Saints

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-

Answers

Final Fantasy 14

Final Fantasy 14: Heavensward

As I continue to make my way through Final Fantasy 14, I’ve been taking a bunch of random notes about potential topics to write about on this site.  A lot of them are just throw away lines that reminded me of some Catholic idea, but a few parts of the game inspired a large number of notes.  In particular, I wrote down a lot about the first expansion, Final Fantasy 14:  Heavensward due to its general aesthetics as well as the direction of the expansion’s story.  So I decided today I would sit down and compare the Ishgardian Orthodox Church of Heavensward to the Catholic Church (major spoilers below!)


The Ishgardian Orthodox Church aesthetically is one of the closest I’ve seen to Catholicism in any video game.  The actual religion itself gets almost no focus in the game at all (we know there is a goddess named Halone the Fury, there was reference to the 1000 year ongoing war with the dragons and that a teaching on equality that was controversial but that’s about it).  That said, the look and feel of the religion is super Catholic.  The main town of the expansion, Ishgard is basically all gothic architecture clearly inspired by the medieval Catholic buildings.  For example, there is Saint Raymanaud’s Cathedral with its large stone walls and its bright stained glass windows

Another example is the first floor of the Vault, which is basically the equivalent of St. Peter’s Basilica in the game:

And from the outside, you can see the gothic influence as well

In addition, the music in all these areas sound extremely Catholic due to the prominence of the organ in the various songs (I highly recommend checking out the Heavensward soundtrack, with Solid, the Song of the Post, being one of my favorite songs on it).  The church itself is set up hierarchically like the Catholic Church, with the Archbishop leading and with priests working “in the field” so to speak.  The clergy are trained in the Scholasticate, which seems to be based on the early Catholic universities in the 13th century and similar to a modern seminary.  The equivalent of the pope is Archbishop Thordan. Much like in the Papal States, the Archbishop is both the religious and civil ruler of Coerthas. He is elected by the clergy when the previous archbishop dies, but unlike Catholicism there doesn’t seem to be a group like the College of Cardinals set up for the election.  His vestments look like they were taken straight from the pope and put on an elf:

Like in Catholicism, the clergy are supposed to be celibate but things don’t always work out that way.  In fact, one of the main characters of the expansion is the illegitimate son of Archbishop Thordian, which is as scandalous in the game as it was when it happened in real life (look up Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia if you are curious).  So overall, the aesthetics and general organization of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are extremely similar to Catholicism.  With that being said, what are some differences?


While the aesthetics and organization of the Ishgardian Orthodox Church are extremely similar to Catholicism, there are some major differences in beliefs, two in particular.  First, the church is extremely focused on the ends justifying the means.  There are two big examples of this in the story.  First, like many video game religions, a good chunk of it was made up to cover up some dark deeds in the past.  In this case, it was that the cause of the thousand year war with the dragons was not the aggression of the dragons, but the murder of a dragon by the leader of Ishgard in order to steal the powerful eyes of the dragon.  The church leaders since have kept this secret in order to maintain public order in the country and prevent the people from despairing over the revelation that they are fighting and dying for a bad cause.  The second example is in the goal of Archbishop Thordan, who has himself and his personal guard turned into super powerful beings in order to crush anyone who would oppose him and create a forced peace using this power (which is why you have to fight him at the end of the expansion).  As I’ve discussed before, the ends justifying the means goes against Catholic morality.  You simply can’t do a bad action in order to produce a good outcome.  The second major difference is related, namely the fact that a large chunk of the religion was made up to preserve order.  At the end of the expansion this is revealed and the people of the church really have no idea what to do going forward.  In fact, a sidequest chain that takes place in the Scholasticate deals with the fact that many people have begun to feel that if some of the scripture is false, why can’t the rest of it be as well?  The situation isn’t really resolved by the time you move on to the second expansion.  In contrast, Catholicism has always maintained that truth cannot contradict truth and as a result, if science goes against small t tradition (AKA something commonly believed but not required to be believed by the church), it concludes the small t tradition was wrong.  This was,  for example, why Galileo was asked to present his beliefs as a theory until more solid evidence could back it up (Galileo got more in trouble not for what he said but more the way he said it, but I’ll save the details of Galileo for another post).  Another example is that when evolution became more widely supported, a literal interpretation of the beginning of Genesis became much less popular in favor of a more allegorical one (the allegorical reading didn’t come out of nowhere, going back at least to the time of St. Augustine in the 4th century since its mentioned in his Confessions, but it definitely became more common in the present as a result).  All these examples show that while aesthetically the Ishgardian Orthodox Church is extremely Catholic, in its beliefs and legitimacy it really isn’t.


So there is an overview on the Ishgardian Orthodox Church from Final Fantasy 14:  Heavensward and how it compares to Catholicism.  I definitely recommend checking the expansion out if you are into MMOs, although you’ll have to get through the more generic base game to get to that point (which took me about a month).  I’m still working my way though the rest of the game (I’m about a third of the way into the second expansion, Stormblood as I write this), so expect more FF14 posts in the future.


Song of the Post-
Solid
Final Fantasy 14:  Heavensward

Organs make everything sound more Catholic

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 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qqYr3bz8sP4) so check that out if you are interested in the topic and want to explore more.

Song of the Post-

Fealty

Final Fantasy XIV:  A Realm Reborn

Definitely has the vibe of a cold religious institution