Herda-Father-Jerry“Ask Fr. Jerry,” Fr. Jerry Herda

Q: Some people are outraged while others rave about the movie, “The Hunger Games.” If you’ve seen it, would you discuss the entertainment value of the film versus the message it portrays to its young audiences? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church make a statement against Catholics viewing it?

A: I have not seen the movie “The Hunger Games,” although after having done some research to answer this question, I am tempted to go and see it. It is a story set in the future about children from oppressed areas (districts) being chosen at random to fight to the death as part of an annual televised event staged for the entertainment of others. I say I am tempted to go and see it because first, it is good for me to know and see what so many others are seeing so that I can properly enter in to the conversation. Too often people make judgment of things without being properly informed.


Fr. Robert Barron’s video review of “The Hunger Games.”

Secondly, “The Hunger Games” is a movie; it is not reality. If human sacrifice was a part of our American culture, yes, the Catholic Church by all means should be objecting. My wish would be that the outrage that people are feeling toward this movie be steered toward some of our real life tragedies.

Those who are feeling outrage toward this movie should be out protesting against abortion, a real life human sacrifice. Outrage should be directed toward the violence that is part of city streets where people are killing each other. We, as Catholics, should be outraged any time a human life is taken, whether it be a child in the womb or an elderly person nearing the end of life. All life is sacred.  

As in most movies there is a message to be learned. The message of “The Hunger Games” may be as simple as we should never allow human sacrifice to be a part of our culture. But in my research I have also discovered that the movie contains many thought-provoking messages. Fr. Robert Barron, on his webpage “Word on Fire,” has posted a video review of the movie “The Hunger Games.” He reminds us that the reality of the greatest human sacrifice of all is Jesus Christ dying on the cross.

Finally, as in all movies, parents must decide what is appropriate for their children to see. The reviews I read describe the movie as having violent scenes, so it certainly would not be appropriate for young children to see.

Q: I have a question about the revised prayers we use at Mass. I attend Mass at three different sites depending on the occasion. My parish priest’s version is different in that he never says the penitential rite A or B as is listed on the common prayer cards. That part is always skipped after he greets the worshippers and continues with “let us pray.” What am I missing?

A: The penitential rite at the beginning of Mass, now referred to in the Roman Missal as the penitential act, is when we take some time and ask for God’s mercy and forgiveness. The priest is to begin this portion of Mass by saying, “Brethren (brothers and sisters), let us acknowledge our sins, and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.”

This describes exactly what is happening during this portion of Mass, acknowledging our sinfulness and preparing ourselves to enter fully into the Mass, being prepared to receive God in the Word of the Lord and in the Body and Blood of Christ.

There are three options for the penitential act: the first had been referred to as the Confiteor, now simply referred to as the general confession. This is the “I confess to almighty God…” prayer. The second is rarely used, the priest says: “Have mercy on us, O Lord.” The people reply: “For we have sinned against you.” Then the priest says: “Show us, O Lord, your mercy.” And the people reply: “And grant us your salvation.” The third option is the one that is most commonly used. The priest uses some form of invocations, for example, “You were sent to heal the contrite of heart” followed by “Lord, have mercy” And the people echo by saying, “Lord, have mercy.” This is repeated with the response “Christ, have mercy” and repeated a third time with the response, “Lord, have mercy.”

Finally, for all three options, the priest finishes with a prayer of absolution, “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” To which people respond “Amen”.

In a sense, it is kind of like going to a mini-confession, asking God to forgive us our sins before we receive the Eucharist. It does not replace the sacrament of reconciliation; we should regularly go to confession, especially if we have committed a serious sin.

Since, unfortunately, your priest chooses to skip the penitential act, I would make a couple of suggestions to you. First, make sure you are going to the sacrament of reconciliation regularly, asking for God’s pardon and forgiveness. Secondly, I would suggest that you arrive to church a few minutes early and take your own time in prayer before Mass begins to pray and ask God’s mercy in your life.

Receiving the forgiveness of God in our life is a wonderful gift, let’s allow those blessings to flow upon us.   

(Fr. Herda, ordained in 1990, is pastor of St. Monica Parish, Whitefish Bay, and St. Eugene Parish, Fox Point. If you have a question you’ve always wanted to ask a priest, email it to ruscht@archmil.org and place “Ask Fr. Jerry” in the subject line.)