What A Girl Wants


Ian Wallace: You know what I still don’t get?  Why are you trying so hard to fit in when you were born to stand out?

Daphne Reynolds: [after everything has happened] The truth is sometimes things aren’t exactly what you always imagined… they’re even better!

What a Girl WantsI was as Mass a while back and the priest was talking about how he never fit in as a kid.  And how now, he was okay with that (even though as he went through it he wasn’t).  He went on saying we’re called to be Saints…  that we’re called to stand out!  And with that, this movie popped into my head. Amanda Bynes plays, Daphne Reynolds, a teenager who has never met her father, Lord Henry Dashwood, and after years of hearing the story of her parent’s romance, she decides to head off to try to find him.

Its sort of Cinderella in reverse.  Instead of loosing her Dad, she finds him and her mother is still alive but, like Cinderella, she is loved by all except for the soon-to-be stepmother and stepsister.  She meets her Prince Charming early, and he helps her learn how to be herself.  But even with all this, her antics get her noted in the press as being a wild American teen in great need of some English “restraint.”  So, what can we learn from this quirky but accident prone “Yank?”

Money can’t buy class:  So, as we see VERY early on, Daphne’s arrival that her presence is more than just a minor concern to her soon-to-be stepsister and stepmother.  And then there’s the pompous guy that keeps hitting on her, even though she has attempted to dissuade him at every attempt.  These people are mean, hateful and prove over and over that they’re only concerned with social standing.  But what they really show us is their shallowness.  Normally, we want nice things, fast computers, big houses, big name clothes and when you have the means, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But, when we start holding it over people’s heads or trying to make them feel bad about themselves it becomes bad.

Daphne is not refined in that she has a lot to learn about certain “social graces,” but when it really counts, she is as classy as they come.  She is kind to animals, she tries to help a couple of socially outcast girls, and she does not abuse the staff of the house.  She tries to make the best of everything.

Sometimes we fall:  There are a couple of times that Daphne does stoop to the level of those who are making life difficult.  But in the aftermath that follows, she seems to learn her lesson.  We can’t be perfect all the time…  and we all know it’s harder to love those we don’t like, but it is something we have to work at.  Despite the fact that Daphne wins, this is a good chance to talk about “the high road” and how stooping may feel good temporarily, we do need to do our best to do better.  It’s easy to love the people who are good to us, but we are called to “love our enemies” and “kill them with kindness.”  I remember as a kid, I had some great uncles (both great as in my mom’s uncles and great in their love for me and my many cousins) who used to tease me and my sister and we didn’t really understand their teasing, so it upset us.  My mom told us just to say “I love you Uncle ________.”  It really caught them off guard and as we grew, we finally understood the teasing for what it was and we got to know these much uncles better than we would have if we’d just written them off as mean old men.  I still use that tactic today…  someone fusses at me about something, and I’ll catch myself saying “I love you, too” (sometimes out loud, sometimes to myself), and I have to make an effort for it not to be sarcastic sometimes…  but, I find that just saying the words is helpful.

Be you!  We do have certain “codes and behaviors” we are expected to adhere to.  But, within that, we do have to be true to ourselves and who God wants us to be.  When we try to become something else, we will never be truly happy, despite whatever success we may think we’ve found.  Daphne tries to fit into her father’s world and leaves all the fun and spunk of her personality behind in an effort to keep from causing her father’s political campaign any more trouble. It seems to be working, but she isn’t happy, and neither is he.

Don’t give up a piece of yourself without a real good reason!  At a few points during the movie, the characters refer to a hall of family “heroes” all of which lost some body part during the various battles & wars in their history.  Finally, Henry’s mother warns him that if he’s not careful, he may loose something much more important than one of the body parts of his ancestors.  We do have to realize that not all battles take place on a battle field and in fact, the most important ones are the ones within ourselves.

We’re born to stand out:  One of the hardest things growing up is being different.  We get labeled as weird or strange…  but we are called to be different.  We are called to reject the ways of this world, so that we can be with God in the next.  We are called to be saints!

Things aren’t always as you imagine, they’re better!  Daphne uses this line to sum up how things turned out for her in the movie.  But, I find myself saying this when people start talking about what they think Heaven is like.  I also like the St. Augustine quote:  “God is not what you imagine, or what you think you understand, if you understand you have failed.”  This may seem pessimistic, but I think God is bigger, and better than what we can conceive in our imagination.  Heaven is better… God is better!

It’s a wrap!  What A Girl Wants is certainly a chick flick.  I really don’t see guys getting into it, although as much as they might not want to admit it, they deal with the same feelings and pressures.  But, being rated PG this is good clean entertainment and one worthy of a lesson or two, for sure!

The Recruit



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James Clayton: Everything is a test! The Recruit

Walter Burke: Nothing… is… what it seems.

Ever have those times in life when you feel like you can’t trust anybody?  That everyone is out to get you?  Try to imagine being a spy.  Imagine watching your back at every turn, having to guard any information about yourself and having to be skeptical of anything you’re told.  For most of us, those times of distrust are usually periodic, but for spies, that sort of thinking has to be constant or they make deadly mistakes.

The Recruit is one of those films that will make you distrust just about everything.  James Clayton (Colin Farrell) is recruited for the CIA by Walter Burke (Al Pacino).  He tells James that James’ deceased father was a CIA agent and that James was made for work at the CIA. So James jumps in and training begins.  But, after a grueling series of tests it appears that James “washes out,” until Burke tells him, that in reality he passed and he is the CIA’s newest NOC agent.  But the series of events that follow make him question everything he’s been told and those he cares about.

Be careful who you trust:  One thing this movie portrays is trust no one.  But, in that you can’t trust any body, we can use it to reinforce the one we should all trust…God.  Since He’s about the only one that won’t let you down, even though he’s never mentioned in the movie.  But when you can’t trust the girl you’ve got feelings for, your instructors, your co-workers, or even your own instincts, who’s left??  What is frustrating is the lack of respect for life and especially the focus on “get them before they get you” mentality.  It also completely denies the “see Christ in everyone” ideal.  But, I would say that seeing what all that distrust, fear and constant doubt shows in such an extreme way what life is like when you don’t look for the good in everyone and don’t trust in God.  So how can we change our attitudes to see God in everyone?  How can we help others try to live more positively?  How can we encourage We’ve all seen it; a negative environment breeds distrust and more negativity.  But positive environments encourage, support and are just plain happier places to be.

Everything is a test, nothing is real:  Wow, how often do you feel like everything in your life is a test?  Think about the wager in the book of Job… it was a test.  And, Job passed.  In James’s case, his tests are more concrete, but somehow the test truly infiltrates every part of his life.  Our lives are a test.  Do we jump in to bash someone we don’t like when an opportunity presents itself, or do we try to find the positive?  Do we take the time to help those in need?  Do we listen when we should and only dispense advice that is moral an ethical?  We are always being tested.  We have to work on making ourselves the best we can be to pass the ultimate test.  Can you identify some ways to do that? I suggest prayer, reading scripture and spending some time with Church teachings.  Remember that Job continually praised God, despite everything.

Love is used against you:  Whether or not you agree that James & Layla were in love, the feelings they display for one another are used to exploit each other, and used against them.  Also, Burke uses James’s love for his deceased father is used to manipulate him into CIA training. Abusing the gift of love is one of the most hurtful things we can do, and sadly, we see it every day. That guy who says “I love you” to get the girl to have sex with him, or that woman who says “if you love me you’ll take me out” or …”buy me that piece o jewelry.”  We can’t use love against those we love and expect to get what we want.  Not only does it hurt them, but drives a wedge between that leads to fear and distrust for that relationship and all future relationships.  Real love does those things without the guilt trip, without expectation.  Love is patient, love is kind…  1 Colossians 13:4-8.  We know it because it’s read at just about every Christian wedding but do we really think about what it means.  So, how can we stop using love to manipulate?  How can we encourage love and encourage those we love without manipulating them?

You were born to do this:  We all have gifts we are born with…  It’s our responsibility to discover them and hone them as we make our way through life.  James is told more than once that he was born to be a spy.  So, what gifts do you think you were born with?  Have you been working on them?  Did others have to tell you they saw the gift in you for you to start considering it or did you discover it on your own?  If you discovered it on your own, how?  What have you done to try to work on it?  How are you using it to help your fellow man?  How are you at recruiting others?  Many times we have to be able to spot talent in others for teamwork both in work and play, how do we recognize it?  How do we draw it out?  How can we help others realize their talents?

You can’t live in the past:  James is living with uncertainty about his father’s death, and the possibility that he isn’t dead.  Burke continuously uses this against him.  Unsuccessful people blame their parents or lack thereof, society, bosses, anybody and everybody but themselves for their issues.  Successful people, however do just the opposite.  You can’t live in the past.  We do have to keep looking forward, looking for that day when we meet God, and working toward that goal.  That doesn’t mean we can’t still be connected to the past or that we have to abandon those from our past, we just can’t let it dictate the present!  What are some things you may need to let go of?  Is there someone around you that needs help breaking free of something from their past?  How can we help them?

It’s a wrap!  The Recruit is rated PG-13.  There’s definitely language issues and sex scenes, in addition to the portrayal of using sex to exploit a potential mark.  So this is definitely one I would reserve for a more adult crowd…  however, since use and abuse of love is so prevalent amongst those in high school, it could be used with them, too, but as a group unto themselves.  It may seem extreme, but it does show, very well, the effects of exploitation of our talents and love for one another.

The Life of David Gale



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Constance Harraway: The TA just finished transcribing all the governor’s radio and TV comments. Listen to this gem: Journalist – “Governor, don’t you think three executions in one week is a little excessive?” Governor – “I say let’s bring them in, strap them down, and rock and roll.”
David Gale: Oh, it’s good to know our governor is in touch with his inner frat boy.
The Life of David Gale
David Gale to Bitsey Bloom: We spend our whole life trying to stop death. Eating, inventing, loving, praying, fighting, killing. But what do we really know about death? Just that nobody comes back. Then there comes a point – a moment – in life when your mind out lives its desires, its obsessions, when your habits survive your dreams, and when your losses… Maybe death is a gift. You wonder. All I can tell you is that by this time tomorrow I’ll be dead. I know when. I just cannot say why. You have 24 hours to find out.

How many innocent men and women end up being put to death in our justice system?  In a day and age of DNA testing and a multitude of forensic analysis methods…  it seems just about impossible that it could happen.

In The Life of David Gale, reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) is called in to interview a man, David Gale (Kevin Spacey), who is about to be executed for rape and murder of his friend Constance Harraway (Laura Linney) in Texas.  Gale spent his life working with an anti-death penalty group “Death Watch” until he was accused of raping a student and was asked to step back to prevent his sullied reputation from tainting that of the group.

As Gale tells Bitsey the story, she begins to question her own convictions about Gale’s guilt.  In fact, she begins to dig deeper trying to find proof of his innocence to prevent his untimely death.  Ultimately, The Life of David Gale shows us that there is a definite possibility that in the rush to find out who committed a crime, innocent people are being sent to prison, and especially to death row.

This film is nearly impossible to talk about without really spoiling things for the viewer.  So, I won’t delve into the movie itself too much, just pose some questions to think about as you watch:

How do you really feel about the death penalty?  It seems that most Catholics (and I might say even Christians) are pro-life when it comes to abortion, and for many even contraception.  However, when it comes to the death penalty, many are on the fence, feeling that the convicts deserve death – especially with the thoughts that it is cheaper to kill them than to let them serve life in prison.  So, take a minute and think about your true feelings about the death penalty.

Does the death penalty prevent prisoners the chance to find God and repent? 

Does killing a killer really prevent more death?

What does the Bible say?  There are many references to punishments of death for various crimes in the old testament, but Jesus’s teachings definitely take a softer approach to the old law.

What does the Catechism say?  CCC #2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.” 

The filmmaker tried to stay neutral although he has definite anti-death penalty views.  Did this film seem neutral to you?

Did this film affect your views on the death penalty?

Does your state allow the death penalty?  How often is it carried out?  According to the filmmakers, California actually has more inmate on death row than Texas, but Texas kills more inmates per year.  Does that surprise you?

“An almost martyr doesn’t count”  In a debate with the Texas Governor, Gale is stumped when the Governor offers to abolish the death penalty if Gale can name one innocent person that was put to death.  And, every person whose execution is staid due to new evidence shows that the system can work.  So the quote arises, “An almost martyr doesn’t count.”  When Bitsey really starts to put things together and see that Gale may not really be who he’s been portrayed, she tells him that he should have contact her sooner, that she needs more time.  Gale replies, “You’re not here to save me.  You’re here to save my son’s memory of his father.”  Could you sacrifice yourself for your ideals?  Do you see Gale as a martyr for the cause?  What about Constance?

Ratings and wrap up:  The Life of David Gale is rated “R” for good reason.  Graphic nudity, sex and language get it there without any question.  The partying, Gale’s drinking problem, the idea that more lovers is a good thing and the dirty limericks don’t help.  It is not for the faint hearted.  It is not one I’d be likely to show in a group setting, but in my opinion, even though it is hard to watch, it will make it more understandable that it is possible for an innocent person to die for a crime they did not commit.

The Ramen Girl (updated)



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This is my very first post on Cinema Catechesis…  I’m reposting it with some updates it was a movie I’d never heard of, but was really cute…  In fact, I think I’ve watched it a couple of times since.  It is however, one that you can’t really watch while you’re doing other things due to the large number of subtitles.  So make sure you can be fully attentive if you decide to give it a try.

Abby: I don’t know anything about love. Every time I feel it, it’s gone, it disappears and all I have left is pain and sadness. 

220px-The_Ramen_Girl_posterSometime last week, my husband and I decided to try out an old Brittany Murphy flick The Ramen Girl. On the surface, it’s about a girl, Abby, who follows her boyfriend to Japan – who then leaves her there.

Hurt and confused, Abby stumbles into the Ramen shop across the street. The owners, Maezumi and his wife, think she is homeless or crazy so they feed her in the hopes that she’ll go away. But, somehow, the Ramen fills more than her belly, as she finds consolation in it. She goes back the next day, and the Ramen makes even the saddest patrons laugh. So she decides that she wants to learn the art of Ramen so that she can bring that joy to others.

When I first sat down to write this post, I had no idea that I could pull much out of it. It seems like a pretty straight-forward “fish out of water” type story. However, as I started writing, I was amazed at how deep it really could be. Imagine that the Ramen Shop owner, Maezumi, is Jesus and Abby becomes a disciple, so to speak. So, in looking at this film through the lens of Catechesis, what can we learn?

Disciple on a Journey: We are called to “pick up our cross and follow Jesus.” No one ever said it would be easy, or that at points we wouldn’t feel alone. So, while what got Abby to Japan might have been less than honorable, she passes up the easy road and it’s the challenges she faces that make her stronger in the process. You might even take the leap that the boyfriend was like a shady John the Baptist – and leads Abby to Jesus, although indirectly. So, Abby follows her boyfriend, but becomes a disciple on a journey that takes her much farther than the relationship with the boyfriend would have ever been. And I think we can all agree that the boyfriend isn’t fit to untie Maezumi’s sandals!

Sometimes we have to go back to move forward: When she sets her mind to learn Ramen, Maezumi gives Abby a LONG list of chores. From washing dishes to scrubbing toilets, cleaning tables and washing windows, she learns the value of work, although she isn’t quiet about her distaste for it. For Maezumi, it’s the basics. It’s those things that don’t seem to be related to the end goal, but are actually foundational building blocks. You can have the best food in the whole world, but if the surrounds are dingy, its unlikely people will give it the time of day. So maybe it’s those prayers or scripture passages we don’t want to memorize, maybe it’s basic teachings we don’t think we agree with, but they are all part of the big picture. They all are ingredients in our Ramen.

Sometimes we feel like God must not speak our language:  There is a huge language barrier between Abby and Maezumi. With the help of a dictionary and the occasional interpreter they muddle through, but it is hard, frustrating, and the series of exchanges, though heated, can be quite funny. There’s a lesson here though. You can take it at face value: a stranger in a strange land. However the thing that really pops to mind is that frustration and difficulty we sometimes feel talking to God. We find ourselves on one side spewing out what we think we need and what we expect from Him, all the while feeling that He doesn’t really understand us and often wondering if he’s even listening. Then on the other hand, how often is He trying to talk to us, but we’re too busy trying to get our point across to listen to Him? So check out those exchanges… how do they get resolved or do they?

Put a little of yourself into all you do!  We also learn that all the choice ingredients mean nothing if there’s there’s not a piece of ourselves in it. Maezumi can’t put his finger on what is missing from Abby’s ramen, so he takes her to his mother. Now, this is a deviation from our analogy of Maezumi as Jesus, because we don’t ever see Jesus asking Mary for advice, but he does entrust us to her. “Son, behold your mother. Mother behold your son.“ Yet even that is stretching it for this one, so rather than try to rationalize any further, we’ll get to the point of the exchange: We can talk the talk, but if our hearts aren’t in it, what are we doing it for? We must believe it and put ourselves out there. Because ultimately, aren’t we all looking for the Grand Master’s blessing?!

Reach out and reconcile:  Another point is you can make with this movie is the reconciliation Abby brings about for Maezumi. You see, Maezumi raised his son teaching the art of ramen. However, his son rejects it, despite his great gifts, to be an ITALIAN chef! Maezumi has such a difficult time with this decision. And, in a very un-Jesus-like fashion, Maezumi turns his back and holds in the hurt. In an effort not to ruin it, although it is a minor part of the movie, I’ll hold back the hows and whys here. But hopefully it inspires us to reach out a loving hand to someone we need to reconcile with.

Share your gifts!  **Spoiler Alert!!!** The last point for me is that once Abby has mastered the art of Ramen, she doesn’t stay in Japan. She moves back home, but takes this gift and shares it with others back home in New York. It appears that her place is booming and business is good. Therefore, our lesson is that called to share our gifts with the world, spread the good news of Jesus. I sort of wish I got to see more of how she continues on, but, that is left to our imagination.

Be forewarned, this film does have some scenes depicting alcohol use and Abby does have a brief romance including a bedroom scene. But, if memory serves, it does deserve the PG-13 rating, but isn’t embarrassing enough to worry about showing in a group setting assuming they’re all at least 13.

God Bless!

For more information on the movie, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0806165

The Green Mile



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Paul Edgecomb: On the day of my judgment, when I stand before God, and He asks me why did I kill one of his true miracles, what am I gonna say? That it was my job? My job?

The Green Mile Movie Poster from IMDB.com

The Green Mile Movie Poster from IMDB.com

John Coffey: You tell God the Father it was a kindness you done. I know you hurtin’ and worryin’, I can feel it on you, but you oughta quit on it now. Because I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?
Paul Edgecomb: Yes, John. I think I can. 

The Green Mile is one of those movies that almost leaves its viewers with more questions than answers.  It’s been on my list of movies to write about for a while, and is the first request I’m finally getting to fulfill.

The film starts off with the main character, Paul, played by Tom Hanks, as an old man in a nursing facility.  He breaks down in tears watching an old Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie and a friend from the home tries to console him.  So, he tells her the story of the a year of his life as a prison guard on Death Row at Cold Mountain Penitentiary.  While death row is typically called “the last mile” they called theirs “the green mile” due to the floor color.

Two inmates already reside the mile.  And we’re never really told what they’ve done.  But things really get interesting with John Coffey (played by Michael Clarke Duncan) is brought in.  He is huge – and has been convicted of a horrible crime, raping and murdering two little girls.  They expect him to be hard to handle, but they find that he is quiet, gentle and quite opposite from what they imagined. They even learn he is afraid of the dark.

It isn’t long before another inmate, known as “Billy the Kid” is brought to the mile He is juvenile in his antics, but proves himself quite dangerous very early in his stay. He is a huge contrast to the sweet and quiet John Coffey. Add to all this, one guard, Percy, who is angry and bitter.  He beats on prisoners, believing them to be sub-human and looking for ways to control them.  When they actually need him to take action, he can’t.

Paul begins to doubt that John has committed the crime he’s been convicted of, but it isn’t until John heals Paul of a bladder infection, that Paul really starts doing some digging.  He doesn’t mention the healing to anyone but later events leave witnesses of other miracle healings. More and more they are convinced that John could not have committed the crime he is convicted of.  This film is full of talking points – and I’m sure it would take multiple posts to really go into all of them, but here’s a start:

All people deserve to be treated with dignity:  Most of the guards are very careful about how they talk to and handle the prisoners.  The do not condone physical or verbal abuse.  They say that staying calm and talking the prisoners prevents issues with already tense prisoners.  They are very careful to find distractions for the prisoners being executed while they practice the execution process.  Even to the end, they do everything they can to make the execution as clean, quick and calm as possible.  You know they don’t enjoy killing these men.  In contrast, we see Percy who is mean to the prisoners and treats them as scum.  He doesn’t care about them beyond how his poor treatment makes him feel superior.  But what this difference shows is how when treated with respect, most of the prisoners are peaceful and lovable.  When situations are tense do we tend to lash out, or do we try to keep things calm?  What about when you encounter someone that scares you?  I believe in most cases, you’ll find it that even though you may want to react like Percy, you’ll find the typical way of the guards gets much farther with much less uproar…  Granted, most of us don’t have padded rooms we can throw people in who disrespect us, but for the most part, they handled everything through calm and even a little humor, when appropriate.

Child-like nature:  One thing I’ve noticed each time I’ve watched The Green Mile is the child-like nature of the prisoners.  Is that because they are somehow emotionally or mentally stunted and their lack of maturity is what led to the crimes that landed them there.  I find myself wondering if you peel back the layers of our current prison inmates, that you’d find certain similarities.

At the same time, John’s gift of being able to heal, seems to be in a strange package. But, as we see in scripture, God always chooses someone that we wouldn’t expect. John is dirty, sweaty, uneducated – but gentle and truly caring.  Once you see John in action, you know there is no way he could have committed the heinous acts he is sentenced to death for.

The death penalty:  Well, if you are on the fence about the electric chair, this film will definitely show you how violent a death it really is – even without the disastrous one. None of the inmates deny what they’ve done and I’m sure their crimes were heinous, but seeing them as the men in the cell – relatively childlike and powerless, it was hard to see them killed.

St. Christopher reference:   When John Coffey first arrives at the prison, the prison wagon appears to be riding extremely low.  And John is a BIG guy, but as I watched the scene (and having seen it several times before) it struck me as an analogy to St. Christopher.  For those not familiar with the Christopher story, the basics are that Christopher was crossing a river and a child asked to be carried across.  The child was unbelievably heavy.  Later it was understood that in carrying the child, he was carrying Christ who was carrying the whole world.  So, when I saw that prison wagon carrying such a load, it made me wonder.  Then later, one of those healed gives John a St. Christopher medal, suggesting the St. Christopher would protect him. What do you make of it?  Is John supposed to represent Christ?

If he is meant to be a Christ figure, it certainly explains the healings and the profound sadness he shows about how people treat each other.  It also explains the low riding wagon.  Could it be that John Coffey was supposed to be such a big figure physically to show us how big Christ is figuratively.  Of course, if that was the case, I would have thought John Coffey would have bigger…  but  At first I wondered why John would choose to die… but then I realized Jesus did just that. I’m sure he could have gotten himself out of his situation, but he did it for us.  That is the big difference between Jesus and John Coffey…  Coffey was escaping.  Jesus suffered and died for us!

Sweet, gentle John Coffey also sets into motion events that I always thought exacted revenge, which disappointed me…  however, looking as him as a Christ figure, I’m guessing it could be called “judgment” or at least helping put them before God for His judgment.

In conclusion:  The Green Mile is rated R for violence, language and sexual references – and deservedly so.  It does however, provide a lot of food for thought.  Think about the difference in how the guard and the prisoners interact in comparison with how you look at the people you encounter in your life.  Think about how we are called to love, and that love is not a weakness, but evil does try to exploit it and we cannot let it win!  Think about the implications of the death penalty.  Think about what you would do if you were John Coffey or Paul Edgecomb.  If you can do that, I’m sure you’ll learn something!

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas



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Shmuel: I wish you’d remembered the chocolate.
Bruno: Yes, I’m sorry. I know! Perhaps you can come and have supper with us sometime.
Shmuel: I can’t, can I? Because of this.
[points the electric fence]

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - image thanks to IMDB.com

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – image thanks to IMDB.com

Bruno: But that’s to stop the animals getting out, isn’t it?
Shmuel: Animals? No, it’s to stop people getting out.
Bruno: Are you not allowed out? Why? What have you done?
Shmuel: I’m a Jew.
Bruno: There is such thing as a nice Jew, though, isn’t there?
Herr Liszt: I think, Bruno, if you ever found a nice Jew, you would be the best explorer in the world.

At more than one point in history groups of people have viewed other groups of people as less than human.  One could argue that this attitude still remains, whether it is looking down on immigrants who come to the country through less than legal means, those who starve in a distant country, those condemned to a life of slavery and those in the womb.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas beautifully shows how we aren’t born with these prejudices, they are taught.  Most of the time, these teachings aren’t as blatant as what is portrayed here.  But it is a slippery slope.

The film revolves around two boys, Bruno and Shmuel.  Bruno’s parents have recently moved close to the concentration camp that Bruno’s father is in charge of.  You can see that Bruno’s mother is disturbed by the move, but everyone (and she herself) tries to convince her that it’s all okay.  Shmuel obviously recently moved to the area as well, except as a prisoner.  

 The lessons here are incredibly obvious, but still worth talking about”

We are what we know: Bruno and his sister , Gretel are isolated.  Bruno desperately seeks children to play with and spots a “farm” from his bedroom window with lots of children.  As he questions the adults about the “farm” they either ignore his questions or just tell him it’s off-limits.  But, he finally gets a chance (without permission) to go exploring and finds the “farm” for himself and meets Shmuel.  In his schooling, he is taught about who awful the Jews are, and how they are responsible for all that is wrong in the world.  But his friendship with Shmuel keeps seeds of doubt planted.  Gretel, on the other hand, is immersed in the teaching and is soon seen lining her bedroom walls with Nazi propaganda.

Looking back, we wonder how anyone could have those sort of thoughts about other humans, but, that was what was being taught by a few angry people with influence, who passed that teaching on, and so on and so forth.  So, it was what people knew.  In teaching religious education classes students often commented on how they didn’t understand how their friends from other faiths could believe the things they did.  And, being in the “buckle of the bible belt” they were tired of answering the same questions about Catholic beliefs and traditions.  I often had to remind them that being raised in a Catholic home, the Catholic faith made sense and vice-versa for their non-Catholic friends.  At one point in time many people thought slavery made sense, and it still happens in many places we don’t want to talk or think about.  Ultimately, it needs to not be about what we are taught by society, but by our Catholic morality.  If we follow that, we will always recognize the dignity of human life.

We also have to take the time to learn about both sides of any story.  It is the only way to be able to make informed decisions, argue any point or just be a more empathetic people.  It may be that learning the whys and hows of the other side, may help us better understand and articulate something we were already pretty sure of!

If it had been just one man, I’m sure something would have been done.  Okay, so I had to sort of laugh at this one.  The kids are reading a book out loud about “the Jew” and how terrible “the Jew” is.  In this context, “the Jew” is referring to the entire Jewish race.  But when the kids’ tutor points out that “if it had been just one man, I’m sure something would have been done” I was thinking, that it was once one man, one Jew, and they did do something!  They crucified him!  But he still influences the world!

Not everyone believes the same thing, but may be afraid to speak out for fear or repercussions: Bruno’s Grandmother is definitely not happy about the agenda of the Nazi party, or her son’s part in it.  She even blames herself saying that the costumes she made him as a child must have made him want to don the uniform he wears so proudly.    But, he reminds her that airing her views so publicly could get her into a lot of trouble.  Even Bruno’s mother has an issue with what she sees happening, but she just tries not to see it.  So, we have to keep this in mind.  We can say “why didn’t someone do / say something” but we have to realize that not everyone is free to do so…  that’s why we have martyrs, but not everyone is willing to make that sacrifice.

All life is valuable and disrespect for it leads to trouble for all:  Where do you draw the line?  The Nazi’s first started with a small group, but as time went on, they continually opened their net wider and wider.  Many wars were aimed at soldiers fighting each other and deaths of women and children were incidental…  but as time has gone on and warfare had changed, there is not much of a distinction.  Why is it that we can recognize life in the womb if the mother wanted it, but so many can disregard it if the mother doesn’t want it, or if it’s in the first few weeks of gestation?

Interesting to note:  There is a definite cinematic element to this film showing a warmth when the family is in Berlin, compared with a cold, grey, modern house when they move to the country.  My guess would be that this was on purpose, showing the difference as you get closer to the coldness of the camp and the death that lies inside it.  What do you think?

More questions for consideration and reflection:

  • What people are at risk of this type of persecution today?
  • What can we do to prevent this sort of thing from happening again?
  • What is something you realize you need to learn more about?
  • What prejudices do we have that we need to work on ourselves?

Personally, I think we are diluting ourselves to think that this type of thinking is incapable today, so we should remind ourselves of the horrors periodically.  The movie is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements about the Holocaust.  It probably wouldn’t interest younger viewers, but there really isn’t anything that would give a child nightmares or something like that.  The worst is when one of the jews is pouring wine for dinner and accidentally knocks over a glass and is drug out and beaten (away from camera view).  Ultimately, it is moving, beautiful and shows a beautiful friendship between two unlikely friends.

Movies to Start Pro-Life Discussions…



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As October barrels down on us, I am reminded that October is Pro-Life month.  My womb to tombmind has bounced all over trying to decide which pro-life movies to review, especially showing the “womb to tomb” aspect…  So, this post may be as much a chance to help me gather these thoughts, but also serve as an overview of several movies that I hope to be able to show in more detail later (and some that have already been done).  They may not all actually portray Pro-Life attitudes, but can still be used for discussion.  Remember in past posts where I’ve said that sometimes the lesson is doing the opposite of what is portrayed in the film.  This list is in no way comprehensive, but it’s a start.

Death penalty:

  • Dead Man Walking (R):  I’ll admit, I haven’t seen this one…  but It’s on my list to watch.  A man has committed unspeakable crimes, but as he sits on death row Sister Prejean works to have his execution stayed and befriends him.
  • The Life of David Gayle (R):  a consensual sexual encounter followed by suicide is staged as a rape and murder to prove that even with video and DNA evidence, an innocent person can be sentenced to the death penalty.


  • Million Dollar Baby (PG-13):  **CAUTION**  This one comes down on euthanasia as mercy killing.  When a young boxer who has fought her way into the ring, is injured so badly she is faced with life being bedridden and unable to even care for herself, she asks her manager to end her life.  The film wants the viewer to see euthanasia as good, but a case can definitely be made that considering her fighter spirit that had overcome so much, she gave up way too easily.  So, there’s a lot to discuss here.

Insurance reform / quality care for those in need:

  • John Q (PG-13):  Desperate for a heart transplant for his son and being blocked by red tape at every turn, a man takes the ER hostage until they agree to perform the surgery.  Then, when an organ isn’t available, he sets things in motion to serve as his son’s donor, though it will mean losing his life.  Again, this is a launchpad for discussion…  not something you’ll want to show without talking about it at length.

Dignity of Human Life:

  • Horton Hears a Who (G):  The line repeated over and over in this movie is “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”  Horton the elephant hears talking coming from a flower and is driven to protect it, even though every other animal in the jungle thinks that he has lost his mind.
  • The Incredibles (PG):  “Valuing life is not weakness…and disregarding it is not strength.”  This line from Mr. Incredible, who is accused of weakness because he won’t kill the bad guy’s assistant to get his way shows a profound respect for human life (as the good guys usually do).
  • Ice Age (PG):  Instead of abandoning an orphaned human child, A mammoth, a sloth and a tiger set out on a journey to take the child to someone who can care for him.
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (PG-13):  The story of an unlikely friendship between two boys, one German, one Jew.  Set during the Holocaust, the German boy is being taught all about the inferiority of the Jewish race, but he comes to see that none of it is true.


  • Bella:  A woman set on abortion spends time with a former soccer player who is trying to make amends for a past incident.  He convinces her to choose life by agreeing to raise her child for her while giving her the opportunity to change her mind along the way.
  • Juno:  Juno heads into an abortion clinic, but the small bit of trivia about the baby having finger nails sends her running out.  So she finds adoptive parents in the Penny Saver and continues her high school schooling as a pregnant teen despite ridicule and frustration at her condition.  Juno is crass and full of herself, but is still genuinely concerned for the future of the baby.
  • October Baby:  An abortion survivor sets out on a journey to find her birth mother.  Along the way she finds out more about her birth, too.  She offers her mother the forgiveness she never allowed herself.  See the review I did on this one earlier here.
  • Cider House Rules:  **CAUTION** This one is really pro-abortion.  However, I think that the conversations and situations in the movie can be a good launchpad for discussion, especially in those extreme cases that are thrown out to support abortion agendas.  A boy raised in an orphanage is the assistant to a doctor who performs abortions for women who feel they have no choice.  The boy argues with the doctor about his actions, and maintains a pro-life stance until he encounters a girl who is pregnant by incest.
  • The Way:  It’s a small part of the story, but one of the pilgrims encountered on The Way of St. James admits to having an abortion to prevent her abusive husband from having another woman to beat on.  She goes on to talk about imagining what the child would be doing and the life she never had.  See the review I did on this one earlier here.
  • How to Deal:  A teenager discovers she’s pregnant after her boyfriend dies in a freak incident.  She chooses life, and endures the humiliation of being a pregnant teen with the support of the main character who makes it clear that she would not have made the same decision.  Again, this is a good one for the discussion, but cannot stand on it’s own as pro-life because so many push for abortion.

I know there is NO way this is all of the movies regarding life issues out there.  I mean think about all those military or action flicks where the heroes are trying to save humanity, even if it means a few human lives are lost…  or all those that struggle with a difficult diagnosis, and overcome it all to do more with their lives than they ever thought possible.  All are a part of the battle for life, and all boil down to love of neighbor.  If we all did a better job of that, would the rest even be an issue??

In my search for more ideas about films regarding life issues, I came across two sites listed below with lots of recommendations you might find helpful, especially if you check out the comments.

Hopefully I’ll be able to elaborate more on these as time goes on, but hopefully this will help for now.  Blessings!




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Ned Oldham: Connie. Yeah, it’s Ned.Unstoppable
Connie: Did you throw that switch yet?
Ned Oldham: Yeah, six minutes ago. But your train, it’s not here. I thought it might be going a little slower than you guessed, but these two numb nuts that you sent, they just showed up and they ain’t seen it either.
Connie: Are you saying our train’s already passed?
Ned Oldham: Yes, ma’am. That’d be my guess.
Connie: It’s not a coaster. That train’s under power.
Ned Oldham: That’d be my guess, too.

In the movie, Unstoppable, Denzel Washington, Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson star in this action film where a chemical laden runaway train has to be stopped before potential disaster.  The film is “inspired by true events” and although is critiqued for its unrealistic details, is still a gripping and entertaining film if you’re willing to let those details go.

Denzel Washington plays engineer Frank Barnes on his way out (involuntarily) and Chris Pine plays Will Coleson who is just coming in as a conductor.  A failure to pay attention to detail and then a backhanded method of trying to fix it by the guys at the yard, as well as lack of full disclosure of the problem, sets things in motion and a minor issue starts a chain of events that leads to potential disaster.

Not for you:  How often in life do we do something that will benefit someone, but ultimately also benefit someone with whom you have issues?  

Oscar Galvin: I am not going to jeopardize any more property or personnel just because some engineer wants to play *hero*! Now you stop your pursuit or I will fire you!
Frank: [chuckles] Fire… You already did.
Oscar Galvin: Already did what?
Frank: You’ve already fired me. I received my 90 day notice in the mail… 72 days ago.  Forced early retirement. Half benefits.
Galvin: So, you’re going to risk your life for us with three weeks left.
Frank: Not for you. I’m not doing it for you.

I’m sure if you think about it, it happens more frequently that you realize.  I have always wanted to do a good job for my clients, my parish, my students, whatever the case may be, and sometimes that meant helping someone I didn’t want to help or making them look good.  IE: That boss or co-worker who always takes the credit.  I keep trying to keep Matthew 6:6’s statement on prayer and apply it to this need to tell people who’s really doing the work:

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

Normally, those things irritate us to no end, but there’s usually not life at stake. Are you content to stand back and just do your job or do you need to be the hero? Why?  Frank and Will head in to something unbelievably dangerous because they feel like it’s the right thing to do.  They had every right not to do it; the potential of fired, one life had already been claimed (you’ll see), and everything seemed to be going against them, but they felt compelled to do it anyway.  We’re all focused on who we’re really working for – that’s good, very good!  We just have to keep reminding ourselves who we’re really doing our work for – and hopefully God is at the top of the list!

Cooperation is a REQUIREMENT!  One thing about this movie, whether it’s in the relationship background stories or the way they handle the runaway train, is how much cooperation is needed.  We see what happens when people work together… and what happens when they think they know it all and don’t need anyone. I always hated group work as a student, but professionally, I love a team atmosphere and team work.  When everyone gels, massive things get done – but if one person holds back, or insists on their way, it certainly makes things difficult! In what ways are you a team player?  In what ways are you not?  What can you do to help that?  We’re all called to share our gifts to build up the body of Christ!!!  If we all used our gifts as God calls us to, we can do AMAZING things to bring others to Him.  Let’s get moving!!

When you’re in an argument with someone, sometimes you have to imagine how you’d feel if they were in danger.  Would the argument matter? Will and his wife have had a bit of a “misunderstanding.”  This misunderstanding has led to a restraining order and Will sleeping on his brother’s couch.  But, we see that when Will’s wife realizes that Will is in definite danger, the misunderstanding melts away and we are led to understand they worked things out.  As much as I don’t want to sometimes, when the hubs and I argue, I try to keep this in mind before either of us leaves the house.  Would I really want angry words to be our last to each other?  I’m not saying bury the issues. Remember that deep down you love each other and keep that in mind even though you might not like each other very much at the moment.  Obviously, this can also apply to other relationships…  Parents and children, siblings, friends, etc. all have to remember this.  So, is there someone in your life that you need to reconcile with before they are taken from this earth and you lose your chance?

Do you “quit too easy?”  When Will tells the story of his marriage woes and his attempts to reconcile with his wife, Frank tells him that he (Will) quit too easily. Sound familiar?  Many people seem to forget that there is work to making a marriage.  Don’t get me wrong, some people seem to have to work harder than others, but there is a need to communicate feelings, finances and everything else. I have friends who laugh about the “marriage is work” statement because they never felt it was work, but I promise, whether it was conscious or not, they have to work on it.  They have four kids and another due any day.  The kids are in scouting, sports and all that.  They still talk to each other, have “date nights” and its more than just coordinating kids schedules. But, they’ve found a balance that works for them and they’ve got it down in such a way they don’t find it to be work.  Again, this concepts applies to more than just marriage.  It can be a job, relationship, a goal, whatever…  You may have a long-lasting marriage, but do you “quit too easy” about something else?

We’re all God’s children:  At one point, Frank and Will are discussing families and we hear that Frank’s daughters are Hooter’s waitresses (there are a few shots of them at the restaurant, too).  Will raises an eyebrow and asks how Frank feels about that.  Frank says he has gotten used to it, but you can tell he’s not happy about it.  As “men” they “love” Hooters, but as a father, not so much.  So, this can be a good opportunity to show how people react to how we present ourselves AND help us to remember that we are all children of God. Whether it’s a man checking out a scantily clad woman or the reverse, we have to remember that object we’re ogling is a child of God – and how would he feel about us objectifying one of His children that way?  This is a responsibility we all bear.  This is not just a “women cover yourselves” issue.  We all play a part.

Not a whole lot of places to go.  One thing about a train is how it cannot run without it’s track.  There’s no jumping off track and running cross country or even down a standard highway.  When it goes off the track, it’s usually pretty bad. That’s why when we say things like “we’re on track” or “we’re heading down the right track”, it indicates things are good.  When we get off track, it’s usually not good.  What things make up your track?  What helps keep you on track?  What knocks you on track?  What do you do to get back on track when you get derailed?

What high speed train is running through your life right now?  How are you handling it?  Cut it off from up front?  Trying to derail it?  Grab it from behind?  What has been your experience with it?

Triple seven – what does it mean?  777 has been considered to be the perfect number, which is why 666 is supposed to be the “mark of the beast” (three time falls short of 7) – so, do you think there might be some significance in that number being chosen as the runaway train and not 1206 which is the train that they use to try to stop 777.  Triple seven is obviously is extremely powerful – blowing through train cars as if they were tissue paper and flying down the track.  Do you think it was intentional – or just convenient?  Is it a way of saying that God is unstoppable and that whatever we think we can do to control the situation is nothing compared to His power?  What other meanings might it have?

It’s a wrap:  I have to admit, when I threw my copy of Unstoppable in the Blu-ray I wasn’t sure what I was going to be able to glean from it…  I just enjoy it and felt drawn to write on it.  This is not a kids movie by any stretch.  It is rated PG-13 with good reason, the language being the worst – and for the most part, the foul language is limited to the characters responsible for the runaway train, but it is a high-pressure situation, so the f-word flies around a bit.  The only thing sexual is watching Frank’s girls in their short shorts and skin tight clothes.  It is an intense film, but not violent or gory.  So it should be okay for adolescents – but as always, review it first.


How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days



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Image Borrowed from IMDB.com

Image Borrowed from IMDB.com

Michelle Rubin: Oh, you are never going to pull this off.

Andie: Watch me. Tonight, I’ll hook a guy. Tomorrow, pull the switch. Before the ten days are up, I’m going to have this guy running for his life.
Jeannie Ashcroft: You’re not going to burn his apartment down or bite him, or anything?
Andie: No! I’m going to limit myself to doing everything girls do wrong in relationships. Basically, everything we know guys hate. I’ll be clingy, needy…
Ben: [to himself, on his balcony, waving goodbye to Andy before she gets in her cab] You’re already falling in love with me.
Andie: I’m gonna make you wish you were dead.
[blows away a kiss to Ben up on his balcony]
Andie: Poor guy.

I know most women are sitting there thinking – it’s easy to lose a guy in 10 days!  But, for Andie Anderson (played by Kate Hudson), she just can’t seem to shake this one.  Benjamin Barry (played by Matthew McConahey) is a player and has been challenged to stick it out with one girl AND get her to fall in love with him to prove that he knows how women like to be treated, thus earning him the big account at work – a diamond company.  Andie is a reporter and has been charged with writing an article, “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, “doing all the silly things women do in relationships that messes things up – and do it so well, it will happen in 10 days or less.

A diamond is a long-term commitment:  In other words, no sex.  Despite pushing it a little, Andie and Ben fall for each other first.  It’s amazing how the antics Andie pulls in her effort to try to lose Ben get forgiven because he seems to know that the cool, fun (non-crazy) Andie is just around the corner (not to mention the bet).  In fact, on that first night, they go back to Ben’s apartment and Ben debates with himself about sleeping with her in terms of the diamond account, “A diamond is no one night stand.  A Diamond is a long-term commitment” They also have a little talk about not moving too fast because of the need for respect.  Now they do have sex in the movie (the camera does cut away without showing much)… but I still hold that they were in love first, whether they’d admit it or not.  If I had written the movie, we certainly wouldn’t have seen sex within the first ten days of dating (and preferably not until after getting hitched), but – I guess that’s why Hollywood doesn’t pay me to write.  😉

Clingy and needy are not attractive:  So, the first evils Andie perpetrates to get Ben to dump her are being clingy and needy.  She calls him at work, repeatedly. She calls his Mom without him and manages to help herself to a key to his apartment, etc, etc.   These things obviously disturb Ben – but he’s trying to prove he can keep up with the crazy, so he plays along.  But, had the bet not been in place, you can be sure Andie would have been a goner.

I think this is a good way to introduce the idea to youth that restrictions on communication and other forms of contact are healthy, especially in those beginning stages of the relationship.  Sort of an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” sort of approach.  These restrictions prevent the appearance of being needy or clingy and also help promote the idea that healthy relationships are built slowly.  Honestly, there are a lot of adults who could use a dose of it, too!

Date those you can see spending the rest of your life with, but don’t plan the wedding just yet:  While I agree that you shouldn’t date someone you don’t think has the potential to be the one you spend the rest of your life with, I definitely think that planning your life together within the first ten days is just a little unreal. For some reason though, it seems that with boys and girls, they seem to jump to this.  If I understand everything right, I have a relative who dumped at least three boys for professing undying love and talking marriage within the first two to three dates. I admire the commitment, however, that sort of undying love so early seems a little desperate.  Of course, I also realize that boys say a lot of things to try to get girls in the sack, so I also take the “undying love” with a grain of salt.  So when Andie whips out the Family Album filled with photos merging photos of Andie & Ben to show what their kids would look like, Ben is right to be wierded out!

Using people is a no-no:  We’ve talked about it in other posts, but this movie is centered around two individuals who are using each other.  Andie using Ben for her story, and Ben using Andie to win a bet (and land an account).  It’s an endless cycle and in this movie, it makes for great entertainment.  However, we also see how much it hurts them.  They do overcome it, but it is definitely painful for both.

Frost yourself:  In the movie, the idea is that it will be easier to sell more diamonds if women don’t feel they must have them given to them by men.  Now, I’ll admit, I’m not a big jewelry person, and I did not want to go help pick out my engagement ring.  But, I’ve seen so many women who seem to feel that the size of the ring equates with the size of the love and that being showered with jewels and gifts is critical.  I’ve known plenty who got the big rock, and were divorced in no time, and those who couldn’t afford rings, but stayed together for a lifetime.  Now I am not saying that if you get a big rock, the marriage is doomed for failure.  But it’s not about the rock.  The love, commitment, and willingness to work together is what makes a great marriage.

I would also like to use this point to say that you do have to be comfortable in your own skin before you can truly be comfortable with someone else.  That may mean that any diamonds you sport, may have to be self-purchased. 

Don’t be afraid to call “bullshit:”  So, there’s an ongoing game Bullshit in the Barry household.  And, when Ben and Andie first arrive you hear the word thrown around quite frequently.  But all that aside.  Sometimes those same skills used in Bullshit and poker should be employed in daily life.  It’s hard, sometimes, when you really want to make someone happy to forget yourself, bury your interests and all that, but can you keep that up long-term?  You can call Bullshit on yourself, and should.  We also need to recognize that in others.  We need to encourage others to be themselves – the best version of themselves, but themselves none-the-less.

Okay, so to wrap up, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days is rated PG-13 for good reason. There’s enough innuendo, language, close calls with sex and a sensual scene, but if watching this with a teenage girl, there’s some great lessons to be learned if you’ll talk with them about it afterward.  You can even talk about how Ben continues to treat Andie, even when she was being crazy Andie.  For the most part, he is patient and caring…  even if it is for a bet.


We Bought A Zoo



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We Bought A Zoo

image borrowed from IMDB.com

Duncan Mee: I like the animals. I love the humans.

Benjamin Mee: You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.

We Bought A Zoo is a great family flick.  Benjamin Mee, played by Matt Damon is a recent widower trying to raise his two kids on his own.  He decides a change is in order due to a series of events: His son Dylan, whether due to his mom’s death or just teenage melancholy, has a very dark style and has exceeded the three strike policy at his school;  Add that to feeling like a piece of meat thanks to all the single moms at his kids’ school;  Then throw in quitting his job because he’s been given the impression that the only reason he still has it is due to sympathy for his wife’s death.  So, after a horrible day house hunting, they find the perfect house, however, they find it’s part of a defunct zoo.  How hard can it really be???

So with all its heartwarming charm, cast of crazy characters and a few temperamental animals, what lessons can we glean from We Bought A Zoo.

Don’t use people’s sympathies against them:  Dylan is going through a rough time.  No one would doubt that for a minute.  However, he uses it, and plays on it.  He wallows in it, expects everyone else to navigate the minefield he has thrown down.  He even says that no one would expel a kid who just lost their mom.  Now, I’m not saying that Dylan doesn’t have good cause to grieve.  And everyone handles grief differently, but the expectation that everyone will cut him slack indefinitely is a little hard to defend.  And, as Dylan finds out, over time, patience wanes and he won’t always have his grief as a “get out of jail free card.”  So what do you do?

You just need twenty seconds of insane courage:  This is one of the main lines you hear in the trailer, as well as a few times through the movie.  But, its true, isn’t it?  Twenty seconds are actually a long time  – especially when the blood is pumping and that “fight or flight” response kicks in.  In the case of the Mees, they are referring to matters of the heart.  But, that twenty seconds can also be used to speak up in the face of injustice, leap into action in an emergency, volunteer your gifts, etc.  Now, that twenty seconds doesn’t include the thinking time, so don’t use it as an excuse to do something you really shouldn’t.  But when push comes to shove, it only takes twenty seconds to say “yes,” to act in whatever way you’re being called to.  Then, if you take twenty seconds, it might give someone else twenty seconds and so on.  Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone, is the small push that others need, too.

Think about this too in the case of evangelization and missionary work.  I was recently talking to one of my former students who has signed up to be a college missionary.  In their training, they were dropped on a beach and told to go spread the Gospel.  Going to talk to complete strangers is hard enough and then you throw in trying to talk to them about God and His good news!  Admit it – would you do it?

I like the animals.  I love the humans:  When I think about this one, the old bumper sticker “The more people I meet, the more I like my dog” springs to mind…and you expect the zoo staff to have that same philosophy.  The Zoo is full of lots of exotics – both animals and people.  They all make for some pretty interesting events. But, with the exception of the aged lion, the animals are really just a backdrop.  It’s the interaction between the human species that really makes things work.  The support they give each other in spite of their vast differences and idiosyncrasies is really amazing, and they are all pushed by a common goal.  They have a camaraderie that makes them more like a family. They genuinely love each other.  They spend off time together, the whole bit.  A couple of times we see the question posed, “If you had to choose animals or people, which would you choose?” And, despite the love and care shown to the animals, the people win.  So, what do you think you’d choose? 

Next, I’ve noticed that there seems to be a lot of people who show more care and concern for animals than they do for humans.  Ironically, most animal rights people I know are avidly pro-choice.  So, an animal gets better treatment than a human?  How does that work? Now, don’t get me wrong…  I’m pro-life and love animals.  I’ve always had at least one dog, several horses, and have even been around quite a few cows, pigs and chickens and definitely don’t like to see them scared, or in pain.  Loosing our “first-born” chocolate lab mix a few months ago has been really hard, but my love for a being that’s not even the same species helps me know that the power of love is much stronger than we give it credit for.  But, the horrors of what happens during an abortion takes precedent.  There are so many people paying huge amounts of money for babies – and yet so many women feel like they have no other option.  Sadly, I think more than anything, those women are afraid that if they carry a baby to term, they’ll develop that love and they are trying to spare themselves the potential hurt of giving up someone they love or upsetting their current way of life.

When you do something for the right reasons, nothing can stop you:  So, more than once Benjamin is accused of being out of his mind for buying and thinking he could handle running the zoo.  But, its out of love for his children that he is driven to make it work.  He wants them to have the adventure.  He probably (although it’s not stated) is hoping to give them something else to focus on than their grief.  And since they have moved to an area that is relatively distant from the conveniences of town, it might even be something for the kids to do.  But ultimately it’s love – the pure, unconditional love of a father for his children. 

Tree in the road:  (Spoiler alert!!)  So, at the end, they are all ready to open, the rain has lifted, but no one is coming…  their worst fear.  But its Dylan’s faith that says that there’s something wrong.  A tree has fallen blocking the drive to the park, so no one can get to the entrance.  So, you’ve got the right reasons, you’ve accomplished the impossible, but what trees are still in your road?  Do you accept them as a roadblock, or to you charge out to get over?

So, We Bought A Zoo is rated PG, features the talents of Matt Damon, Scarlett Johansson, and Thomas Hayden Church among many others and with the exception is of the zoo inspector being called or referred to as d— and a little bit of kissing is very clean and a lot of fun.  Benjamin’s assertion that “he had the real thing” when his brother tries to encourage him to get permiscuous is encouraging and is a good example of what love really is.  It might be a little deep for really young viewers, but for those old enough, it is one full of lessons that I’d like my kids to know.

Want to see more about We Bought A Zoo?  Check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1389137/

Pride & Prejudice



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Pride & Prejudice image borrowed from IMDB.com

Pride & Prejudice image borrowed from IMDB.com

Elizabeth Bennet: So which of the painted peacocks is our Mr. Bingley?
Charlotte Lucas: Well he’s on the right and on the left is his sister.
Elizabeth Bennet: And the person with the quizzical brow?
Charlotte Lucas:That is his good friend, Mr. Darcy.
Elizabeth Bennet: The miserable poor soul!
Charlotte Lucas: Miserable, he may be, but poor he most certainly is not.
Elizabeth Bennet: Tell me.
Charlotte Lucas: Ten thousand a year and he owns half of Derbyshire.
Elizabeth Bennet: The miserable half? 

Pride & Prejudice originally was a book written by Jane Austen. It has been adapted for just about every possible performance type and made more than once for the silver screen.  I’ll admit that I’ve never read the book…  but I do hope to.  With so many versions out there, I’m going to limit myself, for the purposes of this entry to the 2005 version where Keira Knightly portrays Elizabeth (aka Lizzie) Bennet.

A quick synopsis for those who don’t know the story:  Pride & Prejudice is the story of the Bennett family and all the drama that surrounds the need for the five daughters to marry well since being female prohibits them from inheriting the estate on which they live.  The eldest daughter, Jane, is quite known for her beauty   and Elizabeth is pretty, but not considered nearly as beautiful as Jane.  The middle daughter is very quiet and homely but plays the piano quite well.  The other two girls, Lydia & Kitty, are quite silly and get quite a reputation as such.  The majority of the film centers around Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy.  Mr. Darcy is very shy, not easy to talk to, and seems like he has a cloud of negativity surrounding him.  He and Elizabeth seem like polar opposites although despite the appearance of being upbeat, Elizabeth seems very negative when it comes to matters of the heart.  So, through a series of overheard conversations, assumptions, misunderstandings and confessions the viewer is drawn in to one of the great love stories of all time.

So what can we gain from what most people see as just a beautiful love story?

Not everyone wears their emotions on their sleeve.  One thing that’s obvious from Pride & Prejudice, as in life, is that not everyone shows their emotions the same way.  An attempt not to seem to eager can come off as indifferent or hateful.  Just because someone does not react the way you think they should, doesn’t make it wrong.  In many cases, there is much more to the story. Surely you’ve seen this in how people handle issues of the day.  Some of the sweetest, most thoughtful people I know are perceived to be “cold fish” when they first meet someone…  and we could go all day on how different people handle grief.  So we do have to be conscious of these differences in our everyday lives, especially when we do not know others particularly well, if at all.

There’s always another side to the story. Maybe it’s naïve, maybe it already happens, but I think that when people are running for a major office, they should, once they’ve gotten pretty close to the end of the campaign, be taken into a room and brought up to speed on all the important stuff going on from the inside track.  I truly believe this is the reason for at least 50% of the broken campaign promises.  Once they really see the full picture, it’s not as simple as it looked on the campaign trail.  We see something similar in Pride & Prejudice.  Mr. Wickham tells a story of how he and Mr. Darcy are acquainted and Elizabeth takes it as gospel because of how little she thinks of Mr. Darcy.   Also, Elizabeth doesn’t discuss the various exchanges she has with Mr. Darcy after their first terse encounters.  So when she has a change of heart about Mr. Darcy, everyone believes the worst of him and can’t understand why she has made such a complete turn around.  There’s always more to the story.  The trick is realizing it and seeking the truth.  Do you notice it in your workplace, or with your family?  When both sides come out, things usually make much more sense.  Think about this in terms of Church history.  When you hear that “Catholics used to chain up the bibles” it’s usually to make Catholics feel like the Church was withholding the Bible from the people.  But, when you consider that this accusation was pre-printing press and that bibles were hand copied and there weren’t really that many copies – and they definitely weren’t cheap, it makes much more sense.  Look at how we interpret Sacred Scripture.  There are so many stories where one small historical or cultural detail brings worlds of clarity.  Make sure you seek the big picture.

Assumptions get you into trouble.  I won’t repeat the old saying, but in some ways its killing me not to.  Nearly every character in Pride & Prejudice makes assumptions.  Either assuming to know another characters feelings, assuming the accuracy of a story that may be some form of half truth or that they can predict the actions of others.  Assumptions lead to lots of problems.  Now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t look ahead, or try to read between the lines, but don’t take it for certain until the proof is there.  These characters assume that they’ve got all the information, when in reality missing pieces make a huge difference.  Think about some times in your life where you made assumptions or had assumptions made about you?  How did they make you feel?

We wouldn’t tease you if we didn’t love you.  Elizabeth is constantly teasing, even when propriety would suggest she should not do so.  We see that her Father has a similar sense of humor. Obviously, not everyone finds this sort of behavior acceptable, especially Lady Catherine, but for Elizabeth, that’s just the way she is.  I have to admit, this is probably the trait I most admire in Elizabeth, but then, I come from a family whose motto is “We wouldn’t tease you if we didn’t love you.”  But, it is something we need to be aware of, both in others and ourselves.  One senior gentleman I deal with regularly teases so close to my insecurities, it took me a long time to realize that he really was kidding.  But after watching him with others, and having a few more exchanges with him myself, I realized that he really was teasing me, that he didn’t mean things the way I was taking them and that he didn’t waste time with those he didn’t care for.  I almost missed getting to know a great guy.  What teasing have you gotten lately?  Was it helpful and relaxed or hurtful?

What is “pride”?  So, we’ve hit on many of the prejudice parts of the movie, but how about pride?  There is a lot of “pride” going around.  Pride in status and breeding, pride in accomplishment, family pride, and pride in self.  We need a certain amount of pride in our lives and not all pride is bad.  But we see the negative side of pride in this flick.  So many of the characters are so full of pride, they don’t seem to see their faults and are very quick to point out the shortcomings of others.  What ways do you think that pride is helpful?  In what ways is it hurtful?

Pride & Prejudice is classic, beautiful and romantic.  It’s got a PG rating and is very clean, apart from a little light kissing at the end.  However, I have a feeling that only artsy teens and adults will enjoy this film.  And hey, if it inspires anyone to read any of Austen’s work, isn’t that a good thing?!

The Descendants



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Image Courtesty IMDB.com

Image courtesy IMDB.com

The Descendants begins with the revelation that Matt King’s wife, Elizabeth, has been in a boating accident and is in a coma in the hospital.  There’s also a big land sale that has to take place in Matt’s family and Matt is trying to balance both, plus the needs of his two daughters who are definitely having issues.

We then learn that Elizabeth will not come out of the coma and her Living Will declares that they must pull the plug.  After picking up his oldest daughter, Alex, from boarding school, he tells her the news.  Her angry reaction catches him off guard and she reveals that she’d discovered that Elizabeth was having an affair.

So, with all that loveliness, what can we learn from the Descendants?

“Give your children enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.”  Matt’s philosophy is sound, but it does seem to have blown up in his face somewhat.  Everyone accusing him of being stingy, but his kids attended very expensive schools, they had a pool and a very nice house, what do they really need beyond that?  But really, shouldn’t that be the philosophy of most parents?  So many parents seem to feel like they have to make sure their kids have more than they had – and in today’s society, that’s a lot of stuff.  Anymore, one device is so many things that you can’t even give in just a little. So I pose this question to parents – how do you give your children enough to do something, but not enough to do nothing?  Do you make deals with your kids?  Do you give, but put lots of limits on the gifts?  Do you give so that you have something to take away (this one was the strategy my parents usually employed)?  Thoughts, please!

“Like an archipelago… all part of the same whole, but still separate and alone, and always drifting slowly apart.” In some ways, this probably describes any group of people.  We can think of it as our families, which is want Matt is referring to, but it can also refer to our Church family, friends, support groups, etc. We start off as a unit, but slowly, over time conflicting interests and schedules take over and individuals sometimes drift apart.  However, unlike an archipelago, we can change that – or at least try to.  We can take the initiative to get back in contact with those who’ve fallen away from our group.  We can only do so much as the others have to do their part as well.  But, we have to take action and not just sit there as our own private island!

“Watch your language” In The Descendants, language is a big issue.  There is a lot of cussing, foul and hateful speech, and a real emphasis on last words spoken.  So yeah, if you’ve got sensitive ears, the language will be quite repulsive.  However, it makes a point for us here.  The first time language is referenced the younger daughter unleashes a hateful sentence toward her sister.  When her Father asks her who taught her to talk like that, she points to her older sister.  We do have to be careful who we are setting examples for!  Most of what’s spoken is spoken in anger and frustration.  Not that it excuses it.  Some might say it’s the teens wanting to prove their adulthood.  I have to say that I’m proud of Matt for calling them out on it.  Matt has also been very careful to make sure that last words are spoken carefully.  When the older daughter unleashes a string of “I’m sorry we weren’t enough” statements toward her comatose mother, Matt makes her stop even though he knows about the affair and probably would like to tear into her himself. Not only is he teaching them to watch themselves, he’s leading them by example. Are you conscious of your last words?  You never know which ones they might be with anyone.  Make them count!

Advanced Life Directives:  This is a touchy subject.  I’m going to tell you that you should have something in place.  But maybe a Living Will isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  It’s too hard to plan for every situation.  There are too many nuances in healthcare, to many degrees of severity and too many types of complicating factors.  Therefore, Living Wills are difficult for those of us who want to try to follow God’s will and not “give up” prematurely, but also don’t wish to be a burden on our families.  A better way to do it would be to name a health care proxy who knows your ultimate wishes, but in the event that you are incapacitated, can help interpret your wishes to the medical professionals treating you.  It may not be in your best interest for this to be a family member, but then again, it might.  It just depends. You just have to try to figure out who can make the hard calls when they’re needed.

When may medical therapies, procedures, equipment and the like be withheld or withdrawn from a patient.  From EWTN.com
A. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states,
2278. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.
The key principle in this statement is that one does not will to cause death. When a person has an underlying terminal disease, or their heart, or some other organ, cannot work without mechanical assistance, or a therapy being proposed is dangerous, or has little chance of success, then not using that machine or that therapy results in the person dying from the disease or organ failure they already have. The omission allows nature to takes its course. It does not directly kill the person, even though it may contribute to the person dying earlier than if aggressive treatment had been done.
You can read more about the Catholic Church’s stance on End of Life issues here.

Forgiveness:  Toward the end, the wife of the man Elizabeth had the affair with comes to visit her.  She says she forgives her.  Now, we never know who started it, how long it had been going on, or what was said between Elizabeth and her affair partner.  So, some of what she said, probably was uncalled for.  But, she felt like she had to forgive her.  And in doing so, gave Elizabeth a gift bigger than the flowers she came with.  Can we all be that forgiving when faced with such betrayal?

So, all that said.  The Descendants is overall a good movie.  It’s NOT a sit down with the kids movie, and is rated “R” for a reason.  The language is part. The affair and all that are not depicted.  But there are references to porn and masturbation that round out the rationale for the rating.  Hopefully this post will have you consider two things:  First, being careful with your speech as any words might be the last you have to those you love and second, consider some sort of arrangements should you become incapacitated and pray that you never have to use it!





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Dr. Calvin:       A Robot can no more harm a human than man can walk on water.
Det. Spooner: Well, there was this one guy a long time ago…
Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

I,Robot begins with Detective Del Spooner flashing back to an accident he had some time before.  This incident leads him to a severe distrust of robots and focuses him on their shortcomings.  However, robots are something that the culture of the time has come to rely on and since they understand them to be limited by the Three Laws of Robotics, feels completely unthreatened by.

The Three Laws of Robotics:
  1. A robot can not harm a human being.
  2. A robot has to obey any order that is given by a human being (assuming it does not conflict with the first law).
  3. A robot can defend itself (as long as it does not conflict with the first or second laws).

When Detective Spooner is called to USR Robotics for the apparent suicide of its top scientist, Dr. Alfred J. Lanning, he is less than amicable to those who continually suggest that the deceased doctor’s death was definitely suicide. They think Det. Spooner’s theory that Lanning’s death could have been at the hands of a robot is just part of his prejudice towards them.  However, discovery of a robot named “Sonny,” that has been trained in human emotions and refers to Dr. Lanning as “my father” starts to lend credence to Spooner’s distrust – so much that USR leadership plans to deactivate him as they don’t want news of him to keep anyone from purchasing their newest release robot, the NS-5.

So, what can we gain from i,Robot? 

We are created for a purpose:  First, Sonny believes he was made for a purpose.  It’s kind of funny (to me) when he says “My father made me for a purpose.”  I find myself wondering if he was “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 149). Sorry, that was supposed to be a joke…  but in all seriousness, do we remember that we were made for a purpose?  Then the next question is if you are made for a purpose, are you fulfilling it?  Later on Sonny tells Spooner that he’s completed his purpose and doesn’t know what to do next.  Spooner tells him that he’ll have to find his way, just like the rest of us.  Do you think the purpose God planned for us can ever really be completed?  Are you still trying to find your purpose in life?

Don’t take the term “father” for granted:  Sonny refers to Dr. Lanning as “my father” and Det. Spooner corrects him to say “your designer.”  There is a distinct difference.  As a robot, Sonny shouldn’t care, but he does.  “Father” is a much more intimate term than “designer.”  So now think about that in terms of God.  Do you think of God as a father or a designer?  Most (if not all) Christian religious pray the “Our Father” and most that believe in God see him as a father figure of sorts.  But do we really take the term “father” to heart?  Or do we say “Father,” but really mean “designer.”  If so, do we even give Him designer credit?

Personal note:  I didn’t really think about this one for Father’s day – but you know how I’ve said  in my FAQ page that the Spirit seems to decide what movies I review and when. This one seems to be another example.  I have three other flicks I’ve got posts in progress for in various forms – but this one somehow got all the way to posted status without being relegated to the back.  It isn’t because I liked this one more or because it was easier to write about (it wasn’t), but it just felt like it needed to be done.  I hadn’t even really thought about the father aspect until I re-watched this movie as I started the post.

Protection is worth loss of some freedoms:  V.I.K.I cites that the robots must save us from ourselves because of our propensity of self-destruction by war and pollution and that in doing so, loss of some freedoms is a small sacrifice.  In some sense, we do this in our own government.  Think about all the laws that get enacted to protect (we’ll not argue whether or not they really do), but don’t they usually involve giving up some freedom?  It may not be a freedom we ever intended to use, but it’s a freedom nonetheless.

One could also argue that following the rules of a particular religion means loss of freedom.  However, isn’t it also freedom to choose that religion or those religious acts that is also freedom? 

Find your way like the rest of us, that’s what it means to be free:  This line from Det. Spooner to Sonny still plaques me.  Is finding our way what it means to be free?  Or is it that freedom gives us the ability to find our way?  I mean, I guess if we were in all the same, or programmed like robots, we wouldn’t have to worry about finding our place – we’d just know and there wouldn’t be any question to it. 

Maybe this is a trivial question, but I keep finding myself wondering what all the humans do since they have robots to handle so much of the work.  There are robots to do all your basic chores, demolish houses, clean up highway debris, work in the robot factory and help out in so many areas.  Even the cars have autopilot and only are driven by a human when requested.  It appears that humans are police and design robots and that’s about all. 

On the whole, i,Robot is an interesting trail of breadcrumbs with lots of action.  It’s rated PG-13.  There’s some very strong language (including at least one G-damn), a fully nude side side shot of Det. Spooner in the shower and lots of action violence against the robots (remember, they can’t harm humans, although they do rough them up a little) so the rating is well deserved.

I will say that I enjoy I,Robot.  It’s got just enough suspense, action and comedy for my poor pea brain to be entertained.  Hopefuly I’ve helped you go a little deeper if you decide to give I,Robot a try and I hope you do.


The Way



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Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

For a while now I’ve wanted to talk about this movie, but haven’t been able to bring myself to do it.  Don’t ask why…I don’t know.

The Way refers to a trek known as el Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James).  The 800 kilometer Way of St. James really exists, running from St. Jean Pied de Port, France to Santiago de Compostella.  In the movie The Way, Tom, played by Martin Sheen, is called to France to claim the body of his son, Daniel, who started the Way, but was killed in a sudden storm in the mountains.

It isn’t long when Tom decides to trek the Way that Daniel began.  Tom is angry and not a man of prayer, so setting out on a pilgrimage is a little odd, but armed with a box of Daniel’s ashes, he heads out.  He leaves small piles of ash at various points on the journey.  His intention may be to do the Way for his son, but Tom learns a lot about himself along the way.

Despite his constant requests for privacy and keeping to himself as much as possible, Tom is joined along the way by four individuals all as different as night and day.  Every time I see The Way I notice something different, so I’m sure if I review this post next year, I’ll have some completely different insights, but I finally feel like I have seen it enough times to do it some justice, so here we go.

You don’t choose a life, you live one:  Daniel travels and feels that he must see and experience all that life has to offer.  He and Tom disagree about the direction their lives are going.  Tom says, “It is the life I chose.”  Daniel responds with “You don’t choose a life, you live one.” 

How often do we find ourselves wrapped up in the daily grind, forgetting why we’re doing it in the first place?  I would suggest to you, that there is a happy medium.  You don’t have to travel the world to live life – Lord know that many do it, but it’s all work, or they feel like they have to check things off a list, but don’t bother to take in the true beauty of it all.  We’ve got to take in the true beauty of everyday life.  Make opportunities for memories but don’t forget to get lost in them from time to time.

When I was young, I was too busy.  Now that I am old, I am too tired:  This line hit me pretty hard.  I’m always begging people to let me get through the next big event before I have to worry about the issue looming.  Unfortunately, there’s always another big event and there’s always more issues.  But, deadlines have been a way to prioritize – and for a procrastinator, that’s been my method of operation for years.  I am trying to get better, but I still find myself longing for retirement, where I can do what I want, not having to worry about work deadlines and can move around more freely.  However, I have to remind myself that I run the risk of being “too tired” if I push everything off.  So, I encourage everyone to remember this phrase and live for today.  Maybe we can all hold each other accountable.  😉

Which guidebook are you using?  There is this competition between Tom and Joost over the “American Guidebook” or the “Dutch Guidebook.”  One is supposedly full of shortcuts and paths to the nearest party.  The other is supposed to be the preferred and most clear routes.  Neither is perfect and neither is the point of what I’m asking.  Think more globally – what guidebook(s) are you using for your life?    The Bible, the Catechism, the story or writings of your favorite saint, the latest self-help title, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran?  The book is less of a concern, but how you live your life that matters.  Do you find yourself just going from party to party with no substance, or are you all substance with no party?  There is a happy medium between the two…  and that is the balance we’ve got to find before it’s too late.

Sometimes a dog fight near a cheese farm is just a dog fight near a cheese farm:  This is going to sound contradictory to 95% of what I say on this blog – but haven’t you known people who are so busy looking for meaning in everything that they miss what’s really going on. Our daily examination should help us find insight into what was important, and learn to downplay the things that really don’t mean anything.  We also have to realize that the meaning may not be obvious until some time later.

Why would you do The Way? They say you can’t do the Way for someone else, it is only for yourself.  What would make you take on a nearly 500 mile journey?  At 3 miles an hour, walking 12 hours a day – it would take two weeks. Would it be a prayer pilgrimage – saying continual rosaries, chanting novenas and such?  Would it be for health?  Would it be to clear you mind with hopes to hear the voice of God?  Would it be to meet people? 

Trekking the Way one of those things I’m putting on my bucket list, but I think God still has to tell me why.  It seems that way to many times I’ve been led into something for one reason, but it really works for others.  So, I don’t think it matters what I would think my reason for the trek would be, God will help me find what he wants me to find along the Way.The Way - Seashell

Make your own Way:  It’s obviously not in everyone’s life plan or abilities to make the pilgrimage of St. James.  However, you can make your own Way.  Pick small pilgrimages close to home.  Make mini pilgrimages in the back yard.  Join up with a group that you might not join and meet new people.  It’s all part of the Way.

For more information about the movie The Way, check out:  http://www.theway-themovie.com/

For more information about The Way of St. James, check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Way_of_St._James

Buen Camino!!!

October Baby



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Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Image borrowed from IMDB.com

Psalm 139:13You formed my inmost being;you knit me in my mother’s womb.

I wasn’t going to do this one so soon – since it’s sooooo obvious what this one means, but it’s light of the Kermit Gosnell trial it seems like it is necessary.  In a way, the feelings Hannah displays are contrary to what we want to display.  But I think when you reflect on the film, you’ll see it might have been resolved if she’d been told her story from the beginning.

Our main character, Hannah collapses on stage.  In an attempt to determine what caused it, many tests are run – which point to one cause of her issues – her birth.  She was adopted after a failed abortion attempt.  She then sets out on a journey with her friend and what they learn along the way helps her realize what life is really all about.

Have you ever felt unwanted?  Hannah writes in her journal (which comes to light after this episode) that she feels “unwanted.”  She was not told she was adopted until that moment, and certainly was never told that she was the product of a failed abortion or that she had a twin.  There’s a couple of thoughts I have here…  first, that even at such a young age, she may have felt the impact of what her biological mother tried to do.  She may not have been conscious of it, but somehow she knew.  Could this have been curtailed if her adoptive parents had been honest with her?  Could that knowledge of being chosen, being wanted, help her get past what her biological mother did?  There are also many people who never endured the tragedies Hannah survived, but still feel unwanted.  Is there any way to help these lost souls?

What other ways do we feel unwanted?  Obviously, there are many.  When your teenage child says that he or she hates you, when you’re turned down by someone you have feelings for, or when you’re excluded from a gathering.  How do you deal with those feelings of being unwanted?  What insights can you offer to someone dealing with feelings of being unwanted?

“To be human is to be beautifully flawed”  Wow…  that it the nicest way of saying that we all mess up I think I’ve ever heard.  Its true, as are the statements that follow it in the movie.  We are “beautifully flawed.”  A few years ago, I was at a family reunion.  A couple of my teenage distant cousins were there obviously showing that they were expecting.  I happened to be talking to some other relatives who commented about how those girls could let that happen, and how it was going to wreck their lives.  My comment to them, was that if they’d aborted their babies, no one would have known about their little buns – but that by owning up and continuing – they were stronger and more courageous than they were being given credit for.  And now, they have beautiful babies – the families have pitched in to help.  Beauty has come out of a difficult – maybe even ugly situation.  Sometimes really wonderful things come out of those flaws… 

“When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it”  In this case it’s referring to the “tissue” that the doctor kept telling the nurse that babies being aborted were.  I wonder if many pro-choicers would really still be pro-choice if they actually saw the product of the abortions.  When I look at today’s ultrasounds, where you really see a three-dimensional image of the baby – I wonder if people will start realizing it now. I wonder why someone would kill a baby that is born alive, despite the attempt to kill it, when babies are in such demand amongst those looking to adopt.  I know there are abortion survivors out there.  They aren’t “just tissue” any more than the rest of us are.

This same concept can be applied to our news sources and what we surround ourselves with.  When all we see is trash, or surround ourselves with is trash, that is all we will believe.  We have got to surround ourselves with good – and look for good in others.  Remember the old adage, “I think, therefore I am.”  We’ve got to think positive, and be aware of what’s going on around us.

Another point to be made here is about how we treat each other.  “When you hear something enough times, you start to believe it.”  If people area always telling you that you’re no good, you start to believe it after a while.  Thus seems to be the point of trying to build a child’s self-esteem by telling them “you can do it” or otherwise reinforcing their talents and skills.  We’ve got to build people up, not tear them down.  We do, however, have to be careful.  “Building up” does not mean spoil the child.  I’m afraid too many mistake the two concepts.

“Only in forgiveness can we be free.”  Matthew 16:19 tells us, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  That makes it sound as thought we have power over others – which in some ways we do, but it’s that last part we should concentrate on.  Staying intent on binding others to their sins isn’t good for us.  Sort of like taking poison and expecting others to die from it.  We have to forgive and leave the rest to God.  It will be healthier for us mentally and spiritually.  I’ll admit, I have problems with this one, especially when I’ve been wronged more than once by the same person or group…  But, in the end, it’s up to God and I’ve got to let Him do what He feels is best.

Ultimately, although rare, babies born as early as twenty weeks gestation can survive.  In looking at this film in light of the Gosnell case, it seems to me that too many people underestimate the sheer will to survive in babies.  So when one hears the horrors of snipping spinal cords and drownings in the toilet, it is especially discouraging.  Why, when people are paying thousands of dollars to adopt babies, so women feel like aborting is the only option?  While we have to help young people understand the difference between right and wrong…  we also have to help them understand that we will help them when they find themselves in such a position.  If we want them to make the right choice, they have to know they can count on us, despite whatever disappointment we might feel that they didn’t make the right decision at the time the child was conceived.

Truth be known, this film probably needs another post to fully discuss all that it offers, but for now, know that it is a good clean film.  It is however, very serious, and some of the discussions about the “procedure” may be too graphic for young ears.

God Bless!

Monsters, Inc.



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Monsters, Inc.

Borrowed from imdb.com

Henry J. Waternoose: Our city is counting on you to collect those screams. Without scream, we have no power. Yes, it’s dangerous work, and that’s why I need you to be at your best. I need scarers who are confident, tenacious, tough, intimidating. I need scarers like… like… James P. Sullivan.

Since it’s being re-released in 3-D, this seemed like a good time to talk about this great Pixar flick.  It may be animated, but there’s really a lot you can get out of it.

Remember when you were a kid and you were afraid of the monsters in the closet (or under the bed).  What if those monsters weren’t really mean…  but they needed the energy from your screams to power their world.  Well, that’s the story with two of our main characters, Mike (voice talents of Billy Crystal) and Sully (voice talents of John Goodman).  The funny thing, is that these monsters are as afraid of us as we are of them!!!  So when a little girl they lovingly call “Boo” gets into the monster world, it is not only unusual, but something that can get Mike and Sully in BIG trouble and bring all of Monstropolis to its knees.

So, what dare we learn from this monstrous hit…

We scare because we care:  This catchphrase for Monsters, Inc. actually is referring to the fact that they need to scare kids for energy.  However, isn’t this also something that seems to be required to help people understand safety rules?.  We tell them to be careful crossing the street because they might be hit by a car.  We know if we touch fire we can get burned.  In some cases we need to be scared to understand the importance of some safety rules.  Sadly, if people don’t feel threatened, they don’t pay attention.

Laughter works better than scream:  Now, this is going to sound like I’m doing a 180 degree turn from what I said in the previous paragraph, but, when we’re not talking about safety, being happy really does work better than beating people down.  They say that we “catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”  And that’s probably true (I’ve never really tried it to prove or disprove it)… but too often we seem to feel like “nice guys finish last” and use that to justify our actions.   But it’s true, admit it, laughter works better than scream.  We see that the “new” thing in companies like Pixar and Google is to create fun workplaces where you can bring your dog, hang out in comfy clothes and have toys around all day.  They find it increases productivity and makes it a place employees want to work.  What I find funny is how this seems to be a new thing.  Granted, this does mean that people do have to be motivated, need to set goals and actually get work done…  But why does it seem like it has to be in such a high pressure environment when companies are proving that a more “fun” atmosphere works well?Now, let’s take this outside the work world.  Can we employ this method in our families?  Remember Mary Poppins?  She encouraged that “in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.”  Granted, she was making things fly around the room and such, but does it have to be that way?  I know in my extended family we’d all gather at Grandma’s where, after dinner, there were usually so many dishes and the house was so hot, that we went ahead and hand washed dishes rather than use the dishwasher.  It was usually “girl time” and we got to talk about things we didn’t care to share with the WHOLE dinner table.  It almost wasn’t something anyone minded because we enjoyed that time together.  It wasn’t unusual to break into song or something goofy like that.  We teased each other, laughed and learned.  We can apply this to learning and how we interact with those around us, try to be nice – and laugh when you can (it can be contagious!).

Loss of innocence:  One thing that is mentioned a couple of times during the movie is that children are losing their innocence at younger and younger ages.  Sadly, this one hits so close to home it’s not funny.  I know so many little ones who are watching R rated films that they don’t have to imagine much anymore.  I’ve known of several who felt like it was justified because they didn’t think their kids understood what they were seeing – until something happened one day to make them realize that their kids were understanding things more than they’d thought.  It seems that we’ve gotten to a point now that it will be hard to dial it back.  I just hope it’s not too late.  I’ll admit, we have to let them in on certain things to help keep them safe, but do they really need to see sex scenes, actual violence, vulgar language and various other improprieties for a young audience.  Any ideas on how to help get that innocence back?

Sometimes you’ve gotta growl:  Sometimes, you’ve done everything you can do not to, but sometimes, you’ve just got to growl.  And, it may scare those around us, but it is usually because we love them and we have to get something very important across to them.  Do try to make sure it’s not your first method of getting your point across though.  Be prepared – like I said, it may scare or upset, but when you consider what you’re trying to get across, sometimes it’s got to happen.

Don’t forget to file your paperwork:  Sorry, couldn’t resist!  So…  paperwork…  whether its taxes or children’s artwork, it’s still one we ought to keep in mind, both literally and metaphorically.  What other things might we need to file away – to keep properly stored for a later date?  To you, this could be anything…  finally putting together that scrapbook from your last family vacation, writing down your list of “to do’s” or making new memories with your kids…  This is the sort of thing that may seem silly or mundane, but needs to be done.

So, I hope you’ve gotten a few helpful points out of Monsters, Inc.  This is one of my (and my hubby’s fav’s).  I keep thinking if I have kids, a Monsters, Inc. theme would be awesome – and gender neutral.  😉  Maybe one day.  I promise this little flick has fun in it for kids and adults alike – Pixar really does some wonderful animation work!

God Bless you all!


What do The Golden Compass, The DaVinci Code and The Exorcist have in common?



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Since I’m having such a hard time finding time to talk about a movie at the moment, I wanted to take a minute to talk about the issue of controversial movies, especially those aimed at the Catholic Church. Every so often, one of these movies will come out – and some are clamoring to go see it, and others are immediately digging their feet in and trying to convince everyone not to. What’s sad is, all the controversy almost always gives more credit than is due to these type of debates. Now, I’m not talking about pornographic or those that are just downright morally offensive. I’m talking about those that are fiction, but appear to take jabs at the Church.

So, here’s my typical strategy… use these sort of films to open a discussion! If you haven’t seen what all the hype is about, it’s hard to counteract it. Most of these movies are at least moderately entertaining, or no one would watch them. I usually wait until they come to TV or some other inexpensive or free venue, and I watch them. I remind myself (and you) to keep in mind the background of the film. If it’s fiction, remember that! Next, what issues did you have with the film, or what issues have you heard were problematic? Do some research on those things if you can’t answer them outright and proceed from there. Now, when people try to tell you things like “If you wanna know about the history of the Catholic Church, watch The DaVinci Code!” You can answer, with some understanding, what points were true and what points were not. I mean, when even the History Channel debunked The DaVinci Code, there are lots of points to be made. But do it calmly. Try not to let things get heated or flustered. That detracts from your point. Now when you hear about the bad guys, known as the Magisterium in the Golden Compass, you’ll understand why many in the Church saw it as a slam. What about a movie like the original “The Exorcist?” Why did the Church take issue with it? Go through the list.

Offer alternatives when you can. The perfect example is The Exorcism of Emily Rose – which was highly regarded as the best portrayal of an Exorcism that Hollywood has produced versus The Exorcist which deals with a doubting priest. If they see a film that paints a pope, saint or other figure in a negative light, surely if they’re worth arguing over, there is another one out there that is in line with what we understand to be true.

The key is to use them to help educate. They’ve already seen the film, in most cases, so which would you rather, help them understand the right way to see the Church, let them keep thinking that what they saw was true, or worse yet, add fuel to the fire by being hateful and demanding?

So, here’s the next question I get… what about letting your kids see these movies? For example, the Golden Compass was marketed toward kids. I got numerous e-mails about why not to let your kids see them, and many wanting me to send out something to our whole church. I suggested instead that they sit down with their kids, explain why they didn’t want them to see the movie, and if possible – eventually see it together (I do suggest parents screen films first, if possible) and discuss it with their child(ren). Help them to understand that there is a difference between the movie and what we believe – and explain those differences as best you can. That way, you won’t just be Mean Mommy… but you’ve helped them understand another aspect of our faith that they might not have gotten otherwise. And then, you never know… they might not be so fascinated with seeing a sequel! 😉

I hope that helps. God Bless!


In Her Shoes



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Borrowed from IMDB.com

Borrowed from IMDB.com

Maggie Feller: I carry your heart with me. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. Anywhere I go, you go, my dear. And whatever is done by only me… is your doing, my darling. I fear no fate… for you are my fate, my sweet. I want no world, for, beautiful… you are my world, my true. Here is the deepest secret no one knows. Here is the root of the root… and the bud of the bud… and the sky of the sky of a tree called life… which grows higher than the soul can hope… or mind can hide. It is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart. I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart.

Okay, so now its time to get in touch with the feminine…  Sorry guys, but this one is a chick flick.  Not to say you can’t get something out of it, but I’m just saying that the ladies in your life will probably identify with this one more than you will.

In Her Shoes is a story of sisters, their differences and the bond they share with their family.  Toni Collette plays Rose, the straight-laced and responsible sister.  Then there’s the flighty, flirtatious and frustrating Maggie, played by Cameron Diaz.  As different as these two sisters are, they need each other.  Their mother died when they were young.  Their father re-married a woman they don’t like and have been sheltered from a grandmother who had just a bit of a tendency to try to tell everyone what to do.  But, the girls are divided when Maggie breaks the oldest of the girl codes, by sleeping with Rose’s boyfriend.  Maggie has managed to burn her last bridge with everyone close to her.  But as luck would have it, in the process of pilfering around for cash, finds out about a Grandmother she thought was dead.  So, she takes off for a retirement home in Florida to sponge of her Grandmother.  In the meantime, Rose quits her job, gets a new boyfriend and tries to act like Maggie didn’t exist.

While in Florida, Maggie bonds with the Grandma she barely remembers and takes a job in the nursing center. There, she befriends a blind man who helps her build confidence in something other than her looks.  Rose does some growing of her own, but all the questions about Maggie’s whereabouts plaque her.  Then, Rose learns that there’s a Grandmother she didn’t know about, and she heads off to Florida and she finds herself face to face with Maggie.  During the visit, the girls start sharing and learn a little family history.  I’ll leave the rest to you to see for yourself.

Okay, so I promised that there was something to learn from this…  grab those Jimmy Choo’s and let’s go!

1.  Family is….  well, complicated.  Okay, so this one is a “no-brainer.”  As much as we need family, we really can hurt the ones we love the most.  Add to that, the fact that sometimes the ones we love need us to step back and let them make mistakes.  It’s hard to know when to hold them close and when to step back and it is such a fine line that it’s almost invisible.  However if we really listen to them, we should be able to find it before it’s gets too much either way.  They say we’re given one mouth and two ears for a reason.  So maybe our loved ones don’t need to hear every way they’re wrong.  I’ve got to get better at this one myself.

2.  There is a bond between sisters.     Between a combination of God’s grace, circumstance and parents who apparently liked each other, I have three sisters.  We are all very different, but each of us shares a different bond with each other.  There are fourteen years difference between the ages of oldest and the youngest.  We’ve set rules between us – we may not have written them down, but over time they’ve been established by years of being together as a family.  The topics we talk about, those we don’t…  and those we just shake our head at.  We see that with Rose and Maggie.  They share everything.  You can tell that when Rose and Maggie are reunited, Maggie is upset that she’s missed out on some major changes in Rose’s life.  And, as much as she wants to, Rose can’t stay angry with Maggie.  What I find fascinating is that Simon picks up on the how Maggie’s absence affects Rose.  As much as he loves her, he can tell that something is wrong…  he can’t seem to put his finger on it, but when he meets up with Rose in Florida, he can tell she’s back to herself.  He could see that Rose was not whole without Maggie.

3.  Perspective makes a difference.  It’s always amazing to me how two people can witness the same events and have completely different conclusions about them.  In the case of Rose and Maggie, the fact that Maggie was very little and was isolated from a lot of the craziness surrounding their early childhood and the death of their mother may have spared her a lot of the seriousness that Rose embodies.  Somehow, Rose always knew that her mother committed suicide but that was a new revelation to Maggie, who had always seen her Mother’s irregular behavior as just being really fun.  She recounts a story of her mother putting a tiara in her lunchbox one day.  The thought it was awesome that she got a tiara, however, she didn’t get lunch. Perspective. 

4.  Find what you love and stick with it.  I’ve said it over and over again, but it bears repeating.  Maggie discovers she has a talent for shopping for the ladies in the retirement village.  She loves to shop, and she manages to put it to use helping ladies these ladies to dress for weddings and other special events without having to fight shopping with their walkers, limited energy and various ailments.  She loves it and is good at it.  At the same time, Rose, quits working as a lawyer.  Simon tells her he thought it was because she loved it.  She admits, however, that it was not that she loved it, but that she was afraid of who she would be without it.  How often do we find ourselves doing something because it’s all we know (and not in a good way)?  It’s risky, and very scary, but something to think about.

5.  Don’t use people.  Help users find their niche.  I know, it’s obvious, but Maggie uses the people in her life until they can’t stand it anymore.  Her Grandmother allows it for a little while, but then manages to find a compromise where Maggie feels like she’s gaining and is able to build up some confidence.  I really don’t think she felt confident enough in herself to do any better before the deal.  Maybe that’s because she was babied her whole life, or maybe she just figured out that it worked and stuck with it.  Either way, it appears that once she really has a direction, the using stops.  One of the best methods of discipline is redirection.  How can we channel negative behaviors into positive ones?

In Her Shoes is rated PG-13 for good reason.  We start off with both Rose and Maggie having intercourse with their respective partners, and there is more as the movie progresses.  But for the most part, that’s over once the big fight erupts.  There’s also some innuendo and senior men gawking at Maggie strutting around in a string bikini and various low-cut or revealing outfits.

Whether you have a sister, or not, I hope you have someone you feel like you can share things with and I pray you won’t ever have to be tested in the manner that the relationship between Rose and Maggie is tested.  God Bless!




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image borrowed from Wikipedia

image borrowed from Wikipedia

Mike McDermott: You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. [pause] But you can’t win much either.   (Source:  IMDB.com)I don’t know what it is about Rounders – maybe it is the fact that I first saw it while I was spending a semester abroad in Rome, maybe I’m just a Matt Damon fan…  or maybe I’m just a sucker for a good movie where the underdog comes out ahead, I don’t know…  I really can’t tell you why I like Rounders…  I just do.

We see Matt Damon’s character, Mike McDermott seems like he has a pretty good life; he’s a law student who’s apparently doing well, got a girlfriend who is also in law school, and things just appear to be going in the right direction.  However, when his childhood friend, Lester “Worm” Murphey, played by Ed Norton, gets released from prison, his whole world get turned upside down.  We learn that Mike is a former gambler and apparently used to get into a lot of trouble with Worm and that Worm took the fall, refusing to rat out Mike, a debt Mike still feels like he owes and Worm is all-too-willing to remind him of.

So, with all the gambling, language and nudity we see in Rounders, what can we learn?  I know you’re expecting me to say “know when to hold them, and know when to fold ’em,” admit it!!  =)

1.  Loyalty is wonderful, but sometimes you do have to let the past be the past.  So Mike feels like he owes Worm.  It’s honorable that he respects that life he has could have been very different if Worm hadn’t covered for him.  However, when you see how poorly Worm treats him and how manipulative Worm is, you’ll understand.  We also have to consider that people change.  We don’t get to see what the relationship was like when Mike and Worm were kids.  The relationship may not always have been that bad, we may have to realize that part of Worm’s problem is the time he spent in the system and how he learned to cope.  But no matter what, I’m not saying to turn on Worm immediately, but Mike probably should have set some limits much earlier in the game.

2.  Listen to those with experience.  Mike definitely has people who both serve as consultors and guardian angels.  Joey Knish keeps alerting Mike to issues, so does Petra, plus Professor Petrovsky is like the wise old sage.  Some of them Mike does a better job of listening to than others…  But he finally wised up and realized that they weren’t trying to hold him back, only help.  It’s hard to see that sometimes.  We all want to think we’re in control – but, that certainly isn’t always the case.  Sadly, even Jo has been down this road with Mike before, but he doesn’t listen to her and she finally gets fed up and leaves him.  If Mike had listened to any of them, he could have been spared a lot of pain.

3.  You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.  I like to apply this one to just about anything you really want to do in life – and maybe even the things you don’t.  You don’t like math, you don’t invest yourself in it, you’re not going to get much out of it.  No matter what you want, you have to put in the effort.  The same goes for our faith.  We have to put a little work in to get anything out of it.  I get really frustrated with the “pew potatoes” that want to gripe about church, about not understanding the Mass, the Bible or the Catechism but won’t bother to try to remedy it and through self-study or learning opportunities at church.  Put in the effort – you may not be rewarded in the way you think, but you will be rewarded.

4. Know your limits.  Now, don’t take this to think I’m rescinding the previous paragraph or that there’s no point in dreaming, or working toward a goal.  But, you do have to know when you really need to change the game plan. You do have to consider how your decisions will affect not just you, but your family and others who depend on you.  You have to consider if the risk is worth the price.

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  When Mike finally realizes the depth of his trouble he does get help.  It’s humbling, but sometimes we really have to do it.  Asking for help takes many forms, it can be financial, educational, social, spiritual, etc.  We all have to do it at some point – we aren’t perfect, as much as we may strive to be.

Gambling addiction…  now, I didn’t mention anything about gambling addiction because I don’t think that’s what this movie is about.  There may be some addiction, but I think the point of the movie is the bond between Worm and Mike, and showing how two boys raised in similar straits are set apart by one event that affects them the rest of their lives, and how they deal with that based on their experiences.

So, Rounders is rated R for good reason.  I was serious about the gambling (duh), nudity (some scenes are set in a strip club, plus others that are just a way to show how bad things are), and the language is at times very vulgar.  But I don’t think we’d get a true sense of the seriousness of the setting if the filmmaker had toned things down for a PG-13 rating.  So don’t plan on watching it with youngsters around.  But, it’s still an enjoyable movie and one with a few good lessons if you’re willing to give it a chance.

With Honors



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With HonorsMonty: Why did you say that I was a loser?
Simon Wilder: Winners forget they’re in a race, they just love to run. You try too hard.

Monty: Simon wrote his own obituary, and he asked me to read it. “Simon B. Wilder bit it on Wednesday.”
[they laugh]
Monty: “He saw the world out of the porthole of a leaky freighter, was a collector of memories, and interrupted a lecture at Harvard. In 50 years on earth he did only one thing he regretted. He is survived by his family: Jeff Hawks, who always remembers to flush; Everett Calloway, who knows how to use words; Courtney Blumenthal, who is strong, and also knows how to love; and by Montgomery Kessler, who will graduate life with honor, and without regret.”

Quotes borrowed from:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111732/quotes?ref_=tt_trv_qu

Years back, I got the opportunity to spend a semester in Rome.  In preparations for the trip, a student who had been the previous semester was advising the group of us to make sure we really took in the sights we were going to be encountering; clarifying that he saw too many people who were so focused on capturing the sights through the lens of a camera and not ever stopping to just take in the beauty that the camera can’t capture.  That same advice would have been ignored by our lead character, Monty, played by Brendan Frasier until a series of events brings the homeless Simon Wilder, played by Joe Pesci, into Monty’s life.  Simon, on the other had – would have been content to catalog his experiences in a series of rocks, rather than miss the breathtaking scenes around him.

With Honors begins with Monty meeting with a professor about his thesis and Monty is assured that if all continues on the path he will graduate Summa Cum Laude.  But, when a computer meltdown sends him running to copy his only hardcopy of the first ten chapters, Monty manages to drop his precious thesis and it falls into the boiler room of Harvard’s Widner Library.  So, Monty sneaks to get his paper only to find it being tossed page by page into a furnace by Simon.  They strike a deal, that for each good thing Monty does for Simon, he gets one page of his precious thesis.  It is through this process that not only does Monty learn to see life as something more than a series of tasks, but he also learns that even a homeless bum is a human and therefore precious.

So, I’ve already told you to two of the biggest lessons…but how, and what else can we pull out of With Honors? 

1.  There’s nothing wrong with achievement, but don’t lose yourself along the way.  Whatever it is that drives Monty, his childhood, his desire to do good in the world or the desire to be the best; he’s so bogged down in the academic that he’s missing college life, ignoring his feelings and not seeing the good he could do now.  Monty’s page-by-page interaction with Simon forces him to slow down and to re-evaluate life (and his thesis).

2.  All human life is precious.  Simon is a bum.  He’s well-travelled and self-educated, but for whatever reason, is a homeless wino who left his wife and young son many years prior.  Monty starts off helping him only because his thesis is being held for ransom.  Monty’s roommates don’t want anything to do with him…he is ridiculed by one of Monty’s professors and basically everyone he encounters.  While visiting his son, a little girl comes running out and asks her daddy (Simon’s son) who the man in their driveway is, to which he replies “nobody.”  But Simon is human, as are all those who are in similar straits as well as the affluent.  One of Monty’s roommates, Jeff, is particularly scared by Simon.  Finally Simon calls him on it telling him that the reason Jeff doesn’t like him is because Simon looks how Jeff feels.  I wonder if that’s true for a lot of us…

3.  The best relationships come from friendship. Monty is in love with his roommate, Courtney.  They are obviously very close friends… but with a little push from Simon, Monty finally lets Courtney know how he feels.

4.  You can do your best to right your wrongs, but people may still hold a grudge. Simon goes to visit his son and it’s pretty clear that his son isn’t about to “forgive and forget.”  But, you can only do so much.  Maybe, if Simon could have lived longer he’d have seen a true reconciliation with his son.  But, given the constraints of his life, he didn’t have much choice.  So, you have to do what you can do…  but in the end, you have to live with the consequences and forgive yourself when there’s nothing else left.  The other line behind this is – do what you can not to have to right any wrongs.

5.  Sometimes the biggest regrets are not the things you’ve done, but the things that are left undone. How often do you wish you’d taken a chance?  What about telling someone special how you feel?  It takes a little prodding, but finally Monty gets it.  Simon finally goes to see his Son.  It didn’t go well, but he did it, he got to see his granddaughter.  Maybe if he could have stepped up the pace a little – things might have gone differently.  In any case, I’m not saying that you need to jump on every opportunity or chance for change that breezes past.  We do need to make decisions about which ones are really important, and which ones we need to allow to float past.  Maybe the question to ask yourself is “Will this be something I will really care about in 5, 10 or 20 years?”

6.  Write your own obituary.  In the film, Simon has a collection of obituaries and is studying them to write his own.  Simon actually writes that he “bit it” and lists that he left his wife and son, owning up publicly to something he could easily have chosen to keep private, sort of a public confession.  Have you ever thought about your obituary?  What points of your life would you want in print?   Does your family know what to put in for you?  Take the time to write it.  Does it make you see your life differently?  Does it make you feel like you’re busy for nothing?  You might find it helpful in prioritizing your life, but maybe it can also be something that can help your family in the event of your demise.  Hopefully, you’ll get to revise it MANY times before such an event happens, but none-the-less, it might be a great starting point for that end of life planning you’ve been putting off.

With Honors is PG-13 for good reason.  The “end” of Monty’s friendship with Courtney is left to the imagination although they are in bed together at one point. There is a quick shot of Monty’s rear when he jumps out of bed to help Simon.  Other than that, there are a lot of sex jokes and innuendo that infiltrate most of the movie.  But, if you’re wavering, I’d say the lesson learned is important enough to make it worthy.  It might also be that you could use clips to illustrate certain points about seeing others as human and how we can help each other.

Despicable Me



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Despicable MeEdith: When we got adopted by a bald guy, I thought this’d be more like Annie.

Gru: [reading the book he wrote] One big unicorn, strong and free, thought he was happy as he could be. Then three little kittens came around and turned his whole life upside down. They made him laugh, they made him cry. He never should have said goodbye. And now he knows he can never part from those three little kittens that changed his heart.

For more info, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1323594/

So Gru is the bad guy that we find ourselves identifying with many times…  I think that’s why we love him.  Gru is the sort of guy who moves cars when the parking spot he wants isn’t available.  He gets tired of waiting in line for coffee, so he freezes all those in between, grabs the coffee from the barista and goes on about his day.  Admit it, some part of you says “Yeah, there’s days I wish I could do that!”  Okay…  but Gru does go farther.  He’s a thief – and not petty crime…  major landmarks (well, sort of!).  So, in his bid for title of ultimate evil villain, he sets his sights on stealing THE MOON!  And, what does a vilian who needs a little bank roll to get him started on a plot to steal the moon, he goes to the Bank of Evil.  Make sure you pay attention to all the banking scandal references here, and the caryatids!  And, it is here that Gru meets his new nemesis – Vector.  But, he needs Vector, but you don’t just ask your nemesis for the tool he has that you need.  Nope, a good vilian- and one who has to prove himself – has to find a way to steal it.  That’s where three little orphan girls come in.   Gru sees the girls selling cookies door to door and notices how easily they are granted access to people’s homes as they sell & deliver the cookies…  what a great distraction!  So Gru lies to the woman running the orphanage (who isn’t very nice to the girls either) and goes home with three sweet, energetic and slightly precocious little girls; Margo, Edith & Agnes.  In essence the girls save Gru and he finds his true calling.

This is a very cute, funny and absolutely precious movie.  So, if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out.  I believe it’s on Netflix and it runs on TV intermittently.  It seems to appeal to both men and women as well as boys and girls.

So, what does Despicable Me teach us?  There’s a few things here…

1.  Crime doesn’t pay.  Despite what you’d be led to believe at the Bank of Evil, crime doesn’t pay for either of our villains.  Don’t get me wrong, they have nice houses and have profited from their past endeavors, but neither villain profits from the current escapade.  In fact, monetarily, both lose out.

2.  New isn’t always better, just different.  Vector is the new guy.  He thinks he’s better and smarter than Gru, but there are times that Gru’s ways just work better.  Let’s just say, experience.  Gru’s methods are a little slower and maybe even a little more clumsy, but he gets results.  Vector relies so much on technology that even though he thinks he’s ready for everything, he misses a few things.

3.  Teamwork!  Gru is a team player.  He relies on Dr. Nefario, for inventions, his minions for base operations support as well as using their various talents on his missions, and he relies on the girls.  Vector uses technology as his “team,” but since they’re all his inventions, they share his short-sightedness.  Gru discusses and works out plans with his team.  All the players are working toward a goal, and also watch out for each other.

4.  The right decisions aren’t always easy.  Gru is faced with a very tough decision.  Be with the girls, whom he has grown to love, or continue with his master plan of stealing the Moon.  Dr. Nefario helps with this decision by having the girls sent back without Gru’s permission…  So Gru trudges on.  However, he has second thoughts and tries to right his wrong.

5.  You can overcome your childhood.  Gru’s mom was not one to give love easily.  In fact, she’s pretty mean.  Not the sort of “slap you around” type mean, but probably the worse one, psychological.  She’s always taking cheap shots at Gru, undermining his dreams and intelligence, and may even be the reason he decided to become a villan in the first place.  I mean, if you are raised thinking you can’t do any good, why not jut plan on being bad?  Now, PLEASE don’t take this to mean that a traumatic childhood can’t affect you.  But sometimes, those struggles, as awful as they may be, can lead us to help others in a way we might not have thought of otherwise.  Like I’ve said before, sometimes – just doing the opposite of the example we’re given can be a huge service to others!

6.  Love triumphs.  So, like I said, Gru tries to right his wrong and get the girls back.  As much as he tried not to, those girls melted his iron maiden heart and he began doing things for them, not just making deals with them to get what he wants.  And, on top of that, he finally gets kinds words from his mother.

7.  It’s okay for our only talent, to be loving others.  So, Gru isn’t the smoothest villan.  He hasn’t had the best luck in being a vilian…but we see that once he opens his heart to love, that his is wonderful at it.  Have you ever noticed that a loving individual lights up a room, gets other people to feel safe and all in all is just a joy to be around.  Those dear angels give us a glimpse of God’s unfathomable love.  I just hope we follow that example and bring that love to others!

So, you know in the beginning when I said we all have this part of us that identifies with Gru?  Well, I hope that you find that to be true – but in his love!

God Bless!

The Letter Writer



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So I had a quiet day at the office doing simple tasks like licking about 500 envelopes, so I put my Netflix account to use and stumbled upon The Letter Writer.  It’s another one that I never heard about but found it to be quite a gem.  So teenage singer Maggie has been having trouble at school and at home… her best friend betrays her, but just prior to all the mess, she receives a seemingly personal  letter from someone she doesn’t know.  It’s not the sort of personal letter that a stalker would send, but an uplifting and inspiring one.  A quick run through her family doesn’t find the letter’s author, so the resourceful young lady heads to the post office, where a carrier just happens to have another letter written to someone else but in the same handwriting.  So the chase leads to a retirement home – and luck or divine providence leads her to the letter’s author, Sam.

She is led through all the things Sam does.  He teachers her very valuable life lessons – and she has a bit of a conversion.  I’ll leave the summary there so I don’t spoil it any more than I already have…

So, what do we learn in The Letter Writer?  First, do what you do to the best of your ability.  Sam (the Letter Writer) writes beautiful, encouraging notes that uplift and inspire.  He does it every day and for random strangers.  Maggie asks him to teach her, but he says that he doesn’t know if it’s her gift.  She has to find her own gift and use it to help others.  Maybe it is letter writing, but most likely, it’s not.

Second, little things.  Sort of like in Contact, it’s the small moves.  Sam writes notes.  Not novels, not newspaper articles…  notes.  Small gestures, that mean the world to the recipients.  Sometimes just little things that are done do more than huge overtures.

The next lesson is about using your gifts to help others.  Sam could have used his talents to write a novel, or something else, but instead, he chose to bless others with his eloquent words through the letters and notes.  Maggie loves to sing, and finds her voice is her talent, and uses it to bring joy to others.  She also records books onto CD for a young boy in her building with cancer.  What talents do you have?  Are you using them at all?  Are you working on them?  Are you using them to help others?  Sometimes its hard to see how you can use your talents…  you think they’re not helpful to others – but for most every talent, there’s a need.  Maybe you have a great mind for tax law – can you give some time to help someone who cannot afford hiring someone to do their taxes and is not able to do it themselves.  Maybe you think you have a silly talent – organize a silly talent show and take it on the road to the local nursing homes or one big show for a favorite charity – or specifically invite those who don’t get to get out much…  Offer small classes with your talents.  You never know when someone is just looking for a reason to get out of the house.  There’s always something that can be done.

Also notice that Sam doesn’t force his talent on Maggie.  I’m sure he was honored that she wanted to learn how to write letters as he does, but he recognized that she was being called to something else.  Sometimes that’s the hardest thing, isn’t it…  to help others recognize their talents?  We tend to think people know what they’re good at, but how often do we see people frustrated and feeling inadequate.  It’s usually because they really don’t know where they fit, or because they just don’t have enough confidence in what they do.  We can help them find their place, it may take some time, but everyone has something.

Another great lesson is have something worth getting up for each day.  It appears that Sam has no living family, just his friends in the nursing home.  But, he sets his mind to write these letters and notes every day to have something to get up for.  I once heard that George Burns even at a very advanced age had planned events as much as ten years down the road.  It gave him a reason to keep going.  I’ve even heard that many animals live longer if they feel like they have something to do.  I think, simply put, we need something to help keep up our will to live.  What are your reasons to get up each day?

Another lesson Sam passes to Maggie is the age-old – surround yourself with the sort of people you want to be.  If you are a liar and cheat, you will attract those sort of people and you’ll never be able to trust them.  But if you surround yourself with people you aspire to be more like (hopefully faith filled people, whatever your faith), you’ll find yourself falling more easily into habits of prayer, joy and love.  He also teaches her to support those you love.  He and a friend come to Maggie’s concert, even though it’s not their type of music.

I hope, that whatever your reasons for getting up each day, you’ll take part of it to try to help brighten someone else’s day.  Even if it’s just holding a door open with a smile.  I also challenge you to try to discern (if you haven’t already) how your talent(s) can benefit others and how you can help others identify their talents!

God Bless!

Simon Birch



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simon birchAdult Joe Wenteworth: [voiceover] I am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice, not because of his voice, or because he was the smallest person I ever knew, or even because he was the instrument of my mother’s death, but because he is the reason I believe in God. What faith I have, I owe to Simon Birch, the boy I grew up with in Gravedown, Maine.

Rev. Russell: What are you doing sitting in a corner Simon?
Simon: Thinking about God.
Rev. Russell: In a corner?
Simon: Faith is not in a floor plan.

Quotes borrowed from IMDB.com.

You could almost call Simon Birch a movie about a big boy with little faith and a small boy with big faith, but that would hardly do it justice.  Simon Birch is a small boy, so small he wasn’t expected to live more than a week when he was born.  Simon KNOWS he was created for a purpose, but somehow manages to get under everyone’s skin and find lots of trouble in his search.  His parents seem to care very little for him and it’s actually his best friend, Joe and Joe’s Mom that are the only ones who really seem to care about Simon.  Add to that, Joe and Simon’s search for Joe’s biological father (his mother refuses to tell) and you’ve got a movie with a lot of meaning.

First, it gets under everyone’s skin that Simon goes around saying that he was created for a purpose.  Why?  Aren’t we all?  Granted, we may not run around telling people like Simon does, but why did it bother everyone so much?  Even the Reverend seems to dismiss Simon’s questions about purpose.  He agrees with Simon saying that he’s glad that Simon’s faith helps him deal with his “condition,” but then when Simon leaves, he makes a little comment under his breath that makes you realize that he didn’t really believe in Simon’s calling.  And how does a child who is basically ignored by his parents and ridiculed by most everyone else, come to such a conclusion?  Where does that faith and sureness come from?  About midway through the movie, Simon has an exchange with Joe’s mothers boyfriend, Ben, where he says he’s watching for a sign – sort of like Moses and the burning bush, but he guesses God’s not into that type of communication anymore.  But at the same time, Simon says he feels like God needs to hurry up, he thinks his time is running out.

Those of us who are believers, believe that we are called by our baptism to be saints.  What do you think you may be being called to do?  Have you felt that little tug at your heart to do something, get more involved, or do something differently?  What?  Do you recognize it at the time or do you see it in hindsight? Do you think Simon would agree in light of his insistence that he is God’s instrument?

Simon is being raised by parents who don’t care about him other than when everyone is talking about one of his escapades.  Joe defends Simon to them telling them he’s a hero and that they don’t deserve him.  We see so many cases of parents who don’t deserve the gift of a child on the news – and in society as a whole.  Even when kids are a nightmare, do we still see them as a gift from God, or just another chore?  Do we encourage them?  Do we help them on their faith journey, or do we put up obstacles to it?  Parents are supposed to be the primary teachers of their children.  All of the other learning out there is great and they should be exposed to many different methods of learning including being able to get the gift of the experiences others can provide, but do we do our part, or do we expect others to do it for us?  Are we doing our part to educate ourselves to make sure children receive the best we have to offer?

Simon Birch also brings up a chance to talk about disabilities.  How do we view those with disabilities?  Do we see them as “less than” in some way?  Just recently I saw a video by two brothers (with a lot of help) defending their sisters with Downs Syndrome  http://www.parenting.com/blogs/show-and-tell/sasha-parentingcom/boys-defend-sisters-down-syndrome-viral-video.  Obviously the people they’re addressing did not see Downs Syndrome as a gift.  What can people with disabilities teach us?  What has someone with disabilities taught you?  Do you have disabilities?  Have those struggles helped you in some way or given you other gifts?  Has anyone told you what your struggle has meant to them?

Simon is also critical of the church he attends.  He says things like: if God is making the church bake sale a priority, we’re in trouble and that God doesn’t care about a continental breakfast.  What do you think he’s getting at with that?  Do you feel that way?  Or, do you feel that church should do more?  Do various activities bring people do church, or can they have the opposite effect?  When or why do you see that happening?

Are we threatened by people of faith?  Do we dismiss, belittle, or do we encourage those of faith?  How?  How can we deal with our fears if we have them?  How can we support those of faith and our own?  Do we force our faith on others?  How can we be respectful of those who don’t have patience with our faith without belittling our own?  How can we help other be more faith filled, or can we?

Simon Birch is rated PG-13 for good reason, despite his faith, he is still a 12-year-old with certain curiosities and a bit of a foul mouth, but this is one that I think the message outweighs the reasons for the rating.   It does get intense and might be hard for anyone much younger to take.  It is one that will make you laugh and cry and hopefully look deeper into God’s purpose for your life.

For more information on Simon Birch, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0124879/

Big Fish



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Big FishYoung Ed Bloom: There are some fish that cannot be caught. It’s not that they are faster or stronger than other fish, they’re just touched by something extra.

Will Bloom: That was my father’s final joke, I guess. A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him. And in that way he becomes immortal.

Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor both play Edward Bloom in this mix of fantasy and reality that leaves you wondering what was really true and what wasn’t.  Edward is dying, apparently far enough along that his son Will (played by Billy Crudup) has come to be with him.  Will thinks his Father’s stories are all tall tales (or at least not “short ones” as Edward says), each one more extreme than the last.  The viewer is flipped back and forth between  Edward’s deathbed and flashbacks to his youth up through adulthood.

I honestly still don’t know if I fully “get” Big Fish, but I really like it and watch it on a regular basis.  It’s a beautiful film and watching it (more specifically the stories Edward tells) remind me of all those far out bible stories we’re taught from the time we’re kids.  Sometimes, I identify more with Edward – that the stories are necessary, something to draw attention to an otherwise boring event.  But sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I find myself identifying with Will, saying “just get to the point.”  There’s even an exchange where Will hears the real story of the day he was born from Edward’s doctor.  Will comments that he likes the boring version, but even the doctor says if he had the two stories to choose from, he’d pick the elaborate one.

So, let’s be honest.  How many of us find ourselves identifying with Will?  Do we want God to just get to the point?  Do we doubt what God is telling us – either in Sacred Scripture or in our lives? How do we deal with it?  Have we had any experiences that might make us lean a little more to Edward’s side?  Will thinks his Dad tells these stories to steer attention to himself.  Since the primary event that splits the two is Edward’s toast at Will’s wedding, is it so much that Edward steers to attention to himself, of that Will feels like he’s not the center of things?  How does that relate to us?  And when we identify with Edward, what is it about him that we identify with?

This is also a good time to reflect on some of those bible stories we think are pretty impossible.  Did Moses really live to be 120 years old, or was that just an issue of calendars?  What about Jonah and the whale?  Would we have paid attention to the birth of a savior without all the angels, shepherds, wise men and a death threat?  Do we think these stories are a case of poetic license or a statement of fact?  And, if you see it as fact, then what about the stories with differing details?  Or do the details really matter?

As Edward is dying, he keeps saying “That’s not how I go.”  He supposedly saw his death in a witch’s eye when he was a child.  Does he really know how he goes or is it just his way of reassuring everyone? What do you make of it?  If you knew how you would go, would it reassure you, or scare you?

What about the reoccurrence of water?  And Edward’s statements that he’s thirsty – or drying up?  Can the water have a reference to baptism?  Is his thirst physical or spiritual?  What sort of case can you make for each?

What or who are the big fish in our lives?  Do we bait it / them with gold or something else?  Edward finally catches his fish, but he lets her go.  What do you make of that?  Could Edward letting the fish go be equated with God’s Mercy somehow?

What story or stories would you want to be remembered for?  What story should you tell your children – or remind them of?  What happens when you tell or retell your stories?  Do your listeners believe you?  Do you have storytellers in your life?  What sort of stories do they tell?  What role does storytelling have in passing on our faith?

As you can see this is a film that leaves us with more questions than answers (even without my spin on things).  There’s just enough truth to everything that you just don’t know what all to believe (like when Will finds the deeds to Spectre and the visitors at Edward’s funeral).  All we really know is that Edward Bloom is a social person and Big Fish is full of stories!  I guess the final question is, “Does it matter?”  I’m still finding things (possible meanings, glimmers of meditations and ideas for discussion) in Big Fish – and somehow like Edward’s stories, I think there will be plenty here to think about for a lifetime!

It is rated PG-13 for some brief scenes involving nudity although not sexual.  There is also a headed exchange between Will and Edward – and one sexual reference, so if watching with a young audience, you will definitely want to preview it first…  but on the whole, it’s a fantasy with adventure, laughs and drama and Tim Burton’s classic style of cinematography.

For more info, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0319061/

Life or Something Like it



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life or something like itCal: Is this you breaking up with me? Well will you think about it for a minute?
Lanie: A minute just seems like a really long time to waste.
Quote borrowed from imdb.com

Are you someone who’s ruled by your horoscope, or had a fortune-teller give you bad news? Well, if so, you may not find the predicament Lanie Kerrigan (Angelina Jolie) finds herself in all that funny. Lanie is a reporter who finds herself having to interview a homeless man (Tony Shalub) whose prophesies, while slightly cryptic, have a strange way of coming true. It’s supposed to be fluff, but definitely takes a turn in the other direction. During the interview he tells her that she is going to die in just a few days. She blows it off at first, but then as some of his other predictions come true, she panics. And, to top it off, in her hour of need, it appears that the only one willing to help her is the guy she’s had the most confrontation with, Pete (played by Edward Burns).

Lanie’s struggle to deal with just a few days of life left to live teaches us a few things through the course of this movie:

1. Work isn’t everything. It’s great to have pride in your work, but it’s like the old Billy Ray Cyrus song (Busy Man) that says “Have you ever seen a headstone that says ‘I wish I’d spent more time at work?'” Laney has made her work her life – but when she realizes how close she may be to the end, it her concern about work centers around how it defines her. To her, getting her dream job equals success, but at the same time, she risks jeopardizing her new job offer as she tries to figure out what to do IF Prophet Jack’s predictions come true. We work so hard to try to “get ahead,” but at what expense? What / who are we really working for? Do we do it for our glory, or Gods?

2. Stop and smell the roses. Pete always takes Tuesdays off. That’s his day where he doesn’t answer the phone unless he wants to – it’s his day. We all need time off to re-set and recharge. Do we set aside a day for worship? Or, do we treat each day as just another day?

3. We will not know the hour. “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Matthew 24:36. Some people use this to go out and do things the shouldn’t for the sake of experience. Some people would spend the whole time in Church trying to get clean before they have to meet St. Peter. Yes, we should live each day as though it’s our last, but what does that mean to you? Regardless of what you think you might do if today was your last, what do you God wants us to do?

4. Die to self. Wasn’t that what really happened to Lanie? It is a sort of death… maybe more important than the physical one. That last part, “self” is hard to give up on. St. Augustine tells of knowing the truth long before he was willing to give in to it. He was enjoying his playboy ways and wasn’t ready to give them up, despite knowing that he was in the wrong. We sometimes have a hard time giving up that one thing that we are hanging on to so hard. What’s something you find you really need to give up in your life – or maybe it’s not so much giving up something, but making time for something you need to do that you don’t find appealing? How many of us find church boring? Do we pray as we should? Do we study the scriptures as we should? Do we need to stop trying to control everything? My favorite prayer is that of Mychal Judge (911 priest & NYFD Chaplain). Think about it a little. We need to allow some room to let Him work! It goes:

Lord, take me where You want me to go;
Let me meet who You want me to meet;
Tell me what you want me to say, and
Keep me out of Your way.

5. Family should not be treated as an obligation. Lanie finds out that Pete has a son, and tells him, “I thought you didn’t have any obligations” to which Pete replies that he doesn’t see him as an obligation. How often do we view our kids, parents, husband, extended family, whatever as an obligation instead of the blessings that they are? Do we know people who’ve lost loved ones and would give anything to get them back? What do they say when they hear others complain about their families? How can we help them?

6. The opinions of others don’t matter. All that matters is how you view yourself and most importantly – How God sees you! Lanie admits to her idol that everything she’s done is so that others will think she’s special. We also see that Lanie things that her Dad always favored her sister, she’s always felt “less than” everyone else, which is part of why she put her job and all the externals things in life such a priority. Those were the things other people saw and therefore, they might see her. Do we think God notices us? Do we feel His love? Can you talk about a time when you really felt like God was there for you?

So, Life of Something Like It is worth checking out. I recommend watching it with someone you love and making sure they know how you feel. If watching it with young ones, it is PG-13 for a reason. There are discussions of casual sex and one sensual scene, but there’s no nudity as I recall. But hopefully, it’ll help you think about what you’d do in Lanie’s situation – and maybe help you put things in perspective.

God Bless!

For more info check out: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0282687/

The Family Stone



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family_stoneSo, my husband challenged me a while back to try to find something teachable in The Family Stone.  I’m not sure if that was because he didn’t think I’d be able to do anything with it, or what.  However, there are few movies I bother with that don’t have something worth learning in them – even if it’s by making sure to do the complete opposite.  So I accepted the challenge.  Plus, being set during the holidays – maybe it will help anyone who’s a slightly cynical soul looking for a holiday movie that’s not “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “The Grinch that Stole Christmas.”

The Family Stone is the classic, “bring the girlfriend home to meet the parents” movie.  Everything that can go wrong, does – and throw in some dark humor with a dying parent, a switcheroo and you’ve got it.  Dermot Mulroney plays Everett Stone and Sarah Jessica Parker plays his girlfriend Meredith Morton.  Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson are Everett’s parents and Rachel McAdams and Luke Wilson play Everett’s siblings (there’s another brother and sister, too, who are recognizable but not listed among the movie’s star roles).  Meredith is already on edge after a rocky lunch with Everett’s sister Amy (McAdams) as Everett takes her to meet his parents for Christmas.  Meredith is stiff and while she means well, just about everything she does is seen as pretentious and snotty.  So, when Everett asks his mother for the family engagement ring, she refuses.  Not to be stopped, Everett soldiers on and buys a ring to propose to Meredith.  Due to all that has gone wrong, Meredith asks her sister, Julie (played by Claire Danes), to join her so she’s at least got someone on her side.  Add some alcohol and reuniting with some old friends and you have the essence of The Family Stone.

Despite its PG-13 rating, I wouldn’t show this to a young group of teens.  The situations encountered are very adult, plus the sex and drug references might be uncomfortable for many.  Some may also find the incredibly liberal Stone household offensive.  So consider yourself warned if you think that may concern you.  If you decide to give it a try what can you get out of it?

1.  Let your freak flag fly.  In other words, be yourself.  Maybe Meredith really was being herself, but based on what we see later in the movie, her nerves had her putting on airs – and it definitely wasn’t appreciated in the Stone household.  In fact, it’s commented on that she seems so insecure that they don’t think she knows herself.  Then Julie arrives on the scene.  Julie is natural, unassuming, and seems to get along with the Stones just fine; so much so, that she can’t see why Meredith wanted her to come so badly.  Once she loosened up, Meredith showed that she really could be fun.  We also see that Meredith is a thoughtful person when it’s all said and done.

2.  Sometimes there’s more to the story than we realize.  Sybil Stone, Everett’s mother has a reoccurrence of her cancer.  She and Kelly (Nelson) have opted not to tell the family until after Christmas has passed.  Ironically, Ben (Wilson), who you might claim was the oblivious one in the family, is the one who figures it out first.  Sybil’s need to make sure that all of the kids are taken care of before her death comes out as being overbearing and unforgiving, at least as far a Meredith is concerned.  She even makes the comment that it’s not her (Meredith) that’s the problem, it’s just that she and Everett aren’t a good fit and she doesn’t think she’ll be around to help him sort it out.  It does eventually all come out, but it’s not until most of the damage is already done.  We also see that twice Everett is asked if his insistance on proposing to Meredith has to do with Sybil’s condition and everyone seems to doubt that he really loves her anyway.  How often do we rush into something trying to beat some sort of clock?  Maybe it’s the fear of death, maybe it’s sibling rivalry, but we’ve all got to sit back and let a certain divine clock be the only clock we want to keep in time with.

3.  Anger isn’t worth hanging on to.  Amy Stone (McAdams) seems to be so angry and defensive, as does Sybil.  Sybil’s feelings seem justified and Amy’s may be too…  but it doesn’t help anything.  All it managed to do is lay out a minefield even the nicest person would have difficulties navigating.  Believe me, Meredith finds each and every one of them!  Carrying around that anger didn’t make them happier, or even give them any satisfaction.  But, once they put the anger aside, everything goes MUCH smoother.

4. Sometimes we need to put up with people we don’t care for, for the ones we love.  When Everett tells his family off just before taking Meredith to a nearby inn, he tells them just that…  No matter what they think of her, they should be respectful because she is the woman he loves.  The same goes for everyone really.  We should love others because God loves them – and out of love for Him, we love and respect our fellow man.  Simple on the surface, but definitely harder in practice!

5.  There’s a hole in your heart.  Julie tells a story about a guy in Alaska that carved an amazing totem pole, he felt called to do it, saying that he felt like he had a hole in heart something he needed to do to be able to sleep at night.  It’s a minor part of the film, but its sort of the thing that brings her and Everett together.  Earlier in the film we see that when Everett and Meredith met, Everett was trying to get out to a monastary with the largest metal Budda statue.  He feels like he needs to do this – but Meredith seems to think it’s silly.  How often do you feel called to do something?  Do you feel like you have a hole in your heart that needs to be filled, something so important to you that it keeps you awake at night?  Do others “get” what you are trying to do? Why you feel like you need to do it?

I will say that every time I’ve seen The Family Stone, I’ve noticed a different detail of it.  It was one of those movies that I didn’t care for the first time I watched it (most likely due to the over the top liberal Stone family compounded by the fact that I just don’t care for Sarah Jessica Parker), but for some reason, I was still drawn to see it again – and at this point I’ve watched it many times…  The romantic in me likes it that we see how the re-arrangement of the couples and finding someone for all the singles makes for a much more pleasant dynamic.  Maybe there’s something to be said for how those around us affect our behavior.  Or maybe it’s just that everything worked out the way it was supposed to, regardless of the arguing, bantor and sheer bull-headedness!

For more information check out:  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0356680/




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contactPalmer Joss: [Ellie challenges Palmer to prove the existence of God] Did you love your father?
Ellie Arroway: What?
Palmer Joss: Your dad. Did you love him?
Ellie Arroway: Yes, very much.
Palmer Joss: Prove it.

Quote thanks to imdb.com

This “oldie but goodie” is one of my all time favorites.  I have always been fascinated by the faith versus science debate.  Do faith and science have to be exclusive of each other, or can science prove matters of faith?

“Blessed are those who have not seen, but believe.”  John 20:29

Jodie Foster plays Dr. Ellie Arroway, a SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) scientist whose mother died during childbirth and was raised by her father until his death when she was around 10.  Early in her career, she ends up doing SETI work in Puerto Rico where she meets Palmer Joss, played by Matthew McConaughey, whose questions of faith get under the skin of Ellie and all those involved in SETI research.  Her time in Puerto Rico is short-lived as funding is pulled and she ends up working for innovator S. R. Hadden.

Then one night, the team stumbles upon a signal.  It isn’t long before they realize that embedded within the signal is video and plans for a machine.  There’s a lot of fumbling for credit and questions as to whether or not this signal is friendly or not.  But, eventually, the machine is built and the search is on for who will take the maiden voyage in the machine.  Palmer Joss comes back on the scene and ends up on the committee who is in charge of selection and tanks Ellie’s chance to go out of fear of losing her.

But, nothing is simple, and the person chosen to go dies when a religious zealot sabotages the machine.  But, government redundancy being what it is, there was a second one built simultaneously and secretly, and Ellie goes after all.

While gone, she has an amazing experience, however, all they see back on earth looks like nothing happened.  So then, a big debriefing occurs and Ellie’s experience is questioned since she has no proof of her experience.

There are tons of faith verses science exchanges throughout the movie – I wish I could list them all, but then it’s a great reason to check it out for yourself.

So, what do we learn in our contact with Contact?

1.  Just because it hasn’t been proven yet, doesn’t mean it won’t or can’t be.  The battle between faith and science have been ongoing and what is interesting is how many times they actually seem to reinforce each other or that they’ve bowed to each other.  The Catholic Church has apologized to Galileo for refusing to acknowledge that the Earth revolves around the Sun instead of vice versa.  Catholic teaching at this point does not contradict evolution.  You do not have to believe or deny the theory of evolution to be considered a Catholic in good standing.  Those who choose to believe in evolution do so based on the idea that God’s time is not our standard seven-day calendar week.  Therefore, the work of creating the world could have stretched across months, years or eons.

2. Watch what you say because one day, the shoe may be on the other foot.  Ellie, I would venture to say, was atheist, but when it came to asking the panel to believe that she was really gone for about 15 hours, when all they saw was about two minutes of apparent failure.  With no proof to speak of, she asked them to have faith in her.  Sadly, her own arguments prior to her experience were used against her.

3.  We are all searching for truth.  Where do we come from?  Why are we here?  Are we alone?  Are we as wired for God?  Does God exist?  What other questions might faith and science be trying to answer?  Do you think they’ll come to an understanding, or do you think it will drive people to one side or the other?

4.  Some of the most notable scientists have been believers.  Why?  Why are so many not?  There’s an anecdote out there about Louis Pasteur and an atheist having a conversation when the atheist saw Pasteur pray the rosary.  Whether or not the story is true, Pasteur was known for his Catholic faith.  Many scientists claim that there is still too much out there that is unexplained to give up belief.  Some say the more they learn, the more they believe in God because something so complex as our world and our bodies couldn’t be a fluke of misaligned atoms.  Others, will always see science as proving we don’t need God.  Does our upbringing or preconceived notions of faith affect how we view the findings in the field of science?

So, do you find yourself more in Ellie’s camp, or Palmer’s?  Does it depend on the day, what’s going on in your life?  Do you think Palmer ever waivered during the film?

So, if you haven’t seen this one in a while, I encourage you to watch it again…  and if you’ve never seen it, it is a treat.


Henry Poole is Here



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Henry Poole is Here deals with that basic issue of faith. How is it that we can look at the same thing, and see something completely different from the person next to us? What does looking through the lens of faith do to our outlook? And why does faith seem to come so easily to some, and not others? Why are some people so afraid of it?

Henry Poole is Here is just a good, pretty clean movie with an ending that is slightly open to interpretation. Does Henry Poole find faith?

Here’s the skinny… this movie opens with Henry Poole (Luke Wilson) buying a house.  He really wanted a different house on the same street, but the owners wouldn’t budge, so he takes the one that’s for sale.  It has a spot where there’s a little damage to the stucco, and even though Henry says to leave it alone, the real estate agent has it repaired.  Through periodic flashbacks, we see that Henry has been diagnosed with some sort of terminal disease.  We never hear what or how long he’s supposed to have, but it sends him into a state of bitterness and anger.

Enter a neighbor who swears she sees the face of Jesus in the stucco repair job.  Henry tries to wash it off, which only seems to make it worse.  Next thing he knows, there is a shrine outside his house and lines of people flocking to it asking for miracles.  Not exactly the kind of activity you want going on while you’re trying to wallow in self-pity and isolation.

In the middle of everything, Henry befriends a neighbor with a little girl who doesn’t talk.  He’s afraid to get too close knowing his time is short, but can’t seem to stop.  The little girl, Millie, sneaks out one night and touches the wall, which seems to restore her speech.  Then the checkout girl from the local market touches it and no longer has to wear her EXTREMELY thick glasses.  But it’s still not enough for Henry.  He has no faith.

Next thing you know, testing shows no explanation for the face of Jesus that is still on the side of Henry’s house, and on top of that, the red substance it oozes is found to be blood.  Henry finally can’t take it anymore!  Sadly, I have to stop there to prevent ruining the ending for you…you’ll have to see it to find out what happens.

This is one of those movies that I watched with my hubby and expected him to hate because of the religious aspect of it, but it is my understanding that he really enjoyed it, so I’d say this isn’t just a flick for those of faith.  In fact, those who find themselves questioning and searching may find this film even more fulfilling because they can identify with the search.

So, what reasons keep people from finding faith?  Is it just that they aren’t convinced or don’t want to be?  St. Augustine talked about how he knew the truth long before he was willing to give in to it.  Henry is presented with a couple of miraculous events, but he keeps trying to reason them away.  Maybe they were psychosomatic.  Maybe their faith is what healed them more than an actual miraculous intervention.  Maybe that’s what Jesus means when he tells the different people that their faith has healed them.  For example, in the story of healing the hemorrhaging woman.  She just touches Jesus and he tells her that her faith has healed her (Mark 5:21-43).

Another question for discussion is, “Do we find the neighbor, Esperanza, inspiring or annoying?”  How often do we find ourselves in these type of confrontations in life?  Do we stick to our guns or slink away to keep from causing hard feelings?  What are you reactions to the priest?  Does he strike you as trying to be a mediator, or luke warm?  Do you think he believes in Esperanza?

If you haven’t checked this one out, you ought to try it…  maybe you’re experience will be different, maybe not…  but let me know what you think!  God Bless!





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What most attracted you to your significant other, or any of your friends?  Why do we think we have to be the “ideal” rather than ourselves when we meet people, especially those we consider potential mates?  Hitch deals with just those questions.  But, rather than bolstering the self-esteem of the clients he works with, he tries to teach them how to be cool to attract the object of the client’s affection.

Hitch, played by Will Smith, takes on a client named Albert Brennaman (played by Kevin James) who has totally lost it over the beautiful socialite Allegra Cole (played by Amber Alletta).  Hitch also has his own love interest, with whom his relationship has a much bumpier time getting off the ground.  Add to all that, that Hitch’s girl, Sara Melas (played by Eva Mendes) is a reporter trying to expose the so-called “date doctor.”  It makes for a funny, but very meaningful film.

At first it appears that Hitch’s smooth lines, grooming tips and list of dating dos and don’ts are really the way to the heart of the girl of your dreams.  And, while they do help, somehow it turns out that when the true feelings are exposed it’s when those brief glimpses of the real person are shown that the connection is really made.  So, I think this can best be summarized as “be courteous (as we all should), but be yourself.”  What good is it to work so hard to attract someone if you have to keep up a false facade?  It’s too hard to keep up that mask, and one day you’ll both wake up wondering who you really are.  Albert is told not to dance, but he does anyway when he thinks Allegra isn’t watching.  He’s told not to use his inhaler, but he does anyway (then chucks it in a sudden burst of courage).  He just can’t hold his true self in.  Similar things happen to Hitch.  Despite his attempt to be cool and suave, an allergic reaction not only makes him look like he has some sort of disease, the medication he takes for it make him talk and say things he would never say if he wasn’t under the influence.

Another point to be made in this movie is “Don’t jump to conclusions!!!!”  We tend to pigeon-hole people into areas based on what we see and in the process we might miss out on getting to know someone wonderful.  We see a great example of this with the whole Albert and Allegra part of the movie.  No one can see what she sees in him, both in his appearance and awkwardness.  It makes the idea that there is a mysterious date doctor out there so much more probable.

On that same track, Sara’s friend Casey, has a one night stand with a man she thinks she has a connection to.  As he’s leaving, he comments “date doctor my a**” which she takes to mean that she’s been played by someone who’s a client of Hitch’s.  However, in reality, Hitch refused to work with Casey’s one-night-wonder because he tries to connect people who are in love, not just out for tail.  So, Casey shares the story with her bestie, Sara, who ultimately learns that Hitch is the date doctor.  Then, rather than confront him about it, she blows up in a truly psychotic fashion and exposes him publicly, which then puts Albert and Allegra in the hot seat with him, along with many of Hitch’s former clients.

Another thing is look in this film is to look for the good in others.  If you are looking for the good, you’ll see their soul, which has the capacity to be beautiful for eternity.  But if you’re looking for what looks good, those looks are fleeting and won’t really satisfy you at the end of the day.  I hope it goes unsaid that if you look at the soul and see evil – just run.  If they don’t treat people well – and I’m talking bums to bosses, they probably won’t treat you well.  Granted, everyone has the capacity to change…  but you can’t make them do it, it has to come from within themselves.

Hitch makes a plea to Sara at one point explaining what he does as trying to get women (as most of his clients are men) to get out of “their own way” (of being) so that they will even give guys like Albert a chance.  How often do we have preconceived notions of our “type.”  We find it easy to blow off potential mates by saying that he or she isn’t our type.  But what would happen if we dropped our idea of type to try to get to know someone who may not be the type we planned for ourselves, but the type we are called to love.  In most great relationships, there is a balance.  Couples complement each other.  “Complement” meaning complementary personalities, skills and demeanor, not that they give complements to each other constantly (which could be nice, too)…  They really can’t be too alike or complete opposites.  There’s something there, but sometimes we just have to look beyond the surface.

Love versus sex.  Since Hitch refuses to work with those who are just out for sex, we see that this date doctor is a likable guy who, despite his methods, is really a romantic.  And, Hitch’s idea that the pursuit of love is more honorable than the pursuit of sex is pretty consistent with the rest of the characters.  We see those in pursuit of sex portrayed as shallow and loathsome.  While a lot of movies out there portray characters who learn that love is better than sex, this is one of the few that portrays it all the way through and doesn’t have to show the big conversion.

Hitch is rated PG-13 for some language and strong sexual references, but there isn’t an actual sex scene, which is refreshing.  And, due to the love versus sex undertones, some discussion of sex actually seems appropriate to get the point across.

For more info, check out http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0386588/

Keeping Up With the Steins



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We try everything we can do to help students know what Confirmation really means, right?! Well, Keeping Up with the Steins is about the journey of Benjamin Fiedler, who is preparing for his Bar-Mitzvah. Throw in a long-lost Grandpa and the strained relationship with he family he left, and you’ve got a funny yet touching flick that really gets a look at how secular some of our most sacred traditions have become.

The father, Adam Fiedler (played by Jeremy Piven) constantly downplays the importance of the Bar-Mitzvah, all consumed in planning the ultimate party and out doing his business competition. Young Ben invites his long lost grandfather, Irwin Fiedler (played by Garry Marshall), who in addition to being known and disliked for the way he left his family, is leading lifestyle much different than that of the family he left with his MUCH younger girlfriend (played by Daryl Hannah), and Adam’s focus switches to how to get through the Bar Mitzvah without being totally embarrassed by Irwin. In any case, the real significance of the event is lost on Adam and Ben is left trying to find the meaning in this rite of passage.

So Benjamin is trying to figure out what it all means and asks questions of all those around him, well, except the Rabbi because he seems intent to spend as little time in the Hebrew classes as possible. If it wasn’t for Irwin, poor Benjamin would remain to wallow in doubt and confusion. Irwin takes the time to work with Benjamin, talk to the Rabbi, and interact with others in a way that Benjamin not only studies the Haf Torah, he really starts to understand and believe in it.

Since Bar Mitzvah’s occur during approximately the same time we confer the Sacrament of Confirmation, and our Candidates for the sacrament are having to take ownership of their faith, much like our Jewish brethren. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist see the correlation. So, I encourage everyone to go back to the time of your Confirmation, what questions did you have? Who helped you deal with them? How was it viewed in your family (rite of passage, gracious gift from God, boring thing they had to sit through a two-hour mass for)?

If you’re reading this and you’re not of a faith that believe in Confirmation or the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, think about why you do what you do in terms of faith & spirituality. Do you do it because it is expected, or because you really believe? Have you ever gotten wrapped up in the comercialization of a Religious event or holiday?

The other thing this movie brings to the table is the reconciliation between Adam and Irwin. Adam has a very hard time forgiving Irwin, even though Adam’s mother (played by Doris Roberts) forgave him long ago and still loves him. It takes Ben having a bit of a meltdown to get them to really talk and start to see what happened. Who do we need to reconcile with in our lives? Maybe it’s a parent, maybe a sibling or a child… but when we look at the situation(s) from their point of view would we understand their actions a little better, even if we still don’t approve or the result?

I’m also impressed at how Benjamin handles his struggle. Many kids would have given up… or just have gone along with it for the party and / or gifts. However, Benjamin truly wants to know what he’s doing and feel comforatable with it. There’s certainly honor in that – even if he does make a mis-step or two in the process.

Now, as much as I recommend this movie – especially if you need a little help diving into this type of conversation with a young candidate, I must warn you, it’s PG-13 for some brief rear nudity and alcohol use, so you’ll need to preview it before you show it to anyone at Bar-Mitzvah age. =] Enjoy!


Chronicles of Narnia – The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe


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Jadis The White Witch: You know, Aslan, I’m a little disappointed in you. Did you honestly think by all this that you could save the human traitor? You are giving me your life and saving no one. So much for love. Tonight, the Deep Magic will be appeased, but tomorrow, we will take Narnia forever! In that knowledge, despair… and die!
Aslan: If the Witch knew the true meaning of sacrifice, she might have interpreted the deep magic differently. That when a willing victim who has committed no treachery, is killed in a traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack, and even death itself would turn backwards.

  The Lion, The Witch and the WardrobeMost of you are probably aware that on the surface, The Chronicles of Narnia are a beautiful, fanciful story.  And most of you know that CS Lewis did have a MUCH deeper meaning in it.  So, I am always surprised at how many are completely shocked at the fact that Aslan represents Jesus.  I love watching the light bulbs go on as the whole film moves from a fanciful story to a story of the Passion with that one small revelation.  I even know one person who had heard the correlation, but refused to believe that Lewis had such a motive saying it was too good a story for that!  But, we know Lewis took a lot of heat for writing such a “Christian” tale, so much so that J.R.R. Tolkien specifically tried to avoid it in his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings novels although he said something to the effect that each iteration became more and more Christian.  But, for the Easter Season, this barely disguised Christian tale seems a perfect one to look at through the lens of movie ministry. The movie opens with scenes of war and the children are sent away to escape the bombings.  In their new home, during an innocent game of “hide and seek” little Lucy hides in a wardrobe and as she moves to the back of it, she doesn’t find a back, but a whole new world, Narnia.  The children end up in a battle of good versus evil. So, what questions and correlations can we make as we go deeper into Narnia?

Two worlds at war:  First, we see the physical war – the war of the world.  The daily fight in the most extreme terms.  The children feel pulled back to the world they came from…its comforts, and the safety they’ve found there.  Then we see the war in Narnia, the spiritual war.  The battle for eternal life.  Narnia is even on a different time continuum than the world from which they came.  Ten to fifteen years in Narnia is only a minute or two in the world the children call home.  Narnia has been in the winter for many years, as evil seems to have taken over.  The inhabitants all live in fear of the White Witch.  Narnians are instructed that any “son or daughter of Eve” found wandering in the woods must be turned in to the White Witch under punishment of death.

Wandering in the woods:  How often do we find ourselves lost, trying to figure out where to go?  We’re searching for God and what he wants for us.  We are wandering in the woods.  There are those along the path who take us in the right direction…  and those who lead us the wrong way.  Part of the journey is learning to see which ones are which.  We also have an obligation to help any wanderers and keep them out of the clutches of the White Witch.

Some things are beyond logic:  I know, duh!  But, that’s still the hard part, isn’t it?  There are always some things that are easier to accept than others.  Think about some aspects of our faith…  the trinity – 3 parts of God in three different forms…  Think about changing water to wine – or yet, the changing of the wine and host to the Eucharist.  How about the assumption of Mary, the transfiguration of Jesus – or just wandering the desert for 40 years…  So much of our faith requires faith.  We have to leave logic behind and take it on faith.

Reconciliation:  When Edmund returns to his siblings, he must face Aslan.  He and Aslan appear to be in a staring contest, or at least a deep conversation, but you can tell that Aslan is not angry, and Edmund is repentant.  When they finally come down to the others, Aslan says “No need to speak to Edmund about what has passed.”  Then when the White Witch demands the blood of the traitor, Aslan tells her that his offense was not against her, but leaves it at that!  He never gives any detail, no shaming…  just forgiveness.

Why do the see Aslan as a Jesus figure:  When we first meet Aslan, he emerges from the most beautiful tent of the campground.  Everyone kneels before he comes out.  Sort of like a tabernacle and the reverence we show for His presence in it.  He tells us he was there when the Deep Magic was written.  There’s also the forgiveness Aslan gives Edmund as well as his sacrifice – trading himself for the traitor.  Demons crowd around him, but all are powerless against his mighty roar…  yet he allows himself to be taken.  Much like the jeers of the soldiers in Jesus’s passion.  They shame him by cutting off his mane (equated with stripping Jesus of his clothes), after they tie him down and drag him up to the stone table (equated with carrying the cross).  And he is killed.  However, if you know the Easter story, you know what happens next.  Aslan’s explanation of “sacrifice” sums up the rest, so pay close attention if you haven’t before.

We all have gifts!  Each of the children is given a gift to help them in the battle and instructed that they are “tools, not toys.”  I found this to be an interesting parallel with the gifts of the Spirit.  No one says we can’t have a little fun with them, but they are tools.  Tools for growth – and not just our growth, but tools we should use to help others.  And practice is required! We’re just scratching the surface.  What details did you pick up on? The Chronicles of Narnia is rated PG.  So there’s no language issues, nudity or anything like that.  It’s unlikely that a little one would find it all that interesting.  Also, the battle scenes and some of the witch’s henchmen could be a little intense for some children.  But for older children, teens and adults, The Chronicles of Narnia can be a great movie, and a great way to talk about Christ’s Passion.   One might also find someone it a good icebreaker in talking with someone who may not be open to religious discussions, provided they don’t think the story is too good to be “Christian.”