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Youth 2000 Christmas Retreat, Newbridge College

Last weekend saw the Youth 2000 Christmas Retreat in Newbridge College, a secondary school under the care of the Irish Province of Dominicans. We Dominicans are involved in Youth 2000 in all sorts of ways – Fr John Harris is the national spiritual director, many Youth 2000 prayer meetings are held in our priories, some of the student brothers are spiritual directors to prayer groups, and many of us help out in different ways at national and regional retreats (in the photos below you can see Br Philip giving a wonderful talk on Our Lady, and her role in his conversion). In fact, even before joining the Order, many of us have had deeply formative experiences at Youth 2000 events. It’s always a joy, then, to return to these gatherings, where Christ is in the centre as the ever-new source of life, for the young people who are meeting Him for the first time, and for the more mature too!site pic 1 site pic 2 site pic 3

Movie Review: The Lego Movie

the_lego_movie_2014-wideOne should probably begin a discussion about The LEGO Movie by quickly getting the obvious out of the way: It’s awesome. The whole thing is awesome… Except maybe the head-wreckingly catchy theme tune; which I very reluctantly thought was awesome too. But only because it has permanently taken up residence in my head, overwriting the brain data that once held Lambchop’s “This Is The Song That Never Ends. It goes on and on and on and on…”!

As is wholly expected, The Lego Movie waxes on every fantasy-scifi-comicbook-pirate-cowboy-[insert any arbitrary film genre here] movie cliché that has ever been in existence. However, one doesn’t expect the prophesied hero to be modelled more on Bilbo and less on Neo – that is special by the very fact that he isn’t particularly special at all. One does expect a myriad of random and exciting cameos from almost every other popular franchise that seems to have ever existed from Lando Calrissian to Michelangelo to Michelangelo (Yes, both the Mutant Ninja Turtle and the famous Renaissance artist!) to Dumbledore, and, of course, Batman. But one certainly doesn’t expect a remarkable multiplicity of meaning contained in even the naming of the characters: Emmet (the main character) means ‘truth’, in Hebrew; and Lucy (the would-be love interest) means ‘of the light’, in Latin. There are also references to Aristophanes, Ibsen, Orwell, and an architect from 2000 years ago, who was so famous Leonardo da Vinci would use his designs to create the Vitruvian Man – Marcus Vitruvius Pollio. The Vitruvius in the film is a “Master Builder” (the Ibsen reference), is a rebel in a dystopian Big Brother-esque world (Orwell), and the film travels through a chaotic realm where the are no rules, called Cloud Cuckoo Land (Aristophanes)… Awesome!

The aforementioned prophecy tells of a chosen one (surprise, surprise) called, ironically, “The Special” who will be “the brightest, most talented, most interesting person in the universe.” Thankfully though, the unfolding plot takes this tired cliché in fantastically original and unexpected directions.

Initially, Emmet does not seem special. As is the custom, propagated by the society in which he lives, he doesn’t just avoid over thinking; he barely thinks at all. He strives to be just like everyone else, and fit in. He signs up to the same consumerist mentality, watches the same “popular” show and listens to the same “popular” song. He lives this so perfectly when warned not to get any ideas, he can relish in his confident reply, “I never have any ideas.” Contrasted with the laissez-faire, seat-of-your-pants approach of those who populate the underground movement, of which Wyldstyle/Lucy is typical, fighting the maniacal manipulator and looming overlord, Lord Business, with whom Emmet finds himself embroiled in his role as “The Special”, he seems thoroughly, and delightedly underwhelming.

But this creates the central tension fans of the iconic building blocks face at every moment of play – the tension between following the instructions and creating from one’s own imagination. And this is, very literally, the challenge confronting Catholics everyday. Like Emmet, they understand how total freedom can fail without some rules. And it is the struggle to live out this reality that makes them “special”, especially those involved in the New Evangelisation. Indeed, the general popularity of Pope Francis stems from his redefining of the balance between conformity and creativity. Being a practicing Catholic does mean giving religious submission of intellect and will to the all Church’s teaching, but it is where the actualisation of the Gospel message is concerned that one’s creativity is essential. We cannot be afraid to live life abundantly and to drink in the beauty of life! We cannot be afraid to explore the wonders of Christ. We should be truly joyful people. We can’t spend our time complaining about how unfair the Church is, or about how we are not getting their fair share, or about how we feel repressed by the Church. There are far more important things that need to be done with and in our lives. True Catholics realise that it is all about their relationship with Christ, not about rules. The rules are there to give us a framework to build on, to go beyond: a starting point. In real life, as in the film, we can be creative by following the instructions! Awesome, right?