We are blessed to have a very diversified team...made up of not only youth workers, but also teachers, professionals, a seminarian and other committed faithful.
We spent many hours preparing and working on our workshops, which range from intruduction to church history, to understanding African Saints to total parish education.
We have landed in Paris and are awaiting our flight to Nairobi. Spirits are high, anticipation is building and our anxieties are being transformed to joy as we grow closer to one another and to God.
As you may or may not know, the movie Twilight is the biggest thing to hit teenagers since the Harry Potter series. Like Harry Potter, Twilight started out as a book series (there are 4 all together), and is now being brought to your teenagers in movie form. These books have been targeted specifically to teenage girls with great success. It brought in $70 million opening weekend, debuting as the #1 movie in
The premise of the story is this: a brooding teenage girl (Bella Swan) who’s new to her small town high school falls in love with a quiet, pale, and handsome social outcast (Edward Cullen). We quickly find out that there’s something different about him (he’s super fast, super strong, and doesn’t like to come out in the sunlight), and Bella eventually figures out he’s a blood thirsty vampire. Here’s the catch: he’s a good vampire! He and his other “family” members hunt only animals, refusing to kill humans. Unfortunately they are apparently the only ones of their kind who have disciplined themselves in this way and have managed to blend in with the rest of the humans. The conflict arises when their love threatens Edward’s family, Bella’s parents, and the life of Bella herself.
Here’s the bad news: there’s the obvious fact that as Orthodox Christians we don’t believe that vampires exist. Historically they have been seen as demons on earth- the undead. In this story they are romanticized and seen as almost heroic. (If it wasn’t for some creepy vampire killing towards the end of the movie, it would seem as if they are just normal people who have some superhero like skills) Also, towards the end of the movie, Bella decides that she too wants to give up her immortal soul and become a vampire- something that Edward does not agree with. This can be problematic because as Christians we are called to devote our immortal soul to God, to desire to spend eternity with him- not our new vampire boyfriend. See Matthew 16:26- “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Here’s the good news: the books were written by a Mormon woman (Stephenie Meyers) and therefore you won’t find a single curse word, or any sex in the movie (although there are some sexual undertones throughout). What you will find, is an interesting take on abstinence and controlling our passions. For the sake of the greater good of humanity, these vampires have denied their passions- every part of their being is telling them to kill and drink blood! But they refuse to give in and be murderous monsters. It’s extremely hard for Edward initially to even be around Bella because at every moment he wants to kill her. But because he loves her so deeply, he denies his physical yearnings, and over time it becomes easier for them to be closer. The whole story seems to bring attention to the struggles teenagers face in preserving their purity. The author even placed an apple on the front cover reminding us of the temptation faced in the Garden of Eden. When asked about the sexual tension between Bella and Edward, Meyers states, “It’s really just my experience with the world and my experience with passion. When there is restraint involved, there's so much more to it. I think a lot of fiction and movies these days; they're really missing that beginning stage. They skip right past it.”(NPR.org)
So should your teenager see this movie? In my opinion, this movie can be a great chance to have some good discussions with your teenager. Most likely your teenager has already either seen the movie or read the books, or both. Or if they haven’t, all their friends have. Consider going to see this movie with them, or read the books, and then have a good talk with them about it.
Here are a few questions you could discuss:
- Why do you think Bella and Edward fall in love? In the books it’s easy to understand their bond, but in the movie it seems like a mostly physical attraction. They’ve spoken maybe 3 times and they’re declaring their love for one another- could it really be true love?
- Why does Edward refuse to let Bella become a vampire? Why do you think Bella is willing to give up her soul to be with Edward forever? Would it be worth it? The Church teaches us to guard our soul and devote our lives to God alone- what would happen when she went to the Judgment seat?
- Why is Edward willing to abstain from blood? Why doesn’t he just give in and kill humans? Why do you think the Church calls for us to control our passions? Why don’t we all just do whatever feels good? What would happen if Edward and his “family” just did whatever felt good?
- It seems like it’s really hard for Bella to be away from Edward. She thinks about him day and night. Why do you think that is? Why does she kiss him, even though she knows it will be really hard for him? Read Romans 7:14-24 together.
- Do you think Bella and Edward made the right choice by deciding to be together? They risk the safety of the people close to them and put Bella’s life in danger. Was it worth it?
- When Edward and Bella are first interested in each other, it’s very hard for them to be close physically, but they are close emotionally. Do you think that the fact that they can’t be physically close helps their relationship become strong?
- If Edward really loves Bella so much, why does he still want to kill her?
- Edward and his family are sort of outcasts at their high school. People know they’re different but aren’t sure in what way. As an Orthodox Christian do you ever feel like you are an outcast or that no one at school understands you? Edward is very close to his family and they help support each other in their struggle to remain “vegetarian”. Do you have anyone in your life that helps you in your faith and your struggles?
'Twilight' Author Pens Other-Worldly Romance by Lynn Neary
Well, once again, its December- the Christmas season has officially begun! At this time of year you are probably starting to run around like crazy preparing for Christmas; buying gifts, planning big dinners, etc. As parents, keep in mind that this is a perfect time of year to talk to your kids about the true meaning of Christmas! It can be easy to lose sight of the fact that the Nativity is so special because it means that Jesus came into this world to save us!
This year I have been thinking back to some traditions from my childhood that helped me to understand the true meaning of Christmas. I’d like to share some of them with you her, to help you and your families get ready for the Nativity Feast.
As you know, in the Orthodox Church we are called to fast from November 15th until December 25th in order to help us prepare ourselves spiritually for Christ’s coming. Talk to your children about why we fast and how it can help us focus on what’s truly important. My parents used this fasting period to talk to us about how other people in the world don’t have all the food that we do and how fasting can help us to remember them in our prayers, especially at this time of year.
As a kid my parents helped prepare us for Christmas by using an Advent calendar. (In the
My family also baked a cake every Christmas- a birthday cake for Jesus! I loved decorating it with the words ‘Happy Birthday Jesus!’ This helped to enforce to me the real meaning of Christmas- that we were celebrating the fact that Jesus was born and came into this world to save us from our sins.