Monday, 28 April 2008

Catholic Carnival 170

Today is Monday of the Sixth Week of Easter. In today's reading from In Conversation With God focuses on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, it focuses on the supernatural virtues, the gifts of the spirit and devotion to the holy spirit. I read this devotion before diving into the submission for this week's Catholic Carnival, Carnival #170. The best advantage of hosting the Carnival is the opportunity to read the posts before everybody else. The drawback is that you read them in bits and pieces as they come into your mailbox, and thus don't get the comprehensive feel of reading the carnival. So this week I will share with you the posts in the order they arrived.

This
weeks posts are gifts, gifts from the authors who share of their life, joys, sorrows and struggles. They are also gift's from God, who often speaks to us through what we read so before we begin thank you to all of you who contributed from your wisdom, your life experience and your journey. May God bless each and every one of you.

Kelly presents Bible Catholics posted at Visits to Candyland.


Theresa L. Twogood offers us the Big Picture Progressive Exposure posted at OLIN e-Book e-Publishing.

Margaret
at The Earthly Paradise presents Gothic Revival and Spirituality: John Henry Newman and AWN Pugin.

Barb from at SFO Mom has two submissions this week, first Cast Your Cares Upon Him and also she offers us Earth Day According to One Secular Franciscan.

Elena challanges us with her submission How to Have a Domestic Church part 2 - It takes two to tango! posted at My Domestic Church.

At Christus Vincit - the BLOG! we have a post called 'I Got to Hear a Really Nice Lost 45' about a rare find you don't hear too often at Mass: Spirit Seeking Light and Beauty. It's set to a hauntingly beautiful Gaelic tune, Dohmnach Trionoide. If you have a Pius X Hymnal lying around, check it out at #133.


Denise Hunnell presents The Most Confusing Sacrament--This Was A Surprise! posted at Catholic Matriarch in my Domestic Church aka Catholic Mom.

Michelle from Philly Catholic Spirituality say that we sometimes put off prayer to the "right" time or place. But listen to St. Hilary's advice from 16 centuries in the past and pour out our prayer in everyplace - in the flames, or locked in the bathroom so the kids can't interrupt! So she encourages us to 'Don't Wait for the Right Room to Pray'

Sean writing to us from close to home at A Catholic Canadian writes a post called 'To Join or Not to Join?' – Social Media is inspiring people to join old fashioned community groups he states that 'I've noticed that many of the Catholics involved in social media
are finding themselves getting more involved in their local parish communities.' I am one of 5 or 6 social media types I know that have joined the Knights of Columbus in their local parishes.

Heidi from Mommy Monsters writes about the Day in the Life of a Foster Mom Five years later, looking back on my first parenting efforts, I'm so grateful for how far ALL of us have come!

Kate Wicker presents Letting Jesus Be in the Limelight posted at Kate Wicker.


Kasclar at Journal of a Nobody in a post called A Name, An Identity she is sharing her thoughts and prayers about the name we gave our child after we lost him to miscarriage almost four weeks ago. Contains a link to a previous post about our loss. Be sure not to miss it and to keep the family in your prayers.

Sarah in a post As We Enter Your First Spring from just another day of Catholic pondering shares a letter to her 6-month-old daughter to try and capture the wonder of seeing the new world through her daughter's eyes.

Christine from A Catholic View in a post about Miley Cyrus on Semi-Topless Pic: 'I Feel So Embarrassed'! Miley (Hannah Montana) Cyrus' decision to pose semi-topless spurs some thoughts on what it means to be Christian.

Kevin from HMS Blog writes about OUR ADVOCATES A reflection on the Mass readings for the sixth Sunday of Easter.

Aggie Catholics (aka Mary's Aggies) writes about In-Vitro Fertilization and Catholics
he ponders about the morality of in-vitro fertilization and Catholic teaching.

Laura Fetters presents Catholic Teacher Musings: Graceful Exits posted at Catholic Teacher Musings.

Red Neck Woman writing from Postscripts from the Catholic Spitfire Grill reflects on the question 'Do Catholics Worship Images of Christ?'....my thoughts.

Jean from Catholic Fire writes about St. Louis Marie de Monfort, Apostle of Devotion to Our Holy Mother A brief bio of St. Louis de Montfort, with a few of my favorite quotes, why he is special to me, and links to making your consecration, a Litany to St. Louis, his hymns and writings, and to his Fire Prayer, in which he pleads for his apostles to remedy the present-day crisis of the Church that he foresaw.

Laura from Children, Chocolate & Other Paths to God writes 'In All Things Give Thanks' she states that in the midst of mommy madness, sometimes just a shift in perspective is needed.

Mark Koester presents Vengeful Paths to Truth posted at The Mystic Atheist.

All of the Icons from from
Joao D. Filipe who wrote inviting us to see his art site. He is a painter of icons in the Byzantine classic style.

Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, in Francis Fernandez's devotion series In Conversation With God he reminds us of Catherine's passion and love for the Church, the pope and the example her life was to us to love the church, and to make truth known. Each of you attempt to do that through your blogging and I applaud you all. Keep up the good work. And May God's most holy spirit infuse you afresh for your service to the church, local and universal.

(Note: Any late submission will be appended to the post.)

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Christianity: the first 325 Years. - An Essay

Christianity: the first 325 Years.

To begin a study of the history of Christian thought, we must look at the key events to the debates, and issues of their day. Below is a chart of what I consider some of the key events.

  • 30-32 Paul Persecutes Church in Jerusalem
  • 48-49 Apostolic Council in Jerusalem
  • 64-69 Paul's Death in Rome
  • 70 Destruction of Jerusalem
  • 95 John Exiled to Patmos; Clement Bishop of Rome
  • 170 Beginning of Montanism
  • 242 Beginning of the Preaching of Mani
  • 260 Edict of Tolerance for Christians
  • 297 Edict of persecution of the Manichaeans
  • 303 Edict of persecution of the Christians
  • 314 Council of Arles (Donatist Affair)
  • 325 Council of Nicaea Issue of Christology
  • 367 Easter Letter by St. Athanasius outlining what we use as
  • New Testament Cannon to be used by the Church (This cannon confirmed at future councils in 392, 397, 405, 419)
  • 380 Christianity Becomes the State Religion of Rome
  • 381 Council of Constantinople
  • 391 Prohibitions on Pagan Religions
  • (Christianity is now the persecuting Majority)
Even with these dates there are many theological developments and ecclesiastical changes missing in between them that we will not address. Christianity was a sub-sect of Judaism; messianic Judaism is now a separate religion. Christianity began as a persecuted religion, both by the new emerging Rabbinic Judaism, by the Roman Empire and the Pagan religions that it endorsed. Then in 260 there was an Edict by Emperor Gallienus of tolerance for the Christian traditions. Then in 325AD with the conversion of Emperor Constantine, Christianity became the state religion of Rome.

From these issues Christianity began as a religion on the run with the leaders moving from city to city, preaching, teaching and establishing churches. Then it grew from a predominantly Jewish tradition, to a gentile religion, as well as from being a persecuted religious minority, to being the persecuting majority in less than five hundred years. Somewhere in the middle of this time debates grew up in this tradition. The first major debate was, on Christ, a Christological debate: was Jesus God, was he man, or was he both God and man. After this debate seemed to be settled then the debate of the Holy Spirit arose. So the major challenges facing Christians in the first three hundred years that we will be addressing are the questions about martyrdom and the issues of Christology, specifically the issues of the Docetism, Manicheans and Arianism. So let us now turn our attention to the issues of dying for one's faith.

The question of dying for one's faith is almost as old as the Christian tradition itself, for in Acts 6:8-8:1 is the story of the trial and execution of Stephen for his faith. This section ends with "And I Saul approved of their killing him." Yet after his conversion Saul/Paul was to experience a death for Christ Jesus. Tradition has it that Saint Peter and Paul both were martyred in Rome, Eusebius of Caesarea states: "They say that in the reign of Nero Paul was beheaded at Rome itself, and that Peter likewise was crucified, and this story is confirmed by the association of the names of Peter and Paul with cemeteries there, which has lasted to this day." Thus we see that persecution and suffering for the faith began early. Many embraced death rather than deny the faith or the denial of Jesus as Christ. Later under Roman persecution of the faith we have examples of both men and women who paid the ultimate cost for their faith.

Vibia Perpetus (c.181-203) is one of the earliest female writers in Christian theology. Her writings focus on the spiritual experiences, and the important role they played in Christian piety. Her surviving writings comprise her visions while in prison awaiting death. After seeing a friend climb a brass ladder to heaven, she was warned about the dragon that would try and ensnare her. In her vision she responds "I told Him that in the name of Jesus Christ the dragon could not harm me. At this time the dragon slowly lowered its head as though afraid of me. Using its head as the first step, I began my ascent." We see from this excerpt that her visions gave her confidence in facing her coming death; as well as those who were in prison with her.

Now hat we have looked at persecution and death for this 'Christian' faith, we will now look at the issues of Christology, specifically Docetism (a form of Gnosticism), Manicheans and Arianism, and the responses that tried to deal with these issues.

Docetism was one of the earliest controversies in the Christian tradition. The main premise is that Christ did not really suffer but only appeared to suffer; therefore Christ was not human. Ignatius of Antioch in countering Docetism states: "So do you pay attention when anyone speaks to you apart from Jesus Christ, who was of the family of David, the Child of Mary, who was truly born, who ate and drank, who was truly persecuted under Pontius Pilate, was truly crucified and truly died, in full view of heaven, earth, and hell, and who was truly raised from the dead. It was his Father who raised him again, and it is him [i.e., the Father] who will likewise raise us in Jesus Christ, we who believe in him, apart from whom we have no true life. But is, as some godless people (athoi), that is, unbelievers, say, he suffered in mere appearance - being themselves mere appearances - why am I in bonds?" The core issue to this debate was if Jesus was not human, and only appeared to suffer, but did not actually suffer, then are we saved or do we only appear to be saved. Can we be saved by a deception? As Placher states in our text: "Most Christians, however, came to feel that Docetism would turn Jesus' life into a sort of trick, an illusion. Moreover, Christians who believed that Christ's suffering and death on the cross saved them from their sins feared that if Christ had only seemed to suffer and die, then they could only seem to be saved." So with the decision by the majority of Christians that Jesus did actually suffer and die. The next major debate was of Mani (216-277) and the Manicheans. Mani professed a dualism in creation, there was a God of Light, goodness, who was the Father of Jesus, and there was a God of evil and darkness. Jesus showed us how to free the light that was trapped in the evil matter of our body, and this would be accomplished through successive reincarnations. Then Marcion took this premise one step further, to state that the God of the Old Testament (Jewish Scriptures) was the God of Evil, an Evil Creator God, who was very different from the God of Love Revealed through Jesus Christ. Irenaeus wrote extensively against these ideals, focusing on clarifying what was the official Church's understanding of Jesus Christ and God. He states: "Thus they verbally confess one Christ Jesus, but their meaning is different from ours." Irenaeus wanted all Christians to be clear on what they believed and why they believed and that their faith had been passed down through apostolic tradition.

This brings us to the final debate in this era, the main figures in this battle were Arius and Athanasius, and though this debate was to be settled at the Council of Nicaea the issues continued to be raised for many years to come. The main Christological issue was who was Christ? There were many different schools of thought: Jesus was God to some, Jesus was a man to some, and Jesus was God and man mixed to become some new being or Jesus was both God and man with two separate natures united in one being without mixing. Both sides of this debate believed that their belief was right and just. But the core issue at stake was salvation. How could we be saved by a sacrifice that was not human, and how could God be satisfied with a sacrifice that was not God. This council was of dual purpose; Constantine had become a Christian and was trying to use Christianity as a tool to re-unite a fragile empire. Athanasius wanted a council to set orthodox theology. This was the first ecumenical council in 325. The final decision was that God was one, yet three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three regarded as equal in divinity. This council came to the conclusion that Christ was 'Begotten not created' and yet of the same substance as the father. Cory and Landry sum up this council as follows: "At the Council of Nicaea the bishops indicated their opposition to Arianism by approving a creed, or statement of beliefs. This statement of beliefs came to be called the Nicene Creed. In it the Bishops adapted an already existing creed by inserting a few phrases designed to link the Father and Son as closely as possible and hence express their opposition to Arius." So we end this period with a clear view of Jesus as both God and Man, and the Church is now becoming a power within the Roman Empire. The period up to this point could be considered the Christianizing of the Roman Empire, and from this point on we might call it the Romanizing of the Christian Faith?


Endnotes

  1. How to Read Church History, Volume 1; Comby, Jean: Crossroads, New York, 1996, p.193-194
  2. New Revised Standard Version, New York, NY, Harper Collins,1993, p.2071
  3. Eusebius of Caesarea from Church History Volume II as quoted in How to Read Church History, Volume 1; Comby, Jean: Crossroads, New York, 1996, p.94
  4. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. Tyson, John R. New York: Oxford UP, 1999, p.61
  5. The Christian Theology Reader, Alister E. McGrath, Oxford, Blackwell, 1997, p.136
  6. A History of Christian Theology; Placher, William C., The Westminster Press, Philodelphia, 1893, p.68
  7. Readings in Christian Thought Second Edition, Kerr, Hugh T. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1990, p.36
  8. The Christian Theological Tradition: Second Edition; Cory & Landry, Prenice Hall, Upper Saddle River, 2003, p. 127 (Advanced Reading Copy)

Bibliography

Tyson, John R. Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology. New York: Oxford UP, 1999

McGrath, Alister E. Ed. Christian Theology an Introduction: Second Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997

The Christian Theology Reader
Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1997

Comby, Jean. How to Read Church History: Volume I
New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996

Cory, Catherine A. and Landry, David T. The Christian Theological Tradition: Second Edition Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2003 (Advanced Reading Copy)

Placher, William C. A History of Christian Theology: An Introduction
Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983

Walker, Williston. et al., eds. A history of the Christian Church: Fourth Edition New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1985

Kerr, Hugh T. Readings in Christian Thought: Second Edition
Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1990

Holy Bible New Revised Standard Version: The Harper Collins Study Bible New York, Harper Collins, 1993

(First written for RS231 History of Christian Thought Fall 2003.)

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Leap of Faith - A Film Criticism

Title: Leap Of Faith
Year: 1992

Director: Richard Pearce

Writer: Janus Cercone

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Film Stock:
Color (DeLuxe)

Run Time: 108 min.


When this film came out in 1992 I was heavily involved with the campus ministry Campus Crusade for Christ (CCC) at Queen's University. The campus directors and all the Christian leaders I knew at the time, warned 'good Christians' not to see the film. As a good little soldier I obeyed for about a year. When I finally saw the film I thought it was great. Though it was done in the genre of a comedy, I would argue that the story becomes drama with the miracles that happen during the telling of the story. Many Christians avoided this film, which could have been a great tool for dialogue and reflection upon faith, hope, and doubt. I believe that it is a tragedy that so many Christians avoided this film. Therefore I will argue that this film is a comedy/drama that Christians should have watched, that it is a great story, and though often interpreted as against Christianity and against faith, I would say it shows real faith.

When the film came out there was a very strong negative reaction to it within the Christian Community. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops rated this film A-III for adults only. The review on the USCCB website states: "Director Richard Pearce's serio-comedy of religious hucksterism has few laughs and little meaning, made all the more unsatisfactory by a vague, feel-good ending. Comic depiction of religious sentiment exploited for profit and an implied sexual encounter." The Roman Catholic Church strongly recommended that the faithful not watch the movie. My own
mentor through CCC asked us to pass out flyers asking people to boycott the film. Even the New York Times writer Janet Maslin states: "Well acted and amusingly told, featuring a fine performance by Steve Martin in the central role, this tale ultimately switches gears and takes a deeply serious turn. 'If I get the job done, what difference does it make?' Mr. Martin's Rev. Jonas Nightengale, a bogus faith healer, asks twice during the story. The second answer he receives sums up the film's fundamental message: 'It makes all the difference in the world.'" The screen shot is of a third time this statement is used, this time by Boyd after he has been healed and is asking Jonas to travel with him. Boyd thinks it does not matter if miracles are happening. He wants to join Jonas's entourage and go on the road.

The religious elements in this film are obvious and blatant - both the faith of the religious who
want to believe and hope for miracles, and also the faith Jonas has that everybody is a sucker. Yet as Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat in their review of Leap of Faith declare: "The point of Leap of Faith is well worth pondering - miracles cannot be summoned by command; they happen spontaneously, by grace, and often to those who least expect them." The film raises a number of serious religious questions. Those questions are: first, did a miracle happen and was Boyd actually healed by God? The second is: did Jane Larson experience conversion from cynic and part of the team of conmen? And finally, was Jonas Nightengale's leaving a sign of his conversion and contrition? Each of these questions possible 'miracles' and raise questions that are worth further discussion - however not in the scope of this paper.

Because of the turn of events from comedy to drama, this film has many redeeming qualities. Many Christians may have avoided this film, and some may have also persuaded others not to attend, myself included. Yet in doing so, they missed out on an opportunity to dialogue and to discuss both the scams presented by Jonas and the possible miracles that occurred during the film.



EndNotes:

  1. http://www.usccb.org/
  2. http://movies.nytimes.com/
  3. http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/



Bibliography

http://www.usccb.org/
(Visited 2007/10/23)
http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/
(Visited 2007/10/21)
http://movies.nytimes.com/
(Visited 2007/10/21)

(First Written for RS266 Religion in Popular Film Fall 2007.)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Prince Monoke - A Film Criticism

Title: Princess Mononoke
AKA: Mononoke-hime
Year: 1999
Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Writer: Hayao Miyazaki (Screenplay),
Neil Gaimen (Engl
ish Adaptation)
Studio: DENTSU Music And Entertainment

Film Stock: Color (Fujicolor)

Run Time: 134 min.


In Princess Mononoke Hayao Miyazaki tells a Shinto tale. Even though Ne
il Gaimen helped to bring it to a Western audience by helping to dub it for an English audience. It still remains a story of Shinto, told for a Japanese audience. Despite the fact that it has gathered a following in North America, the story does not become a product of Hollywood, and thus lose it's primary message. In the first chapter of The Sacred Paths of the East, Theodore M. Ludwig states: "The Human adventure can be viewed from many perspectives - and indeed there should be many perspectives, since there is not just one human story, but many stories. Common to these stories is a searching for meaning, for wholeness, for some connection to the larger continuity of human life. That searching has often been expressed in what we call religious structures, ideas, and experiences." Thus we will examine Princess Mononoke first from the perspective in which that story is used to examine life and make sense of it, second that this story is a religious story, and third in comparison to other stories Princess Mononoke stays true to Hayao Miyazaki views of his religious tradition in a way that some other films do not, especially when it is translated for a North American audience.

In order to understand how Princess Mononoke is truly Shinto we must first underst
and Shinto. Ludwig say's this about Shinto: "The word Shinto, modeled after Chinese terms, means in native Japanese terms the 'Way of the Kami' (kami no michi). This refers primarily to Japanese religion as a way of life according to the will of the kami." Later Ludwig states: "The kami who are negative and destructive are also respected - those who bring vengeance and calamity on humans. For these kami, too, are manifestations of life-power, turned to the destructive side, and they also are worthy of reverence and worship." The best example of this is seen in the screenshot. We have the Oracle or wise woman bowing to the nearly dead boar god, and asking for him to pass in peace. She also promises that rituals will be performed for him. This is something a westerner would not understand or do; our Judeo-Christian heritage tells us we are to subdue the earth and its inhabitants not bow down to them. Therefore we can state that this not a typical western or westernized film.

Hayao Miyazaki uses Shinto beliefs and practices as a narrative device. Through them in this film he examines Shinto beliefs and practices in a way that it represents the his view of Shinto through story. Ludwig emphasizes: "Norinago's reason for emphasizing this is to advocate the Shinto attitude of accepting evil and death as part of life without resorting to foreign teachings (as in Buddhism and Christianity) that deny death by hoping for some kind of life after death." This is seen in the film by Ashitaka's quest to find the cause of the boar god's wound and anger. Even though he is cursed and going to die from the wound, he is struggling against the evil in himself, and in both Irontown and Princess Mononoke. He is trying to find a way to end the cycle of hate and anger. Ludwig then states: "So the path of transformation begins with purification of the physical world and of the inner heart, and it leads to renewal of life in communion with the kami, the source of all goodness and blessing." This is the mission Ashitaka is on. He is seeking to restore balance in a world off kilter and out of balance.

The Shinto ending of the film is clearly seen in a number of ways. The first is that there is no clear good versus evil - there are characters with varying shades of good and bad in them. Also the story is not truly resolved at the end of the film. It does not get all wrapped up in a nice little package. For Ashitaka states this near the end of the English version of the film: "I understand, you'll live in the forest and I will go help them rebuild Irontown. I will always be near. Yakul and I will come and visit you whenever we can." Yet in the Japanese version with English subtitles the message is slightly different. He states they will live together, him at the Ironworks and her in the woods. Yet both are clearly a Shinto end to the film. There is no happily ever after, as in many of Disney's or even North America's other films. Compare this ending with the 1967 Disney version of the Jungle book, where Mowgli leaves the jungle and goes to the girl in the village or the 1989 release The Little Mermaid where King Triton gives his daughter to a man to marry. In both of these other Disney examples the stories are turned into happy endings so people can leave the theatre and feel good. In this story the couple end up with a strange hard relationship and neither sells out, but both have a level of hope.

From these three examples I would declare that Princess Mononoke is a Shinto story, told from Hayao Miyazaki's vision of Shinto. It kept it's Shinto message even while undergoing the transformation of being dubbed for a non-Japanese audience. It is a tale of Spirits, Gods, Nature, and Humanity seeking to find th
eir place in the world, and working through the interactions between the kami and humans. Donald Nicholl in his article "Scientia Cordis" declares: "Certainly a striking feature of many of the great spiritual adventures of this century has been the way in which, having lost their bearings within their own traditions, they have sought them in some other - and have almost gone over to that tradition, only to discover their bearings once more within their own." This could explain the fascination and cult like following to this film and it's director in western society. Nicholl also says: "Hence the Characteristic medium of the scientia cordis is neither a principle nor a law but a story - a story that will move the heart." Hayao Miyazaki tells a Shinto story but he tells it in such a way that it becomes a medium to reach the hearts of practitioners of other traditions. Thus Miyazaki's films - his stories - will have an audience across religious traditions. Yet the story will remain a Shinto tale.


Endnotes:
  1. Ludwig, Theodore M. (2001), The Sacred Paths of the East 2nd Ed., Prentice Hall, Toronto, p.3
  2. Ludwig, p.246
  3. Ludwig, p.248
  4. Genesis 1:28 various translations. See Appendix A.
  5. Ludwig, p.251
  6. Ludwig, p.253
  7. Princess Mononke (1999) English Dubbed Version
  8. Princess Mononke (1997) English Subtitle's from the Japanese Version
  9. Nicholl, Donald, (1997) The Beatitude of Truth, Dartmon Longman & Todd, London, p.150
  10. Nicholl, p.161

Appendix A
Bibliography

Ludwig, Theodore M.
The Sacred Paths of the East
Prentice Hall, Toronto, 2001,

Nicholl, Donald
The Beatitude of Truth
Dartman Longman & Todd, London, 1997,

http://imdb.com

(First Written for RS266 Religion in Popular Film Fall 2007.)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Angels on Assignment: Peters Story

Angels on Assignment: Peters Story

Once upon a time--for we all know the best stories begin that way--not too long ago and not too far away there lived a little boy named Peter Raymond Murphy. Peter to his friends. I am lucky to count myself as one of those friends. But I am getting ahead of myself; there are some things you should
know about Peter before I begin this tale.

As Anne of Avonlea says of her prized student, Paul, Peter too appears to have a spirit and a soul that is much older then his body. In many ways Peter is more man-boy, but then again he is still just a child. He runs and plays, laughs, jokes and gets into scrapes, as a middle male child is wont to do. He can be running and playing with the rest of the children, but will stop, all of a sudden, and climb up into your lap, place his hand on your face and stare into your eyes for twenty to thirty minutes. Then, just as quickly, he will hop down again and join the other children at play. What he is looking at, and what he sees, we will never know. But in his intent gaze you feel alive, you feel loved. And you feel a probing search, as if he is looking for something that you have forgot or lost, and his role in life is to bring it back, or rekindle the flame within.

I've also been told that Peter sees angels. Or at least he used to at any rate. When he was two he would often ask, "Who's that?" and be looking up at an empty space. He is also known to stare off into space, deep in thought, for periods of time.

But the keenest indication of this man-boy's wisdom and age are "Peterisims!" The way he phrases things and the sayings he e
xpresses; amaze friend and stranger alike--sometimes just because of their bluntness.

Well I think that is enough background, or else there won't be any room for the story.

So where was I? Ah yes I remember now.

Once upon a time, I was heading home from school to my spiritual and emotional home, not my biological home. I arrived in the small town, and had decided to visit the used bookstores and the Christian bookstore, just to covet a little. While at the Christian bookstore I saw a card of angels watching over a child at sleep. I felt inclined to purchase it to give to the Murphys to put up in the boys' room.

I try to spend as much time as possible with the Murphys who are my closest friends. I love doing projects around the house with Michael, the father. And although
Bridget--the mother-- is much older then Pete or I, though we don't know how much older. I find myself able to unwind and vent and be fully transparent with this couple, this family. I can bounce ideas off them, share my hopes and fears and just be fully myself.

Now the Murphy children are really an unusual lot. Jacob, the oldest, is very shy and reserved and very very obedient. Peter you have already been introduced to. Kate-Lynn is my little princess and she has me just wrapped around her fingers, "Teve" was one of the first names she learned. But she will definitely break hearts, as she grows older. And then there is little Mason David who has come to the family after their adoption of me into their hearts an
d family. That is the cast of characters, except myself, whom some will say is the biggest man-child of them all, with emphasis on the child part! And of course the angels whom we do not have the privilege of knowing yet by name. Yet once again back to the story. I seem to have this bad habit of wandering off topic.

Yes, that's where I was. I had the Angel card and decided to show up at the Murphys early for dinner. Friday night is "Pizza Night" at the Murphy household. I went by early to see if I could give Bridget a hand with starting dinner. "Pizza Night" is the custom of having homemade pizza with chips and chicken wings for dinner and eating in the living room while watching a movie. This occurs most Friday nights in this home.
Since I arrived early, and Pete was home from work early, all 7 of us decided to go tobogganing. So we got the children all bundled up, and then we did the same. Michael and I put the old wooden toboggan, the GT snow-racer, the flying saucer and the plastic toboggan into the back of the pickup. The Murphys crowded into the cab of the truck. Oscar the dog and I into the back and off we went. We had a wonderful time at the hill. Mason, only being three months old, stayed in the truck with the heater running. We each took turns trying the different rides, alone and in various groups. Every few runs, one of the adults would go check on Mason. As the sun was setting and everybody was rosy of cheek, we decided to head for home, for pizza and hot drinks.

Being tired from the fun, we all turned in after the movie. The boys, Jake and Peter, to the top bunk, me in the bottom, and the rest in their usual spots. We were up early the next morning to a bright winter's day, with a light fresh dusting of snow. Breakfast of teddy-bear shaped pancakes, bacon juice and milk.

Bridget set to the housework after Pete had done the dishes. She decided all us children should be out from under foot--out of her hair and way. So Pete and I allowed ourselves to be persuaded by the boys to go back to the hill for more sledding. We would take the three older, Jake, Peter and Kate.


Now the boys always wanted the GT Snow-Racer, so they took turns for first pick. The other child would then chose between the plastic toboggan and the flying saucer. Then they would head down the hill. Katie was happy to just stand at the top and watch, or to run up and down the hill following her brothers. So Michael or I would take the last ride left and follow the children down and carry the GT back up. It was too heavy for the boys, and Oscar was not there with his harness to pull it up like the night before.

Things went fine for about an hour
or so. And then the accident occurred. Jake chose the GT, and he went down first. Peter had chosen the black plastic toboggan. Then he went down. As I was about to head down, on the flying saucer, to where Jake was to retrieve the GT, Peter had veered off radically and was now heading for a tree. Both Pete and I yelled for him to bail out. Then he hit the tree and the toboggan went over him. I got up, threw the saucer to Pete and told him to go. While Pete was about half way down, Peter tried to stand up, fell and screamed. I grabbed Katie and started to run down the hill. Before I reached the bottom, Pete had picked up Peter and was running for the truck. As I crossed the field I grabbed Jake and Pete and I Dashed for the truck with the three children.
On the way to the hospital Pete called Bridget to let her know what happened. I then called the hospital alerting them to injuries's and our position from the hospital.

I then focused on talking to Peter and to keeping him awake and conscious. He was complaining that he didn't want to go to the hospital. He kept saying he just wanted to go home to bed. He kept trying to brush the flowing blood off his face and out of his eyes.


I asked his if his girlfriend was cute. He said "No". So I asked why he was her boyfriend and he said she was kind of cute. We kept him talking all the way to the hospital.

On arrival, Pete took Peter in and I stayed in the tr
uck and told stories to Jake and Katie. A while after arriving Bridget comes out and asks if I can take the two home and get the cleaned up and fed lunch.

So I take her van home. But during the time in the
truck I called a friend, Jeff, I was suppose to meet that afternoon to tell him what happened, and to get his churches prayer chain going. I call my own church in town to get them praying. I also called my roommates at school to get the Christians on campus praying.
I was a nervous wreak, but I've found that if I clean or bake when I procrastinate or am stresses it helps. So after the two were fed and watching "Mary Poppins". I cleaned. I was puttering around doing this when Bridget called. Fortunately, Jeff whom I was suppose to meet had gone to the hospital to see if there was anything he could do. Bridget was about to move the truck from emergency to long-term parking but neither she nor Pete had money. So when Jeff said, "how can I help?" Bridget replied "Money?" She then sent Jeff back to the hill to get the sleds, which we had left, where they lay. She also asked if he could find Peters' boots, as both were missing. Then he came a round to the house. He told me there was a fracture from forehead to base of the skull. But the Doctors were as of yet unsure of bleeding or pressure on the brain. While Jeff was at the hospital he got in for a minute to see Pete and Peter. Michael was trying to keep Peter awake and kept asking, "Are you awake Peter?" "Open your eyes." "Don't go to sleep Peter." Then after the third or fourth "Are you awake?" Peter replied "No, now go away." Which is a perfect "Peterism", and Peter, true to form.

When Bridget next called she said they were transferring him to a hospital about an hour and a half away. Could I stay till the grand parents arrived to look after Jake and Katie? Which was the least I could do.

Bridget went with Peter in the ambulance. Pete came home with Mason to shower and get cleaned up. He then drove up to the new hospital. When the grandparents arrived, Jeff and I left.

Now the miracles, which grew and happened, in this case are many and varied. I probably don't even know of most of them. But those I do know of assure me that there is something very special about Peter, and also the power of prayer.


With such a severe head injury, Peter never lost consciousness or lucidity. There were also never any complications, no bleeding on the brain, no pressure on the brain, no effect to eyesight or hearing. The angels that must of been working with and in the Doctors, saw to this.


When people around the world heard about it they responded. A fur company from up north sent a foxtail for him to attach to the helmet he had to wear for protection during recovery. Originally Peter was not supposed to be active or play outdoors for at least 6 months. Yet within 3 months all restrictions were removed. Which with how rambunctious Peter is, is a Miracle for it wou
ld of been impossible to keep him down in the summer. Each child in grade one class in the US that heard about the accident through a prayer chain on the Internet. They each drew him a picture wrote him a letter and bound them into a book and mailed them to him.

People from all over the world sent him postcards to give him something to do while he recuperated. Peter was sent cards to encourage challenge, stimulate his mind and just for fun.

And those are but a few of the miracles surrounding Peter's recovery. Peter had all restrictions lifted after 3 months. Now Peter runs climbs and plays as hard as ever. While he has perhaps forgotten how close he came to death, those close to him will always remember.

The Angles guarded Peter at the Hill, till Michael got to him. They protected us all and guided traffic flow, as we sped to the hospital. There were angels ministering to all of us involved. Through the people suppor
ting us, and through the spiritual realm.

And they all lived happily ever after or at least until the dog incident, but that is another story.

Analysis

I tried to do a number of things in this story. First was to make it a first person narrative, where the narrator is my voice. I also tried to keep it fun and light and playful, even though it is a serious story
. It is often a story that deals with a severe injury of a child, possibly the death.

I modelled the narration after that in J.M. Barrie in Michael Pan, yet without the darker side or edge.

I also wanted to tell a tale of a serious accident and the scare of seeing a child greatly hurt. While telling of the fun and play that
is in this family and myself.

I tend to wander a bit too much in the story, but overall I believe that it flows well. The father in the store heard the first draft, and couldn't think of anything to add or subtract.


I also wanted to tell this tale, because of my belief in angels and the power of prayer. Especially divine intervention in this incident. I believe that Peter is a very unique child and will one day be a great Prophet!

In telling this tale I wanted to bring honour to my friends the Murphys, as a small tolken of my appreciation of them and all th
ey have done and do for me.

(Written for ENGL 208C Children's Literature Spring 1999 based upon a true story with Name's changed.)

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A Study of Psalms 1-3

A Study of Psalms 1-3.

To begin, an assignment like this one, where one is to study differences between the same text in many translations, one must be careful to choose translations that will have significant differences, and which also prove insightful for both the person
studying, and the reader. In fact, this assignment is almost an attempt to create a mini commentary on the first three Psalms. Therefore in an attempt to do this task some justice, I have looked at a number of translations and commentaries, and chosen a few of each to work from. I will list them here for ease of reference in the rest of the paper.
Bibles

  • Jerusalem Bible (JB)
  • New Jerusalem Bible (NJB)
  • Berkley Version (BV)
  • Tenak (Jewish) (T)
  • Revised English Version (REV)
Commentaries:
  • Tyndale OT Commentaries, Psalms 1-72, Derek Kidner
  • Daily Bible Study Series, Psalms, George Angus Fulton Knight
  • The Psalms Volume I, W.E. Barnes
  • The Psalms, Joseph Addison Alexander
  • The Psalms, Rev. Dr. A. Cohen
From these ten sources I could easily write an exhaustive book on just the first three psalms. However, I must limit my discussion due to the limited scope of this paper. We will begin with some general discussion on the choice of my sources, then look at the surface features of both translations and commentaries. We will then examine a chart that compares some of the variations of word usage, and attempt to explain some of them. Finally, a section examining new insights and appreciation of these Psalms now that this study is complete.

The process
of choosing translations for an exercise like this was not an easy one. I wanted texts to work with that had significant variations, but that I still considered better good translations. I specifically chose the "Jerusalem" family of translations because I knew that they used "Yahweh" for God rather than the title, "The LORD", "The Lord", or "God" in most places, which makes for an easy place of variation. I also chose NJB, as well as the JB versions to see if there had been much change in the poetry section when this translation was updated into more modern language. I also chose an older translation of the Tenak (Jewish Bible) so as to have an older English language version without having to use the King James Version. Then I rounded it out with the REV and the Berkley (a lesser-known translation) to have a greater variety in sources.

For the commentaries, I chose the Tyndale which is my favorite and the series I am building, and then a variety of other ones at the Library that looked interesting.

Before we begin an actual look at the surface features of these Psalms, I have a side note that needs to be considered. These Psalms, like most of the Old Testament were written in order to be heard. These texts were written to be spoken, sung, or heard in worship. They were not originally written in to be read, but to be spoken. So though we may look at features of the texts, in their original audiences these would have been of little or no importance, if they were even there.

Surface features vary with each transl
ation, even within the "Jerusalem" Family of JB and NJB they are not identical. Some surface features are strictly editor or publisher preference such as single column text like in the JB and NJB, or the double column that we have in B, T and REV. Even the verse numbering in the JB has it on the inside of the page, while all 4 others have it on the outside of the text, as a superscript. As can be seen in Chart #2 (please see the following page), two out of the three translations of the commentaries add a "Book 1" title before the first Psalm. As can also be seen in this chart, 3 of our translations and 4 of our commentaries give titles to each of these Psalms. A unique feature of the Tenak is that it includes the subtitle/superscript "A Psalm of David while he fled…" in Verse 1 where the other 4 translations have it as a separate part of text, and the JB, NJB and REV all have it italicized. It should also be noted that the B, T and REV all have "Selah" in Psalm 3, and they have it right justified in the text, to indicate breaks or pauses. While both the JB and NJB have translated this into English as "Pause" again in Italics and at the outer edge of the page. We could keep looking at surface features, but let's move on the actual text.
I would now like to draw you attention to Chart #1. This chart is intended to draw your attention to some of the more striking differences in wording between the five translations. It should be noted that for each of the words chosen, there is overlap in more than one translation, and I think that if a greater number of versions were used, we would find it even more so. I think the most striking difference can be noted in the final line of this chart, for in 3v8 we have rescue, salvation and victory. Each derived from the same word, yet each can be read with strikingly different interpretations. Kidner believes that this change in focus is a lead into the rest of the Psalms; saying we have no victories worth having outside of God. This is a switch from the earlier "I" focus to a focus on "God's people" an outward focus. An interesting feature to notice is the consistency in translation in the individual version as can be seen in 1v1, and 2v12. In each translation is it kept consistent, it is the same word in the Hebrew in these two verses, and it appears 26 times in the Psalms. (An interesting aside: the Greek equivalent to this word is used in the 'Sermon on the Mount'.) As you pursue this chart it becomes obvious that there is some level of choice in the translation process. This leads a scholar to wonder why they chose the words that they have in each of these instances. I have included one instance where all 5 translations used the same word. In 2v8, and there are numerous synonyms in English that one could think of: inquire, request and petition … that could just as easily fit into this text. Another area where 4 out of 5 translations use different words is in 3v1. Again here, they express similar things, but they have different levels of intensity: having many foes, numerous, and countless. The last one obviously has a much heavier weight upon a person. I think that the words charted are the most unusual, and in my opinion an omission has been made with respect to the 1v5 line in chart #1. Here in the REV they just make a generic reference back "they", where in each of the other 4 translations it is obvious that they are talking about the evil doers, wicked, or ungodly. I believe a stronger word should have been used in this verse in the REV.I believe that the translator's choice in words has more to do with personal preference and their intention for how the Psalms will be used than actually just trying to reflect the original words. For if they were just trying to reflect the original words, then we would not have the need to as many versions and different translations that we have. In doing a study of Judges 19-21 last fall, I used 36 different translations in charting differences in wording and phrasing. So one could easily make this an almost endless task for any passage they chose to study deep enough.

I like what Derek Kidner said in describing the Psalms. He states, "Its structure is perhaps best compared with that of a cathedral, built and perfected over a matter of centuries, in a harmonious variety of styles, rather than a Palace displaying the formal symmetry of a single all embracing plan." (p.7) The Psalms are a collection, gathered together in antiquity itself; as such they still have an amazing power to touch peoples hearts and lives today. In the same way Kidner's comments on Psalm 1 are equally fitting "The Psalm (1) is content to develop this one theme, implying that what ever really shapes a man's thinking shapes his life." (p.48) Thus the choice that is given in Psalm 1 of the godly way, or the ungodly, will really guide all we do.

As an interesting note, in my study of commentaries on the Psalms; there are differences and divergence. As seen above, Kidner sees Psalm 1 as the introduction to the books of Psalms, and thus it's universal appeal. Yet Cohen states:
"The First and second Psalms constitute an introduction to the Psalter, announcing a theme which is one of the main motifs that run through this book of the Bible. Man falls into two categories: the godly and the ungodly." (P.1)


Thus he sees the first two Psalms echoing a similar theme as the introduction to the book of Psalms. However, we need to look at yet a third opinion to get a more rounded view of the Psalms, especially Psalm 1. Barnes in his work states: "Ps 1 has no heading, and contains no suggestion as to its author, nor as to the date at which it was composed. It has no special 'Color': though it speaks of the Law (Torah), it is not legalistic in temper. In fact it is a paean on the eternal righteousness of God." (P.1)

Thus we see this Psalm as being unknown in origin or purpose, but heralding the themes found through the rest of the Psalms, and even the rest of the Old Testament, it is really an ideal introduction into a collection of writings. These writings include Lamenting, Entreating, Praising, Thanks Giving, Royal (performing and enacting), as well as Psalms of Instruction and Meditation, almost as if it appeared just to perform this purpose, of being universal in scope and feel.

After having done this study, I have a greater appreciation for the Psalms and their power in the oral format. Each day over the past few weeks I would recite these 3 aloud from different translations and feel them. Not just a passive reading of them but an entering into prayer, praise, and worship through them, meditating and reflecting on what they say and it's implication to my life, my heart, my Church, and to the Greater Body of Christ, the church. In fact I have a greater appreciation for monastic communities who still pray the "Liturgies of the Hours". According to the Rule of Saint Benedict, there are 157 Psalms read aloud on a weekly basis. So then the entire Psalter read every week all 150 Psalms plus some seven extra by those in monastic communities. I have thus come to value the power in the Psalms as balm for our hearts and spirits and my own need to be hearing them on a far more regular basis.

Bibliography

Books

Kidner, Derek.
Psalms 1-72; Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries
Dowers Grove, IVPress, 1977

Knight, G.A.F.
Psalms; The Daily Bible Study Series
Philadelphia, St. Andrews Press, 1982

Barnes, W.E.
The Psalms Volume I,
London, Methuen & Co. LTD. 1971

Cohen, M.A.
The Psalms
London, The Soncino Press, 1988

Alexnander, Joseph Addison.
The Psalms
Grand Rapids, Baker House 1987

Bible Translations

Revised English Version 1952, Canadian Bible Society
Barkley Version
Tenak 1941
Jerusalem Bible 1966, Bantum
New Jerusalem Bible 1990, DoubleDay

(First Written for RS100E Old Testament Summer 2000.)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Morality or Expedience? In the Film The Mission.

Morality or Expedience?
A Study of the Film The Mission Directed by Roland Joffe


The story of The Mission is many faceted, but most of all I would state that it is the struggle for superior morality through a period of political strife, during which morality becomes the easier political sacrifice. The movie also deals with the religious quest of two very different questers, Captain Mendoza and Father Gabriel.
Their struggle involves their responses to the injustice done to the missions to the Guarini by Rome. Therefore, a focus on the aspect of quest, or journey both physical and religious will be maintained while examining the other aspects of this film.

In order
to do that there must be understanding and clarity of the terms to be used. There must be agreement upon the meaning of the rhetoric in order that the rhetoric may have meaning. Since this is the case there are three questions that must be addressed in this endeavour. First, an examination the content of the story; second an analysis of the film as film, and finally the effectiveness of the film techniques and the plot do they accomplishes their intent.

The plot of this film is fascinating in that it incorporates aspects of three plot types, almost equally. These types include: "(1) Plots of action where movement and things happening predominate to express and convey, the subject of the film, (2) plots of Character where we witness the private actions and thoughts of characters in order to express the film's intention, and (3) Plots of ideas where characters become types and more dialogue is employed to express ideas." This movie uses all three plots to develop the ideals, and the content. This story also has elements of foreshadowing and the hint of impending tragedy from the very beginning. The Cardinal who is our narrator sees this from very early on. Our story is his retelling of these events to the Pope, who is now satisfied because, Spain, Portugal and The Church are all satisfied and appeased by the resolution of these issues.

The progression of this story is not linear, it is the Cardinal's dictation of these events and experiences, in a letter to the Pope we assume. The major theme of the movie is that we all have a responsibility for our actions, and that we cannot dismiss our responsibility to be moral and be light in the darkness or at least in the world around us. This story though tragic, gives us the example of men who risked and lived to be light. So in order for this to be a good film, it must portray those events, which actually happened, in a way that causes us to seek to grow, and journey spiritually ourselves, and to learn from the examples of our two protagonists Mendoza and Gabriel. Through learning from them we can then move forward in our own growth, and journey and seek to be light to those around us as well.

Let us begin by examining the Cardinal, and his role. He states early on his tour of the missions, "A surgeon will often hack off a limb to save the body, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the limb I had come here to sever." Thus we see that the Cardina
l from very early on has a feeling that things will end badly. In the middle of the film the Cardinal receives a letter from Rome, when handed it he does not open it, he is asked why not, and he states, "I already know what it says." Then towards the end of the movie, the Cardinal asks if the massacre was really necessary, the response he receives is "You had no alternative your eminence, we must live in the world and the world is thus." The Cardinal replies, "No thus have we made the world." Here we see a man forced to act as a politician, this creates an internal struggle of conscience with his moral compass and his earlier life as a Jesuit. He knows that in order for there to be peace between the Vatican, The Spanish and the Portuguese he must follow his orders from Rome. Even though he does not wish to do so.

It is observed that the Cardinal regrets the situation he is in and the decision he has had to make. He disagrees with the Spanish and the Portuguese governments' representatives who see this as a victory. The Cardinal states that though the Jesuits are dead, they live, and though he is alive he feels dead. Also the film leaves the story open, this struggle though over 300 years old is not yet finished, and like all social injustice we have a responsibility. He knows he is in a tragedy yet unable to act to avert it. A tragedy along the lines of the great Greek tragedies, where the down fall of the protagonist is inevitable.

The two main characters, Father Gabriel and novitiate Captain Mendoza, embark on a quest for fulfilment that ultimately transcends the self. The search for meaning predominates the development of both character and story. A quest is a search or journey, and for our purposes a religious quest, it is at times, as much a spiritual journey as it is physical. The more dramatic of our personal journey's is that of Mendoza who undergoes the transformation from a life as mercenary and slave trader, to becoming a member of the Jesuit order and living and serving among the Guarnini. An examination of five scenes will help us to understand the changes in him.

Our first encounter with the captain involves his capture of some natives to sell them into slavery. Father Gabriel sees him and they dialogue through the forest. Mendoza tells the priest that he may not have time to form a mission. "In the region of the three rivers Parana, Paraguay, and Uraguay the Jesuits set about evangelizing and pacifying the nomadic tribes. They settled them in reductions, Christian villages protected from colonialist exploitation. The first settlement dates from 1610. There were to be about thirty if them, comprising 500,000 inhabitants.

Communal living was organized entirely on Christian foundations. Each reduction was under the control of two or three Jesuits, and the superior in Paraguay was the link between them. There was no such thing as private property, which could be handed on. Everything was owned in common. Paraguay seemed to be the realized Utopia.


With the treaty of Limites in 1750 the reductions passed from Spanish into Portuguese control. The Guaranis resisted for some time, but the suppression of the Jesuits in 1768 dealt the deathblow to the reductions. There was little left: the Jesuits had been too paternalistic and had not trained people to be really responsible." (How to Read Church History Volume 2, Comby & MacCulloch, Crossroads, 1996, p.73,74) Mendoza knows the territory they are in will soon switch hands, in the political realm. Soon after this Mendoza kills his brother in a duel. Father Gabriel meets him in the monastery, The Father offers him penance, to come and work among the natives. The priest says to Mendoza "Do you dare try it?" and Mendoza responds, "Do you dare see it fail?" The dialogue between these two men throughout the film, helps to progress the plot, and to develop the characters. According to the film theoris
t Ernest Ferlita, "1. Analogy of Action, as the surface action moves horizontally, the plot develops horizontally. 2. The quest for meaning, we discover the meaning of our life by three means, a. doing a deed, b. experiencing a value and c. through suffering." Mendoza experiences all three. His suffering is regret for killing his brother in the dual. His deed is to drag all of his armour from the city to the Mission above the falls, during this physical journey he falls three times, just as Christ did on his way to the cross. When he reaches the mission, he is recognised by the natives. One of the natives approaches the kneeling Mendoza and cuts the net with all his armour off and throws it into the river. Mendoza starts to cry, and the young native, lifts his face so all the villagers can see him. The tribe laughs at him, for he is crying. The true burden is finally lifted as his tears mix with laughter. This is the cathartic moment where he experiences a value, he has been accepted, and forgiven by the people he formerly killed and enslaved. During this scene there are many film techniques used, there is the extreme close up shot of Mendoza as he cries. There is the silencing of the scene sounds, and an overlay of just the waterfall music. Then the priest's recorder tune building in the background. The next significant step in Mendoza's personal pilgrimage is his beginning to minister to the natives, he is given a bible book marked at 1 Corinthians 13, about love and true maturity. We have the shot of him reading and the voice over of him reading the passage. Later in the village, Mendoza is offered the opportunity to kill a wild pig the villagers have tracked, and he cannot, he has forsworn killing, apparently even an animal. However, when the missions loose their protective status from the Church and the government the tribe decides to fight and Mendoza plays a key role in their military strategy. The Jesuit captain's armour and weapons are fetched from the river below the falls and he trains the natives, and helps them prepare to defend them self, and their new home the mission. There is a great battle for the mission. As Mendoza is dying he sees Father Gabriel get shot as well. The redemption is complete, once desolate and with nothing to live for, Mendoza now has something to die for, both the faith he has found and the natives he has come to love. In this scene the film technique is used again of an extreme close up on his face, as well, as the scene sounds being silenced, while we hear very discordant music. The music that up until this point had been focused on the city life, is now invading the missions. The journey both physically and spiritually has ended. Although he died, he died for a cause worth dying for, his faith.

The leader of this mission community also devotes his life to finding and communicating life's meaning. Gabriel literally means 'messenger of God' and this is an appropriate appellation for that is his role, to bring God's word to these people, and to be their priest, and spiritual father. Father Gabriel's journey although it overlaps with Mendoza's, is very different. Gabriel is a priest and a Jesuit, from the beginning of our story. He journeys to the top of the waterfalls to replace a priest who had been crucified by the natives above the falls, and dump
ed into the water to go down the falls. He travels to the people since he feels responsible for martyred priest's death. Once he climbs to the top of the falls, he pulls a recorder out of his pack and begins to play it. The natives come out of the woods to listen to him. He is playing a deep melodious peaceful tune, this tune gets repeated and variation on it played throughout the movie in the score. The natives accept Gabriel and a mission work begins above the falls. Gabriel upon a visit to the city accepts the task of trying to save Mendoza. The above-mentioned scene of Mendoza's forgiveness by the natives is preceded by an amazing shot of the six missionaries returning to the mission. The six are silhouetted against the sky walking along the top of the waterfall to the mission. There is then a visual cut to the celebration of the natives at the return of their friends, and spiritual leaders. Later Gabriel has a great struggle, for it becomes apparent that the missions will be sacrificed, in order to protect the Jesuit order and the power of the Catholic Church. For Gabriel the ethical concern is for the work of God among the natives. This view conflicts with that of the Cardinal who identifies the survival of the Church as the key ethical concern. Contrary to the approach of the other clerics Gabriel opts to help the people as a priest and not with violence. While preparations for war are being made Gabriel prepares for mass. During the battle Mendoza fights and kills again, meanwhile Gabriel performs mass. On a physical level neither approach is more successful. Gabriel too is shot proceeding from the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament. Thus we have the death of our other protagonist.

However, though we have success of the spiritual journey for Mendoza and Gabriel, this success is somewhat limited, in that they have not imparted this desire to the surviving native children. To be a true religious journey-man/woman, in my opinion one must not only come to understanding of self, and learn to transcend self, one must also reach the point of helping others to start or journey on their path. An interesting aspect is the choice of the ending, one of the surviving members of the community a young girl returns and picks up a violin from the water to take with her and the other children who head deeper into the forest. This echoes the insight of Comby and MacCulloch as discussed previously. (See footnote # 6) that due to the fact that the Jesuits were more parents to the natives, and had not developed strong national leaders to carry on their work. Therefore though we cannot just say the efforts of the mission above the falls, are complete since there seems to be mitigated success for the next generation.

There is a well developed sense of contrast between the city and nature, and the missions. This is done through music, sound, lighting. In the city the lighting is too bright and harsh, with dark discordant music in the score, and dirty dusty streets and people. However in the jungle and missions scenes are accompanied by soft music such as Gabriel's song on the recorder, which is often repeated with variations along with the sounds of nature, water, waterfalls, and birds and animals. The light in these scenes is also softer and more natural. This also helps to heighten the contrast between political expedience and the moral expedience. The contrast between the music and lighting in the city settings and the missions, the use of orchestration develops and drives the plot. This cinematic direction helps to elicit the desired response from the audience. The use of varied shots and angles shows a master at work, Joffe is a man who knows his craft. The beauty of the scenery mixed with the tragedy in action is a harsh mix and hard to handle.

Certainly the effectiveness of a film should in some measure relate to the reaction of the viewer to the experience. This film causes a cathartic moment for the viewers. My first time through this film I was brought to tears, I can even remember the apartment I was living in, the friends who were there for dinner, what we had and the movie we watched. Knowing it is a true story and one that ends tragically makes it even harder to watch. Although emotionally difficult to watch cinematically it is easy to watch since it is also a fabulous piece of art. In summary, I believe the movie accomplishes it purpose. Prior to the credits there is a simple biblical quotation that reads, "The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it." The world though sometimes painfully tragic can be transcended and we have the responsibility to make the world brighter. I do not believe any one could watch this movie and not be moved; could not help but want to change the world. I would have to state that yes the film is a good film, and accomplishes its intent.

Endnotes:

  1. Course outline Notes Page 4 Syllabus
  2. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  3. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  4. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  5. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  6. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  7. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe
  8. Class notes May 29th 2001 Page 1
  9. The Mission 1996 Directed by Roland Joffe

Bibliography

McEvoy, S.R.
Class Notes Summer Term 2001
RS 267

Fenn, M.
Syllabus RS 267 Class handout

Comby, Jean &
How to Read Church History
MacCulloch, Diarmaid Crossroads, 1996, NewYork

Joffe, Roland (Director)
The Mission
1996 Warner Brothers

(First Written for RS267 Film and the Quest for Meaning Spring 2001.)
My review of the film can be see here.