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Movie Review: 'Born in China'

Forget worrisome headlines about our trade deficit with China. Instead, relax and drown your concerns in the veritable tsunami of cuteness that flows from "Born in China" (Disney), a warm and fuzzy animal documentary, narrated by John Krasinski.
 
The latest entry in the Disneynature series -- released, like several of its predecessors, in conjunction with the April 22 observance of Earth Day -- "Born in China," directed and co-written by Lu Chuan, rests on the tried-and-true premise that critters in the wild act just like us when no one is (supposedly) watching.
 
And so, animals are given names and personalities in the script, on which Chuan collaborated with David Fowler, Brian Leith and Phil Chapman. Complex family relationships are mapped, and every goofy moment highlighted for comic relief.
 
There's also plenty of life-and-death drama on display, as the documentary captures astonishing footage of the animal kingdom across the four seasons.
 
As winter approaches, "Dawa," a mother snow leopard, fears for her two cubs. She struggles to maintain their food supply atop one of China's tallest peaks.
 
Down in the forest, "Tao Tao," a golden snub-nosed monkey, resents the arrival of a baby sister, doted on by his parents. It's the perfect excuse for him to leave home and join a renegade bunch of orphaned simians nicknamed the "Lost Boys."
 
Lastly there is "Ya Ya," a mother panda, who is perfectly content to sit and eat bamboo all day with her baby son, "Mei Mei," at her side.
 
While "Born in China" may tug too hard on the heartstrings at times -- the effect is occasionally cloying -- its breathtaking cinematography, together with the total absence of anything objectionable, makes the film well worth the price of admission.
 
The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences -- all ages admitted.
 

Movie review: 'The Case for Christ'

NEW YORK (CNS) -- Christian apologetics, the branch of theology devoted to proving the reasonableness of belief in Jesus, is almost as old as the faith itself. Three documents in this genre, for instance, survive from the writings of St. Justin Martyr, who died in the middle of the second century.
 
In 1998, former journalist Lee Strobel published a memoir of his spiritual odyssey from aggressive atheism to evangelical Christianity that also grounded his faith in objectively assessed evidence. Nearly 20 years later, and just in time for Easter, a screen version of Strobel's book, "The Case for Christ" (Pure Flix), arrives in theaters.
 
Set in 1980, the film charts Strobel's (Mike Vogel) effort to uses his investigative skills -- he was a rising star on the staff of the Chicago Tribune at the time -- to disprove the Resurrection and thereby debunk the faith as a whole. He was provoked to do this by wife Leslie's (Erika Christensen) recent conversion, an event that sparked discord in their previously serene marriage.
 
Strobel consults a variety of experts, from archaeologist-turned-Catholic-priest Father Jose Maria Marquez (Miguel Perez) to Purdue University professor of psychiatry Dr. Roberta Waters (Faye Dunaway). Each knocks down one of the lines of defense that Strobel has erected to bar acceptance of Christ's return from the dead, e.g., that the 500 witnesses to it mentioned in the New Testament were suffering from a form of mass hysteria.
 
It makes for an intelligent quest, though one that includes a detailed exploration of the medical effects of crucifixion that would be upsetting to many kids.
Director Jonathan M. Gunn and screenwriter Brian Bird intertwine Strobel's intellectual journey with his involvement in a headline-grabbing criminal case -- Renell Gibbs plays the defendant, James Dixon. They also work in a low-key study of Lee and Leslie's strong bond and of the problematic relationship between Strobel and his father, Walter (Robert Forster).
 
While not as heavy handed as many message movies, "The Case for Christ" -- which is acceptable for a wide audience -- succeeds more as a vindication of the rationality of belief than as entertainment. On the other hand, those looking for an informal way to bolster their religious education during the holiest of seasons could hardly find a more fitting choice.
 
The film contains graphic descriptions and images of scourging and crucifixion and a single crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
 

Healing the loss of a loved one

By Sister Constance Veit, lsp
 
I lost my mother unexpectedly last November after having lost my father after a long illness eight years earlier. My siblings and I suddenly found ourselves “orphans” as we marked our first Thanksgiving and Christmas without either of our parents. Now we are anticipating our first Mother’s Day without Mom.
 
We’ve spent the past few months dismantling and selling my parents’ home of 50 years. It’s the only house we knew growing up, and it has continued to be our emotional hub as our adult lives have taken us across the country. As we bring closure to this phase of our grieving just in time for Mother’s Day, I feel drawn to share a few reflections on how my faith has supported me during this time of mourning.
 
The loss of a loved one can engender intense and contradictory feelings; this is especially true with our parents, since our bond with them is so profound. We may experience an overwhelming sense of loss at a parent’s death, especially if they were involved in our daily lives, or we in theirs. In all likelihood, we also mourn a combination of unexpressed sentiments, unresolved issues, unfulfilled hopes and plans and family milestones that will never be celebrated together.
 
In the case of my mother, I have also been deeply grieved by the suffering she experienced in her final days.
 
So what do we do with all of these intense emotions? I have found that the Church’s 50-day celebration of Easter has offered me unexpected graces and consolations as my siblings and I mourn the loss of our mother.
 
Two Easter symbols have helped me to believe that in Christ crucified and risen all of our grief and pain – all our woundedness – can be healed. The first is the Paschal candle and the second is The Divine Mercy image. Despite participating in the Easter Vigil every year, I never really paid attention to the five grains of incense with which the Paschal candle is inscribed before being lit.
 
These symbolize the wounds of Christ. As he presses the grains into the candle, the priest says, “By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard and protect us.”
 
In her book on the healing of memories, “Remembering God’s Mercy,” well-known author Dawn Eden observes “that it is only after these wounds are called to memory that the light of the risen Christ, symbolized by the ignited candle, shines forth and spreads its glow … The light of faith – the lumen fidei that shines upon us and gives us our identity as Christians – is the light of Christ precisely as wounded.”
 
I found Eden’s words especially helpful in accepting my mother’s death. “When I unite my own wounded heart with the wounded and glorified heart of Jesus,” she writes, “his wounds heal mine.”
 
In The Divine Mercy image revealed to St. Faustina, Jesus, though risen, reveals the wounds of His crucifixion and His pierced heart. In her diary, St. Faustina relates numerous occasions when Christ invited her to take refuge in his sacred wounds as in a safe hiding place. Christ also refers to His wounds as a fountain of life and mercy, and St. Faustina saw in them a sign of God’s great love. The image of the risen Christ still bearing the wounds of His passion is thus not morbid. It is consoling for me to realize that in his unfathomable mercy Christ embraces both my mother and myself, with all our human imperfections, hiding us in His merciful wounds.
 
The Divine Mercy image and the Paschal candle remind me that it is in the liturgy, especially at Mass, that we are bathed in the waters of new life, fed with His living bread and healed of our wounds. It is also in the Eucharist that we are united with the communion of believers, including those who have passed on ahead of us. It is there that I can still experience communion with my parents – though in a manner quite different from our regular visits and phone calls.
 
As our Catholic faith teaches in the catechism, the union of those who sleep in the Lord with those who are left behind “is in no way interrupted … [but] reinforced by an exchange of spiritual goods.”
 
The catechism informs us that those who have gone before us to their heavenly reward do not cease to intercede for us. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.” By their concern, “our weakness is greatly helped.” In faith, I know that my bond with my parents is not broken by their passage from this life.
 
I’m sure that my mother, who never gave up trying to direct her children – even after they had reached adulthood – rejoiced to find out that she could continue doing so from heaven. We, her children, are consoled to know that now she has the perfect vantage point! We are not really orphans after all.
 
Sister Constance Veit is the director of communications for the Little Sisters of the Poor.
 

Heroic Virtues

On Jan. 20, Pope Francis authorized the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to publish decrees acknowledging the “heroic virtues” of six men and one woman: two diocesan priests, three priests in religious orders, the foundress of an Italian religious community and a Polish layman. It does no disservice to the memory of the other six men and women who now bear the title “Venerable” to suggest that the Polish layman, Jan Tyranowski, had the greatest impact on the Catholic Church throughout the world – and by orders of magnitude.
 
By the end of May 1941, the Gestapo had systematically stripped the Parish of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Cracow’s Dębniki neighborhood of its clergy; 11 of the priests who once served there were eventually martyred.  One of the remaining Salesian fathers asked a layman in the parish, a tailor who spent hours in contemplative prayer and meditation, to take responsibility for what we would call
“youth ministry” with the parish’s young men. Since organized Catholic youth work was banned by the Nazi Occupation, the request was an invitation to risk deportation to Auschwitz – or worse. Jan Tyranowski, the tailor with an eighth-grade education, said “yes,” and began to organize the young men of the parish into what he called “Living Rosary” groups: 15 teenagers or young adults (for the 15 mysteries of the rosary as then constituted), each group led by a more mature young man to whom Tyranowski gave spiritual direction. 
 
One of those first group leaders – “animators,” as Tyranowski called them – was a manual laborer with intense literary interests named Karol Wojtyła. In a memorial essay written after Tyranowski’s death in 1947, Wojtyła remembered his spiritual mentor’s greatest lesson: that “religious truths” were not “interdictions [or] limitations,” but the guideposts by which to form “a life which through mercy becomes [a] participation in the life of God.” How did Tyranowski do this? By demonstrating with his own life that, through contemplative prayer, “one could not only inquire about God…one could live with God.” 
 
To do this with edgy adolescents was no small achievement. To do it under the pressures of a homicidal Nazi Occupation was remarkable. To do it with a future pope meant that Tyranowski’s lessons extended far beyond Dębniki and touched the entire world.
 
It was Tyranowski who introduced the future Pope John Paul II to the spiritual theology of the great Carmelite reformers, St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross (on whom Wojtyła would write his first doctoral dissertation). And it was Tyranowski who showed Wojtyła a path beyond the simple Marian piety with which he had grown up, introducing him to the Marian theology of St. Louis Grignon de Montfort – and to Montfort’s idea that all true devotion to Our Lady is Christ-centered and Trinitarian, for Mary points us to her son, who leads us into the life of the thrice-holy God. 
 
It’s not difficult to trace the influence of Tyranowski on the papal teaching of the young man he helped discern a vocation to the priesthood. But when the news came that the mystically-gifted Dębniki tailor at whose tomb I’ve frequently prayed was now “Venerable Jan Tyranowski,” it struck me that his tutelage and the Tyranowski-Wojtyła relationship remind us of something important about the papacy.
 
John Paul II, who had a tender pastor’s heart, was also tough-minded and strong-willed. That could have led to trouble if he were not also a man of deep humility, who knew what he didn’t know and was prepared, as pope, to learn from those who had something to teach him – like Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. That pattern of humility and receptivity in his papal life finds one of its roots in Wojtyła’s providential relationship to Tyranowski, to whom John Paul remained profoundly grateful 60 years after they first met. 
 
The willingness to learn from others is an essential quality in any great leader; it is certainly an essential quality in a pope. For the charism of papal infallibility, which only touches fundamental matters of faith and morals under clearly specified circumstances, is not a charism of omniscience. Anyone tempted to imagine otherwise might ponder the friendship of the Venerable Jan Tyranowski and Pope St. John Paul II.
 
 

Movie review: 'Beauty and the Beast'

Disney's live-action adaptation of its beloved 1991 animated film "Beauty and the Beast" arrives in theaters amid a swirl of controversy over the updating of one of its characters into an openly gay man.
 
The decision of the studio, director Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls"), and screenwriters Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos to reimagine LeFou (Josh Gad), sidekick of the villainous Gaston (Luke Evans), as Disney's so-called "first gay character" is a regrettable one. A cherished family film has, in essence, been appropriated for an underlying agenda that is firmly at odds with Christian values.
 
Parents will have a hard time explaining to their kids -- as most know the cartoon by heart -- why LeFou has jumped on the homosexual bandwagon. His amorous advances to Gaston, proud display of a bite mark from Gaston on his stomach (due to "wrestling"), and ultimate dance in the arms of another man will raise eyebrows, to say the least.
 
Admittedly, many grown moviegoers will take LeFou's transformation in stride. "Beauty and the Beast," however, is a must-see film intended for children. Given the clear intent to make a statement with the character in question, the restrictive classification assigned below is a caution for viewers of faith, especially parents.
 
The pall cast over "Beauty and the Beast" is unfortunate, as the film is largely an imaginative and engaging work with an arresting visual style. An old-fashioned Hollywood musical at heart, it brims with familiar songs by Alan Menken and whirling dance sequences worthy of Busby Berkeley.
 
Like the cartoon, this film is loosely based on the 1740 fairy tale by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. The eponymous lovely, Belle (Emma Watson), is a spirited maiden in a French village who longs for excitement.
 
"I want adventure in the great-wide somewhere," she warbles. "I want so much more than they've got planned!"
 
Be careful what you wish for, dearie. No sooner does she spurn the advances of the vain hunter Gaston than Belle winds up imprisoned in a haunted castle, having swapped places with her kidnapped father, Maurice (Kevin Kline).
 
Enter said Beast (Dan Stevens), aka The Prince. We learn in an extended prologue that this handsome royal was transferred into a horned (but infinitely more dapper) version of Chewbacca from the "Star Wars" franchise by Agathe (Hattie Morahan), a local enchantress, as punishment for his selfishness.
 
Agathe's curse extended to The Prince's staff, who became not furry creatures but household objects. These exceedingly loquacious items include Cogsworth (Ian McKellen), a stuffy mantel clock; Lumiere (Ewan McGregor), a dancing candelabra; twirling feather duster Plumette (Gugu Mbatha-Raw); Mrs. Potts (Emma Thompson), a motherly teapot, and her cup of a son, Chip (Nathan Mack); and musical duo Cadenza (Stanley Tucci), a harspichord, and Garderobe (Audra McDonald), a wardrobe.
 
Only if Beauty grows to love the Beast will the spell be broken, which seems a very long shot for this odd couple. A courtship ensues -- with a nice lesson on looking beyond outward appearances for true love -- until a vengeful Gaston raises an angry mob to kill the Beast, casting doubt (for newcomers, at least) on a happy ending.
 
Even in the absence of the hot-button issue already discussed, young children might be frightened by several dark moments in the movie, including attacks by wolves and Gaston's violent assault on the Beast's castle.
 
The film contains a few scenes of peril and action violence, a benign view of homosexual activity and some sexual innuendo. The Catholic News Service classification is L -- limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG -- parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
 

Book review: 'All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters'

“All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters.” By Pat Gohn. Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2017. 193 pages. Paperback: $13.06; Kindle: $12.41; Nook: $10.99.
 
In her new book, “All In: Why Belonging to the Catholic Church Matters,” author Pat Gohn presents many good arguments for remaining in or joining the Catholic Church, but one theme runs through and holds her entire narrative together: “Let me offer one truth that has proved stabilizing for me, an anchor amid storms and scandals,” she writes. “The Catholic Church is the bride of Christ. That means that Jesus, who is God, the second person of the Trinity, is the bridegroom.”  Furthermore, she states, “And what God had joined, we must not divide.”
 
For Gohn, the fact that Jesus has wedded Himself irrevocably and permanently to the Church gives meaning to everything else that comes after. At the beginning of the book, she acknowledges that in recent years the Church has experienced tremendous turmoil, serious enough to discourage and dishearten even the Church’s most loyal children; she illustrates the situation by describing the thoughts and feelings of a friend who was seriously thinking of leaving the Church because of it.  While not dismissing these concerns – “As a cradle Catholic in midlife, I’ve had my fair share of dealing with the flaws, shortcomings and outright poor conduct of Catholics and Church authorities I’ve known” – she acknowledges that what keeps her “all in” is not so much the imperfections of the institution, but the perfection of the bridegroom.
 
Jesus’ relationship with the Church, she points out, is mirrored by the vows couples make at their weddings – to be faithful “for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, in good times and bad” – vows which are meant to last a lifetime. What is remarkable, she continues, is that even when the Church – the bride – is unfaithful, Jesus never is and never will be.  He is, as it were, “all in” with us.
 
With Jesus unshakably in the center of the Church (and her relationship to it), Gohn goes on to discuss other realities that make up what it means to be Catholic. She discusses the incarnation and the resurrection, as well as the role of the sacraments and the importance of Mary.  She explains what it means to say that we are part of the Mystical Body of Christ and how we too must be reflections of the mercy of God.
 
Often she draws on her own experience of having – and surviving – cancer to illustrate the concepts of Divine Mercy and love. For instance, during one particularly grueling medical test, she described how her husband accompanied her to help her cope with the claustrophobia she felt during the procedure; however because the machine she was in enclosed most of her body, he could only hold on to her toes to let her know he was there.
 
 
 
It was only later that this simple gesture found an echo in the all-encompassing presence of Jesus. In the chapel she frequents for adoration, Gohn describes a crucifix, the feet of which are very much in her line of sight as she kneels. While praying there one day, she had a kind of epiphany:  “My knees hit the floor and I bend low, praying: My Lord and my God!” she says. Looking up, she saw the crucified feet of Jesus, and then, something else. “Not insignificantly, my Lord and my God has toes. As I gaze upon Jesus in the Eucharist, I find that this God, undeniably magnificent as the creator of the cosmos, is, in his humanity, very much loved by my down-to-earth sensibilities. We have a God with toes. Isn’t that amazing?”
 
For those who are already practicing Catholics, this is an affirming book. For others who may need a boost for their faith or who are not yet part of the Church but are considering becoming Catholic, Gohn’s book provides plenty of reasons to be “all in.”
 
Pat Gohn is no stranger to Catholic publishing. Besides her award-winning book, “Blessed, Beautiful, and Bodacious,” her work has appeared in Catholic Digest and Catechist magazines, as well as online at Patheos, Amazing Catechists and CatholicMom.com. She hosts a podcast, Among Women, and is currently the editor of Catechist magazine. She earned a master’s degree in theology and has various certificates in theology and spirituality. She currently lives in Massachusetts with her husband, Bob.
 

Looking back over Lents past

“Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ.”
A. W. Tozer
 
By Mary Morrell
Wellspring Communications
 
Looking back over Lents past, I have to admit my most meaningful Lenten experience happened when I spent the week before Easter in the hospital with my youngest son. It was certainly unexpected, but life doesn’t ask you if you’re prepared before it throws the unexpected your way.
 
After rushing a very ill 18-year-old to the emergency room, I spent the next eight hours waiting for a room, with nothing to do except observe what was happening around us.
 
During this time, I discovered that there really is no more fruitful place to spend some time journeying toward Easter than in the emergency room.
 
This is a place to truly experience the suffering of the cross.
 
Being present in an emergency room places a person in close proximity to the vulnerability of others. Here, amid the woundedness, amid the relationship of sufferers and caregivers, are powerful lessons to be learned.
 
Just observing how each person dealt differently with suffering was an education for me. There was the young woman, hysterical and in great pain, who was un-consolable until her husband arrived. His presence calmed her immediately.
 
Then there was a middle-aged man, involved in a car accident, who repeatedly entered into verbal warfare with a person in the room, attempting to place the blame for his injuries on someone else, as if that would make him hurt less. He made caregiving difficult.
 
But the patient who touched me the most was a little old lady, obviously suffering from some form of dementia as well as physical problems, whose repeated outbursts had the tone of a raspy voiced boxer. Time after time, throughout the course of a very long day, she called out to children who were not there, “Carol, I need my puffer!!”
 
“Carol, are you listening to me?”
 
“Carol, you’re killing me here!”
 
Obviously this woman realized she was totally dependent on others and had no choice except to surrender to their care, but she seemed also to know that surrender didn’t mean giving up the fight.
 
In fact, after one especially loud round of outbursts, a very wise nurse was heard to say, “She’s a contendah!”
 
And that she was, but to me she was also an example of the living, flame of faith that surrenders itself to God, and in so doing, gains more strength and more fire.
 
Still, every once in a while this suffering woman with the cartoon-character voice would lose her feistiness and plead with an absent son: “Help me, please, please, please!”
 
It was at those times that her anger would give way to the vulnerability that is manifest when a person acknowledges his or her needs. This is the time when true strength rises in the heart of a person, a time when we are strong enough to be humble.
 
Watching those around us in the emergency room was a reminder to me that pain is inevitable, and that the only way back to peace and joy is to walk through the pain, as Jesus did on the way to Gethsemane.
 
But a lesson was confirmed for me during what would be some very long days and nights in the hospital: The surest way though pain is with love—whether it is the self-giving of family or friends, the compassionate presence of a priest, or the exceptional care of nurses or doctors who make a person feel as if they really do matter.
 
A wise bishop once told me that Easter was the greatest love story ever told. With that in mind, it would be a blessing during this Lenten season to walk with another person through his or her suffering and see our love give rise to the amazing grace of resurrection in another’s life.
 
Tagged under

Inequality of basic needs

Pope Francis noted in “Laudato Si’” how environmental degradation has a disproportionate adverse impact on the impoverished of the world.
 
That is quite easy to see in the developing world. However, it is a little more subtle here in the United States and in the rest of the industrialized West.
 
Take the city of Flint, Mich., and its crisis of lead in the city water. By every measure, this community is a poor and primarily minority population. Unemployment in Flint runs about 1 percent above the national rate. More than 40 percent of the population lives in poverty. In 2015 the median household income was under $25,000 -- less than half of the national median household income. Less than 83 percent of its residents are high school graduates and only 11.2 percent are college graduates.
 
The combination of population characteristics in Flint is often associated with a relatively powerless population.
 
In contrast, more than 91 percent of Vermont residents are high school graduates and more than 40 percent have higher levels of education.
 
Flint has been in the news because of its water problems.
 
Prevention of lead poisoning has long been an essential aspect of running public water systems.
 
Lead poisoning was recognized in ancient Roman and Greek times; it was known to be toxic to the human body and to have an adverse effect on the human mind.
Without rehashing all the details from Flint, changes made to the water system resulted in lead being leached from antiquated lead pipes.
 
The process lacked due diligence for the safety of the residents. There was also a failure by public officials to alert the community to the hazard after the problem was recognized. Delays in remediation and communication of the hazard were costly to the health of many children.
 
A child’s brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning; lead poisoning results in reduced intellectual and emotional growth along with behavioral problems. Those health and social problems will continue impose burdens on these impoverished families and society for decades to come.
 
Flint’s poverty clearly played a role in this tragedy. City officials, perhaps operating in very good faith, saw an opportunity to reduce the cost of its water system and moved to take advantage of the savings without having done a sufficiently thorough engineering analysis that would have identified the potential problems and prevented the disastrous consequences. A more prosperous city might not have seen the need to take the risk or revamping the water system.
 
This is but one example of lead or other toxic chemicals in the drinking water, the air or the soil in less-affluent communities in the United States. Lead has been ubiquitous in paint on the walls of older housing stock in poor communities. Lead can even be carried in dust and transported by wind. The consequences of these hazards fall on the impoverished residents of those communities. According to a report from Reuters News Service, high levels of blood lead in children have recently been identified in nearly 3,000 other U.S. locations, including large cities and small towns.1
 
In Vermont, the chemical PFOA2 has migrated in ground water to North Bennington from a manufacturing plant in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. PFOA is suspected of causing cancer. Vermont officials and company officials have endeavored to respond appropriately to the needs of local residents, but in this situation it is hard to predict what the final economic and health burdens for residents will be.3 These burdens are worse for the poor since limited financial resources limit options to remedy a problem.
 
The moral imperative is clear. Health effects of hazardous materials must be properly and pro-actively addressed by public officials and private sector decision makers. There can be no excuse for exposing human beings to risk of significant harm, whether by overt action or by failure to act. With deteriorating infrastructure and increased budgetary pressures, I fear the problem may even get worse. The effects will disproportionately harm the impoverished and the voiceless.
 
 
Footnotes:
1 www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa- lead-testing/
2 PFOA: Perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used in producing Teflon.
3 www.nytimes.com/2016/03/15/nyregion/vermont-town- is-latest- to-face- pfoa-tainted- water-scare.html?_r=0


--------------------
Originally published in the 2017 spring issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
 

Of Immigrants and Refugees

American history has always fascinated me. We are a nation of immigrants and refugees. All of us, except for those descended from the Native American tribes, have immigration in our background. And with the exception of those descended from African American slaves, our families immigrated either seeking refuge from oppression or seeking economic and social freedom.
 
In history, a number of cycles of “nativism” have emerged over the years. Nativism is built on fear of the unknown, fear of those who are perceived as different. Among the groups of immigrants that faced opposition were Catholics (Irish, Italian and Eastern European), Jews (Russian, Eastern European and German) and Asians. It is ironic that with each wave of immigration, high achievement arose over one to two generations. That high achievement benefited not only the immigrant families but the broader community as well.
 
On Feb. 21, Pope Francis made a compelling statement that we all need to think about. EWTN News reported that on Feb. 21: “Defending (migrants’) inalienable rights, ensuring their fundamental freedom and respecting their dignity are duties from which no one can be exempted.”
 
We have to take his message very seriously.
 
Against this background, let us examine the current debate on immigration and refugees. Recent executive actions are playing into and exacerbating nativist fears and suspicions about two groups: Muslims and Latin Americans, especially the 11 million or so “illegal aliens” now living in the United States.
 
The current plan for “extreme vetting” plays well in the minds of many and would seem to be reasonable except for one thing: The average refugee admitted to the U.S. has already gone through about two years of vetting by U.S. agents. A moratorium that allows for a review of the current vetting process, again, sounds reasonable.
 
This is something that was discussed throughout much of the recent presidential campaign. But does this mean that the present vetting process should necessarily be suspended while this review takes place? The unfortunate decision to suspend all immigration from particular countries has lead to unnecessary human suffering.
 
Legitimate refugees continue to suffer in camps that fail to meet the basic human needs of the refugees. MOST of the illegal immigrants in this country work hard at agricultural jobs and whatever jobs they can find. Much of the food we eat is produced and picked by their hands. They are in the shadows of the economy. Some of them are our neighbors here in Vermont.
 
They have come to the U.S. with the same motivation that our own ancestors had -- to seek a better life for themselves and their children. They desire refuge from oppression and danger.
 
Does deportation really make sense? Not as a blanket policy that makes no distinctions based on individual situations. Perhaps some form of legalization makes more sense on a practical level.
 
We cannot morally turn our backs on these immigrants and on the refugees. Making it impossible for them to enter or remain in the U.S. under the ruse of security and legality simply is wrong! It is time for a better solution.
 
____________
 
Deacon Pete Gummere is Director of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington and serves at Corpus Christi Parish in the St. Johnsbury area. He is adjunct faculty at the Josephinum Diaconate Institute where he teaches moral theology and medical morality.
 
 

Movie review: ‘Rock Dog’

"You ain't nothin' but a hound dog," Elvis Presley famously crooned six decades ago. That pretty well describes "Rock Dog" (Summit Premiere), a feeble animated comedy about a canine with unlikely musical aspirations.
 
On Snow Mountain, high in the Himalayas, a Tibetan Mastiff named Bodi (voice of Luke Wilson) is stuck in the shadow of his stern father, Khampa (voice of J.K. Simmons). Their two-dog mission is to guard the village from marauding wolves eager to eat the resident sheep population.
 
Bodi prefers playing his guitar to sentry duty. When a passing airplane drops a radio from the sky, it's like manna from heaven. Turning the dial to a rock 'n' roll station (reception is remarkably clear), Bodi is entranced by the music of legendary rock-and-roller Angus Scattergood (voice of Eddie Izzard).
 
The village elder, fittingly named Fleetwood Yak (voice of Sam Elliott), convinces Khampa to let his son leave the village and seek his destiny in the big city.
 
"It's your life. Make it a happy one," Fleetwood tells Bodi.
 
And so Bodi hops the bus (mass transit is also surprisingly good), lands in the nearby metropolis -- filled with anthropomorphic species -- and seeks out Angus' heavily guarded compound.
 
The aging rocker, a hipster cat with a British accent and a sassy robot butler named Ozzie, invites the awestruck fan into his lair, but his motives are not sincere. Angus needs a new hit, and Bodi's fresh talent might be just the ticket.
 
Meanwhile, the big bad wolf pack, led by Linnux (voice of Lewis Black), is inspired by Bodi's departure to mount a final assault on Snow Mountain. Sporting gangster attire and driving stretch limos, these cool dudes have one goal in mind: feasting on grilled lamb chops.
 
Director and co-writer (with Kurt Voelker) Ash Bannon keeps the story moving while borrowing heavily from other animated films, including "Zootopia" and "WALL-E."
 
Despite the dangers characters occasionally face and Angus' mildly intemperate language (he says things like "stupid bloody idiot!"), "Rock Dog" is mindless fare acceptable for all -- except possibly the most easily frightened.
 
The film contains a few scenes of peril.
 
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.
 
 
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