March 25, 2008


Love and Responsibility--Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II the Great) This was written before his TOB and is often called his "Philosophy of the Body"
Humanae Vitae (On Human Life)--Pope Paul VI. The tiny little document that caused all the trouble with a captial "T" that rhymes with "P" that stands for Pope Paul VI.
available from
Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body--John Paul II the Great
Theology of the Body Explained--Christopher West
Theology of the Body Made Simple (the absolute skinniest overview possible)--Fr. Anthony Percy

God's Plan for You: Life, Love, Marriage and Sex--David Hajduk
Anything by Christopher West--"Mr. TOB"--is a must, especially his CDs and DVDs. There's nothing like hearing him.
Christopher West books:
Good News About Sex and Marriage
Theology of the Body for Beginners
The Love That Satisfies--Reflections on Eros and Agape
Another pre-eminent TOB speaker is Byzantine Catholic priest and iconographer, Fr. Thomas Loya STB, MA. He has no books, but several DVDs. He really needs to be SEEN, because he literally illustrates his talks! He has much to say to the Western Catholic Church about the Eastern Catholic Church which never lost sight of a TOB worldview, and which, in a certain sense, represents the feminine in theology. His talks can be found at and/or
Recommended reading: Orientale Lumen (The Light of the East)--John Paul II the Great
Men and Women are from Eden--Mary Healy
Crossing the Threshold of Love--Mary Shivanandan
The Virgin Mary and the Theology of the Body--Calloway
On the Body--Cardinal Carlo Martini (makes no mention of TOB, but is an interesting little book)
Educational Guidance in Human Love--Outlines for Sex Education--Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, includes "Charter of the Rights of the Family, 1983"
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality--Guidelines for Education within the Family--Pontifical Council for the Family
Donum Vitae (The Gift of Life--Respect for Human Life in Its Origins and the Dignity of Procreation) 1987--Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (deals with bio-tech and moral/civil law also)

Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life)--John Paul II the Great
Fruitful Love--a small collection of talks at an early symposium on the thought of JPII--early 80's
Covenant of Love--John Paul II's Teaching on Marriage, Sexuality and Family Fr. Hogan
Theology of the Body in John Paul II Fr. Hogan
On the Dignity and Vocation of Woman by John Paul II the Great
Every Woman's Journey by Katrina Zeno
Catholic Priesthood and Women by Sr. Sara Butler
Woman in the Church by Louis Bouyer
Homosexuality and the Catholic Church by Fr. John Harvey
The Truth About Homosexuality (more scholarly) by Fr. John Harvey


March 16, 2008


The beautiful, creative souls in Hollywood have once again given us a feast. This time a full, 12-course Seussian repast. As beloved as Dr. Seuss' one-dimensional artwork has always been--his over-the-top, tufted imagination is perfectly suited to computer animation. It's a marriage made in Who-ville. In a sense, Seuss created his own genre: an unmistakable, trademarkable cadence and rhyme pattern, fantastical and enduring stories, and creatures that blend the animal kingdom with the fairy tale kingdom.
Only Horton the elephant (Jim Carrey) can hear the microscopic citizens of Who-ville who live on a speck on a clover. The mantra of "Horton Hears a Who" is: "A person's a person no matter how small." The first thing that jumps into many people's minds is, "Exactly! That's what the pro-life movement is trying to say about the human embryo!" (The speck-clover even kind of looks like a blastocyst.) However, Dr. Seuss was not happy that pro-lifers were exploiting this correlation and threatened legal action.
"Horton" is not only about repecting the dignity of persons (size DOESN'T matter), but also a keen exploration of the fragile dynamics of communication. Horton hears not only because he has big ears, but because he has a big heart. But nobody believes him. The Mayor of Who-ville (who is NOT a boob), voiced by Steve Carell, hears and believes Horton's message that Whoville is endangered, because he's a good mayor who cares about his people and is not seduced from facing dark realities* by frivolous frivolities like the Giant Meatball in the Edible Parade. But nobody believes him. Each must find a way to help the people in their repective worlds become aware of the bigger (or smaller) picture, but their friends urge them both to "keep their story to themselves." Horton and the mayor learn to trust each other (without even seeing each other or seeing what the other sees)--what could be truer communication?
"Horton" is about perspective. In trying to convince the other jungle animals that it's possible for Whoville to exist, Horton poses: "Maybe they're not small, maybe we're big." And to the Mayor, Horton says: "In my world, you're just a speck." Mayor: "In my world, you're just a big voice in the sky."
"Horton" is also about interpretation. Whenever seismic activities disrupt Who-ville (because of bumps in Horton's world), the city council gives a favorable interpretation, fiddling while Rome burns, while the Mayor tries to sound the alarm and offer solutions.
"Horton" is about agendas. A fierce Mother Kangaroo (the gloriously familiar, nasal, overpronouncing, lip-popping Carol Burnett) wants to sheild her son (who's never allowed to come out of her pouch or even speak) and everyone else's child from Horton's "imagination," because "imagination makes children question authority which leads to defiance and defiance leads to anarchy!" This is an apt metaphor for the "non-media literacy" approach to media: control, not communication.
"Horton" is a feel-good-at-a-price masterpiece. What is the price? Horton's outstanding elephant trait is faithfulness. He may be dumb, but he's loyal, even if it costs him everything. "Rescue those...being taken away to death..." (Proverbs 24:11 RSV). While Horton tries to save Who-ville, Who-ville must save Horton. How? By making themselves heard to Horton's world through a thrilling little street chant that becomes a swelling, cosmic (in Who-proportions) orchestral opus: "We are here! We are here! We are here!" that sums up the cry of every embryo, fetus, infant, child, teen, adult and elder in our struggle to be and remain and become. "Horton" is going to make a marvelous musical.
Horton never doubts his own experience: "I heard it, I experienced it." The Kangaroo never doubts her own lack of experience either, but there is very little room for possibility in her positivistic worldview: "If I didn't hear it, smell, it taste it, it doesn't exist!" But even when all of the jungle hears, the Kangaroo refuses to hear.
Both Horton and the Mayor are incredibly likeable chumps. The Mayor, with ninety-six daughters and one son, must take care of life's mundanities in the middle of, literally, saving the world. In one particularly hilarious sequence in which the Mayor is getting a root canal, Horton shakes up Who-ville's speck, the novacaine needle goes into the Mayor's arm instead of his mouth, and the Mayor must carry on with a limp, whip-like appenditure for the day.
"Horton" takes the term "eye candy" to a whole new level--it's not 3-D or full of special effects, but simply old-fashioned imagination taken to the extreme. We want to linger on all the minutiae in Who-ville, but the geniuses at Dreamworks are too modest for that, and we barely get a look at the contraptions, goings-on and whosey-what's-its before we're whisked off to the next scene (kind of like "Monsters, Inc.") Guess we'll have to wait for the DVD.
"Horton" is one of those movies that is bigger than a movie. It is an event. It is a welcome resurgence (if indeed Seuss ever went away) of Seuss-mania. Lots of adults (sans kids) were in my theater. "Horton" is a transport back to the finer things of childhood. My father taught my brother and I how to read using "Hop on Pop" before we went to kindgergarten. I haven't laid eyes on "Horton Hears a Who" for probably thirty-five years, and yet I felt that same old agony when Horton, after going through a field of millions of clovers to find HIS clover, watches his "done" piles blow back over the "to-be-done" clovers.
"Horton" is about individuals and specificity. It's an affirmation of being a "who." (And it feels so good to be reminded of our worth.) This one unique clover, each unique citizen of Who-ville: "the scientist," "Burt in accounting," "the old man in the bathtub." But they are very much a "we," individuals in community, and this tension is the glory of being human. Perhaps this was Seuss' message in all his books all along. (There's a book out there called "The Gospel According to Dr. Seuss" that might shed some light on Seussian anthropology, theology and philosophy.)
*At one point, when the mayor's warnings are being ignored, it made me think of the PBS production on John Paul II: "Pope of the Millennium," where the secular makers of the documentary sum up JPII's "most important work" as being "The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae)." They mention his coining of the phrase "culture of death" and ask "are we missing something here?" quite sincerely not comprehending its meaning. I would say that "Theology of the Body" is the Pope's greatest work, which tells us if we unnaturally split body and spirit (another name for "death"), we get the "culture of death." Lies about the body cause us to lie with our bodies, and the Theology of the Body is the truth-worldview-remedy.

March 13, 2008


Assignment for April 9: 1st 15 pages of "Man and Woman He Created Them--A Theology of the Body" by Pope John Paul II (skipping the Introduction and going right to the text).

PERMANENT NEW LOCATION: PAULINE BOOKS & MEDIA, 172 N. MICHIGAN AVE., (BETWEEN LAKE & RANDOLPH). We close at 6pm, but someone will be there to let you in for 6:30--8:00pm study group. There is a ROUND doorbell at the back door, also (no doorbell at front).
"Jesus told us that new wine needs new wineskins. WE need to be the new wineskins.

There is only ONE REALITY: the invisible God/Reality becomes visible through the physical.

Lucifer got wind that the invisible God would become visible and have a body--something Lucifer would never have.

The drama is now either an affirmation of this reality or a denial of it. (All denials are different "heresies.")

We need a S C H L worldview:

Sacramental--integrated: spirit AND matter together, inseparable, SEE the world as a whole. We need to look at the world through SACRAMENTAL GLASSES.

"Catholic"--Catholic is not a religion, it's a way of seeing. It's the worldview that affirms the one reality.

Human--if you're human, you're "Catholic" because you make make visible the invisible (in yourself). Being human is making the the invisible visible. For example: We don't wish people Happy Birthday in our heads. We bake a cake, send them a card, etc. That's all that Catholic does. The Eucharist is the ultimate making visible the invisible.

Liturgical--all humans are natural priests because we are the only creatures that can offer Creation back to God, say thank you

Before the 16th century, we didn't need Theology of the Body. We got it. But then the scientific revolution came along and we were able to manipulate nature for the first time. Matter came to be seen as less, now that it could be dominated and controlled. The mind/spirit was seen as higher. This was, in a sense, the return of Manichean dualism: body bad, spirit good. Since we've all been born after the 16th century, we're all formed in this climate and we don't have SACRAMENTAL GLASSES ON. (Especially if we were raised in America, it's very, very hard to be truly Catholic.) Protestantism rose in the same century: no Eucharist--denial of the sacramental. "God couldn't possibly transform the bread and wine into Himself." (Invisible thru visible.)

The great "-isms" then arose: scientism, rationalism, fascism, communism, secularism, naziism. All these -isms are the denial of the one true Reality. Karol Wojtyla (PJPII) lived at the height of the -isms. Karol thinks: "I have to take the world back to school (S C H L), because we've forgotten how to see, especially in the male/female relationship.

Fr. Loya's favorite phrase of TOB: "Humanity in its dignity/balance depends on what he will be for her and what she will be for him."

Why am I a man or why am I a woman? If we don't know, we hurt and destroy each other.

Today, people don't accept "objective truth," they care about what they feel and experience. That's what's real to them. So Karol says, "OK, let's walk through your experience, but we have to do it with relentless HONESTY. We're going to look, touch, smell, taste everything. 2 +2 doesn't equal 4 until we EXPERIENCE it to be so. THEN we won't be able to deny it.

(The all-male priesthood is also about the system of honesty about the language of the body, but we'll get to that later.)

No one chooses to live life without love, marriage, sex, children, friends, intimacy. And we will destroy ourselves in the process pursuing these things, but we won't give them up. OR we will find joy in them. The bedroom is real to people. But if we don't know the WHY of the bedroom, we won't enjoy sex as much.

God is a community--don't try to figure it out--live it.
What did God do? CREATED, moved out and united Himself intimately with His Creation. This sounds like marriage, doesn't it? God espouses His Creation.
How did God make us? In His IMAGE.
No human being can live without love, marriage, sex, children, friends, intimacy.

How do we know someone is a man or woman? Their body speaks to us "man" or "woman."
TOB is all about unfolding what the body is saying. If a man knows what a woman (woman's body) is saying, he'll know how to relate to her and vice versa. Otherwise we'll hurt each other. We'll know what each others' needs are. If we don't listen to each other's needs/fears, we'll hurt each other.
Today, we have no idea why we're men and women--it takes a sacramental worldview or "adequate anthropology." If someone doesn't know what a car is and you give them they keys, the car will become a weapon.

The spiritual and physical are wedded. We can't see where one begins and the other ends.

Take a coffee cup. How do we know what it's for? By some crusty, old, celibate men in Rome telling us it's a cup? No, by our total experience of the cup. We could drink beer or wine out of it, but that wouldn't make it a "beer mug." We could drink the beer in it, but it would be less of a human experience. We need to keep trying to figure out what the cup is for, and when we discover that it's really for coffee (by our total experience of it), we need to interface honestly with it in the future. We need to do this with the crown of creation (humans) also.
TOB is about being honest--an exhaustive journey to honesty. All we need to know about Church teaching is--honesty. Don't speak a lie with your body. It's that simple. Dishonesty hurts and the Church doesn't want us to hurt.

Just remember three terms, it's simple: GIFT, LANGUAGE, HONESTY.

TOB tells us what people are really looking for. JPII knew if we put men and women back together, we could put the world back together. TOB is discovering the created order.

It's OK if you say "sex is what's real to you," but what is your body saying? What's going on there?
Sex is an experience of God. The more you know about God, the "better sex you'll have."

Sex is a noun. It only means one thing: gender.
Sex = gift of self, one flesh union, garden enclosed, bone of my bone, tabernacle.

Adam's body didn't make sense without Eve.

mystical = seeing things as they really are, the whole picture
rational = compartmentalized, piecemeal

"irrefutable science" is the friend of TOB--it affirms the invisible made visible, it's the rational-ISM (reductionist) worldview that's the problem.

If we would just listen to our bodies, we wouldn't need TOB, we could write it ourselves." --Fr. Loya

Theology of the Body is not Gnosticism. It is not some secret knowledge OR secret club of the enlightened OR something you have to "get" or you're out of the loop. It is the exact opposite. God came to reveal EVERYTHING to EVERYONE in Jesus Christ.
Some people already live Theology of the Body because they are in touch with themselves and God. For the rest of us there's a 735-page book and CDs by Christopher West.
You don't have a body, you are body.
YOU are the theology of the body.
A new starting point for all theology (the body).
A new starting point for all philosophy (the body).
An invitation to union with God, body and soul.
Theology of the Body corrects the mind/body split.
Theology of the Body is what everyone was looking for in the 60's.

Theology of the Body is healing for all bodies.
Theology of the Body is the healing of human sexuality, male and female.
Theology of the Body is the restoration of the original plan for the male-female relationship.
Theology of the Body is going to God through desire.
Theology of the Body is going to God through the desires He gave us.
Theology of the Body is not the repression or indulgence of desires, but the redemption of desires.

"The status of the male-female relationship is irredeemable." --Leonard Cohen
Theology of the Body circumvents cynicism, suspicion and bad memories about the male-female relationship to show us what is possible.
Theology of the Body is a "theological timebomb" that will "effect every article of the Creed." --George Weigel (official biographer of JPII)

Theology of the Body is the long-awaited answer to Descartes.
Theology of the Body is the truth about the human body.
Theology of the Body is a celebration of the goodness of the human body.
"The theology of the body is the answer to all life's problems." --Fr. Thomas Loya
"Theology of the body is the delivery system for the sum-total of the Church's wisdom." --Fr. Thomas Loya


Because it's so simple. We're complicated, God's not.



June 2008--June 2009
Year of St. Paul
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp

Daughters of St. Paul / Pauline Books & Media
172 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60601 USA
Publishing House / Vocations / Spanish:
Movie Nights, Women's Book Club, Bible Studies, Theology of the Body:

March 9, 2008


So it's come to this. The "creators" of our media-saturated, celeb-obsessed culture now have the cameras (fictiously) turned on them. (I put "creators" in quotes, because aren't we, by eating it all up, also "creators"?)
"Dirt," in its second season, stars Courtney Cox as Lucy, the cutthroat head of a Hollywood tabloid, "Dirt," who blackmails and bribes her way to stay atop the scoop and scandal mill. Her sidekick is a fascinating character-study: a schizophrenic paparazzo, Don, (the Emmy-worthy Ian Hart) with whom she is in a co-dependent, non-romantic relationship, probably her only true friend in the world. He has the uncanny ability to accurately and disinterestedly tell people exactly who they are and what's wrong with them, including Lucy.

Work is life and life is all business for Lucy. Nothing is out of bounds or beyond limits, not even "destroying lives" on a daily basis. However, celebrities can play the same game, and Lucy often finds herself threatened in return.
The graphics, camerawork, writing, editing and acting have come way up in this second season, and the show is really saying something now and living up to its potential, without being too ponderous. Lucy queries: "Celebrities sign up for this circus. Imagine where they'd be if we didn't do this!" Journalism majors working at the rag chide each other for selling out. Scenarios are thinly-veiled replays of Britney, Paris and Anna Nicole Smith, and we feel like we're getting to see how the fame-maker-and-breaker machine works. It's sad. The slivers of humanity are hard to find, and it makes us very glad we're not famous, or have anything to do with this world. Or do we? Hard-as-nails Lucy is hard on herself and adheres to her own strict code: no gossip, no support for politicians, no payola for pure spin (she wants real interviews), she actually only prints the truth, the ugly, dark truth. Her cynicism about human nature always pays off--she knows her subject(s) only too well.
One question I have: in our digitial world, where photos are less and less admitted as evidence in court (because of their manipulability)--why are photos still big in Hollywood? Maybe it has something to do with the legality of it all. If a celebrity is not careful enough, and winds up in an authentic photograph, there's not much they can do about it?
The show begins with a warning that it contains mature material. Some episodes, but not all, can be rather ribald.
'Dirt' is rated TV-MA and contains strong language, sexuality, nudity, and violence. Visit for more information on ratings and rating reasons.
My uber-talented cousin, Alexandra Breckenridge, plays Willa, Lucy's assistant.


May I highly recommend an Australian film that raises questions about the role of the media in shaping public opinion of an individual? "A Cry in the Dark," 1988, starring Meryl Streep and Sam Neill, is the true story of Lindy Chamberlain, accused of killing her baby. Is it the media or old-fashioned gossipping that causes Lindy to be accused?

The feature story of the February 21st issue of Rolling Stone Magazine, "Britney Spears: Inside an American Tragedy," chronicles Britney from a pressured, all-about-externals, stage-mothered childhood to her present breakdown. The article basically states that she is locked in her current disastrous situation because everyone around her simply betrays her and sells her. The temptation is too great: she is just too valuable a piece of property not to make a buck off. The drugs and alcohol certainly don't help, but what if--from your earliest years--all you knew is that you were a performer, and that's what everyone expected and wanted you to be? What if that's the only way you ever got approval or attention (even from your family)? People who know Britney state that "she doesn't know who she is," and that she often pretends she's dumb so that maybe she can try to find out what's really going on her own life, and who she can trust. She has fantasies of runnning away and leading a normal life, but alas, would we ever let her do that? What is being done to Britney is an incredible injustice and travesty of human dignity.    
The writer sums up: "Britney isn't ashamed of herself. She wants us to see what we did to her."
 February 21, 2008 - Issue #1046


March 6, 2008

March 4, 2008


Tri-lingual dumpster signs: ENGLISH, SPANISH AND POLISH!!!!




Remember when Friday night TV was a highlight of the week? Well, Friday night TV is back in a 2008 reincarnation on USA Network.


"Monk,"(8pm) in its seventh season, is about a brilliant, obsessive-compulsive, omni-phobic, neatfreak San Francisco detective. He's actually on leave from the force because of his stressed-out condition after his beloved wife, Trudy, was killed by a car bomb. (This is the only dark, but also tender, recurring note of the show.) Monk (Emmy-award-winning Tony Shaloub) cracks every case, so he is often hired as a consultant by his former boss, Captain Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine). Monk's inability to function requires him to have a personal assistant, Natalie (Traylor Howard), help him do ordinary tasks and fit into society. We often see him at his shrink's office (Stanley Kamel), where we learn more about how his mind works.

This "fish out of water" premise offers endless scenarios: Monk lost in New York City, Monk undercover in prison, Monk at his college reunion. With each new episode, a little more information about his character is meted out, which makes us feel like we're in on the joke. We're already laughing when we see an elevator in the scene because we know he's afraid of elevators. "Monk" avoids being formulaic: sometimes Monk knows who did it and just has to prove how. Sometimes it's not till the end that he figures it all out. Excellent writing keeps Detective Adrian Monk unpredictable. He does plenty of things we expect: he twitches, opens doorknobs with a handkerchief, keeps foods on his plate from touching each other, etc. But then there are moments of growth and heroism when he overcomes himself. You can watch your favorite "Monk" scenes and episodes over and over again—it's that good.

My favorite "Monk" scene: In a Peter Sellers-like set-up, Monk is trying to talk to the Captain over a jackhammer. Because Monk is obsessive-compulsive, he must start the same sentence again each time the jack hammer resumes. My favorite "Monk" episode: Monk is hired for some PI work by a leper. Monk realizes that "the worst has happened to him and he survived." There are many poignant moments that reveal Monk as a human being with more depth than those around him: Monk reads his love letters to Trudy out loud at a Playboy mansion-style setting. The women begin crying and rejecting their oafish dates.

"Monk" has filled the void left by "Murder She Wrote," but as normal as Jessica was, that's how abnormal Monk is. "Monk" is more like "Columbo," where the focus is every bit as much on the crime-solver as the criminal.


 "Psych" (9pm), in its third season, is edgier, younger fare, but nothing that Mom or Grandpa won't also enjoy. Childhood friends, Shawn (James Roday) and Gus (Dule Hill) run a fake psychic business in Santa Barbara. Shawn's Dad (Corbin Bernsen) is an ex-cop who taught Shawn to hone his powers of observation. Shawn made the Santa Barbara police believe he's psychic, and they hire him and Gus to solve crimes. The police include a bumbling-but-pompous Det. Lassiter (the comedic genius, Timothy Omundson), and the so-out-of-Shawn's-league-but-not-a-snob Det. O'Hara (Maggie Lawson).  The show employs frequent flashbacks to the young Shawn, Dad and Gus, and they haven't changed much. Shawn is the cocky mastermind who usually leaves Gus holding the bag. The relationship between Shawn and his Dad is constant competition—and although they disapprove of each other's investigation styles, and lives in general, there's much affection and they're true buddies.

Shawn and Gus find love interests in the midst of their snooping, but it never gets very serious. And there is either a gentleman or a woman in the writing room, because Shawn's dating tips (to Gus who actually has more romance in his life), are very chivalrous: "You look at a woman's eyes, that's how you attract her. It's all about the eyes." "First you talk to a woman like she's a person, then a princess, then a Greek goddess, then a person again."

Halfway through the show is a two-minute cartoon feature: "The Big Adventures of Little Shawn and Gus" ( Good clean fun. "Psych" is juvenile and sweet, with an ample dose of physical comedy, but it's the rapid-fire dialogue, littered with pop culture references, that makes it stand out, almost like a male "Gilmore Girls."


If TV had movie ratings, "Monk" and "Psych" would be PG. There is some swearing, mostly by police.


Five hundred channels and nothing's on? You can't say that about Friday night.