Monday, August 27, 2012

Alfred Hitchcock and The Seal of the Confessional

Want to be captivated by an Alfred Hitchcock thriller, with all of that uniquely Hitchcockian (is that a word?) cinematography and suspense, but you also want to spend time on spiritual contemplation? Have I got a movie for you!

I Confess is a 1953 Hitchcock film about a priest who hears the confession of a murderer and winds up the leading suspect of that same murder. He must choose between keeping the seal of the confessional or exposing what he knows to save himself from prosecution. Hint: You'll be proud of his choice.

Montgomery Cliff stars as Father Michael Logan. Many of you won't recognize his name unless your parents or grandparents familiarized you with old movies. But let's just say he's young and quite handsome in this. It's no surprise that the good priest's old sweetheart (from before he even thought about the priesthood) turns up to complicate matters. Fortunately his stalwart morality shines, at least to us the viewers. The opinions of the police and general public within the story are a different matter.

It's beautiful to see a priest depicted with such wonderful Catholic devotion to what is right, given this modern world we live in where it's popular to demonize every priest and the Church in general.

You can get IConfess on Amazon or do what I did and get it from Netflix.

Read more about the seal of the confessional at CatholicAnswers and at Catholic Encyclopedia. Also, you can listen about the subject in this Catholic Answers podcast.

BTW in case you didn't know, a priest cannot reveal to others what you say in Reconciliation no matter what. He can't even bring it up to you outside of the confessional unless you bring it up first.

You can also read about I Confess at Decent Films.

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Can I Know if a Sin is Mortal or Venial?

Reconciliation Coloring Page. Click here for source.

I was thinking about the sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession) and wondered if I had a good handle on what a mortal sin is.

You don't need to confess venial sins, though it's a good idea and the Church encourages it. I blogged about confessing venial sins last year.

Often the difference between mortal and venial sins is very clear, but sometimes not.

After poking around, I found a blog post at Aggie Catholics. I subscribe to the blog, but somehow missed this valuable post: Grave Matter: What Makes Mortal Sin "Mortal"?

It discusses how the Ten Commandments are a great place to start, but to keep in mind Jesus' Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7) where He tells us such things as not only is it wrong to commit adultery, but you shouldn't even look at somebody lustily.

The blog post even gives a handy list of sins. That phrase looks funny to me "handy list of sins." But it really is. And it makes a good examination of conscience.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Interviewing Author, Declan Finn

I had the pleasure of interviewing Declan Finn, author of It Was Only On Stun! Here's the blurb for his novel:

When Sean A.P. Ryan is hired to protect an actress for a three-day science fiction convention, he figures he's in for a quiet time. But he didn't count on factions from her home country to sent hired killers. This doesn't even count "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven Assassin;" he thinks that the actress is really an Elven princess, and will do anything to prove it to her, including murder.

Q:  It Was Only On Stun! is an incredibly fun read. The backdrop is a science fiction convention, so you have all of these dressed-up people from every sci-fi/fantasy fandom, from Star Trek to Harry Potter. The head of security (and main character) is a former stuntman. Then you have Galadren, "Middle Earth's Most Wanted Elven assassin," who takes himself very seriously (and who happens to be my favorite character). So, my question is, did you set out to write parody, poking gentle fun at the genre, or did the novel simply take off and you went with it, enjoying the ride?

DF: The novel took off and left me behind somewhere around page 100 of the original draft (which happens to be about 100 pages longer than the final version).  I didn’t set out to poke fun; much of it happened because I was throwing a non-science fiction fan into the deep end of the pool, and to him, it feels like he’s been thrown through the looking glass. As for the costumes, easily half the people at any convention are dressed to the nines in some heavy-duty outfits.  If you check out my “Sean Ryan” trailer, those are pics from DragonCon, and there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of people dressed in professional-level costuming.  How could I not have my background characters in the same outfits?

Two characters who were the biggest, obvious parodies, just happened.  One was “Morrie, The Jewish Vampire,” who was a little strange, but useful.  Galadren was a later addition– I had been writing a later Sean Ryan novel, and my father casually added a few lines to Sean’s resume about facing “Earth’s Most Wanted Elven Assassin.”  At that moment, I had to rewrite It Was Only On Stun!  Strangely, I’ve been complimented by psychologists on my ability to write for schizoid personalities, and where did I get the training?  When I tell people that I haven’t had any such training, the people asking the questions back away slowly.

Q: You have Catholic characters, as well of characters of other religions. How does your own Catholicism influence your writing?

DF:  It influences my writing in two major ways. It tells me of the existence of evil and the power of redemption. However, unlike “modern” thought, that tells us we have to forgive people automatically with the excuse of the day (either with being “misunderstood” or “s/he’s a victim, too”), redemption requires some level of repentance.  This is why the bad guys are evil, though Galadren is not so quickly condemned. The former are evil, the latter is pure and truly crazy.

There are also other ways Catholicism informs my work, but those are the big ones.

Q: Your main character, Sean Ryan, is Catholic. He's also a very violent guy. He makes a remark about his Rosary doubling as brass knuckles. Would Sean Ryan describe himself as a good man?

DF: If asked, Sean would first say, “Oh, I’m very good.” If you pushed for an honest answer, Sean would say, “Maybe.” On one hand, Sean is often in situations where he needs to survive by any means necessary, if only because he has people to protect. If he could be certain that giving his life would end a threat to someone he’s protecting, he would.  The violence wouldn’t bother him, because much of it he deems “necessary force.”

The “maybe” comes in for those moments when Sean wants to kill someone. There is a darkness in him, as there is in all of us, it’s called original sin (see, there’s that Catholicism again).  For a man who deals in day-to-day violence, Sean’s darkness has more opportunity to act, and go beyond what necessary. As much as he jokes about going to the dark side, he hasn’t yet, and he knows it.

Next to that, the brass knuckle rosary is something he would have no problem with. Sean would actually rationalize it as “God gave His life to save us. I don’t think he’d have a problem helping me save other people.” Though, later, Sean would probably say, “Sorry about that God,” and wash the rosary thoroughly later on. It would be his way of being respectful, while keeping others alive … I never said he wasn’t strange.

(Read the rest of the interview at my other blog, "A Fortnight of Mustard")

It Was Only On Stun! will be available for free for Kindle at Amazon for five days of Labor Day Week (Sunday to Thursday). You can also buy it at Create Space.

AUTHOR BIO:  Declan Finn lives in a part of New York City unreachable by bus or subway.  Who's Who has no record of him, his family, or his education.  He has been trained in hand to hand combat and weapons at the most elite schools in Long Island, and figured out nine ways to kill with a pen when he was only fifteen.  He escaped a free man from Fordham University's PhD program, and has been on the run ever since.  There was a brief incident where he was branded a terrorist, but only a court order can unseal those records, and realloy, why would you want to know? It Was Only On Stun! is his first novel. You can visit him at his website:

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Assumption of Mary

Happy Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary!

I'm blogging late in the day, but lucky for us that Mark Hart over at Life Teen wrote a brilliant article about it. He talks about how we know Mary was assumed into Heaven.
Check out his article, "Missing, Jesus' Mom: The Assumption Explained."

You may also want to take a listen to The Thirsting's rendition of "Hail Holy Queen."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Our Lady of La Leche
Why is a Catholic blog talking about World Breastfeeding Week?

Breastfeeding is the healthiest and safest way to feed your baby. It's natural. Human breast milk holds the perfect nutrition for a human baby. It aids the bonding between mommy and baby. It's free! It's portable. You don't need any supplies but your own body. It's the method of baby feeding that God designed.

Sure, there are certain instances where breastfeeding must be interrupted or stopped altogether. As a former La Leche League Leader, I know this. But most of the time--when there are problems--with a little advice from a breastfeeding councilor, lactation consultant, or even an experienced friend, those problems can be solved and breastfeeding can continue.

When is World Breastfeeding Week?

So, what am I supposed to do about World Breastfeeding Week anyway?

If you're planning to have children, you can educate yourself about breastfeeding. Maybe pick up a copy of my favorite breastfeeding book, The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.

If you have no children, or they're all grown up, you can still educate yourself about the benefits of human milk for human babies. That way you'll feel confident when you see your daughters or daughters-in-law breastfeeding your grandchildren. You'll also smile with appreciation when random women nurse their infants in public.

Breastfeeding sort of fell out of favor for a while, at least in the U.S. My mother didn't nurse us kids. It never even came up at her prenatal visits. She didn't know how healthy it was. But then, after hearing about its benefits, she appreciated when my sister and I nursed our children.

Does the Bible mention breastfeeding?

Yep. Go to Mothering from the Heart to read which scripture passages mention breastfeeding.

How about breastfeeding in church?

Of course! What better way to keep baby calm and happy, not to mention quiet!

One of my daughters recently mused over the idea that pregnant moms taking the Eucharist might also be imparting the benefits to their babies. That blew me away, but in a good way! :)

I didn't fully return to the Church until all of my children were weaned, but what a marvelous thing it would have been to take the Eucharist while pregnant or even nursing.