August 30, 2010


My sad attempt at a Dorothy Hamill haircut--NEW HAMPSHIRE.
Note my brother's mop top.

My mother's Jackie O look. NOT embarrassing. She looks fantastic (Mom's also French).
SAN FRANCISCO. Note that my brother and I have windbreakers with our NAMES EMBROIDERED ON THE ARM. This was a fashion requirement. At least in New England. No idea where the trend started.

My brother's later John Travolta 'do. More Vinny Barbarino than Saturday Night Fever.

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August 29, 2010


"Blood Money—The Business of Abortion" is a much-needed and thorough examination of the history, industry, personal impact and human toll of abortion in America. Who should see this? Everyone. Age-appropriateness? High school and up. A great film for college campuses. There are no gruesome photos of dismembered or salinated babies (on purpose, although those have their place, too), but former abortionists and post-abortive women do describe abortion procedures and procedures gone (very) wrong.

This extremely professional, engaging, precisely-edited 2010 documentary was written and directed by David Kyle ( with an emphasis on educating Americans about how abortion became legalized in this country, about the incredibly blatant lies, deceit (e.g. "abortions" on non-pregnant women), lack of regulation and bundles of money (much of it undeclared) being made off of abortion, as well as the physical/psychological/spiritual ramifications on everyone involved in abortion. Men (fathers) as both victimizers and victims of abortion is also touched upon, but not at length.

Narrated by the elegant Dr. Alveda King (Martin Luther King Jr.'s niece), there is added attention to what many call "the Black genocide" in this country. Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, was a racist and eugenicist who gave directives to her followers to HIDE the fact that Planned Parenthood wanted to decrease the inferior Negro populations (by setting up shop specifically in their neighborhoods). An excellent magazine-style synopsis of how this continues to effect African Americans today is available free in .pdf format at: --multiple full color print copies also available.

Heavy-hitting pro-aborts turned pro-lifers Carol Everett, Dr. Bernard Nathanson (founder of NARAL and Jewish convert to Catholicism), Norma McCorvey (Roe of Roe v. Wade) tell of their odysseys. There's also input from long-time pro-lifers Joe Scheidler, Fr. Frank Pavone, and folks from HLI, Operation Rescue, etc.

"Blood Money" starts off like a hardcore History Channel investigation. All kinds of legal minds and politicians explain to us—in heavy legal, political jargon--the strange, unconstitutional, anomalous travesty of justice and usurpation of the power of "We, the People" that Roe v. Wade was. It's a little hard to follow, but one gets the message loud and clear that something went very, very screwy in 1973. And America needs to wake up and realize that this is exactly how social engineers pull the carpet out from under our feet literally overnight. Better we understand the democratic system we're living in. The film states that even the pro-abortion radical left (in 1973) thought taking away the inalienable right to life was completely indefensible and were astounded at the outcome.

How might post-abortive women and men react to "Blood Money"? They would definitely have to relive their pain--as survivors of the abortion ordeal tell their stories, but the film ends with accounts of self-forgiveness, healing and hope. I think it would be imperative, in a group setting, to have immediate post-abortion counseling available for women and men, but I would think that survivors would feel that THEIR story is finally being told, perhaps even their long silence is being broken by people who are ON their side and not pointing fingers.

This is not a hyped-up, overdramatized presentation. The subject matter is dramatic enough. Everything is so well-put. There is talk of those on "the other side" of the abortion issue, but there is no animosity or demonization. The closest the film would come to that is by simply revealing heinous facts (some revealed by former abortion providers themselves), especially the lack of care/compassion/cleanliness in abortion clinics, and how a kind of passionate missionary zeal FOR abortion seems to boil down two things: post-abortive women tragically needing to justify their own abortions AND the almighty dollar.

--We need to make sure we remember that those who have had abortions are all around us. Our family, our friends, the people in the pews with us, the people at the mall. We should always talk about abortion as though the people who hear us have had abortions. This doesn't prevent us from speaking the truth at all, but if we speak with compassion, it will signal that there is hope, that someone understands what they're going through.


--One thing I would like to have seen developed in the film is the role (or seeming non-role or prohibited role) of men in abortion. I have a theory that the time has come for us to "make" abortion the man's issue that it is. Pro-lifers tried making it about the baby. But nobody cares about the baby. Pro-lifers tried making about the woman which is much more to the point, but this also isolates her from both the baby and the man involved, as well as the larger community. Feminists also wanted to keep abortion a "woman only" issue because it was "her body" that was primarily involved. But no one is an island. Women are distraught, confused and desperate when confronted with a crisis pregnancy. So many of the women in the documentary said: "I felt I had NO other CHOICE." Many are coerced into abortion by boyfriends, husbands, family members, girlfriends. And abortion is supposed to be all about CHOICE and FREEDOM. Nothing could be further from the truth. And who is getting all these women pregnant??? Men. Men who demand that the woman gets an abortion, AND men who are willing to do whatever is necessary to bring their baby to term, but are silenced or ignored. It's time for men to be included—to call them to their responsibilities, and to honor their rights. But maybe that's a whole 'nother documentary.

--We need to call men to sexual responsibility. It's way easier for men to be selfish in this area than for women. We can't let them. Not just for the sake of women and children, but for their own sakes. Men CAN'T have their cake and eat it, too. Men CAN'T be pro-life and play around. (I think some men don't even realize they're pro-life until the woman they are with gets pregnant.) I have a friend who converted to Catholicism. She has slowly been helping her teenage son to become very pro-life in his thinking. One day she said to him abruptly: "Do you want to be responsible for an abortion?" "No!" he countered. "If you fool around before you're married, that girl could abort your baby and not even tell you, or even if she tells you, there's nothing you can do about it." Said teenage son promised he would not fool around before marriage.

--Women of ALL ages tell their abortion story.

--Some of the re-enactments and "sad teenage girls" looked a little staged.

--"Blood Money" just made me see the crying need for Theology of the Body as the ultimate abortion preventative. I was recently at Dr. Michael Waldstein's week-long classes on the writings of VJP2G on women and on the family. There was a 57-year-old woman there who had been part of the early hippie movement. She had 2 abortions and then went on to have 8 children. She was still grieving her 2 aborted children and had a lot of profound things to say. One of them was simply: "We have to get the word out that pregnancy is GOOD for women" (biology proves this). She explained that the earliest hippie movement (starting in the 50's) was a back-to-nature reaction against industrialization and what it was doing to the family (including taking the man out of the home). The hippie motto was "women and children first." But then the Pill came a long and they debated what to do. They embraced the Pill. Then abortion came along and they debated what to do. They embraced abortion. And the whole hippie movement fell apart.

--Pope Benedict's (unwitting, perhaps) summation of Theology of the Body applicable to our sexual behavior: "WE NEED A BETTER WAY OF RELATING TO EACH OTHER AS PERSONS."

--The biggest lie of the sexual revolution perhaps is that sex ≠ babies. But it does. Or rather, the lie that we CAN separate sex from babies, love from life. It simply can't be done, no more than we can tear God apart Who is both Love and Life. It's one of the most basic equations on the planet (like "drop this plate and gravity WILL take it to the floor") that we are in total denial about. We can TRY to prevent conception, but we KNOW it's Russian roulette (unless we get sterilized). We KNOW life is persistent and often finds away. But we act totally and completely surprised when we have sex and get pregnant. Of course this denial is often PLANNED IGNORANCE created by deliberate misinformation from the abortion industry that PRETENDS its giving us accurate information about contraception, PRETENDS it doesn't want us to get pregnant, BUT IT DOES! THAT'S THEIR BREAD AND BUTTER! WHY WOULD THEY NOT WANT US TO GET PREGNANT? They want to us to think they're in the birth control biz, but THEY'RE NOT IN THE BIRTH CONTROL BIZ, THEY'RE IN THE ABORTION BIZ! Just do the math and follow the money. The blood money.

The same place that is telling you have sex and not get pregnant (and not making much money off that end of it) is also the same place you go to get an abortion? Hmmmm. Conflict of interest, perhaps? I am still amazed that people don't know that PLANNED PARENTHOOD GIVES OUT LOW, INEFFECTIVE DOSES OF BIRTH CONTROL AS WELL AS THE CHEAPEST, ALMOST-DEFECTIVE CONDOMS AVAILABLE (AND THEY KNOW WOMEN FORGET TO TAKE BIRTH CONTROL OR TAKE IT IMPROPERLY). IF WE DON'T GET PREGNANT, THEY'RE OUT OF BUSINESS! That's why I'm all about INFORMATION, EDUCATION, INSPIRATION. INFORMATION, EDUCATION, INSPIRATION. When I talk to teens (even ones from great youth groups) about Theology of the Body, porn, etc., I always ask them: "Is anyone telling you this stuff?" They always answer "no." (Of course, the youth group has invited me in to talk about it at least once, but they should be talking about this stuff non-stop.)

--"Blood Money," without even trying, brings out the huge connection between contraception (we have firmly decided to have sex, but just as firmly decided NOT to get pregnant, as if getting/not getting pregnant were really up to us and we could absolutely control it once we are having sex) and abortion. So abortion becomes back-up contraception because we have already firmly made up our minds.

--If I wasn't a Daughter of St. Paul, I would totally be in the pro-life movement, EDUCATING. But I felt part of my call as a Daughter of St. Paul is to get to the roots, to work on preventative measures. I have found none better than Theology of the Body.

--There were people actually munching popcorn during "Blood Money." Probably the same ones who munched during "The Passion."

--I hope the filmmakers think about making the script available. Loaded with stats and great quotes of all kinds!

--For a showing in your parish or organization, of for copies of the DVD, contact:

--There's still time to see in Chicago—Park Ridge! Click on "screenings":

--Cool pro-life idea: No need to re-invent wheel! Take your students to the Museum of Science and Industry (in Chicago)—57th Street and Lakeshore Drive—to the "YOU!—the Experience" permanent exhibit. It has real preserved fetuses, embryos, etc., and a fantastic 6-minute CGI film of life developing in the womb. All the plaques, the script of the film, the literature is TOTALLY PRO-LIFE. (Science is on the Creator's side.) It just keeps saying over and over again that the fertilized egg is YOU and that EVERYONE starts the journey of life the exact same way, as this tiny little thing…. Also has a kind of model of pregnancy from the woman's POV. Everything is totally personal, not cold and clinical.

--"Planned Parenthood" used to be called "The Birth Control Society," but "control" sounded too intimidating and not beneficial enough. Check out the old version of "Cheaper By the Dozen." The Birth Control Society lady is portrayed as an old biddy while families were cool. My how times have changed.

August 27, 2010


Big fat disclaimer: Sr. Helena has only skimmed the book and has not seen the movie, but I found this article very interesting.

"Eat Pray Love": Spiritually capitalistic
by Meghan Daum

I was hoping to avoid writing about "Eat Pray Love." The movie's been out for two weeks, and the book has been out for four years, 184 weeks of which it's been on The New York Times best-seller list. Not that you need to be told, but "Eat Pray Love" (often EPL) chronicles writer Elizabeth Gilbert's post-divorce spiritual quest through Italy, India and Bali.

Gilbert, played by Julia Roberts in the film, has appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" three times (most recently with Roberts), and the tale of "Eat Pray Love" — not just what's told in the book but the story of
Sr. Helena: I had to use the pic with the half-nun :]
its head-spinning success and the anointment of its author into something resembling a modern-day guru — has become a bona fide cultural meme. It has also become a major merchandizing opportunity. There's an EPL-themed product line at Cost Plus World Market (incense burners, beaded jewelry and Eat Pray Love™ tea from the Republic of Tea). The Home Shopping Network offered 72 straight hours of movie promotions and product tie-ins (an organic cotton T-shirt reading "Nourish Your Soul" for $39.90, an Eat Pray Love™ Sony™ Pocket Edition e-reader with special case for $229.95).

Meanwhile, EPL tourism has become its own niche, with travel companies offering packages through Italy, India and Bali, usually with the single female traveler in mind. Lonely Planet travel guides offer tips on how to eat the same gelato Gilbert ate in Rome and how to find the Balinese medicine man who, according to the book, told her to "smile in your liver."So you get the idea. It's not just a book-turned-movie. It's a lifestyle-turned-consumer-phenomenon-turned-quasi-religion. Never mind that this lifestyle — at least the part that entails airfare, lodging and vacation time — requires an independent income and an extended break from responsibilities. Never mind that these consumer goods tend to run the way of colorful paper lanterns you think will transform your yard instantly from a dirt heap into a Balinese paradise but fall apart when you attempt to remove them from the box. Never mind that "quasi-religion" is surely an overly generous way of describing what you get after months of eating, praying, loving and, to go by the movie, riding your bike past glistening rice paddies while wearing adorable hats.

To my mind, Gilbert has epiphanies with more regularity than certain bodily functions, and that stretches the limits of credulity, but that also may be beside the point. After all, people (women especially but not exclusively) are digging this thing. EPL is apparently winning hearts and minds, filling a need, getting people excited. And for all the quasi-ness of this quasi-religion, this sort of engagement is something a lot of established, non-quasi religions aren't having much luck with. Still, I'm not suggesting that people are snapping up "Nourish Your Soul" T-shirts out of an overt frustration with organized religion or that the cult of personality around Gilbert portends the demise of more traditional objects of worship. If anything, Gilbert's breezier-than-thou tone has the same earnest ring you often hear from the pulpit (when it's called holier than thou). This brings me back to why I couldn't help but write about EPL. Now that her musings are a brand, the real epiphany is less about New Age pabulum than old-school capitalism — and, specifically, about how brilliantly the two work together. It's a bit queasy-making, sure. But it's also kind of like smiling in your liver. If you can manage that, maybe you deserve your own line of incense burners.

Los Angeles Times Meghan Daum is an essayist and novelist in Los Angeles.

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August 23, 2010




You see the crews all over Chicago. They have that same "top of the world" look, like they are doing and enjoying the best job on earth: Making movies. Creating worlds. Like God.

So this crew is walking through our back alley (tool belts, etc.). They always fan out like a bunch of hunters or soldiers with a look of ownership over every piece of ground they walk on.

Me (lots more hoof-in-mouth disease): "Did you guys clean up the alley?" (Our alley has been nicely cleaned since they stopped shooting in it.)

One of the crew: "No, we're the electricians."

Me: "Oh, you're the grip." (Duuuuuuuuuuuuh--the grip are lowly go-fers! I meant to say "gaffer," which is the head electrician.)

Same crew member: "No. We're the electricians."

Me: "Yeah, the grip."

Same crew member: "No. The grip are the ones with the blank looks on their faces."

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August 19, 2010



Rosie & Shia

AAA guy

smoke & asphalt

"Transformers 3" has been filming around Chicago since mid-July and in our back alley for the past few days. Our entire alley has been shut off to the public, with all kinds of police and security. But our bookcenter/convent is smack-dab in the middle of the "Action!" and it has its perks.

This morning, I let a 15-strong, red T-shirted, junior high youth group race up the fire escape to snap furtive pictures and video. Said police and security were not amused.
Later in the day, we absolutely HAD to get our van to the shop for a new battery, but it first had to be jumped by AAA. Sooo...we cleared it with security and some P.A.'s and AAA nosed into the alley, just out of the shooting line of the cameras. Suddenly, leading lady Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Megan Fox's replacement) and Shia LaBeouf came running--through a scene--off camera to our loading dock. (I was, like, 20 feet away from them with the AAA guy. ) "Shia LaBeouf at 1 o'clock," I hissed to the AAA guy. "Yeah, I see," he whisper-grinned. "Aren't you glad we called you?" I beamed.

To my horror, Sr. Lusia Yvonne OPENED OUR BACK DOOR, like, 10 feet away from Rosie (now sitting on our loading dock) and Shia. "Hi! I'm Sr. Yvonne!" to Shia and Rosie. Both of them shook her hand. Then she proceeded to talk to them in the most natural and wonderful way, treating them like "ordinary people doing a job, except they make a lot more money" (Sr. Yvonne's words to me later). She invited them to stop in the bookcenter or ring the bell if they needed anything, told them about our media mission, told Shia we have a place in New Orleans (Sr. Yvonne keeps up with the celebrity stuff online, so she knew Shia is from Louisiana), MADE SHIA LAUGH when she told him: "I read all about you--but I know it isn't true." She told Rosie she looked tired, and Rosie said: "I am! It's a long day!" Shia asked how many Sisters lived in the building and if we got to get out and go to baseball games and the like. Sr. Yvonne said: "Yeah, if we get free tickets." SHIA LAUGHED AGAIN.

Meanwhile, I--who, have been trained as a proper Angeleno after having lived in L.A. for 5 years--was totally intent on NOT MAKING EYE-CONTACT AND GIVING THE STARS THEIR SPACE WITHOUT OGLING OR APPROACHING, but found myself shaking Shia's and Rosie's hands because Sr. Yvonne introduced me to her new best friends.

Then came the hoof-in-mouth disease. Earlier that morning I had asked one of the red shirts who the new actress was. He said: "Some Victoria's Secret model." So there I was in the back alley with two of the stars from the biggest movie of 2011 that has been filming in our fair city for over a month and I didn't know the female star's name. No, wait! I remembered! As I shook her hand I said: "Are you Victoria?" Yes. I really said that. Luckily, I don't think she made the connection, but very sweetly said, "No, I'm Rosie." I had absolutely NO IDEA what to say to Shia when I shook his hand, so I said--referring to his smudgy-flesh-wound-make-up--"Wow. They really messed you up." Yes. I really said that. What could he do but agree? "Yes, they did," he said, and he and Rosie raced off into the smoke machines and broken asphalt, out of sight.

A lot of the crew are from L.A.--the best movie crews in the world. They are so gracious (as I always knew them to be in L.A.). So, I took my courage in hand and told a P.A. they should put our good friends, the Flood Brothers', dumpster in the film, instead of Waste Management's. I told them it was "more Chicago." Next thing I knew OUR Flood Brothers' dumpster had disappeared. Could it be...? No! It was just shoved to the end of our alley.

Sr. Margaret Michael, our national vocation directress, arrived for our vocation retreat, driven by a priest who dropped her off near the back alley (Fr. Brian, the Archdiocese of Chicago's new vocation priest). She wanted me to meet him, so he said he'd drive around to the front of the bookcenter. It took him forever. Turned out, some of the crew saw the Roman collar and asked him to conduct an impromptu prayer service!!!

How did I get the above (cell phone) pics? I pretended I was making a phone call. You press "camera" and then put it up to your eye, er, ear.

And I think I saw Michael Bay.

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August 15, 2010


Standard black T with white letters. $10 each. $5.00 postage. S, M, L, XL Contact: Sr. Helena Put "ALBERIONE" in email subject line.

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August 13, 2010


Chris Nolan's ("Memento," "Dark Knight") highly-anticipated movie "Inception" has been deigned a "heist flick." It has been called a meditation on the "nature of reality." There is even a camp of "Inception"-haters who feel called to trumpet that "the Emperor has no clothes." I beg to differ with all. The theme of "Inception" is love and immortality. I found it terribly rich and satisfying. If I had to categorize it in any particular genre, I would say "psychological thriller." "Inception" is a platinum-plated, 21st-century "Twilight Zone" episode or Hitchcock gem.

The plot is basically this: high-tech thieves can steal information from people's brains while they're sleeping/dreaming. They are now being hired to IMPLANT information, i.e.: "inception." It has never been successfully accomplished before. Cobb (Leo DiCaprio) is the head of the team. The always-excellent Ellen Page ("Juno," "Whip It") plays a brilliant young student who accompanies him in more ways than one. She's the only one that knows his deep, dark personal secrets involving his dead wife that threaten to jeopardize not only the mission, but the lives of everyone on the team. Cobb's wife (Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, "La Vie en Rose," "Public Enemy") and children (not dead) keep popping up in the virtual dreamworlds where most of "Inception" takes place. "Inception" fascinatingly incorporates brain science and the science of dreams. For more of the same, see the highly philosophical, realistically animated "Waking Life," which deals with phenomena like "lucid dreaming."

Do NOT get all caught up in trying to understand every miniscule piece of data in the movie when you watch it the first time. Chris Nolan has been thinking about "Inception" for YEARS, and my guess is that he's way smarter than most of us, and that it DOES makes perfect sense if YOU studied it for a few years,* so…just go with it. OK? Go with the general meta-plot. You will not be frustrated or lost.

"Inception" is not a cold, futuristic view of dystopia. The human element is strong and warm (think "sweet potato pie" in "I, Robot"). In one sense, it IS about the "nature of reality," but not in a confused Cartesian way. It's about the nature of reality in that we humans can CREATE realities of our own making and choosing, whether with technology or simply with our own imagination. But the catch is that humans don't really "create"—only God creates, because to "create" actually means "ex nihilo," out of nothing. Everything humans create is from something already existing that God created. God's Sacred Creation has its own nature, essence, rules—or simply and more to the point: there is a divine order to God's Sacred Creation. And this divine order is good. We are good co-creators with God insofar as we follow the divine order (physical, moral, spiritual, human), and we are rebels and sinners insofar as we bend God's Sacred Creation away from its own internal logic and ends to something intrinsically disordered or evil. The brilliant phenomenologist, Fr. Robert Sokolowski, SJ, says we should make a distinction (like, he would like to put an entry in all philosophical dictionaries/encyclopedias): PURPOSES are what man assigns to things (rightly or wrongly, primarily or secondarily), and ENDS are what God assigns. Hear, hear.

The way that "Inception" takes up the "nature of reality" is in the games we play, the lies we tell ourselves, the towers of denial we construct. For what? For love. To prolong our lives on this earth. To prolong love on this earth. And we can—all the while—know we are deceiving ourselves, but, as Theology of the Body expert, Fr. Thomas Loya says, we will do ANYTHING for love. It's the one thing we won't give up or live without. We will self-destruct before we relinquish love or even our chance at love. "As strong as death is love." –Song of Songs. And an oft-overloooked Beatles' song said it even better than "All You Need Is Love": "I don't care what they say, I won't stay in a world without love." –"World Without Love". We can all totally relate to Cobb's quandary, his choice to cling to vapors of love with his dead wife, or real paternal love with his very-much-alive children. This is such a fresh story-line that it amazes if you really let it seep into you. This is a bit of a SPOILER, but I am floored by the simple little line Cobb tells his chimeric wife: "We had our time together." Wow. Acceptance of our limits. Of the limits of life and time and flesh. Gratitude for every minute we DO have, that we DID have. And not greedily and selfishly grasping for more. This "human drama" is not just a tacked-on, something-for-everyone component of "Inception." I maintain it's the WHOLE enchilada.

We all want to and do create our own alternate worlds, don't we? What is this blog? What is my Facebook page, really? A place I can go to keep in touch with my out-of-touch-at-the-moment family, friends, sympathizers; and I can use it for news and good causes, but isn't it also a kind of escape? Doesn't it give me good feelings (better feelings than my "real life" is offering me) at this moment?

What needs to be understood from the get-go is that the rules of "Inception's" world are rather complex. There is much heady, wordy explication during Act One and Two, and even a smidge during Act Three. The easy stuff that we get (like one character's relationship with his father) is, unfortunately, beaten into our brains unnecessarily (I would rather have liked the three levels of sleep and how they were going to get out of them beaten into my brains). There's lots of cool, multiply-intercut action, chases, locations, fights, gunfights, etc., which toward the end could have been deeply edited (read: drastically cut down).

THEOLOGY OF THE BODY: (among lots of other juicy chunks) What is the most basic relationship—Father/Son or Husband/Wife? Both are taken up at length! My personal belief is that, in the divine order, the Father/Son relationship comes first and defines the Husband/Wife relationship. Am I talking Trinity relationships or human relationships? Yes. ;] It's all about the Father's approval: "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."

I had a conversation recently with a homeless (depressed/alcoholic) man I know. Dave is haunted by the memory of this father. His father used to beat up his mother. When Dave got to be 15, he finally beat up his father and told him if he ever touched his mother again he'd kill him. His father died two days later (not from the beating). Dave said he's carried this for 40 years. He feels bad because he said he really wanted to respect his father. I told him: "You were protecting your mother. You waited a long time to be able to do that. He was in the wrong. He's a guy. He can handle it. He's with God now. He understands what you did and he deserved it. He forgives you if you feel you need that. There's no hate in heaven." Then he told me that he raised his two boys, Kevin and Christopher with a lot of affection. His son Kevin died in Iraq two years ago. He got so depressed he told his wife he was going for a walk and never came back. (Dave was a UPS driver for 25 years--all the UPS guys around here know Dave. He lives under Wacker Drive now.) Pray for Dave, it seems he's getting better. I asked him if he needed anything: food, money; if he was going to a clinic or getting meds. He said: "No, I have a Bible." Sr. Michael and I prayed with him in the alley. A rat ran by while we were praying. Dave: "They're creatures of God, too." (And he's been bitten before.) Please pray for Dave and his family.

The Father is the SOURCE of all good things. There is a divine order even in the Trinity.

What's so important about planting this thought in this person's head? The stakes are controllling the WORLD's energy SOURCES. But what (or who) is the world's ultimate energy source? The Father (or masculine principle). What is the world/earth/resources? Mother Earth (or feminine principle). When humans are out of synch with one, we're out of synch with the other. Denigrate the Father, you denigrate the Mother. Denigrate the Mother, you denigrate the Father. The Father and Creation are intimately, intricately linked. The masculine and feminine principles rise and fall together.

When we (especially men) are out of synch with the Father, Creation gets ravaged. As Dr. Michael Waldstein points out, during the Scientific/Rationalist/Industrial Revolutions, Francis Bacon and others decided it was time to force nature to reveal her secrets so we could control, crush and manipulate her to our own designs.

"Francis Bacon—British lawyer, philosopher, served under Queen Elizabeth, took a leadership in persecution of Catholics, esp. priests. Chancellor of England under James II. The first book he wrote in conceiving reformation of knowledge: “The Masculine Offspring of Time: The Empire of Man over Things.” Spes Salvi #16-17—(VJP2G mostly examines Descartes, but Ratzinger does Bacon, too). Scientific method allows the “triumph of art over nature” (Bacon). A new correlation between science and praxis. Bacon wanted power over nature. We want technical control. This is also a theological application. “Subdue the earth”—but a disturbing step has been taken. It used to be expected that Jesus Christ would redeem the lost Paradise. But it’s no longer expected from faith, but from science and power. It’s not that faith is denied, it’s displaced onto the private level. We don’t have to wait for divine power, we take on progress for our culture and world. It SHAPES the present crisis of faith and hope. Now we have faith in progress, technological progress. Bacon understands this will be just the beginning. A new world will emerge: the empire of man. He predicted airplane, submarine. Bacon attempted a reformation of knowledge such that it would serve human power. Secularization has its roots in the desire for power over nature that doesn't respect or work with nature but over-against nature." (My notes from Dr. Waldstein's class at Theology of the Body Institute, June, 2010)

At the root, we don't trust God will provide enough for everyone, we aren't willing to DO with what is simply enough, we aren't willing to share. This drama lurks behind every drama. But the Father is the SOURCE of all LIFE, ENERGY and SUSTAINING OF LIFE. There IS enough for everyone and everything. Unless we cut ourselves off from Him, or cut others off.

People like to claim that the existence of "binaries" (masculine/feminine principles) is "dualistic." ("Dualism" is taken for granted to be an evil.) However, dualism does not mean automatically OPPOSITION. The human person is soul and body: a unity in duality. Human beings are male and female: a unity in duality. In God's plan, ALL DIFFERENCES ARE A CALL TO COMMUNION. Without differences, without "binaries," without "dualities," there is NO COMMUNION, NO INTIMACY, because there is no possibility for it. There is no "other." We are all exactly the same. Everything is the same. But it's not. Vive le difference!

Only ONE (very important) thing I didn't understand. The spinning totem top at the end. I have about five possible explanations in my head. Feedback, please!

*And you may just want to do that! There's enough there. And it's worthy.


--My mother fell asleep during the movie, but still managed to totally follow the whole thing. I think this is a compliment rather than an insult to Chris Nolan. I mean that she could follow.

--My nineteen-year-old niece says her friends are "obsessed" with "Inception."

--Guys: Please share with me why explosions are so important to you. Men are generally the architects/designers/craftsmen/artisans/builders of cities and buildings and cars and machines and other beautiful and vitally helpful things. Why do you take such great pleasure in destroying them?

--One of the ways I know a movie is good (at least in my book) is when my mind/will/heart starts scintillating in a bazillion different directions. And I take 13 pages of notes.

--"Inception" also made me FEEL, not just think--so much was about our longing for immortality, for things not to change, to prolong what is good AS WE KNOW IT.... Yikes. I think I'm dealing with a lot of the same issues that Cobb is.

--Some of the dialogue—especially in the beginning—sounds almost like clunky, laughable Guy Noir patter. And I don't think it was on purpose.

--Chris Nolan has carte-blanche in Hollywood. He can write his own ticket, his own budget and do whatever he wants. He shot "Inception" all over the world for $160 million.

--Chris Nolan is Catholic, attended Loyola High School in Chicago, and has four kids. It shows.

--The human brain/mind/dreams…the last frontier? It makes you wonder (with all these sophisticated MRI scans we can do today) if someday we really WILL be able to "read minds"! (Already, it seems, we can tell—with the brain scans—if someone is lying much better than with the old lie detector tests.)

--"Inception" reminded me of the underrated "Surrogates"—the sleeping pods (also "Avatar"—man, we are seeing more and more of these sleeping pods!), and the unreal people walking on the street interacting with the "real" people…. What??!! You haven't seen "Surrogates"?? Get thee to a Netflix queue! Presto!

--If you like "Inception," you must also watch "The Manchurian Candidate"—the original version AND the Denzel version.

--Interesting use of the repeated word "inspiration" rather than "insight." Perhaps Nolan does not know the technical/philosophical difference between these words. Or maybe he does. :]

--"It's more the FEEL of the dream than the VISUAL." Hmmmmmm…..

--"You could never understand. Are you a lover? A half of a whole?" (French accent)

--"You don't care where the train goes because you'll go there together…."

--"An idea is like a virus. Contagious. Resilient. The tiniest part of an idea can grow and destroy."

--"It's not just what you know. What do you FEEL? What do you BELIEVE?" (French accent)

--OK, what great movies DOESN'T Hans Zimmer score???

--Enter Ellen Page! The acting just got better….

--Leo DiCaprio's character has a GREAT FLAW. (Main characters are supposed to have a conspicuous flaw.)

--Didn't find the cinematography terribly mind-blowing or new (didn't Fred Astaire already dance on the ceiling?)—BUT I am such a fan of slo-mo that I loved, loved, loved, that ever-falling van.

--LIMBO—cool horror element. What could be worse than being stuck in an in-between place for an undetermined amount of time?

--No gore! No gratuitous violence! Hardly any graphic human-on-human violence!

--The freight train was also very cool as an objective correlative.

--Altered states of consciousness are no joke. I've heard of Catholic missionary priests/nuns who went to Eastern cultures and practiced esoteric forms of meditation and LOST IT, WENT OUT TO SEA IN THEIR MINDS FOR YEARS!!!

--We desperately seek immortality, but we ARE already. (Cf. Garden of Eden)

--Could have had a bigger pause when Cobb shoots his wife. That was kinda momentous.

--The difference between dreams/virtual constructions/memories—very cool. Remember: Never use memories when you're constructing a virtual environment. Got it?

--STUDY QUESTIONS: Who would you open YOUR mind to? What does it mean to be "at the mercy of your subject's prejudices"? How much life is "enough" for you? What kind of a life is "enough" for you? Is it possible for dreams/fantasies/virtual reality to become your reality? Would you ever even want that?

--The division between reality and virtual reality is pretty clear, not blurred, in "Inception," otherwise the film would have no merit (like making a crazy person your protagonist, because then nothing makes any sense because it doesn't have to). The only little weakness was when the old African man who runs a place where everyone comes to sleep/dream says: "They come to wake up—dreaming has become their reality. Who are we to say otherwise?" Um, we CAN say otherwise. Yeah. This was out of character with the rest of the movie which does NOT ask the question: "How can we know what's true?" It's more: "How can we know what's good?"

--There is a delicate respect for human dignity (Jesuit training?). Cobb has pause for an ethical consideration: "If we plant a seed in his mind, the idea will define him. It will change who he is."

--Who just LOVES Cillian Murphy's acting?? I DO! I DO!

--White and gray camouflage for the snow! Avalanches!

--I could just go on and on here, but my totem (a watch) just told me I must return to my real life.

August 8, 2010


"Dinner for Schmucks" (although the word "schmucks" never comes up in the movie—the invitees are referred to as "idiots") is a screwball sex comedy that should be rated R rather than PG-13, due to the explicit and continuous spoken and visual sexual content. (The MPAA reasons for it being PG-13 mentioning "sexual" a lot should be heeded.) Definitely not for young teens. The writing is pretty sharp, there's some funny stuff that's not ribald, and Steve Carell is totally in his element as a dork unwittingly invited to a bored-rich-people's-dinner in order to be secretly made fun of. There's a big job promotion for Tim (Paul Rudd) riding on the success of this dinner. It would have been a more successful plot if Tim's getting his girlfriend back was also part of the dinner stakes somehow. Tim and his live-in girlfriend have a sweet love story woven in, mostly to pluck at our heartstrings, it seems. Barry (Steve Carells' character) has a sad ex-wife story-line.

The film is medium-paced and relaxed, which also exposes the actors (who do a great job for what the movie is). Barry is one of those annoying "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "What About Bob?" "Cable Guy" nuisances who just won't go away and ends up ruining-saving the straight man's life (Tim). Barry's particular schtick (since we're using Yiddish "sch" words) is mice taxidermy dioramas. Yes! It's funny and it totally works!

Are the sex jokes funny? Yes, even a bit original—but crude. Often kind of shocking, in-your-face, devolution cheap shots. Sometimes I think Hollywood doesn't realize how crass it really is, how it has contributed to the lowering that is now commonplace, how not the whole world is exposed to what goes on at wild Hollywood parties, perhaps. But then, what about what goes on at parties on college campuses? Which came first? The chicken or the egg? Or maybe the chicken would have laid the egg by itself. But now I just sound like Steve Carell's character, king of the malapropism and misquote.

I constantly felt embarrassed and insulted by this movie for just relentlessly taking me where I didn't want to go (the gutter). I even found myself sort of "not hearing" what I didn't want to hear. Just blocking it out. Because it makes me sad. Because when you know Theology of the Body, lasciviousness induces melancholy. Because it was too much too often and degrading. And I don't often feel this way while watching a movie. It felt like, somehow, the movie just wasn't coming from a good place. Like it was coming from a place that just wanted to make money but knew that it had to actually be a little clever to do good box office. (What the Bible calls a wisdom that is "cunning.") I just couldn't help thinking that we, the audience, were being played for schmucks for going along with this movie!

I could say more about the creative elements of the film. But why bother?

My advice? Skip "Dinner." You won't even feel hungry.

August 5, 2010


Fantastic new book that puts VJP2G's Theology of the Body in an even broader context of his thought on the human person. Fr. Bransfield is the US Bishops go-to priest for Evangelization and Catechesis! (translation: the US Bishops are majorly on board with TOB!)

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August 2, 2010


The winners of the 2010 Theology of the Body Institute Awards for Distinguished Achievement
The Theology of the Body Institute presented Awards of Distinguished Service Thursday night during the National Theology of the Body Congress Awards Banquet, held at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, Pa., near Philadelphia. Honorees include, from left, Leslie Kuhlman, Executive Director of honoree Ruah Woods Education Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio; Sister Mary Mark Wickenhiser, publisher of honoree Pauline Books and Media, of Boston, Mass; honorees Valentine and Ann Coelho, Theology of the Body educators and ministers from Goa, India; Anastasia Northrop, Executive Director of honoree Theology of the Body International Alliance; and honoree Fr. Richard M. Hogan, pastor of the Church of St. Raphael in Crystal, Minn., and a pioneer in writing and teaching of the Theology of the Body.
The first National Theology of the Body Congress, which wrapped up Friday, July 30, attracted more than 450 attendees from 10 countries, including 39 U.S. states.

Theology of the Body Institute Board member Deacon Chuck Lewis (left), and Institute Board Chairman David Savage (right) present an Award of Distinguished Service to Sister Mary Mark Wickenhiser, publisher of Pauline Books and Media, of Boston, Mass, Thursday night during the National Theology of the Body Congress Awards Banquet. The event was held at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, Pa., near Philadelphia. Pauline Books and Media originally published the 129 talks by Venerable Pope John Paul II in four volumes between 1981 and 1986. In 1997, they combined those books into one volume, “The Theology of the Body – Human Love in the Divine Plan.” That book marked the first appearance of Theology of the Body as the name for this catechesis from Venerable John Paul II. The Congress attracted more than 450 attendees from 10 countries, including 39 U.S. states.

Among those who heard Fr. Roger Landry’s keynote address Thursday night during the National Theology of the Body Congress Awards Banquet were, from left, Bishop-elect John McIntyre of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; Bishop Lawrence Brandt of the Diocese of Greensburg, Pa; Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia; and Dr. Michael Waldstein, Ph. D., the Max Seckler Professor of Theology at Ave Maria University in Naples, Fla., who also was a featured presenter during the Congress. The event was held at Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, Pa., near Philadelphia. It attracted more than 450 attendees from 10 countries, including 39 U.S. states.

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August 1, 2010


ZE10073006 - 2010-07-30Permalink:

Theology of the Body: Why All the Hype?
Cardinal Rigali Affirms Importance of John Paul II's Teaching

By Genevieve Pollock

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JULY 30, 2010 ( A growing number of people, including Cardinal Justin Rigali, are affirming the importance of the theology of the body, as evidenced by a national congress that concluded today.At this National Theology of the Body Congress, the first of its kind, ZENIT asked Cardinal Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, to explain what it is about these teachings of Pope John Paul II that is so important. "The theology of the body is actually a great gift," he said.The cardinal affirmed that "the theology of the body is a theological explanation of what God has revealed in the Scriptures and in tradition of the great dignity of human flesh."

He continued, "It is spelling out in its completeness what we already have in the Gospel of St. John, where he tells us that 'the Word became flesh.'""God's plan was that his own Son would take on human flesh, would take on a body, the fullness of the human body, in order to teach us the meaning of the human body, and in that way to teach us the full meaning of our humanity," the prelate explained.He added, "This is what the theology of the body is: Spelling out, in many details, God's plan for humanity, God's plan revealed in creation, when he created man -- male and female he created them -- all of this is God's plan."

The theology of the body, Cardinal Rigali affirmed, "is an encouragement through an explanation, through a very good theological explanation."He continued: "It is an encouragement to live according to God's plan for the human body, which has a purpose, which has a dignity; it has so much of a dignity that the Son of God took on human flesh.""It is only when we realize that he took on human flesh," the cardinal noted, "that we are able to fully understand the meaning of the dignity of the human body."

Katharine Blanchard, development director of the Philadelphia-based Theology of the Body Institute, which organized the congress, told ZENIT that Cardinal Rigali has been very supportive of the organization. She said that as the head of the institute's episcopal board of advisors, which currently includes ten other prelates, the cardinal has been closely involved with the organization and meets regularly with its leaders.In fact, Cardinal Rigali wrote a Jan. 21 letter of personal invitation to the congress, in which he stated, "I am convinced that John Paul II's theology of the body is a treasure for the Church and a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time."

He noted that it is "a beautiful foundation for the new evangelization and a particular message of hope for the world at this time," as it is "not only a catechesis on marriage and human sexuality, but also affords 'the rediscovery of the meaning of the whole of existence, of the meaning of life' (Theology of the Body 46:6)."Many people responded promptly to the invitation and the congress quickly sold its 450 registration slots to people from ten different countries. Up to 100 people added their names to a waiting list for the chance of participating. Numerous people worldwide were also able to follow congress talks and presentations online through live streaming on the Internet.

The three-day congress had four tracks: pastoral ministry, catechesis and evangelization, philosophy and theology, marriage and family.One speaker, Sister Mary Elizabeth Wusinich of the Sisters of Life, told ZENIT that she saw this congress as a "watershed" event. Having served for nearly a decade as the director of the New York Archdiocese Family Life/Respect Life Office, she affirmed that in her experience, teaching the theology of the body is key in order to respond to the most urgent needs of society.

Sister Helena Burns of the Daughters of St. Paul, who also gave a presentation, agreed that the theology of the body is a remedy for many societal woes. She expressed hope at the fact that many people, especially in the English-speaking world, are beginning to pick it up.

The nun's words were illustrated by the various groups and organizations present at the congress, each with a different story of how it began to apply this teaching of John Paul II to daily life and to spread it to others. Monica Ashour, executive director of the Theology of the Body Evangelization Team, told ZENIT about how her organization works with teens and adults throughout Texas, organizing study groups, retreats, and other events.

Laypeople in Cincinnati, Ohio, were present to talk about their newly-established education center, Ruah Woods, where they have already trained 400 students in the theology of the body since last year.

Brian Gail explained to ZENIT how the theology of the body played a significant role in the writing of his novel, "Fatherless," as well as two subsequent books he will be publishing soon.

Glenn Stanton, director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, told ZENIT that the theology of the body has been the basis of a growing connection between Catholics and Evangelical Christians.

Jake Samour, director of the office of marriage and family life for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas, emphasized the importance of John Paul II's teaching in reaching out to and educating the Hispanic community in the United States.

Other speakers included: Father Richard Hogan, author, editor and television host; Helen Alvaré, law professor and advisor of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Father Thomas Loya; Dr. Janet Smith; Lisa Hendey; Brian Gail; Katrina Zeno; Dr. Pia de Solenni; Anastasia Northrop; Father Roger Landry; Peter Colosi; Bill Donaghy; Damon Owens; Dr. Michael Waldstein; Monica Ashour; Gregory Popcak; Glen Stanton; Jake Samour; Dr. Bob Schuchts; and Dr. Philip Mango.

As Cardinal Rigali stated in his letter, participants had many opportunities to receive the gift of John Paul II's teaching "more deeply, so as to proclaim it more effectively to the world."--- --- ---On the Net: Theology of the Body Congress:

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