November 22, 2014


The third installment of The Hunger Games: "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay--Part I" does not disappoint. Director, Francis Lawrence, who also directed "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," keeps the momentum going in a sleek, seamless film. As we all know, sequels are hardly ever as good as the original, but in serial films it seems, as long as all the elements of the story are kept consistent and evenly measured out, this doesn't have to be true (think the "Harry Potter" films).

Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is in the fortress-like District 13, essentially a huge underground bunker of a city run by President Coin (Julianne Moore) in opposition to President Snow (Donald Sutherland) of the Capitol. Katniss must agree to be the icon of the rebellion if it is to succeed, but her only concern is to save Peeta, held hostage with Johanna and Annie in the Capitol.


There are definite "Joan of Arc" overtones at certain points. Katniss' Mockingjay outfit is almost like armor, and her banner with fire behind it feels like a scene right out of "Joan of Arc" starring Ingrid Bergman. (Joan prided herself on never having actually killed anyone herself--similar to Katniss.) I do think Katniss could be a role model for young women to be strong as young women. Sometimes to have a bit of needed nonviolent, feminine "fight back" in their spirits.

"Mockingjay" gets off to a very quiet start with lots of dialogue bringing us deeper into the human drama of the story (not just telling us what happened in the first two films). The filmmakers and actors know they have us eating out of their hand, and we, in turn, trust this is going to be good, so we go along with it for quite some time with no action. But once the action comes, it is purposefully tense and pregnant with meaning because of this build up. We now know what it takes, we know the stakes.


"Mockingjay" could have been unbearably grim, but we have our comic relief in the personages of Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks). The laughs come due to Haymitch being only a semi-reformed addict and Effie being the fashionista doomed to a gray, Communist-like jumpsuit existence. Stanley Tucci as the almost-evil game show host, Caesar Flickerman, plays his role to the fullest with TMZ relish.

Although District 13 may look so drab and prison-like, and the Capitol so elegant and charming, the reality is the opposite. The Capitol (even sporting a red-background-with-yellow-emblem flag) operates on a Communist principle: You exist to serve the State. The State provides order, security and what you need--for you to continue working for the State, which is supreme and will bridge no opposition. This is a great history lesson. Another history (and current events!) lesson is that of propaganda and Media Literacy. The war between District 13 (and Panem) and the Capitol is also a media war. Isn't the fatal "reality show" what started it all? Katniss now goes nowhere without her "media team," shaping, shooting and framing the freedom fighters' image and message. Screens continue to dominate till there's a showdown between Katniss and President Snow. This whole media theme would make an excellent Media Literacy class discussion! Art is actually imitating life right now in Thailand, which has outlawed the three raised fingers of defiance that real-life dissidents are borrowing from "The Hunger Games"! (The mockingjay image is also outlawed by President Snow in the film.)

Some of the dialogue feels like kidstuff (after all, the books were not written for adults), sometimes overstating what is going on so that everyone can keep up, but it never gets too heavy-handed, and is actually a welcome relief from too-subtle or too-complicated plots and characters.

I still have huge problems with the whole "Hunger Games" concept of kids killing kids (although the author's goal is to teach young readers about the evils of war right before they may actually be asked to fight in or support a real one). However, this installment is not about any kind of killing games, but rather about the real-life escalation of revenge bombings from the Capitol for the uprising, so actually seeing individuals being killed one by one is not part of "Mockingjay." There are two gruesome, but tidy (just bones) scene of the dead of District 12 (being picked at by a vulture and a dog), and a slightly disturbing scene of a kind of torture (of one of the young tributes).


How does "Mockingjay" leave one feeling? Because of all the heroism on the part of the "good guys," we can feel swept up in wanting to "always do the right thing" as they do--even though sometimes arriving at a moral strategy for going good can be murky waters. My complaint with the character of Katniss (in the films, that is--I'm told that in the books we can overhear her inner workings which are not always as perfectly virtuous) is that she is too perfect. She always chooses the most noble, heroic and correct thing to do without any fear or compromise. It's like she's programmed and can't do otherwise. This is very poor character development. There are no questions in our mind like: Oh, no! What will she do? Because we already know: she will choose the high road and do good and keep on fighting and never give up. Even if she has a slight dilemma about the right course of action, she resolves it quickly and she never seems broken by it all. Even though we know our heroine can't die, a good writer/filmmaker can put them in such peril that we can't begin to imagine how they will ever get out of it, and we forget for a moment that, well, our heroine can't die (yet).

"Mockingjay" keeps your attention, never feels long, and boasts a sure-footed pace to ensure this. The soundtrack is rich, creative and surprising as Katniss even sings a kind of chain-gang blues song that becomes a rallying anthem. The constant use of intercuts is very effective (back and forth between simultaneous action in different locales). It's so refreshing to see an imaginative film with warriors who have no superpowers, their greatest strength being that they are human and humane.


--Katniss should be with Gale.

--Bittersweet to see Philip Seymour Hoffman again....

--Like "Twilight," "Hunger Games" is one woman adored by two men. But Katniss should be with Gale.

--Why do adults love young adult stories so much? I think because they are big and bold (good), we're kids at heart (good), and we've become a very literal, surface, face-value, obvious one-dimensional society, with no time, talent or taste for nuance (not so good).

--Katniss should be with Gale.

--It dawned on me that the tributes are like Africa's child soldiers....

--Did I mention Katniss should be with Gale?

November 17, 2014


Help end the nun shortage!
Nuns don't grow on trees! You can't print nuns with 3D printers!

Donate to our Daughters of St. Paul VOCATION VIDEO!

Many of you so generously helped fund the filming of our Vocation Video last year.
Now we need to assemble this short sneak peak and tell the FULL STORY!

This video is unique in that it will center on Sr. Maria Kim's perpetual profession
at her home parish: becoming the bride of Christ--what religious life is all about!
(The vocation video will be given away free online & as a DVD.)

We need $18,500(US) by DECEMBER 31 to finish the video. Can you help us?


No donation is too small!

Needed: $18,500
Raised: $1,000

Keep checking back
to see the progress!

To show our gratitude, here are a few gifts we are offering you!
Our Thank-you gifts make great CHRISTMAS PRESENTS!
(We can mail to USA and CANADA)

$20--"Media Nun pack" The Life of Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, her medal, holycard
Co-Foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul--a friend in every need

$50 --Large Vigil Candle (with your name or name of a loved one on it) will burn in the
Boston Motherhouse Chapel next to Tabernacle constantly for 2 weeks.
(We can send living loved one to notify them.)

$50--The PERFECT Christmas gift for teen/young adult woman! Daily life-coach book (starts in January) signed by author, Sr. Helena Burns, fsp (while supplies last)

$50--"Christmas" Rosary, 23" stainless steel (while supplies last)

$1,000--Blessed James Alberione 12" statue (while supplies last)
Founder of the Daughters of St. Paul & the Pauline Family

How/when do you get your "Thank-you" gifts? 
After you donate, indicate via email which gift you want!
HELRAPHAELFSP@AOL.COM (Sr. Helena Raphael Burns, FSP)
We will send your gift promptly!

You are in our prayers.

Sr. Maria Kim Bui's perpetual profession with Bishop Olmsted
& young women in discernment, Diocese of Phoenix, AZ

Filming with Greg from Spirit Juice Studios in 118° heat wave in Arizona

Jib shot of the big moment!

Saint & Not-a-Saint
(Spirit Juice Studios is also finishing up our Blessed James Alberione film:

Learn more about the!


Vocation Discernment Days with Eucharistic Adoration

Serious "selfies" with Totus Tuus missionaries

Nun Moms!

Senior Sisters = Prayer Warriors!

Our Native American Sister at St. Kateri's Canonization

One Love: Jesus Christ, One burning desire: Give Him to souls

 Some Sisters in formation -- various stages

Sr. Fay Josephine is from Samoa, now our superior in Hawaii

Renewing our vows on Valentine's Day

With parents of young woman about to enter the convent

A media nun and her bro...BEFORE & AFTER



Check out highlights of various talks at same YouTube channel

November 14, 2014


Order DVD and watch trailer:
A new DVD is out about an oft-forgotten topic and oft-forgotten souls: “Purgatory: The Forgotten Church.” We’re used to thinking of the Church on earth as “the Church Militant” or “the Pilgrim Church,” and the Church in heaven as “the Church Triumphant” or “the Church Glorious,” but there’s a “third” Church--that of the suffering souls in purgatory. It can be too easy to dissociate ourselves from “souls,” but these souls are actually people we know, our loved ones, relatives, friends, acquaintances who are being purified and readied to be with God forever in heaven’s unending, ever-increasing bliss.

The Church has a custom of praying for those we don’t know, also, just generally praying for “the souls in purgatory,” “the poor souls,” and “the most forgotten souls in purgatory” who may have no one praying specifically for them. Why do we call them “suffering” souls? Because they are in intense spiritual agony, longing to be with God. At death they met Him, everything has been clarified for them (what is truly of value, where their desires should be directed), and the “suffering” is simply an overwhelming desire to be with Him.

Why do the souls in purgatory need our prayers? While we’re on earth we have free will, right up till the moment of death. After death, the souls in purgatory can no longer “help themselves,” so our prayers can avail them. In turn, their prayers and sufferings are precious to God and are able to help us. Such is the “communion of saints” and the interconnectedness of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Chicago-based filmmaker, Friar John Clote, an investigative journalist before he entered the Conventual Franciscans, has delved extensively into this subject to produce a comprehensive 75-minute film filled with authoritative information and inspiration. Cardinal George is interviewed along with great “friend of the holy souls,” Susan Tassone, and others.

I recently interviewed Friar John for Chicago’s Archdiocesan Catholic newspaper, “The Catholic New World.” (Twitter: @CathNewWorld)

CNW: What inspired you to make this film?

John: I’ve been interested in this subject for years. My Mom passed away in 2008, and that experience of being a grieving Catholic, and having Masses said for her, that made me think about how I would approach this in a film.

I began praying in a Eucharistic chapel in Arizona, praying for my Mom and Dad and all the people I knew who had passed away, friends of my family and my friends. I began thinking of people who weren’t like my Mom who had many people praying for her. She had lots of friends who were devoted, prayerful Catholics. I kept thinking of deceased people I knew who didn’t have these people in their lives.

CNW: What did you learn in the process of making this film?

John: There’s a spiritual connection that exists between the living and deceased: Earth, purgatory and heaven. The theological definition is “the communion of saints,” but there can also be a tangible component sometimes when the veil between this world and the next thins in varied ways, in beautiful ways that can lead one to believe or reconsider unbelief that there really is something beyond this world.

In the film, we talk about near-death experiences and the development of the Church’s doctrine on purgatory. The idea of purification after death is not unique to Catholicism. The ancient Greeks had an idea of it, too.

CNW:  How has making this film changed you?

John: It has reinforced for me the specific notion that our relationships don’t end here. The love and appreciation—even though we are missing the sense of people’s physical presence—doesn’t end, but translates into a higher form of communication through prayer. I believe the deceased in purgatory can hear us more clearly, understand us more profoundly, and pray for us.

CNW: What are some misconceptions about purgatory?

John: First, that it doesn’t exist, and second, that it’s some kind of antechamber of hell, that it’s “down there” with some kind of trap door to get out. The four misunderstandings that we deal with in the film are: 1) time and space 2) indulgences 3) suicide 4) the motif of fire as the chief form of purgation. Much of the Church’s art, especially from the Middle Ages, depicts purgatory as fire. The focus really is on God’s love, God’s love as consuming fire coming from His Sacred Heart. That kind of fire. Nothing impure will enter heaven. We will be with an all-holy God, so His love needs to purify us so that we can become  a reflection of who God the Father really is.

CNW: What do you want people to take away from the film?

John:  Jesus Christ has unfathomable mercy and love for His Creation and all of us, and we need only ask to be enveloped in that Love. Purgatory is just another expression of God’s profound, unfathomable, incomprehensible mercy.

John B. Clote is a Conventual Franciscan friar, broadcast journalist and filmmaker. He is currently studying to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood. After several years as a producer and writer at NBC News in St. Louis he began working in catholic media producing more than a dozen films and documentaries for The Mercy Foundation. John was one of the last journalists in the world to conduct a televised interview with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Faustina Kowalska’s last surviving sibling. His films and work have appeared on NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, and EWTN.

NOTE FROM SR. HELENA: I have seen several of John’s documentary films (you probably have, too—they’re in constant rotation on EWTN). Amazing! His masterpiece really is the life of St. Maria Goretti: “Fourteen Flowers of Pardon.” He has also done DVDs on Solanus Casey, Fr. Seelos, Little Audrey, John Paul II and Mother Teresa.

November 11, 2014


This video was handmade with love by our Postulants, who may or may not be starting
a production company called "Shake & Bake."

November 2, 2014



I don't know why this simple premise intrigued me when the best-selling book and now movie, "Gone Girl" first came out, but it did: A young married couple. The wife suddenly disappears. Was it murder? Did her husband do it? But alas, the film, for all its accolades, is a massive disappointment, and really, a failure as a film. My biggest beef is with the ending which makes no sense. No sense. Way beyond a plot hole. [Disclaimer: I have not read the book, but am told it ends the same way.]


There is no way to do this review without spoilers--given the thin premise--but I will jump around and be as sketchy as I can. Several things about this film make it feel amateurish (although I like other David Fincher films). The author of the book, Gillian Flynn, also wrote the screenplay (not bad for a first-time screenwriter, but it shows). Maybe this is part of the problem. The offbeat casting actually does work: Tyler Perry as a high-powered lawyer; Neil Patrick Harris as a wealthy, obsessed fanboy; homey and likeable unknown (but not for long!) Carrie Coon as the husband's twin brother.

There are two main characters: both husband and wife double-narrate their own point of view throughout, although it leans much more to the wife at a certain point, especially since she keeps a diary that provides much of the voiceover.


Ben Affleck does not work in the lead role of husband, and I even question Rosemund Pike as the wife. Affleck is a one-note actor who often blurts his lines without truly grasping the emotion or the moment. Everything about Pike is always pristine (which this part calls for), but I'm not sure that either Affleck or Pike grasped the intricate dance that the story was all about--unless I read more richness into the story than is there. Affleck NEVER changes, and Pike only changes from beleaguered wife to full-out psycho which seems SHOULD have been a much slower, more gradual reveal. I thought we could really have commiserated with the wife over the affair, and been made to think that that was the real issue for a while.

You see, ONCE we know that the wife is a full-on psycho, she can longer be THE main character. Screenwriting 101 Rule #1: criminally insane people do not make good main characters because nothing will stop them. They are capable of anything. There is often no real logic to their motivations or actions, as meticulous as they may be. Even if there is a powerful, dangerously crazy, scene-stealing antagonist (Hannibal Lecter, the Joker, any "monster" in a horror film) in a movie, they are offset by a sane protagonist.


BIG SPOILER ALERT! The ending makes absolutely no sense. Why in heaven's name does the husband stay with her?* He was exonerated. There was absolutely no need at all. The entire story breaks down at this point and veers into ridiculousness. But audiences seem to "just go with it" which is scarier to me than the broken story. I know our society struggles to reason and think logically, but audiences have always been tough on films with shoddy plot points. Maybe guys give it a pass because it's a woman-scorned-chick-flick-dark-drama-but-God-help-you-if-pulled-something-like-this-with-Star-Wars. But gals? Thinking caps?

The brief sex scenes/nudity are not as graphic as they were drummed up to be, but one bloody violent scene is deeply disturbing. There are other problems with the film: it's choppy, a tad boring, the beginning and ending music is odd and drowns out the dialogue, the characters are not fully fleshed out: people talk and talk and talk about who they are and who everyone else is, but we never actually SEE them acting that way. We never really grasped who this couple was (even though they were not always true to themselves) which is essential for the audience investing in them and the story. 
Screenwriting 101 Rule #2: "Show, don't tell." Screenwriting 101 Rule #3: The audience MUST care about the characters because the filmmakers have made us feel like we know them and can relate somewhat (even if they aren't sympathetic characters). The script/dialogue is definitely a writer's script: fancy verbal sparring at all times. Even the cop uses "meta." Really? The urgency of the film doesn't kick in for quite some time (the music could have been used more effectively hear to build tension).

There was some fun layering of plots (the flashbacks, the diary itself, the "treasure hunt" of clues) but the wife's parents were, like, extra appendages or something. They served no purpose. That might be allowed in novels, but not in films. Or if their purpose was that the wife's life wasn't quite "reality" from the beginning because of them, that needed to be played up.


I love good suspense-thrillers, but "Gone Girl" just feels generally gratuitous, precious and precocious. And, it's just a nasty piece of work. It also felt like a film that could easily have been made for the small screen.

The most chilling message of the film is: If you turn love into a game, if you are not yourself before or after marriage and neither is your spouse--whom did you just marry? Few of us will experience a "war of images" on national TV, but it does give one pause to wonder what other (perhaps even insincere) "images" we portray of ourselves that "do battle" for us?

Even more chilling (and strange), in interviews with Flynn and in reviews, people are treating this depiction of a crazed woman and a seriously messed-up relationship as, well, normative: "Yeah, that's marriage for ya."

My head hurts. I rarely tell people to save their money and not go see a film, but I'm gonna say it about this unentertaining turkey. But have all the turkey you want later this month.
*See "comments." The book evidently makes it much clearer why he stayed.


--I am dreading Batman.

--Canadians loved the Winnipeg joke. (Saw this in a Toronto theater.)

--I'm sorry. Maybe this is mean, but when Ben Affleck's character is being coached by Tyler Perry (the lawyer) not to look smug on camera...well...I just couldn't stop laughing because...well....

--I couldn't help feeling that this film comes from a woman writer trying to prove that she can write as rough and shocking as any man. As if that's what it means to be a man.

--THEOLOGY OF THE BODY in this film? No. It's not even a cautionary tale unless: "Don't Marry an Axe Murderer." The only REAL thing that could be taken away is the game-playing thing. I know people who lied and pretended (even in little ways) in order to get married. And it turned out ugly.

--There is talk of a sequel. A sequel to Gone Girl makes even less sense than the ending of GG. Unless the point is that society has gone insane. Especially at the male/female, marriage/family level. I'm serious.

1. separate love and sex
2. separate sex and marriage
3. separate sex and fertility
4. make love and sex a game
5. postpone marriage for as long as you can (and make "marriage" about a really expensive wedding)
6. make marriage about finding the perfect sexual partner
7. try to put love, sex, marriage and fertility all back together again right before you get married
8. pretend that marriage is a magic wand that will suddenly make you: know how to be faithful, achieve sexual self-mastery, know how to unselfishly sacrifice for your husband/wife/children, stop looking around, stop flirting around, stop hooking up--when you have actually been "in training" for "the opposite of marriage" all this time
9. even after you get married, stay open to finding "the one," because you can never be sure you married "the one"
10. if the person you married doesn't constantly fill all your needs, start at #1 again.

1. keep love, sex, marriage and fertility together
2. be the kind of person you'd want to marry
3. practice chastity=integration of body and soul, sexual honesty, sexual self-mastery
4. within your marriage, make love and sex a lifelong art
5. get married "young" if you find the love of your life "young." build your life together, not apart
6. make marriage about loving as God loves (Ephesians 5:21, 33)
7. in marriage, practice natural family planning: trust God & each other. NFP=healthy for Mom, Dad, brats, environment
8. show your kids what a happy, healthy, holy marriage looks like for the long haul
9. make the love of your life "the one" and treat them like "the one." they'll do the same for you
10. marriage is: good times/bad times, sickness/health, richer/poorer, till death (see: "The Notebook")

October 18, 2014


Meet the Pauline Family
founded by Blessed James Alberione!