Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review of "Restless Heart" the Confessions of St Augustine

Every Christian has heard about the stunning conversion of St Augustine, the most famous doctor of the Church. His wisdom permeates Western Culture and Catholics are familiar with his saying, “You have made us for Thyself O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee”. We have heard about St Augustine’s long suffering, prayerful mother, St Monica, whose feast day precedes his on the Liturgical Calendar. Many Catholic mothers consider St Monica their patroness as they intercede for children swept out of the Faith by the wayward culture. Yet, few Catholics know the details of Augustine’s life story told in his Confessions and it is this void which the film “Restless Heart” seeks to fill.

Born to Patricius, a pagan Roman official and Monica, his Christian wife, Augustine showed great promise at a young age and felt that his backwater town in North Africa was not able to give him the education he required to develop his gift for rhetoric.  He was disgusted by his father’s drunkenness and womanizing and contemptuous of his mother’s prayerful suffering as she served her family’s needs. Augustine was meant for better things, he reasoned, as he watched the famous lawyer Microbius and longed to be tutored by him.  Patricius did not have the funds or the desire to send him to study but Monica found a sponsor for her son and convinced Patricius to allow him to leave home. Soon the brilliant Augustine became a renowned attorney winning case after case, relishing his fame and the pleasures of the flesh. He visited home expecting his mother to be proud of him, but she reproached him about the fact that he helped a guilty man avoid prison and return home to murder his wife. Monica was nursing Patricius in his final days and rejoiced as he finally asked to be baptized. Augustine scoffed at Baptism; he had embraced a life of sin which included a concubine who was to bear him a son. Though Monica cared for Augustine and his family, she told him that she did not approve of his lifestyle and prayed constantly for his conversion, even as his friends got him involved in the cult of Manichaeism.  Soon his restlessness drove him to leave his family behind without notice travelling to work for the Empress of Rome as her orator. Augustine had surrendered completely to the lure of fame and wealth, and his seemed a hopeless case. But as Bishop Ambrose had warned him, the Truth soon caught up with Augustine.

No need to worry about spoilers here. Catholics know this story has a miraculous ending, which brings Augustine more fame than he could have achieved in his secular career,  thanks to the faithful prayer and loving example of St Monica. What they will be fascinated to watch is exactly how a famous man who had everything to lose by becoming a Christian did so, and found peace for his soul in the Church. If ever there was an ancient story which is relevant to our contemporary culture, this is it. No Catholic family is without its wayward sons and daughters, whose restless hearts have led them from the Faith of their parents into the spiritual desert of modern society, which is no less debauched than Rome in its final days. Catholics will be engrossed with this film in its full cinematic glory, with top notch acting, moving score, stunning cinematography,  and climactic ending. I recommend it for adolescents and up, due to some scenes involving drunkenness, adultery and violence. This is a film which should be part of every parish and home DVD collection and for a limited time can be shown at privately sponsored screenings. More information can be located at the film's website. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy - PG13

As the previews indicate, we find out that Jason Bourne was not the only operative in the government's secret program.  Aaron Cross is the latest agent in the program.  
Not only is he given a new identity, but he also has his DNA enhanced.
But  when the government decides to end the program, Aaron finds himself and other agents in danger.
Lots of action and excitement, but the story could have been told better.  At times, it was hard to follow.   I couldn't help but compare it to the earlier Bourne movies, and they did a better job of that. Jeremy Renner is good as cross...a good movie worth seeing, especially if you're a fan of the first Bourne movies.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Saint Who?

Saint Who? 39 Holy Unknowns
by Brian O'Neel
Servant Books, 2012

Most of us are aware of the "famous" saints - people such as the Apostles, St. Francis, St. Therese, St. Anthony, etc., but there are a huge number of saints that very few people know anything about. Brian O'Neel sets out to rectify that (at least a little bit) by profiling thirty-nine little-known saints that have something relevant to teach us today in "Saint Who? 39 Holy Unknowns."

For each saint, O'Neel offers a brief biography along with a reason why oneshould pay attention to this saint. In these pages, one learns about Saints Perpetua and Felicity and discovers that no reason for living is worth denying Christ. St. Bathilde, the wife of King Clovis, teaches us how to use power and possessions for good. St. Willichord, a missionary saint, offers lessons in perseverance in the face of failure, and St. Lydwine demonstrates faith and patience in the midst of tremendous physical suffering.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson is that "Each if us has abilities we can use for God. Whether it be working on our personal sanctity or trying to make this world a better place by preaching the gospel, each of us can do something that will leave a mark. It's not too late. You're still breathing. What is God calling you to do?"

Each of us is called to be a saint. In "Saint Who?" Brian O'Neel educates us about thirty-nine people who did. They are worth spending some time with.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The American Bible Challenge Game Show

For awhile my teens were fans of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” They loved the fact that the contestant was earning money for charity, the increasing difficulty of the questions, and the drama of the contest. But I didn’t like the questions which had little educational content. So aside from Jeopardy, which they find dull in comparison, we were not watching game shows as a family. Now there is a brand new game show which features the best of both shows and something more: heavenly inspiration. Yes, the American Bible Challenge is a show that highlights Christianity while it challenges your mind. 

The American Bible Challenge is billed as a show which “celebrates the Bible’s place in American culture. Comedian and author Jeff Foxworthy hosts as Bible enthusiasts from all across the country compete to raise money for their favorite charities.” 

Americans have at least a simple knowledge of the Bible, and are interested in learning more, and long for a show which gives Christianity fair treatment. But the news gets even better; Jeff Foxworthy is a funny and engaging host to this contagiously cheerful show. His homespun humor is the perfect fit for a game show in which three teams who are winning money for their favorite charity answer increasingly difficult questions from both Old and New Testaments. My girls and I were shouting out answers to questions on Noah’s Ark in the beginning, and scratching our heads at the obscure names in the final round on “Women in the Bible”.
The show features an exciting format and set, and a dynamic Gospel choir which opens and closes each segment with old favorites like “Amazing Grace” and “Amen”. Even though some teams earn less, in “The American Bible Challenge” everyone, including the audience, come out winners!!
Look for The American Bible Challenge to premier at 8 PM prime time on August 23 on the Game Show Network. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doctor Jerome Lejeune -- Through his daughter’s eyes

The personal life and professional character of Dr. Jérôme Lejeune were a seamless garment of pro-life philosophy and action. This is what comes through in Life Is a Blessing: A Biography of Jérôme Lejeune, lovingly written by his daughter Clara Lejeune-Gaymard.
Clara describes the compassion and hope he shared with families affected by Down syndrome. People called him at any hour—day or night—for his counsel. He would drop everything to spend hours with them.
Once, while attending an international health conference at the United Nations, Dr. Lejeune was the lone pro-life voice when abortion was being debated. He asked, “Is life a fact or a desire?” and admonished his audience: “Here we see an institute of health that is turning itself into an institute of death.” That evening he wrote to his wife, “This afternoon I lost my Nobel Prize.”
In the social upheaval of the 1960s, there were some frightening moments for the Lejeune children. At the medical school where he taught, they saw terrible graffiti: “Dr. Lejeune is an assassin! Kill Dr. Lejeune! Dr. Lejeune and his little monsters must die.”
Clara laments, “He who hated no one, who always said, ‘I am not fighting people; I am fighting false ideas,’ is even today the object of unconcealed fury on the part of those who set themselves up as apostles of tolerance.”
She sees her father as a dry martyr of the abortion battle:
But here is a man who, because his convictions as a physician prohibited him from following the trends of the time, was banned from society, dropped by his friends, humiliated, crucified by the press, prevented from working for lack of funding. Here is the one who became, for certain people, a man to be beaten down; for others, a man not worth jeopardizing your reputation with; and for others, an incompetent extremist.
Pope John Paul II called him Brother Jérôme. To Clara, her father was a great Christian:
If he suffered, he never let us see it. In the face of insults he used to smile, saying, “It is not for myself that I’m fighting, and so these attacks don’t matter.” … He lived his faith … and from it he drew courage, kindness, attentiveness to others, and above all, what was most striking: the absence of fear.

You can purchase a copy of "Life is a Blessing" at AmP Publisher's Group. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Music Review: "You Are the Light" by Josh Blakesley

I've reviewed several Christian music CD's, and what I always look for first and foremost is for the music and lyrics to truly enhance worship:  I've found that some get so caught up in the music  that,  unfortunately,  the worship of the Lord is essentially lost.  
But....from the first track to the last track, Josh's music and songs made me think only of the Lord we worship.
Josh includes all aspects of faith and worship:
"Restored" relates how we are restored in the Lord.
 "I Will Give Thanks" expresses the gratitude due the Lord. 
"At  the Name" (my favorite, BTW) reminds us of the reverence due the name of Jesus.
This CD is one of the best Christian music CD's I've had the pleasure of reviewing.  
And did I mention Josh is Catholic?  :)   The below clip is a sample of his previous work.
An excellent CD!