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The story of our seeds is a defining story of our time. Caught between the runaway juggernaut of industrial agriculture and the ecological, cultural, and spiritual destruction in its wake, seeds offer us a profound chance to restore mutual harmony between people and planet. They are the eternal promise of an abundant new world waiting to be born. In telling this story, we aim to bring into clear focus the beauty, hope, and magic that seeds represent for humanity at this critical juncture.

SEED: The Untold Story began with an article in National Geographic reported that up to 96% of the vegetable seeds available in 1903 have disappeared. Within moments we knew that was our next film. The speed and scope of this loss is staggering, and its implications for our future are stark. As the renowned naturalist and author Gary Paul Nabhan puts it, "Many of our seeds today are as endangered as a panda or polar bear." In an era of climate uncertainty, this dearth of diversity is a recipe for catastrophic crop failure and human suffering– not unlike The Great Famine of Ireland that saw the starvation of nearly a million people when their sole crop variety, a potato, was wiped out by blight. SEED explores a topic that is still largely unknown, yet it is increasingly urgent with climate change and the consolidation and control of the seed industry.

    Coming soon in Cincinnati, Oh April 23 Esquire Theatre

Meeting God in the Upper Room by Monsignor Peter Vaghi available from Franciscan Media

Monsignor Peter Vaghi explores three significant events in the life of the early Church that can be traced back to the Upper Room in Jerusalem (sometimes called the "Cenacle") in order to guide us to a deeper appreciation and understanding of living the Christian life in prayer, worship and service.

Each of the book’s three parts is dedicated to one of these key moments in the history of our faith: the Last Supper and the institution of the Eucharist, the post-resurrection appearances of Christ to his followers, and the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles at Pentecost.

In writing about the Upper Room, Monsignor Vaghi tells of not just its historical significance, but its profound spiritual significance. It was there that Christ and his disciples retreated from the world in order to teach and learn, respectively, how they could carry on the faith. And as we set aside time to enter the "Upper Room" of our own life, we discover that Jesus is waiting to meet us there as well.

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Abba Anthony said: "The time is coming when people will be insane, and when they see someone who is not insane, they will attack that person saying: ‘You are insane because you are not like us.’"

 Suppression of religious freedom throughout the world exposes the grain of ignorance that runs through every society that claims concern about God. The attacks on churches in the Middle East, the tribal wars in Africa, the laws of exclusion that followed the great wars of religion in Europe right up to the twentieth century, are clear proof that we all have sinned. We name "difference" madness and make mad attempts to stamp out the other.  
     But the Desert Monastics, the most "catholic" of Catholics in an age of pristine revelation, would have none of it. Abba Anthony brooks no doubt: Exclusion in the name of God is the very worst of religious sins. God speaks in many tongues and to every color and age of people. It is not ours to decide where Gods favor lies.
     But it is ours to see as a spiritual task the obligation to come to our own opinions. We are not to buy thought cheaply. We are not to attach ourselves to someone elses decisions like pilot fish and simply go with the crowd. We are meant to be thinking Christians.
     Religious persecution of blacks and Irish and Protestants and women and gays and Muslims, just because it is the tenor of the time, is to our eternal shame. To make these things acts of faith, which we have over time, all of us and each of us, is the greatest infidelity to our Creator God. It is the very kind of rejection that ranged against Jesus. He was a Galilean. And he had the gall to speak up for Canaanites and lepers and women and Samaritans and the poor and the stranger in the land. He refused to bow to the social pressure that comes with being "other." So they cast him out of the pale of his religion; or, like Nicodemus, snuck in to see him only at night; or in the square called, "Crucify him, crucify him, crucify him!"
     And Jesus left to all of us the obligation to speak up on issues that threaten to erode our humanity. To speak out for the innocent and oppressed. To speak on, however long it takes and whatever the pressures ranged against us. To speak up when we hear around us the strategies of those who would balance the national budget by denying the hungry food stamps, and children good education, and the unemployed and underpaid decent lives, and the strangers in the land a way to become community.
     Our obligation is not to be like those who would secure themselves by making others insecure. Our obligation is to be like Jesus. And that is anything but insane.

Excerpted from In God’s Holy Light: Wisdom from the Desert Monastics, by Joan Chittister.

Joan Chittister, O.S.B., is an internationally known writer and lecturer and the executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality in Erie, Pennsylvania. A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Pennsylvania, she served as president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, president of the Conference of American Benedictine Prioresses, and was prioress of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie for twelve years. Sister Joan received her doctorate from Penn State University in speech communications theory. She has written more than forty books and received numerous awards for her work on behalf of peace and women in church and in society.

"Lion" (Weinstein)

The incredible true story of Saroo Brierley (Dev Patel) and his 20-year odyssey to locate his birth mother (Priyanka Bose) in India, is retold in this uplifting and emotional film, directed by Garth Davis. As a 5-year-old boy, Saroo (Sunny Pawar) falls asleep in a boxcar and is transported 1,500 kilometers from home. Unable to remember his family name and home village, he is put up for adoption, and winds up in Australia in the care of a loving couple (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham). Yet, as he grows into manhood with a promising career and a girlfriend (Rooney Mara), he is haunted by his lost childhood, and sets out on an epic quest to retrace his long-ago train journey and locate his relatives. A celebration of family, the movie also sends a strong pro-life message by underscoring the joys and merits of adoption, and showing that a child can be loved and shared equally by two sets of parents.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned.
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*"Fences" (Paramount) *

Much suffering mingles with brutal honesty and joy in unexpected moments in the first screen adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play. Denzel Washington stars as an embittered Pittsburgh garbage collector; he also directs from the screenplay finished by Wilson before his 2005 death. The long speeches will require a committed attention span, but the focus on ideas and their consequences makes this family drama -- which also features Viola Davis -- acceptable for mature adolescents. References to adultery, frequent use of the n-word and a single instance each of profanity and rough language.
The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

"Hidden Figures" (Fox 2000)

Appealing fact-based drama about an extraordinarily gifted mathematician (Taraji P. Henson) working for NASA in the early 1960s. As she and two equally brilliant colleagues (Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monae), who are also her close friends, battle racism and segregation, she gradually wins the respect of her well-meaning but initially unenlightened boss (Kevin Costner). In adapting Margot Lee Shetterly's book, director Theodore Melfi successfully re-creates the tension of the Cold War space race, while showcasing family values and Christian piety as well as wholesome romance through the widowed protagonist's relationship with a National Guard officer (Mahershala Ali). Given that the film also provides a personalized insight into the struggles of the civil rights era, many parents may consider it suitable for older teens, despite screenwriter Allison Schroeder's occasional resort to light swearing for rhetorical emphasis. At least one use of profanity, several milder oaths, a vague sexual reference. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

-- Excerpted from John Mulderig, Catholic News Service

*St. Nicholas, Santa Claus & Father Christmas *

St. Nicholas was a Bishop who lived in the fourth century in a place called Myra in Asia Minor (now called Turkey). He was a very rich man because his parents died when he was young and left him a lot of money. He was also a very kind man and had a reputation for helping the poor and giving secret gifts to people who needed it.
The most famous story about St. Nicholas tells how the custom of hanging up stockings to get presents in first started! It goes like this:

There was a poor man who had three daughters. He was so poor, he did not have enough money for a dowry, so his daughters couldn't get married. One night, Nicholas secretly dropped a bag of gold down the chimney and into the house. The bag fell into a stocking that had been hung by the fire to dry! This was repeated later with the second daughter. And finally, for the third daughter.

Because of his kindness Nicholas was made a Saint. St. Nicholas is not only the saint of children but also of sailors! One story tells of him helping some sailors that were caught in a dreadful storm off the coast of Turkey. They prayed to St. Nicholas to help them. Suddenly, he was standing on the deck before them. He ordered the sea to be calm, the storm died away, and they were able to sail their ship safely to port.

St. Nicholas was exiled from Myra and later put in prison during the persecution by the Emperor Diocletian. No one is really knows when he died, but it was on 6th December in either 345 or 352. In 1087, his bones were stolen from Turkey by some Italian merchant sailors. The bones are now kept in the Church named after him in the Italian port of Bari. On St. Nicholas feast day (6th December), the sailors of Bari still carry his statue from the Cathedral out to sea, so that he can bless the waters and so give them safe voyages throughout the year.

In the 16th Century in northern Europe, after the reformation, the stories and traditions about St. Nicholas became unpopular. But someone had to deliver presents to children at Christmas, so in the UK, particularly in England, he became 'Father Christmas' or 'Old Man Christmas'. In France, he was then known as 'Père Nöel', in Germany, the 'Christ Kind'. In the early USA his name was 'Kris Kringle'. Later, Dutch settlers in the USA took the old stories of St. Nicholas with them and Kris Kringle became 'Sinterklaas' or as we now say 'Santa Claus'!

St. Nicholas became popular again in the Victorian era when writers, poets and artists rediscovered the old stories. In 1823 the famous poem 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' or 'T'was the Night before Christmas', was published. The poem describes St. Nicholas with eight reindeer and gives them their names.

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Here’s the first look at South African comedian Trevor Noah’s new book "Born a Crime", out November 15th.

Noah announced back in January that he had signed a deal with publisher Spiegel & Grau because "I couldn’t find a good book about myself, so I decided to write one". The book is a collection of 18 personal essays.

On Amazon the book is described as "the compelling, inspiring, and comically sublime story of a young man’s coming-of-age, set during the twilight of apartheid and the tumultuous days of freedom that followed—from one of the comedy world’s brightest new voices". As the son of a white Swiss father and black Xhosa mother, Noah was born a crime in then apartheid South Africa where his parents’ union was punishable by five years in prison.

According to the Amazon summary: "Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the first years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, take him away. Finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle." The book is available to pre-order from several outlets –