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Philomena – A Film That Reveals Gospel Grace and Forgiveness

220px-Philomena_posterI saw the new movie Philomena last week. I was unprepared for how much this film would move me to the depths of my spirit. It is my “sleeper” film for 2013! I noted this weekend, with great joy, that it was nominated for the Golden Globe as “Best Picture.” (There are only five nominees. The Academy now has ten nominees and if Philomena is not nominated someone should investigate the process!)

Philomena is a 2013 British film based upon the book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee, written by Martin Sixsmith. (Martin Sixsmith was the reporter who helped Philomena search for her lost son.) The film tells the true story of Philomena Lee’s 50-year-long search. The book focuses more, as the title suggests, on the life of Michael/Anthony (Philomena’s son) after his adoption in Ireland. The film focuses more on Philomena herself yet it gives us a clear picture of what transpired in Michael/Anthony’s life over the years since he was taken from the convent in Ireland.

As the film begins Martin Sixsmith has just lost his job

A New Kind of Leader in the Irish Methodist Church

S34736-xlimage-R2265-a-practical-theologianDr. Heather Morris, the first female leader of a major church body in Ireland, was recently installed as the President of the Methodist Church, at a gathering at Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim.

Martin O’Brien, editor of The Irish Catholic, writes that he first heard Dr Morris preach to a huge congregation at Clonard Novena where “she held in rapt attention” a large congregation. The  48-year-old wife of Neil Morris, Heather is a chartered accountant and the mother of two grown children. O’Brien says Heather Morris is “about as far as you can imagine from being a shrinking violet when it comes to presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the charism of her Church.”

He adds:

Radiating a joyous personality she could be said to embody the “heart strangely warmed [by God]” that Wesley famously wrote about in his journal. Morris says Wesley’s vision has not changed in our day but “we are in the process of rediscovery.” And she adds, “It is about being reminded of something we have forgotten. It’s about a warmed heart, and passion for

My Sisters the Saints (6) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-1Colleen Carroll Campbell’s journey to femininity did not lead her to embrace a kind of Catholic “fundamentalism” with regard to the social, professional and economic gains that she had previously experienced because of feminism. John and Carroll Campbell clearly share a marriage of mutuality. They have just as clearly learned how to sacrifice and give up their personal agendas, one for the other. For those on the far right, who think the only way to respond to modern feminism is to throw “the baby out with the dirty bathwater” her conclusion will not satisfy you. At the same time if you want a radical feminist perspective that leads to a profound fear and loathing of men and motherhood then you must look elsewhere.

As Colleen read Edith Stein, and Pope John Paul II, she concluded that men are called to loving communion with others just as much as women. But Edith Stein believed that a man was called, more than a woman, to “action, work, and objective accomplishments. A man is less concerned with problems of being, whether

My Sisters the Saints (5) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

images-3As Colleen Carroll Campbell tried to settle into her new work at the White House she found that she had never been so profoundly challenged in her work but so deeply dissatisfied with her life in general. She writes:

I wanted to blame patriarchy for my conundrum., blame my job, blame John. Deep down, though, I knew something else was pulling me home [i.e. back to St. Louis]. It was the force of my own desires, desires that sprang form a soft, passionate, feminine part of me that I thought I had smothered with résumés and credentials long ago. Decades of perfectionism and compulsive achievement had not managed to kill her off. Now she was daring me to reject the smart move and take a chance on love (79).

Trying to work her way out of this she turned to prayer. She turned to the Divine Mercy chaplet, the prayers that came from the journals and insights of Faustina. Don’t misunderstand. She was reading Scripture daily and meditating in the written words of the Holy Bible. Psalm

My Sisters the Saints (4) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

imagesIn the spring of 2001, five years after Colleen Carroll Campbell had moved from Memphis to St. Louis to write for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, she fell in love with John Campbell, a young physician in training who would become her husband. Their love story is endearing and genuinely sweet. During this same time, in 2001, she took a year-long leave from the newspaper to write her book titled: The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2002). She describes this project as a “labor of love . . . a young writer’s dream” (55). She received a grant to travel around the country interviewing hundreds of her peers, mostly Catholics and evangelicals. Her desire was to track and reveal a growing trend among younger adults who were embracing more orthodox expressions of the Christian faith. Her interest grew out of her own experience of faith and astute professional observations. The book is not based on a poll, or the gathering of scientific data. It is anecdotal and profoundly fun to

My Sisters the Saints (3) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith

book-my-sisters-the-saintsAs Colleen Carroll Campbell’s spiritual memoir, My Sisters the Saints, evolves we begin to understand how her relationship with men was being changed profoundly. These changes clearly grew out of the spiritual formation that was now powerfully shaping her life as a growing Catholic Christian.

She writes that before Christmas break was over she did not want to make long-term plans with a man who regarded God as a competitor for her loyalty (22). She, in her own words, “surrendered her relationship [to] take a chance on God instead” (22). Her attempts to enter into a relationship with God was, at first, one of fits and starts. She was grasping for something, anything, that would “help her get her bearings” but the journey was not easy. (Is is ever? If it is then it will likely not last.) She finished college with many more questions but writes: “Teresa’s example convinced me that my journey to understand who I was and how I should live as a woman was inextricably bound with my journey toward God” (24). The party

My Sisters the Saints (1) – An Inspiring Journey in Faith


ColleenatChristendomCrop1Collen Carroll Campbell is an accomplished, award-winning author, as well as a print and broadcast journalist. I have followed her writing and professional career, at least from a  distance, since I read her first book, The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, back in 2002. I later quoted from that hopeful book in my own book, Your Church Is Too Small (Zondervan, 2010). I admit that Colleen has become one of my favorite religion writers in America. She writes an op-ed column on religion, politics, and women’s issues for the St. Louis Post Dispatch; blogs on those subjects for the New York Times and the Washington Post; comments on them on such networks as Fox News, CNN, and PBS; and discusses them as a host of Faith & Culture, a weekly television and radio show that airs on EWTN, the Catholic network. Colleen Carroll Campbell’s new book, My Sisters the Saints: A Spiritual Memoir, is an intensely readable and highly evocative book. As a college student, at a fairly secular Catholic university, she was

How Exile Came About: Theological and Cultural Developments in the Nineteenth Century (2)

Near the end of the nineteenth century the evangelical experience of Christianity in America changed things in the church even more radically than previous movements had done within historic Protestantism. While the paradigm of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress remained deeply embedded in the evangelical conversion system a new version would soon emerge in the Protestant psyche by the first decade or so of the twentieth century. imagesBilly Sunday (1863–1935) brought the message of Christ to multitudes in both America and Britain. The demands of conversion were “much relaxed” (An Introduction to Christianity, 252) through his preaching. On the final day of Billy Sunday’s New York revival campaign he asked: “Do you want God’s blessing on you, your home, your church, your nation, New York? If you do, raise your hands . . . How many of you men and women will jump to your feet and come down and say, ‘Bill, here’s my hand for God, for home, for my native land, to live and conquer for Christ.” The structure of Bunyan’s conversion model was clearly retained

How Exile Came About: Theological and Cultural Developments in the Nineteenth Century (1)

My recent blogs have been devoted to developing a perspective I refer to as missional-ecumenism. I want to show where I believe we are in America today–particularly in terms of the church, culture and our mission. I am a passionate missional-ecumenist. This passion is deeply rooted in three principal texts, all found in the Fourth Gospel; John 13:34-35, 17:20-23 and 20:21. What we discover in the Fourth Gospel is that God is a trinity of loving persons who created humankind in his image. The Father sent the Son into the world to redeem the whole cosmos (cf. Colossians 1:15-20). He is now recreating us by the Spirit, forming a unified redeemed people into a community of faith, hope and love. In this theological paradigm the church is the mission of God (missio Dei), a mission that reveals God’s love as we live faithfully in community. This means the church is not an institution that does mission so much as it is a people who are mission! (This does not mean we ignore missions and missionaries, as some have argued. We must always keep our strong focus

When Jesus Met Mary: A Conference on Friendship with a Unique (and Controversial) Emphasis on Friendship with the Opposite Sex

6a00d8341c530d53ef01310ffcfbd3970c-800wiCan men and women be close friends without the sex part getting in the way?

Can men and women who are married enjoy opposite sex friendships?

What would our marriages, our friendships, our churches, and our communities look like if men and women were not afraid of connecting with each other in deep ways?

What would male-female relationships look like in marriages and friendship if every man and woman could know the spiritual richness and beauty of oneness between genders?

These are the kinds of questions that grew out of my reading of a fine book I reviewed extensively on this site, December 21-24, 2010. I wrote long blogs about Sacred Unions, Sacred Passions, a ground-breaking and courageous book written by my good friend Dan Brennan. I believed then that it had something extremely important to say about real friendship

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