November 26, 2014

November 22, 2014


The third installment of The Hunger Games: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part I" does not disappoint. Director, Francis Lawrence, who also directed "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," keeps the momentum going in a sleek, seamless film. As we all know, sequels are hardly ever as good as the original, but in serial films it seems, as long as all the elements of the story are kept consistent and evenly measured out, this doesn't have to be true (think the "Harry Potter" films).

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is in the fortress-like District 13, essentially a huge underground bunker of a city run by President Coin (Julianne Moore) in opposition to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) of the Capitol. Katniss must agree to be the icon of the rebellion if it is to succeed, but her only concern is to save Peeta, held hostage with Johanna and Annie in the Capitol.


There are definite "Joan of Arc" overtones at certain points. Katniss' Mockingjay outfit is almost like armor, and her banner with fire behind it feels like a scene right out of "Joan of Arc" starring Ingrid Bergman. (Joan prided herself on never having actually killed anyone herself--similar to Katniss.) I do think Katniss could be a role model for young women to be strong as young women. Sometimes to have a bit of needed nonviolent, feminine "fight back" in their spirits.

"Mockingjay" gets off to a very quiet start with lots of dialogue bringing us deeper into the human drama of the story (not just telling us what happened in the first two films). The filmmakers and actors know they have us eating out of their hand, and we, in turn, trust this is going to be good, so we go along with it for quite some time with no action. But once the action comes, it is purposefully tense and pregnant with meaning because of this build up. We now know what it takes, we know the stakes.


"Mockingjay" could have been unbearably grim, but we have our comic relief in the personages of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks). The laughs come due to Haymitch being only a semi-reformed addict and Effie being the fashionista doomed to a gray, Communist-like jumpsuit existence. Stanley Tucci as the almost-evil game show host, Caesar Flickerman, plays his role to the fullest with TMZ relish.

Although District 13 may look so drab and prison-like, and the Capitol so elegant and charming, the reality is the opposite. The Capitol (even sporting a red-background-with-yellow-emblem flag) operates on a Communist principle: You exist to serve the State. The State provides order, security and what you need--for you to continue working for the State, which is supreme and will bridge no opposition. This is a great history lesson. Another history (and current events!) lesson is that of propaganda and Media Literacy. The war between District 13 (and Panem) and the Capitol is also a media war. Isn't the fatal "reality show" what started it all? Katniss now goes nowhere without her "media team," shaping, shooting and framing the freedom fighters' image and message. Screens continue to dominate till there's a showdown between Katniss and President Snow. This whole media theme would make an excellent Media Literacy class discussion! Art is actually imitating life right now in Thailand, which has outlawed the three raised fingers of defiance that real-life dissidents are borrowing from "The Hunger Games"! (The mockingjay image is also outlawed by President Snow in the film.)

Some of the dialogue feels like kidstuff (after all, the books were not written for adults), sometimes overstating what is going on so that everyone can keep up, but it never gets too heavy-handed, and is actually a welcome relief from too-subtle or too-complicated plots and characters.

I still have huge problems with the whole "Hunger Games" concept of kids killing kids (although the author's goal is to teach young readers about the evils of war right before they may actually be asked to fight in or support a real one). However, this installment is not about any kind of killing games, but rather about the real-life escalation of revenge bombings from the Capitol for the uprising, so actually seeing individuals being killed one by one is not part of "Mockingjay." There are two gruesome, but tidy (just bones) scene of the dead of District 12 (being picked at by a vulture and a dog), and a slightly disturbing scene of a kind of torture (of one of the young tributes).


How does "Mockingjay" leave one feeling? Because of all the heroism on the part of the "good guys," we can feel swept up in wanting to "always do the right thing" as they do--even though sometimes arriving at a moral strategy for going good can be murky waters. My complaint with the character of Katniss (in the films, that is--I'm told that in the books we can overhear her inner workings which are not always as perfectly virtuous) is that she is too perfect. She always chooses the most noble, heroic and correct thing to do without any fear or compromise. It's like she's programmed and can't do otherwise. This is very poor character development. There are no questions in our mind like: Oh, no! What will she do? Because we already know: she will choose the high road and do good and keep on fighting and never give up. Even if she has a slight dilemma about the right course of action, she resolves it quickly and she never seems broken by it all. Even though we know our heroine can't die, a good writer/filmmaker can put them in such peril that we can't begin to imagine how they will ever get out of it, and we forget for a moment that, well, our heroine can't die (yet).

"Mockingjay" keeps your attention, never feels long, and boasts a sure-footed pace to ensure this. The soundtrack is rich, creative and surprising as Katniss even sings a kind of chain-gang blues song that becomes a rallying anthem. The constant use of intercuts is very effective (back and forth between simultaneous action in different locales). It's so refreshing to see an imaginative film with warriors who have no superpowers, their greatest strength being that they are human and humane.


--Katniss should be with Gale.

--Bittersweet to see Philip Seymour Hoffman again....

--Like "Twilight," "Hunger Games" is one woman adored by two men. But Katniss should be with Gale.

--Why do adults love young adult stories so much? I think because they are big and bold (good), we're kids at heart (good), and we've become a very literal, surface, face-value, obvious one-dimensional society, with no time, talent or taste for nuance (not so good).

--Katniss should be with Gale.

--It dawned on me that the tributes are like Africa's child soldiers....

--Did I mention Katniss should be with Gale?

November 17, 2014


Help end the nun shortage!
Nuns don't grow on trees! You can't print nuns with 3D printers!

Donate to our Daughters of St. Paul VOCATION VIDEO

In our digital world, many young women considering the Sisterhood
first meet nuns ONLINE!
And many of these "digital vocations" have since entered the convent!

Help young women find us online!

Many of you so generously helped fund the filming of our Vocation Video last year.
Now we need to assemble this short sneak peak and tell the FULL STORY.

This video is unique in that it will center on what it's like to discern a vocation
and include scenes from Sr. Maria Kim's perpetual profession at her home parish:
becoming the bride of Christ--what religious life is all about!
(The vocation video will be given away free online & as a DVD.)

We need $12,000(US) to finish the video. Can you help us?


No donation is too small!

Needed: $12,000
Raised: $12,000 (as of  December 30, 2015)
Still Needed: $0

Keep checking back
to see the progress!

To show our gratitude, here are a few gifts we are offering you!
(We can mail thank-you gifts to USA and CANADA)
How/when do you receive your "Thank-you" gifts? 
After you donate, indicate via email which gift you want!
(Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, FSP)
We will send your gift promptly!

$20--"Media Nun pack" The Life of Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, her medal, holycard
Co-Foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul--a friend in every need

$20--Christmas Rosary (red and green beads--Our Father beads picture have Christmas figures)
much more elegant and beautiful than it appears in this picture--gift box included

$50 --Large Vigil Candle (with your name or name of a loved one on it) will burn in the
Boston Motherhouse Chapel next to Tabernacle constantly for 2 weeks.
(We can send living loved one to notify them.)

$100 -- Bejeweled icon of Mary & Jesus: perfect for workplace, baby's crib, any place!
Frame is 3 x 3". Comes in pretty blue & gold satin gift box. (while supplies last)

$500 -- St. Raphael  approx 12" (while supplies last)
$500 -- St. Therese 10 x 12"  ready to hang (while supplies last)

$500--Blessed James Alberione 12" statue (while supplies last)
Founder of the Daughters of St. Paul & the Pauline Family

$500 -- Set of 3 angels with birds. Seated angel approx 10" to top of wings (while supplies last)

You are in our prayers.

Sr. Maria Kim Bui's perpetual profession with Bishop Olmsted
& young women in discernment, Diocese of Phoenix, AZ

Filming with Greg from Spirit Juice Studios in 118° heat wave in Arizona

Jib shot of the big moment!

Learn more about the!


Vocation Discernment Days with Eucharistic Adoration

Serious "selfies" with Totus Tuus missionaries

Nun Moms!

Senior Sisters = Prayer Warriors!

Our Native American Sister at St. Kateri's Canonization

One Love: Jesus Christ, One burning desire: Give Him to souls

 Some Sisters in formation -- various stages

Sr. Fay Josephine is from Samoa, now our superior in Hawaii

Renewing our vows on Valentine's Day

With parents of young woman about to enter the convent