From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch: New Spielberg at the movies; children’s words gathered in touching book

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Jan. 16, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

On a recent Friday between Christmas and New Year’s I joined a packed house to see Steven Spielberg’s new caper Catch Me If You Can. It is an incredibly enjoyable confection based on a true story that took place in the mid-1960s. And yet there is a very serious undercoat of questions about the effect of divorce upon a 16-year-old son who loves his parents dearly.

The opening credits are a delight as we perceive in cartoon-form that the film is about a young man who pretends to be pilot, a doctor and a lawyer.

Leonardo DiCaprio carries the film with his perfect portrayal of Frank Abagnale Jr. As a 16-year-old boy who admires his father (Christopher Walken) very much, Frank has some of his same characteristics of pushing the truth beyond much sense of reality. One great scene early on shows Frank entering a public school wearing a blue blazer from the private school he previously attended. His mother (Nathalie Baye), who is from France, suggests he not wear it.

Some of the bigger male classmates start pushing him around and making fun of him. He walks into the classroom. Writes his name on the board. Calls the class to order. He tells the students he is their substitute teacher. He calls up one of the bullies to recite from the French lesson. As the bully struggles with his stammering French, Frank dismisses the real substitute teacher. He gets away with this for a week.

Suddenly in a dark and dramatic scene Prank is informed that his parents are getting divorced. He is told to go into the next room and write down on a legal document which parent he chooses to live with. Frank can’t make the choice. So he runs and there begins a life of conning others. We follow Frank trying to find a place to stay on his own, learning day by day how to counterfeit checks. With a sense of adventure and darkness Frank pushes the limits by obtaining a pilot’s uniform and claiming to be a pilot. Along the way he figures out how to write check after check on the account of Pan American World Airways.

As Frank’s criminal actions increase the FBI assigns the hardworking but dull agent Carl Hanratty (Tom Hanks) to lead the pursuit for justice. Over a period of five years the chase continues. Frank always adds a nice touch by calling his pursuer every Christmas eve. Along the way Frank switches to pretending he is a doctor overseeing a Florida emergency room. He seems to get away with it by asking the younger doctors in a case, “Do you concur?” His source of how to act like a doctor comes from watching the television series Doctor Kildare.

Then with some help from Perry Mason he shifts like a chameleon to being a lawyer.

During the height of his deception Frank meets with his father in a restaurant. He cries out, “Just tell me to stop.” Frank’s Dad is unable to say “Stop.” And we are not so sure Frank would stop.

Catch Me If You Can is beautifully directed by Spielberg. The story moves slowly at times and then moves very rapidly, like you are on a roller coaster.

Sometimes Frank wows us with his skill and luck at conning people. In the midst of stealing millions his sweet caring side comes through. You can’t help but identify with him, even though you know he is as wrong as sin and no family breakup justifies his actions.

DiCaprio could not be better as Frank W. Abagnale Jr. Tom Hanks, with a New England accent, perfectly plays the unrelenting pursuer who gets conned by Frank several times. Christopher Walken shows us clearly the connection between father and son.

There is no question in my mind that Catch Me If You Can is one of the year’s best movies.

Catch Me If You Can is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned). There is some strong language and mild sexual situations. The film is classified by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting as A-III – for adults.

*****

On the front page of The New York Times for Nov. 20, 2002 there was a powerful article about Religious Sisters from across the U.S. giving of their talents in education and medicine in the poor towns of the Mississippi Delta.

Several of the educators in the Delta town of Jonestown and the surrounding territory are Holy Names Sisters from the Spokane area. These Sisters offer educational experiences that open the world for young people. In the towns in which they work there are no Roman Catholics.

Ursuline Sister Bridget Haase has taught in the Appalachian hollows of the United States and the villages of Mexico. She has also taught in Sudan and Senegal. Sister Bridget has taught in American inner cities and exclusive suburbs.

In her charming new book, titled Well Said: Children’s Words of Wisdom (St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2002, Cincinnati, softcover, $14.95), she tells the stories of some of her students and shares the words and phrases they have taught her through the years.

Topics range from “Life and Poverty” to “Death and God.” She tells a story of two children as she starts each chapter. Then she hits us with memorable words of wisdom from the children she has taught.

In the section on Poverty she writes of Sulemon in Sudan, East Africa. He is one of 12,500 Ethiopians she ministered to in a refugee camp. In the midst of so much starvation Sulemon taught Bridget how to improvise with an empty powdered milk sack and an Oxfam plastic box. He taught her how to celebrate with music in the midst of devastation.

Mago, from a manicured suburban home in the Midwest, learned through a Global Awareness Week of other children beyond her world. She realized she was part of the problem facing children “over there.” She sought service possibilities at a homeless shelter in her own community. She began to observe her own purchasing and eating habits. She spoke to managers of department stores of their purchasing of clothing lines in relation to child labor practices. She began to think globally, beyond her small world of designer jeans and CDs.

Here are examples of some of the words of wisdom from the children:

“A perfect spring day is God’s way of reminding me that I’m tired of bowling.” — Ricardo, 12

“I can’t wait to go to my aunties’s for summer vacation. Do you think these are my ‘good old days’?” — Hans, 6

“I wish I could live like I was a hundred, instead of just seven. Then I could relax and get ‘Meals on Wheels.’” — Kirby, 7

“I learned how to buy a dog. When you go to the pet store in the mall, you don’t get the puppy that runs up and licks you all over. You watch the one in the back that’s looking at you. You shouldn’t make friends too fast.” — Libby, 8

“Sit on your mommy’s lap while you can. You’ll miss it when you’re old.” — Twaina, 7

“You better watch out when you fight with your sister. When you get to be 90, she might be all you got.” — Sergio, 8

“It’s a job being six. You gotta’ grow up to be seven, and I don’t know nothin’ about it.” — Elsie, 8

“What Jesus said to Martha was simple: ‘Have faith in me and forget the housework.’” — Mindy, 10

For a book that is filled with hope in the midst of a broken world, you can’t go wrong with Well Said by Sister Bridget Haase.

(Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer for the Diocese of Spokane and pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, Cheney. His reviews also appear in the Cheney Free Press.)


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