Home again — Part 2: Another Christmas break for a seminarian

The harder the work, the greater need for a break.  The fall semester this year has been more intense than last year.  I was looking forward to New York as I survived finals and projects.

My goals were to relax and not to think so much.  I didn’t bring much reading material.  I enjoyed watching TV after going mostly without it for a semester.

Chip and Teddy
Chip (left) and Teddy still sleep the day away as they await my sister Liza’s return from work.

Meanwhile, the dogs continued to ignore me except when they wanted attention and love.  Chip, the oldest dog, needs to be carried up and down the stairs.  But he spends most of his day sleeping.

I can summarize my break in three words: weather, movies and family.


Here are my highlights from the break.

Hot and Cold

El Niño has brought a very mild winter in the Northeast.  I was surprised how warm NY was during Thanksgiving break.  That trend continued into my Christmas break.  Temperatures even reached 70 degrees before Christmas.  It was interesting to see people walking around with shorts and T-shirts in late December in New York.  But all that warmer days had persistent cloud cover that put a damper on things.   I had to pack light to account for the weather.  But I packed a few sweaters when the chill returned.  The cold blast on Jan. 4-5 tested the limits of my gear.  Of course, I forgot to bring a scarf and I had to borrow one from Liza.  It’s difficult to acclimate to normal winter temperatures when most days had been mind.  But the sun came out finally.

7 Movies in 13 Days

Note: Spoilers below.

Liza and I watched as many movies as we can.  We both went to five and I went to the rest by myself when the movie was playing only in Manhattan or when my sister came down with a cold.

Here are my quick reflections on the seven in order of viewing:

  1. “Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 2”: This follows a similar theme from Part 1: the differences between fighting in the arena and in the battlefield.  Ever since the first “Hunger Games” movie, I wondered how the love triangle among Katniss, Gale and Peeta would be resolved.  Dirty tactics in war would be the deciding point.  But I expected Katniss to shoot President Coin instead of President Snow.
  2. “Peanuts”: The filmmakers took the classic elements of the comic strip and merged it into a new story.  Who knew that a snowman can hit a Charlie Brown fastball?  Who doesn’t like Snoopy as the Flying Ace?  Charlie Brown maintains his integrity despite his many setbacks.  But he has to win once and a while, especially with the Little Red-Haired Girl.  I’m surprised not to see the evil cat next door.
  3. “Brooklyn”: This was a refreshing tale of an Irish girl in 1950s Brooklyn.  Watching so many cynical films, I was expecting subtext and backhanded jokes.  But I kept finding reaffirming notions of love and integrity.  The use of color was stunning, especially in the Brooklyn scenes.  The protagonist Eilis always wore bright colors to contrast her with the background.  Only at the climax were her colors muted and merged with the background.  The little jokes during the movie were enjoyable.
  4. “Spectre”: Once a movie is pulled from Queens and Long Island theaters, Liza refuses to go into the city to watch it.  I ventured into Times Square to watch the latest Bond film.  The theater was packed.  I enjoyed watching this latest chapter.  The gadgets and the fights are amazing.  Many plot elements refer to the previous Daniel Craig movies.  The look of Blofield is similar to “You Live Only Twice.”  Dr. Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) shines as an equal to Bond.
  5. “Creed”: Liza came down with a cold.  I went to the theater by myself for this boxing movie.  Following the journey of Adonis Creed, Apollo’s son, was a refreshing take on this movie franchise.  The references to earlier “Rocky” movies were enjoyable.  Once that familiar Rocky theme cranks up, I expected the usual Rocky-style whooping.
  6. “The Danish Girl”: This excellent movie reveals the emotional conflict of an artist journeying into transgender issues.  I expect awards for the lead actors.  But the film has left me with many questions, to which I devoted an earlier longer post.
  7. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: Liza and I waited until the last days I was in town before watching this blockbuster.  She heard that there were still lines for the movie a few weeks after its release.  Good reviews from friends and family raised my expectations for this next installment. The battles and lightsaber fights are amazing.  The little humor and references to previous movies were enjoyable nuggets.  The three new heroes of Rey, Finn and Po Dameron have potential for more growth.  Of course, a father figure has to die at the start of a Star Wars trilogy, but who knew it would be actual patricide?  But my sole complaint is with the villains.  The Vatican critique of the villains is spot on.  The villains are all wannabes: a wannabe Empire, a wannabe Emperor, a wannabe Darth Vader and a wannabe Governor Tarkin.  Unlike Tarkin, Vader and Palpatine, none of them makes me feel fear and dread.  It’s very telling that two people with little lightsaber experience can put up a good light saber fight against Kylo Ren with his training and defeat him.


Unlike last year, I didn’t do too much wandering around the city.  Attempts to hang out with friends didn’t pan out.  I preferred to stay with my folks.  Liza and I chatted about a possible summer road trip to three religious shrines in upstate New York and Canada.  Liza, my mother and I visited relatives across town.  It was amazing how things were the same and different.  A new generation of cousins is learning to be with one another or be completely bored.  (I can relate to the bored part.)  I met my goddaughter, Jade, for the first time since her Baptism.  She was raising money to attend World Youth Day in Poland this summer.

The most important conversation during this vacation was the one with my father.  His latest health setback prompted me to talk to him about his plans and wishes.  I was surprised how easily he opened up to me about his health and ideas.  His plans weren’t definite before an upcoming procedure.  But he has thought about help for his care and finances.  That has put me at ease.


Finally, I’m back in Boston.  I have a few days to settle in before working on my lesson plan for CCD on the 10th and preparing for the retreat the following week.  Let’s get back to work.

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