Romero biography suffers through identity crisis

Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out by Kevin Clarke (Novalis, 164 pages, softcover, $14.95).

The life and death of Archbishop Oscar Romero raises questions as relevant to Catholics today as they were when Romero’s native El Salvador was struggling through years of violence and injustice. How and when should Church officials take sides in the political affairs of nations? What brings a person of privilege to a radical change of heart? How can such a person come to be in solidarity with the poor?

Oscar's got nothin' on us: The real best movies, family films of 2014

NEW YORK - The year just past saw the release of a number of films whose celebrated cinematic quality was not matched by moral merit.

Lent is about spiritual commitment to Christ

Sacred Journey: Daily Reflections for Lent 2015. By Krystyna Higgins. (Novalis. 49 pages. $2.50).
40 Days, 40 Ways: A New Look at Lent. By Marcellino D’Ambrosio. (Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media. 127 pages. $14.99). Sacred Silence: Daily Meditations for Lent. By Phyllis Zagano. (Franciscan Media. 132 pages. $9.99).

Lent is upon us and it’s time to make some room for change. This year, will Lent pass us by as little more than 40 days of good intentions or will it become a life-changing journey? These three books remind us that it’s not enough to give up chocolate or some other vice — although sacrifice does have its place. Authors Krystyna Higgins, Marcellino D’Ambrosio and Phyllis Zagano remind us each in their own way that Lent is about renewing our spiritual commitment to Christ and hopefully going deeper and maturing in our relationship with Him.

Fifty Shades of Grey 'direct assault' on marriage, morality

WASHINGTON - The new movie Fifty Shades of Grey is "a direct assault on Christian marriage and on the moral and spiritual strength of God's people," Cincinnati's archbishop told pastors in his archdiocese.

Ewan McGregor pulls off a convincing Jesus in ‘Last Days in the Desert’

PARK CITY, Utah - Publishers discovered a long time ago that Jesus sells magazines, so it should be no surprise that one of the hottest tickets here at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival was the premiere of “Last Days in the Desert,” directed by Rodrigo Garcia and starring Ewan McGregor as both Jesus and Satan.

‘Troublemaker’ Hughes finally gets her due

Radicals and deviants have to fight their way into the history books. Ninety years after her death, Katherine Hughes is finally winning that battle.

The revolution of the pill: controversial to this day

The Birth of the Pill: How Four Crusaders Reinvented Sex and Launched a Revolution by Jonathan Eig (W. W. Norton & Company, 409 pages, $32.95 in print, $16.05 on Kindle).

Here’s the faith in the American Sniper you won’t see in the film

Chris Kyle, often described as the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history, wrote in his autobiography that he prioritized his life in the following order: God, country, family.

Music takes Steve Bell from the big house to God’s house

Steve Bell was ready to face the music: his decade-long career as a nightclub musician was over.

The evolution of the penitential rite

Penance in Medieval Europe, 600-1200 by Rob Meens (Cambridge University Press, softcover, 290 pages, $29.99).

At a time when the Sacrament of Penance is in decline, a new history of early Medieval penance helps put today’s apparent crisis in a much longer perspective. Rob Meens offers a scholarly overview of the formative period when sacramental confession emerged. He takes readers back to when Catholicism appeared very different from what we expect today, a journey which some might find unsettling, others enlightening.

Actress tried to show human side of Mary

Every step that Mary took, she took out of love, says Alissa Jung.

I’m dreaming of a green Christmas

Some ideas for an eco-friendly Christmas:

LED lights
1. Use 90- to 95-per-cent less energy.
2. Last at least seven times longer than ordinary lights.
3. Are more durable and don’t have any breakable filaments or glass bulbs.
4. Produce less heat, thereby reducing the risk of fire.

Christmas trees
1. Why not buy a potted tree this year? You can transplant it outside in the spring or let it grow on your balcony and bring it back inside for use next Christmas.
2. If you buy a real tree, find out if your municipality picks them up after Christmas for mulching.

Decorations
1. Deck your halls with handmade decorations like popcorn and fresh cranberry chains. A biodegradable choice!
2. Buy decorations you can reuse year after year. Instead of throwing out old ornaments, consider repainting them.

Gifts
1. Everyone has items that they don’t use or are as good as new. Give gifts of repaired or refurbished items.
2. Buy environmentally friendly gifts that the receivers will appreciate. Buy products certified EcoLogo or Energy Star, the symbol of high energy efficiency.

Gift wrap
1. Use cloth gift bags instead of paper. You can craft wonderful personalized bags that may be appreciated as much as the gift inside, and can be reused.
2. Or you can use old posters, photos or comics from the newspaper, or magazine pages to wrap presents.
3. To add the finishing touch to your gifts, use pine cones, evergreen branches or other colourful objects from nature instead of store-bought ribbons and bows.
4. Be gentle this year when opening your presents and save the paper and ribbon for next year!
5. Even simpler, put your presents in reusable gift bags!

Heating
1. Cooking and entertaining can really warm up your home. Before the kitchen gets too hot, turn down your thermostat. Don’t open the window.
2. In winter, use fans to circulate warm air through the house.
3. If lots of people are coming and going, make sure you close doors properly and keep the warm air inside for you and your guests.
4. If you heat with a wood stove, make sure your chimney is clean and that your wood stove is EPA-certified. Minimize use of your fireplace.

(Source: greenchurch.ca.)

Unbroken

NEW YORK - Positive values permeate the inspirational fact-based drama "Unbroken" (Universal). Despite its admirable qualities, however, the film also represents something of a missed opportunity.