2016 Fall Films with Themes of Faith & Care for Creation

NOTE: I’m posting this early (instead of this coming Monday) because I forgot to post it earlier, and showings of these films may not last. 

A few movies with themes of faith have come to theaters last month and are releasing in theaters this month. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to screen any of them in advance, I thought I’d at least help get the word out about them here–along with any reviews that I’ve seen that are worthwhile.

PRICELESS

Priceless is a film about human trafficking, made by Christian filmmakers. It opened in theaters October 14th, and has had limited showings. I wish I’d been able to go, but as far as I know, the closest showing is over an hour away. Here is a review that I appreciated from Christopher Close-up on Patheos.

 

NEW LIFE

New Life looks like a promising relationship film that opened on Oct. 28th. Unfortunately, it’s  showing in even fewer  places, but if you live near these theaters listed below, you might want to check it out here on the movie’s website. A thoughtful review–though not from a Christian perspective, but a parenting perspective–is offered here on Common Sense Media.

 

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HACKSAW RIDGE

Some people are saying that Hacksaw Ridge is Mel Gibson’s “comeback” movie. I did not get to go to an early screening, so I’ll be looking for it after November 4, when it releases in theaters. Hacksaw Ridge is the story of Desmond Doss, an unlikely hero of WWII because he was a pacifist due to his Christian faith. Newspapers–including Catholic papers–will be filled with reviews of the film this week.

 

I’M NOT ASHAMED

Because of its limited release on October 21, you may not have even heard of overtly Christian film, I’m Not Ashamed, about Rachel Joy Scott, the first student murdered at the Columbine High School shooting.  Here is one thoughtful review. You can find a list of theaters showing the film here.

 

And lately, a number of programs have come to my attention that develop themes of Pope Francis’ Encyclical on God’s creation, Laudato Si.

CREATION 

Salt + Light TV developed Creation, a six-part series on the themes of Laudato Si. Salt + Light provides additional resources and a downloadable study guide for every episode. I still haven’t seen them all, but I highly recommend them.

 

BEFORE THE FLOOD

National Geographic channel broadcast Before the Flood on October 21, in which Leonardo DiCaprio travels the world speaking to scientists and world leaders about the dramatic effects of climate change. Before the Flood is also streaming online this week in multiple platforms–free on National Geographic and Youtube. Sr. Rose Pacatte reviews the documentary by Fisher Stevens here on her blog.

Sr. Rose Pacatte also reviews the first episode of season 2 of  Years of Living Dangerously, a National Geographic series on the environment.

CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING

Catholic Relief Services has almost finished creating a seven-part series in which each brief part (3-5 minutes) introduces one of the seven principles of Catholic Social Teaching.  They have completed five episodes so far (including episode 2 on Care for God’s Creation), and I’ve posted episode 1 above.

Recharging

What do you do when you feel like you have nothing left to give?

stranded-918933_1280That’s how I’ve felt through the week after the Clay Pots Retreat. It had been an amazing six weeks where I’ve given classes, retreat conferences, and assisted with our live webathon novena, but by the middle of the week, I couldn’t even think any more. I knew my introverted tank was past empty and I was running on fumes. It’s not comfortable when I feel like I have nothing left, that I’m “poured out,” and emotionally exhausted. In my prayer, even reading the Bible feels like it’s too hard. Fear that I will never be refilled takes over because I don’t even have the energy to deal with my worries.

And perhaps that’s the hardest part of all. When I’m that exhausted, I don’t just stop paying attention interiorly, but I feel stranded in the middle of nowhere, alone and abandoned; maybe even wrecked. Pretty soon, I’m overwhelmed by negativity and I simply want to cry because the emptiness haunts me.

That’s the short version of how I felt by Friday.

But I’d been in this place before, and I had the grace to see it coming earlier in the week. I seized an opportunity to get away for about a day and a half, and I took myself completely offline. In my prayer—when I just wanted to weep for sheer emptiness—I remembered how Jesus sanctified exhaustion. His solution for exhaustion was seeking out his Father…and so I spent several hours in quiet prayer. Most of the prayer time I simply accepted my emptiness, prayed for the people I’ve been interacting with for the past six weeks, and told Jesus I was open to whatever he wanted. 

That simple acceptance of my feelings and my discomfort, in Jesus’ presence—as difficult as it was—changed everything. Suddenly I was no longer stranded alone. Jesus was with me. Simply giving Jesus my poor, empty self and knowing that that was enough for him, made it become enough for me.

It was a very gentle weekend: I prayed quietly a lot, journaled a good bit, spent time outside (beautiful New England fall weather), took some long walks, watched a sci-fi film with a friend, and slept. And by Monday morning, I felt so blessed by the gifts of my ordinary life. But I continue to be aware that, for the next week or two, I need to continue being gentle, undemanding with myself, and creating extra space for quiet and listening. This will allow the “spiritual recharging” that began weekend to continue.

What do you do when you are spiritually and/or emotionally exhausted? I would love to hear your tips and strategies for “refueling” your spiritual life and your creativity!

Christ as Our Way of Communicating

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This week, we Paulines are praying the Novena to Jesus Divine Master. (The Pauline Feastday this year is Sunday, October 30th.) It is a beautiful, Scripturally-based novena in which we contemplate Jesus as Master, Teacher and Guide. Jesus is our way in everything, including how we communicate. Blessed James Alberione shared a beautiful reflection on how we are called to learn to communicate as Jesus did:

How did Christ communicate?

[Jesus] spoke in a simple and clear way even when he was teaching lofty doctrine. He adapted his teaching to the needs of every audience. The Gospel notes that he knew 
what was in every person (cf. Jn 2:25). He adapted himself to fishermen and shepherds, to those from Galilee and those from Judea, to the Pharisees, to his disciples, 
and to his opponents. How different is his conversation with the Samaritan woman from that with Nicodemus, who came by night! How different his teaching to the crowds from that given to the close circle of apostles! Yet it was always a question of the message of salvation.

He wanted his disciples to work in the same way.

The apostle [communicator], in fact, is not some great thinker who proposes his or her own conclusions, or has to defend his or her own teachings….. 
The apostle is a witness of what he or she has seen and heard from the Divine Master and from the Church in which [Christ] continues to live, teach, and guide.

What an immense privilege: to follow the Divine Master and cooperate with Jesus Christ in proclaiming his message of light, grace, and salvation.
-Blessed James Alberione

 

Quiet Success

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Our very first weekend Clay Pots Retreat for writers, artists, and media professionals was a “quiet” success! (During the 30-hour retreat–with an additional optional Friday evening–we had 19 hours of silence.) According to the retreatants, the combination of conferences, quiet prayer time, spiritual direction, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the celebration of the Eucharist, all made for an “awesome experience.” According to another retreatant, “The retreat was a great space for deepening relationship with God, understanding our role as evangelizers in media, and discovering and overcoming spiritual blockages/obstacles.”

For me, this retreat was an experience of communion, with the sisters on the retreat team and the retreatants. Working with the retreat team was a really beautiful experience of putting all our energies together for the sake of the spread of the Gospel and feeling together the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

I also felt really  “at one” with the retreatants. We share so many of the same struggles: keeping up with the newest media and using them effectively with young people. We also share similar desires for deepening, for renewal in Christ, for responding to the call of Christ to evangelize; and we share similar challenges in overextending ourselves, fragmentation, facing “burnout,” and the need to discern God’s invitations to us in a daily basis.

My focus for the weekend was communication spirituality, with my presentation helping us to focus on Christ, the Perfect Communicator. 

Sr. Michael and I tried to tweet a few of the conferences. Here are a couple of my favorites:

We hope to have another retreat for media artists, writers, catechists, and people in ministry. Let me know if you’d like to be informed about upcoming retreats!

Communicating Hope: Theme & Invitation

The Vatican Secretariat for Communications has published the theme/motto for World Communications Day in 2017:

“Fear not, for I am with you” (Is 43.5). Communicating hope and trust in our time.

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I look forward in a particular way to the Pope’s message with this theme; it is usually released on January 24, the feast of St. Francis de Sales, who is the patron of writers, journalists, and the Catholic press.

The Vatican Secretariat for Communications issued this following statement on the theme

Numbness of conscience or letting desperation get the better of us are two possible “diseases” that our current communication system can cause.

It is possible that our conscience is cauterised, as Pope Francis comments in Laudato si’, as a result of the fact that often professionals, opinion leaders and means of communication work in urban areas distant from places of poverty and need, and their physical distance often leads them to ignore the complexity of the dramas faced by men and women.

Desperation is possible, instead, when communication is emphasised and transformed into spectacle, at times becoming a genuine strategy for constructing present dangers and looming fears.

But in the midst of this tumult a whisper is heard: “Fear not, for I am with you”. In His Son, God expresses his solidarity with every human situation and revealed that we are not alone, because we have a Father Who does not forget His children. Those who live united with Christ discover that even darkness and death become, for those who so wish, a place for communion with Light and Life. In every event, they try to discover what is happening between God and humanity, to recognise how He too, through the dramatic scenario of this world, is writing the history of salvation. We Christians have “good news” to tell, because we contemplate trustfully the prospect of the Kingdom. The Theme of the next World Day of Social Communications is an invitation to tell the history of the world and the histories of men and women in accordance with the logic of the “good news” that reminds us that God never ceases to be a Father in any situation or with regard to any man. Let us learn to communicate trust and hope for history.

* * *

Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Casa Rosada (Argentina Presidency of the Nation) [CC BY-SA 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

In a recent meeting with journalists on September 22, 2016, Pope Francis emphasized the importance and responsibility that journalists have in our society today. In particular, he briefly commented on:

  • loving the truth
    “To love the truth does not only mean to affirm it but to live it…”
  • living with professionalism 
    “[Journalism’s] vocation is, therefore – through attention, care in seeking the truth – to have man’s social dimension grow, to foster the building of  true citizenship.”
  • respecting human dignity
    “Behind the simple reporting of an event there are also sentiments, emotions, and, in short, the life of individuals.” 

The original text of his speech is available only in Italian and Portuguese on the Vatican’s website, but fortunately, Zenit provides a full English translation here. It’s short, but well worth the read!

Your Chance to Support Evangelization Through Catholic Media!

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Every year, we host a webathon to help raise support for our evangelization efforts. This year, we are raising funds to replace our generator, which died last winter and serves our convent, our infirmary, and our entire publishing house. We will be praying a live Novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, daily at 12 noon and 8 PM EST, for the needs of those we serve, and in a particular way for those who pray the novena with us, supporting us with their prayers and sharing their intentions with us.

I hope you can join us: www.pauline.org/webathon2016

Trinitarian Foundation of Catholic Media Spirituality

Every spare moment I have this week will be dedicated to final preparations for the Clay Pots Retreat for Catholic artists and media professionals. One of the things that I will speak about briefly, but do not have time to explore in-depth is how the foundation for all communication spirituality is found in the Most Holy Trinity. It’s terribly challenging to try to present the Trinitarian aspect of communication spirituality, because you need to delve into the theology of the Most Holy Trinity…and I always feel a bit uneasy treading where St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine found words inadequate…  Really doing justice to the Trinitarian foundation of communication spirituality would be not just a a weekend retreat, but a month-long retreat!

Father Thomas Rosica, CSB, is one of the Church’s most balanced and “to the point” communicators that the Church has today. He has a wonderful homily for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity that explains how, for God, relationships and community come first:

Our God isn’t immovable. God isn’t alone. God is communication between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the profound mystery that the liturgy for the feast of the Holy Trinity recalls: both the unspeakable reality of God and the manner in which this mystery has been given to us. The Trinity celebrates the peace and unity of the divine persons in whom the circular dance of love – “perichoresis” in Greek – continues. That unity is a dance of life and relationships, encompassing all aspects of human life.

Read the rest of Father Rosica’s beautiful, Scripturally-based homily here, and watch his additional explanation in the video below. Both are beautiful and profound, and can help us to ponder the mystery of our God in  a way that we, as ordinary people, can understand!