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Behind the Headlines

Role of faithful addressed at National Catholic Prayer Breakfast




Sister Constance Veit, communications director for her religious congregation, the Little Sisters of the Poor, speaks at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast May 17 in Washington. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

WASHINGTON – I would not have imagined a 10-minute speech to introduce the Pledge of Allegiance. It’s only 31 words, albeit a set of words packed with meaning.

The meaning became even more poignant when the Pledge was introduced at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., May 17 by Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward C. Byers Jr.

A member of the Navy SEALs, Byers noted that he led prayer groups and rosaries with other members of his unit. He received the Medal of Honor this year for rescuing a civilian hostage in a remote area of eastern Afghanistan in December 2012.

Byers said he wore a patch of St. Michael the Archangel on his uniform every time he went into battle.

As he stood, hand over his heart, Byers led a crowd of almost 1,300 people in reciting the Pledge at the 12th annual breakfast.

The role of the faithful in the public square was addressed by several other speakers.

Little Sister of the Poor Constance Veit reflected on news from the day before that the Supreme Court of the United States had returned the Little Sisters’ case against the U.S. government to the lower courts so that a resolution could be found between the parties. The sisters, who run homes for the aged poor around the country, including St. Martin’s Home for the Aged in Catonsville, object to the requirement in the Affordable Care Act that they provide contraception services to their employees. They also object to the workaround offered by the government because they believe that it would still make them complicit in what the sisters believe is an immoral practice.

Sister Constance said many people ask her what they would do if they lost the suit. She tells them they don’t have a fallback plan, because they firmly believe that God will never abandon them.

She recounted three pieces of advice she received from various people as the sisters fought this case: Dare to be of good cheer, see everyone as Christ would and trust in God.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) addressed the topic of religious liberty, especially in light of the Little Sisters case and others pending before the courts.

“These days religious liberty is under assault. A lot of people think faith is just an odd, colorful mask for the ugly face of intolerance,” Ryan said. “I am not saying we should feel put upon. I mean, saints were thrown to the lions. By that standard, we have it easy.

“What I am saying is, we have to advocate for our faith. And we should defend religious liberty not just on material grounds – that is, because people of faith do good things, like give to charity or volunteer. We should also defend it on spiritual grounds—that is, because living out our faith gives us joy.”

Guinean Cardinal Robert Sarah told the crowd that what happens in the United States has repercussions around the world. “The globe is waiting for your response on major questions.”

He reminded the audience that Pope St. John Paul II said, “The future of the church and the world passes through the family.”

He noted that as archbishop of Conackry, Guinea, he dedicated all the pastoral letters in his first five years as archbishop to the topic of the family. It is important, he said, to protect the life of the family as the first cell of the church and society.

He encouraged those gathered to do three things: Be prophetic, to be faithful and to pray.

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori closed the event with an invocation and blessing. He prayed especially for millions of people the world over who suffer religious persecution and discrimination.



May 18, 2016 01:22
By Christopher Gunty


Hand-delivered magazine comes with a request for prayers from Pope Francis



We don’t often hand-deliver copies of the Catholic Review, but for some people, that seems to be the best option.

I had the privilege of accompanying Archbishop William E. Lori and a group of interfaith leaders from Baltimore to Rome for a two-day pilgrimage to pray for peace and healing in the city.

As part of that pilgrimage, the archbishop arranged to introduce the members of the group to Pope Francis at the end of the pope’s general audience March 2 in St. Peter’s Square. We had ideal seats for the audience, in the front two rows, between famed tenor Placido Domingo and his wife, and two other small groups.

I know from past experience that such introductions – called “baciamano,” the Italian word for “kiss” – are brief. I had the occasion to meet St. John Paul twice, in Rome in 1984 and when he visited Phoenix in 1987.

For the opportunity to meet Pope Francis last week, some of the members of our group brought gifts for the Holy Father.

The Rev. Wolfgang Herz-Lane, bishop of the Delaware Maryland Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, gave a stained-glass “Luther rose” to the pope. “The Luther rose is kind of a symbol of Lutheranism, it’s the emblem of Martin Luther and we have a writing by Luther from 1530 in which he explains what the Luther rose stands for and the symbolism of it,” Rev. Herz-Lane said after the papal audience. “It has a black cross in the middle of it, and the outline of a rose. Luther has explanations for the colors and for the shapes, all really focused on Jesus and how Jesus is the center of our lives.”

Rabbi Steven M. Fink of Temple Oheb Shalom brought Baltimore-themed food: Old Bay seasoning, Utz crab-flavored chips, Berger Cookies and chocolate chip cookies baked by his own mother. The mom-baked cookies were very good – the rabbi shared a few with us before we headed to the papal audience, but still had enough to give the pope.

The Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, pastor of Union Baptist Church, handed the pope CDs of his church’s youth choir and senior choir.

William J. McCarthy Jr., executive director of Catholic Charities of Baltimore, presented to Pope Francis an apron commemorating the 35th anniversary of Our Daily Bread, a ministry whose meal program has provided hope to the poor for 12,700 consecutive days, with more than 7.2 million meals served. McCarthy said that when he met the pope, “talking about our work in West Baltimore, talking about the work of Catholic Charities, particularly Our Daily Bread and our 35 years, I could see a smile on his face, a firmer handshake and ‘continue,’ the word ‘continue.’”

For my part, I wanted the pope to know about our new magazine and ask him to pray for the important work we are doing in the Catholic press here in Maryland. Fortunately, our March issue featured a cover photo of Pope Francis praying before St. Juan Diego’s tilma at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. I presented the magazine to him, and he looked at it and said, “Oh, ‘The Shrine of God,’” referring to the headline that quoted from his homily at the Marian shrine, in which he said, “The shrine of God is the faces of the many people we encounter each day.”

I was awestruck to meet the pope and to be able to ask for his prayers. Up close, you can sense his humility. He focuses on you and – even for just a minute – he engages with you. Popes are not God – but they do represent our Lord as the Vicar of Christ on Earth. It’s a blessing to be in his presence.

The moment is over in an instant, but it stays with you forever.


Read coverage of the pilgrimage Day 1 here, and Day 2 here.

Listen to a radio report on the pilgrimage. Click on the March 13 edition of
"Catholic Baltimore."


March 11, 2016 03:15
By Christopher Gunty


There's a reason it's called 'Good Friday'

As we move through Holy Week toward the Holy Triduum and Easter, how do we approach with joy events so poignant and sad? The betrayal of Jesus, his Passion and death by crucifixion show the brutal way in which we, humans, treated the greatest gift of all: the Son of God.


In an interview with Archbishop William E. Lori about his new book, “The Joy of Believing: A Practical Guide to the Catholic Faith (Word Among Us Press, 2015), the archbishop talked about the great mysteries of our faith and the sadness of Holy Week. Listen in:


“I think the greatest mystery of our faith is God himself” he said. “It’s the inner life of God. It is God Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is that God so loved the world. It is that we would be caught up in this love.
Karen Osborn | CR STAFF
“So, when we talk about our faith, we’re not just talking about a bunch of disconnected truths that are really hard to understand. We’re not talking about riddles, puzzles, or the occult.

“What we are talking about is the hidden life of God, this light inaccessible that has been made accessible because God so loved the world that he revealed himself in history, most fully in his Son Jesus Christ and in revealing himself to us, revealed ourselves to ourselves, showing us our great dignity and our destiny to share that friendship, and that shapes everything,” Archbishop Lori said. “Once you really believe that, once you have fallen in love with this mystery of the God who is love, it just changes everything in your life.”


As we approached Holy Week and the end of Lent, I asked him about all the sadness that comes with the Passion and the Crucifixion – How does the joy come from that?

“You know it’s not for nothing we speak of Good Friday,” the archbishop said, because what is really being revealed “especially in Holy Week is God’s self-giving love. It’s the Lord Jesus who gave himself to us in the Eucharist in anticipation of giving himself to us and to the Father on the cross.

“It’s the revelation of a love that for sure exposes our sins for what they are, but then applies to our sins and the sins of all the world a love that is stronger than sin and more powerful than death,” he said.

“And so, even as we mourn our sins, even as we feel sadness over the price of our salvation, nonetheless what should overtake us in Holy Week are joy, gratitude and thanksgiving, and even when we are contrite for our sins as always we must be, at the end of the day it’s always the horizon of hope.

“We’re always able to be contrite because God is loving, merciful and that his love and mercy not only makes us feel better, it actually conquers our sins. Wow! What a gift. God has given himself to us and we get to share in his death to sin so that we might be free and joyful and begin even now to share in his risen life.”

What a gift indeed. As you ponder the readings and prayers of Holy Week, keep in mind that we know the end of the story – and it includes Christ’s resurrection and our salvation.


Photo by Karen Osborne | CR Staff

March 31, 2015 02:43
By Christopher Gunty


Would you ride a bus to see Pope Francis in Philly?

The Catholic Review and the Archdiocese of Baltimore Office of Family Life are working on organizing a day-trip via bus to Philadelphia when Pope Francis celebrates an outdoor Mass Sunday, Sept. 27.

This trip won't be an easy one. Details have not yet been announced. These things are likely:

  • The Mass will be in the afternoon.
  • There's going to be a big crowd. A really big crowd.
  • Anyone who wants to attend will likely have to walk a lot, and sit on the ground or stand for long periods. Expect a lot of waiting in lines – for bathrooms, for food, for getting into the area where the Mass will be held.
  • Buses won't be able to drop you off right next to the altar. Bus drop-off locations will likely be coordinated by the city to improve traffic flow; vehicles probably won't be able to get too close to the site.
  • Even if you're there, you might not actually see Pope Francis. You may see him on a large video screen like the folks in the Philippines or Rio did.
  • And while there likely will be some kind of controlled access, there may be tickets that guarantee seats or any particular location.

This was the scene from earlier this year: An aerial view shows pilgrims gathering to hear a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at Rizal Park in Manila, Philippines, Jan. 18. The view shows only a portion of the Mass site, which a local church official said was more than a mile long. (CNS photo/Philippine Air Force/Handout via Reuters).

And yet, with all these concerns, a lot of people want to go to Philly. They want to be in the presence of the pope, the vicar of Christ on Earth. They want to hear his message. They want to be able to say, "I was there."

I've had a chance to see Pope St. John Paul II at major events (and an intimate Mass in his private chapel in the Vatican). I saw Pope Benedict in Washington, D.C.; Rome; and Germany. Being in their presence was always amazing. I have not yet had the privilege of seeing Pope Francis in person.

In September, Pope Francis will visit Washington, where he will canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, evangelist to the western U.S. mission areas. He will also speak to Congress. In New York, he will address the United Nations. In Philadelphia, he will join the World Meeting of Families and celebrate the big outdoor Mass.

We are in the early stages of planning a bus trip to be a part of the celebration of Mass in Philly. The buses would likely leave from a few designated pick-up spots very, VERY early in the morning and return late at night. No hotel accomodations would be needed (hard to get, anyway). You can sleep on the bus.

Are you interested in learning more? Click here to let us know you're interested, and we will provide you with more details when the final schedule is announced.



March 16, 2015 09:57
By Christopher Gunty


How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening, treatment?


Five children were injured in May in two separate incidents involving bounce houses, those huge inflatable amusement devices often rented for carnivals and parties. Sure, parents should be concerned about allowing their children to play on a potentially dangerous device. The Consumer Product Safety Commission will open an investigation, according to USA Today, in light of the fact that at least 10 inflatables collapsed or blew away in 2011, and injuries more than doubled from 2008 to 2010.

It’s great that a trend was identified, and action taken fairly quickly to look into the aspects of inflatables that might cause harm.

But that doesn’t happen every time someone is injured or killed. Some we get used to.

When two students created a massacre at Columbine School in 1999 – 15 years ago now – killing 13 and injuring at least 24, one would have reasonably expected that Americans – politicians and citizens; parents and children; law enforcement, gun advocates and gun critics – would have all come together to take action to stem such senseless violence. But in the intervening years, names and places such as Tucson, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and the Columbia Mall have added more faces to the tragic stories. Add Isla Vista, Calif., to that list, where 22-year-old Elliott Rodger allegedly stabbed his roommates and then shot three more people while injuring 13 in the area around the University of California Santa Barbara, before killing himself May 23. The ready availability of guns and other weapons, combined with inadequate mental health screening and treatment results in tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.

The evident pain expressed by Michael Martinez, the father of Isla Vista victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, might have been prevented had the law-enforcement authorities who did a “wellness check” on Rodger had done a better background check. Rodger’s parents expressed concern over videos their son had made and posted on YouTube, prompting the visit to the young man’s home. The authorities apparently didn’t watch the videos for themselves, or check a database that showed that Rodger had recently (and legally) purchased several weapons and ammunition. Rodger eventually admitted before his rampage that had they entered his home and seen his weapons, they would have foiled his plans to wreak havoc.

How much more outrage will it take for Congress to act to plug the holes in the universal background check system to eliminate the shield for private sales? When even an attack on a federal congresswoman – doing her job, listening to constituents at a public forum at a grocery store – cannot prompt action, then Congress must be stalemated indeed.

How many lives will be further ruined by the lack of mental health care screening and treatment programs? Life is tough for all of us; for some those challenges can become crippling. And for some, when their disease is not under control, they become dangerous, to themselves and to others.

“When will this insanity stop?” Richard Martinez asked after his son was shot. “When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this’? Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.”

According to Catholic News Service, since the May 23 shooting in California, the state’s lawmakers have been busy re-examining the state’s gun-control laws. A new bill was introduced May 28 in the state Legislature that would allow friends or family members concerned that someone may commit a violent act to notify law enforcement officials. The bill also would allow police to investigate the threat and request a restraining order from a judge preventing the person from purchasing a firearm or keeping one they already own.

Will such laws be enough, without addition public support for enhanced mental health treatment? Who needs to be convinced that this problem begs for a solution? Can we begin today?

June 06, 2014 10:54
By Christopher Gunty


Raymond Arroyo addresses Catholic Business Network of Baltimore


Take 150 or so business people, add the chief executive of a locally-based weight-loss company and the news director of the largest Catholic broadcast network in the world, and you end up with a wonderful dinner that raised $12,500 for a scholarship fund for students in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

The third annual Catholic Business Network of Baltimore dinner charmed the attendees with good food and good conversation and a chance to “strengthen faith and business” in accord with the association’s motto.

The group began meeting in February 2010 and was formally organized as the Catholic Business Network of Baltimore in April 2012. The dinner helped the group surpass its five-year goal to raise $25,000 for a scholarship endowment, hitting a total of $27,000 in just three years.

For the first time in its short history, the network presented a Catholic Business Leadership award for service and leadership for archdiocesan programs and organizations. Michael MacDonald, CEO of Medifast, has followed in the footsteps of his brother, Bradley, who was CEO of Medifast before his death in 2012.

Accepting the award, MacDonald said that when his brother, who knew he was dying, asked him to take on the leadership of the company, he also asked him to continue the work Bradley had been doing in support of the church in Baltimore, knowing that Michael already supported the church in New Jersey, where he lived at the time.

“The Catholic Community in Baltimore is very welcoming,” Michael MacDonald told the CBNB group. He noted that the company’s board includes a priest and a nun, and every meeting starts with a prayer. He acknowledged that he supports other faiths, while not being ashamed of his own Catholic faith. “We’re very fortunate in this community to have the Catholic leadership we have,” he said.

MacDonald now chairs the Catholic Community Foundation strategic planning committee and will also chair the 2014 archdiocesan gala, which will be held Sept. 27 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The keynote speaker for the evening, Raymond Arroyo, regaled the crowd with quips and quotes from Mother Angelica, foundress of Eternal Word Television Network, headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. Arroyo is news director and lead anchor for EWTN News, based in Washington, D.C.

Raymond Arroyo (Courtesy Mark Gregory Photography)

Occasionally slipping into Mother Angelica’s “voice” to quote the Ohio-born nun, Arroyo explained that she built a studio on the pad of an unfinished garage at her monastery, a sign that God can turn even our failures into something good.

“Sometimes risking everything is the only way to see what God intends for us,” the newsman and author quoted Mother Angelica as saying.

He said that Mother Angelica, who retired from leadership of the network in 2000, got where she was by living in the moment, something we don’t often do in business.

Again “channeling” Mother Angelica, he asked, “What does God want you to do in this present moment? Not yesterday. Not tomorrow.”

She also said, “You will have an eternity to experience God, but only a short time to do his work, so get cracking.”

Arroyo recounted stories of providence delivering what the network needed at exactly the right time, and dispensed some business advice as he did so. “It’s only by moving beyond ourselves and reaching for the impossible that God responds.”

Answering questions from the crowd, he noted that while he has interviewed a lot of celebrities and politicians – and has even liked some of the politicians – he noted that the scholarship fund supported by the network is more important than electing a congressman. “Think about the literature you read as a child. They stay with you all your life,” he said, citing classics such as “Charlotte’s Web.”

That’s one of the reasons he said he is now writing a series of children’s books.

“You have to rebuild from the bottom up,” Arroyo said. “Teach them about God and a sense of faith. About good and evil.

“If you can rebuild the populace, you can save the civilization.”

In the course of working at the Associated Press, working for political columnists Rowland Evans and Michael Novak, and now in his multiple roles at EWTN and writing best-selling books, Arroyo said he has had a chance to meet all his heroes, including St. John Paul II, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata and Mother Angelica – “that trifecta is hard to beat” – as well as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and Lech Walesa. “It’s a great honor and a gift,” he said.
 

May 15, 2014 09:34
By Christopher Gunty


‘Son of God’ tells the ultimate ‘Survivor’ story


If you go to see the new movie, “Son of God,” and you have paid any attention at Mass or in Catholic school or religious education, you know the story. You know the stories – the Nativity and the visit of the wise men, the calling of the apostles, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, the healing of the lame man, the Last Supper, etc. It is one thing to read the Scriptures; it is another to watch the stories brought to life on screen.

Produced by the husband-and-wife team of Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, the feature film is culled from portions of the popular History Channel series on the Bible and from alternate shots not used in the TV series, according to Downey. They pulled together the “Jesus” parts of the Bible story.

LastSupper

“Son of God” is told through the eyes of the Apostle John, as he has aged and looks back at how this man from Galilee changed his life and changed the world. Through John’s eyes, we see the life of Christ from his birth through the Ascension.

Downey is best known for her role as an angel-come-to-earth in the long-running TV drama “Touched by an Angel.” Burnett has made his mark with reality television, including the various iterations of “Survivor.” With this film, Burnett and company have made the ultimate “Survivor” story. Jesus of Nazareth overcomes death by crucifixion and not only lives forever, but brings everlasting life to those who believe in him.

This is certainly not he first cinematic look at the life of the Lord. “Passion of the Christ” and even musical versions such as “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” each look at the historical Jesus from a different perspective.

“Son of God” excels in several areas.

The cinematography is beautiful. Shot primarily in Morocco as a stand-in for the Holy Land, the film is rich in vistas of Jesus and his band of early followers walking from place to place. Special effects – among them the storm in which Peter starts to walk on water toward Jesus, but goes under when his faith fails – impress.

Most of the actors bring their characters to life. Greg Hicks and Louise Delamere, as Pilate and his wife, embody the struggle between the Roman occupier and the dream she has that Pilate will have a role in the death of an innocent man. In many biblical films, the high priest Caiaphas is an imposing, bold presence; Adrian Schiller portrays him almost (but not quite) as a weakling, essentially as a man concerned about the effect of the rabble-rouser Jesus on the strained relations between the Jews and the Romans. Nicodemus (Simon Kunz) displays the angst of a member of the Sanhedrin who comes to realize that there is something different about Jesus that is worth following.

Mary and Centurion
Downey herself portrays Mary, the mother of Jesus, effectively emoting the anguish of a mother as her son is beaten and hung on a cross. We feel her pain. Portuguese actor Diogo Morgado imbues Jesus with the urgency of the call to the disciples, the playfulness of a friend, and the power of a leader. By turns joyful in his teaching and disappointed with the moneychangers, he powerfully brings the emotions of despair at Gethsemane and Calvary to the fore.

Some of the characters are not as effective. For example, the story seems to confuse Simon the Zealot (who is never mentioned here) with Barabbas, letting Barabbas provide the viewpoint as one who seeks a messiah of military might, as well as being the murderer whom Pilate sets free at the urging of the crowd. And by necessity, as the years of Jesus’ life are condensed into 138 minutes of running time, some timelines are compressed, such as Jesus’ appearance to the Apostles after his resurrection.

This film is not for the young, or the squeamish. The story shifts quickly from the Hosannas of Palm Sunday to the brutality of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Parts of the film are intense. There is an appreciable amount of blood and gore, especially during the flogging, carrying the cross along the Via Dolorosa, and – of course – the crucifixion. It may be too intense for a child under 13 if the child was not mature or prepared for it. Even some adults in the screening I attended averted their eyes during particularly violent scenes.

And yet, the violence is a part of the story. As with “The Passion of the Christ,” when Jesus is beaten and nailed to the cross, it is hard not to realize that my own sins put him there, and that he died for my salvation – and yours.

Like “The Passion,” “Son of God” has been marketed through Christian and Catholic churches across the country, with churches being encouraged to buy out screenings. Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori will host such a screening in Hunt Valley March 4, the day before Ash Wednesday. While it is a good way to bring together a community to experience the story, it is also very effective at selling seats. That’s not a bad thing, if it gives more people an opportunity to internalize the message of the Gospel.

As we begin Lent March 5, it is well for us to remember that “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.” In that context, this movie can be an aid to your Lenten reflections.


For more on “Son of God,” including a video interview with Roma Downey and scenes from the film, see this story from Catholic News Service. Also view their review of the movie.



February 28, 2014 12:01
By Christopher Gunty


A look at Columbia Pictures' 'Elysium'


In the 2150s, earth doesn’t look very good. People on earth are stacked on top of each other (worse than today’s skyscrapers and dense cities). Greenspace? Virtually nonexistent. Pollution, a police state and policies keep the underdog under foot.

But if you are among the planet’s upper crust, you can live off-planet on Elysium, a space station, where all is beautiful and everyone is healthy, thanks to the “medbay” in every home that diagnoses and cures all maladies within moments. As Garrison Keillor might say, “Where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.”

Such is the premise of “Elysium,” in theaters today.

Wagner Moura (left) and Matt Damon in Columbia Pictures' ELYSIUM. (© 2011 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc. All rights reserved.)


From this dystopia emerges a savior, Max (Matt Damon), who is told as a young boy by a wonderful, compassionate nun (played by Yolanda Abbud L.) at an orphanage that he is born to do something great.

He longs for Elysium, a wheel in orbit around earth that is visible to the naked eye from the scorched planet’s surface.

TriStar Pictures’ ELYSIUM. (© 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.All rights reserved.)


Years later, Max is an ex-felon factory worker, ironically helping to manufacture the police robots that herd and harm the people.
Max gets blasted with a lethal dose (a “maximum” dose) of radiation at the factory, and is given a bottle of pills by a robotic medic and sent home with five days to live.

Elysium is science fiction, but it’s also a political allegory. As 2004’s “The Day After Tomorrow” was an unabashed portrayal of the dangers of global warming, “Elysium” clearly highlights immigration concerns and the lack of universal health care. It’s no coincidence that most of the earth-bound residents of Los Angeles who seek the ability to migrate to the space station are Hispanic. Even the terminology is clear: the shuttles the earthlings use to attempt to go to Elysium are called “undocumented ships.” It couldn’t be more obvious than that.





The science in “Elysium” is probably as accurate as in “The Day After Tomorrow,” which is to say, not very. In 2008, Yahoo! Movies listed the climate change diatribe as one of the “Top 10 Scientifically Inaccurate Movies.” Certainly, we can expect advances in medical technology in 150 years, but it’s unlikely that we will achieve the kind of progress Elysium depicts. Cranial reconstruction? It might take a few minutes, but sure, we’ve got that.

The grotesque violence in this film is predictable. Think “Mad Max Beyond the Atmosphere” for a new take on the apocalyptic “Mad Max” movies featuring a young Mel Gibson. For the most part, people left behind aren’t very nice to each other.

In Ancient Greek folklore, Elysium, or the Elysian Fields, was a concept of the afterlife where “admission was initially reserved for mortals related to the gods and other heroes. Later, it expanded to include those chosen by the gods, the righteous, and the heroic, where they would remain after death, to live a blessed and happy life, and indulging in whatever employment they had enjoyed in life,” according to Wikipedia.

The 22nd-century Elysium is similar, except these privileged few aren’t dead. They have beautiful homes, free medical care and room to breathe.

What they don’t have is utopia. We note that in both cases where an undocumented mother makes it to the space station to ensure her child a chance at medbay miracles, they have to break a window to open the door. If life on Elysium were perfect, who would need to lock their doors?

The church supports sound immigration policies and universal health care (as long as it promotes life rather than diminishes it), so this might be a movie about which Catholics have a lot to say.

But my favorite takeaway from the film was the nun. A century and a half from now, I believe there will be Catholic sisters (still wearing a veil and habit) who will carry on the good work of Jesus, as depicted not on the space station but on the dirt-poor planet below. I believe those in church ministry will care for the sick and orphaned. I hope they will all be as kind as that sister, who spoke lovingly and sweetly to a young, lonely boy, and inspired him to be a savior.

August 09, 2013 05:37
By Christopher Gunty


Christian imagery in "Man of Steel" also looks at role of fathers


If you plan to see the Superman reboot, “Man of Steel,” released today, bring earplugs. But also bring your New Testament.

You know the Superman story. From TV’s George Reeves and Tom Welling to the big screen’s Christopher Reeve, Dean Cain, Brandon Routh and now Henry Cavill, it’s a timeless tale of a boy whose parents die in a tragic accident (in this case, their planet is destroyed) and then is adopted by a couple who show him love and affection, and teach him what it means to be part of a family.

This latest edition has a lot of violence – hand-to-hand combat, world destruction, that sort of thing. For a story about someone sent to save the world, a lot of the planet gets battered and a lot of people die in the attacks by the villain (General Zod, played by Michael Shannon) and his cohorts.

The movie also has its share of Christian allegory and family values. It’s also a good look at parents, and especially a boy’s relationship with his father as he becomes a man.

 (CNS photo/Warner Bros.)

Under the direction of Zack Snyder, “Man of Steel” takes a new look at the backstory of Kal-El/Clark Kent/Superman. A veritable assault on the senses, with loud explosions, imagery that encompasses the viewer and even seat-rumbling bass tones, it can be overwhelming. Add the 3D option, and you could be on sensory overload.

As Clark begins to use his superhuman powers, it attracts the attention of the world, specifically Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. In the newsroom, someone asks, “He’s 33 years old. Why don’t we know anything about him?”

Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is the Doubting Thomas in this tale. She sees, but – at least at first – she does not believe the strength and goodness Kal-El displays.

She asks him what the “S” on his outfit stands for. He tells her it’s not an S, that on his planet, it is a symbol for hope (it’s also his “family crest”). Hmmm, a man who symbolizes hope, coming to save the world.

Via Kryptonian technology, his father is able to teach him about their planet, telling Kal that he can be “a force for good; that’s what you can bring them.”

Jor-El (Russell Crowe) also tells him: “You will give the people an ideal to strive toward. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” Perhaps he means, “… they will join you in the Son.

Kal-El experiences the angst of knowing that he has been given great skills and great responsibility. He faces the epitome of evil in General Zod, and must battle Zod (Could it be Satan?) for the fate of humanity.

As we celebrate Father's Day, “Man of Steel” also takes a good look at the role of fathers in shaping their sons. Jor-El gives Kal everthing he can, and sends him away, in order to save him. Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner) adopts him and teaches him how to deal with his abundant talents.

Jonathan tells him: “You're not just anyone. One day, you're going to have to make a choice. You have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be. Whoever that man is, good character or bad, it's going to change the world.” He senses – and trusts – that Clark will make the right choice.

If you see “Man of Steel,” look for the Christian imagery and values behind the CGI landscapes and special effects. Decide if you think Kal-El/Clark Kent made the right choice, and think about how he was inspired to become who he is.

Also see: 

Movie Review: Man of Steel


June 17, 2013 11:34
By Christopher Gunty


Participate in Pope Francis’ installation as Bishop of Rome – without leaving home

If you’re planning to get up early to watch the Mass of Inauguration for the Bishop of Rome’s Petrine Ministry for Pope Francis, you’ll want to be prepared to make the most of it.

The Mass begins at 9:30 a.m. Rome time (4:30 a.m. EDT). That’s plenty early enough, but if you want to see the pope circling the Piazza San Pietro in the popemobile before the Mass, you’ll have to set your alarm for even earlier. The pope is expected to come out around 8:45 or 8:50 a.m. Rome time (3:45 or 3:50 EDT). You can expect hundreds of thousands to attend the outdoor Mass for the first chance to see the pope in this setting. The whole square will be filled, as well as most of the Via della Conciliazione, all the way down to the river and Castel Sant’Angelo.

According to the Vatican Information Service (all times local, EDT in brackets) “Between 8:45 and 8:50am [3:45-3:50 am] the pope will depart the Domus Sanctae Marthae and start to move through the crowd in the various sections of the piazza – either in the Jeep or the Popemobile – and greet those gathered. He will return to the sacristy, via the Pietà side, around 9:15am [4:15 am]. Mass is planned to begin at 9:30am [4:30 am].

“Regarding the beginning of the ceremony, the pope, once having entered the Basilica, will head to the Confession (St. Peter’s tomb under the high altar) while trumpets will announce the ‘Tu es Petrus’ [‘You Are Peter’]. The Pope will venerate the tomb of St. Peter, together with the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches (10 in number, four of whom are cardinals). He will then be presented with the Pallium, Ring, and Book of the Gospels that were placed at St. Peter’s tomb the night before.

“The Holy Father will then come back up from the Confession to the main floor of the Basilica, from which the procession continues. The ‘Laudes Regiae’ (Christ is King) will be chanted, with some invocations taken from the Vatican II document on the Church, ‘Lumen Gentium.’ In the Litany of Saints are particularly to be noted, after the Apostles, the Holy Roman Pontiffs who have been canonized up to the most recent: St. Pius X. Fr. Lombardi clarified that these are only the pontiffs who have been named as saints, not those who have been beatified. The procession will then make its entrance into the square.”

Many news channels will carry the Mass live, as will EWTN. If your cable or satellite system does not provide a channel carrying the Mass, you can go directly to a live feed from the Centro Televisivo Vaticano at which you can select audio_eng (other other language) from the drop-down box at the lower right for an audio commentary in your preferred language. If that link doesn’t work for you, choose your download speed and format here.

It will be helpful to follow along with the Mass, which is expected to last about two hours (as you’re getting ready for work and/or getting the kids off to school). You can download the official Mass book produced by the Vatican to assist you with this.

Most of the Mass will be in Latin, but the book includes translations in English and Italian, which is very helpful.

VIS notes that before the Mass begins, there will be some specific rites to the beginning of the Petrine Ministry. This follows the practice begun recently by Benedict XVI in which rituals which are not strictly part of the Mass are done in a liturgical context but outside the Mass. The elevation of cardinals and the conferral of palliums on new archbishops are two such rites.

The Imposition of the Pallium: Made of lamb’s wool and sheep’s wool, the Pallium is placed on the Pope's shoulders recalling the Good Shepherd who carries the lost sheep on his shoulders. The Pope’s Pallium has five red crosses while the Metropolitans’ Palliums [such as that worn by Archbishop William E. Lori] have five black crosses. The one used by Francis is the same one that Benedict XVI used.

The Fisherman’s Ring: Peter is the fisherman Apostle, called to be a ‘fisher of men.’ … It bears the image of St. Peter with the keys. It was designed by Enrico Manfrini. The ring was in the possession of Archbishop Macchi, Pope Paul VI's personal secretary, and then Msgr. Malnati, who proposed it to Pope Francis through Cardinal Re. It is made of silver and gold.

The ‘Obedience’: Six cardinals, two from each order [cardinal bishop, cardinal priest and cardinal deacon], among the first of those present approach the Pope to make an act of obedience. Note that all the cardinal electors already made an act of obedience in the Sistine Chapel at the end of the Conclave and that all the cardinals were able to meet the Pope in the following day’s audience in the Clementine Hall. Also, at the moment of ‘taking possession’ of the Cathedral of Rome – St. John Lateran – it is expected that the act of obedience will be made by representatives of the various members of the People of God.

In a news conference, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Press Office of the Holy See, noted that the Mass will be the one for the Solemnity of St. Joseph, which has its own readings (therefore they are not directly related to the rite of the Inauguration of the Pontificate). The Gospel will be proclaimed in Greek, as at the highest solemnities, to show that the universal Church is made up of the great traditions of the East and the West. “Latin,” Fr. Lombardi said, “is already abundantly present in the other prayers and Mass parts.”

“The Pope will give his homily in Italian and, as is his style, it probably will not follow the written text strictly, but will contain improvisations,” Father Lombardi noted.

Even if you have to stay here, you can be part of the historic events unfolding in Rome. You just won’t be able to get my favorite Roman gelato afterwards.


March 18, 2013 03:28
By Christopher Gunty

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