Thursday, November 30, 2023

St. Andrew Novena Starts Today - 2023


Much of what is below is a repost from years earlier.

I think about St. Andrew quite a bit.  He was one of the first four called by Christ.  It was James, John, Andrew and Andrew's brother Peter.  But of that quartet, only the trio of Peter, James, and John ended up being Jesus' closest friends.

I wonder if Andrew was like us and got jealous.  According to the Gospel of John, it was Andrew who brought Peter to the Lord, and the Lord seemed to like Peter better.  How often have we introduced a sibling or friend to our inner circle only to have them become more popular or have a greater aptitude for what you enjoy?

But I bet that Andrew was better than most of us.  He was probably a model of humility.  I like to imagine that he was happy for his brother and he was content to have others loved and esteemed more than himself.

My favorite story is about when he died.  They tied him to the cross, but for days and days he preached non-stop to the point where the officials realized it was doing them more harm than good.

But when they came to take him down, Andrew looked at Jesus and told him he was tired and he just wanted to go home to heaven and be with Him.  So the soldiers were unable to take him down and Andrew finally went home to the Jesus and his brother Peter on November 30th 60 AD.

Today is the feast of St. Andrew.  And there is a special novena prayer that is prayed between now and Christmas.  It goes as follows:

St. Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires through the merits of Our Savior Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

That prayer is prayed 15 times a day until the ends.  My wife and I pray this together every year and have found many graces through the intercession of St. Andrew.  I pray that all of you do as well.

God Bless.

Monday, November 27, 2023

New Evangelizers Post: Reflections on The Imitation of Christ



I have a new article up at  

The Imitation of Christ is a spiritual classic. It is also one of the most read and influential spiritual books in the history of Christianity. Year after year I would attempt to sit down and read through this book. However, each page was filled with deep spiritual insights that required me to pause and think about. Finally, I decided to sit down and try to at least get through the entire book so I could understand its overall ideas. I am sure I will go back later and meditate on its deep insights. What is written below are my biggest takeaways from reading this book. I am sure there are holier and wiser people than I with more complete reflections.

Attributed to Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation is a guide to transforming your life into conformity to Jesus Himself. The key to spiritual progress is summed up here: “Two wings lift a person from earthly concerns: simplicity and purity.” (The Imitation of Christ, II.4) Throughout the book, Thomas brings these two themes to light in order to draw the person deeper into holiness. It reminds me of how sailors have to scrape the barnacles off the hull of a ship in order to reveal the vessel’s true form; and only then will the boat sail along as it should. Thomas attempts to bring the reader to a place where Christ can scrape the accumulated baggage of life and help the person’s soul sail towards God.

The Imitation is divided into four sections: “Useful Reminders of the Spiritual Life,” “Suggestions Drawing One toward the Inner Life,” “Of Inner Comfort,” and “The Book of the Sacrament.” In the first section, Thomas focuses on removing the distractions of the world in order to focus on God. He writes that even reading religious text in and of itself is not enough. “Endless reading and talk do not satisfy the soul, but a good life puts the mind at rest…” (I.2) The key to this is humility. “What good does it do, then to debate about the Trinity, if by a lack of humility you are displeasing to the Trinity?” (I.1) In other words, spiritual knowledge profits you nothing if it does not draw you closer to God. We must have a pure motive for our reading if we are to progress. I am reminded of my studies of King Henry VIII, who famously loved reading theology and debating religion, but he was not interested in personal sanctity.
Thomas tells us to simplify our lives by avoiding things like unnecessary chit-chat. He also recommends that we learn to love solitude: “No one is secure except the person who freely keeps to himself.” (I.20) There is a severe distrust of the idleness that can come from too much familiarity. I have heard it said that friendships can help us grow in virtue, but they can also be places that cultivate vice. Gossip can be the ruin of people and communities.

In this section, he also tells us to keep death on our minds, so that we can have a strong motivation to get our spiritual lives in order before we are judged. This is a common Catholic theme of memento mori. When we look at things from the eternal perspective, the worries and temptations of everyday life do not seem as overwhelming to us.

The second section continues on with the main themes of the first. He calls us to purify our conscience. “A good conscience is the best thing a person can have.” (II.6) With this, we can empty ourselves and take up the cross of Christ with love. This involves returning to that purity and simplicity, “Seldom do we find a person so spiritual that he lives stripped of everything.” (II.11)

In the third section, Thomas writes dialogues between Christ and the Disciple. Jesus calls us to “Let go of all passing things, and seek eternal ones.” (III.1) The entire section follows this theme where Christ draws the disciple to let go of sin and earthly desires so that their life is focused on heaven and their hearts are centered on Jesus. We are reminded that we should be humble and not think too highly of ourselves. In fact, we have to remember that the only good we have in us is good that comes from God. “There is no holiness, Lord, if you withdraw your hand…” (III.14) We can have peace if we remember to do four things: “Strive… to do another’s will rather than your own; always prefer less to more; always seek the lower place and be submissive in all things; always wish and pray that God’s will may be entirely fulfilled in you…” (III.23) The entire section has Jesus lead the disciple to a place where they place all of their hope and trust only in God Himself.

The final section focuses on encountering Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. He writes that we should receive Communion often and that we should yearn to be united with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Film Flash: Napoleon


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

Disappointing movie advertised as another Gladiator but is instead a depressing Bridgerton.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Thanks For Nothing (repost 2023)


 I am very grateful for all of the wonderfully positive feedback on this essay, so I thought I would share it again.

In the last few months, my wife and I both went through some medical screenings.  Everything turned out fine by the grace of God.  But there was a great deal of fear and anxiety as we waited for results.  

I don't know how successful I was, but I tried to use that time to place myself in the shoes of someone who has to bear these heavy health burdens.  In a small way, I wanted to feel some of the feelings they feel.  I came to the conclusion that I lack the strength of character that the courages people with chronic illness have.  They are brave and heroic in ways I cannot describe.

God knows that I need more gratitude in my life and for that reason, I shall continue to be grateful for all the crosses He has not given.  

With that in mind, please enjoy this repost.

Happy Thanksgiving!

(originally published November 22, 2012)

Thanks For Nothing

When I was 15-years-old, I got a little sick.  In what was obviously an over-reaction on his part, my dad took me to the Emergency Room.  As it turned out, I had pneumonia and my blood oxygen level was down to about 50%.  If he had waited much longer to take me I might have died.

I share this with you so that you will understand why I am a little bit of a hypochondriac now.  I don't freak out at every sneeze or obsessively lather myself in Purell.  But whenever I have chronic problem, I begin to have a persistent fear of the worst.

For the past 4 weeks I've had a persistent cough.  I cannot remember having one that has lasted this long.  So of course, my mind helplessly gravitated to the worst case scenarios, despite the constant assurances from my long-suffering wife.  After weeks of fretting, I went yesterday morning for a chest X-ray.

After they were taken, I was asked to wait for a moment alone in the exam room.  I stood there for 5 minutes in that room with its claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smell and thought about all those people who came to that room and got bad news that resulted in a lot more time between claustrophobic white walls and antiseptic smells.

Finally, after hours of fretting (and trying to distract myself with a viewing of Wreck-It Ralph) we got the results.

And what did they find?


They found nothing.  I was worried about nothing.

I was put on some new medication and I've been feeling a bit better.

I didn't realize how much the storm clouds had been hovering over me until today.  I was walking around, doing chores and errands with such a light heart.  It was because I knew that my cough, though a bit annoying, was ultimately nothing.


Today is Thanksgiving.  It has always been one of my favorite holidays, and not because I eat enough turkey to put a man twice my size into a literal coma (although that is a plus).  I love that we take time out of our year to appreciate the blessings of life and give thanks to our Provider.

My boss, a man I greatly admire, once said to me that you cannot be truly happy unless you are truly thankful.  Happiness only comes when you acknowledge that everything thing you have is a gift from God.

I have tried to take those words to heart and be thankful for everything I have.  I have an holy wife, a loving family, loyal friends, a fulfilling job, and more action figures than you can shake a stick at (if that's your idea of a good time).  Bing Crosby sang that we should count our blessings instead of sheep.  But I never get to the end of count because God has been so very generous to me.

But all this time I have been overlooking something else to be thankful for.


I wrote earlier about how much I have come to realize what a blessing it is to feel normal.  But I did not take it the necessary step further.

There is nothing wrong with my lungs.  But it could have been something.  And that something could have been not-so-bad to catastrophic.  But God, in His goodness, gave me nothing.

About 2 years ago I was on the highway on my way to work in the middle of winter.  I was in the left lane when I noticed a car had skidded off the road.  I tried to get a better look, but I must have not been paying attention to the road.  Because I then hit a patch of ice and my car spun out and did a 180 degree turn that hurled me across the other lane.  And do you know what I hit?


For one of the only times I can remember, there were no cars around me on that part of the road.  I skidded off to the right embankment facing the opposite direction.  But I was fine.  Nothing happened.

A few weeks ago during Hurricane Sandy, the wind was so strong it blew down a tree in my back yard.  What did it hit?


A little to right and it would have destroyed my shed.  If it fell in the opposite direction it would have caved in the roof and crushed my wife and I.  But instead, nothing happened.

This world is so full of darkness and danger, disease and disaster.  Some of it falls on us.  But a lot of it doesn't.

So today I'm going to give thanks not only for the all of the things God has given me this past year, but I'll also praise Him for the "nothings" too.

No sudden falls down the stairs that break a limb.  No food poisoning from that new restaurant.  No angry student deciding to respond to his detention with his fist.  No home burglary in the middle of the night.  No careless accident to hurt anyone I love.

I do have my share of crosses, many of them of my own making, but I have not been crushed by them. And I am not saying that any of the aforementioned catastrophes won't one day be mine to bear.  One day, an X-ray may find something.

But not today.

Today, I am thankful for nothing.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Film Review: The Marvels


Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable

Violence Acceptable

Vulgarity Acceptable

Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

A lot of people have been dog-piling on this movie as the negative reviews and poor box office news poor in.  And fair enough, the movie is not a financial nor a critical success.  

However I think that much the venom is unfounded.

The Marvels is actually a fairly enjoyable, middling MCU super hero film.  

Of the Marvel Phase 4-5 movies, it is better than The Eternals, Thor: Love and Thunder,  and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.  It's about at the same level as Shang-Chi, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Black Widow (I have not seen Black Panther: Wakanda Forever).  I know that these movies haven't been everyone's favorites.  And The Marvels is not as good as Spider-Man: No Way Home or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.  But for what it is, The Marvels was better than I expected.

The story centers around our three heroes: Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel (Iman Vellani), and Monica Rambeau/Photon (which she is never called in the movie)(Teyonah Parris).  Through some simultaneous mishap, these three become "quantum entangled" so that when they use their powers, they switch places with each other, no matter wear in the cosmos.  This poses a problem because Carol is fighting Kree on an alien world, Monica is doing technical work on a space station, and Kamala is at home with her parents and brother.  The ensuing chaos and violence actually is one of the best sequences in the movie where the characters are thrust in into unexpected life and death situations without any understanding of how they are seemingly pulled away at random.  It turns out that this is connected to Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton), the new leader of the Kree.  She has just found one of the Quantum Bands (the other is being used by Kamala).  Dar-Benn intends to use this power to siphon precious resources from other planets to save the Kree homeworld of Hala.  Together, our three heroes have to work together to save the day.

One of the reasons that this movie is more enjoyable than Captain Marvel is that the characters are allowed to have more fun.  This is especially true with Vellani's Kamala.  She comes with a youthful, silly, hero-worshipping energy that was so endearing about Tom Holland's first outings as Spider-Man.  Even as the danger mounts, Vellani brings joy and wonder to everything.  And her awkward interactions with the other two bring out much of the film's humor.  Part of the fun is watching Larson have to react to this wild presence.  It helps melt away a lot of her more serious persona from her first film.

The movie moves into some very strange comedic territory.  But as I mentioned in my review for One Piece, I have become more comfortable with the Asian flexibility in style and tone.  This is not The Dark Knight, where everything is grounded in a tangible reality.  This is a story where you can go to a planet where everyone speaks by singing and a spontaneous dance number can break out.  If that is not to your tastes (as it wasn't to my young nephew who came with us to the movie), you may be turned off.  But if you can appreciate the humor of an absolutely bizarre sequence in the third act choreographed to the Broadway hit "Memory," then this movie will be enjoyable.

The movie flirts with depth of character and theme, but never really commits.  Perhaps this was done in order to keep the overall tone lighter.  There is a lot of tension between Carol and Monica, the latter who feels abandoned by one of the few people she has left who she considers family.  Kamala has a little bit of a wake-up-call regarding the limits of heroism when she has a confrontation with Carol over trying to save everyone on a dying planet, to which Carol replies "We need to save who we can!"  All of this is good fodder from some enriching and complex character work, but the movie only scratches the surface and glosses over the conflicts pretty quickly.  There are some deeply philosophical ideas that resonate with the Catholic tradition that are hinted at, but never fully explored regarding family, war, responsibility, and sacrifice.

Director Nia DaCosta does a competent job with the film.  As I wrote before, the first big action sequence was incredibly fun and creative.  Beyond that much of the visuals are boiler-plate Marvel content, which is not a negative.  But this movie does not stand out from the rest.  She does a good job of keeping a strong feminine tone without making it seem like a big deal.

I generally enjoyed the performances.  Larson, as I said, seems more relaxed in this film.  Some have criticized her performance as lazy, but I think that it just feels like lower energy because she is more at ease.  Villani is the bright spot of the movie.  Given the right material, I think that her character's popularity could go places.  Parris does a competent job as well.  However, the heroes should be forming a Freudian Trio with Kamal as the Id, Carol as Ego, and Monica as the Super Ego.  And while she is clearly the smartest one of the group, her personality is a little too close to that of Carol to get a fun clash of personalities like a Kirk-Spock-McCoy outing.

I really don't mean to be uncharitable, but Zawe Ashton is just awful as the antagonist.  Granted, she does not have a lot to work with, but she has managed to create the worst MCU villain I have seen.  Her performance would be completely forgettable if it wasn't so terrible.  It's like she watched Daenerys Targaryen in the final season of Game of Thrones and tried to copy that, but badly.  She is constantly mugging for the camera and putting on affectations that are meant to convey power but feel more like a child play acting as a grown up.  Widening your eyes and flaring your nostrils does not a performance make.  Samuel L. Jackson is back as Nick Fury, but really doesn't have much to do here so his performance also has a laid-back energy.

If you focus on what The Marvels could have been, it is definitely a disappointment.  

But as it is, it is from the disaster that is being purported.  If you are open to its tone and style, it is a fairly enjoyable piece of superhero fare.

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

TV Review: Once Piece (2023)


I am not a big anime guy.  So when the news came out that there was a live-action version of a long-running manga and anime series, it did not pique my interest at all.

However, more and more people whose opinions I respect came back with reviews saying that this particular show was actually incredibly entertaining.

With that in mind, I decided to take a chance on Netflix's One Piece.

And it is as good as advertised.

One Piece takes place on a fictional world where most of the planet is ocean with one major strip of land dividing the hemispheres along with several islands throughout.  Chaos is reigned in by the massive and restrictive World Government.  Anyone who defies them is labeled a "pirate."  

Enter Monkey D. Luffy (Inaki Godoy), a young man in a straw hat with a mischievous grin and an indomitable spirit.  Luffy wants to get a crew together so he can go to a dangerous place called "The Grand Line" and find a mythical treasure called "The One Piece."  Once he finds he, he plans to become "King of the Pirates."  Early on, Luffy meets an enslaved cabin boy named Koby (Morgan Davies), who is timid and shy, but dreams of becoming a Marine for the World Government because he wants to protect people.  Luffy ends up breaking into a local Marine headquarters in order to steal a map to the Grand Line.  While there he meets up with Rorona Zoro (Mackenyu), a green-haired, deadly-serious swordsman and pirate-hunter.  Luffy also encounters an orange-haired thief named Nami (Emily Rudd), who is also trying to steal the map.  Also in their adventures, they are thrown together with people like Usopp (Jacob Romero), a teller of tall-tales and Sanji, (Taz Skylar), a fighter with deadly kicks who dreams of being a great chef.  Together they must evade enemies like Vice Admiral Garp (Vincent Regan), psychotic clown-pirate Buggy (Jeff Ward), and brutal fishman villain Arlong (McKinley Belcher III).  Along the way they learn about each other and get into all manner of situations as they look for the One Piece.

While that sounds a bit convoluted, the show does an excellent job of balancing all those elements while doing a fair bit of world-building.  Rather than focusing on every single bit of lore upfront, the show wisely understands that if the audience can attach itself to the main character, then we will follow him through, no matter how strange the path turns out to be.

One of the things that makes this show work so well is that the main characters are well-defined, distinct, and the play off of each other with excellent chemistry.  It is so boring when you watch a show with an ensemble cast that all talk and behave in such similar ways.  That isn't the case with One Piece.  Luffy is Don Quixote: a dreamer with and impossible dream that he believes in with all of his heart.  He improvises his way through most situations with an undying optimism and a wide smile.  Godoy could have played him as less-than-intelligent.  And while Luffy is no genius, he is also not stupid.  He just sees the best in people and in most situations and he wants people to follow their dreams.  When you meet Luffy, you want to be his friend too.

This relentless positivity clashes well with the stoic Zoro, who speaks with a flat affectation as if every topic is the most serious in the world.  It also sparks well against the cynical Nami who always sees the worst in the world and the people in it.  The show could have easily fallen into the trap of having Luffy always be naively right and his companions having to learn a lesson at the end of each adventure.  Instead the show is smart enough to show how their characteristics both help and hurt themselves and each other.

Usually when translating an anime into a live-action, there is an attempt to ground the visuals in something closer to reality.  One Piece does not do that.  Everything about it feels like a cartoon.  This is not a detriment, but it is a stylistic choice.  I think my recent exposure to Bollywood movies has broadened my tastes for the radical tonal shifts that can occur.  Movies like RRR go from over-the-top action to melodrama to comedy in the blink of an eye while maintaining their overall aesthetic.  One Piece invites you into this cartoon come-to-life and accept that the rules of the real world don't fit.  If that does not comport with your tastes, then this show will turn you off.

The performances are generally good.  Actors have to perform characters with several dimensions.  But while the characters are layered and multi-faceted, they are not subtle.  There is absolutely no subtlety in One Piece.  Characters make bold declarations at the top of their lungs for seemingly no reason.  Things are big, bold, and theatrical.  That isn't to say that there isn't symbolism are depth.  But everything is easily accessible.  The symbolic and emotional meaning of something like a straw hat is so powerful that when it is placed on someone's head, it speaks more powerfully than any bit of dialogue.

And again, the lack of subtlety does not mean lack of complexity.  There is something very Catholic about seeing that every person, no matter how they appear on the outside, has an entire inner life that humanizes them in our eyes if we can see it.

The relationships between the characters, particularly when at odds, causes the narrative to twist and turn in incredibly interesting ways.  What does Luffy do when one of his crew wants to follow a dream but could get him killed?  

Returning to the performances, they are all competent, but have potential to grow.  Godoy is able to hold the entire show as its loveable center.  Emily Rudd shows some charisma and range, though she is basically recreating Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Ramona Flowers.  Many of the others play the characters very broadly, which works for the show, but could be made even better with a little more depth.  

My biggest criticism of the show is the overall inconsistent aesthetic.  Some people dress like pirates, but others wear t-shirts.  There doesn't seem to be electricity unless there is.  Nothing feels like it belongs together.  This isn't a deal-breaker, but it sometimes took me out of the story.  When Peter Jackson did The Lord of the Rings, he made sure to give Middle-Earth a sense of consistent reality.  In One Piece, some things look like they were taken out of a costume shop and don't feel like they belong in that world.  

Ultimately, One Piece works because it is about friendship and adventure.  There is a refreshing innocence to the story.  Mind you, it is not necessarily for little kids.  There are murders and swearing, so this may not be appropriate for little ones.  But at the core there is a strong beating heart, not weighed down by cynicism.  Everything about this world, with its oppressive governments and violent pirates, should crush down our heroes into horrible pessimists.  But Luffy's unstoppable belief gives wind to their sails and pushes them on to the horizon.

Monday, November 13, 2023

New Evangelizers Post: The Five Levitical Sacrifices and Christianity



I have a new article up at  

I sometimes ask my students if they have tried to read the Bible all the way through. Some hands go up. When I ask them how far they get, most say that they stop somewhere in the third book: Leviticus.

The reason why Leviticus is difficult to read is that there are no stories in that book. It is entirely made up of laws. I know very few people who find enjoyment out of reading the owner’s manual to their car or a volume of local tort case laws. While this may be fascinating to some, to most it is drudgery.

But since all Scripture is of God, there are still things that we can take of value here. Even if we do not find it inspiring, the work is still inspired.

Today I would like to focus on the Five main Levitical Sacrifices.

The priests of the tribe of Levi would offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. The five major sacrifices were the Holocaust Offering, the Grain offering, the Peace Offering, the Sin Offering, and the Guilt Offering.

The Holocaust was the Diving Offering. A person would present to the priests a lamb or goat for sacrifice. If you had many lambs, this was to be the best of your flock. Like Abel in the Genesis, it was a sign of your dedication to God. You would not give God your scraps. Instead, you gave Him what was of highest value to show that God came first. For us, we can ask ourselves if we have this same mindset. When you get your paycheck is your first thought about paying off your bills or perhaps paying for that weekend vacation? Or is your first thought, “How can I use this money to give glory to God and help others?”

Goats and lambs, however, were not cheap. If you were too poor to afford this as an offering, then you made an offering of grain. The Grain Offering was the offering of the poor. Even the poor need to acknowledge that any good thing they have comes from God, even though they are not expected to give as much as the rich. Offering the grain or the bread showed a thanksgiving on the part of the poor for all that God has given.

In the ancient world, table fellowship was a big deal. It is one of the reasons Jesus always asks to dine with the sinners. Even today, sharing a meal with someone is one of the most common social activities. We do it on dates, meetings with friends, and gather around the table for special holidays. Table fellowship was also a sign of peace and reconciliation. The Peace Offering was a meal eaten with others. If you were having a feud with your neighbor, you would invite them to a meal to bury the hatchet. You make peace in the community as a sing of God’s love for us.

The last two offerings deal with our sinfulness. The Sin Offering was a sacrifice made on behalf of the people as a sign of our repentance and God’s forgiveness. I just finished watching a show called One Piece. In that show, a character betrays their friends for the villain. Feeling awful about it, this person looks at their shoulder where they have the villain’s logo tattooed. In repentance, this person begins to stab at the tattoo, trying to remove it. This was done as a sign of how sorry they were for what they had done and how they are turning their back on their former way of life. That is what the Sin offering does.

But there is more. As a kid, if you hit a baseball through the window of old Mrs. Slobovovich’s house, you aren’t supposed to run and hide. You are supposed to go, knock on her door, and apologize. But asking for forgiveness is not enough. Their is still the matter of the broken window. You must offer to repair the damage. That is what the Guilt Offering is for.

God is a God of justice. This means that all sin must be punished. But if sin must be punished and I have sin in me, then this means that I will be punished. However, the Guilt Offering involves something called the Scapegoat. This is a goat or lamb that is brought before the community. All of the sins of the community are symbolically placed upon this animal. No, the punishment of sin will fall on the animal and not upon the community. The animal takes the blame, hence it is our scapegoat.

After looking at the above description of the Five Levitical Sacrifices, you may wonder why a Christian should care about them? After all, we do not do animal sacrificing anymore. So what advantage is there for us to know these?

Because all of these foreshadow Christ.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Film Flash: The Marvels


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

Despite having the lamest MCU villain, it’s a fun movie, better than the original Captain Marvel

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Trailer Time: Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Teaser

I really like the fact that you have no idea that this is a Ghostbusters teaser until part way through the video.  It is a nice reveal.

Placing everything back in New York is nice, though I enjoyed the change of setting from Ghostbusters: Afterlife.  The plot so far does not look like it is anything special.  The previous film had a strong emotional connection to the original characters.  Although I am looking forward to Paul Rudd taking a more active role as a Ghostbusters.

So far it looks pretty decent.  The last movie earned enough good will from me to be willing to fork over the money for a ticket on opening night for this one.


Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Empire Struck Back: Defeat Before Victory

 In the continual war against the Culture of Death, defeat is a part of the process.

In any war, there will be setbacks before final victory.  In fact, JRR Tolkien saw history as one long defeat followed by victory in the end.

During the Revolution, after the magnificent retaking of Boston, Washington was dealt a savage defeat at the Battle of Brooklyn.  

I've written before about how the Pro-Life cause was always going to lose ground in the coming years.  Since 1973, the focus of victory for the Culture of Life has been the overturning of Roe v. Wade.  With this as the end goal, many felt like final victory had been achieved.  But the Culture of Death is crafty.  As it became more and more apparent that the Supreme Court would overturn the decision, they began to work in the popular culture and in local legislatures.  

Even today someone asked, "How can abortion be legalized if Roe v. Wade was overturned?"  There was a general misunderstanding that if Roe was overturned, that abortion would become illegal.  That was not the case.  Instead, the law reverted to what it was before Roe, which is that each state made its own abortion laws.  

When Roe ended, the Culture of Death was ready, but I don't think the Culture of Life was.  That is why we lost so much ground yesterday, particularly in my state.

Mother Teresa said that a land with legalized abortion is a land without hope.  My state has abandoned hope.

I am disheartened and disgusted, but I am not despairing.

Defeat always comes before final victory.

Please forgive the following analogy, but it is the most concrete way I can explain it.

When the rebels destroyed the Death Star, that was a major win against the evil Empire.  But that single major victory was not the end.  The Empire retaliated with its full might.  The Rebellion lost the Battle of Hoth, Bespin was lost, Han was taken, and Luke was broken.  The Rebels lost so much ground after that great victory.  But they didn't give up.  They pushed forward.  They took the lessons they learned from their defeat and overcame the forces of darkness.

Now, you may think it silly or trite to compare the struggle for the unborn with a series of space movies.  But George Lucas created an enduring tale because he tapped into the mythic truths about life.  The story of Star Wars teaches us something true: defeat comes before victory.

If you are saddened by the Culture of Death's victory, I understand.  I am too.

But do not despair.

We are on the winning side, because God is Pro-Life.

It took almost half a century for the Culture of Life to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Perhaps it will take another 50 years to gain back the ground we lost.  

But we will never give up, we will never give in.  

As long as we stand strong in Him, then even through every defeat we can be assured that we are on the road to final victory.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Do Not Cooperate With Evil

 Today in my state, we are voting on a constitutional amendment that would legalize all forms of abortion, even to the moment of birth.

I ask that you pray for my state.  Please ask the Holy Spirit to guide our voters.

I would ask my fellow voters to spend time in prayer before voting.  The lives of countless children are on the line.  

As you go to the polls, keep these innocents in mind and recall the words of Our Lord:  

Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me. (Matt 25:45)

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: save souls and unborn children!

Monday, October 30, 2023

New Evangelizers Post: Synod on Synodality: Final Document – First Impressions



I have a new article up at  

Yesterday, the Synod on Synodality released their final document. I have read what they have released and will share with you my takeaways. I am sure someone more learned can do a more thorough breakdown, but this will have to suffice as a brief assessment.

Much has been made of the Synod both in the press and online. Some were worried that it was about radically overhaul and contradict Church doctrine. Others thought that it would bring about a revolutionary sea change like Vatican II.

Neither side was correct.

The Synod, by its nature, is an advisory body; it does not have the power to change doctrine. The Synod can only make recommendations for the Church.


The three key themes to come out of the Synod are:

1. Called and Gifted through Baptism
2. Communion with Christ and One Another
3. Sent Forth on Mission.


The Synod said that there was “the need to grow into a more synodal Church, starting with the recognition of the dignity of all the baptized.” (For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission, 14). Keeping with the themes of Vatican II, there is a greater call for the participation of the laity in the life of the Church. To do this, the Synod felt that “there was the desire for greater co-responsibility among the laity and the clergy, including bishops.” (17) This means viewing the the clergy and laity more as co-laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord and in the ministry of the Gospel. There was a strong desire to bring in more voices and participation from women and young people.


The main theme of this section was alienation. There are many who feel alienated from Christ and Church. They are on the margins of society and feel a barrier to full communion with the Body of Christ. Partially this begins with the lack of trust some have in the hierarchy of the Church because of sins and scandals. “A significant threat to communion within the Church is a lack
of trust, especially between the bishops and the laity, but also between the clergy in general and the lay faithful.” (25) When our leaders lose the moral high ground, it becomes very difficult for them to call others to a holy way of life.

The Synod listed several people who feel alienated from the Church, including people with same-sex attractions, the divorced and remarried without annulment, and those who have had access to the Latin Mass restricted. The Synod called for a greater sense of listening or “synodality” (this is a word used constantly throughout the document). “There was a consensus that more formation in synodality is needed.” (31). This means that we must listen to those who are not in full communion with us and hear their stories.


This section makes clear that we are a Missionary Church. This means that, like the Apostles of old, we are called to go out from our comfortable places and reach out to those on the margins. This is what Christ did. This is how the Apostles went to the ends of the Earth to proclaim the Good News. Today, geography is not the impediment. Instead, the focus is on those in our communities who are on the margins. We are called to reach out to them and draw them “into the tent” of the Church.


There is much in this document that is laudable. The recognition of everyone’s baptismal dignity is paramount. One of the things that has happened in recent years is that we quickly vilify those who disagree with us. We must always remember that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. All the baptized have been adopted into that family and so we are all brothers and sisters in the Lord.

The call for greater participation of the laity can bear great fruit. Any parish priest will tell you that the more that the families are active in the Church, the more alive the parish community becomes. As someone who works with young people, it is so important to bring them in as active members of the faith. My faith was renewed and reformed when I was seventeen. These experiences matter.

The call for greater listening is also a good thing. As I have gotten older, I’ve come to understand that society changes rapidly. The moral norms of the world I grew up in are not the same ones that many of my students have. Because of this, some of my old teaching methods are not nearly as effective as they used to be. In order to improve, I have to listen to where my students are in their spiritual journey. Even the act of listening can be very healing. Often when I have a student who seeks me for advice, my main focus is to let them talk. Just giving voice to your feelings can be a great relief.

And we are all called to actively bring people to Jesus. Like Peter, we must be fishers of men. The Synod’s call to reach out to the marginalized is something that all Christians must do.


While the Synod calls for these good things, there are a few areas of confusion or ambiguity. For example, it says “While clarity is still needed around exactly what a fully co-responsible
Church looks like, delegates proposed the examination of a variety of aspects of Church life, including decision-making roles, leadership, and ordination.” (19) This is an incredibly problematic statement since the question of women’s ordination has been closed since Pope St. John Paul II wrote Ordinatio Sacerdotalis. This is couched in the qualifier “clarity is still needed,” clarity has already been given. Even Pope Francis recently reaffirmed that Holy Orders is “reserved for men.”

This speaks to the general problem of confusion. As mentioned above, people were expecting doctrinal statements. “This isn’t so much about the what as about the how.” (37) They Synod is attempting to set up a framework of activity. But the clarifying content seems mostly absent. We are called to reach out to those with same-sex attractions? Yes. How do we do so while not compromising the doctrines on human sexuality? The Synod doesn’t say. Should we minister to those who cannot receive communion because they are divorced and remarried without annulment? Yes. How do we do that and maintain the integrity of the Sacrament? The Synod doesn’t say.

It doesn’t seem like you can have an effective how without a what.

The quote that caught my eye was this “Tension is conversion.” (36) This means that the discomfort we feel at brining in the marginalized is part of our conversion to God. While tension can be a source of purgation from our old prejudices, I don’t think tension can be synonymous with conversion. Tension can arise in the Church for many reasons, such as heresy. I do not think that the tension felt from this is a part of conversion. In fact, tension can lead to disunity, which is not of God. This idea that tension is essential feels too couched in Hegelian philosophy (where progress only occurs through conflict) than in Catholic Tradition (which is about God uniting us in His grace). Again, tension can be an important part of refining our faith, but it is not the same thing as conversion.

You can read the whole article here.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Rest in Peace Matthew Perry


photo by Policy Exchange Follow

I have never met Matthew Perry, and yet I was greatly saddened by the news that he died yesterday.  Perhaps it is illogical, but performers have a way of creating a strong emotional bond with their audience.  And it was the same with Perry.

When 9/11 happened, like most people I was filled with horror, shock, and disbelief.  As the hours dragged on, my family and I were gathered around the television set, desperate for news, overwhelmed by every report.  As evening wore on and it seemed like there would be no more attacks that day, we all felt emotionally drained.  

It was then that we decided to put in a DVD of Friends.

This may not have been the most rational response, but we wanted a brief escape from what we were feeling.  And for a few hours, the laughs were like a balm on the burning hot pain of the day.  

And a lot of that had to do with Perry.

I first remember seeing Perry as a guest star on Growing Pains, where his shocking death hit me in the gut.  It is strange how art imitates life.

He had been in other projects here and there, but it was Friends that put him on the map.  His Chandler Bing was the best part of the show.  Yes, people were very early on invested in the Ross and Rachel romance.  But it was Perry's wit and delivery that anchored the entire series.  You may make the argument that the show promoted a general sense of immorality.  I would not argue the point with you.  But I can tell you that my connection to the show was emotional rather than ethical.  If you find fault with this, I offer no defense.  I can only offer this: Matthew Perry made me laugh.

Like his other castmates, he tried to break into the movies with limited success in films like The Whole Nine Yards with Bruce Willis.  This was an odd movie that worked so well because it felt so close to being a thriller.  

One of his bombs was Three to Tango, a movie I saw three times in the theater.  While most people were turned off by the movie, I thought Perry showed really leading-man charm while making me laugh the entire time.  When you love a movie that most people hate, you feel a stronger bond to it than most.

Perry's range as an actor could be seen in his few dramatic roles.  His stints on The West Wing portended a potentially bright future as a dramatic actor.  You could see this as well in the ill-fated Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, a drama about comedy where the writing wasn't funny.  Perry could play the drama pitch perfectly.

However, his addiction to drugs cast a shadow on his life.  Like Chris Farley (with whom he starred in Almost Heroes), Perry's addictions took over everything.  He claimed he has no memory of Friends seasons 3-6 because of the drugs.  He also has said that he spent $9 million dollars trying to get clean.  Back in 2018, Perry almost died and was in the hospital for five months.  Despite this, two years later, he was still trolling for drugs.  

The drugs robbed Perry of much of his life's joy, his health, and I believe ultimately his life.  As of this writing, Perry is stated to have drowned in his hot tub.  There is no mention yet of drugs.  Even still, the ravages on his body from the addiction may have contributed.

Perry acknowledged that Friends would probably be his most remembered legacy.  But he hoped he would be remembered primarily for the way he tried to help those with addiction.  He said he would always help any addict in any way he could.  He even gave up his Malibu home to become a home for men recovering from addiction.  He said:

 "When I die, it would be nice if Friends were listed far behind the things I did to try to help other people. I know it won't happen, but it would be nice."

There is something sad and beautiful about this realization.  It reminds me of the 15th Century morality play Everyman, in which a man faces death and comes to realize that the only thing that he can take with him to the grave are his good deeds.  It seems like Perry came to this same realization.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.  May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.  Amen

Matthew Perry, rest in peace.

Monday, October 23, 2023

TV Review: Picard Season 3



That is what sets this season of Picard apart from nearly anything else Star Trek has produced in the last 25 years.  

Don't get me wrong, there have been some good things in the last few decades.  I greatly enjoyed JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot.  But much of what has been produced lately has been sub-par.  In particular, the first two seasons of Picard were dreadful.  Star Trek seemed determined to give Jean-Luc Picard the Last Jedi treatment.  

You can imagine my total delight and surprise when Star Trek Picard Season 3 made one of the best seasons of TV I've seen in awhile.

And again, it all comes down to love.

Terry Matalas took over the reigns as showrunner.  And you can tell with every frame of film that he loves Star Trek.  He doesn't just love The Next Generation, but he loves all of Star Trek.  This is apparent from the very first shot of the season to the end credits.  And he understands that Star Trek is not simply about the operatic space adventure.  Star Trek is about the characters.  This is what has been missing from so much of recent Trek, including Picard.  In the last two seasons, Jean-Luc has behaved in ways unrecognizable to someone who is familiar with Next Generation.  But now it feels like we got him back.

I will endeavor to be as spoiler-free as possible, especially because I would encourage anyone who is a fan of The Next Generation to do yourself a favor and watch this season.

The story begins with Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) in her small starship being attacked by an alien vessel.  As things look bleak, she sends out a distress signal to Picard.  Jean-Luc begins this season packing away his memorabilia, putting away his old life.  But Beverly's message brings him back into action.  She is panicked and desperate and she tells him to trust no one, not even Starfleet.  Needing help, Admiral Picard turns to his old friend Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes).  Both men feel like relics in their modern world, but they push on to help an old friend.  They are able to fake their way onto the USS Titan, under the guise of helping with the Starfleet anniversary celebration known as "Frontier Day."  Seven-of-Nine (Jerry Ryan) serves as first officer, but they are stymied by Captain Shaw (Todd Stashwick), a by-the-book officer with a chip on his shoulder who has no time for the antics and adventures of our old adventurers.  From here, Picard and Riker have to make their way to Beverly, where they discover that she travelling with a young man named Jack (Ed Speleers), who is the reason that they are being hunted.

I do not want to give anything else away, so I will leave the set up here.

Let me start first with the negatives.  

The biggest problem that the show has is that it is tied to the horrible continuity created by the previous two seasons.  While they have jettisoned most of the previous series regulars, Raffi (Michelle Hurd) remains and she is a drag on the show.  Hurd is a fine actress, but the character feels so out of place and out of step with everything else.  The series also continues the use of mature language, which also feels incredibly out of place in a Star Trek series.  I don't think Picard dropping f-bombs makes us take him more seriously.


The other biggest issue I had was that in order to set up the finale, one of the characters has to do something so monumentally stupid that I could not understand it.  Yes, the character endures a great deal of emotional stress.  But when the character acted on their feeling, all I kept asking myself was "So what the heck is your PLAN?"  The answer, of course, is that there was no plan.  It was something that had to be done so that the rest of the plot could happen.  And this is a shame, because the rest of the story is so good.


And I mean that it is SO good.

There are tons of Easter eggs for Trek fans to find.  This could lead a person to accuse the show of fan service.  I'm not against fan service at all.  I think that people who produce a beloved TV show should do what they can to please the fans.  I only object when fan service is a replacement for good storytelling.  Matalas does both.  

He sets the plot up by drawing on threads from not only Next Generation, but also Deep Space Nine and Voyager, as well as the movies.  It is clear that Matalas made this movie with fans of the entire franchise in mind.  This gives the show the advantage of feeling familiar and new at the same time.

As showrunner, Matalas was able to weave in plot points in very creative ways.  He is able to drop important story elements without you even realizing that they will be important later.  It isn't until there is a reveal that you go, "Of course!"

Visually, the show looks fantastic.  You can tell that they used all the advancements in computer graphics to give us a spectacle.  But beyond that, the show is incredibly well-shot, knowing how to frame the characters, when to give us a sense of intimacy or grandeur.

But, of course, the best part of the show are the characters.  Matalas understands that for many of us, the characters we grew up with on Next Generation are not simply imaginary people on TV.  They are our friends.  If that sounds too over-the-top, then let's just say that we have emotional attachment to them in a way that is beyond reason.  We care about them and what happens to them.  We know when they behave in a way that is true and false.

Watching these classic characters bounce off of each other again is a pure joy.  Picard and Riker have a strong friendship, but it does not stop them from butting heads.  Each of them has had experiences that has broken them a bit inside.  But when they are on the same page, they appear unstoppable.  Stewart's and Frakes' chemistry has never been better.  In fact, the fact that they are older makes them appear more as equals, without ever losing that original dynamic completely.  

I can say the same thing about Stewart and McFadden.  There is a scene in an early episode where the two of them lock eyes and have a serious conversation without saying a word.  To be clear, there is no science-fiction-type telepathy going on.  Instead, you have two seasoned actors expressing their deep truths to each other non-verbally.  The impact of that one moment touched me deeply.

You may see a few more familiar faces, but I will not spoil that here.  However, one of my favorite parts of the show was Stashwick as Captain Shaw.  In the hands of lesser writers and lesser actors, this part could have been reduced to a simple antagonist, an obstacle for our heroes to overcome.  Instead, he reminded me of a much more broken version of Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox) from Chain of Command.  Shaw is a complete jerk, but he is not necessarily wrong when he confronts our heroes.  He is sarcastic and acerbic, but he is a competent professional who honestly is looking out for the people under his command.  Once he earned my respect, I enjoyed every scene he was in, even when he behaved awfully.  

While watching this season, I could not help but feel like this is what the Star Wars sequels should have been.  In Disney's efforts to establish a new generation of heroes, they brushed aside the ones we already knew and loved in a way that did not feel respectful.  That doesn't mean that the heroes can't have flaws.  In fact, Riker goes through a similar emotional journey as Han Solo in The Force Awakens (not that his son becomes evil).  But the difference is that with Han it feels like he became less of the man he was.  Whereas with Riker, for good or for ill, he becomes more of the person he is.  Another example is the difference between how Luke Skywalker and Picard are treated.  While there is clearly an attempt to introduce some new, younger characters, Picard is never tossed aside to make way for them.  He is always the hero at the center.

That doesn't mean he is a flawless hero.  In fact, one of the things I like about this reboot is that it doesn't fall into the "Jack Bauer Trap," where everything the hero says is right and everyone around is too stupid to see.  Sometimes Picard is wrong and the show lets him be wrong without humiliating him.  Instead, it shows how he picks himself up from defeat.

Thematically, the season shows the value of age and experience.  Despite the desire for everything that is new and flashy, sometimes the old-fashioned, time tested methods are the ones that work.  This always works in tension with need to grow and evolve and to not be too set in your ways.  The show strikes the perfect balance.

The finale had me on the edge of my seat.  Matalas clearly not only loves Star Trek, but he also loves Return of the Jedi.  The influences from that movie cannot be avoided, and that is a good thing.  

This really does feel like the Return of the Jedi for The Next Generation.  It is a powerful, emotional, final farewell to our friends with whom we have trekked around the stars.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Pray for Peace - October 27th

 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

“May those who love you rest secure.

May there be peace within your walls
    and security in your palaces.”
[Out of love for my relatives and friends,
    I will say, “May peace be within you.”
Out of love for the house of the Lord, our God,

    I will pray for your well-being.

PSALM 122:6-9

Hello all,

If you are like me, you have been watching the events unfold in the Holy Land and are shocked and horrified by the violence, especially by the attacks on innocent civilians.  

There is so much to say and so much that can and should be done.  But I wanted to invite all of you to pray for peace.  On October 27th, Pope Francis has asked Catholics to pray and fast for peace.

Prayer is not a dispensible part of bringing peace to the world.  Christians are often shamed for offering "thoughts and prayers," instead of direct action.  But it is not an either/or issue.  It is both/and.  We are called to direct acts of charity AND we are required to pray.

As the situation escalates, the call for prayer and fasting becomes even more urgent.  Jesus describes times when evil can only be driven out through prayer and fasting (Matt 17:21).

In the mystery of God, somehow He allows our prayers and sacrifices to have an effect on the world.  God is all-powerful, but CS Lewis said He gives us "the dignity of causality."  This means that He wants us to be engaged in the struggle between good and evil.  And one of the ways we can all participate is through prayer.

I would like to end with the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

I went to a Franciscan high school, so I became very familiar with this prayer.  One of the things I love about this prayer is that it tells an important truth: peace begins with me.  I have to let God's peace come into my life and then I must be the one to live it.  Only then can I seek peace outside of myself.  

So let us pray to be instruments of God's peace.

God Bless,

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.