Many thanks to Liz Gabert, host of “Life With Liz” on WSMN 1590 in Nashua, for welcoming me this week on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She invited me to tell her listeners a bit about the abortion amendment’s hearing and about the upcoming March for Life in DC. Here’s six good minutes with Liz.
Ever since seeing the rough cut of the film Gosnell last year, I’ve looked forward to the film’s release. Financing and finding a distributor took awhile. Finally, a release date has been set for the drama based on the trial of Kermit Gosnell: October 12, 2018.
Anyone looking for a sensationalized Gothic horror story can look elsewhere. This is a crime story, with much of the background taken from the Gosnell grand jury report. The focus for much of the movie is on the investigators and prosecutors, none of whom has an axe to grind one way or the other regarding the right to life. The story is about ordinary people, doing their jobs diligently, who are brought up short when political considerations get in the way of investigating homicides.
The portrayal of Kermit Gosnell is chilling in its restraint. It would have been easy for the screenwriters to render him in caricature. They didn’t.
I don’t know where the film will be screened locally, but I’ll watch for it.
The producers of the film are the authors of Gosnell – The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. Here’s my review of the book from 2017.
An Alabama nun died on Easter Sunday, and honoring her life and work in the service of God is a much more edifying way to spend time than parsing the latest outrageous remark by a presidential wannabe. So here we go: May Mother Angelica rest in peace – and I hope I can learn as she did how to use media to communicate the truth in love and charity.
The television network she founded, EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network), is well-known. I wonder how many people who watch it remember what preceded it.
I was a college freshman in Florida in 1977. One day in the back of the church I attended, I found a little free booklet by someone named Mother Angelica. I can’t remember the title, but it was about prayer. The brochure was a low-budget production, which didn’t surprise me when I saw that it came from an Alabama monastery. When I started reading, though, the quality of the printing didn’t matter. Here was sane and sound and sensible counsel.
As time went on, more Mother Angelica brochures appeared in the literature rack. The topics varied, but there were repeating themes: love of God, His infinite mercy, the value of human life at all stages, the need to keep growing in faith. The writing was always clear, good-humored, and down-to-earth.
That was a time in my life when by imperceptible steps I was moving from a personally-opposed-but view of abortion towards a pro-life commitment. The Alabama nun’s brochures that looked as though they’d been cranked out on a high school’s mimeograph machine were to play a subtle, indispensable role in changing my life.
I couldn’t anticipate in 1977 what kind of reach EWTN would eventually achieve. All I had were those simple little booklets. They were tiny masterpieces of communication and evangelization and pro-life coaching. They were like the snack food whose tagline was “betcha can’t eat just one” – I couldn’t read just one. I kept looking for more. And thus that Alabama nun with a gift for communication became one of the many influences that set me on the path I’ve been trying to follow for many years now.
Mother Angelica didn’t need fancy equipment to communicate. She used the tools at hand, however sophisticated or humble.
In her own words, “You see, God expects His people to do the ridiculous so He can do the miraculous.”
By the way, it turned out that the man responsible for the supply of brochures back in my college days was Father Bob, pastor of the church I attended. Father Bob is now Bishop Robert Baker of Birmingham, Alabama – the diocese where Mother Angelica lived and prayed and worked with her sisters in faith at Our Lady of the Angels Monastery.
Rather than wring my hands over the fact that a film glorifying sexual abuse pulled in a gazillion dollars last weekend, I’m going to accept and share a challenge from Erin McCole Cupp: shine a light on quality entertainment. As she says, #showusyourlist. This is for everyone, although she is pointing particularly at Catholics who are fuming at 50 shades of whatever. (Hey! That’s me!) Erin complicates matters by making a rule that no non-fiction can go on the list.
So here I go with this Mardi Gras celebration, letting you in on some of my favorite media where entertainment and food for the soul come together. The items are listed in no particular order, and this isn’t a comprehensive list (no music listed, for example, because I scarcely know where to begin). Comment below with your own lists, so I can enjoy them & learn from you. All kinds of media are fair game. If World of Warcraft is your idea of edifying entertainment, let’s hear about it. Quibbles, comments and disagreements welcome. That’s what comment boxes are for.
Groundhog Day. After countless viewings, I still find it side-splittingly funny, and my heart always glows a bit when Bill Murray finally gets the day right.
His Girl Friday. Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell: what else do you need to know?
Anything by Alfred Hitchcock from ’39 (Rebecca) to ’58 (Vertigo).
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, The Searchers, Rio Grande, Fort Apache. All directed by John Ford. I’m generally indifferent to Westerns, but these four stand up to repeated viewing. Fascinating characters, good stories, great respect for the land where the stories take place. Every time I watch one of these, I see something new.
Of Gods and Men. I’m stretching the no-non-fiction rule here. This is not a documentary, but it’s based on a true story. A small community of Trappist monks in Algeria lives peacefully with Muslim neighbors during the 1990s, until an Islamist insurgency forces the monks to decide whether to stay or leave. Serious stuff here, wonderfully written and acted. The monks’ choice and its consequences will leave you thinking.
The Lives of Others. Watch what happens when an East German Stasi agent starts feeling sympathy for the people on whom he’s keeping surveillance.
The Harry Potter series (but the books are better; see below). Ditto for Lord of the Rings.
All About Eve. Bette Davis is at her best. It would be tough to find a better what-goes-around-comes-around story.
A Man for All Seasons. I’ve seen this performed as a play, but the 1966 film with Paul Scofield as Thomas More takes the prize.
The Thanatos Syndrome by Walker Percy. For that matter, pretty much anything by Walker Percy. The Thanatos Syndrome is a look at what happens when people are at the service of “science” and not the other way around.
The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. A spiritually-indifferent woman impulsively calls on divine intervention in a crisis, and she’s stunned when she gets it. Now what?
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. I’ve loved this story from the moment I picked up the book from my mom’s night table long ago. A forty-something woman, extremely successful by any measure, enters a convent – and not just any convent, but a monastery of cloistered Benedictine nuns. It’s a book full of surprises – how the main character gets to the monastery, why she stays, how a community of women from wildly-varying backgrounds come together in common purpose, how even in a religious community human nature asserts itself over and over again.
Ben-Hur by General Lew Wallace. Trust me on this: as splendid as the 1959 movie was, the book has a much richer story.
The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, particularly volumes 4 through 7: HP & the Goblet of Fire, HP & the Order of the Phoenix, HP & the Half-Blood Prince, and HP & the Deathly Hallows. I love the characters. I love the language and the vocabulary. The most compelling idea in the whole series – even more than the fight between good and evil – is that those who deny that evil exists might as well be doing evil themselves.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkein is far more thought-provoking and beautiful than any high-budget trilogy of movies could hope to be.
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh is a serious contender for Book I’d Most Like To Have if I were deserted somewhere. A down-at-heel college boy in England is drawn into his best friend’s rich and nominally Catholic family between the two World Wars. No cardboard-cutout characters here. Cordelia is who I want to be.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A book about kids, but not a kid’s book until you want your kid to know how messy life can be. The book is unsentimental and perfect. When I was a kid, Francie Nolan and I were both bookworms …and that’s how I was drawn into her world.
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Two dissimilar 19th-century French priests, a most unlikely pair of friends, are sent to what is now New Mexico to re-establish a Catholic presence in a newly-outlined diocese. That tells you everything about the plot and nothing about the story. The story comes in the relationships built by each priest with the local settlers, the established (and sometimes resistant) missionaries, and the regional indigenous peoples.
Anything by Jay Nordlinger.
Right here in New Hampshire is a blog called New Hampshire Garden Solutions that has some of the loveliest close-up nature photography you could hope to find. A feast for the eyes.
New Hampshire’s Cohos Trail, rail trails, state parks … we Granite Staters are lucky people.
So … what’s on YOUR list?