November 24, 2009


It seems that a Monsignor Franco Perazzolo of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Culture called "New Moon" a "deviant moral vacuum." (The president of the Council is Archbishop Gianfranco Ravisi.)

The USCCB (U.S. Catholic Bishops) review* was nowhere near this harsh—I believe because they are taking it in the fantasy genre it is written in. They gave it a mild A-II rating (adults and adolescents) and briefly mentioned that the film contains "a hazy discussion about the possible loss of her [Bella's] soul. Edward [the vampire], we learn, believes that all his kind, no matter how courtly, are damned, though precisely what that means Melissa Rosenberg's script never tarries long enough to explore or explain." Um, Edward just "thinks" he's damned? I mean, wouldn't you KNOW something like that one way or the other? He seems to be confused about being alive or dead, also. Or maybe there's more to come in the sequels that will explain?

At first, all this talk of damnation (there is more of it) didn't quite follow Judaeo-Christian understandings, so I just dismissed it. But then I started to think: But how are young people (and others) interpreting it? Religious ignorance is so rampant, will they even get that this is NOT following Judaeo-Christian understandings? Will they dwell on this at all? What is unsettling is that Bella is pretty adamant that she doesn't care about her soul. If she has to "lose her soul" to be with Edward, she makes it clear that she doesn't care. But what is meant by "soul" here? Are young people going to get the idea that they should "give up their soul" if needs be to be with the love of their lives? Maybe. Do they really know what "giving up one's soul" means? Maybe. So, perhaps the question here is: Why don't young people know what "soul" and "giving up one's soul" means (if they don't)? Are we teaching them so that they can dissect the semantics for themselves with a truly Christian understanding? Are we talking about movies at all WITH young people? It's true that--unfortunately--people ARE getting much of their religious education from whatever religious trends and tidbits are floating around in pop culture (USA Today___________), but shouldn't we be addressing the cause of this religius ignorance and confusion (nonexistent or deficient catechesis) instead of trying to kill the messenger (that didn't come from our camp anyway)? Another example of spiritual half-truths (I'm sure not maliciously intended to deceive) can be found on the otherwise excellent show "Medium." The show is an exemplar of a great marriage, realistic and loving family life (Patricia Arquette's character and husband are raising three girls). The show's title, "Medium," refers to the fact that "Mrs. Dubois" (Patricia Arquette) is a medium who gets futuristic dreams of crimes and communicates with ghosts. Bad people go to a "bad place" after they die. People live on after death. After about a year of watching this show I suddenly realized--OMGosh, communicating with the dead in this way is forbidden! Mrs. Dubois, however, doesn't conduct seances or anything in order to communicate with the dead. In fact, they find her. But still, there is no mention of God who allows any kind of "good contact" that might occur between us and those who have gone before us.

What is also unsettling is that the comments made by the Monsignor from the Pontifical Council for Culture ("culture," especially) shows, perhaps, a lack of understanding of basic literary genres, or an overriding of this understanding due to a kind of fear-filled literalism. I understand his concern for "real souls," but this pastoral approach, to my mind, will not be effective in the long run. Why not, instead, ENGAGE the world of metaphor and moral imagination? Edward cares about Bella's soul, even if she doesn't. He has more information, life experience than she does. I was told by some young friends that they watch horror films because it makes them ask how much they value their own lives. They ask themselves what they would do in the same dire situation. Even with faulty "theology," one can ask these very real questions.

Do we have a problem in today's world with literalism and the loss of an understanding and appreciation of metaphor? Oh yes! Fundamentalism implies literalism, and our world is gravitating more and more toward all kinds of fundamentalism: religious, scientific, political, etc., so the Monsignor may be thinking of this situation as well. But, again, I don't think the pastoral answer is to join the world in putting nails in the coffin of metaphor. We are lost without metaphor. Neuroscientists tell us that the brain works completely with metaphors. That's how we are able to understand anything and everything. And the mysteries of our Faith can only be understood/expressed through symbols, signs and sacraments.

The Vatican puts out documents on the media that embrace the "Media Literacy Education position" with regard to media. There seems to be a conflict here. Perhaps there is concern that the SAME WORDS are used ("soul," "damnation") as real theology. But, again, the world of vampires is the world of make-believe. The authors of vampire stories simply make all this stuff up. If they didn't use some of the same words we use in reality, we wouldn't get any general idea of what they're talking about at all. Could some people get confused by the use of these real words that have a very precise meaning in Catholic theology? Yes. But, again, we need to remember that the world of fantasy is an "in between" world--neither reality NOR the heavenly, mystical realities of our Faith. Does an "in between" world exist? God has not revealed any such world to us (just as He hasn't revealed the existence of aliens if they exist). Therefore, we know all that we need to know. The Scriptures and our Catholic Faith are reasonably clear about "the last things." We don't need to start wondering if elements of FICTION actually exist. THIS, to my mind, would be a waste of time. (It seems that the upcoming film "Lovely Bones," although not a fantasy film, is also going to take us to an imaginative "in between" world of what-happens-after-death.)

Can we bounce all of these stories off of Catholic theology to see how they match up? Certainly! But are we actually expecting to get decent, correct, orthodox theology from a fantasy movie? I think it would be cool if this intriguing series ("Twilight") COULD play off good theology—just adding some fantastical creatures, but so far it doesn't seem to be doing so. (Also, the lack of any mention of God so far.) Series author Stephanie Meyers is also a Mormon (which is not a Christian religion because they don't believe that Christ is God), so I don't think we should expect any traditional understandings of Judaeo-Christian beliefs here, if she is even trying at all to put some "real theology" in her tales. And it's known that Meyers makes up her own vampire lore (not following traditional or already-established vampire tropes). Vampire lore doesn't follow ANY real "theology" because it is fantasy, just like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Irish fairy stories, etc. However, the fantasy genre may use some of the same language of theology, some "real world" terms, which can be confusing IF we don't keep in mind that we're in the fantasy genre.

The book "Imagining Faith with Kids--Unearthing Seeds of the Gospel in Children's Stories" is a great primer on how to use fantasy, fiction, fairy tales and fables to activate "moral imagination" in these realms:

[Full disclosure: I have not read the "Twilight" books.] I thoroughly enjoyed this uneven film (as I did the first movie). (To see my review of the first installment in the vampire series, "Twilight," just google "Kristen Stewart" in the upper left hand search box of this blog.) I'm sad that Catherine Hardwicke is not the director (she directed the first movie and set the tone which this movie keeps). The special effects are not all that more exciting than Hardwicke's. It seems Hardwicke was not given a decent-enough budget to do the SPFX she wanted because the studio was unsure if "Twilight" would be a hit. Yes, you heard that right.

Here's what's wrong with the film: There are huge logic gaps and weird continuity issues. There are so many rules governing vampires and werewolves and humans' interaction with them that it's hard to follow, BUT the rules also make for exciting plot points and quick "turns." The rules also have logic gaps—especially the mind-reading thing. In addition to the rules, there are lots of promises being made and partially broken, depending on how the characters interpret them. I don't want to make any lawyer jokes here, but this film could sure use some on screen. Or at least an ethicist.

Another quirk of the movie is the bad dialogue moments (frequent) and melodrama (rampant). Of course the books are known for their bad dialogue, so I'm sure screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg is only being faithful to the text. But the movie acknowledges its own camp somehow, and I'm sure INTENDS us to laugh at all the wrong moments (and right ones). Sometimes, "New Moon" is like a really yummy B-movie, including all the awkward, unnatural, obvious, bad blocking. (And Robert Pattinson, who plays Edward, is perfecting his "Snoopy Vulture" look again.)

Kristen Stewart (Bella) holds the whole thing together. Without her supernaturally professional acting, the Twilight movie series might be a big mess. And she makes it look easy. Kristen takes lemons and makes not lemonade but lemon meringue pie.

One of the "Twilight" series biggest hooks is the quest for immortality. We are all on this quest, some with full awareness, some with only dim awareness. Bella, a very ordinary young woman, suddenly finds herself beloved and in love. This changes everything. But she will grow old, she will die. How can she preserve this love? How will she make sure she'll never be separated from her love? If we don't believe that strongly in love or immortality, we're going to fill this "hole in our chest" with other things. Maybe small pleasures. My own moral imagination asks: Jesus Christ DOES offer me immortality (the human soul is immortal, but we must "cooperate with grace" to insure a HAPPY eternity for ourselves) and holiness and heaven--but first He offers me love, HIS perfect, overwhelming, ecstatic, never-ending, ever-increasing, free, full, faithful, fruitful love. Am I as passionate about receiving that love? Am I as driven as Bella to seize what is "mine"? I think one of the biggest reasons we are so lukewarm in our faith (although I love how young people today are reclaiming the word "devout Catholic" and self-identifying as such!) is that we've made heaven and the afterlife about US. I will go to MY happy place and be with MY loved ones and do what I like to do. Forgetting Someone? Heaven is primarily about God! About being WITH God. Heaven primarily IS God! That doesn't inspire us with warm, fuzzy feelings? That's not a big impetus? Then something needs to change. We obviously need to develop our relationship with God here on earth. Embarrassed that we've kind of forgotten this is what heaven is? Don't be. Even we, His dumb brides, forget. There is much working against our proper understanding of heaven and our desire to be with God. (See "Screwtape Letters" by C. S. Lewis.) It will take a lifetime (however long we are granted) to expand our capacity to receive more and more of His love and return it.

The true beauty of the "Twilight" series is the URST—Hollywood's acronym for "unresolved sexual tension." Paradoxically, without sex, it is even MORE about loving the WHOLE person. Because many factors keep Bella and Edward apart (and Bella and Jacob), they show their love in many other ways. WAY more interesting that hopping in the sack after the first kiss. Or before. The characters have to…brace yourself…TALK to each other! LOVE in the "Twilight" series is heroic. LOVE is always looking out for the good of the other and doing what's right for them. It's unselfish LOVE, sacrificial love. That's what makes "Twilight" so "Theology of the Body." It's also LOVE from a girl/woman's perspective. A rarity in male-dominated Hollywood. This is the kind of love WE want to see.

Edward and Bella find everything in each other. The worth of a human life is stressed. We see that love is the measure of a human person. Teens get infatuated and obsess over their crushes and can tend to go to extremes in their young loves, but they are right that love is everything, the best thing, not even a thing.
"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible to himself; his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."
--John Paul II


--Werewolf beefcake!

--This is going to sound really, really strange, but I've been thinking about going veggie and "New Moon" clinched it for me. If those vampires can go human-veggie, I can certainly go animal-veggie. I guess this is one of those examples of life imitating art. It's my gift to Baby Jesus this year. I'm not gonna eat the ox and lamb.

--Is Bella going to "commit suicide" if she becomes a vampire? It's interesting that when the Cullens family was voting on whether she should "go vampire," one member of the family said: "It's not a life I would have chosen for myself. I wish someone had been there to vote 'no' for me. So, 'no.'" Many negative reviews say this is a "suicide-obsessed movie." I can kind of see their point--I mean, what about Bella's Dad and Mom and friends if she "goes vampire"? But aren't we supposed to give everything for love? Aren't we supposed to do whatever it takes for love, for the pearl of great price (TRUE suicide aside)? Did Jesus commit suicide on the cross? (He could very, very easily have avoided it, naturally and supernaturally.) Are the Christians martyrs who could have avoided martyrdom (without denying their faith) suicides?

--Is it just me or does Pattinson look a little like David Bowie?

--Love the vampire's golden eyes.

--Taylor Lautner is really developing as an actor. He's from Grand Rapids, MI, and is part Potawatomi! Long hair or short? Long.

--A fan's sign at "New Moon" premiere (this fan favored Jacob over Edward): "Real men don't sparkle."

--Bella is always shedding blood. Yeesh. You think she'd be more careful around all those vamps.
--Great quote: "It's just blood, Bella. No big deal."

--Bella's Dad's great advice: "Sometimes you have to learn to love what's good for you."

--The highest use of something can be to sacrifice it.

--Love the "Elysian Fields"!

--Love Victoria's hair. And clothes.
--Bella: "Are the fairytales true? Is anything normal and sane?" This is a really, really great line. Think about it.
--How many ways can you insult a werewolf (with dog jokes)?
--Before Jacob ALMOST kisses Bella, he says something in his native tongue. Cool.
--"Twilight" maintains that people can live/love ardently even without sex, even when separated.
--"Theology of the Body" puts the love back in sex.
--What BETTER vampire music can one have than OPERA??
--Bad vampire dude to Bella when she offers her life for Edward's: "You'd give up your life for one of us? A soul-less monster?"
--"Twilight" maintains that people are very special.
--"Twilight" maintains that every little thing in a relationship is special.
--Do GUYS like this movie???? (feedback, please) My 16-year-old nephew says: "Are you crazy?"

--I've been reading some (negative) Christian reviews of the movie. They say it portrays the most immature kind of love. "Immature" or "the raw essence of love"? Remember--love in "Twilight" is always sacrificial, agape--as well as eros and philia all at the same time. That's kind of perfect love (see Pope Benedict's encyclical "God is Love").

--One thing that makes "Twilight" super "unrealistic" is that there is literally NOTHING ELSE going on in the movie except lovesick brooding. jobs? cleaning the house? But then again, this is fantasy. Did you ever see Orks brushing their teeth in "Lord of the Rings?" It's just way too mundane for the genre. It's actually kind of fun to see life pared down, stripped away to its essence of love and longing. What IF we really lived out of that core at every moment?

*That unfortunately called Jacob "Bella's American Indian" friend twice. We don't say "Chinese" or "Black" friend over and over, do we? And isn't the term "Native American"?

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The first U.S. priest makes his profession in the Institute of Jesus the Priest--founded by Blessed James Alberione, SSP, for diocesan priests. Fr. Mike Harrington is a priest of the Archdiocese of Boston and is the head of its vocation office. For more info:

Jesus the Priest Institute: Profession of Fr. Michael Harrington Video posted November 23, 2009 by mkerry

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November 22, 2009


'Tis the season to be jolly, light the Advent wreath (I mean the CANDLES on the wreath), open the little doors on the Advent calendar, sing the "O" Antiphons, send out Christmas cards and newsletters, pray the Christmas novena, donate to the Salvation Army, bake Christmas cookies, re-gift fruitcake AND watch your favorite Christmas movies! Here are the results of an informal poll (thanks to Facebook, Twitter and random conversations) of folks' (young and old) favorite Christmas flicks. (All the movies mentioned in this article are available on DVD.)

First things first: People of a "certain age," (myself included) made sure to mention "those 70's TV specials" that were de rigueur viewing even in homes (like mine) where TV viewing was at a minimum.

--"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"*—The granddaddy of all stop motion movies! First aired in 1964, it has been telecast every year since, making it the longest running Christmas TV special. "Rudolph" gave us the Burl Ives snowman and the abominable snow monster.
--"A Charlie Brown Christmas"*—animation, 1965, has aired more times on CBS than "The Wizard of Oz." Charles Schultz, creator of "The Peanuts," fought to have Linus' recitation of the Gospel of Luke 2:8-14 included. And is it really Christmas until we've heard that jazz soundtrack?
--"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"*—animation, 1966. Probably Dr. Seuss' most wickedly funny and poignant work. The theme song, "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," can't be beat.
--"Little Drummer Boy"*—stop motion, 1968
--"Frosty the Snowman"—animation, 1969. Like other Christmas TV specials, it's based on a song.
--"Santa Claus is Coming to Town"*—stop motion, 1970
--"The Year without a Santa Claus"—stop motion, 1974. Suddenly, a new Christmas TV special appeared (before a continuing avalanche of them). It wasn't as good as the other specials, but we loved the songs "Heat Miser" and "Snow Miser." People of a certain age can still sing them on command.

What was THE most beloved movie? Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life,"* hands down, by a wide margin.

Second place:

--"A Muppet Christmas Carol"*—Jim Henson and Co. did Dickens proud. This is a masterpiece in felt (with two live actors, Michael Cane and his ex-fiancee). It's also a musical comedy. When Mr. Scrooge walks through the town square, everyone gets into the act singing about their distaste for the tightwad—even a wagon full of vegetables. Bob Cratchit's wife (the fashionable Miss Piggy) lists among Scrooge's faults "badly dressed." But I dare you not to sob when Tiny Tim (Kermit Jr.) sings and (century-old SPOILER ALERT!) dies.

Tied for third place were no less than six movies:

--"White Christmas"--1954 (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) I have a huge problem with this movie because they didn't let Danny Kaye be Danny Kaye. That is, funny.
--"Miracle on 34th Street"--(the old and new versions) 1937 and 1994
--"A Christmas Story"—1983, you know, with the high-heeled woman's leg lamp and "you'll shoot your eye out" BB gun. Guys in particular seem to favor this movie.

--"Elf"*—2003 (Will Ferrell) I thought all the Christmas classics had been made until this one. What IF we took Christmas seriously (like elves and kids do) and lived every day like it was Christmas? If you don't already, you'll have a "favorite part" every five minutes. Totally quotable. "The sea of swirly twirly gum drops…." "SANTA!!! I know him!!!!!" "There's room for everyone on the nice list." A few nods to "Rudolph" TV special in it.
--"Home Alone"—(1 & 2) 1990 and 1992. Because it happens at Christmas, many consider it a Christmas movie. If you check out this Christmas Movie website, that's considered fair game to be called a Christmas movie! http://www.http//
--"A Christmas Carol"*—Dickens ("the older ones")

Other favorites (in descending order of popularity):

--"The Christmas Shoes"—2002. Based on a book and song of the same title. This tearjerker is about a boy who tries to buy a pair of Christmas shoes for his dying mother to "meet Jesus" in. A sequel has been made called "The Christmas Blessing," about when the little boy grows up.
--"Polar Express"—computer animation, 2004. This movie totally depressed me, especially the sea of little red-coated elves that looked like devils in the ninth circle of hell. I also know that this movie was made primarily in order to try out new technology. However, I have met someone who had a truly spiritual experience watching this movie, so, God can work through anything and "to each his own"!
--"The Nativity Story"—2006. A plain and simple narrative of what it might have all "looked like." The end becomes a bit more "Hollywood." St. Joseph steals the movie, but he didn't need to, because now he has his own movie! "Joseph of Nazareth" 2009.
--"Holiday Inn"—1944 (Bing Crosby)
--"Best Christmas Pageant Ever"*—1983 (Loretta Swit) From the 1972 book "The Worst Kids in the World." A bunch of scruffy kids find their way into a school play and everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas.
--"Fourth Wiseman"*—1985 (Martin Sheen) Paulist Productions—based on the short story, "The Other Wise Man," by Henry van Dyke. The Bible doesn't say there were three wise man. Only that there were three gifts. And where the purported bones of the Magi are preserved (Cathedral of Cologne, Germany) there are four skulls. Hmm….
--"The Juggler of Notre Dame"*—1984, Paulist Productions—based on a French legend of the 12th century. Simple and beautiful.
--"It Came Upon the Midnight Clear"—1984 (Mickey Rooney)—A California cop takes his grandson to New York City to see a white Christmas.
--"Bells of St. Marys"—1945 (Bing Crosby as a priest, Ingrid Bergman as a nun)
--"Miracle of the Bells"—1948 (Fred McMurray)
--"The House without a Christmas Tree"—1972—(Jason Robards)—A little girl living in Nebraska in 1946 wants nothing more than a Christmas tree.
--"A Child's Christmas in Wales"*—1987 (based on Dylan Thomas' recollections) Do you get all old-fashioned at Christmas time? This one's for you. Delightful.

Others movies, mentioned once:

"Mr. Krueger's Christmas (Jimmy Stewart and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir)", "The Holly and the Ivy" 1952 (British), "Man in the Santa Claus Suit" (Fred Astaire), "Smudge (1922!)," "Scrooged" (Bill Murray, "the epic ending"), "The Night They Saved Christmas," "Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey," "Santa Clause" movies with Tim Allen, "The Bishop's Wife" (Denzel Washington), "Martin the Cobbler" (claymation from a Tolstoy tale)

If you like Hallmark-style movies:

--"Christmas Angel"--filmed in Chicago
--"12 Dogs of Christmas"
--"The Note" (there's a sequel coming!)
--"Christmas Card"--a rather sweet romance
--"Christmas Child"

Totally esoteric department:

--"Space Above and Beyond" 1995, "River of Stars"—A Sci-Fi TV episode

Christmas movies that didn't get any love (weren't mentioned at all):

--"How the Grinch Stole Christmas"—live action, Jim Carrey
--"Christmas Vacation"—Chevy Chase (although I didn't ask my brother and he definitely would have mentioned )
--"The Nightmare Before Christmas"—Tim Burton
--"Jingle All the Way"—the Governator

Sr. Helena's picks (that weren't mentioned):

--"Mystery of the Three Kings"* 2002, American PBS/Questar—we know a lot more than you might think about the Magi and the star (astronomers weigh in)! There is also a new documentary called "Star of Bethlehem," produced by Steve McAveety, but its information conflicts with this documentary. There also seems to be an attempt in "Star" to use the Scriptures as a science textbook, so I recommend "Mystery of the Three Kings."
--"One Magic Christmas"*—1985, (Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton) A down-on-their-luck little family has few prospects for Christmas. Stanton is a black-clad cowboy angel who plays his harmonica in a tree. And it totally works.
--"Joyeux Noel"*—2006. The true story of WWI soldiers from France, Germany and Scotland calling their own little cease-fire and fraternizing on Christmas.

Sr. Helena's musical Christmas DVD picks:

--The Nutcracker Ballet*
--Celtic Woman*
--Any British boys choir*

--"Smoky Mountain Christmas"*—music video of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains in the snow with wonderful Appalachian folk instruments playing Christmas carols: hammered dulcimer, etc.
--"Christmas Angel--A Story on Ice" (featuring Dorothy Hamill and Mannheim Steamroller music. DOROTHY HAMILL, people).

Sr. Helena's picks FOR THE KIDS. There are a bunch of older, Christian animated films that are quite well done:

--Hannah-Barbera's Greatest Adventure Bible Series "The Nativity,"* full, old school, classic comic book style animation. The story of Christmas, straight up. Grand!
--CCC of America's "Nicholas—the Boy Who Became Santa"
--Veggie Tales' "The Star of Christmas," "The Toy that Saved Christmas"
--"The Story of Silent Night"*
--"The Town That Forgot About Christmas"*

Sr. Helena's "not sure about because I never saw it or forget if I like it" picks:

--"Prancer"—featuring LIVE reindeer! Reindeer are soooo magical.
--"Noelle"—Christian movie from a couple of years ago. I think there's a priest in it.
--Some movie with an older Loretta Young (no pun intended) as the family matriarch. They're all unhappy and are feuding.
--Some made for TV movie that's a humorous take-off on "A Christmas Carol." I remember they spelled Carol like "Karol," the name of the character. Anyway, Kathy Griffin is one of the three visiting Christmas angels, and when Karol asks about the people on the street: "Can they see me?" Angel Kathy says: "No. They're walking around, looking real, but they're not. Like people in L.A."

Is there such a thing as "Advent movies"?

Well, a lot of Christmas movies actually take place during Advent, but someone mentioned The Walton's "Homecoming." It's a tradition for his family to watch it while they put up the tree! There are also two series with Advent "clips": "Advent Calendar on DVD—A Christmas Countdown for December" and "Advent Calendar on DVD 2—Christmas Carols Edition." "Stories of Christmas"*—Fr. Tony Scannell, OFM, and Fr. Murray Bodo, OFM.

*Sr. Helena highly recommends. 5 candy canes.

November 14, 2009


Fr. Thomas Loya, November 14, 2009
[Sr. Helena's useless comments in brackets]

for archived video of this class and past classes:

This TOB series is applying TOB to everyday issues. We've covered "gay marriage," healthcare, women and priesthood, etc. We can apply a sacramental/Catholic worldview to everything.

Since the 16th century, we have a veil over our eyes and don't see things in a sacramental worldview any more. We see everything ONLY through a scientific-rationalist lens [which is minimalist and impoverishing!] So now we don't have the right view of nature, the human person, reality, anything! We no longer see things as integrated: body and spirit.

It's interesting that atheists and the sexual revolution say the same thing we're saying: "I AM my body." But they stop there. We would continue and say "I AM my body AND my soul. Together." My body delivers my WHOLE person.

We have taken love/sexuality/body out of the heart of the Trinity and divorced it from any context, and so we can do whatever we want with it: redefine, use, abuse, etc. AND we've left a gaping hole in the Trinity so our view of God is incomplete, and we don't understand how these two "things" could possibly go together. Sex is dirty and God is holy, right?

Passage from "Book of Tobit" in the Bible—Sarah and Tobias' wedding night. [You've gotta read this whole book!] Tobias: "You know I don't take this wife of mine for lust." Lust is always bad—it's treating someone as an object for our own self-gratification; it appropriates the object of lust. Desire sees that something/someone is good and wants it, but always with respect, boundaries, treating persons as persons.

Even in the "good old days" (pre-Vatican II) of the Church's past, marriage was sometimes seen as a just a place to legitimize your lust*, unbridled concupiscence [especially on the part of the man]. This attitude caused true abuse of wives and thus even pushed women toward contraception!


*This was never part of Church teaching, but rather an attitude and practice.

There were some good things about the approach of the pre-Vatican II Church to sex and even the sexual revolution got some things right (emphasis on the person, the personal, mutuality).

It's all about INTEGRATION.

p. 606 TOB text: The language of the body is the language of the liturgy. Because both have their source in God.
p. 612 TOB text: The language of the liturgy elevates marriage. "Conjugal life, in some sense, becomes liturgy."

The ONE FLESH UNION finds its context in the EUCHARIST which finds its context in the SACRIFICE OF THE CROSS which finds its consummation in the HEAVENLY WEDDING FEAST. Everything is all about one thing: THE SPOUSAL MYSTERY (GOD'S LOVE). LITURGY is where this is all played out. That's why THE EUCHARIST is the "source and summit" of our life.

[We can just vaguely talk about God's love, but how does God love?] Spousally!!!! God loves us freely, fully, faithfully and fruitfully.

God recreated the human race in Jesus and Mary, mystically. Fulton Sheen: "How did old humanity begin? Nuptials. How did the new humanity begin? Nuptials. Jesus, the new Adam, looked down from the Cross at the new Eve. The Church was born from His side. The blood and water from Jesus' side was the seminal fluid of the new Church." "Marriage bed of the cross was one of pain, not pleasure."

When did Jesus call Mary "woman"? At WEDDING of Cana and on the CROSS. (Two weddings.)

Icon (triangle)—Jesus, Mary, John (John represents the new offspring) "Behold your mother." "It is consummated."

Mary and Joseph were living the heavenly marriage on earth. It was a virginal marriage. [Virginal means totally God's, body and soul. Marriage means total union, body and soul. We will be able to do both in heaven, but not on earth!]

The imagery of the Passion is Christ the Bridegroom, stripped, crowned, hands bound. We tend to look at it very literally: he was being tortured. But what was it mystically? In Eastern Church, Holy Week is "week of the Bridegroom."

"Christ emerges from the tomb like a bridegroom coming from the bridal chamber and fills the women with joy." –Eastern Easter Sunday liturgy, written by saints.

[Everything is not the same. That's why we need to integrate it.]

Church architecture is patterned after the Jewish temple. The Eastern Church has retained this. [And didn't God give the directions for the Temple?] [Fr. Loya describes the interior of the Eastern churches.]

The priest only went into the holy of holies for the loftiest of reasons.

Liturgy is about "something" on high coming down to us.

The priest faces East [all churches were built facing the East, but now Latin Rite doesn't do it any more] and only turn to the people for the Word, the Eucharist and the Blessing. These 3 things are the acts of insemination: planting something in the Bride.

The very architecture, rhythm of the liturgy matches REALITY, bodily and mystically.

Father Loya highly recommends book "Spirit of Liturgy" by Cardinal Ratzinger, p. 78 & 79: "The idea of priest facing the people is a misunderstanding of the Roman basilica, the Last Supper. In antiquity, the presider never faced the people. The table was horse-shoe shaped. The way we are doing liturgy now is over-emphasizing the role of the priest and lessening the role of God." Ratzinger: liturgy becomes a "self-enclosed circle." The circle model is more feminine. The male role drops out and we LOSE THE SPOUSAL MEANING / REALITY / ACTION. [By overemphasizing the male role, everything else gets out of whack, the feminine pushes back, perhaps even takes over, and then there is a power struggle.]

[We see things literally, one-dimensionally and so we lose the mystical reality. And "mystical" means "the MOST real."]

If liturgy goes well, everything proceeds forth from that. Liturgy informs life.

Posture/gesture/sound, everything in liturgy is meant to get us to participate in the spousal reality.

The Tridentine Mass had abuses creeping in—the priest/altar boy were doing their own thing. The people were doing their own thing. Vatican II wanted to fix that. Latin is still the language of the Church. But vernacular is OK. We weren't supposed to change the fundamental nature of the liturgy, the theology of the liturgy.

We need to listen to God / the Church / the Bible about our Church, not what the world says about our Church.

[We can't be "all one" in the sense of a radical egalitarianism because we're NOT all the same and we know that instinctively and so we struggle to be distinct when that distinctiveness is obliterated.]

[It's not just "balance," it's "integration."]

#1617—CCC—Everything is about the nuptial mystery!

Everything IS "sexual" in the sense of the Spousal Mystery.

Evdokimov—good Russian theologian to read (book on womanhood, book on love) but he does go off on contraception (won't say it's ALWAYS instrinsically evil)

Love hurts…..

Gender is theology, theology is gender. Gender is everything. "Male and female he created them." The order of creation is clearly gendered. Are their all kinds of gender confusions and disorders? Yes! But there are all kinds of other disorders in creation as well.

You can't change the divine order, you can only pretend!

The husband must love the bride, not understand her.

November 13, 2009


Church must adapt to the way media are impacting culture, pope says

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service VATICAN CITY (CNS) --

New media are not just instruments for communicating, but they are having a huge impact on culture -- on the way people interact and think, Pope Benedict XVI said."This constitutes a challenge for the church, called to proclaim the Gospel to people of the third millennium," the pope said Oct. 29 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The content of the Gospel message remains unchanged, he said, but the church must learn how to transmit that message to new generations and must do so by taking advantage of the new technology and new attitudes toward communications. Pope Benedict said one of the marks of the new media culture is its multimedia and interactive structure.

New technology is not leading to developments only in television or radio or the Internet, but is "gradually generating a kind of global communications system" in which media are used together and the audience participates in generating content, he said. "I want to take this occasion to ask those in the church who work in the sphere of communications and have responsibility for pastoral guidance to take up the challenges these new technologies pose for evangelization," the pope said.

Pope Benedict encouraged all producers and users of media "to promote a culture of respect for the dignity and value of the human person, a dialogue rooted in the sincere search for truth (and) for friendship that is not an end in itself, but is capable of developing the talents of each person to put them at the service of the human community. "The pontifical council, he said, is called to study the new media culture and offer Catholics ethical guidance so that they recognize the importance of the communications media and use it effectively to spread the Gospel.

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November 1, 2009


This is a triumph of a film. And I don’t think I’ve ever used that word for a film before. “The 13th Day” was screened here at the 1st Annual John Paul II Film Festival in Miami: British producer Natasha Howes (birthday: May 13, feast of Our Lady of Fatima) was present.
I was prepared not to like this film, and very apprehensive about not liking it because I was a panelist. Two friends had already seen it and didn’t seem to know what to do with the film, how to react to it. I knew it was in black and white, and not only that, it was presented in the noir genre. Although I’m a fan of b/w, I know that the younger generation is not, and I fully expected something sensationalized, and perhaps amateurish. I also love the oldie-goldie movie “Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima,” and consider it definitive. I couldn’t imagine anything topping it or even coming close. All of my fears were unwarranted.

“The 13th Day” was created to spread the message of Fatima (a wealthy benefactor is making this his life’s mission, and approached Natasha who connected him with the Higgins brothers, Ian and Dominic, who wrote, directed, shot and edited the film). It was going to be a ten-minute informational short, but it morphed into a feature film. The Brothers Higgins (our new Catholic Coen brothers?) have a very particular artistic view and have combined older film-making techniques and sensibilities (think “Passion of Joan of Arc,” “Citizen Kane,” “Diary of a Country Priest,” with a pinch of Westerns thrown in) with modern digital film making capabilities. The result? Stunning genius and a truly intense religious and spiritual experience. This would make an excellent retreat film.

I don’t particularly care for the above-mentioned films from which “13th Day” draws. However, “13th Day” has made me appreciate this style of film and actually enjoy it. That’s talent. (Much the way the movies “Moonstruck” and “Life is Beautiful” changed my mind about opera and made me understand it and like it.)

This is a highly stylized film. Ultra-dramatic blocking, soft focus, chiaroscuro, use of surreal, almost-colorized color, all help us focus on what CANNOT be seen. The choice of a kind of serious, spooky, supernatural thriller tone (replete with requisite ravens) is rigidly adhered to. And why not? We’re talking grave spiritual warfare here: World War I, World War II, hell—what matters could be more weighty? And real? However, the film doesn’t feel stiff. It is luminous. The actors get to emote as the camera lingers on the human face. The three children are first generation Portuguese non-actors, and they give natural, realistic performances, almost in contrast to their more polished adults counterparts. Our Lady’s face is beautiful, luminescent and glimpsed through bright white light. This film portrays Our Lady of Fatima almost as Our Lady of Sorrows. But it makes sense—the world was enduring incredible suffering during the Great War, and Our Lady could see, in God, the future suffering of the 20th century.

The clothing, especially, is utterly realistic. The story is told in a simple, straightforward, increasingly spell-binding way. (Some in my theater who did not know the story of OLF missed a few pieces of the story—their fault; but the “3 secrets” are only visualized without explanation that these ARE the secrets—moviemakers’ fault.) The audio is crisp and staccato.

The voiceover of adult Sr. Lucia (now a Carmelite nun) draws us through the events, and although I usually would have agreed with one panelist (who dislikes voiceover, and as a film purist myself, voiceover is NOT the visual medium of film: “show, don’t tell”), I found that this extraordinary visit from heaven adapted itself well to a spiritual memoir—“This truly happened to me. I saw her with my own eyes….” It makes the supernatural less at a remove—“A long time ago, three little children….” I am curious now to know how much of the narration was Lucia’s actual account.

Another panelist (a professional in the field, as was the other panelist) who works in Catholic young adult ministry was disappointed that the film wasn’t more “mainstream.” He seemed to think that it wouldn’t appeal to young adults. But judging from the little sprouts in the audience (see below), this might not be the case. “13th Day” is something so entirely different, it grabs attention.

My two favorite scenes are: 1) when Jacinta dances in prison (a foretaste of heaven—when saints and repentant sinners unite)—and weren’t all the sacrifices and penances the children were making FOR sinners? 2) the old woman who doesn’t fear the miracle of the sun because she knows her God is good. What an image of standing, enduring the “day of the Lord”! (When you hear the “poof” of the flashbulbs and see the still photos of the miracle of the sun, those are real pictures from 1917.)

The special effects are exciting and made me think: why SHOULDN’T we be using SPFX for the Divine? (And not just for monsters, explosions, witchcraft and destruction.) I love the SPFX in the movie “St. Patrick” when St. Patrick duels it out with the druids.

There is much time for reflection during the deliberately-paced shots and scenes. One can’t help but examine one’s conscience, but not in a morbid way. When Lucia is asked: “Are the secrets bad or good?” She pauses: “Bad for some, good for others.” That’s just a fact. And one may find oneself wishing to pray more, to make sacrifices to save souls as Our Lady asked. This film truly communicates faith, communicates the reality of God, the eternal stakes—a difficult task for the screen. And perhaps we should learn to be afraid of what is true horror.

And now, about the kids in the audience. There were a lot of tweens (9-12 yr olds), and one little girl, Lulu, was even celebrating her birthday with her friends at the film. It dawned on me that the protags were kids! (I would have loved to have made it more "spiritual" by questioning them: “What would you have done if Our Lady appeared to you?” “Do you think you would have the courage to go through what those kids went through?” etc., but I tried to keep to more strictly “film criticism.”
ME: “You guys (kids) aren’t supposed to like black and white. Did you like it?”
KID: “The black and white was OK. It was a very emotional experience for me.”
ME: “Were you ever scared?”
KID: “Yes, a little—when the ground opened up to show hell, and when the hand from hell grabbed her.”
The kids really wanted to talk about the movie, and when producer Natasha was fielding questions, the young people wanted explanations about what different scenes meant. I kept thinking: “Wow—wouldn’t it be great if we had religious film festivals like this all over the country and got the kids in the audience talking?”

This is not a terribly fanciful film. The characters of the children were researched along with various anecdotes that find their way into the movie.

I could go on and on about this film. But when you buy the DVD this December, make sure you watch it with your friends on a big screen. And pray a rosary afterward. Mary asked for 1) the rosary to be prayed for world peace 2) prayers and penance for the conversion of sinners 3) conversion of Russia. We need to continue to pray for Holy Mother Russia today. 75 years of communism decimated the country in many ways. Today, Russia is losing 1,000,000 Russians every year to abortion, immigration, and death from old age. Check out Mary, Mother of God missions, rebuilding the Catholic Church in Eastern Russia:

It’s appropriate that an Our Lady of Fatima movie be shown at a “John Paul II” film festival. He was truly THE Fatima pope.

--JP2G was shot (it is believed by the Russian KGB working through a Bulgarian hit man) on May 13, 1981—anniversary of first apparition. The bullet is now in Our Lady’s crown in Fatima.
--Recuperating, JP2G became convinced that the only way to achieve world peace and to combat atheism was through the consecration of the world to Mary’s Immaculate Heart.
--May 12, 1982, a second attempt was made on JP2G’s life IN Fatima by a mentally-ill Lefebvrite priest who managed to stab JP2G with a bayonet (JP2G hid his non-life-threatening wound and went on with the Mass). This attempt was caught on camera and is in the JP2G documentary: “Testimony.”
--JP2G finally consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary on March 25, 1984, in union with all the bishops of the world (AND the Orthodox bishops) as Our Lady asked. (Pope Pius XII consecrated the world to IHM in 1940 & 1953, but he did it alone which Lucia said did NOT fulfill Our Lady’s request. Paul VI also consecrated the world, alone, in 1964.) Sr. Lucia said that the 1984 consecration fulfilled Our Lady’s request, and said: “Now, God will keep His word.”
--1989, the Berlin Wall came down (due also to JP2G’s anti-Communism efforts in Poland)
--1989, Gorbachev visits the Vatican and promises JP2G that there will be religious freedom in Russia. Gorbachev states that the Russian people need spirituality.
--October 13, 1989, Gorbachev receives Nobel Peace Prize.
--October 13, 1991, Catholic Archbishop of Moscow travels to Fatima for celebration. It’s televised in Moscow.
--June 26, 2000, JP2G directs that the 3rd message of Fatima be promulgated (it involves a bishop in white being shot). See “The Message of Fatima” at
--Lucia died the same year as JP2G: 2005

See for more information. There’s also an awesome, lengthy, uncontested entry for JP2G in Wikipedia that includes interesting facts about JP2G, Fatima, Russia and communism!

Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the Muslims will be converted through Our Lady of Fatima (“Fatima” was the daughter of Mohammed, Muslims already have a great devotion to Our Lady, and in parts of the world, Muslims are already joining Catholics to pray to OLF).

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