June 28, 2014


Want some recommendations for offbeat summer movie viewing? (Actually, not so much offbeat, more like overlooked.) I also went online and polled my film buff friends, but I made sure I've seen all of these myself and could vouch for them. Unless otherwise indicated, pretty much PG-13 fare. I apologize in advance that some of these may be hard to find (but worth it)!

Enchanted April--Middle-aged British wives in the 1920's spring for an exotic Italian getaway.
Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth version!)
Bride and Prejudice--An American-Bollywood takeoff on "Pride and Prejudice." Funny.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty--(new, with Ben Stiller!)--sweet romance, drags badly in parts. Would be fun to watch the original version with Danny Kaye first.
The Painted Veil--A marriage is on the rocks (Ed Norton and Naomi Watts), but maybe the wife needs to take a second look at her husband. Awesome mother superior character.

KIDSTUFF (also for kids at heart)
Wimpy Kid series--(OK, this is more mainstream)
Princess Diaries 1 & 2--(don't deprive your kids if they haven't seen)
Looking for Miracles--(director, Kevin Sullivan: Anne of Green Gables) Two brothers at camp during the Great Depression. Not to be missed. Kevin Sullivan is a master storyteller.
Pollyanna --this star-studded Disney gem teaches lots of lessons
Millions--A British boy (whose mother is dead) believes in the saints and sees them (it totally works!) Unfortunately, one scene where he catches Dad jumping in bed with lady friend.
The Little Kidnappers--Two adorable little Scottish brothers kidnap a baby. Charlton Heston plays their grouchy, stubborn grandfather.
Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken--A Disney gem. In the Depression, a fiesty teen girl joins a Buffalo Bill Cody type Wild West traveling show.

Entertaining Angels (Dorothy Day)--boasts one of the best on-screen nuns ever!
Amazing Grace--The fascinating life of William Wilberforce who ended slavery in England. Albert Finney stars. One of the best "Christian" movies ever made. Wilberforce was also an animal lover.
The Jewish Cardinal--Cardinal Aaron Jean-Marie Lustiger of Paris

The Mission--The true story of 18th century Jesuits in Latin America. (Jeremy Irons, Robert De Niro)
Exorcism of Emily Rose--Not for the faint of heart. Based on the true story of a young German Catholic woman. Best seen in conjunction with reading Fr. Amorth's books: "An Exorcist Tells His Story." "An Exorcist: More Stories."
Gran Torino--Clint Eastwood is a Korean War vet with a chip on his shoulder and skeleton's in his closet. One of the best on-screen young priests ever! Very Catholic. Very funny. Very serious.
Second Best--(William Hurt) A bookish single man and a delinquent boy become men together.
Faith Like Potatoes--A South African farmer learns the heart of God the Father through his own tragedy.

I Confess--Alfred Hitchcock's use of the seal of the confessional as a major plot point. Filmed in Quebec!
Take Shelter--This small movie is just a great character study.
The Fugitive--(Harrison Ford) A lesson in sustained tension....

Jane Eyre (Timothy Dalton version!)
Little Women (any version)
Anne of Green Gables (Kevin Sullivan, director)
Anne of Avonlea (Kevin Sullivan, director)
A Little Princess (any version)
Lawrence of Arabia--Just watch it because everyone needs to.

Road to Avonlea (90's, Kevin Sullivan TV series)
Due South (90's, a polite Canadian Mountie and a rough Chicago cop team up--only the early, Canadian-produced ones are good. Once USA took over, the show WENT south)

What About Bob?--My absolute favorite comedy ever. My nunnies and I quote it constantly.
Waking Ned Devine--An elderly Irish man wins the lottery, but there's only one problem: he's dead. The townspeople try to figure out how to cash in.
Last Holiday--(Queen Latifah) A shy, retiring woman is diagnosed with a terminal disease. She finally begins to really live--and in the process, teaches everyone else how to as well.
Any Mr. Bean movies
Galaxy Quest--Stars from a "Star Trek" like show wind up with real aliens. Who watched their show.

The Man Who Planted Trees (beautiful, flowing impressionistic artwork)--an incredible fable of the power of one person, persistence, duty and love
The Secret of Kells--A fanciful recounting of the story of one of the world's most famous books. Involves fairies.
Through a Scanner Darkly--This is rougher, more R-rated, by the brilliant but troubled Philip K. Dick. Incredible life-like animation. A sad tale of drugs and betrayal. But Dick always ends his tales on the most compassionate and human of notes ("Blade Runner," "Minority Report," "The Adjustment Bureau")

Brave New World--Aldous Huxley's chilling and prescient futuristic tale (1998 made-for-TV, stars Leonard Nimoy, Peter Gallagher)
Gattaca--In the future, everyone is conceived by being genetically engineered. The minority who are not  born naturally are called "faith-births." No one is free to determine their own destiny.

Messenger of the Truth--The life of recent Polish martyr, Blessed Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko (the labor priest). Murdered in 1984.
The Human Experience--Young Catholic filmmakers from Brooklyn, NY, set off to meet their fellow human beings all over the world.

June 21, 2014


The Pauline Family's Official Feast Day of St. Paul is June 30


Antiphon: O St. Paul the Apostle, preacher of truth and doctor of the gentiles, intercede for us to God.
  1. After that, Saul began to harass the Church.  He entered house after house, dragged men and women out and threw them into jail.
  1. “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Sir,” he asked.  The voice answered, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting.”
  1. For he who worked through Peter as his apostle among the Jews had been at work in me for the gentiles, and they recognized the favor bestowed on me.
  1. With my many more labors and imprisonments, with far worse beatings and frequent brushes with death.
  1. And so I willingly boast of my weaknesses instead, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
  1. But by God’s favor I am what I am.  This favor of his to me has not proved fruitless.
  1. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  From now on a merited crown awaits me; on that day the Lord, just judge that he is will award it to me.


Day One
Rom 8:28-30

In the letter of Paul to the Romans we contemplate the divine plan of the Father. We are destined to resemble his Beloved Son and everything is ordered to this end: “All things work together for good for those who love God”, those who are called according to his plan of love. We have been in the mind of God from eternity, even before the beginning of time – destined to resemble the Son. What a source of wonder and awe, evoking trust and a generous response of love! God loves us, wants us to be perfect, holy, united to him in intimate communion. And he provides all the means so that his plan might become reality. He gives us the strength, the light and the desire to correspond to his gifts of grace.

Day Two
Rom 8:31-39

We are called to sanctity! When we reflect on this we might be tempted to confuse sanctity with the sum total of all the virtues, but Paul tells us that sanctity is to be united and in communion with God Most Holy. God is Holy; God is Other. He has done everything, even the impossible, the incredible, to draw us to Himself!  That is why we have such confidence – not in ourselves, but in the Love of Him, who handed over his Son for us all. And through Him, who has loved us, we are able to conquer every obstacle separating us from the God of mercy. This is holiness – to open ourselves to the sanctifying action of God, believing that every obstacle will ultimately lead us to communion with the Other in our life.

Day Three
1 Corinthians 12:4-11

St. Paul tells us in this passage that our lives, as individually lived out, do not have a self-contained meaning. It is not the psychological quality of our belief or the motivation of our work that gives meaning to our life. Meaning is bestowed on our lives through our incorporation in God’s overall salvific plan. What one may do may seem to have no meaning in itself. Many years later it may be picked up by another who builds upon it, often without knowing what went before. It is at this later date that the meaning of what went before is revealed. Events may happen in our lives that are seemingly absurd and trust may seem reckless. But it is Jesus Christ who bestows meaning on every event, on every mission, on every human life. It is this faith that gives us hope.

Day Four
1 Corinthians 15:3-10

Our lives have been set in motion for a purpose. Within the larger event of Christ’s paschal mystery each of our lives plays out: calling (“he appeared to me”) – mission (“I am the least of the apostles”) – sanctification (“the grace that has been given to me has not been wasted”). At a certain point in our lives, as St. Paul himself realized, we cannot help but seeing that our lives are on a trajectory which by our own powers we could not attain. For in the mystery of the Master our lives are taken up “whole and entire into God” (von Balthasar). We too live our lives within this “tradition” of the Lord’s loving death and resurrection. It is this alone that bestows meaning on our daily toil in the Lord’s vineyard.

Day Five
1 Cor 12:1213, 27
Together we are Christ in the world. Together. A tough word. It would be easier to do it one by one, individually, alone, on my own time, in my own style, to my own end. But we can’t get away from that little word: together. We are all members of one body, and that body is Christ. This means that whenever one of us is present to another, there Christ is present to that person. When someone ministers to us, Christ is ministering. When I teach someone, Christ is teaching. We do not need to be afraid of conflicts. They are created by our struggles to grow in maturity and to overcome individualism, collectivism, isolation, and self-serving agendas. These conflicts sand away the sharp edges of our characters and transform our selfishness until the body can live together as one, in harmony, in mutual obedience, growing in love and freedom. Each of us is not simply a cell in the body of Christ. Each of us individually and together is Christ’s body. Each of us can build up the body of Christ within ourselves, for the sake of others, in the Church and in service to the world. How can it be that I--and each of us--have been raised to the honor of being members of the Body of Christ? For this, Lord, I praise you. 

Day Six
Ephesians 1:3-10

St. Paul returns several times in his letters to this theme of being chosen from the beginning. For example, we hear in Galatians: “But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace” (Gal 1:15). Our own Constitutions echo St. Paul: “Through Baptism, the Father has chosen us to live in his Son. In calling us among the Daughters of St. Paul, he has consecrated us to himself more intimately to send us to proclaim the unfathomable riches of the mystery of Christ” (Constitutions #4). God, who is the source of our hope, has been faithful to us from the foundations of the world – before we even existed. He draws us into his fidelity and enables us to communicate this message to everyone around us.

Day Seven
Ephesians 2:3-10

At the end of 1953 Blessed James Alberione wrote a series of notes about the beginnings of the Pauline Family and its mission. He titled these writings Abundantes divitiae gratiae suae:  “the immeasurable riches of his grace.” In his testimony to us, the founder links our own story to this passage of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. God, who is rich in mercy, has saved us by his own faithfulness. He bestows on us an overabundance of grace and gifts for the building up of the Church. Our “good work” as Paulines is precisely this, to announce the Good News with all available forms of communication.

Day Eight
Colossians 1:3-8

We discover hope through relationships. Paul and the Christians at Colossae and Epaphras build up one another in faith in Christ and love for one another. This life, lived so intensely among themselves, spills over into thanksgiving to God the Father. The circle of life brings freshness to their expression of love for each other and their longing to be filled even more with the Spirit. “The Spirit creates, purifies and nourishes the affective climate characteristic of a family that transforms the world into God’s abode—the place where he dwells among us. It is an Abode to be enjoyed; a dwelling place in which to rest and stay; a space in which to live. To know, communicate and ‘dwell’ in God in the Spirit and in truth means to receive the beneficial effect of his being-with-us without seeking to halt the life-giving flow of his love, which is free as the wind and blows where it chooses” (Professor Giusseppe Mazza).

Day Nine
Romans 8:18-27

When our first parents walked with God, all creation was subject to them; they were free, enslaved by nothing. With sin, their mastery over creation, though real and intrinsic to their nature, was no longer easily attained. As long as we human beings allow something other than God to master us, our attempts to enter into a relationship with God and to subject nature to our dominion are an exercise in futility.

The Holy Spirit of God breaks through this groaning, agonizing dead-end. We are not without hope. What will be ours is already ours in Jesus, because the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead raises us, too. God is on our side! God wants us to reign with Jesus. Like the prodigal, we already have access to our inheritance: “Everything is ours and we are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.” If we follow the will of God, we know that in spite of all the painful things that could happen to us, we will never lose God, our final refuge. To quote Benedict again: “You know that the foundation of the world is love, so that even when no human being can or will help you, you may go on, trusting in the One who loves you” (op. cit., p. 38).

You are a vessel of election, O St. Paul the Apostle.
Preacher of truth to the whole world.

Our Father and apostle, St. Paul, you are preacher of truth and doctor of the gentiles.  Intercede for us to God who chose you.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
My spirit rejoices in God, my Savior;
For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
The Almighty has done great things for me,
And holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
And has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
And the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
For he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers,
To Abraham and his children forever.
Glory to the Father…

Repeat the Antiphon:  Our Father…

Final prayer:

Lord God,
You appointed Paul your apostle
to preach the good news of salvation.
Fill the entire world with the faith
He carried to so many peoples and nations.
Through Christ our Lord.

June 12, 2014


THIS JUST IN: Some have been confused by this review. Am I "for" the film or not? As is my wont, I'm simply pointing out the positives and negatives, I usually refrain from recommending or not recommending a film.


Well, is "Maleficent" magnificent?" Angelina Jolie is (of course), but the story? I don't know. What?! I don't have an opinionated opinion for once? No. It's complicated. I am viewing "Maleficent" on its own, but also in the context of the more recent Disney princess stories. The times they are a-changin'.

Here's the story: Humans and fairies do not get along. Their two kingdoms are side by side. The fairies' land is beautiful and magical and the "men" want to take it by force. There has been a long history of this animosity. Maleficent is a fairy (the guardian of the moors) with powerful wings. One day she meets a human boy trying to steal a jewel from the fairy land. They become friends, and as teens, they fall in love. But when the boy grows up, in order to become the king's successor, he strips Maleficent of her wings and she is doomed to only walk the moors. She becomes more and more angry, dark, closed-in and revengeful. When the king has a baby girl, Maleficent curses her (on her sixteenth birthday she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and fall asleep forever). She adds a mercy clause: the curse can be reversed by true love's kiss. The only reason she does this is because she firmly believes that TRUE LOVE DOES NOT EXIST. But as she watches Aurora grow up, she often finds herself protecting her and helping her. She revokes the curse. Or does she?

Hear ye, hear ye and be it known that I am no expert on myths, legends or fairytales and what they are "supposed" to be, look like, accomplish. I have only the most general knowledge of their essence. Plato said: "Those who tell the stories rule the world," but I have long believed the saying should be: "Those who INTERPRET the stories rule the world." And what of those who RE-TELL and RE-INTERPRET the stories as with "Maleficent"? What of those who say the old stories no longer have perennial meaning just as they are, and don't tell new stories, but redact?

Through the narrator of this Disney princess tale, we are playfully told that we have not been told the real story of Sleeping Beauty all these years. The implication is not that we have been lied to, but that we only heard one side of the story, or that we haven't looked deep enough. Like the smash Broadway musical "Wicked," we are told the story from the villain's perspective, and the villain becomes our main character, and the villain is not so villainy after all.

WHO is actually telling the story now? A woman screenwriter. Linda Woolverton.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Woolverton (She also wrote the screenplay for "Beauty and the Beast" and "Lion King.") Women are writing the Disney stories about women now. I rejoicify at this (why not?), but do women, does this woman writing "Maleficent" know who she is as a woman? Who women are in general? Is she on an earnest search that is not over yet or is her worldview locked tight and presented to us as an agenda in "Maleficent"? I don't know. I don't know Linda Woolverton.

Good is good and evil is evil in "Maleficent," but we are made to examine neglected nuances of it in ourselves and others. The concept of forgiveness is very strong throughout, although the two nemeses, the fairy queen (who is not a real queen) and the human king (who is not a real king) never reach that denouement. In fact, Maleficent inadvertently kills her archenemy. Have we seen THIS before? I don't think so. There is much new in this refurbished fairytale. Do we need refurbished or simply new fairytales? Perhaps, despite the fact that human nature does not change. The last change to human nature was the Ascension. And it was a mighty good one.

I really think there is a lot of authentic feminist stuff going on in this film. It often hits the nail on the head in a very deep way. The film is at its best when describing the deep, deep rift between men and women, the masculine and the feminine. The deep woundedness on both sides, particularly the female side. The solution? A withdrawal from men (who are either utterly wicked or utterly useless [and often emasculated]). The two kings (and their soldiers) are bad men. Maleficent has a male lackey, and Princess Aurora has a useless prince (so useless he is literally floated around in a suspended state and only good for performing a function--that he doesn't succeed at). Men are not only a problem, they are not needed.

There could be even more feminist readings: Women "fly" without men. Men want to take women's "wings" away.

As Steven Greydanus ("Decent Films")--a father to three little princesses and four princes*--says: "I'm all for female empowerment and girl power, but not at the expense of men." Can't we do better than: When men tell the stories, women get objectified and/or are irrelevant--when women tell the stories, men get objectified and/or are irrelevant?

In "Maleficent" as in "Frozen" (there are many similarities to "Frozen," also written by a woman): Women are now saving women.  The main similarities of these two movies for me were: the lone queen with her overpowering rage, and the withdrawal from men. Strong, angry, brooding women.

What felt very inauthentic and like a mockery was the caricature of Prince Philip with tights, pageboy haircut, white horse, embellished saddle, cape. Perhaps it was just a bit of humor, but it did feel very spoofy, like: Look, ladies, really?

Another name for this film could be: "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Done Wrong. Very Wrong." Female wrath is quite a powerful force. I have felt it in myself and it's very scary. There's a great scene of Maleficent striding with her staff, smiting everything in her path. Wow. I know what that feels like. (Except I don't have magic emerald mist exuding from my fingertips.) I think a whole book could be written about this film and the transformation of Disney princesses of late.

The most significant feature of this film seems to be the conviction of both Maleficent and King Stefan that "TRUE LOVE DOES NOT EXIST. Or at least true male-female love. There is nothing special about male-female love. Withdraw. It's a standoff. Find another love. Any love will do." But male-female love IS the primordial love. The organic, natural, intrinsic community love of the Trinity in Whose image male and female have been made. As a unit. The only love capable of giving life. Human life. Humanae vitae.

BUT on the other hand, this exploring the depths of other kinds of love ("Frozen": sisters, siblings. "Maleficent": mother and surrogate daughter) besides purely romantic-sexual love between men and women that HAS gone awry in our day and age, may even be the way BACK to a fuller male-female love.
Oh no! The Disney spell is working on ME! I only asked Steven about his princesses! He had to add that he had four of "the others," too!


--Angelina's own daughter, Vivienne, is the knee-high Aurora who hugs Maleficent. (It was so funny to hear Angelina saying: "I don't like children.")

--Angelina is so visually riveting and has such a convincing British accent and puts such oomph and juice into her words that she got guffaws from my cinema audience when she uttered only: "Oh."

--I would love to see Angelina do the life of a strong woman saint.

--This is definitely a kid's movie. But very watchable. Big and simplistic with deeper themes running like rivers below. Even if its mythology is not deep, its psychology is.

--The adult King Stefan was badly miscast. Looks, voice, acting, everything.

--The pixies are a clever and delightful addition. (Their wings make a cool sound.)

--Not too scary for little kids. Very funny moments.

--Elle Fanning has such a shallow part here. Hope it doesn't hurt her career because she has GOT it.

--COULD Maleficent have saved the king? After all, she could fly (again) and he couldn't.

--I WISH women forged more alliances like Maleficent and Aurora in the end, but maybe we need to SEE it, IMAGINE it before we can do it....