Listening to Flannery O’Connor

I was chatting with an acquaintance recently about Flannery O’Connor (1925 – 1964) when he told me about a recent find and that it is available on the Internet.

In January 2012 “Deep South” online magazine  editor Erin Z. Bass wrote: “Professor of English with a focus on Southern lit and women’s studies at UL Lafayette, Dr. Mary Ann Wilson was cleaning out her office and came across an old audio reel labeled ‘Flannery O’Connor.’ It turned out to be a recording of the author’s 1962 lecture at the university and is one of the few of her voice that exists.”

To access Flannery O’Connor reading her essay “Some aspects of the grotesque in southern fiction” click here and follow the links.  There are also links to a lecture she gave at Notre Dame University in 1957 as well as her reading her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

Flannery O’Connor is a beacon of light and sanity in the contested world of art and theology. “Writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eye for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable,” O’Connor said. “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.” (“The fiction writer and his country” in Mystery & Manners: Occasional Prose, 1970)

According to Bass’ blog the University of Louisiana Lafayette is planning a symposium on Flannery O’Connor in November to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her visit there.

BRAVE and nine more reviews at “Sister Rose Goes to the Movies”

For reviews of BRAVE, Madagascar 3, MEN IN BLACK 3, The Avengers, CHIMPANZEE, Dark Shadows, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, Battleship, and THE LUCKY ONE click on Sister Rose Goes to the Movies.

Along the Way & The Golden Voice book reviews – on time for Fathers Day

By Sr. Rose Pacatte

A Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation
By Ted Williams (with Brett Witter)
Penguin, New York
$26 hard cover

Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and a Son
By Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez (with Hope Edelman)
Free Press, New York
$27 hard cover

Two books were released in May about what it means to be a man: a father, a son and a grandfather, too. Both are apologias more than memoirs and both have a strong faith dimension and links to Catholicism and Ohio — and addiction. The men in both books became fathers at a very young age. Their stories are extremely honest and reveal details that will surprise and inspire you, and some that may shock you as well. Both books have dual voices and are easy, swift reads that ask us to admit our humanity. They invite us to walk with these fellow travelers to discover humility and the action of grace in people’s lives that will astonish you

I read Ted William’s story first, the “theater of the mind” man with a voice born for radio. Ted was born in New York in 1957 and adopted by a woman, Julia, who always wanted a child, and her husband, Al, who worked his entire career in the same job for an airline at JFK International Airport. His parents were steady, but Ted was a “pleaser” who wanted to be liked and accepted. He was raised Protestant but began going to the Jehovah Witness Kingdom hall in his teens. He went to Catholic school in Brooklyn for a while, too. From the age of 14, he wanted to become a radio announcer. He and his father never saw eye to eye.

 Continue reading at the National Catholic Reporter  

We Have a Pope – REEL TALK with Stephen Farber special screening and panel April 2 Landmark, Westwood (Los Angeles)

Monday, April 2 at 7pm: WE HAVE A POPE. This wry comic drama from Italian director Nanni Moretti takes us inside the Vatican as the College of Cardinals struggle to elect a new Pope. Unfortunately, the man selected for the post—played by veteran French actor Michel Piccoli—is not at all certain that he wants the job. Guest speakers: Aine O’Healy, professor of Italian and director of the Humanities Program at Loyola Marymount University; Maria Elena de las Carreras, professor of film at UCLA, Cal State Northridge, and the New York Film Academy; Sister Rose Pacatte, Pauline Center for Media Studies; and Scott Young, executive director, University Religious Conference at UCLA.

“Game Change” focuses plenty on Palin but lacks punch

(c) HBO

HBO film ‘Game Change’ focuses plenty on Palin, but lacks punch

by Sr. Rose Pacatte on Mar. 08, 2012

“Game Change”
9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST Saturday, March 10, HBO

In August 2007, the media pundits were after Republican presidential candidate John McCain (Ed Harris), and he hated being their target. He brought in experienced strategist Steve Schmidt (Woody Harrelson) to take over the senior staff position on his campaign, shaking up the team then headed by campaign manager Rick Davis (Peter McNicol) and including Mark Salter (Jamie Sheridan) and Mark Wallace (Ron Livingston), with Fred Davis (Bruce Altman) as image consultant.

When the primaries were over and McCain was the de facto Republican nominee, he had yet to choose a vice presidential running mate before the Democratic convention in August 2008. The team floated Sen. Joe Lieberman (a miscast, goofy-looking Austin Pendleton), but choosing him, according to Schmidt, was “the right thing to do but the wrong thing to win.” Schmidt tells McCain and staff that they needed a “game changer,” which meant they had to do four things: win back the independents, excite the base, create distance from the Bush administration and close the gender gap with women. Unless they could regain at least 15 percent of the 20 percent disapproval rate for McCain with women, they had no chance at winning the White House.

Rick Davis does an Internet search for female Republicans holding office, because they didn’t really have anyone in mind. He discovers Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore), and is riveted by her charisma. She’s pro-life, a devout Christian, mother of five and likes to moose hunt. “A woman with a gun,” Davis says. “The base will love her.”

                                          Julianne Moore as a thoughtful Sarah Palin above and at the Republican convention in HBO’s “Game Change”
                                                                                     premiering Saturday, March 10, 9pm (photo: HBO)
Continue reading Sr. Rose’s review here
 Photo: HBO

Stay Awake! Advent readings inspire Occupy LA arrest

Last Sunday night at the launch for Jeff Dietrich’s book “Broken and Shared” he ended the readings with an Advent reflection he had just written a few days before. It is very moving and gives a whole different view of the “occupy” movement.


They came just before dawn; they came with fire trucks and ambulances and sirens blaring; they came in helicopters with rotary blades flapping; they came marching in lock step with helmets and visors and steel batons at “port arms.” They came and came and came. They came to disperse, to clean up, and to clear out Occupy LA. The morning air was cold and I was shivering not from the cold but from fear. Small drops of sweat trickled down my armpits. This was the last place I wanted to be. At age 65 I was in the distinct minority of this ragtag assembly of youthful rabble-rousers, an alien in this collection of seemingly disorganized children.

For the rest of the reflection, click here:

Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles’ Skid Row Book Review

Broken and Shared: Food, Dignity, and the Poor on Los Angeles’ Skid Row
By Jeff Dietrich
418 pages, Marymount Institute Press, $29.95

If you are wandering in the 50-block area known as Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles and you ask directions to Hospitality Kitchen or where the Catholic Workers serve meals to the homeless, no one will know what you are talking about.

“This place,” explains Catherine Morris, the gentle Catholic worker, “is and always has been known among the people as ‘The Hippie Kitchen.’ Since the beginning.”

Catherine is author Jeff Dietrich’s wife, who, together with various community members, has run the Catholic Worker Movement in Los Angeles since 1970. When NCR asked me to review Jeff Dietrich’s book and attend the launch at Loyola Marymount University this past Sunday, I knew I needed to visit the kitchen to have an idea of their work in Los Angeles, a visit long overdue.

Click here for the complete  review:

Prof. Theresia de Vroom, Cathy Minhoto, RSHM, Jeff Dietrich, and Martin Sheen at the launch of "Broken and Shared" just after a reading.

The Way with Martin Sheen – don’t miss it!

The panel for the special screening of THE WAY last Saturday night in Los Angeles; photo by Frederic Charpentier

On Nov. 5, Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, in collaboration with Mt. St. Mary’s College Chalon Campus, hosted a screening and panel discussion of Emilio Estevez’s new film “The Way.”

 The main attraction, besides the film, was the participation of the film’s star, Martin Sheen, his eldest son writer/director, Emilio Estevez, and producer David Alexanian. The panel was moderated by communications professor Dr. Craig Detweiller of Pepperdine University. Other panelists were Jesuit Fr. Eddie Siebert, president of Loyola Productions and chaplain to CIMA, the Rev. Scott Young, executive director of the University Religious Conference at UCLA, and me.

I had the honor of interviewing Sheen about the film for NCR, so being part of this event was an added grace. I can’t think of another way to put it.

“The Way” is the story of California widowed father and ophthalmologist, Tom, who goes to France to bring home the body of his son, who died in an accident just as he was to embark on the famous Camino to the Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. He finds three companions along the way, a pilgrimage that changed him from choosing a life to living it, opened up his view of the world from his small little golf course to countries and people he never thought about, that healed a father-son relationship, even in death, and celebrates the divine hope of reconciliation, even in a church that can be, as the character Jack says, a “temple of tears.”

For more click here for Sr. Rose’s blog on NCR

I took this photo with my iPhone; a little blurry but you can see how much we laughed!


Hope&Joy Communication and Culture program begins!

Hi everyone!

I am so happy to be here in South Africa again, to be part of a two-year program to prepare for the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. I will only be here for a month, however!

Please visit my blog at the National Catholic Reporter for updates.


New York, New York

This is the view from the back of the Staten island ferry on its way to the island. But the view from Victory and Forest was magical; you felt like you could reach out and touch it on a clear day

I grew up in San Diego listening to my Connecticut born-and-bred mother praising the wonders of New York City. Her parents took her and her siblings there often to visit an aunt who lived and prospered there. For some reason the Museum of Natural History was the place she most often described for us kids.

After three years in the convent in Boston, we novices went by car to New York in November, 1970, to have an experience of our apostolate of evangelization with the media and to see what convent life was like in a smaller community than that of the provincial-novitiate house.

We drove in our van down the Hudson Parkway and under the George Washington Bridge, with the Cloisters to our left, and the shrine of Mother Cabrini, Sister Anthony, our driver, told us.  Born in Everett, MA, Sr. Anthony’s family returned to Italy when she was seven years old; then as a young nun she returned to the U.S., to New York, where her name became synonymous in our community with the place and its people. But I fell into something that must be like ecstasy as Manhattan was revealed via the view from the then elevated West Side Highway.  It wouldn’t be closed until 1973 and completely closed and demolished until 1989. Sr. Anthony also told us that the Sixth Avenue El (elevated) train that used to go up and down the middle of Manhattan was dismantled and the iron sold to the Japanese as scrap and they gave it back in bullets. Learning history from our older nuns was always an eye-opener (this allegation has been always denied by city officials but myths live long and die hard.)

Manhattan took my breath away. It looked old and dirty, yes, but the Empire State Building was a visual magnet of promise and wonder. I loved the sense of history that came from the worn and torn look of old buildings and streets. The West Side Highway alone was scary to the first-timer; it was old and narrow and rickety. How many people, from every country on earth, how many cars, had run this road?

On the right, the piers, though dilapidated, were still working, and the nose from one of the passenger ships from the Italian Line seemed too close to the highway. I wanted to touch it.

As we neared the tip of Manhattan to take the ferry to Staten Island, Sister Anthony explained that there, on the left, where there lay an over grown field, several blocks large,  with one or two produce companies stood, was where the World Trade Center would be built. What was that? Two big office buildings, the biggest in the world.  Aren’t there other produce companies than those two over there? Yes, they just built a new market at Hunts Point in the Bronx. These are going away, too, she said. I don’t recall Sister Anthony mentioning Mother Seton’s house on the battery; even if she had, it would have just added to my sense of awe.

Although ground had been broken for the WTC in the late 1960s for what would become a seven building complex, that chilly Sunday afternoon, there was no hint of what was to come.

Over the next three years, though, construction started in earnest; first they dug very deep and then for the next two Christmases construction workers put Christmas trees on top of the twin towers, marking their ascent to heaven.  The North Tower was topped off in December, 1972 and the South Tower in July, 1973. I was in New York for both.

I lived and carried out our apostolate in New York for almost thirteen continuous years, from 1970 – 1980 and then from 1990 – 1993. I cannot tell you how many times I went to the World Trade towers for mission or convent business, to the Customs House (WTC 6) to clear cargo imports, to take the PATH train to New Jersey, and to take visitors to the top. In 1992, my ten-year-old niece dropped a glass bottle of some sticky colored beverage on the floor of one of the buildings where the airlines had their counters. Do you have any idea how far 16 ounces can splash and glass shatter on a terrazzo floor?

Up in the towers it always seemed like there were a thousand secretaries typing, but the tap-tap-tap was from the buildings swaying with the earth and wind.

I was at home in Staten Island the day the bomb went off under the North Tower on February 26, 1993. It was shocking, but things went back to normal so soon. The incident made me recall the story one of our older Italian nuns, Sister Sira, used to tell about a wayward B-25 bomber that crashed into the 79th floor of the Empire State Building at 9:49am, July 28, 1945 – right into the War Relief Offices of the Catholic Welfare Conference.  Eleven office workers were killed and three crewmen.

After my assignment in New York ended in 1993, I went to Guam and then to London to study for a graduate degree until late 1995. Then Boston was my home until 2002, so I was working in our media studies center on 9/11/01. I was taping the film “Restoration” from television to use a clip in a workshop I would be giving in Toronto, departing on September 12. I have no memory of what that clip was or how I was going to use it. Sister Marie came in and told me to turn on the news, a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I didn’t want to interrupt the taping so I went across the hall to check the television there.  I thought this had to be like the plane Sister Sira told us about; I stayed for a while and went back to work.

Not long after, Sr. Marie came racing back in, yelling “You have to turn on the television; a plane hit the other tower!” Then I knew. This was not wayward plane; this was an attack. I turned off the video recorder, and turned on the news. I knew the borders would be closed between the US and Canada and flights would stop. There would be no trip to Toronto, long planned a year ago.

A group of our sisters were at our General Chapter in Rome so for weeks I became a correspondent, watching CNN and other outlets and simultaneously typing reports into my computer to send email, including local reactions, and news from our sisters in Staten Island. The sisters at the Chapter had some television access, but they could not glue themselves to the television so email and Internet was best.

Somewhere, I have two big red binders of all the emails I sent and received from all kinds of people in the weeks following 9/11.

That Sunday after 9/11, day five after the attacks, I went to our local Barnes and Noble bookstore at Chestnut Hill and found the friendly server at the coffee bar. His usual cheerful demeanor was toned down and when he handed me my coffee, he said, “Sister Rose, the FBI was here. Three terrorists stayed at that motel there; they found their car there – see?” and he nodded toward the window. “Parked right there, and they thought we might have seen them, or that they might have come in here. They questioned all of us. We saw nothing – the FBI doesn’t even want us talking about it. Now people are coming in and asking me, ‘So, did you serve coffee to a terrorist?’ How can they be so cruel? We were just doing our jobs and how would we have known anything?” I thought I saw tears in his gentle eyes.

As the investigations began and blame assigned, I remembered something that happened often at Logan International Airport since carry-on baggage scanners were installed. Whenever I took the shuttle to New York from Terminal A (the old one; it has now been rebuilt), I would put my carry on through the scanner, but the people running it were always laughing and talking. Maybe five or six months before 9/11, I was waiting at the new and comfortable U.S. Airways gates at another terminal, going I don’t remember where, when a very nice lady approached me and asked if I would fill our an airport survey. Sure, I said. I always have an opinion.  I don’t recall if there were security questions on the form, but when she came back, I gave her an earful about how the nuns at the convent often talk about how safe Logan is when the people at the scanners never look at the baggage; they are just laughing and talking to each other. She looked rather surprised at my concern, thanked me, and took my survey.  I wonder whatever happened to that survey or if that nice lady passed on my observation. Guess not.

There’s a magical place on Staten Island, where Victory Blvd. and Forest Avenue meet. It’s not always there; it comes and goes depending on the winds. So often I would drive home, taking Victory Blvd and stopping at the traffic light, or turn left slowly from Forest Avenue so as to take in the view. It was there, but only on a rare crystal clear day, that Manhattan; that New York, New York, tattooed itself on my soul over and over again. The Twin Towers articulating its place in the history and culture of the world, like an optical illusion that I could reach out and touch. Oz. The Emerald City. New York, New York.

I don’t think I ever took a photo of this view, but artist Sarah Yuster painted, what I now find so deeply moving, a pre-dawn image of it

Kindness of (c) Sarah Yuster (with gratitude)

New York is a tough place to live and work. It’s hot, smelly, and freezing cold. Everyone is in a hurry. The ferry schedule dictates your life. Our house was the revolving door for the province; we were always at the airport. I remember telling sisters newly assigned to our community in New York: “It’s hard work here, and you’ll be exhausted most of the time. But if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere.” I thought that was an original insight. Ha! I must have heard it from Liza Minelli – still, it is so true..

Our nuns told me that on September 11, 2001, that they left our convent in St. George (near the ferry) as usual to go by car to our bookstore in Edison, NJ. But they were turned back at the Outerbridge Crossing; the bridge was closed. They turned on the radio and learned that one plane, then another, had crashed into the towers.  They were stopped at the light at the corner of Victory and Forest just as the first tower fell at 9:58am.  It took their breath away.

I have not been back to Manhattan, to the World Trade Center site, since 9/11. A month after the attacks, one of our older nuns in the Staten Island community died suddenly (she lost a good friend in one of the towers, and had been an adolescent in northern Italy during World War II; her heart could not bear it all), and I took the train to Newark for the funeral where a relative of one of the sisters picked me up. You get into Staten Island the back way through New Jersey. That’s as close as I have gotten to the World Trade Center in ten years.

Ever since I first set eyes on Manhattan all those years ago, I have considered myself a spiritual New Yorker. I love New York, the people, the crazy but brilliant drivers, the way New Yorkers share a special language, an understanding of humanity that lets them do great things, incredibly bad things (sometimes at the same time) and ordinary things with such gusto for life. I don’t know why I do not wish to go back; that I avoid every opportunity.

I think I am still waiting to get my breath back that you took away, New York, the minute I laid eyes on you.


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