Watch the Best Fatima Film Before May 13!

My mother introduced me to the apparitions of Our Lady at Fátima from the time I was a child. I was so fascinated by the story of Jacinta, Francisco, and Lucia (ages 7, 9 & 10 at the time of the apparitions), that I actually prayed in the backyard several times, hoping the Blessed Mother would appear.

May 13, 2017, is the 100th anniversary of the first apparition of Mary to these three young shepherd children at Fátima. On that day, Pope Francis will be in Fátima, and will canonize Jacinta and Francisco, the two youngest ever non-martyred saints. This entire year, but especially the months of May and October are very special occasions to honor our Blessed Mother, renew our devotion to her, listen to and live more fully the message she brought at Fátima.

In my community, we are bringing our statue of  Our Lady of Fátima around to various “stations” or places in our convent and in our publishing house each day of May. It’s a lovely way of emphasizing how important Mary is in our lives, and of thanking her for her tender care for us.

Starting last fall, we have seen more and more material on Fátima in Catholic media. Father Roger Landry has beautifully expressed the importance of Fátima through the five historical Papal visits, preparing for the visit by Pope Francis on May 13, 2017:  http://www.thebostonpilot.com/opinion/article.asp?id=179209

The heart of the message of Fátima, as I have remembered and prayed with through the years, can be summed up briefly as:

* Pray—especially the Rosary

* Repent of our sins and do penance for them

* Offer sacrifices for the conversion of others and offer reparation for the sins of humanity

* Trust in Mary’s Immaculate Heart

There are a number of good movies out there on Fátima, each with different strengths. I talk about my favorite three on this week’s Windows to the Soul segment on the Salt + Light Radio Show. Below, I take a more detailed look at each film, and how each is not just faithful to the message of Fátima, but if and how it communicates the message of our Blessed Mother in a way that is deeply moving, accessible, and relatable.

 The Best of Them All: The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima (1952)

The beloved classic from 1952, Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima. Dated in its presentation, and without the advantage of the latest information that is now public about Sr. Lucia and the apparitions (for example, Sr. Lucia’s later life, the secrets that Our Lady entrusted to the children). But for the most part, The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima is quite accurate, with the exception of the dramatizing of some events (especially of some of the early attempts of the government to derail the apparitions), and a few details. The writers weave together true details about the apparitions, skillfully moving the story forward and revealing the character of the children and the life-changing impact that Mary’s appearance had on them. For example, the fact that the second apparition occurs on the feast day of St. Anthony (a much-anticipated celebration of the town, especially for the children), this fact becomes both a plot point and character development for the children’s desires to go “see the Lady” rather than celebrate.

What I love about this film is its overall focus on the children—their humanness and their holiness—in ways that are appealing and realistic. However, the film shows Lucia crying a bit too much. Yet it’s a good reminder of how young the children really were: at the time, Lucia, who took the brunt of the plentiful criticism (of family, the townspeople, the pastor, the government officials), was only ten years old.

Some might quibble with a fictional character—Hugo—being inserted into the film. But I like to think that Hugo represents us, the viewers, in the story, in whatever way we are doubters, skeptics, or hold ourselves back from giving ourselves fully to God. Hugo is changed by his encounter with the children, and so the message of Fátima should change us, too.

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima makes the story and message of Fátima accessible to everyone, showing Our Lady to be a most tender and loving mother. It is appropriate and appealing to people of all ages.

Historically Accurate: Apparitions at Fátima (Aparição)

Noted by Stephen Greydanus (Decent Films) as more historically accurate of the feature films on Our Lady of Fátima, Apparitions at Fátima (1991) is the only full-length feature about Fátima I know of that I haven’t seen. This 1991 film was made in Portugal, directed by Daniel Costelle, and is available in six languages, including English.  I look forward to seeing it soon and updating this post with my review.

Reverent, Contemporary Portrayal: The 13th Day

The 13th Day (2010) is another feature film about the events that took place at Fátima. With modern techniques and pacing, noticeable special effects, and  dramatic music, this film is both appealing to a general audience and historically accurate. In some ways, it seems imitative of The Miracle of Our Lady of Fátima, but the film also has many original moments. The dramatic black and white lighting used for the cinematography, the use of color only when the children are conversing with the Blessed Mother, and other special effects were a bit distracting for me, but they reverently and artistically portray Our Lady’s message and the character of the visionaries. The scary vision of hell, and the depiction of the miracle of the sun could be too much for young children.

Delightful Depiction for Children: The Day the Sun Danced 

The Day the Sun Danced (1997) is a beautifully animated short film (30 minutes) for children. The pacing is slower, so children may need to be prepared that the film is not so much entertainment as the fascinating story of the Blessed Mother bringing a very special message for the world to three children at Fátima.

 

Most Complete Documentary: Finding Fátima

 

Finding Fátima (2010)—made by the same filmmakers of The 13th Day— includes interviews with Fátima experts and reenactments excerpted from the film The 13th Day. I suspect this is the most complete documentary on Fátima in English available at this time, and especially beautiful for those who do not know the story. If you have heard rumors about the secrets of Fátima, this film gives a clear and beautiful explanation of the “Secret” of Fátima, which was told to the children by way of visions. 90 minutes.

Most Up-to-Date: Trilogy of Documentaries from the Basilica of Our Lady of Fátima, Portugal

Finally, I want to mention the newest programs I have found available: a trilogy that come from the Shrine at Fátima itself, and are officially approved by the Shrine. Each program is independent of the others.

My favorite documentary of the three is The Three Shepherds of Fátimawhich focuses on the lives of the three children. Just under an hour, this delightful program is wonderful for those who want insights into the lives of the “youngest saints ever to be canonized who aren’t martyrs.” After years of reading and praying about Fátima, I learned new fascinating details about the spiritual lives and personalities of the children, thanks to all the experts, but especially the postulator for the cause of the children’s cause for canonization, Sr. Angela de Fátima (a sister of the Alliance of Holy Mary), who points out the significance of the words, actions, characteristics of the children.

One of my favorite examples is from Francisco. When the children were imprisoned and they couldn’t make their “appointment” with Our Lady at the Cova, they believed their interrogator who said they were going to be put to death. Facing the threat of death, Francisco said, ““If we don’t get back to see our mother, patience. The problem is that Our Lady may never return. This is what costs me the most!” Such a deeply touching declaration for a 9 year old boy.

Jacinta’s tender heart was so moved by the vision of the Pope suffering that she prayed often for the Pope, not even knowing which Pope would suffer so much. At her beatification, St. John Paul thanked her for praying for him!  

These precious insights into the children of Fátima reveal a profound witnesses of their faith: how the Fátima apparitions changed their lives, and how living the Fátima message can change ours.

All of these DVDs are available from the Pauline Books and Media Center nearest you in the USA and Toronto; many are available at the Pauline online store. 

      

             

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Anime Films for the Family: Studio Ghibli

Some years ago, a friend introduced me to the works of Studio Ghibli, an anime studio started by two filmmakers that I wish I had known about years ago.  I don’t really consider myself an anime fan—but I have found most of their films delightfully entertaining. Although the future of the studio is not clear (Hiyao Miyazaki, probably the more famous of the partners, retired), they have released co-productions.

Studio Ghibli’s films are, for the most part, anime for both children and adults that reflect Japanese culture and worldview, but are also about universal themes.  Although the films are not Christian (Shintoism and Buddhism are practiced by the great majority, with Christians about 1.5% of the population, and other religions only 7.1%), there are strong human values in every film. In our world today, it is important to introduce children to the worldview of other cultures, and watching Studio Ghibli films is a beautiful and powerful way to catch a glimpse of Japanese culture.

Of the 10 Studio Ghibli films that I have seen, I have found all of them beautifully drawn, compelling characters, and more realistic about life than the typical animated or anime film. The magic of childhood is very much present in the films, presenting the world in a way that is respectful and gentle, but that doesn’t deny the reality of evil and suffering. Studio Ghibli films do not always have a happy, Disney ending. The stories vary in quality, but many are of high quality, with often unexpected plot twists.

Check out the Windows to the Soul segment on Studio Ghibli on this week’s Salt+Light Radio Hour!

Each film is unique, but here are some common characteristics of many of the films that I have watched:

  • Imaginative, whimsical, beautiful
  • The reality of the spiritual realm is taken for granted, although from a Shinto perspective, not a Christian one. Whether spirits or magic, the worldview in the Studio Ghibli films is the opposite of materialistic, and at least one film clearly shows the poverty of a materialistic worldview. I find it refreshing to watch films that are open to the mystical and spiritual realm. The differing perspective can also provide families and classes the opportunity to discuss our faith in the afterlife as Catholics.
  • Strong human values/themes:
    • respect for elders
    • valuing the family
    • nature
    • silence
    • friendship and loyalty
    • respect for tradition
    • anti-war or pacifist, showing the horrors of war
  • Many of the films have a strong female protagonist
  • Rather than a “happily ever after,” often the films have a bittersweet ending with a sense of acceptance of reality
  • Appropriate for children—although of varying ages ranging from 5+ to more appropriate to preteens or teenagers—but also really enjoyable for adults. Not in a Pixar, comic way, but in the way that it deals with serious themes and the struggles of life, and the sheer beauty of the world and the animation. Some of the films are a bit slower and so would be harder for younger children to watch, but even in the slower films, there is a lot to take in.

In general, I find it helpful to watch the English dubbed versions, rather than the subtitled.

Below, you’ll find a list of some of the more accessible of Studio Ghibli’s films. I’ll share my thoughts on each film as I see it. In the meantime, for finding the appropriate age level for various films, I’d recommend visiting CommonSenseMedia.org on their Studio Ghibli List.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) Hayao Miyazaki’s first feature, adapted from his own manga, about a brave princess trying to bring peace to her world. (Technically, not a Studio Ghibli film; its success prompted the creation of Studio Ghibli.)

Castle in the Sky (1986; also known as Laputa) Directed by Hayao Miyazaki with similar themes to Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind: children vs. technology’s evils.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Directed by the other founding partner of Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata, Grave of the Fireflies is a powerful film about the consequences of war on the innocent. The story of two children, brother Seita and his little sister Setsuko, struggle to survive the devastating effects of the fire-bombings of the Allied Forces in Tokyo during World War II. It has been called one of the most powerful anti-war films ever.

I saw Grave of the Fireflies too long ago to write a detailed commentary, but I can attest to the power and tragedy of this film. It is not an easy film to watch–and I do not recommend it for children, but for teens who are old enough to be able to handle the intense tragedy and emotion. Although this trailer is subtitled, I watched the dubbed version, which is available on DVD.

My Neighbor Totoro (1988) Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, this is an extremely gentle film about two little girls who befriend supernatural spirits at their new home. (“Spirits” understood in a fantastical sense from a Shinto perspective.)

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989) — Directed by Miyazaki, this delightful film for younger children is the coming-of-age story of Kiki, a young witch who leaves home for the traditional year of starting life on her own. Although Kiki is a witch, there is no sense of evil or seeking power; her only power is flying, which she hasn’t quite mastered at the beginning of the film. This gentle film about a young girl leaving home and gradually building a new life for one’s self amid difficulties doesn’t have many deeper themes, but it is worthwhile entertainment with human values.

Porco Rosso (1992)  — Set in Italy in the 1930s, this is the story of a veteran World War I pilot who is cursed to look like a pig. I am curious to see this film, because it’s received so many positive reviews.

Princess Mononoke (1997) — Directed by Miyao Hiyazaki, this film is recommended for older children ages 12+ by Common Sense Media because of its violence. Princess Mononoke is the story of the conflict between nature and civilization and is darker and more intense than many Studio Ghibli films. I really enjoyed this film when I saw it years ago, and I plan to see it again soon. 

Spirited Away (2001) — Written and directed by Miyao Hiyazaki, Spirited Away won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature in 2003. It is the story of Chihiro, a young girl who is upset with her parents for moving. As they travel to their new home, they visit a village that is occupied by a sorcerer and spirits, where Chihiro’s parents are transformed into animals and taken hostage. Chihiro escapes being changed but loses her name, and must find a way to redeem herself and her parents. An amazing film, Spirited Away has some scary scenes but a courageous, kind-hearted, and loyal protagonist.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2005) – Directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, this is my favorite Studio Ghibli film for sheer entertainment. It’s a delightful, whimsical fantasy loosely based on Diana Wynn Jones’ book of the same name. There are many elements of a fairy tale: enchantments that disguise, a wizard and a witch, a war, king, a castle that lumbers along, a love story, and the protagonist, young Sophie Hatter, whose strength, kindness and love change the lives of those around her, despite her troublesome enchantment and initial lack of self-confidence.

Secret World of Arrietty (2011) — Directed by a new director at Studio Ghibli, Hiromasa Yonebayashi and based on the classic children’s fantasy, The Borrowers, by Mary Norton, adapted for the screen by Hiyao Miyazaki. 

The Borrowers was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. “Borrowers” are little people—about five inches tall—and unseen people who share your house with you, living under the floor and in the walls. They survive by “borrowing” things that you never miss, or that you know you put somewhere but can never find. Curious Arrietty is the only child of the Clock family and is curious about the world beyond her family’s hidden spaces. One day she is seen by the Boy who is visiting the house. Discovered, she is delighted to make a new friend and to see the world of the “human beans.” But the lives of the Clock family are put at risk when the owner of the house spies on the Boy and discovers them.

I was delighted that Studio Ghibli decided to take on The Borrowers, and the film is beautifully animated. I have to admit I was a bit disappointed in how this less complex story moved a bit too slowly for my taste. A less-compelling tale, The Secret World of Arrietty is still a delightful film for children.

The Wind Rises (2013) — The last film written and directed by Hiyao Miyazaki before he retired, is a more complex story of a young man whose dream is to design planes. Inspired by the life of famous warplane designer Jiro Horikoshi, the film is only partly factual. But it feels like an animated bio-pic, taking us through decades of Japanese history—including the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923, the Great Depression, and the ambivalent sentiment of Japanese citizens during World War II. There is much to admire in Jiro’s character, and the story focuses quite a bit on his love for Nahoko, a young woman that he rescues as a very young man.

What is difficult about the film is that Jiro actually designed war planes for the Japanese during World War II, including the infamous Zero, which could out-maneuver every other airplane when it first flew in 1940. Over 10,000 of these planes were built and flown, and the Zero caused great destruction during World War II. Jiro designed the planes knowing they would be used for war, and he talks about not wanting the war to design war planes, but he goes ahead and does it anyway, with the  motivation that he just wants to design planes, even though he knows his planes would deal out so much death. This is not fully explored, but left as a contradiction and glaring moral question for Jiro’s character, which is heroic and likable in so many ways.

The film is well-done, beautifully animated as always, with interesting characters. Overall, I found the film a bit slow for my taste, especially when I discovered that some important elements of the story were not factual. However, The Wind Rises is a masterpiece well-worth viewing, as well as a fascinating example of an animated bio-pic that skillfully brings us through decades of Japanese history. I would recommend it for older children simply because it’s complexity and depth.

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013) — Directed by Isao Takahata. A Japanese folktale about a tiny princess whom an elderly bamboo discovers magically growing in a bamboo plant. He takes her and raises her with his wife in the idyllic country side, where Lil Bamboo grows too rapidly for an ordinary girl.

Despite their happy time in the country, her father buys a rich home in the city for his daughter, and has her trained in the ways of wealthy society. The princess unwillingly obeys her father, torn by her love for her previous life in the forest with her friends, and her desire to obey and make her father happy. But the inhuman process of choosing a husband merely for appearance and status is greatly distressing to the princess and also somewhat to us as viewers.

This is an amazing and visually exquisite  film. In terms of the animation alone, this is my favorite Studio Ghibli film. This film has all the hallmarks of a great Studio Ghibli film: a beautifully told story, complex characters, incredibly symbolism in the visuals, and deep themes, including:

  • the consequences of our choices
  • the nurturing and love important for a child in the family
  • a critique of living by appearances and seeking social status
  • the value of a simple life of harmony and love
  • the incredible beauty and gift of nature

Despite the serious themes, the story can be followed by children in middle grades. A delightful film for the whole family.

When Marnie Was There  (2014)— Director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s second Studio Ghibli film, When Marnie Was There is the story of Anna, a foster child who is sent for her health to the seaside to stay with her foster mother’s sister and husband. Struggling with feeling like an unwanted outsider, both lonely and sad, Anna explores the neighborhood and is fascinated by a dilapidated mansion that is accessible by land only in low tide. Anna eventually meets Marnie, a blonde-haired girl from the mansion, and they become friends. 

But the nature of their friendship is elusive, as Marnie sometimes disappears and Anna will  find herself suddenly alone. What (and who) is real becomes a growing tension in the film, but the gift of their friendship and the surprises it contains, nurtures and heals both girls. The ending is deeply moving, linking the present with the past.

Some reviewers found this film slow-moving, but for me and any other adult or older child (ages 10+) who has questioned his or her identity, this film is profoundly engrossing, poignant, and rewarding.

Catch “Liberating a Continent” on PBS

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I was privileged to be able to see this wonderful documentary last month, and I hadn’t had a chance to write a full review–which I still hope to do at some point! However, I wanted to let you know that Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is broadcasting on PBS throughout the month of August. You can find a complete and updated list of broadcasts on PBS here, but this is what I know so far. (Note that all the times are local.)

·         WTVS (Detroit #13) is airing Tuesday August 16 at 11 pm.

·         WPBT (Miami/Ft. Lauderdale #16) is airing Tuesday August 16 at 11 pm.

·         KUHT (Houston #10) is airing Wednesday August 17 at 10 pm.

·         WTVI (Charlotte #22) is airing Wednesday August 17 at 11:30 pm.

·         PBS SoCal (Los Angeles #2) is airing on their Plus channel Monday August 22 at 2:30 pm.

Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is an especially powerful and timely documentary to watch in our day because our world is so convinced that violence is the only response to oppression…but Pope Saint John Paul II was able to follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and bring about change, liberation, and transformation through entirely peaceful means. If only we too could learn this lesson during the Year of Mercy!

 

Guest Post: Stories that invite us to be cultural mystics

Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, is a Daughter of Saint Paul whose primary work is media literacy education for parents and teachers within the context of culture, education and faith formation. She love movies and reviews them at St. Anthony Messenger Magazine, the National Catholic Reporter,  Reel Spirituality and at her blog, Sr. Rose Goes to the Movies. When I read this article on her blog, I asked her if I could re-post it here, because it’s a wonderful example of how we can allow the stories in today’s entertainment culture draw us into contemplation.

Stories that invite us to be cultural mystics

by Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP

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After more than six decades of life, I am still startled by the profound empathy for humanity often revealed in stories told through sight and sound. Cinema, and increasingly episodic stories on television and the Internet, bring the human face of my brother or sister up close and personal so that I experience the joy and pain of all human living and make a difference in the world.

The fact is cinema has a sacramental quality, outward signs of inner realities, that Sr. Nancy Usselmann,* a colleague of mine, says invites us to be cultural mystics. We find transcendence and grace through the encounter with these stories when they are authentic; our senses are engaged through the gift and work of the artist, our imagination set afire when we are transported to another time and place to walk in the footprints of others, and finally, our spirits enriched especially when the resolution, if there is one, is true.

Because I am interested in reform of the criminal justice system in the United States, I started watching a fictional television series on the Sundance network, entitled Rectify. It is the story of a man, Daniel, who was wrongly convicted of killing his girlfriend when he was only 17 years old. He is released after almost twenty years on death row when DNA testing exonerates him. During the second season, while I was doing something as the television played in the background, I heard, in a flashback scene of a conversation between Daniel and the prison chaplain, “Beauty will change the world.”

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The quote from Dostoyevsky startled me and I spun around to watch, saying to myself, “Who says that on television?” When I watched the series again from the very beginning, this time with attention, I noticed how much I had missed because I had watched it through one lens only. Rectify is so much more than the tale of a man wrongly convicted by an over-zealous prosecutor and criminal justice system. The series is permeated with uninformed Old Testament justice meted out by the powerful over the powerless; it is a family drama of love, sin, and human suffering; it is a spiritual journey of hope and redemption as Daniel makes his way back into society that has left him behind. It is an intensely human story that seems to play out under the gaze of God who waits to see if His creatures will do the right thing and bestows grace to nudge them along in unsuspecting yet ordinary ways. The divine-human dynamic in Rectify is television at its courageous, creative best.

It is the epileptic and naïve Prince Myskin in Dostoyevsky’s 1869 novel The Idiot who utters the phrase “Beauty will change the world.” The prince is a Christ-figure who sees beauty where others do not, and whose words illumine the reality around him. As Pope John Paul II said in his 1999 Letter to Artists, people need to wonder at beauty if they are to solve the problems of today.

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Disney’s 2015 film Tomorrowland seems to bear this out. The premise of the film, directed by Brad Bird who co-wrote it with Damon Lindelof, is that we watch apocalyptic films year after year that are filled with disaster for the Earth and humanity, and nothing happens. We leave the cinema and go about our lives without connecting the story with reality. What if, instead of ignoring the prophetic nature of these films, and instead of entrusting the future of the Earth to politicians and corporations, artists, scientists, and dreamers could work together to make changes and prevent human destruction of the Earth? Critics did not appreciate Tomorrowland, seeing it as a commercial for Disneyland. Yet, if a viewer can step back and appreciate the possibilities for artists to change the world for the better, the film becomes cultural prophecy revealing values that transcend the very consumerism of the system that produced it.

“To see God in all things” is the heart of Ignatian spirituality. To have eyes to see with and ears to hear with is the sacramental action the artist carries who can reveal inner, profound, eternal realities through stories molded in sight and sound, even without trying. A story that is truly human is truly of the Gospel. Sister Nancy Usselmann writes, “To truly see this reality, the infinite beauty of the Creator in creaturely beauty, one must make that journey inward, perceived, as Augustine says, through our spiritual senses.” The artist who paints stories in light, through sight and sound, who reveals God in the human face, who leaves us free to contemplate his or her vision through our imagination searching and hungry for truth, beauty and goodness — mediates the Divine for us. And it is good.

by Sr. Rose Pacatte

* A Sacred Look: Becoming Cultural Mystics a Theology of Popular Culture, by Sister Nancy Usselmann, 2015, thesis for Master of Arts in Theology degree.

This article was published originally in English, Spanish and French in SIGNIS Media, No. 1/2016, Brussels: “The Art of Storytelling.” Click here to download the entire issue on the topic.

Your Moview Watchlist for the #YearofMercy

Invitation

Join us in praying our Novena to Saint Paul, which we are praying in reparation for the misuse of the media.

Great Films to Watch for the Year of Mercy

This weekend on my Windows to the Soul segment on the Salt + Light Radio Hour, I talk about three great films with the theme of mercy. Below is a summary of the show and where you can find the complete list of films.

Image Journal is a wonderful magazine and online site that looks at the intersection between art and religion. Every year, their Arts & Faith Community publishes a list of great films according to a certain theme. This year, they focused on the theme of mercy: The Arts & Faith Top 25 Films on Mercy.

I’ve seen about half of these films which range from 1921-2014, and I’ve been planning to see several more, but a couple of the films on the list are new to me. I now have a wonderful selection of films to see throughout the rest of the Year of Mercy.

The top three films are genuine classics from the black and white era, and two of them are in French with English subtitles, but don’t let that prevent you from seeing these wonderful films. I would especially recommend these films to those who are interested in looking more deeply at the theme of mercy for discussion or prayer, and film lovers. Because of the depth of the films, they may not work for children.

MonsieurVincentCoverMonsieur Vincent is a wonderfully-crafted film that was given a special Academy Award. (I recently gave it honorable mention in my list of best saint movies of all time.) Made in 1947 and directed by Maurice Cloche, the film is a bio-pic of the saint of mercy, Saint Vincent de Paul. The film doesn’t cover his whole life, but wisely chooses to focus on St. Vincent de Paul as he was beginning his care for people living in destitution, including those suffering from the feared plague and prisoners. St. Vincent de Paul changed society with his great works of mercy in a time where mercy was so greatly lacking. Actor Pierre Fresnay gives a powerful performance of a man who is so taken up with the needs of others that he is fascinating, admirable, and a bit hard to understand because he seems to have no concern for himself.

As we watch the film, we could use Saint Vincent’s interactions with the wealthy, the fearful, and the indifferent as an examination of conscience, because the people who resist Vincent’s efforts or refuse to help represent the same reasons why we refuse to be merciful. Amazingly, this film lacks the sentimentality that usually ruins saint movies. Vincent is a shining and compelling figure, as he literally seems to become the love of Christ for the underprivileged.

gallery-oxbowincident-3-gallery-imageThe Ox-Bow Incident is a 1943 American Western, directed by William Wellman and starring Henry Fonda and Dana Andrews. It has been described as a Western film noir, but I found it reminded me more of a gentler version of a Flannery O’Connor novel. The basic storyline is about two cowboys who are passing through a small Western town when the news comes that a well-respected farmer has been murdered and his cattle stolen. The townspeople form a posse to catch—and lynch—the guilty party. The two cowboys join in, partly to divert suspicion from themselves as suspects. The film explores the themes of guilt, justice, innocence, the legal system, conscience, our common humanity.

This film contains many points parallel points to Pope Francis’ recent video message about the death penalty, where he says:

“It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice. Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.” 

In many ways, The Ox-Bow Incident is about the refusal to give mercy; but there are many small moments where mercy is offered. This film is so well-crafted, it deserved an Oscar. (An interesting note: it was nominated for an Oscar for best picture but lost to Casablanca, which is one of my favorite films of all time.)

Film_222w_DiaryCountyPriest_originalThe third movie is the award-winning 1951 Diary of a Country Priest, based on the Georges Bernanos novel with the same name. The screenplay was adapted by the film’s legendary director, Robert Bresson, and is incredibly faithful to the novel. The film stars Claude Laydu in a wonderful performance and is in French with English subtitles. As the title indicates, this is an in-depth look into the daily life of a young, sensitive priest on his first assignment as pastor who, though distressed by the coldness of his parishioners, is willing to make many sacrifices to help them spiritually. The young priest is consistently misunderstood and criticized by all around him, except us privileged viewers who are given access to his daily diary. Laydu’s acting is amazing as a young, idealistic, and holy priest undergoing the dark night of the soul, but all of the characters are well-portrayed. I wish that the character of the priest smiled more in the film. Without giving away any spoilers,  this film is about the little moments of life, the daily choices for grace.

Don’t watch this movie when you’re in a hurry. Understated, subtle, with deeply layered dialogue, the pacing of the film helps us to slow down so we can enter more deeply into the mindset of the parishioners and especially of this young and holy priest whose sole goal is to bring people closer to peace and happiness in Christ. In a couple places, the film could be studied for the priest’s pastoral approach: when to speak, when to be silent, always to speak the truth, to invite others towards Christ rather than threaten, but to be honest about the consequences of bad choices, and above all, to accompany every pastoral effort with prayer.

This is a powerful film portraying the beauty of the constancy of little, sacrificial acts of mercy in daily life. My favorite line of the film is the last line of dialogue of the young priest: “All is grace.”

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There are some other fine movies to watch this summer that include the theme of mercy:

DVDCovers

Risen—the story of a soldier’s journey to faith, released to DVD recently.

The Young Messiah, which was just released to DVD, is the fictional story of Jesus’ childhood the year that the Holy Family returns from Egypt.

Liberating a Continent: John Paul II and the Fall of Communism is a documentary currently broadcasting on PBS (see list of broadcasts here),  will be broadcasting on Salt + Light TV as well, and is already available for purchase online. This documentary is a beautiful tracing of God’s mercy at work in the world through St. John Paul, and behind the Iron Curtain.

Potpourri of Resources on Communication Spirituality

When I’m working on more than two or three articles at a time (not a series), sometimes the writing well within seems to dry up. Each short article becomes progressively harder to write until I find myself on article 4 or 5 staring at a blank screen with no idea what to say. I know that I’m more comfortable writing long-form (books, screenplays, or even a series of articles about the same topic), but one advantage of writing shorter pieces is that I need to fill the well more often. Which means lately, I’ve been finding some interesting and helpful resources that I believe you will enjoy as well!

SrNancyHere is a list of her next articles:

A Sacred Look: Science-Fiction Seeks Redemption

  • A strong theme that frequently comes up in Pope Francis–and which I believe he encourages us to use in the New Evangelization–is “encounter.” I’ve written a little bit about what this means, but recently stumbled across this article in the Houston Catholic Worker that explains what “encounter” and “encuentro” mean to someone from a Latino culture. I found it very helpful to put into words what I was intuiting from reading the Pope’s frequent references to this term.
  • Our sisters in Italy have been publishing short articles on the media and now they’ve put them together on their website in English under the heading: Window on Communication. It’s an excellent series of articles on various topics connecting media and spirituality, written by a wide variety of writers.

Enter To Win Today: Risen DVD Giveaway

RISEN is the epic Biblical story of the Resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer. It’s a great faith story of a soldier’s search for Christ.

Here at Windows to the Soul, I decided to take part in a blog tour that a number of Catholic bloggers joined in order to encourage people to see this film, and to encourage filmmakers to make more films about faith. (See Reconciled to You’s blogpost here.) If you haven’t seen Risen yet, you might want to follow the blog tour to learn more about it and decide whether to get a copy!

As a special bonus on the blog tour, I’m hosting a Rafflecopter Giveaway for 3 readers who live in the USA to win a RISEN DVD! (You must be a US resident to enter.) For my blog on May 27th, I will post a downloadable lectio divina guide for watching the film that you can use personally or with your family or prayer group.

Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway by clicking on the image below:

Terms and conditions are posted below. 

Open to Residents of the US only. Giveaway ends May 27, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST. Winners will be selected randomly via Rafflecopter.com and be notified by email. Each winner will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Sr. Marie Paul Curley will send the prize to each winner directly. The product offered for the giveaway is free of charge, no purchase necessary. WordPress, Facebook, and Twitter are in no way associated with this giveaway. By providing your information in this form, you are providing your information to Sr. Marie Paul Curley and Pauline Books & Media (the ministry of the Daughters of St. Paul). We will not share or sell the information in any way, and will use any information only for the purpose of contacting the winner, unless you sign up for the newsletter, which you must confirm separately that you want to receive. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send Sr. Marie Paul Curley an email! Read the privacy policy of Pauline Books and Media here.