Sunday, January 31, 2016

Your Sunday Sermon Notes



Today the second reading is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. It includes this:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things
(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 RSV)

At least the sermon was related to the readings. Father began by saying how last week he had found some old birthday cards, and how they made him feel loved. He continued by saying everyone wants to be loved. He commented that this passage was often used in wedding ceremonies.

He quoted Pope Francis as saying, "Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future." (Actually that quote originates with Oscar Wilde.)

It was short, and that's about all the Bear has to report.

The Bear's parish has begun reading announcements and having the occasional speaker immediately before Mass. Today it was a lady from the Catholic school who went on for about ten minutes. The idea that someone might want to try to get in the proper frame of mind and remain there seems not to have occurred to anyone.

Movie Review -- The Revenant

The star of "The Revenant" and Leonardo di Caprio.


The Revenant depicts a group of early 19th century North American terrorists on a mission to kill as many innocent woodland creatures as possible. The American cell is led by a rogue military officer, but the mastermind is Glass, the intelligence expert, (played by Leonardo di Caprio, wasted in a supporting role.)

The movie doesn't take off until a heavily armed Glass threatens two grizzly Bear cubs out for a walk in the woods with their mother. Protecting her cubs, she heroically ignores Glass's rifle and charges him. After much (but not enough, as it turns out) biting, clawing, shaking, and head-stomping, she breaks off her attack, and actually kisses Glass, as if to say, "I don't want to kill you, just please don't do anything to my babies."

She retires, but is forced to renew the attack when a relentless Glass once again raises his rifle and threatens to kill her. She charges again, but is shot by Glass. Expending her last bit of strength she tries to finish him off, but, tragically, dies right before the eyes of her horrified cubs.

This is a sad, but exciting ten-minute movie crammed into nearly three hours. With the main character knocked off shortly after the movie starts, what the viewer is left with is a pointless and tedious two-and-a-half-hours of a badly mauled Glass eating gross things, and defying hypothermia by floating down icy rivers and crawling over snow. There are some Indians, and some rival French terrorists. The Bear admits to dozing.

It would be as if Luke Skywalker was killed by Imperial Stormtroopers fifteen minutes into Star Wars, followed by an hour and a half of Jawas scavenging junk.

The Bear does have some professional nits to pick.

They obviously wanted the bear attack sequence to last several minutes and be horrifying. But for reasons known only to the writers, they also wanted Leonardo di Bear Bait to survive. This led to the poor CGI Fake Bear being asked to act completely stupid. Here's just one example. (The Bear doesn't want to get too graphic.) The CGI Fake Bear had plenty of opportunities to rip Glass's lower jawbone off. Nothing takes the fight out of someone like that. (Not that yours truly would know.) But then the Bear supposes they couldn't write any dialogue for Leonardo di Caprio after that, except, "Aarrrgh ow."

Also, without disclosing spoilers, Leonardo di Caprio should get together with Mel "The Patriot" Gibson and learn what you can do with a tomahawk at 10 yards.

The Revenant is overlong and under-Bear. The Bear gives it 1/5 fish for the impressive CGI Fake Bear. Definitely not worth having to sit through the trailer for Michael Moore's new movie.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Movie Review-- Calvary (2014)

Today the Bear is dressed up for no reason. White shirt, khaki pants, an argyle sweater and a tie. With airplanes on it. It feels good, gentlemen. It feels especially good in church, making the Bear wonder why he is the only one who dresses up, with the occasional exception. Granted, having been a lawyer gives him the wardrobe and ability to pull it off, but any man can do it if he really wants to. Learn to tie a nice Windsor knot. That's the one the Bears use.

Just something to think about. Consider it the stuff that you sit through before the movie starts.

Calvary

The Bear would like to talk about a move. At the same time he would like to share his mate's experience as one who takes the Blessed Sacrament to the hospital. There is a tie-in.

We recently had a lively discussion of Catholic or Catholic-friendly movies. Many of you had your own suggestions, for which the Bear is grateful. He wants to watch every single one. A very thoughtful one, although hard to watch, is 2014's indie film, Calvary.

It stars Brendan Gleeson, best known for playing "Mad-Eye" Moody in the Harry Potter film adaptations. In Calvary, he gives an excellent, wide-ranging performance as Father James, the parish priest of a small Irish town. Father James seems world weary, and frequently has to apologize when he gives a flip or sarcastic answer. He's not perfect. He can drink and even brawl.  Nonetheless, he serves his parishioners with love and dedication.

Plot

The movie begins with Father James hearing a surprising confession. A man explicitly details his sexual abuse by a priest when he was seven years old. He then tells Father James that he is going to kill him. The reason he has chosen Father James is because he is a good priest. The man gives him a week, and will meet him on the beach. The film follows the events of the next seven days, to the final encounter on the beach. 

It is later revealed that Father James knows who the man is. His effete, rose-sniffing bishop advises him to go to the police. Throughout the movie, the tension builds as we do not know what the good priest will do.

During Mass, different members of the parish are shown taking communion. During the next few days, we learn that, despite Father James' efforts, this is some kind of parish of the damned. The same people who took communion are not only sinners, but proud of their sins. 

Father James endures the taunts of an atheist doctor, the sexual burlesque of a parishioner's rent boy, the teasing of an adulteress, and a frank discussion by her lover about how Irish women like to be hit. Father James is there for them, but does not suffer fools -- or unrepentant sinners -- gladly.

Father James realizes, as his time is running out, that despite his best efforts, the town is full of unrepentant sinners who openly despise him. As the day of his encounter approaches, the violence directed agains him and his church escalates.  

Father James had been married, but his wife died shortly after giving birth to a daughter. He is visited by the daughter, who has recently slashed her wrists. ("Long ways, not across," everyone offers helpfully.) She blames him for leaving her after her mother died. Her father became a priest and went to Africa, leaving her alone. Another matter to resolve before Sunday, on the beach.

When the day arrives, Father James is spiritually prepared, a willing sacrifice if the man who threatened to kill him shows up and goes through with it. He must think, however, that by any earthly standard, the town stands as a monument to Satan's victory over him.

Themes

The title gives away much. Father James is a Christ figure, despised for his goodness, and taunted by sinners. He vicariously bears the guilt of the Church for failing to address the homosexual abuse of children, and must confess that he did not cry when he read about it. A chance encounter with a little girl is interrupted by an angry father, who assumes that Father James must be a child molester.

The younger priest that serves with Father James has not gotten to know his parishioners, and is disliked even more than Father James. He worries whether calling a man "black" is politically correct. He only seems to light up when the town's rich man offers to give a large donation. Eventually, the young priest is run out of town, and Father James' last words to him are "You have no integrity." Father James, on the other hand, is always shown out visiting his flock, even when he knows they despise him.

Between his detached bishop, serenely enjoying his rose garden, and the shallow priest that serves with him, Father James seems to be a rarity -- a priest with integrity.

He says there is too much talk about sin and not enough about virtue. When asked what he thought was the greatest virtue, he says, "Forgiveness is highly underrated." This is especially significant under his circumstances. A man who cannot forgive has threatened his life. And at the same time, would he be able to forgive that man? Would he be able to forgive if he were that man? How about the cruelty of his parishioners?

The film's last shot recalls that line in a tender, if indirect way.

Calvary is the place where it looked like the goodness of God died. Jerusalem, and its people, stood as a monument to Satan's apparent victory. The question Calvary leaves you with is, did Satan win, or was Father James right when he said, "My time will never be gone."

The Bear gives it 4/5 fish, with the caveat that it is a heavy movie with a couple of difficult scenes. There is also some mordant humor. The Bear thinks the Church Sexual Abuse cow should have run out of milk by now,  but is under the impression it is an institution in Ireland. He supposes it is more of a MacGuffin here, since it is not dwelt on. Others might see it as central.




The Hospital

The Bear's mate visits the hospital to provide the Blessed Sacrament to Catholics, and be on hand to call the priest if necessary. Patients' religion is noted in their records, so she goes from room to room with her pyx. We also obtain rosaries to hand out if people want them.

She recounts how few Catholics want the Blessed Sacrament. Many treat it of no importance and are even rude to her, especially if visitors are present. They need to prove something. Often she will return home without having given a single person the Blessed Sacrament. Once again, Jesus is present, and people mock Him and reject Him.

Pope Meets Fake Bear



According to this report from Eye of the Tiber, Pope Francis granted a private audience with the celebrity Bear from the motion picture, "The Revenant." Many have written to the Bear asking for a statement.

First of all, this so-called "Bear" is fake. That's right. According to Variety, the bear is CGI.

The Bear wishes to make it perfectly clear that he is not bothered by some fake bear being a celebrity, while the Bear labors in obscurity. At least he knows he's the real thing. Does Pope Emeritus Benedict's coat of arms have some anonymous, fake, CGI bear on them? No. They unmistakably have St. Corbinian's Bear, complete with pack. So, now who's famous, Mr. Fake CGI imaginary bear?

So what to make of the Pope's pitiful propaganda effort to convince the world that he is on good terms with Bears? Clearly, the Bear has gotten under his skin. He knows the growing popularity of the Bear is a threat to his Jesuitical plots. So His Holiness is trying to neutralize the Bear.

Here is the truth. The only Bears that are behind the Pope are South American Spectacled Bears, and Polar Bears, who are working the global warming scam for all its worth by swimming out to tiny ice features and hoping somebody takes their picture.

My friends, long after this so-called "bear" has been buried in the graveyard of forgotten CGI animals,  like that tiger from Life of Pi, or the 50 rampaging mammoths from 10,000 B.C., the Bear will still be writing his ephemeris, growing his audience, scrutinizing the Vatican like Bernardo Gui on methylphenidate. If a freelance Bear inquisitor high on speed doesn't scare you, nothing will.

There's only one place to find the real Bear. It's right here, friends. Thank you for your continued support.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vatican-- Be Thankful for Luther's "Spiritual Insights" and "Gifts of the Reformation"

"Sorry, I forgot who you are, but
whoever you are, you don't need the Catholic Church."
We've seen the photo op with Cardinal Koch and Rabbi -- oh, wait that was the last photo op. Cardinal Koch loves nothing better to get his picture taken with people who aren't Catholic.

Anyway, the Bear thought you might want to read the document jointly held by Cardinal Koch and some Lutheran guy.

Its name is "Common Prayer, From Conflict to Communion, Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017."

It was written by the "Liturgical Task Force on Lutheran-Roman Catholic Commission on Unity."

The Bear has not thoroughly read it yet [NOTE: see below] but thought he would get it out there. It is available at Lutheran World. Download link to get the PDF. If it is posted on the Vatican website, the Bear missed it, but everybody knows how slipshod the Bear's research is.

It's actually the whole thing, with the rubrics and text, so you can gather your Lutheran friends and hold your own commemoration. Just like the Pope in Sweden.

So until the Bear has the time to study it, you are welcome to draw your own conclusions.

UPDATE: The Bear is going through this and cannot believe that the Roman Catholic Church is trying to foist this miserable deception off on the long suffering faithful. No Catholic could possibly participate in this abomination. The Bear won't rant, though, because it speaks for itself.

"Help us to rejoice in the gifts that have come to the church through the Reformation."

"Martin Luther and the other reformers only sought to be "witnesses for Christ."

"Lutherans are thankful in their hearts for what Luther and the other reformers made accessible to them: the understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and faith in Him."

"The ecumenical journey enables Lutherans and Catholics to appreciate Martin Luther's insight into and spiritual experience of the Gospel."


"Thanks be to you O God for the many guiding theological and spiritual insights that we have all received through the Reformation. Thanks be to you for the good transformations and reforms that were set in motion by the Reformation or by struggling with its challenges. Thanks be to you for the proclamation of the gospel that occurred during the Reformation and that since then has strengthened countless people to live lives of faith in Jesus Christ."


"We confess our own ways of thinking and acting that perpetuate the divisions of the past. As communities and as individuals, we build many walls around us: mental, spiritual, physical, political walls that result in discrimination and violence. Forgive us, Lord." (There are multiple confessions of guilt and mutual abuse through history.)

[Sharing the sign of peace while "Ubi Caritas" is sung.]


The Five Commitments

1. Our first commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should always begin from the perspective of unity and not from the point of view of division in order to strengthen what is held in common even though the differences are more easily seen and experienced.

2. Our second commitment: Lutherans and Catholics must let themselves continuously be transformed by the encounter with the other and by the mutual witness of faith.


3. Our third commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should again commit themselves to seek visible unity, to elaborate together what this means in concrete steps, and to strive repeatedly toward this goal.  


4. Our fourth commitment: Lutherans and Catholics should jointly rediscover the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ for our time. 


5. Our fifth commitment: Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world. 

(During the Five Commitments, children, especially from "ecumenical marriages" between Lutherans and Catholics, light candles.)


The Take Away

Catholics must acknowledge their debt to Luther for his spiritual insights, and recognize the gifts the Reformation brought to the Church. It isn't clear what Lutherans are giving up in return, other than saying that some of the rhetoric during the 16th century went too far. The Church and Lutherans are both branches on the one Vine, Christ. The goal is "visible unity," whatever form that might take.

Need the Bear point out the disastrous implications for the Church's coherent understanding of just what the Church is? If it was never clear before, it is now clear that for our sorry collection of leaders, the Church came into being in 1965. Anything before that has only slight, provisional value, if it is remembered at all.

Harbinger of Lent

Painting of St. Benedict at St. Meinrad Archabbey

The envelope was the size of a Christmas card. It was from the Archabbey. Inside was a booklet of Lenten reflections written by one of the monks and a short letter. The most important thing, however, was a small form on light card stock.

Benedictine Oblates (please don't judge them by this disreputable Bear) must submit their "Bona Opera" proposals to the abbot. This is according to Chapter 49 of the Rule of St. Benedict.
Everyone should, however, make known to the abbot what he intends to do, since it ought to be done with his prayer and approval. Whatever is undertaken without the permission of the spiritual father, will be reckoned as presumption and vainglory, not deserving of reward. Therefore everything must be done with abbot's approval. 
So, the card to be returned read:
Right Reverend Father, in keeping with the spirit of St. Benedict and the custom of St. Meinrad Archabbey, I resolve faithfully to add the following acts of prayer, fasting and charity to my usual measure of service.
The reason St. Benedict required monks to receive approval for anything not required by the Rule is that he had no doubt seen how some monks would not wisely limit extra devotions or penance. Worse, what is supposed to be an offering to God can instead become an occasion for pride. The devil is subtle. There are many monitory tales of such deception.

This is one reason the Bear accepts his plain ol' Roman Catholic Church parish. He is doing what the Church does where he lives. No less, no more. He is literally making a virtue of necessity. It seems the Benedictine thing to do. Certainly the Archabbey uses the new liturgy. The Bear and his mate assisted at a Pontifical Mass that was very beautiful at the Archabbey.

The Bear's attitude toward the Pope may be inconsistent, true. But Pope Francis did say, "If we annoy people, blessed be the Lord." We know from recent reports that the Pope is annoyed by ephemera that criticize him. Perhaps a bit of Jesuitical casuistry from the Bear.

The kicker from Chapter 49 of the Rule: "In other words, let each one deny himself some food, drink, sleep, needless talking, and idle jest."

Ernie Kovacs
The chief influence on this ephemeris of the Bear's is Ernie Kovacs, of whom many of you, sadly, will have probably never heard. He was the original genius of television. He created many memorable characters in his sketch comedy.  But he played with the medium itself, turning television from the broadcast of characters into a character itself. Tragically, he was killed in a car wreck at the age of 42. Anyway, the Bear hopes you enjoy the "meta-ephemeris" along with the content.

Even so, St. Benedict's Rule condemns idle chatter, laughter, and especially grumbling. The Rule states that one should refrain from even edifying speech, as silence is better. Permission to speak should be granted seldom.

It's tough to be a Benedictine ephemerist.

But enough stalling. Clearly, Lent must be marked by a change in this ephemeris until the joy of Easter. The Bear will try to grumble less, be more edifying, and more charitable.

In other words, this ephemeris will probably suck during Lent. The Bear hopes you'll stay with him. Consider it a penance. And, despite his resolutions, there's always the chance the Bear will eat a  horse or two.

Ernie Kovacks Tribute

And now, Ernie Kovacs with his famous oscilloscope version of the original German version of Mack the Knife and trademark short, visual gags. It probably won't appeal to modern audiences, but it doesn't mind being a little rough around the edges. Kovacs was extremely influential. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, and Monty Python's Flying Circus are just two of the shows acknowledged as owing a debt to Kovacks.  Chevy Chase thanked him when accepting an Emmy for Saturday Night Live. If you remember Ernie from those long-ago days of the 50s and 60s, this will put a smile on your face.



Caption Contest: Pope and Circus Folk



Add your caption to the Pope's meeting of circus folk and perhaps win.

The Bear was snubbed, despite being the most famous Catholic circus performer in the world.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Harris County Indictments -- Smells Like Fish

Go read the excellent independent analysis at American Catholic on the Harris County indictments. But first, the Bear reminds the reader that he, too, used to be a defense hack very reminiscent of Rumpole of the Bailey, his role model in underachievement.

This is all informed speculation, so read and quote at your own risk.

A prosecutor has total control over what the Grand Jury learns and does. Imagine a trial where the defendants are banned, and never get to put on any evidence or argue their case. If Planned Parenthood was not indicted, that's because the prosecutor did not want them to be. "Washing" a defendant through a Grand Jury is a time honored tradition among prosecutors. The prosecutor gets the Grand Jury to return a no bill and that's that. He does not have to take responsibility for the charging decision, but can just shrug and and point to the Grand Jury.

So far, no mystery.

Puzzling Evidence

The Bear is still puzzled over why the prosecutor would want the investigator charged the way they have been. Now, this opens Planned Parenthood to discovery and subpoenas for documents. Someone really must have wanted their pound of flesh, and/or to deter similar investigations in the future. It still seems unwise to the Bear, however. (Although the Bear has a pretty good guess, as you will see.)

This does not necessarily mean that now all Planned Parenthood's secrets will be exposed. Only documents related to the defense of the charges will come out. That might be a lot, it might be a little. The trial judge will be ruling on those motions.

The indictment was for, ludicrously, attempting to purchase human organs, a misdemeanor, and a more serious felony count of altering a government document (drivers license, but more on that, too, later). That's right. Texas believes that it's more serious to create a fake drivers license, something college students do regularly, than to traffick in human body parts. BBQ is off the menu next time the Bear travels to Texas, but his license will surely be in order.

A friend reminds the Bear of this as an example of the political climate in Harris County.
A bit over a year ago, the then Left Wing statist Mayor of Houston, Annise Parker, committed a first in America by subpoenaing the sermons of pastors in the Houston area because she didn't like what they preached on the issue of her force fed ordinance that allowed men to use women's restrooms. 
Early Predictions

Obviously, it's going to be hard establishing the criminal state of mind on attempting to purchase human organs. In fact, it doesn't even pass the straight face test. It would be like prosecuting a rape victim and giving the rapist a pass. The "government document" charge might be more problematical for the defendant, depending on the facts.

It carries a maximum penalty of 20 years (although one would not normally expect anything like that.) And no Planned Parenthood documents would be implicated in the defense, and thus would not be subject to discovery or subpoena. The Bear can think of other scenarios, however, where this would not necessarily be true.

The misdemeanor charge of trafficking in human organs seems really odd. The Bear can see no tactical advantage to adding a (probably) unprovable misdemeanor to a (possibly) provable felony. It's not like they're going to charge bargain, where the defendant pleads to the lower charge of trafficking in human organs and the more serious felony (the drivers license) is dismissed.

It seems weak to the Bear. It is a mystery, unless pure spite is at work, and a taste for irony.

Here's what the Bear bets happens. The misdemeanor charge of trafficking in human body parts gets dismissed some time before trial. It's so weak the State would lose credibility at trial. And now  Planned Parenthood is completely insulated from the case. So no discovery, no subpoenas, no revelations. (Maybe.) And the State of Texas proceeds on the felony, which is a far bigger stick, anyway.

Or does it?

Overcharged?

The Bear is not a Texas lawyer, but he plays one on the internet. He found Section 521.451 of the Texas Transportation Code. It says this: "[A] person may not (1) display, cause or permit to be displayed, or have in the person's possession a driver's license or certificate that the person knows is fictitious or has been altered.... An offense under this section is a Class A Misdemeanor."

Or, Section 521.456(B), manufacturing a counterfeit license, is a Third Degree Felony, with a sentence from 2 to 10 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. (Also conspiracy carries a sentence between 180 days to two years.) Query -- how many times has this prosecutor charged a 19 year old college student with a 20-year felony because he makes a fake drivers license so he can get into bars? The reelection prospects of a DA whose office did that would be nil.

Now, normally, if a law specifically covers an offense, a person is charged under that specific law, not some far more serious and general law. If two laws cover the same matter, they must be read in pari materia, i.e. together. One would hope that a specific fake license statute would "eat up" a general government documents statute. The government documents charge is a square peg in a round hole anyway. It is more for altering things like court records, school records, etc. Not drivers licenses.

Which one of these drivers license charges might apply to this case, the Bear does not know. As he said, this is all informed speculation, and not as informed as speculation by an experienced Harris County, Texas criminal defense lawyer would be.

Overcharging is a common tactic by prosecutors. They hold the big stick, but agree to substitute it with a smaller stick, i.e. lesser charge, in return for a guilty plea. But it would seem that there are other specific drivers license charges. It is doubtful the prosecutor ever even informed the grand jury of those lesser offenses, but just got them to sign off on the most serious felony imaginable.

Another wrinkle is that, under the right circumstances, a defendant can have "lesser included offenses" placed before the jury at trial. That means the jury could determine that the defendants have broken a less serious law than the one charged by the State. Beyond that, it is too complicated to go into here, but the Bear thought it worth a mention.

But if this gets to trial, the prosecutor loses a great degree of control. That's why defense counsel seldom think it is a good idea to go to trial, although there are the occasional meth-addled client who insists, or innocent client, or nothing-to-lose client. And when the Bear was a prosecutor, he was never sure of winning, even with a case that seemed rock solid.

Welcome to the Bear's career.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Melancholia

(h/t Fr. Z) The Bear has been so focused on Church woes that he completely missed the fact that astronomers have discovered a whole brand new planet the size of Neptune. Supposedly it takes 10,000 to 20,000 years to make one orbit -- one "year." But, since it has been observed that the Bear takes the glass half-empty view, he can't help but think of the 2011 art film by Lars Von Trier and starring Kirstin Dunst.

And, yes, this is still about the enormous, so-far-unnamed planet of doom that is creeping our way.

Lars Von Trier has a painterly eye as a director, as well as, apparently, Tourette's syndrome. At the Cannes presser, with a clearly embarrassed Kirstin Dunst sitting next to him, he gave a rambling answer that included the words, "I am a Nazi," but in a tentative and unconvincing way.

Man, if you're going to say you are a Nazi, you'd better sell it.

He suffers from depression, and the planet Melancholia is the film's way of expressing the inexorable, hopeless process of that disease.

Dunst's character also suffers from severe depression, but as Melancholia gets closer, paradoxically, her depression has equipped her with the resources to meet the calamity. Her super-competent sister, played by Charlotte Gainsborough, a Von Trier staple, falls apart. (Gainsborough is the daughter of Serge Gainsborough, whose memorable duet with Jane Birkin, Je t'aime... moi non plus was condemned by the Vatican as indecent, and not because of the lyrics.)

Dunst gives a wonderful performance, and Kiefer Sutherland is solid as the chipper, "Oh, don't worry, that thing's going to miss us by a billion miles," husband of the sister. It's actually a good film in parts.

Having said all that, while it is not run-from-the-theater-screaming awful like all his other movies (which you should never, ever watch) the Bear cannot recommend it without heavy qualifications. It has some "artsy" nudity, with lingering shots of Kirstin Dunst "planet bathing" in the eerie blue light of Melancholia. The Bear and his mate pretty much did a Mystery Science Theater 3000 on it, which wasn't hard. Somewhere there's a photoshopped picture the Bear's son did of Lars Von Trier fighting a polar bear with a spork. Yes, we were that into Melancholia hate.

But the Bear has some good news, and some bad news.

The very best sequence from the movie, the opening, set to Wagner's Love Death from Tristan und Isolde, is appended to this article. If you like art films, you'll probably enjoy it. The attention to strange details (just what would it look like if Earth got eaten by a giant killer planet?) is beautiful. Don't worry about plot, just take in the imagery. You'll see what the Bear means by Von Trier's painterly eye. Notice details like the double shadows on the lawn. Prepare to be enthralled for six minutes.

The bad news is that the only possible name for this new planet is Melancholia. Sometime, maybe 10,000 years from now, maybe less, people will be building pathetic stick-tepees as birds fall from the sky.







Yeah, That's Heresy




This never gets old. "Wait. She looks a lot bigger up close." This is just to make you smile. The Bear reckons you might need one.

The Bear could not sleep last night, as his 450 gm. ursine brain was spinning like a top. A top shooting flaming nails out of it. It's been a bad month.

The Bear is not learned. He can't define all the degrees and kinds of heresy. But like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said of pornography, "I know it when I see it."

First we had the January Intentions video. Sure looks like heresy to the Bear. 500 years ago somebody would have had some 'splaining to do before the Inquisition.



Then we had Cardinal Koch's New Jew View, "The Gifts and Covenants of God are Irrevocable," from the Commission on Relations With the Jewish Faith. The take away is that the normal method of salvation for Jews is to reject Jesus Christ. Ha! But we put one over on them! They still benefit from from some sort of impersonal salvation process through Jesus, even as they reject Him. But that's a mystery they did't even try to justify. The ADL said, "whatever" and issued their press release that Jews don't need Jesus, but the Church can't exist without Jews. The Bear hastens to add that it is non-magisterial; just a glorified press release. That does not matter, however, because to everyone, it's "the Church says." This was to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Vatican II's Nostra Aetate

Yeah, that's heresy.

Arte Johnson from "Laugh-In"
Then our Pope thought of another "biggest problem." The biggest problem today is that people feel overwhelmed by their sins. And fortune telling. This is like telling Americans their biggest problem is that they don't eat enough. We need more awareness of sin! Everybody's fine with their sins. They even wave colored flags to celebrate them and inform everyone of their nature. Repentance, then Mercy! 

From behind the foliage, wearing a German helmet and smoking a cigarette, "Not heresy, but shtupid."

We're far from over. The Pope visited the Great Synagogue in Rome. He's never happier than when he's as far away from Catholics as possible. He said this: "The Church, while professing salvation through faith in Christ, recognizes the irrevocability of the Covenant." Huh? Perhaps a kind reader will explain to the Bear what that even means. The Bear suspects it means, "Now I'm going to say something that will make you happy, but will sound like I'm still a Catholic."  But it is an incomplete thought, so the Bear cannot determine if it is heresy or not.

"Whatever you said, it sounded good to us. We've got our covenant. End of story."

Then there were the priests giving communion to Lutherans (whether they wanted it or not, according to some reports), with knowledge and approval of the Vatican. A harbinger of things to come? Certainly sacrilege, but the Bear doesn't know if it is heresy. But the Bear would have scattered everyone with a terrifying roar just in case.

Too short? Who are you to judge?

Then the Pope changed the rules for Holy Thursday foot washing to include "those from among the people of God." He encouraged the choosing of those reflecting the diversity of the parish: men, women, children, ill. While it is not heresy to change the rules (he can do that) it does destroy the symbolism of Jesus and his (male) Apostles. Now it is just a general gesture of humility. Two totally different things. Generally, the Bear has noticed that the Church over the last fifty years just doesn't understand symbolism or how to design effective rituals.

According to a study of erogenous zones of 800 Brits, none were reported. Relax, the Bear is joking. In reality, "feet scored surprisingly low." (This is the kind of in-depth research that sets SCB apart.) So if you are just kind of creeped out by the above picture, that's on you. But the Bear still has little confidence in the good sense of many pewsitters on the distaff side, and cringes at what might occur. (Sorry ladies, but you know what the Bear is talking about, especially at parishes with the newer liturgy.)



Then came the big news. Pope Francis would make a Halloween pilgrimage to celebrate the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation with a joint Lutheran-Catholic liturgy. (The Bear has already seen the spin: it's a "commemoration," not a celebration.) The Bear honestly cannot believe how a Pope can do that. Won't his Popeliness just disappear? If he despises the Catholic Church so much, why doesn't he resign and become a Muslim on Friday, a Jew on Saturday, a Lutheran on Sunday, and Orthodox, Evangelical, Buddhist and atheist on the rest of the days? Heresy? 

Oh, yeah, that's a hella heresy. Christian unity cannot be a unity in error. It can only be a return of wandering sheep to the fold. This does not fit in with the world's agenda, though.

Pope Francis also apologized again, which is hardly even news anymore. But not a heresy.


Bear holding a fish up to show
this is important.
The Bear has noticed something about where Pope Francis strays. It is always following the spirit of the age. Diversity. Global Warming, Tolerance. Socialism. Self-Abasement by non-victim classes, and the erasure of established boundaries. These are the virtues and ceremonies of the Prince of the World. In other words, when Pope Francis errs, he errs exactly as the world errs. If he can, he will steer the Barque of Peter into the strong current of the age, and away from the safe course of the ages.

We have a Pope who appears to be informed by the Spiritus Mundi, not by the Church. That is why everything must change.

Death mask of Martin Luther.

All of this happened in one single month. The Bear fears it makes for an exhausting read. The Bear's confidence in Pope Francis has never been lower. Nonetheless, the Bear shall pretend he is Pope, because it gets really messy otherwise. And now, more than ever, he will nail his foot to the floor in front of his favorite pew in his regular plain ol' Catholic Church that must still exist, despite the antics of it's leaders. The Bear can see it, right where it always was. Everything Pope Francis has done can be undone by his successor. Or some pope the Bear shall never live to see. We were born in the age of the world. It will not last forever.

We will be delivered from Pope Francis' many errors, one way or another. We should spend at least as much time considering the state of our own souls, especially as Lent approaches.

And brace ourselves for February's horrors.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Of Films and Fish UPDATE

UDATE: Tree of Life and Fish

First, thanks to those who made donations. The Bear will be getting emails out, but has been under the weather. Next, a new movie you might enjoy very much: Tree of Life.

Tree of Life

"There are two ways in life. The way of nature, and the way of grace."

You know you're in for something different when the first fourteen minutes show the creation of the universe and the formation of the world. There is even a significant encounter between two dinosaurs. It is lovely, with both flowing, abstract lights, then more concrete Hubble-inspired images. followed by volcanoes, trees, and finally, a beach. "Where were you?" a woman's voice asks as the universe emerges, echoing God's question of Job?

The film stars Brad Pitt as a tough, but loving father, and a radiant Jessica Chastain [corrected; how could the Bear have typed "Lang?"] as an idealized mother. It is set in 1956, when the two brothers (whose story this is) play at running through the clouds of DDT from the mosquito abatement truck. This is an example of the slices of life that comprise this film.

A sense of unspoken regrets and innocence at risk hangs over the film. But it is really a slow meditation on law and grace. The story unfolds in vignettes, rather than a linear plot.

Director Terrence Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have fashioned a work that can only be described as visually perfect. The way they film Jessica Chastain -- possibly the most talented and versatile actress now working -- is breathtaking. They turn her into an angel, even as she remains planted firmly in this world as a mother. That alone is reason to see it. You can't help but love her, and it is likely you will never forget the magical way she is filmed.

As mentioned above, this is a slow paced movie with a running time of 2 hr and 19 min. Sometimes it's the little things that are significant, so the viewer has to stay engaged. There are no big payoffs, but, rather, a cumulation of clues. It is a bit challenging. In fact, you might say it is a "love it or hate it" movie. The Bear loves it for it's stunning and memorable visuals, its questions that are not always answered, it's overarching theme of grace, and Jessica Chastian's performance. Brad Pitt is completely believable in a somewhat less sympathetic role.

If there's a jarring element, it's the brief appearance of Sean Penn, the older of the two boys, now grown, looking dissatisfied. The very end may be uplifting for some, but it felt a bit silly to the Bear. Even so, these flaws are not enough to spoil the experience. 

It was nominated for 3 Oscars: Best Director, Best Cinematographer, and Best Film, plus it won numerous other awards, many recognizing Lubezki's unparalleled cinematography.

The Bear gives it 5/5 fish. The trailer gives a fair taste of the film.





The Bear has subscribed to Hulu. It is a good source of older classics such as were mentioned about in the Great Catholic Movies article. Seems worth ten bucks a month. He's watched Ikiru, Tokyo Story, the Passion of Joan of Arc, and Au Revoir Les Infants. All fantastic movies you should try to see, and won't find them streaming at Netflix or Amazon. (And thanks for the great recommendations!)

Then he sprung for the the cheapest Netflix DVD plan at five bucks, because that's the only way he can see a lot of films, like Calvary (2014) with Brendan Gleeson. The problem is, at the moment the Bear seems not to own a DVD player or a television. And his nice little Macbook doesn't play DVDs. It doesn't even have so much as a USB port.

But the Bear is inspired by the story of Fr. Jorge Bergoglio's record player. He showed his faith by buying Aqualung back in 1971 before he had a record player. He is confident he will be able to resolve his technical difficulties.

A Discrete Bit About the Salmon



The "extras" in the Bear's life are largely made possible by your kind support.

With all the worthy causes out there, it's hard for a disreputable, washed up old circus Bear on a small military disability pension to stake a claim on your sympathy. The Bear can't even play the ol' "Without your help, SCB will have to shut down," card. If they cut off the broadband, the Bear will trundle off to Panera to broadcast his ephemeris. As we say in the circus, "The show must go on." (Usually after some calamity of ursine origin.)

But it would be a lie if the Bear implied that the long association between performance and reward does not persist. Trick, fish. Trick, fish. He's conditioned. It's nice to get salmon once in awhile. So, if you really enjoy this ephemeris, and have the means, please consider kicking in ten or fifteen bucks worth of salmon. Or less. Even a couple of bucks makes the Bear happy.

The Bear was happy to get salmon from someone new today. It seems like the same very few folks are making donations. Thanks to you, the Bear's patrons -- you know who you are -- very much. And whether you toss the Bear a salmon or not, thanks to all his readers. They also donate who only sit and read. And comment.

The Bear believes he does something unique here. It is indeed a circus where you never know what you're going to find, although mordant humor is frequent. "Laughter is much more important than applause. Applause is almost a duty. Laughter is a reward." -- Carol Channing.

Francis to Mark Reformation in Sweden -- Common Liturgy With Lutherans

"Hey, Antje, let's do Halloween together in Sweden.
I'll bring both the treats and the tricks. You can tell me what you think of my book."

This Halloween, Pope Francis is traveling to the Swedish city of Lund for a joint Catholic-Lutheran celebration of heresiarch Martin Luther to kick off the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. This according to Vatican Radio. Other Protestants will also be participating in the event.

"Excellent! Another photo op! And all I had to do was admit the Church
was wrong all along! Man, this is so easy." Cardinal Koch.

There will be a worship service using a common Catholic-Lutheran liturgical guide ginned up by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Cardinal Koch, is the president of that council, and seems to be caught holding a sledgehammer behind his back whenever the Church is attacked from within. (His finger was in the poisonous "Gifts and Calling of God are Irrevocable" pie about which the Bear has written extensively.) "By concentrating together on the centrality of the question of God, and on a Christocentric approach, Lutherans and Catholics will have the possibility of an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation," Cardinal Koch said.

Which begs the question: why?

Once again, we see Pope Francis eaten up with the cancer of Modernism. That's the charge. The specification is Indifferentism. One might conclude he no longer wishes for Lutherans to return to the Church. He just doesn't see the need. The Catholic Church isn't really any different when it comes to "the centrality of the question of God," or whatever smokescreen Cardinal Koch is laying down for this travesty.

Oh, the world will laud his vision and courage for participating in this historic celebration of a man unfit to have a dog pound named after him. The Bear is glad he isn't responsible for deciding just where Francis is on the continuum of legitimacy. But, how could any true Catholic purport to celebrate a "joint liturgy" with heretics to laud an apostate priest whose ignorance and pride rent the Body of Christ? Pope Francis will be approving, promoting, and, indeed, participating in the worst disaster to befall Christianity.

If Martin Luther was a heretic in his ignorance, what do you call someone who celebrates Luther's heresy with full knowledge of its worldwide consequences during the last 500 years? Who will revel in photo ops while 800 million Protestants are living a faith that is maimed, at best? You call him the hireling who will not go after the lost sheep. The bad tree that bears bad fruit. The foolish servant who buries his Master's talents. A man who takes the candle from its candlestick and hides it under a bushel. A scandal. A fraud. A false prophet. Possibly, even anathema.

We must pray that this Halloween devil's prank does not happen. For deliverance. Whatever else he is doing, Pope Francis, who seems to hold real Catholicism in such contempt, is teaching us to rely on prayer, no matter what the earthly prospects.

If Francis is right, the Catholic Church is wrong, and always has been.

If the Catholic Church is right, Francis is wrong.

Three Eggs in the Snow, and a Poultry Farm and Funeral Home for Sale



The hens have been put off laying by the cold (although we keep them safe and toasty in their hen house). Today, they came through with three beautiful eggs.

We had a store-bought egg and two of ours, and the Bear's mate showed him all three after they had been emptied out of their shells together in a bowl. The difference was obvious. Our yolks are a rich, orange color. The store-bought yolk was an anemic pale yellow like an eyeball starting to show jaundice. Growing your own really is better.

The Bear alerts any readers in the Jackson, Mississippi area, that a poultry farm and funeral home are to be  auctioned off, according to WALB. The mind boggles. 

"Oh, I'm so sorry. But it's just an egg. Our chickens are so unpredictable. I'll take care of that right now, ma'am. Unless, that is, well, it is attractive. A symbol of rebirth? No, of course not, ma'am. You're absolutely right. Here, let me just try to move the hands-- oh dear. Well, I guess the yolk's on her! I'm so sorry. Yes, absolutely inappropriate. When I'm nervous I tend to babble. I'll just go down to the embalming salon and get a rag and, oh, a solution of some sort. Oh, you have wet wipes? Marvelous. I... don't think it's coming off the dress. You would't happen to have another, would you? No, of course not. What was I thinking? Although you and the dearly departed look to be the same size. Suggesting? Absolutely nothing! But, honestly, in half an hour, the lid's going down and who will be the wiser? No? Wait. Here's my handkerchief! It's perfectly -- well practically perfectly clean. We'll just gently drape it over the dearly beloved's hands, and there! She looks so natural, doesn't she? As if she had a cold."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Paul: A Second, Independent Witness to the Gospel

Caravaggio: Conversion on the Way to Damascus


January 25th is an important day, marking the conversion of St. Paul. Everybody knows that Saul of Tarsus mercilessly persecuted the fledgling Christian religion. He watched the cloaks of the Jews who stoned Stephen. And, everyone knows that he was knocked off his horse on the road to Damascus.

What fewer read is that St. Paul was never instructed by a human being in the Christian faith!
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and had called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea; they only heard it said, "He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me. 
(Galatians 1:15-24 RSV)
Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up by revelation; and I laid before them (but privately before those who were of repute) the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, lest somehow I should be running or had run in vain.
(Galatians 2:1-2 RSV)

In other words, it was at least 14 years (17 if the three in Arabia are added, rather than included) before St. Paul got his divinely revealed gospel checked out by Peter, James and John! St. Paul's gospel is therefore an independent second witness to the original apostolic tradition.

St. Paul was the Apostle to the Gentiles, although he often found himself embroiled in disputes between Jewish and Gentile Christians. He wrote most of the New Testament, but his style was not always the clearest. [Clarification: Paul wrote most of the books of the New Testament, if you go with the traditional attribution of Hebrews to Paul, which has fallen into disfavor among scholars.] St. Peter felt compelled to write prophetically: "There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures." (2 Peter 3:16-17 RSV) Indeed, Martin Luther would base many of his errors on fundamental misunderstandings of the Epistle of the Holy Apostle Paul to the Romans.

St. Paul had planned to go to on a missionary trip to Spain. However, was executed in Rome under Nero, tradition has it, by beheading. [Thanks to comments for clarifications.]

SAVE THE PLANET: Post Your Sunday Sermon Notes

Sometimes, dear reader, you must take the Bear's copy in the spirit of circus hyperbole. The elephant is always "the world's largest." The lions are always "the most ferocious." The aerialist is "the bravest," performing the "most dangerous stunts." The horses are always the "most dazzling."

It's all about getting the, ah, audience in the tent. In truth, the Bear's "Your Sunday Sermon Notes" is not really exclusive to this ephemeris, but is a baldfaced theft from the wonderful and well-known Fr. Z.

However, there is a big difference. Being a priest, and therefore responsible... Let the Bear rephrase that. Being a responsible priest, he limits the reports from his readership to good sermons. The Bear enjoys reading the good and the bad, because this is a way of taking the pulse of the  Church Militant. Good and strong, or weak and thready?

So without further ado, today's sermon at the Bear's church was like being fed styrofoam.
There are a number of activities that go on here in the parish. Our Hispanic community is active, and the youth ministry, which is pretty much Hispanic, started from a youth rally in Indiana. We had nine couples attend a pre-Cana meeting to begin preparation for married life, and it is good that husband and wife are complementary. And thanks for the Knights of Columbus that provided a wonderful continental breakfast. We have a number of 12-Step programs that use our facilities, and we're happy to be able to host them.  We also have a small faith community that we're very happy with. Then there are the Ministers of Hospitality, and lectors, who do a very fine job proclaiming the Word, and then there are our Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. [At this point the Bear is ready to gnaw his own leg off.] And today we have three readings, which were longer than usual. The bulletin always has the readings for Sunday, and the weekdays, too, which you can read at home in your Bibles. First we read about Saul. [Finally!] We can identify with him when we're jealous, or when we try to kill people. [The Bear may have dreamt that last part; he confesses to dozing off.] Then there was our second reading. But in the Gospel, it's the beginning of the Book of Luke, because it says that. Luke gathered all the different accounts and put them together so people could read them and believe. Jesus goes to the synagogue to to teach, and says, "today this is fulfilled in your hearing."
And that is just a taste, except the substantive teaching, which was indeed about that spare. Most of it was what various people and groups did at the parish. The Bear has heard worse, but...

The Extraordinary Minister of Communion almost dropped the host. The Bear believes it is because they are deathly afraid of possibly touching someone's tongue by accident, so they always get it in the general vicinity of the Bear's maw and  it's bombs away, with shocking carelessness as to accuracy. And that is the main reason why the Bear usually takes Our Lord in his hand. It's amateur hour. Today he was encumbered by a cane, though.

Or maybe they're scared of sticking their hands in a Bear's mouth. People can be funny about that.

Most of our hymns seem to be about "people." The Bear thinks they should be about God. So whenever we sing one our many self-worshipping people hymns, the Bear sings a snappy "PEEP-uhl." "We are the PEEP-uhl" is his favorite. The Bear finds this vastly entertaining. Indeed, it makes him joyful, especially if he can share the joy by making his mate crack up.

How was your Sunday sermon?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Just Go to Pewsitter UPDATED




The Bear doesn't even know where to start today. Lutherans knowingly given Holy Communion with Vatican approval. Pope Francis officially changing the rules so everybody gets their feet washed, including women and young children, and young women. [EDIT: having commented on the way many young women dress for Mass, the Bear doubts this will necessarily be accomplished with the decency a moment's thought concerning wardrobe would dictate.] To the pure all things are pure, but the Bear can't help feeling creeped out. Norway making Muslim immigrants take a class on how not to rape women.

[EDIT: So, what is in the mind of priests who give the Body and Blood of Christ to people who aren't in communion with the Church, haven't prepared to receive worthily, believe what they are receiving is only bread and wine, and are, in point of fact, heretics? The answer is easy. A mania for Christian unity (a hallmark of Modernism), especially on the eve of the big Reformation Ball where all the bishops, both Catholic and Lutheran, will gayly waltz wearing their finest gowns. At the end, they'll repeat three times, "I believe in Love" while clicking their heels together and the Catholic Church will dissolve into rainbow sherbet and run into all other religions, just like in the Pope's Jesuit Love-Cult video.]

This caught the Bear's eye, though, at Eponymous Flower.
Curial Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, said on June 23, 2015 at the Europe Forum in Bilbao, the Pope had confided to him on 18 June in Santa Marta: "I know that there are many blogs against me."  It was a statement that he could only make from information provided by others. 
Perhaps he pores over a translation of St. Corbinian's Bear ephemeris late every night. A Bear can dream, can't he? [EDIT: that sounded mean. The Bear has no idea how bewildered and hurt Pope Francis might possibly be at his age. He's not an enemy, and the goal isn't to somehow hurt him. He's more like a computer virus. "ATTENTION! YOUR CHURCH HAS BEEN INFECTED WITH THE FRANCIS VIRUS. TYPE: TROJAN HORSE. THREAT LEVEL: HIGH." He may just be doing what he was programmed to do. It's not personal, Holy Father. It's strictly business.  He's not going to change no matter what he hears about in some blog. If anyone has ever dealt with old people, they know they don't change.]

A comment from Andrea Torinelli, apparently some sort of sycophantic journalist at the Vatican, made the Bear burst out laughing. He complained that ephemerists find something to criticize Pope Francis about every day!

Well, dress me up in a tutu, put me on a unicycle, and call me Caroline the Dancing Bear!

Why the Hell does Senor Torinelli  think that might be? Pope Francis must schedule daily outrages a year in advance! And on some days two or three! Ephemerists aren't choosing to devote huge chunks of their precious days making up stuff about the Pope.

And then there's Cardinal Koch, behind the awful "Gifts and Calling of God Are Irrevocable" Jews don't need Jesus press release, that the Bear has written extensively about lately. He slammed the SSPX for objecting to the disastrous policy toward the Jews. He questioned whether they could even be called Catholic, because they did not show due obeisance to the Jews. In this the Bear is with the SSPX. As for Cardinal Koch's infamous press release, which throws Jesus (and the Jews, for that matter) under the bus, the Bear has printed out a ream for suitable use in... nope. There are questions the Bear will not answer, so long as there is injustice in the world. Anyway, it is non-magisterial agitprop.

Is the Bear antisemitic? Of course not. He has no interest in what one group of humans think about another, or of him for that matter. 

He will say this, however. They have dressed him up in a tutu, put him on a unicycle, and called him Caroline the dancing Bear. So you probably shouldn't take anything he says too seriously.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Bear's Picks for Great Catholic Movies

From the Lost Files. What are your suggestions?

The first list are movies I rate as very good and that are explicitly Catholic. The second, shorter list are movies that express Catholic themes or values in some way, even though they might not have a single reference to Catholicism. This isn't necessarily a "best" list, but certainly a "very good" list.

Great Catholic Movies

A Man for All Seasons -- I hope one day to meet St. Thomas More, the patron saint of lawyers, and I expect him to look like Paul Scofield. Great 1966 drama of a family man who would not compromise his Catholic conscience.

Becket -- "Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?" A king's expression of frustration with another one of those stubborn Catholics, or an invitation to murder? St. Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury, had his brains bashed out and scattered across the floor of his cathedral while he prayed Vespers. Released in 1964 with a great cast including Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, and John Geilgud.

The Passion of the Christ -- Mel Gibson's mesmerizing and bitterly moving 2004 reliving of Jesus Christ's Passion. Authentic details include everyone speaking the correct ancient languages, so Jesus speaks Aramaic, while Pontius Pilate and his wife speak Latin. (There are subtitles.) We watch it during Holy Week. Some of it, especially the Scourging at the Pillar, are frankly hard to take. I think there are two versions, one less graphic, but still bad enough. I know when I say the Second Sorrowful Mystery of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it is the scene from the movie I often remember. The whole movie is perfect in tone for every scene, and the restrained use of bizarre images suggest the omnipresence of Satan, in his taunting moment of apparent victory.

Brother Orchid -- Totally changing tone now, this is just a sweet tale of a ruthless gangster who hides out with monks, and... You can probably guess what happens. By 1940 Edward G. Robinson was sick of playing gangsters, but agreed to this one in exchange for a promise of broader roles. Humphrey Bogart co-stars, but, as is typical at this point in their careers, he is overshadowed by Robinson.

Song of Bernadette -- 1943 movie faithfully presenting the traditional account of Bernadette Soubirous, the young visionary of Lourdes. This a solid movie built on a wonderful performance by a winsome Jennifer Jones as Bernadette. She won an Oscar for Best Actress. The screenplay was based on a novel written by a Jew, Franz Werfel, who never quite converted to Christianity. I saw it on TV as a young boy and still remember how sorry I felt for Bernadette when she rooted around in the mud as everyone made fun of her. I remember imagining that if I were there, I'd set them all straight! It sounds silly now, but we should not underestimate those early feelings of children. Mine, I would now call a childish chivalry. But what better sentiment for a boy to learn and to have? I wonder what we're teaching young boys and girls in today's entertainment?

The Passion of Joan of Arc -- 1929 silent masterpiece by Carl Theodore Dryer. I know what you're thinking. Sure, masterpiece for those days, before sound. No. This stands totally on its own merits. The cinematography is amazing, with constantly shifting angles, long pans, quick cuts to the faces of the clerics, each a fully realized portrait, many lasting only a few seconds. There is nothing dated about any of it. But it is Renee Jeanne Falconetti's luminous performance as Joan that makes the movie a masterpiece. It is possibly the greatest performance ever captured on film. Joan always seems on the boundary of two worlds, slipping almost imperceptibly from one to the other in response to events. This film is powerful to the point of disturbing. It is based on the actual transcripts of her "trial" -- some of the most remarkable documents in existence -- which I cannot read except as a defense lawyer. My blood boils. She, an illiterate girl, was alone before educated men, without counsel.  The English tricked her into signing a confession she could not read. She was tormented, condemned and burned at the stake. The film treats St. Joan with respect, and, being based on the trial transcripts, is quite faithful to the shameful events.

For Greater Glory -- Critics hated this 2012 movie of the 1926-1929  Cristero War between Catholics and an atheistic Mexican government. The late Roger Ebert (a self-described Catholic atheist) had to admit the move was well-made, but reflected "Catholic tunnel vision." Have never been movies about other religions' struggles against wholesale slaughter in the 20th century that have won universal acclaim? I'm sure he did not criticize their tunnel vision! If the idea of guns isn't frightening enough to mainstream movie critics, Catholics using them while crying "¡Vivo Cristo Rey!" must give them nightmares. Andy Garcia brings his usual understated yet compelling presence to the role of a former general who agrees to lead the Cristeros for a nice paycheck, plus the adventure. He is not religious himself, at least not at first. It got marketed as a "Catholic movie" but I thought it was just a great, old fashioned action drama. I had not known about this bit of history. ¡Vivo Cristo Rey!

The Mission -- A 1986 movie starring Jeremy Irons, Robert DeNiro and Liam Neeson. Jesuits and Indians in 18th century South America. (I wonder if Pope Francis has ever seen it?) It is a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal of the Jesuits, who find the Indians are not necessarily peaceful. The movie is full of moral complexity where the right course is not as clear as in most movies. The great Ennio Morricone (still alive and working, by the way) wrote the score. He is known for scores for Clint Eastwood westerns, the Untouchables (which had a great one), and many, many others.

Of Gods and Men -- Poignant, understated 2011 movie about a small group of monks who serve an Algerian village. When Moslem radicals move in they must decide whether to remain or leave. Based on a true story. There is one scene where they share a bottle of wine at dinner that is unforgettable.

Into Great Silence -- 2005 beautiful documentary about the daily life of Carthusian monks high in the French Alps. The viewer is simply made a curious guest who watches the monks at their daily routine, goes along with some of them for their different work, and has conversations with others, young and old. The monastery has a barber shop, for instance, and the monks get their hair cut. No drama there. It is just an intimate look at everything. A monk is treated for a lung condition. Another repairs a cold frame for the garden. There are scenic shots of the mountains, a gathering storm. It is slow paced, but that's deliberate, indeed part of the viewing experience.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose -- I would not call this 2005 movie great, but it is good. A possessed girl dies after exorcism. The priest is put on trial, making this essentially a courtroom drama. As a lawyer, I find the idea of the criminal justice system being confronted by a supernatural event it is unable to deal with compelling. Interesting, effective and scary without going over the top, and it treats the subject respectfully and realistically. (The Rite is another exorcism movie released in 2011, starring Anthony Hopkins. It wasn't bad, and was generally well received as accurate in Catholic circles, but I just didn't enjoy it that much.)

The 13th Day -- This 2009 movie was, I believe, a straight to DVD release, but should not color expectations. It is a lovingly made Catholic art film that reverently and accurately portrays the miraculous events at Fatima, Portugal between May and October, 1917. Besides excellent, if obviously careful, cinematography, there are scenes where colors suffuse the screen in a way suggesting the supernatural atmosphere. There is nothing cute or well-scrubbed about the young seers, and the human side of the story is even gritty, emphasized by the black-and-white cinematography of most of the film. It makes the supernatural elements more moving. The famous "Miracle of the Sun," which was witnessed by 70,000 people, is especially well done in an unexpected, but compelling and utterly persuasive way. The story itself should be familiar to all Catholics, and probably even non-Catholics have heard something about "The Third Secret."

Not explicitly Catholic, But Expressing Catholic Themes

Ben Hur -- I have the DVD set that includes both the silent 1925 version and the more familiar 1959 remake starring Charlton Heston. Both have great chariot races. The 1929 version stars Ramon Navarro and Francis X. Bushman. Just because they didn't have sound doesn't mean they didn't know how to make an epic. They built a real Roman warship, not the models used in the 1959 version. If the extras leaping off the burning ship into the water look terrified, it's because they really were jumping for their lives! The 1925 version better reflects Catholic tastes by including a beautiful holy card-like scene of a lovely young Madonna that is color in an otherwise black-and-white film. On the other hand, it is pre-Hays code, and silent religious epics frequently included gratuitous female nudity. Bare-breasted young girls throw rose petals before a procession. (It was Catholics who got Hollywood to agree to a voluntary code which kept movies clean. That led to the joke that Hollywood was an industry controlled by Jews selling Catholic theology to a Protestant audience.) Of course the 1959 version is great, too, and thats the one we used to watch around Easter before the nest emptied.  That single scene where the bullying Roman soldier confronts the off camera presence of Jesus for giving water to Ben Hur is the best two minutes in movies. He goes from bluster to uncertainty to shame without uttering a word, as if his encounter with Christ has revealed the corruption in his soul.

Ikiru -- Haunting 1952 Akira Kurosawa movie about the meaning of life. The title means "To Live." A sad little middle aged man, Mr. Watanabe has a meaningless mid-level bureaucratic position and nothing else. Then he learns he has stomach cancer. Watch the trailer for more, if you wish. Kurosawa was, if anything, Buddhist. Kurosawa apparently never claimed any religion through a life marked by tragedy and artistic challenges -- in fact he attempted suicide. He claimed as his favorite novel, however, the explicitly Russian Orthodox The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  However, in one scene, a character looks at Mr. Watanabe and. remarkably, says "Ecce Homo," and, "He's Christ." Does Ikiru reflect a traditional Japanese outlook, or one that has been "baptized" by Christianity? One recalls St. Paul Miki and his companions who were martyred in the 16th century by crucifixion, on a hill overlooking Nagasaki. There was no visible Catholic faith when missionaries returned in the 1860s. However, a large, secret Catholic community was found around Nagasaki, that had preserved the faith for all those centuries. Who is to say to what extent Ikiru is not informed by a Catholic spirit? The movie sounds depressing, but it isn't, somehow. Easily makes any top 10 list of greatest movies in the world, period. A find by my son Michael, who is a big Kurosawa fan. You'll never forget it, the ending, or the song.



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