Ordinary Time: a Season Full of Surprises!

By Liquidwords [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Do you like thinking of your life (and for writers, your writing life) in terms of seasons?

Lately, I have found this concept of seasons so helpful in living my every day life. Perhaps that is because I feel I have entered a new “season” of my life in which I face difficult but also transforming experiences: illnesses and loss of loved ones. (And here is a hidden apology to my faithful readers for not keeping up with my two blogs—and yet, I am glad I have made the choices I have, since the free time I usually devote to writing—blogposts AND new books—has been very much taken up with caring for and spending time with loved ones struggling with serious illness.) This “season” of my life seems to be focused on the gifts that others are—and have been—to me.

The Church also gives us seasons for our spiritual lives. In addition to the “big seasons” of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, there are short series of feasts that fall within Ordinary Time that I have started to consider favorite mini-seasons. And we are towards the end of one that, I think, has so much to say to the human person who is, essentially, a communicative being. This “mini-season” with the focus on communication has many movable feasts, and it is hinted at throughout the Easter Season when so many Gospel readings are accounts of the appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection, or especially important “images” which Jesus uses to describe himself, such as the 4th Sunday of Easter, popularly known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.” Here is a list of the highlights of my communication-themed mini-liturgical season:

  • Novena to Mary Queen of Apostles (begins 10 days before Pentecost)
  • Novena to the Holy Spirit (begins 9 days before Pentecost)
  • Pauline Solemnity of Mary, Queen of Apostles – Saturday before Pentecost (See my blogpost here about how Mary as Queen of Apostles is also the model for all our communication)
  • Pentecost (The ultimate feast of communication, as the Holy Spirit enables the apostles to preach about Jesus in a way that reaches across all languages and cultures)
  • Memorial Mary, Mother of the Church – Monday after Pentecost
  • Feast of Most Holy Trinity (See my blogpost here about the Most Holy Trinity as the foundation for all communication)
  • May 31 The Feast of the Visitation (Immediately after the Word became flesh, Mary is the very first to bring him to others—the very first moment of evangelization) 
  • Feast of Corpus Christi (Here is a short blogpost illuminating how the Most Holy Eucharist is the most profound communication of God with us)
  • Solemnity Sacred Heart of Jesus (How all communication is to be loving…)
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary (Mary’s loving, heartfelt, often-wordless communication as a model for us in how we speak to each other)
  • Memorial St. Barnabas, Apostle – June 11 (The “son of encouragement” who took Saint Paul under his wing and first mentored him and then accompanied him in his journeys to communicate Christ)
  • Memorial St. Anthony – June 13 (One of the best preachers ever! Humble Saint Anthony knew how to explain the Gospel in a most compelling way…)
  • Solemnity Birth of John the Baptist – June 24 (The first, after Mary, to communicate to the world about Christ—a model of self-emptying communication: “He must increase, I must decrease…”)
  • Solemnity Saints Peter and Paul – June 29 (The two greatest apostles of all time; how each brought his whole self—unique as they are)
  • Pauline Solemnity St. Paul the Apostle – June 30 (Here is my personal prayer to Saint Paul, Communicator of Christ)

I hope that you, too, enjoy this particular “mini-season” in the Church and perhaps take some time to reflect on these questions—as I have started and will continue doing:

  • How God communicates to me (new life, love, gift)
  • How I communicate God to others (life-giving, loving, self-emptying)

God bless you!

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“To Seek God’s Face: Theological Approaches to Film”

Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, is a sister of my community whose name you might recognize, either from the many times I have referred to her on this blog, or simply from  her wonderful and insightful film reviews. She just graduated from the Graduate Theological Foundation and received their 2018 Mother Teresa Prize in Spirituality and Community Service.

She is a pioneer in the area of Media Literacy Education, founding our Pauline Center for Media Studies, and also in her work of integrating media consumption with Catholic values—especially social justice in the teaching of the Catholic Church. Here is a short version of her acceptance of the award and her explanation of her doctoral project:

The Artist is an “apostle of beauty”

In the new film, Pope Francis: A Man of His Word  (directed by one of my favorite filmmakers, Wim Wenders), Pope Francis calls the artist an apostle of beauty. And then he goes on to say that all of us are–or can be–apostles of simple, everyday beauty. He highlights two ways in which that is so…

…but really, you have to watch the movie to find out the rest of what he said (or you can guess in the comments below)!

I’ll be posting a full review of the film shortly, but I just wanted to get a quick word out there about two things:

  1.  Pope Francis: A Man of His Word should be seen by the whole world. It is a father’s video-letter to his children, encouraging us, challenging us, and urging us to be more. We catch a real glimpse of the heart of this Pope: personal, warm, direct, hope-filled and yet full of pathos. In the beautifully filmed segments where Pope Francis speaks directly to us, we can see the pain in his eyes–the pain of a father who sees the suffering that some of his children cause his other children.The film will be available in fewer theaters this week, but it is so worth seeing on the big screen. If, however, you miss it, we will certainly be carrying it at our Pauline Book & Media Centers!You can see the trailer here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOmY8i-uBcYz

  2. This quote from the film (and the entire film) is totally appropriate and fitting for the first-ever “National Creativity Day,” sponsored by ScreenwritingU, which I have found offers quality classes on writing great screenplays. Some great ideas for the day (and beyond), when we struggle with moving forward in our writing/artistic/creative projects!   https://www.facebook.com/NationalCreativityDay/

 

Do you have prayer intentions I can pray for?

Today, the Pauline Family begins our Novena to Mary, Queen of Apostles, which this year we celebrate on Saturday, May 19th, the day before Pentecost.

This year, I would like to offer the Novena for all of you! If you have a specific intention, I will pray for you specifically if you send it in to me. You can put it in the comments below, or email me: https://windowstothesoul.wordpress.com/contact-me/

My theme this year is Mary as Communicator. In addition to the traditional novena prayers, I will pray this prayer daily, as well as renewing my Marian Consecration. You can join in the Novena with me simply by praying this prayer for the next 9 days!

Mary, Woman of Communication

O Mother of our Lord Jesus, woman open to the gift of the Spirit, you are the true communicator because you revealed to us the Word of the Father. He sends his Son into the midst of the men and women of every age, so that they might discover his infinite love for them and learn to communicate among themselves as brothers and sisters.

You are the loving Virgin who made herself available to God; the temple of God who silently welcomed and guarded the great mystery of the Word made flesh in your womb, so that our eyes, blinded by sin and by our restless human longings, might contemplate the living Christ and see in him the face of the Father.

You revealed your beloved Son to the poor and the wise in the eloquent poverty of Bethlehem and in the simplicity of the little house in Nazareth. You followed him with total dedication as he carried out his mission, traveling the paths of the world with him up to the moment of his sacrifice on the cross.

In silent adoration, you awaited his glorious resurrection.

After his ascension, you remained in prayer with the apostles in the upper room, so as to welcome the Spirit, who helps us understand and communicate, renew the world, and transform our lives in such a way that Christ, your Son, might always live in us.

O Mary, our Lady and Queen of communication, we pray for all who communicate the Gospel. Help us all to transmit a little of your light, your unshakable faith, and your vigilant, hope-filled love. Help us to work in a concrete way to give birth to a new world by working to establish the Kingdom of God.  – from Live Christ! Give Christ! Prayers for the New Evangelization 

 

Forever My Girl – More Than a Romantic Comedy

Forever My Girl, released this week on DVD, is a film adaptation of the best-selling novel. Forever My Girl is a sweet, second-chance romance that, despite some genre-typical set-ups and pay-offs, and a too-neat ending, has an endearing warmth and depth.

For my commentary on the Salt + Light Radio Hour (and to find out if Deacon Pedro watches romantic comedies-starting April 28), listen in here.

The storyline starts with an all-too-obvious heartbreak that totally fits the genre: on the day of their wedding, up-and-coming local Southern singer Liam Page abandons his bride Josie to pursue a career in country music. Eight years later, Liam is a famous country music star who, when he hears about the death of his friend, returns to his long-neglected past in his hometown in Louisiana for the funeral. Although he hovers around the edges of the service and burial, not really reconnecting, he ends up extending his visit, perhaps seeking to recover what he lost.

The story continues with obvious ploys which, while predictable for the genre, seem to work for this film:

  • On Liam’s return, Josie knocks him over with a punch
  • Josie is a single mom with a daughter, Billy
  • At first, Billy is a very cute, lovable brat, who keeps Liam at a distance, but she gradually lets down her walls 
  • Josie’s brother Jake taunts Liam with his abandonment and accuses him of being unfit for Josie and Billy
  • Liam’s father provides an explanation of why Liam ran away

Anyone who has watched a few rom-coms has seen all of these before—many of them together in similar films. But a couple earnest, understated choices of the filmmakers make all the difference:

  • When Liam decides to stay in his hometown, he doesn’t try to explain or defend himself to Josie, to Josie’s brother Jake, or to his father (who is also a pastor and is realistically struggling to deal with his disappointment in his son).
  • The film uses one telling detail to show not only that Liam has been unable to forget Josie, but that he is desperate for a connection with her
  • Despite Liam’s inner anguish, he has enough self-respect, courage, and respect for the people he left behind to seek reconciliation by simply being present, with no expectations.
  • Josie’s feisty response to Liam’s reappearance—he never contacted her after abandoning her at the church—rings true and reveals a maturity in her character. It takes time before she decides to see him or spend time with him.
  • While Liam’s father initially struggles with Liam’s return, he both encourages Liam and lets Liam find his own way.
  • Another nice touch in the film is how Liam’s isolation and brokenness is portrayed visually: he is constantly on the outside of the community/family, looking in.
  • Alex Roe’s understated performance as Liam really gives depth to this film. Rather than coming back with a “Here I am!” attitude, he simply accepts the criticism, blame, and doubts he receives. He doesn’t expect anything from the people he hurt and left behind. But he constantly tries to show—with his actions—what his intentions and desires are. His admirable quiet restraint, even humility, in several situations that are emotionally difficult for everyone is quite striking.

 

A Window to the Soul: into the Virtues of Humility, Reconciliation, Forgiveness, Starting Over, Christian Community, Family

Forever My Girl is not an overtly Christian movie (and there are definitely non-Christian ideas and behavior in the film about living together, language, modesty, etc.). Rather, it is a mainstream genre film that contrasts a fame-driven, self-centered lifestyle with an other-centered, Christian lifestyle. Forever My Girl offers a refreshing view of a Christian community that is neither perfect nor hypocritical: real disciples of Christ who struggle to live the healing love of forgiveness Jesus calls us to. In today’s revenge-hungry, self-entitled culture, forgiveness can be unimaginable. But this film—without preaching—shows the power and beauty of these most important Christian virtues: forgiveness and true reconciliation.

For those who love romantic comedies, Forever My Girl is not to be missed. Forever My Girl is also a good choice for a teen or YA “Meeting Jesus at the Movies Night.” The film is rated PG, appropriate for families with older tweens and up (depending on the maturity of the child).

In-Depth Look at Fake News and Journalism for Peace-Pope Francis’ World Communications Day Message

This year’s Message for World Communications Day is so timely that I wanted to highlight/summarize a couple important points from the Message—especially for people who haven’t read it. Three paragraphs impressed me so much that I made a line-by-line meditation on it—and I will share my notes from that with you below.

The theme for 2018 is “The truth will set you free”: Fake news and journalism for peace. In this powerful meditation for all of us living in the digital age (especially for all Christian communicators–which is all of us), Pope Francis highlights the importance of truth: in our lives, in our relationships, in our communication, in our service. The Message first gives a description of fake news, what makes fake news thrive, and how fake news exploits the human person, leading to:

  • the spread of disinformation
  • the spread of hate and arrogance,
  • demonizing others
  • fomenting conflict.

In describing how we can respond to fake news, Pope Francis approaches it from what we Pauline Sisters call a “Media Mindful” perspective:

“Preventing and identifying the way disinformation works also calls for a profound and careful process of discernment. We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place.”

Pope Francis goes on to recount how the “Father of Lies” perpetrated humanity’s first instance of fake news in Genesis 3:

  • pretense of friendship
  • speaking partial truths that distorts the truth and falsifies reality (incomplete, out of context)
  • speaking with the appearance of truth only

Pope Francis concludes, “Trusting in falsehood can have dire consequences. Even a seemingly slight distortion of the truth can have dangerous effects.”

How fake news so easily goes viral brings to my mind a story about St. Philip Neri, who is popularly remembered for his humor and humility, but who was renowned during his lifetime as a wise confessor. The story goes that to a woman who confessed the sin of gossip, St. Philip gave her the penance of walking through the town plucking the feathers of a chicken, and then to return to him. When she returned, the saint told her to now go back and gather up all the feathers. Dismayed, she protested that it was impossible. St. Philip pointed out that it is impossible to take back the harm that our gossip does.

Fake news can take lying and gossiping to a global level. Fake news may be driven by greed and a thirst for power, simple negligence, but it ultimately victimizes individuals by robbing us of our interior freedom. One solution is for everyone to practice a deeper awareness when it comes to our communication and especially our media usage. This is what we try to encourage in schools, parishes, and families, by sharing the practice of Media Mindfulness, which Pope Francis refers to (without using the label):

“Education for truth means teaching people how to discern, evaluate and understand our deepest desires and inclinations, lest we lose sight of what is good and yield to every temptation.”

My favorite two paragraphs of the message I will quote in full, with a few of my personal reflections.

(You can download the four-page line by line reflection here.) 

Pope Francis wraps up with an invitation:

– to all people to listen and engage in sincere dialogue

– to journalists to take up the weighty responsibility of a commitment to truth: to be protectors of the news.

“Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives. That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.”

Pope Francis concludes with a powerful prayer to Christ, our Truth, that I will be praying daily through this year dedicated to Truth:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.
You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
where there is shouting, let us practise listening;
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions;
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.
Amen.

A Wrinkle in Time Movie (& Novel) Guides Available Now!

It’s a delight to be able to offer this little Easter gift for my blog readers!

Here are some guides for reflection and discussion for A Wrinkle in Time, available individually or all in one downloadable PDF. Eventually, these guides will move to the website for the Pauline Center for Media Studies, so if you’re interested in discussing the film or the book, or comparing the two, or simply praying with themes (and Scriptures) from the novel, you might want to download them from here today. Enjoy!