I’ve decided to highlight a few Catholic documentaries I’ve seen recently. Some can be watched completely online, and some must be purchased. One that is quite touching is La Mama: An American Nun’s Life in a Mexican Prison. Here a clip from the beginning of the documentary:

The story is quite amazing. Antonia Brenner (1926-2013) shows such a particular charism–something that this one woman achieved, and that was her unique response to a difficult situation.

Another person with a particular and unique charism is Fr. Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries. If you watch the documentary, expect a bit of strong language here and there. I can’t say I support the incorporation of Yoga and “alternative spiritualities,” but overall, Fr. Greg is a priest that has shown the love of Christ in seemingly impossible situations and transformed many lives for the better. This documentary covers a portion of the history of the organization in 2010 and 2011.

Yet another person who has made a huge difference, yet never really intended to is Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, who’s Mary’s Meals literally feeds over a million children. Learn the story, if you never have, by watching the complete documentary online: Child 31.

Each of these gives hope. One person can make a big difference. Cooperating with the will of God is not just transformative for the individual, but it can touch many, many lives.

Years ago I did a paper (somewhat legendary in the length of time it took for me to finish) on St. Anselm’s Mariology. Now that I’m teaching a Mariology class, I’ve dug out the old paper. It’s not bad! Well, it did take years to write.

Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M. wrote some thoughts on St. Anselms’s Marian Spirituality, conveniently including the three famous prayers to Mary written by him.

Here’s a little from Prayer 3:

Palace of universal propitiation,
cause of general reconciliation,
vase and temple of life and universal salvation:
I have made too little of your praises,
and in a little man like me it is especially vile
to belittle your merits.
For the world rejoices in your love
and so proclaims what you have done for it.
O Lady, to be wondered at for your unparalleled virginity;
to be venerated for a holiness beyond all reckoning—
you showed to the world its Lord and its God
whom it had not known.
You showed to the sight of all the world
its Creator whom it had not seen.
You gave birth to the restorer of the world
for whom the lost world longed.
You brought forth the world’s reconciliation,
which, in its guilt, it did not have before.

St. Anselm recognizes the profound role Mary has played in being the Theotokos, the one who gave birth to God incarnate.

Yes, Pope Francis is scheduled to canonize the founder of the Marians on June 5 in St. Peter’s Square.

Yes, the Marians can finally say we have a saint–the founder of the congregation!

I hope to be there, although I’m going to have to travel all the way from California.

For further information about our founder, he has his own website: Blessed Stanislaus Papczynski

It doesn’t hurt to ask…

Well, here’s the prayer to ask for the intercession of Charles Untz, a teenager who died in 2000 and some consider to have been a rather holy young man. A very simple website testifies to him: My Lady’s Knight.

A prayer asking his intercession:

Oh, Jesus, in these most difficult times for teenagers You gave the grace of purity, prayers, obedience, and fidelity to Your servant Charles. It was his desire to always do Your will and to become a saint. He fostered a great love for You in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar and a deep devotion to Your Most Holy Mother Mary whom Charles simply called, “My Lady”. We now ask You to glorify Your servant Charles on earth by granting the petition we now make through his intercession: (mention your request here). Amen.

Max and Me

If you’ve seen the CGI movie The Greatest Miracle, then you know Dos Corazones films. The CGI in that movie was somewhat primative, but they have boosted their efforts for their next movie: Max and Me. This will interweave a modern story with the story of St. Maximillian Kolbe.

Although there is not a trailer at present, there is a news story online with some clips.

Let’s pray it turns out well. The movie is scheduled for release in 2016.

I found a rather useful doctoral dissertation concerning the commentary of Cornelius a Lapide and Mariology.

The dissertation is entitled Cornelius a Lapide’s biblical methodology used in Marian texts and its comparison with a contemporary approach. It was written by the Very Rev. James Presta. It contains a number of translations into English from the commentary that you won’t find anywhere else.

The thesis is available for free online download at this link. Scroll to the bottom and select “download.”

Her story is filled with intensity. I don’t think it would make a good movie. It would have to be a miniseries.

A radio drama was made about her, but it only gives a small taste of her life, and alters some of the facts. It can be found as an episode of the Ave Maria Hour.

But here’s a little summary:

Born of noble lineage, she grows up a rich spoiled brat. Her mother puts her in a Catholic boarding school in Rome at the age of 10, but she is, essentially, kicked out after a year because of the terrible tricks she plays on other students. If you’ve seen The Trouble with Angels, she would have made the pranks of those girls look rather tame in comparison.

Her father had no love for the Church. The mother grew ill and was in a nursing home. Alessandra grew up on the estate. She had a crisis of faith, and eventually lost her faith.

She married an Italian nobleman at the age of 18 and lived on his family estate. She had two sons.

Her husband died young. She moved about in the “high life” circles. She ended up living with a famous Italian poet named Gabriele d’Annunzio, who was famous for his womanizing. He tired of her, and she was back on her own again.

She was in communication with a priest, but had very little faith. He told her to go to Lourdes. She happened to be there when the most miraculous cure of the year happened, and the office of medical investigations was working on the case. She regained her faith. Her sons, unfortunately, died of tuberculosis.

Eventually, she entered the Carmel of Paray-le-Monial in France, and years later became the mother superior.

A longer summary is at this site.

With the passing of St. Patrick’s day, I am reminded of a famous Irish-American who just might be called “Saint” one day.

Yes, the cause for Ven. Fulton J. Sheen is basically on hold, but that doesn’t mean we should forget about him. A biographer of his wrote a final chapter concerning the sanctity of his life that is now available free online.

Now is the time to read more of Sheen’s works, listen to his talks, or watch videos of him (there are a number of them on YouTube).

Remember, he needs the support of the faithful at this time, and I suspect he will help those who ask his intercession in a particularly strong way.

Vicki Thorn has an article at Catholic Pulse that explains that, after all these years, the dangers and problems of chemical contraception (which is supposed to be, of course, very safe) are finally coming out in books and even a planned documentary. I quote from her article below:

It seems to me that there is a tidal wave of awareness surfacing among women that birth control is not good for our bodies. In 2013 the book Sweetening the Pill: or How We Got Hooked on Hormonal Birth Control by Holly Grigg-Spall was published by Zero Books. Ricki Lake is working on a documentary based on Holly’s book. It is interesting to see there is a new term being used in the media by supporters of contraception to describe those who warn of its dangers: “Birth Control Truthers.” It seems to ring true in truth and title, though it is supposed to be derogatory!

It seems that women and men have not been really informed as to the side effects of chemical contraceptives. Many are quick to say of these potential side effects, “But the chances are so low!” but if it happens to you or a loved one, it becomes 100 percent.

And, of course, there are times, more commonly for younger women, that the pill does not prevent pregnancy.

Full Article: The Real War on Women

We are now up to 36 Doctors of the Latin Church, and this doctor is an Armenian monk who lived from about A.D. 950 to 1003. Pope Francis declared him a Doctor on February 23.

His famous book of Lamentations, also called “Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart,” contains 95 prayers. They are really quite impressive. The style is somewhat similar to St. Anselm of Canterbury, who was born 30 years after St. Gregory died.

The prayers are available in English in an online edition. Here’s an example from prayer 5:

You made me in your glorious image,
favoring a weak being like me
with your sublime likeness,
adorning me with speech,
and burnishing me with your breath,
enriching me with thought,
cultivating me with wisdom,
establishing me with ingenuity,
setting me apart from the animals,
endowing my character with a thinking soul,
embellishing me with a sovereign individuality,
giving birth as a father, nurturing as a nurse,
caring for me as a guardian,
You sowed a wayward being in your courtyard,
irrigated me with the water of life,
cleansed me with the dew of the baptismal fount,
nourished me with heavenly bread,
quenched my thirst with your blood,
acquainted me with the impalpable and
unreachable,
emboldened my earthly eyes to seek you,
embraced me in your glorious light,
permitted my unclean earthly hands to
make offerings to you,
honored my base, mortal ashes,
like a flicker of light,
imprinted upon a worthless wretch like me
your father’s image, awesome and blessed,
out of your love for mankind.

_____________________________________________________

This is a small taste of the profound humility and thought contained in these prayers. It’s good to get a new Doctor once in a while, so we can appreciate writings that we haven’t heard of.

The Marians of the Immaculate Conception received Pontifical status in 1699, but did not get their own rule at the time. Instead, they were put under The Rule of Ten Virtues (modified for a male community), a rule for a community called The Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and more commonly known as the Annunciade (Annunciation Sisters).

They were founded in 1501 by St. Joan of France (the family name de Valois) with the support and counsel of a Franciscan, Fr. Gilbert Nicolas, also known by the name of Blessed Gabriel Maria.

The first convent of the Annunciades was founded in 1501 at Bourges – the seat of the Duchess of Berry. St. Joan died in 1505, but the evangelical work begun by her grew, producing over fifty convents that existed up until the time of the French Revolution, which destroyed nearly all of them.

Today the Order numbers around eighty nuns living in eight convents in France, Belgium and Costa Rica. A new foundation has begun at the Marian Shrine in Liche?, Poland, which the Marians administer.

For further information (in English, no less!), you can check out this website started by the sisters in Poland: The Annunciade.

That Emile Berliner really started something with his “gramophone.” Recently I got a “Premium Gramophone,” which is a kit from Japan that allows one to play 78 RPM records in a way very similar to the early days of Berliner’s gramophone, an image of which was used on the RCA label for a long time (now owned by Sony).

78 RPM records help one to understand the history of music, at least for a little over 100 years. There have been lots of trends and shifts in style, but sometimes I think they were more clever in the early days with novel uses of language (an old Jazz piece is called “Celery Stalks at Midnight”). Yes, problems like racism show up in these old discs, but also the value of prayer is prominent, even in some pop tunes. They had their pluses and minuses.

We are more advanced technologically, but our new-fangled forms need electricity. The old gramophone just needs lots of needles and energy from the hand to turn a crank. There’s a certain refreshing “newness” to this liberation from the grid, even if sound quality ain’t all that great. There are definitely things to learn from the old discs and the completely mechanical process of sound reproduction. Sometimes things don’t have to be as complicated as you think they do.

The picture below shows the gramophone playing a Columbia Symphony Series 12 inch record–with a great looking label from the 1910s era.