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Dan Stevens (Charles) and Christopher Plummer (the senior Mr. Dickens) in "The Man Who Invented Christmas".

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*"The Man Who Invented Christmas" *(Bleecker Street)

This charming fact-based historical drama tells the origin story of Victorian author Charles Dickens' (Dan Stevens) beloved novella, "A Christmas Carol." With his last three titles having failed to sell, Dickens fears falling into debt if his next production is equally unpopular. As he struggles with writer's block and the endless distractions of his burgeoning family's domestic life -- a visit from his feckless father (Jonathan Pryce), whom Dickens blames for the sufferings of his childhood, is a particular source of worry and conflict -- the writer fancifully summons up and interacts with his own characters, most prominently dour miser Ebenezer Scrooge (Christopher Plummer). His patient wife (Morfydd Clark) and unpaid literary agent (Justin Edwards) offer him encouragement, and the conversion story he eventually pens finds a real-life counterpart in the amendment of Dickens' own behavior.

Director Bharat Nalluri's adaptation of Les Standiford's 2008 book is family-friendly in most respects and will likely prove a winner with a broad range of age groups. A very vague sexual joke, a single mild oath.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.


"A Question of Faith" (Pure Flix)

Sober religious drama in which a minister (Richard T. Jones) grapples with a tragedy
involving his young son (Caleb T. Thomas) that shakes his fundamental beliefs. As he gradually discovers
that the mishap has linked his family's fate with those of several strangers, including a restaurant owner (Jaci Velasquez),
her daughter (Karen Valero) and a cash-strapped contractor (C. Thomas Howell),
the clergyman benefits from the steady support and guidance of his wise wife (Kim Fields). Director Kevan Otto leavens the sometimes tearful proceedings with upbeat gospel music.
Though the plot of his film, as written by Ty Manns, is farfetched in some of its details,
audiences will appreciate its showcasing of a strong marriage,
as well as its emphasis on forgiveness and interracial harmony.
Mature themes. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents.
The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested.
Some material may not be suitable for children.

Enter Assisi: An Invitation to Franciscan Spirituality
By Murray Bodo, OFM
Franciscan Media, 978-1616367091, 2015

Enter Assisi takes the reader on a journey through the gates of Assisi, where you will discover in your own life the way to follow Jesus as St. Francis did. The walls of the medieval town surround a place where your imagination can explore holy ground.

Jon M. Sweeney says, "This is a memoir only a poet could write, full of journeys, caves, and longings from the life of St. Francis. I hope everyone who loves Francis will read this love story."

Sr. Frances Teresa Downing, OSC, thinks "This book is one of Murray Bodo’s best. It is an amalgam of experience, reflection, prayer, information and love for Assisi. Buy the book, read it, and keep reading it!"

Daniel P. Horan, OFM, considers Bodo’s book "Richly textured with personal narrative, this spiritual guidebook meets memoir is a work of art painted with the words of a gifted poet."

The Franciscan Saints

Robert Ellsberg’s profiles of holy men and women throws open a window to make great gulps of fresh air available. Henri Nouwen has described his writing as "evocative without being pious." With 101 spiritual trailblazers, from Francis and Clare to Solanus Casey and Mychal Judge, he broadens the traditional vision of sanctity and calls modern readers of all stripes to claim their potential for moral and spiritual growth, courage and action. Besides the essential biographical facts, he adds insight and depth to the stories of holiness in the gritty, messy real world. Obscure lay peasants, married activists, and controversial social reformers take pride of place alongside better-known theologians, founders, and canonized saints.

The Franciscan Saints, by Robert Ellsberg, is available from Franciscan Media.
ISBN 978-1-63253-194-0

In theaters nationwide August 25

ALL SAINTS is based on the inspiring true story of salesman-turned-pastor Michael Spurlock (John Corbett), the tiny church he was ordered to shut down, and a group of refugees from Southeast Asia. Together, they risked everything to plant seeds for a future that might just save them all.

After trading in his corporate sales career to become a pastor, Michael’s first assignment is All Saints, a quaint country church with a dozen members. It comes with a catch: he has to close the church doors for good and sell the prime piece of land on which it sits. While developers eagerly eye the property and the congregation mourns the inevitable, Michael and his family look forward to moving on to an established church where they can put down roots.

But when the church hesitantly begins welcoming Karen (kuh-REN) refugees from Burma, former farmers striving for a fresh start in America, Michael feels called to an improbable new mission. Toiling alongside the Karen people, the congregation attempts to turn their fertile land into a working farm to pay the church’s bills and feed its newest people.

Jeopardizing his family's future by ignoring his superiors, Michael must choose between completing what he was assigned to do: close the church and sell the property, or listening to a still, small voice challenging the people of All Saints to risk it all and provide much-needed hope to their new community.

A decade after* An Inconvenient Truth* brought climate change into the heart of popular culture comes the follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the 2017 follow-up documentary, addresses the progress made to tackle the problem of climate change and Al Gore's global efforts to persuade governmental leaders to invest in renewable energy, culminating in the landmark signing of 2016's Paris Climate Agreement. The film will be released in select theaters on July 28, 2017 and nationwide August 4, 2017.

Saint Anthony of Padua: His Life, Legends, and Devotions

by Friar Jack Wintz O.F.M. (Editor)

"People around the world remember Anthony of Padua in novenas and as the saint who finds lost objects. But he is also honored as a great spiritual guide and teacher of God’s word." —From the Introduction

In this expanded edition of a perennial favorite, you will learn even more about the beloved saint’s life in Italy and Portugal as well as where the saint hid to pray—interesting details culled from Friar Jack Wintz’s recent pilgrimages to the sites where Anthony walked, ministered, preached, and prayed.

St. Anthony of Padua provides a from-the-heart look at the saint’s life, the legends surrounding him, and the prayers and devotions to him. You will connect anew to this follower of St. Francis of Assisi with this useful and inspiring guide.

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Solanus Casey

By Michael H. Crosby, OFM Cap. editor

In 1995, Pope John Paul II bestowed on Bernard (Solanus) Casey the title of Venerable making him the first male born in the U.S. to be elevated to this position. This true story of an American saint, excerpted from the official 1300-page canonization document, is both a moving spiritual biography and an inside look at the canonization process.

Cincinnati Premiere - May 7, 2017.

A Film Premiere for Unity Productions Foundation's new docudrama *"The Sultan and the Saint" *

Join us for the Cincinnati Premiere of UPF's latest film at
20th Century Theatre
3021 Madison Rd
Cincinnati, OH 45209 5:00 PM Doors Open
5:45 PM VIP Reception
General Admission: $10
Students w\ID and Seniors: $5
VIP: $50 (includes exclusive reception)

During the Crusades, Saint Francis of Assisi risked his life by walking across enemy lines to meet the Sultan of Egypt, the Muslim ruler Al-Malik al-Kamil. This remarkable encounter, and the commitment to peace of the two men behind it, sucked the venom out of the Crusades and changed the relationship between Muslims and Christians for the better.

Featuring dramatic reenactments and renowned scholarship, this amazing story is brought to life. Scholars interviewed include Michael Cusato (St. Bonaventure University), Sr. Kathy Warren (Sisters of St. Francis), Suleiman Mourad (Smith College), Homayra Ziad (Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies), Paul Moses (The Saint and the Sultan), and others.

Join us for this premiere in Cincinnati to learn about the remarkable spiritual exchange between the Sultan and the Saint, and the great risks they took for peace.

For More Information Contact Our Partners:
ICGC
Tourandtalks@cincinnatiislamiccenter.org, 513-755-3280

The Brueggeman Center for Dialogue
cummins@xavier.edu, 513 745-3922

Remarks by:
Father Michael Graham, SJ, President, Xavier University
Michael Wolfe, UPF Executive Producer

Parents please note: The film contains some scenes of violence and may not be appropriate for children under 12. Please use your own discretion.

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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.

  • JON BETZ & TAGGART SIEGEL
    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 – http://www.trevornoah.com/store/

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