LIGHTS, CAMERA...FAITH!: A Movie Lectionary,
Cycle A, by Peter Malone, M.S.C., with Rose Pacatte,
F.S.P. Pauline Books & Media. 393 pp. $24.95.
EYES WIDE OPEN: Looking for God in Popular
Culture, by William D. Romanowski. Brazos Press. 171
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, who teaches at St. Xavier
High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He has a B.A. in theology
from Xavier University (Ohio) and an M.A. in religious studies
from Villanova University (Pennsylvania). His articles and
book reviews have appeared in St. Anthony Messenger,
Momentum, Catholic Update, Youth Update and Religion
ONE THING EVERY first-year teacher learns is the adage:
"In order for students to go through your door, you first
have to go through theirs." If there is to be any learning,
then the teacher must be aware of and perhaps use things
that the students are seeing at the movies and on TV, listening
to on the radio and their CD players, or reading in books
and magazines. All of this is done in the attempt to draw
them to the teacher's goal: the door of truth. This process
can and, given the day in which we live, must also be applied
when it comes to the intersection of faith and culture.
So, put another way, "In order for the door of faith to
be entered, the door of culture must first be opened."
It is with this premise in mind that Lights, Camera...Faith!:
A Movie Lectionary, Cycle A should be read and used.
The authors, Father Peter Malone, president of Signis, the
new Catholic organization for cinema, TV, radio and electronic
media and a member of the Pontifical Council for Social
Communications, and Sister Rose Pacatte, a media-literacy
education expert and director of the Pauline Center for
Media Studies, are serious about the possibility of creating
a dialogue between faith and culture through the use of
movies. They realize that film, like the Gospels, speaks
to the human condition, which cries out for meaning.
This book was born when a friend challenged Father Malone:
"Why don't you find a movie that links to the Sunday Gospel?
It might make a good homily."
Lights, Camera...Faith! is the first in a three-part
series, which follows the Lectionary cycles A, B and C used
by the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations.
Each chapter presents the readings for that Sunday, followed
by a synopsis of the paired movie, commentary on the film,
dialogue with the Gospel, key scenes and themes from the
movie, and ends with questions for reflection and conversation.
It includes not only Sundays, but also feast days and national
holidays, like Thanksgiving and Mother's Day.
So whether it's Terminator or It's a Wonderful
Life, the drama of popular culture is used as a bridge
to connect us with the drama of the Massthe life,
death and resurrection of Jesus.
Before turning to Lights, Camera...Faith!, though,
it may prove beneficial to have a better understanding of
why popular culture should be used in the first place to
search for, connect us with and comment upon faith. This
is the goal of Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular
Culture, by William D. Romanowski, professor of communication
arts and sciences at Calvin College. In it he wants to provide
the reader with a "fascinating, easy-to-read guide for interpreting
and evaluating popular culture as a Christian."
Romanowski begins by acknowledging that popular culture
is part of our lives. Its presence is here to stay. This
is perhaps illustrated best by that most significant anniversary
recently "celebrated"the 20th anniversary of MTV.
For Romanowski, though, it's not the presence of popular
culture which is problematic but our response to it.
Arguing "that we have not thought deeply enough about the
nature of popular art and its role as a cultural communicator,"
Romanowski believes this "...leaves us with very little
to contribute to the discourse about popular art and culture."
Neither reviling nor embracing it, Eyes Wide Open
echoes the refrain of "looking for God in popular culture."
He stresses that "Christians have to be actively engaged
with culture: studying it, discerning positive and negative
aspects, and working to redeem it." If this is not done,
the shadow side of popular cultureits consumerism,
violence, individualism and privatization of life and religionwill
carry the day.
Eyes Wide Open allows us the opportunity to discover
what our response to popular culture iscondemnation,
appropriation or consumptionor should be as Christians.
Romanowski takes seriously the possibility that some expressions
of popular art have serious application and comment on our
At the same time, Romanowski challenges us to consider
what process of discernment we bring to popular artwhy
do we watch what we do; what stories (or myths) are presented
through the music, magazines and movies of popular culture?
Taken together, Lights, Camera...Faith! and Eyes
Wide Open serve as powerful aids in allowing us to respond
to popular culture not as passive consumers but as active
believers. There is something here for all who are concerned
about the direction of our children and the culture which
influences them. They should be a welcome resource for allparents,
teachers, homilists, adult religious educators and youth
ministerswho seek to make the Gospel relevant and
meaningful in today's popular culture.
You can order LIGHTS, CAMERA...FAITH!: A Movie Lectionary,
Cycle A and EYES WIDE OPEN: Looking for God in Popular
Culture from St.
BEYOND THE MIRROR: Reflections on Death
and Life, by Henri J.M. Nouwen. Crossroad Publishing
Company. 93 pp. $14.95.
Reviewed by MARY LYNNE RAPIEN, wife, mother, grandmother, clinical counselor, bereavement minister, catechist and homily writer for St. Anthony Messenger Press.
NO ONE COULD EVER accuse Henri Nouwen of living an unreflective
life. In fact, he shares his reflections during and following
major "interruptions," as he calls them, by writing books.
This slender sharing is just such a work, written after
an accident that brought him to death's door. He was hit
by the mirror of a passing truck while walking on an icy
road in 1989.
Robert Durback gives the value of the book in his Foreword.
He says, "Led by Nouwen, we can walk through our mirrors
into the real world of our true selfhood, designed by a
loving God and destined for a future beyond our imagining."
In Beyond the Mirror, Nouwen draws us into his intense
religious experience, to a new freedom, a deeper realization
of God's unconditional love, of the divine presence, "the
Lord of my life, saying, 'Come to me, come.'"
Nouwen shares that it was not the fear of leaving loved
ones behind that caused him to cling to life here. He said
it was his "unfinished business." "The pain of forgiveness
withheld, by me and from me, kept me clinging to my wounded
It was in the hospital, surrounded by caring people while
totally dependent on them for his needs, that Nouwen understood
at a new level the peace and freedom of "becoming like a
little child." He says he glimpsed "beyond the mirror" and
"had a taste of the Kingdom."
Nouwen's book is easy to read in one sitting and contains
kernels of wisdom and gems of insight. Purchasing this work
is like buying a Tommy Hilfiger shirt: You get the quality,
but you pay a premium for the name. Other books that deal
with facing our mortality, like Gift of Peace by
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Tuesdays With Morrie by
Mitch Albom and Lessons From the School of Suffering
by Father Jim Willig, offer at least as much for the money.
You can order BEYOND
THE MIRROR: Reflections on Death and Life from St.
AT THE WELLSPRING: Jesus and the Samaritan
Woman, by Brother John of Taizé. Alba House.
93 pp. $9.95.
Reviewed by ANTHONY ADENU-MENSAH, O.F.M.Conv., who
studied social communications at the Gregorian University
in Rome. He did an internship at St. Anthony Messenger last
summer and has returned to Ghana to edit a Franciscan magazine,
ONE ALWAYS NEEDS some sort of guide to appreciate fully
the various meanings present in a piece of art. One often
hears people exclaiming, "I never thought of that," when
they come to discover something new in a familiar artistic
This is comparable to the story of Jesus and the Samaritan
woman at the well, reported in the Gospel of John. It's
really a piece of art full of meanings and calls for a guide
to point them out. Brother John of Taizé, who spends most
of his time giving biblical introductions to young adults,
plays that role, bringing out the beauty of the episode.
In an easy-to-follow style, Brother John divides his book
into two main parts: foreground and background. But what
is remarkable about his style is his blending of Jewish
folkloric tradition and Scripture to bring out a meaning
for the modern-day reader.
He writes with the conviction that Jesus "is the tangible
expression in the world of the unseen God" and that "this
encounter with an unnamed Samaritan woman at a well...reveals
more about God and his 'thirst' for a human response to
the love he freely gives."
Brother John first situates the theme of wells and water
in the general context of Hebrew tradition and Scripture.
He uses this style to throw more light on the fact that
in Jesus one finds the continuation of God's revelation
to the Jews. To this end, three texts, which reveal a patriarchal
connection with wells, water and women, are cited.
The first is the episode of Rebekah meeting a servant of
Abraham at a well and leading to her marriage to Isaac (Genesis
24). Then there is the Jacob-Rachel encounter at a well
also ending in marriage (Genesis 29). Finally, there is
Moses who meets the daughters of Reuel at a well and later
marries one of them (Exodus 2).
It is interesting to know that water and wells play the
significant roles of "source of life; gathering place; site
of conflict and reconciliation; meeting place, notably between
a man and a woman with the view to marriage; and symbols
of a God who takes care of his people."
The second part of the book is devoted to a step-by-step
treatment of the episode between Jesus and the Samaritan
woman with a style that captures the attention of the reader.
Never abandoning the rich Jewish traditional background,
Brother John leads the reader to the understanding that
Jesus is "the fullness of what these symbols [wells and
water] always wished to communicate."
Through the use of questions intended as points for reflection,
the reader is led to prayer and to action, the goal of the
many young adults who flock to Taizé every year. Years of
encounter with them show in the writings of Brother John
and especially in this book. It is really a wellspring from
which one can draw inspiration and strengthen Christian
life. No one can read it and remain untouched by the words.
You can order AT THE WELLSPRING: Jesus and the Samaritan
Woman from St.
THE POEM AS SACRAMENT: The Theological Aesthetic of Gerard Manley Hopkins
by Philip A. Ballinger. William B. Eerdmans. 272 pp. $30.
Reviewed by the REV. DONNA SCHAPER, pastor of Coral Gables Congregational Church in Miami, Florida. Prior to that, she was the western area minister for the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ.
HOPKINS IS WELL-KNOWN for two very complex terms of a spiritual
nature. One is inscape, the other is instress.
Both are words Hopkins coined himself so that he could say
what he wanted to say. Spell-check hates both words: it
keeps substituting unstress or escape. Neither
manages to get close to the spiritual security implied by
the deep internality Hopkins means by these words. Both
refer to internal strength, grounded by God, what people
mean by "guts" or "belly." And then both, though different,
In "Wreck of the Deutschland," one of Hopkins's poems,
we get as close to what he is trying to say as possible:
"Since tho' he is under the world's splendor and wonder
His MYSTERY must be stressed, instressed
For I greet him the days I meet him, and bless when I understand."
The meaning of these words is terribly important to the
preacher. It is where our deepest parts meet God in a mysterious
salvation- and security-giving encounter. It is conversion
from our deep insides.
Hopkins's goal as a poet was to bring beauty back to faith.
He believes we can access God by using our senses. He achieves
the goal by showing what he sees poetically. Whether it's
through sea or sunset, or human interaction with the divine,
Hopkins writes a sacramental poetry. He shows what God is
up to in creation.
From God's point of view, the issue is sacramental, normally
defined as the outer experience of an inner grace.
Ballinger's survey of Hopkins's work is, unfortunately,
not for the novice. Such a book would be useful for preachers
and other students of the Word of God. Nevertheless, this
beautiful book of criticism takes a believer's perspective
on poetry often only approached aesthetically. In that approach,
the book finds its value.
Hopkins is a linker, a maker of matches. He was trying
to match faith to beauty, and this is not an easy task.
You can order THE POEM AS SACRAMENT: The Theological
Aesthetic of Gerard Manley Hopkins from St.
CHRIST FOR ALL PEOPLE: Celebrating a World of Christian Art
edited by Ron O'Grady. Orbis Books. 159 pp. $39.95.
HOW DO WE see Jesus today? This is the question that is explored
in Christ for All People through an examination of
Christian art in a variety of media.
The book begins with a brief overview of historical depictions
of Jesus (16 pages). These images and others like them have
shaped our perceptions of how we see God. Who is not familiar
with the Jesus in DaVinci's Last Supper or in Michelangelo's
The bulk of this book, however, deals with contemporary Christian
art from around the world. And that is exactly what will fascinate
readers. For we have become so accustomed to classic European
religious art that we tend to forget that it was created for
a specific audience in a particular time and place.
As the reader leafs through the pages of the book, it becomes
quite evident that Jesus is much more than the familiar presentations
of him. I found myself not only seeing Jesus in new ways but
also asking over and over, "Who is this artist? What is her
background? Where does he live? When was this piece of art
created? What is the story behind this art?"
The commentaries of the international writers that accompany
the images create a context and illuminate each piece.
In the mural by Tanzanian artist Charles S. Ndege, Jesus
Meets the Women of Jerusalem, Jesus and the women appear
as Africans. Jesus embraces his cross as the women kneel with
their children in the road before him, weeping and wailing.
Do they cry for him or for the pain of their own lives? Both
To my delight, another side of Christ's humanity is brought
forth in a paper collage by Kim Jae Im of Korea. In very simple
shapes of torn paper, Jesus smiles broadly as his hands rest
on the heads of a young boy and girl. How refreshing to see
the evidence of his pleasure in these little ones! In contrast
to this abstract image, the adjacent page shows in great detail
Jesus blessing the children in a pen-and-wash drawing by Ketut
Lasia of Indonesia. Whereas the children in the paper collage
could be any children, the children in the pen-and-wash drawing
are definitely Asian.
Many of the stories are from O'Brien's personal experiences,
but she also uses experiences and thoughts on caregiving from
other medical professionals. She includes quotations from
religious leaders and saints to support and add dimension
to each chapter's theme.
O'Brien demonstrates that caring for the sick has been as
important throughout history as it is now. "From the time
of Jesus, Christian nursing of the sick has been guided by
a spiritual call to care. This spiritual ministry was directed
especially toward the care of the poor and the vulnerable:
'For I was ill and you cared for me. Amen, I say to you, whatever
you did for these least brothers of mine, you did for me'
In a later chapter O'Brien empathizes with today's nurses
who are continually aware of the cost restrictions put on
the organizations they work for. "When cost reduction is mandated,
nursing is often one of the first services affected....Nurses
are concerned that they will be required to focus on simply
getting the work done rather than on truly caring for patients."
It is nice to hear a word of sympathy, yet O'Brien goes on
to show examples of nurses rising above those constraints
to meet more than just the physical needs of their patients.
She also reminds nurses how to "touch with love" and shares
several biblical quotations exemplifying Jesus' touching and
Perhaps the most inspirational message comes in a deeply
moving prayer offered before the book even begins. "The Sacred
Covenant: A Nurse's Prayer" reminded me of how special this
calling can be. I was reinvigorated with the spirit of why
I chose this profession. It helped me to see God in each of
my patients. Now my care seems a little more loving and a
little less like work.
Caregivers in any walk of life can draw strength and inspiration
from the stories and biblical quotations.