Thursday, February 23, 2012

"The Way" Review and DVD giveaway

There hasn't been a good Lenten movie since "The Passion of the Christ". "The Way" directed and  produced by Emilio Estevez, starring his father Martin Sheen, is a fascinating film which, though not as overtly Catholic as "The Passion" nevertheless explores themes of spiritual healing and the universal longing for a connection with God. This could be a good film to share with that relative who is "spiritual but not religious" who balks at films as overtly religious as "The Passion."

Maritin Sheen plays Tom, an opthamologist with an ostensibly comfortable life in California, he has a good practice, and a regular foursome at the local golf course, yet he seems distanced from it all. A recent widow with a rocky relationship with his only child, Daniel, played by Emilio Estevez, Tom's  life is not all contentment. A man who has achieved success by choosing his life's course early and keeping on track, Tom's son rejects the same course of action, saying, "You don't choose your life, you live it".  Daniel suspends his PhD studies in anthropology to experience foreign cultures in person. He ventures to Spain to walk the thousand year old pilgrimage called "El Camino de Santigao" or "the way" to the cathedral of Santiago de Campostelo, where the remains of St James the Apostle are buried in Spain.

Tom is stunned when he receives a long distance call from a policeman in France saying that Daniel was found dead at the start of the Camino in the French Pyrenees, puts his life on hold and takes the next plane to Europe. The story follows Tom in his quest to complete Daniel's pilgrimage, distributing his ashes along the route. A fascinating mix of characters engage Tom, who at first reluctant to share his purpose, later embraces the companionship on El Camino. Stunning scenery, interesting characters,  and surprising plot twists keep the story from blandness, and the ending is unusually thought provoking for a Hollywood film.
Adult themes are explored, and a surprising pro-life theme is touched upon, so this may be a good film to open up discussions in youth groups. Characters are well developed and believable, and follow the typical mix of travelers one encounters while backpacking in Europe. Emilio is still exploring his religious beliefs, a fact which he shared with me in his interview.
 I grew up in a house, where, as a boy, we lived in New York City for six years, my mother was raised Southern Baptist, and my father was a devout Catholic. And, as a boy, I heard nothing but arguments about religion, and it was very, very confusing to me, and, as a result it left a very distasteful feeling for me. Where I finally ended up, is that all of the children were Baptized, but we were not practicing Catholics, in fact, my father fell away from the Church for quite some time, and then came back in 1981, there was a reconversion. So, for me, this has been a long journey, my mother likes to call me a work in progress. And I am that, and I think the film is a reflection of my spiritual journey. Its often said that the proof is in the pudding, but I like to say that its in the eating of the pudding. And if you’ve seen the film then its pretty clear where I’m at in my spiritual path.
The only feature of this film which may offend some viewers is the manner in which Tom distributes the ashes of his son's remains, since it is against Catholic teaching not to bury them in consecrated soil and there was no funeral. It is highly recommended as an engaging, yet meditative film for adolescents and up.

To win a copy of "The Way" leave your name in the comm box with your email.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Book Review: My Other Self

My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith
by Clarence J. Enzler
Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 2010

“My Other Self: Conversations with Christ on Living Your Faith” was originally published in 1957. It has been reprinted as part of Ave Maria Press’ Christian Classics line. The author, Clarence J. Enzler was a father of thirteen children who was ordained to the deaconate in 1972, four years before his death. He is best known for his “Everyone’s Way of the Cross.” In the introduction to “My Other Self,” his children bear witness to the fact that he was a man who truly lived his faith. They write, “he was a model Christian, an outstanding Catholic, a defender of the faith, a gifted and skilled writer, a fabulous husband and an unparalleled father. But most of all, he was a man of God.”

“My Other Self” was modeled after “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis, but updated to include more modern theological ideas – for example, the writings of St. Therese, the Little Flower. Enzler writes as if Jesus were speaking directly to the reader, instructing him on the way he should go. In reading these pages, it is easy to believe that it is, in fact, Jesus speaking to you, inviting you to turn your whole life over to Him. He does not promise that the road will be easy. In fact, it will involve suffering. But, it is the only way to true happiness. Those who seek happiness in sinful pursuits will be bitterly disappointed, because such happiness can never last. “A saint is a person who is happy – forever.”

Enzler speaks of the need for surrender and detachment, prayer, and developing virtue. His directions are simple and straightforward, always loving and very practical. Enzler makes holiness seem possible, even in the midst of our brokenness. Every page of this book contains wisdom and offers much to reflect on. “My Other Self” is the type of book one should refer to again and again as one progresses (or perhaps takes a step backward) on one’s spiritual journey and is in need of encouragement.

There are so many wonderful quotes in this book (I literally took pages of notes while reading), but here are a few thoughts to carry with you:

“If you would be holy, surrender yourself to me.”

“I send you nothing that is too heavy for you to bear. Everything is fitted precisely to your strength.”

“You must faithfully perform all your daily duties, big and little, out of love for me.”

“Strive to love me equally in all things: in sickness or health, life or death, wealth or poverty, pleasure or pain, consolations or desolations.”

“Do not complain, but do not hesitate to ask the Father for aid to bear your cross and your sufferings.”

“Patience with me is simply trust in me. To trust me completely is the utmost in patience.”

“I require action, but I must have action firmly founded on prayer. The more you lead a life of prayer, the more fruitful your work must inevitably become.”

“Sin is turning away from your King toward some other creature, living or inanimate.”

“Give your present and your future completely into my hands. Accept here and now all that my plan for you entails. This is a great sacrifice, but it is also a great joy.

Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur

Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: "Cooper and Me" by Monique and Alexa Peters

This story  tells how Gracie and Joe's dog Cooper met his best friend Trooper.

Gracie and Joe's parents are serving our country overseas and they bring back Trooper, who needs a vet and some rest.   After they return to the service, Gracie and Joe want to do something for their parents so they wouldn't miss home so much, so they send them a stuffed dog of Hunter  :)

 It's a bit unusual for both parents to be serving overseas, but it added to the story that Gracie and Joe are proud of them and want to do for them.

 A cute story that shows how family members  care about each other and comfort each other.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Guest Post: October Baby Review

October Baby is a powerful, poignant film that addresses many levels of what it means to be human –dealing tenderly with pivotal questions of life, love and monkey-wrench circumstances that turn your whole world around and make you question why any of us is here.
Hannah is a beautiful and popular 19 year old who seems to have everything any of us could ever want: a loving family, great friends, and now the lead role in a big play. But on opening night, an asthma attack literally pulls the stage right out from under her and sends her unexpectedly on the journey of her life-time. As a result of her health issues, which have recently started to increase in frequency and intensity, the family doctor tells her they are related to the circumstances surrounding her birth. In very short order, she finds out she was adopted – and much more.
Her angst increasing with each revelation, coupled with questions that raises about her adoptive parents and her birth-mother, Hannah is propelled on a search that leads to more questions than she knew to ask. The road trip she embarks on with the help of her friends triggers a wide variety of responses from each person involved and deals realistically with personal relationships on every leveland ultimately everyone’s search for who we are and why we’re here.
The character development for Hannah, her parents, her friends and the other people you meet as the story progresses is flawless and draws you into the heart of the journey with compassion, and a yearning to see everything work out for the best. No one in the story line is an “extra”. Each person is integral to the telling of the tale, no matter how small their part seems to be – just as it is in life. Each word, each addition by everyone in the account is a thread that is carefully woven in, revealing that we are all truly connected to one another and each bear responsibility for what happens next. You are no longer in the audience - you become personally invested in the outcome.
There are times of side-splitting laughter and tender moments of tears as each scene progresses in common experiences and relationships. Although the movie is riveting from the beginning, it is the last 5 minutes that made me want to stand up and cheer – and bring everyone I could to see it.
This is a story of redemption, of forgiveness, and of one woman’s journey to rediscover the purpose for her life – and in the telling shows us ours. This is a wonderful film: fabulous cinematography, powerful story lines, surprising twists, comedic recognition of people in your own life, and an oasis of quality entertainment and family-friendly drama in an industry that increasingly lacks both. I heartily recommend this movie and encourage everyone to go to and look into forming an Action Squad in your area to bring the movie to your community. This truly is a tale that bears retelling, and you will never be the same.
Tracy A. Medling
Author, The Power of Choices
Hanover CT