Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New Evangelizers Post: 10 Commandments in the Modern World Part 7 - Don't Steal

I have a new article up at  

Don’t take what’s not yours.

This is a principle that most of us learn in kindergarten. And for the most part, I would imagine that many of us are not law breakers who engage in theft. So what does this commandment say about us?

In the modern world this includes taking the intellectual property of others. Those ads and warnings about piracy of movies and music are not just notices about breaking the law but also about breaking the commandments. “But everyone does it,” is a common response. However, that is never a justification before God. Always, we are called to be a people set apart.

As a teacher the biggest area I see this in is cheating, particularly plagiarism. In the internet age, it is so easy to simply copy and paste information from Wikipedia. In fact, I would imagine that this problem is so commonplace that we may have thousands of students who do not know how to do basic research. Also incredibly problematic is the fact that many of these students see nothing wrong with taking someone else’s words and passing them off as their own.

In business, some of us have the temptation to skim a little off the top. If not outright theft, perhaps we play around with our work hours or expenses and over charge for our labor. Again, here we are taking that which is not ours and was not earned.

And often among friends and family we borrow things without returning them. Or if we return them, they are much worse for the wear. These might be little offenses that are winked at among loved ones or these could fester into real areas of division.

There is a reason that this commandment follows the commandment about adultery. Both commandments six and seven involve looking at another person like an object.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feast of Divine Mercy 2017

There is a story about Socrates I heard once.  A phrenologist came to Athens and claimed to be able to read people's souls by studying the contours of their head.  Socrates, being a person who was open to new ideas asked to be tested.  The phrenologist examined Socrates and said that his skull showed he was proud, lustful, greedy, wrathful, and other things like this.  Socrates' followers began to laugh at this diagnosis of their moral teacher.  But Socrates very seriously rebuked them and said, "This man is telling the truth.  I struggle with these every day of my life."

I bring this up because sometimes when I tell people that I am the biggest sinner that they've met, they think I am only giving some kind of pious hyperbole.  But it is far from the case.  The only soul I can see into is my own and I see much darkness there.  No, I am not about to catalogue all of my vices.  But sometimes when I receive compliments of a moral or spiritual nature, I burn a little inside.

This is partly my fault.  I have found that when people give you compliments the most gracious thing to do is to accept it and say thank you.  Otherwise, that person feels admonished.  Also, I think I put on too much of a holy exterior image.  That isn't to say that I am not spiritual.  But sometimes I feel like the charge Jesus leveled against the Pharisees applies to me:  "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." (Matt 23:27)

Especially as a religion teacher, the weight is sometimes overwhelming (though I speak as a weak man).  I stand in front of others proclaiming Christ while I too often fail in following Him.  Every day I pray before Jesus, "Please do not hold my sins against my students, but help me to give them only You!"

I bring all of this up only to emphasize how absolutely important today's feast is to me.

The Feast of Divine Mercy reminds me that though my sins burn and blister my heart, Jesus has an ocean of Mercy to drown that fire.

I know that God owes me nothing.  Or rather, what He owes me is wrath.  But He wants to give me Mercy.  It would be just if I received punishment.  But He wants to pour out forgiveness.

If it were not for Christ's incredible emphasis on His Mercy, I think that I would fall into despair.  It takes so much faith to believe that God is not fed up and disgusted with my lack of progress in the spiritual life.  But even that is my own projection of my weak love onto the infinite love of God.

And even here in this struggle, there is a grace.  As 2 Corinthians 4:7 says, "But we hold this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. "

My own weakness is there to keep me from ever thinking that the good that comes about through me is somehow from me.  All the good that I have ever done is only by the power of God.  He is the treasure, I am the earthen vessel.  Glory be to Him.

So today, please turn to His Mercy.

It does not matter what your sin is, He wants to forgive you!  He wants to put that old life behind you and begin again.

It does not matter how many times you've turned back and turned away.  Today, return to His Mercy.

Yes, you have sinned.  Join the club.  I am a lifelong member who has not graduated from even the most basic lessons.  I say this not to minimize my sins or your sins.  Every sin is another nail to pierce the Flesh of the Lamb of God.  We must be truly sorry and accept responsibility for them and resolve to sin no more by God's grace.

And then we must embrace His Mercy.

As one website writes:

The Divine Mercy message is one we can call to mind simply by remembering ABC: 

A - Ask for His Mercy. God wants us to approach Him in prayer constantly, repenting of our sins and asking Him to pour His mercy out upon us and upon the whole world. 

B - Be merciful. God wants us to receive His mercy and let it flow through us to others. He wants us to extend love and forgiveness to others just as He does to us. 

C - Completely trust in Jesus. God wants us to know that the graces of His mercy are dependent upon our trust. The more we trust in Jesus, the more we will receive. 


And on this Feast Day, I invite you to pray with me not only the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (click this link to learn how) and pray with me the Divine Mercy Litany:

The Love of God is the flower—Mercy the fruit. 

Let the doubting soul read these considerations on Divine Mercy and become trusting.

Divine Mercy, gushing forth from the bosom of the Father,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, greatest attribute of God, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, incomprehensible mystery, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, fountain gushing forth from the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity
, I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed by any intellect, human or angelic,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, from which wells forth all life and happiness,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, better than the heavens,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of miracles and wonders, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, encompassing the whole universe, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, descending to earth in the Person of the Incarnate Word,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, which flowed out from the open wound of the Heart of Jesus, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, enclosed in the Heart of Jesus for us, and especially for sinners, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in the institution of the Sacred Host,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the founding of Holy Church, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in our justification through Jesus Christ,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us through our whole life,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing us especially at the hour of death,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, endowing us with immortal life, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, accompanying us every moment of our life,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, shielding us from the fire of hell, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in the conversion of hardened sinners,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, astonishment for Angels, incomprehensible to Saints,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, unfathomed in all the mysteries of God,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, lifting us out of every misery, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, source of our happiness and joy, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in calling us forth from nothingness to existence,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, embracing all the works of His hands,
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, crown of all of God's handiwork, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, in which we are all immersed, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, sweet relief for anguished hearts, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, only hope of despairing souls, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, repose of hearts, peace amidst fear, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, delight and ecstasy of holy souls, 
I Trust in You.
Divine Mercy, inspiring hope against all hope, 
I Trust in You.

To The Divine Mercy
I fly to Your mercy, Compassionate God, who alone are good. Although my misery is great and my offenses are many, I trust in Your mercy, because You are the God of mercy; and, from time immemorial, it has never been heard of, nor do heaven or earth remember, that a soul trusting in Your mercy has been disappointed.

O God of compassion, You alone can justify me and You will never reject me when I, contrite, approach Your Merciful Heart, where no one has ever been refused, even if he were the greatest sinner (1730).

[For Your Son assured me:] Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy fail to embrace a trusting soul (1777).

Jesus, Friend of a lonely heart, You are my haven, You are my peace. You are my salvation, You are my serenity in moments of struggle and amidst an ocean of doubts. You are the bright ray that lights up the path of my life. You are everything to a lonely soul. You understand the soul even though it remains silent. You know our weaknesses and, like a good physician, You comfort and heal, sparing us sufferings — expert that You are (247).

In Thanksgiving
O Jesus, eternal God, I thank You for Your countless graces and blessings. Let every beat of my heart be a new hymn of thanksgiving to You, O God. Let every drop of my blood circulate for You, Lord. My soul is one hymn in adoration of Your mercy. I love You, God, for Yourself alone (1794).

To the Mother of God
O Mary, my Mother and my Lady, I offer you my soul, my body, my life and my death, and all that will follow it. I place everything in your hands. O my Mother, cover my soul with your virginal mantle and grant me the grace of purity of heart, soul and body. Defend me with your power against all enemies, and especially against those who hide their malice behind the mask of virtue (79). Fortify my soul that pain will not break it. Mother of grace, teach me to live by God's power (315).

O Mary ... a terrible sword has pierced your holy soul. Except for God, no one knows of your suffering. Your soul does not break; it is brave, because it is with Jesus. Sweet Mother, unite my soul to Jesus, because it is only then that I will be able to endure all trials and tribulations, and only in union with Jesus will my little sacrifices be pleasing to God. Sweetest Mother, continue to teach me about the interior life. May the sword of suffering never break me. O pure Virgin, pour courage into my heart and guard it (915).

Friday, April 21, 2017

Film Review: The Space Between Us

This film sometimes works amazingly well with its incredibly cool concept.  But most of the time it falls flat.

The Space Between Us is about Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) whose mother finds out she is pregnant on the first manned space colonization of Mars.  The brains behind the mission at ground control is Nathaniel Shepherd (Gary Oldman) who decides that the safest thing to do is have the child be born on Mars.  Because of his in utero development in zero gravity and the lighter gravity of Mars, Gardner is stuck on the Red Planet.  One of the officers, Kendra Wyndham (Carla Gugino), is the closest thing he has to family at the space station.  The only person his age with whom he has contact is a girl named Tulsa (Britt Robertson) with whom he video chats and has no idea that Gardner is on another planet.  But an experimental medical procedure gives Gardner a chance to visit Earth.  Rather than being stuck in a hospital, he escapes and goes on a quest with Tulsa in tow to find his father.

This is one of those movies that sells you on the plot.  The budding romance between Tulsa and Gardner always has the looming clouds of death hovering over.  This is a classic juxtaposition that gives the story a quick sense of gravity.  Tragic romances tend to be compelling because we yearn for the seemingly impossible obstacles to overcome.

But the place the movie works best is in the sense of wonder it creates.  Most movies with a science fiction bent focus on the cool and dazzling technologies and the distant exotic locales.  But The Space Between Us flips that on its head.  To Gardner, Mars is mundane.  When he gets to our ordinary world, he finds wonder.  It reminded me very much of GK Chesterton's who philosophy of life, a philosophy of wonder.  Chesterton thought that every day life was full of delightful and awe-inspiring things.  Gardner laughs with delight for the first time he gets to stand in the rain.  He wonders at a caterpillar crawling on his finger.  He meets a homeless man who asks him what his favorite thing about Earth is.  Gardner says, "So far, meeting you."

Any movie that can make me feel a greater appreciation for God's creation earns a few points with me.  Cynicism is easy.  Wonder, especially at the seemingly mundane, is difficult.

It makes me wish the rest of the movie was as good as these moments.

The plot is a bit spoiled by some fairly flat writing.  Moments of great subtlety and tenderness are often hit too hard on the head.  For example, on Mars, Gardner watches the German classic film Wings of Desire.  Throughout the movie, director Peter Chelsom sets up similar shots from that movie.  But rather than simply shooting those shots, Chelsom intercuts the shots with flashes from Wings of Desire, as if to beat you over the head with the comparison.

And while there is character development, there tends to be very little depth to the characters.  The exception to this is Shepherd.  He begins a gigantic manhunt for Gardner and is therefore cast as the main antagonist, but it was refreshing to see that his sense of urgency is only motivated by his altruistic desire to save Gardner's life.  But other than Oldman and Butterfield, the performances are nothing to write home about.


One of the areas where the movie lost points was with its sex scene.  It wasn't graphic, but it really bothered me for a few reasons.  First, it was completely unnecessary to the plot.  Second, the movie implies that Tulsa has a promiscuous past.  She is the one who initiates the intimacy, but it would have been better for both of their characters if they connected more innocently.  Third, both characters are only around sixteen, so their youth makes the scene incredibly uncomfortable.  (Now, my wife pointed out that it is possible that they only cuddled skin on skin without the actual sex, but it is ambiguous)


All in all, The Space Between Us has some enjoyable moments wrapped in a mediocre package.

3 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Summer Movie Season 2017

We are nearing the end of April, so it's time to look forward to one of my favorite seasons of the year: Summer movie season.

I know as a cinephile I should be more interested in when the "important" movies come out just before the major awards.  But I think the movies of summer are pure cinema and tend to be the ones remembered long after people have forgotten the plot of Moonlight.

Here is a list, with a few brief thoughts of my own, including on a scale of 1-5 stars my likelihood of seeing it in theaters (1 being “Not at all” 5 being “Cannot wait!”).

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

GotG Vol2 poster.jpg

I was so shockingly surprised by the first one.  My expectations were so low that the original blew me out of the water.  My expectations are sky high for this one so let’s see if it lives up to them (*****)

3 Generations
3 Generations poster.jpg

Wow does this movie look unbelievably cloying, preachy, and terrible. (*)

MAY 12

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur LotS poster.jpg
Nothing about this looks good or appealing.  Maybe I’m wrong since Guy Ritchie did an interesting take on Sherlock Holmes (*)


I don’t think you could pay me to see this film.  The trailer was painful to watch in how unfunny it was. (*)

MAY 19
Alien: Covenant
Alien Covenant Teaser Poster.jpg
There is nothing about this movie that seems new or interesting regarding the Alien franchise.  “Humans go somewhere, get infected with Alien eggs, chaos ensues.”  I’ll wait to hear if it is any good.  (**)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Didn’t see the first, have no desire to see the second (*)


Wonder Woman
I am unabashed in my love for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.  And I thought Wonder Woman was one of the best parts of the movie.  I’m hoping this movie lives up to my expectations (*****)

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
No interest in this series (*)

The Mummy
The Mummy (2017).jpg
If it wasn’t for that first teaser, I don’t think I would be very interested in this.  But this might be a fun Tom Cruise action flick.  (***)
My Cousin Rachel
Pure pretentious dreck (*)

All Eyez on Me
I have to hand it to Tupac, he’s been dead for decades and he keeps coming out with new stuff.  But I won’t see it (*)

Cars 3
Cars 3 poster.jpg
I didn’t see the last one, so I don’t think I’ll see this (**)

The Book of Henry
The trailer made me curious, but I’m not sure curious enough to buy a ticket (**)

Rough Night

Every single thing about this movie look repugnant.  Why would they make this? (*)

Transformers: The Last Knight
Transformers The Last Knight poster.jpg
I know that the movies in this series are not what you would call high art, but darn it if I don’t find them horribly entertaining. (****)

Spider-Man: Homecoming
Spider-Man Homecoming poster.jpg
I am very curious as to what they are going to do with this third cinematic Spider-Man.  I’m excited but cautious (****)

War for the Planet of the Apes

Caesar, equipped with a shotgun, rides on a horse in the snow with the film's billing and tagline "WAR" underneath as well as the film's release and credits.
The last one in this series was so surprisingly good.  This final one may be heartbreaking and epic. (****)

Wish Upon

Forgettable teenage horror film (*)

Dunkirk Film poster.jpg

Christopher Nolan wants an Oscar.  The trailer was great and Nolan has not yet made a bad film.  I am there opening night (*****)

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.jpg
This movie’s genre seems right up my alley, but all I can see here is The 5th Element and that means avoid at all cost. (**)

Atomic Blonde
Atomic Blonde poster.jpg
It looks like a female John Wick, but for some reason does not look nearly as enjoyable (**)

The Emoji Movie
The Emoji Movie film poster.jpg
Who thought this was a good idea? (*)

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
Ironically, I’m going to say the same thing I did about Cars 3: I didn’t see the second, so I don’t think I’ll see this (*)

The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower teaser poster.jpg
I read the entire series and this is actually a hard sell for me.  Nothing I’ve seen so far matches up with how I imagined the series.  I need to see more (***)

Detroit teaser poster.jpg
The director is very good, but I have the feeling this is going to be heavy on the lectury side regarding the current state of racial relations.

Ingrid Goes West
Aubrey Plaza was great on Parks and Recreation, but she keeps choosing projects like this that only alienate viewers like me.  This looks like it's trying too hard to be dark and edgy.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Christ is Risen! Easter 2017

As I have gotten older, the impact of this day resonates more and more.

There is darkness and gloom in this fallen world, but Christ has conquered the world.

If we are so blessed, then even death cannot separate us.  We can still be in communion with those who have gone on.  But more importantly we will see them again one day.  I once wrote that the Resurrection reminds us that how we love each other as human beings is eternally important.  I wrote that in the future after each of us dies that I would be so glad to be reunited with my wife soul to soul in heaven.  But the Resurrection reminds me that one day I will be able to walk with her again hand-in-hand too.

And I know that this does not compare, but after spending a month in the hospital not being able to walk, the idea of "rising up" takes on a different meaning for me.  Yes, there was great effort on my part, but I was broken and could not fix myself.  I needed another to raise me up.

Christ was raised up so that He could raise me up.

And I was raised up so that I could work with Him to raise others up.

So today, let us put aside any of the old baggage of our old lives.  Today let us look only to being raised up with Jesus and raising others up with Him.

He is Risen.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Divine Mercy Novena 2017

A reminder that the Divine Mercy Novena begins today and continues through until Mercy Sunday.  You can find the novena here:

This has been a powerful and profound devotion in my life and many graces have come to me through a devotion to Jesus' Divine Mercy.  This past year I have experienced this Mercy in ways like never before.  I am more and more convinced that the only reason I have anything good in my life is because of His Mercy.

I look forward to joining all of you in spiritual communion through this novena.

Monday, April 10, 2017

New Evangelizers Post: Not the Monarch of Mobs

I have a new article up at  

We just celebrated Palm Sunday, where the people hailed Christ as King with loud “Hosannas.”

Five days later they cry out “Crucify Him!”

Often I am asked by my students how they could turn on Him so quickly. The answer is mob mentality.
Gustave Le Bon wrote extensively about how mobs of people can behave in ways that individuals do not. In these mobs, people lose their individuality and get swept up in the emotion of the group. Anyone who has been to an intense sporting event understands this feeling as the cheers, the boos, and the chorus of “We Will Rock You!” echoes through the stands. But that is only a small taste of how mob mentality works.

Mobs are fired up by emotion and then they act without thinking. Rational discourse and discussion are not how to communicate with a mob. Instead, leaders of mobs whip up the group into a frenzy and then turn them towards some action. You can see this when there are riots in the streets of our cities. Let’s say some great injustice occurs and a large group of protesters turn to rioting. Sometimes they will attack and destroy business and buildings that have nothing to do with the injustice they are protesting. If, while they are rioting, you try to reason with them, it will have no effect. That is because the emotion of the group has sublimated their rational thought. While this may sound a bit like brainwashing, it is a common occurrence for those who are caught up in the moment.

And the emotion of the mob is fickle. It can turn from love to hate quickly. Again, think about how quickly an Atlanta Falcons fan, for example, could go from “Falcons are awesome!” to “Falcons are awful!” in a few minutes during the Superbowl. Fans can have these turns on their own, but the shifts are more powerful and more volatile in the crowd.

When Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He allowed the people to hail him as King. This is something that he staunchly avoided throughout most of His ministry. When I was younger I always found this very curious, since Jesus is, in fact, the King. Why not have the people acclaim Him that way. But in John 6, after He multiplies the loaves and fish, He runs away when they want to make Him King. It wasn’t until years later that I think I finally understood why:

Jesus is not the leader of a mob.

You can read the entire article here.