Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

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
Father Martinís latest book is Ďa home runí; Wes Andersonís ĎGrand Budapest Hotelí Ďis an enjoyable roller coaster of a filmí

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 15, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Review

After his last book, I began to think that Jesuit Father James Martin was writing too much too fast. But his new book, Jesus: A Pilgrimage, is a home run. It is an extraordinary book for the widest of audiences.

Father Martin doesnít try to merge the Gospels into a general ďLife of Christ.Ē But what he does is to take a two-week pilgrimage to the holy sites of Israel and the West Bank and add the best of Scripture scholarship. To that he adds his own study and prayer, with lots of examples of how to live the following of Christ in our daily lives. In the process of combining these aspects of his book he is self-revealing of his own journey as a Jesuit and a Christian.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage is a major accomplishment and a gift to all believers and seekers.

Because he focuses each chapter on a place he and his Jesuit companion visited, the reality of the parts of the Holy Land that Jesus walked comes alive in a new way. In a vivid manner he helps us to see where the blind man was cured and Lazarus was raised from the dead.

From his friend, Jesuit Father Daniel J. Harrington, who just recently died, to John Meier, Elizabeth Johnson, Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Sulpician Father Raymond Brown, and Luke Timothy Johnson, among others, we get the best of modern Scripture studies. To that, Father Martin adds old standbys like William Barclay, Jim Bishop, and F.J. Sheed. The additions of scholars and writers are done in a way that is eminently readable and understandable.

Throughout the book Father Martin teaches us Ignatian methods of prayer. It is fascinating in light of the present pope, who is a Jesuit with a love of St. Francis of Assisi, to learn that St. Ignatius Loyola was sent back home by the Franciscans when he tried to visit the Holy Land. The Franciscans felt it was too dangerous for Ignatius to visit, but somehow he did sneak in a visit to a place thought to be where Jesusí Ascension took place.

The hardcover version of Jesus: A Pilgrimage has a list price of $27.99. It is published by Harper One. This book would be excellent for parish Bible study groups or any group that gathers for prayer and reflection. A chapter for each gathering would be a rich starting place for discussion. We can hope that the book will be published at a lower cost in paperback edition fairly soon so that it can be widely used in parishes and schools.

Father Martin has announced that future editions of the book will include an index, which would have been helpful for this first edition. In the meantime, an index can be downloaded in PDF format here:

The present editionís footnotes are interesting and helpful.

Jesus: A Pilgrimage has the potential to be a life-changing book.

Movie Reviews

Wes Andersonís movies are very personal and very concerned about the detail of the surroundings. The sets are color-coordinated and books on a library shelf would be checked for the right titles.

Some might feel the movies are artificial and not to be taken too seriously. However, his new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is a delight and does take on the serious question of the rise of Nazism and the result, years later, of Communist control.

You do not have to follow every moment of the plot of Grand Budapest. It is an enjoyable roller coaster of a film that moves very rapidly and is a great deal of fun in the midst of a very complicated plot.

It is the early 1930s in the fictional country of Zuybrowka in Eastern Europe. The story is told from the vantage point of the 1960s, in the Communist period. In a beautiful old hotel, Monsieur Gustave, wonderfully played by Ralph Fiennes, is the concierge. Gustave is the power behind keeping the hotel the gathering place for the rich and famous.

Gustave is well known among his high-end clientele. In fact, he is very familiar with some of the older women who come to the hotel, especially a Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), who is well into her 90s. She dies early in the movie and leaves a priceless Renaissance painting to Gustave.

The action gets intense as her son, Dmitri (Adrian Brody), does everything devious and possible to get the painting back, even accusing Gustave of murder.

All through the story there is a young lobby boy named Zero (Tony Revolori) who is with Gustave as they are on the run from a police group dressed in Nazi-type outfits, Actually, many years later, Zero, now played by F. Murray Abraham, is telling the whole story to a young writer (Jude Law).

MGM at its greatest as a film studio said it had more stars than in the heavens. Well, Grand Budapest is filled with stars, even in the smallest of roles. Besides the ones already mentioned, you have Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Bob Balaban, and Owen Wilson.

The movie moves so fast it sometimes hard to figure out which character is which star. But it is very enjoyable to go with the flow and not worry.

I like the creativity of Wes Anderson and his very different style. Of the four or five of his films I have seen, this one is the best. If you are looking for a film that somehow combines pure fun and the serious overtones of history, The Grand Budapest Hotel is the one. And it would be a total shock if Ralph Fiennes is not nominated for Best Actor for the Academy Awards come next January.

The Motion Picture Association of America rates the film R for language, subject matter, and violence. Catholic News Service rates Budapest A-III Ė for adults.


The Iranian director Asghar Farhadi gave us the film A Separation several years ago. It won the Best Foreign Language Film the year it was released in the United States. It was a moving film of a couple in Iran in the midst of a complicated divorce.

Now Farhadi has written and directed a new film, mainly in French, titled The Past. Interestingly, the director does not speak French. His main actress, Berenice Bejo, won last springís Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role.

The story begins at a Paris airport where Marie (Bejo) is picking up her former husband, Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa), who has just flown in from Iran. He left her four years ago, and now she wants him present to go through the formal divorce proceedings in a French court. Instead of taking him to a hotel, she brings him to her working-class home in the suburbs of Paris. He immediately finds himself back in her world, where there is attraction and anger and lots of problems with her new lover, Samir (Tahar Rahim), and the two daughters she had by a previous marriage.

The story does get a bit complicated, but becomes both a mystery and a drama. Marieís oldest daughter, Lucie (Pauline Burlet), is very angry at her Momís new relationship, and is staying out all hours of the night. Marie wants Ahmad to talk to Lucie, who feels close to her former stepfather.

To complicate the story, Samir has a wife who tried to kill herself and is in a coma. He has a son, Fouad (Elyes Aguis), who is suffering emotional difficulties with all the complications in his life.

Samir runs a laundry/dry cleaning establishment that plays a strong role in a number of surprises that take place in the story.

The acting in The Past is excellent and at times heartbreaking as we are present in the human sufferings where the characters are broken as much as we are, if not more. There are moments of reconciliation, but this is a searing drama that touches the emotions of the viewer.

The film is in French and Persian, with subtitles.

The Motion Picture Association of American rates the film PG-13. It is not yet rated by Catholic News Service.

Recently Received

Some months ago I was in Kauferís, looking through books on prayer, and found Franciscan Father Richard Rohrís meditative book Yes, and ... : Daily Meditations, published in hardcover by Franciscan Media of Cincinnati, Ohio, at a list price of $24.99. It is made up of roughly 400 meditations that come from Father Rohrís lifetime of sermons, books, talks, and tapes. Each meditation is about a page in length. I am only about half-way through the book, as Iíve tried to read one or two of the pieces at a time.

In this volume, Father Rohr brings us a compendium of his writings and talks with his heavy emphasis on Scripture, psychology of persons, pastoral work in Ohio, peace and justice work, and retreat apostolate in New Mexico. To all this he adds a Franciscan approach to philosophy and theology. The results are a series of thoughtful pieces that can open up into reflective prayer. The articles can be like the starter fuel that gets the fire burning in a fireplace.

You may or may not find yourself agreeing with Father Rohr as you meditate on his writings or follow the Scriptures he suggests, but he can be a big help in bringing you to prayer. Some of the pieces are going to appeal to one person over another. But all in all, Yes, and ... is a helpful book that enables us to run with the narrative as if it were a recipe, and let God carry us where he may.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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