Dec 232016
 

Over the years there has been a continued meme of calling Die Hard a Christmas movie. This is mostly done as a jest, but people watching this on or near Christmas is a thing. I have joined in on this trend just because it is funny to put the film in this genre.

There are lighthearted and more serious discussions in social media over this question.

Recently I saw Matthew Archbold’s post on 7 Reasons Die Hard is NOT a Christmas Movie. In this piece he mocks the arguments put forth to class it as a Christmas movie – all in good humor.

What was missing from his post is what is the definition of a Christmas Movie in the first place. Probably because such a definition would be difficult to craft. I think there are multiple genres in what people consider belonging to this.

Now I am no film critic or have an encyclopedia knowledge regarding movies. Not even an amateur film buff. So caveats aside let me wrestle with this.

First off at a top level narrow definition of a Christmas Movie would be actually about the Incarnation of Christ involving his birth. So a movie like The Nativity Story fits that narrow definition. Maybe even the reading of Luke in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Probably not a lot of movies that fit this definition.

Our celebration of the Nativity is all about the joy of our redeemer coming to us. That we are sinners desperately in need of a redeemer. There is no Pelagian pick ourselves up by our bootstraps. Even sins we think we have overcome by sheer willpower were actually powered by grace. Still nothing we could do could merit eternal life participating in Gods own life.

So a movie regarding our knowledge of sin and our need for a savior would thematically participate in what Christmas is truly about. In Incarnation shows God’s great love for us. There are a lot of movies with themes of redemption, but less tying this directly to our redeemer. Plus salvation history is large story arc beyond the Nativity of Christ.

The really large block of so-called Christmas movies usually have two things in common.

  1. Events occurring around or on Christmas.
  2. The driving message that “Family is important”.

So in this large block you get everything from the masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life to all the movies that show up on the Hallmark Channel and other venues. They have an element of disassociation with family, friends, and the world in general. Selfishness or despair. By the end they learn something about themselves that lets them more fully enter family or community. Most involve a more secular redemption while others have shadows of a more religious theme connected to grace and redemption.

Most of my favorite movies that are more fully Christmas movies are movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or some version of A Christmas Carol. It is interesting the thematic connections these two stories share. They both involve a looking back at life and what you have done. For Scrooge this was a negative experience as he lived a life of selfishness. George lived a life of self-giving and a review of his past revealed to him more fully the connection to others to help get passed his despair. George is like “Bob” Cratchit and Potter is like Scrooge. A Scrooge with no redemption. There is a religious dimension to both stories, but more haunted than explicit.

So these specific films and others like them are fully Christmas films despite not having the full connection to the birth of Christ and our need of a savior. Besides nobody argues about whether these examples are Christmas movies.

When we move on the largest part of so-called Christmas films they all have points 1. and 2. I listed. The large majority are rather smarmy and have little real depth, yet still contain the truth that ties to family and community are important. That reaching out of our selves to serve others is primary.

Now I happen to like a lot of these Hallmark style films for what they are. Still I don’t really categorize them as fully Christmas films. For myself I call this genre Christmassy films.

Another large category of so-called Christmas films is Santa Clause related ones. These also almost always involve the “Family/Friends are important” theme. So I see these as a subgenre to Christmassy films.

So when it comes to Die Hard this is not a Christmas movie. It does have connections to the Christmassy genre. If you took out the family aspects it would have been a lesser film. His estrangement from his wife and coming back to bring about a reconciliation provided some of the tension in the film and a catalyst for the action. So Die Hard is roughly 95% an action flick and 5% a Christmassy flick.

Dec 202016
 

Some years ago I hear an interview on Al Kresta’s show with Sally Read. She is a a British poet and former psychiatric nurse. The interview involved her conversion to the Catholic faith from then a lifetime as an atheist. Very insightful interview.

So I was interested to find that she has now written her conversion story for Ignatius Press. The book is Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story.

Conversion stories of all types interest me. As a former atheist I especially enjoy conversion stories from other former atheists. After reading this one I realized that the recent books I read about atheists becoming Catholics were all women.

I had recently read Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ which is excellent, but he didn’t become Catholic.

Still an interesting thread in the stories of these women and a couple of similar examples I know of was that these were not women who rebelled against how they were raised. As I remember they grew up in households with no faith, as I did. All firm in their atheism with the Catholic Church, if it was even on their radar at all, was a marked enemy. So I find these commonalities fascinating along with just how different their stories are. Each book I referenced was a journey where they didn’t want to go filled with their own personalities and interests. These stories also tend not to read like an apologetics work common with Protestants who became Catholics. There are different concerns involved.

So I expected Sally Read’s account to have a literary tone to it as I imagined a poet’s account would be. I was not expecting it to feel so much a meditation. The story itself seems so unlikely. A staunch atheist with a view of life common to modern feminism. Yet at times she has glimpses into her situation that she can’t account for from her viewpoint. A realization that something was missing which could not be accounted for.

The journey of her conversion is very frank and striking. What gets her talking to a priest is not exactly a common point in a story of conversion. Yet like all conversion stories there is a confluence of different threads moving together.

Really I am failing spectacularly at writing this review because I don’t have the skill to write the review it deserves. I was totally enthralled in her story and how she weaved in these parts of her life and the influence on her thinking. Not a straight forward sequential biography of going from point A to B. A narrative with themes that presents her story. That she did some of this merging St. John of the Cross’ “Dark Night of the Soul” was very effective. It all moved me greatly.

The story of the priest she came to know and argued back and forth with was integral to this story. So glad that this priest showed such perseverance in this. The same goes with her relationship with one Catholic mother that was tumultuous.

I just totally loved this book. So much so that it is one I will probably read is again. So insightful and written so wonderfully. Striking in the absurdity of the story and the movement of grace.

Dec 152016
 

People in Spain have an “Uber” version of the Confession and it’s awesome

There is now an app whereby a Catholic in Spain can find a priest to meet him or her in order to be offered the sacrament of reconciliation (also known as “penance” or simply “confession”). The new app is called “Confesor Go” (note that, yes, there is one “s” in the Spanish word “confesor”), and there is also a recently-launched Twitter account (@ConfesorGo).

The app identifies the location of the user, and indicates where priests are located nearby, as well as introductory details about the priest, including his name, age, and year of ordination. Confesor Go also includes a list of the Ten Commandments, so that the penitent can examine his or her conscience in preparation for receiving the sacrament.

The app was developed by Father Ricardo Latorre, who has expressed his hope that the app will likewise become available in the Spanish-speaking nations of Latin America sometime within 2017. Of note, Bishop José Ignacio Munilla of the Diocese of San Sebastián in Spain has made himself available via the app, and his brother bishops around the world would do well to consider supporting the use of such an app within their respective dioceses, in order to inspire more of the faithful to make recourse to the sacrament.

This app is not to be confused with a different app launched last month.

(Vatican Radio) In an impressive move to introduce a legacy of the Year of Mercy, a Scottish archbishop has launched what is thought to be the world’s first GPS-powered Sacrament-finding app.

Leo Cushley from the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh announced the launch of ‘The Catholic App’ outside St Peter’s Basilica on 22nd November 2016, surrounded by pilgrims and seminarians from his archdiocese, accompanied by the sound of the Scottish bagpipe.

The app will allow users around the archdiocese to find the nearest and soonest opportunities to go to Confession and Holy Mass, as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
The archbishop called the app “a little bit of smart technology that could make a big impact on how the Catholic Church brings the mercy of God and the joy of the Gospel to our contemporary world.”

This app was labeled “sindr” by the media.

As for it being “world’s first GPS-powered Sacrament-finding app” that is not close to being correct. Masstimes.org had an early iPhone app out for finding a Mass near you. Although it has hardly been updated, but still works.

Now if only someone in the U.S. would launch a similar app. Although confessional times are fairly universal here. Usually on Saturday before the Vigil Mass or “by appointment”. I only know of one parish in my diocese that has confession before each Mass.

Getting all the data for such an app would be quite the undertaking. You couldn’t just scrape data from parish websites since finding times for confession on may sites is not an easy task.

Now what would I want in a confessional app beyond what you would expect?

  1. Picture of the confessional. Often times its hard to tell a “Reconciliation Room” from a closet from the outside. Usually need GPS just to find it since it is often not in a prominent location.
  2. Ratings of how hard the penances given out are. Because of course I want to find the priest that gives out more severe penances. Seriously though my late-pastor would sometimes give people lighter penances because he would take on a heavier penance himself for them.
  3. A built in voice recorder. This way if I was trying to remember the sins I committed I could just ask my wife to remind me.
  4. If you are still having a hard time determining what to confess, the app could review your Twitter/Facebook/etc feed for helpful reminders.
  5. An Audio Decibel Meter to make sure you are quiet enough to only confess your sins to the priest and not the people in line.
  6. An included calendar to log when you have been to confession. This way you could be like Spock and say “I last went to confession on 15 December 2016 at 4:32 PM”. Reminders to nag you if the time since your last confession starts to get a big long in the tooth.
  7. Displays the text of the Act of Contrition automatically dimming the screen so the priest doesn’t know you still haven’t spent the time to remember it.
  8. A Hail Mary counter to keep track of number of Hail Mary’s assigned that you could then tap to countdown.
  9. A handy compass to display that your confessed sins are now as far from us as the east is from the west.” Nice to know that our confessed sins are the equivalent of GPS not found.

Now the Epic Pew story called it a “Uber” version. Now that would be cooler to have the confessional come to you.

Perhaps like this actual van from the Diocese of Lafayette.

Or possibly something like this done by a non-priest hoaxer.

Dec 142016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 6 December 2016 to 14 December 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Messages

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “The Church does not grow through proselytism, but by attraction.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016
  • “Let us learn from the Blessed Mother how to have a humble heart capable of receiving God’s gifts.” @Pontifex 8 December 2016
  • “Let us pray for all the victims of genocide and work together so that this crime never happens again in the world.” @Pontifex 9 December 2016
  • “Let us all work decisively so that no one is excluded from the effective recognition of their fundamental human rights.” @Pontifex 10 December 2016
  • “May Advent be a time of hope. We go to encounter the Lord who comes to encounter us.” @Pontifex 11 December 2016
  • “On this Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, let us entrust to her the American peoples and the mission of the Church on that continent.” @Pontifex 12 December 2016
  • “Today I would like each of us to reflect on his and her own past and the gifts received from the Lord.” @Pontifex 13 December 2016
  • “Now is the time to unleash the creativity of mercy, to bring about new undertakings, the fruit of grace.” @Pontifex 14 December 2016

Papal Instagram

Dec 132016
 

So I wanted to copy a section of “The Gift of the Priestly Vocation” from www.clerus.va to post on some news coverage of it.

So first I tried to copy the text from the browser and nothing would tranfer to the clipboard. Tried a different browser same problem. So since this a PDF document I downloaded it tried to copy the relevant text again.

Imagine my surprise when I got this message.

Wow did I accidentally go to the Secret Vatican Archive where copying text is verboten?

So of course I tried “password” – no luck. What secret password would the Congregation for the Clergy use? Maybe the Russians know. Oh well.

Still it is all rather hard to fathom why they would publish this with the “Enable Copying of content” unchecked? Is there such a concern regarding copying Vatican documents?

Okay so annoying. But what about those with low vision problems, could they read these documents with screenreader? Would it show up in internet searches.

So I loaded the document into Voice Reader on iOS and it could read back the text to me. In fact I was then able to also copy the pertinent text. A Google search for a specific paragraph returned results. So if this was some intentional copy protection – it is a pretty weak one.

Maybe it was an unintentional publishing setting which seems the most likely scenario. I guess we will see with future Vatican documents or maybe just ones published by this Congregation. Certainly hope it is unintentional.

What prompted all of this was the following story from The Daily Caller.

Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis has quietly embraced human-engineered climate change in a series of studies and announcements, culminating in a new papal order last week that makes it a mandatory subject for all priests in seminary.

In a statement that was little noticed by the establishment media — but heralded by a prominent Catholic website over the weekend — the pontiff issued “new guidelines” for educating priests: while “reaffirming the requirement that seminarians study Catholic social teaching, the document says the education must include a study of climate change and other environmental threats.”

On Facebook I had previously seen a reliable Dominican priest saying that the document doesn’t say this.

So what does it say?

172. A sufficient number of lectures should be dedicated to teaching the Social Doctrine of the Church. This is because the proclamation of and witness to the Gospel, to which the priest is called, has significant implications for human society, and aims, among other things, at building up the Kingdom of God. This implies a deep knowledge of reality and a reading of human, social and political relations, which determine the lives of individuals and peoples in the light of the Gospel. In this perspective one finds important themes pertaining to the life of the People of God, treated at length by the Magisterium of the Church 258, such as the search for the common good, the values of solidarity and subsidiarity among peoples, the education of the young, work and the rights and duties connected with it, the meaning of political authority, the values of justice and peace, social support structures, and the accompaniment of those most in need.

For some time now, experts and researchers, active in different fields of study, have turned their attention to the emerging planetary crisis, which is reflected strongly in the current Magisterium regarding the ‘ecological question’. Protecting the environment and caring for our common home – the Earth – belong fully to the Christian outlook on man and reality. They constitute in some way the basis for a sound ecology of human relations. Hence they demand, today above all, a “profound interior conversion. It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they chose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an ‘ecological conversion’, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience” 259. Therefore, it will be necessary for future priests to be highly sensitive to this theme and, through the requisite Magisterial and theological guidance, helped to “acknowledge the appeal, immensity and urgency of the challenge we face” 260. This must then be applied to their future priestly ministry, making them promoters of an appropriate care for everything connected to the protection of creation.

Nothing mentioning climate change or any of the other silly euphemisms used for it. Can you read between the lines and infer that they are referencing this – possibly. It would not be surprising considering it is obvious the Holy Father and probably an large contingent of Vatican staff does believe in anthropogenic climate change. But it is bad reporting to report that a document says something that is not directly spelled out. Most of section for 172 pretty much says what other documents have said. Sure some of it is stated in a way up for debate like the sentence quoted from the L’Osservatore Romano. Still I consider the reporting exaggerated.

Now I myself am a skeptic of anthropogenic climate change. But I am also a skeptic of myself being skeptical and have been wrong plenty of times. My skepticism comes naturally from being burned by all the impending environmental catastrophes I was raised on. Modern predictions have not faired better.

Dec 072016
 

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 27 October to 6 December 2016.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

Angelus

Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences

Motu Proprio

Speeches

Papal Tweets

  • “Today we remember Blessed Charles de Foucauld who said, faith calls us to see Jesus in every human being.” @Pontifex 1 December 2016
  • “I call on all people of goodwill to take action against human trafficking and new forms of slavery.” @Pontifex 2 December 2016
  • “We are all called to go out as missionaries and bring the message of God’s love to every person in every area of life.” @Pontifex 3 December 2016
  • “Advent is a time to prepare our hearts to receive Christ, our Saviour and hope.” @Pontifex 4 December 2016
  • “Jesus teaches us always to go to the essentials and to take on our own mission with responsibility.” @Pontifex 5 December 2016
  • “Jesus gives meaning to my life here on earth and hope for the life to come.” @Pontifex 6 December 2016

Papal Instagram

Dec 072016
 

I do wonder what non-Catholics think of Catholic Nativity scenes before Christmas? It is a small “t” tradition for Catholics to not place the baby Jesus in the Nativity until Christmas/Christmas Eve.

  • I knew it they don’t have Jesus!
  • 404 Jesus not found.
  • Apparently Jesus wandered off when he was 12 and as an infant.
  • You would think as rich as the Vatican is they could afford baby Jesus statues.
  • Is this the Catholic version of Where’s Waldo?

What are your suggestions?

Photo Credit: USSCB