Project Almanac

Project Almanac poster.jpgI’m a softie for time travel movies above most other science fiction themes. I stumbled upon Project Almanac channel surfing last week on a day off, so I stuck with it.

David Raskin, hopefully heading to MIT if the money can be found, notices his his 17-year-old self in a home video taken on his seventh birthday. He convinces his skeptical friends to sift through his deceased father’s basement man-space. They find plans and components for a time machine. And soon enough they get it working.

I think it requires some suspension of belief that an inventor would be working on such a project in the middle of suburbia, or more that a gifted high school student could make the thing work. But the rapid pacing of the early film and it’s “found footage” feel–from David’s sister’s video cam gloss over that obstacle.

As the movie progresses, David and his four friends make a pact to travel together. They win the lottery, one of their members eventually aces a key chemistry test, and they enjoy a festival rock concert three months in the past. But they begin to notice that bad things happen in the “changed” timelines. Especially when David breaks their agreement and travels solo to get a do-over with the girl he loves.

So here are the plusses:

  • The time travelers don’t go back to big historical events–they are limited to more recent do-overs and adventures.
  • I thought the young actors did a creditable job with the material and their cadre and deepening bonds is believable and puts a human face on a story that could be rather abstract.

My problem:

  • Too often, there’s a science fiction premise that you can’t fool around too much with the universe or bad things will happen. It’s like God somehow gets angry with these uppity kids and starts punishing them for tinkering. I didn’t expect this movie to go that direction. I was expecting a plot twist connected with David’s dead father. It came, but with a resolution I thought was something of a cop-out.

Most of my adult friends might have some problems with this teen-centered film. But I thought the subject matter and relationships were all realistic. I doubt young people would find the treatment insulting. (But then, what do I know?)

The most original time travel treatment I’ve read this century is this one. The book, not the movie. Project Almanac had enough originality to hold my attention. Except for the divine punishment angle, I approve of this movie.

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Pope Francis Address to CELAM 5: Unity

Continuing with this address of the Holy Father to his brother bishops of Latin America. Pope Francis is concerned with the quality of unity. Let’s read to see what he thinks of it.

When the disciples returned excited by the mission they had carried out, Jesus said to them: “Come away by yourselves to a lonely place” (Mk 6:31).  How greatly we need to be alone with the Lord in order to encounter anew the heart of the Church’s mission in Latin America at the present time.  How greatly we need to be recollected, within and without!  Our crowded schedules, the fragmentation of reality, the rapid pace of our lives: all these things might make us lose our focus and end up in a vacuum.  Recovering unity is imperative.

Does the crowding of our lives really lead to disunity. I can see this. Even as we are busy, we grow weary. Many people lack the energy to make and foster true bonds with others, even those in their own families. The Holy Father urges our mutual relationship with the Lord above the human qualities we can bring to bear for the mission of the Gospel.

Where do we find unity?  Always in Jesus.  What makes the mission last is not the generosity and enthusiasm that burn in the heart of the missionary, even though these are always necessary.  It is rather the companionship of Jesus in his Spirit.

If we have other reasons for serving, we could find ourselves adrift:

If we do not we set out with him on our mission, we quickly become lost and risk confusing our vain needs with his cause.  If our reason for setting out is not Jesus, it becomes easy to grow discouraged by the fatigue of the journey, or the resistance we meet, by constantly changing scenarios or by the weariness brought on by subtle but persistent ploys of the enemy.

If we find ourselves cast off from unity with Christ, it may be our own fault. Getting tired and discouraged isn’t necessarily a sign of the enemy, but could just be momentary fatigue. When true weariness sets in, that’s often when I would question my motivations. For whom am I doing this? Often, that’s when it’s about me.

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Aparecida 227: Ecumenical Dialogue

The last few posts, we looked at people who have left the Catholic Church, and what the Aparecida bishops offer in terms of drawing them back. The situation is somewhat different for those born into other Christian traditions.

The fifth topic of Chapter Five involves “Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue. Paragraphs 227 through 234 address the matter of “Ecumenical dialogue so that the world may believe.”

227. The comprehension and practice of the ecclesiology of communion leads us to ecumenical dialogue. The relationship with baptized brothers and sisters of other churches and ecclesial communities is a path that the disciple and missionary cannot relinquish,(Ut Unum Sint 3) for lack of unity represents a scandal, a sin, and a setback in fulfilling Christ’s desire: “that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (Jn 17:21).

As it stands, Christian divisions, some dating back to the earliest centuries, offer a sad counter-witness to Christ and the Gospel mission. Many Catholics grievously misunderstand the relationship of various churches. The teachings of Christ point the way. Likewise also, the testimony of people like St John Paul II. We’ll take the coming week to explore this topic.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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Kingdom of Plants 3D

As my family and I consider cutting the cable cord, we enjoyed viewing Kingdom of Plants 3D on an alternate streaming source. We have a significant stash of David Attenborough nature documentaries on our living room shelves. None surpass this 2012 production.

Three episodes are filmed mostly from the Royal Botanical Gardens in England. The filmmaker depicts plants as beautiful, competitive, and with an unending array of mechanisms for nutrition, cooperation with insects, survival in harsh conditions, and even predation on animals. Every tool of motion photography is used: speeding up, slowing down, catching ultraviolet blooms. Sir David’s ever-present narrative invites and informs. I’d find his enthusiasm for nature most persuasive, if I didn’t already share it.

Among the highlights: carnivorous plants, the diversity and strategies of orchids, the titan arum, and how pine trees send out the distress call to ladybugs to rid themselves of aphid pests.

To be sure, 3D filming doesn’t really impress me. When it comes to movies, plot, characterization, and attention to detail are more important. When it comes to science films, I appreciate intelligence, creativity, and respect for the subject matter.

When I picked up my first tv in the 90s, and one of my landlords offered “free” cable tv, I found a number of good programs on science on some cable networks. By the turn of the century, things had significantly dumbed down. In the attempt to sell documentaries, most of American tv settles for what catches attention. I find authentic science does well to attract, not sell. But I’m likely in the minority of Americans these days.

I have a long history of enjoying science tv. When I was a kid, my dad and I used to enjoy programming on PBS or under the National Geographic banner. I’m pleased the young miss and I can share a family tradition of sorts. Family connections aside, I can heartily endorse this series.

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Aparecida 226: Four Lines of Work

This is a significant paragraph, outlining the shape of the Church’s ministry to the faithful, especially those who no longer walk with us. There is certainly room for “enhancement” along these initiatives.

Dioceses, parishes, parish groups, religious orders (both contemplative and apostolic), lay associations, and even families might consider this checklist. First, we might consider which of these have been our strength, or which offers some work already accomplished. From there, the room for improvement. Let’s read …

226. In our church we should enhance work along four lines:

a) Religious experience. In our Church we must offer all our faithful “a personal encounter with Jesus Christ,” a profound and intense religious experience, a kerygmatic proclamation and the personal witness of the evangelizers that leads to a personal conversion and to a thorough change of life.

Individual persons are on point outside of places designated as “church.” We can certainly ask if baptized persons live as if they’ve experienced that “personal encounter.” That’s something for which remaining believers can aspire.

My sense is that the liturgy must offer this “profound and intense religious experience.” It’s not just the proclamation of the Word. It’s the whole experience.

b) Community life. Our faithful are seeking Christian communities where they are accepted fraternally and feel valued, visible, and included in the Church. Our faithful must really feel that they are members of an ecclesial community and stewards of its development. That will allow for greater commitment and self-giving in and for the Church.

On this point, welcome. Does everybody who walks through our doors–Sunday as well as office hours–feel they are part of something larger? Or are they present to be serviced? The more we get the former, and less of the latter, the better off we’ll be in achieving this sense of community.

c) Biblical and doctrinal formation. Along with a strong religious experience and notable community life, our faithful need to deepen knowledge of the Word of God and the contents of the faith, because that is the only way to bring their religious experience to maturity. Along this strongly experiential and communal path, doctrinal formation is not experienced as theoretical and cold knowledge, but as a fundamental and necessary tool in spiritual, personal, and community growth.

My caution on this point: it can be easy to replace matter of relationship, the affective side of knowing Jesus Christ, with simple information about him. Knowledge is nothing, according to the apostle Paul, unless it comes with love. Formation built on cleverness is mere dust.

d) Missionary commitment of the entire community. It goes out to meet those who are afar, is concerned about their situation so as to attract them once more to the Church and invite them to return to it.

Evangelization. Commitment to it, concretely.

As a liturgist, I recognize the impulses of the lay desire for preaching, music, and hospitality in the Mass. The first two enhancements cover this. Here in North America, we’ve wasted a lot of energy when we flit around the boundaries of these without getting into their meat. Accompanying is this fourth point: a drive to implement a sincere and effective outreach.

I happen to think one of the strengths of the post-conciliar Church are the tools and methods we use in formation. The problem there, perhaps, is our poverty of love.

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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VNO 11: On the Anniversaries of Marriage

As with the VNO for the anniversary of a priest, we have some options for wedding anniversaries. The Roman Missal gives a brief introduction in red before getting to the prayers:

On the main anniversaries of marriage, as for example, on the twenty-fifth, fiftieth, or sixtieth anniversary, whenever Masses for Various Needs are permitted, the Mass for Giving Thanks to God may be used with the prayers given below.

The Missal has three options: A, On any Anniversary; B, On the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary; C, On the Fiftieth Anniversary. Like many of the MR3 prayers, nothing consistently great or lyrical in the prayers. Maybe this exception given for post-Communion in option A:

Open wide in joy and love, O Lord,
the hearts of these your servants,
who have been refreshed
with food and drink from on high,
that their home may be a place of decency and peace
and welcome everyone with love.

This sums up much of the sacramental life: an ever-opening of hearts, the Eucharistic center of faith, and the hope that a home will also be a domus Dei to draw others into the divine embrace of a graceful love.

More instruction from the Missal:

The same prayers may also be used, if appropriate, at Mass on a weekday in Ordinary Time. In these celebrations, a special remembrance of the Sacrament of Marriage may appropriately be made, using the forms which are indicated in the Roman Ritual (Order of Celebrating Marriage, nos. 272-286).

That reference is likely the old rite. A nuptial blessing might be an appropriate addition. I haven’t had a chance to check the final edition of the new Rite of Marriage. Maybe a few other offerings there would work for a daily Mass in a parish.

Giving no particular antiphons, the Roman Antiphonal also recommends looking at the Mass for Giving Thanks to God (VNO 49). Here they are:

Entrance Antiphon Eph 5: 19-20
Sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts,
always thanking God the Father for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Perhaps the canticle cited in verses 3-10 (or through 14) of the first chapter of that letter would make for a good effort at the praise of God matched to this antiphon.

Communion Antiphon Ps 138: 1
I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart, for you have heard the words of my mouth.
Or: Ps 116: 12-13
How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?
The chalice of salvation I will raise, and I will call on the name of the Lord.

Communion songs based on Psalm 138 or Psalm 116 are fine choices. 116 is associated with Holy Thursday and ordinations, so there’s no big problem with linking marriage to the Paschal Mystery or its companion sacrament in vocation. Obviously, Psalm 128 would fit well for any of these. As would the sections I suggested here from Song of Songs.

It’s a good development that those preparing liturgy in observance of marriage anniversaries have significant leeway under Church auspices to celebrate, even with prayer and song. I suspect that parish observances mean the most to ordinary Catholics. Many dioceses offer anniversary Masses–and this is also quite laudable for the in-crowd that knows of them.

Other comments?

Some years ago, we blogged on Masses And Prayers For Various Needs And Occasions. In the GIRM, sections 368-378 cover the universal regulations on their use. You can check our brief comments here and here and here. The USCCB’s unannotated text on the matter is here.


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Aparecida 225: Those Who Have Left

We in the States often or at least occasionally fret over “Those Who Have Left The Church To Join Other Religious Groups.” The Aparecida bishops do too. In this document, they don’t address the nones. They don’t diagnose the problem others have highlighted in the US, one since the revelation of sex abuse cover-up: the sense that morally and administratively, the Church has left them.

In this section and the next, they recognize some impulses:

225. In our pastoral experience, often sincere people who leave our church

  • do not do so because of what “non-Catholic” groups believe, but fundamentally for what they live;
  • not for doctrinal but for vivential reasons;
  • not for strictly dogmatic, but for pastoral reasons;
  • not due to theological problems, but to methodological problems of our Church.

They hope to find answers to their concerns. They are seeking, albeit with serious dangers, answers to some aspirations that perhaps they have not found in the Church, as ought to be the case.

The comment that some non-Catholic groups have a more attractive way of life: what to make of that?

For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.

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