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Ladies and gentlemen, this is not a drill. Over 160,000 people have been infected worldwide with COVID-19, and more than 6000 people have lost their lives. The total number has doubled in 11 days, and is doing so quicker in the United States. We are in the midst of a pandemic with the worst ahead of us.

Two weeks ago, when there were around 50 cases in the United States, Br. Tito and I thought it might be interesting and relevant to talk about one of our favorite movies, the pandemic thriller Contagion. Yesterday, when we finally recorded the episode, our tone was completely different: the movie was an eery reflection of reality.

As you will see when you listen to the episode, there are many things that the creators got absolutely right about such a situation—where a virus comes form, how it spreads, the process for trying to contain it, the fear that surrounds it. In many ways, it is quite prophetic. And yet, there is one glaring difference between what we see on the screen and what we are seeing in our world today: many people still are not taking the situation seriously. Until yesterday, the President of the United States was shaking hands, saying the situation was under control and refusing to take responsibility his administration’s lack of preparedness; major news network were calling the virus a “hoax.” Many see the measures taken by local government and business leaders as an overreaction and inconvenience. Some are going about their normal lives with a sense of invincibility. While the CDC is stressing social distancing and avoiding crowds of more than 10, it was reported that Florida beaches are packed with tourists and spring break visitors. Right now, this virus is spreading at the same rate right in the United States as it is in Italy, a country, I should point out, that is at the point of collapse.

This is not a drill.

Br. Tito and I offer this podcast today to exhort everyone, especially young people, to take this seriously. Stop acting so selfishly and remember that, as Catholics, we have a responsibility to uphold the common good. We who are under the age of 60 may not have a serious risk of dying from this virus, but we do pose a serious risk to those who are over that age, and we most certainly can push the system over its breaking point by causing a spike in cases.

Wash your hands. Avoid crowds. Stay home.

If you’re looking for something to do, how about prayer? We always say that we don’t have enough for it, so here you go. What about reading a book, studying scripture, or learning more about your faith? (I know a guy on YouTube that has some great videos explaining things…) Maybe spend some time with your family, connect with old friends on the phone, or just catch up on some sleep. What we have before is a tremendous opportunity to take a step back and ground ourselves in what truly matters.

The specific virus in Contagion may be a bit different from what we’re experiencing, but the potential reality is the same: fear and misinformation could lead to a collapse of society. It is a cautionary tale. I suggest we take it seriously.

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We like to jump to conclusions. We take a quick look, jog our memory, and move on. It’s not the worst habit to have (it’s a great evolutionary adaptation, actually) but it does leave us drawing incorrect conclusions from time to time.

Such is the case for the movie Knives Out. While most of the characters take a look at the surface and make their judgments, the detective on the case knows that there is more than first appears. He digs deeper and asks more questions because he is not satisfied with the easy answer. He wants to truth.

This week, Br. Tito and I discuss how the movie itself fits the same description. While it appears to be doing one thing and the casual viewer may come to conclusions based on what they see on the surface, there is more to this movie than a simple “who done it”…t

Most of you are probably well aware of this, but there are Christians in the world that hate Catholics. They don’t just disagree with our teachings, they do not think that we are Christians, and believe that we are nothing liars and deceivers.

Oh, and they’ve got the “scriptural evidence to back it up.” Because, you know, we don’t read the Bible and have no idea what’s in it.

One of the most common attacks we hear comes in regards to most famous title for a Christian leader: “father.” According to them, it is against the teaching of Jesus. Quoting Matthew 23, they point out that Jesus said “call no one father,” evidence that Catholics don’t care about Jesus’ teaching.

Of course, the Bible is absolutely central to our faith as Catholics. We would never disobey Jesus is such a blatant way. There must be more to the story than what appears on face value!

Hence, this week’s episode of Catholicism in Focus. Enjoy!

How does one examination their conscience to know if they’ve sinned? For many people, this involves using a questionnaire, checking off boxes for things we’ve done. Great.

Except, not always.

One problem that people face with these questionnaires is that they are beholden to the limited nature of the instrument itself. Often, they are based on the Ten Commandments (and only the Ten Commandments) meaning that there is no examination of how we’ve treated the poor, no care for creation, no sense of humility or meekness, and no reflection on the words of Jesus. Clearly, we need to use more than the Ten Commandments as a guide (which is why I offer the above video with further suggestions.)

But beyond what I spoke about in the video, there is a danger in using these questionnaires in that the questions themselves are not waited. So often I have people come to confession with a list of 19 sins. “I lied. I swore. I disrespected my parents. I had lustful thoughts. I wasn’t content with God and so desired physical things. I doubted. I was prideful. I didn’t pay attention in Mass. I had anger towards my sister…” While all of these things could be sinful, and none of them are good things, they really don’t tell me, the confessor, anything. Simply listing off a long succession of items does not offer context, intention, severity, or effect. “I lied” might mean that the person told another that their baby pictures were cute when they actually thought the baby was weird looking, or it might mean that they told false information under oath in an attempt to hurt their enemy. The same check mark on the questionnaire, but clearly a very, very different sin.

Using examination of conscience tools can be very helpful to uncover blindspots in our lives, helping us to see where we need to change, but they must always be approached critically. It is not about the quantity of checks that we make. It does not make someone more of a sinner if they have 15 checks compared to another with just one when that one is murder. Further reflection is needed.

If you use an examination of conscience tool (and I do recommend that you use multiple), don’t get hung up on the number. Don’t worry about checking boxes. Use the tool as a means to ask yourself, “What is truly getting in the way of following Jesus?” Focus on the things that matter, and change your life.

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Let’s be honest: the Academy isn’t always the greatest at picking the “best picture.” This year wasn’t one of those years.

If you are like most people and did not see Parasite, I highly recommend going to see it. It is a beautiful, unsettling film about the effects of poverty that do nothing to romanticize the issue. It lifts the curtain on major issues of class without hiding from difficult questions. Not only is it a wonderful film, it is an important point of discussion for us as Catholics who claim to care for the poor.

As usual, our podcast goes through the whole movie with many spoilers, so hold off if you want to see it. That said, even if you don’t plan on seeing it (might not be for everyone) the podcast offers a great discussion on the topics.