Praying for the Dead

One Catholic belief that can be contentious is the idea of praying for the dead.  It’s tied pretty heavily to the idea of Purgatory so people who disagree with that will contest praying for the dead as well.  This isn’t super common in video games, but since it’s something I personally care about and features prominently in the new Xenoblade Chronicles 3, I figured I’d discuss two places it shows up in games as well as its role in Catholicism (spoiler warning for the games in question).

In general, praying for the dead doesn’t feature prominently in games.  When characters die, everyone moves on relatively quickly without dwelling on the death (past the initial cutscene).  You might get a quick scene of someone praying in front of a grave (especially in a setting featuring eastern religions like Yakuza), an increase in determination to complete their goal and an occasional flashback, but that’s it.  There are only two games I can think of that feature this idea prominently.  The first is Xenoblade Chronicles 3.  In that game, there is a role in both the Keves and Agnus militaries called “Off-seer.” 

The off-seer’s role is to play a flute song for everyone who has died in a battle, causing their corpses to glow and blue or yellow motes to kind of drift off them.  During the game the reason given for off-seeing is helping the living grieve for their friends and move on.  As I was playing through the game, I kept wondering what the deeper cause was behind this off-seeing, but the only definite one given is that it is a kinder alternative to executing people when they get too old for the organization running the world.  There are some subtle hints that off-seeing may also tie in to how reincarnation works in that game, but no concrete information is given.  The other prominent example is the classic Final Fantasy 10.  In this game, when people die, a ritual called the Sending must be performed on them by a summoner or else they will turn into monsters instead of going to the afterlife.  There’s a pretty famous cutscene of Yuna performing this after a town is devastated by an attack you can check out here:

Since Yuna is the focal character of this game, this sending actually features a lot more prominently than it might in a game where it just happens in the story’s background lore.  Other than these two games, I can’t think of any major examples of praying for the dead in games.  I suspect the fact games are fictional and interactive lead most to simply move on since reflecting on those that died doesn’t have any real gameplay involved (see the infamous “Press F to pay respects” scene).  In addition, game writers can simply create a world with a physical afterlife and have characters help the dead that way in place of praying for them.  Regardless, now that we have discussed praying for the dead in games, how does it work in real life?

Praying for the dead has been done in Catholicism going all the way back to the early days and is one of the spiritual works of mercy.  It’s tied pretty heavily to the idea of Purgatory as I mentioned in the intro.  The idea is that while prayers can’t help people in Hell and aren’t needed by people in Heaven, they can help people in Purgatory get to Heaven faster (hence it being a spiritual work of mercy).  This prayer can take all kinds of forms.  Probably the most well known is the funeral Mass.  Since the Mass is the main prayer of the church, the funeral Mass is a version of it with prayers specifically for someone who died.  You also commonly see people praying the rosary for people who have died, although any type of prayer is helpful.  Praying for the dead is most prominently featured on November 2nd, All Soul’s Day, where the souls in Purgatory are the focus (grouped with November 1st, All Saint’s Day focused on Heaven and October 31st, All Hallow’s Eve or Halloween as a reminder of the existence of Hell).  In fact, there is an indulgence you can get each day November 1 through 9 by praying for the dead in a graveyard.  Since indulgences offered up for those in Purgatory are especially helpful, this is a particularly great and easy way for people to pray for the dead.

So that’s a brief overview of praying for the dead in games and in real life.  This is a topic that I focus on a lot more than the average person.  As someone particularly introverted, a lot of the works of mercy are difficult for me (since they involve directly interacting with other people right now), so I’ve kind of adopted praying for the dead as something I can do.  I hope people reading this will seriously consider picking up the practice for themselves.

Song of the Post-

Hymn of the Fayth

Final Fantasy 10

Final Fantasy 14: Endwalker

Hey everyone, it has been a while (I think my previous post was last May).  With COVID delays finally getting caught up with new release schedules, there haven’t been many new games to inspire me to write posts.  Luckily, the newest FF14 expansion Endwalker came out back in December and that game always has stuff to discuss.  So today I’m going to comment on some of the ideas that pop up in the expansion’s story and discuss them from a Catholic perspective.  (Note that this is the finale to the game’s story, so SPOILER WARNING).

First, let’s discuss the caster role quest, which serves as a follow up to the Heavensward plot I’ve discussed before.  In it, the clergy of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are despairing over the events in that game which revealed that parts of their faith were made up to get the people of the country to fight a long war.  This has led the clergy to be treated badly by the country’s people regardless of their involvement in that cover up.  In an attempt to get everyone to move forward, the political leader of the country decides to hold an ecumenical council in order to have the church figure out how to move forward and reconcile them with the people. 

If you are not familiar, ecumenical councils are when all the bishops get together, typically to resolve some issue like a heresy.  For example, the Council of Nicaea (where the Nicene Creed gets its name) was called to resolve the Arian Heresy and the Council of Trent was to resolve the issues with the then new Protestant movements.  The council in this game ended up making me laugh for a few reasons.  First, the council is basically, 4 church representatives, the political leaders who called it and a crowd of lay people, so it’s missing most of the people that make it ecumenical (AKA all the other members of the church hierarchy).  Second, it’s called by the political leader instead of the pope (since the pope equivalent died during Heavensward and hasn’t been replaced).  While this can work (Constantine called Nicaea), it can lead to issues, especially when the council isn’t confirmed by the pope to make it official (like St. Sylvester did for Nicaea).  Finally, while lay people have been involved with councils before (most notably Vatican II in the 1960s), it’s generally as observers rather than participants.  So while the game called this an ecumenical council, it didn’t resemble a real one much at all.

Second, I’m going to discuss some ideas from the third area of the game (which covers levels 82-83 of the main story).  It takes place in Garlemald, the evil empire you’ve been fighting since the beginning of the game, which is kind of a combination of the Roman Empire and Soviet Russia.  Throughout the game, the Empire has been conquering people in order to suppress their religion.  The reason is that in this world, the various deities people worship can be summoned into existence.  The summoned deities then have the ability to mind control people into worshiping them, making them even stronger and more dangerous.  The Empire has been trying to wipe out religion to remove the threat posed by these summons.  However, in this part of Endwalker you discover that there is a summon who has taken control of the people in the capital of Garlemald (which is suspicious since they’ve been trying to wipe those summons out).  It turns out the villain realized that the people of Garlemald’s patriotism and politics had effectively become a religion to them and used that to create a summon of their Emperor to control them.  This idea of politics being treated as a religion was particularly interesting to me, as I feel it’s become increasingly common today.  In human history, religious worship is found basically everywhere and it’s only in the past 200 or so years where forms of atheism became more common.  As Catholics we would say this is because people are made for worship.  But if you get rid of religion, you just end up worshiping something else instead.  In particular, it seems like modern people tend to treat their politics as a religion (if you don’t believe me, just turn on any news channel).  I personally feel like this is why politics has become so insane in the past decade, so seeing the same idea reflected in Endwalker was interesting.

Finally, I’m going to be discussing the main villain so spoilers for the rest of the game.  You end up discovering that the cause behind the end of the world is a creature called Meteion.  In the past, she was created by a depressed scientist who wanted to find the meaning of life.  So he created her as a space probe to visit other planets and ask the people there what they thought the meaning of life was.  In order to make this work, he created her to use an energy source that is basically powered by emotions, making her extremely susceptible to the emotions of others.  After sending her out, she discovered that every other civilization in the universe has died out, having either killed themselves in war or decided that life was pointless and committed suicide.  At this point, she decides that since all life is just going to kill itself anyways, she might as well finish off life on the planet now rather than let it pointlessly continue.  

As you can see, this is an extremely nihilist viewpoint.  In contrast, the protagonists argue that yes life is pointless but you can create your own meaning to give it a point (which is a kind of optimistic atheist viewpoint that is extremely common today).  Most people who play this game seem to think that’s a good enough argument against the villain (or at least didn’t think too deeply about it), but personally I didn’t find it compelling.  I remember when playing this last part of the game thinking, “I’m really glad I’m Catholic and have the answers to these questions because honestly the villains make way stronger arguments here than the protagonists”.  In particular, as Catholics we believe that everyone was indeed created for a reason (for a more detailed discussion on this topic, check out my Xenoblade Chronicles 2 article) and that as a result life isn’t pointless.  In addition, it doesn’t matter if life would eventually die out in the long term because we know there is going to be a definitive end of the world anyways with the Second Coming of Christ.  I remember discussing this with my spiritual director and mentioning that most people seems to be content with the “create your own meaning” answer without really thinking hard about it and he pointed out that a lot of people aren’t aware that there other other options out there- you don’t have to choose between nihilism and this kind of optimistic atheism.  I hope that by presenting the Catholic view, people may start to realize they have other options.

So there’s a discussion on Endwalker, some of its themes, and how they relate to Catholicism.  The game’s definitely worth playing and is a good conclusion to the story so far so check it out if you like FF14 at all.  Long running stories don’t normally stick the landing so the fact that this game has (especially considering how bad the original 1.0 launch was) is really impressive.  

Song of the Post-

Your Answer

Final Fantasy 14:  Endwalker


As I frequently discuss on this site, Catholicism is a popular inspiration for religions in fiction due to how interesting it is aesthetically.  From the music to the vestments to the architecture the inspiration is everywhere.  But not only are the aesthetics cool, but the words and terminology are cool as well.  In particular, the title “saint” shows up frequently in fictional religions.  So today I’m going to discuss what a saint is in games as well as in Catholicism.

In most games, the term “saint” refers to some major figure, typically associated with the game’s religion.  Often these will be figures in the game’s backstory, although occasionally they show up in the present as leaders.  Here are a few examples.  In Fire Emblem:  Three Houses you have the saints Seiros, Cethleann, Cichol, Indech and Macuil, all of whom fought the evil Nemesis 1000 years ago and are heroes to the Church of Seiros of the present.  

In Final Fantasy Tactics, you have the saint Ajora- a prophet whose followers founded the Church of Galbados after he was executed by the dominant religion of the time (although in true Final Fantasy Tactics fashion, there is much more to that story).  As I mentioned in a previous post, Ys 9 has the saint Rosvita- a common girl who managed to fight off an invading army (in her case the title seems to come more from the fact that she is based on Saint Joan of Arc rather than association with the religion in the game).  However, in other games the term saint is just a title for some cool person rather than having any association with religion.  For example, in Final Fantasy 14, there is a group of scholars who give the title saint to anyone who did something amazingly well in their lives.  Some are still combat oriented such as the saint Finnea who managed to fight off an invading dragon hoard, but others are from skills in pretty random fields.  For example, the saint Coinach actually left his religion to become an archaeologist after  interpreting some scripture, spent his whole life looking for an ancient civilization and found it right before he died.  You even have the saint Adama Landama who was just known for being a good and fair merchant. 

 So as you can see, the term saint can really refer to all kinds of things in games, religious or otherwise.  Now that we’ve seen some fictional examples, let’s discuss what a saint is in Catholicism.

At the end of the day, a saint is anyone in Heaven.  Whether recognized on Earth or not, if someone is in Heaven they are a saint.  This is why All Saint’s Day (November 1) exists, to celebrate all the saints, known and unknown alike.  That being said, when most people refer to the term “saint” they are thinking of canonized saints.  A canonized saint is someone that the Catholic Church is extremely confident is in Heaven and that lived a life of heroic virtue worth emulating.  For a well known example, you have Saint Francis of Assisi who radically tried to emulate the Gospels.  In more modern times, you have Saint Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) caring for the dying in India or Pope Saint John Paul the Great who led the church for the last part of the turbulent 20th century.  Saints are typically patron saints of certain things and people are told they are a particularly good intercessor for those topics (for a well known example, people ask for Saint Anthony’s intercession to help find lost items).  In the distant past people were canonized simply by popular declaration, but over time the process has been formalized.  First, a bishop can open the cause for someone in their diocese after their death and begin an investigation of their life, giving the person the title “Servant of God” in the process.  If good evidence is found of heroic virtue, it is sent to Rome where the pope can then declare the person “Venerable.”  At this point, people are encouraged to pray for the person’s intercession for a miracle.  After one confirmed miracle someone is beatified and called “Blessed” and after two they can be canonized and declared “Saint.”  There are two additional things to note.  First, that the miracles are thoroughly investigated by scientists and thus only count if no one can come up with a good alternative explanation for what happened.  Second, martyrs typically don’t require as many miracles since dying for the faith is both obviously heroic virtue as well as a one way ticket to Heaven.  To see this process in action, you can check out Blessed Michael J. McGivney who was recently beatified after a boy was miraculously cured at his intercession.  In conclusion, a saint is anyone in Heaven and a canonized saint is someone the church is confident is in Heaven that lived a life of heroic virtue.

So there is a discussion on saints in games as well as saints in Catholicism.  As someone with an interest in history, I enjoy reading about the saints.  Simply reading about the lives of saints can give you a good feel for what was going on in the church during their times.  On top of that, many saints lived interesting lives that make great stories (check out the story of one of my favorite saints, Saint Maximilian Kolbe for a good example there).  So if you haven’t before, pick out a few and look into their stories yourself.

Song of the Post-

Garreg Mach Cathedral

Fire Emblem:  Three Houses

Another song that plays in a church

Final Fantasy 14 Tidbits

It took me 2.5 months, but I finally got caught up on Final Fantasy 14.  The whole time I was playing I took random notes to use for ideas for this website, but apart from the Inquisition and Heavensward, nothing was really fleshed out enough for an entire post.  That said, there were a lot of good ideas, so I decided today to briefly discuss many smaller topics instead of one big one.  So here are some Final Fantasy 14 Tidbits (spoilers throughout, although nothing too major this time).

Early in the game, you go visit each town and hear a speech where a leader talks about the town, its culture and its current problems.  When you get to the merchant city Ul’dah which is known for its wealth, one of its leaders, Raubhan, mentions in his speech that the wealth of the city is not its money but its people.  This reminded me of the famous story of St. Lawrence.  During a time of Roman persecution, he was told to bring the treasure of the church to the Roman officials.  He then brought them the poor of the city and presented them as the treasure of the church.  Naturally, the Romans weren’t happy and had him roasted alive.  While he was dying, he was said to have quipped, “Turn me over, I’m done on this side.”  He’s now the patron saint of both chefs and comedians.

During the paladin storyline, one of the points made to the characters is that “Honor is a means to an end, not the end itself.”  This reminded me of honor as a happiness substitute (as discussed in the Yakuza 3 post a while ago).  The simple version is that honor is a sign that you may be virtuous, but it is not the virtue itself.

In the Crystal Tower storyline (which is heavily inspired by Final Fantasy III by the way), you encounter the leader of an ancient civilization named Xande who you are trying to stop from regaining power and returning to take over the world.  Xande has become functionally immortal- though there are some steps in the process of returning from death (the final goal of the questline is to stop the source of his immortality).  While discussing why he cared so much about staying alive, he mentions “What worth is wealth and power when all must be consigned to death and loss?”  This is actually a pretty common theme all over the Bible.  One place that comes to mind in particular is the parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:13-21) where a rich farmer builds up a new barn to store even more goods only to die before he can use any of it.

In the Stormblood expansion, the people conquered by the Garlean Empire are routinely treated as animals beneath the Garleans.  They are consistently mistreated and abused all throughout the expansion as you try to liberate them.  There is an inherent dignity to all human life which is why the abuse of the conquered people is wrong.  This is why, for example, the church argued against the mistreatment of the Native Americans by the Spaniards (which admittedly wasn’t always successful).

At one point in the game, the leaders of the various countries of Eorzea meet with the Emperor of Garlemond in an attempt to reach a peace agreement before war breaks out again.  One thing that the emperor mentions is that his people in the past were from Eorzea before being driven out because they couldn’t use magic.  He then says “After centuries of exile, reclamation may be mistaken for invasion.”  This reminded me of the Crusades, which is presented by modern historians as an invasion rather than a reclamation of old Christian lands.

In Shadowbringers, the monsters tormenting the world called Sin Eaters work kind of like zombies- if someone is hurt by them they may start turning into one.  Since the injured people can’t control this, they are mostly shunned by society as no one wants to be there when they turn into a monster.  That said, there is a colony of them at the south edge of the world map where a few kind souls take care of them while they suffer, until poisoning them with their favorite food right before they transform.  This reminded me of how lepers were treated in the Bible and by the church (check out St. Damian of Molokai for example).  You can also see it with Mother Teresa’s Little Sisters of the Poor in modern times.  The one big difference is that last part where the person was poisoned.  Catholicism is against euthenasia.  This is due to the dignity of human life I mentioned earlier, as well as the church’s stance against the ends justifying the means as I’ve mentioned in many other posts (so preventing more suffering from killing someone who will become a monster is not ok).

Finally for a more comedic example, in Shadowbringers you find that your ally Urianger, like Alphinaud, can’t swim.  Rather than learn, he decides it’s a better use of his time to learn how to walk on water via magic.  This works for a time before he loses concentration and starts sinking and needing rescue.  This reminded me of when Jesus walks on the sea (Matthew 14:22-33).  Peter says “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you on the water,” to which Jesus replies “Come.”  Peter starts walking before he notices how windy it is and he starts sinking due to his doubts.

So there are a bunch of random Catholic ideas I noticed while playing through Final Fantasy 14.  It’s definitely got a great story for an MMO and for a Final Fantasy game, so it was easier to come up with ideas than it would have been for many other games and especially for other MMOs.  If you have the time and patience to get through the slow paced base game, I’d definitely recommend checking it out (although do remember it’s basically got 7 years of content now, hence my 2.5 months of playing catch up).  You might even notice random Catholic ideas that I missed since the game has so much going on now.

Song of the Post-


Final Fantasy 14

The Inquisition

I recently started playing the MMO Final Fantasy 14 (I’m Daniel Bishop on the Hyperion server if you play as well).  I’d heard really great things about the expansions (there was even a user comment on one of Fr. Blake Britton’s Word on Fire posts praising the story) and that they were speeding up the start of the game, so I figured I could finally sit down and try it out.  While I’m still working my way to those expansions (and hopefully some interesting topics to write about), I did encounter one thing in the base game that I felt I could discuss.  So today I’m going to explain what the Inquisition is.

The Inquisition as portrayed in fiction is almost universally negative.  Typically they are shown as some form of legal institution (usually religious) that acts as judge/jury/executioner to weed out heresy.  They almost always are portrayed as super irrational and believe that the ends of rooting out a heresy justifies the means of killing potentially innocent people.  Here are a few examples in fiction.  In Final Fantasy 14:  A Realm Reborn there is a section of the game that takes place in Coerthas, a mountainous region that is extremely isolationist from the rest of the world.  During this section, you uncover evidence of heretics to the region’s religion, leading to an inquisitor arriving to execute the accused as soon as possible.  While the people of the land accept the ruling of the Inquisitor, the main character as an outsider doesn’t and discovers evidence the accused is innocent.  When presented to the Inquisitor, he still insists that the accused be executed until an attack in person proves him innocent.  As you continue through the region the Inquisitor keeps telling people not to trust you making progress difficult.  In the end you discover the Inquisitor was actually a heretic impostor taking advantage of people’s faith in the position to execute innocents.  In the super extreme case, you have something like Warhammer 40K, where the fight against chaos is so extreme that even the chance of its existence is enough for an Inquisitor to justify burning an entire planet to the ground with everyone on it.  

Last but not least, you have the famous Monty Python Spanish Inquisition sketch that comes about as people are getting heavily questioned and reply “I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”

All of these examples show the Inquisition as a group of irrational zealots who care more about removing the chance of a problem than finding the truth of the matter.  This view comes largely from propaganda against the church that has come up over the years, usually from Prodestant or Enlightenment thinkers in the 16th century.  But you might wonder, what exactly was the Inquisition?

It may surprise you, but the Inquisition was actually the beginning of modern legal systems (inspired by the then rediscovered ancient Roman ones).  Rather than the irrational hunters portrayed in the media, the Inquisitors were the equivalent of modern judges and lawyers who were there to determine the truth of some religious matter, typically determining if someone was a heretic (and consequently trying to convince them to come back to the truth).  For example, the infamous Spanish Inquisition existed largely to ascertain the truth of accusations where someone was accused of faking a conversion to Catholicism for political and economic benefits (remember, this was taking place in the early 1500s, right after the end of the longest war in history between the Spanish Catholics and Muslims over the Iberian peninsula).  In order to determine the truth of the matter, the Inquisition would hold trials where Inquisitors would ask questions (hence the name) to determine the truth of the matter.  There were systems in place to try to make the trails as fair as possible.  One example- when accused, a person was asked to present a list of enemies/people who would benefit from accusing them.  That way, the testimony of those on the list would be ignored to help keep things fair.  Most of the horror stories people refer to related to the Inquisition aren’t from the Inquisition itself, but from the secular powers dealing with the results of trials (in fact, the church explicitly was not allowed to execute someone as the result of a trail, punishments would be something more like excommunication).  For example, in the case of the Spanish Inquisition, Muslims pretending to convert to Catholicism were considered a national security threat by Spain (due to aforementioned war) and thus were seen as traitors or rebels and pushed accordingly.  Even with that fact in consideration, the amount of executions by the secular government was relatively small (about 2000 or 5% of the accused in the 200ish years of the Spanish Inquisition).  As countries in Europe became secularized and the church lost its temporal power, the various local Inquisitions lost prominence.  The main Inquisition in Rome, however, stuck around for internal church legal matters.  It actually still exists today and operates largely in the same manner, but was renamed since the term “Inquisition” has such a negative connotation these days.  Now it’s called the “Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.”  In fact, Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) was the equivalent of the High Inquisitor back when Pope St. John Paul II was pope.  Nowadays, it mainly looks at theologians that people feel have questionable writings and restricting their ability to teach if necessary.  So in conclusion, the Inquisition was not an irrational religious organization but an early example of a fair legal system that continues to this day.

I hope this post was able to clear up some of the myths surrounding the Inquisition.  There’s a lot of information and misinformation on the topic out there so it can be a bit tough to get to the truth.  Most of what I wrote came from an interview with the church historian Professor Steve Weidenkopf if you want more information ( so check that out if you are interested in the topic and want to explore more.

Song of the Post-


Final Fantasy XIV:  A Realm Reborn

Definitely has the vibe of a cold religious institution


You can’t go very far on the internet without running into some kind of argument or debate.  This is especially true in the video game community which has been fighting over everything since the internet first began (console wars, what games are good, what are bad etc).  Even the Catholic online world isn’t immune, with arguments on traditionalism vs liberalism being fairly common.  What is interesting however, is that there are even some debates that are common between the two groups.  In particular, one of the big debates in both circles is the right way to translate something.  I thought I would discuss and compare this debate today in both communities.

The right way to translate video games has been an issue going all the way back to the NES era when Japanese games became common.  The two extremes in the video game world are known as a heavy localization and a direct translation.  A heavy localization would be when a translator drastically changes what a game actually says but still tries to convey the meaning.  A direct translation tries to be as close to the original as possible even if it means sacrificing readability.  As an example, there is no real equivalent to Japanese honorifics in English (kind of a suffix to add to a name to indicate your relationship with the person).  A localization would completely drop the honorifics and try to convey the meaning (for example, in a game I’m playing right now, Robert-san was translated to Mr. Valetz instead).  A more direct translation would just leave them in and let the player figure out what it means.  Which of these two styles is more popular has changed over the years.  In the early days of video games, localizations were popular because games were seen as for kids, so translators needed to remove anything that might upset their parents (religion, sex and cursing mostly) while still keeping the general meaning.  For example, see this infamous scene from Final Fantasy 6:

Due to the heavy censorship of the era, there was a backlash in the late 90s that led to more direct translations for about a decade.  More recently, however, localizations have come back in style once again for censorship reasons (this time it’s more censoring things that might upset the politically progressive translators rather than conservative parents buying the games) or because the translators want to “spice up” the dialog.  This happened frequently in the controversial localization of Fire Emblem:  Fates.  For example, a discussion between two quiet characters on how many people they have killed was changed to just silence as a joke:

While more popular with the translators themselves, gamers today tend to prefer direct translations because they want the game as the developer originally made it, not the game the translators think they should have made.  It’s become a pretty heated discussion due to the current political landscape and due to the increasing divide between people who translate the games and the people who play them.  I remember a few years ago when this debate picked up again in earnest kind of laughing because the Catholic Church has gone through the exact same debate over the course of history, especially in the past 50 years.

In Catholicism, translation is incredibly important.  Most of the sources of the various texts like the Bible are in Latin or Greek, so translating them into the various languages of the world is especially important (as pointed out in Vatican II’s Dei Verbum).  Instead of localization and direct translation, translators have what is called dynamic equivalence (convey the meaning) and formal equivalence (translate the words directly).  The benefit of dynamic equivalence is that it can make the meaning more clear to the reader, but it risks being flat out wrong if the translator doesn’t understand the text themselves.  The benefit of a formal equivalence is that there is a much lower chance of conveying something incorrectly, but it may be a pain to read.  While in video games this debate ultimately doesn’t make a huge difference (people might just miss out on a small part of the game), in Catholicism it is vastly more important.  If someone makes a mistake while translating, they can convey a completely different meaning than what was originally intended, leading people to error.  The classic example is the origin of the phrase “what a difference an iota makes.”  Back during the Council of Nicea when the Latin and Greek fathers were trying to iron out Arianism, the correct term used was “homoousious” meaning consubstantial, but was sometimes mistranslated as “homoiousious” which had a meaning more in line with the Arian heresy (AKA an ‘i’ was all the difference between the truth and heresy).  In more modern times, you saw this with the English translation of the Mass.  When it was first made back after Vatican II, dynamic equivalence was used.  The result is that there were some parts that didn’t really line up with what was supposed to be said.  This discrepancy is why in 2010 a new English translation was made using formal equivalence so it would be much closer to correct (and why the term “consubstantial” is now part of the Nicene Creed).  From everything I’ve read online, it seems like formal equivalence is significantly more popular in Catholic circles these days and probably will be in the foreseeable future.

So there is a discussion on translation both in video games and in Catholicism.  It’s interesting to me how both circles have basically come to the same conclusion (translating as close to word for word as possible) but for different reasons.  It’ll be worth watching to see if the debate settles down in video games like it mostly has in Catholicism or if it keeps cycling between the two for the foreseeable future.

Song of the Post-

Dusk Falls

Fire Emblem:  Fates

Thankfully Fire Emblem: Fates’ great soundtrack wasnt localized out of the game

Suikoden 2 and the Morality of War

As I’ve mentioned before, I have been playing through many famous JRPGs I missed in the late 90s that people online insist are the best in the genre.  I recently finished playing through Suikoden 2, which is often cited as one of the best JRPGs ever.  I wasn’t sure what to expect because the original Suikoden was a bit too simple for my tastes, but now that I’ve finished it I can safely say Suikoden 2 is great (it’s basically a fleshed out version of the good ideas in Suikoden 1).  It’s a much more grounded story than most JRPGs, with a focus on politics and military strategy over saving the world.  As a result, it lends itself well to discussing the morality of war from a Catholic point of view (so some spoilers below, although less than normal).

The overarching plot of Suikoden 2 is relatively straight forward, with the complexities in the details.  The main character and his friend Jowy are part of a youth brigade of the Highland military, which is at war with the neighboring Jowston city states.  

After a peace treaty the brigade is about to head home when it is suddenly attacked, resulting in the death of everyone but the main character and Jowy.  It turns out the Highland prince, Luca Blight, decided to massacre the brigade and blame Jowston to justify restarting the war.  The two friends end up pulled into the war on opposite sides, with the main character leading the Jowston resistance to stop Luca, and Jowy ending up one of Luca’s soldiers to try to stop him from within his army.  Most of the drama of the plot comes from these two friends ending up against each other due to the circumstances of the war, but what I want to focus on is the Catholic “Just War” theory and the idea that the ends justify the means.

The Catholic idea of a just war (one that can be morally fought) is in the Catechism on paragraph 2039 (here’s a Catholic Answers link that quotes it:  There are four main criteria for a war to be a just war:

  1. The damage done by the aggressor must be lasting, grave and certain.
  2. Other ways of ending the war are impractical or ineffective.
  3. There must be a serious chance at success.
  4. The war must not cause greater evils than those being stopped.

It’s actually pretty tough to meet these conditions.  For example, World War 2 is only debatably a just war (the first three points are all met, but the last one is debatable when you consider that all sides had no problem attacking civilians).  So what about the war in Suikoden 2?  I actually think it meets all four criteria and thus would be a moral war for the main character fight.  First, Luca Blight is a monster that enjoys slaughtering the people of Jowston.  The first thing he does after restarting the war is murder everyone in nearby villages and burn them to the ground. 

 Later in the game he sacrifices the entire population of a major city to get some great magic power.  It is clear that if Luca has his way everyone in Jowston will be killed, thus the damage of the aggressor is lasting, grave and certain.  Trying to end the war through peace treaties also hasn’t worked, as Luca immediately broke the treaty at the start of the game.  The third criteria is the least certain.  Early in the game, it doesn’t seem like there is a serious chance at success, as each city in Jowston is mainly interested in protecting itself rather than working together to push back Highland.  The result is that at the start of the war, it doesn’t appear like Jowston can do more than temporarily hold off Highland.  That said, the fact that you do manage to win in the end after reuniting everyone means there was a serious chance at success even if it didn’t seem like it at the start.  Finally, the main character’s army doesn’t seem to be causing any more evil than the fighting itself, meeting the final condition.  Thus, I’d argue that all four conditions are met and the war in the game is a just war.  Now that we’ve discussed the war in the game from the protagonist’s side, let’s look at it from Jowy’s perspective and the idea that the ends justify the means.

Early on in the game, Jowy gets captured by Highland and ends up joining them.  His idea is that if he can gain Luca’s trust, he can one day stop him from within.  To facilitate this, he assassinates a Jowston leader, starves out a Jowston city to let him capture it, helps Luca assassinate the king and ultimately tricks Luca into falling into a trap and being killed by the main character.  After Luca is dead, however, Jowy continues the war instead of stopping it because he believes that the war will inevitably restart unless one of the two countries is completely conquered, forcing the main character to continue fighting.  Jowy’s entire mindset after being captured resolves around the ends justifying the means.  Specifically, he believes some killing now will ultimately lead to a greater peace in the future.   The Catholic Church has always been against the idea that the ends justify the means.  It is not ok to do an immoral act so that a greater good may come from it.  For an extreme example, consider the idea of paying someone to kill everyone as they walk out of the confessional.  If you were to kill someone right out of confession, they would die in a state of grace and thus would ultimately end up in heaven, a greater good than the evil of murdering them, but that clearly is not acceptable.  For a more serious and controversial example, look at the use of the atomic bomb in World War 2.  The justification of its use has always been that ending the war fast would ultimately save more lives than were lost due to the bomb.  In addition, you can argue that ending the war fast prevented the Soviet Union from invading and leading to half the country being suppressed under communist rule for the next 50 years.  Both of these are good things, but despite that it is still immoral to kill innocents in a war, let alone hundreds of thousands.  This is one of those teachings that can be kind of hard for a modern person to take in, as doing bad acts for the greater good was super common in the 20th century and is super prevalent in our media.  So despite Jowy’s good intentions, his actions during the game are ultimately immoral.

So there are some thoughts on Suikoden 2 and the morality of the war in the game from a Catholic point of view.  I think of all the PS1 JRPGs I’ve played recently, this one holds up the best so I’d highly recommend playing it if you get the chance (Suikoden 1, while not as good, is short if you want to check it out first).  I’ve actually avoided talking about spoilers from the end of the game for once so you’ll still be able to experience most of the plot.  If you are looking for a much more grounded take on war, I can’t think of a better JRPG.

Song of the Post-

Battlefield Without Light

Suikoden 2

This song actual reminds me of modern Fire Emblem music, so that’s appropriate

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

It’s been a while since I’ve had any ideas to write about here.  I went through all the initial ideas I had in the first few months and none of the games I was playing at the time gave me any new ones.  One game that kept coming to mind was Xenoblade Chronicles 2 (the newest game from the producer who made Xenogears) but I dismissed the idea because the game was so long that I didn’t feel like putting in the time playing it to refresh my memory.  However, recently with the rerelease of Xenoblade Chronicles 1 on the Switch, I saw a discussion about Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s localization that mentioned how some references to Christianity were removed.  After reading that discussion, I decided that maybe I should finally replay the game after all.  Well 100 hours later and I can say that was absolutely the right decision, although not for the reason I initially thought.  So today I’m  going to talk about religion in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 and some Catholic ideas that show up at the very end of the game (so MAJOR SPOILER WARNING to anyone who hasn’t played it or other Xeno games yet).

First off, how close is the religion in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to Catholicism?  Honestly, it’s not that close.  The religion is pretty clearly inspired by Catholicism visually and in terminology, but in practice it’s your standard generic religion found in any fantasy setting.  In the game, the main religion is the Praetorium led by the Praetor (basically the pope).  The Praetorium is clearly aesthetically inspired by Catholicism with their characters in vestments and their buildings looking very cathedral-like. 

In the main plot, you honestly don’t see any religious practices (they really only show up in some dialog with a few NPCs in the Praetorium), but you do get the sense of the Praetorium’s diplomatic role in the world.  At one point, Praetor Amalthus steps in to stop a war between the two major powers, Uraya and Mor Ardain.  This is kind of similar to the political role of the pope in the real world when Europe was a Catholic society (think middle ages).  It kind of makes sense that we don’t really see any religion in the main story, because Amalthus himself is a nihilist.  When you get past his facade he seems to think his role in the world is to wipe out mankind (which he sees as a mistake due to events in his past).  The little bit of the religion we do see mentioned in the game is that the creator of the world is known as the Architect who lives in Elysium on the top of the world tree in the center of the world.  This is where those localization changes I mentioned come into play- in the original Japanese the Architect is explicitly called the “God of Creation” and Elysium is referred to as “paradise.”  There is even a myth at the start of the game about how mankind lived in Elysium with the Architect before being cast out in the past, a pretty explicit reference to the beginning of Genesis.  Overall, this religion is pretty standard of fantasy games, where there is a visual inspiration from Catholicism but not a whole lot to the religion itself.  That said, when you finally get to the end of the game and meet the Architect the most interesting Catholic ideas (in my opinion anyways) show up.

At the end of the game as you climb the world tree, things take a turn towards the scifi  (as you might expect if you have played any of the other Xeno games at this point).  It turns out Elysium is a space station at the top of the world tree, which is a bunch of plant life surrounding an ancient orbital elevator.  The Architect himself turns out to be a man named Klaus, an old scientist who in trying to create a new universe, accidentally wiped out the existing one. 

 As a side effect, he had essentially become immortal as long as the power source of his experiment was still around (although it is about to leave and cause him to die due to events in Xenoblade Chronicles 1).  In a standard JRPG, this is where you would fight Klaus in order to free the people of the world from his control, like you do with Deus in Xenogears or Zanza in Xenoblade Chronicles 1 but Klaus is different.  He tells you how he realized the huge mistake he made and how he set out to try and recreate the world using nanomachines he had made to convert matter from the old world into a new one based on his memories.  By recreating the world and suffering through being alone for the millennium it took for this process to take place, he hoped to atone for what he had done.  This idea of redemptive suffering is a major Catholic idea, seen all over the place but most obviously in the Passion.  This idea of redemptive suffering was in fact what kept the idea of Catholicism in Xenoblade Chronicles 2 in the back of my mind all this time.  That said, when I played through the game this time, something new stood out to me in the ending that has stuck with me for the past few days- the idea of why I exist.

Throughout the game there are two major characters trying to reach the Architect- Malos, the main antagonist and Pyra, one of the main protagonists.  They are both Aegises- basically super powered beings that were the first created by the Architect (and in the sci fi reality, they are supercomputers originally used in Klaus’ experiment that were turned human in the new world).  The reason they want to see him is the same- they want to know why they exist and why the Architect created them.  The game itself doesn’t have a super concrete answer (it just kind of happened as part of him recreating the world), but discussing the idea got me thinking- what is the Catholic answer to why we exist?  I knew that creation was good (from Genesis), but I realized I couldn’t come up with a concrete answer off the top of my head for humanity as a whole or for me as an individual.  After going back and researching the answer (thanks again to Bishop Barron and Word on Fire), here’s what I found.  Humanity as a whole was made for God to manifest and share his glory and that the act of creation was an act of love (after all, God doesn’t need humanity to exist, but wills us to anyways out of love).  On a more individual level, every person has a longing within them to return to Him (hense St. Augustine’s famous “Our hearts are restless until they rest with you”), with the specifics on how different for each person (that’s where you get into talk on things like vocation).  When I heard that idea of longing to return to God, I immediately thought of Malos and Pyra and how they are drawn to the Architect despite not really knowing why and in their own individual ways.  I honestly can’t think of any game that shows the Catholic idea of why we exist better, because in most games the creator is villainous.  It really is cool seeing something different like this game that does a good job of showing an idea even if the developers may not have intended it that way.

So there are some Catholic ideas in Xenoblade Chronicles 2.  I thought it was super cool how the first time I played the game I didn’t really focus on the idea of the purpose of my life but this time around I did.  I’ve since realized that I first finished the game in January 2018, but originally started thinking about the purpose of my life and why I exist around February 2018 (just missed it the first time lol).  It’s something I’ve been struggling with a lot the past two years, so wanting to know why you exist was super relatable this time around and has been on my mind since I finished the game a few days ago.  The result is that I’ve written a much different post that I first imagined when I started planning this a month ago.  I guess it’s just one of those cool times where you have a plan, but God ends up leading you in a completely different but much better direction.

Song of the Post-

Drifting Souls

Xenoblade Chronicles 2

The lyrics of this song made way more sense to me this time around


If you were to look at the religion shelf on my bookshelf, it would become clear pretty quickly that I’m interested in church history.  There is something about seeing how things work out just right in history that is cool to me.  One major set of topics that shows up in church history is the various heresies that pop up periodically.  While studying this topic is nice because by learning what the church says is wrong you also learn what is right, today I want to focus on heretics themselves.  Specifically, I want to talk about how heretics are presented in games and what a heretic is (and isn’t) in real life.

The term heretic is actually pretty common in various games and fictional settings.  In pretty much any setting with a religion (especially an fanatical one), characters that come into conflict with the religion tend to be branded heretics.  For example, I’ve been recently playing Final Fantasy Tactics.  About half way into the game, the main character Razma ends up fighting Cardinal Draclau who has taken the princess hostage. 

The cardinal uses magic to turn into a monster, but Razma and his team defeat him.  As a result, the church declares him a heretic and the people of the world are told to capture or kill him on sight, despite the fact that the cardinal was the one in the wrong.  This kind of setup is common, and is often used with the “church is secretly evil” plot twist to make the player character enemies of the world.  Another minor example from a more recent game is Fire Emblem:  Three Houses.  Early in the game, some members of the western branch of the Church of Seiros plot to rebel against and attack Archbishop Rhea.  As a result, they are branded heretics and you the player have to fight them, eventually leading to their execution.  In probably the most extreme example, there is the world of Warhammer 40000, where anything going even slightly against the Empire of Man can be considered heresy.  It’s so over the top in this setting that in extreme cases it is justification for wiping out an entire planet.  It’s so extreme that Warhammer heresy memes and jokes are pretty common online.

Even looking at The Legend of Heroes series, heretic is used to denote enemies of the church, although in that case, it is limited to rebellious and out of control clergy.  So as you can see, most fantasy settings with a church will simply use the term heretic to refer to an enemy of the church.  But what exactly is a heretic in real life?

Simply put, a heretic is someone who has an incorrect belief, is told that belief is incorrect and to stop believing it by some kind of authority, and choosing to believe it anyways (I believe the term “obstinately” shows up in the official definition).  The important parts of this definition are the second and third parts, namely that a heretic has been corrected by some authority and still deliberately chooses to be wrong anyways.  This is important because it means that someone who is wrong about something isn’t a heretic, just someone who is wrong.  For example, the church father Origen had many beliefs that the church today would consider wrong, but we wouldn’t call him a heretic because no one corrected him at the time (as the doctrines in question weren’t fully developed).  On this flip side, Arius would be considered a heretic, because even after the Council of Nicea said his beliefs about Jesus were wrong, he still continued to preach it.  This also explains why the church would consider the original Protestants heretics but not modern ones.  The early Protestants were under the authority of the church who told them they were wrong but chose to ignore that.  Modern Protestants however were raised outside the church and thus lack that authority correcting them.  The next question would be once someone is a heretic, what should be done about them?  In most fictional settings, the answer is almost exclusively to execute them.  In real life, execution was indeed an option, but typically only after spending considerable time convincing the person to give up their incorrect opinion.  The justification for executing them would typically be to prevent the incorrect belief from spreading and leading more people away from the church and to give them a clear period of time to help them repent (similar to the Catholic justification for the death penalty).  This is the justification used (whether right or wrong) to execute Jan Hus, one of the proto-Protestants.  So overall, heretics are people who are wrong, told they are wrong by a church authority and choose to remain wrong rather than simply any enemy of the church.  And while they have been executed in the past, it is typically as a last resort, not an automatic response.

So as you can see, heretics in fictional religions don’t really align with the real thing.  As I mentioned earlier, I believe the reason the term heretic is thrown around in games so often is that it is an easy way to get the world to turn on the player even if they are the hero, especially in conjunction with the church is secretly evil trope.  I’ll admit, while I’m completely sick of the church being secretly evil, I tend to be more ok with the main characters being branded heretics because it tends to lead to interesting gameplay (as being on the run usually limits your options).  I just hope people understand that fictional stories don’t necessarily correspond to reality.

Song of the Post


Final Fantasy Tactics

For some reason the best songs in Final Fantasy Tactics are named after medical terms

Mass Effect

One of my favorite games in more recent years was Mass Effect (the first one, not the second that most people prefer).  It’s a space epic with a cool story and moral choices that at least appeared to matter at the time (part of the reason why people didn’t like Mass Effect 3- they really didn’t).  In particular, I liked the world building done in the game and all the extra information on the various alien races which wasn’t really needed, but I thoroughly enjoyed (in fact, part of the reason I didn’t like Mass Effect 2 as much as most people is that they went back on that lore a few times for gameplay reasons).  Today I want to talk about my favorite scene in Mass Effect and how it ties into Catholicism (note- this is kind of a big reveal scene near the end of the game so SPOILER ALERT).

At this point in the game the player character Commander Shepard has gone against the wishes of the galactic government in order to continue investigating  the threat of the Reapers- giant inorganic life that periodically comes into the galaxy to wipe out all organic life. Shepard goes to the hidden Ilos where an artifact called the Conduit is supposed to be.  While fighting through the planet, he and his team are temporarily trapped and redirected down a side passage. There, they meet Vigil, an ancient computer program created by the Protheans- the alien race that previously dominated the galaxy before being killed off by the Reapers. 

Vigil reveals that when the Reapers attacked the Protheans 50000 years ago, the people working at the research center on Ilos were put into cryogenic sleep to hide as records of life on the planet had been destroyed in the initial attack.  By the time the Reapers finally left the galaxy, there were only a few of the researchers left to revive on the planet. These researchers, knowing that there wasn’t any hope to revive the Prothean race, decided instead to spend their little remaining time helping the people of the future. 

They created the Conduit- a mass relay that would send someone to the location where the Reapers first appear and made some changes to delay the Reapers return (which is why in Mass Effect 1 you are only fighting a single reaper rather than all of them). They also created Vigil, an AI that could explain what was going on to whoever eventually showed up on the planet many millennium later.  After talking to Vigil, Shepard and his team use the Conduit to go to the Citadel and stop the one Reaper from bringing in the rest, ending the first game. I remember when I first played Mass Effect, this scene with Vigil cemented it as one of my favorite games of all time. For some reason, I always enjoy stories where some people in the past do something to help the people in the future they will never meet.  Now you may be wondering, how does that story connect to Catholicism? The answer is actually my favorite bible verse.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).  This is probably my favorite passage in the Bible, from the end of the Gospel of John. It’s effectively the same idea as the story of the creation of Vigil in Mass Effect. Some ancient people left behind a record that will help save people of the future they may never meet.  There is however, one key difference between the two- the Gospel of John is real and was written for me, rather than some fictional character. Think about the early Christians. Many of these people went to their deaths proclaiming the truth about Jesus to lead others to him in the future (this is where the term Martyr actually comes from- it means witness).  Without them, Christianity as we know it really wouldn’t exist today (barring supernatural means of course). If these people had kept it to themselves rather than spreading the Gospel, it probably would just be a minor footnote for in depth textbooks on the history of Rome or Judaism instead of the most common religion in the world. Because of the actions of these people 2000 years ago, I am able to know the truth today.

So as you can see, the story of the Protheans on Ilos can show the importance of the works and witness of the early Christians.  As someone who honestly isn’t a very emotional person, thinking about the Bible verse I mentioned still always gets to me because I know it actually is addressing me in particular (in addition to everyone else).  I think seeing some of your favorite elements of fiction in real life can have a real effect on people (for example, JRR Tolkien converted CS Lewis to Christianity when he explained how the Gospels were like all the myths the two liked, but the Gospels were actually true).  This effect is honestly probably a large part of why Mass Effect was so memorable to me and why 13 years later the scene with Vigil still stands out so clearly in my mind.

Song of the Post-


Mass Effect

One of the most hopeful sounding songs I can think of in games