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‘Mary of Nazareth’ film available for sponsored screenings

January 9th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

The story of the Gospels unfolds through the eyes of the mother of God in “Mary of Nazareth,” from Ignatius Press Films, a beautiful, often moving depiction of the life of Mary from her childhood through the passion and resurrection of her son.

Luca Marinelli portrays Joseph and Alissa Jung is Mary in a scene from the movie “Mary of Nazareth.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. (CNS photo/courtesy of Ignatius Press)

Italian director Giacomo Campiotti (2002’s “Doctor Zhivago”) has produced a handsome and respectful film, with a gifted international cast and some luminous cinematography shot in Tunisia. The script, by Francesco Arlanch, more or less follows the biblical account, with a few intriguing departures, inspired by apocryphal writings, that heighten the drama.

For example, we are told that King Herod heard a prophesy of a girl who would one day bring forth a savior, prompting him to terrorize Judea, in a precursor to the slaughter of the innocents. Mary’s parents, Ann (Antonella Attili) and Joachim (Roberto Citran), hide their young daughter, keeping her safe.

Mary (Alissa Jung) is a joyful but special child, one whom dogs and snakes fear. Her parents are happy but often perplexed. After Mary’s betrothal to Joseph (Luca Marinelli), and the Annunciation, a resigned Joachim tells Mary, “Forgive me. I always knew you were a mystery, but I never knew how great a mystery.”

The Nativity (unfortunately, Joseph misses the birth, as he leaves the cave to fetch water) is beautifully rendered. Mary possesses a strong, almost psychic bond with her young son, aware when he is hurt or in danger, and experiencing visions of his future Passion in her mind.

Once Jesus (Andreas Pietschmann) begins his public ministry (“He couldn’t stay and be a carpenter forever,” Joseph says), Mary is always present, strong and compassionate, helping when she can. But when she asks him for assistance with the wine at Cana, she later worries she was impulsive, forcing Jesus to act before he was ready.

Mary not only shares her son’s ministry, but also his pain. Every blow during the scourging is felt by Mary, as is the slow agony of Crucifixion. She literally crawls up the hill of Calvary on her hands and knees to be near her dying son.

The depictions of the slaughter of the innocents and the Passion are graphic, even harrowing, which pre-teens might find upsetting.

But for the rest of the family, “Mary of Nazareth” makes for an enriching catechetical experience that’s also both inspiring and entertaining. The film is fittingly dedicated “to all mothers, whose life-giving, sacrificial love, like Mary, changes the world.”

“Mary of Nazareth” is available for sponsored screenings in theaters, and is expected to be released on DVD later this year. For more information, visit www.maryfilm.com.

The film contains several scenes of bloody violence and death. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II, adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.


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Jesuit, a nationally known peace activist, dismissed from order


TOWSON, Md. — Jesuit Father John Dear, a nationally known peace activist who also is a popular author, retreat leader and lecturer on peace and justice issues, is no longer a member of the Society of Jesus after 32 years with the religious order.

Father Dear belonged to the Jesuits’ Maryland province, based in Towson.

Jesuit Father James Shea, provincial, said in a statement that the priest’s “dismissal from the Society of Jesus became effective” Dec. 20, and followed “an extended period of dialogue between the leadership of the Maryland province and John regarding his ministerial assignment and time he requested to discern his vocation.”

“The process was initiated in the fall of 2012 after John declined to return to his province to live in a Jesuit community while continuing his ministry of peace and social justice, including lecturing and writing,” the provincial said.

Catholic News Service received Father Shea’s statement via email Jan. 8.

In a column published Jan. 7 in the National Catholic Reporter, Father Dear wrote: “This week, with a heavy heart, I am officially leaving the Jesuits after 32 years.”

“After three years of discernment,” he said, “I’m leaving because the Society of Jesus in the U.S. has changed so much since I entered in 1982 and because my Jesuit superiors have tried so hard over the decades to stop my work for peace, most recently, when my provincial ordered me to Baltimore but gave me no assignment and, I felt, encouraged me to leave, as many other superiors have done in the past.”

Father Shea’s statement did not address Father Dear’s claim that his superiors did not approve of his peace activism.

He is still a Catholic priest but according to canon law, he must have permission from a local bishop to publicly exercise his priestly faculties. In his column Father Dear said he doubts any U.S. bishop would give him permission “because most also object to my work against war and injustice, so I’m not sure if I will remain a priest.”

In a Jan 7 story, NCR reported that Father Dear gave the newspaper copies of letters from the Jesuits’ superior general in Rome, Father Adolfo Nicolas, and the Vatican Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

NCR said both documents stated that Father Dear disobeyed his superiors by refusing to live in a Jesuit community in Baltimore. The decree signed by Father Nicolas said the priest has been “obstinately disobedient to the lawful order of superiors in a grave matter.”

For three decades, Father Dear has participated in nonviolent campaigns, including civil disobedience, for three decades, to end war and nuclear weapons proliferation. He has been arrested more than 75 times and spent “more than a year of his life” in jail, according to his biography.

Father Dear’s newest book is “The Nonviolent Life.” In 2008, he published an autobiography, “A Persistent Peace.” He has been a longtime columnist for NCR, an independent, lay-owned biweekly newspaper based in Kansas City, Mo.

In an interview in early 2000 with The Catholic Sun, newspaper of the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., Father Dear said his quest for nonviolence began in the early 1980s as he visited Israel and was shocked to see war “literally happening before my eyes over the Sea of Galilee where Jesus lived and taught.”

In 1993, Father Dear was arrested at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C., for hammering on an F-15 nuclear fighter bomber. He spent eight months in North Carolina county jails.

In 2010, he received the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award in Davenport, Iowa.

In 2011, he and 13 others were found guilty of criminal trespass at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. The group was charged in 2009 after walking through an open gate at the base seeking to talk with soldiers piloting unmanned drones over Afghanistan and Pakistan from the military installation. Father Dear and the other protesters spent a night or two in jail after their arrest. When they were found guilty, the judge sentenced them all to time served.

In his NCR column, Father Dear said he has joined the staff of Pace e Bene, a small group based in Long Beach, Calif., that “works to promote Gospel nonviolence.” The priest also is helping to organize Campaign Nonviolence “to protest war, poverty and environmental destruction” by holding demonstrations across the U.S. before elections this fall.

“I think the nonviolent Jesus wants us, all of us, to work as best we can in these critical times for the abolition of war, poverty, nuclear weapons and catastrophic climate change so God’s reign of peace will spread,” he said.


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Baptism isn’t a formality, it gives strength to forgive and love, pope says at general audience


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Baptism isn’t just some formal ritual, it profoundly changes people, giving them unwavering hope and the strength to forgive and love others, Pope Francis said.

“With baptism, we are immersed in that inexhaustible source of life that is Jesus’ death, the greatest act of love in all of history,” he said during his first general audience of 2014.

Pope Francis passes circus performers on stilts as he arrives to leads his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Jan. 8. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

The pope spent nearly two hours after the audience Jan. 8 greeting people, blessing the sick, speaking with newlyweds and receiving notes, letters and late Christmas gifts from the crowd. He also watched a brief performance by acrobats, jugglers and clowns who were part of an international Golden Circus festival.

During his usual rounds through St. Peter’s Square in the popemobile before the start of the audience, the pope caught sight of a friend in the crowd. The pope had the driver stop the popemobile and gestured for his friend to board the vehicle.

The friend, Father Fabian Baez, sat in the back seat, then walked with the pope to a special seating section for guests.

Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the Vatican press office, said the priest works in a parish in Buenos Aires and that the pope said Father Baez was “a great confessor.”

The pope began the new year of audience talks with a new series of catecheses on the sacraments, starting with baptism, the sacrament that “grafts us as living members in Christ and in his church.”

Baptism isn’t merely “a simple rite, a formal act of the church,” he said. “It is an act that profoundly touches our existence” and radically changes the person.

“A baptized baby is not the same as a baby who’s not baptized. A baptized person is not the same as a person who’s not baptized,” he said.

By being immersed in the living waters of Christ’s salvation, he said, “we can live a new life, no longer at the mercy of evil, sin and death, but in communion with God and our brothers and sisters,” embarking on a whole new life.

The pope reminded his audience that it was very important for Christians to know the date of their baptism because it was “a happy day” of celebration.

Recalling that event is important because there is always the risk people think of it as something that happened in the past or that it was something just their parents wanted, and was “not of our volition.”

Even though chances are people were just infants on that day and can’t remember it firsthand, “We have to reawaken the memory of our baptism” and live it every day as a great gift from the Lord, the pope said.

“If we are able to follow Jesus and remain in the church, even with our limits, frailties and our sins, it is precisely because of the sacrament in which we became new beings and were vested in Christ.”

The power of baptism frees people from original sin, grafts them to God and makes them bearers of “a new hope” that nothing and nobody can destroy, he said.

“Thanks to baptism, we are able to forgive, to love, even those who offend us and hurt us; that we are able to recognize the face of Christ in the least and the poor,” he said.

The fact that baptism is always conferred by a priest in the Lord’s name shows it is a gift that is passed on from person to person “a chain of grace,” he said. It is “an act of fraternity” and becoming a child of the church, who, like a mother, generates new children in Christ through the Holy Spirit.


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Former U.S. Ambassador to Vatican Thomas P. Melady dies


Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Thomas P. Melady, who served in several diplomatic posts and continued to play a role as “citizen-scholar” long past the age when most people would have retired, died Jan. 6. He was 86.

Melady died at his Washington home of a brain tumor, which doctors only recently diagnosed.

Melady was an ambassador under three presidents: to Burundi (1969) and Uganda (1972) under President Richard Nixon, and then as the ambassador to the Holy See under President George H.W. Bush (1989) and in the first year of the administration of President Bill Clinton. Melady left the post in early 1993. He also was named by Nixon as senior adviser to the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly.

He was remembered by one of his successors to the Holy See post as “a perpetual ambassador.”

University of Dayton professor Miguel Diaz, who was ambassador from 2009 to 2012, told Catholic News Service that Melady was the first former ambassador to reach out to him when Diaz was nominated and that he continued to be a welcome adviser and mentor.

“Once my nomination was made public, he immediately took me out to lunch and we had a tete-a-tete on Vatican diplomacy,” Diaz said, with Melady offering helpful advice about what challenges Diaz might face.

Across differences of political party and generation, “it grew into a collegial friendship,” Diaz said.

In the very small group of former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See, Melady “was the leader of the club,” said Diaz. He observed that despite their activism with different political parties, Diaz with the Democrats and Melady with the Republicans, the two wound up as co-signatories of an assortment of letters and statements on public policy.

Melady’s death is “truly a loss, not just for the Melady family but for all of us,” Diaz said. “We don’t have many people like him left.”

In addition to his ambassadorial posts, Melady was a prolific writer, with 17 books, including “Profiles of African Leaders, Idi Amin Dada: Hitler in Africa,” “The Ambassador’s Story” and “Ten African Heroes,” and more than 180 articles to his credit. He most recently had been senior diplomat in residence and a professor at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, teaching a course on the art of diplomacy; mentoring students and helping develop the institute’s policy and philanthropic circles, said a post on the organization’s website.

“Tom was the epitome of the citizen-scholar and diplomat, dedicated to serving his country and the cause of peace in the world,” said a comment from John Lenczowski, founder and president of the institute. “He exposed our students to a rare diplomatic professionalism that was perfect for our students’ study of this critical art of statecraft.”

Besides his expertise in diplomacy and politics, Melady wrote and taught on Afro-Asian and Central European issues.

The institute post observed that Melady’s service at the Vatican came at a pivotal point, when the Soviet Union was collapsing and Pope John Paul II was playing a role in reshaping Eastern Europe.

“He was such a great soul,” said Stephen Schneck, director of the Institute on Policy Research and Catholic Studies at The Catholic University of America, who counted Melady as a friend.

“In Washington he was about the only person I know who could truly and easily speak to people on both sides of the (political) aisle,” Schneck told CNS. “And he was a great friend to the church.”

“To a whole generation of us he was a mentor and exceedingly generous,” Schneck added. “He would take people like me under his wing and talk about things like the realities of government service. The same with education. He would often work with young scholars and try to prepare them for their work in education.”

In 2010, the university’s institute awarded Melady the Bishop John Joseph Keane Medallion for lifetime service to church, country and academia. A statement from Schneck called Melady “a brilliant scholar, a renowned diplomat, a distinguished educator, a compassionate Catholic leader, a generous confidant to bishops and presidents, professors and politicians.”

New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan said in an email forwarded to CNS: “I’ll miss Tom as a friend, a teacher, and a statesman.”

Melady was born March 4, 1927, in Norwich, Conn., and served in the U.S. Army at the close of World War II. He earned degrees from Duquesne University and The Catholic University of America and taught at St. John’s University. As an early proponent of African studies, he served from 1959 to 1967 as the president of the Africa Service Institute, which brought leaders of newly independent African nations to the United States. He was an adjunct professor at Fordham University from 1966 to 1969, when he began his diplomatic service.

He later went on to serve as chairman of Seton Hall University and as a consultant to the National Urban League. After his diplomatic service, he taught at George Washington University and was president of Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., from 1976 to 1986.

In a letter to the Sacred Heart University community on the school’s website Jan. 7, President John J. Petillo said Melady’s service came during a time of great change for the university, as it grew from “a start-up college to an acclaimed regional university.”

Melady is survived by his wife of 52 years, Margaret, with whom he co-wrote several books; daughters Christina Melady and Monica Melady Micklos; and seven grandchildren.

Among his honors and awards, he was a Knight of Malta and recipient of the Grand Cross of the Order of Malta; was a recipient of the Order of Pius IX and the Order of St. Gregory the Great. He was the recipient of 30 honorary doctorates and was honored by the leaders of Senegal, Liberia, Cameroon, Madagascar and Croatia.

A funeral Mass with Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl presiding was scheduled for Jan. 13 at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington.


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Taking a look at the week ahead in high school basketball


For The Dialog


The week in high school basketball tipped off with a girls showdown between top-ranked St. Elizabeth and No. 2 Ursuline, and the host Raiders managed a 55-50 win behind 29 points from Adrianna Hahn. On the boys’ front, St. Mark’s improved to 4-1 Monday with an impressive 52-20 win over Caravel.

Tuesday’s games were wiped out by cold weather, but the slate resumes Wednesday. Here is a look at the action the remainder of the week. Read more »

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Morning homily: Jesus helps people make right choice among desires, pope says


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — The human heart is like a flea market of desires, and people need to know how to pick out the good from the bad, Pope Francis said.

“We must assess what is from the Lord and what isn’t, if we’re to remain in the Lord,” the pope said in his homily Jan. 7 during his morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where he lives.

“Our heart is always filled with desires, wishes, thoughts,” he said, according to Vatican Radio. “And many times our heart, with so many things that come and go, seems like an open-air market where there’s everything, you can find everything there.”

The pope commented on a reading from the First Letter of John (3:22-4:6), in which the apostle advises Christians to “test the sprits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

The pope said this test reveals whether a desire or feeling brings one closer to God or drives one further away.

The “simple” test involves reflecting on how Jesus lived his life: He became “lowly and was humiliated” with his death on the cross, the pope said.

“That is the path of Jesus Christ: lowering oneself, humility, even humiliation,” he said. “If a thought, a desire brings you to this path of humility, of stooping, of serving others, then it belongs to Jesus. But if it takes you on the road of self-importance, vanity, pride, the path of thinking abstractly, then it doesn’t belong to Jesus.”

“That’s why vigilance is necessary,” Pope Francis said. “A Christian is a man or a woman who knows how to be vigilant over his or her heart” and always figure out what comes from God and what comes from the devil.


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Pope becomes a shepherd during visit to live Nativity scene


Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Surrounded by cheese sellers, shoemakers and bleating, baying animals, Pope Francis immersed himself in a lively re-enactment of a special day in Bethlehem.

He even let a lamb rest on his shoulders and greeted a tiny baby named Francis, who played the part of Jesus, when he visited a live Nativity scene Jan. 6 at the Church of St. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori on the northern outskirts of Rome.

A lamb sits around the neck of Pope Francis as he visits a Nativity scene at the Church of St. Alfonso Maria dei Liguori in Rome Jan. 6. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano via Reuters)

More than 200 people took part in the re-enactment, wearing period costumes and playing the parts of villagers, artisans and street sellers. People lined the sides of the road leading to the church and watched from rooftops and balconies of surrounding buildings.

According to Vatican Radio, the pope greeted each of the participants and many of the parishioners who attended.

One special guest lay waiting in a small hut: a 2-month-old baby named Francesco, who had been baptized that morning and played the role of Jesus in the pageant.

A woman dressed as a shepherd placed a small lamb on the pope’s shoulders. Children sang a Christmas song and gave the pope a bouquet of red roses.

At the end of his visit, the pope talked about the importance of a new year beginning with Jesus, who stays by everyone’s side to overcome evil. He asked everyone to pray for children who would be born in 2014 and for all grandparents, who he said are the source of wisdom.

The priest who organizes the parish’s live Nativity scene each year said he had invited the pope just a few days earlier and the pope had accepted immediately.

“The pope was so happy. He told me ‘Keep it up. Don’t get discouraged,’” Father Dario Criscuoli told journalists.

According to the Vatican newspaper, the priest said the pope told him, “Surely to put something like this together you have to be crazy, but that’s OK; God likes some things that are crazy.”

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Pope pledges almost $5 million to help pay World Youth Day debt


Catholic News Service

RIO DE JANEIRO — Pope Francis has pledged a donation of almost $5 million to help pay part of the debt incurred by the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, said the Local Organizing Committee.

A statement from the committee said the pope recognized “the great effort made by the Local Organizing Committee to hold World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro and demonstrated his intention to financially help pay off part of the investments made” for the event.

An independent audit of the event, conducted by Ernst & Young, confirmed that on Aug. 31, World Youth Day had an accumulated debt of $38.4 million. After renegotiating with suppliers and selling a property, the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro was able to reduce the debt to a little over $18 million.

World Youth Day was Pope Francis’ first international trip after being named pontiff. The event brought nearly 3 million pilgrims to Copacabana beach July 23-28.

An October-December public campaign to obtain donations to pay off the debt collected $336,600.

The Local Organizing Committee said World Youth Day was funded entirely by the church and donations. Federal, state and local governments’ participation was limited to guaranteeing the security of pilgrims and public services during the event, it said.


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Hahn’s 29, Raiders defense lead No. 2 Ursuline over top-ranked St. Elizabeth


Staff reporter


WILMINGTON – Adrianna Hahn was, as usual, the unquestioned leader on offense for Ursuline Academy on Monday night, but it was the Raiders’ rebounding and defense, and some long-distance help from Alyssa Irons, that helped make the difference in their 55-50 win over St. Elizabeth High School. Fans braved frigid cold to pack the Ursuline gymnasium for the latest chapter in the girls’ basketball rivalry, as the Raiders came in ranked second in the state, while St. Elizabeth was the only team above them.

Hahn had 29 points, but a rebound and putback of a missed free throw by Kailyn Kampert late in the fourth quarter caught the eye of her coach, John Noonan. The coach said Hahn is much more than just a scoring machine. Read more »

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Newest ‘Paranormal Activity’ movie rachets up objectionable content

January 6th, 2014 Posted in Movies Tags: , ,


Catholic News Service

In crafting “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” writer-director Christopher Landon maintains the admirable tradition of minimal bloodletting that has characterized this spooky franchise since its 2007 debut. But he also ratchets up the adult content with a steady flow of vulgarities and a scene of occult rites performed without clothing.

Perhaps the tough talk is meant to be in keeping with a shift in venue from the suburban setting of the previous films to a working-class Latino section of Oxnard, Calif. There, recent high school grad Jessie

Andrew Jacobs stars in a scene from the movie “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones.” The Catholic News Service classification is L — limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. (CNS photo/Paramount)

(Andrew Jacobs) has a series of unsettling experiences that his best friend Hector (Jorge Diaz) documents using a handheld camera.

The pals suspect the strange goings-on are connected to the murder of Anna (Gloria Sandoval), a mysterious neighbor in Jessie’s apartment complex who was rumored to be a witch.

The black-arts back story is just there for window dressing. More troubling is the combination of Catholic prayer and Santeria practices to which Jessie’s grandmother (Renee Victor) eventually resorts to try to rid him of his supernatural woes. Along with the elements cited above, this potentially confusing admixture of scriptural faith and barely disguised polytheism prevents endorsement for young or impressionable moviegoers.

In fact, with the found-footage conceit underlying all the “Paranormal Activity” pictures beginning to feel threadbare, even those few mature horror fans who make up the appropriate audience for this fifth outing in the series may find it less rewarding than its predecessors.

The film contains some violence with brief gore, a suicide, full nudity, nongraphic nonmarital sexual activity, drug use, a couple of instances of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language and a few sexual jokes, one involving an obscene image. The Catholic News Service classification is L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


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