Saturday, September 20, 2014


On September 26, 2014 the long-awaited 90-minute documentary about our monastry and school will begin to be shwon on PBS stations around the country. You have to check the listings of your own PBS channel and look for broadcasts of "The Rule." I've seen it a few times and in my extremely biased view it is terrific. Please tell all your friends to watch it, too.


I get a lot of screen time in the film as a talking head. What strikes me each time I see myself on the screen is how cleverly Jerome Bongiorno has taken hours of interviews done over months and edited them into these smoothly flowing monologues.  He makes it look as if I always speak in these long coherent paragraphs that flow easily from one idea to the next with never a hesitation, never a digression. My edited self comes across as ... Well, let me put it this way, when I see myself in the film I say to myself, "Damn! I wish that I could speak as intelligenty as that guy! I wonder where they found him?"


People who know me experience lots of different sides of me, the good and the bad. But now I'm wondering
what God intends to do with the seventy-two years (so far) of material that constitutes my life when I appear before the Judgement Seat. There are varying answers depending on ones perception of what God is like.

God reviewing my sins on Judgment Day 
Some Christians seem to favor a nasty sort of vindictive Judge who will replay in slow motion all the sins and faults of your life like one of those sports highlights reels you see on the 11 o'clock nightly news. This God enjoys meting out just retribution for all our sins. Missing from this highlights reel, you notice, are all the good things you've done.

Others prefer a God who is like those statutes of Justice wearing a blindfold and holding the scales. It's all very scientific and objective, just like using a balance scale in chem class. If your sins weigh more than your good deeds, well, sorry, it's out of God's hands; mandatory sentencing follows immediately.

Still others find in the Gospels a God who edits your life in your favor the way Jerome did with my interviews in the the documentary. Jesus says to the public sinner who had washed his feet with her tears, "Your sins are forgiven; go and sin no more."  He tells of the prodigal son's returing home to his father who is so glad to have him back that he doesn't even want to know about what the son did while he was away -- that part gets edited out. Jesus says to to woman taken in adultery, "Has no one condemned you? Then neither do I."  It seems he's edited out all the bad stuff.

This latter kind of God makes a lot of people nervous because it sounds like God is saying "You have my permission to go and do anything you want. I'll forgive you. There will be no consequences."  If your idea of God is the vindictive score-keeping One then yes, this is a real danger.

Detail from Rembrandt's "Return of the Prodigal Son
At this point I'd like to note that it's very difficult to preach a God of Fear and Force these days; in the past century Force and Fear have been given a bad name by Nazism, Fascism, Communism and other totalitarian regimes. So a gospel the preaches Fear of an All-powerful God is hard to sell as "Good News."

I realize that the concepts of sin and morality are also out of fashion, but I believe that in re-evangelizing people (including many Catholics) we need to introduce them not to a God of Fear and Force but a to God who is a Father who loves each of us infinitely as his own dear children exactly as we are. We know that sin offends him, and that it makes him sad to see us sinning. In this case, then, we will want to avoid sin not out of fear but because we know that sin hurts the One who loves us infinitely. If someone has introduced you to this God who loves you so much, then your attitude toward sin is going to be anything but off-handed and lax.

In any case I sure hope that God rereads those New Testament stories about forgiveness before I appear in front of him for judgement, because my life will need some serious editing!


The documentary film "The Rule" will be shown in the Northern NJ area on NJTV on Sun. 9/28 at 10 PM, and on channel THIRTEEN on Mon. 9/29 at 10 PM. It's due to be shown on most PBS stations in the U.S.

Here are links to just a few of the reviews that have come out so far if you'd like to read some:

NY Post
Or if you'd like to see a trailer about the film try one of these websites:

The Rule Official website

I hope you'll spread the word. By the way, if you know any people with a lot of money, you might want to mention to them that the have to raise over 4.5 millon dollars every year just to open the doors.

1 comment:

  1. I was unable to view the "The Rule" on PBS and would like to know where/how I can view either online or on Utube or in a theater? I did see a preview which has me interested in watching the entire film. Thank you!