Seriously… What Should I Do?

October 31, 2010

What with the NBA season all of five days old, no doubt all you b-ball junkies out there have watched, discussed, contemplated, quantified, deep fried and blogged-about the King (LeBron James) and “The Decision” – the now infamous one hour special where he proclaimed that he was leaving the anawim Cleveland Cavaliers to play in South Beach for the Miami Heat.

And now he and the good ol’ folks at Nike have released a new commercial responding to the incredible backlash against LeBron since the deciding day.  In case you haven’t seen it take 90 seconds and watch it.  I’ll be right here.

… checking email…

… playing some dumb Facebook game…

Time’s up.  What did you think?  I’ll tell you what I thought in one word: “wow.”  Or four more: “now that’s a commercial!” Read the rest of this entry »

We Can Be Heroes: A Homily

October 31, 2010

In Luke’s gospel the rich do not come off especially well. The rich young man is told to sell all that he owns and, unable to do so, he goes away very sad. In the Magnificat, Mary looks forward to the day when God will fill the poor with good things and send away the rich with empty hands. Jesus pronounces woes to the rich, he portrays them as fools, calls them callous, and in general finds them incapable of responding to the call of God. Remember the story from luke’s gospel about the two men who die, one named Lazarus is sent immediately to heaven. The other because he was rich and did not care for Lazarus is sent immediately to hell.

Even in today’s story the rich do not have an easy time of it. The crowd grumbles at the rich man Zacchaeus. He, a very wealthy man, is forced to run along side the crowd gathered to see Jesus. His wealth does not get him a luxury skybox but instead he’s forced to climb a rather small tree so he may see Jesus pass by. His wealth offers him no advantages and in the eyes of the crowd his wealth is a tremendous disadvantage. They roll their eyes at him. Read the rest of this entry »

On screen exorcists

October 30, 2010

This Halloween I thought I’d watch a few exorcist movies.  Their popularity in our increasingly secular culture strikes me as an intriguing anomaly.  When I taught freshmen at Marquette High School, the exorcism stories from the Gospels inevitably provoked a barrage of questions.

Exorcist movies intrigue in a way other stories don’t because—in addition to the thrill of being frightened—they provide a backdoor into questions of the supernatural.  I watched The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose last week, both based loosely on actual events, and I was struck by the certitude of the unbelievers in both films:  the roomful of psychologists in lab coats who tell The Exorcist’s Chris McNeil (Ellen Burstyn), whose daughter is possessed, that exorcisms sometimes work, just not for the reasons “the Catholics” think they do; and the prosecutor in Emily Rose, Ethan Thomas (Campbell Scott), who pronounces the word “miraculous” with scorn.

The confident rejection of the supernatural these skeptics show represents the conventional wisdom of our culture, just as the acceptance of a world filled with spirits represented—and in most parts of the world still represents—the accepted belief in other cultures.  In an interview, Jennifer Carpenter, who plays the possessed girl Emily Rose, said that the movie aimed to send viewers away with “fistfuls of questions.”

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A holy day of opportunity

October 26, 2010

This year All Saints Day is not a holy day of obligation.  I have to confess, I’m a little sad about that.

I’m sad because, absent the threat of sin, most people won’t go to Mass.

Too cynical a way of putting it?  Maybe.  But am I wrong?

Human nature being fallen, there’s a certain legalistic streak in each one of us, and the most common form of legalism is minimalism.  Ever asked yourself, “How late can I show up at Mass for it still to count?”  Or calculated how many minutes into Mass communion is likely to be so that you can squeeze in one last donut before heading out the door?  Come on, admit it.  I have, too.  (The donut had sprinkles.)

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Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

October 24, 2010


Since I’ve been ordained a deacon, most of the energy that once went into blog posts now goes into homilies.  Then it occurred to me that I might just post an occasional homily and kill two birds with one stone.  Here’s the one I preached today at St. Paul’s in Cambridge, MA.  It’s written more for listening than for reading, but the basic point survives.  Enjoy…

Can we see the Pharisee in today’s Gospel as a ‘normal’ person with ‘normal’ attitudes?  And, as a result, can we see Christ’s disapproval of the Pharisee’s attitudes as an invitation to a discipleship that goes beyond conventional morality?  This, to my mind, is the imaginative challenge that our Gospel poses.  The problem is that our sensibilities in Christian Culture have been so long tutored by these and similar passages that the Pharisee now seems cartoonish.  We can hardly imagine consciously bragging, comparing, and condemning so openly.  So it’s easy to give ourselves a pass.

In order to help us approach the Pharisee sympathetically, then, I thought I might just share a few findings from mental health professionals on the self-perception of ‘normal’ adults who enjoy moderate to high self-esteem. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Feast of the North American Martyrs

October 19, 2010


One of the notes of great holiness is its ability to inspire art—and not just “preachy” art, that is, art placed at the service of transparently apologetic aims.  The lives of great saints often have a sort of public appeal, such that they can be perceived as beautiful even by those who lie outside the Catholic fold.  I would argue that numbered among these great saints would be the North American Martyrs, the seven French Jesuits and one lay companion who were martyred attempting to evangelize the indigenous peoples of New France.

If an artistic legacy be accepted as a valid criterion for detecting the presence of great sanctity, then I would submit as evidence for my claim Brebeuf and His Brethren, the epic poem written by E. J. Pratt.  Pratt was perhaps the foremost Canadian poet of the early 20th Century.  And, though trained as a Methodist minister in the days before ecumenism was fashionable, Pratt admitted in a radio interview that he considered the North American Martyrs “the most romantic historical thing that Canada had ever encountered.”  Their saga cried out to be turned into poetry. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Broken Social Network

October 19, 2010

The Social Network, directed by David Fincher, written by Aaron Sorkin

This new film has received lots of positive reviews and has sold lots of tickets over the past weeks, but I was unsure just what might be in store as I walked into the theater this weekend. What I found was a brilliant, and oddly moving, tragedy. At first, it seemed to be just the tragedy of one man, Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of facebook, but in the end the tragedy seems to be so many-sided, so “social” that I found myself drawn right into the drama. I was asking the question: these people’s lives are so very broken, but in the end, are they all that different from me?

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