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
‘Eye in the Sky’ is an edge-of-your-seat morality tale; Father Martin’s newest reflects on the words of Good Friday

by Father Tom Caswell, for the Inland Register

(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)

Book Reviews

I have been slow getting to a book a Holy Names Sister passed on to me months ago: Women in Church History: 21 Stories for 21 Centuries. It is written by Seattle resident Joanne Turpin and published by St. Anthony Messenger Press in softcover for a list price of $14.95.

I found the book informative and enjoyable. It would be an excellent choice for spiritual reading.

For each century there is a canonized saint or a person who is seen as an example of what following Christ is all about. Each person gives us an idea of what the Church was going through at that particular time in its history.

In the 600s there is the fascinating story of Hilda, who leads a double monastery of monks and nuns at the seaside port of Whitby in England. She provides the place and leadership for a council of church leaders seeking to solve the problem of a permanent date for Easter. Obviously, with the recent very early Easter that we celebrated earlier this year, this issue was not solved. But it did lead to the English-Roman Church overcoming the Irish-Celtic Church.

The impressive Hildegard of Bingen lived in the 1100s in Germany. She is a leader in forms of prayer, music and art. Pope St. John Paul II referred to her as an “outstanding saint who was a light to her people and her time (and who) shines out more brightly today.” Hildegard was willing to stand up for her belief in God’s mercy. She allowed a man who had been excommunicated to be buried in the Sisters’ cemetery. He had received the last sacraments before his death. She believed he had made his peace with God and she had a mystical experience to confirm her belief. Her convent was threatened with Interdict – no Masses or sacraments would be celebrated – unless she removed the man’s body. Even music, which she loved, would not be allowed. At age 82 Hildegard went out to the cemetery and took her walking stick to erase the lines where the body was so his place of burial would not be detected. Friends negotiated a compromise and Hildegard died just a few months later, in September of 1179.

The book concludes with the lay martyr Jean Donovan, who died with three Religious women in El Salvador in the 20th century, and Sister Dorothy Stang, the Religious Sister who was martyred in the rain forest of Brazil in this century.

If you enjoy church history and the saints you will find Women in the Church a treasure.

*****

For Good Friday 2015, Jesuit Father James Martin was asked to give a three hour reflection on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the cross, as stated by the Gospels. This traditional service on Good Friday is often done in small communities as an ecumenical endeavor, with different clergy or laity taking one of the words in the three-hour service. To discuss all of the seven sentences, at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in New York City, had to be quite an endeavor. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, was present the entire time, and even went out to get Father Martin a bottle of water.

The printed version of the talks is titled Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus. The book is published in hardcover by Harper One for a list price of $18.99.

Father Martin has a real gift that shines through in this book: merging the best of Scripture scholarship and stories from his own life for powerful statements on Jesus Christ. In so doing he gives us a book that hits to the heart of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross. It also gives us insight into the entire life of Christ.

Besides the insights into Christ throughout the Seven Last Words, in the line “Woman, here is your son ... Here is your mother,” Father Martin beautifully gives real depth to how Mary saw the story of her Son’s life. For example, he makes this statement: “At the beginning of his life, Mary helped the helpless infant Jesus. At the end of his life, the helpless Jesus helped Mary.”

The concluding chapter goes beyond the words from the Cross to a section on “The Understanding Christ.” Here Father Martin talks about Christ’s life that was a ministry of joy. What must have been the joy of all the persons Jesus healed, as we hear from the four Gospels?

Yes, on Good Friday Jesus did feel abandoned by his friends and by the Father. He suffered pain and disappointment. For us, it means we are less alone. Jesus understands our human life because he lived a human life. Knowing Jesus’ life and death can help us to speak more openly to him in prayer.

All in all, Seven Last Words is a very helpful book for understanding and prayer.

Movie Reviews

The new thriller Eye in the Sky is a well-acted study in the ethics of modern warfare. The film, directed by Gavin Hood, stars two great British actors, Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman. This film is not for everyone, but those who can take its “edge-of-the-seat” plot and action will want to talk to others about the film.

Mirren plays Col. Katherine Powell, who is part of a British-American effort to capture or, later, to kill bomber extremists in Kenya. Much of the movie is on screens that show what is taking place as violent extremists are in a building in Nairobi preparing to send self-immolating members out into malls or other public areas.

As the story escalates, Col. Powell pushes her superiors at Whitehall in London to execute an order to take out the suspects with a bomb from a drone. The drone is controlled by U.S. command in Las Vegas. The main drone pilot on duty is played by Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad. His character is much different from the character he played in the TV series and I must say Paul gives a moving performance that stays with you long after you have seen the film.

The British commander in London is acted by Alan Rickman in his final performance before his recent death. He is excellent as a soldier who has been around the block many times. He is given the memorable line “Never tell a soldier that he does not know the cost of war.”

The film has many twists and turns as the climax of the story centers on the decision to bomb or not when a child is selling bread next to the building scheduled to be destroyed by the drone controlled from a faraway place.

Eye in the Sky is a challenging and disturbing film for adults to ponder and maybe even pray over. This motion picture should be adopted by college courses on ethics and seminaries in their morals classes.

The film is rated R-restricted, by the Motion Picture Association of America. The Catholic News Service rating is A-III – adults.

*****

The movie Race, which is the story of Jesse Owens and in particular the 1936 Berlin Olympics, did not do well at the box office. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would hope it is seen by many younger people who may not be aware of Owens’s great triumph in winning four gold medals in track and field at that compromised event.

The film Race follows Jesse Owens to Ohio State and to the Olympics, and then back home to a segregated America. I think the film tries to do too much and tell too many stories. In so doing we lose the central focus on Owens.

Stephen James plays the famous athlete with the perfect sense of a man trying to figure out how to survive the realities a black man faced in 1930s America. Early in the film he does not look his Ohio State coach, Larry Snyder (Jason Sudeikis), in the eye, until he is told to. He faces racism at a northern state college. The story includes his relationship and eventual marriage to Ruth (Shanice Bannon) after reconciliation over a Hollywood celebrity affair of the time.

There are the conflicts over America’s involvement in Hitler’s Olympics. The NAACP asks black athletes not to participate. Jeremy Irons plays Avery Brundage, tthe president of the United States Olympic Committee, who makes a deal with the Nazis to keep the USA in the Olympics.

There is a whole subplot about Leni Riefenstahl making the Nazi propaganda film Olympiad. She appears as a positive figure trying to get her film made with its 45 cameras. She is shown seeking to make sure Owens gets a fair shake, even though Hitler and Goebbels are violently opposed. Remember: It was Riefenstahl who made the evil propaganda film Triumph of the Will for Hitler at the 1934 Nazi Party Conference in Nuremberg. She is given a free pass in the film Race.

Hitler, of course, never shook hands with Owens after the athlete won the four gold medals. We find out at the end of the film that President Roosevelt never invited Owens to the White House and never shook hands with him, either.

At the party for Owens in New York after the Olympics, he was not allowed to enter by the main door, but had to go through a side door that went by the way of the kitchen.

It may not be an exceptional film, but Race is a moving film that faces up to American history as well as a tainted world event.

Race is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America and A-II – for adults and teens – by Catholic News Service.

(Father Caswell is Inland Register archivist.)


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