Cool Upcoming Catholic Film & Writing Events!

There are so many cool upcoming Catholic media events that I wanted to highlight them here for you:

JP2 Inter-Faith Film Festival

JPIIFilmFestROLThe upcoming JP2 Inter-Faith Film Festival, held in Miami, FL, from October 8-17, 2015, is coming up! If you love films and want to support the development of faith-based films, this is a great endeavor to get involved in and spread the word about. I’m delighted to share the news that our very own Media Apostle: The Father James Alberione Story will be screening at the festival this fall! For more information, visit their gofundme site, or their film festival site.  Here you can find a listing of films in the festival this year. Here is a little more about the festival from their website:

The JP2 Inter-Faith Film Festival (formerly the John Paul II International Film Festival) has been a sensation since its 2009 inauguration. Inspired by John Paul II’s letter to artists (read it HERE) and his inter-religious and unifying efforts, the festival has screened over 125 films (156 if you include our upcoming lineup!) that uphold human dignity and explore the undeniable human journey that defines us.

 

Chicago Premiere of Media Apostle: the James Alberione Story
For those living near Chicago, here’s an announcement about the free premiere screening of my favorite documentary of 2015! (Note that admission is free, but a reservation is needed!)

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The Catholic Writers Guild Annual Writers Retreat!

CWGretreatThe Catholic Writers’ Guild is offering their retreat for writers this year. Personally, I would love to go to this some year. Check it out if you need wonderful writing fellowship and a writing get-away!

Clay Pots: Finding the Treasure: A weekend retreat for communication arts professionals

And finally, time is winding down for registration for our Communicators Arts Professional Retreat. If you are interested, make sure you check it out today! (Feel free to email me with questions.)

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Three Things That Brighten the Tedium of Computer Troubles

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Registration deadline is approaching fast! Register here at www.pauline.org/retreat, and come and join us in a wonderful retreat weekend!

This week, I thought I’d have my post up early because I’d half-written it in my head…and well, it’s only three days late!

Last week I realized that I had to address my MacBook Pro’s spinning beach ball issues. (For those not immersed in computerese, that means my computer keeps freezing up.) Unfortunately, despite a completely clean install of Yosemite, I’m still dealing with many beach balls. Which I wouldn’t mind, except it’s keeping me from other wonderful things, like blogging here, finishing off our next audio book project, etc.

Here are a couple of little discoveries that have brightened my re-installing tedium:

The Daughters of Saint Paul with Wally at their soundcheck before singing at Fenway!

The Daughters of Saint Paul with Wally at their soundcheck before singing at Fenway!

This Sunday, our very own #SingingSisters, the Daughters of Saint Paul Choir, sang “God Bless America” at Fenway Park during the seventh-inning stretch. It was an awesome tribute to God’s goodness and beauty…and people were deeply moved. You can see a replay online here at the Major League Baseball Site.

HipsterCatholicMusicTheCatholicHipster (#HipsterCatholicMusic) is running a really fun contest to see who wins the vote for “the champion of the Hipster Catholic music scene.” All of the nominees are fantastic artists who bring lovely, uplifting and truly Catholic music to the public…and we feel honored that our Daughters of Saint Paul Choir is among them as the fifth nominee! (You probably can’t guess who I voted for.) So go and voteevery one of them deserves to win!

A new blogger who writes about writing and spirituality has come to my attention recently: Ed Cyzewski who blogs at http://edcyzewski.com.  From his recent posts, Ed and I seem to be quite a bit like-minded in our approach to the interplay between the spiritual life and writing. About 10 days ago he wrote a compelling article that I really enjoyed, titled, “Am I Just A List of Books?” This is a great question for a writer, and Ed handles it in a way that prompted me to further reflection. I hope to be able to read his book, Pray, Write, Grow, and maybe provide a review here in the future.

Rediscover Jesus: Invitation to a Dynamic Relationship with Christ

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation is truly an appealing invite to readers to encounter Jesus deeply. RJ-book-flatThis book answers an urgent need that I have found in Catholics all over North America: people of good will, rooted and raised in the Catholic Faith, who are Catholic mostly just for Sunday Mass and special occasions, who desperately need a personal relationship with Jesus. As a vocation director, I have often been concerned for young people who begin discerning their vocations without having a personal relationship with Jesus–indeed, without knowing that they needed one. They wanted to do God’s will, but how could they hear God’s call if they didn’t know how to have a conversation with Jesus? Helping young people develop a personal relationship with Christ became the starting-point of my work in nurturing vocations.

Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation wonderfully addresses this need, inviting readers in to their own personal relationship with Jesus through:

  • Conversational style and short, easily digestible portions. Broken down into 40 short chapters, this book covers the basics of what it means to live a Christian life–one nugget at a time. For the most part, this book was simply a joy to read.
  • Four concrete interactive invitations at the end of every chapter, each of which appeal to a different part of our personhood.  To Ponder engages the mind, Verse to Live (taken from the Gospels) can engage almost any part of us, depending on how we read it; Question to Consider engages our memories and life experience, and Prayer engages our hearts. Almost every reader will find at least one of those four points striking. These interactive invites allow us as readers to reflect on the message of the chapter in a way that is deeply personal.
  • Life-changing introduction to how to live a truly Christian life
  • Relational approach–not just because of the conversational style, but because of how Matthew Kelly is definitely trying to encourage us to develop our own personal relationship with Jesus–the one relationship that we all thirst for, whether we know it or not.

The topics of the chapters rotate, but I found three main themes running through the book. The first 9 or so chapters seem to focus on who God is and who Jesus is–especially as we can come to know him through the Gospels and through prayer. These first chapters are shorter, extremely inviting and appealing, and motivating. They’re great not just for people who need a personal relationship with Jesus, but also for those who seek to deepen their relationship with Christ. I’ve bookmarked several points to pray with later. My favorite chapters of the book were these first chapters and the last few chapters because they focus so well on the personal. What does Jesus truly want for us? How does Jesus think of us? How do we think of Jesus? How can we give Jesus our all?

Chapters 11 through 20 (or so) seem to focus on the heart of Jesus’ Gospel teaching, especially how we are called as followers of Christ to imitate him.

From the middle of the book to the end, the chapters primarily focus on transformation: how Christ wants to and will transform our lives if we allow him–so that we can be truly, deeply happy, so that we can be our best selves. In a particular way, the last ten or so chapters discuss holiness–in a way that makes it accessible to everyone.

My favorite chapters:

Chapter 10: Learning a true love of self

Chapter 22: Matthew’s act of surrender–in line with the great St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe and Blessed Charles de Foucald’s Act of Abandonment–is put in such contemporary terms, but so elegantly, that I will be adding it to my favorite prayers

Chapters 23, 25 & 28: How tos and examples of how to pray with the Word of God, especially the Gospels

Chapter 26: How a Christian can begin daily personal prayer

One of the main reasons I agreed to review this book (Note: I received a review copy in exchange for writing a review in a fairly timely fashion!) is because I expected it to be very good, and I was hoping that author Matthew Kelly, who has proven himself to be a wonderful communicator through his books and www.DynamicCatholic.com, would offer us a particularly valuable example of being a great communicator in his newest book. I was not disappointed! He shows what it means to be an effective communicator of Christ in this book by:

  • knowing one’s readers and their interests, issues, and concerns
  • addressing one’s audience effectively, invitationally
  • communicating interactively
  • creating the invitational space for the reader to encounter Christ

What I enjoyed most about Rediscover Jesus: An Invitation is its circular communication inviting the reader in: from Matthew Kelly to reader to Christ (whom we assume inspired Matthew Kelly to write this invitation in the first place). It’s not one-way communication from author to reader but circular, Trinitarian. Rediscover Jesus has the potential to be life-giving, life-changing.

Although I read the book in just three short sittings, I would recommend instead reading a chapter a day. This will give the reader the opportunity to take time with each chapter’s invitation, and facilitate a 40-day journey for the reader to either begin or actively grow in one’s relationship with Jesus.

My only gripe? The overuse of the word “radical.” I don’t know if it’s the editor in me, or a reminder of how much used to overuse it when describing Christian discipleship and religious life, but the way “radical” was frequently used to describe Jesus distracted me a couple of times.

Who would especially benefit from this book?

  • The average Catholic in the pew
  • Anyone interested in beginning or renewing their spiritual life
  • RCIA–people learning to live the Christian life as personal relationship with Christ
  • Teens or young adults starting to make their faith their own.  This doesn’t look like a book for those receiving Confirmation, but it would be awesome if every confirmandee read it!
  • Anyone with a personal relationship with Christ will enjoy deepening that relationship with some of the creative, refreshing and contemporary “takes” that can enrich our prayer.
  • Those who want to learn how to communicate Christ: fresh, original language; creative suggestions for praying with the Gospels; a contemporary invitation to tradition/faith that is accessible to a “newbie”

 

Signs and Symbols in Communicating Christ

ConcordRiverFullwTreeMy annual retreat this year was beautiful, deep, and even had a number of practical “takeaways” that I’m already putting into practice in my daily life. I prayed for all of you, my readers, and in a special way for those who sent in prayer requests and intentions.

From each day’s Gospel reading (primarily from Matthew and John 6’s Bread of Life discourse, and including the Gospel for the Transfiguration), my retreat director singled out a theme for my retreat: “Signs, Wonders, and Wondering.” It was a great theme for my retreat, but it’s also a great theme to explore in this blog. Signs are a form of communication that I haven’t explored that much here, and yet almost all communication uses signs or forms to communicate a deeper reality.

If we think about it, all of creation is really a sign of God’s communication with us. For me, nature has been and continues to be a particularly poignant way that God communicates to me. One encounter in the woods during retreat was especially touching.

"White-tailed deer" by USDA photo by Scott Bauer - Image Number: K5437-3

“White-tailed deer” by USDA photo by Scott Bauer – Image Number: K5437-3

One morning I rose early and walked to the Concord River to a special spot where I often go to pray while on retreat. My prayer spot is a narrow piece of land that juts out from swampland into the river. This morning I’d already run into two beautiful does–mother and daughter, probably–and they had disappeared into the woods so fast that I almost didn’t believe I’d seen them. While I was sitting by the river, a majestic young stag walked out to the shoreline a short distance up the river from me. He saw me, but I was far enough away that he didn’t seem concerned about me. After feeding and drinking for a while, the stag stepped into the water and started making his way towards me.

I think it was at that point I stopped breathing.

With fairly well-developed antlers, the stag was so beautiful and strong, and yet also vulnerable. As he got closer, I started realizing how big he was. The thought flashed through my  mind that us sharing the narrow piece of land I was standing on–which was barely wide enough for two people–would not be a good idea.

Of course he wouldn’t come that close. Would he?

In that moment, the stag finally seemed to realize that I wasn’t part of the landscape. He stopped, raised his head, and took a really long look at me.

After another breathless moment, he turned toward the shore and casually sauntered back into the woods.

I stayed and prayed for another 10 or 20 minutes, then started walking back. As I approached the forest’s solid land and the main path, I caught a glimpse of the stag–waiting for me?– on the main path. I stopped and caught his eye. His tail flashed and he left–not at a run, but faster than his previous sauntering pace.

My experience with the stag so struck me that later that day, I broke my internet retreat fast and looked up the Celtic symbolism of the stag. I’d often prayed with Psalm 42, “As the hart longs for running streams…” but this time the stag didn’t seem to represent me or my longings, but Christ.

I found I’d been correct in my remembrance that in Celtic tradition, the stag was a symbol of Christ. Although I didn’t find the reasoning particularly compelling, I used the symbolism as an entry into prayer. Why had I been so moved by the stag, in addition to his reflection of the beauty of God?

The stag’s beauty, gracefulness, and power were all striking. I’ve never even seen a stag with such well-developed antlers before. But what also struck me was the stag’s vulnerability. Although he might have been watching protectively over the does I’d encountered earlier, I saw him alone. And when I was concerned that he might get too close to me, I wasn’t just concerned for myself. I also realized that if he gets too comfortable with people, he is an easier target during hunting season.

Christ is striking in his beauty, graciousness, goodness, and power. But like the stag, Jesus, too, is strikingly vulnerable. The difference is that Jesus chooses to make himself vulnerable. For our sake–for my sake–Christ took on our human nature and underwent all the fragility of a human life here on earth, ending up by being put to death by crucifixion. And Jesus continues to make himself vulnerable for me every day in the Eucharist. Truly present in the Eucharist, Christ hides his majesty, glory, and power, making himself vulnerable every day for me.

All of nature can “speak” to us of God. My encounter with the stag–in all his power and vulnerability–became a powerful symbol with which I could contemplate an aspect of the mystery of Christ’s love for us.

Call-out for Prayer Intentions

On Sunday, I’ll begin my annual retreat. Each day of retreat I dedicate to a special patron saint and offer prayers for a special intention. I’ll remember all the readers of this blog one day, but if you have a special prayer request, feel free to send it to me in the comments, via email, or via Twitter or Facebook (This is the first time I’m accepting prayer requests through Twitter and Facebook, but I think I’ve set them up so they should come through to me.)

In the meantime, I just want to remind you that this October, you have a unique opportunity for a retreat designed specifically for media professionals that I’ll be helping to lead. Registration is on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can find more information and register at www.pauline.org/retreat. May God bless you!

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A Nun’s Social Media Challenges

Driving by Facebook Headquarters on a Recent California Visit

Driving by Facebook Headquarters on a Recent California Visit

If you are on Twitter or Instagram or even Facebook, you may have noticed that I have not been present much the past two months. Partly, this has had to do with time and travel, but about three weeks ago, my access to the internet–and therefore to social media networks–changed rather dramatically, due to technological and geographical issues. The result is that my access to social media via my phone is very limited.

But I’ve been trying to figure out the social media question since I joined the Pauline Digital Department a year and half ago. I  struggle to find the time to keep up with any social media–and the understanding readers of this blog have certainly noticed because, out of everything I do, this blog has suffered the most from neglect, with the changes in my life and responsibilities.

As a writer and communicator for Christ, I love the possibilities that social media offer. But I find using social media can very easily fragment my attention so that I’m no longer focused on other important things, like writing my next book.

Since January, I’ve been thinking about making a real social media plan, and the circumstances of the past few weeks have given me the motivation to make the time to do the needed research and move towards a plan that is manageable and takes into account my new circumstances.

Research
My new favorite resource on social media is the engaging blog and podcast, Social Media Just for Writers, by Frances Caballo. Whether you feel you are a newbie or seasoned social media user, Social Media Just for Writers has up-to-date tips and helps. For this particular question–how do I want to use social media, and specifically which social media platforms are best for me to use at this time, I ran into a couple very helpful articles on Buffer’s blog: How To Choose the Right Social Network for Your Business, and Social Media Strategy: How Much Time Does a Good Strategy Really Take?  Even though the first article is a year old, it has many helpful pointers for making this important choice–and I can easily find the latest statistics on the various platforms elsewhere.

Key Factors
Ultimately, choosing which social media to use to engage with people is a matter of finding where audience, content, possibilities, and resources, intersect. For me, how I decide to use social media becomes an even more complex choice because of factors that are both common and idiosyncratic:

  • I use social media above all as a space to “link” others to Jesus
  • Interaction on social media is key, but it’s more efficient to schedule posts ahead of time–and I’ve fallen into that efficiency trap
  • I have several different areas of content I want to develop and share using social media–based on the books I’ve written and relevant spiritual themes
  • As a published author, I also want to use social media to occasionally promote the books that I’ve written
  • As a Pauline religious sister called to work in media, my call to prayer and contemplation needs to be balanced with the demands of media–in this case, social media
  • I sometimes find social media fragmenting and distracting both in my life and as a writer of longer forms
  • There are so many cool social media platforms to choose from (and I’m just looking at the bigger ones!), yet my time to use them is quite limited

I’m gradually coming up with a plan, which consists of maintaining a rather nominal presence on one or two networks, more fully engaging with another two, and focusing on developing the social media that I truly love and enjoy using, including blogging and my long-dreamed-of podcast.

I’m sure that I’ll be tweaking this plan as I experiment with it, but being more mindful to use social media in a way where I can really engage with people has become the key for my choices. Some of these involve tough choices:

  • What  huge social network(s) do I let go of?
  • What other activities do I let go of–both in daytime and evening–so that I can access social media with some consistency?
  • Is this plan realistic?
  • How can I manage my time better so that I can be present “live” for personal interaction on all of the networks?

As I craft my plan over this weekend and early next week, I’d love to hear your input and recommendations–please feel free to comment or email me!

Announcing a Retreat for Communicators!

Announcing a retreat for writers, advertisers, filmmakers, producers, marketers, artists, graphic designers…all communication arts professionals. If you work in the field of media, this retreat is for you.retreatflyer

I’m incredibly excited to be part of this retreat. For more information, and to register (first come, first serve basis), visit: http://www.pauline.org/retreat

Please help us to get the word out to colleagues and friends!