Abortion’s acceptance & electronic media [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

Participants at the 2013 March for Life. (Photo credit: San Antonio Coalition for Life)
Participants at the 2013 March for Life. (Photo credit: San Antonio Coalition for Life)
Participants at the 2013 March for Life. (Photo credit: San Antonio Coalition for Life)

Professor Marshall McLuhan observed, as we’ve discussed over the last several months, that the more electronic-media-saturated our world becomes, the more we’ll tend to group ourselves in a sort of ‘tribalism’. That means less interest in the rights and dignity of individuals, and more concern with ‘tribes’ or groups.

This past weekend, many individuals across the nation gathered together in marches defending the rights of “pre-born” children. McLuhan himself was a pro-life advocate and activist, even leading a demonstration in Ottowa.

The year after Roe v. Wade was decided in the United States, McLuhan wrote a letter to the Toronto Star pointing to the effect of electronic media on the Western mind regarding abortion:

It is important to realize that all of our thinking about abortion is taking place in the smogged-over world of TV. It is becoming monstrous to even mention the individual rights of the born, or the unborn. Only huge categories will serve, such as the ‘rights of pregnant teenagers’… (Letters of Marshall McLuhan, Oxford University Press, 1987).

I would venture to say that, the only way to counteract this electronically-induced zombie tribalism is to snap people out of their boob-and-You-tube comas. How?

Personal interaction. Or, to use McLuhan’s term: counteract the dis-incarnation with the Incarnation, through your carne-ate, in-the-flesh, personal, human experience. Be present for pregnant mothers. Volunteer. Donate. Stand up for the rights of all. Contribute your self, your personal story, your presence.

That’s the challenge. Are we prepared to get personal?

Blessed are the Peacemakers: Another way to be pro-life this weekend


My friends, I beg you to do something this weekend.

Many of you may be involved with the various marches, Masses, rallies and protests against abortion this weekend. As someone who physically could not participate, I want to sincerely thank you. We are united in prayer. In our prayers, how many of us will ask the Lord “for the respect of the dignity of every human life”?

This weekend, I invite you to let God answer that prayer through you…

Sunday, January 27 is the International Day of Intercession for Peace in the Holy Land. What does that have to do with the pro-life cause? Everything. We have enough trouble in this country communicating the dignity of the human person. Imagine doing that in an area where families are being ripped apart, children killed, and the government plays a part in these injustices. (Sound familiar?)

I’m not here to discuss the varying degrees of immorality and grave wrong. Without a doubt, abortion is intrinsically evil. That doesn’t mean we can just stand by and let other evils take place. In this Sunday’s readings, St. Paul describes the Body of Christ — a mystery he was taught by Christ himself, who asked Saul, “Why are you persecuting me?”

When we allow injustices to afflict the members of Christ’s Body, we allow Christ Himself to be afflicted.

But God has so constructed the body […]
that the parts may have the same concern for one another.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it;
if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy. (1 Cor. 12: 24-26)

I beg you to intercede for peace in Our Blessed Lord’s homeland. Let your prayer and fasting truly be for ALL human life. Families are being ripped apart, children are being killed, and human dignity is being violated everywhere on this earth. Take advantage of Sunday’s International Day of Intercession, and unite with people across the globe to pray for peace in the Holy Land.

Start by getting a glimpse of the situation in our spiritual motherland. Below, I’ve included an exposé by CBS 60 Minutes. From personal experience, I can attest to the veracity of the grave situation depicted in it. Pay special attention to the Anastas Family’s story. They are Catholics, and their story is very common in the Holy Land. After reviewing their tragic situation, 60 Minutes asks: Why haven’t you left the Holy Land?

Clare Anastas’ response is common among the remaining Christians:

We need to stay, and struggle, and fight. This is our cross.

Let’s make that cross lighter, and carry it together. I thank you in advance for your efforts, on behalf of the people I love – the people of the Holy Land.

Watch the 60 Minutes piece (less than 15 minutes):

Learn more:

Our Lady of Jerusalem - prayer cardUPDATE 01/27/13 — Prayer to Our Lady of Jerusalem

This beautiful prayer is at my bedside. I want to share it with you as a tool for today’s Day of Intercession.

O Mary Immaculate, gracious Queen of Heaven and Earth, we beseech you to turn a pitying glance on the Holy Land, which more than any other land belongs to you, and from there you have given the Redeemer to the world. Watch, therefore, with special protection over your native country, bring Peace and Justice to the people of the Holy Land.

Obtain for us all the grace to serve the Lord in sanctity and justice during all the days of our life, so that by the merits of Jesus and with your motherly aid, we may pass at last from this earthly Jerusalem to the splendors of the heavenly one.

Our Lady of Jerusalem, pray for us. Amen.

Opera-singing Franciscan Friar uses new media app, ThingLink


I’ve already introduced you to the delightful Friar Alessandro, first-ever Franciscan to sign a major-label recording contract. Decca Records has delightfully engaged new media to promote Friar Alessandro’s music.

ThingLinkBesides the usual Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, they’ve experimented with a relatively new app called ThingLink. Through this free service, after uploading an image, users can easily create interactive ‘hot spots’ on the image linking to hosted media content. For instance, YouTube videos can be watched directly from the image, and Facebook pages can be ‘liked’ from the image. The interactive images are available to embed onto a website. (Web geeks: Think of ThingLink as an easy way for anyone to make a glorified image map.)

Check out Decca Records’ interactive ThingLink map of Assisi. It includes 360 degree panoramas of local sites, exclusive downloads, songs, and awesome videos of Friar Alessandro giving personal explanations of special places in Assisi.

One of my favorites is this video, answering the question: Why did St. Francis so love to hide in caves?

I’m excited about Friar Alessandro’s singing career; Universal Music may have indadvertedly created New Evangelization opportunities when they signed this young man. He’s been joyfully sharing his vocation story, and the Good News, with new ardor and via new expressions like these new media clips – across the world, in major media outlets. Inspiring!

Epic trailer – “3 Minute Catechism” COMING SOON!

3 Minute Catechism

Are you ready for a new way to communicate the Faith? Remember our friend Father Johannes M. Schwarz? He’s about to give you one. Aiming for an Easter 2013 release, Fr. Jo’s new project, “3 Minute Catechism” consists of 72 hand-drawn and animated episodes, each 3-4 minutes long.

From the website (to be available in 7 languages, by the way):

This series follows and explains the Creed adding in all four parts of the Catechism.

“3 Minute Catechism” will be released on 2 discs and price range will be an outrageously low $2.95 per disc. Want to stay informed? Stay tuned to this blog, and subscribe to Fr. Jo’s YouTube channel. English episode sneak-peeks should be available during Lent! If you’re linguistically-inclined, catch full episodes on Fr. Jo’s YouTube channel in German.

In the meantime, enjoy this “Making Of 3 Minute Catechism” video:

Mary is more relevant than ever. [Marshall McLuhan Monday]

"Wedding at Cana" baptistry in Padua, Italy (Giusto de Menabuoi, 1376 - 1378)
"Wedding at Cana" baptistry in Padua, Italy (Giusto de Menabuoi, 1376 - 1378)
“Wedding at Cana” baptistry in Padua, Italy (Giusto de Menabuoi, 1376 – 1378)

In this Sunday’s gospel, Mary’s mind must have been a million places. Imagine her, like any woman at a party: eating her food, listening to the table conversation, watching the little children running around, surveying the food and beverages. Suddenly, she realizes — the wine’s all gone! Out of love for the bridal family, not wanting them to suffer embarrassment, she famously addresses her son: “They have no wine.”

You may recall a past MMM about ‘role-playing.’ Marshall McLuhan, in an interview with Fr. Patrick Peyton, said that women are profoundly good at role-playing…

A mother’s role is never – you can’t prescribe it. It’s totally unpredictable. She has to be many things at many times of the day. So role-playing, in that sense, is a world in which you have a vast repertoire of parts to perform simultaneously.

McLuhan understood what Theology of the Body teachers are now widely preaching: women’s bodies and brains are great at nurturing people, because we were made to expertly care for many things at once.

During his discussion with Fr. Peyton, McLuhan discussed his fondness for Mary under the title ‘Mother of Good Studies.’ “She is not only a Mother of Good Studies,” he said, “but a mother of all the joy and all the excitement and satisfaction to be found in study and in understanding. Her own relation to these things was joyful, and her whole being is playful and joyful.”

He stopped to reflect on the busyness of our electronically-connected world, and then said:

Of all the times in the world when women might find their fulfillment through role-playing, this, […] would seem to be the time when Our Lady had the greatest relevance and the greatest role-playing power of all.

It’s no wonder. We see Our Blessed Mother appearing around the world, more in the electronic age than ever before. As a Spirit-filled woman, Mary sees so much happening, so many opportunities to once again save her children from lack of wine.

Author, columnist and speaker Marge Fenelon poignantly suggested at the 2012 Catholic Women’s Conference in San Antonio: When you find yourself in need, just say a short prayer: ‘Mary, I have no wine.’

Meet accomplished Catholic singer from Cana, Galilee

Rabab Zaitoun

Meet your sister in Christ, Rabab.

I met Rabab while in her hometown of Cana in Galilee – at her parish, the Wedding Church. Yep, that church; the one built over the site of Jesus’ first miracle. Crazy enough, I met her while she was preparing the church for a wedding in her own family, later that day!

Rabab’s family owns Cana Wine & Souvenir, a shop across the street from the church. Yes, the Zaitouns are descendants of the first followers of Christ! What a blessing for me to have met such a beautiful family. Meeting them and praying in their beautiful parish, all decked out for a wedding, brought this Sunday’s gospel to life. (Click here for my photos of the church.)

Yes, this really happened! It’s not just some ‘cool story’ or pious legend. Families in Cana, like the Zaitoun family, have passed on to their children knowledge that their village is indeed where Jesus performed his first miracle.

Rabab, like her fellow descendants of the first Christians, are Palestinian and speak Arabic. Since this interview, Rabab and her coworkers at The Holy Land Sounds have been entrusted with the official Arabic version of The Year of Faith hymn.

Enjoy Rabab’s beautiful voice singing about Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified, called ‘The Little Arab,’ a young Carmelite nun native to Galilee. You can learn more about Blessed Mariam here. Long live the Holy Land Christians, our family!

Inspiring A Capella

PTX covers Swedish House Mafia

“Don’t you worry, child. Heaven’s got a plan for you.”

You’ve never heard a capella quite like this. Pentatonix is a talented, young, singing group from Arlington, TX. I’ve been a big fan of theirs ever since I watched them go from unknown high school grads to champions of NBC’s reality competition The Sing-Off. Pentatonix’s magic comes from exceptional a capella arrangements, re-creating contemporary electronic sounds with their flexible voices and strong rhythm & bass section.

Their ‘special effects’ had Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman incredulous while judging the reality competition, “I could have sworn y’all were cheating!”

Enjoy for yourself! They’ve definitely inspired me. Be sure to scroll down & see their bass, Avi Kaplan, show off his astonishing instrument. What a gift!

The Sacred Heart: There Is No Lack of Wounds

Sacred Heart of Jesus monotone

Recently, I’ve been diving into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I hope this excerpt from St. Bernard of Clairvaux’s 61st homily  on the Song of Songs will encourage you today, as it has encouraged me:

But as for me, whatever is lacking in my own resources I appropriate for myself from the heart of the Lord, which overflows with mercy. And there is no lack of clefts by which they are poured out. They pierced his hands and his feet, they gored his side with a lance, and through these fissures I can suck honey from the rock and oil from the flinty stone —I can taste and see that the Lord is good.

Site Inspiration – Holy Name of Jesus in NOLA

Screen Shot i - Holy Name of Jesus NOLAScreen Shot ii - Holy Name of Jesus NOLA

In honor of my favorite Catholic Foodie, Jeff Young, I’m featuring a New Orleans parish this week! Feast your eyes on Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church‘s lovely website.

The parish did something smart: worked with a local tech agency to have their website done professionally. Remember, folks: Not every well-intentioned, Catholic geek has the right set of gifts to create your parish website. Sometimes, it pays to pay a professional team of gifted geeks. Now, enough alliteration…

Site Highlights:

  • Immersive design: Some of my favorite parish sites are ones that help you feel like you’re visiting. That doesn’t require anything fancy; high-quality photographs of your parish and a smart color/font scheme lay the foundation.
  • At a Glance: You won’t need to dig through layers of pages to find parish events & Mass schedule; they’re on the front page. Everything else on the site is clearly visible, thanks to a smart navigation system. This is where pre-production planning can help your website shine.
  • Welcoming & Inviting: Right away, you’re welcomed and presented with several ways to “Get Involved” with the parish. That’s huge. That’s saying, “We want you here!”
  • Ministry Application: Speaking of getting involved, a parish doesn’t want to make ministry involvement difficult. (I’ve struggled with that myself.) If I want to offer my talents to the parish, but I can’t figure out who to contact – or the phone number on the bulletin is disconnected – I may never offer those talents! Holy Name of Jesus simplifies that process with this wonderful online Ministry Application.
  • Facebook’s not forgotten: Your Facebook presence doesn’t have to be shouted from the rooftops. It doesn’t have to take up half your homepage. Holy Name of Jesus incorporates Facebook with a simple FB logo in the lower corner of the website; a logical place to find it. In addition to a parish Facebook page, the Young Adult Group has their own.

Since we’re all getting inspired here, I must share this post from the parish Facebook page:

STOP! That’s right. STOP! Stop whatever you are doing. Take a moment. Take a deep breath. Exhale very slowly-don’t cheat yourself-so that you relax for a split second. You owe yourself that much. Try it again. Only this time, as you exhale, speak softly, “Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ!” Just taking a brief moment to renew oneself in the Lord’s name can be a way of refocusing even in the midst of stress. Try it!

Donald Hawkins, S.J.

Congratulations, Holy Name of Jesus Parish! You’re an inspiration.