July 28, 2017


This much-dissed movie is actually quite good. At first. The ending is not just improbable, it's impossible and laughable and as fantastically utopian as the utopia it sets out to fix. In fact, the movie actually portrays the manipulating, stats-driven, groupthinking, world-swallowing monolith that is "The Circle" as basically good. It just needs a little tweaking. Despite its incomplete third act and abrupt, premature, weak ending, you should still totally see this film for its thought-provokingness.

Mae (Emma Watson) is a new hire at her dream job, a Facebook-like social media company called "The Circle," which is run like a benign cult. The Circle and its corporate culture is not far-fetched at all. Its philosophy and goals are familiar to us: world domination through data collection and encroachment into every aspect of our lives (that we willingly sign up for 'cause it's free and we're wired to be social and dread being left behind), "Big Tech Knows What's Best For You," "Big Tech Knows What You Want Before You Do," etc. It's a sunny, smiling, uber-social (not anti-social) dystopia. What values are highly prized at The Circle for employees and users alike? Total 24/7 connectivity, total transparency. What's demonized? Privacy. A tiny spy-type camera--invented by the Circle's genius leader, Eamon (Tom Hanks)--is affixed everywhere: not just around the company, but is being planted in public places near The Circle's headquarters.


Mae becomes a guinea pig for a completely open life where the world can follow every minute of her day (bathrooms are off limits) as she chats to her followers into the open air (the cameras also have mics). We've seen this kind of thing before in film, starting with "The Trueman Show," but this is the next level. The comments that people leave on her feed from all over the world are so typical and telling and run the gamut from trolls to stalkers to sages to fans to attention-seekers to idolizers to socmed addicts. I would love to just freeze frame all the comments and re-read them. 

What's super scary is the realistic portrayal of how our young people today (devoid of being taught critical thinking) just fall for slogans and truly detrimental "sea changes" in human thinking/philosopy/ethos without even noticing a gross lack of logic, echoes of totalitarian systems past, or any other dangers. (The Circle is mostly made up of twentysomethings.) Our young people today are being led, Zvengali-like, to rally en masse behind any carefully machinated, framed, articulated cause--as long as it "sounds good" on the surface. They have no idea that these are PLANNED upheavals. They honestly believe they are springing up organically and are societal improvements (also because "evolution" is always on an upward swing and human beings are becoming more "enlightened" all the time--the myth of progress). What a crying, crying need we have to teach them just two subjects: philosophy and history!


"The Circle" just made me painfully aware (every so often I forget) of our ALREADY hellish use of media/communications/tech: incessantly, ubiquitously, distractedly, invasively and cacophonously. I shudder to think of the next phase (VR? augmented reality? embedded chips?) when ALREADY: WE CAN'T GO ON LIKE THIS. WE HAVE ALREADY SACRIFICED SO MUCH OF OUR HUMANITY. WE NEED TO REFLECT, RETURN, RESIST, REVOLT, REBEL AND USE MEDIA WELL, INTENTIONALLY AND HUMANLY, WHICH MEANS--FOR STARTERS--NOT USING IT 24/7.

Scariest of all is how the young people in "The Circle" fall into the current fad of turning everything into a "basic human right." In this case, everyone should have the RIGHT to access everyone else's experiences! (Me: Why not take that one step further: how about access to everyone's thoughts--when we have that ability?) As dear Msgr. William Smith of NYC used to say: "If they're handing out new human rights? Don't get in that line! It won't be good! We have all the rights we need in the Bill of Rights!"

It's all done in the name of a Grand Scheme for the Betterment of Humanity: better health through metrics, easy participation in politics, fighting crime, staying safe, etc., even if that means implanting chips in your children so you can keep track of them at all times.

"The Circle" could easily have been an episode of "Black Mirror," except "Black Mirror" doesn't have happy endings.

July 23, 2017


I always forget that "GOT" is "Game of Thrones." When I saw this ad on the back of "Entertainment Weekly,"
I drew a blank. What did it mean? Add an "A" and you have GOAT (devil?). Change "T" to "D" and you have GOD.
Add "DO" and you have "GODOT." Yes, that's how my mind works.

Q: I was asked recently: "Should a Christian watch 'Game of Thrones'"?


I would just like to say that I watched a few episodes of GoT and was utterly, utterly horrified by the violence. Exploding human heads? There was a time when the camera (on TV or film--except for campy horror films) would look away when someone got shot or hurt. That final moment was not depicted, only its prelude and aftermath. (See also "13 Reasons Why" where the camera shows a full-on "perfect, poetic suicide" and never, ever looks away.) In the past, even horror films that weren't campy and strove to shock, just didn't have the realistic prosthetics, FX and ultraHD that we have today. All the more need to be delicate, discerning and discreet.

The egregious, graphic desecration of the human body--the sacred image of God--in visual storytelling today is becoming the norm.

Here's an acronym for you: TOB. "Theology of the Body--it isn't just about sex."


For quite some time now, I have been convinced that Hollywood's* deep, deep skepticism and profound cynicism about human goodness, human potential and ability to love is really deconstructionism. When did this start? Perhaps sometime after World War II--when many say postmodernism really took hold. Definitely by the 60's, and firmly by the 90's. Hollywood likes to tell stories like this: "See that happy, shiny family? They're not happy at all! Anything that appears good and harmonious is actually seething with deep, dark, depraved secrets that we are about to expose to you! We reveal--not just for the sake of entertainment--this is how the world really is!" 

What is deconstructionism? In a nutshell:

"You see this watch that you think is so great? [takes watch apart and leaves its guts on the table] It's not great at all! Why, it doesn't even work!"

"You see this text or work of art that you think is pregnant with meaning? It isn't! It means da da da. Because I just said 'da da da.'"

"Goodfellas" is the most chilling horror film I have ever seen. Everyday people, neighborhood friends will slaughter each other at the slightest provocation over wiseguy, petty crime posturing.

A plethora of "CSI"-style police and crime TV shows--now in endless syndication--serve up mangled body after mangled body that has suffered every kind of indignity, alive and/or dead.

It's all a kind of banal blasphemy.
*I'm using "Hollywood" in its broadest meaning here: mainstream visual storytelling. And of course, not all of it is deconstructionist. But it's amazing how popular the deconstructionist pieces become: "Breaking Bad," "Gone Girl," "Dexter," "Bloodline," "How To Get Away With Murder," "Game of Thrones," "House of Cards," "Ozark," etc. These stories are not just stories of power and betrayal and murder, they are of a particular ilk, with a particular anthropology: Man is thoroughly corrupt. All is "red in tooth and claw," so we might as well enjoy it, glean some entertainment from it. And deconstructionism doesn't have to be all brooding mayhem. Even comedies that have given up on humanity can say bascially the same thing--with a smile.


Human beings are not "thoroughly corrupt." We have been seriously wounded after the Fall, but we are still "good" as God made us, because we are not more powerful than God to change that. Our minds have been darkened--it's harder to know the truth. Our wills have been weakened--it's harder to do the good. Our heart/passions have become unruly--it's harder to practice self-control. Human beings are capable of great evil and great good.

Christian worldview(s) in a nutshell:

"See that happy, shiny family? Well, they've got some struggles that you don't see, but they're working at it. And they may not know this, but their reality is even deeper and more beautiful than they realize. Their attempts to love and keep at it will bear fruit here and in eternity. In fact, every human being is a precious image of God. But husband and wife? They are even more in the image of God as a mirror of the love between Christ and the Church."

"See that happy, shiny family? Well, they're really not. There are some awful things going on that you don't see. Husband and wife brought their woundedness and sinfulness together and don't know how to heal, so they're hurting each other and their kids. Things could go better for them if they get help and make better choices."

"See that happy, shiny family? They actually are."

"You see this watch that you think is so great? Let's see if it is. Hmmm. [takes it apart, sees how it works, puts it back together] You're right, this watch is pretty great!"

"You see this text or work of art that you think is pregnant with meaning? It is! The author/artist had certain intentions (even if they say they didn't), but certainly you will bring your own imagination and life experience to it also and it will become all the richer."


The first stage of "the mainstreaming of porn" began with the now-debunked criminal-charlatan-deviant, Alfred Kinsey (who inspired Hugh Hefner). The second stage (moving porn/film) began around the time of cable, with the relaxing of laws and regulations, with porn stars writing books and going on talk shows, and then it exploded with the internet, and was rather complete with the untethered internet on personal devices. Who could escape? Porn was now ubiquitous, anonymous, accessible, affordable (often free) and, most tragic of all, accepted. Perhaps 90% of people who use porn today, would never have, pre-cable and pre-internet. They would never have acquired porn mags or gone to adult bookstores or seedy theaters (virtually the only places to find porn before cable/internet times).

But the third stage of the mainstreaming of porn is the embedding of porn in all media. But I'm afraid the third stage finds us asleep--a sleep unto spiritual death. Because porn use is so prevalent (by old, young, male, female), we think nothing of, or rather, we don't even notice "a little" porn mixed in here and there in a mainstream film, TV show, video, ad. Porn is referenced everywhere (even if not shown). It's not shocking any more. There is no moral outrage. There is wholesale denial about porn's addictive nature and the many victims it leaves in its wake. There is no care to porn-proof children. Fathers joke with young sons about it. (I have heard many, many sorrowful real-life anecdotes--let alone screen portrayals--about porn use in families being no big deal.) Gen-Xers forget that Playboy magazine photo stills (harmful as they are) are a far cry from starting to watch hardcore, perverse, violent, moving film-porn when you're a little kid (and what that does to a developing brain).

What to do? If you use, stop. If you can't stop, get help. Educate yourself about porn. We have all the brain science. The bad news? Porn rewires your brain. The good news? You can re-rewire it, but it'll be the hardest fight of your life, but the most worthy fight you've ever fought. Let's rout porn back to the fringe. Or better, back to the abyss. Let's say "no" to our fav shows that sneak porn in. Future generations are depending on us.

www.tinyurl.com/PornPreventionResources (& Recovery) includes resources for parents

"We can't protect people, but we can make them strong." --Dr. Jordan B. Peterson


--"Did you ever notice in GoT how the women are strong and the men are weak?" --Scott Adams, creator of "Dilbert"

--"GoT vindicates our view of the world as a hostile place where reason has no reward and relationships are meaningless." "Epic thinking facilitates our disregard of fellow humans."

--"If You're Watching 'Game of Thrones' You're Watching Porn"

--"Hollywood, 'Art,' Sex, Violence & Your Kids" (includes some stats about "Game of Thrones")

--"If It Quacks Like a Duck, It's Porn" (lengthy article that refutes a defense of GoT as "not porn")

--Here's Fr. Mike Schmitz talking about the violence of MMA (as entertainment):

part I -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzBq7wXPOh4&index=2&list=PLeXS0cAkuTPpJ6j3eH59WudJhJ4q1tpwH

part II -- (law of exposure) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRqB3zgC6mA&list=PLeXS0cAkuTPpJ6j3eH59WudJhJ4q1tpwH

--At the same time, we have nonfictional "Dunkirk" doing great box office. Good people (though not thoroughly good, no one is) fighting bad people (though not thoroughly bad, no one is)--or rather good vs. evil. And good won.

July 14, 2017


So. I am late to the party here with my review of "Wonder Woman." WW is certainly "all that." They found the exact right actress, Gal Gadot (rhymes with "Doll" and "Float"). GG is a generous and warm actress who plays a woman-child-goddess-warrior with aplomb. Being an Israeli, she doesn't have that American vibe, so it makes her all the more mysterious. Her eyes and facial expressions are always unexpected. Her slender, leggy, model physique; oval face and enviable cheekbones are never flaunted: it seems both the thespian herself and the script are too modest for that. Even her costume is modest (slightly less revealing and sexy than Lynda Carter's)--and the muted Americana red, white and blue is stylin'. Also, Gadot was five months pregnant during shooting! She green-screened her belly. What a claim to fame her little daughter is going to have!


I guess you can tell I like this actress. I just saw her in "Criminal" with Kevin Costner, and she's got unique acting smarts. She projects strength, but always with a gentle femininity at the same time--something many women aspire to. The rough-tough-practically-a-man-in-every-way broads are just not my thing. Can't relate. That kind of chick (young--think Disney...and old) is becoming a bit of a lone, one-dimensional stereotype for women. I know very few women like that in my own life, and I don't wanna be one.

Gadot seems like the type of woman you'd want to be friends with in real life (as a fellow woman)--a real gal pal (sorry). But enough about her!


DISCLAIMER: I am not a comic book maven. I am not a superhero fan. I don't quite get all the hype. I only truly like The Batman and Captain America (a little bit). So I'm not even going to dare to critique the movie vis-a-vis the print version, the animated version, any version. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on the mythology. I'm just going to look at WW as any other film, OK?
Diana lives on the all-female-warrior Amazon island of Themyscira. Humans (viz., men) are seen as hopelessly bellicose and have basically been given up on. The Amazon women train for battle in order to defend their island. However, wouldntcha know, a World War I plane (with an American spy--Chris Pine) on board crashes in the ocean near Themyscira. Diana saves the pilot's life. When she learns there's a world war going on, she wants to help save the world, save the millions of people who are suffering and dying. Her mother, the goddess Hippolyta, is reluctant at first, but she knows that Diana has the skills, and even special weapons/skills to kill the god of war, Ares, himself. So there are two wars going on here: the meta-war of what causes war (the "mother of all wars," if you will) and WWI.


The raspy-voiced Gadot is delightful at playing an innocent in a complicated world of human weirdness and deceit. And, as a woman online said, you gotta love a female superhero who love babies (she gets momentarily distracted by an infant at one point). Diana is convinced that if she can kill Ares, the war will stop. Steve Trevor, the American pilot-spy, humors her, and takes her to the Front because he sees she knows how to care of herself. Steve is not a perfect knight in shining armor, but he's basically a good guy who knows right from wrong and is willing to sacrifice his life for the noblest cause of his time.


In one isolated, ghastly and truncated conversation, Steve gives Diana a poor and pathetic description of marriage and it's left at that. Diana: "Men are essential for procreation, but not pleasure." (No kidding, Diana! And women are not essential for men's pleasure either!) They speak coldly of "biological reproduction" and "the pleasures of the flesh." Egads! Theology of the Body to the rescue! The two inseparable purposes of sex=unitive and procreative! Love and life! God is Love and God is Life! Can't separate 'em!

Also, very subtly, it is insinuated that WW & Steve Trevor sleep together. Or as one woman put even more pointedly: "Aaaaaaand Wonder Woman lost her virginity. Just. Like. That."
These little stunts were sooooo unnecessary. But I guess the SexRev has to get its greasy little fingers on everything. So much for the celibate superhero.

Men and women are existentially kept apart. (The all-female island. WW and Steve only come together to hook-up. In the end they are not together. ) A big problem today: men and women "going their own way." At least when we're fighting/arguing, we're together, but our culture has lost words, or chooses not to use them, and so we depart in a kind of silence.


As Diana witnesses the magnitude of the catastrophic battle and the depths of iniquity in men's hearts, she is tempted to destroy humanity herself, but she learns that human beings can be as evil as devils, but they're always capable of good. Diana learns from Steve that only love can save the world (he does not tell her this, rather she intuits it from his actions). Love, not "beauty."

So. This superheroine is truly feminine. It's a truly feminine story of a feminine savior, of the feminine genius. The gender contrast is built into the story because (human) women are not in full combat in WWI. There is no contrast today, only "endless war"? The Women's Movement of the 1960's was conflicted about women becoming militarized because it had aligned itself with the Peace Movement. If women are in full combat, who keeps the peace? Who is the peace for? If there's no difference between men and women (if gender is just a social construct), then why not child soldiers (isn't childhood just a social construct, too)? I get A LOT of flack for saying women shouldn't be in combat (for many, many reasons--there are also studies), but I'm sticking to my guns (pun intended). Women don't start wars--we shouldn't have to fight them. (Women are different psychologically, spiritually, sexually, socially--and the way men are biologically programmed to interact with women is to treat them differently: e.g., protection). Men do not have monthly cycles, men do not get pregnant, men are generally physically stronger than women, etc., etc. This is not inferiority or weakness on the part of women, this is strength! Women's strength! But strength that is not suited for, does not lend itself to combat. Women are also large-scale peacemakers and peacekeepers.

WW also reminded me a bit of "Mad Max: Fury Road" (where the women were protecting the seeds of new life).


There is much food for thought about identity, war, men and women. There are lots of parallels to Christianity. Ares is somewhat of a Satan figure: the son of Zeus, is "envious" that Zeus created men and wants to destroy them (show his father how evil they really are).

The prominence of a woman/women in saving the world draws a huge comparison to "The Woman": the Blessed Virgin Mary. By a certain point in the film, you simply cannot stop thinking of her, and the unique role women play in spiritual warfare (see Genesis  3:15, John 2:4-5 and Revelation 12: the whole chapter). Mary is the ultimate "god" killer and "God" bearer for the salvation of the world. Boomshakalaka.*
*Be it known that my revival of "boomshakalaka" preceded the adorable Blue Ivy's by approximately one year.


--Wonder Woman is NOT the first female superhero:

--Sr. Hosea's review: http://media.pauline.org/reviews/ArticleID/3250/Wonder-Woman-the-mystery-of-the-human-heart

--My friends from Kenya (a married couple employed in the arts with grown children) couldn't stand WW. "We need to stop telling young women they have to be as physically strong as men, warriors blah, blah, blah."

--Fr. Edward Looney's juxtaposing of Wonder Woman and Our Lady: http://catholicexchange.com/lady-real-wonder-woman

--Fan art with Our Lady of Guadalupe attributes:

--I told one of my friends named Diana that she needs to start introducing herself as: "I am Diana of Themyscira, daughter of Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. In the name of all that is good in this world, I have come to complete my mission!"

--The heavenly cruciform feminine destroys the earthbound evil masculine.

--Christopher West's son's spot-on review: http://corproject.com/wonder-woman/  John Paul West can WRITE.


--James Cameron thinks WW is exploitative, the same-old, same-old male Hollywood stuff (the last few paragraphs): https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/aug/24/james-cameron-well-never-be-able-to-reproduce-the-shock-of-terminator-2?CMP=twt_gu

--From an astute, film-loving friend: "Read/listen to this about Wonder Woman will make you hate Wonder Woman... I can't stand anything Wonder Woman cause it was written by a bigamist, whose mistress was Margaret Sanger's niece. He was a big Sanger fan."

--"See also the movie: 'Professor Marston and the Wonder Women'" (Professor Marston, who created WW, lived with his wife, mistress and children in the same house for many, many years. This new film praises this arrangement and hints at a lesbian relationship between the women as well.

July 13, 2017


The British Netflix mini-series starring Sean Bean as a Catholic priest is an interesting (and flawed) take on modern sacerdotal life. Fr. Michael Kerrigan leads a rather grim and joyless existence as the pastor of a gorgeous gothic structure with very few congregants. He's intimately involved in his parishioners' lives and knows them well. He's well-rounded in that he enjoys some bowling and pub-time with friends here and there, but is ever-ready for the emergencies (spiritual and otherwise) of his flock.


Many contemporary realities are presented: immigration, "hate crimes," single parenting, clergy sex abuse, mental illness, suicide, and we follow certain characters through all five episodes. Is there an "agenda" here? Sort of. The screenwriter is baby boomer Jimmy McGovern from Liverpool, so some issues are presented through that hackneyed narrative of "Why can't Catholics just get with it and follow whatever the culture is doing?"

First, what's good about "Broken": the fact that people care about the daily life of a priest! "Broken" has many similarities to the film (not the book) "Diary of a City Priest," a lovely little depiction of a priest in a dying parish in the inner city who leads an unsensational, uneventful life, and wonders if he's doing any good. The answer is yes: A lot of good for both the upwardly mobile and the down and out in his little corner of the world, one needy person at a time.


"Broken" also shows Fr. Michael going to a priest friend (approximately his same age) to talk over personal and pastoral matters. As he's faced with tricky conscience conundrums, he doesn't take them lightly, but is intent on doing the right thing, not the easy thing. (I would have liked to have seen him in prayer more often, however.) Being that Sean Bean is such a looker, I thought they would have the usual  "Thornbirds" Priestly Sexual Temptations. But, no. Fr. Michael seems to have a good grasp on his celibate vocation. "Broken" is also not "Nothing Sacred" (a short-lived American take on a priest having every kind of crisis imaginable simultaneously: existence, faith, Church teaching, etc.).

SPOILER: The fact that Fr. Michael was fondled by a priest-teacher when he was young haunts him, and he eventually confronts this hideous man (he's truly hideous) with so much intensity (but without laying a hand on him), that we are able to get a glimpse of what sexual abuse does to children. The even greater psychological abuse was from his own mother, and we see frequent flashbacks of this. We wonder how both of these harrowing realities of his young life affected his sense of his calling, but to the credit of the filmmakers, there seems to be a bit of a separation there--not just a fatalistic: he was driven to it by circumstances.

At other times, characters have strange, unemotional reactions to traumas that would simply break Americans. But I think what we're seeing is the Brit's "stiff upper lip" thing in all its glorious inaction. It never fails to startle me. :)


What's not so great about "Broken"? Sadly, Fr. Michael thinks that the reason there's no female priesthood is because men afraid of women's sexuality. Sigh. He also seems a bit cowed by "well, this is the way we do things now" (e.g., only offering Confession face to face)--regardless of options and how he thinks things should be done and him taking charge. Often, when Fr. Michael states Catholic teaching, it's clinical and without understanding it, owning it or embracing it, like some unfathomable dictate of the universe. There's a kind of guy's approach to it all (with maybe a touch of reverence, but maybe not): "These are the rules. Rules are good. They don't have to make sense." BUT, we know that:

"God has given us the wisdom
to understand fully the mystery
the plan he was pleased to reveal in Christ." --Ephesians 1:8-9

Fr. Michael even admits to his clerical buddy that he thinks the Church's teaching on sex is a crock. 


Everyone in "Broken" is in need of a bracing and liberating dose of Theology of the Body.

The story regarding an older "gay" man who is rebuffed badly by a Catholic Trinidadian father (and told by said father to stay away from his two young sons who were taunting him) is a mixed bag. It's a complex story that involves a rigid understanding and uncharitable application of Catholic teaching (the Trinidadian), as well as excessive "hate crime" legislation. There is also a confusion of "homosexual orientation" with "homosexual acts." Arrrrgggghhhh. But there is a truly nuanced ongoing conversation in this episode about what it's like to experience life as "a gay man," to grow up "being gay," and to be bullied for it (this bullying does not necessarily cease in adulthood).
No Church teaching on any issues is ever explained in "Broken." (But have you ever seen that in any secular TV/film story?) That's the rub. Even the adamant Trinidadian father, who is willing to go to prison for his beliefs, can't explain why certain sexual behaviors are wrong (cleverly, the "gay" man in question is celibate).

In the end, I believe that the creators of "Broken" would really, really, really like to hear the Church's teachings intelligently, coherently and life-givingly explicated. Just once. Call me.


--An excellent commentary on one reason men treat women badly (use women sexually). Before becoming a priest, Michael's self-esteem was so low (in his case, due to constant berating by his mother) that he believed if a woman would sleep with him, she had to be lower than low, and therefore he would treat her like dirt. (Another way of saying also in general: women demonstrate to men what value they have by the value they place on themselves.) Needless to say, good Fr. Michael deeply regrets his actions.

--A very glamorous suicide (even moreso than "13 Reasons Why").

--"Broken" is not a wholesale lashing out at or demonizing of the Church like the newer episodes of  "Midsomer Murders." (I had to stop watching MM because it was so vicious and ludicrous). It feels like an admission that Catholic priests and the Catholic Church are still very vital and important, but are needlessly puzzling. All that's needed is "change."

July 7, 2017


Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

I am telling this story second hand, but it's such an extraordinary illustration of God working through matter (another name for the Sacraments) that it has vividly stuck with me through the years. A good friend of mine, Hannah Carter, was at the bedside of her dying father who was in hospice in a city far from where she lived. Hannah didn't know any of the priests in the area, so she called a local parish to ask for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. A priest came, hurriedly did some kind of ceremony that only took a few minutes and left. Hannah had never been present at an Anointing of the Sick before, but she felt uneasy, almost as though her father had not received "the Last Rites." She called another parish priest. When this priest arrived, he performed a lengthy ritual over her father which included something called "The Commendation of the Dying" (not the "Condemnation of the Dying," ha ha). http://www.ibreviary.com/m/preghiere.php?tipo=Rito&id=371

The Commendation is various biblical and deliverance prayers and litanies that recount "from death to life" Scripture passages. Since her father was unconscious, the priest wasn't able to administer Holy Communion or Confession, but forgiveness is invoked in the prayers as well as a final blessing.

After the Sacrament, Hannah was about to rush back to the side of her father to hold his hand and comfort him as she had been doing, but the hospice nurses held her back. "Wait," they instructed, having seen this many times before: "he's going to respond to the Sacrament." "What? What do you mean?" Hannah asked, confused. "Your father is going to respond to the Sacrament. Either he will take a turn for the better for a while, or he will be released." Sure enough, her father's puckered brow and permanent look of consternation relaxed into a peaceful countenance. He drew one last enormous breath and exhaled every last bit of it as he died. Hannah was at once saddened, relieved and astonished.

The more I study John Paul II's Theology of the Body, the more I see how concrete our God is, what a materialist He is. (He must love matter because He made so much of it, and it's not going away. Rather, there will be a "new heavens and a new earth," Revelation 21).

John Paul II says in his Theology of the Body that "the spousal meaning of the body is completed by the redemptive meaning on the different roads of life and in different situations: not only in marriage or...virginity, celibacy, but also...in the many kinds of human suffering, indeed, in man's very birth and death" (TOB 102:8). JP2 did not take up these last two themes in his masterwork, but others have built on it. A new book is entitled "Theology of the Body Extended: the Spiritual Signs of Birth, Impairment and Dying."

There can be so much fear surrounding the certain prospect of our own death. But we must trust in the One who loves us and Who accompanies us in the person of His priest, "another Christ," administering the Sacraments at our major life-events: hatched, matched and dispatched.

It is said that the last words of Pope John Paul II were mumbled weakly in Polish, as he struggled to breathe and swallow: “Let me go to the house of the Father.” Six hours later, in a comatose state, Karol Wojtyla the Great died.

July 5, 2017

July 3, 2017


Orlando, Florida  #CatholicConvo


Bishop Mark S. Rivituso--auxiliary bishop, St. Louis, MO
Bishop Edward Weisenburger--bishop of Salina, KS
Kathryn Jean Lopez--National Review
Catherine Szeltner--EWTN Pro-life Weekly
Mr. Fran X. Maier--Archdiocese of Philadelphia, former editor of National Catholic Register
Sr. Helena Burns, fsp--Daughters of St. Paul

My thoughts:


I not only FELL IN LOVE with the ARTS/MEDIA at a young age, I was also able to see (at a young age) the tremendous power and influence that MEDIA/POP CULTURE had on my life for good and for ill. So it was only natural that I enter the Daughters of St. Paul, because I thought: What better way to BRING GOD DIRECTLY into people's minds and hearts than through a radio program, a TV show, a book, a magazine, a song, a film?

Later, when I discovered the field of MEDIA LITERACY EDUCATION, I realized that critical thinking skills, discernment and the Catholic Faith could be applied NOT JUST TO evangelization with media, but to all our daily media experiences: entertainment, information, inspiration, communication, education.


--Define "classic culture" vis-a-vis "pop culture"--or simply define "pop culture" for audience. Are both organic to some degree? Are both manufactured to some degree?

--Many (esp. young) have no other intellectual/spiritual in-put or reference other than pop culture. It's their whole world. Therefore: need to inculturate Gospel in pop culture (as well as provide alternative pop culture/media).

--Important to see both light & shadows in pop culture. (Will help BOTH the fearful & the overly-optimistic. UNHELPFUL: Not all happy talk & not all doom & gloom. 

--But the lows are quite low: PORN / family life  & conversation / YouTube horrors / Andrew Sullivan: "I Used To Be Human." / uncivil and vicious professional and citizen journalism news media.

--We need to intelligently & prayerfully engage the pop culture & its adherents.

--Seems to be 2 extremes in Church: media-haters/indifferent who stay away from it, and the obsessed/addicted who use media incessantly with almost no limits or strategies for themselves or their children

--pop culture has become more and more a conduit for ideology and a homogenous/monolithic worldview (e.g., even Bill Nye the Science Guy is teaching "gender theory" as hard-core science. See new Netflix series: "Bill Nye Saves the World.")\

--philosophical climate which influences pop culture: postmodernism/relativism/subjectivism/deconstructionism/feeling vs. thinking/scientism (scientific truth is the only kind of truth): concept of "charity" is individual rights based on feelings (feelings are absolute)

--news is anything but objective, but rather polarized, agenda-ized, partisan. "Fake news," purposefully inaccurate reporting is the norm (furthering one's "side" passes for "news")

--SHADOWS: content=mainstreaming of porn, violence and torture as entertainment and other anti-human, anti-sex, anti-marriage, anti-family, anti-life "narratives" are par for the course; usage=family life suffering due to incessant use of devices (media content & devices as family life disruptors--who's really raising/forming youth?)

--LIGHTS: content=there are still many messages of truth, beauty & goodness that come through the pop culture because we are made in God's image and it's in us as human beings to aspire to authenticity and to recognize it when we see/hear it; usage=if quality not quantity, discernment & self-discipline is employed, individuals and families can use media optimally.(This, of course, requires a prior Christian, incarnational, sacramental, embodied worldview.)


--pop culture is often a highly-individualized-24/7-secret-hidden-online-device-world where youth and adults are formed. New media doesn't play by old media rules. It's the wild, wild, West (e.g., Netflix series on teen suicide "13 Reasons Why" ditched suicide-reporting protocol and showed a full-on, DIY, how-to graphic suicide...even against the advice of youth experts).

--young people seek answers, identities in cyberspace from "tribes," both positive and negative: groups that share similar interests in arts, sports, science, etc., or anorexia groups, self-harm sites, sexual identity sites, porn sites. Often these virtual loci, friendships and alliances predominate over IRL (in real life) parents, counselors, faith communities--often in virtue of sheer time spent with them.

"Today it's almost as though we have a third party raising our youth: YouTube. When young people want to know something or have a problem, they turn to YouTube where they can get 'guidance' from other young people (or adults) who have produced professional or non-professional videos--often just people talking into webcams for hours on end. It can be a kind of 'interference' with youth development which used to be guided by the parents, older siblings, relatives, counselors, trusted adults, teachers, the faith community, etc., around them." --Fr. Phil Bochanski, Courage Int'l


--critical thinking skills, logic, philosophy (which used to be taught in high school) are usually completely absent from young people's education. Thinking comes naturally, reasoning must be taught. If it is not taught, young people are susceptible to ideas that "sound good," without being able to critically discern them because they have not been given the tools

--Media Literacy (the Church's official stance toward media since 1992 with the Church document "Aetatis Novae") and includes News Literacy needs also to be taught at all levels. There are fine organizations specializing in both ML & NL.

--"MEDIA"=content, tech, culture, institutions, audiences. HOW WE CHOOSE TO USE FORMS THE CULTURE, FORMS US. IT'S UP TO US. WE ARE IN CHARGE.

"There are those who let themselves be dragged by the current. Others use media in edification &

--to QUESTION MEDIA (one of the most basic tenets of ML) automatically & immediately empowers media users (esp. youth)

--John Paul II's comprehensive "Love and Responsibility" and "Theology of the Body" needs to be taught systematically everywhere in the Church. It is the best, most "adequate anthropology" for our times to impart an understanding of the dignity of the human person, human love, human sexuality, relationships, beauty, the body, etc. It's breadth and vision is attractive and appealing, takes into account and dialogues with the reality of the ever-morphing Sexual Revolution. TOB also gives us a lens with which to view pop culture/media.

--Theology of the Body also dovetails with how we choose to use media devices. Bodies are not optional. We cannot choose to live pretty much 24/7 in a virtual world. We have to make the hard choices of when and where to unplug. The time for media devices is not 24/7. "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." --Ecclesiastes 3. As a teen said (when asked to develop a media strategy to use media optimally): "Maybe we can use media better by starting to use it less."

--Is some of our media use today actually not "human"?

--parents and families need so much more help in the above three areas than they are currently receiving in the Church. Parents aren't able to form their children in these areas if they don't have the everyday knowledge/skills themselves.


--young people misled and confused by pop culture/media/news messages

--young people losing ability to read/write/comprehend written & spoken word (meager vocabularies)

--young people losing ability to express themselves through written/spoken word (University where, in person, face to face, counselors must let students text their answers during sessions because they express themselves best through non-verbal, tech-mediated communication)

--emoji/sticker/GIF culture replacing even few and simple words (texting). It seems communication has been reduced to that most popular emoji: a face that's laughing and crying at the same time because we're just so emotional and so confused. :) 

--in our post-literate times, the return to a visual/audio culture (as in Middle Ages) has opportunities/advantages and gives a new life to images/art/film/music and requires us to be visually literate and use these means more than ever for the Gospel

--with the new media (digital devices, internet, desktop publishing, social media, podcasting, YouTube, etc.), every individual has a potential worldwide platform

--the media itself can be an instrument to restore/establish/enhance the divine order in Creation and society 

"Do to all the charity of the Truth." --Alberione

"Accept nothing as truth if it does not have charity. Accept nothing as charity if it does not include truth." --Edith Stein


--Catholic media* and alternative media and alternative news that is up to the production values, aesthetics, professionalism and other quality-factors of secular media (e.g., LifeTeen has excellent media productions/graphics/social media outreach that is fun and appealing). (EG #14--evangelization is spreading a "banquet')

--Various models/programs taken from "pop culture," Evangelical models, good business practices, etc., can successfully be integrated in ministry with much fruit if they are not ends in themselves, hollowed out of substance. Fr. Rolheiser's book: "Secularity & the Gospel" talks about the Church needed to imitate the "energy of the streets," but I think the street has its own energy & all what's needed in the Church is passion for what and Who we love, not simply to see what the world/culture is doing and try to create imitations.

--There are many fine alternative (Catholic and otherwise) media and news outlets: Ascension Press (Bible & TOB teaching series, YouTubes: "Ascension Press presents"), Spirit Juice Studios (high quality film production for the Church), Relevant Radio (24hr Catholic talk shows, teaching, news & news literacy, also a killer app), Lighthouse Media CDs. Other Catholic media/news outlets can learn from those doing it right/well.

--Science today is rapidly confirming everything God, the Bible, the Church ever taught is good/bad for our spiritual (including relationships, happiness) and physical health.
Vicki Thorn (foundress of Project Rachel) is doing "The Biology of the Theology of the Body"--exposing the harmony of scientific truths and Church teaching. Scientific and other stats could be used much more and to great benefit in our Catholic media content. (#EG 50 & 51--studies, data and stats also need "evangelical discernment")

--prayer specifically for media creators/media/media users

*There also seems to be a kind of "officialdom" Catholic MSM and an unofficial, independent kind of "alternative Catholic" media.


--The schools (elementary and high) are all going digital, teaching through online programs, software, curricula, etc. How is the Church teaching this way?

--The human teacher can never be replaced.

--The role of the teacher--now that students have so much information at their fingertips through the internet and digital media--is to help students find and construct meaning in it all.

--We all know the news media can be "echo chambers": feeding us only the news we want to hear and from a perspective we already agree with. Are we doing this in the Church also? We should be accessing a breadth of Catholic news and perspectives.

--Everything we're talking about today will be obsolete in 10 years. VR and A.I. ARE coming. We need to teach our kids to code. 

--Anything that is bad (in the pop culture) for humanity as a whole should be resisted by the Church. We don't have to just go along. In fact, we have an obligation to resist.

--In our Catholic school system, we don't have STEM, we have STREAM: Science, Tech, Religion, Engineering, Arts, Math--in order to blend some humanities in. (Bishop Richard Malone, Diocese of Buffalo)
A nun (who is head of Catholic schools in Buffalo) says: "Without the 'R,' it's all just STEAM." :)

--I make all my staff read "Communio et Progressio." The document really holds up through the years and outlines what we need to be doing as Catholics in media.

--I get so caught up in worrying about having the exact right tech and latest tech, and sometimes forget that it's all in service of the message. I forget to spend as much time on the message!

--The joy of the Gospel is the Incarnation! God became man! People want to know their VALUE.

--The joy of the Gospel is the truth of the Gospel, but we Catholics are often so, so afraid to say what we know to be true.

--In-depth discourse, words and print formed our political system. If we lose facility with words and create only oversimplified messages, what will happen? So much of what passes for news in the 24hr news cycle is not important, not really newsworthy. It's white noise to anesthetize us from the hard work of thinking and relating. Laugh tracks on sitcoms condition us to react, to accept certain things as funny, as normal.

--To be human means we're gonna die. The most limited resource we have is time. Our lives our made of time. We need to be in command of our time in so many different ways.

--Periodic unplugging is both the easiest and the hardest thing to do. But it's necessary in order to regain control of our lives.

--A good word was put in for the excellent Christianity & culture audio magazine: www.marshillaudio.org  :)



I was most inspired by the hope and the optimistic attitude of all the participants at the Convocation. Everyone came with a kind of eagerness and joy and a spirit of celebration (there were lots of devotional events: a Eucharistic procession, rosary, Confessions, etc.).  We were all wanting to learn from each other and meet new and old friends, explore each other's ministries (there were lots of booths). Since the Convocation was "invitation only"--it simply meant that everyone there was already long-involved in ministry--and such diverse ministries! By sharing our life experience, struggles and "best practices" very frankly and openly, we were able to hear different perspectives and even do some "problem-solving" together.

My panel was "Media, Pop Culture and News," which is truly our field as Daughters of St. Paul, so I put forth various tenets of Media Literacy, a Pauline approach to media, and some newer reflections. But I also contributed to various conundrums regarding media (e.g., "What is the role of online/digital learning in catechesis?")  I noticed conflicting attitudes in both panelists and audience members with regard to the question: "What is a truly human/Christian use of the newest media and media technology?" Some were more hesitant to engage "new" media, and felt its engagement should be minimal with a stress on "old media," others believed we should barrel ahead and imitate exactly what the culture is doing, with hardly any human/Christian considerations. New media technology are not just "tools" but a culture in themselves (depending on how we choose to use them). Some new media technologies are so vastly different from what has come before, and so transformative of the human body/human interactions, that they are different qualitatively--and are not just "the next stage of media tools."

I was able to use some Pauline and Alberionian principles to guide the discussion: "Some let themselves be dragged by the current. Others use media in edification and joy." "Our media should be worthy in form of the truths which they contain." "Do to all the charity of the truth." "Everything is our and we are Christ's and Christ is God's" (make media work for us and not against us) --St. Paul.

I have resolved to work more actively on resolving some of my own conundrums regarding Media Literacy, and the future of media. For example, some younger media professionals in the audience said simply that in ten years everything we're talking about on the panel will be obsolete because everything is going to A.I. (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality--yes, the headsets) and that the Church should be investing resources in these. Other panelists felt certain things should be resisted by the Church if they are not optimally "human" use of technology.
Another aspect I realized I need to focus on more in our media evangelization ministry--something we were highly encouraged to do in preparation for the Convocation--is to make use of studies and stats in our data-driven culture. Studies/stats are very convincing to people and can help pinpoint and clarify needs in the Church as well as offer successful solutions (all with what Pope Francis calls "evangelical discernment").
There were many Theology of the Body style references and resources everywhere (implicit and explicit)--and after attending the panel "The Marginalization of Motherhood," I am even more convinced of the urgency of proclaiming the value of the human person, human dignity, and "the whole truth about man,"  as Pope John Paul II outlined so well and in such depth in his Theology of the Body.

Here are some articles that I find vitally important to the conversation:

(You may think I am being anti-media-tech here by sharing these particular articles. I am not. I am PRO-using-media-well, and I just don't see that being done in the main.)

"I Used To Be A Human Being" Andrew Sullivan (notice what he says he thinks the Church does/doesn't need to do): http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html 

"Our Age Is Barbaric Because of Our Inability To Communicate" Remi Brague "Civilization has to do with linguistic communication." "Without communication, violence follows." "Civilization has to be conserved...it cannot be taken for granted.." "A deep knowledge of Western culture and tradition is part of...preserving the culture and passing it down to future generations." "The modern view of discarding the past is turning us into barbarians." "What has to be ultimately salvaged is the talking animal that currently doubts its legitimacy." https://www.lumenchristi.org/news/32

"How To Use Social Media Like a Saint" Josh Canning https://canadiancatholic.net/how-use-social-media-saint

"Father Wants To Ban Sale of Smartphones For Children" http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/gadgets/93861681/father-wants-to-ban-sales-of-smartphones-for-children

"Let's Ban Snapchat for Good from Schools (and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)" "Our capitulation to technology has led to the degradation of many human capacities. School boards should not be complicit in inflicting this damage on their students." Sachin Maharaj

"Unplugged but Connected: Catholic Schools in the Digital Age" "Unfettered access to information is more important outside of class than in it." "The classroom should be a place of conversation." "The identity of a classroom hinges on the relationship between student and teacher...so who should a Catholic teacher be?" "The with many Catholic schools' embrace of the technocratic pitch 'more technology, better education' is that it ignores the central role that encounter must play in a Catholic environment. Quite simply, the interaction between student and screen displaces the interaction between student and teacher, thereby pushing human relationships to the side." 
"A Catholic teacher is one who leads not simply by disseminating information but by being the vessel through which their students come to desire what is true." "What is the goal of Catholic education in the midst of...screens and devices....? It is to keep the human person at the center of our enterprise."

"Addicted to Your Phone? You Could Be Hurting Your Kids" https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20170516/282033327124219 

"Kids Feel Unimportant To Cellphone Addicted Parents" http://www.parenting.com/news-break/kids-feel-unimportant-to-cell-phone-addicted-parents

"Boys Online" Study: "I really wish I didn't have to grow up in a time period like now."

"Your Phone Is Not Your Boss" "Our brains need a rest, so stay away from your phone for first and last hours of the day." https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20170307/282016147120582

"For Strong Families, Put Away Cell Phone, Shut Off TV" Pope Francis https://zenit.org/articles/pope-at-audience-for-strong-families-put-away-cell-phone-shut-off-tv/

"Detach and Reconnect" Ideas from an Educator

"Teens Who Say No To Social Media"

"The Inward Emptiness of Social Media" Study: Millenials who use social media most frequently were the most likely to be depressed.

"This Is Your Brain on Snail Mail" Ever wonder why you still get tons of paper junk mail? Study: "The brain prefers tactile experiences because that's just how we're wired." 

"Technology and the Language of Bodily Presence" http://www.getprinciples.com/technology-and-the-language-of-bodily-presence/

"50% of Teens Say They Feel Addicted to Their Devices...and 28% Say Their Parents Are, Too"

"Bored, Porned and Alone: Our Children's Counterfeit World"

"Setting Household Screen Limits: Consistent APA 'Two-Hour-A-Day' Guideline Covers Internet, Texting, TV, Movies and Video Games"

"Help Kids/Teens Learn to Control Their Own Screen Time"
http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/health/ct-x-0107-screen-time-keilman-column-20150107-story.html  One Mom has kids do 2 hours of actual reality activity before screen time is allowed. They're often having so much fun that they forget about screen time.

"Huge Difference Between What Brain Allows Children (and Adults!) To Picture When Reading Words vs. Processing Visual Images Already Imagined & Fully Fleshed Out"

The brain is good at protecting us when we're reading, allowing us only to imagine what we can handle.Viewing takes that safeguard/option away.

"Beware the Risk of Smartphones and Tablets in Schools"

"Cellphones Can Damage Romantic Relationships"

"How Your Smartphone Is Ruining Your Relationship" (Lapierre)


"Like. Flirt. Ghost: A Journey Into the Social Media Lives of Teens"

"Porn Isn't the Worst Thing On Musical.ly" 
A very important, informative, funny and scary article by a Mom about the fact that even in the most innocent and supposedly kid-friendly internet sites and apps, there's often a whole dark underworld.
What the Mom is highlighting in this article (something rarely examined...most parents/educators are only concerned with porn and predators) is the way very young kids begin to perceive and present themselves in a highly unnatural way online without the cognitive/emotional abilities to handle it (and little or no parental communication/supervision because parents often have no idea what their kids are doing online). 
She also offers solutions.

"Alexa, I'm Bored. Children Can Interact with a Robot Instead of Their Parents"

"Google to Focus on 'Responsible Tech' for Adults & Kids--Acknowledging Its Addictive Nature"

"Capturing the Real-Life Toll of Online Hatred"

"Are Phones Altering Parental Instincts"?https://www.pressreader.com/canada/toronto-star/20180628/282492889435083

"The Dangers of Distracted Parenting: Parents Screen Time Is Hurting Kids"

"Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? Post-Millennials are on the brink of a mental health crisis"

"The Transhuman Bill of Wrongs"

"A Dark Consensus About Screens and Kids Begins to Emerge in Silicon Valley: 'I'm Convinced the Devils Lives in Our Phones'"


"Society has delegated to educators a most important task, the task of conserving the experience of the human race."
--William Chandler Bagley, Director of the School of Education UIUC, 1908

"We live in a Google and Wikipedia society, and if kids need to know something, they can look it up.
We need to teach kids how to think, analyze, conceptualize, problem-solve,
argue the science and defend their ideas."
--Carol Baker, president of the Illinois Science Teachers Association, 2013