Need a writing getaway?

 

Calling any Catholic who writes in any genre! If you need a getaway to get started or complete a writing project, this retreat looks like the place to go. Writing support and encouragement from committed writers, plus time to write and the possibility of constructive critiques.

Your Word Is My Delight Catholic Writers’ Retreat is held by the Catholic Writers Guild every other year. I have always wanted to go; maybe someday I will be able to! You can find more information here. 

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Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators from SIGNIS, part 2

Below, I continue to share some of the best “tips” from June’s 2017 Signis World Congress, for communicators who seek to build a culture of peace and tell stories of hope. I think this could be a helpful post on today’s anniversary. Respect for others–especially for others who are different from us–lies at the very foundation of building a culture and world of peace and hope. As Pope Francis put it in this year’s World Communications Day Message:  “Confidence in the seed of God’s Kingdom and in the mystery of Easter should also shape the way we communicate. This confidence enables us to carry out our work – in all the different ways that communication takes place nowadays – with the conviction that it is possible to recognize and highlight the good news present in every story and in the face of each person.”

FROM SESSION: Interactivity and Dialogue: A Modern Expression Of The Christian Tradition?

“The Church is called to adopt not just technology, but God’s ‘way,’ the way God acts that seeks encounter.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

Communication in and by the Church is contemplating the way God has entered into relationship with humanity, and doing the same…. What is original in the Church is that contemplating how God “evangelizes” converts the Church’s communication practices.” – Gilles Routhier, Laval University

* * *

FROM SESSION: Finding Truth in an Age of Digital Propaganda

Director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Professor Renee Hobbs invited us to become more aware of the growing use of propaganda and propaganda techniques today. I was late to her presentation, but I can pass on one concrete tool she told us about: visit www.mindovermedia.tv

* * *

FROM SESSION: The Art of Being Human in a Digital Milieu

“Our technology diet shapes us just as much as our food shapes our bodies! It is forming us into a different way of being human. Is this the way humanity is meant to go? Am I contributing to becoming less human? Or am I evaluating and discerning with media? Are we truly free when we engage with this evolving digital milieu?” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Who decided we needed to be digitally connected 24/7? There are other dimensions of being human that need to be held sacred…

“In the art of being human, where do we as Catholic communicators insert contemplation, silence? …And how does what we produce bring [those with whom we engage] into deeper contemplation in their personal lives?”- Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

“Faith ‘Mediamorphasis’:

1. Shift from speaking to listening.

2. Shift from transmission to witness.

3. Shift from networking to community. (It is not about numbers, but about communion.)

4. Shift from strategy to art/handicraft.” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

 

“We shouldn’t let the digital technology drive us…we have to influence and shape it, so it follow us, not we follow it.” – Angela Ann Zukowski, MHSH author and Director of Institute for Pastoral Studies, University of Dayton

 

* * *

Jim McDonnell, program coordinator of the Congress, succinctly and eloquently summed up the themes of the Congress—and the main issues of the day for communicators who want to be bringers and bridges of hope. I shared his words with my community of Daughters of St. Paul because I found them so resonant with the “signs of the times”: the needs of people today and the challenges we face as communicators of the Gospel of hope:

1. The challenge of the new

2. The power of creativity

3. The need for collaboration and

4. The commitment to hope

 

Promoting Hope: Tips for Communicators, Part 1

This past year has been full and beautiful in so many ways, but the beginning of September gives me the opportunity to “reset” some priorities that I haven’t been taking enough time for, especially: writing (including this blog) and exercise!

A great way to get back into writing is to pick up where I left off: which was right in the middle of sharing my experiences at the Signis World Congress in Quebec City in June. Rather than try to sum up each of the presenters and conversations, however, I thought I would share a few of the best standalone “gems” of the insights I received.

 

FROM PANEL: Emerging Spirituality and Religion in the New Media Age

“People are locating their spirituality in the context of their everyday lives—diverse, pluralistic, networked, experiential, relational, digitally-integrated, incarnational.” – Elizabeth Drescher, author of Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of American Nones (Oxford University Press)

“The boundary between the digital and the local is eroding: there are not two separate spaces. How can we facilitate those moments of integration?” – Elizabeth Drescher

“How can we [as Church] be fully established in this culture of digital literacy? What can we do to have practices of faith that go through smartphones?” – Moisés Sbardelotto (Journalist and researcher on religious uses of the internet)

* * *

FROM PANEL: Faith Formation, Storytelling and Social Media

“We must be a transformative presence within this digital culture that is searching for authenticity. As Karl Rahner puts it: ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic or nothing at all.’ – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

“To show mercy and love to others, we have to become mercy and love. To show Christ, we have to become Christ.” – Nancy Usselmann, FSP Pauline Center for Media Studies

* * *

FROM SESSION  A New Direction for Vatican Communications

“The challenge of creating, of building a masterpiece in the universe of communication: Michelangelo in the digital era—this is what we need!” – Mons. Lucio Adrian Ruiz (Vatican Secretariat for Communication)

* * *

FROM SESSION:  Building Peace and Hope in  a World of Cultural and Religious Diversity

“Our [Catholic communication] culture must not mirror the world in numbers of ratings, likes. We must offer solid, beautiful, content. Even if we reach a small audience—you  never know the results—they reach others.” – Father Tom Rosica, CSB, Salt + Light Television

“[Communication must] shift from debate to dialogue: intergenerational; inter-religious; political; to an open-ended process that puts the person in the center; the richness of the various perspectives can be transforming.” – Patrice Brodeur, University of Montreal

Signis World Congress 2017 Streaming Online

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Today at the Signis World Congress, we are joined by the Catholic Academy of Media Professionals  and the Catholic Press Association  Today is a bit of a freer day for me, so I am spending time talking to some of the wonderful here–brainstorming about how to use social media, sharing stories, exploring ethics for Catholic communicators, and more! Later in the day, I am looking forward to a conversation between Martin Scorsese (whose latest film, Silence, was screened at the congress this morning for those who haven’t seen it), and Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP, and Fr. Peter Malone, MSC, both legendary in the world of Signis–Sr. Rose for her work in media literacy education, and Father Peter in his reviews of countless films. I will try to share my impressions here tomorrow.

Silence is the story of a Jesuit missionary priest who goes to Japan in the 15th century, during the government’s fierce persecution of Christians. Although the story is based on a novel by Shusako Endo, the setting of the story is historical, and one of the main characters in the film is based on a real Jesuit priest. It is an amazing novel, now made into an amazing film. Silence is especially thought-provoking today, where we are experiencing a huge rise in religious persecution worldwide. I am in the middle of writing a guide for the film, which I will make available online here in the near future.

Earlier, I forgot to mention that Salt + Light TV is livestreaming much of the congress, so if you are interested in catching some of the sessions, visit: www.saltandlighttv.org, and click on the Signis logo (or click here.) 

It is such an amazing congress because of the wide diversity of people here, yet all very committed to the mission of the Church and to fostering quality media in our world. I love learning new “secrets” or “helpful hacks” that are not just shortcuts for the social media world, but also helpful practices. I hope that by the time I leave Quebec City, I will have a circle of social media specialists who can consult with each other regarding new software, trends, apps, practices, and platforms as they arise.

How the Digital World Calls To (and Needs) Catholic Communicators

 

Yesterday was day 2 of the Signis World Congress 2017 known as #SignisWC2017  and I was delighted to see some common themes emerging from the many sessions, workshops, and panels, all of which address communication today, for and from Catholic communicators from over 100 countries!

Theme 1: The importance of integrating believers’ experience in the real (physical) and virtual (digital) world. Neither can replace the other. In this digital age, we cannot replace real communities and real relationships with virtual communities and relationships. They are not two worlds, but two aspects of the same world, the world in which we live. As Catholic communicators, it is up to us to bring these worlds together: to find ways of “being Church”–in all its different aspects–both in the physical world (e.g. gathering for the celebration of the sacraments, relating as the Body of Christ) and in the virtual world (e.g. online faith communities, ways of experiencing and sharing Christ online). How can we help believers “integrate” their experience of God and the Church in both spheres so that they reinforce each other?

Theme 2: The importance of our becoming the presence of Christ in the digital culture, so that the digital culture has a heart, a soul where the preciousness and sacredness of each person are at the center of all communication efforts,
rather than other agendas, such as trends, popularity, power, or greed. Our model for communicating is our God, who sent his Son to take on human flesh so as to reveal himself, to communicate himself to us, and to draw us into deeper and deeper communion with God and with others.

Theme 3: The urgency of responding to the needs of the world today which are radically changing so quickly, in large part due to the explosive development of the digital culture, to the point that it has changed the way people relate with each other. Because of the global nature of Signis, we are looking at the characteristics of humanity’s needs today from a multitude of perspectives: from 100 countries, from the viewpoint of all the disciplines present in Signis: film, journalism, anthropology, media literacy education, digital culture, television, and radio.

But above all, my favorite part of the week is connecting with Catholic communicators from around the world, each of whom are amazing communicators.

 

Signis World Congress 2017 – Awesome Experience for Catholic Communicators

Greetings from Quebec City and the Signis World Congress  It has been a long time since I blogged, and I’m hoping I can chronicle a few highlights of my experience to share with you. 

Signis is the Vatican-approved association of  Catholic media professionals and creatives, and is celebrating its 90th anniversary. The Congress started this morning with a beautiful opening prayer prepared by Signis members from countries in the Pacific! Over 100 countries are represented at the congress–a wonderful experience of universality and unity.

Yesterday morning, a thought-provoking presentation and dialogue about spirituality in today’s culture, focusing on the significant experiences of spirituality among people today, with special consideration for those who don’t consider themselves affiliated with any religion, or only somewhat affiliated with a particular religion. The question that was left with us was finding ways to “be Church” in today’s culture, integrating the “real” with the “virtual,” fostering meaningful spiritual experiences in the lives of all–from the committed Catholic, to the occasional Catholic, to those who do not identify as Catholic, and those who do not identify as affiliated with any religion.
My favorite moment of the day so far has been the opportunity to meet and thank Sr. Norma Pimental, MJ, who is doing such wonderful work with migrant children at the Mexican-Texan border.  As Executive  Director of Catholic Charities in Rio Grande, Texas, she joined us at Signis to share her experience of the ways she was able to rally the Church and society to respond to the needs of the thousands of children crossing the border.  

Watch the Best Fatima Film Before May 13!

My mother introduced me to the apparitions of Our Lady at Fátima from the time I was a child. I was so fascinated by the story of Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia (ages 7, 9 & 10 at the time of the apparitions), that I actually prayed in the backyard several times, hoping the Blessed Mother would appear.

May 13, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to these three young shepherd children at Fátima. On that day, Pope Francis will be in Fátima, and will canonize Jacinta and Francisco, the two youngest ever non-martyred saints. This entire year, but especially the months of May and October are very special occasions to honor our Blessed Mother, renew our devotion to her, listen to and live more fully the message she brought at Fátima.

In my community, we are bringing our statue of  Our Lady of Fátima around to various “stations” or places in our convent and in our publishing house each day of May. It’s a lovely way of emphasizing how important Mary is in our lives, and of thanking her for her tender care for us.

Starting last fall, we have seen more and more material on Fátima in Catholic media. Father Roger Landry has beautifully expressed the importance of Fátima through the five historical Papal visits, preparing for the visit by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017:  http://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?id=179209

The heart of the message of Fátima, as I have remembered and prayed with through the years, can be summed up briefly as:

* Pray—especially the Rosary

* Repent of our sins and do penance for them

* Offer sacrifices for the conversion of others and offer reparation for the sins of humanity

* Trust in Mary’s Immaculate Heart

There are a number of good movies out there on Fátima, each with different strengths. I talk about my favorite three on this week’s Windows to the Soul segment on the Salt + Light Radio Show. Below, I take a more detailed look at each film, and how each is not just faithful to the message of Fátima, but if and how it communicates the message of our Blessed Mother in a way that is deeply moving, accessible, and relatable.

 The Best of Them All: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima (1952)

The beloved classic from 1952, Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima. Dated in its presentation, and without the advantage of the latest information that is now public about Sr. Lucia and the apparitions (for example, Sr. Lucia’s later life, the secrets that Our Lady entrusted to the children). But for the most part, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima is quite accurate, with the exception of the dramatizing of some events (especially of some of the early attempts of the government to derail the apparitions), and a few details. The writers weave together true details about the apparitions, skillfully moving the story forward and revealing the character of the children and the life-changing impact that Mary’s appearance had on them. For example, the fact that the second apparition occurs on the feast day of St. Anthony (a much-anticipated celebration of the town, especially for the children), this fact becomes both a plot point and character development for the children’s desires to go “see the Lady” rather than celebrate.

What I love about this film is its overall focus on the children—their humanness and their holiness—in ways that are appealing and realistic. However, the film shows Lucia crying a bit too much. Yet it’s a good reminder of how young the children really were: at the time, Lucia, who took the brunt of the plentiful criticism (of family, the townspeople, the pastor, the government officials), was only ten years old.

Some might quibble with a fictional character—Hugo—being inserted into the film. But I like to think that Hugo represents us, the viewers, in the story, in whatever way we are doubters, skeptics, or hold ourselves back from giving ourselves fully to God. Hugo is changed by his encounter with the children, and so the message of Fátima should change us, too.

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima makes the story and message of Fátima accessible to everyone, showing Our Lady to be a most tender and loving mother. It is appropriate and appealing to people of all ages.

Historically Accurate: Apparitions at Fátima (Aparição)

Noted by Stephen Greydanus (Decent Films) as more historically accurate of the feature films on Our Lady of Fátima, Apparitions at Fátima (1991) is the only full-length feature about Fátima I know of that I haven’t seen. This 1991 film was made in Portugal, directed by Daniel Costelle, and is available in six languages, including English.  I look forward to seeing it soon and updating this post with my review.

Reverent, Contemporary Portrayal: The 13th Day

The 13th Day (2010) is another feature film about the events that took place at Fátima. With modern techniques and pacing, noticeable special effects, and  dramatic music, this film is both appealing to a general audience and historically accurate. In some ways, it seems imitative of The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima, but the film also has many original moments. The dramatic black and white lighting used for the cinematography, the use of color only when the children are conversing with the Blessed Mother, and other special effects were a bit distracting for me, but they reverently and artistically portray Our Lady’s message and the character of the visionaries. The scary vision of hell, and the depiction of the miracle of the sun could be too much for young children.

Delightful Depiction for Children: The Day the Sun Danced 

The Day the Sun Danced (1997) is a beautifully animated short film (30 minutes) for children. The pacing is slower, so children may need to be prepared that the film is not so much entertainment as the fascinating story of the Blessed Mother bringing a very special message for the world to three children at Fátima.

 

Most Complete Documentary: Finding Fátima

 

Finding Fátima (2010)—made by the same filmmakers of The 13th Day— includes interviews with Fátima experts and reenactments excerpted from the film The 13th Day. I suspect this is the most complete documentary on Fátima in English available at this time, and especially beautiful for those who do not know the story. If you have heard rumors about the secrets of Fátima, this film gives a clear and beautiful explanation of the “Secret” of Fátima, which was told to the children by way of visions. 90 minutes.

Most Up-to-Date: Trilogy of Documentaries from the Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima, Portugal

Finally, I want to mention the newest programs I have found available: a trilogy that come from the Shrine at Fátima itself, and are officially approved by the Shrine. Each program is independent of the others.

My favorite documentary of the three is The Three Shepherds of Fátimawhich focuses on the lives of the three children. Just under an hour, this delightful program is wonderful for those who want insights into the lives of the “youngest saints ever to be canonized who aren’t martyrs.” After years of reading and praying about Fátima, I learned new fascinating details about the spiritual lives and personalities of the children, thanks to all the experts, but especially the postulator for the cause of the children’s cause for canonization, Sr. Angela de Fátima (a sister of the Alliance of Holy Mary), who points out the significance of the words, actions, characteristics of the children.

One of my favorite examples is from Francisco. When the children were imprisoned and they couldn’t make their “appointment” with Our Lady at the Cova, they believed their interrogator who said they were going to be put to death. Facing the threat of death, Francisco said, ““If we don’t get back to see our mother, patience. The problem is that Our Lady may never return. This is what costs me the most!” Such a deeply touching declaration for a 9 year old boy.

Jacinta’s tender heart was so moved by the vision of the Pope suffering that she prayed often for the Pope, not even knowing which Pope would suffer so much. At her beatification, St. John Paul thanked her for praying for him!  

These precious insights into the children of Fátima reveal a profound witnesses of their faith: how the Fátima apparitions changed their lives, and how living the Fátima message can change ours.

All of these DVDs are available from the Pauline Books and Media Center nearest you in the USA and Toronto; many are available at the Pauline online store.