Faith, Football, Footwear and Films!

Dear Friends,

It was a wonderful adventure away; but it's always good to come home. In the weeks ahead I'll share some of the specifics of my trip to the south and inform you of a pretty significant project that I'll be working on to assist some friends from DePere and Sister Bay, Wisconsin; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Kiln, Mississippi. But before that can happen, I'll need to get ready for Lent and all the added blessings that Ash Wednesday and the '40 days' bring to the life of those who enjoy the pretty serious Catholic culture that Lent affords.

But first, I'd like to share with you some information about some DVDs that I've been watching lately -- especially while away. First, a bit of a disclaimer! If you come to see -- or tap from -- my collection of DVDs, you'll notice that they all fall into a basic theme: conversion! The movies I have and share with others are all pretty heavy dramas -- most of them end on a positive note, acclaiming either, 'the looser gets a life,' 'the geek gets the girl,' or 'good triumphs over evil.' As heavy as the issues are that I face each day, my DVD collection would give you the impression that I just can't get enough drama! But the stories of redemption embedded within these DVDs simply offer me some vicarious wisdom to share with those in need: "do not be afraid, have courage!"

Many of these DVDs were recommended to me by As you may know, once you purchase one of their movies, they're quick to help you further: "Those who purchased this DVD also purchased the following... ...!" Usually those suggestions have been quite helpful, with the exception of purchasing a pretty raunchy flick that I originally thought was about recruiting men for priesthood / religious life. Father John Bostwick and I were blown away by what appeared on the priory big screen! ....Boy, were our eyes opened! But students, parishioners, Packers, and even prisoners who know that I can be found at Best Buy each Tuesday night -- new release night -- offer their recommendations as well. Cody Craig was the most recent recommender.

Cody and I share much in common. First and foremost, we are both pretty serious about our Catholicity and the two of us search for tangible ways to share our faith with others. Second, Cody has a pretty decent shoe collection that I envy and from which I borrow; after all, how many white, silver, black and red Nike Shocks can one man have? Keep sharing the wealth, Cody! Third, we both love football -- Cody quarterbacks, I counsel. And fourth, there's our common interest in movies. While I suspect Cody's filmography is a bit more inclusive than mine -- perhaps even including comedies -- Cody is not afraid to purchase, watch and recommend a few movies for me every now and then. I will not say much about one movie that he recommend for me recently: Cabin Fever. When I saw it on the $9.99-get-rid-of-this-quickly shelf, I should have thought twice about the purchase. Cabin Fever will probably be mailed to Mom and Dad. Dad will sit through the first few scenes, roll his eyes, ask 'what's the world coming to?' and make his way to a different TV in the house to watch more ESPN. On the other hand, Mom will love it; for her it will be a welcome and more edgy stretch from her regular Mamma's Family or HGTV vigil!

But then there's Cody's most recent recommendation, "Gridiron Gang!" While only scoring a C- from Entertainment Weekly, this has got to be one of the best movies I've ever seen. Believe it or not, I watched it five times within one week, and twice since then. (Yes, I know, I need to get a life!) Was it the excitement of the agony and the ecstasy found in the football scenes? Was it the sad reality of an often cruel life on the LA streets? Or was it seeing the accomplishment on the faces of the teammates once they realized that every human life -- including their own -- has value? Whatever it may be, this is a must see for those who are experiencing a little "cabin fever" now that the NFL season is over -- with the exception of this week's Combine and the draft that draws near. Pick up a copy -- unless you're some sort of Ebert & Roeper, you'll love it!
I'm still awaiting a shipment from Amazon which continues the theme I just addressed. Once I receive and view these movies, I'll give you an update -- from biased eyes -- on First Time Felon and Always Out Numbered, Always Out Gunned. The reviews are pretty respectable. But until then, here's a few other movies on my list; I think you, too, might enjoy the following:
Finding Forrester ****
Half Nelson ****
Something the Lord Made ****
Jesus Camp **.5
Saint Ralph ***
Conviction ***
Through The Fire ***
Against the Wall **.5
Rosewood ****
Brick ***
Smoke Signals ***
As I said earlier, these movies fit my theme: dark and depressing dramas, but certainly redeemed and inspiring. Each in their own way will remind us in film and reality, that, "God's flock is in your midst; give it a shepherd's care!"
Good to connect once again!
Father James Baraniak, O. Praem.


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