Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Media Watch
Author has thoughts for pennies; Father Rolheiser’s latest is welcome addition

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the July 17, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)

Movie Reviews

The new film Belle, directed by Amna Asante, the British director of Ghanian descent, is a historical drama based on a portrait done in 1779. The portrait, now hanging in Scotland, is of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. It is the first British portrait known of woman of African descent portrayed equally with a white woman. The painting was commissioned by the Lord Justice of England and Wales, the 1st Earl of Mansfield. So the film Belle is a fictional account of the life of the principals seen in the painting. And the film then becomes an interpretation of how the First Earl of Mansfield decided the “Zong Massacre” trial which pushed England to eventually eliminate slavery.

A Captain Lindsay (Matthew Goode), who is related to the Earl of Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), brings to him his young daughter, whose mother was a deceased African slave. The child, Belle, is illegitimate, and Lindsay asks the Earl and his wife (Emily Watson) to raise the child as he leaves on assignment for the Royal Navy. The couple are hesitant but take on the task. They will follow custom as she grows. She will not eat in the formal dining room but will eat with the servants. They rename the child Dido.

Dido’s Dad dies and she inherits a sizable yearly stipend. Dido (Gugu Mbatha Raw), now an adult, is highly educated and is close to Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadonas). However, Lady Elizabeth does not have an inheritance.

So the film is about how a half-African, highly educated woman is treated in late 1700s England, as well as the difficulties of marrying according to station for women lacking wealth and men who are not first-born.

The movie also centers on the “Zong Massacre” trial that Lord Mansfield must decide. The case has to do with several hundred African slaves being thrown overboard because they were seen as property, and no water was said to be available on the ship. The owners of the slaves were demanding the insurance money for each slave who was killed. The resulting decision and its connections to Belle are key to the movie. Also important is the story of Belle and her marriage for society or love within the context of marriage to a white man.

Belle is a powerful story with historical roots that holds the attention and interest of the viewer. With its many “high society” clothes of the time, it is beautifully filmed, with overtones of a Jane Austen novel. The acting is first-class. The ethical issues are strongly portrayed. Belle is well worth seeing.

Belle is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America. It is not yet rated by Catholic News Service. I suspect it would be rated for Adults. It would seem appropriate for older teens.


In the 1940s, when radio was filled with dramas, the new British movie Locke would have fit right in. The problem would be that the ’40s didn’t have Bluetooth in cars where the driver could be in communication with many individuals over the course of the 85 minutes of the film in real time.

Locke is the story of one man, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) in a BMW driving to London from Birmingham, where he is the key foreman for a major cement pour taking place the next morning. But Locke will not be there as he has made a decision to go to the bedside of a woman named Bethan, who is having Locke’s child from a one-night stand that was a mistake. She loves him, but he does not love her. He is going out of responsibility to his child. The rationale for that action is that his own father left him as a small child and only made contact when Locke was in his 20s.

So in the time span of the drive, Locke needs to calm Bethan, who is having the child at seven months. He must tell his boss he will not be there for the pour in the morning and help a younger associate do what is necessary. The younger man is fearful and drinking. To top it off, Locke tells his son he will not be home to watch the important soccer match on TV with the family, and then tells his wife, whom he loves dearly, that he has made a terrible mistake but he must go to be with his child. The result is that Ivan is fired and his wife tells him never to return home.

The extraordinary part of this unusual film is the superb acting by Tom Hardy. He gives us a lilting Welsh accent with close-ups of his monumental decisions taking place in the confines of a car on a motor highway.

The language will be a stumbling block for some and that is sad, but all too often a reality in today’s movies.

Locke has a limited audience, but is thought-provoking in its ethical issues and wonderful in its acting.

Locke is rated R-restricted by the Motion Association of America because of language. Catholic New Service has not rated the film yet. My guess is they would rate it L-Limited Audience.

Book Review

Fifteen years ago, when The Holy Longing: A Search For A Christian Spirituality first came out, it became my favorite religious book. The book was written by Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, whose column has appeared for many years in the Inland Register. Holy Longing’s section on reconciliation was memorable. Who can forget his use of the parable by G.K. Chesterton, on several people going down to Hell to ask for the release of a colleague and parishioner. Everyone failed, but when his mother appeared at the gates, she said to Satan, “Let me in.” The gates were opened: “For love goes down through the gates of hell and there redeems the dead.”

Father Rolheiser’s new book is titled Sacred Fire: A Vision For A Deeper Human and Christian Maturity. The book is published by Image of New York for a list price of $25.

This book is about discipleship and how, as Christians in mid-life and beyond, we are called to give our lives away.

The highlight for me was Chapter 7, on the call to bless others. The Latin of “to bless” is literally “to speak well of.” Father Rolheiser goes through examples from the Bible, and then explains that the opposite of a blessing is a curse. He describes curses as: “If any of us could play back our lives as a video, we would see the countless times, especially when we were young, when we subtly cursed, when we heard or intuited the words: ‘Shut up! Who do you think you are! Go away! You aren’t wanted here! You’re not that important! You’re stupid! You are boring! You irritate me!’” The author especially emphasizes how important it is for an older person to bless a younger person. Today this type of blessing can be within the context of mentoring.

The three helpful points Father Rolheiser makes on blessings center on:

1. “Blessing as Seeing Someone.” We are blessed by being seen and we bless others by really seeing them and not taking them for granted.
2. “Blessing as Speaking Well of Someone.” We are called to give the compliment and not hold back.
3. “Blessing as Giving Away Some of Our Own Life So That Someone Else Can Have More Life.” It is the call of Scripture and the call of aging with care for those who are younger.

I must admit I believe The Holy Longing is the better book. But Sacred Fire is excellent. And both of them are well worth going back to again and again. I hope we don’t have to wait another 15 years for a continuing volume. Some of us don’t have that much time.

Magazine Notes

New York Magazine for May 5-18, with its cover photo of Jim Parsons from The Big Bang television show, has two interesting and impressive articles.

Joe Hagan writes a fascinating article on the foreign news reporting of Lara Logan for CBS. It includes the reporting on Benghazi that was inaccurate and appeared on CBS’s premier news program 60 Minutes. The result was the reporter’s apology. She said, “We got it wrong.” Logan has not been reporting on CBS for several months.

The second article is by Peter B. Bach and is titled “The Day I Started Lying to Ruth: A Cancer Doctor on Losing his Wife to Cancer.” Bach is himself a doctor, so you see his reactions and feelings as his wife is treated by the best cancer doctors available at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

The author does not go into the religious or spiritual side. But he writes with feeling on the scientific and human side of his dilemma. He speaks passionately of the grief of having lost his wife: “Or on the rise of a full moon, because your wife, from the day you met her, used to quote from ‘The Sheltering Sky’ about how few you actually see in your entire life. It is not sobbing, collapsing, moaning grief. It is phantom-limb pain. It aches, it throbs, there’s nothing there, and yet you never want it to go away.”

Recently Received

Pastoral Associate Rita Amberg Waldref, who specializes in Social Ministries at St. Aloysius Parish in Spokane and is a long-time friend, has a sister who lives in New Mexico who recently sent me a copy of her new book. Marion Amberg’s book is titled Penny Prayers: True Stories of Change. It is published by Liguori of Liguori, Mo., in paperback form for a list price of $9.99.

The theme of the book is based on various stories of a person finding a penny on the ground and picking it up and being struck in a prayer-like way by the embossed words: “In God We Trust.”

Chapter Two includes a Spokane story told by Rita Amberg Waldref on finding a penny on her front porch that seemed to appear from nowhere at a time when the pastoral minister was making a major decision. There are 99 pages of penny stories from all over the country.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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