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February 13, 1998     The Message
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February 13, 1998

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8 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana S Faith encounter the world of film By FATHER JAMES A. WALLACE, C.SS.R. Catholic News Service Can the movies help people talk at home about how faith influences their lives? I believe so. Recently such block- busters as Titanic (PG-13; USCC, A-III, adults) and Amistad (R; USCC, A-III, adults) included people of faith as part of their worlds. While you might find it a challenge to rttle off a list of movies that portray faith as central to their characters" lives, there are nevertheless a few around that raise issues -- personal, relational, social or ethical -- that people at home could dis- cuss afterward from their faith perspec- tiv.e. Two movies that feature people of faith are from Paulist Productions (Mahwah, NJ) and powerfully show individuals undergoing a transformation so dramat- ic it can only be called a conversion. -- The first features a Central American Catholic bishop who changed to became one of our age's great spgkespersons for the disenfranchised. The second presents a young woman who is emerging as one of this century's most influential figures. If her early life might make some parents uncomfortable, be assured that her later life probably will make everyone in the family even more uncomfortable, although for different reasons. The two movies are Romero and Entertaining Angels: The Dorothy Day Story (both are rated PG-13; USCC, A-II, adults and adolescents). It may seem strange to say that a movie about a Roman Catholic bishop is about conversion, but this one is. Archbishop Romero of El Salvador had been a member of the ruling class; sta- tus and wealth had blinded him to the injustice perpetrated against the poor- est people. But eventually he became a strong critic of the social structures and a radical supporter of reforms that would benefit the poor in his care. As the years have passed since his assassination, I wonder how many young people today even have heard of him. Similarly, Dorothy Day traveled her own road to sanctity, from the Bohemian lifestyle of an East Village writer in New York to an old woman, whose legacy was a string of houses to feed the poor in our cities. Enter.taining Angels does treat her love affairs and her abortion much earlier in life. But Day serves us as a reminder that most people come to know God through winding roads and that grace recognizes no boundaries in its efforts to penetrate the human heart and win it to God. At a time when the number of convict- ed murderers put to death in our prisons are growing, a viewing of Dead Man Walking (R; USCC, A-Ill, adults) the story of Sister Helen Prejean and her work with a particularly unsympathetic murderer on death row, can be a powerful experi- ence. The film raises the issue of capital punishment, inviting us to think about how society punishes those who take life from the innocent. There are some difficult scenes to watch, particularly at the end where the murder of two young people is portrayed graphically and juxtaposed against their murderer's execution. But it remains for me one of this decade's finest films, revealing how the hardest heart can be penetrated by the spirit of forgiveness. I believe it also remains one of the best por- trayals of a nun ever to find its way onto film. A video that may be less well known is January 1997's The Spitfire Grill, (PG-13; USCC, A-II, adults and adolescents) a story of forgiveness and healing. The cen- tral character, Percy Talbot, is a young woman with a secret, recently released from prison, who goes to the town of Gilead, Maine, to start life again. A job offered with some misgivings by Hannah, proprietor of the Spitfire Grill, provides the young woman another chance. "Can movies help people talk at home about how faith lives? I believe so," says Redeniptionist Father James that may be less will known is... 'The Spitfire Grill,' a t giveness and healing. The central character, Percy Talbot, is a recently released form prison, who goes to the town to start life again." CNS photo from Castle The movie's beauty comes in the growing relationship between the young Percy and the much older Hannah, and the healing that occurs on both sides. "If a wound goes real deep," Percy asks Hannah, "will the healing hurt as much as what caa While the answer seel, no less true that healiag'. love casts out fear. A final movie See we actually talk00 about after a movie ..... a tragedy as the Ttanic's sinking. But did God allow it or did human arrogance and stupidity lead to the tragedy? We felt that the film clearly showed how Weak- ness and false pride on the part of the captain and shipbuilders helped set a stage for tragedy. Another film, Rudy (PG; USCC, A-II, adults and adolescents) is wonderful for home viewing. It is a modern version of The Little Engine That Could, telling a true story about a working-class youth who dreamt of playing football at the University of Notre Dame. No one sup- ported his dream, but he ignored all of this in his quest to succeed and moved ahead. Throughout Rudy, the main character is shown praying and turning to God for help. Rudy's dream is not easily attained, which has prompted many discussions in our home about homework and sports. This movie has been through our VCR so many times memorized. It's a filled film. Hansen is a parent.t and free-lance writer laN aL re!at t ta_mLl! By ANNE HANSEN Catholic News Service My young-adult daughters and I sat spellbound recently as we watched a bit of history unfold in the movie Titanic (PG-13; USCC, A-HI, adults). One of my daughters lamented the loss of such gen- teel times and compared the wild, half- dressed look of some of the movie's viewers with the demeanor of the period actors. We talked about class distinctions prevalent at this century's beginning and so well portrayed in the film, then agreed that these distinctions still are with us. The Christian value that all men and women are created in God's image cer- tainly was not evident on the Titanic. Money and power meant everything in 1912, as they do in many circles today. For me there is no magic formula for getting mychildren to talk tO me. When I'm in a car or room with them they talk! It's that simple. As we talked about Titanic, we realized we were offended by the treatment of lower-or working-class people it depict- ed. Worst was the blatant refusal even to attempt to save them when the ship was sinking. That "genteel" era showed itself lacking in the basic Christian value of love of neighbor. The movie often made us think about life's meaning. The movie's love-story angle suggest- ed a view of women as less capable than their male counterparts, we felt. Two scenes even touched on domestic vio- lence. The film also has a scene in which the ship's first-class passengers participate in a religious service, singing and pray- ing. But, we noticed, the film also depict- ed their failure to act on their religious beliefs later when it came to other human beings in trouble. One question that arose in our conver- sation was why God would "allow" such