Sunday, February 28, 2010

Movie Review: Shutter Island - R

cross-posted from A Catholic View

U.S. Marshal Edward Daniels (DiCaprio) and his partner Chuck are investigating a hospital for the criminally insane at Shutter Island. It is fortress-like, because they house the "worst of the worst" offenders, whom are believed to be incurable.   Dr. Cawley (Kingsley) tries various types of therapy to bring them back without resorting to more extreme treatments.  (This takes place around 1952, so he is trying to avoid lobotomies).  They are looking for an escaped inmate named Rachel who drowned her 3 children.  She is initially the primary focus of the investigation.

I liked the way the story was told.  It is important to remember that not everything is as it seems.  Look for a BIG turn toward the end which explains  what is happening.

Content warnings: a few scenes with blood and a some with bad language.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Raymond Arroyo delves into Mother Angelica's prayer life in new book

In his fourth and most likely final book on Mother Angelica, noted author and EWTN news anchor Raymond Arroyo highlights some of the devotions and prayers of the 86-year-old nun, many of which are borne from her personal sufferings.

In an exclusive interview with CNA, Arroyo spoke about his motivation behind writing the new book and detailed some of the lesser known facts surrounding Mother Angelica's early life, including her painful disability and being raised in an impoverished, broken home. Mother Angelica, he said, is “no stranger to pain.”

“The Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica,” is set to be released on March 2 and contains not only meditations and prayers written by Mother Angelica but traditional favorites of hers as well. According to Arroyo, readers will be able to “'listen in' on her private, and very human, conversations with God.”

Explaining how he came up with idea for his latest book, Arroyo said, “When I read these prayers, both those composed by her and the time tested variety, I thought: people should really see this. Taken as a whole these prayers give readers a marvelous example of how we are to approach God. And if anyone knows how to speak to God and listen to His promptings, it is Mother Angelica. It's a real treasure of a book.”

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bristol Palin to play herself in "Secret Life"

Bristol Palin is the unwed teenage mother of Sarah Palin's grandson, and is about to make her acting debut on "The Secret Life of the American Teenager". She may be just the dash of reality this show needs. It began it's life as a somewhat realistic drama depicting the dilemma faced by a good girl who makes a mistake which complicates her life.She turned away from an abortion she scheduled thanks to intervention by friends, so it was even a bit of a pro-life show at first.  Sadly it devolved into a very popular teen version of "Sex and the City".
Maybe by playing a fictionalized vesion of herself, Bristol can take the glamour out of teenage sexual activity.
Read the article in the New York Times.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Beware of this book!

I just received this via email and wanted to pass it on.

Oprah is pushing it.

The name of the book is Conversations with God.. James Dobson talked about this book twice this week. It is devastating. Parents, churches and Christian schools need to be aware of it. Please pass this information on to church/e-mail addresses, Parents, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, friends.

Please pay special attention not only to what your kids watch on TV, in movie theaters, on the Internet, and the music they listen to, but also be alert regarding the books they read..

Two particular books are, Conversations with God and Conversations with God for Teens, written by Neale D. Walsch. They sound harmless enough by their titles alone. The books have been on the New York Times best sellers list for a number of weeks, and they make truth of the statement, "Don't judge a book by its cover or title."

The author purports to answer various questions asked by kids using the "voice of God". However, the "answers" that he gives are not Bible-based and go against the very infallible word of God. For instance (and I paraphrase), when a girl asks the question "Why am I a lesbian?" His answer is that she was 'born that way' because of genetics (just as you were born right-handed, with brown eyes, etc.). Then he tells her to go out and "celebrate" her differences.

Another girls poses the question "I am living with my boyfriend. My parents say that I should marry him because I am living in sin. Should I marry him?"

His reply is, "Who are you sinning against? Not me, because you have done nothing wrong."

Another question asks about God's forgiveness of sin. His reply "I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive.. There is no such thing as right or wrong and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone, do not judge people. People have chosen to judge one another and this is wrong, because the rule is "'judge not lest ye be judged."
Not only are these books the false doctrine of the devil, but in some instances quote (in error) the Word of God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: "The Spirituality of Fasting"

The Spirituality of Fasting: Rediscovering a Christian Practice
by Charles M. Murphy
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010

Back in 1966, Pope Paul VI issued the apostolic constitution on fast and abstinence, Poenitemini. The intent was "to rescue fasting from the legalism and minimalism into which it had fallen." The goal was not to remove fasting and penance and sacrifice from Catholic life, but rather to make it a personal choice rather than a command issued from above. Unfortunately, many Catholics took this to mean that these practices simply weren't necessary anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are still called today to fast. Msgr. Charles M. Murphy has written "The Spirituality of Fasting" in order to renew "the practice of fast and abstinence based upon a deeper understanding of its role in our religious life."

In this relatively brief book (105 pages), Murphy explores the many reasons why fasting is important: it integrates prayer as being both of body and spirit, it is part of a long-standing tradition of Jewish and Christian practice, it helps to heal our relationship with God, and it helps us stand in solidarity with the poor and hungry. Overall his discussion of these points is extremely well-done. Based firmly in the witness of the Bible and pillars of the Christian faith, his argument that fasting is important and necessary is a strong one.

This being said, I offer one minor criticism. Murphy offers the example of Simone Weil in his chapter on standing in solidarity with others. He writes: "Simone Weil died on September 3, 1943, in exile from France in England, at the age of thirty-four, having starved herself to death. Suffering from tuberculosis, she refused in solidarity with her countrymen in Nazi-occupied France, to eat more than they were able to eat. She stands as a witness to social justice and to the significance and hazards of religious fasting." That word "hazards" indicates that Murphy did realize that Weil went too far. However, in the following paragraphs he really does hold her up as a role model. I respectfully disagree. Fasting to the detriment of one's body is not in keeping with the respect God wants us to have for our bodies.

Thankfully, in the chapter which offers practical ways to incorporate fasting into one's life, he advocates a much more healthy take on fasting. Following in the footsteps of St. Francis de Sales, he writes: "Your work and state in life are primary; fasting should not impede your ability to perform your duties , or endanger your health." I like that, unlike some other books on fasting that I have read, he acknowledges the worth of a partial fast - of simply giving up one meal, or cutting back on what one eats. He also agrees there is much to be said for other types of fasting and sacrifice, such as fast from media, or talking unnecessarily.

Murphy also makes the important fact that fasting is not a negative activity - it is a life-giving one. In truth, it enables us to feast. Just as one cannot appreciate light without the darkness, one can not truly appreciate feasting until one has experienced some lack. "We fast not just for fasting's sake, but to be able to feast, to live in the present with great pleasure and a joy that lasts."

"The Spirituality of Fasting" does much to encourage readers to make the practice of fasting part of their lives. It is good reading for Lent or for any time of the year!

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Fascinating New Book Placing Paul in Context Among the Cultures of His Time

Received a review copy of Paul Among the People on Thursday before leaving for the Beyond Cana retreat and couldn't quite grasp what it was about.

I took it and found it it both easy to understand (essential for my evening reading when helping with a retreat) and fascinating. Sarah Ruden goes to great pains to put St. Paul's writings in the context of Paul's "modern times" of Greek and Roman culture so we can see just what cultural forces he was referring to when he wrote his letters. By juxtaposing her knowledge of those cultures (which were considerably cruder and more hostile to Christian religious concepts than we would think) and writings of the people (not high-brow philosophers) with Paul's writings and concepts, a new picture emerges of just what was being battled and why Christian concepts would be so welcome and revolutionary.

I never had the negative image of Paul that many seem to have picked up from his writings and which were the reason the author began researching the info that has become the basis of this book. However, it is fascinating nonetheless to see just how foreign those ancient cultures really were when compared to ours and what we think we know. I'm on page 40 but it has been eye opening already.

If you are dubious about the book, take a moment to read her after-notes on the scholarship and sources. It will reassure you. This is not a pop-culture take but a scholarly work that has been brought to our level. Or so it seems to this unschooled reader.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Movie Review: The Tooth Fairy - PG

cross-posted from A Catholic View

Derek Thompson (Dwayne Johnson) is a hockey player who is known as the "tooth fairy" because he knocks out other players' teeth. He used to be an NHL player, but after a broken shoulder he was sent down to the minors to recover and is still there. After he dashes a little kid's belief in the "real" tooth fairy, he is sentenced to be a "real" tooth fairy for a week (which is later extended to two weeks) He has an invisible spray, amnesia dust (only erases the last few seconds of memory), and a magic wand.He even has a tooth fairy coach.

For a film that is simply entertainment, there's a lot going on in it. Derek can be self-centered and hurtful, but being the tooth fairy changes that somewhat. The whole idea of his "sentence" reminded me of both penance and purgatory. He has hurt a few people with his harsh words, but he is also able to atone for that by helping those people achieve their dreams.

There are no content warnings; this a very family-oriented movie.

A definite "must see"!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

New Abortion Documentary Premieres at Sundance Film Festival

Commentary by Fr. Thomas Euteneuer, President, Human Life International:

Honestly, the last place I ever imagined seeing my face was on the big screen at the Sundance Film Festival. But I actually appeared in a documentary film last week called "12th and Delaware," which attempts to show the struggle between life and death in the real-life scenarios of abortion-minded women.

The name of the film derives from the street names on an ordinary corner in Ft. Pierce, FL where extraordinary things happen every day. On one side of the street is a death camp (i.e., an abortion mill) and on the other side is a center of life, the Pregnancy Care Center (PCC), which I helped found in 1999. I still serve on the Board of the PCC, and my greatest privilege is listening to the first-hand accounts of the miracles that happen there everyday. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of babies have been spared from a violent death at that abortion mill - and their mothers spared the agony of suffering from an abortion because of the work of Pregnancy Care Center.

story here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Review of Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue"

As one would expect, Sarah Palin’s book “Going Rogue: An American Life” is political in nature – and yet, regardless of your politics, I think any woman with American Judeo-Christian morals would enjoy this book immensely, especially if she is a mom. Men will also enjoy her messages of ethics over politics; dealing with the political machine; and balancing family with work.

Sarah Palin wrote this book to clear the air on a number of issues. She writes about how the media turned around her actions and words to portray her badly; the GOP campaign advisors did nearly as much damage; and the people of Alaska and her own family wound up suffering as a result. This book clears her family name where it was smeared; outlines the non-basis of ethical charges leveled at her and her office; and explains why she felt it was in the public’s best interest for her to step down from her position as Governor of Alaska.

The book tells quite a great deal about Sarah Palin’s life and character. She is driven to serve the public. She is amazingly balanced. She is a mom first at heart and loves America.

Sarah’s description of her family life is awe-inspiring. As a mom who is busy with her own volunteer work as well as children in travel sports, reading about all she does makes me think, “If Sarah can do all this and also serve in public office, surely I can do this!” She has a great relationship with her husband; although his work keeps him away from home for weeks at a time, they are able to coordinate their complicated schedules so that the children are always taken care of. She is very involved with all aspects of her kids’ lives, acting as a high school girls’ basketball coach and traveling the wide reaches of Alaska to get her children to their various sporting events.

As a public servant, her ethics are unaffected by party affiliation. She personally keeps down her living and travel expenses that are paid by the public. She is not afraid to stand up to the establishment to get her job done properly. Her honesty in answering questions during the McCain campaign is what inspired the title of the book: her “handlers” were complaining that in going off-script she was “going rogue”.

Early in the book, Sarah bares to all her feelings as she discovered she was pregnant with her fifth child; then again, as she received the news that he would be born with Down syndrome. Not wanting the news to affect her job in any way, she kept the pregnancy quiet until her seventh month; she never got the chance to prepare her family properly for the special challenges they would face. Later in the book, she will talk about her “grizzly bear mama” feelings as her children, including the youngest and most innocent, are unfairly attacked by the media.

As a person, Sarah is very “real”. She does not care about high fashion; she hunts; she runs; she personally handles fish guts. Sarah pays due respect to mothers everywhere, whether they are full-time stay-at-home moms, working moms, work-at-home moms, or professional volunteer moms. Whatever your call in life, she believes you should listen to your conscience and follow it.

Some notes on where Sarah stands on some issues, which will affect how some read her book. Sarah was baptized Catholic but is a practicing Evangelical Christian. She is pro-life in all circumstances. She believes in contraception, which has put her at odds with some pro-life groups. She believes in free competition, small government, and stream-lined budgets. She admires the Republican Party of the Reagan years but does not align herself completely with either political party.

I have heard people say that they thought this book was “ghost-written”, but I could hear Sarah’s voice telling her story throughout. In the Acknowledgements section she thanks Lynn Vincent and a number of assistants for helping to get her words on paper. While she evidently did not personally write every word, it is apparent that the meanings of the words are hers and that she was involved in the book process from beginning to end.

Sarah loves Facebook, which puts information in the hands of the people. You can find her fan page here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Find her website "Sarah Palin for America" here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Country Music Star Born as Pro-Life Ballad Climbs the Charts

An awesome pro-life message.

A new country music star has been born - and with a pro-life ballad, no less, that is steadily climbing the country music charts.

Matt Kennon’s debut hit single “the Call” has risen to No. 39 on the Billboard 200 list of top country music hits and packs a compelling pro-life, or what some may call a “whole life," message.

Accompanied by his guitar, Kennon sings about the lives of two individuals that would have ended very differently without the timely intervention of a phone call. The music video for “The Call” – already played on Country Music Television – captures even better the happiness in so many lives that would never have happened without “the call.”

story here

Friday, February 5, 2010

Book Review: "The Handbook for Catholic Moms"

The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul
by Lisa M. Hendey
Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2010

Reading "The Handbook for Catholic Moms: Nurturing Your Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul" is like having a warm and inviting conversation with a group of your closest Mom friends. Lisa Hendey, founder of, shares her own wisdom garnered from 18 years of parenting, as well as the collected wisdom of the Catholic Mom community.

Divided into four sections, Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul, Hendey explores all aspects of a mother’s life. Heart focuses on “developing nurturing relationships with our family, our friends, and ourselves.” Mind centers on “becoming life-long learners, seeking creative outlets, exploring career and work issues, and employing time management and personal productivity tactics. Body stresses “nutrition, fitness, sleep, stress reduction, and preventative care matters.” Soul spotlights “coming to know and love the many resources, devotions, and concepts in the fullness of the Catholic Church that can help us care for ourselves and for the most important people in our lives.”

“The Handbook for Catholic Moms” offers concrete advice on all of these topics. The suggestions are based on real-life experiences. For each topic, Hendey offers personal stories and counsel from other Catholic moms (I was honored to be among those invited to offer a reflection). Each chapter features “Mom’s Homework” which includes suggestions on action steps one can take to work on the issue under discussion. There are also web resources for further information.

“The Handbook for Catholic Moms” is the perfect resource for moms at all stages of their parenting journey. You will find yourself nodding in agreement, laughing at some of the stories and tearing up at others. You will gain important kernels of knowledge you can put to use. Most importantly, you will feel encouraged in your vocation as a Catholic mother.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur