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


Coming to theaters: a ‘human interest, pro-life film,’ and from the bookshelf, a new view of Confession

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the March 15, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

Shrove Tuesday evening I attended a preview of the upcoming film October Baby. It is rare that I see a movie before it comes out in the normal distribution pattern. The film is scheduled to be released on Friday, March 23 at the AMC in Spokane and the Regal in Coeur d’ Alene. I assume it is being released by the independent film distributer Samuel Goldwyn the same day in Walla Walla and the Tri-Cities.

October Baby comes out of the Christian film movement from the South. It is a human interest, pro-life film that tells the story of a 19-year-old college freshman who after a series of health problems discovers that she is the adopted survivor of an attempted abortion. Hannah (Rachel Hendrix) is angry at her adopted parents, played by John Schneider and Jennifer Prince, for not telling her sooner. So Hannah, against the advice of her father, goes on a road trip to New Orleans with friends including Jason (Jason Burley) and his girlfriend. But Hannah really wants to stop off in Mobile, Alabama and find her birth mother. Through a series of events she finds the nurse familiar with her story, played by Jasmine Guy.

The film has overtones of romantic comedy, road trip, and serious melodrama. It does have humor in the midst of a very serious subject. The film seems particularly directed at teens and young adults. Some of the plot points are a bit of a stretch. For example, Jason and Hannah invade a deserted hospital where Hannah was probably born and end up in jail where they meet a very kind policeman who just happens to know the nurse that was involved in Hannah’s birth.

Generally the acting is good. Some of the characters are very well portrayed. The film is obviously a labor of love by directors Andrew and John Erwin. The movie would certainly be a strong choice for church youth groups. Adult leaders may want to see it first, but it should be appropriate for high school age students.

Near the end of the film Hannah finds herself in a Catholic cathedral telling her story to a Catholic priest. Hannah tells him she is a Baptist (although a minor point is that she has been wearing a traditional Catholic medal for parts of the film.) The priest responds with care, quoting Scripture in terms of the call to forgive.

October Baby is a thoughtful and emotive film. I hope it will find the audience it deserves.

October Baby is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America – parents strongly cautioned because of mature theme. Catholic News Service has not yet released a rating for the film. I would hope it would be A-II – for adolescents and adults.

*****

I recently enjoyed seeing the family movie Big Miracle. The story is about several trapped whales in frozen waters near Point Barrow, Alaska back in the late ’80s. It is based on a true story and uses quite a few minutes of nightly newscasts of the time with people like Tom Brokow. To be honest, I don’t remember the event, but it obviously got lots of publicity at the time.

Adam (John Krasinski) is an Alaskan TV journalist up at Barrow to do a series of human interest stories. As he is about to return to Fairbanks he takes a series of pictures of three whales caught in a relatively small open water section surrounded by ice. To top it off there has developed an ice wall some miles away that prevent the whales from escaping underwater. Adam’s video makes it to NBC in New York, where several producers suggest putting it on the Nightly News since Tom Brokow loves stories about whales.

Rachel (Drew Barrymore) is a fiery activist for Greenpeace who challenges the native population not to use the whales for food but to find some way to help the whales make it to the open sea.

The White House and the Russians even get together to try to find a solution to the whale conundrum. The Alaskan Air National Guard and pipeline entrepreneurs also make an effort to save the mammals. There are lots of computer-generated scenes in the movie.

But the story comes alive in the coming together of the small community of Barrow, Native and white, that find a way to move the whales closer to the ice wall. There the story depends heavily on a Russian ice breaker.

Big Miracle is in the tradition of the old live-action Walt Disney pictures of the ’50s through the ’70s. It won’t win film awards. But it is good old-fashioned film entertainment.

Big Miracle is rated PG – Parental Guidance – by the Motion Picture Association of America and A-II – for adolescents and adults – by Catholic News Service.

*****

The second-prize winner at last May’s Cannes Film Festival recently played to a sold-out house at the Magic Lantern in Spokane as part of the Spokane International Film Festival. The film is Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan. The stark beauty of rural Turkey is a key part of the film. The countryside is a cross between the land below Ritzville on the way to Pasco and the rolling verdant hills of the Palouse.

This movie is a detective thriller that is one of the slowest movies of its genre you will ever see. But it is interesting and beautiful filmed. The three police vehicles crossing the winding roads of the Turkish countryside, and the young woman serving tea to the police guests at an out of the way village where the power is out and candles are the light, are unforgettable scenes.

Two prisoners are being taken to where one says the body of a man he killed is buried. The group includes a doctor, a prosecutor, a computer recorder, a police chief, and some military types. The discussions between the various members of the group as they go from one possible crime scene to another are revealing of the inner lives of the men.

The body is eventually found and an autopsy takes place that adds to the complications of the story.

The film is in Turkish and not rated.

Book Reviews

Catholic layman Paul Wilkes has a small 133-page book that breaks new ground by bringing together from different traditions including Catholicism a spirituality based on Confession. The book is titled The Art of Confession: Renewing Yourself through the Practice of Honesty. It is published in hardcover by Workman Publishing of New York for a list price of $18.95.

Wilkes’s book fits well with the new movie Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close when the 11-year-old main character asks for forgiveness from an adult who gives “absolution.”

One strong theme of the book is that we live in a world of celebrities and social media where a great deal of one’s life is out in public, but at the same time institutions that helped us in the past such as government, church, and family are weakened in their attempts to help us deal with our daily guilts, big and small.

So Wilkes goes back to the origin of Confession and makes a distinction between apology and confession. He then reaches into the traditions of Jewish thought and the Catholic Church while writing of the reality of the Protestant Reformation. Also throughout the book are less-than-a-page short writings of rabbis, nuns, priests, and medical professionals.

When I was in the seminary back 50 years ago the daily Particular Examen before lunch was a struggle. Wilkes sees this older tradition as having a richness that can be practical and extremely helpful. He calls it “praying backward through the day.” He gives a list of ways of praying backward. Slow reading and praying with this section might open some new doors in this whole area of confession and honesty.

Near the end of the book is a helpful section on “Confessing: How, What, to Whom, Where (and When Not to).” He says Confession’s three Rs are risk, relief, and renewal. The Art of Confession may be particularly helpful for an adult or older teen who has dropped out of sacramental Confession for whatever reason. Wilkes helps us see the importance of Confession in our lives in the broadest of senses and may well lead an individual back to the Catholic Church’s gift of the sacrament of Confession. The book is filled with helpful ideas and practices for anyone interested in spiritual direction or growth in the life of the Spirit.

*****

One of my favorite religious books of the last 15 years is Oblate Father Ronald Rolheiser’s 1999 book The Holy Longing. This is a book that should be in every parish library. Parish book clubs should put it on their list if they haven’t already read it. Its deep emphasis on the Incarnation is wonderful and even life-changing. The great parable by G.K. Chesterton on touching the body of Christ is worth the price of admission.

But sadly, Father Rolheiser’s new book, Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist is not in the same class. The new book was published in hardcover in 2011 by Doubleday for a list price of $18.

Our One Great Act of Fidelity is only 135 pages long and there are several blank pages that are counted. It is a good simple overview of Eucharist including sections on meal, sacrifice, Paschal Mystery, and Body of Christ. It also has three famous sermons on the Eucharist by St. Augustine that are included in the above pagination. The sermons are helpful. They include such memorable lines as, “If you have received this (Body and Blood of Christ) well, you are what you have received” and “When you received the fire of the Holy Spirit, it was if you were baked.”

There are several fine stories that set the stage for the various short chapters. Near the end of the book is a section called “A Spirituality of the Eucharist: Receive, Give Thanks, Break, Share.” This is the best part of the book and can be used by rereading for prayer and reflection.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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