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:
‘My Life with the Saints,’ ‘Home of the Brave’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 24, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

In the last few months I believe I have heard Jesuit Father James Martin several times on National Public Radio giving engagingly written essays on St. Valentine’s Day and Easter. He spoke with sophistication and learning in a way that I have long hoped some Church leader would speak on radio and television. I would rate his efforts A+.

In his very accessible new book, titled My Life with the Saints, Father Martin combines the very popular personal memoir with the lives of 16 saints from the initial years of the Church up to our own time.

What surprised me is that the cool, cerebral Father Martin exhibits in several places in his wonderful book a strong streak of piety. There are a couple of saints in my life I would have liked to have read sections of the book, for they personally were very uncomfortable which such open piety. I would have liked to hear their comments. I do not doubt the sincerity of Father Martin or my deceased friends. The piety of My Life with the Saints may well help it reach a wider audience of readers.

An example of Father Martin’s piety is given in the concluding chapter, where he speaks of what he was trying to do in writing a book on saints for contemporary readers. He tells the story of Stephen, a playwright he has been helping with on an off-Broadway play. Stephen is a lapsed Catholic who had a feel for questions of faith in his new play on Judas Iscariot and in his own life. In the play, various saints appear as “expert witnesses” at a trial of Judas in purgatory. One of the witnesses is a streetwise St. Monica, who says she is the nag who kept after her son, Augustine. She proclaims that without her harping, we wouldn’t have the great Church father. She urges the audience to seek her intercession because she gets results.

Well, after the play closed, Father Martin had Mass for some of the cast members. He hoped his friend Stephen would come. Stephen had not been to Mass for some time. But the Sunday of the Mass, Stephen called to say that water was leaking into his apartment and no one could fix it until the Mass time. Father Martin says he will pray to Monica and does so. He lit a few candles for good measure. At the Church, by cell phone Father Martin hears that Stephen must stay in his flooding apartment. Then Father Martin lights a candle before a statue of St. Aloysius. There is a final call in which Father Martin asks if there have been any miracles yet. At that point, Stephen says he found the leak in a radiator and has turned it off himself and will come to the Mass. And Stephen received Communion.

Personally, I especially enjoyed the chapters on Thomas Aquinas, Peter the Apostle and the Ugandan Martyrs. Throughout the stories of the saints we learn how the various saints touched Father Martin’s life. And we learn about Father Martin’s personal journey, particularly the years of preparation to become a Jesuit. Father Martin spent time in a hospice for the sick and dying in Jamaica, with gang members in Chicago, a prison in Boston, and a refugee program in Kenya. So the journey of Father Martin’s life becomes challenging and inspiring for any reader.

At the end of the book, Father Martin has an excellent selection of books for further reading, listing the works he used as the foundation of his chapters. It is a critical biography that is very helpful.

Following the Book List, Father Martin has questions that could be used in any parish reading or educational group. When this book is out in paperback it will be ideal for parish groups. Right now, My Life with the Saints (Loyola Press, Chicago, 2006) is available in hardcover at $22.95.

Movie Review

At a recent late Friday morning first showing of the filmed-in-Spokane MGM movie Home of the Brave, I was introduced to one of the local actors of the film, Ginger Ewing of Cheney. Ewing played, with feeling, the girlfriend of returning African American soldier Jamal Aiken (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson), who holds her character hostage at the Dutch Brothers Coffee Shop in downtown Spokane.

For anyone who lives in the Spokane area or visits the city on a regular basis, Home of the Brave is well worth seeing for the wide variety of views of the city, from the Monroe Street Bridge to the overlook of the city from the South Hill. Ferris High School, Fairmont Cemetery and Spokane Valley Stadium 12 play major place roles in the film.

We are probably too close to the ongoing Iraq War for a memorable film at this time. Because the film centers on the physical and mental damage to soldiers, it recalls the classic 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. In that film, Academy Award-winner Harold Russell, a real-life double amputee, poignantly played a young soldier adjusting to life in post-war America.

Recently Turner Classic Movies screened Marion Brando’s first film, from 1950, directed by Fred Zinnermann, where Brando skillfully played a veteran in a military hospital learning how to live a full life with his spinal injuries.

In Home of the Brave, the fine young actress Jessica Biel plays Vanessa Price, a single mother adjusting to being a single amputee. The problem is the difficulties are belabored with a long scene on unbuttoning her uniform with one hand and dropping boxes and basketballs. The competition from previous films is too great.

Samuel L. Jackson plays a military surgeon who comes back home to cope by drinking. Another soldier, Tommy Yates (Brian Presley), brings his anger to dangerous driving and smashing cars in his dad’s auto repair shop. The melodrama tries too hard in simplistic shorthand to bring home the damage done to those returning home and the possible solutions. The film asks all the right questions but tries too hard to cover all the bases. It also tries to take a really fair and balanced view toward the ongoing war. A strong point of view would have given Home of the Brave more power and intensity.

The film is a noble failure. But if you live in what we used to call the Inland Empire, Home of the Brave will make a good choice to see Spokane looking very good. And also it is a film to see lots of local actors acting their hearts out.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Home of the Brave R – Restricted, because of language, adult situations and violence. As of press time, the Office for Film and Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Bishops had not yet issued a classification for the film. I would guess it would be rated for adults, or Limited.

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