Wednesday, September 30, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: The Pope and Practical Politics

I have a new article up at  

It is no secret that we live in very politically polarized times.  And perhaps you are like me in that not only am I devoutly Catholic, but I also have very strong political convictions.

But as Catholics, what do we do when we find our political convictions challenged by our Holy Father?  Do we abandon our politics for our faith?  Or do we ignore our faith for our politics?  Or is there some other way out of this dilemma?

Pope Francis has recently visited the United States.  And no matter what he says, his words are analyzed in the media through the lens of politics.  That is not to say that the Pope does not make political statements.  It is only to highlight that we must be careful about what secondary sources tell us about this Pope, as he is one of the most often misunderstood and misquoted in my recollection.

Regardless, Francis says many things that raise the ire of the political right and the political left.  How are we to respond?

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

It must be remembered that the pope only speaks infallibly on the topic of faith and morals.  And even on these topics, infallibility only applies when he specifically and officially invokes that power.  If the pope secretly confided to someone that he didn’t believe the Resurrection was real, this would not violate papal infallibility.  If the pope declared that 2 + 2 = 5, this would also not be infallible because that is a matter of mathematics, not faith or morals.
Politics, while often dealing with topics of religion and morality, is not covered by infallibility per se.  It is possible for the pope to be wrong on political policy.  Pope Pius the XI entered into a concordant with the European fascists, which he later regretted.  So when a sitting pope makes statements of a political nature, those political points are not backed by infallibility.

But be careful here!

At this point, many would use this as an opportunity to simply dismiss the pope whenever he challenges their politics.  “Well, he’s talking about politics so it isn’t infallible.  Now I don’t have to listen.”

That is, to my mind, the absolutely incorrect attitude.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #17 - Angel

The more emotionally disturbed sister-show of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel is on this list not only because of some great writing and acting.  It is here because of its great ability to affect emotion.

Of course the problem is that emotion is depression and sadness.

Angel is based around the title character played by David Boreanaz, a vampire with a soul.  In the Buffy-verse, when you get turned into a vampire, your soul goes into the afterlife and a demon animates our body, but has all of your memories.  But with Angel he is cursed to have his soul reunited with his body and he remembers all of the horrible things he has done and can never achieve true happiness.

Cheery, am I right?

But even in the midst of this, creators Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt managed to build strong emotional ties to the characters who would often laugh their way through the pain, even as they dragged you through a long day's journey into night.

As a Catholic, I obviously take issues with these themes.  But I can appreciate this show not only as an expression of atheistic despair (which should in turn teach me more compassion), but also in how the creators struggle against that despair.  As I've written before on this blog, Whedon is an atheist who intellectually accepts the idea of meaninglessness in life.  But in his art he strives for something more, even though he cannot understand why.  In his world every human life is ultimately tragic, but he wants there to be more.  That is why I think there is a sliver of hope for redemption.

The stories of the show were also grand and epic sci-fi.  The show explored demons within and without in its examination of the human condition.

And there was some great action too.

The series begins with three regular cast members: Angel, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter), and Doyle (the late Glenn Quinn).  Cordelia was the spoiled rich girl who came out to LA to make it as an actress but struggled.  Doyle was a half-demon who would have visions to guide Angel to his next quest.  This particular episode centered around trying to get Angel to embrace his full hero destiny.  But in the end, Doyle ended up sacrificing his life to save a group of innocents.  Perhaps it happened before, but I never saw a show kill off one of its main characters less than half-way through its first season.  It was shocking to say the least.  And it set the tone of danger and sadness for the rest of the show.

At the end of an epic story arc, Angel and his crew are offered to take over control of the main bad guy's business: Wolfram and Hart.  This is an evil demonic law firm.  This is a bad idea.  You know it is a bad idea.  This will not end well.  And yet the characters inexplicably accept because that is what the 5th season was about.  This episodes sets up the worst and most tedious season of the show.

"A Hole in the World"
As I said, my Catholic sensibilities are a little frayed by the underlying despair of a show like this.  But this where it was pushed into overdrive.  This episode is not bad because of the acting (it is fantastic) or the skill of the writing (it is superb), but in the ugliness of the themes.  If you ever want to end an episode and feel the darkness of existence, watch this episode.

"Five by Five" and "Sanctuary"

Faith, one of the main villains from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, comes to Angel.  And she is just as violent as ever.  When she comes across her former Watcher Wesley (Alexis Denisof), she proceeds to torture him.  But all of this builds to a head with the final moments of the first of the two part episode.  Every time I see it, it still gives me chills.  Even in all of this darkness there is the tiniest light.


Angel my be too dark for some people, and I respect that.  A special shout out needs to be made to Denisof who took his character from a one-note comic punchline to the show's emotional whipping boy, to being the heart of the entire series.  Watching his transformation over the course of 5 years was amazing.  

But the for skill in making this show alone, it deserves its place on this list.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Film Review: Black Mass

Have you ever finished a story and said to yourself, "That was pretty good.  But it could have been great if only they had done x, y, or z?"

That is the feeling I had when I left Black Mass.

This movie assembled one of the most impressive ensemble casts I have seen in a good long while.  And all the time I was watching it, I kept thinking that the movie never really utilized them.  It's like having a top of the line super computer and using only to check your twitter feed.

Black Mass is the true story of James "Whitey" Bulger played by one of our greatest living film actors Johnny Depp.  Depp brings terror and charisma to this monstrous mobster.  But the real central character is John Connolly (Joel Edgerton), an FBI man from Whitey's neighborhood.  When the mandate comes down that the FBI needs to take out the Italian mob, Connolly proposes an alliance with Whitey's Winter Hill Gang to help take them out.  And of course, this deal with the devil begins to spiral out of control.

What follows is a serviceable, but uninspired story.  I do not have any inside information, but I get the feeling that the movie was supposed to be about Connolly, but once Depp signed on they centered it mostly on Whitey.  This was a mistake.  Don't get me wrong, Depp is fantastic.  But like The Silence of the Lambs (and it should be noted how Hannibal Lector-like Depp looks in this film), a little can go a long way.  From the very beginning you get the strong sense that there is something bent about Connolly.  If the movie had started off with him much more of a straight arrow who got twisted by his own designs, that would much more compelling.

The story also suffers from the problem that most bio-pics have: putting in details that don't service a straightforward plot.  Early in the movie there is a storyline about Whitey's sick child.  This is used to explain Whitey being as evil as he is.  The problem is that you didn't need that storyline because you already bought that Whitey was a psychopath.  Ultimately this and other vignettes feel like unnecessary tangents.

As a Catholic, I found that this movie does what the best mob movies do: they show the ugliness of evil.  I know that some people emulate the characters in The Godfather, but Coppola clearly meant to show how making evil choices destroys your soul.  Many of the characters in the movie don't have much soul to begin with, but what little they had is exchanged for what ultimately feels like dust.

What does work incredibly well, as I said, are the performances.  Depp should get another Oscar nomination.  He truly looks ghoulish and he exudes menace.  There is one particularly harrowing scene where is he "checking on the health" of Connolly's wife (Julianne Nicholson) that is so filled with threatening subtext that it is difficult to breathe while watching it.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays Whitey's straight-laced brother, and he nails the apathetic evil of turning a blind eye.  There are also fantastic performances by Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemmons, David Harbour, and Juno Temple.

But these great actors or horribly integrated into the story.  Johnson disappears a third of the way through the movie with no explanation.  Sarsgaard seems to come out of nowhere to be a complication. Temple is in one quick shot in the first act and we are expected to remember her significance for a tense, emotional scene in the third.  Plot points and characters are not Jenga pieces that should be placed wherever possible to keep the story straight.  They must grow organically from the beginning so that they are an integrated whole.  Instead, the characters mash ups make Black Mass feel like a Frankenstein's monster where director Scott Cooper tried to take the best parts from other movies and awkwardly sew them together.

I will also say this about the movie, it is fascinating.  It never draws you in to truly care about the characters, but it does keep your interest by taking you behind the curtain of a world that is rarely scene.  I mean, who knew there was such an underworld in the sport of Jai-alai?

Bottom line: if you want to see great performances and don't mind that they are presented in a mediocre film, then Black Mass is for you.

3 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Muppets Review: The End of the Rainbow Connection

My fondest memories of the Muppets are actually not from their movies or live-action shows.  I was wondrously in love with the Saturday Morning TV cartoon: The Muppet Babies.

That cartoon was a different take on the Muppets, making them younger and even more innocent.  And in their innocence they reveled in the power of their imagination and embraced the joy of life like children.  This did not take anything away from the original Muppets, it instead enhanced and highlighted what was so good about them.

And who could forget the magic of "Rainbow Connection?"  Who but the Muppets could deliver a song of pure optimism in a touching banjo ballad of tangible hope?  The song is about not giving in to the cynics who say that dreams about love and beauty are empty illusions.  If you really believe, you can achieve your dreams.  That's what the Muppets stood for.

All of that is over now.

The Muppets have been officially ruined.

This was in the cards for a little while.  The rebooted Muppet movie from a few years ago had a lot of the trappings of the classic, optimistic old show but there was just a slight touch of cynicism that is poisonous to something like this.  The sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, employed some of the most cynical humorists around like Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais.

Now the Muppets have fully embraced the cynicism and so have lost all of their joy.

There is nothing joyous about this show.  Are there some funny jokes?  Yes.  But they lack any kind of heart or warmth.

In this first episode alone we had jokes about:

-unmarried pregnancy
-drug use
-hook ups
-gay bears
-bigoted parents
-Animal's several women

They've turned the Muppets into the cast from 30 Rock.  And that is NOT a good thing.

It's not that the jokes were incredibly offensive per se.  It's that they don't belong with the Muppets.

All of the affection that you have for the characters is completely lost.  These are Muppets that have been destroyed and deformed to reflect modern Hollywood's own disgusting image.  The Muppets are now defeated, self-loathing cynics who are emotionally broken and use humor as an outlet of their frustration and rage.

But the Muppets are supposed to be about joy and above all love.  The Muppets loved each other despite being misfits and weirdos.  And they loved life with an infectious love.  As a kid you would dream about spending time with them because of the affection and love they shared with each other.  And that dream always reminded you why you loved them Muppets.  You loved that dream.

But now the dream is over.  This is not a show about love.  This is not even a show for those who dare to dream of something better.

Somehow they lost it, that Rainbow Connection.

The lovers.

The dreamers.

And me.

Trailer Time: The Young Messiah

This either going to be very good or very bad.

It is an intriguing idea: what was the child Jesus like?

It is a non-Scriptural exploration that could be done horribly.

But I am encouraged by the use of Scripture in the trailer and the score sounds beautiful.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Thoughts on Emmy's 2015

I did not get a chance to live Tweet the Emmy's this year, but to be honest my heart wasn't in it anyway.

This was one of the lowest rated Emmy's in a while.

I don't fault Andy Sandberg, who was goofy but affable most of the time.

The problem came from audiences not caring about most of these shows.

As I pointed out when the nominations came out, there is a huge disparity between what most people are watching and what is being nominated.  So for me, I didn't have much of a dog in the fight.

Mostly the night was disappointments in terms of who I wanted to win.

-Once again, Mayim Bialick was snubbed for her great work on The Big Bang Theory

-As much as I love Peter Dinklage, Jonathan Banks deserved the Emmy, hands down.

-Olive Kitteridge sounds like the most depressing and awful piece of crap that I would never want to watch.  That isn't to say that it isn't good.  But there is nothing about this story that compels me to see it despite the fact that it won so many awards.

-Amy Poehler was robbed.

-Viola Davis is a great actress who should have won an Oscar for The Help.  I'm glad she won an Emmy, but her show is awful.

-It is one thing for the creator of Transparent to celebrate her gender-fluid father.  But to then forcibly transgender the Creator by calling Him "the goddess?"  I couldn't tell if this was actual spiritual ignorance or a sophomoric attempt to get a rise out of middle America.

-The Emmys will continue to be low rated so long as they snub actual hits for things that are not.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Best: Top 10 Johnny Depp Performances

After watching Black Mass, I began reflecting on Johnny Depp's amazing body of work.

So here is a list of Depp's 10 best performances.

Now these are not necessarily an assessment of the quality of the movie itself.  You can have a great performance in a bad to mediocre movie (as is the case of Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone).

These are examples of Depp's mastery of his craft.

10.  Mort Rainey in Secret Window

Secret Window is a simply horror story, so we think.  Depp plays the put-upon author who has a deranged stalker.  It seems like one of the least nuanced performances.  But as the movie begins to unfold and the truth begins to unravel, you realize that Depp has pulled the wool over your eyes.  If you go back and re-watch, there are so many different clues he gives you in his performance.

9.  Gilbert Grape in What's Eating Gilbert Grape

Depp usually layers his characters with all kinds of mannerisms, voices, and other acting accoutrements.  But this performance as a young man with too much responsibility and not enough maturity is very simple and direct in the best possible way.  He is not transformed into someone else.  He is simply Depp being the most emotional Depp there is.

8.  Sam in Benny and Joon.

For the physicality alone, Depp deserves amazing praise.  He captures the pure genius of the old silent masters like Keaton and Chaplin.  But on top of that, he used those skills to convey his character less with words but with inscrutable looks and gestures.  And he is really funny in this.

7.  James "Whitey" Bulger in Black Mass

Depp is completely believable and terrifying as Bulger, a man who would kill you without hesitation if you crossed him.  The makeup helps, but there is a coldness to his look that is almost monstrous.  And he carries himself with such calculated evil and it is unnerving.

6.  James Barry in Finding Neverland

This is Depp's most understated emotional performances.  As someone who is known for going big or going home, Depp holds back so much in this movie so that every tiny expression of heart is powerful and cathartic.  It is like there is a volcano of child-like wonder and passion bubbling under a cast--iron facade.  Great acting. (clip below is from the end of the movie.  DO NOT WATCH if you haven't seen it)

5.  Donnie Brasco in Donnie Brasco

What a great performance of conflicting loyalty and emotions.  It is fascinating to watch Depp as his character gets lost in identity and cannot find his way out.  Each choice he makes is another turn in an invisible labyrinth and you are on the edge of your seat to see if he can find his way out or be destroyed.  And the challenge he has is staggering to play a person who is playing a liar but playing it convincingly.

4.  Don Juan DeMarco in Don Juan Demarco

The pure charm and spectacular charisma is hard to match in this film.  In the opening scene, a woman looks at him and laughs, but by the end of the scene she is completely seduced.  And that is the exerpeince Depp has on the audience.  His supreme confidence in every word he says, despite being delusional, pulls you in and convinces you.

3.  Ed Wood in Ed Wood

I think many people remember the goofy look of excitement that Depp gave Ed Wood in this movie.  But that is simply the result of the unbridled enthusiasm he infused in the character.  You can understand why Wood kept making movies: it wasn't because he was good at it, but because he loved it.  And behind that smile there was an innocent emotional core that was wounded and broken.  But it is, to my mind, his funniest performance.

2.  Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean series

This performance, like Tom Hanks' Forrest Gump, is so often imitated that I think we forget how absolutely innovative it is.  Like Heath Ledger's turn as the Joker, Depp makes an amazing amount of acting choices that no other actor would.  His walk, his talk, his cadence… there are so many things that are unique only to someone like Depp.  And throughout all of that, he still brings the most basic swashbuckling heroics to life.  This was his first Oscar nomination and well deserved.  This performances shouldn't work, but it does because he pops from the screen like nothing we've seen.

1.  Edward Scissorhands in Edward Scissorhands.

I just rewatched this movie and I was lost in Depp's performance.  In some ways he is the most human and emotional of all the characters and yet he gives him the physicality of a machine that is trying to imitate humans.  Watch how he walks and carries himself.  You can often feel the clockwork gears grinding away inside.  Every look is potent with feeling and meaning.  You can watch as he seethes with rage or burns with love or agonizes in pain like no other.  And every utterance of his voice, in that simple high and soft cadence, carries with it an emotional punch.  Is there a sadder response in film history to the request "hold me" than his despairing words, "I can't."  This movie would not have worked at all without Depp making something strange into something heart-warming and beautiful.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Film Flash: Black Mass

15 words or less film review (full review to follow soon)

A great cast horribly underutilized by a mediocre script.  Depp is terrifying.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: Do I Really Believe God Loves Me?

I have a new article up at  

Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Do I really believe that God loves me?”

This is not the same as the question: “Does God love me?”

The latter is a question of objective truth or falsehood. Either God is real or not and He loves me or He doesn’t. But the former is much more subjective, yet just as important to our lives. If, as the Christian faith teaches, God is Love, then God will love me whether or not I believe in Him. A blind man may not believe that the sun is in the sky, but it will not stop the sun from shining on him. And this former question is the subject of my present reflection.

Some of you might look at the question and think it nonsense; of course every Christian believes that God loves us. It is at the very heart of our religion. You cannot be a believer without this article of faith rooted at the foundation. But I do not think that the matter is as simple as that.

I was listening to a talk by Steven Wood at the Argument of the Month Club (which is a wonderful online place with many great talks for Catholic men). During a discussion, he said that one of the biggest problems facing Catholics is the fact that so many of us don’t really believe God loves us. He was not speaking about those outside the Church, but of people who are fully aware of Christ and His love. This is the source of so much of our brokenness and sin. It is also, I think, the biggest stumbling block to holiness.

Perhaps I am over generalizing my own personal shortcomings. Perhaps you, dear reader, have fully embraced God’s love and it ignites every corner of your being. But my examination of conscience tells me that I do not.

I was a cradle Catholic and spent over 17 years raised in the faith. I went to Catholic school and performed my Catholic duties. But it wasn’t until I encountered Fr. Larry Richards (about whom I have already written here at New Evangelizers) that began to understand the depths of God’s love. The personal sacrifice of Christ on the cross was brought home to me in a new and blinding light. I had a spiritual epiphany and my life was separated into before and after. I finally understood how much God loves me.

Or so I thought.

You can read the entire article here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #18 - Quantum Leap

1989 - 1993

I have never seen another show like Quantum Leap.

It is science fiction, but only when it really wanted to be.  The genius of the show was that you had a completely different show from week to week.

The show was about Dr. Sam Becket (Scott Bakula) who tried to time travel within his own lifetime.  So he would "leap" into the lives of different people not knowing how or why.  But he realizes that he could not leap again until he "set right what once went wrong."  With the help of the holographic projection of Al (Dean Stockwell), he would enter get into all manners of adventures.

And depending on who he leapt into, the show was alternately funny, tragic, scary, thrilling, melodramatic, or romantic.  One week you would be watching a mystery.  The next you would be watching a rom-com.  The show allowed for endless possibilities.

And all of this was anchored by the show's leads.  Bakula, I always thought, was underrated and overlooked for his performance as Sam.  He had to be the same person pretending to be a different person believably each week.  Not only that, but he had to be able to change tone on a dime, which he did amazingly.  The same is true of Stockwell who was usually there for comic relief.  But when the moments came for dramatic gravity, he brought it with great effect.  The chemistry between the two of them is incredible to watch even to this day.

Not only that, but there was a strong nostalgia factor.  Yes, there were episodes where he encountered horrible moments in history (e.g. the Watts riots, JFK's assassination), but there were also moments of joyous memory of songs, styles, and the general spirit of some bygone days.

And I was always appreciative of how the show portrayed the Catholic Church.  Sam sometimes made some questionable moral decisions, but when he dealt with the Church, like the times he became a priest, it was always treated with great respect.  (Of course it raises the question of the validity of the sacraments he performed, but that is a discussion for another time).

And the show could move you.  It could inspire.  It could break your heart.  In fact, the very last line of text in the final episode might be the saddest thing on any TV show ever.

"The Color of Truth"

This was the first episode that carried with it a gravity outside of itself.  The earlier episodes were more personal.  This touched on something a bit bigger.  Sam leaps into the body of a black man during segregation times.  I think this was the first time the show really tapped into the idea of seeing the world from a different perspective not only for Sam but for the audience.  I think the producers realized here that they could use the show, not as a vehicle for moralizing, but as a mode in which to transport the consciousness of the audience.  We come to learn more about the human condition by walking a mile in someone else's shoes, and Quantum Leap was now exploring this.

"Lee Harvey Oswald"
This is actually a very good episode.  Sam leaps into several moments of Lee Harvey Oswald's life leading up to the assassination.  In this episode Sam begins to have his personality merge with Oswald's making him more and more personally connected to committing this horrible murder.  But it was also clear that this episode was a bit of a stunt, trying to tap into the renewed interest int he assassination from the film JFK.  And it also smacked a little of desperation to bring up ratings.  After this point, they became more and more desperate to draw in viewers and it showed.

The danger with jumping into history, particularly those moments involving social issues, it is easy to devolve into preachiness.  Which this episode completely did.  A good story will unveil its theme organically, not hit you over the head.

"Shock Theatre" and "The Leap Back"

There are so many fantastic episodes that I feel like I am giving short shrift to them.  But the best of all was the two-part cliffhanger and resolution here.  In the first part, Sam leaps into a mental patient who receives shock treatment.  This causes Sam to take on the personalities of the different people he has been.  This might be one of Bakula's best moments as he shows his incredible range.  Here he is not Sam pretending to be these people, but he actually becomes those characters.  The next episode involves Sam returning home and switching places with Al, who is now leaping.  But when Sam's memory returns it is so moving.  And then when he makes the choice he makes at the end of the episode, it might be one of the most heroically tragic moments in television.  I get emotional just thinking about it.  Great episode.


As I said, I have never seen another show like Quantum Leap.  It was such an under appreciated gem that never really found its audience.  But if you have had the pleasure, check it out.  The show is designed very much like an anthology so most (not all) of the episodes you can watch in any order.  Check them out and enjoy.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Thoughts on the Gay Star Wars Character

In the new novel Star Wars: Aftermath, author Chuck Wendig introduce the first in-canon gay Star Wars character.

Sinjir Rath Velus is a member of the Rebel Alliance who tells a woman who is hitting on him in a bar that he is gay.  Apparently, that is the only time that it ever comes in the story.

Here are some of my thoughts, for whatever they are worth.

1.  Since having a homosexual orientation is not a sin, then there absolutely nothing wrong with the introduction of this character.  It reminds me of the hubbub over JK Rowling outing Dumbledore as gay.  The fact that he was homosexual does not directly relate to the plot.  And even if it did, there is nothing immoral about having a hero who has a homosexual orientation.  As Catholics, we must remember that we must live what we believe in this regard.  And if we are serious about our belief that someone with a homosexual orientation can be in full communion with saintliness, then we must be open to that when we encounter it.  Back in the days when I used to write comic books (not professionally, more a fanciful whim), I knew that one of my main characters was gay.  It never came up and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to bring it up in the comic.  But simply because he was attracted to people of the same sex, I did not assume his lack of virtue.

2.  The character is introduced in the novels, not the movies.  The issue of human sexuality is a very complex one.  I can understand parents wanting to help their child come to understand the nature and morality of our sexuality.  If this character was introduced in the upcoming movies, which are essentially children's movies, I could better understand some cause for concern.  Again, it is not that having a homosexual orientation is morally wrong.  But to introduce the moral complexity of orientation and action and things of that nature may be a bit much for a small child to handle.  In the same way parents are concerned with the depiction of violence.  Some children may not be able to process it very well.  Or take a look at Anakin and Padme from the prequels.  If Padme had gotten pregnant outside of marriage, that would be a very difficult thing for me to deal with because it raises a mature moral problem that is inappropriate to Star Wars films.  But Velus is introduced in the novel, which is something that is not likely to be encountered by small children.

3.  The author is a bully.  Wendig is completely closed-minded and filled with anger.  He lashed out at critics of the introduction of Velus with an explitive-filled rant, and he called them members of the Empire (a horrible insult to Star Wars geeks).  When asked about the harshness of his tone, he said “Because on this, I am not interested in conversation… If your problem with the book is only the inclusion of gay characters, then no conversation is possible. Because that’s homophobia, that’s bigotry, and there’s nothing to be done or said. Someone wants to talk to me about the writing style or whatever, sure, I can have that discussion. On this, no.” .  This goes back to something I have noted about the anti-bully bullies.  They feel completely justified in labeling their opponents as monsters and so feel no qualms about dismissing them and insulting them.  He cannot even address the possibility of even some small concern of the introduction of the topic of human sexuality into an essentially children's franchise.  As I stated above, I actually agree with him in that there is nothing wrong per se about a having a homosexual character.  But marginalizes and demonizes those with whom he disagrees.

Those are my initial reactions.


Friday, September 11, 2015



Absolute Horror.

Horror met with Heroes.

Heroes to the end.

14 years ago.

Never Forget.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Happy Birthday Blessed Mother


Today we celebrate the birthday of Our Blessed Mother Mary, as it is 9 months from the Immaculate Conception.

I wonder what that must have been like for Sts. Anne and Joachim.  Did they have any inkling that she was the greatest creature every created by God?  How did they prepare her for her mission to be the theotokos?

So in honor of her birthday is the Litany of the Virgin Mary:

Lord, have mercy,Lord, have mercy.

Chrlst, have mercy,
Christ have mercy. 

Lord, have mercy,
Lord, have mercy
Response for the following: Have mercy on us.
God our Father ln Heaven
God the Son, Redeemer of the world
God the Holy Spirit
Holy Trinity, one God
Response for the following: Pray for us.
Holy Mary
Holy Mother of God
Most honored of virgins
Mother of Christ
Mother of the Church
Mother of divine grace
Mother most pure
Mother of chaste love
Mother and virgin
Sinless Mother
Dearest of Mothers
Model of motherhood
Mother of good counsel
Mother of our Creator
Mother of our Savior
Virgin most wise
Virgin rightly praised
Virgin rightly renowned
Virgin most powerful
Virgin gentle in mercy
Faithful Virgin
Mirror of justice
Throne of wisdom
Cause of our joy
Shrine of the Spirit
Glory of Israel
Vessel of selfless devotion
Mystical Rose
Tower of David
Tower of ivory
House of gold
Ark of the covenant
Gate of heaven
Morning star
Health of the sick
Refuge of sinners
Comfort of the troubled
Help of Christians
Queen of angels
Queen of patriarchs and prophets
Queen of apostles and martyrs
Queen of confessors and virgins
Queen of all saints
Queen conceived without sin
Queen assumed in to heaven
Queen of the rosary
Queen of families
Queen of peace
Blessed be the name of the Virgin Mary,
Now and forever

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day 2015

Pope Francis said recently in an audience that it is a tragedy for someone to be retired at 20 years old.  As awesome as that sounds, I understand what he is talking about.

I tell my wife that the reason we haven't won the lottery, besides the fact that we don't play, is that God wouldn't allow it for our souls.  If I had all the money to be at leisure, I would have no motivation to do anything.  I would sit on my comfy couch inside my life-size Millennium Falcon watching stuff on my 100ft TV.  

Work gives us a sense of purpose.  It gives us a sense of dignity.  It gets me off of my lazy butt and into the world.

CS Lewis wrote that by letting human beings work to build up the kingdom, God gives them the "dignity of causality."  God doesn't need our labor.  But in his generosity he allows us to help so that we can have a share in dignity of work.

So on days like today, when we take a rest from our labors, I think it is important to take a moment and think about how our work brings us closer to God.  How does my job build up others?  How do I use my income and experience for my family?  How do I care for those I am called to look over?

And on days like today, I like to turn to St. Joseph, who labored day in and day out to provide for the Holy Family.  

Below is a prayer that my wife and I pray every day as we have cultivated a deeper devotion to St. Joseph.  It is posted always on by blog, but I thought I would reprint it here (hat tip to Fr. Z's Blog).  


Prayer to Saint Joseph for a Difficult Problem
O Glorious St. Joseph, thou who hast power to render possible even things which are considered impossible, come to our aid in our present trouble and distress.
Take this important and difficult affair under thy particular protection, that it may end happily. (MENTION YOUR REQUEST)
O dear St. Joseph, all our confidence is in thee. Let it not be said that we would invoke thee in vain; and since thou art so powerful with Jesus and Mary, show that thy goodness equals thy power.  Amen.
St. Joseph, friend of the Sacred Heart, pray for us.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Sunday Best: TV Dramas of All Time #19 - Dawson's Creek


There are a lot of detriments to Dawson's Creek that you may find.  It was at times lecture-y and preachy, especially regarding the character Jack.  It's later seasons added characters and story lines that never matched its original charm.  And above all it often presented things in a loose moral way.  The pilot episode alone deals with underage/adult romance, adultery, and a friendship restored by talking about self-impurity.

So I can understand if you, dear reader, are surprised that this show is on this list.  If you are repulsed by the presentation of immorality, then I have no complaint to you.  I respect your judgment.

But why is this show here?

Because it created one of the greatest love stories I've ever seen on TV.

Dawson's Creek was a show about teen named Dawson (James Van Der Beek) who loved movies, particularly the films of Steven Spielberg.  Already, this show spoke to me on a very personal level.   On top of that he had a female best friend named Joey (Katie Holmes), who was secretly in love with him while he pine away for another girl (Michelle Williams).  This also felt very autobiographical.  And it had Joshua Jackson as the loveable screw-up Pacey.  Though some may disagree, I maintain that this was excellent casting and all of the actors played to their strengths and talents.

On top of that, the writing was crisp.  It was often criticized as being too self-referential and too wordy, but that was part of the show's charm.

However, even with all of that, the show still would not have cracked this list.  In fact, after the first season, the show began a slow descent into mediocrity that went into the first part of the third season.

But then the third season did a dramatic turn around.

By this point in the story, Dawson and Joey had dated and then broken up.  Joey tried to return to Dawson, but he did not believe it would best for them.  Because he still cared for her, he wanted to make sure she wasn't alone.  So he asked Pacey to be her friend.

What unfolded was a beautiful love story.

I was amazed by a few things:

1.  The show let the title character fall out of the spotlight.  The dynamic of the show shifted away from Dawson, and he became a complication to the love story.

2.  The subtle build.  On a show that was not known for its subtlety, I was so impressed by how slowly the foundation of the romance built.  There were so many small clues, but the producers made it so that you weren't sure if it was really there or if you were just reading into the actors' chemistry.  That all came to a head in the episode where someone says that you know you really love someone when you can watch them sleeping and be happy.
3.  Catharsis.  Some shows thrive on subtlety and subverting expectations.  There is nothing wrong with that in and of itself.  But there is something to be said about big, bold, cathartic romance.  And this romance grabbed me and had me totally invested in the outcome until the final scene of the last episode of that season.

For these reasons alone, this show is here on this list.

"Beauty Contest"

There are a lot of TV tropes that get thrown around the first season.  And aside from its bold style, there wasn't much to differentiate this show from other teen dramas.  But this episode in which both Pacey and Joey enter the "Miss Capeside" contest is both funny and touching.  And as cliche as it is, Joey singing her feelings creates an emotional hook into the rest of the story.

"A Winter's Tale"
This was the episode that began to spoil the fairy tale.  One of the things that made the Joey/Pacey relationship was that in this show soaked with sensuality, this relationship seemed to be based on purer form of romance.  It seemed more based on love than lust.  But the change in the relationship occurs here.  And I cannot tell if this was intentional on the part of the producers or if it was only in my mind, but the decision to sleep together came off as melancholy, a defeat.  And then the entire relationship began to sour.  Because of the beauty of what came before, it made it very difficult to stay invested.

This episode has every single cliche thrown into one.  The worst part is where they bring on a cop character who begins reading off statistics that feel like they were copied and pasted from the internet.  There is nothing organic or human about this episode.  It is artificial and preachy.

"True Love"
The finale to season 3.  This is the culmination of that great love story mentioned earlier.  It is an emotional journey that ends with an absolutely perfect final shot.


There are a lot of problems with this show.  But despite all of that, they still managed to produce something truly beautiful.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

New Evangelizers Post: Will All Men Be Saved?

I have a new article up at  

I recently was in a discussion with a dear friend regarding whether I believed all men could go to Heaven. My short answer to his inquiry was “Yes.” But I think this is something that requires a great deal of clarification.

One of the concerns here is the difference between what is said and what is heard.  I remember once I had a student who asked if beasts go to Heaven.  My answer was that Christ never told us.  But what she heard was that her recently departed beloved pet was gone forever.

When I gave my friend the above short answer, he expressed great concern over the implication of that answer.  As a teacher, imagine if I told my students that it was possible that a student could never study and still pass a test.  It would be a true statement because I can that it is possible, however unlikely, that someone could guess their way into a passing grade.  However, what a student might hear is “I don’t have to study to pass.”

The reason why I believe that it is possible that all men could go to Heaven is because God never told us who is in Hell.  Pope St. John Paul the Great wrote in Crossing the Threshold of Hope:

[Christ] speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Mt 25:46).  Who will these be?  THe  church has never made any pronouncement in this regard.  This is a mystery truly inscrutable, which embraces the holiness of God and the conscience of man.  The silence of the church is, therefore, the only appropriate position of the Christian faith.  Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born,” (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation.

Did the pope say that Judas was in Heaven?  No.  Did he say that it was likely that Judas was in Heaven?  No.

He said that while Hell is real, we are ignorant of who is there.  We know with certainty that there are certain people in Heaven: the saints.  But we do not know with certainty who is in Hell.  So with this idea in mind, it leaves open the possibility that all men could go to Heaven.

Does this mean that we know that Hell is empty?  No.  Is it likely Hell is empty?  Nothing about the pope’s statement indicates this.  John Paul was simply acknowledging that Christ withheld this bit of information from revelation.

What is the potential harm of saying all men could go to Heaven?  There are two likely misinterpretations:

You can read the entire article here.