Instead of Mel Gibson’s Passion, Try These . . .

Simcha Fisher’s review of the The Passion of the Christ is up, and worth a look.  For many years, my husband and I have watched The Passion on Good Friday evening (not every year, but often) and have found it edifying and spiritually helpful.  It certainly takes the edge off your hunger.  Also, it is extremely violent (as was the event it portrays), and if you aren’t the sort of person who can stomach depictions of violence, there are other more helpful options.

My go-to for our kids’ Holy Week viewing has been The Gospel of John movie. We’ve tended to watch it during the day sometime during Holy Week when the kids are lounging around.  There are a few moments of artistic interpretation that I would stage differently were it my film to produce (it is not a Catholic film, FYI), but overall it’s quite good.  The crucifixion is portrayed with a deft hand, providing the necessary impact but without extreme gore.  It is suitable for children who are comfortable watching action-adventure films like The Lord of the Rings series, but obviously if your child is extremely sensitive to violence, movies about torture and execution are not a good choice — go pray the stations and leave it at that.

Taking it down a notch in intensity and adding Steve Ray’s legendary campy sense of humor, the The Footprints of God: Jesus would be a super choice for school-age kids (about 3rd grade and up, but for many kids younger) and people who want to dial back the experience, or just want to learn more.  The whole series is fantastic for both kids and adults.  I love these.  The Jesus episode is perfect for Holy Week.

This year, though, I’ve got a new favorite.  My weekly Bible study has been working through Edward Sri’s No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion from Ascension Press.  The total study comes with access to five 30-minute videos, a book, and a workbook.  The videos stream online with no difficulty, but head’s up: There are not subtitles.  Yikes.  Sorry.  The three resources cover the same material but in different formats, and all of them are a good value. The Study Pack gets you online access to the videos, but check the details as you may need to find a partner and create a parish Bible study in order to go that route.   There are no violent depictions so far (as of the end of session 4); the video is filmed in Jerusalem and for imagery there is the sacred art at the various holy sites.  The book goes more explicitly into the nature of Roman torture than the videos do.  It is truly a Bible study, and a solid one.

Here is why this Bible study comes to mind as an alternative to watching The Passion:  At the start of the evening when everyone arrives and grabs drinks, we are the usual ladies’ Bible study, joking around, sharing news, then easing into a conversation about the reading and how the week’s lesson touched us spiritually and so forth.  That’s all good.  We’re getting some great discussion going as the group gets to know each other better.  But here’s what happens next: We watch the evening’s video.  Remember, this is a 30-minute video of a professor talking to a couple of pilgrims as they stand in front of sacred art and architecture.  No blood splatters.  Bible verses are read.  Many mosaics are viewed.  Lots of pictures of pilgrims kneeling in devotion at holy sites.  Not. graphically. violent.  Just not.

AND YET: When the video ends we are reduced to complete silence.

We after week, I turn off the TV and shut down the PC, and we who were happily chatting 30 minutes earlier have nothing to say.  We just want to walk over to the church (it’s locked, no dice) and kneel down in adoration.

I’d recommend No Greater Love for older kids and up.  The target audience is an informed Christian in the pews who is generally familiar with the passion narrative (you’re at church on Palm Sunday every year, you maybe have prayed the Stations a few times) who is biblically literate at least at the beginner level.  For children, the audience would be from the age when your child can read the real Bible (my 5th grade CCD classes always did) and is interested in adult non-fiction as found on PBS or at your local public library.   Though it’s designed to be a weekly study throughout Lent, you could comfortably order the series now and watch two videos a week for the remainder of Lent or one a night during Holy Week.

No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ's Passion

Artwork courtesy of Ascension Press.

Add to Your Rolodex: Sean O’Halloran for Film, Editing, Photography, Sound . . .

I rarely blog about it, but a few readers know that I sometimes take on private writing or editing projects.  Most recently I got to work with Sean O’Halloran from SO’ Creative on a film project for a small parish group.  We were both working pro-bono — he did the filming, I was the primary author on the script.

Lesson learned: This is a guy you want on your short list.

He doesn’t monkey around.  Even though he was working purely as a volunteer on this one, he was 100% professional.  I’m not sure Sean even knows how to do something halfway.

He’s good at bringing your idea to life.  Sean took everything the group brought to the project, and then he worked with the team to help them achieve their goals.

Some examples of how perfectly he did this:

  • I had a basic script, but no clue how to turn that into a screenplay — so Sean took my draft and converted it into a set of working documents that could be used on the set.
  •  The parish group had a good director on the project, Carol Pelster from Catholic Playscripts; Sean had no trouble working with her on the set, understanding the vision she had for the film and what sorts of extra shots to propose to capture that vision.
  • As the group was filming, when the actors would improvise bits of characterization, Sean knew how to direct the all-amateur cast so that their ideas read well on film.

It never ever felt like The Professionals Have Arrived, Get Out Of The Way.  The entire process was more like, “We know what we want, but how do we get there?” and Sean helped the group get there.

You won’t meet more gracious people.  I run in some of the same circles as the O’Hallorans, and I’m continually impressed by how down-to-the-bones courteous this family is.  When I go to an O’Halloran event, I’m in awe at how seriously Sean and his wife Tracy take their work of hospitality.  On the film set, Sean was disciplined and professional, but always completely calm, patient, and polite.

Sean donated an enormous amount of time to this parish project, and when I spoke to his wife about how the group could thank him, she said, “As many referrals you can send his way as possible!”

To see if the kind of work you need is the kind that he does, scroll down on the SO’ Creative website and click through on each project-type to view the corresponding portfolio.  Edited to add: You can also view some of Sean’s graphic design work at the SO’ Creative Facebook page.  Tracy gave me her quick list of the kinds of projects he does most:

  • Graphic Design
  • Photography
  • Editing
  • Retouching
  • Sound Design
  • Videography/Cinematography/Director/Producer

Sean takes on projects of all kinds.  In addition, Catholic readers should know that the O’Hallorans are faithful, committed Catholics — so if you are working on a project that involves the faith, Sean is in a position to make sure your message comes across clearly and accurately.  Give him a look, and please recommend him to your friends.  Thanks!


File:Secretary at typewriter 1912 (3192197470).jpg
A rolodex is a thing that was invented to make this lady’s life easier. It did what your “contacts” list does, except that it still works even when your phone isn’t charged.

Photo by Snyder, Frank R.Flickr: Miami U. Libraries – Digital Collections [No restrictions or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Movies for Grown-Ups: Room

People will tell you that this or that deplorable book or show or song requires depraved content in order to explore “mature” themes.

So here’s a tip: Watch the film Room.  (Wikipedia has the full plot synopsis here.)  It’s the story of a teenage girl whose kidnapper keeps her in a storage shed for years, and visits nightly to rape her.  We meet her as the twenty-something mother of a five-year-old son, still locked in that shed and now raising her child in captivity.  Movie topics don’t get a whole lot darker than that.

Do not watch this film when your little kids are home.  (Do watch it with your teenagers – parental guidance required).

But guess what?  In the hands of a good director, you can swim deep into some very nasty, brutal crimes without anything of the gratuitous voyeurism that so many lazy producers lather on like cupcake frosting.   You can have your (plot-essential) rape scene without actually having to watch someone get raped.  You can show terror, desperation, and suicidal depression without morbid violence. The very light touch on the use of foul language is a textbook case study in when and how such words might properly belong in a script.


In addition to being a study in How to Handle Extremely Dark Topics, the film is also, as any good film should be, about the true, beautiful and good.  If you are a writer, you should watch this film for its genius use of the breadth of the English language.  For any human, the very last lines of the film are stunning in their ability to sum up one of the greatest struggles of the human heart with piercing simplicity.

FYI – It was streaming for free on Amazon Prime when we watched it.

Room Poster.jpg

Film poster via Wikimedia, used per fair use guidelines.

Plague Journal, Conference Edition

Got home last week, made it through Co-op Friday with the help of Starbucks Via (I know, I know, let’s not talk about that), and got halfway through writing a post about singing the Divine Office when I came down with Plague #348, Do Not Try Singing Version. So that article’s sitting half-written. It’s hard to write about singing when you can’t.

Three girls are down with the evil thing today, so they’re doing the Steve Ray homeschool curriculum while I catch up on e-mail and other things that can done while sitting very, very still.  The Healthy One has been promised my piece of coffee cake from yesterday if he does all his homework and cleans the house.

Meanwhile, if you like to write, there’s this conference you need to quick go register for. It’s free, it’s online, it’s Catholic, and it’s open to anyone who wants to come.  You can take one class, all the classes, whatever you like, but registration closes Feb 7th.  Why do I think you should go? Because of this.  In which I answer the question: How did a housewife who surfs the internet too much end up getting published? With a real publisher? Because of the Catholic Writers Guild Online Conference.  That’s how. 


Other interesting things around the Castle:

Kitten Watch 2014 We got home from the March for Life, and our cat was still pregnant.  SuperHusband had given up on her, and decided she must just be really fat.  #2 theorized it was a nasty case of parasites.  But the resident I’ve-been-pregnant person (me) was able to persuade them that those wiggly minature-spinal column things you can feel if you palpate Cat’s abdomen very gently?  Yeah.  Kittens. 

And I keep catching that &(*^%&* cat in my closet.  Just no.  NO!

Music.  SuperHusband’s been recording some.  If you go in for high-high-Church, here’s his site.  I could get used to this.  And yes, you can download the MP3’s for free.  That’s the whole point. 



Remain with us Lord: Reflections on the Mass in Christian Life

Up at Amazing Catechists, my review of the short DVD Remain with us Lord: Reflections on the Mass in Christian Life.  Something that struck me as I was watching was how seamlessly the production integrates catechesis and discipleship. And, fitting with today’s other topic, Catholics in the pew share glimpses of their personal relationship with the Lord.  Great resource.  Nicely done.  And high time someone put together such a thing.  Perfect for RCIA and all that.

I want an MTF fan club.  Do they sell t-shirts?

3.5 Time Outs: Real Things

Thanks once again to our host, the very patient Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy.

Click and be amazed.


Really Real:

I was going to continue my slacker non-blogging, but Potty Race pushed me over the edge.  I had no idea video games could be so . . . realistic. First time I’ve ever said that about something Barbie.


Really useful:

Chickens eat fire ants and highway grass.  So basically, as long as they keep that up, the new arrivals have a home for life.

Dogs eat chicken feed.  Luckily, there’s plenty of highway grass and fire ants, so the chickens won’t starve.


Really cool:

Grayson Highlands State Park is air-conditioned.  The entire mountain.   Truly wonderful — so pleasant I didn’t mind camping in the rain, because at least it wasn’t hot.   The ductwork must run underneath North Carolina, because I’m pretty sure the actual air-conditioning unit is located here in central SC, where it’s pumping a reliable jet of hot air, especially during peak hours.  It would be pretty easy to disguise a giant heat pump as an office building.  They look about the same.


Really interested in the will of God:

Please pray for a special intention, writing edition.  You’ll get the other half of this take as soon as I have good news to report.  Which there will be, the big question your prayers are directed towards are the who and the when.  Thanks!


And with that, I’m back to regular life.  Have a great week!

(And yes, you can post links.  I am, by the way, reading comments.  Oh, about once a week, but I am.  And trying to reply as well.)

3.5 Time Outs: Surprisingly Good

Thanks once again to our host, Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, always good, sometimes surprising.

Click and be amazed.


My niece is here this week, so the topic ought to be Teenage Girls, but there’s not much to say.  Other than: They’re fun and interesting and get along great with younger cousins, and also they sleep late.  Which I don’t mind.


But look, two good magazines:

One is the magazine of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, and this was a pleasant surprise – sort of a Catholic National Geographic with a bit of the best of The Economist mixed in.  The articles are substantial, and cover the history and contemporary issues in the regions CENWA serves.  Not a light read — one of the articles this month is a history of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, starting in the middle ages and detailing, regime by regime, the power plays and organizational shifts ever since.

PG warning: Though there are no graphic descriptions of the horrendous things that go on in these lands far away, difficult topics are named by name, no glossing over or glamorizing.

Highly recommended.*

Liguorian is the other end, intellectually, of Center-Catholic reading spectrum.  Like Reader’s Digest for Catholics, only without the edge.  Good all-purpose, inoffensive but unapologetically Catholic magazine, targeted towards your average man in the pew.  Encouraging and inspiring without being too in-your-face.   Gentle.  For your parishioners who aren’t quite ready for The Register or Catholic Answers.


We brought home from the library the season one DVD’s of the HBO-BBC series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.  I haven’t read the books.  But hey, what a cool show!  Yes it runs sappy, and yes, I think you ought to watch along with your kids and provide a little parental guidance on the moral issues.   But here’s what I love: Africa seen through the lense of the African middle class.  How refreshing to see AIDS, or the ivory trade, or child sacrifice and witchcraft, or polygamy, or marital infidelity — through the eyes of someone other than PBS, NPR, Bill Gates or George Bush.  And religion! Ha!  People who can be overtly Christian on TV!  Love it.

Moral note: The No. 1 Detective does not always resort to the police and the law for resolution to crimes uncovered.  The Anglo-Saxon concept of Weregild comes in handy.


Glow in the dark rocks. I’m not sure whether I’m succeeding as hostess to the 17-year-old.  I tried to explain that we don’t really do anything fun here, so it’s hard to think up activities.  But listen, no visit to the inferno is complete without a trip to the third floor of the


Well that’s all for today.  Tuesday is Link Day for all topics, help yourself if you are so inclined.  Limit yourself to one link per comment in order to avoid the spam dragon.  Have a great week!

*FYI – CENWA itself is a bit of a disaster to deal with for the small-time donor.  Nothing egregious, just your normal incompetence in the administrative offices in New York; the flurry of solicitations, set aside and kept dry for use in the paper-stove, could keep a small house warm all winter.  But the magazine is great.

7 Quick Takes: Girl Topics


An internet friend pointed me to Ova Ova, a fertility awareness site.

It’s sleek, modern, and explains the basics of NFP.  In addition to the usual caution that FAM is secular-feminist amoral NFP with all the completely different set of issues that surround that world (and much that is good and true as well), let me also say quite vigorously . . .


Please do not use condoms during your fertile time.


Unless you’re trying to conceive, that is.  Recall that 100% of condom failures occur during that one week of your cycle when you are actually fertile.  Which means the condom effectiveness rates are massively overstated — 75% of the time, the condom isn’t doing anything at all, it’s just a decoration.

I completely understand that couples who don’t have moral objections to NFP might be tempted to use a condom during the non-fertile time of FAM, as “back-up”.  Sure, whatever, this is not the place to lay into someone who’s willing to try NFP, or something like it, but is not 100% on board.

But listen: When you know you’re fertile, if you have a serious reason to avoid?  Avoid.  Maybe you could watch cable or something.  Not that channel.  A different one.  Or how about hard physical labor?  And separate bedrooms states.  That works great.


Okay, backing up a decade or three and completely changing topic, my daughter loves  The YouTube channel is hair4myprincess. Given too much time on the internet, very little competition for the hall bathroom, and two younger sisters as willing victims, a girl can get pretty good at this stuff.

Weirdly, although this is the same child who is also the junior photographer, I can find no pictures of her handiwork on the PC.  Sorry.


I’ve got a couple of trips planned this summer, including the Catholic Writer’s Guild conference, where of course I’ll want to take lots of photos.

Small hitch: I own no camera.

Ellen Gable, Sarah Reinhard, and an empty space waiting for . . .

Solution: I’m renting the 10 y.o.’s camera – 25 cents a day. It’s a good deal all around.  I need a few lessons in how to use it first.


Don’t forget to pray for Allie Hathaway.  Thanks!


I am so tempted to just leave the review for le Papillon here from last week.  It doesn’t seem to be generating sufficient enthusiasm, so I persist in my mission.   Here’s the picture to remind you that you should watch this film next time you get the chance:


Back on Tuesday (aka: Man Day), I posted part two of my Teen Boys and Chastity Bleg.  If you are visiting here from Conversion Diary, might I ask you to take a look?  You might know a gentleman who has a few ideas to add.


The difference between Catholic blogs and Evangelical blogs is not the statues or the rosaries.  It’s the liquor*.  If you didn’t see it already, visit Darwin’s Give That Woman a Drink.  You can count on the Darwins for good Catholic drinking posts.  My grandmother always had an old fashioned at the family get-togethers.   Now I know what’s in them.

*Kids: Drunkeness is a sin.  So is disobeying legitimate civil authorities.

7 Quick Takes: New, Interesting, Surprisingly Pleasant


This morning I woke to the sound of the septic guy’s truck rumbling outside my bedroom window.  I started to panic — they weren’t supposed to be here until next week, and I still needed to move some plants out of their way.  Then I realized it was just the tank-emptying guys, not the installing-new-drain-fields guys, and I relaxed.  But I quick put on yard clothes and went out to investigate anyways.


And learned that the drain field guys would be arriving in twenty minutes.


The drain field guys helped me get the last of the plants out of the ground.  Thankfully it’s been wet all week.  Now I’ve got homeless plants sitting in bins in my back yard, waiting for me to decide where to put them.


The most interesting thing was watching the septic guys dispose of trash.  The trench for the drain field is about six feet deep.  They lay the drain pipes, and big columns of mesh-wrapped packing peanuts that are the new gravel of the septic world.  And then anything that needs to be thrown away — shrink wrap, tin cans, old pipe dug up in the process of cutting the new field — they just toss it in the trench.

My sense of order was disturbed, but I reminded myself that if not here, then these items would just be hauled off to be buried in some other patch of earth.  Jon pointed out that you would not want to touch the old drain lines — better to just let the backhoe nudge them back underground.


It is really cool watching a skilled backhoe operator work in a tight space.


Don’t forget to pray for Allie Hathaway.  Thanks!


Le Papillon is a mighty good movie. It’s French, very French, but no humans die and it has a happy ending.  (It does have the obligatory smoking scene.) Beautifully rendered, the language is artful and the English subtitles do it justice.  My five-year-old has watched it more than once, and she doesn’t seem to mind not knowing the words.   The seven-year-old minds – but she needs to practice her reading anyhow.

Helpful film for the French student because the dialog is spare but covers lots of good language-learning territory.   Advanced students will appreciate the word play and the chance to learn a few interesting idioms.  Head’s up, the film ranges over a number of touchy subjects (abortion, mental illness, honesty, fit parenting, the Final Judgement, etc.), so parental presence is called for.  You wouldn’t want to miss this anyways.  Excellent film.  I could watch it three times in a week.

3.5 Time Outs: Catholic Insomnia

Thanks once again to our host Larry D. at Acts of the Apostasy, who reminds you, Men Can Blog Too.

Click to read Manly Topics.


Dark pleasures of homeschooling parents:  Listening from the other room as your spouse valiantly tries to help a child with his homework . . . and noting that your spouse, too, is on the verge of breaking into swear words.



Who took the dry-erase marker off my refrigerator?  I need it because . . .


Middle of the dark I wake up with busy-brain.  I hear the neighbor’s truck outside.  Must be getting near dawn.  Which means: Stay still.  Do not go to living room and read The Doctors of the Church for a bit to settle down.  DO NOT GET A DRINK OF WATER.

Because: I need an undisturbed waking temp. Need.



I lay there a while.  I wonder if the truck I heard was not my neighbor but the people who go around breaking into cars.  I wonder if those people ever did read the Teacher’s Manual they stole last time.  I wonder if the SuperHusband set his car alarm so that we’ll know when the car-breakers are opening his minivan whose side doors only open when the vehicle is locked and the alarms are set.  I wonder what the car-breakers will think of the giant load of junk filling the back of my truck.  Do they want old children’s games with missing pieces?

No, it is not the car-breakers, because the neighbor starts his truck up again and begins moving it around the yard.  He does this.  He loves backing up.  Precisely.  He has to back up many times.

And then he drives off, and it is silent.  And still very dark.  I worry: Is it actually close to waking-up time?  Or is it the middle of the night and my neighbor is doing his late-night things that he sometimes does?  Nuts if I’ve been laying here all quiet and still with no drink of water and no prospect of sleep, and it’s actually 1 am and not 6 am.  I wonder why I have no clock on my side of the bed.  About three times a year, I want one.


I give up.  Grab thermometer, head to living room.  Yay: 6:45.  Double-Yay:  99.0.

One of these years my kids will understand why they sometimes find summer-weather temperatures written on the door of the fridge in the middle of January.


Roman Holiday.  Of course.