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:
‘Quest’ is ‘very helpful for prayer’; Clooney shines as corporate hit-man in ‘Up in the Air’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the Feb. 25, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

Maybe a year or so ago a Holy Names Sister passed on to me a copy of Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson’s classic work of theology, Quest for the Living God: Mapping Frontiers in the Theology of God. The book is published by Continuum of New York. Sister Elizabeth is a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph. Quest’s initial date of publication is 2007 and the list price in hardcover is $24.95.

I read the book slowly and found portions of it very helpful for prayer. I marvel at Sister Elizabeth’s ability to have read so widely and then take that experience and make it understandable for the average reader. Here in one book is a compendium of the different facets of Christian theology throughout the 20th century.

In light of the painful experience of the Second World War I found Johnson’s section on “The Crucified God of Compassion” particularly powerful and thoughtful.

Her discussion of various forms of Liberation Theology and theology from a woman’s point of view is challenging and clarifying. Her section titled “Generous God of Religions” brought home how much we can learn from other traditions as our own tradition is strengthened by the dialogue.

The ending chapters on the Spirit and the Trinity bring new life into familiar explanations of the mystery of God.

I am told that one parish staff had the opportunity to read this book. What a great idea! Sister Elizabeth’s Quest for the Living God is not the typical book club book, but the right group would find it mind-opening and a wonderful experience.

DVD Review

Paraclete Press has a new DVD on the lives of seven priests, titled The Priestly Vocation: An Invitation to Life. It is available at a list price of $49.99 online at or 1-800-451-5006.

We meet seven diocesan and order priests, from a Boston pastor who is also chaplain to the Boston Firefighters to a Franciscan visual artist who teaches in Chicago. There is a theologian who heads an ecumenical school of theology in Chicago. There is a Benedictine teacher and a Franciscan who has been a missionary in China. One of the priests is a Hispanic priest in a large city parish.

So we have a varied group of priests who tell their stories of why they are priests and what their lives are like. All the priests have been ordained over 20 years. I would have thought there might be a priest or two ordained for 10 or 15 years. Also, the priests seem to be all from the East Coast, especially the New England area, and Chicago. It would have been great to have some priests from the South and the West. This is a big country.

The Eucharist stood out as key in most of the priests’ dialogue. The priest as servant for social justice or prophet was not emphasized. The main stress was on the priest as a man of prayer. The priest is seen as a sacramental minister, teacher, and connecter to parishioners or students.

The film is 73 minutes in length and would be a fine addition to any library at a seminary, vocations office, retreat house, or large parish. It would be very helpful to be shown to a group like the Serra Club over several meetings.

Movie Reviews

The Young Victoria is a beautifully filmed story of Queen Victoria before she becomes Queen of England in 1837 and the early years of her reign with Albert, the Prince Consort.

The young Victoria is played with grace by Emily Blunt, who first burst on the movie scene as the rather vicious assistant of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. She plays a Victoria, who is caught in a chess game between relatives and politicians who are trying to take her power or use it for their own purposes.

Prince Albert is played with persistence by Rupert Friend. He is her German cousin who is being supported by their uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann). But as the story progresses Albert falls in love with Victoria and is not about to do just what his uncle wants.

Albert eventually wins Victoria, but it takes some time for him to find his place as more than just her husband who walks behind her a few steps. There is a scene where Albert valiantly saves his beloved’s life from gunfire. Some state that this goes well beyond historical fact. The two principal actors do seem to ignite a certain chemistry in their characters’ young love.

The story is one that is rather less than action-packed, but for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, the film gives a flavor for life in the early Victorian period. It clearly shows the struggles that even a woman who seemingly has everything at that time must face as she matures into adulthood.

If you enjoy a good costume drama, The Young Victoria is a joy. The film is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested).


In the film Up in the Air George Clooney does an excellent job of acting as a corporate hit-man named Ryan Bingham, who is called in to fire employees at companies across the United States. He seems to revel in traveling as an elite flyer for over 300 days a year. His own apartment appears almost more transitory than the hotels in which he spends most of his life.

The company he works for brings in a new member named Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who seeks to change the business by doing the firing over computer screens, thus saving the company vast sums of travel money. Ryan objects mightily. He takes Natalie on a tour to different parts of the country to show her how he handles his difficult task in person. In the process, both Ryan and Natalie begin to appreciate each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

There is a meeting as well with a fellow traveler, Alex (Vera Farmiga). The two of them hit it off as they compare the various airline award cards that each have. Ryan’s goal is to achieve 10 million air miles.

As Ryan sees his future may be destroyed by computer screens, and at least slightly wonders if his life has any connection or meaning, he reaches out to Alex. This is key to the story and some surprises unfold.

Co-writer and director Jason Reitman has given us what looks at first like a traditional romantic comedy, but soon it becomes a commentary on the life of high flyers today. Can you appear to have the world at your feet and be empty inside? That is the question that Up in the Air asks.

Up in the Air is a haunting meditation; “What is life really all about?”

The Motion Picture Association of America rates Up in the Air R-for language and some sexual content. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting rates the film L-Limited adult audience. The film has problematic content many adults would find troubling.

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