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
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
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.
“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
“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
“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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
“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
“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
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.
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
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.
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.
Pictures’ ELYSIUM. (© 2012 Columbia TriStar Marketing Group, Inc.All rights
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
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
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
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
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.
Movie Review: Man of Steel
June 17, 2013 11:34
By Christopher Gunty
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
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
“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.
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.
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
March 18, 2013 03:28
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By Christopher Gunty