We are deeply disturbed by Israel’s “Pillar of Defense” attacks on Gaza. We call for an immediate end of the air strikes and naval bombing into Gaza as well as for an end to the ongoing siege of Gaza. We also call for an end of the rocket attacks from Gaza aimed into communities in Israel, which will not bring peace and security to the area.
Monthly Archives: November 2012
“Skyfall” is the new, eagerly anticipated James Bond movie. It’s been four years since the last Bond movie and 50 years since the first Bond movie, “Dr. No.” “Skyfall” is the third movie with Daniel Craig as Bond. In every respect, it is worth the wait.
“Skyfall” begins with a customary edge-of-your-seat sequence. This time it’s a chase on the streets, rooftops, train tracks, bridges and tunnels around Istanbul. It ends with a wounded Bond falling off a train, over a bridge, and into the sea. He is presumed dead. But we know better.
In the meantime, British Intelligence Headquarters has been bombed in London. Bond reappears at the house of M (Judi Dench again, non-smiling, resolute and steely-eyed.) She demands that Bond undergo a rigorous training before returning to the field. His mission is to find the person who knows the identities of NATO agents. The names of agents are being released on the web, thus endangering their lives and the entire intelligence network. Bond is off to Shanghai, and engages in a spectacular fight against an enemy in a high-rise building with the neon-lit night sky in the background. This scene is stunningly captured by nine-time Oscar nominated cinematographer Roger Deakins, who deserves another nomination for his work on “Skyfall.”
“Skyfall” next covers familiar territory as Bond meets a beautiful woman in a casino, has a martini, then escapes from a group of thugs. The woman then leads him to the secret island headquarters of Silva (Javier Bardem.) We discover that Silva is a former British agent who was captured and tortured by the Chinese. Silva blames M for abandoning him to his fate, and is set on revenge against her. There’s one exciting action scene after another, through the streets and subways of London, finally culminating in a great sequence in a remote, abandoned house in Scotland, with ties to the Bond family.
At a surface level, “Skyfall” is great entertainment, sleek and exciting. Yet at another level, there’s more depth to this film. Both Bond and M are aging and face their mortality. The world is much different than the Cold War era of spies. M addresses this in a meeting with the Prime Minister, in which she argues that British Intelligence is more important than ever, in a world in which the enemy can be a terrorist, indistinguishable from anyone else. Although most elements of the Bond films are still there, including the beautiful women, exotic locations, chases, guns and gadgets, espionage is a much more serious business now. While there is some humor, “Skyfall,” like Craig’s first Bond film, “Casino Royale,” is somber and dark, with an air of gravitas missing from many of the earlier films.
We even learn about a little about Bond’s childhood that made him the man he is today. We also discover that even M is fallible and vulnerable, and is warned to atone for her sins. Silva is a great Bond villain, who like the other characters, has been wounded and betrayed. Yet his hatred and desire for revenge turns him into a monster, with shades of both Hannibal Lecter and Norman Bates with his mother issues!
The credits are first-rate all the way. Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) balances the dark drama with spectacular chase sequences and special effects. Mendes gives his own creative stamp to the film, while grounding it solidly in the 50-year Bond tradition. Craig leaves no doubt that he can hold his own as Bond. Oscar winners Dench and Bardem lead an excellent supporting cast, including appearances by such legendary British actors as Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney.
After 50 years, the end of the Cold War, and many mediocre entries, many believed that James Bond movies had become obsolete. Yet, here he is roaring back, better than ever. At one point, Silva asks Bond if he has any hobbies. “Resurrection,” he replies. Yes, indeed.
Tom Condon, OP
If you, like me, begin to sweat at the least bit of turbulence when flying, then the first 20–30 minutes of “Flight” will be very hard to watch. The realistic scenes of an airliner taking off in a thunderstorm and crash landing in a field outside Atlanta are as harrowing as any I’ve seen in a movie. Needless to say, this movie won’t be an option on your next overseas trip!
As impressive as the flying scenes are, “Flight” is more concerned with the inner turbulence of pilot “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington in an Oscar-worthy performance) whose life is spinning out of control. Before the flight in question, Whip engages in a night of alcohol, cocaine, and sex with Katerina, a flight attendant. (Be forewarned that this scene is rather explicit). When he enters the cockpit with Ken, his young co-pilot, Whip is legally intoxicated. Yet his skill as an experienced pilot allows him to escape the crash with minor injuries. That’s been the story of Whip’s life. By using his strength, he is narrowly able to escape the downward spiral of his life.
So that he may recuperate from his injuries away from the media, Whip temporarily moves out to his grandfather’s farm. He takes Nicole, a young woman who he met in the hospital, with him. In a powerful scene, Whip, Nicole, and a young man meet each other for an illicit smoke in a stairway. They bond with each other for a moment while discussing mortality. The young man is a cancer patient, Nicole is an addict, and Whip narrowly escaped death. All discover the fragility of life. Curiously, there is no mention of the hazards of cigarette smoking in the movie, which features more scenes of cigarette smoking than I’ve seen in a long time.
With the help of AA and her sponsor, Nicole is able to get a job and stay sober. Whip, however continues his downward spiral of substance abuse. Nicole is resolved not to return to her horrible past life as an addict. Even though she cares about Whip, she knows she cannot remain with him while he is still using, so she leaves the farm with her sponsor. When he realizes Nicole has left, Whip continues his self-destructive behavior.
“Flight” is notable for its spiritual content. As they prepare for takeoff on the ill-fated flight, a flight attendant reports to Whip that there are 120 “souls” on board. As it is landing, the plane clips a church steeple, narrowly missing a group of Pentecostals who are baptizing in a small pond. When Whip and his lawyer visit the crash site, Whip learns that the people return to the site every day to pray for those who were killed or injured in the crash. There is some discussion of the crash as an “act of God.” When Whip visits Ken in the hospital and finds his injuries much worse than his, Ken’s wife tells Whip that they are “blessed.” Ken tells the truth about Whip’s state the morning of the flight, and asks him to pray with them. Whip does so, with obvious discomfort.
Also, Whip goes to a church to attend Katerina’s funeral service. As much as he cared for her, Whip cannot go in, but stays on the outside, unable to participate.
There are several references to the crash as an “act of God.” Was it? Certainly it’s a turning point for Whip, forcing him to confront his alcoholism. It serves as a wakeup call for Whip. Will he admit help, or continue his destructive behavior? When a pilot’s union rep advises Whip to lie about his drinking on the day of the crash, Whip replies that no one has to tell him how to lie about his drinking. He’s been doing it for years. In the climax of the film, Whip is given the opportunity to finally tell the truth about his life, or continue to lie. He can shift the blame to another person, or finally take responsibility for the mess of his life. It’s often said that an addict has to hit rock bottom before admitting his or her need for help. Whip and Nicole are examples of this.
“Flight” is a strong, powerful film with excellent performances, directed by Oscar-winning director Robert Zemeckis, who gave us another harrowing plane crash in “Cast Away.” The lives of Whip, Nicole, and Katerina include sex and substance abuse. Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins do not shy away from this material in explicit scenes. Yet, as hard as they are to watch, I think they are essential to the plot. Be advised that there is a lot of turbulence in this movie.
A few months ago, I watched the classic 1962 movie “The Days of Wine and Roses,” with great performances by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick as an alcoholic couple. I found it remarkable for its courage and realism, not relying on a happy ending. While different in many ways, “Flight” serves as a worthy successor today, with Whip and Nicole as the couple who deal with addiction. “Flight” caused me to reflect on those I have known who have struggled with addiction in their lives.
I appreciated this strong, unflinching and thoughtful film, and think you will too.
Tom Condon, OP
NEWBURGH N.Y. – At Mount Saint Mary College’s Founders Chapel, theologian Fr. Robert Christian, OP, recently examined the impact of Vatican II with “The Church of the Second Vatican Council: A Work Complete, Yet Always in Progress.”
The free public talk, hosted by the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute, marks the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council.
Fr. Christian, who traveled from Rome, has worked at the Vatican, served in many administrative capacities in the Dominican community, and educated students from around the globe.
At the Mount, he enlightened listeners by exploring the meaning of Latin phrases such as “Ecclesia Christi subsistit in Ecclesia Catholica” from the Vatican II document “Lumen Gentium” and how the wording denotes both continuity and reform over the original expression, “Ecclesia Christi est Ecclesia Catholica.”
“The old word ‘is’ was not sufficient,” he emphasized. “‘Subsists in’ seemed to indicate more.”
He also discussed how ecumenical dialogue furthers the exploration of faith, making such dialogue vital to the Church’s continued growth and wellbeing.
That many elements of the Church can be found elsewhere gives grounds for common understanding. Fr. Christian used a comparison of ecclesiology to coffee: American coffee is about 99 percent water. Turkish coffee is about 99 percent coffee. “So, each recognizes one’s own faith in the expressions of the other, and appreciates one’s own faith.”
“These changes were profound,” said Fr. Christian. “They challenged prevailing ways of thinking. And we have not seen the end of the consequences of the Second Vatican Council.”
“We must not think of Vatican II as the gestation period that brought to birth a new Church, or a great song that sang the Church into being. Whatever is new with the council must be seen as organically connected to and flowing from the Church’s past,” he explained. “There is a constant validity of acts done by Christ that are not limited to his lifetime… words of the council were purposely chosen to indicate a change in the Church’s development.”
Vatican II significantly articulated the protocol of the Roman Catholic Church and its relationship with the modern world. Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council to “throw open the windows of the church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”
More than 2,500 Catholic bishops and priests participated. Invitations were also extended to Protestant and Orthodox Eastern churches and to male and female religious orders.
The Second Vatican Council discerned that increased lay participation in the liturgy necessitated celebration in local languages, instead of just Latin. The council also addressed religious freedom, the Church’s overall mission and many other issues.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fr. Christian attended a Jesuit university. During his junior year in Italy, he lived in a Dominican parish.
“During that year I realized that God was calling me to priesthood in a contemplative and active religious order that prays the choral office and shares all things – even decisions – in common,” he said.
After graduation he entered the Dominican novitiate. He was ordained a priest in 1976.
Fr. Christian is now vice dean of the theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, has educated students from around the world, and serves as Consultor to the Pontifical Council for Promotion of Christian Unity.
The Catholic and Dominican Institute, directed by Charles Zola, assistant professor of philosophy, promotes the college’s heritage; advances the Dominican charism of study and service; provides a forum for discussion of contemporary ethical issues; and enhances Catholic and Jewish dialogue.
Guided by the college’s vision and mission statement, the institute welcomes persons of varied faiths and acknowledges different religious traditions as essential to the college’s intellectual and spiritual life.
The next Catholic and Dominican Institute event is a presentation by Nancy Marie Brown on Monday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. about her book “The Abacus and the Cross” in the Villa Library on campus, 330 Powell Ave., Newburgh, New York.
For more information about Mount Saint Mary College, visit www.msmc.edu.
Sister Elyse Marie Ramirez, OP (Springfield) was honored by the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) during its recent convocation in Plano, Texas. NRVC presented its 2012 Recognition Award to two of its members, Sister Elyse Marie and Sister Josita Colbert, SNDdeN. Sister Elyse Marie is coordinator for religious vocations ministries for the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Sister Elyse entered the Dominican Order in 1982 and made her first profession in 1985. She holds a B.A. in history with a certificate in education from Quincy University and a master’s of theology with an emphasis on scripture and a certificate of preaching from the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri.
Sister Elyse served as vocation director for the Springfield Dominicans from 2000 to 2006. In 2008, she began her ministry with the Office for Religious in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
The NRVC described Sister Elyse’s accomplishments with these words:
“In her four years as the director of the Chicago Archdiocesan Vocation Association (CAVA), Sister Elyse has increased the organization’s membership and promoted greater ownership of the organization through increased board membership and committee participation. With the support of CAVA, she helped to initiate several innovative vocation programs in the Archdiocese, including the Nun Run, the Called to Holiness Series, the Renewing Your Call program and a Summer Evenings of Prayer for Praise, Worship and Listening. Sister Elyse has broadened CAVA’s outreach to include the Young Adult Ministry Office, local parish young adult ministry programs, Catholic educators, campus ministry programs and Hispanic young adult groups… Because of her efforts, several men and women entered religious life through the CAVA programs, and she is frequently called upon by other dioceses for consultation.”
The Dominican Sisters of Springfield, Illinois are a congregation of vowed Catholic women who have dedicated their lives to prayer, studying and proclaiming the Word of God and leading simple lives in community with one another. Springfield Dominican Sisters minister in various locations in the United States and Peru, South America, primarily in the areas of healthcare, education and pastoral care, and corporately sponsor four institutions: Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Ill.; Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in Springfield, Ill.; Rosary High School in Aurora, Ill., and St. Dominic Health Services in Jackson, Miss., as well as the ministry of Jubilee Farm, a center for ecology and spirituality in New Berlin, Ill. Their missions and ministries are enhanced by more than 300 Dominican Associates, laypeople who are called to witness Gospel values and share the Dominican charism. For more information, visit www.springfieldop.org.