Thursday, July 26, 2007

Act One Coming to DC

--------------- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ---------------


Each year, hundreds of aspiring screenwriters flock to Hollywood with scripts in their hands and stars in their eyes. This year, Hollywood is coming to them. Next stop? Washington, D.C.

Act One, Inc., a Los Angeles-based training program for writers and other film industry professionals, is partnering with the Fellowship of Christian Filmmakers to present the Act One Screenwriting Weekend, a conference for professional and aspiring screenwriters. The workshop, slated for September 21-22, 2007 at McLean Bible Church, is an intense, practical overview of screenwriting basics, the current film market, and the Christian’s responsibility to engage popular culture.

Participants will study the craft of screenwriting – from story development and structure to character, dialogue and screenplay format – with a group of accomplished Hollywood professionals, including screenwriter and Executive Producer Dean Batali (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, That 70’s Show) and screenwriter, producer, and Azusa Pacific University Associate Professor Dr. Thomas Parham (JAG, Touched By An Angel).

“Our nation’s capitol has provided a backdrop for countless Hollywood stories – it’s a great place to gather storytellers,” says Conference Coordinator Lauri Evans Deason. “And we’re thrilled to join the Fellowship of Christian Filmmakers in providing new inspiration for local writers who share our common goals of artistry, professionalism, and spirituality.”

The seminar begins at 1:00 p.m. Friday with a session for registered participants, and continues all day Saturday. It concludes with the Hollywood Insiders Event, a screening and panel discussion with the faculty, open to anyone interested in film and its influence on popular culture. The registration fee, which includes study materials and lunch on Saturday, is $175 for anyone registering before August 15, 2007. After August 15, the cost to attend is $195. Discounts are available for students and groups of ten or more. Tickets for the Hollywood Insiders Event (which begins Saturday at 3:00 p.m.) are $10.

Further information and online registration is available through the Act One website at here, or by calling 323-464-0815. Space is limited, and early registration is encouraged.

Act One, Inc. is a non-profit, interdenominational training and mentorship program designed to train people of faith for careers in mainstream film and television. The organization is endorsed by the Catholic Communications Commission, Catholics In Media Associates, Premise, The Hollywood Prayer Network, MasterMedia International, and several colleges and universities.

323-464-0815 x14

P.S. They tell me thatt here is a special discount for people who register before August 15th. Hurry, click!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Emily Monday (...a day late...rats...)


I prayed, at first, a little Girl,
Because they told me to --
But stopped, when qualified to guess
How prayer would feel -- to me --

If I believed God looked around,
Each time my Childish eye
Fixed full, and steady, on his own
In Childish honesty --

And told him what I'd like, today,
And parts of his far plan
That baffled me --
The mingled side
Of his Divinity --

And often since, in Danger,
I count the force 'twould be
To have a God so strong as that
To hold my life for me

Till I could take the Balance
That tips so frequent, now,
It takes me all the while to poise --
And then -- it doesn't stay --

Here's my re-arrangement and filling in of the poem to get at it's meaning:


I prayed, at first, (when I was) a child, because they told me to --
But stopped, when (my life experiences taught me) how prayer would feel to me (if I were God).

Imagine if the Being we call God, looked around each time my Childish eye (presumed to ) fix full, and steady, on his own, in Childish honesty -- and told him what I'd like, today, and parts of his far plan that baffled me --(you know, how his Divinity becomes obscured and gets a bad rap when it gets mixed up in the material world)

And often since, in Danger, I count the force 'twould be to have a God so strong as that to hold my life for me. (But I am a grown up now and know that God doesn't do that.... this is Emily suffering through her God problem.)

(And I have no idea what this last stanza means. Anybody help out?)

Till I could take the Balance that tips so frequent, now,
It takes me all the while to poise --
And then -- it doesn't stay --

No Dawn in Rescue

I really wanted to like Rescue Dawn, a movie now in theaters. I loved the director's Werner Hertzog's recent documentary Grizzly Man and was looking forward to seeing the same psychological insight brought to bear in the amazing true story of Vietnam P.O.W., Dieter Dengler. But, alas, Rescue Dawn was astoundingly uninsightful, as the incredible tumble of true story details crowds out any effort to actually create a story here.

A story is something that has meaning. It is communicating some kind of lesson about human life. The storyteller selects details that support that meaning. This is how stories are "better than real." The lessons of real life are mostly unknown to us because we have a perspective that is limited by time and access. Stories correct these problems and allow us to apprehend kharma.

Like pretty much every bio-pic about an extraordinary character, Rescue Dawn's main challenge was having too much story. It's interesting how most made up stories that come across my desk for the screen, end up not having enough story. But true stories almost always have too much to work with. So, in this project, the filmmakers were in such a rush to squeeze in all the cool memories that Dieter had about his nightmarish experience getting shot down, tortured, imprisoned and then escaping from the Viet Kong, that they don't have any time to make sense out of it all for us. When I was leaving the theater with my group of five female friends, all of whom work in the business, the most oft-repeated comment was of the "What was that about?" variety. We spent several minutes afterward trying to come up with some theme that could pull together all the events in the film. We came up with that Rescue Dawn is about how a human being can survive pretty much everything if only he has...what? But this was the problem. The filmmakers didn't seem to know.

Dieter's character lacks an arc. He doesn't change at all from the beginning of his horrific experiences to the end. He just survives. A story would have identified the thing that Dieter is living for that allows him to survive. Is it love, or patriotism, or faith in God, or friendship, or passion for life that allows Dieter to keep on struggling? The film makes a wave at each of these, but never takes a position on how Dieter needs to grow to survive. Is isn't enough to expect the viewer's to root to have a character's body saved. We want to know that his soul has been saved, and the lack of this is ultimately what makes Rescue Dawn fall flat.

Hence, the movie is a harrowing litany of the details of one man's life, that left me never feeling real empathy for him. In the mad rush of getting beaten and starved and chased and shot and starving and pulling slugs off his body and watching friends get killed, Dieter remains spiritually inaccessible to the audience. I mean spiritually here in the sense of human spirit, not religiously.

I find this a perplexing misstep from director Hertzog, because he managed to make such a profound statement about the human spirit's longing for meaning in Grizzly Man. That project summed up for me the thesis of Fr. Benedict Groeschel that, "If you don't give people the good God, they'll make themselves a bad one." Rescue Dawn has a hundred times as many dramatic events as Grizzly man, but not a tenth of the story.

The production elements are okay. Clearly, they didn't have enough budget to tell the story better. The paltry number of actors used in the prison camp, and the reliance on the jungle as the principle set made the low budget very obvious. The acting from Christian Bale and Steven Zahn (who lost forty pounds to play the role!) were as best as can be expected considering that they too didn't know the point of their character's adventures. The rest of the acting was uneven and, in the case of the Laotian cast, pretty bad. I recall being annoyed at the score at one point, finding it over the top.

From a writing standpoint, I thought the whole prison camp sequence was over-long and actually got boring for lack of information. It relied too heavily on the occasional moments of Viet Kong brutality to keep the pacing going. I thought the ending was unsatisfying, because, again, it just felt like the movie stopped, but didn't end, in the sense of telling me what the point of the whole journey had been.

Parents and the squeamish should know that there are disturbing - although mostly unbloody to keep the PG-13 rating - sequences of torture and of what men will try to eat when they are starving. Think living squirmy things. There is a lot of talk about bodily excretions and some vulgar language.

I can't recommend Rescue Dawn. It will fade fast and you won't have missed anything by missing it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Real Magic of Harry

Christopher Close-up producer Tony Rossi has compiled a thoughtful piece about the real source of attraction in the Harry Potter saga for contemporary young people. Tony puts together the observations of writers nancy Brown and Mike Hayes to suggest that the reason harry is a hit is not because the stories are about the occult, but because they present a vision of community, and a sense of mystery, to today's young people who are starved for both.

Here's a snip.

Harry and friends band together anyway to learn spells that can help them fight “the Dark Arts.” Their secret meetings and common goal forge a bond between them that goes deeper than anything they’ve experienced before. Through commitment, trust and friendship, their spirit of community becomes a force to be reckoned with much like Tolkien’s “fellowship” in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

That fellowship and love for his family & friends is also what drives Harry to make the right choices. Harry is a complex hero who frequently struggles with the darkness inside himself especially in his final battle with Voldemort in “Order of the Phoenix.” It’s a struggle we all go through at various points in our lives. Do we follow the path of least resistance and give into our darker impulses? Or do we choose to follow “the better angels of our nature” even when it involves some form of sacrifice? When we in the non-fictional world have family, friends, and a God who loves and supports us, it gives us a better chance of choosing the right path.

I agree. Check it out.

Once More With Feeling...

Here is a copy of a letter I just sent to someone who sent me a screenplay to critique. I am putting it here because, it seems, some messages bear repeating. And repeating. And, uh, repeating.


Dear __________________,

Yes, as I noted in my initial message to you, you should definitely get Chris Riley's book so that you can rewrite your project as a screenplay. I will tear up your check as my opinion is that my advice would not be helpful to you at this stage. If you seriously undertake a study of the screen art form, you are probably at least a year away (I'm being optimistic here) from having a script that would be ready to shop around.

You should find a small group of other screenwriters with whom you can meet regularly to advance your skills. You need to read books like Story, by McKee, screenplay (by Syd Field), Making a Good Script Great (by Linda Seger), and Playwrighting (by Louis Catron). A course or two (or more!) in screenwriting at a local college would help you tremendously. Check out Act One's website ( and other on-line resources for screenwriters.

Basically, what I am saying is that writing for movies is a serious and studied profession that takes years to master. You need teachers and mentors the way any artist would. Imagine if you just woke up, read a book, and then decided to declare yourself an architect. What kind of buildings would you be able to realistically create? Movies are multi-million dollar enterprises, that involve hundreds of professionally trained people, not unlike multi-million dollar construction projects. And the writer's screenplay is the essential lynchpin of the whole project. It tells everybody on the team what to do.

You note in your message that you have had "interest from a producer" on this project. What I actually think you might have is kindness from a producer, who wants to be encouraging to you. But, if you had real interest from the producer, the project would be optioned by now and locked down.

My feeling after years of experience in this industry is that no producer who really knows what they are doing would take on your project in its current manifestation. There is no way to figure out how long your piece would be or how much it would cost. No professional director or actor or cinematographer or production designer or casting director, etc. would read beyond the first few lines, because the project is so unprofessionally written. You do not have industry standard formatting. When one flips through the script, it seems to be all speeches and no choices/actions. There are no visual descriptions, discernible plot points, character arcs, or sub-plots. It reads as very preachy and what we call "on the nose" in Hollywood. You need to take your writing skill beyond this very beginner level.

Please do persevere with your aspirations. I just encourage you to roll up your sleeves and do what you are doing with seriousness, intelligence and sacrifice. I will keep you and your project in my prayers. Good luck and God bless -


Monday, July 16, 2007

Wicked good!

Don't have time to do a full review here - but I wanted to add my belated "thumbs up" to the pile of accolades for the musical Wicked. I saw it yesterday at the Pantages Theater here in Los Angeles and found my self marveling because it actually has a story to go with all the wonderful spectacle of it. The story is good. And the charcters too. And while the music didn't strike me as great, it is good enough to add to the overall entertainment experience.

I'll try to write more about it soon. Do catch it if you can.

Emily Monday

[NOTE FROM BARB: Probably my favorite.]


Of all the Souls that stand create --
I have elected -- One --

When Sense from Spirit -- files away --
And Subterfuge -- is done --

When that which is -- and that which was --
Apart -- intrinsic -- stand --

And this brief Drama in the flesh --
Is shifted -- like a Sand --

When Figures show their royal Front --
And Mists -- are carved away,

Behold the Atom -- I preferred --
To all the lists of Clay!

Phoenix Never Quite Rises

I have come to think of reviewing Harry Potter movies the way I ended up feeling about reviewing the last three Star Wars movies - with a sense of duty, but little enthusiasm. I have only read the first book in the Rowling series, and so I sense that I am watching completely different movies than the folks who are walking into the theaters with 2,000 pages of supplementary story information.

My experience of watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and really the last two movies in the franchise, is vague appreciation for the stunning visuals, but also narrative disinterest engendered by the certainty that these movies really aren't for me, as a non-reader of the books. The movies are visual tableaus of beloved imaginings for those who have read the books and walk into the theater already caring.

My experience watching Order of the Phoenix was like an acount of my sisters, Alison and Valerie, watching the NBC series Heroes. Here's the story in dialogue form as it was told to me.

Alison and Valerie stare at a television screen.

Alison: Who is that guy?

Valerie: I don't know.

A few minutes later...

Alison: Why did she just do that?

Valerie: I don't know.

Still, a few minutes later...

Alison: Wait a minute, how could that happen?

Valerie: I don't know.

A few more minutes later...

Alison: What does that mean?

Valerie: I DON'T KNOW!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I felt like Alison in my Thursday screening of Order of the Phoenix. Why Dementors in Muggleville? And why has the Ministry of Magic has gone all federal bureaucracy? And, why is Harry always moody? And who is she? And him? And him? And her?....... etc.

Having stipulated the above, here are some comments proceeding from my criticly duty to try and offer some kind of review of Order of the Phoenix.

The production value is, as with all the films, stunning and wonderful. There are beautifully realized fantasies over and over through the two hours (and then felt long to me).

The acting is great, as always, with the cream of the British academy all dropping in for what are effectively cameos. The most notable of these were the two scenes that Emma Thompson gets in the film, in which she manages to still make an emotional impression.

So, what's it all about, Harry?

The theme that seemed to emerge in the last moments of the film is that evil can not be avoided, but must be engaged and overcome. A secondary theme is also present in which relationships of love and friendship are better than power and domination, and, we suspect, ultimately more powerful. As with all the movies, I did not see any evil or dangerous themes in the movie. I do not think that Harry Potter is in any sense subversive from a Christian standpoint, and as the above themes emerge as the story heads towards its climax, I can't see how the Harry haters are going to hold their turf. It has long been embarrassingly obvious that J.K. Rowling is no Philip Pullman, in that Rowling's narrative orientation is toward the good, true and beautiful.

The weakness in this latest movie was all in the script. There was just too much story from the book for the writer to service effectively. I was disappointed by the non-existent development of the supporting characters in the movie. Ron and, my favorite character, Hermione, might as well have not even been in this movie. Everybody but harry ends up being frozen in place in terms of growth.

People tell me that it was a remarkable accomplishment to squeeze as much as they did in to the movie here, but achievement or not, I was still confused and hence emotionally unengaged much of the time.

For those concerned about their kids, there is no sex, language, vulgarity or graphic violence in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I didn't find it particularly scary. It plays like Return of the Jedi in terms of the violence being various folks getting banged around and slightly fried by lazer beams.

I recommend the movie for those who like the Harry Potter series. For those who aren't followers of the books, the movies will not be harmful, and are entertaining for their effects and style. Whatever.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Not a Mighty Movie

I went to A Mighty Heart yesterday afternoon, and somewhere around the mid-point I fell asleep. I jolted awake, ashamed of myself for not feeling more at the story of an American murdered by terrorists, and momentarily distressed that I had missed something important. But the film was still plodding on unaware of me, as it meticulously reconstructed all the different Ahmeds and Mohammeds and Sarifs and Aris who had played a part in the kidnapping and beheading of journalist, Daniel Pearl.

The movie has a very restrained point of view, which doesn't work from a craft standpoint. It spends way too much time in the minutia of the disappearance and pursuit, especially because everybody in the theater knows that Pearl is going to be found dead eventually. The film spends way too little time demonstrating how either Daniel Pearl or his wife Marianne have "a mighty heart." Just being murdered by blood-thirsty Al Quaeda thugs or being related to someone who is murdered by blood-thirsty Al Quaeda thugs, doesn't make one mighty. It does make one a pawn in a larger game, but the film doesn't do much with that notion either.

I was waiting to see Daniel Pearl, or his wife, Marianne, reach out in some heroic way to the Muslim murderers, and in so doing, help those Muslims find their humanity. Presumably, if we treat blood-lusting monsters like people, they might be drawn into acting human. It's worth a shot, because even if we die naive, we might still go to heaven for the attempt (as long as the angels don't find us in contempt for stupidity...terrorism is so complicated).

Anyway, the film has a note at the end that it is dedicated to Pearl's son, Adam, who was born after his father was murdered. I found that confusing. There is very little about Daniel Pearl in the movie. Just a lot of quick flash backs as Marianne (played with a lot of pacing and staring by Angelina Jolie), remembers her husband in quiet moments here and there. I can't see wanting a son to watch a film that makes much of the vile human footnotes who participated in butchering his father.

There were other odd choices in the movie, that I think are the result of either political correctness or downright terror of the terrorists who are, after all, the providers of the tragic story here. For example, there is a scene in which the good guys from the Pakistani government, who are desperately searching for Pearl, torture a jihadist for information. I thought it was an odd choice, because the movie also makes the choice not to show any of the torture and beheading of Daniel Pearl by the bad guys.

I think by doing this, the movie was maybe trying to say that there are no real bad guys or good guys in the global war on terror. The prevailing "Hate Bush" culture has gotten so bad that everybody is saying insane things like the U.S. is just as bad as the guys who did 9/11, so who are we to judge the guys who beheaded Daniel Pearl? I mean, maybe they had a good reason, right? Maybe U.S. foreign policy forced them to cut off Pearl's head? And maybe all they had around was a butter-knife? Hey, isn't it really a kind of arrogance to say the jihadists are evil?

But no one sane in the audience really believes that, so why even try to make the case? Or in the case of the movie, not make any case, about goodness or evilness. I'm officially closing my mind on this one: People who cut off other peoples' heads with butter-knives or with anything else, own the 'We're Bad Guys" franchise.

I also think the choice was odd from another aspect. Why show a scene of a happening that is at best speculative - the torturing of a terrorist by the Pakistani government. But then NOT show a scene that is certain - the beheading of an innocent journalist. If they were trying to be respectful of Pearl, they ended up making a movie in which the only act of violence that ends up on the screen, is by the good guys. We don't see any jihadist violence in A Mighty Heart. Where's the fairness doctrine when you really need it?

There are an awful lot of people running in and across the screen in A Mighty Heart, but few of them take on any real meaning for the audience. I took this frenzied whizzing by of actors to be the film maker's way of giving us Marianne's disoriented POV in the two weeks between her husband's abduction and his murder. But it really doesn't add anything to the project as entertainment.

Note here that entertainment doesn't always have to be fun. But it does always have to be entertaining. That is, it has to get and hold a viewer's attention. A Mighty Heart seemed to think that I would care about the mystery of how Al Quaeda snatched Daniel Pearl. I didn't care about that. I wanted help to fathom what Pearl's death means to me, and to all of us. The film makers didn't say anything about that. Either because they don't know, or because terrorism has worked its paralyzing black-magic on them.

Jolie's performance was solid, especially given the fact that the script gives her little to do but dial phones and stare at counter-terrorism agents. There was a really great performance by the guy who plays the head of the Pakistani police. Dan Futterman had too little screen time as Daniel Pearl to say much of anything about his performance.

What interest there was for me in the film came from the B-roll of life in Pakistan. The word "fetid" comes to mind. Watching the pans of over-crowded, ugly, Arab ghettos reminded me of my recent visits to the Palestinian areas of Israel. The best argument against Islam is the way it leads Muslims to live. How do they not see it?

But in the end, A Mighty Heart fails because of lack of point of view. I don't think you can make a movie about an atrocious evil and hold back on point of view. Everything in the humanity of the audience rebels against it. Pass.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Isn't it hard for you to kick against the goad?"

I did enough gloating for a year in my earlier post about the Pope's new Motu Proprio. So, I'm not going to gloat here about being right about the grinding and gnashing of teeth already coming from the G.H.C.W.L.A.L.T.F. (Grey-Haired Catholics Who Long Ago Lost Their Faith).

But, in truth, they're off. Here are a few choice snips from a GHPWLALHF (Grey-Haired Priest Who Long Ago Lost His Faith) twisting in the wind in a blog post he entitled, "Moto Proprio Madness". "Madness". The madness of the Vicar of Christ. I point it out just in case someone out there thought I was exaggerating about the disdain with which the GHCWLALTF have always treated the rest of us. In the name of the general good, of course.

The new Motu Proprio reflects clearly the rather idiosyncratic opinions of Joseph Ratzinger, opinions that have always been controversial and divisive.... [NOTE FROM BARB: Please note the hackneyed GHCWLALTF tactic of define and dismiss, a.k.a. "We call you names, so then, we don't have to listen to you."]

...Here the aspiration of many bishops to offer a “creative liturgy” to their people, is discredited.... [NOTE FROM BARB: See, the creative part of the liturgy is Jesus changing the bread into Himself. All the GHC'sWLALTF efforts to be more "creative" than Jesus at the liturgy have been obscenely inappropriate. Like watching Ellen Degeneres do her dancing at the Moscow Ballet.]

There is no mention of inculturation, or of a return to biblical sources.... Nothing about the pain of the many faithful who have not been provided with creative, inculturated liturgy, but with sawdust texts, hopeless sermons, wretched music, etc. [NOTE FROM BARB: Is it really possible for a GHPWLALHF to duck responsibility for the "wretched music" in the Church today? Are you kidding me?! You guys were the ones who shoved down our throats the Music Ministry People waving their hands in the air and croaking, "To Taaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake Each MO-ment and Livvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvve Each Mo-ment in Peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeecae E-ter-nal-lyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....."??? You gotta own the bodies of your rebellion, buddy.]

Nothing about learning from the Anglicans, who do all these things so much better than we do. In short, both diagnosis and remedy seem very narrow.... [NOTE FROM BARB: More name calling. Now the Pope is "narrow." But the Anglicans are super smart and good!]

...The Anti-Defamation League has rightly condemned the restoration of the prayer for the conversion of the Jews.... [NOTE FROM BARB: Because we do not wish that all people come to believe in Jesus? What you really meant to say here was, "What can we expect from a Pope who was in the Hitler Youth? People who like the Tridentine mass are all anti-Semites." Define and dismiss 101.]

...there are indications that the Motu Proprio is designed to undercut episcopal authority... [NOTE FROM BARB: Oh, no! Not people questioning authority?!!.... I suppose it is too obvious to say that someone might consider this GHP'sWLALHF blog post to be designed to undercut Papal authority. No, that's too obvious. I won't say it.]

...The Rev Keith Pecklers, a Jesuit liturgical expert [NOTE FROM BARB THE GHCWLALTF EXPERT...That's all, just wanted to balance out any whiff of the argument from expert authority.], said: ‘The real issue here is not limited to liturgy but has wider implications for church life.’ He added that proponents of the old Mass ‘tend to oppose the laity's increased role in parish life... collaboration with other Christians and its dialogue with Jews and Muslims.’” [NOTE FROM BARB: Because people who resist the GHCWLALTF are fearful, bigotted and racist. Define and dismiss. But really, is this guy really claiming that allowing the Mass of Bl. John XXIII is going to foster clericalism and bigotry? What is it with this generation that they always demonize in the worst political extremes, anyone who disagrees with them? Enough already. Can't you all go and pray somewhere while you wait for death?]

...Some French bishops have expressed their resolve to remain firmly in charge of the liturgy of their dioceses, and have been immediately denounced by neocaths as contumacious. It is bad governance for a Pope to appear to ride roughshod over his own bishops and his most enlightened advisers. [NOTE FROM BARB: Oh, so that's what JPII meant when he asked the French bishops, "Eldest Daughter of the Church, What have you done with your baptism?" It was all a papal euphemism for "you Frenchies are my most enlightened advisors.]

...The Motu Proprio will be greeted by many, deplored by many, as a blow to the authority of Vatican II.... [NOTE FROM BARB: No doubt the same people who distorted and misrepresented Vatican II for their own GHCWLALTF ends.]

...Somehow the Tridentine Mass is supposed to have an aura of holiness that will spread to the Novus Ordo as well. This is weak and illogical thinking. [NOTE FROM BARB: No reason given. Just because the GHPWLALHF says so. Oh, and note that the Vicar of Christ (author of something like 60 theological texts, has a weak and illogical intellect.]

I could go on, but what is the point? Just, please parse all the crap like the above that you are going to hear in the media once we get past tonights "The Planet is God" festivities.

Not a Motu too soon...

"You said you want a revolution,
Well, you know..."

The long, cold winter of trying to be everybody else has ended. We've decided to try being Roman Catholic again.

Read it and weep, all ye liturgical innovators with your Barney music and your leotard ladies and your pita breads and your, "Hi everybody, I'm Fr. Joe, your presider! Welcome to our celebration!!!"

I'm calling to mind just now all the stern-faced, liberal ideologues of my whole ecclesial life - ruthlessly trampling on every aesthetic or reverent impulse in the name of - what the hell was it again? Oh yes - in the name of making me feel special. Got to get rid of all that damn stiff, formalism and tedious piety! Well, I imagine you are all feeling a bit moribund today. I know you've all been tedious for years. But we understand why you are going to be whining in the media for this one last time in the next few days. It must be incalculably hard having your mortality thrust inexorably in your face. The Church you thought you killed has resurrected before your eyes. It is going to live past you. You are officially now a sad footnote in the Church's two millennial story.

And Mom, this is going out to you, and all those like you who have been suffering long these many years. You stayed when it seemed like the Church had left you. You never stopped praying, while bearing the insult of so much liturgical absurdity. This is your day! Read it and laugh!

Viva la Papa!


In: Smells and bells and lingua Latina, baby!
Out: Rubrics as suggestions.
So five minutes ago: The faith community as god.
Phrase to try and work into conversation this week: lex orandi needs to flow from lex credendi

Saturday, July 07, 2007
Apostolic Letter
In the form of “Motu Proprio”


It has always been the care of the Supreme Pontiffs until the present time, that the Church of Christ offer worthy worship to the Divine Majesty “for the praise and glory of his name” and “for the good of all his Holy Church.”

As from time immemorial so in the future the principle shall be respected “according to which each particular Church must be in accord with the universal Church not only regarding the doctrine of the faith and sacramental signs, but also as to the usages universally handed down by apostolic and unbroken tradition. These are to be maintained not only so that errors may be avoided, but also so that the faith may be passed on in its integrity, since the Church's rule of prayer (lex orandi) corresponds to her rule of belief (lex credendi).”

Among Pontiffs who have displayed such care there excels the name of Saint Gregory the Great, who saw to the transmission to the new peoples of Europe both of the Catholic faith and of the treasures of worship and culture accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He gave instructions for the form of the Sacred Liturgy of both the Sacrifice of the Mass and of the Divine Office as was celebrated in the City. He made the greatest efforts to foster monks and nuns, who militating under the Rule of St Benedict, in every place along with the proclamation of the Gospel by their life likewise exemplified that most salutary expression of the Rule “let nothing be given precedence over the work of God” (ch. 43). In this way the sacred liturgy according to the Roman manner made fertile not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. Moreover it is evident that the Latin Liturgy in its various forms has stimulated in the spiritual life very many Saints in every century of the Christian age and strengthened in the virtue of religion so many peoples and made fertile their piety.

However, in order that the Sacred Liturgy might more efficaciously absolve its task, several others among the Roman Pontiffs in the course of the centuries have brought to bear particular concern, among whom Saint Pius V is eminent, who with great pastoral zeal, at the exhortation of the Council of Trent, renewed the worship of the whole Church, ensuring the publishing of liturgical books amended and “restored according to the norm of the Fathers” and put them into use in the Latin Church.

It is clear that among the liturgical books of the Roman Rite the Roman Missal is eminent. It grew in the city of Rome and gradually down through the centuries took on forms which are very similar to those in vigor in recent generations.

“It was this same goal that as time passed the Roman Pontiffs pursued, adapting or establishing liturgical rites and books to new ages and then at the start of the present century undertaking a more ample restoration.” It was in this manner that our Predecessors Clement VIII, Urban VIII, St Pius X , Benedict XV, Pius XII and the Blessed John XXIII acted.

In more recent time, however, the Second Vatican Council expressed the desire that with due respect and reverence for divine worship it be restored and adapted to the needs of our age. Prompted by this desire, our Predecessor the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970 approved for the Latin Church liturgical books restored and partly renewed, and that throughout the world translated into many vernacular languages, have been welcomed by the Bishops and by the priests and faithful. John Paul II revised the third typical edition of the Roman Missal. Thus the Roman Pontiffs have acted so that “this liturgical edifice, so to speak, …might once again appear splendid in its dignity and harmony.”

However in some regions not a small number of the faithful have been and remain attached with such great love and affection to the previous liturgical forms, which had profoundly imbued their culture and spirit, that the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, prompted by pastoral concern for these faithful, in 1984 by means of a special Indult Quattuor abhinc annos, drawn up by the Congregation for Divine Worship, granted the faculty to use the Roman Missal published by John XXIII in 1962; while in 1988 John Paul II once again, by means of the Motu Proprio Ecclesia Dei, exhorted the Bishops to make wide and generous use of this faculty in favor of all the faithful requesting it.

Having pondered at length the pressing requests of these faithful to our Predecessor John Paul II, having also heard the Fathers of the Consistory of Cardinals held on 23 March 2006, having pondered all things, invoked the Holy Spirit and placed our confidence in the help of God, by this present Apostolic Letter we DECREE the following.

Art. 1. The Roman Missal promulgated by Paul VI is to be regarded as the ordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Catholic Church of Latin Rite, while the Roman Missal promulgated by St Pius V and published again by Blessed John XXIII as the extraordinary expression of the law of prayer (lex orandi) and on account of its venerable and ancient use let it enjoy due honor. These two expressions of the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church in no way lead to a division in the law of prayer (lex orandi) of the Church, for they are two uses of the one Roman Rite.

Hence it is licit to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated, as the extraordinary form of the Liturgy of the Church. The conditions laid down by the previous documents Quattuor abhinc annos and Ecclesia Dei for the use of this Missal are replaced by what follows:

Art. 2. In Masses celebrated without the people, any priest of Latin rite, whether secular or religious, can use the Roman Missal published by Pope Blessed John XXIII in 1962 or the Roman Missal promulgated by the Supreme Pontiff Paul VI in 1970, on any day except in the Sacred Triduum. For celebration in accordance with one or the other Missal, a priest does not require any permission, neither from the Apostolic See nor his own Ordinary.

Art. 3. If Communities or Institutes of Consecrated Life or Societies of Apostolic Life of either pontifical or diocesan rite desire to have a celebration of Holy Mass in accordance with the edition of the Roman Missal promulgated in 1962 in the conventual or “community” celebration in their own oratories, this is allowed. If an individual community or the entire Institute or Society wants to have such celebrations often or habitually or permanently, the matter is to be decided by the Major Superiors according to the norm of law and the particular laws and statutes.

Art. 4. With due observance of law, even Christ’s faithful who spontaneously request it, may be admitted to celebrations of Holy Mass mentioned in art. 2 above.

Art. 5, § 1. In parishes where a group of faithful attached to the previous liturgical tradition exists stably, let the pastor willingly accede to their requests for the celebration of the Holy Mass according to the rite of the Roman Missal published in 1962. Let him see to it that the good of these faithful be harmoniously reconciled with ordinary pastoral care of the parish, under the governance of the Bishop according to canon 392, avoiding discord and fostering the unity of the whole Church.

§ 2. Celebration according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII can take place on weekdays, while on Sundays and on feast days there may be one such celebration.

§ 3. Let the pastor permit celebrations in this extraordinary form for faithful or priests who request it, even in particular circumstances such as weddings, funerals or occasional celebrations, for example pilgrimages.

§ 4. Priests using the Missal of Blessed John XXIII must be worthy and not impeded by law.

§ 5. In churches, which are neither parochial nor conventual, it is the Rector of the church who grants the above-mentioned permission.

Art. 6. In Masses celebrated with the people according to the Missal of Blessed John XXIII, the Readings can be proclaimed even in the vernacular, using editions that have received the recognitio of the Apostolic See.

Art. 7. Where some group of lay faithful, mentioned in art. 5§1 does not obtain what it requests from the pastor, it should inform the diocesan Bishop of the fact. The Bishop is earnestly requested to grant their desire. If he cannot provide for this kind of celebration, let the matter be referred to the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei.

Art. 8. A Bishop who desires to make provision for requests of lay faithful of this kind, but is for various reasons prevented from doing so, may refer the matter to the Pontifical Commission “Ecclesia Dei”, which should give him advice and help.

Art. 9, § 1. Likewise a pastor may, all things duly considered, grant permission to use the older ritual in administering the Sacraments of Baptism, Matrimony, Penance and the Anointing of the Sick, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 2. Ordinaries are granted the faculty to celebrate the sacrament of Confirmation using the former Roman Pontifical, as the good of souls may suggest.

§ 3. It is lawful for clerics in holy orders to use even the Roman Breviary promulgated by Blessed John XXIII in 1962.

Art 10. It is lawful for the local Ordinary, if he judges it opportune, to erect a personal parish according to the norm of canon 518 for celebrations according to the older form of the Roman rite or appoint a rector or chaplain, with due observance of the requirements of law.

Art. 11. The Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, erected in 1988 by John Paul II, continues to carry out its function. This Commission is to have the form, duties and norm for action that the Roman Pontiff may wish to assign to it.

Art. 12. The same Commission, in addition to the faculties it already enjoys, will exercise the authority of the Holy See by maintaining vigilance over the observance and application of these dispositions.

Whatever is decreed by Us by means of this Motu Proprio, we order to be firm and ratified and to be observed as of 14 September this year, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, all things to the contrary notwithstanding.

Given at Rome, at St Peter’s, on 7 July in the Year of Our Lord 2007, the Third of Our Pontificate.


1. General Instruction of the Roman Missal, third edition, 2002, n. 397

2. Pope John Paul II, Ap. Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, 4 December 1988, n. 3: AAS 81 (1989) p. 899.

3. Ibidem.

4. Pope St Pius X, Motu Proprio Abhinc duos annos, 23 October 1913: AAS 5 (1913) 449-450; cf. Pope John Paul II, Ap. Letter Vicesimus quintus annus, 4 December 1988, n. 3: AAS 81 (1989) p. 899

5. Cf. Pope John Paul II, Motu proprio Ecclesia Dei adflicta, 2 July 1988, n. 6: AAS 80 (1988) p. 1498.

(This unofficial translation has been prepared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Secretariat for the Liturgy. Only the Latin original of the Apostolic Letter may be considered the official text.)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

New Online Catholic Newspaper

I checked out this site and found it very cool. It is like a Catholic Drudge. I'm adding it to my sidebar.

------------------------- is a unique Catholic news web site that was launched earlier this year.
We are based in the U.S. and the preponderance of news on the site is from the U.S,
we do feature Catholic related news from around the world.

The news on the site comes from two sources. The main source is from the conventional secular and Catholic press. We scour the news every day and put on Pewsitter those stories about the Catholic Church, faith, religion and the important moral and spiritual struggles of the day.

The second news source is the Catholic lay faithful. The concept behind the site is to enlist an army of "pewsitters" to be the eyes and ears for Pewsitter - hence the name. By submitting newsworthy items to Pewsitter, the laity can help shape and influence the Church and be a powerful force for positive change.

Pewsitter's initial focus will be on the national and international news on its home page. Its mid term objective is it to feature the Catholic news of the day within each of the 189 Catholic dioceses throughout the U.S

We would very much appreciate your assistance in getting the word out about Pewsitter. Here are several ways in which you can help us:

1. Place a link to our site, from your site, in a prominent place
2. Send an email to any opt-in email lists that you might have, encouraging other
faithful Catholics to go to the site and to begin to use it.
3. Volunteer to assist us with this endeavor
4. Keep us in your prayers.

May God bless you.


James Todd

Parody as Prophecy

This is funny. I predict that it is not too far off of what we are going to see in the media this weekend.

My opinion on the Motu Proprio: I am so happy for my Mother and her friends. They have been longing for this for decades. Personally, in another decade or so, I think we will all be ecstatic to have access to the Mass at all. I don't think we'll be getting stuck on which Rite is better.

(Hat tip to Sarah.)

News from Dappled Things

Dear Ms. Nicolosi,

It is a joy to share with you the news that Dappled Things Catholic literary magazine is now officially a printed journal! We have just released our SS. Peter & Paul 2007 issue, filled with the best prose, poetry and art by young Catholics that you can find, well, just about anywhere. We hope you will help us spread the word. To mark this important milestone we have prepared a veritable literary feast for our readers. This quarter's edition features a bouquet of prominent Catholic authors -- Fr. Richard John Neuhaus and Michael D. O'Brien among them -- discussing the works of literature that have most profoundly affected them. Fr. Neuhaus ponders the meaning of Catholic literature:

"A neglected aspect of the Catholic imagination, however, is the aversion to being carried away by flights of spiritual fancy. Put differently, there is an adamantine Catholic insistence that the connections be tied to the particulars of time and place. This is nicely illustrated in Evelyn Waugh's Helena."

Then there is "The Builders," a dazzling poem by a promising new author about the Spartan sacrifice at the Battle of Thermopylae:

"The gate was almost finished.
In those thirsty hours, a taut rack of earth we raised
With much labor. We packed the soil with shield-butts.
Waist deep in horse-flies, we stretched our lances—
Protean, slender bronze. Our cloaks were red and wet,
The air was old and saline by the end."

In "Happy Hills," a powerful short story by Jonathan McDonald, the meaning of motherhood faces the test of the modern world:

"Christine realized she was pregnant in late March of last year. Two mornings of vomiting and a pregnancy test taken over her lunch break confirmed it. She thought she could already feel the intruder glacially eroding her uterus. The tube looked like a cheap toothbrush, and she'd kept it under her counter at Kaki-Dans. She kept pulling it out every two minutes to confirm the two purple lines on the end. Positive. She'd turned twenty-one three weeks ago. There wouldn't be many legal consequences for the drunkenness, but manslaughter by alcohol-induced miscarriage might be harder to pull off. She'd probably just end up with a retard, even dumber than James."

St. Blog's favorite Matthew Alderman delights us with a meditati on on Botticelli's unattainable women:

"I just moved into this place, my first real apartment for my first real job. At the moment, I only possess five books—a strange sort of poverty. I'm waiting for the rest of them to get shipped up here, once I finally figure out where to put the bookcase. Four of the five I bought only two days ago, a ten-dollar, four-volume pocket-size set of the complete works of the painter Sandro Botticelli. I found them in a used bookstore in Cooperstown, wedged in at the end of a low passage amid faux nineteenth-century signage, baseball memorabilia, and Federalist bricks. And now I am contemplating, in the slow pale light of afternoon, all of Botticelli's women—Madonnas and saints, goddesses, aristocrats, and other men's mistresses."

There is also excellent new art and photography, and for those of you interested in the continuing saga of the motu proprio, you might want to drop in to our archives and read up on the eastward position of the priest -- Mass said ad orientem -- that is such an important part of the traditional rite.

And after you've had the chance to take it all in, please stop by our forums to share your thoughts with other readers!

In Christ,

Bernardo Aparicio
President, Dappled Things