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Sals hold off pesky Middletown, 66-55, to advance to quarterfinals


For The Dialog


WILMINGTON — Salesianum, No. 1-seeded team in the boys’ state basketball tournament, advanced to the quarterfinal round Sunday at the Bob Carpenter Center, but the Sals had to hold off a pesky Middletown team Friday night, 66-55, at a sold-out Father Birkenheuer Gymnasium.

The Sals took advantage of the height of 6-7 forward Brian O’Neill all night. The senior scored 13 of his team’s 16 points in the first quarter and finished with 30 on the night. He helped Salesianum bounce back after the Cavaliers jumped out to a 7-2 lead. O’Neill scored an old-fashioned three-point play, followed by another basket to tie the score. Read more »

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Weekend movie: ‘Son of God’ is uneven but worthy revival of Biblical epic

February 28th, 2014 Posted in Featured, Movies Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

As the first wide-release film in nearly 50 years to focus on the life of Jesus as a whole, “Son of God” represents an epochal event for believing moviegoers.

Though not the most powerful mass media treatment of its subject, that accolade continues to belong to Franco Zeffirelli’s 1977 television miniseries “Jesus of Nazareth,” director Christopher Spencer’s reverent but uneven screen version of the Gospel story ranks as a worthy revival of the Hollywood biblical epic.

Diego Morgado stars in a scene from the movie “Son of God.” (CNS/Fox)

The screenwriters, led by Nic Young, find an efficient entree into their narrative by entrusting it to an aged St. John the Evangelist (Sebastian Knapp) during his exile on the island of Patmos. This is theologically helpful because the opening lines of the Beloved Disciple’s Gospel, as recited here, describe the Incarnation, a mystery without which all that follows could easily be misconstrued.

Early scenes leading up to and including the Nativity will remind at least some viewers that “Son of God” is an outgrowth of last year’s miniseries on the History cable channel series, “The Bible.” The new footage that follows is at its best in its portrayal of the events that culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus (Diogo Morgado).

Thus Judas (Joe Wredden), Caiaphas the high priest (Adrian Schiller) and Pontius Pilate (Greg Hicks) are all assigned believable motives, while Morgado succeeds in blending messianic vision with very human pain in a thoroughly compelling way — one that accords, moreover, with the scriptural account.

Catholic viewers will also appreciate the unqualified acknowledgement of St. Peter (Darwin Shaw) as the leader of the Apostles as well as scenes highlighting Mary’s (Roma Downey) closeness to her son. Though the portrayal of the Last Supper seems somewhat noncommittal as to the meaning of the Eucharist, a rough-and-ready celebration of the sacrament is shown to be the chosen moment for the Lord’s first post-Resurrection appearance to the Twelve.

As for the ministry and preaching that precede the Passion, there are moments that range from the moving to the awkward.

Morgado brings the requisite gravity to bear in announcing that the passage from the Prophet Isaiah he has read aloud in Nazareth’s synagogue has now been fulfilled. But the story of Lazarus’ death and revivification is truncated and drained of much of its impact by the absence of any hint of Jesus’ friendship with him and with his mourning sisters.

Despite such shortcomings, the movie offers some solid catechesis and an easy introduction to the Lord’s earthly biography. That’s all the more valuable given the erosion in religious literacy our society has experienced since the appearance of “Son of God’s” most recent, yet far distant, predecessor, George Stevens’1965 Gospel drama “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”

In that context, and despite its unflinching treatment of the Redeemer’s sufferings, “Son of God” is probably acceptable for older teens.

The film contains strong gory violence. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III, adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13.


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Slight fever sidelines Pope Francis

February 28th, 2014 Posted in Vatican News Tags: ,


Vatican.va —The director of the Holy See Press office announced Feb. 28 that Pope Francis would not go to the Pontifical Major Roman Seminary that night due to a mild indisposition with a slight fever for which his doctor advised him to cancel the scheduled appointment and to rest.

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Pope’s morning homily: Have sympathy for couples whose marriages fail


VATICAN CITY — Those who recognize marriage as a sacrament, a divine blessing and a reflection of God’s love for humanity should have even greater sympathy for husbands and wives whose relationships have failed, Pope Francis said.

Pope Francis gives the homily while celebrating a recent morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae guesthouse at the Vatican . (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)

“See how beautiful this love is, how beautiful marriage is, how beautiful the family is and how much love and closeness we must have for our brothers and sisters who have experienced the calamity of a failure in love,” the pope said Feb. 28 at his morning Mass.

In the day’s Gospel reading, Mark 10:1-12, Jesus tells his disciples that “what God has joined together, no human being must separate,” and that divorcing a spouse and marrying another is committing adultery.

According to Vatican Radio, Pope Francis’ homily focused on marriage as part of God’s plan for man and woman and as a reflection of God’s faithful love. He repeated the Gospel passage, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

But, the pope said, “when this love fails, because many times it fails, we must feel the pain of the failure and accompany those who have failed in their love, Not condemn them. Walk alongside them.”

In the excerpts broadcast by Vatican Radio, Pope Francis did not mention the discussion about the family and the pastoral care of divorced Catholics that he had Feb. 20-21 with members of the College of Cardinals.


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Save transport stipends for Catholic school families in Delaware


The Delaware Catholic Advocacy Network is asking Catholics in the First State to assume the state budget continues to include a transportation stipend for the parents of children in Catholic schools. The network released the following statement:

“Each year, parents who send their children to Catholic schools in Delaware save the state an estimated $150 million while supporting Delaware’s public schools with their taxes. In return, the state gives these families a stipend to reimburse them for a small percentage of their transportation costs. Now, that stipend is in danger of elimination. Neighboring Pennsylvania provides total transportation for Catholic and other private school children and Maryland provides partial text-book reimbursement.”

Tell the governor and your representatives in the Delaware General Assembly that families who sacrifice to send their children to Catholic schools deserve to keep their transportation reimbursement stipend. Click “TAKE ACTION” to send them an email.

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Early scoring burst, defense key as Vikings advance to quarterfinals


For The Dialog


WILMINGTON — St. Elizabeth turned up the defensive pressure, making it tough for the opponent to get many shots off, and the Vikings cruised to a 60-31 win over Charter School of Wilmington in the second round of the DIAA girls basketball tournament Thursday night at the St. E Center.

The Vikings, seeded fourth in the tournament, started with a press early and built an 8-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes. They extended the lead to 12-0 on a steal and layup by freshman Alanna Speaks, forcing Charter to burn its second timeout in the first four minutes. A Jordyn Humes three-pointer made the score 21-4, and the first quarter ended 25-9.

St. Elizabeth would continue the assault in the second quarter, going on a 7-0 run in the last minute, including another trey by Humes and a field goal by Macy Robinson. Robinson then stole the inbound pass, setting up an Alex Thomas field goal. The halftime lead was 37-17.

Just to make sure there was no doubt about the outcome, the Vikings would score the first 11 points of the second half before Charter junior Megan Waltz ended the run with two free throws. A buzzer-beating three pointer by St. E’s sophomore Gabby Julian made the third-quarter score 51-19.

Thomas and senior Sabrina Hackendorn each scored 13 for St. Elizabeth (15-5), which received balanced scoring. Next up for the Vikings is Catholic Conference foe Padua. The 12th-seeded Pandas (14-8) upset No. 5 Milford on the road, 49-40, to advance to the quarterfinals on Saturday at the Bob Carpenter Center. They are slated to tip around 5 p.m.

St. Elizabeth has defeated the Pandas twice this season, 56-39 and 41-26.

Elsewhere on Thursday night, Catholic schools had a good night. No. 1 Ursuline (17-4) defeated No. 17 St. Mark’s, 51-12, and 10th-seeded Archmere (17-5) went to Smyrna and upset the No. 7 Eagles, 47-36.  Ursuline will meet No. 9 Hodgson at approximately 6:30 p.m., while Archmere’s reward is a date with No. 2 Sanford around 3:30 p.m. Those games are both at the Bob Carpenter Center.

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This Lent, consider a proverb each day from Scripture

February 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized Tags: , , ,


As you may be noticing, many of my writings focus on Sacred Scripture. There are several reasons for this; one being this is where the focus of my study was directed and even more important the Bible is God’s Word to us. It reveals his story and directs our lives as his disciples.

For many years I have kept a quotation journal writing down thoughts and statements that guide me in my daily life and on my spiritual journey. I also discovered that God, in his infinite wisdom, provided me with a complete book that not only enhanced my journal but challenged me with thoughts and sayings that touched every area of my life.

This is the Book of Proverbs, one of the several biblical books known as Wisdom literature. I pray for the gift of wisdom on a daily basis, a much needed gift when you are the matriarch of a large family, and I believe that I am blessed to a limited degree with this gift, of course my age and white hair enhance this perception.

The second verse from Proverbs, “that men may appreciate wisdom and discipline,” stands out as I reflect on all the reading and praying I have done with this book over the years. I believe we can learn a greater appreciation for the discipline needed to attain wisdom. Proverbs offers a collection of thought- provoking statements that we can use as a guidebook into the hidden truths within the heart. I believe the first step in attempting to conform my life to being a disciple of Christ is to look within myself and identify and name those attitudes and sins that are a block to my relationship with God and others.

This is a very difficult thing to do since my natural inclination is to deny the negative within me and so it is easy to avoid situations and thoughts that will bring these to my attention. The Book of Proverbs provides an invaluable resource to aid in searching out these inner sins and allowing God to enter my consciousness and heal those parts within that are blocking His grace.

Although I prayed with sacred Scripture for many years, it was not until I began a comprehensive study of Scripture that I even noticed the wealth and beauty that is contained in the Book of Proverbs. Our professor told us to select one verse from Proverbs and carry this line around with us for an entire week. The verse I selected was Proverb 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely. “

Wow, of all the verses available to choose, this one hit closest to home. Every day that week, I prayed this verse and listened as God guided me to new depths of understanding about how to trust in Him.  I felt as though I discovered a treasure hidden deep within a box containing many other gifts. Over the years I continue to choose a proverb a week and I continue to look forward to discovering many layers of truth that I know are waiting for me.

How familiar are you with the book of Proverbs or any of the other books of wisdom literature contained in the Hebrew Scriptures? Many people shy away from this part of the Bible preferring the Gospels and letters. This Lent, and any day of the year, I encourage you to discover the beauty of these ancient words of God.

Ebner, a spiritual director, is a member of St. Jude the Apostle Parish, in Lewes.


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Job description for new bishops: Pope Francis seeking prayerful evangelists, not CEOs

February 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis said bishops should act not like ambitious corporate executives, but humble evangelists and men of prayer, willing to sacrifice everything for their flocks.

“We don’t need a manager, the CEO of a business, nor someone who shares our pettiness or low aspirations,” the pope said Feb. 27. “We need someone who knows how to rise to the height from which God sees us, in order to guide us to him.”

Pope Francis ordains Bishop Fernando Vergez in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican last November. Bishop Vergez, secretary-general of the office governing Vatican City, is entrusted with the pastoral care of Vatican employees. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pope Francis’ words came in a speech to the Congregation for Bishops, the Vatican body that advises him on the appointment of bishops around the world.

He stressed the importance of self-sacrifice in a bishop’s ministry, which he described as a kind of martyrdom.

“The courage to die, the generosity to offer one’s own life and exhaust one’s self for the flock are inscribed in the episcopate’s DNA,” he said. “The episcopate is not for itself but for the church, for the flock, for others, above all for those whom the world considers only worth throwing away.”

Pope Francis listed several desirable virtues in potential bishops, including a “capacity for healthy, balanced relationships,” “upright behavior,” “orthodoxy and fidelity” to church doctrine; and “transparency and detachment in administrating the goods of the community.”

The pope laid special emphasis on a bishop’s ability to evangelize and pray.

In preaching the Gospel, bishops should be appealing rather than censorious, upholding church teaching “not in order to measure how far the world falls short of the truth it contains, but to fascinate the world, enchant it with the beauty of love, seduce it by offering the freedom of the Gospel.”

“The church doesn’t need apologists for their own causes, nor crusaders for their own battles, but humble sowers who trust in the truth … bishops who know that even when night falls and the day’s toil leaves them tired, the seeds in the field will be sprouting.”

As models of prayer for bishops, Pope Francis cited Abraham and Moses, who argued with God to dissuade him from destroying their sinful people.

“A man who lacks the courage to argue with God on behalf of his people cannot be a bishop,” the pope said.

Quoting from an address he gave to Vatican diplomats last June, Pope Francis said bishops should be “meek, patient and merciful,” embracing both spiritual and material poverty, and renouncing any ambition for appointment to more important dioceses.

The pope voiced anew his concern about bishops, “in this time of meetings and conventions,” traveling too much to fulfill their pastoral duties at home. He suggested the congregation study the latter-day relevance of a decree by the 16th-century Council of Trent requiring bishops to live in their dioceses.

Pope Francis also stressed that bishops should be suited to the particular local needs of their dioceses.

“There is no standard pastor for all the churches,” the pope said. “Christ knows the singularity of the pastor every church requires, able respond to its needs and help it realize its potential.”

“Where can we find such men? It is not easy. Do they exist? How can we choose them?” Pope Francis asked in closing. “I am sure they exist, because the Lord does not abandon his church. Maybe it is we who do not spend long enough in the fields looking for them.”


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Lessons in style: Pope’s gestures, choices are teaching moments

February 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — From the moment Pope Francis, dressed simply in a white cassock, stepped out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time and bowed, he signaled his pontificate would bring some style differences to the papacy.

Some of the style changes are simply a reflection of his personality, he has explained. Others are meant to be a lesson. But sometimes the two coincide.

Pope Francis meets with the poor in 2013 at the archbishop’s residence in Assisi, Italy. Pope Francis’ most frequent advice and exhortation to Catholics: “Go forth.” (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Answering questions from students in June, he said the Apostolic Palace, where his predecessors lived “is not that luxurious,” but he decided to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, a Vatican guesthouse, “for psychiatric reasons.”

Living alone or in an isolated setting “would not do me any good,” he said, because he’s the kind of person who prefers living in the thick of things, “among the people.” However, he added that he tries to live as simply as possible, “to not have many things and to become a bit poorer” like Christ.

Unlike his choice of residence, his decision to travel in Rome in a blue Ford Focus instead of one of the Mercedes sedans in the Vatican motor pool was meant to be a message.

Meeting with seminarians and novices in July, he said too many people, including religious, think joy comes from possessions, “so they go in quest of the latest model of smartphone, the fastest scooter, the showy car.”

“I tell you, it truly grieves me to see a priest or a sister with the latest model of a car,” he said. For many priests and religious, cars are a necessity, “but choose a more humble car. And if you like the beautiful one, only think of all the children who are dying of hunger.”

A few days after his election, Pope Francis told reporters who had covered the conclave, “How I would like a church which is poor and for the poor.”

In October, he traveled to the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi and met clients of Catholic charities in the room where St. Francis had stripped off his cloak and renounced his family’s wealth. The pope said he knew some people were expecting him to say or do something similarly shocking with the church’s material goods.

Living simply is important, he said, not just out of solidarity with the poor, but because it is so easy to get attached to worldly possessions, turning them into idols. The church, he said in Assisi, “must strip away every kind of worldly spirit, which is a temptation for everyone; strip away every action that is not for God, that is not from God; strip away the fear of opening the doors and going out to encounter all, especially the poorest of the poor, the needy, the remote, without waiting.”

The first year of Pope Francis’ pontificate also has been one of encounters.

A pope, like priests around the world, celebrates Mass every day. Before he became very infirm, Blessed John Paul II would invite visiting bishops and special guests to attend his early morning Mass in the chapel of the papal residence. Pope Benedict XVI’s morning Mass generally was more familial, including his secretaries, his butler and the women who ran the apartment.

With a much larger chapel in the Domus Sanctae Marthae and more priests and bishops in residence there, Pope Francis has had a larger congregation for his morning Masses. Although the Masses are considered private by the Vatican, Pope Francis has been inviting Vatican employees to attend, beginning with the garbage collectors and gardeners.

While transcripts of his morning homilies are not printed in the Vatican’s official daily news bulletin, excerpts are provided by the Vatican newspaper and Vatican Radio.

In the first months of his papacy, especially as the weather warmed up, he’d go for a walk, dropping in on Vatican workers in the garage or the power plant. And, when he has a request of a Vatican office or wants to make sure something he requested is being done, he simply picks up the phone.

Every Vatican office, not to mention the Jesuits and other religious orders, has a funny story about someone answering the phone and thinking it’s a joke when they hear, “This is Pope Francis.”

But his phone calls go well beyond the inner circle of the Vatican and the church. Pope Francis has called journalists and people either he has read about or who have written to him with stories of suffering and desperation. His telephone calls, in some ways, have taken the place of his Buenos Aires habit of riding public transportation and walking the streets of the poorer neighborhoods to stay in touch with how people really live.

While he will pose with pilgrims for photos and “selfies,” reciprocate when given a big hug, sign autographs for children and accept cups of “mate,” an herbal tea popular in parts of Latin America, he learned in Argentina that there are times when the ministry of an archbishop or pope can be used by the powerful, and he has taken steps to make sure that does not happen.

At his morning Mass and at his large public liturgies, Pope Francis gives Communion only to the altar servers and deacons, then he sits down and prays.

In a 2010 book written with Buenos Aires Rabbi Abraham Skorka, Pope Francis said that at large Masses for special occasions, Masses attended by government officials and leading business people, ”I do not give Communion myself; I stay back and I let the ministers give it, because I do not want those people to come to me for the photo op. One could deny Communion to a public sinner who has not repented, but it is very difficult to check such things.”


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Who needs Oscars? Here’s our list of 10 best pictures and 10 best family films

February 27th, 2014 Posted in Uncategorized


Catholic News Service

For much of 2013, Hollywood seemed to be in the doldrums, turning out a good deal of product, but very little of quality.


With the approach of year’s end, and the looming awards season, however, things improved remarkably. So much so, in fact, that by Christmas, there were an unusual number of worthwhile movies to choose from at the multiplex.

That seasonal shift is reflected in the lists below, the Media Review Office of Catholic News Service’s top 10 movies and top 10 family films for 2013. Among the score of outstanding pictures cited, in alphabetical order, only six were released in the first half of the year.

Unless otherwise noted, the Catholic News Service classification for the films on the first list is A-III — adults, and their Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

As for movies in the second category, with the exceptions indicated, their CNS classification is A-I — general patronage, while their MPAA rating is PG — parental guidance suggested, some material may not be suitable for children.


The top 10 overall:

Captain Phillips

In the engrossing, complex and compassionate docudrama “Captain Phillips,”the skipper (Tom Hanks) of a giant container ship is taken hostage by Somali pirates (led by Barkhad Abdi). Director Paul Greengrass skillfully re-creates the harrowing maritime ordeal while keeping the humanity of all those concerned in the foreground.

The uplifting historical drama “42” recounts the 1947 reintegration of professional baseball, a breakthrough made possible by the collaborative efforts of Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey (a splendid Harrison Ford) and Negro League star Jackie Robinson (Chadwick Boseman). Writer-director Brian Helgeland’s film is buoyed by Rickey’s feisty righteousness and by the inspiring example of Robinson’s forbearance in the face of hate.


In director and co-writer Alfonso Cuaron’’s thrilling adventure “Gravity,” a Russian missile strike destroys the space shuttle and maroons its only surviving crewmates (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney). The nearness of death provokes reflections on mortality and the afterlife, which are used as steppingstones toward a resolution that viewers of faith will find refreshingly pro-life.

The satisfying action sequel “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”follows the further

adventures of the two victors (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson) of a survival tournament in which youngsters from an oppressed underclass must battle to the death.

In adapting the second volume in Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian trilogy, director Francis Lawrence decreases the intensity of the violence on screen, and his film’s moral center is solid.

The personal collides with the political in the affecting fact-based drama “Lee Daniels’ The 

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

Butler”which tells the story of a plantation worker (Forest Whitaker) who makes his way to Washington, where he finds covetedemployment on the domestic staff of the White House. Appealing performances, especially Oprah Winfrey’s complex portrayal of the main character’s wife, keep the unfolding events from feeling like a checklist of postwar history.

In the wrenching and profound multigenerational saga “The Place Beyond the Pines,”directed and co-written by Derek Cianfrance, a motorcycle stuntman (Ryan Gosling) re-encounters his ex-lover (Eva Mendes), who reveals they have a baby son. Determined to provide for his newfound offspring, he embarkson a spree of bank heists. The film offers a powerful message about temptation and relativism, as well as the role of conscience (L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian).

In director Denis Villeneuve’s powerful drama “Prisoners,” a seemingly decent family man (Hugh Jackman) turns vicious vigilante after his 6-year-old daughter and a playmate are kidnapped. Though it presents the facade of a thriller, Villeneuve’s film, which also features Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead detective on the case, is primarily a richly symbolic exploration of morality, the human condition and the role of religious faith in a fallen world (L, R).

Director John Lee Hancock’s fact-based film “Saving Mr. Banks” recounts the behind-the-scenes circumstances surrounding the making of the classic 1964 musical “Mary Poppins,” a process that involved an intense battle of wills between Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) and author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson), who penned the tales on which the movie was based. The sincerity and wholesomeness of this comedy-and-drama blend make for a welcome change at the multiplex (A-II — adults and adolescents).

 “Star Trek Into Darkness” is director J.J. Abrams’ snappy follow-up to his 2009 reboot of — and parallel story to — the long-lived sci-fi franchise. Dynamic, impetuous Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) and his seemingly emotionless first officer Spock (Zachary Quinto) lead their intrepid crew on a morally fraught crusade against an intergalactic terrorist (Benedict Cumberbatch). The underlying warning against

12 Years a Slave

employing immoral means to overcome evil is both scripturally resonant and timely.

A free black man (Chiwetel Ejiofor) living happily with his wife and children in antebellum upstate New York is lured to Washington, then kidnapped and sold into servitude in “12 Years a Slave,” director Steve McQueen’s harsh but absorbing account of America’s “peculiar institution,” based on the eponymous 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup. A searing depiction of the endurance of the human spirit against crushing odds (L, R).


The top 10 family films:

“Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2” is a cheerful animated comedy in which the young inventor of a machine that turns water into food learns that the device, which he thought had been disabled, has continued to function. Directors Cody Cameron and Kris Pearn’s sequel serves up colorful fun while elevating friendship and teamwork over egotism (A-II, PG).

Beautifully rendered and refreshingly good-humored, “The Croods” follows the adventures of the Stone Age family of the title as they face the perils of climate change. Directors and co-writers Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco spin a diverting tale that also carries an intriguing Christian subtext.

In the sweet animated sequel “Despicable Me 2,” the never very wicked and now thoroughly reformed villain of the original film teams with a secret agent to identify the perpetrator of a crime of global significance. The thoroughly endearing comedy showcases the transformative power of both romantic love and family affection.

“Ender’s Game,” an enlightened and well-wrought science-fiction movie, focuses on a 12-year-old chosen to lead Earth’s military forces against an alien race that 50 years earlier tried to colonize the planet, resulting in the deaths of millions. The film highlights a salubrious message about the moral pitfalls of war (A-II, PG-13).

“Epic”is a pleasant animated fantasy in which a 17-year-old girl finds herself transported to a miniature world within nature where the champions of growth and life battle the dark forces of decay. Enhanced by some lovely imagery, director Chris Wedge’s cheerful journey into the


undergrowth sends messages about environmental stewardship, teamwork and responsibility.

In the animated musical “Frozen,” the new queen of a mythical kingdom accidentally unleashes her power to create ice and snow, causing an eternal winter. This good-natured film has a nice message about the enduring bonds of family as well as a few religious overtones likely to please believers.

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,”director Peter Jackson’s second installment in a trilogy of films based on Catholic author J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel, finds a once-timid hobbit (Martin Freeman) continuing his courageous quest to help a group of dwarves (led by Richard Armitage) recapture their ancestral

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

stronghold from the terrifying dragon (voice of Benedict Cumberbatch) who displaced them. Implicit warnings against the corrupting influence of wealth and power accompany his adventures (A-II, PG-13).

“Jack the Giant Slayer” is a fun fable in which the romance between a peasant boy (Nicholas Hoult) and a princess (Eleanor Tomlinson) is imperiled when a beanstalk of his own unwitting creation suddenly sprouts up, carrying her aloft to a land of people-eating giants. Director Bryan Singer’s faith-tinged retelling of the classic fairy tale is set in an alternate version of the Middle Ages where characters freely acknowledge God (A-II, PG-13).

“Monsters University,” director Dan Scanlon’s animated prequel to the 2001 hit “Monsters, Inc.,” centers on two best pals were not, it seems, always so fond of one another. This tale of the duo’s college years reinforces familiar but important messages for young people (and their parents): Make friends, study hard and apply your unique talents for the greater good (G — general audiences).

Aesop’s fable of the tortoise and the hare gets a Formula One makeover in the rollicking animated comedy “Turbo” as a garden snail’s wish for super speed is unexpectedly granted after a freak accident. The family adventure champions the underdog and upholds the bonds of familial love.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.


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