Friday, July 25, 2008


Though I’m not a fan of the horror or thriller genres in general, I was drawn to “The X Files” during its TV run after reading an interview with the show’s creator Chris Carter. An agnostic, Carter acknowledged that the poster on Fox Mulder’s (David Duchovny) wall featuring a UFO and the words “I Want to Believe” metaphorically represented Carter’s own quest for faith. While Mulder sought proof for the existence of extraterrestrials, Carter wanted to believe in the existence of a transcendent reality and even a benevolent creator. He admitted he could never quite get to that point though.

Amidst the storylines featuring supernatural serial killers, alien conspiracies and monsters of the week, Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) often engaged in science versus faith debates with both sides getting a fair hearing. I always admired this about the show because it at least took these matters seriously instead of dismissing them outright or simply looking on faith as craziness.

With the release of “The X Files: I Want to Believe,” Carter’s spiritual quest is brought to the fore once again. The movie picks up 6 years after the series ended. Scully is now a doctor at “Our Lady of Sorrows” hospital while Mulder is still in hiding because he escaped from government custody after a sham trial about his paranormal investigations.

One day, an FBI agent approaches Scully at the hospital and tells her they need Mulder’s insight on an investigation involving a missing agent. It appears that someone is having visions about the crime and the FBI doesn’t know whether they can trust these visions. If Mulder cooperates, all past transgressions will be forgiven. Scully contacts Mulder who, after some initial reluctance, agrees to help.

It turns out that the person having the visions is a Catholic priest named Father Joe (Billy Connolly). It’s also revealed that Father Joe is no ordinary priest; he’s a convicted pedophile priest. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “here comes two hours of pot-shots at the Catholic Church and clergy.” To my complete and utter shock, the film didn’t go in that direction.

Yes, Scully as the resident Catholic expresses some righteous anger at Father Joe for his crimes and fires some verbal shots at his character. But Father Joe is actually portrayed as a struggling, sinful human being instead of a malicious caricature. Of course, there are questions.

Are Father Joe’s visions real or is he just trying to rehabilitate his image? Is it possible that this most heinous of sins – the sexual abuse of children – can ever be forgiven by man or by God? Would God actually use a pedophile to accomplish His divine will?

Jeffrey Overstreet, a non-Catholic Christian who reviewed the film for Christianity Today’s web site, takes offense on behalf of Catholics because of the fact that the priest is a pedophile. Jeffrey writes, “Do American filmmakers really believe that all priests are sexual deviants? Is Hollywood so infected with prejudice that they've come to believe the rare exceptions are the rule?”

I appreciate Jeffrey’s legitimate critique and viewpoint. The portrayal of good and holy priests in modern media is a rarity nowadays. For me though, the character in this film wasn’t offensive because of the well-rounded way he was handled. I give Carter credit for giving more than one dimension.

In my opinion, “I Want to Believe” works better as a spiritual quest than a thriller. While the central mystery is creepy, it didn’t really grab me. Action scenes are at a minimum and there’s one pretty goofy moment in Mulder’s final confrontation with the bad guys that everyone in the theater laughed at.

Carter, who directed the film and co-wrote it with X Files veteran Frank Spotnitz, opts to capitalize mainly on the Mulder-Scully dynamic that kept me watching the TV show even when the storylines started getting weak. And it really is the interaction between the two leads that makes “I Want to Believe” as engaging and even witty as it is.

In an era when atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens show nothing but contempt for faith of any kind, it’s refreshing to witness Chris Carter’s honest search for truth. A recent Entertainment Weekly article describes him as “a former skeptic who’s got more faith that it’s not all meaningless.” That comes through in the movie. So if you’re a spiritual seeker or even a practicing Christian or Catholic, “The X Files: I Want to Believe” should leave you thinking about sin, forgiveness, and the challenge to discern God’s will in our world and in our lives.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


NEW YORK, July 9, 2008 – Taught by her mother to approach life with “a servant’s heart,” 23-year-old Texas native, Abby Caperton, talks about crossing borders to help others on Christopher Closeup. The half-hour interview airs in two parts on Sunday, July 20th and Sunday, July 27th, both at 7 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. EST on The Catholic Channel, Sirius 159.

Born and raised in Hereford, TX, Caperton, a lifelong Catholic who currently resides in Lewisville, TX, credits her mother for engendering a sense of responsibility to “give back.”

Those early life lessons lead to her embarking on mission trips to Mexico, Guatemala, and, most recently, Malawi and Mozambique in Africa. She discusses how, despite the suffering that is a grim part of daily life in those countries, it was the faith, hope, love and generosity she experienced firsthand amid the hardships that made the more lasting impression.

Her travels inspired her to encourage others towards service, “(We all) need to be more generous with our giving, with our time, treasure and talent.”

This personal commitment to making a positive difference in the world is, according to Christopher Closeup’s host, Tony Rossi, “at the heart of The Christopher message – that it’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

For Caperton, her advocacy for greater solidarity with the poor is rooted in her deep devotion to the Eucharist, which she sees as the ultimate source of unity, “not only… with the people that you’re with at Mass, but it’s the people in the next town over, it’s the people in the next continent over, it’s the people in Africa. You’re in unity with everyone in this world whenever you sit at Mass.”

Part Two of the interview also features a discussion with Dr. Derry Connolly, president of John Paul the Great Catholic University.

Podcasts of the interview segments will be available at following the airing of the programs.

Maryknoll Father James Keller founded the Christophers in 1945 with the purpose of encouraging individuals to use their God-given talents to make a positive difference in the world by bringing Gospel values into the mainstream of life.

To learn more about The Christophers visit

Sunday, July 20, 2008


On Memorial Day 2006, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier and her crew were on patrol with the military in Iraq. A car bomb explosion killed cameraman Paul Douglas, soundman James Brolan, Army Captain Alex Funkhouser, and their Iraqi translator known only as Sam. Kimberly was critically injured herself. She lost more than half her blood because the explosion smashed both her femurs, scorched her muscle and skin from hips to ankles, and lodged some shrapnel near her brain. Though she technically died five times after reaching the hospital, the medical teams were able to save her. Kimberly endured a painful and grueling recovery, and now shares her story in the book “Breathing the Fire: Fighting to Report- and Survive – the War in Iraq.” Here’s an excerpt from my recent “Christopher Closeup” interview with Kimberly during which she discusses the spiritual side of her recovery.

TR: You write in the book about your own background as a Christian. You even considered being a member of the Episcopal clergy for a while. So I’m wondering – when you were recovering in the hospital, did you have any mental conversations with God about what happened or why?

Kimberly Dozier: Absolutely. It came down to, “What am I going to do with this? I’ve had this horrible tragedy happen. I’m still alive. Why’d you leave me here? Obviously I’ve got something else to do. What is it?” And yeah, you have the selfish response (that) you don’t want the responsibility of this when you have lived and the people with you have not. Trying to turn that into something positive, trying to find the right words to say to the family members of those who’ve been lost – that’s a burden I didn’t want. It’s a privilege I didn’t want. You’re thankful and you are saddled with something you never thought you’d have to deal with. Someone explained to me once that grief is a gift, that going through something like this gives you lessons that you then have to pass on. And that’s been one of the hardest parts of this because, what I write about in the book, especially the first few months when I came back to work, so many people came up to me and wanted to talk about horrible things that they’d been through…For a while there, it just got (to be) too much. I couldn’t handle it and I started skulking around back hallways at CBS because I didn’t know how to help these people. That’s part of the reason why I decided, “Okay, I’ll write this darn book. I’ll put it all out there.”

TR: At one point in your book “Breathing the Fire,” you write, “The more horrors I saw overseas, the more my own Christian faith came to the fore.” Some people see suffering and violence, and it moves them away from God. Why did it move you more toward God?

Kimberly Dozier: I guess I’ve never held God responsible for some of the horrors that I see. The things that we are able to do to each other either in the name of government, ideology or God – it is soul shaking. But I guess you take refuge in your faith. You also see the positive things out there, the people who risk their lives to save someone else or risk their lives to protect a community. That restores your faith as much as the horrors you’re seeing shake it…
TR: You said that you dealt with the guilt of surviving and the grief of losing your colleagues. But are you carrying around any anger at the people who did this? Is that something that weighs on your mind or have you moved past that also?

Kimberly Dozier: Both the guilt and the anger you’ve got to leave behind. They’re destructive emotions…In terms of being angry at the men who blew up the car bomb – as I understood from the U.S. military, they were taken down that night. They were in a cell in an apartment block overlooking the bomb scene. That’s how they watched to see us get close enough and then triggered the 500 pound car bomb. I can’t see inside their minds. I hate their methods, but I also know as a reporter on the ground there were things happening like accidental shooting incidents. Up to ten Iraqis a day were being killed, one high-ranking U.S. commander told me, due to accidental shootings at checkpoints. Was one of those men – had he lost his family to something like that? And it was a Sunni Al-Quaeda splinter group that got taken down. Now we are, as part of the awakening, we the coalition are talking to those Sunni groups, (we’ve) won them over, and they’re now our present day allies. So you can’t draw any sorts of absolutes in the Middle East. The lines are always changing.

TR: You write in the book that prayer helped you through a lot of those difficult times when you were recovering. Is it still a help to you now?

Kimberly Dozier: It’s always been a part of my life and always will (be) for our whole family. It’s one of those things, when I go overseas and meet someone who is either a Shiite imam or an Orthodox priest, it’s that bridge that helps us relate and understand. In the Middle East, it’s a community full of people of faith. They respect you and understand you better and vice versa when you are strong in your own faith.

(To listen to the full interview, visit

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Journalist and EWTN television host Colleen Carroll Campbell has written a heartfelt remembrance of her father who died recently after a protracted battle with Alzheimer's. This column is a must read.

Dad's diagnosis came on a bleak January afternoon in 1996 during my last
semester of college. In the years that followed, I watched a brilliant man once
heralded for his articulate defense of mentally disabled children become
disabled himself. I grieved as the wordsmith father who had rejoiced at every
article I ever wrote struggled to read my name or sign his own. A paragon of
strength in earlier years, Dad gradually grew weak and dependent before my eyes.

Yet Dad had joy — immense, contagious joy. Everyone he met noticed it — from
the hairdresser he serenaded with Irish songs during their appointments to the
adult day-care aides who marveled at his good humor and quick wit.

Even in his last years, after his condition forced my mother to move him to a
nursing home, Dad provoked smiles with courtly bows and tips of an imaginary
hat to the elderly nuns who stared at him from their wheelchairs. "Great to see
you," he'd say, as he sauntered the halls. "You're the best."

Led into a room full of dementia patients, he would find his way to the corner
where the most distressed one among them was muttering incoherently. Plopping
down next to her, he would whisper, "We're all in God's hands" and stroke her
arm until she grew quiet and calm. "I like to take care of people," he would
tell me, when he could remember what he had just done.

Alzheimer's eventually robbed my father of everything a disease can take from a
man. But it could not steal his joy. Cultivated through a lifetime of putting
people before possessions, principle before prestige and love of God and family
before his own desires, Dad's joy seemed to spring from some inexhaustible
source, from a place the plaques and tangles of Alzheimer's could not reach.
(Full article here.)

Sunday, July 6, 2008


In addition to a career that’s brought her great success in the Christian and pop music fields, Amy Grant is known as a person who uses her celebrity to help others. From St. Jude Children’s Hospital to Habitat for Humanity to private benefit concerts for people in need, Amy is always giving back for the blessings she’s received.

As she recalled on a recent episode of the radio program “Personally Speaking with Monsignor Jim Lisante,” the influence of her parents shaped her own attitude toward reaching out. Amy said, “Three different times when I was growing up and shortly after I’d left the house, my parents invited young women to come live with them who were struggling. It might have been for a few months or many months. And my parents certainly did not have a flawless life...But they had raised girls and they said ‘this is a safe place.’ Years ago – I probably was in my 30’s – a woman came to my concert, and she was probably in her 40’s, and she said, ‘You probably don’t even remember me. When you were a little girl, I lived with you. I was pregnant and had nowhere to go.’ And she showed me a picture of her son who was maybe seven years younger than me. And I just thought, ‘Way to go, Mom and Dad!’ This woman was supported at a time when she was really lonely and needed support.”

Amy draws great support from her Christian faith which she’s never been shy about professing. How and why has it stayed such a focal point of her life through the challenges she’s faced?

Amy said, “I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that the reason my heart is so full, the reason my life feels directed, the reason I have confidence about tomorrow whether I live or die, the reason I can look at my children and believe they have an amazing because I know what it feels like to be still long enough to know God...The 17th chapter of Acts (says) that every man has an appointed amount of time and was born in an appointed place. It basically says it is God’s purpose to arrange a person’s life with the possibility that they might reach toward Him because He is always near to everyone...I read that today and thought that’s amazing! Even in putting everything in motion, He said I’m always going to be right there and I’m going to construct this person’s life in such a way that there is a possibility that they will reach toward me. That’s hope for every person following everything.”