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
Jesuit’s new book recounts ‘Judas’ theater experience; at the cineplex, ‘3:10 to Yuma’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 4, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

Jesuit Father James Martin, who recently wrote the best-seller My Life with the Saints, has come out with a new book which sounds like a narrow area of interest. The book is titled A Jesuit-Off-Broadway. It is a broad discussion of the Catholic faith within the confines of Father Martin being the theological advisor to an off-Broadway play that centered on Judas and many saints and historical figures. The play was called The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, by Stephen Adly Guirgis (“Jesuit helps doctor off-Broadway production: “You regard (artists) with a sense of awe,”’ IR 9/13/07).

The talented actor Sam Rockwell, who was scheduled to play Judas in the production, contacted Father Martin, first to ask him to be an advisor to the play. So Father Martin said “yes” and the reader walks with him on a long journey of the creative process combined with a Latino Theater company called LAByrinth and the struggle of different actors trying to understand and correctly portray the saints they were to play. All of this combines with the actors’ own search for God and meaning.

The real-life story of the how a play comes together and its effect on those putting it on as well as eventually on the audience is a fascinating story in itself. But to it Father Martin adds a simple explanation of the early heresies in the Church (one of the best I have ever read) and the outline of a possible Bible Study.

Father Martin becomes totally invested in the production. He worries how his Jesuit brothers and other friends will react to it.

The theatrical production revolves around the guilt and punishment of Judas. Various saints, such as Monica, Mary Magdalene, and the Apostles, come forward before a judge to debate the action of Judas against Jesus.

The play begins with Judas’s mother, Henrietta, crying out, “No parent should have to bury a child ... No mother should have to bury a son. Mothers are not meant to bury sons ... I discovered his body alone. I dug his grave alone, I placed him in a hole and covered him with dirt and rock alone ... I begrudge God none of this. I do not curse him or bemoan my lot. And though my heart keeps beating only to keep breaking – I do not question why. I remember the morning my son was born as if it was yesterday.”

In the final scene, Jesus, played by John Ortiz, speaks to Judas about forgiveness and love.

Father James Martin is a wonderful writer who pulls us into an intriguing story that plays like a roller coaster ride. On the way he beautifully teaches us much about the teaching of the Catholic Church with an openness to people of all faiths or no faith who are telling them their story as he becomes a pastor to a diverse group of talented actors.

A Jesuit Off-Broadway may not be the best-seller similar to his My Life with the Saints, but in lots of ways it connects with the previous book and it is a book to remember.

A Jesuit Off-Broadway is available at $22.95. It is published by Loyola Press. An advertisement in Commonweal magazine says that if you order from the publisher before Oct. 22 there is a 30 percent discount. You are asked to mention code 2359. Shipping and handling are additional. I assume you just go to Loyola Press on the internet.

Movie Review

Growing up in St. Patrick Parish in Walla Walla, I may well have seen the original version of the film 3:10 to Yuma, with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin, at the old Liberty Theater in 1957. But other than knowing that the plot centers on the good guy getting the bad guy on time to the train that will deliver the prisoner to the heavily guarded prison, the plot of the new 2007 version of the film has surprises all the way.

The Western has not been popular in movies and television for many a year. And yet it is the truly American genre that often has layered overtones about the American psyche. 3:10 to Yuma is a superbly acted film that stands out with several actors worthy of Academy Award nominations.

Christian Bale plays Dan Evans, a farmer struggling on drought-invested land where everything he sought for his family is slipping through his hands. His wife (Gretchen Mol) is cold to him. His oldest son (Logan Lerman) sees only his Dad’s weaknesses and is almost cruel to him. To top it off, he is handicapped with damaged leg from the Civil War that makes even walking difficult.

Into Evans’s Arizona world comes the sadistically violent gang of Ben Wade (Russell Crowe), who early in the film attack and rob the stage guarded by the Pinkertons with a Gatling-type gun. When Wade is captured in a nearby town, the issue becomes, who will get Wade safely to where the railroad passes through at 3:10 p.m. on its way to Yuma? Evans volunteers to be part of the team, for which the Southern Pacific Railroad will eventually pay him $200. With that $200 he will be able to save the ranch and gain his family back. But getting Wade to the railway station is running against all odds.

3:10 to Yuma is filled with violence. This viewer had his eyes closed several times. But the movie is fascinating because of the surprises that happen in the choices of the two main characters. There is some good in the outlaw, Wade, and there some real darkness in the good rancher who is just trying to save his family. The dramatic and heart-pounding end of the film is memorable.

Christian Bale is becoming one of our best actors. We already know that Russell Crowe is a great actor, even though some of his recent films have tanked at the box office. Crowe makes Ben Wade into a fascinating study of an evil man who respects the principles of his captor. Ben Foster (Six Feet Under) plays Wade’s loyal right-hand man. His over-the-top performance is extraordinary. Talk about someone eating up the scenery and still not becoming absurd!

Director James Mangold of Walk the Line fame has taken a story that has been done well before and makes it come alive for a new generation. In Mangold’s hands, the American Western still has lots of enjoyment and meaning for today’s moviegoer.

3:10 to Yuma is rated by the Motion Picture Association of America as R-restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian) because of violence and language. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates it A-III – for adults.

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


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