The Way (2010)
This is a story about a group of people walking El Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a traditional pilgrimage across Spain. These days, many people walk it for the hiking experience. Martin Sheen plays a modern busy American whose adult son (played by his real-life son and writer/director Emilio Estevez) is killed by a storm in the mountains while hiking the Way. Experiencing a father’s grief, he goes to Spain for his son’s remains, and decides to walk the Way, using his son’s gear.
It doesn’t take him long to acquire a few companions who amuse us more than they amuse him. As we’re drawn into their stories, their adventures along the Way, and the beauty of Spain and the Spanish culture, we find ourselves invested by the end in this crew of unlikely pilgrims, and we begin to see along with them the blessings of their journey. It’s a movie that emphasizes life, and experiencing it to the fullest. Sometimes we need to step outside of ourselves to really find ourselves. Beautifully filmed, with well-chosen music and an engaging plot, this movie is one that will affect your life, and maybe even inspire you to go on a pilgrimage of your own.
The Reluctant Saint (1962)
Now this is one of those movies that can be labeled as blatantly Catholic. But if you skip it for that reason you are depriving yourself of a wonderful experience. If I had a personal “feel good movie of the year” award to hand out, it would probably have to go to this movie. It’s based on the experiences of St. Joseph of Cupertino, the “flying friar”, who actually lived in the 1600’s. Yes, you can look him up.
In this story, poor Giuseppe (Joseph) can’t seem to do anything right. He’s a super nice guy and as humble as can be, but the world just seems out to get him. His mother is just fed up with how inept he is. She decides that the only way that he’ll amount to anything is if he’s accepted into a Franciscan monastery. Her force of personality is one of the amusing highlights of the film, and any mother will be entertained by her sheer determination to see her son succeed, and her beaming pride when he finally does. The story seems to take on a Forrest Gump flavor, as Giuseppe begins to catch one lucky break after another, and he begins to realize as we do that he is favored from on high. However, the same humility that brings spiritual gifts his way is the same humility that makes him rather… well, reluctant to accept them. And life at the monastery gets complicated rather quickly.
This movie will tug at your heart, make you laugh, and leave you feeling happy. What more could you want?
I welcome comments about these movies and the ones in my part 1 post.
“One thing in this world is different from all other things. It has a personality and a force. It is recognized and (when recognized) most violently loved or hated. It is the Catholic Church. Within that household the human spirit has roof and hearth. Outside it, is the night.”
Belloc, who was a good friend of G.K. Chesterton, was one of the great Catholic writers of the last century. If you’re interested in Church history I highly recommend his 1920 book “Europe and the Faith” which you can read here for free, or you can get a free mp3 download here (I’ve listened to it twice).
There is a fairly new blog out there that I think is worth checking out if you are a Catholic, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox Christian. It is called “I Must Follow If I Can” (in reference to a line from Tolkien). After being raised to be theologically Protestant, “Mustfollow” has been following the evidence of Scripture and history toward the Roman Catholic Church. I followed a similar journey myself in search of truth and ended up “crossing the Tiber”, but the discussions on his blog have been interestingly deep compared to my blog’s topics.
If you’re a Catholic like me and you want to cheer him toward the finish line, or if you are Eastern Orthodox and you want to represent that perspective… or if you are a Fundamentalist/Evangelical/Non-Denom/House-church/Protestant wanting to rescue him away from choosing Catholicism, I’m sure he would appreciate any honest input at this point. So far, it seems that the Protestant position has been weighed and found wanting, but I imagine there’s still time.
So, keep “Mustfollow” in your prayers, and check out his blog!
I’ve decided to start a new series of movie recommendations. Since becoming Catholic, I’ve come to view the world around me with a fresh perspective in many ways, and I’ve also been blessed to encounter many helpful Catholic sources of insight into not only theology but also popular culture. Even though I was already aware of some of them, I had no idea how many well-made movies there are that Catholics have particular reason to appreciate. Some are fun or heartwarming in portraying Catholics or Catholic themes, while others are serious, doubtful, or even critical. Of course these movies ask good questions about life and portray the human condition in a way that anyone can acknowledge. I like movies that make me think. In the process of gradually coming across (or searching out) good movies and watching them, I’ve been carefully compiling a list, and I think it will be fun to start sharing it with people who might be interested.
I hesitate to label them “Catholic” movies, because they can be appreciated by anyone, and some of the best are even made by agnostics/atheists. I prefer to simply call them “good” movies that are worth recommending in general, but especially worth recommending to my fellow Catholic Christians. Here are the first two that I’ve been wanting to share for a long time…
The Mission (1986)
Robert De Niro, Jeremy Irons, and even a much-younger Liam Neeson give moving performances in a film about the efforts of Jesuit missionaries in the jungles of 18th-century South America. Despite the many dangers involved, the Jesuits manage to connect with the native people, and a mission is built. Although great progress is made, the mission ends up being caught in the middle of political problems and faces destruction.
The historical backdrop on which the story is based is indeed interesting, but it’s the human side of it that really resonates. De Niro’s character has an emotional conversion experience that I think helps to show the liberating necessity of penance along with repentance. But because of his former ways he afterward still struggles with holding back his temper and retains the perspective of a warrior. Irons’ character is excellent in his strong-willed yet pacifist approach to doing God’s work as a priest. The timeless question of how Christians should respond to violence offers great fodder for discussion among friends coming away from watching this movie. Ultimately, many questions are left for us to answer, including how the Church could have better handled the situation. Some might argue that this movie makes a case against the Catholic Church in general, but I would have to disagree, especially since it’s on the Vatican’s list of “great films”.
The music score by Ennio Morricone is reason enough to check it out, and chances are you’ll be impressed by the sheer beauty of the scenery as well.
A Man for All Seasons (1966)
I paired these two movies together in the same post for two reasons… not only are they both on the Vatican’s movie list, but they are both written by screenwriter Robert Bolt, who was an agnostic or perhaps even atheist. I just find that interesting.
I absolutely love the dialog in this movie. One cannot help but wonder why our daily conversations don’t involve more thoughtfulness and wit. I find it to be a breath of fresh air compared to much of what Hollywood is producing these days. Of course, good dialog should be accompanied by a good plot, with good characters, and this movie has those too. The story is based on St. Thomas More and the stand he had to take for his Catholic faith in 16th century England while King Henry VIII stood opposed to the Catholic Church. But, setting matters of religion aside, it really begs the question of how far we might be willing to go in standing up for what we believe, and deciding if what we believe is worth dying for. Thomas More is played by Paul Scofield, with an intimidating King Henry played by Robert Shaw (yes, the captain from Jaws), and a corrupt Cardinal Wolsey played by Orson Welles. I know it may not look interesting at first glance, but trust me this movie is worth seeing.
Let me know what you think of these two, and I hope to continue with more!
The importance of the Eucharist cannot be over-emphasized. Catholics know the Eucharist to be “the source and summit of the Christian life” (CCC 1324). Some of you may remember a post I did a while back giving a scriptural introduction to the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
I think it might also be good to share this helpful video on the subject:
P.S. For those of you who’ve wondered how I’ve been doing away from the blog, my actual pen-and-paper journaling has taken off and is quite enjoyable. Life as a serious Catholic has been richly rewarding and challenging. My prayer life and my family life have improved, and it has become my obsession to constantly learn more about the historic Christian faith and draw closer to Christ and the saints. It’s been good to hang out with other serious Catholics too. Catholics know how to have fun… but they also know how to be reverent. Teaching my kids to be reverent is a wonderful experience and more important than I realized before. There’s so much to share, if anyone is interested.
“I love being Catholic the way Noah loved being on the Ark when the flood came. Like the Ark, the Catholic Church is not perfect. It’s not tidy, clean, and odor-free. It has plenty of problems and challenges and unruly passengers, but it’s still the ‘ark of salvation’ given to us by God and I love that I get to be on board. I love the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings, its Liturgy, art, architecture, music, and wisdom. I love the Catholic Church because it is ‘ever ancient, ever new.’ I love tracing its existence back 2000 years to Jesus Christ and the Apostles, and I get to be part of that. I love being Catholic because of its richness and diversity. It’s a big hospital for sick people – sinners like you and me. I love being Catholic because I can have the most personal relationship with Jesus Christ possible, by receiving Him, body, blood, soul, and divinity, in the Holy Eucharist.”
I’ve been reading The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, which I understand has helped change many lives for the better since 1948 when it was published. Add to it the fact that my life is already in the process of change, and it can come as no surprise that as I’ve been reading Merton’s book I’ve given serious thought to a lot of things in my life.
I wouldn’t necessarily just recommend that people read The Seven Storey Mountain, as it probably requires a certain understanding, or at least a patient willingness to ponder Catholic subjects, which for me is quite natural these days. For some this book could be life-changing, and for others it might seem like a waste of time. So I won’t attempt to talk you into reading it. But I bring it up because it tells a story that’s similar to my own but on a much grander scale.
My family and I are being accepted into the Catholic Church this month, and as we rejoice I’m still sad that more people aren’t discovering the amazing things that we have been blessed to find. But Merton’s story, at a deeper level than many of the conversion stories I’ve read, is helping me to see that this sort of thing really is a long journey for most people, even if my own journey was rather efficient.
I’ve stepped back long enough to get a glimpse of what I can be doing better. First of all, my ability to influence people is understandably pitiful, so I can literally be doing more harm than good by explaining Catholicism when not asked. Secondly, I can see how quiet, everyday Catholics understand that regardless of the ideas of this century or any century, the Church remains, preserved and waiting for people, and God often works in the lives of individuals in ways that we don’t see. When I get to the point where prayer is “all I can do” for someone, it’s there that I’ve finally become useful.
So I don’t know how much writing I should be doing for awhile. The things I would most love to write are the things that should involve careful reflection by my future self. The things I find to write that people need to hear are taught more effectively in books already written. The things I share for fun might just add unnecessary clutter to lives that are already too busy and distracted. As the saints inspire me toward a life of righteousness and love for others, I’m noticing that it is very difficult to write on meaningful subjects without any negativity arising, which I understand is sometimes necessary, but best handled by people more knowledgeable than me. In short, as long as there are books like The Seven Storey Mountain out there for people to read, there’s no reason for me to write in a way that might aspire to be as good but simply isn’t.
The more I learn, the more I realize I haven’t learned. I’m only beginning to understand the wonderful necessity of the Sacraments, and how praying the Rosary can make more of a difference in people’s lives and in the world than any efforts of mine.
As I enter into the next chapter of my life, I’ll be trying to live a Catholic life by the grace of my Lord Jesus. And a Catholic life is not something that can be adequately recorded. It is something that is done with a certain quietness, which some of you know is not easy for me, but I see a need for it.
God leaves enough bread crumbs for us to find the Truth by our own freewill if we really wish to pursue it. I need to trust that people can do it without my constant encouragement.
I am truly thankful for the support of those who have been reading my blog for the nearly two years that I’ve had it going. We’ve had some great conversations. I’ve learned a lot, and I hope I’ve been able to inspire people toward good things. I’ve been blessed by some really good people on the blogosphere. Dale and bgpery are two people I’m especially glad to have met. And, of course I must thank all of the friends and relatives who have followed my blog over the months mostly via email. You know who you are. Thanks.
May God bless you, and hopefully I’ll be seeing you.