As I begin retreat this evening (Saturday evening, although I’m scheduling this post to go up on Monday), I gather all the intentions you have shared with me, and offer them with you to our loving God. In addition to many specific intentions for others (what generous readers you are!), many of you also asked me to pray for your spiritual growth, and you offered to pray for me. I am honored to make this retreat “with” you in this way. Saint Paul’s Prayer in Ephesians captures well the spirit of my prayer for you and for myself:
I will be away for my annual eight-day retreat from July 19th-28th, 2014, and it would be my joy to pray for you and your intentions in a particular way! Send me your prayer intention(s) by using the form in this post or in the comments below. After July 19th I won’t respond by email, but I will continue to check in every day of the retreat for your intentions.
Last month (June 18th) I mentioned that, to prepare for our centenary year of the foundation of the Daughters of Saint Paul, I wanted to share a bit more about our communication spirituality and how it’s transformed my life.
These words were the theme of one of our recent General Chapters, and they have really stayed with me as a way of understanding and expressing what it means to be a Daughter of Saint Paul. At the same time, in a general way, these words apply to everyone who has been baptized!
Chosen and loved
The basic foundation of life is love. We are created by a God who loves us so much that he chooses to create us (not one of the other countless possibilities God in his infinity could come up with). As Saint Paul uses this phrase, though, it means even more than our being created by Love. “Chosen and loved” also means that we are chosen for a special reason, a unique purpose that only we can fulfill.
In The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien describes creation as God’s beautiful symphony. Each of us has our unique part to play in God’s universe-sized orchestra. Sometimes we carry the melody, sometimes we might play harmony, sometimes we provide back up or “depth” to another instrument, and sometimes we may simply be silent (or turn the page of the score for another player). But always we are interweaving with others, offering our unique “sound” to the symphony of beauty and purpose that God has designed.
Being chosen means that God gives us the joy of being special, of being needed, of having purpose in this world, of making a difference in others’ lives, of giving ourselves fully in love–which is the deepest joy we can experience as human beings.
in Christ Jesus
This phrase totally captures Saint Paul’s spirit, and I hope that someday, it totally captures the whole of my life experience. Because of the gift of my Baptism and God’s grace, all of my life is in Christ, whether I realize it or not.
But it’s not enough for me to simply know this. I want to respond to his loving invitation to “remain in him” (John 15:4) and completely dedicate every moment of my life to Christ. I want all my efforts and motives to be focused on seeking the kingdom of God; I want my every thought, word, feeling and action to be fully his.
I am still far from my goal of belonging completely to Christ, but my comfort is that he knows that my desire for this is growing, and it is his grace that will transform me so that one day–in heaven if not on earth–I will belong completely to him.
This real, passionate, “total” relationship with Christ becomes the foundation of all my actions and choices, as I hope to post about further next week: together we communicate the Gospel to everyone.
The Pope offers a monthly intention that we can unite in praying for with him. This month’s is “that sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.” (From: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-prayer-intentions-for-july )
As was illustrated profoundly for me in the film, Invictus, sports can bring us together as a community in a way that very few other things can.
This wonderful online article at the Apostleship of Prayer’s children’s ministry site offers a list of twelve family sports movies that you can use to highlight the Pope’s intention–to celebrate the gift of sports, to reflect on how they bring us together, and even to pray together at the end of the film for an increase in human respect, brotherhood, and sisterhood.
From Rudy and The Greatest Game Ever Played, to Mighty Macs and The Rookie, these are definitely some of my favorite sports films that the family can enjoy together.
Have I mentioned before that I’m hoping to blog a new book starting this fall? This is something I’ve been growing increasingly curious about doing, even though I suspect that I’ll eventually be able to traditionally publish it. I’m still figuring out the advantages, the disadvantages, and how I can make it work for me and for the readers.
Why on earth would I do this?
1) It’s something new and I love the challenge of exploring it and seeing how it works
2) It “fits” with my new role of writing for our Pauline digital department, especially the challenge of learning to write “short form,” but it also fits with my love of writing long form
3) It’s a way of reaching out to and building an audience that I might not have been able to reach in the past. Especially since some of the target audience is young adults, and I don’t know whether they’d be able to find my book without a strong online presence.
4) The interactive possibilities–I’m hoping the blog can be interactive, with comments and insights from readers that offers additional enrichment–and helps me to stay in touch with the needs of the readers
* * *
To begin preparing, back in January I started reading Nina Amir’s extraordinarily helpful blog, How To Blog a Book, which I found out about because Nina was featured on the Writer’s Digest website. Next, I borrowed her book from the library (as you can see, this is a very low-budget operation!), and not only read it cover to cover, but took extensive notes.
Next came brainstorming all the content I’ve developed on this topic over the years, trying to figure out a title and unique approach to the topic, and coming up with a very rough table of contents so that I could see how it might be possible to break down the content into small, “bloggable” chunks.
This took me into mid February, when I had to put the project aside, due to other projects that became more than full-time.
But using the July 4th weekend, I was able to take a little time to explore this new project, and I’m now testing out the title and topics with potential readers. Next? To write a proposal for the publisher and come up with a real Table of Contents.
This has not been my usual route to develop a new book. If you have blogged a book or are planning to do so, I’d be delighted to hear your suggestions and advice.
The beautiful reflection today invites us to see Saint Paul in the light of both the greatness and the suffering of his call, and to reflect on the greatness and suffering of our call as communicators and followers of Christ. How do we bear it? Like Saint Paul, we live every moment with and in Christ.
The LEGO Movie could be dismissed as a 100-minute commercial for LEGO toys, but it’s also true that the filmmakers went to a lot of extra trouble to make this film not just wholesome and fun entertainment, but to intertwine a couple of really good messages for kids into the story.
The basic plot is your typical hero quest block-ified: an ordinary “LEGO” figure who finds a relic is mistaken as the prophesied “the Special” who will save the LEGO worlds.
Emmet is the most ordinary, generic LEGO personality you can imagine–a construction worker who follows his instruction manual to do everything, who fits so well into the LEGO world that he is practically invisible. Because he accidentally finds and becomes attached to a relic (a human artifact that is not a LEGO piece) Emmet is mistakenly identified as “the Special” who will save and bring freedom to the LEGO worlds.
Unknown to Emmet, the LEGO worlds need saving because President Business is really a mastermind criminal who seeks to control them, trying to bring perfection and order, rather than freedom and joy. After being captured for finding the relic, Emmet overhears that President Business is going to glue all the LEGO people/worlds in place, thus paralyzing everyone and everything. It will be the end of the world as he knows it. (And of course President Business doesn’t care who he has to eliminate to achieve his end.)
As Emmet is being rescued by WyldStyle from President Business, he discovers how uniquely unqualified he is to be “the Special” as she is repeatedly disappointed by his inability to build, to imagine, or to think for himself. As we explore the various LEGO worlds with Emmet, WyldStyle and the Master Builders (heroic LEGO figures like Batman and Robin Hood), Emmet continues to be truly un-spectacular. Until almost the very end, when a new perspective helps Emmet believe that he truly is special. And not only has he discovered that he is special, he also discovers that everyone else is special too. Emmet reveals that we all have moments when our specific gifts are needed, when we are the special ones, when we can do amazing things. But our specialness can be lost if we don’t work together, if we don’t allow others to be special, too.
The plot in particular is outstanding: from the unexpected twist that reveals why everything doesn’t need to make sense, to the final resolution of dealing with President Business in a surprisingly beautiful way that “builds up” rather than tears down or destroys. Rich cultural references and great casting of well-known and familiar voices bring an extra richness to the animated characters.
On Saturday (June 28), the five-minute radio version of this commentary was broadcast on Salt + Light Radio.
I found an unnecessary amount of “LEGO” violence in the film–with the little brick figures falling, being smashed, hit, etc. Even though it’s so stylized–and honestly, what child hasn’t smashed a LEGO figure against something hard?–I wish there had been less, especially as this film will be seen by many very young eyes.
For the non-LEGO fan, especially the adults, the bright primary colors, constant transformation of LEGO constructions into other LEGO concoctions, and the various loud, unrelenting chases can be a bit much. However, for LEGO fans, I’m guessing the nostalgia value would be quite high. Several allusions to history and legends and many clever nods to the pop culture of the 80s and 90s–from Batman and Star Wars to Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter–add another level of enjoyment for adults and older kids.
A Window to the Soul
Some reviews have pointed out that Emmet’s self-sacrifice near the end could be an allusion to Christ. I agree, although I think that it’s better described as a powerful image of selfless, Christ-like love, rather than a great metaphor for Christ as our Savior. (Elements of a Christ-figure metaphor don’t carry through to other parts of the story.) However, where this film really stands out is its twofold message about yearning to be special. Being special is such a fundamental desire that even grown-ups can resonate with Emmet’s pain when he’s harshly told that he’s not special. But Emmet doesn’t just discover that he’s special (an important message in itself for young viewers). He also discovers how his “specialness” fits with his being part of a community, part of a team. We are all special and unique, and yet we best express how special we are when we “fit” together and work with each other. This second message is delightfully reinforced by the ending, which is refreshingly nonviolent.
This film’s theme could be described in various ways: the tension between creative types vs. organized types; individuality vs. conformity; that the balance between conformity and creativity is true teamwork where all are recognized for their unique specialness, etc. Overall, this film explores what it means to be both individual and part of the human community. For the more reflective viewer (or for a family discussion), The LEGO Movie could open a window to the beauty of what it means to be a member of a family, or what it means to be a member of the Church, belonging to the Body of Christ.
A great Scripture passage to reflect on after seeing this film is Saint Paul’s beautiful chapter from 1st Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12).