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
Pope Francis’s new book is ‘excellent for spiritual reading and prayer’; violence makes powerful ‘Revenant’ nearly unbearable

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the April 21, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Reviews

Pope Francis’s new best-seller is titled The Name of God is Mercy: A Conversation with Andrea Tornielli. It is published by Random House of New York.

The book is excellent for spiritual reading and prayer. It is able to be reread several times over. It is short and certainly would have been excellent in a magazine format or in a booklet. In my opinion, at a list price of $26 in hardcover, it is priced too high. I hope much of the income is going to the pope’s charities.

Andrea Tornielli is a Vatican reporter for the Roman newspaper La Stampa. He gently asks the pope a series of questions that fit well within the call of the Year of Mercy. I was impressed by a number of the pope’s stories, and his own deepening reflections on the theme of Christ’s mercy and our response.

My favorite story is one from a book I remember from years in high school at St. Patrick in Walla Walla so long ago. But I don’t think I ever read it. The book is the Scottish author Bruce Marshall’s novel To Every Man a Penny. If my memory is right it was an Image Book for around 75 cents. A friend checked the internet recently and found a copy selling in Great Britain for around $150.

The story goes like this: Father Gaston needs to hear the confession of a young German soldier whom the French resistance is planning to sentence to death. The soldier confesses numerous amorous adventures which he enjoyed. The young priest explains that the soldier has to repent to obtain forgiveness and absolution. The soldier replies that he finds it difficult to say he is sorry and admits if he had a chance even now he would do it again. Father Gaston has a stroke of genius and inspiration. He asks, “But are you sorry that you are not sorry?”

The young man replies to the question with a “Yes.”

The pope responds to the story by saying that the door was opened just a crack, allowing absolution in. He goes on to say, “It’s true, that’s how it is. It is a good example of the lengths to which God goes to enter the heart of man, to find that small opening that will permit him to grant grace. He does not want anyone to be lost.”

In story and reflection, Pope Francis opens the door to a loving, forgiving, and merciful God.


Elizabeth Strout is out with a new short novel, titled My Name Is Lucy Barton. It is published in hardcover by Random House for a list price of $26.

Strout won the Pulitzer Prize for her earlier excellent novel Olive Kitteridge, which was later made into a fine television mini-series. I do have to admit I only saw the second half of the television event.

Lucy Barton, from Illinois, has moved to New York City, where she has married a German-background husband and has two daughters. The story centers on several months that Lucy is confined to a New York hospital. Her mother, with whom she has had a strained history, comes to visit Lucy for five days. The story centers on their difficult relationship, having moments of love and care. There are stories from the past and fast-forwarding to the future as Lucy becomes a writer and a mother to her two growing daughters. The visit by her mother slowly reveals the pain of growing up in a poor family with emotional strains.

Most of the chapters or sections are much shorter than those in a John Grisham novel. The author’s style is spare and sparse but she covers with sometimes more than a glance the key events of our time including 9/11 and the death of so many in the history of the AIDS-HIV epidemic.

She writes with an intensity that sneaks up on you. She blends the reality of life in small-town Illinois with Lucy’s growing love of New York City.

Strout’s 191-page novel gets you thinking about past events in your own life. My Name Is Lucy Barton is well worth reading.

Movie Reviews

I did not really want to see the new film The Revenant because of its tale of violence and revenge in Montana and Dakota in the 1820s. But several people said to see it for its incredible cinematography and survival, and for the acting of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Still, there should be a warning out that the film is one grueling scene after another, telling the story of fur traders and Indians along the Missouri River.

DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, who seeks revenge against a fellow fur trader, played by Tom Hardy, who even buries Glass alive. The struggle of bear attacks, crossing the ice-filled rivers, the winter weather itself, and the lack of food make Glass’s journey incredible and almost unbearable to watch.

The film was mainly shot near Calgary, Alberta, using natural light that was film-able for only two hours a day. When the snow was too melted for the right effect, the whole company moved to Patagonia in Argentina. No money was spared. The director, Alejandro G. Iñárrita, and his cinematographer, Emmanuel Zubeski, paint incredible pictures of a rough and raw nature. The many scenes upward into the trees with the light breaking through are done way too many times. The effect loses its impact.

If you can handle the movie's violence, The Revenant is a powerful film.

The film is rated R-restricted by the Motion Picture Association of America. Catholic News Service rates the film L-Limited.


Director David O. Russell has cast three of the principal actors from the wonderful film Silver Linings Playbook – Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert DeNiro – in his new movie, Joy.

Joy (Jennifer Lawrence) is on the screen in most every scene. She is Joy Mangame, the inventor of the Miracle Mop in the 1980s and ’90s. To say Joy is in a dysfunctional family is putting it mildly.

Her grandmother (Diane Ladd) is the sanest character of the family, who encourages Joy to become whatever she wants to be. Her mother (Virginia Madsen) lives in her bedroom, watching soap operas. Her Dad, Rudy (Robert DeNiro), is living in the basement of the house separated from Joy’s mother. DeNiro plays a self-centered, unlikable character. Joy’s divorced husband, Tony (Edgar Ramirez), also lives in the basement. Her half­sister Peggy (Elisabeth Rohm) is a ‘wet blanket’ on anything Joy tries to do with her life.

With her young children, Joy tries to sell some of the mops she has invented at a WalMart parking lot.

Eventually, with much difficulty she meets Neal Walker (Bradley Cooper), who runs the then-small TV shopping network QVC. Their relationship and Joy’s eventual business success has low and high moments.

The result of this is a different kind of dramedy built on fact that doesn’t have the power of Silver Linings Playbook. Admittedly the story is unusual for a popular movie.

Jennifer Lawrence does a bang-up job throughout the film. Since this is her third film with director Russell she may be said to be his muse.

So many of the characters are played well by the actors, but they are real downers as characters.

This is not a typical romantic comedy. Be warned. And you may want to scream at Robert DeNiro’s character to get his act together and care about his daughter at least a little bit.

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

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)

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