcend its own possibilities through science and the knowledge of the mind, it too, an evolved product of material forces – and of ethereal energy, at times a vast reservoir of power that animates all living being and which can be the source of new creative movement. In truth, the fictional superhero is the product of America’s consciousness as an advanced stage of civilization, that is to bear in due time, the emergence of the Superman, the Overman, the one who has overcome his humanity in his mastery over the forces of nature in the exaltation of a vague system of personal ethics, since, in the last analysis, he remains a prey to the moral flaws and the rational limits of his contingent human nature.
Superman remains the quintessential fictional comic book story, the most authentic representation of America’s innate immigrant spirit in parallel contraposition to the Messianic evolution and Mosaic origin of the character. Created in 1933 by writer Jerry Siegel and artist Joe Shuster, two Jewish immigrants to the United States, at the time in high school, the story of Superman is one of consummate tragedy, indisputable hope, and manifest goodness in the face of the struggle, as it is put, “the never ending battle”, that is life itself. As his home world Krypton was on the brink of destruction, Superman named Kal-El, is the last survivor of his race – apparently – and was sent to Earth in a space rocket by his birth parents, the scientist Jor-El and Lara his wife; the Superman story is in some manner, the story of the child Moses who was placed in an ark in the river Nile by his mother Jochebed in order to escape the mandated infanticide of the Hebrew males by the Pharaoh, at a time when Israel was held in the bondage of slavery to Egypt. Superman is educated on the values and the knowledge of his adopted parents Jonathan Kent and Martha Kent until he comes of age and awakens to his remarkable preternatural abilities: under Earth’s weaker gravity, the hero is superhumanly strong and impervious to injury. Cognizant of his moral responsibility in the face of the evil present within society, mild-mannered Clark Kent, his Earthly name, takes on the identity of Superman in order to combat crime and injustice in Metropolis.
The result of the progress of human and technical evolution, the Superman is its apogee: the metahuman type who is able to accomplish wondrous deeds that defy the course of nature and stand at the apex of the technological development that grants mastery and above all, power over nature. Power is the finality, a power to transcend naturally the limitations imposed upon nature through the conscious and the logical applications of the knowledge of human science, that vast expanse of knowledge through which it is possible to investigate reality in its concrete actuality.
“The Übermensch shall be the meaning of the earth! I entreat you my brethren, remain true to the earth, and do not believe those who speak to you of supra-terrestrial hopes! … Behold, I teach you the Übermensch: he is this lightning, he is this madness! … Behold, I am a prophet of the lightning and a heavy drop from the cloud: but this lightning is called Übermensch.” – Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Prologue, Nietzsche
German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche posited during the period of the 19th century, the Übermensch as the finality of humanity’s ineluctable progress, a reality certainly present in the Superman. A superior man, he overcomes his humanity and creates his own moral values as he affirms above the Christian realm of “supra-terrestrial hopes”, the domain of the Earth, of the temporal progress realized through a science gained apart from Divine Wisdom. The Übermensch is the apogee of the Kingdom of Man, of the City of Man built upon pride, a centered self-love, and a personal morality that accords with the times. The Superman himself, was at the outset a crusader for justice who in early adventures had no moral qualm in treating the perpetrators of crime with rigidity, harshness and even in depriving them of their lives. Over the decades, the evolution of the character granted him Messianic qualities of goodness, meekness, and of charismatic presence in accord with his increasing planetary strength and the multiplicity of preternatural powers he displayed and additionally gained under the influence of Earth’s younger yellow sun such as the ability to defy gravity with flight and shoot beams with his eyes in true godly manner. As America grew in adulthood, that is, in the malice of the celebration of the Death of God, of the abolition of objective moral values, so did Superman increasingly abandon the moral principles of his inherited Methodist faith in favor of the attitudes of his modernist adopted world that in reality, had no objection of conscience with the reality of the practice of fornication as the expression of romantic love, a condition portrayed alike on screen in the cinema, or in vignettes in comic books.
Indeed, the Superman bore the naissance of the superhero, the modernist proclamation of man’s own godhood who through his scientific knowledge and his achievement of civilization affirms the value, the autonomy, and the sole reality of the Earth, of temporal existence constituting for himself, his own savior. Science, scientific knowledge of the natural world and of man, is to save the world, a belief in progress that continually empties the Judeo-Christian Revelation of its other-worldly Beauty, its transcendent Reason, and its supernatural Wisdom. Man is to gaze no longer beyond the stars, for, with his knowledge of celestial bodies, he is able to predict history while his experimentation on nature grants him an increased life span and a continual power over his biology. As science advances in its power of explanation of natural phenomena, all occurrences are ascribed a natural origin to the extent that the supernatural now recedes from view and is relegated to the realm of infantilism, non-rationality voire irrationality, and of the unknowable mystery that in the end justifies agnosticism and provides an open invitation to atheism; for the Superman, and this applies to the superhero in general, is in some sense, indifferent to religious truth.
Examplars of moral goodness abound in culture, and in some respect, the superhero represents one; as matter of fact, he seems to fulfill the role of the saint of yester ages. Really, the fictional hero incarnates the product of the imagination of a Protestant secularized culture that no longer has any contact with the higher world of the supernatural. These are flawed models of conduct that are essentially imperfect, and are content to be such, for in being an affirmation of the pride of the superhuman, of the Earth, they render the supernatural obsolete and unknowable, that is, irrelevant essentially, to their attitude towards life. Yet, the superhero for all his other-worldly feats of strength, valor, power, and intellect differs from the saint.
St. Padre Pio, Italian friar, priest, stigmatist, and mystic, is of the true superman. From a young age, his life breathed of the atmosphere of simple faith, true penance, and familiarity with the supernatural. Francesco Forgione was born in 1887 in Pietrelcina, of peasant farmers. From his childhood, Francesco experienced apparitions of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, and of his guardian angel. At the same time, he was beset by multiple illnesses which lasted throughout his life. On January 22nd 1903, Francesco took on the Franciscan habit and the name Fra Pio in honor of St Pius I, and in 1910 was ordered to the priesthood. Padre Pio is well known for his intense mysticism as he evidenced through his sufferings, the sufferings of the Christ, to whom he was singularly united through the visible and physical stigmata – the bodily marks that corresponded to the marks of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ – which he received in 1918 while hearing confessions.
In a letter dated October 22, 1918, Padre Pio told his experience of crucifixion:
“… What I can tell you about my crucifixion? My God! What a confusion and what humiliation I feel when I try to show somebody else what you have done in me your scanty creature! It was the morning of the 20th. (September) and I was in choir, after the celebration of the Holy Mass, when a rest, similar to a sweet sleep surprised me. All the inside and external senses, as well as the same faculties of the soul were in an indescribable quiet. There was a depth silence around me and inside me; a peace overcame me and then it all happened in a flash I felt abandonment with the complete deprivation of everything. While all this was taking place, I saw before me a mysterious appearance, similar to the one I had seen on August 5th, differing only because His hands, feet and side were dripping blood. The sight of Him frightened me: what I felt at that moment is indescribable. I thought I would die, and would have died if the Lord hadn’t intervened and strengthened my heart, which was about to burst out of my chest! The appearance disappeared and I became aware that my hands, feet and side were pierced and were dripping with blood”. You can imagine the torment that I experienced then and that I am almost experiencing every day. The wound of the heart assiduously bleeds, particularly from the evening of Thursday until Saturday. My God, I die of pain, torment and confusion that I feel in the intimate of the soul. I am afraid I’ll bleed to death! I hope that God listens to my moans and withdrawals this operation from me… “
The sanctity, the prophetic spirit, the miracles, and the numerous charisms certain in the life of Padre Pio testify to a divine origin, to a principle superior to nature and beyond human science.
The saint, like the Christ, is a true superman. With faith, he puts on the armor of invulnerability, with hope, he endures patiently the sufferings of the present age, with love, he operates a flight as he fuses spiritually with God in an embrace that enlightens the Brethren and enkindles the fires of charity within their hearts. Heroism, that is, consummate justice and spiritual love, is practiced in its totality in the face of adversity – in the martyrdom of self, of the world, and of the Devil – and presents the substance of the acts of the saintly person. Sanctity is a poem of love, written on letters of indelible fire by the Divine Finger of the Father through the active cooperation that is the obedience of faith lived in charity, expressed in the life of the predestined. The saint symbolizes the virtue of religion lived in the fusion of thought with life, of spirit with culture, of activity with reason, of the supernatural with the natural, and of grace with nature. In the saint, is presented the Wisdom of the Cross and the Light of the Incarnation in contrast to the science of nature and the power of reason. Sanctity, with its other-worldliness, its familiar friendship with the supernatural, its uncompromising spirit and its loving demands of suffering is part of the natural progress of spiritual man, leading towards wisdom, the complete and the transforming union with the Divine, that grants man renewed eyes, a novel soul, and a spirit penetrated by the fires of Charity, of the Holy Spirit, who unites all Catholic believers.
The warnings stated in the Secret of La Salette given to young French girl Melanie Calvat, are an injunction to discern with authenticity of spirit and honesty of truth, the sociological reality and the cultural condition that form contemporary living. Man’s spiritual powers of intellect and will, particularly of will, are at the center of a confrontation that reaches unto the genesis of Heaven itself, a spiritual struggle, initiated by Lucifer and his angels against St. Michael the archangel and his hosts of angels, continued at the foot of the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil and whose rebellion is ratified by the Sin of the Origins and by personal sins since that time.
Distractions pace the life of post-modern Christians, as wealth as well as human and financial resources, are dedicated continually to provide entertainment and sensual enjoyment, in activities, that in truth, are performed in replacement of the more essential and necessary acts of prayer and continuous communication with the Divinity. Films are produced which in reality serve no higher purpose than to provide immediate pleasure and momentary satisfaction to desires which in the last analysis, can only be satisfied in spirituality.
The Hulk, certainly, is a metamorphosing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde pulled between contradicting forces of rationality which seeks sense and order, and brute strength and passion which is expressed in disordered activity. A Frankensteinian monster, it presents unregenerate humanity seized in delirium to the technical achievement, its idol, which without the unifying element of religious wisdom and the pacifying force of supernatural grace, is unable to realize the greatest feat of all: the domestication of human desire and the disciplining of fallen human nature subject to concupiscence and an inordinate inclination towards the self, that is in concomitance, towards intellectual pride. The signs of the times are plain for the attentive observer. Hulk, Superman, Spider Man, Thor, Iron Man, Batman: these are all but the manifestation of a world that substitutes Divine progress in spiritual sanctity and supernatural science for the false light of positivist science that proposes to save humanity while denying the Divine causality that it so accurately describes in its discoveries of universal laws and of immutable principles.