Wednesday, October 27, 2004

YOU CAN'T LOSE 'EM ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is for you Yaz...Rico Petrocelli, Tony Conigliaro, Carlton Fisk, Ted Williams, Jim Rice, Freddie Lynn, Dwight Evans, Dennnis Eckersley, Bernie Carbo, Denny Doyle, Rick Burleson, Luis Tiant, The Rocket, The Spaceman, Nomar, Wade Boggs....and yes, you too Bill Buckner!

Winning is better than losing.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

PASTORS AS THE LYNCHPIN OF THE NEW RENAISSANCE

I just sent in my next column for The National Catholic Register. This is the third and concluding part of my three-part "Beauty in the Church" series. I'll let you know if/when it gets posted on the NCReg site. Till then, here's a snip:


We need to give our seminarians and priests more beauty, because more will be required of them. Particularly in their years of formation, they will need heightened liturgical life as a way of “storing up” intimate encounters with God. They will need to bank these moments for a cold, grey Tuesday morning in the future, when they will need to propel themselves out of bed, and into a dark church, to say a beautiful Mass for a handful of quarrelsome old ladies.

A commitment to beauty in priestly formation will start in figuring out the kinds of things that seminarians can learn in a classroom, and the kinds of things that must be learned elsewhere. When I was in college, I used to go around saying, “The truth can change people. If you just expose them to the truth, they will cleave to it.” This is a na├»ve view. The sense of “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall make you free” is the sense of knowing in which the Scriptures also speak of sexual intimacy, “Adam knew Eve.” So, it’s the cleaving to the Truth that makes you free, not having it blare out at you from the speakers in a classroom or in black words on a white page. The ‘making people cleave’ to things inwardly – things like compassion, mercy, nobility, self-donation, heroism – this is the province of the arts. You can discover reasons for conviction and certitude on the pages of a textbook, but if you want compassion that will motivate someone to sacrifice, you can find it much quicker in a movie like Shine. Ethics can tell me about the disordered attractions of my own soul, but Madame Bovary will sting me to the heart and have me understand on the deepest level St Paul’s cry, “Why do I do what I hate? Who can free me from this body of death?!”

Artistic narratives - that is, stories - whether in cinema, theater or novels, have a crucial contribution to make to priestly formation. I'm not sure where I read it, but I recall reading a comment of Pope John Paul II in which he notes that we owe deep consideration to even purely secular works of art, for “they can show us in a profound way what the world without God looks like.” I knew one seminarian, for example, who was deeply impacted by the film Requiem for a Dream. A very dark and disturbing story of loneliness that leads into the hell of drug addiction, this well-crafted film incited a wave of pastoral urgency in this future priest that has helped him bring the Gospel into many definitely scary places. With real passion in his voice, he said to me after seeing the movie several times, “No human being should ever feel completely alone.”

Exposing future priests to the artistic stories of “what the world without God looks like” can also balance out the elitist disconnect which is the potential dark side of having lots of beauty in formation years. Always, the goal in formation must be two-fold: to make present both the reality of God and the reality of poor humanity.
SO YOU WANT TO WORK IN HOLLYWOOD

We have a book coming out next year that is a compilation of essays from our Act One faculty members. The working title of the book is "Greetings from the Church in Hollywood." The idea behind the book is to share the insights and experience of our group of savvy and successful Christians who have been on the front lines in the entertainment biz for years. Our folks have lots of things to say to the Church about impacting culture, and how the Church needs to change its rhetoric and thinking so that it can begin to make a real impact in the popular culture.

Friend and fellow screenwriter Jan "The Maven" Batchler has been putting drafts of her essay on her blog. She is writing about all the things a Christian should brood over before throwing his or her hat into the entertainment industry ring. It's a good read with some profound ideas. Check it out. Tell her I sent you.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I BELIEVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
MORE BARB IN NYC

The Daughters of St. Paul have kindly offered to have me give a talk at their Manhattan bookcenter next week while I am in the city. Here is the info...


MEL'S MOVIE. MTV UPSTARTS. ETERNAL SUNSHINE: REASONS FOR HOPE FROM HOLLYWOOD

Featuring Guest Speaker: Barbara R. Nicolosi, Executive Director, Act One, Inc.

WHERE: Pauline Books & Media Ctr., 150 E. 52nd St.
New York, NY 10022, Phone: 212-754-1110

WHEN: Thursday, October 28, 2004, 1:30pm

RSVP to manhattan@pauline.org

Saturday, October 16, 2004

SEE BARB IN NEW YORK CITY

I have two public events coming up in New York in a couple of weeks. One is more mundane and one is more sublime. Blessed are you if you have a place for both in your storehouse...

Please feel free to copy what follows and forward either or both to anyone you know who might be interested. Hope to see some of you there!


OCTOBER 27,2004, 7pm
"A GOSPEL SPIRITUALITY FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE"


Featuring screenwriter and Executive Director of Act One, Barbara R. Nicolosi

Lambs Theater (basement)
130 West 44th St.
New York, NY 10036

What are the specific spiritual challenges of a career as an actor, writer, artist or musician? How can the rejection, instability, collaboration and celebrity of the artist's life be themselves stepping stones to holiness? Why is authentic Christian community an essential part of both the artistic vocation, and a new Renaissance? What are some positive signs that Hollywood is finding its way back to God?

Ms. Nicolosi is the founding Director of Act One, Inc, a non-profit training
and formation program for Hollywood writers and executives. Now in its
fifth year, Act One keynotes artistry, professionalism, ethics and Christian
spirituality. A screenwriter herself, Ms. Nicolosi is currently writing a Spanish Civil War drama for IMMI Pictures in Hollywood, CA.

Miss Nicolosi has also been featured as a guest or commentator on CNN, CBS, NPR, EWTN, CBN, and in the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune. She has been a monthly media columnist for Christian Single, Liguorian and the National Catholic Register.

She has been a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a judge for the Humanitas Prize, the Gabriel Awards, the Catholics in Media Award, and the Angelus Student Film Festival.


Refreshments will be available. Suggested donation: $10.00

Please RSVP to:

David Estes - Associate Pastor
Morning Star New York
david.estes@everynation.org



OCTOBER 28, 2004, 6:30pm
"A PRIMER ON SCREENWRITING FOR HOLLYWOOD"


Featuring screenwriter and Executive Director of Act One, Barbara R. Nicolosi

The King's College
(located in the Empire State Building)
350 Fifth Avenue (between 33rd and 34th Street), Lower lobby

How do you know if you are good enough to try and write for mainstream Hollywood? What should you know - as a writer and as a Christian - before getting started? What are the main "notes" that beginning writers are liable to see on their screenplay? What are the cliches and mistakes that make Hollywood scriptreaders want to throw a script out the window?

Barbara Nicolosi has an M.A. from the scriptwriting program at Northwestern University. She has been a Director of Project Development for Paulist Productions, and is the Founder of Act One:Writing for Hollywood, a five year old non-profit program to help beginning Christian screenwriters make a competitive start in mainstream entertainment. In addition to having read hundreds of scripts and treatments, Ms. Nicolosi has optioned two projects, and is currently writing a feature screenplay for IMMI Pictures in Hollywood, CA.

Suggested donation: $15

Please RSVP to elizabeth@actoneprogram.com

GOOD PROBLEMS TO HAVE

It's official! Act One will be moving to new offices in December and January.

We have been most kindly housed and nurtured in our first six year by the amazing faith community at Hollywood Presbyterian Church. Last year, it became clear that we were growing well-beyond the ability of the church to keep ceding us "just one more office" and just a little bit more administrative support. Everyone kept saying, "These are good problems to have." So, we formed a Board and filed the papers to become a separate non-profit 501c3 and started looking for our next home.

It's not completely in solid rock, so I will wait a few days till it is to tell you all about the great new place God has prepared for us. But, I want to take a moment here to marvel over how far we have come as an organization in just a couple years.

This past year since getting the 501c3 has been about all the organizational details of moving from being a neat little church sub-ministry into being an independent, sustainable corporate entity. I feel like I have earned an honorary MBA with all of the new stuff that I've had to learn just to make this transition.

We needed mission and vision statements, articles of incorporation, corporate bylaws and personnel policies all of which had to be processed through attorneys and various state and federal offices. We had to draw up long-term budgets, short term budgets, and essentially break down every frickin thing we do into a separate entity with its own budget for fundraising. In the last nine months I have learned the difference between a balance statement and a P&L, and have learned that Boards need to see projected budgets quarterly, and how they match up to YTD Actuals.

We have had to hire accountants and a payroll company, get our own bank and creditcard accounts, bulk mail and postal accounts. We had to get health insurance, liability insurance, Directors and Officers insurance and workers comp. In practical terms, running a non-profit for me means quarterly meetings of the Board of Directors, alternating monthly meetings of Writing and Executive program Advisory Boards, and weekly staff meetings.

The most ulcer causing of all the good problems we are lucky to have, has to do with rasing the funds to match our amazing growth. Since Act One was founded, we have moved from being a one and a half person show, to having a staff of 7 full-time, 2 part-time, and a slew of others with whom we contract out work seasonally. Our annual budget has grown exponentially to about six times what it was when we first started up. People keep assuring me that lots of people "out there" will want to support this great thing we're doing, but so far, the hoards of willing check writers haven't exactly been beating our door down. People tell me that we don't ask for help enough.

So, I'm making a point of asking now. This move is the next essential step if Act One is going to be able to meet the demands of our ever expanding alumni network - now 300 strong, as well as add the new programs that everyone seems to be insisting we absolutely must get off the ground. We will be training writers and executives this coming year. Soon, we want to start training producers. Then, directors. And maybe actors.

In terms of fitting out our new offices, we need everything. All of the stuff we have was donated to us when we were owned by the church. Technically, it belongs to them. Besides the fact that we are moving from a space of about 650 square feet to nearly 3000. Beyond desks and chairs, we need to acquire our own computer server and network. I just got the first bid for another good new problem to have - our own phone system in the new building - brace myself - $12,000.

The good news is, we can give tax deductions! (Yeah, what a neat thing to be able to do!) If you are able to help us out - or would like to refer a kindly millionaire who would be amenable to helping us heal the culture - we have set up a page on our website here with some of our immediate needs as we make this next step. It's set up as a Christmas/housewarming list. Buy us a desk - get good kharma and a tax deduction!

You can send a check too. Send to:
Act One, 1763 N Gower St., Hollywood, CA 90028

THANK YOU, if you can help with funds. THANK YOU for any prayers you can send our way. It's scary and exciting being in God's grip...

Monday, October 11, 2004

EMILY MONDAY

#1330

Without a smile -- Without a Throe
A Summer's soft Assemblies go to their entrancing end.

Unknown -- for all the times we met --
Estranged, however intimate --

What a dissembling Friend --

Friday, October 08, 2004

OKAY, NY "AXIS OF EVIL" YANKEES, WE KNOW YOU'RE OUT THERE...JUST LET US ENJOY THIS FOR A FEW DAYS...

Red Sox Survive Rally, Advance to AL Championship

After Losing Five-Run Lead to Angels, Boston Finishes First Sweep Since 1975

By JIMMY GOLEN, AP

BOSTON (Oct. 8) -- The frat house full of fools will play for a pennant for the second year in a row.

David Ortiz's 10th-inning homer gave the Boston Red Sox an 8-6 victory over the Anaheim Angels on Friday, completing a three-game sweep that sent them into the AL championship series.

The Red Sox have three days to sleep off their celebration while the hated New York Yankees play the Minnesota Twins for the right to meet Boston.
"EX OPERE AUTHORATO?"

Someone posted a great question in the comments of the Joan of Arcadia post below, that I wanted to bring out for broader consideration.

The poster (anonymous, otherwise I'd credit you), noted first that Graham Greene lived a degenerate life, and according to the poster, an unrepentant one. My reading of the post is that the charge is Greene was a Clintonian style misogynist. So the poster asks:

What I am wondering is more generally, when thinking about the subject of literature and faith--and teaching it for that matter--is the author's life relevant? Flannery O'Connor wrote quoting St. Thomas, that "art does not require rectitude of the appetite." Can the life of an artist be so depraved as to diminish or even negate the value of his or her art?

A few thoughts...

I am going to go ahead and say, "No, but..."

I think very often that people who have been cracked wide open and made vulnerable by their own sins, can mediate some astoundingly truthfilled art, that the rest of us would be too buttoned down to even dream of.

An artist can comunicate powerfully whatever life has revealed to them. We call it "the Credo" at Act One, borrowing from Prof. Louis Catron of William and Mary. Whatever a writer would list as "This I know to be true" they can bring forth. Artists who have lived in the grip of the dark side, can speak convincingly, as the Pope said in his Letter to Artists, "about what the world without God looks like." The Pope actually said we owe gratitude to pagan artists who have struggled to truthfully convey the misery of the life without grace.

An artist who has had an experience of the Living God (ie. of Mercy, Goodness, Truth, Beauty,...or even just the warm, fuzzy comfort of a purring kitten kneading her little paws in your side...Did I mention I got a kitten a couple of weeks ago?) can convey that powerfully.

But I would not trust someone to tell me about sin through art, just because they happen to be a prodigious sinner. I think you need sin + grief to make something true and redemptive. You need to have a profound sense of falling short of your nature at the least, and ideally the certainty of having turned away from God ("Against You, You alone have I sinned. What is evil in Your sight, I have done."

My sense is, Graham Greene lived in a continual state of grief. As did Dostoevsky. As did Emily Dickinson. As did Lord Byron.

I remember once when I was in the convent, that I complained to the Provincial, that one of the other sister's was a genius at picking the speck out of everyone else's eye, but couldn't see the log in her own yadda, yadda, and therefore, I didn't think I should have to pay attantion to any of her comments. The Provincial, as it happens, carrying a degree in psychology said, "No, it may be with some people that the truth of their words is all they have to give."

When I first started training Christians as writers, it seemed to me that they were just too virtuous to have anything gritty and real to say. I thought erroneously that sinners have more profound things to say in art. But then one day a lovely woman in Ohio with the shade of suffering just behind her gentle eyes, noted to me that it is not sin that makes someone deep, but suffering. Self-inflcted suffering, ie. the kind that comes from sinning, might sting the most, and in that sense afford the greatest possible depth ("She who is forgiven much, loves much.", but there is no necessary connection between sinning and artistic creativity.

I am reading a book about the connection between artistic talent and psychology, specifically depression, which definitely establishes a connection, but isn't sure if the depression is a result of the demands of creativity, or if creativity is a flight from depression.

I would like to hear from some of you on this.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

LISTENER LINK for October 4, 2004

[note from Barb: I am now going to be doing a spot every Friday morning at [good frickin' grief!] 8am CT. Here's the promo piece:]

New Weekly Feature Friday Mornings on Morning Air™

There's no business like show business! Morning Air™ now includes a weekly entertainment report every Friday morning by Barbara Nicolosi, a Hollywood screenwriter, film and television consultant and media maven. Tune in to
Morning Air™ on Friday mornings to get Barbara's take on what's new in TV, music and movies, and insight to help you and your family make appropriate entertainment choices that are both fun and faith-affirming.

As always, other weekly features on Morning Air™ include Dick Lyles with "Faith in the Workplace" on Mondays; "Time Management" with Dave Durand on Tuesdays; and "Rome to Home" with Christine Mugridge on Wednesdays.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

For more information on Relevant Radio™ programming visit www.relevantradio.com.

Thank you for listening to Relevant Radio™. May God bless you as you continue to bridge the gap between faith and everyday life!

ROCK ON, DAUGHTER OF GOD!

Has anybody noticed some of the cool things showing up on Joan of Arcadia so far this season?

For example, the season opener introduced an ex-nun character who agrees to instruct Joan's mother in religion, using a literature based catechesis! So, in the second episode, there is Joan's mother talking about how great Graham Greene is! Barbara Hall told me that the fan websites for the show have all been buzzing about who Graham Greene is, and which of his books would make a good first read. How cool is that?! There was also a point in the first episode in which Joan's character opens a copy of Howards End and reads the two word preface out loud: "Only connect." (It's probably just a coincidence, but this is our Act One motto, btw, and the title of our alumni newsletter. I'm just saying...)

See, class, this is one of the reasons we want to be in Hollywood...

About five years ago, I was involved with starting a special RCIA (that's Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults) program for people in the entertainment industry. It seemd to me that, as artists, they particularly respond to narrative. And also, I wanted to introduce them to some other really smart and talented artists who believe this Christian stuff. (There aren't a lot of folks in the biz who do, so part of the battle in RCIA here is in fighting antagonistic peer pressure.) We also use the Catechism and Vatican II so that nearly every lesson involves a story and then doctrine.

The program has been flourishing over the last five years. It's very smart, and it asks the candidates and catechumens to do much more reading,. writing and thinking than any other RCIA program probably anywhere. But they love it. And we always end up attracting twice as many Catholics who want to come just because they haven't ever been catechized, or certainly not in a smart literature-based way.

Barbara Hall was one of our students a couple of years ago, and so, now, the whole world gets to hear that the coolest way to study Christianity is to read some great novels.

Several people have asked me for the curriculum we use. I will happily send it to anyone who requests it by email, but here are a few of the titles we have used, along with the class topics in which we use them:

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh - "That Catholic Thing"
Silence, Shushaka Endo - "The Problem of Suffering"
"The Grand Inquisitor" (from The Brothers Karamazov), Fyodor Doestevsky - "Sin and Temptation"
The River, Flannery O'Connor - "Baptism and Grace"
The Power and the Glory, Graham Greene - "The Priesthood"
Babette's Feast, Isak Denison - "The Mass and the Eucharist"
The Reed of God, Caryll Houselander - "Mary the Mother of God"
The Mission (WB pictures) - "Conscience"
The Inferno, Danta - "The Last Things"

It's a very wonderful program, and it smashes early on the lingering prejudice some of the candidates come in with that Christianity is anti-intellectual.

The only downside to the program, is that when our students come in to the Church, they are shocked by the anti-intellectualism they find in the Sunday liturgy. As one of my former students noted to me after being in the Church a year, "Father's homilies are kind of embarrassing, aren't they? It's like he is talking to fifth graders."
[FROM THE LOTUS POSITION] "HMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM....."

Red Sox One Win Away From Advancing Past Angels
Martinez Pitches Seven Strong Innings in Boston's 8-3 Win

By JOHN NADEL, AP Sports

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Oct. 6) -- Pedro Martinez did his part, the bullpen did theirs and now the Boston Red Sox are heading home with a big lead in the AL playoffs.

Martinez rebounded from a wretched September by pitching seven effective innings and Manny Ramirez hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly that sent the wild-card Red Sox over the Anaheim Angels 8-3 Wednesday night for a 2-0 edge.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

BEAUTY AND THE CHURCH, PT II

Here's the second part of my series for the National Catholic Register about Beauty and the Church/Liturgy/Priesthood. I must say, it was an inestimable honor to have my article appear on the same page of the Register as His Serene Ineffablensss, Mark Shea, Magnate of St. Blog's parish. ("Now, O Lord, let your servant go in peace...")

Because The Register has a way of removing articles after I link to them, I am going to put the full text here. Hopefully, soon, I will take the thirty seconds to email Tom Allen about getting my articles posted at Catholic Exchange after they have appeared in print the way I used to do with Liguorian.

So, here it is...


Beauty Will Save the World
National Catholic Register
Oct. 3-9, 2004


Near the end of the 19th century, Fyodor Dostoevsky perceived that the frameworks of human society were crumbling.

Church, state, the family, academia, the sciences — all of them would lose their authority with future generations. With prophetic clarity, he wrote that, as all other conduits of meaning lost their power, "Beauty will save the world." Why? We must figure this out, because the answer will give us the energy to make the sacrifices that the restoration of beauty in the Church will demand.

What does beauty have to do with salvation, and what should it mean to the Church’s composers, musicians, artists and pastors?

In his great fable Till We Have Faces, C.S. Lewis includes a haunting passage that tries to get at the way beauty feels in us. The young princess, Psyche, tells her sister that beauty fills her soul with something that is both happy and sad.

She says, "It was when I was happiest that I longed most. It was on the happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine … where we couldn’t see the village or the palace. Do you remember? The color and the smell, and looking across at the Grey Mountain in the distance? And because it was so beautiful, it set me longing, always longing. Somewhere else there must be more of it. Everything seemed to be saying, ‘Psyche, come!’"

This kind of longing is itself a religious experience. The Holy Father noted in his 1999 "Letter to Artists" that the yearning that proceeds from an encounter with beauty is the unique source of a vital and saving "enthusiasm." This sense of enthusiasm comes from the original Greek meaning of the word for moments in which the gods literally took possession of certain people, empowering, energizing and animating them with a divine vision. The Pope notes, "People of today and tomorrow need this enthusiasm if they are to meet and master the critical challenges which stand before us. Thanks to this enthusiasm, every time it loses its way, humanity will be able to lift itself up again and set out on the right path."

There is a desperate need in the Church for works of art that can summon and foster this kind of holy longing and saving enthusiasm. From the hymns that we sing, to the homilies that are preached, to the environment around the worshipping community — all of these should be evaluated from an aesthetic standard, as well as from theological and canonical ones. The arts can connect people to God and each other with a potency that exceeds theological or catechetical study. Woe to us as a Church if we fail to harness their power.

A commitment to beauty is meaningless without a requisite commitment to the things that beauty demands. If we are going to ever have beautiful things in the Church again, we have to change a number of things in the way we operate. The Church will not be the patron of the arts again without a bit of elitism and sacrifice.

Beauty is rare and exclusive. And the next conclusion is unavoidable: The people who can produce beautiful art are also rare. Artistic talent has nothing to do with the qualities of a person’s heart or the level of their devotion. For most pastors, the most difficult aspect of leading the movement to restore beauty in the Church won’t be writing checks, but will be confronting those very nice people who should never be allowed anywhere within 100 feet of an open microphone.

I once belonged to a parish that was tortured weekly by two of the nicest Catholic folks you might ever meet. "Tone-deaf Charlie" and "Tempo-free Doris" had been strumming their guitars, banging their tambourines and trilling dreadfully at the Sunday-morning liturgy for as long as anyone could remember. In my nightmares, I still hear Doris chiding all of us wide-eyed sufferers, "Come on now, you all know this song: ‘Awaaaaaaaaaake from your slumber! Ariiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise from your sleeeeeeeeeeep!’"

They were quite awful. Finally, a group of us parishioners recruited a sponsor and a few music grad students from the local university to stop the insanity and bring some beauty to our Sunday Mass. But when we brought the fully funded proposal to our pastor, he killed it. "I would never want to offend Charlie and Doris. Maybe their voices aren’t that good, but their hearts are pleasing to God."

This was nothing but cowardice wearing a mask of charity. It isn’t charity to spare the feelings of two people while flaying the sensibilities and pastoral needs of hundreds of others.

Beauty is in the harmonious selection of details. In a liturgical sense, it means things like getting the lighting just right and having flowers that are, well, alive, and tastefully arranged. It means vestments that are cleaned and ironed, and vessels that are polished. It means all the elements should be coordinated to be either beautiful in themselves, or at least so well-ordered that they will not attract any attention from the beautiful things going on at the heart of the liturgy.

This is why hi-tops and wrinkled vestments on the altar servers are not acceptable. These things, in their inappropriateness, have a jarring effect and take the people out of the liturgical moment.

Beauty is expensive to produce. "You get what you pay for" is nowhere more true than in the choir lofts of most churches. My sister is a professional opera singer. She gets $100 a week to cantor at the local Episcopalian church, which has an endowed chair for a mezzo soprano. At our church, they want her to sing for free and, as she has said to me with a shrug, "They want me to sing crap." The music in our churches will continue to be abysmal until we make paying for it as much a reflex as paying for the lights and heat.

It’s a matter of adopting a new priority. There will never be beautiful music at Mass by accident or coincidence.

But even having talented people is not enough. Beauty requires lavish investments in time and patience, too. There is only one way to deliver a homily that will work on people as a powerful piece of oratory. There is only one way for a lector to get to the point of proclaiming the Word of God so that the hearers can absorb its deepest meanings. There is only one way for an organist to be able to deliver a haunting melody and a singer to trill the right note in the right tempo. Rehearsal, rehearsal, rehearsal. We have to get it through our heads that we aren’t just paying our artists to perform at the 10 o’clock Mass. We are paying them for all the time they need to invest to perform at the 10 o’clock Mass. Again, a rethinking is required.

In terms of liturgical environment, a commitment to beauty will mean the overall setting for the liturgy tends to help the people get past their distractions and enter into a climate of prayer. Admittedly, this will be nearly impossible in the church-in-the-round buildings that have proliferated in the past 30 years.

In its buildings, the Church could at least take a cue from the secular side. There’s a reason the best theaters and opera houses aren’t built in the round. The point is to gather the audience’s attention toward the action for which they are paying. No one who goes to see Shakespeare wants to be distracted by the audience. Why would this dynamic be less in effect for people who come to encounter the divine?

Beauty is not necessarily just found in old things, but many old things are beautiful. The best notion is from the Scriptures, "Blessed is he who can bring forth from his storehouse both the old and the new."

In my years with the nuns, we used to have the custom at the motherhouse of saying the rosary outside together from May to October. Altogether, we would be about 100 nuns, walking in rows around the convent’s grounds. We’d end by chanting the Litany of Mary. I used to love it best in the Latin. (I had studied Latin for two years, so it was more than just the texture and the sounds; it was the meanings, too.) I will never forget the power of those times of prayer: the coolness of the summer evenings, the colorful flowers in the garden out of which rose the life-size marble statue of the Madonna, the voices of the sisters, some of them adding spontaneous harmony.

I used to feel my heart swelling with the psalms, "How good it is for us to be here!"

I imagine that, had it been photographed, that image of the group of us, all looking the same in our habits and chanting the same old words, would be horrific to some people. It would smack of the loss of individuality and spontaneity. But I didn’t find that ritual diminishing. I found it comforting. There was something so steadying in the knowledge that, for 50 years, our sisters had been singing together on a hill outside Boston, calling down God’s love and mercy on all the hoards of people of the city and of the world.

Some old things are very, very good.

We need to be clear that the people of God do not attend the liturgy as people going to watch a performance. They are not the audience, but rather the players. The members of the community who organize the liturgy are simply and humbly serving the work of art that is the joint creation of the people of God. The goals of their efforts are to rouse the assembly to reverence plus compunction.

In the closing of the Pope’s "Letter to Artists" are words that should intently be applied to the work of the progression from beauty to wonder to enthusiasm:

In this sense, it has been said with profound insight, "beauty will save the world."

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

WHO CARES ABOUT DEBATES? [PANT, PANT, PANT...]

ANAHEIM, Calif. (Oct. 5) -- Curt Schilling and the Boston Red Sox got the jump on Anaheim in the AL playoffs. Perhaps that's how the Angels prefer it.

Schilling pitched 6 2/3 effective innings, Manny Ramirez and Kevin Millar homered during a seven-run burst, and the Red Sox beat the Angels 9-3 Tuesday in Game 1....

EMILY MONDAY...A DAY LATE

579

I had been hungry, all the Years --
My Noon had Come -- to dine --
I trembling drew the Table near --
And touched the Curious Wine --

'Twas this on Tables I had seen --
When turning, hungry, Home
I looked in Windows, for the Wealth
I could not hope -- for Mine --

I did not know the ample Bread --
'Twas so unlike the Crumb
The Birds and I, had often shared
In Nature's -- Dining Room --

The Plenty hurt me -- 'twas so new --
Myself felt ill -- and odd --
As Berry -- of a Mountain Bush --
Transplanted -- to a Road --

Nor was I hungry -- so I found
That Hunger -- was a way
Of Persons outside Windows --
The Entering -- takes away --

Monday, October 04, 2004

"Starting"?

"Cinema, the world's youngest muse, is starting to show distinct signs of dimentia... The world has a fever. Societies are ill and frightened. The cinema feels it and - not knowing how to deal with the disease - pretends there is no fever and so continues to play the waltz on the modern day Titanic."
(Polish director, Agnieszka Holland, speaking at the Dutch Film Fest, 9/26/04)

Friday, October 01, 2004

"JESUS,... HOLLYWOOD"

(Got the above method of prayer from my fav spiritual writer, Caryll Houselander. She says, when you don't know what to ask for, don't even try. Just bring "whatever it is" into God's presence.)

It's 6:53am and I'm already up and running. Just did a half hour on Relevant Radio in our new weekly "Hollywood Update" spot, and now I'm out the door to the first annual National Media Prayer Breakfast, happening in about 90 minutes in Beverly Hills.

The point of the day is to lift up everyone who works in media, the arts and entertainment; to pray for conversion and overall fleshiness of hearts, and to offer up the work our of hands. Lots of cool people will be there today, praying from the heart of this industry, for the people of this industry, and the audience whom we serve.

Please join us from wherever you are today, in praying for artists, writers, directors, executives, actors, journalists, cinematographers - everybody above and below the line who labors in this vitally important arena.