Come From Away

Since today is a September 11th it is the perfect time to talk about this little musical about that little town named Gander, Newfoundland where 38 flights were diverted to on September 11, 2001. The musical is a mix of several types of music and it feel grounded. The musical is sort of a love letter to Gander and the people who were stranded there. Sure you can only see it in New York currently but this seems like it will be very popular in the small regional theaters across the country in the years to come.  If you can take some time today take a listen to this show anywhere you find your music and/or read up about Operation Yellow Ribbon. This is a day to remember the capacity for human kindness in even the darkest of times and the triumph of humanity over hate. I know that for some their attention is on Florida and Houston currently but even if we look at these place there are brilliant signs of human kindness. We are truly “One Human Family” and we should care more about each other than most of us do. It would be wonderful if the world didn’t have to be falling apart for this kindness to come out. Let us all try to be more compassionate to one another no matter who they are or where they come from.

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Family Vacations

This past week I was on a family vacation and sure it was a tittle weird. Sure, I wasn’t related to anyone but they are family none the less. We went to the farm which was always talked about but I had never experienced. It was worth the wait but I do find the whole experience still a bit strange as I know all the adults better than their children as I’ve spent more time with all of them than the few times that their children came up/visited their Grandma and most of that time was spent catching up with their aunts and uncles/hanging out with one another so I’ve had a few conversations with them but they are basically “what have you been doing?” Sure I know them but I really don’t know much about them at all. It’s a strange relationship here all around on top of all the invites to go visit the ones out of the country. Sure I would get to know but is this the best solution.

The vacation was fun and all but there were fifteen all together and hanging out with them but as the old saying goes “guests like fish begin to smell after three days.”  This was the first real big vacation I’ve been on in a while as my own family hasn’t done anything in years  but we’ve got a big family as well so reason, but we do gather together quite a bit for parties and the like. However this was enough of a family vacation for a while.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

The sequel to the surprise hit film from 2014 came out on Friday and it has been getting decent reviews from just about everywhere but most note that the sequel doesn’t live up to the original being weighed down by expectations, narrative problems and CGI bloat.  So I went to see it this weekend. Spoilers to follow.

The film is about family and who makes up a family we’ve got almost all characters doubting who they are. The movie begins with the team tasked on a mission by the Sovereign to protect some batteries from an inter-dimensional beast.  They win in the end and are thanked for their help, but Rocket steals some of the batteries and as they leave this leads to the team being chased after by the Sovereign’s ships, they are all destroyed by a mystery man “who is about an inch tall.” After the team’s ship crash lands, we learn that it was Star-Lord’s father who helped them escape. The team breaks up with Peter, Drax and Gamora going with Ego, Peter’s father to Ego’s world while Rocket and Groot are left to repair the ship and watch on their prisoner Nebula, Gamora’s sister. It’s a bit complicated as Ego want Peter to help him re-make the universe in his image. I find this bit the central problem of the film they never really explain why Ego needs to remake the world (or did they) I mean he can live forever until the light of his world is gone why not continue to do that instead of conquering the known universe. As expected The Guardians win in the end and will return in Vol 3 with music from a Zune.

The music is great and there are a few funny bit but the movie felt over done complete with the five mid/post credit scenes. There were several places where it should have been trimmed like the bit with Groot going and coming back several times to get Yondu’s fin. The film was fun and better than the over-bloated Avengers 2 (Ultron). There are two more Marvel movies this year (Spider-Man and Thor) and three more a year until 2020 perhaps we should slow down with these films and get some smaller films a chance to do something. It also seems like unconventional families seem to be the it thing to do in films nowadays.

Kubo and the Two Strings

Since Kubo was nominated for an Oscar I though that I should watch this movie it’s the only film that might have had a chance to beat Disney. Kubo comes from Laika which has put out some remarkable stop motion films all of which have been nominated for Best Animated Feature but they have yet to break though and beat Disney. Spoilers to follow.

Kubo and the Two Strings is set in ancient Japan is about stories. As the film begins we have a great hook “If you must blink, do it now. Pay careful attention to everything you see and hear, no matter how unusual it may seem. And please be warned: If you fidget, if you look away, if you forget any part of what I tell you – even for an instant – then our hero will surely perish. ” Then we see a mother and her child trying to escape something and they wash up on shore. Time passes and Kubo is a young boy with one eye and he lives with his ill mother, Sariatu in a cave atop a mountain by a village. Everyday Kubo goes down to the village where he goes and tells the story of Hanzo, a brave samurai who happens to be Kubo’s father using origami and music. As the bell rings signaling sunset Kubo need to head home as his mother warns him that her sisters and father would come and try and steal his other eye. After hearing about the Bon festival, which is a Buddhist custom that honors the spirit of your ancestors, Kubo decides to talk to his father’s spirit however father doesn’t answer Kubo leaves angry but it’s too late as it is after dark and his aunts attack him. Kubo barely escapes with the help of his mother who sacrifices herself so Kubo can go find the magic armor that his father was looking for.

Kubo is awoken by a monkey, it is his monkey charm that has been brought to life. So Monkey and Kubo begin on their quest after a day they rest and over night Kubo dreams and a little Hanzo has been folded and came to life. Little Hanzo now leads them on the quest for the armor. As they follow Hanzo, Kubo falls and stumbles upon a giant beetle, a samurai who was cursed and was an apprentice of Hanzo. After hearing that Kubo is Hanzo’s son Beetle decides to joins the quest. They go out to look for the Sword Unbreakable, the Breastplate Impenetrable, and Invulnerable Helmet. Will they find them before Kubo is discovered by his aunts and the Moon King takes his remaining eye?

The film is about stories and memory as most of the stories that are told are memories of Hanzo. If you want to watch a film that’s gotten raves from everywhere that’s not from Disney this is where to start. It’s a simple story but it has such emotional depth and reflection upon what is family. Kubo is a great little film and if you haven’t seen it you are surely missing out.

Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street is the latest film from John Carney, director/writer of Once and Begin Again. This is the other musical which was nominated for a Golden Globe this year. Once again focusing on music but this time in the 80s in Ireland. We have a story of a boy who starts a band to impress a girl. Spoilers to follow.

The film begins at a family meeting where we meet Lawlor’s who are on hard time so they take their youngest son Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and place him in a free state-school, Synge Street CBS, run by the Christian Brothers. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) rubs this in, joking about pedophilia, but also laments about the state of the family which is in a rocky state. On Conor’s first day at school he runs into trouble with the school principal, Brother Baxter, who reprimands him for not wearing black shoes as indicated in the school dress code, Conor also run into the school bully. This leads Conor to met a budding entrepreneur Darren (Ben Carolan), who has also been bullied and Conor and Darren become friends. The next morning or so meeting up before school Conor ask Darren who the girl across the street is, Darren doesn’t so Conor goes over and talks with her, she’s an aspiring model named Raphina (Lucy Boyton) Conor asks her if she wants to be in a music video for his band, she agrees.

The only problem is that there is no band. Conor and Darren go about assembling a band from the school.  They start with Eamon (Mark McKenna) a multi-instrumentalist, who has all these instruments around, and round out the group with the black guy in school, and two other guys who sort of are just there to fill out the band. As they get together they begin as a cover band but after Conor brings a recording of the band for Brendan to listen to, and Brendan isn’t a huge fan as they are just a cover band and cover bands are a dime a dozen. This inspires Conor to begin writing his own music and with Eamon’s help they are pretty good at it as well. After the first song is written they film a video and Raphina shows up. With each new song the band’s style evolves while Conor and Raphina get close at the same time Conor’s home life implodes. However, the closer they get Raphina seems all to motivated to leave for London to become a famous model and one day she leaves. Conor is heart broken and can’t write or play music but Brendan inspires him to write so someone can get out of this place. Will Conor write or ever see Raphina again.

If you have a brother this is a wonderful movie to watch, even if you don’t have one or you are one it tells a timeless story of love and family. Fans of the music of the 1980s should give it a look as well as those who have enjoyed other John Carney’s movies I hope that you take the time to watch the film.

Christmas

This is one of the bizarre things about Christmas. The whole secular world places the emphasis of the Holiday on the one day, but there are eleven more days of Christmas left to go. However all the radio stations which switched over to Christmas music back in November have gone back to their regular programming, Let us all try over this week to bring the joy and enthusiasm of Christmas Day last through the new Year, all the way to Epiphany. I’m sure you are going to see some sort of the meaning of the Twelve Days of Christmas, but it’s all about birds and laborers which in real life costs a whole lot.

Christmas isn’t over and we shouldn’t act like it is.

Festivus

It seems like everyone of a certain age will know about “a Festivus for the rest of us.” This is a made up holiday that we all thought was from Seinfeld, but it actually began back in 1966 when Dan O’Keefe’s father, Daniel O’Keefe created the holiday to celebrate the anniversary of his first date with his future wife. It wasn’t until Dan O’Keefe co-wrote the Seinfeld episode “The Strike” which features this new idea of Festivus, this has become what people celebrate. According to the show George Costanza’s father, Frank created the holiday as an alternative holiday in response to the commercialization of Christmas and is celebrated on 23 December.

Festivus is celebrated by putting up a Festivus pole an ordinary aluminum pole with nothing on it, like tinsel. Everyone gathers together and eats a Festivus dinner at which the Airing of Grievances takes place. This is where everyone gathered lashes out at each other and the world for how they have disappointed the speaker, as Frank Costanza begins in the episode “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!” The celebration isn’t over until the Feats of Strength which takes place right after the dinner. The feats of strength is the head of the household challenges someone to wrestle and when ever the head of the house is pinned Festivus is over.

Over the years some people have come to celebrate it as a real holiday but other do it ironically. Will it last over the next decade or so that really is the biggest question as it didn’t really grow into something until the turn about 2000 which was like three years after the episode aired. If you are celebrating have fun with it, I guess.

Trinity Sunday

This week the readings come from Proverbs 8:22-31, Psalm 8, Paul’s letter to the Romans 5:1-5 and John’s gospel 16:12-15.

This week we hear an awful lot about the Wisdom of God and the Spirit of Truth, but we do get some reference to the Father and Son as well. This is the Trinity. It can be seen many different ways from the traditional of Father, Son and Spirit to that of mother, lover and friend or God, His Word and his Wisdom. All three are separate in being but they are One God they are co-equal and co-eternal. St. Patrick we widely believe used a shamrock to illustrate this idea.  I like to look at it as the way that God has revealed himself to us throughout the ages. In the Old Testament God, the Father, plays a significant role in choosing his people. In the New Testament Jesus is the central figure and his building up the people. Now we live in the Age where the Spirit is the figure that has the central role. This is the Spirit foretold by Jesus in the Gospel who will “guide us into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”  Let us listen to the Spirit working in the world today and throughout this week that we may draw closer to our heavenly family.

Amoris Laetitia: Part 2

In the first part I sort of went over the first five chapters.  Now it’s on to chapters six through nine of Amoris Laetitia.

Chapter six offers some Pastoral Perspective, as we can tell Pope Francis goes through some perspective on the family from that of bishops using the final reports from the synod. It emphasizes that families need to be evangelized and go out and evangelize as well. Sure the training of religious is lacking in understanding the complexities of families face today but training could be better and there is a wealth of knowledge in the oriental tradition (Coptic, Marionite, Ruthenian, Melkite) where there are married clergy. Pope Francis turn to divorce and calls it a evil and hopes that by focusing on the family the Church can prevent the spread of the evil of our times.

The focus of chapter seven is about the education of children. It starts off by saying that parents shouldn’t be that concerned where their children are and how they are doing at all times but rather who they are with. As Pope Francis puts it “obsession is not education.” It goes on talking about how parents are the first teachers of their children. Surprisingly, there is a section focusing on sexual education it needs to be more encompassing then just the biological with an emphasis on ‘safe sex’ it need to be a education for love or mutual self-giving.

Chapter eight is the most talked about section of this exhortation. It begins echoing what Pope Francis said “Let us not forget that the Church’s task is often like that of a field hospital.” This section covers some controversial subjects and the word guiding, discerning and integrating are key. It is best summarized by a paragraph  where the faithful in complicated situation should talk with pastors or other lay people “They may not always encounter in them a confirmation of their own ideas or desires, but they will surely receive some light to help them better understand their situation and discover a path to personal growth. I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognize their proper place in the Church.” (312)

Chapter Nine turns back to marriage and the family. Here we talk about gifts of love small but real gestures that not only lead us closer to each other but also closer to our Father in heaven for as Pope Benedict XVI said blinding ourselves of the world and those around us blinds us to God as well. The final paragraph is necessary reading material for all families “no family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love.” This is our never-ending vocation.  Pope Francis then concludes with a prayer to the Holy Family.

Amoris Laetitia: Part One

The latest Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia from Pope Francis is the culmination of the synods on the family held in October 2014 and 2015. Where the bishops discussed the family and marriage in depth and what consists of a family today, but we will get to that later. It consists of nine chapters with an introduction as well as a prayer for the Family at the end. I’ve gotten through Chapter Five so here are my thoughts so far.

First and foremost in the introduction we hear that there isn’t a simple fix for all the problems in around the world and that some issues are better suited for local churches to do anything so that it helps with the various cultures around the world.  The other big part of the introduction is Pope Francis saying to take your time to prayerfully read through this document.

In the first chapter Pope Francis goes into a deep meditation Psalm 128:1-6, often used in Jewish and Christian weddings, and pulls from it a starting place that Family is a real thing there is no “perfect family”. Family is at the core of the Bible and can be seen though the trinity as Saint John Paul II said “Our God in his deepest mystery is not solitude, but a family, for he has within himself fatherhood, sonship and the essence of the family, which is love. That love, in the divine family, is the Holy Spirit”. The Word of God is a road map for our journey.

In chapter two the focus turns to the current situation of the family. There are many problems that families face today from all sides. Pope Francis gets together a laundry list ranging from migration to the ideological denial of differences between the sexes (“ideology of gender”); from the culture of the provisional to the anti-birth mentality and the impact of biotechnology in the field of procreation; from the lack of housing and work to pornography and abuse of minors; from inattention to persons with disabilities, to lack of respect for the elderly; from the legal dismantling of the family, to violence against women.

In chapter three we basically cover the Church’s position on Family and Marriage. We look to Christ as the role model for the Vocation of Family. The part does a lot of referencing to older documents like Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae, and St. John Paul II’s Familiaris Consortio. Francis call us to remember Familiaris Consortio where Pope John Paul defined family as the way of the Church. The focus then turns to marriage are reminds us that the sacrament of marriage is not a social convention, an empty ritual or merely the outward sign of a commitment as Familiaris Consortio says it is mutual self-giving. Another big thing is the discussion that the main mission of the Church is to form consciences not be the conscience for people.

As we reach chapter four we look at love. Pope Francis once again goes into the Bible and take one of the classic wedding readings, Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians 13, and offers a deep meditation on it. This is something that will become something all couples getting married should read before they get married. It’s roughly a quarter of the document and for a good reason,

In the fifth chapter it looks at the family not just the nuclear family but the wider ranging social community that marriages exist within. Pope Francis also doesn’t only talk about traditional families but also adopted ones as well. A key aspect is in relating between the old and young as well as brothers and sister because these are building blocks for growing up and relating with others as we grow older.