May 27, 2010


"Family Guy," is a wildly popular animated comedy show that has been running for approximately ten years on FOX (and, of course, on Hulu, YouTube and iTunes) about "family guy" Peter Griffin, his wife Lois, daughter Meg, son Chris, baby Stewie, and dog Brian (the baby and the dog talk like adults). If you've never seen it, you should, because your kids most likely have. Brace yourself.

What makes "Family Guy" so watched? Well, let's start with a chronological comparison with two other animated comedy shows about families. "The Simpsons," in its twenty-first year on FOX, was controversial when it first came out. It's hard to believe this was the case. To compare "The Simpsons" with "South Park" and now "Family Guy" makes it look like "The Brady Bunch." "The Simpsons" focused on a slacker son (Bart) and his dumb Dad (Homer) who never seemed to disagree with or punish Bart's bad behavior.

"The Simpsons" dealt regularly with the hot button issues du jour, and depicted people practicing religion. Some religious people embraced the fact that at least religion was being portrayed as an actual part of people's lives. Others appreciated the fact that there was a lot of love in the Simpson family.

On "The Simpsons," the hot button issues were often dealt with in a seemingly non-committal way: presenting both sides and then withholding judgment at the end or advocating an unreasoned laissez-faire attitude. Hmmm. One of the principles of Media Literacy is that all media are constructed from a point of view. On the part of the media creators: to TRY not to take a stand on an issue while presenting it, to PRETEND not to have a point of view, or to ACTUALLY THINK that one doesn't have a point of view…these are all points of view (and certifiable philosophies in many cases)!

But mostly, perhaps, people watched "The Simpsons" because it was funny. It made them laugh.

1997--Enter: "South Park." "South Park" is about four little elementary school friends (boys) more than it is about their families. "South Park" featured rough animation that looked like crudely cut-out paper dolls sashaying across the screen. The tone was much darker and sarcastic than "The Simpsons," the hot button issues much more explicit, the language extremely vulgar, and the social commentary much sharper. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone had set out to expose the lack of logic in America. Abortion, euthanasia, sex-change operations, etc., were examined in head-on detail and defined in an unswerving, unblinking way. There seemed to be a desire to hold America to some kind of honesty. Does the demographic of "South Park," eight-year-old boys, GET the satire? One can hope.

Religion on "South Park"? Lots. The purple dinosaur goes to church, Jesus guest-stars frequently, and no religion is safe or sacred from a thorough skewering. Parker and Stone believe all religion to be bunk, so none are given preferential treatment. The Catholic Church also had its own exclusive moment, with a very crude episode involving the pope and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Parker and Stone even took on Islam recently (but were censored for their own protection by Comedy Central).

Why was "South Park" so loved? It's wickedly witty. There is a kind of brilliance at work.

Thought we'd seen and heard it all with "South Park"? In 1999, "Family Guy" hit the wild, wild, world of entertainment. "Family Guy" took crass "comedy" to a whole new level. (At what point are things just no longer funny?) The tone was even darker than "South Park," with the addition of hollowness, nihilism, mean-spiritedness and profound misogyny. There is a deep-seated hatred of women in "Family Guy." Peter, the dumb father of the Griffin family, is no Homer Simpson. He HATES his teenage daughter Meg—a regular, rather square type--and does terrible things to her that harm her physically and psychologically. The mother of the family, the voluptuous Lois, is the sex object in the home. Her baby, Stewie, and the dog both openly lust after her in over-the-top-I-can't-believe-they-are-showing-and-saying-these-things-on-TV ways. "Family Guy" almost makes "South Park" look like a candidate for a decency award. Jesus also frequently guest-stars, and Terri Schindler Schiavo was recently made fun of (gotta keep those shockwaves coming!). Saddest of all, I've been told that parents are sitting watching "Family Guy" with their kids. And laughing.

Janet McMullen, a professor of Radio, TV and Film at the University of Northern Alabama, says [e.g., regarding shows that appear casual toward teen sex], "It sends a message to kids that sex at a young age is OK, because they're watching it with their parents and the parents aren't saying anything."* I wonder what laughing at "Family Guy" does…. In Pope Benedict's encyclical "Charity in Truth," he speaks of "…a conscience that can no longer distinguish what is human," referring to the affluent ignoring the poor. But can this also be applied to our discernment of media? A great question to ask ourselves with regard to our media use (including media content, the media culture we live in, and the media technology we use) is simply this: "What does it mean to be human? How can my family and I use media in a way that enriches and never diminishes our humanity or that of others?" This is a broad question that encompasses our entire media lives, our tastes, our habits, our time, the influences of media on every aspect of our lives. But if we answer it honestly and prayerfully, we might find that we are discovering and desiring better ways to use our hours of daily screen-usage, even if it requires some tough decisions and resolutions to be made and kept.

"Family Guy" is at a faster pace than "The Simpsons" or "South Park," which suits a speeded-up, insta-media world. Thoughts and words of characters are immediately illustrated as imagined asides or flashbacks, which is very entertaining, but at the same time feels like we're interrupting the story to Google every word, incident, and concept in some kind of literalistic advanced video search tagging indexing reference engine. Is this how our minds are working now?

The creator of "Family Guy" is Seth MacFarlane—a young atheist with a bit of an axe to grind. Search for him on YouTube and listen to him speak for himself on Bill Maher's show (and other places). Another case of a brilliant mind, a superior talent put to questionable ends. (MacFarlane also does many of the voices on "Family Guy.") And it's one of those "this guy is very funny without the raunch" cases. In some ways, "Family Guy" is funnier than "The Simpsons" and "South Park." Deviant funny.

In all three cartoons, fantastical things happen (e.g., suddenly they're in outer space or battling monsters), but the real, everyday situations are just that. Like science fiction, the issues are truly human issues that don't stray too far from home. So to say: "It's just entertainment—what's the big deal?" is to miss the intent of the media creators, the nature of entertainment, and the ways that humans grow, develop, assimilate, internalize, etc.

What can be learned from this little history of animated comedy shows about families? Never underestimate the bewitching potential and power of humor. He/she who gets you to laugh last, laughs best. All the way to the zeitgeist bank. And what do you and your children get?

*"Can Too Much TV Kill Us?" by Bernie Delinski, April 12, 2010,

May 24, 2010


By ERIC FELTEN (Wall Street Journal) 5/21/10

Apple impresario Steve Jobs is preparing to overturn one of the most basic assumptions of modern technology—that the computer business is built on pornography.

Apple's iPads and iPhones are built to run on "apps," which the company controls by deciding what can and can't be sold in its "App Store." The basic, and widespread, complaint among the technorati is that Mr. Jobs is trying to impose a bland, centrally planned substitute for the wild, anything-goes Internet.

Among the techies outraged at the tight leash Apple is keeping on its proprietary computing platforms is Ryan Tate, who writes the "Valleywag" blog at the Gawker site. (He's also annoyed that Apple called the cops on a sister website last month when it got its mitts on a lost iPhone prototype.)

A week ago Mr. Tate saw an Apple ad touting the iPad as revolutionary, and he felt the bile rise. And so Mr. Tate shot off an email to Mr. Jobs meant to cut him to the countercultural quick: "If Dylan was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? Would he think the iPad had the faintest thing to do with 'revolution?' Revolutions are about freedom."

Let's overlook Mr. Tate's ahistorical reading of the revolutionary urge (an impulse not always reliably centered on a commitment to expanding liberty—Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, anyone?). Instead, let's focus on Mr. Jobs's rather remarkable response to the Valleywag note.
"Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery," the Apple honcho wrote. And then came the kicker in his litany: "Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin'."

Mr. Tate gasped. "I don't want 'freedom from porn,'" he shot back, "Porn is just fine!"
"[Y]ou might care more about porn when you have kids..." was Mr. Jobs' response.
After some sparring with Mr. Jobs on another topic, Mr. Tate came back to what is now bothering him most: "I may sound bitter," he wrote, explaining why: "It's you imposing your morality, about porn."

My, how the definition of imposing one's morality has changed over the years. Once it meant enforcing criminal sanctions on smut-peddlers. Now, a businessman who prefers to opt out of the trade is accused of impinging on everyone else's free speech.

But what is Mr. Jobs trying to impose? It's a mistake to think that morality is his main motivation for unfriending the world of porn. Mr. Jobs wrote, "We're just doing what we can to try and make (and preserve) the user experience we envision."

This suggests that at least some of the arbiters of modern cool have finally cooled to the sweaty cultural ascendance of "adult entertainment." Could it be that the tide has begun to turn against pornography, and not because of any moral awakening, but just as a matter of taste and style?
About a half-century ago, the courts started ruling that the traditional prohibitions against stag films, girlie shows and naughty magazines were constitutionally passé. But as the law of obscenity was transformed, the bench did give its okay to some vestigial restrictions on the time and places such entertainments could be provided.

Some cities tried to concentrate the skin trade in pornographic ghettos. Others, notably New York, used zoning to limit peep-show density. The basic idea was less a moral one than a question of taste, and property values. Times Square became far more desirable real estate when it sloughed off the seedy trench-coat aesthetic of the '70s and '80s.
Of course, time and place restrictions no longer apply in any real way to the world of pornography, because it isn't much of a brick-and-mortar business anymore. Now, every house with an Internet connection has its own 24/7 peep show just waiting to open for business. Are computers being tainted as hopelessly seedy?

Mr. Jobs has built Apple on equal parts of transformative technology and high design. The company's products are desirable not only for what they do, but how they look and feel. And how does Apple's glossy elegance fit with the smarmy carny-barker vibe of purveying porn? How elegant would the Chanel runway look with Joslyn James modeling?

Mr. Jobs seems to be betting that the attractiveness of his products is like the attractiveness of a glitzy neighborhood: as much a function of what is not on display as of what is. I suspect he is also well aware of just how weary parents have grown trying to police what their children see and hear.

Who wants to buy their kids yet another device that's just a few keystrokes from content that once would have made a Tijuana pander blush? Apple seems to realize that it can do far more box office in its App Store if parents are confident they can let their children make purchases there without strict scrutiny.

Gawker's Mr. Tate says that the very notion of "freedom from porn" is "absurdly Orwellian," and that Mr. Jobs's statement is so unwise it "will haunt him." Maybe so.

More likely, Mr. Jobs is just promising more than he can deliver: As long as one of the Apple Apps is an Internet browser, the bawdy side of web will still be accessible on iPhones and iPads. Still, just because Mr. Jobs won't be able to purge his devices of blue content, that doesn't mean he's obliged to distribute it himself.

What a peculiar—and peculiarly modern—controversy. Is it really such an affront to the rights of those who would buy and sell pornography that someone might want the right to choose not to?

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May 20, 2010


1" diameter (b & w) .50 each

QUESTION MEDIA--This is the heart of Media Literacy Education!

WWJDO?--What Would Jesus Do Online?


--Indicate which button(s) you are ordering and how many of each.
--.50 per magnet. 1-9 buttons: $2.00 postage. 10+ magnets: $3.00 postage.
--Cash, check ("Daughters of St. Paul"), VISA/MC (with exp. date).
--Your full name, address, phone # and email.
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp
Pauline Books & Media
172 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
cell: 617.850.5584


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May 18, 2010









(magnets are 3.43" x 1.93"--flat vinyl)

--Indicate which magnet(s) you are ordering by the # and how many of each.
--$1.00 per magnet. 1-9 magnets: $1.00 postage. 10+ magnets: $3.00 postage.
--Cash, check ("Daughters of St. Paul"), VISA/MC (with exp. date).
--Your full name, address, phone # and email.
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp
Pauline Books & Media
172 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60601
cell: 617.850.5584

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May 14, 2010


At film school (UCLA) they taught us that we have to "make the audience care" about our characters. Well, with the new documentary "Babies," it's a no-brainer. From the womb to fifteen months old, four babies' lives are chronicled: Two from close-to-nature cultures (Namibia and Mongolia), two from technological environments (Japan and USA). Ponijao from Namibia, Bayar from Mongolia, Mari from Japan, Hattie from the USA. (Bayar is the only boy.)

On the heels of popular nature documentaries (kicked off by the successful "March of the Penguins") like "Earth" and "Oceans," "Babies" could almost be seen as a "nature documentary," meaning that human beings are a part of Creation—albeit the crown and wedding of matter-spirit/heaven-earth, but still a part (something that those who exalt nature-over-man or man-over-nature miss, to grievous results). It's very telling that Mari and Hattie spend most of their time indoors, learning about the world from books and technology, while Ponijao and Bayar spend most of their time outdoors, wrangling with the elements. One of my favorite scenes is when Bayar uses a reclining baby goat to get on his feet, and then promptly (inadvertently) steps on the goat's head. Needless to say, there are many patient animals in this film. In fact, there is A LOT of animal interaction, by the filmmakers' distinct choice. Why? Because there's only one thing cuter than babies: babies with animals? Or is there an attempt being made here to place man in his "habitat" which includes other living beings?

Ponijao and Bayar and their parents look so comfortable in their own skin, the Japanese family's lifestyle is so highly stylized (in that wonderfully clean-swept, minimalistic, simple, serene, tight, bright Japanese aesthetic) and organized that it looks appealing, the way of life of Hattie from San Francisco (which we have to admit is "us") feels the most forced and out-of-touch somehow. I found myself thinking "thank God" that these other "more human" cultures still exist today. Not "more primitive": more HUMAN. I have to look more into this because I am also a big technophile and total cliff dweller (I LOVE living in a building in the big city). How can we live very humanly, very well WITH our technology?

What is the point of this documentary? There is none. Which is extremely fitting, isn't it? Human beings are ends in themselves. We do not serve a "purpose," and neither does this movie need to, as some movie reviewers have suggested. Is it voyeuristic? You bet. Aren't all the visual arts? The show-stealing Bayar is almost four now and has already commented on his own movie: "This is a film about me, the sky [he's not kidding--he lives on an awe-inducing panoramic plain], and how my big brother has been beating me up!" [He's not kidding about the poundings, either.]

But voyeuristic is not exploitative. What we have here is babies AS babies, in all their shaky ineptitude, helplessness and heart-melting capabilities. One is really able to observe "the life of babies," the developing little inner life, especially when it comes to conflict! There are baby fights, baby learning curves, baby frustration, baby milestones and baby triumphs. We CAN identify with these pint-sized personalities and imagine ourselves in those tiny shoes (or not: clothes are also optional), back when everything was new and we understood precious little and had to learn fast.

The Moms are pretty extraordinary (we see much more of them than the Dads who are also great caregivers). We experience the Moms' incredible gentleness and innate understanding of exactly what each little speechless one needs.

"Babies" is arranged loosely according to themes: music, bath time, cats, crawling, standing, walking, exploring, eating (this includes toilet paper a la carte). "Babies" is devoid of chatter, even from the adults. We get to live in the wee ones' wordless world for a short spell, and take life all in, all at once, all over again.

As someone once said: "Babies—what a great way to start people."


--Why is "Babies" not in May have something to do with the fact that Focus Features did NOT want "Babies" going viral (!!!), to preserve the movie-going experience(!!!)

--Another favorite scene: Bayar's Mom sprays his face with her breast milk and gently cleans off the dirt.

--Bayar—in his birthday suit—maneuvers himself atop an upturned tin basin in the midst of a herd of cows, dwarfing him. Hard to believe that the tiny, mostly hairless creature in the amusing shot is actually the master of the universe!

--LOTS of breastfeeding.

--Most fascinating culture: Mongolian!

--Favorite Mom: Ponijao's

--Prettiest Mom: Mari's

--Funniest baby: Ponijao

--Funniest scene: (there are tons, of course) The baby fight—opening scene

--"Babies" reminds you what a miracle it is that more kids don't polish themselves off before the age of two. All it takes is looking away from them for one second for them to engage in instant-death-dealing behavior. Thank God for guardian angels.

--Some of the greatest shots are when it seems that only the camera is looking.

--Most exotic scene: The rooster on Bayar's bed.

--Earth mother award: Ponijao's mom

--It's amazing how small children sense the slightest affront to their human dignity.

--They have Legos in Mongolia.

--Where would I choose to be a baby? My own culture (USA) even though we're totally neurotic. It's too late for me. I'm just so used to it. Second choice: Japan, even though Mongolia would probably be the healthiest choice.

--If I had to choose a mom for myself? Ponijao's

--Hardest place to be a baby: USA

--Least number of playdates: Mongolia. Too isolated.

--Baby with most complex (or perplexed) facial expression: Hattie

--Happiest baby: Bayar

--Must-read book to go with "Babies": "The Passion of the Infant Jesus" by Carryl Houselander (aka "Wood of the Cradle, Wood of the Cross," "The Little Way of the Infant Jesus"). Her original title is best: "Passion of the Infant Jesus." It isn't easy being green.

--Oriental rugs in each home (except Namibia)

--Most picturesque home: Mongolia

May 12, 2010


Opens Friday, May 14, in Chicago at

The new European film, "Lourdes," winner of Best Film at the 2009 Vienna Film Festival, is an interesting take on suffering, faith, God and miracles. I usually find dramas about doubt-wallowing and the nature of the miraculous very tedious (but not as tedious as treatments of Church bureaucracy—the ultimate snooze-inducer), but this light-hearted, almost feel-good vignette manages to avoid the tedium.

A young woman with MS (in a wheelchair and unable to use her limbs) goes on frequent trips and pilgrimages in order to "get out." She rooms at Lourdes with a completely silent, nameless, pious older woman (Mary??) who is unobtrusively solicitous for her (especially when the youthful Lourdes "helpers" are more interested in romance than their duties towards the disabled). Everyone at Lourdes is yearning for a miracle. Questions of worthiness come up. People are angry when others are cured and they aren't.

There's a wonderful, humble priest on the trip who is expected to speak for God, which he does, well. He doesn't spout off easy, dutiful "will of God" platitudes, but rather deep, contemplative, relational, irrefutable answers (which people probably knew already, but just needed to hear). I remember when the great tennis star, Arthur Ashe, was stricken with cancer, and was asked if he questioned, "Why me?" He said: "I didn't ask God 'Why me?' when I won Wimbledon. Why should I ask 'Why me?' now?"

Don't expect a bouncy Hollywood film. Each mise-en-scene is very still, like paintings, or rather, like the statues in the ubiquitous religious article shops in Lourdes. The air is slightly tense, subdued, until the miracle(s), and then the tone of the film changes. We can relax, we can breathe. The unusual, fragmented camera angles remind me of another incredible (French) film "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (which includes a trip to Lourdes), except that in "Lourdes," the camera is a definite outsider, peering over shoulders, from a distance, from on high, and never part of the inner circle, never direct. In "Diving Bell," the camera is very personal, intimate.

I love that a good portion of the film deals with the AFTERMATH of the miracle(s). Having known people who experienced miraculous healings (including my Dad), the film gets it right that the ripple-effect reactions are as varied as personalities. We are never cured of our humanity! Having been to many shrines (not Lourdes), and countless healing services and healing Masses, I have found the atmosphere at them more joyful than the film portrays, however, I was never the sick one.

Is this film coming from a place of faith? Who knows. Whenever I watch a European film, I can't help thinking "post-Christian." But maybe, like the camera, our forebears in the Faith are taking a second look (albeit at a remove) at their own would-be(?) familiar heritage. Lourdes is YOURS, French people!

There is a refreshing lack of denial about human frailty in this film. It's just there, drained of pathos. It's not garishly dressed up. It's OK.

Theology of the Body? There's a slight attitude of a body-soul split, opposition, although there is a good grasp that spiritual healing can differ from physical healing and vice versa.

If you like open-ending endings, you'll like "Lourdes." If not, you'll be asking lots of maddening "Waiting for Godot"-type questions. Don't miss the dead-pan humor. Ultimately, "Lourdes" (the movie and the place) is about finding meaning and not being alone, especially in our grief of whatever kind. What's not to like about that?


--French birdsong is extraordinaire!

--The older you are, the better you dance.

--GOD is a character, and also, specifically, the Trinity, Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and the Blessed Virgin Mary. Bravo! Vive!

--Say what you like about the French and their foibles, but thank God they are the fierce keepers of beauty. Admit it—that's why you, too, want to go to Paris.

--Like I tell the teens I speak to: There are no guarantees in life. We may get hit by that proverbial bus some day. But that doesn't mean God doesn't love us. And although we can't always be safe here, we can always be safe hereafter. I beg your pardon—God never promised us a rose garden. Along with the sunshine. There's got to be a little rain some time.

May 10, 2010


The new European movie "Lourdes" (about a disabled young woman who goes to Lourdes, and I hear there's a miracle involved--imagine!--look it up on ) is playing at the Musicbox Theater in Chicago for one week, opening this Friday, May 7 (First Friday). It'll stay longer if it does well. It won the prize for best film at the 2009 Vienna Film Festival and it was also an official selection at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival among other festivals. You can find out more about the film at

I have not seen the movie yet, so I can't vouch for it,* BUT you can win 2 free tickets and dinner at a neighboring restaurant to the theatre (to be used any time while movie is at the Music Box) by answering any TWO questions about Lourdes (correctly)!
1) Did Mary pray the rosary with Bernadette?
2) Who was the first person cured by the spring?
3) What did Mary have on each foot?
4) What disease/sickness did Bernadette suffer from?
5) What was Bernadette's last name?
6) What year did "Song of Bernadette" (the movie) win Best Picture Oscar?
7) Why was the book "Song of Bernadette" (on which the movie was based) written and by whom?
8) What is the name of the mountain range where Lourdes is located?
9) What is the name of the region between France and Spain where Lourdes is located?

Email your answers to: with "LOURDES" in the message line. The winner will be notified THURSDAY, MAY 13, FEAST OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA (WRONG APPARITION!) AND THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD, A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATION UNLESS YOUR DIOCESE HAS DECLARED IT CELEBRATED ON SUNDAY and tickets will be held at the box office. (Names of those who are eligible to win shall be dropped in a hat or some other respectable reseptacle and drawn therefrom.)

God luck!
*but I will be posting my review soon

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May 9, 2010



[insipid comments by Sr. Helena in brackets]

We have to take back the media. The media belongs to God, like everything else. Bishop Fulton Sheen used to dominate the media! And we can do it again. The media is trying to “bring the pope down,” and they think they can destroy the Church this way.

When the sexual revolution hit, the Church accepted some of it in mentality and practice (never in teaching), and even in seminaries and now we are paying for it.

Recommended books: “Discovering the Feminine Genius,” by Katrina Zeno. Men should read this! We define ourselves in relation to each other. We cannot understand ourselves alone, in a vacuum.

Priesthood is synonymous with maleness and vice versa because of the nature of a man’s body.

Another new book: “Theology of the Body in Context” by William May. It’s good to start with smaller, easy-to-read books and then get to the big TOB text.

We need a theological anthropology. Everything starts with the dignity of the human person. Every single thing has a code, has meaning, purpose and can tell us what it is, what it is ordered to, and that brings happiness because then we know how to relate to it. We walk all around something and really experience it in an exhaustive way.

male body, 2. sacrifice, 3. eschatological dimension

“Catholic” is not a religion, it’s reality. When we delve into Catholicism, we find an integrality and connectedness to everything.

Theology of the Body is the “soul” of Catholicism. Fulton Sheen was all tapped into TOB pre-JP2G because he was tapped into sacraments, Bible, liturgy, Fathers of the Church, etc.

From “The Priest Is Not His Own” (Sheen): “We forget about the body in the priesthood, but it is the WHOLE person who is a priest.” “We priests are priest-victims. When we say ‘This is my body,’ we must mean/offer our bodies also.”

EVERY man is called to be a priest, but how? 1. At the altar? 2. As priest of the domestic church/his family? 3. single men transforming society? EVERY man is a spiritual priest, called to be fruitful. Every priest is called to LIVE and ACT spousally. His “one flesh union” relates to the Eucharist, and everything connected with that: counseling, administrating, sanctifying, teaching, governing.

MEN: priesthood WOMEN: motherhood

Seminarians absolutely need to be formed in TOB! How is a man’s body formed? To spend itself completely, lay itself down, plant a seed, give to another. If one is really giving himself as a priest to his people (the Bride—the whole congregation), he will be exhausted at the end of Sunday. Fr. Loya says he feels exhausted at the end of the day, that he is spent completely, empty, he has given all. The “male thing” is a priestly thing—giving oneself away. He never felt this kind of exhaustion as a layman.

[Just heard on Relevant Radio: The baptismal font (feminine) and the Easter candle (masculine) dipped in the baptismal font at the Easter Vigil and standing next to the font—both are life-giving]

[Jim Stenson, headmaster at Northridge Prep for 20 yrs, sez—(scenario: little boy punches his sister) when women correct, it’s with emphasis on charity: “she’s your sister, you should be kind to her”, when men correct, it’s emphasis on justice, “she didn’t to anything to you, you have no right, who do u think u are?” We can learn from each other to temper justice with mercy and vice versa.]

TOB is NOT NEW. We think it is because we LOST this absolutely essential understanding. Seminarians HAVE to learn to equate their manhood with their priesthood and vice versa. That’s why a man has to be secure in his male identity. Our sexuality is throughout our entire person. If you are confused in your identity as a man, you will be confused about your priesthood. Pope John XXIII sent a secret letter out to bishops in 50’s/60’s saying not to accept men with same-sex attraction into the priesthood. This was not obeyed which caused many problems in seminaries, priesthood.

We don’t JUST image God, we actually “participate in the divine life of the Trinity.”

The world (without God) runs on power, function and usefulness. The world (with God) is sign, sacrament, symbol. [We are participating in something bigger than ourselves! We aren’t making this all up as we go along.]

Men in the world are to protect the holiness of women. Period. It’s all about the bride. The most powerful thing in the world is femininity. [A most vulnerable power!] The most “powerful men” in the world are nothing compared to one woman.


[The world says that the body is good and sex is the ultimate. But then when it comes to male priesthood, they say the body doesn’t matter. “What? Just because a man has a certain body part, he ‘gets’ to be a priest?” YES!!!! We can’t have it both ways: either the body/sex is good and is full of meaning or it isn’t.]

[Jim Stenson—women: be modest in clothing so men will look at your face and eyes, and be guided to treat you like a person, otherwise he’ll look at everything else and be guided to treat you like a thing.]

[Why don’t women WANT to be women, mothers? Because it’s so vulnerable, we have to wait, we have to receive. AND we have been so abused/oppressed by men we’ve decided we aren’t going to take it anymore. And we’re still terrified of that “returning,” if indeed it ever went away. Women are terrified that TOB is a new way to go back to the old oppressive/abuse male thing. And we SHOULD be vigilant about that. Keep being clear and getting it right. Radical feminists threw the baby out with the bathwater. We want to go forward, not backward, but if there’s any reason to go back, it’s to get the baby, not the bathwater!]

Eastern rite married priests have to abstain from their “earthly marriage” (sex) the night before celebrating the “heavenly marriage” (celebrating the Eucharist) to preserve the virginal (“totally God’s body & soul”) and eschatological (new heavens & new earth) dimension of the priesthood!!!! (It has nothing to do with “purity” or “impurity.” Sex is not “impure” for married couples.)

JP2G: “The NEW MEANING of the body will be revealed in the eschaton.”

Families today are boundaried microcosms of the eschaton. So “Brave New World’s” mantra of “everyone belongs to everyone” (wife-swapping, “free” sex, orgies) is wrong because that is just being exclusive again (we can only be with one person at a time).

John Eldredge’s book “Wild at Heart”: A man needs 3 things: a battle to fight, an adventure, a woman to live for (“rescue”). The feminine might take different forms: church, creation, country….

[But we need to give men a better adventure than war (and unjust causes, at that) to give their all to. Sr. Helena has huge theories about this.]

Father says it’s great that the laity have many media initiatives to preach the Gospel, but if they start censuring priests and bishops as to what they can say/not say (e.g., Theology of the Body), it can be like they are setting up a little magisterium of their own. The priests/bishops are ORDAINED to preach the Word of God.

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May 8, 2010


Reprinted from "The Catholic New World"

Here we go again. I just saw the new film “Agora,” which is scheduled to release in the United States in late May. The film is a re-telling of the story of Hypatia, the brilliant woman philosopher from Alexandria, who was killed, supposedly by a mob of “Christians,” in the year 415. Along with the tales of Galileo and Giordano Bruno, the legend of Hypatia is a favorite of anti-religious ideologues.

I first heard the story from Carl Sagan, the popular scientist whose multi-part program “Cosmos” was widely watched back in the 1970s. “Cosmos” in fact comes to its climax with Sagan’s melodramatic rehearsal of the narrative. Hypatia, he explained, was a scientist and philosopher who ran afoul of Cyril, the wicked bishop of Alexandria, who then stirred up a mob of his superstitious followers who subsequently put Hypatia to death. Sagan commented: “the supreme tragedy was that when the Christians came to burn down the great library of Alexandria, there was no one to stop them.” And just to rub it in, he said, “and they made Cyril a saint.”

Sagan’s account found its roots in Edward Gibbons’ version of the story in his deeply anti-Christian classic “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” In fact, Gibbons was the first to link the murder of Hypatia with the burning down of the Alexandrian library.

Alejandro Amenabar’s new film stands firmly in the Gibbons/Sagan tradition, presenting Hypatia as a saint of secular rationalism who desperately gathers scrolls from the library before it is invaded by hysterical Christians and who goes nobly to her death, defending reason and science against the avatars of religious superstition.

Well, Hypatia was indeed a philosopher and she was indeed killed by a mob in 415, but practically everything else about the story that Gibbons and Sagan and Amenabar tell is false. For the complete debunking of the myth, take a look at David Hart Bentley’s book “Atheist Delusions,” but allow me to share just a few details.

The library of Alexandria was burnt to the ground, not by Christian mobs in the fifth century, but by Julius Caesar’s troops, some 40 years before Jesus was born. A temple to the god Serapis, called the Sarapeon, was built on the site of the ancient library (and there might have been some scrolls in it in the fifth century), and it was this building that was sacked by angry Christians in Hypatia’s time, in response to pagan defilements of Christian houses of worship.
Now mind you, I’m not excusing any of this for a moment. Whenever Christians respond to such attacks with violence, they are opposing themselves to the one who said, “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek.” But I am indeed insisting that the charge that Christians mindlessly and gleefully destroyed the greatest center of learning in the ancient world is a calumny.

More to it, Hypatia, sadly enough, found herself caught in the middle of a struggle between two powerful figures in Alexandria, namely, Orestes the civil authority and Cyril the bishop. She was most likely killed in retaliation for the murder of some of Cyril’s supporters by agents of Orestes.
Again, all of this is nasty stuff, and I’m not trying to exculpate anyone, but to pitch this largely political story as a battle between sweet reason and vicious religious superstition is misleading to say the very least.

Finally, though the film portrays her largely as an astronomer (probably to compel comparisons with Galileo), Hypatia was best known as a neo-Platonist philosopher, a devotee of Plato and Plotinus. Not only were there Christians in Hypatia’s classes, not only were Christian bishops among her circle of friends, but Christian theologians — Augustine, Ambrose, and Origen, just to name the most prominent — were enthusiastic advocates of neo-Platonism. Therefore, to portray her as the noble champion of reason over and against mouth-breathing Christian primitives is just ridiculous.

But none of this gets to the heart of why I object to “Agora.” In one of the most visually arresting scenes in the film, Amenabar brings his camera up to a very high point of vantage overlooking the Alexandria library while it is being ransacked by the Christian mob. From this perspective, the Christians look for all the world like scurrying cockroaches.

In another memorable scene, the director shows a group of Christian thugs carting away the mangled corpses of Jews whom they have just put to death, and he composes the shot in such a way that the piled bodies vividly call to mind the bodies of the dead in photographs of Dachau and Auschwitz. The not so subtle implication of all of this is that Christians are dangerous types, threats to civilization, and that they should, like pests, be eliminated.

I wonder if it ever occurred to Amenabar that his movie might incite violence against religious people, especially Christians, and that precisely his manner of critique was used by some of the most vicious persecutors of Christianity in the last century.

My very real fear is that the meanness, half-truths and outright slanders in such books as Christopher Hitchens’ “God is Not Great” and Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” have begun to work their way into the popular culture.

We Christians have to resist — and keep setting the record straight.

Barron is the Francis Cardinal George Professor of Faith and Culture at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. For more of his writings visit

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May 5, 2010


We wanted to share with you the surprise visit of one of our PBM authors to our book center here in Alexandria – and the way God’s Providence came into play in a special way!

We have a young adult women's book club that meets every other Tuesday night here in Alexandria. Recently, we decided that our next book would be "Discovering the Feminine Genius: Every Woman’s Journey" by Katrina Zeno, and we were all geared up to begin our sharing on the book this Tuesday evening.

At around 5 pm that day, Katrina Zeno paid a totally unexpected visit to our book center! The Sisters were all excited, and told her that our book club was meeting that night to start discussing her new book! Katrina was excited, too, and wanted to know all about the book club, how we run the sessions, and what it is like. By the end of our conversation, she asked if she could attend our first session on her book!

We had a lovely first discussion. The young women were delighted (and yes, surprised!) when they found out who she was. She signed everyone’s books, and I’ve attached the photos we took with her that evening. Katrina thanked everyone warmly, and said it was the highlight of her vacation here. She left to go back to AZ the following morning! It was definitely a night the young women will remember!

Blessings to you all,
Sr Jamie Paula, fsp
on behalf of the Alexandria, VA, Daughters of St. Paul Community

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