Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



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Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302


Media Watch
A mystery wrapped in history: ‘Foyle’s War’ on PBS; new book on clergy and congregations facing death and dying

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the October 18, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)

TV Review

If you like a mystery set within an historical context and haven’t seen it before, the British series Foyle’s War is perfect for you. It first appeared on ITV in Britain in 2002. It has become a popular syndicated series on a number of Public Broadcasting Stations in the United States.

At the present time it is scheduled on Friday nights on Idaho Public Television Channel 26 at 8 p.m. KSPS in Spokane on channel 7 has Foyle’s War on Thursday night at 9 p.m. and repeated on Sunday night at 10 p.m. On Public television each episode is divided into two 50-minute parts that follow each other a week apart. It is also available on DVD and various streaming services.

Most of the 22 episodes were written by Anthony Horowitz, who has a wonderful gift of integrating the history of World War II around the coastal town of Hastings, England, with good old-fashioned British murder mysteries.

But it is the superb acting of the three principle characters that stands out. Michael Kitchen plays the extremely likable Detective Chief Inspector Christopher Foyle. He has a low-key style of investigating crimes and is sometimes not seen as talented as he is by other characters. He cares very much about justice and sometimes he is able to temper justice with mercy. He has a son, Andrew (Julian Ovenden), who is often away as an RAF pilot. So there is a strong subset of the relationship between father and son in the midst of the constant danger of war.

Samantha Stewart, known as Sam, is Inspector Foyle’s driver. She is played by Honeysuckle Weeks with a sense of kindness and interest in helping solve the various cases that Foyle is working on, even though she is not supposed to get directly involved.

Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howel) has lost his leg in a British effort in Norway early in the War. He is Foyle’s main helper in working on the various cases. He is sincere, hardworking, but at times misses living up to Foyle’s important sense of trust and justice.

After the original series was canceled on English television, several new episodes were shown in England in April 2009. Three more episodes are being filmed in Ireland starting this fall, to be shown in England in 2013.

If you feel there isn’t much good to watch on TV and have never seen Foyle’s War, give it a chance. It is the kind of well-acted and entertaining show that many are looking for.

Book Reviews

It is not often a book written for clergy persons has a strong cross-over effect for the average parishioner and all kinds of people in the medical and helping professions. But the new book Speaking of Dying: Recovering the Church’s Voice in the Face of Death by Fred Craddock, Dale Goldsmith and Joy V. Goldsmith sure does. The book is published in paperback by Brazos Press of Grand Rapids, Mich., for a list price of $19.99.

The genesis of the book is that Rev. Janet Forts Goldsmith – the daughter of Dale, the sister of Joy, and the good friend of Fred – died in 2002. Janet’s sister puts the event strongly when she writes: “From my view (as caregiver), her dying in the church, while working full-time, then part-time, but never not working, was a debacle. A devastation. A secret. An unspeakable thing.”

The authors then decided to follow 10 pastors who died while serving churches and had terminal illness that lasted anywhere from seven years to 10 months. In all but one the Church was inadequate in helping the pastor die well and some of the nine parishes took years to recover. For example, in interviewing possible new pastors, two of the churches did not tell those being interviewed that the previous pastor died in the position. Several parishes suffered loss of parishioners and even schism.

Speaking of Dying is very strong on its critique of the Church’s failure to bring to bear its rich Scriptural and sacramental tradition, always connected to Christ’s death on the Cross, to parishioners and clergy facing death. One paragraph states their position with intensity: “When the church outsources the answers to questions of how one shall face dying to a narcissistic, individualistic over-reliance on science that is wasteful of mortally limited resources, the possibilities of sacramental, gracious, covenantal caring and love are compromised, if not derailed. If the diminishing personal resources of the dying one are invested in a self-focused fight, possibilities of mutual ministries are set aside in the pursuit of an elusive and doomed goal of survival.”

We all may know people who survive what is said to be a terminal illness and have faced difficult treatments with grace. But the question for the authors here is how do we better respond with all the great gifts the Church has for those who are facing death head-on as the words terminal illness imply?

Two-thirds of the book centers on Jesus Christ, Scripture, sacraments, the Body of Christ, and Catholic and Protestant saints who show us ways to face death. Plus the authors give all kinds of practical suggestions for those who minister to the dying.

I have fears about dying and death. Speaking of Dying was a great help to me personally. It can be used for spiritual reading and prayer. It would be a great book for a parish book club. It even has suggested questions at the end of each chapter. Anyone in the helping profession can find a treasure trove of practical help in Speaking of Dying. I can’t recommend this book strongly enough.

*****

I would assume that the novels of Graham Greene are not taught in Catholic high schools or colleges as they would have been two generations ago. So a memoir that heavily connects with the writings of Graham Greene might be seen as not too accessible. Pico Iyer, originally from India, educated in England, well-familiar with California, and a world traveler, has written a thoughtful and moving story of his life titled The Man Within My Head.

The author does refer back to Greene’s writing. But if you could become familiar with one book by memory of having read it long ago or having seen one of the versions of the film, that one book would be The Quiet American. If you could do two more, they would be The Power and the Glory and A Burnt-Out Case.

Pico Iyer has written books on the Dalai Lama, Cuba, and Islamic mysticism. You may be familiar with his writings that appear in Time and The New York Times.

In this memoir, under three divisions of “Ghosts,” “Gods,” and “Fathers,” he tells of various incidents in his life from his schooling as a boy, to the home burning down in which he lived with his parents in California, to his married life in Japan. He tells of these aspects of his life and much more with continual connections to the writings of Graham Greene, who influenced him so greatly from high school throughout his life. All this is done with a beautiful literary style that has numerous great quotations.

Early on he tells why he writes in the context of Greene: “Was it only through another that I could begin to get at myself?”

Iyer is not Christian but drawn to the “Catholic agnostic” that Greene claimed to be. Greene, especially later in life, did not like being called a “Catholic novelist.” Iyer writes that Greene in his writings is revealing who he is. Using Greene and the stories of his life, Iyer reveals who he is. This memoir is very much about family. Iyer writes: “... I saw ... as Greene would have said, that in matters of love and family, there are no easy answers or unmixed emotions.”

In his novels, Greene saw the importance of innocence, the reality of sin, and the continual call to compassion. Iyer does remind us of the great hurt Greene caused his wife and his children. And yet Iyer speaks positively of a wounded Greene when he writes: “But if his books have one signal quality, it is compassion – the fellow feeling that one wounded, lonely, scared mortal feels for another and the way that sometimes, especially in a moment of crisis, when we ‘forget ourselves’ (which is to say, escape our thoughts and conscious reflexes) a single extended hand makes nonsense of all the curlicues in our head. It can even make our terrors go away, for a moment.”

Sometimes a reader is surprised how much a book touches his or her life. For me, The Man Within My Head is that book. Well, now I am planning to put several of Graham Greene’s novels back on my “bucket list.” I just have to finish Flannery O’Connor’s short stories and novels first.

The Man Within My Head by Pico Iyer is published in hardcover by Alfred A. Knopf of New York at a list price of $25.95.

Movie Reviews

Working as a substitute priest at St. Gregory the Great Parish each summer for the past few years, several times in walking in a pedestrian zone I have almost been hit by speeding bicycles. I’m not sure if these bikes were ridden by one of the several thousand rapid delivery messengers so powerful portrayed in the new film Premium Rush.

Premium Rush is a very fast-moving thriller based on a rather simple story. Corrupt policeman Bobby Monday (Michael Shannon) is over his head in gambling debts. He is told by a man in Chinatown that if he can steal a money transfer chit being brought to a woman in the neighborhood, his debts can be cleared. Monday, who is a most threatening and violent guy, finds out that the chit has been given to Wilee (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is a bicycle messenger from the pick-up at Columbia University on his way to Chinatown. Bobby Monday will do anything to stop Wilee and take the chit.

Thus begins a series of exciting chases from Columbia at 115th St. to 28th St. in Chinatown. The filming of these cat-and-mouse 50-mile-an-hour races through red lights, pedestrians and the wrong way of traffic is absolutely incredible.

Michael Shannon has played heavies in many a movie and in the recent television series Boardwalk Empire. He is an excellent actor and super-threatening in this film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is fairly subdued but perfect as the young Ivy League graduate who doesn’t want to settle down and wear a suit on Wall Street.

Premium Rush is pure entertainment that is like a roller coaster ride. It is exhilarating.

Premium Rush is rated PG-13 (Parents strongly cautioned) by the Motion Picture Association of America. There is vehicular and gun violence. Catholic News Service rates the film L-Limited-Adult films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.

*****

Seldom does a Hollywood movie take on an ethical question and personally I would like to see it succeed. The long voice-overs in stories-within-stories make Bradley Cooper’s new film The Words slow-moving and like a well-filmed pageant.

The Words asks an ethical question: Is it ever okay to lie, and steal a manuscript of a novel when we are almost positive the real author will never turn up?

Rory Jansen (Cooper) is a struggling author who finds a long-lost manuscript in a leather satchel his wife Dora (Zoe Saldana) bought in an antique shop in Paris on their honeymoon. It is not clear how they could ever have afforded a trip to Paris but it is important that the manuscript be from Paris. Jansen types out the manuscript on his computer as his own. It doesn’t take much persuasion for him to take it to a literary agent who is blown away by this piece of art. Jansen becomes famous off the book he claims to have written.

Later in the story-within-a-story the original writer, called the “old man” (Jeremy Irons), of the post-World War II Parisian story finds Jansen and confronts him. The rest of the movie is about Jansen and others trying to come to grips with the moral choice he has made.

The best part of the movie is when Jeremy Irons is on the screen or giving a voice-over of what happened in Paris when he was a young man.

In the end, The Words sadly misses the mark.

The film is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for brief strong language and smoking. The Catholic News Service rates the film A-III – for adults.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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