My Inspiration for This Week: Intersections of Faith & Culture!

God surprised me last week with a wonderful, unexpected resource that explores the great connection between faith and writing, called The Festival of Faith & Writing. There are a number of these kinds of events throughout the U.S., but what makes this one special is that they podcast some of the major addresses. Here is a description in their own words:

The Festival of Faith & Writing is a biennial celebration of literature and belief, both broadly construed. Drawing more than 2,000 people from across the world to Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Festival offers three days of lively lectures, readings, conversations, films, workshops, concerts, plays, and more, all fueled by coffee and good food. It’s a feast for readers, including those who also write.

Rooted in the Christian Reformed belief in common grace, the Festival of Faith & Writing creates space for meaningful discussion and shared discovery among people with different religious beliefs and practices. On the campus of Calvin College, we bring together diverse voices and perspectives in thoughtful reflection on the stories that we shape and that also shape us.

Rewrite Radio is the podcast from the Festival of Faith & Writing, and they seem to have included all of 2016’s lectures, as well as some older ones. This week, I was delighted to listen to two writers whose nonfiction has mentored me on my faith-writing journey: Madeleine L’Engle (from an early 1996 Festival) and Frederich Buechner (Rewind episode from 1992). And there are many more that I am looking forward to listening to. I’m hoping they will post up the 2018 Festival in the not-too-distant future!

 

A #MediaNuns Update

Last night Salt + Light TV’s Catholic Focus was on My Sisters, the Daughters of Saint Paul’s online community devoted to helping members meet Christ and experience his love in daily life. Each week, we have a Monday night “Spiritual Accompaniment” on Facebook Live, where we have a conversation about a chosen spiritual theme, and throughout the week we offer prayers, mini-conferences, and other resources to enrich members’ spiritual growth and life of faith. If you are interested in finding more support for your spiritual life from a community whose spirituality is Pauline, holistic, and communication/arts oriented, you may want to check it out! (Trial month is just $1.) Next week we start the Advent retreat, so it’s the perfect time to join! (For more information, visit https://mysisters.blog/ or to join, visit: www.pauline.org/mysisters )

 

O Glorious Night “Singing Nuns” Christmas Concert

Finally, it’s that time of year when our Daughters of Saint Paul Choir go on tour-this year to 7 cities!-for their beautiful Christmas concert. Concert locations are:

  • Staten Island, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Lafayette, LA
  • New Orleans, LA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Los Angeles, CA

You will not regret hearing this wonderful music and witnessing their incredible joy in Christ. Check out the concert nearest you!

 

 

 

 

 

Saintly Patrons: Create your own litany to the saints!

This week, I will begin my annual retreat, and though I don’t plan to post here during my retreat, I will be praying for you and your intentions.

Several years ago, a wonderful retreat director suggested that I entrust each day of my retreat to a special patron, which I have done ever since making that retreat. Recently, one of our chaplains encouraged us to create our own Litany of the Saints, in which we pray to the saints with whom we have a special relationship, asking for their intercession in our daily lives. My daily Litany of Saints continues to grow…it includes apostles, contemplatives, mystics, martyrs, writers…. May of the saints I pray to were writers, or artists, or promoters of beauty and truth. For each retreat, I usually pick a “fun” thing to do: something that I can do that won’t break up my recollection, but gives me something concrete to work on or play with when I get restless. I think that this year, I will put together a personal e-prayerbook, which will include a full-length personal Litany.

If you have been to an Easter Vigil with a Baptism, or a religious profession, you have heard the Church’s litany to the saints, sung or recited. For each occasion, the litany of the saints is adapted to include the new names of the baptized or those professing vows. But what a wonderful  idea for each of us to create our own litany to the saints—perhaps with a more personal response than “pray for us”, unique for each saint!

Litanies to the saints can be wonderfully adapted for all sorts of intentions. For example, our Founder Blessed James Alberione gave us a beautiful “Litany for the Formation of Promoters of Social Communications,” which one of our sisters updated. Our Church is blessed with so many wonderful models, heroes, and intercessors that we could create litanies invoking the saints for all kinds of special intentions: for families, to create a more equitable world, to promote the dignity of human life, to save and heal the environment, etc.

* * *

I won’t be posting for the next two weeks, but if you would like me to remember your specific intentions in my prayers during retreat, please post them below or send them to me in a private email-by July 11, 2018! I would be honored to pray for you.

If you are interested, here are the saints Blessed James Alberione included in his “Litany for the Formation of Promoters of Social Communication.” I will update the litany and post a downloadable version for communicators, writers, and artists soon!

Mother of Christ and our Mother,      pray for us

Mother of divine grace,                       pray for us

Mother of good counsel,                     pray for us

Queen of the Apostles,                       pray for us

Seat of Wisdom,                                 pray for us

Saintly Moses,                                    pray for us

Saintly David,                                     pray for us

Saintly Isaiah                                      pray for us

All holy Prophets                                pray for us

St. Mark,                                             pray for us

St Matthew,                                         pray for us

St. Luke,                                              pray for us

St. John,                                              pray for us

St. Paul,                                               pray for us

St. Peter,                                             pray for us

St. James,                                            pray for us

St. Thaddeus,                                      pray for us

All holy Apostles and Evangelists,     pray for us

All holy apostolic Fathers,                 pray for us

St. Athanasius,                                    pray for us

St. Basil,                                              pray for us

St. Jerome,                                          pray for us

St Ambrose,                                        pray for us

St. Augustine,                                     pray for us

St. John Chrysostom,                          pray for us

St. Gregory the Great,                         pray for us

All holy Fathers,                                 pray for us

St. Bernard,                                         pray for us

St. Albert,                                            pray for us

St. Thomas,                                         pray for us

St. John of the Cross,                          pray for us

St. Francis de Sales,                            pray for us

St. Alphonsus                                     pray for us

All holy Doctors,                                pray for us

St Teresa,                                            pray for us

St. Catherine,                                       pray for us

All holy men and women

            saints of God,                          intercede for us.

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 

 

A Wrinkle in Time Movie has “wrinkles” but is worth seeing if…

The beloved, classic YA novel A Wrinkle of Time influenced countless young people who read it during their formative years. The 2018 film reminds us of the differences between books and movies—and that one doesn’t always translate well to the other—but it still offers insight into aspects of Madeleine L’Engle’s original story.

The Story

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of young teen Meg Murry, whose parents are brilliant scientists who research the universe in a microcosmic and macrocosmic way. Meg’s father disappeared without a trace four years ago, and while Meg and her family desperately miss him and believe his disappearance has to do with his research, they have to put up with their neighbors’ and classmates’ snide remarks that their father purposely abandoned them.

Meg has an exceptionally brilliant brother she is very close to, five-year-old Charles Wallace. Charles Wallace often seems to know things without being told—including Meg’s often unspoken feelings of inadequacy and her struggle to fit in.

Several strange ladies, “fallen stars” (who are really angel-like figures) befriend Charles Wallace and take him, Meg, and Meg’s new friend from school, Calvin, on an inter-dimensional journey to other planets in the galaxy to find Meg’s father and rescue him.

The above description fits both film and novel, but doesn’t capture the emotional impact that the novel had on countless young people since its publication in 1962. This summary might seem a bit formulaic, but at the time, A Wrinkle in Time defied both categorization and expectations. (Eventually, it would help to define the YA genre, and in my mind it remains one of the first—and the best—YA books read today.)

Christian Themes

The author, Madeleine L’Engle brings a unique Christian sensibility to fantasy in her book, A Wrinkle in Time:

* the sense of wonder at and gratitude for the marvels of the universe

* an attitude of praise toward the Creator of the universe, who has created everyone (and everything) with a purpose to fulfill

* a solidly Christian foundation for the story, especially evident (but unstated?) in its approach to the universe, to life, the dignity of the human person, and to the struggle of good vs. evil

* a fascination with paradox and humility

* a deep respect for the reader: L’Engle is not afraid to challenge the reader’s ability to grasp scientific theory and to stretch our imagination to its limits

* an integrated way of seeing reality, the human person, and spiritual growth

Unfortunately, very little of this is carried through into the film.

The Film

But the film has some strengths and adaptations that make it well worth viewing: Strong acting, inclusive casting, some wonderful lines from the book are included in the dialogue, the fact that it is family-friendy, some delightful touches that nuance certain characters to show that it is their woundedness that gives an entryway to sin. The portrayal of the angelic characters, the Mrs. W’s, totally challenge the traditional image of angels. In the novel and in the film, the angels keep Meg and viewers off-balance and slightly uncomfortable—the way we are supposed to be when in the presence of angels.

Some of the important themes that are explored in the movie are:

* the tyranny of conformity vs. the the gift of individuality

* importance of free will

* the gift (or grace) of our weakness

* forgiveness

* growth in self-confidence and integrity

* the struggle between good and evil/light and darkness

* love, especially under the aspect that love is the strongest power in the universe and is the best way to overcome evil

The film also addresses the wonder of creation, but in this aspect, we see lots of special effects, which are dazzling visually, but less of experience of wonder.

The film got a lot right, and is worth seeing on its own. However, it could have been so much more. As a novel, A Wrinkle in Time is practically perfect; the film’s artistry doesn’t measure up to the book, nor is it a great film on its own.

My second biggest disappointment in the film is that, although the characters are likable, we never get to “feel” with them. Somehow, this movie leaves us on the surface. None of the characters get the just development they deserve. As the protagonist, Meg has a credible character arc, but it never makes us feel with her. (And it’s certainly not the wonderful character arc of the book.)  Too much time is spent on the visual effects, but again, we experience them from the surface. In L’Engle’s book, creation itself is a character, but in the book, it is simply a colorful background. Choices are consistently made that pull us away from the deeper story of the characters. A chase scene that doesn’t even exist in the book was added in…and it doesn’t even make sense. Unfortunately, this emphasis on the special effects means that we don’t have enough time to go deeper into the characters.

The pacing of the plot was uneven. The film jumps between places and flashbacks in time, but too often the jumps didn’t serve the story.

Translation from Novel into Film

CAUTION: BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD

My first disappointment in the film is that so many of the themes inherent in L’Engle’s novel don’t make it into the film. In the novel, L’Engle’s characters directly quote the Bible at least five times: from Isaiah, the Gospel of John, 1 & 2 Corinthians. (I would have to reread the book just for Scripture citations to be sure how many; I probably missed one or two or more!)  I don’t believe that the film used any of those quotes, even though several of them capture these deeper themes so well. By eliminating the reference to these quotes and removing those themes, the filmmakers are removing the major part of the depth and magic of the story.

One of my favorite events which is key in Meg’s character development, is completely left out. Instead, the movie shows her father trying to tesser Meg out and failing, because of Meg’s strength of will (and maybe her temper). From there, the film moves right to the climax of the story. (In the novel, of course Meg has a temper, but after almost dying from her father’s effort to tesser her home, she goes through an inner journey on the planet of Ixchel, which prepares her for the final encounter with It. Her choice to go back to get Charles Wallace comes not from fear, but is a choice of love and trust, even in the blindness of her fear and the knowledge that she isn’t strong enough. By leaving out this journey to Ixchel—one of the most important events of the book and a key event in Meg’s character development—the film reduces the novel’s incredibly rich thesis to a flat journey to self-esteem, with a generic message about the power of love.

My disappointment in the film was made all the greater by the filmmakers claiming to know L’Engle deeply. Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “I wrote A Wrinkle in Time as a hymn of praise to God, so I must let it stand as it is and not be fearful when it is misunderstood.” In taking out many of the specifically Christian elements from the film, the filmmakers also took away the universal elements: the film has a weaker storyline, a generic message that lacks depth and specificity, flat themes, and characters that don’t emotionally engage the audience.

The Foolish and the Weak

The film’s biggest theme — Meg gaining enough self-esteem to learn to trust herself —is a worthy theme that resonates with kids. But in the novel, Meg doesn’t save herself by her own power, just because she believes in herself. Her learning to trust in herself is only a part of one of the book’s main themes: the Christian paradox of weakness and strength, of failure and victory—all of which, of course, refers to the paradox of the cross. This is a far cry from the tagline of the film, “Be a warrior.” I assume that the tagline (and the line repeated in the film) is about being a warrior of love, and having courage. But that is really not the theme–not even of the film.

The novel’s last chapter is titled “The Foolish and the Weak,” and directly quotes 1 Corinthians: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong.” Meg doesn’t just learn that the power of this world—the power we can see—is not the greatest power in the universe. She learns that love is. But it’s a mutual love. It is in her faults, in her weakness and neediness, that she “grows into” accepting the truth about herself. And that truth, that humility, enables her to receive the love that transforms her into Love for others—to forgive her father and to rescue Charles Wallace no matter the risk to herself.  It is Meg’s remembering that she is loved by Mrs. Whatsit (an angelic stand-in for God) that enables her to love Charles Wallace who has lost himself, even as he is fighting her. Meg’s greatest adventure in A Wrinkle in Time is not external, but spiritual.

Is A Wrinkle in Time a “Must-See” Film?

This film got a lot wrong, leaving out: some of the best scenes, all of the biblical references apart from Jesus’ name; the Pauline theme of the foolishness of God being wiser than human wisdom; the sense of divine design in the universe—even the lovely example that human life is like a sonnet. (Our lives have a certain structure, but we are free to say whatever we want to say, as long as we stay within that poetic design.) However, in all fairness, perhaps A Wrinkle in Time is just too great of a novel to do a great film adaptation today. Perhaps in the future, the right filmmaker will come along and do this novel justice.

At the same time, the film does a good job visualizing and dramatizing parts of this great story. If you like fantasy, or if you’d like a fun family movie that has a little more depth to it, or if you loved the book but also like film adaptations, you will probably enjoy this movie. If you haven’t read the book, or you haven’t read the book in a while, then I highly recommend reading the book first, or plan to read it soon afterwards. The movie needs the book to complete it. And the story is more timely today than ever. However, if you are a book purist, then I regretfully caution you that you might not enjoy the film.

A Final Note

Madeleine L’Engle is one of my favorite authors—both her fiction (A Wrinkle in Time) and nonfiction (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art). I suspect this is part of the reason why:

“We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.” – Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art

A discussion guide for the film and the novel highlighting some of these themes will be available in shortly—check back here on my blog or email me if you’d like to be notified when you can download it!

Make this Holy Week one-of-a-kind with Cinema Novena: PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST

A “COOL PRAYER” FOR HOLY WEEK: A CINEMA NOVENA!

Join us in praying this nine-day Cinema Novena: PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST

Let St. Paul lead you closer to Christ through nine days of prayer,
 using

  • a film clip from the new movie,PAUL, APOSTLE OF CHRIST
  • a reading from the Letters of Saint Paul
  • a reflection
  • old and new prayers to Saint Paul
  • listen to James Faulkner, the actor who portrays St. Paul, reading from the Letters of St. Paul

This cinema novena will make this year’s Holy Week unlike any other!

Sign up for the novena here. (The Novena is available for free, beginning on March 23.)

Then, check here to find the showing of Paul, Apostle of Christ nearest you.

 

 

MORE ABOUT THE CINEMA NOVENA:

Paul, Apostle of Christ is nine unique days of prayer, supported by powerful, living depictions from the life of Paul, the great evangelizer and lover of Christ. This online novena will help you live in communion with Christ, for whom Paul preached, prayed, suffered, and ultimately gave his life. No other apostle preached, taught, and suffered as much as Paul, who did all for the sake of love. It is a way of drawing closer to Christ in your daily life.

You can begin the Novena any day you’d like, but you can join with the sisters praying it starting March 23 or March 24, 2018.

Sign Up for the Novena Today!

Upcoming Events for Lent (Online and in MA)

Our new online Catholic community, My Sisters, continues to grow and develop! It is a small, gradually-growing, but vital spiritual community. I have found it a wonderful community to engage with some amazing people of faith, sharing their struggles, joys, and insights. And I’m also preparing a substantial amount of content for the site. I am most excited about our very first online Lenten retreat, which will become available on Saturday, March 3, 2018:

Daughters of Saint Paul Sr. Mary Lea Hill (author of Prayer and You, Blessed Are the Stressed, and numerous other titles–she is belovedly known as the Crabby Mystic), Sr. Margaret Michael Gillis (national vocation director for the Daughters of St. Paul and engaging popular presenter with a fascinating New York/Staten Island-version accent) and I are co-hosting our first online Lenten retreat on the theme: Seeking God’s Will: How To Listen to God in Daily Life. Here is more information below:

 

Following the retreat, on the evening of Monday, March 5th, I’ll be offering live spiritual accompaniment on this theme of learning to seek, love, and live God’s will in the My Sisters private Facebook Group.

If you are interested in growing spiritually, nurturing your faith in everyday life, or simply want to make a retreat at your own schedule/pace, I invite you to think about joining My Sisters.

 

And on March 10, 2018, I will be speaking at the 2018 Women and Men’s Conference for the Fall River Diocese with the theme, Be on Fire, Set the World on Fire! I’ve posted the flyer below. Registration ends on March 1, so if you live nearby, you’ll definitely want to register as soon as possible.

Personally, I’m excited to visit Fall River–it’s been a long time since I’ve been there–and I’m really looking forward to meeting Father Dave Dwyer, who does such amazing Catholic media evangelization!

 

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, SDV, invites you to come to be set on fire with love so that you can set the world on fire with love!

Invitation: Walk in Christ with the Daughters of Saint Paul!

For the past couple of years, I have been assigned to Pauline Digital (our digital publishing apostolate). My assignment arrived as our approach to the possibilities of a digital presence started to radically shift. Up to this point, I have been doing a bit of everything: creating digital magazines and newsletters, helping out with our online Pauline store, putting up websites, and helping with various technical challenges. In the midst of all of this, I have tried to fit in some deeper writing, too–both for our digital media, and new books. It has been a challenging time, as well as a time of growth for me. And now, we sisters have chosen a particular direction that takes advantage of the wonderful possibilities of the internet so that we can really respond to some of the many needs expressed to us. This month, just in time for the beginning of Lent, we have launched a new digital “initiative.”

What if you could have all the things that you long for—readings, retreats, Stations of the Cross, the Rosary, videos, special prayers and meditations, even spiritual accompaniment, and more—all delivered to your computer, tablet, or smartphone every day? The opportunity to have all the resources you want ready for you to watch, read, pray, and absorb, whenever it’s convenient for you.

My Sisters gives you the opportunity to access exactly the spiritual content that you need anytime that you need it.

You can try it out for only one dollar, less than the cost of a cup of coffee. We’re giving you this special trial run because we’re so confident that once you’re part of My Sisters, you’ll wonder how you ever did without it.

If you are anxious, stressed, or overstretched, and you wonder what holiness can look like in your daily life, visit this online faith community that leads you to more clarity, joy and peace in your daily life. Find spiritual companionship for your journey.

This is a great opportunity to join, not only because you can start a trial month for only $1, but because the spiritual companionship of the sisters and online community–including the mini-conferences, weekly guides, live spiritual accompaniment groups, twice-a-week evening prayer, the live online lectio divina and Rosary, and DIY retreats–can inspire, motivate, guide, and challenge each of us on our walk in Christ.

Up to this point, I have been working in the background, on conferences and retreats. I’m delighted that we’ll be able to offer the first retreat as a Lenten retreat on the theme of living God’s will, offered in early March. While I plan to continue blogging here and at CoAuthorYourLifewithGod.comyou will definitely find me often online here at My Sisters.

Check out these features that My Sisters offers: