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. 

      

             

Gems from the Catholic Writers Conference Online 2017

cwglogoThe Catholic Writers Guild’s Online Conference—just held this past weekend—is a fantastic conference for Catholic writers who are just starting to write, writers who are seeking to publish or are publishing their work for the first time, and for established authors who want the companionship of a like-minded writing community that offers spiritual support (as well as writing support), or for those writers who simply want to explore or deepen the connection between their writing and their life of faith.

This year, my schedule allowed me to participate in only five of the workshops—and I missed three that I really wanted to attend—but I have to confess that I really enjoyed connecting with other writers.

Just a few takeaways:

  • Colleen C. Mitchell’s amazing workshop on integrating our writing with our everyday life, especially her personal witness of how she keeps writing during challenging times. Her witness inspires me.
  • How Terri Ong’s presentation connected St. Therese of Lisieux’s “Little Way”  with the writing life. If you’ve read much of this blog, you know that, for me, St. Therese articulates Saint Paul’s spirituality in a contemporary, accessible way. More and more, I see how essential the humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit are to the believer’s ability to respond to their call to write. The Founder of my community, Blessed James Alberione, encouraged us to pray these words often—and now I start every writing session with them: “By myself I can do nothing, but with God I can do all things. For the love of God, I want to do all things. To God, honor and glory; to me, the eternal reward.”
  • Although I have read dozens of writing books, published 7 books, and been studying writing craft for over 15 years, I can always learn something new. I learned a new way to improve the manuscript that I hand in to my editor and some ways to fix problems in developing a scene. But the best part? Connecting with other writers who consider writing a call from God, and a way to serve God’s People. Plus, I was delighted to be able to volunteer to moderate some of the workshops, and so contribute a little back to this lovely writing community.
  • Finally, I was reminded how important writing is to me. For a number of reasons, I have had to put writing on hold—at least, the “deep writing” that I feel called to do. These reasons included transition, a different schedule, new responsibilities, and my preoccupation with several difficult circumstances. The precious gem I received from this conference is a deeper insight into how much “deep writing” energizes me and assists me in doing other important apostolates that I carry out. No matter how busy I am, I cannot completely put it aside any more. I’m eager to find ways to write deeply again—even if it is just 20 minutes a day. 

A profound thank you to the Catholic Writers Guild, and all of those who worked so hard to bless dedicated, hard-working Catholic writers the training, tips, and encouragement we need to continue writing.

Calling All Catholic Writers-Online Conference!

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The Catholic Writers Conference Online, held by the Catholic Writers’ Guild, is a wonderful event for writers at all levels. Although most of the classes that I have taken nurture writing craft at a beginning/intermediate level, the unique aspect of the conference for writers is the way that it renews and deepens our calling as writers, whether we are just getting started or whether we have published numerous books.  Personally I find great joy in deepening and sharing the faith-aspects of our calling as writers who are Catholic.

Every year I try to help out with the CWCO, and I have always enjoyed it immensely. Below is the pertinent information from the Catholic Writers’ Guild website. Note that you have to register by February 10th! 

The Catholic Writers’ Guild will hold its annual online conference for writers Feb 17-19, 2017.  This faith-focused authors conference offers presentations covering all aspects of writing from the faith aspects of your calling as a writer to publishing and marketing your books.  There will also be online pitch sessions with noted Catholic publishers and secular publishers.

Attendees must register by Feb 10 at https://catholicwritersguild.org/catholic-writers-conference-online-admission-non-members.

The conference will be held using webinar software, making the experience more personal and immediate.

“Last year, we had amazing success with presentations in webinar format. It took the learning to a new level,” said organizer Karina Fabian. Fabian said the workshops offer terrific opportunities to ask in-depth questions and get feedback from knowledgeable instructors.   

This year’s sessions include a wide range of talents, including speakers like Lisa Mladinich, host of the TV talk show WOMAN; Lisa Hendey, author and founder of CatholicMom.com, horror author Karen Ullo, and attorney Antony Kolenc. In addition, there are practical workshops on indie publishing, Goodreads, characterization and more.

Pitch sessions give authors with finished books a chance to personally interest a publisher.  Pitch sessions include well known Catholic publishers like Our Sunday Visitor and Ave Maria, and secular presses like Liberty Island and Vinspire.

“Every year, we hear back from an author who finished a book, started a project, or got a publishing contract thanks to the Catholic Writers’ Conference Online.  Plus people make contacts and good friends.  It’s a terrific opportunity, especially for those who can’t afford to attend a live conference,” Fabian said.

This year’s conference is $40; $30 for members of the Catholic Writers’ Guild. To register or for more information, go to https://catholicwritersguild.org/online-conference.

#SeeSilenceFriday – Movie Tickets Giveaway!

Happy 2017! I have missed blogging so much over the past month…I have a lot to catch up on. Thank you so much for coming back to the blog, despite my unexpected disappearance!

My first few posts will be brief, as there is a lot I just want to get out there. The first is a free giveaway today only for tickets to the movie Silence for tomorrow. Silence is a story about the persecution of Christians in Japan in the 16th century, based on the novel by Shusako Endo.

Silence has received a number of very differing reviews from Catholic reviewers…I am still writing mine. But I will say that Martin Scorsese has made a faithful and moving depiction of the novel, of the Japanese martyrs, of doubt and faith, as well as a powerful reflection on the importance of religious freedom that offers insights for today. It has also been nominated for an Oscar in Cinematography, although I believe that it deserved a couple more nominations as well.

Visit: www.screenbrew.com for your chance to win a ticket–out of the one thousand tickets they are giving away! #SeeSilenceFriday