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
Terrific films from Netherlands, Denmark; new book asks (and answers), ‘Why Stay Catholic?’

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the June 9, 2011 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Reviews

Michael Leach, who is editor-at-large and publisher emeritus of Orbis Books and long-time book editor, has published a new book through Loyola Press titled Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question. The book in large-size paperback has a list price of $14.95.

Leach writes with an easy-going accessible style that speaks of the gifts of the Catholic Church that he has discovered in his life. So the book has overtones of memoir and very much seeks to give some answers to questions some Catholics might be having today. I don’t think it is a book you just hand to a person who has drifted from the Church, but it would be a good book to have on a coffee table if that person were visiting you. Maybe your friend or relative might pick it up and ask to borrow it.

The book is divided into three parts. The first is titled “Ideas.” It has short chapters on themes from “The Sacramental Imagination” to “God Finds Us When We Least Expect Him.” The themes are in the vein of some of the writings of Father Andrew Greeley and Oblate Father (and IR columnist) Ronald Rolheiser. There are lots of very fine short quotations throughout that would be a gold mine for any preacher or religion teacher.

Amidst all the wonderful sections on hope, forgiveness and new life, Leach does include the Cross. Particularly poignant are paragraphs on his wife Vickie’s struggle with an eye accident and, later in life, Alzheimer’s.

The second part of the book is called “People.” Here we have 15 Catholics that Leach has known through the years, from Sister Thea Bowman to Dorothy Day and Antoinette Bosco. Writer Antoinette Bosco’s story is heart-breaking and filled with forgiveness as she faces the suicide of a son in his 20s and the murder of her daughter and son-in-law by a robber.

There is a Spokane connection with a chapter on Mitch Finley, whose books were edited by Michael for years.

The final section of the book is on “Places.” These are Catholic places that draw us to the Church. He includes chapters on Old St. Patrick’s Parish in downtown Chicago, Catholic Charities, Catholic Schools and the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

Why Stay Catholic? is a book that reminds us of all that connects us to the human and divine in a sometimes glorious and wounded Church. On top of it there are lots of stories and quotes that would be very helpful for prayer. It is a gift for us today.

*****

Orbis Press of Maryknoll, N.Y., has a wonderful collection of books titled “Modern Spiritual Masters Series.” Each book includes large portions of the writings of the particular spiritual writer with biographical comments and textual helps by an editor who is well familiar with the particular author. Writings in the series range from Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Anthony de Mello and Edith Stein to Flannery O’Connor.

Frank Sheed & Maisie Ward: Spiritual Writings is one of the newest books in the series. It was published in 2010 and has a list price for a large-size paperback of $20.

Maisie Ward was from an old-line Catholic British family. She met her eventual husband from Australia, Frank Sheed, at the Speakers’ Corner in downtown London. They both spoke for the Catholic Truth Society, especially in the 1940s and the 1950s. They learned how to deal with people who interrupted and heckled them while they were speaking on the value of understanding and believing in Catholicism. This was a time when there was anti-Catholic prejudice and speaking before the crowds at Speakers’ Corner took lots of commitment.

The result was they eventually formed the publishing house Sheed and Ward, that published many of the great religious books of that period. In the process Frank wrote many books and Maisie wrote many monographs and essays. Throughout their lives they were seen as evangelists and committed to the growing “lay apostolate.” Frank’s writings are learned and take on the key beliefs of the Catholic faith in an organized way. As the apologetical approach has returned in recent years, many may find his earlier writings right on target. Maisie is the more concrete daily-life writer. Maisie loved history and art, which permeates her writings.

An example of Maisie speaking about a very fallible Church is: “St. Cyprian’s remarks about Pope St. Stephen’s ‘arrogant claims, irrelevancies and inconsistencies,’ St. Jerome’s abusiveness – he describes St. Ambose as ‘an ugly crow’ who had ‘decked himself out in peacock’s feathers,’ Rufinus as a ‘hydra-headed monster,’ the colorful details of the quarrel between St. Leo the Great and St. Hilary of Ares, are often played down. St. Bernard of Clairvaux said of William of York that he was ‘rotten from the crown of his head to the soles of his feet’ – but William was canonized too.”

Maisie later in life wrote: “My father used to tell of an old and a young man talking about death. The old man was speaking of some horrible accident that had hurried into eternity a group of boys and girls. The young man retorted cheerfully, ‘Very sad Sir, but the young may die, the old must.’”

The editor of this book is David Meconi, a Jesuit priest from St. Louis University.

Movie Reviews

The Dutch entry to the Academy Awards for best foreign film was Martin Koolhoven’s World War drama of a 13-year-old boy coming of age in the midst of great family tragedy. The film was titled Winter in Wartime. It recently played at the AMC in Spokane and will be out on DVD toward the end of July.

It is January of 1945 and young Michiel (Martijn Lakemeier) seeks souvenirs from a downed bomber. Through a series of rather complicated events young Michiel finds himself discovering a wounded British airman named Jack. He begins to help the airman in his hiding place and even involving his sister, a nurse, in treating Jack’s badly wounded leg.

Michiel resents his Dad, who is mayor of the small village and is trying to keep the Nazis semi-happy and prevent as many deaths as possible. There is an uncle who arrives on the scene who is a Resistance fighter. He shares a room with Michiel.

The film gets very intense as Michiel seems to push the boundaries of his own and his family’s safety. To enjoy the film it is best not to ask too many questions. You can’t help but believe that Michiel in the real world would be caught in some of his dangerous endeavors by all the Nazi soldiers that seem to be everywhere.

One poignant scene is when Michiel’s Dad (Raymond Thiry) helps his son learn how to shave with a straight-edge razor.

For anyone who assumes Holland is a very small country filled with people, the large expanses of forests are impressive and a surprise.

Winter in Wartime at times seems a little too unbelievable with all its plot twists and the luck of Michiel. But for anyone who enjoys this period of history Winter in Wartime is well worth seeing.

It is hard to see why the film is rated R for language. Maybe the cuss words didn’t get translated into English.

The Film is rated by the Motion Picture Association of America R-Restricted because of language. Catholic News Service has not yet rated the film.

*****

Some months back there was a news article that said a survey showed that the happiest people on the Earth lived in Denmark. Well, the Academy Award Best Foreign Picture of this year would certainly suggest that just like any place in the world there can be a very sad and dark side to the rural areas of Denmark.

The Best Foreign Film (sadly, Of Gods and Men (“Media Watch,” IR 5/19/11) was not even accepted for nomination from France) is titled In a Better World. The Danish title is Haevnen, which translates directly into English as Revenge.

For me, some of the realistic violent scenes at an outdoor hospital in Kenya are too much. And the psychological and real violence back in pacific Denmark are excessive. So, adults: be warned.

That being said, In a Better World is a challenging moral story on the question of revenge. Does it bring about the famous word closure, or a sense of justice?

Anton (Mikael Persbrandt), a Swedish doctor living in Denmark, works for Doctors Without Borders in Kenya. He sees incredible illness and violence and is a powerful healer. Anton is often gone from his family. His wife is separated from him and seeking a divorce. Their middle-school son, Elias (Markus Rygaard) misses his Dad and is picked on at school in horrible ways. A new student, Christian (William Johnk Nielsen), arrives from London after his mother has died of cancer. He lives with his father, whom he blames for not caring enough about his mother’s death in a beautiful castle-like home. His father is often gone on business to London.

Christian, using excessive violence and possessing a knife at school, defends Elias against terrible bullies. While Anton is home with the boys a mechanic slaps him brutally while the boys watch. Anton seeks later to confront the mechanic with the boys in a non-violent way to show that violence is not the answer. But Christian with his pent-up anger seeks to involve Elias in a plan to cause great damage to the mechanic’s car.

Meanwhile, on his various times in Kenya, Anton, who seeks to show the value of nonviolence, finds himself treating a warlord who has violently wounded and killed countless pregnant women. None of the Africans will help him. As the warlord prepares to eventually leave, he makes horrible statements about a woman Anton has done everything to save, but has just died. Anton throws the warlord out of the hospital compound and the men and women from the community attack and probably kill him as Anton, the peacemaker, watches.

So in both parts of his life Anton faces violence and tries to respond non-violently, but vengeance affects him and his family.

The moral dilemmas are strikingly acted out. The film does end on a positive note, but there is lots of painful melodrama getting there.

The acting is superb. The story at times seems a little forced to fit the dilemmas.

In Denmark the film was too popular to win the Danish version of an Academy Award. In the U.S. In a Better World is definitely an art theater film. For the person who likes a challenging film and can take the violence or shut his or her eyes this is a film you will want to talk about and long remember.

The film is rated R-Restricted by the Motion Picture Association of America. It has realistic violence and strong language that is translated in the subtitles. Catholic News Service has not yet rated the film.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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