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Catholic News Service

Catholic News Service has a rich history of journalistic professionalism and is a leader in the world of Catholic and religious media. With headquarters in Washington, offices in New York and Rome, and correspondents around the world, CNS provides the most comprehensive coverage of the church today. Website URL: http://www.catholicnews.com/

Movie review: 'Hostiles'

"Hostiles" (Entertainment Studios) works from the premise that not only were white soldiers in the 1890s aware of their complicity in the decades-long genocide of Native Americans, they could feel immense, paralyzing guilt about their actions.
 
The end result is more than a bit anachronistic -- white supremacist beliefs at the time were the norm, and the all-consuming energy required for daily life in the untamed American West allowed little time for reflection -- but director-writer Scott Cooper wishes to make a strong moral case.
 
So he opens with a quote from British novelist T.H. Lawrence, who wrote in 1923 about James Fenimore Cooper's 19th-century novel "The Deerslayer:” "The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer. It has never yet melted."
 
Times were tough, hearts were hard and disputes were settled at the point of a gun. Sounds like the opening of most episodes of the TV western "Gunsmoke."
 
Except that there's no Marshal Dillon here to set matters right. Cooper's protagonist, taciturn Capt. Joseph Blocker (Christian Bale), is wracked with anguish about the slaughter he's undertaken as well as the violence inflicted on virtually anyone he's worked with during his Army postings. He's killed, and seen his men killed by, the Native Americans they've been separating from their ancestral lands and way of life and putting them on impoverished reservations in the name of manifest destiny.
 
Blocker, despite his emotional damage, is an educated sort who reads Julius Caesar's writings in the original Latin. He thinks of his task as somehow noble, but nearly rebels when he's ordered to escort a dying Native American chief, Yellow Hawk (Wes Studi) and his family from New Mexico to Montana.
 
Along the way, he picks up Rosalee (Rosamund Pike) the lone survivor from a massacre of her family by rampaging Comanches. She's catatonic from losing her husband and young children but somehow restores her bearings to regard Yellow Hawk's family with compassion. At another stop, they pick up convicted criminal Philip (Ben Foster), who will face a military execution at the end of the journey.
 
Master Sgt. Metz (Rory Cochrane) brags of having made his first kill at age 14 during the Civil War, but he, too, succumbs to the accumulation of grief.
 
To survive on this sad, loping journey requires everyone to find common ground so they can repel the ongoing threat of Comanche raiders. This dips into the ancient racial trope of "good" and "bad" Native Americans, and also creates, as the lone form of suspense, the question of who will die along the way.
 
The story would undoubtedly have worked better if only a couple of the principal characters were deeply depressed. But Cooper gives everyone an overwhelmingly sensitive conscience and a sense of how they'll be regarded by history. The result is an unrelentingly unsentimental road trip that can be appreciated by an adult audience aware of how many times Cooper wants to just wear them down.
 
The violence and racism are matter-of-factly and realistically portrayed. There's no mythology here, and also no joy. Any character, if exceedingly fortunate, becomes merely a survivor.
 
The film contains gun and physical violence, fleeting gore and some racist dialogue. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
 
  • Published in Reviews

Ritual, consistency at Mass

So who really is singing "Gather Us In" at Mass?
 
Does the pastor asking people about their week really make the Mass friendlier and more engaging? Why is the Our Father so engaging? Do people like singing new songs at Mass, or do they prefer tried and true hymns they have been singing for years?
 
Two Catholic researchers are trying to find out.
 
John Ligas and Sacred Heart Major Seminary professor Michael McCallion presented a paper titled "Sociology of the Sacred in Post-Modernity: Ritual Dis-Attunement at Sunday Mass" during the Society for Catholic Liturgy Conference in Philadelphia last October.
 
The study's primary aim was to discover which parts of the Mass local Catholics were most actively engaged with and which parts lacked participation.
 
"We wanted to do research on tuning and dis-tuning at a typical Sunday liturgy," Ligas told The Michigan Catholic, Detroit's archdiocesan newspaper.
 
Ligas is a retired orthodontist and McCallion was hired in 2005 as the sociologist on staff for the seminary's licentiate program.
 
"I was telling John a while ago, there are studies — not many — that argue only 20 percent of Catholics participate in Mass," McCallion said. "(These) are ... very general studies that don't get at what participating actually looks like."
 
McCallion and Ligas went about observing 35 liturgies across 10 parishes — three parishes in the Chicago Archdiocese and the rest in Detroit's northern suburbs. The pair discretely took notes on who at Mass was actively participating in the Our Father, the opening, closing and communal hymns, the Gloria and the responsorial psalm along with other parts of the liturgy.
 
"A good analogy would be at a football stadium," Ligas said. "Everybody is watching the game, but who is participating in 'the wave'? Who cares about what's happening on the scoreboard? Who is checking their phone? We feel the Catholic liturgy is a collective action. So what things contribute to the collective actions and what distracts?"
 
Recognizing the limitations of conclusions one could draw from the observations of two people in a limited scope, McCallion and Ligas just focused on who was singing at Mass.
 
"At every liturgy at every church we observed, everyone joined in for the Lord's Prayer," Ligas said. "On the other side of the coin, the responsorial song was a bust, if you consider how many are participating and how many are not."
 
The summarization of the Ligas' and McCallion's research boils down to the idea that Catholics are more apt to verbally participate in parts of the Mass that are more ritualized, such as the Our Father. The response to the general intercession had the highest rate of response and participation, while more "changeable" parts of the Mass, such as the hymns, psalms or the pastor asking the congregation to greet one another, tended to have low rates of participation.
 
"From our initial responses, we found that ritual comes to form again," McCallion said. "If people are not singing the same songs, people are less likely to sing. That's our hypothesis that bore out in the data. Some hymns, some other parts of Mass that are constant, we found a greater rate of response."
 
Ligas and McCallion did make other observations at the Masses, from how many times people check their cellphones, to what they wear at Mass but limited their analysis to participation in singing.
 
"We might have had a feeling the Lord's Prayer was going to be No. 1 as far as the congregation participating," Ligas said. "But we were shocked with just how poor the responsorial song is."
 
The initial analysis implies that when pastors and music directors change the pattern of the liturgy in an effort to make the Mass more accessible, it tends to have the opposite effect.
 
"When you know what's going to happen, you will know what's going on," McCallion said. "When you go to a baseball game, nobody is sitting right next to you telling you every single rule. You just know them, because of the repetition. You know what you are supposed to be doing to enter into the collective ritual.
 
"The liturgy is supposed to be a communal event, but American postmodern culture is really focused on individualism," McCallion said. "I'd argue that our liturgy has been affected by individualism. Sometimes as, Emile Durkheim (a sociologist who studied the Mass) said, the 'secular invades the sacred.'"
 
The tension between making the liturgy a communal prayer experience while at the same time fostering an individual relationship with Christ is something everyone involved with liturgy -- pastors, music ministers and catechists -- will have to address in the new evangelization, McCallion said.
 
"In the new evangelization, there is a stress on having a personal relationship with Jesus, but the Mass stresses you are supposed to have a communal relationship with Jesus," McCallion said. "It is both/and, the sacraments are all communal. The Eucharist, if you want to find the physical body of Jesus, is communal."
 
The concept of a solely personal relationship with Jesus is a Protestant influence on the Catholic Church, McCallion argues, since the Catholic liturgy invokes the intercession of a communion of saints and the collective prayers of the church.
 
"In the liturgy, both sacramentally and sociologically, the whole is larger than the sum of its parts," McCallion concluded. "When we come together for Mass, something happens that can't happen when we're by ourselves. From a Catholic perspective, we hope the communion of saints, our deceased family members, are still praying for us."
 
McCallion and Ligas want to expand their research to parishes in the inner city, along with Hispanic and Tridentine Masses, looking for similarities and differences in Mass participation between those liturgies and the liturgies they have already observed.
 
McCallion hopes the research they've already done can be used by pastors and music ministers to better prepare a Mass that encourages more participation.
 
"All we are arguing, from the conclusions of the data we've collected, is priests and musicians need to come up with habits that encourage the social or communal ritual practices that people need," McCallion said. "Maybe encourage more seminarians and priests to take courses in ritual studies, recognizing the importance of ritual. It would help people to have a more personal, as well as a communal, relationship with Jesus."
 
  • Published in Nation

Pope Francis begins visit to Peru, Chile

Pope Francis arrived in Santiago Jan. 15, the first stop on a seven-day, six-city visit to Peru and Chile, where he will take his message of hope to people on the margins of society.
 
Arriving in Santiago after more than 15 hours in the air, Pope Francis was greeted by Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and a young Chilean girl. He told the crowd he was happy to be in Chile, and he blessed the workers at the airport before being transported to the papal nunciature, where he will stay the three nights he is in Chile.
 
On Jan. 17, the pope will travel to Temuco and meet with residents of the Mapuche indigenous community. Members of the Mapuche have called for the government to return lands confiscated prior to the country's return to democracy in the late 1980s.
 
"Chile won't be too difficult for me because I studied there for a year and I have many friends there and I know it well, or rather, well enough. Peru, however, I know less. I have gone maybe two, three times for conferences and meetings," the pope told journalists aboard the papal flight.
 
There was no mention of increased security for the Chilean visit. Three days earlier, several Chilean churches were firebombed, and police found other, unexploded devices at two other churches in Santiago. Some of the pamphlets included the phrase, "The next bombs will be in your cassock" and spoke of the Mapuche cause.
 
Before flying to Peru Jan. 18, Pope Francis will visit Iquique, where he will celebrate Mass on Lobito beach.
 
In Peru Jan. 18-21, he will visit Lima, Puerto Maldonado and Trujillo.
 
He will also meet with the indigenous people of the Amazon during his visit to Puerto Maldonado. The Amazon rainforest includes territory belonging to nine countries in South America and has experienced significant deforestation, negatively impacting the indigenous populations in the area and leading to a loss of biodiversity.
 
In both countries, he will work to restore trust and encourage healing after scandals left many wounded and angry at the Catholic Church.
 
Shortly after take-off from Rome, Greg Burke, Vatican spokesman, distributed a photo card the pope wished to share with journalists aboard his flight from Rome.
 
The photo depicted a young Japanese boy shortly after the bombing in Nagasaki, waiting in line, carrying his dead baby brother on his back to the crematorium. On the back of the card, the words "The fruit of war" were written along with Pope Francis' signature.
 
Before greeting each of the 70 journalists, the pope said that he found the photo "by chance" and "was very moved when I saw this."
 
"I could only write 'the fruit of war.' I wanted to print it and give it to you because such an image is more moving than a thousand words," he said.
 
Responding to a journalist's question about nuclear war, Pope Francis said: "I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things."
 
The Peru-Chile trip is Pope Francis' fourth to South America. In July 2013, he visited Brazil for World Youth Day. In July 2015, he traveled to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. His trip to Colombia in September was his third visit to the continent as pope.
 
  • Published in World

Movie review: 'Paddington 2'

Unlikely as it seems, "Paddington 2" (Warner Bros.), an endearing blend of animation and live action, sends the much-loved bear of its title (voice of Ben Whishaw) to the slammer. More predictably, once imprisoned — in a grim Victorian fortress of a jail — he still manages to exert his trademark charm on all around him.
 
The warm goodness and jaunty joking that pervade writer-director Paul King's follow-up to his 2015 original are only slightly marred by some ridiculous wordplay that may have a few parents frowning momentarily. And the smallest members of the family may be scared by a few action scenes. Otherwise, however, this is an appealing adventure for a broad range of moviegoers.
 
Once again based on the series of books by recently deceased author Michael Bond, to whom the film is dedicated, the proceedings initially find Paddington far from his roots in the Peruvian jungle, having settled into a cozy domestic life with the Browns, the very British human family that adopted him in the first screen outing.
 
Led by dad Hugh Bonneville and mom Sally Hawkins, the Brown household is rounded out by daughter Judy (Madeleine Harris), an aspiring journalist, son Jonathan (Samuel Joslin), who fears his love of steam trains is not cool, and housekeeper Mrs. Bird (Julia Walters). With their affection to bolster him, Paddington leads a contented existence munching on marmalade sandwiches and helping his neighbors in small but thoughtful ways.
 
His happy routine is rudely interrupted, however, when he is accused and convicted of stealing an antique book. Far from purloining the volume, Paddington had earlier taken a job in order to save up enough money to purchase it as a gift for his cherished Aunt Lucy (voice of Imelda Staunton).
 
None-too-subtle clues point to neighborhood fixture Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), an egotistical actor who has recently been reduced to making dog-food commercials, as the real culprit. While Paddington makes friends with his fellow inmates, including the jail's initially ferocious hardened criminal of a cook, Knuckles McGinty (Brendan Gleeson), the Browns work to clear his name.
 
Lessons about family loyalty and the importance of looking for the good in everyone are served up along with heavy doses of cartoonish but very enjoyable comedy. The result is a treat as soothing as a good cup of tea on a foggy day in London town.
 
The film contains perilous situations and brief childish anatomical humor. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
 
 
 
  • Published in Reviews
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