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Ep. 258 Maureen Ferguson on Reasons to Keep Your Kids Off Smartphones and Alejandro Monteverde previews ‘Cabrini’

Episode Description

TCA associate Maureen Ferguson unpacks the rampant dangers lurking in smartphones that our children are being exposed to on a daily basis. With continued negligence and indifference from governing bodies to thwart these threats, Ferguson explains why it’s incumbent on parents to take the initiative to protect our children and teens.

‘Sound of Freedom’ director, Alejandro Monteverde, discusses the moving new film, ‘Cabrini,’ which recounts the astonishing feats of a nun with an incurable illness and few resources besides dedication and faith. The inspiring Cabrini takes on New York City’s establishment to advocate for orphans and provide them a better life against nearly insurmountable odds. This latest cinematic achievement from Angel Studios continues to play in theaters through Easter weekend.

Father Roger Landry shares an edifying homily to prepare our hearts as we head into the reverence of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday worship.


Maureen Ferguson is a senior fellow and policy advisor for The Catholic Association, and a former congressional liaison and spokeswoman for the National Right to Life Committee. A frequent speaker on issues of education, family, religious freedom, and sanctity of human life, Ferguson briefs Congress on these and other cultural issues. She’s been interviewed by major TV and cable networks and her columns have appeared in USA Today, The Hill, Newsweek, RealClearPolitics, Fox News, National Review, and many other publications.

Alejandro Monteverde is a screenwriter, filmmaker, and director born in Mexico who moved to Austin at 17 to pursue a film career. He later graduated from the University of Texas with an undergraduate degree in film. Monteverde’s first full length movie, ‘Bella,’ won the coveted People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival garnering acclaim. He is best known for the poignant movie, ‘Sound of Freedom,’ that uncovered the horrors of the child trafficking industry while highlighting its heroes. Monteverde’s latest film, ‘Cabrini,’ is currently playing in theaters.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts, and serves as Catholic Chaplain to Columbia University and the Thomas Merton Institute for Catholic Life. A graduate of Harvard and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, Father Landry served as Attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York, and has been a pastor, newspaper editor, and high school chaplain. He writes for numerous publications and regularly speaks on radio and TV. Father Landry is the author of the book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God.

Episode 258 Transcript

Dr. GrazieHello friends, and welcome to conversations with consequences. We are the radio show and podcast on the Catholic Association where we aim to change the culture one conversation at a time. You can listen to conversations with consequences on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network, Saturday mornings at seven a Am eastern, or catch the encore at 5 p.m.. We are also on Sirius XM channel 130.
Course. Our radio show is always a podcast. Go to the Catholic Association Dawgs podcasts or directly to wherever you listen to your podcast. Joining us now is Alejandro Monteverde, a distinguished movie producer and director of the most recent box office smash success, which I'm sure all of us have seen. Sound of freedom. He also directed Bella and other pro-life films.
Bella is one of my favorites. There's a new film of his that's coming out called Cabrini. It'll be out in theaters on March 8th, which happens to be International Women's Day. And it tells the story of Mother Cabrini, who is the very first American saint. She was. she was born in Italy, but died an American citizen. And her big her big work was started, amongst the very poor, the very, very poor of New York City, Italians, Italian immigrants here in our country.
And then moved out to the entire world. She started what she called an empire of hope. Welcome to the show, Alejandro.
Alejandro MonteverdeThank you. Thank you for having me.
Dr. GrazieWell, I was very happy last night, sitting on my couch and, watching the beautiful film Cabrini that you just, you just directed that is going to be aired on International Women's Day, which is March 8th. And Maureen, my co-host, I saw it last summer and she and I both very much enjoyed it. And I think it's a wonderful addition to a great canon of films from you, Alejandro.
So thank you for making it. And and tell us what inspired you and what led you to the wonderful Saint Cabrini.
Alejandro MonteverdeWell, I was just honored that, you know, this project came knocking on my door. I personally did not know who Cabrini was. I had no knowledge of all her achievements or anything. I knew nothing of her. And I was very surprised to not have known some. Nothing about somebody so powerful. And what I mean, powerful is somebody who use all of their given talents, God given talents, to, you know, leave for others and change.
You know, the world for those, that had no dignity and and for the children that were living on the streets and the children of immigrants. So, she was a revolutionary, and I didn't know anything about her. So I got a phone call one day, and from, Houston, Lovington, who is not only my mentor, but he had a big devotion to her.
Just literally was out of the blue. I got a phone call, and she asked me if I would read the screenplay. And my first instinct was, I'll read it. But definitely this is not for me. I had a little prejudice because, you know, I wanted to make a movie and movies supposed to be very entertaining, and I just couldn't see how the life of, in this case, a nun could be cinematic in a way that could be entertaining.
You know, a lot of the times you do documentaries about characters like this, it's very hard to do a very entertaining film. To my surprise, when I read the script, I realized that her life was extremely entertaining, and she was, revolutionary in many, many ways. And he, she her light shone a light in the world.
So I saw an opportunity to shine, cinematic light in her life. So that's how it all began. And, you know, I was mesmerized by her story.
Maureen FergusonI certainly was, too. And I'm wondering, could you flesh this out a little bit for our listeners? Because she's, as you said, she's the type of saint that we've heard of. But as you said, we most of us don't know too much about her. And one of the things that struck me so much is that she was this physically tiny, weak woman.
She had ill health. She was born prematurely, poor health her entire life. She was actually rejected by the first group of sisters that she tried to join. She had to go out and found her own order. But I think you're right that there is so much drama in the movie because she demonstrated such resilience and perseverance and determination, and even though she's this tiny little person, she became such a giant of the church.
Alejandro MonteverdeYeah, I mean, this is the ultimate underdog story in many ways. You know, it's it's it's rocky. she came here with nothing as a woman, in a time where women had no voice. She was one of the first woman to lead an overseas mission. She was led by women, into a country that, you know, was not very welcoming to Italians.
And she was able to defy all odds. I mean, she was able to build an empire as big as the Rockefellers. But her empire was not an empire of foreign reach for super rich in herself. It was an empire to help others, especially those living on the streets, especially children and the sick and those without dignity. And she came in with nothing as an immigrant was able to, you know, build so many institutions and fight all the way from people from the street, like in this case, a pimp, all the way to the highest political places, like the mayor of New York, in order to achieve and give a voice to those that had no
voice. So that in itself, as a lot of drama and conflict, she was a fighter and her ultimate fight is, like you said, she was fighting death itself. The doctors were giving her 1 to 2 years to live, and she was able to squeeze, you know, many, many decades. She died until she was, her late 60s.
So, you know, it's just kind of movies. She sets a line in the film that spoke to me very directly, and I think it's speaks to many people. It's you can serve you witness love. You can serve your purpose. And we all have weaknesses on purpose.
Dr. GrazieAlejandro, I have a list of notes here to talk to you. And right across the top it says you can serve your weaknesses or you can serve your purpose. Because I. I brought that line away with me from the movie, and I almost want to engrave it on, on my, my mirror where I brush my teeth because so often we are overwhelmed by the thought of our our frailties and the the things that we just can't get right.
Or if we think we never will be able to get right and what a wonderful example, right, of, of a person who single minded, devotion to a beautiful project is evil, is able to conquer all those own weaknesses and the weaknesses that weren't just hers. Right? The weaknesses of being female, the weaknesses of being an immigrant and the wrong kind of immigrant.
you know, watching the movie last night as I saw it last night, there's a whole line running through the movie about being an immigrant and what that means in a country like the United States. You're an immigrant. I, I came here at the age of 11 from Mexico myself. And it's we live in an amazing country, the United States.
It's this the only country I can I have ever heard of where everyone's from somewhere else. Right? If either either you or your parents or you go back a couple generations. And so we have this rich, fascinating land. And yet every immigrant experience has these, these hard obstacles, right, that we have to that we have to get over and in Cabrini, and this wonderful Saints case was the prejudice against Italians, even by the more recent the immigrants right before them, which were the Irish, was it was a really interesting to you to delve into that, that complication of being an immigrant in the United States in this film.
Alejandro MonteverdeYes. But, you know, you said that this is a very powerful and beautiful country. So do you think? Yes, there was a lot of discrimination against Italians, but there's a line in the film that I love. He says, one day somebody will be in this office and he will be cleaning it and we already had a mayor Murray for couples and for mayors that were from Italy, mayors of New York.
So it shows you how an immigrant can come here and become a mayor. you know, thank you from, the Senate. And so it is a country that even though it sounds like a cliche, it is a land of opportunity. And the film explores that because Cabrini came with nothing. And at the end, she built this one of the top hospitals of New York.
So it is also reflects and and, and celebrates all the opportunities that this country has to offer. Even though you have to go to challenges. But like these are obstacles that can actually be defeated. You know, unfortunately, you can't say that about other countries. You know, the the the obstacles are impossible to get to, to overcome. And in this case, it explores that even though there was all this, you know, resistance against, you know, the Italians, before it was the, the, the Irish and, you know, after the Italians, you know, we're many different situations.
And then obviously, Mexicans and it's just been a, it is part in many ways has become part of the process. But I identify with, with the film a lot because I came here not even not even speaking English with really bad grades. And I was able to to, you know, get into the university, get my grades, get into film school and, you know, the, the, the, the doors continue to open and the opportunities continue to open.
And I, I'm very grateful to to my immigrant story and identify with with, with. I think that's what is so interesting about this, this film is that this movie is not about immigration. It is movies about the immigrant, which is very different. And, it really kind of explores you know, the life of the immigrant. And she wants to help those in need.
In this case, was the immigrant in the streets.
Maureen FergusonThat's a great distinction there. And, my father grew up in an area of New York City, an enclave of Irish immigrants, and it happens to be right near Mother Cabrini Park. So I know her legacy runs, very powerfully, especially in that area of the city where she founded these hospitals and schools and orphanages, I think 67 and or not, just in New York City, but all across the United States and really all across the world.
Something that was very touching to me was the story from her childhood, when she seemed to first have a sense of her vocation. There's this story of her placing little flowers and paper boats of violets and dropping them in a stream and imagining that they carried her off to be a missionary in China. And when she went to the Pope, she asked to be sent to China.
Apparently. But he had a different answer and a different plan for her. But. But this story also sheds light on why her name is Saint Francis Xavier. Cabrini could you share that story with us?
Alejandro MonteverdeYeah. I mean, this what it was very interesting is, you know, the the writer of the film, Ron Barr, he did a lot of research. I mean, I think he read every single book there is about her, but also he went to Lombardy. He traveled all around Italy getting to know you know, reading documents that were not public, like the Senate that was not public.
Does something that, you know, he found by diving really deep into, you know, the depths of, of her life. So it's, you know, for me, my job was just to kind of create a cinematic experience of her life. She lived her life very artfully, and I wanted to the picture her life in the most artistic and most cinematic way.
So it is, you know, that that film, when you finish, she was going to take the reflection that inspires you in whatever, you know, battle you're facing. This is one thing that we've been seeing and with, with audiences. You know, the movie speaks to everybody in a very personal way, and, you know, I can share many, many stories of different people that are facing, you know, different kind of battles.
You know, I have had friends, you know, going through very difficult times in their marriage. And they saw Cabrini and they're like, well, if she was able to fight for and accomplish all of that, maybe we give her another shot to, to to their, their given situation. Same thing with people are struggling with any kind of things.
So it is a very inspirational film. you know, the it it's it's just I like to make movies that begin with the movie. And, you know, when the movie ends with the Legion state of reflection and you start questioning, you know yourself about, you know, more profound and meaningful, questions. And for me, I, there was a movie that I saw when I was in film school was generously.
It was, you know, Schindler himself was a Catholic, and he, you know, rescue thousands and thousands of of Jewish lives. And at the end of the film, he looks at his car and he says, you know, I gotta sell my car and save one, one more. And I remember leaving the theater and walking home and realizing, you know, the film had put a little question in my life, well, what am I doing for others besides, every element was me, me and me.
You know, I wanted to make movies just because I love movies. And I remember leaving the theater and say, that's the kind of cinema I want to make. When I read The Life of Cabrini and her fight, and also in many ways, just rendered, she wanted to go to China. And, you know, there was different plans. You know, there's a saying you want to make God last dilemma, your plans.
You say her plans and the plans was to start in New York. And you know, that whole odyssey, it's a journey. It was a very, very cinematic journey. Her life and and I was just honored to be able to capture it on film.
Dr. GrazieAlejandro, the the woman who played, Mother Frances is so beautifully cast. She does such a wonderful job. And I know it's a lot is the director is how I don't know anything about film, but I'm sure that a lot of it is, how you're able to to elicit that from her. There was a true sense of of holiness, on the and shining out of her face, especially when she was interacting one on one with the, the the orphans and and the people.
She's, she's, she's so passionate about and also with the Pope. I think there's a beautiful relationship there on the screen between Mother Frances Cabrini and the Pope, who who is her supporter and who backs her up after he believes in her. He learns to believe in her.
Alejandro MonteverdeYeah. I mean, one of the things that I was looking for on, I mean, the, the the casting of, of Cabrini was extremely difficult. I mean, I knew that if this sighting tested correctly, the movie wouldn't work. I knew that Cabrini had a lot of power in her eyes. Because you cannot accomplish. You cannot. I mean, it's really hard to build one hospital.
Can you imagine opening 66 institutions from schools to hospitals to orphanages all around the world? So it hit me that in order to achieve that, she must have had the power to arrive to any given country in the state. Nicaragua. So of and within 3 or 4 months she needed to get the construction going. The money place, you know everything.
Go and and move to another. It's not like today. You just get on a plane. At that time, you you got to take the train plank or go here or go there. So she must have had this conviction in her eyes in order to be able to close, you know, these business deals, because at the end, you know, these are institutions.
She was she built an empire or a worldwide empire while she was alive. Her empire continues on because there's a line in the film that she says, the world is too small for what I intend to do. And you know, now that we're about to release the film, I say, would she never say what the world is too small for?
I intend to do well in my life because her legacy continues on. And, you know, now this is an opportunity to shine a life, a light in her, on her life. But yeah, it's I do think that that was the big challenge is to find that actor that had the power on her eyes, and that's how, when I met, Christiana Delano, she was Italian, but I could see, you know, she had that that power.
But most importantly to, you know, the she got to be very compassionate. And, you know, with, to me, the best performers are the ones that doesn't use any words. Just just a look, you know, when she's with, with with Victoria, when she is with Paulo, the kid. And these are kids that carry a lot of guilt and they feel judged.
And she just has a lot of compassion on her eyes. And that in itself is one of the things that, you know, I was very honored to be working with, with with an actor that could achieve that, because that's not easy. And she really delving really deep into the character and really, that stick a lot of, preparation and, and, and, and, you know, really, really understanding what drove Mother Cabrini.
You know, what, make her defy that every day. And it was purpose. And so in one side, she was very purposeful, driven. And that's what gave her the power to defy death daily. And in the other side, it was a great loss for those who need it. And sometimes the right fighters are the ones they love the most because they're willing to die for what they love.
And Cabrini had both. So it was it was a very complex character, because the one fight you have to be, you know, very driven and keeping people's faces. And the other side is to be extremely loving, very compassionate. And, you know, you got to have those elements in order to be able to attribute.
Maureen FergusonYou know, I have to say you hit an absolute homerun on the casting. I think it was just brilliant. And, we have we have a family and a son of Italian immigrants. And, she looked just like all of his daughter's luck and, and particularly in the eyes you were mentioning the eyes. so. Okay, so we're coming up on the official release date for the film March 8th, International Women's Day.
Can you tell us the plans for the release of the film? Where will our this nice girl to find this beautiful and inspiring film?
Alejandro MonteverdeI mean, right now people can buy tickets already, you know, their tickets are on pre-sale and it just shows all the theaters where the movie's playing. I think it's getting a very wide release. I think it will be in every theater in America. So, it's it's this is the kind of movie that, again, you know, we are an underdog because you still we don't have the massive budgets that these big studios movies have.
You know, they have hundreds of millions of dollars to promote. Their films are billboards. It's the audience is creating this chain of word of mouth, people seeing the movie and coming out and telling people about it. That's what we're relying on. So I call them walking billboards, you know, since the people in the audience. So the first week is the most important week because if, if we, you know, hit the numbers that we need to hit, then the movie will continue to stay in theaters.
It's that simple. And if we don't hit the numbers, then we start losing theaters. So it's almost the first week. It kind of decides, the the longevity of the movie in theaters. If we hit the numbers and we get we get more theaters. If we don't hit the numbers and we start losing theaters. But right now, the pre-sales are doing incredible.
We're still thousands and thousands of tickets as of today. And it's it's it's oh, my understanding it will be in and it's a very wide release will be in pretty much almost every theaters.
Dr. GrazieAlejandro. It's opening on March 8th, which is International Women's Day. And I was very there's a lot in the film about what it means to be a woman and the power that a woman can have, even in and times and places where she's deemed powerless like that, like, the saint, this wonderful saint. but she presents a very different, idea of what we would call feminism in today's culture.
What what is the difference to you, between the kind of feminine empowerment that the saint that that Mother Cabrini showed and what the culture presents as feminine empowerment?
Alejandro MonteverdeWell, for me, you know, I have never, I never was. I always try to stay away from any political terminology. And, you know, for me, anything that goes into that box, I always stay true to what I'm doing. And this movie celebrates the power of the woman's voice. And there's nothing wrong with that. Is this is this movie was about the life of Saint Francis.
And I will be celebrating the power of the men's voice, who is just in this case, it happened to be a woman, and I should use the opportunity to celebrate her life, to celebrate her voice and to celebrate her power. She was a powerful woman. No one can deny that you're walking into a place and get things done.
That was one of the things that she was. She could get things done and that I celebrated. And I when I saw that in her life, I was like, I want to shine a light on that. And that's was the motive, my intent. Now, I know, unfortunately, we live in an area that everything that needs to be labeled and I always, you know, most of my films suffer from that.
They like, for whatever reason, you know, they from the beginning of my career, everything I do is it's, it's it's almost been a victim of this label in some way, somehow, and I just don't think, you know, that we, we, we need to label or compare with any other labels, you know, in this case, what I want to say is that the film celebrates womanhood, celebrates the power of the woman's voice, and celebrates Mother Cabrini, who it was a powerful woman that happens to be a non.
But I wanted to make a movie about her. So the movie doesn't, excludes any audience. You know, every label excludes an audience. A minute they say, well, you know, this movie is this or these is going to shoot another audience. And her life was very universal, you know, I don't know anybody that is against helping the poor and helping those people that are outside living on the streets or the immigrant, that is, you know, needs help.
So that was her life and, and and I was mesmerized by by her her conviction, her power, her passion, her purposeful, driven life. So that is what I wanted to celebrate in the most cinematic way. And and I think that's what I, you know, I never like to say what I think. I just think that's what the audiences are taking that out of, of when they watch this.
Dr. GrazieWell, I think, Alejandro, you succeeded brilliantly with, with this wonderful story about, Saint Francis Cabrini. Mother. it's called Cabrini. It will be opening on March 8th. You heard the director. Please buy tickets in advance to keep this, wonderful movie in the theaters as long as possible. And and I can and I can back up. I can back you up.
And what you said, Alejandro, it is a movie that can be watched by anybody. It doesn't exclude anyone. I was thinking I was watching it when I actually watched it with a friend, a priest friend who's visiting our home. He comes every year to visit us, and we both thought it was fabulous. And we we remarked upon the fact that we could recommend this friend to the most decent film, to the most liberal, progressive people that we know.
And they would they would take away exactly the same thing that we took away, which is that there is power and purpose, and there's even more power and mercy and compassion. So thank you so much, Alejandro, for, and thank you.
Alejandro MonteverdeAnd thank you. And thank you for that, because that is, you know, my biggest goal. I like to make movies that unite, you know, people. And I do think everybody has a right to, you know, have different opinions and different beliefs. But I also believe that we agree in more things that we disagree as a society. We just don't take the time to talk about the things that we agree, as most people do when they meet, they want to find out what they disagree.
And then the friendship is gone. Our conversation is gone. It's we start on to what we agree as a society, as an international society, we will find out that we agree by way more things than we disagree. And that's, you know, the kind of cinema I want to make. And, and, very excited to share this film with the world.
Dr. GrazieWell, you've succeeded our, our audience, our audience can go to or forward slash Cabrini and go ahead and buy tickets. So thank you so much Alexandra.
Alejandro MonteverdeThank you. Have a great day.
Dr. GrazieWelcome back to conversations with consequences. Joining me next is, my friend and colleague of the Catholic Association, Maureen Ferguson. She wrote a great piece. I was published in Newsweek called parents. Here's how we can Protect Kids from the dangers of smartphones. Thanks for joining me, Maureen.
Maureen FergusonGreat to be chatting with you, Gracie.
Dr. GrazieYou know, the the more that one thinks about smartphones and the effect that they're having on society in general, but especially on young people, the way it's changed the culture of youth and young adults, the way it's changed their pattern of interactions, the way it's changed, their the level of activities, the kind of activities that they engage in.
The more we we shiver. No, we we shudder when we look at those smartphones in their hands. Sometimes you go out to dinner, I go out to dinner with my husband, and there'll be couples with with young kids. Each of the kids, like maybe a young couple with two toddlers each, toddlers holding one of their parent's iPhones, and they are playing with it, and it's almost like we hand it over our children to to a technology that is a revolutionary technology, culturally impactful technology, mind bending technology.
And we don't know what it means, but we gave our children to it.
Maureen FergusonSo. Right. And it's completely rewiring their brains on on so many different levels. And you know, normally the trajectory in a large family is that parents lighten up as they get down to the last child. Right. Exactly. I've now raised four children who are now out of the house. I have just 113 year old left, but for me it's been the opposite.
The longer I parent, the more resolved I am to be super intentional as a parent with my youngest, which.
Dr. GrazieIs not the same as intense, right? Like and it's not the same as intense parenting. It's intentional. It's is.
Maureen FergusonDifferent. Intentional, right. But you know, normally the youngest your latest on the youngest, you go easy on the youngest. But as time goes on, the evidence is just mounting about just how terribly, terribly harmful smartphones and social media are for our kids. So I feel like our youngest is probably going to have the least access to smartphones and social media of all of our kids.
Dr. GrazieAnd so what kind of damage concerns you specifically?
Maureen FergusonWell, okay, so, what prompted me to write this article was I spent four hours watching a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on smartphones and social media, and the Senate committee had all of the CEOs of the big tech companies. So Mark Zuckerberg from meta was there, Twitter ex discord. I don't even know if our listeners know what discord is if you don't look it up.
It's a horrifying, very popular platform that a lot of kids are on, particularly boys. But so these big tech CEOs were there, and I don't think I've been an observer of public policy for about 20 years. I don't think I've ever seen a hearing where there was such bipartisan agreement. Every senator from the most liberal of Democrats to the most conservative of Republicans, what they were hammering the CEOs because of the universal agreement about how terribly damaging these platforms are for our kids.
So. So I wrote this piece because the defense of all of the CEOs were, oh, we have parental controls.
Dr. GrazieYeah, good luck making those work.
Maureen FergusonI tried exactly, exactly. And they all have different parental controls. They frequently change their parental controls. Parents don't have the tech knowledge to be able to manage the the parental controls.
Dr. GrazieAnd even parents who are very tolerant, even parents are well-educated, very engaged, maybe have a spouse, right? So if you're an only a single parent, your time is half right. Your parental your parental involvement is half. Yeah. Even even in that situation, parental controls are beyond most people's capacity.
Maureen FergusonRight. So so who has the time to manage at all? Plus kids. No ways around it. And and they're always changing anyway. So so my message in this article that I wrote is parents, you're the ultimate parental control. And and I quote from the hearing, Senator Amy Klobuchar was and she's a progressive Democrats in Minnesota. She told the story about one mom who told her that she feels like with, her kids on social media.
She said it's like the kitchen sink is running, the sink is overflowing all over the floor. And the mom said, she's out there with the mop, just continually mopping up from the fallout of her kids on social media. So this is what I wrote about in the article. Parents like, put down the mop. You can turn off the faucet.
We don't have to say yes to our kids. And the the current Biden administration surgeon general is saying exactly this. He's saying our kids mental health is threatened. Our kids physical health is threatened. We have got to keep them off these platforms. So he's saying keep them off. And what his recommendation is, is to get together with the other parents in your kids group of friends, to agree together, to collaborate, you know, create a conspiracy for the good, for your children, to say no to social media together as parents so that then your child is not the only one whose isolated or left out.
So this collaboration with other parents, when your kids are young, start the younger the better is the way to effective manage this for our kids. So that our kids can develop social skills. They can develop an in person social life, you know, and we have to be really intentional as parents in helping them develop a social life, because a lot of the sort of neighborhood play that used to exist just doesn't anymore, you know, because kids are all inside on their phones.
Dr. GrazieOr in their internet sports programs, which exactly suck up all the rest of the energy in the room.
Maureen FergusonYeah. So parents have to, figure out ways to help kids develop their in person social life, especially for their teenagers, you know, investing in a but.
Dr. GrazieWhat do you what do you say to a parent? And I've heard this said so many times, and I know you've heard it. So what do you say to parents that says, well, my child won't have a social life if she doesn't have a phone or he doesn't have a phone.
Maureen FergusonI would say it's the opposite. I would say your kids are far more likely to develop a real in person social life if they're not always stuck on social media because it's displace time, you know? I mean, when you look at the number of hours per day the average kid spends on phones, that's, you know, there's only 24 hours in a day.
So that's time that they're not spending in person. And and again, parents can help their kids develop that time by, you know, having a fire pit in your backyard, make your house the party house, help your kids find hiking trails, buy those fun, silly card games like exploding Kittens or or things like throw throw burrito. You know, teenagers love this stuff.
Buy them junk food. You know, make them want to hang out at your house. That's the way to help them develop a real social life.
Dr. GrazieAnd you know what children aren't doing either. They're not reading.
Maureen FergusonOh, once they have a phone, they immediately tune out from reading. Absolutely. It's like you just.
Dr. GrazieSay what you're reading to do to them. What does this say about our future as a people? Right. Like what's the schools, which are very often not in Florida because we in Florida, we have great schools, but little plug for Florida schools. schools are, you know, have our children for, for so many hours and then and then the phones have the rest of them, the rest of their hours and they're not necessarily becoming educated adults with, with a broad mind and, and, and a historical perspective and right, like an idea that there are different ways of living and and what are the what are the best ways to live like that?
That's not happening on your phone. It's that's something you pick up from books.
Maureen FergusonAbsolutely not. No. The smartphones are making us dumber in so many ways. And not to mention the dangers lurking at this hearing that I was talking about. The hearing room was packed full of parents who had lost their children to all kinds of different things, to fentanyl pills that they bought on TikTok, to, cyber bullies aside, we have all these new terms sextortion.
Parents have no idea how bad it is. You know.
Dr. GrazieWe just had this in our in our community. I live in a very small, very protected community, mostly married parents, sort of a little a little gem in the and and the big culture. Right. And we just had a terrible case of a, gymnastics coach who was sextortion in his little gym. Girls and they were. And it was all it was all phone based.
Yeah. And it was horrifying to think that that's happening under our noses.
Maureen FergusonIt it's becoming shockingly common. And what happens is, I mean, that sounded like there was somebody that they knew behind it, but,
Dr. GrazieThere was but still it was all very phone based, like, I was it wasn't something because children are young, people are, you know, they're looking into their phones that you're never look over their shoulders because they want to kill you if you try to look at what they're doing. Right. So that's like this whole hidden world that's sitting in their palm, in the palm of their hand, as full of dangers and exactly right.
Maureen FergusonAnd the way that that this sextortion is happening frequently is people think that they're communicating with a peer. So somebody thinks they have a new girlfriend or they have a new boyfriend. They're tricked and manipulated by the adult into sending a compromising photo of themselves. And then the person takes that and essentially extort them, either for money or to get them to send more pictures.
You wonder where all this child pornography comes from. This is one way pornographers get it. They extort staff into sending more, more and more photos of themselves, and they trick them into compromising acts, you know, sending videos. It it's a terribly, terribly dark world. And if you're handing your child a smartphone, in many ways it's like handing them a loaded gun.
It's like there was one cybersecurity effort in or, expert in this research. I did, he said. Handing your your kid a smartphone is like handing, you know, say your 13 year old giving them a smartphone. It's like giving them the keys to a Mercedes. And say, take off and go to Vegas. Have fun. It's so much darker than I think parents even realize.
Well, you.
Dr. GrazieSaid a word. You said a word that I need to we need to come back to is that's pornography. we have a terrible porn pornography epidemic in this. And and not just in this country and the entire world, but the the it's it's fueled, it's out of control because of the internet. And I think I don't remember the, the age exactly, but I think, you know, boys start looking at pornography on their phones very early, like 8 or 9 years old.
Maureen FergusonAnd the average age is is 8 or 9 years old. And we think.
Dr. GrazieOf I mean, think about that. That's just enough to that's enough to make you faint when you think of your eight, your sweet, pure eight year old boy looking at it images literally.
Maureen FergusonIt's rewiring a generation of kids.
Dr. GrazieBrains that rewire.
Maureen FergusonTheir brains. And it's completely distorting their view of human sexuality and authentic love. And it's taking a beautiful thing and making it ugly and scary. You wonder why some people aren't dating either. It's because they're too self-absorbed on their phones, or in the case of a lot of girls, they're petrified because girls also stumble across this stuff online.
Dr. GrazieAnd they're trying hard. And the girls with the boys that they have available to date are boys who very often have had their brains rewired by pornography, so their brains are dark and vulgar and and they don't have a proper appreciation of a woman. A girl. Right? As a human being is not a means to an end. And I want to I'd like to I, I don't think it's too much to say that some of the, some of the reason that there's this trans horrible transgender epidemic or gender dysphoria epidemic amongst teen girls and pre-teen girls is because of pornography, because pornography has devalued and degraded the dating culture.
A normal there is no normal dating culture. If you have also a culture of pornography. So girls turn away and they say, why, you know, I can't be alone, I can't I don't want to be a woman. If that's if that's that means you become a victim, right? Or an object to be used.
Maureen FergusonAnd, you know, one point that I make in, in this article is how important it is to educate your kids on these things, because eventually they need to have somebody in. When they're younger, you can protect them, but as they get older, you have to persuade them. So doing things like watching, the social Dilemma, it's a documentary on Netflix again, it's called The Social Dilemma.
That goes a long way towards helping kids to understand how the social media companies manipulate them. And, you know, kids don't want to be a fool. They don't want to be taken advantage of. So helping them to understand how the social media companies, these brilliant, you know, Silicon Valley geniuses are trying to manipulate.
Dr. GrazieAnd they create those algorithms that that the.
Maureen FergusonAlgorithms.
Dr. GrazieSuck your mind.
Maureen FergusonIn. Right? The entire business model is designed to suck them in, keep them online, take them away from in-person interactions. So we really have to give our kids the confidence, you know, to be cooler than their screen dependent peers and educating them on these things. The Wall Street Journal I feel like every other week there's a new headline about the Wall Street Journal keeps creating these accounts on Instagram or TikTok, and they show how girls within about seven days are approached online by men with, you know, nude pictures or within seven days, girls are it's not just approach, but it's.
And anyway, Google this stuff on the Wall Street Journal website because they've done an excellent job of of exposing some of this stuff. So as your teens get older, when when parents do decide to to give their kids these powerful tools, which it's really not a phone, it's a super computer, you know, in their pockets. And again, when they're younger, they're a lot of, you know, so-called dumb phones.
Now, there are a lot of alternative products that you can give to your kids when they're younger so that they can phone and text, but they don't have, you know, the internet access to go down the rabbit holes. But when you do decide to give your your child a smartphone as they get older, I think one thing to consider is preempt the entitled assumption that this is their device.
Yes, we call it a family phone, and I think it's wise to have one family passcode for all of the devices. an iPad, a family computer, and the iPhone's one family passcode. So it kind of it just preempts that entitled assumption in their head that this is my private device. In our family, we have we call it a freedom basket that's just in our kitchen.
And we encourage people when they come into the house to, to leave their phones there. And certainly our kids keep their phones. Our older kids keep their phones plugged in overnight in the freedom basket. You know, it's a handy charging station, but but to just keep educating your kids on how we don't need to be slaves to our phone, you know, we teach them that we're not cyborgs.
We don't want them to be screen agers. You can leave your phone. It's okay. It doesn't need to be in your back pocket at all times.
Dr. GrazieWell, wonderful advice, Maureen, and to our listeners, you can read her fabulous article in Newsweek at. And it's called parents Here's How We Can Protect Kids from the Dangers of Smartphones, published February 15th. Thank you. Maureen, and thanks for all the great ideas and the encouragement to believe that, to believe that we can sort of go countercultural and protect our children, even when everything seems to be going in the other direction.
Maureen FergusonWe can we can opt out. And it's actually easier parenting to opt out. Keep the smartphone genie in the bottle. It's a lot easier to keep the genie in the bottle than to try to manage the fallout once it's out of the bottle.
Dr. GrazieAnd now father Roger Landry offers a short and inspiring homily for this Sunday's Gospel.
Father Roger LandryThis is father Roger Landry, and it's a joy for me to wish you and your family Happy Easter! As we enter into the consequential conversation, the Lord Jesus, risen from the dead, wants to have with each of us. On Easter Sunday, the church gives us several Gospels. We can ponder the Easter Vigil. This year we have Saint Mark's version of the three women at the tomb seeking to anoint Jesus cadaver, worried about who would roll back the stone from the entrance of the tomb, only to find the stone removed and an angel waiting for them inside, informing them that the crucified Jesus had been raised and that they were to go tell Peter and the
disciples at mass on Easter morning each year, Saint John describes how he and Simon Peter, having been informed by Mary Magdalene, run to the tomb, behold the burial cloths and the head covering in. John sees and believes. There's a third gospel that can be used at a later Mass on Easter Sunday, one that involves a lengthy and consequential conversation between the risen Lord Jesus and the two disciples walking home to a mess that took place early in the evening of the day, in which he rose from the dead.
That's the gospel I'd like to consider this year. I thought it would be most appropriate because, as I mentioned in our reflection last week, the church in the United States is preparing for its first National Eucharistic Congress in 83 years. That will take place in July in Indianapolis, and preceding it will be something unparalleled in church history a nationwide Eucharistic pilgrimage which priests and pilgrims will be making essentially a Eucharistic sign of the cross over our country, like a benediction through four national Eucharistic processions converging in Indianapolis, one pilgrimage will leave from the Canadian border in Minnesota and other from the Mexican border in Texas, a third from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco, the
fourth from the Atlantic in New Haven, Connecticut. All along the way, parishes and diocese will join those making the 65 day journey to celebrate our Eucharistic Lord and journey with him through the cities and towns of our country. Much like Jesus first disciples traversed the cities of Jericho and Jerusalem in the towns and villages of Galilee, Samaria and Judah.
What's happening in these processions is essentially a continuation of what occurred in the road to Amos. As the risen Lord Jesus seeks to accompany us and his risen body and blood, soul and divinity in the Holy Eucharist, just like he accompanied a colobus and the other disciple. Perhaps Mary, the wife of Clovis, on the journey from Jerusalem to their home.
The road to Emmaus was only seven miles. The four Eucharistic pilgrimage together will journey closer to 7000 miles. But what takes place is meant to be the same a life changing encounter between the risen Lord Jesus, who has chosen to remain with us until the end of time, and of the appearances of bread and wine in the Holy Eucharist.
In order to accompany us in the pilgrimage of life. That we in the church make the risen Lord Jesus, who calls us to follow him, journeys with us. I'd like to focus on a few of the elements from the Emmaus Gospel that are meant to be consequential in terms of our approach to the celebration of Easter, as well as to the way we relate to the risen Lord Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
The first is that the risen Lord Jesus wants to enter our conversations. So two disciples were leaving from Jerusalem and all that it symbolized letting down hill and down, cast into darkness Jesus, whose risen physical appearance and voice they didn't recognize. Drew near, walked with them and asked, what are you discussing as you walk along? They wondered whether he was the only person in Jerusalem who was oblivious to the things that had happened to Jesus of Nazareth, how they had placed their hopes in him to redeem Israel, but how he had been crucified, and how women had returned from the tomb, saying his body was missing, and that angels had appeared, announcing that he was
alive. Jesus, the anonymous wayfarer, calls them slow, of hard to believe all that the prophets spoke, and revealed to them how Moses and all the prophets had shown that it was necessary that the Messiah suffer this way and enter into his glory. In other words, the crucifixion wasn't a contradiction in the messianic prophecy, but a confirmation. As Jesus opened up the scriptures, their slow hearts began to burn.
Notice the problem wasn't so much with their heads, but with their hearts. Not with their reason, but their will and emotions. They didn't want to believe what Jesus said three times before, that the Son of Man had to be betrayed, handed over to the religious authorities, crucified and raised. But the risen Lord Jesus entered into their disappointment, accompanied them, and sped up their heart by showing them how the reason they were sad and departing Jerusalem contain the seed of their return.
The same Jesus wants to enter into our life. Our crushed expectations are doubt, wants to help us with the Word of God. See things including the hardest thing, like the suffering and death of loved ones in the proper light. And he seeks to do this each day in the Holy Eucharist, the liturgy of the word at Mass on Sunday, and each day during the week.
The church starts with Moses, the prophets, the Psalms. And that's the very words of Jesus, as well as of the Apostle, to help us see daily life in his light. Similarly, in personal prayer before Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, Jesus speaks to us heart to heart to burn away whatever slows and weighs down our heart. We celebrate both of these during the Eucharistic Revival and in the Eucharistic Pilgrimage.
We show how Jesus wants to join our journey on the very streets we live, walk, bike, and drive. The second moment of the scene we can ponder is when the two disciples, reaching home, turned to Jesus, still not recognizing him, and urged him, stay with us, for it's nearly evening and the day is almost over. That invocation has turned over the course of the centuries into a great Christian aspiration.
It even became the title of a Eucharistic Apostolic exhortation. Saint John Paul the Second left us 20 years ago. Stay with us. Lord Jesus wants to be invited in. He wants to stay with us, but he won't force himself on us. The risen Lord Jesus, as you was preparing to ascend to the father, promised us that he would be with us always until the end of time.
But we can structure our life either with him or without him. He wants us to bid him to stay with us full time, stay with us at home, school and work to stay with us in the morning, midday and evening. To live our whole life in communion with him. That's what the Eucharist makes possible, and he keeps that promise in the most concrete way in the Holy Eucharist, where he stays with us in our tabernacles full time and for a while after each Holy Communion literally dwells within us.
Eucharistic revival is meant to help each of us appreciate this incredible gift of the Lord's Real Presence, and to bid him to stay with and within us always. The third moment that you may have seen we should examine is what Jesus did in their home. Saint Luke tells us that while he was at table with them, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them.
We know what the sequence of those four verbs means. We hear them every mass. Jesus. Three days after the Last Supper, after the liturgy, the word along their seven mile journey, we're celebrating the liturgy, the Eucharist at their table, changing the bread into his risen body. With that, Saint Luke continues, their eyes were open and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight.
As soon as Jesus had made himself present in the Eucharist, the unrecognized traveler disappeared, but he was still there. Later, they recounted how Jesus had made himself known to them in the breaking of the bread. One of the expressions the first Christians would use to refer to the celebration, the mass. Just once all our eyes to open to recognize him in the Eucharist.
There are many Catholics who, despite church teachings, still relate to the Eucharist as a thing rather than as someone rather than as Jesus Christ himself. Likewise, like the disciples on the journey, their eyes don't recognize Jesus even when he walks with them, even when he speaks. The Eucharistic revival is meant to heal our blindness and deafness. With regard to the risen Lord Jesus and the Holy Eucharist, they help us respond with love to Jesus as he reveals himself in the breaking of the bread.
The last element we can take up is what happened next. The two disciples couldn't keep the joy of meeting the Lord Jesus to themselves, even though they had journeyed seven miles downhill into darkness, even though they were doubtless drained by the drama of Christ's crucifixion, Saint Luke tells us that they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem.
They hastened seven miles uphill, at least a two hour journey, so that they could share with the 11 apostles what had taken place along their trip home, and how the Lord had made himself known to them. This points to the joy we should have at meeting the risen Lord, points to the way we ought to leave each mass, each time we're with Jesus in Eucharistic adoration, we encounter the same Lord Jesus.
The two disciples did. Saint John. Paul the second wrote in his exhortation, stay with us, Lord, that once we've truly met the Risen One, by partaking of his body and blood, we can't keep to ourselves the joy we've experienced. The encounter with Christ constantly intensified and deepened in the Eucharist issues in the church and in every Christian in urgent summons to testimony and evangelization, entering into communion with Christ.
The memorial of his past means sensing the duty to be a missionary. The event made present in that right. The dismissal at the end of mass is a charge given to Christians, inviting them to work for the spread of the gospel and for the imbuing of society with Christian values. This is what the Eucharistic revival is meant to provoke in us this urge and vocation to witness and sharing our faith, especially the greatest news that God with us, Emmanuel, is still very much with us, just as he promised until the end of time in the Eucharist, the risen Lord Jesus wants to enter into our conversations, our doubts, our journey.
In short, our whole life, bringing the light of his resurrection, making our hearts burn, and helping us to recognize him at our side. He wants to inspire us to share news of this love with others, so that they too, may learn to say to him, stay with us, Lord, the Lord is risen! He is truly risen, and in the Eucharist he wants to remain with us always to journey with us through time into eternity.
This is our faith. This is the faith of the church. How privileged we are to profess, live and share it in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Alleluia!
Dr. GrazieWith that, I leave you and thank you again for being our listeners, and we continue to pray for you on this.