Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

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:
‘Constant Gardener’ in theaters; ‘Fumbling’ at bookstores

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 29, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Review

It’s been several months since I have come out of a movie and thought to myself, or said to someone, “That was a really good movie, both entertaining and thought-provoking.”

The new thriller The Constant Gardener, from the novel by John Le Carre, feels like a long-lost friend. It is truly enjoyable. It is a fast-moving story that holds your attention throughout. And if you haven’t read the book, it has numerous surprises. For me, The Constant Gardener was like a ride on a roller coaster. With fine acting and beautiful pictures of epic proportions, The Constant Gardener is a story to remember.

Justin Quayle (Ralph Fiennes) is a mild-mannered British diplomat who meets a beautiful woman, Tessa (Rachel Weisz) at a meeting in London, where she challenges him publicly on all aspects of a boring speech he has just given in the name of a higher official in government service. Instead of being angry, Justin is attracted to Tessa. They begin a loving relationship and marriage that leads them to Kenya, where Justin is a British official who loves his beautiful garden, and Tessa begins her role of an activist for native African rights. Tessa travels the country with a Belgian doctor of African ancestry, Arnold Bluhm (Hubert Kounde). Together they fight for the poor, which she keeps separate from her communication with her husband.

From the beginning, we know that Tessa has been killed near a large lake in Kenya by men in a Range Rover. The excitement of the film lies in Justin finally coming to understand what Tessa was fighting for. He decides to get to the bottom of her death and the death of Dr. Bluhm.

Justin’s journey takes him through local governmental sources to the big wigs in London itself. He travels to Berlin and Sudan as he slowly uncovers a conspiracy with roots in business and government.

Throughout his journey of breaking through a horrendous conspiracy, Justin moves from being a passive gardener to an aggressive follower of the truth that was once his wife’s, and now has become his own.

Jeffrey Caine’s wonderful script comes alive in the hands of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles. Incredible documentary-like photos of Africa emphasize the colors blue and red. The story is complicated, but makes sense with a series of flashbacks and foreshadowings.

Ralph Fiennes is perfect in the role of the quiet Justin who, after the death of his wife, becomes a fireball. Rachel Weisz is beautiful and gutsy as the wife of a diplomat who has her own separate agenda. The supporting cast is first-rate. They continually add to the mystery.

I hope the beautifully-filmed The Constant Gardener is the beginning of a fall season of quality films that will draw people back to theaters.

The Constant Gardener received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America, for scenes of sexuality, brief nudity and violence. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates The Constant Gardener A-III – adults.

Book Review

When I left St. Rose of Lima Parish at the end of June a parishioner gave me a new book, titled Fumbling - A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief, and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago, by Kerry Egan (Doubleday, hardcover, 2004, $22.95).

Well, I can tell you it is one of the best religious books I have ever read. Kerry Egan, raised Catholic and a graduate of Harvard Divinity School, struggles with the death of her father. She decides to make the ancient pilgrimage across the Pyrenees Mountains, into Spain from France. The journey across the top of Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where the remains of the Apostle St. James are said to be buried, goes back to the Middle Ages. In the last 50 years it has come alive as a destination journey for people from all over the world. As a matter of fact, Father Kevin Codd, a priest of our diocese now serving as rector of the American College in Louvain, Belgium, told me several years ago of the incredible experience he had when he made the Camino.

Egan dramatically tells of her spiritual journey with her eventual husband, Alex. She spends less time on the actual step-by-step pilgrimage across Spain than I would have thought. Sometimes she becomes very humanly self-centered. But she is absolutely first-rate when she takes a topic many writers would avoid, and in the tradition of Kathleen Norris, gives new meaning to an old teaching.

For example, in her section on relics – one of the reasons for the Protestant Reformation – she writes that they are about our connection to the body of the saint, Christ, and ourselves. She argues that the cult of relics was a challenge to the neo-Platonic split of body and soul. Relics remind us that the body and the soul are together. The relic points to the resurrection of the body. The body is not the enemy of the soul; body and soul need each other.

She also takes on indulgences and stretches our understanding of an historically difficult reality. She is particularly strong on a review of veneration of Mary as she passes the many statues of the Mother of God along the Camino de Santiago.

But it is the death of her father that becomes a central focus of her pilgrimage. We listen to her interior story of the past and how it affects her now in anger and loss.

Her boyfriend, Alex, is the calming best friend of the journey who is walking with her, not understanding what is going on but doing it out of love. His strong and calm center holds Kerry together time and time again.

But it is Kerry’s willingness to show her broken humanity that makes this book so powerful for a reader.

The ending, in wonder in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, with the giant botafumeiro incense burner spreading incense, swinging high in the cathedral, is memorable.

Kerry and Alex now live in Iowa. Naturally, much of the extraordinary spiritual adventure of the pilgrimage has faded. But Kerry Egan reminds us to appreciate our walks near Deer Lake, in the Wallowas, or Manito Park. Something surprising may happen to us as we walk, play and pray close to home.

Media News

  • Poor Clare Sister Patricia Proctor’s new book on priests is out in large-style paperback at a very reasonable $12.95. The book is titled 101 Inspirational Stories of the Priesthood. People from all over the country and several foreign countries have sent her their favorite stories about priests. The forward is by Father Darrin Connall, Vocations Director of Spokane Diocese, and the opening story is by Bishop William Skylstad.

  • The Poor Clares of Spokane hope to begin a Catholic radio station in Spokane by October of this year, at AM 970. The station would include the radio programming of Mother Angelica’s Eternal Word Television Network, plus local programming. If you would like more information or would like to be a part of this apostolate, call 1-800-949-1050 or e-mail

    (Father Caswell is Ecumenical Relations Officer and archivist for the Diocese of Spokane, and a frequent contributor to this publication.)

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