#25: Todd Komarnicki- Confessions of a Hollywood Writer

#25: TODD KOMARNICKI- CONFESSIONS OF A HOLLYWOOD WRITER

 

Todd Komarnicki is a natural raconteur. He knows well how to distill vast amounts of story information into a resonant format that, well, works. This skill has been honed over many years and helps explain why he’s a sought after screenwriter and movie producer (start the list with Elf, Resistance, and Meet Dave).

His latest film is Sully, directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Tom Hanks about Capt. Chesley Sullenberger, the “miracle on the Hudson” pilot. Another of his films, which is in the post-production phase is The Madman and the Professor, starring Mel Gibson and Sean Penn, which Todd co-wrote.

In this frank (and fun!) interview, you’ll find out what being an artist who is also Christian in Hollywood can mean, and learn some of the principal elements that go into a great story. Todd has also crafted a script about the making of It’s a Wonderful Life, centered on the long-suffering efforts of Philip Van Doren Stern to get someone to like his Christmas card letter – which a guy called Frank Capra did, to say the very least. You heard it here first, folks. Can’t wait.

Grab some popcorn. Todd’s endlessly interesting, insightful, and has great taste in ties.

 

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The Discipline Shortage Crisis

Discipline is an interesting virtue. There are thousands of books devoted to instilling it, working toward it, trying to gain it. A simple search on Amazon yields 446,614 book titles on the topic.

The topic seems universal. There are books on disciple for athletes, for business leaders, for soldiers, for singers, actors, and other performers. Without discipline you can’t:

· diet with any success

· accomplish long-term goals

· get in shape

· write much beyond a hello email

· master a new skill

· decide to forgive someone

· pray with any regularity

The most obvious fact about discipline is its scarcity. No one seems to have any! If we did, there would no super-charged book industry powered by people urgently seeking it.

Our fallen nature’s default setting is switched permanently to lazy. You can see how Original Sin works itself out in your children (and – ahem – older children, too): they don’t need to be taught to be bad; they need to be taught to be good. While the Bible and the Church teach that man is not radically corrupt, neither is he merely deprived as the Jets tried to explain to the absent Officer Krupke, in West Side Story: “We’re depraved on account a’ we’re deprived!”

Great musical number—but not quite, boys.

Sloth, self-seeking, acedia (the thing has many names) all lie at the heart of our “weight” in the sense St. Augustine meant by his phrase Pondus meum amor meus, or my love is my weight. Modern readers might miss the metaphor here. By weight is meant a kind of love, the “weight” (or, gravitas) of what one follows, imitates, and is drawn to. Love gambling and neon lights? You hit Vegas. Love choral music? You listen to Morten Lauridsen CDs. Love God? You hit prayer.

Sometimes our loves themselves need to be purified if not exchanged. Along the way, we find it hard to do the right thing and avoid the bad thing, as that great psychiatrist St. Paul wrote, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:18-19).

Our flesh can’t be negotiated with or “accompanied” into some future victory. If we want growth, we must be willing to pound away on the anvil of our flesh with the hammer of decision. There is no shortcut and no magic wand to be waved.

Forget the devil – we can’t even dialogue with our fallen Adam nature let alone the devil. We must crucify it. Nail it to Christ’s cross so the new Adam nature (thanks to divine grace) can step out of its tomb and exult in the hard-won fruit of self-mastery. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen summarized the dynamics of the paschal mystery, which has applications beyond the Faith. In Life of Christ, he wrote, “Unless there is a Good Friday in our lives, there will never be an Easter Sunday. The cross is the condition of the empty tomb, and the crown of thorns is the preface to the halo of light.”

One of Sheen’s mentors, St. John Paul the Great, returned often in his writing and preaching to the theme of self-mastery as the only way to really give oneself to another. One of my favorite pop ballads is The Rose, written by Amanda McBroom and covered famously by Bette Midler in the eponymous 1979 movie, contains a line that is downright Woytyla-esque: “It’s the one who won’t be taken who cannot seem to give.”

We in the Church have access to an impressive vault of works on discipline, written by successful saints and struggling sinners alike. Which is fitting, since the operative root word of discipline is disciple; further, the word disciple is an Old English-Latin hybrid for “learner.”

The key to the spread of the gospel, and to the renewal of parish life, and to keeping our kids Catholic (and helping them back when they stray) – they key to all missionary efforts is the making of disciples.

So let’s take the last commandment of Jesus seriously to “make disciples” of all nations, as we just heard in the (transferred) Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord last Sunday.

In other words, let’s make fellow slow learners. Like us.

Catholicism is Weird

Let’s face it. Catholicism is weird. This is true for ignorant outsiders and for dissenting insiders. Like the Hebrews of old, Catholics are a peculiar people, a people set apart (Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalm 4:3; 1 Peter 2:9).

The ethno-hyphenated Catholics (“My sainted grandma was born in Galway and my son is at Notre Dame – so of course we’re Catholic”) are not so weird. They fit in too well. I’m talking about the “all-in” serious Catholics who do things like accept all the teachings of the Church, including the hard sayings.

In a world of Kardashian-worshippers, anyone who thinks sex is reserved for marriage, or that marriage cannot be redefined without grave consequences to society and culture, or that contraception undercuts not only the procreative dimension of marital union but also the unitive dimension, or, for that matter, that a man who grew up in Nazareth is the God of the universe and that He founded a Church (after suffering torture and death and rising from the dead) and gave her sacraments and the gift of infallibility – is by definition, weird.

See, once you accept the weird label, things get easier and become clearer.

You stop trying to please everybody. You start breathing easier when you get push back at fashionable parties. And you can fashion a way to describe why the weirdness of Catholicism is uniquely fitted to the weirdness of life itself, and why all of it (kata holikos means “of the whole, or “universal”) fits with what God has previously revealed in nature and with what the human heart really desires.

The human heart craves fullness, the nth degree of peace and joy, the highest imaginable summit of truth. It was built for riches and glories unimaginable. This major theme of the Bible – man’s insufficiency and God’s super-abundant sufficiency – is verified by two famous writers:

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” — Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII (425)

And then there’s the more famous St. Augustine from his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The One who gives us that final, deep, and lasting rest is the same One who came to earth in the form of a helpless baby who – in the noonday of life – underwent torture and murder, rose from the dead, returned to His Father, sent the Holy Spirit, and is present to the Church until He comes again. If you’re hearing this for the first time, “weird” is not an unreasonable reaction.

And I haven’t even mentioned Transubstantiation in which bread becomes the very body of God. Or the incorruptible saints whose bodies do not decompose. Or the miracle of Lanciano in which, during the eight century AD, the Host turned into myocardial (heart) tissue of an adult male with AB blood type – a phenomenon can be see to this day.

Weird, no?

Here’s my question: are these supernatural realities any weirder than some of the natural ones discovered by modern physics? Try the Mpemba Effect on for size, in which hot water freezes faster than cold. Or the mass-energy equivalence, which means the faster you travel (not Usain Bolt fast, but intergalactic fast) the heavier you get. Or the double-slit experiment from quantum mechanics, in which light

behaves as both a wave and a particle (odd enough on its own) and yet, when merely observed, makes it one or the other. And how about the fact that atoms are 99.9999999999999% empty space?

The natural world around us features plenty of weirdness. Next time someone tells you Catholicism is weird, grin broadly, and reply with a few facts about the ill-tempered Maribou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer, see photo), which makes every scientist’s Top Ten list of weird animals. This picture of weirdness has a colossal 12-foot wingspan, makes disturbing noises with its throat sac, defecates all over its legs and feet, and yet often washes its food with water before dining.

What would be much stranger is if the teachings of the Church God founded were less weird than the world He made.

24: A Secular Jew Comes to Christ

#24: A SECULAR JEW COMES TO CHRIST

 

I’ve been watching and listening to Andrew Klavan for a few years and always admired his communication chops. He has something to say and he says it well. Two of his novels have been adapted into movies, True Crime, directed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say a Word starring Michael Douglas.

In the interview you’ll find out how and why he came to Christ; the unique challenges faced by Jewish finders of Christian truth; and why commentary on culture is more important today than ever.

Few writers also speak very well. Mr. Klavan is one of those few. Enjoy his autobiography The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes To Faith In Christ, as I did.

 

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A bit more about Medjugorje

In my recent YouTube rant about Pope Francis’s comments about Medjugorje and the Ruini Commission, I mentioned Donal Foley’s fine book on the whole phenomenon, Medjugorje Revisited.

If you’re interested in this story at all, especially if you think the Blessed Mother is appearing there, grab a copy. (Full disclosure: Mr. Foley asked me to write the Preface.)

Another solid resource is from the Medjugorje-born Franciscan priest Father Ivo Sivric, The Hidden Side of Medjugorje and edited by Prof. Louis Belanger.

’tis all for now.

#23: Adam Minihan and David Niles: On Being a Catholic Man

#23: ADAM MINIHAN AND DAVID NILES: ON BEING A CATHOLIC MAN

There’s manhood, and then there’s Catholic manhood. How does the Catholic adjective condition the manhood subject? In this free-wheeling interview with the creators of the popular new podcast, The Catholic Man Show, co-hosts Adam Minihan and David Niles explore the seldom navigated waters of the ways in which the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Faith brings virtue and courage to men today.

The feminist movement was in some ways a reaction to the fact that me were getting an F in manhood. Unfortunately, the proverbial baby was chucked with the famous bathwater and men today need to hear the differenced between true authority and false authoritarianism — which is the difference between servant leadership and tyranny.

Adam and David are real mensches, young dads, and they play well off one another. I know you’ll enjoy this exchange of manly ideas and ideals.

 

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Father Solanus Casey — Priest, Prophet, and Porter

BY PCM | ORIGINAL SOURCE: National Catholic Register

The next time you run into failure or setback, turn to Father Solanus, the patron saint of apparent failure and setbacks. He knows all about it.

If you heard about a seminarian who struggled all the way through seminary, failed one language class after another, and then was ordained on the condition that he give neither doctrinal homilies nor hear confessions – you probably wouldn’t expect him to amount to much.

But Bernard Francis Casey – the sixth of 16 kids from Prescott, Wisconsin – was such a seminarian. And the world is about to find out how far he went in his chosen field.

Nicknamed Barney by his family but better known now as Father Solanus Casey, OFM Cap., this extraordinary figure recently advanced closer to sainthood with the Holy See’s May 4, 2017 announcement that Pope Francis has approved one of the innumerable miracles ascribed to Casey’s prayers.

But those who knew Father Solanus through his decades of service to the poor and the sick in Yonkers, New York, Harlem, and at St. Bonaventure’s in Detroit, either witnessed or heard of many hundreds of similar cures and prophetic happenings at the gentle hands of this holy man.

I first heard of him from his great nephew Kelly Casey, a fellow Franciscan University of Steubenville student and friend. The more I read about Kelly’s great uncle, the more I wanted to read about this simple priest with a heart for the poor and the hurting.

One incident from his life stands out. When Barney was working as a streetcar motorman in Superior, Wisconsin, he witnessed the stabbing of a woman in the street, accompanied by the blasphemous screaming of the man who had just savaged her with a knife. That moment branded itself in his brain: the maniacal yelling, the bright red flash of blood on the blade, the woman’s supine body on the pavement. To Barney, it was a singular manifestation of the reality of sin and the fallenness of the world – and an actual grace to seek after Him who would show men the meaning of true love and mercy. There was no turning back.

He was ordained in 1904, and began a life of priestly self-giving that would last until his last day on earth, July 31, 1957, the anniversary of his first Mass.

It’s the sheer ordinariness of his m.o. that gets you. No histrionics, no fanfare. He simply spoke quietly with the sick or troubled person, blessed him or her (often on the forehead) and said, “You’ll be fine. Everything is going to be okay.” Or, if the situation wasn’t to have a happy ending, Father Solanus would couch it in gentle, palatable terms. Either way, you came away changed, either strengthened for tough times, or dizzy with joy because of a healing.

The recipient of the miracle is a woman who suffered an incurable genetic skin condition (Father Solanus died of a similar virulent condition) and who went to his tomb to pray for some friends. Sensing an inner tug in her heart to beg healing for herself, she asked for the wiry Capuchin’s intercession and was instantly and visibly healed.

With the acceptance of the miracle, Venerable Solanus will become Blessed Solanus in a ceremony in Detroit later this year. He will be the second American-born male Blessed, after Servant of God Father Stanley Rother is beatified in Oklahoma City in September. Father Rother was martyred in 1981 in Guatamala – which jumped him to the head of the pack of candidates for sainthood.

Father Solanus underwent a slow winding white martyrdom, starting with the humiliation of being ordained a simplex priest, unable to deliver official sermons or hear confessions. Put in charge of the altar boy schedule and sacristan duties was a condition most men aspiring to the priesthood would find beyond intolerable.

But Solanus accepted his circumstances, seeing in humiliation the alchemy that produces humility – the virtue with which he is perhaps most identified. People soon understood that the quiet Capuchin who greeted them at the friary door had an unusual gift for really listening to their troubles, a gift that included striking healings that bring to mind St. Padre Pio or St. Andre Bessette, CSC, of Montreal. The astounding part is that it took the Congregation of the Causes of Saints so long to recognize one of Solanus’s miracles, there are so many to chose from.

 

Continue Reading at National Catholic Register HERE

 

#22: Archbishop Charles Chaput: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World

#22: ARCHBISHOP CHARLES CHAPUT: LIVING THE CATHOLIC FAITH IN A POST-CHRISTIAN WORLD

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia speaks with the same direct, guile-free way he writes. As a pastor of a large American city, he knows his audience: They are largely post-Christian, cynical about “organized religion,” and don’t abide clichés and easy grace.

Archbishop Chaput (pronounced SHAP-you) is also a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, the second Native American to be consecrated a bishop in the United States and the first Native American archbishop. You might say he comes from a non-immigrant family.

I spoke with him about his latest book, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, a sort of follow-up to the thesis he laid out seven years ago in First Things journal essay, “Catholics and the Next America.” That America is here. Ignited Catholics eager to spread the gospel…not so much.

Chaput has been called “alarmist” by the usual suspects in the lamescream media. Christian realist is more accurate. As Christian leaders go, His Excellency is hard-headed and soft-hearted, not the other way around. You’ll find this a conversation worth sharing after you enjoy it yourself.

 

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An eclectic week in the news

This past week has been the picture of eclectic news items.

Paris, France: Marine LePen (never described in the media without the prefix “far right” or “firebrand”) lost the French presidency to Emmanuel Macron, a “centrist.”

I confess to knowing too little about the minutiae of the candidates’ positions but I do remember reading what M. Macron said during his campaign: Il n’y a pas de culture Française, Il n’y a pas une culture française, il y a une culture en France et elle est diverse. A fair English equivalent would be: “French culture doesn’t exist in and of itself; there is no such thing as a single French culture. There is culture in France and it is diverse.”

Gee, I wonder if ISIS is happy or sad that Madame LePen (who said “France will be ruled by a woman — either me or Angela Merkel”) lost?

Sacramento, CA: A Democrat Assemblyman in California named Rob Bonta wants a bill to become law that would end the ban on communists in government jobs. Good idea?

Detroit, MI: The Holy See announced Pope Francis’s approval of a miracle attributed to Ven. Solanus Casey, which will jump him forward to Blessed later this year. He will be only the second American-born male to be named Blessed (after the martyr Father Stanley Rother of Oklahoma who will be beatified in September 23 in OK.) This is big news. Next week, I’ll be writing about Father Solanus, who he was, and how I learned about him from his great nephew, Kelly Casey, a fellow Franciscan University alum and friend.

#21: Father George Rutler on church music: Back to the Future?

#20: FATHER GEORGE RUTLER ON CHURCH MUSIC: BACK TO THE FUTURE?

If you’re like me, you enjoy complaining about bad church music. Whether it’s the stuff the Glory and Praise collections, or the St. Louis Jesuits, or the Marty Haugen/David Haas Monster – most of what passes for hymns of Christian worship at suburban parishes today is dreck: saccharine, sentimental, and syrupy, not to mention mostly unsingable (unless you have vast experience belting out Broadway power ballads).

Well, there is good news, and Father George Rutler announces it in his new book The Stories of Hymns: The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns

In this interview, the wry and erudite Father Rutler dives into the stories behind the songs that generations of Christians have loved to sing – yes, including male Christians. As the prophet Joni Mitchell thus spake, “Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone.”

If you’re a junky for good “story behind the story” content, you’ll love this conversation about the great hymns of the past, which may yet, please God, see a return to your local parish.

 

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