Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

Sr. Helena, fsp, is a Daughter of St. Paul. She holds a Masters in Media Literacy Education and studied screenwriting at UCLA. www.HellBurns.com  Twitter: @srhelenaburns

If you’re reading The Catholic Register, you’ve probably never said: “I’m spiritual but not religious.” However, you’ve certainly heard someone else state this now almost cliché phrase. Let’s count the ways this phrase is false… and dangerous. (What I generally say to people who tell me they are “spiritual but not religious” is: “You may want to be careful with that.”)

The new film about a Montana priest, Father Stu, starring Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson, is ruffling some feathers. I’ve seen it, and didn’t think it was that controversial. Father Stu is based on the true story of a roughneck, smart-aleck, aimless young boxer who retires the gloves early and heads to Hollywood for a film career — only to discover God, the Church and his vocation to the priesthood through his new SoCal Catholic girlfriend.

Many people know that I’m taking care of my aged mum now almost full time. What many people don’t know is that I’m also taking care of an even more aged half-sister. Her name is Mary.

There’s a saying in the Media Literacy Education community: “Media Literacy isn’t just teaching with media, it’s teaching about media.” I believe this could also apply to prayer and the media: “Let’s not just pray with media (e.g., praying with a prayer app), let’s pray about the entire world of media itself.”

When I first met Jesus at age 15, I was gung-ho for penances, self-sacrifice, offering up little sufferings, practicing mortifications, etc. In fact, I had picked up somewhere along the line that agony was the essence of Christianity and sanctity.

On Feb. 2 an earth-shaking event occurred in the Catholic Church and barely a peep was peeped. Of course, we’re kind of getting used to the fact that the media often ignore major happenings that would be of interest to, oh, say, 1.2 billion people or more. And this was huge. Unpreceded. Shocking.

Perhaps the oldest strategy of war is: “Divide and conquer”— which can take many forms. Physically divide a land mass into north and south. Encourage a portion of a country to secede. Partition. Physical divisions create smaller spaces and populations to overtake, can leave families separated and citizens stranded. But the most insidious division is spiritual, psychological, social. If planned from without and then wormed into a once-harmonious (even if not homogenous) group, division can be made to feel organic and even righteous through… you guessed it: fear-mongering.

When I give Media Literacy workshops to folks, I often ask: What’s the first thing you think of when you think of “the media”? The overwhelming majority think: the news.

I was recently interviewed by a secular news outlet about a new fictional film featuring nuns. I almost didn’t do the interview. Why not? Because I know better.

The Christmas season has so many wonderful feast days along the way, not least of which is Epiphany, the commemoration of the Magi’s visit to the Christ Child.

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