I would like to wish all my readers a blessed All Saints’ Day today – wherein we commemorate all the holy men and women who, having lived exemplary lives on Earth, have passed into eternity to live among the others justified in Christ, as part of His Mystical Body (present as the Catholic Church). May we ask for their intercessions daily, find inspiration in their lives, and, inflamed by their zeal for Christ and His Church we too may propagate His Kingship and glory throughout our surroundings.
Among these are some who have experienced holiness through a change of heart. The most famous of these is St. Paul of Tarsus from the Bible, the author of a multitude of Epistles in the New Testament who, once a fierce prosecutor of Christians, experienced his famous roadside vision of Christ en route to Damascus – and is blinded. Having later been infused with the gift of faith, he was baptized, renounces Second Temple Judaism, and is later ordained into the priestly ministry of Our Lord, teaching and exhorting his flock the goodness of God for the remainder of his life. Five Sundays ago at High Mass, the first reading, from his letter to the Ephesians contained this quote: “Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, which has been created according to God in justice and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:23)
Indeed, you can find expresses this very precept – to know, love and serve God – as a truth of Faith found in every Catholic catechism, which constitutes our principal purpose in this life. Part of that is to recognize our past sins, confess them, perform penance to atone for those misdeeds, seek to redevelop our personalities to live His will in word and deed – just as St. Alphonsus Liguori described in the fourth chapter of his treatise Uniformity With God’s Will. The male protagonist of the series Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai!, Yuuta Togashi, offers us insight to this theme.
God wills only our good; God loves us more than anybody else can or does love us. His will is that no one should lose his soul, that everyone should save and sanctify his soul: “Not willing that any should perish, but that all should return to penance.” “This is the will of God, your sanctification.”St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will, chapter 4.3
YUUTA TOGASHI: CHARACTER INFO
On the surface, Yuuta Togashi appears to be an average-looking high school boy. He’s very sociable, energetic, takes his studies seriously, and has a group of friends that support his endeavors. He’s compassionate, friendly and an easygoing individual. Were it not for the first episode, you’d think I’d be describing your typical anime high school student character. But really, he’s a transfer student to Icho Private High who willingly decided to pick this school to escape his middle school peers and make a better name for himself. You see, his past was not quite glamorous.
In middle school, Yuuta went through a case of chuunibyou, or “eighth-grader syndrome”, described as the state of when such a student begins to experience a radical personality change which enables them to do things without shame or self-regard in an attempt to stand out from others. Much to the chagrin of his parents, siblings, and the rest of the school, he adopted the persona of the “Dark Flame Master”, immersing his fantasies and reality together. He spent lots of money on the character’s cosplay, spoke in a threatening, deep voice, and sent cryptic messages to people, leaving him with no friends and a feeling of disillusionment. Sometime prior to the events of the series, he decides to stop acting like a fool, and moves away from all his former peers to avoid embarrassment. Yet his past does not escape him fully; he goes ballistic when someone brings up a memento of his “Dark Flame Master” days, or reminiscences about them.
Yuuta’s story spans two seasons, which chronicles his high school and romantic life, which sees him befriending folks like local gangsta Nibutani Shinka, a girl who, like him, is ashamed of her chuunibyou persona as “Mori Summer”; sleepyheaded senior Kumin Tsuyuri; and the two obnoxious chuunibyou leads themselves, the self-proclaimed wielder of “muh Tyrant’s Eye” Rikka Takanashi and subtle Maka Albarn (from Soul Eater) rip-off Sanae Dekkomori. Despite the former eventually becoming his girlfriend, he won’t hesitate to get her to try and minimize her overblown tendencies to get wrapped up in her own world.
BONDING OVER A NEW SLATE IN LIFE
Needless to say, that all does beg the question of why he started this whole façade in the first place – and that’s explained in the eighth episode of Chuunibyou. In this episode, it is revealed that Rikka’s personality is caused from a traumatic experience involving her father’s death, one which she refuses to accept. Engulfed in sorrow, she retreats into her shell and adopts “muh Tyrant’s Eye” as sort of a memory capsule about her past life. Touka, her sister, has long moved on from that, and unsuccessfully tries to violently force her into giving up what she sees as a childish charade. Nevertheless, Yuuta sympathizes with Rikka, and on the train back home, opens up more about his reason for absorbing himself in his old aesthetic.
Rikka: How did you come across the “Dark Flame Master”?
Yuuta: It all started when my friends were talking one time. They were all excited on being able to do all their fun things. I, on the other hand, felt nothing. Almost as if I was different from everyone else in this world.
Rikka: Your mind recalled memories from another world?
Yuuta: I was a stupid kid back then, so probably that’s what I thought.Yuuta reveals the origins of “Dark Flame Master”
Yuuta, in retrospect, describes his past days in debauched terms, having been so far engrossed with drunkenness over his over-sighted self-importance, borderline idolatrous obsession over his fantasies, and a riotous lifestyle not appreciated by family and peers. Much like the Prodigal Son of St. Luke’s Gospel, he would use everything at his expense to avoid his IRL duties, caring little for the things around him. Vowing to clock out of his cringe-inducing days, he keeps all his memories of his old past sealed away, suppresses any urge to indulge in the reminiscing of the “Dark Flame Master” days, and attempts to ensure that news of how he used to act don’t leak. In doing so, he wishes for his old persona to die, so to speak, wanting nothing more to do with them.
However, it’s not enough for him just to keep his dispositions to himself. He becomes sort of an apologist against others mimicking the same lifestyle that Rikka and Sanae have so enthusiastically embraced. In this he finds an ally in Nibutani, who bonds with him in episode 4 regarding their shared shame. Needless to say, the only difference with the two of them is that while Yuuta is more charitable and mild-mannered by leagues in his treatment of chuunibyou, the latter is engrossed in a sort of holy crusade against them, in particular Sanae who constantly torments her and refuses to believe that she is the true “Mori Summer”; making her more easily triggered and scummy, which is the reason why I opted out against making her the subject of this topic, no matter how rad I personally find her.
Apart from the many times he’s chastisted Rikka for her public displays of chuunibyou, iin episode 5, he and Nibutani, for example, wholeheartedly object to Kumin’s idea that chuunibyou seems fun:
Kumin: Why are you so desperate to escape it (chuunibyou)? Based on what Rikka and Sanae are doing, it seems like a lot of fun.
Nibutani / Yuuta: NO IT’S NOT DON’T YOU SAY THAT
Kumin: But why?
Nibutani / Yuuta: BECAUSE IT’S CRINGE DAWG
Nibutani: Being chuunibyou is like a cancer on your life! A tumor full of suffering and shame!
Yuuta: SAY NO MORE FAMYuuta and Nibutani expose the dangers of chuunibyou
What lessons can we learn from Yuuta’s search of what he considers “a normal high school life”, and how does St. Alphonsus’ treatise relate? In short, it highlights one of the key aspects of accepting God’s will into our lives: a resolve to turn away from our old, sinful ways and do better with His assistance – which is expressed nicely in the Act of Contrition we pray during confession, prior to the priest absolving our sins in Christ’s name.
UNIFORMITY WITH GOD’S WILL IS TO “PUT OFF THE OLD MAN” AND “PUT ON THE NEW MAN”
Many who strive for sainthood realize their human imperfections. As a matter of fact, St. Paul writes “For all have sinned, and do need the glory of God… Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time; that he himself may be just, and the justifier of him, who is of the faith of Jesus Christ.” (Romans 3:23, 26) All who are desiring to be reborn in the Spirit of personal holiness acknowledge their need for God to guide them in their lives, and set them on the straight and narrow path. This is reflected through St. Alphonsus, who, unlike the non-denominational Bible-believer who spouts the same generic “I used to be a hardcore drug abuser/porn consumer/ratchet partygoer before God found me destitute in my sins, and led me back to Him” stories, eloquently describes what means are needed for Christian perfection:
If, devout soul, it is your will to please God and live a life of serenity in this world, unite yourself always and in all things to the divine will. Reflect that all the sins of your past wicked life happened because you wandered from the path of God’s will. For the future, embrace God’s good pleasure and say to him in every happening: “Yea, Father, for so it hath seemed good in thy sight.”St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will, chapter 4.7
The key component is the embrace of “God’s good pleasure” – His grace, which the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X describes as the “…supernatural gift given to us without any merit of our own, but through the merits of Jesus Christ in order to gain eternal life”. St. Alphonsus dictates what many others have written regarding the cultivation of the spiritual life: one must will this intention, be truly contrite of heart, appeal to God directly and allow Him to enter our lives and direct our actions. To claim otherwise would be tantamount to professing outright heretical Pelagian nonsense; and on the other front, it is impossible to believe that one can be saved merely by performing good works, for these are without merit if done for vanity; or without use of our free will – which negates the impact of God on our lives.
It is through grace that God pulls us towards that which is good and pleasing, and avoids evil inclinations and actions. In choosing to accept it, we have certainty that He will guide us with everything that may be superficial towards our salvation. Realize that God does not demand the impossible for us, and as such He will never leave man to their own devices if they wish to follow Him fully. As He is a heavenly Father who cares for His creation, wills their good even in the midst of their woes, and earnestly desires that they may return and rule alongside Him in the next world, He provides us with multiple means to help us get there – readings of spiritual works by saints, the seven Sacraments of the Church, the Scriptures, and many other penances aimed at this end.
God surrounds us with his loving care lest we suffer eternal damnation: “O Lord, thou hast crowned us as with a shield of thy good will.” He is most solicitous for our welfare: “The Lord is solicitous for me.” What can God deny us when he has given us his own son? “He that spared not even his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how hath he not also, with him, given us all things?” Therefore we should most confidently abandon ourselves to all the dispositions of divine providence, since they are for our own good.St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will, chapter 4.4
When I think of Yuuta, I see a person who is trying with all their power to live his life accordingly to the will of God. His outbursts on his blackened past archetypes someone calling out to God from the depths, seeking forgiveness for the transgressions he has committed, and imploring His divine mercy. His declaration in the very first episode, to enact self-control and proper behavior, is full of zeal to no longer act under the pretense of foolishness, but only under the grace of the Holy Ghost. In castigating Rikka because of her chunnibyou shenanigans and being patient on working towards her, he performs a spiritual work of mercy of exhorting others towards a life of following His pathway rather than entertaining one’s fruitless delusions. While, yes, he deeply cares for her, and from time to time is willing to entertain her with his “Dark Flame Master” persona (though in an extremely limited capacity), it doesn’t overshadow his new goal to emerge a changed man, and distinguish himself from the rowdy person he was a year ago.
It’s a metaphor for the Christian’s spiritual life, a constant battle against temptation and seeking divine guidance to resist them – echoing St. John the Baptist who says “He (God) must increase; I must decrease.” (St. John 3:30). Yuuta’s uncouth past becomes a source of disappointment and negative contemplation. Thankfully he learns this, and repentant of it he takes the steps necessary to shed his old image and be born anew as someone else. He’s become a character that I’ve closely sympathized with in disposition. 7 years ago as a high school student, I had a far different set of ideals, unmitigated priorities, and worst of all, a lack of purpose in life and spirituality. Fast forward 7 years after I’ve graduated, and I can say with confidence that I can’t even recognize the person I was all those years ago – praise and thanks to God for this.
What more else can one ask of God than to persist in self-improvement, and resign to God’s Will? St. Alphonsus also provides some encouragement in this endeavor:
How fortunate you, kind reader, if you too act thus! You will surely become a saint. Your life will be calm and peaceful; your death will be happy. At death all our hope of salvation will come from the testimony of our conscience as to whether or not we are dying resigned to God’s will. If during life we have embraced everything as coming from God’s hands, and if at death we embrace death in fulfillment of God’s holy will, we shall certainly save our souls and die the death of saints.St. Alphonsus Liguori, Uniformity With God’s Will, chapter 4.9
Yuuta’s character ambitions is similar in parts to St. Augustine of Hippo, as seen through his autobiographical work, titled Confessions. Born to a pious Catholic mother, St. Monica, he spent his adult days engrossed in bad company, culminating in his brief apostasy from Christianity to the Manichean sect, which taught the blasphemous idea of a dual system of deities who created good and evil. Finding no solace in that, nor the secular philosophers of his day, he was drawn to Milan where he meets St. Ambrose, the city’s bishop, and touched by his preaching, reverts, much to the joy of his mother (who had prayed for his reversion every day), to the Catholic Faith. He is quickly promoted in the Church, and contributes a score of Christian works which defend doctrine, relate secular and heavenly matters together, and wielded a strong missionary zeal across the northern African plains.
Those who have read Confessions before, in part or whole, know that St. Augustine laments his choices before he found God, and is thankful He led him out of his sinful ways, and possibly, a worse fate. His story is an example that no matter how horrible our lives up until now have been – and everyone, myself included, has this – there is still hope for all of us to gain Heaven, if we cooperate with the grace of God and what He has for us. By clinging to, and imploring His help, and asking the assistance of his heavenly cohorts – especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was free from sin, we may go back on our unworthy associations, accomplish what God has planned for us in its fullness, and find the peace and happiness that rests in Him.
I will leave you all now with a beautiful prayer attributed to said saint, from a prayer book known as the Raccolta:
Lord Jesus, may I know myself and know Thee, and desire nothing save only Thee.Petitions of St. Augustine, from the 1910 edition of the Raccolta
May I hate myself and love Thee.
May I do everything for the sake of Thee.
May I humble myself and exalt Thee.
May I think of nothing except Thee.
May I die to myself and live in Thee.
May I receive whatever happens as from Thee.
May I banish self and follow Thee, and ever desire to follow Thee.
May I fly from myself and fly to Thee, that I may deserve to be defended by Thee.
May I fear for myself and fear Thee, and be among those who are chosen by Thee.
May I distrust myself and trust in Thee.
May I be willing to obey on account of Thee.
May I cling to nothing but to Thee. May I be poor for the sake of Thee.
Look upon me that I may love Thee.
Call me that I may see Thee, And ever and ever enjoy Thee.