Tag Archives: review

Beatitudinem quaerens – a joyful album of modern Latin hymns

Italian musician Beppe Frattaroli has produced an album in Latin, Beatitudinem quaerens: “Looking for Bliss”. By turns joyful, reflective, and gloriously stirring, Beatitudinem quaerens brings the Latin language to life, imbuing it with the emotive qualities of Italian music while preserving its linguistic integrity.

Frattaroli combines modern instruments and vocal effects with this ancient tongue to produce delightful songs of praise, composing catchy, uplifting tunes like Cogitatiònes (“Thoughts”) with which one can sing or hum along. One may even be moved to dance to the beat.

The more melancholic pieces like Inimici Mei (“My Enemies”) can be aids to prayer (such as praying for those who try you, or praying in sorrowful reparation for the sins which made you an enemy of Christ).

In learning languages, I have always found it helpful to learn songs in those tongues. Although years have passed and I have forgotten most of my lessons, those Mandarin, French, and Italian songs remain with me. Music helps you remember words and develop a feel for how they fit with each other in a particular language’s grammatical system. Frattaroli’s album provides a fabulous opportunity for those who wish to learn Latin and are looking for something besides Gregorian chant to sing. It also melds new expressions of faith with one of the oldest sacred tongues of the Church.

Beatitudinem quaerens is available on iTunes. Frattaroli contacted me via Facebook while “looking for those who love Jesus”. He says: “If you are happy, help me to make it known. I wish you so much joy.”

We address especially the young people: In an epoch when in some areas, as you know, the Latin language and the human values are less appreciated, you must joyfully accept the patrimony of the language which the Church holds in high esteem and must, with energy, make it fruitful. The well-known words of Cicero, “It is not so much excellent to know Latin, as it is a shame not to know it” [Non tam praeclarum est scire Latine, quam turpe nescire (Brutus, xxxvii.140)] in a certain sense are directed to you. We exhort you all to lift up high the torch of Latin which is even today a bond of unity among peoples of all nations.
Pope John Paul II, 1978

Thoughts on Captain America: Civil War

 

(The article below contains a few minor spoilers. Continue only if you don’t mind or have already seen the film!)

Yet another installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and yet again stores and the Internet are bursting with promotional materials. It seems that nearly everywhere we turn we come across another image of Captain America and Iron Man facing each other down, their profiles staring majestically and stubbornly across from each other in front of a backdrop of Cap’s now-familiar shield. I don’t usually see movies in theaters the day of their release. In fact, I usually wait until they become available at the library. But somehow it happened that at 7:30 on the evening of May 6th I found myself wearing 3D glasses in a comfortable theater seat, waiting for the commercials to finish and Captain America: Civil War to begin.

I thought a review of Civil War would be an appropriate follow-up to my last article (which discussed Captain America’s character). In a nutshell: I liked the movie insofar as one can like a Marvel movie, but I also found it saddled with the deficiencies of the typical Marvel movie.

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Stark and Rogers
First of all, I grant that the major question the storyline posed was an interesting one; in this time when the religious liberty of Americans is being endangered, the free will to make our own decisions that Captain America desires and want to protect is important. Captain America/Steve Rogers doesn’t feel like he can submit to an unpredictable government ruling when he has the power to help people in trouble. However, the position of accountability that Iron Man/Tony Stark promotes is also important. Finally, the public and the Avengers seem to be taking notice of the destruction that the superheroes have always wreaked in their scuffles.

One thing that seemed strange to me about the issue, however, was that Rogers never puts into words a really substantial reason for his decision not to sign the controversial Sokovia Accords, which would put Avengers operations under the discretion of the UN. Throughout most of the movie, Rogers simply repeats that he “can’t” sign the Accords. The danger in Cap’s point of view comes when we see our decisions as made solely because of trust in our own judgment and not considering a higher order and moral code. Cap’s position has been characterized dangerously as simply a matter of his “individual conscience”, what “he believes to be right”. This secularizes and weakens Cap’s position, while making Tony Stark appear to be the voice of reason.

Another question—why exactly were the Avengers fighting each other? Yes, the issue was a meaningful one, but I’m sure there are better ways to resolve it than beating each other up. If their intention never was to kill each other, what was the intention of the fighting? Was it perhaps the first instinct to which they turned? But was it a mature way to solve a problem? I did appreciate the storyline leading up to the fighting because I had been afraid that the film might be a meaningless fight-fest. Still, the violent scenes (as they commonly are) are painful and overdrawn.

Even before the film I hadn’t liked the idea of superhero fighting superhero. To my mind, superheroes should be role models, fighting evil for the triumph of the good and true. It seems a bit askew if the champions of good end up fighting each other. However, a possible interpretation could be that Marvel focuses more on the flawed humanity of the heroes than their perfection; it tries to portray the heroes as more realistic and nuanced.

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Cap and Bucky
However, it would make the Marvel movies much better if we could actually see more of this human dimension of the characters. The Marvel movies seem to focus more on negative emotions and impulses—revenge, violence, hate. We do see examples of love, but often in regards to revenge, such as Black Panther’s love for his father which drives him to seek revenge on his father’s murderer. We see camaraderie among the Avengers, but it is lacking. Consider Rogers’s strangely frigid welcome to his friend Bucky when Barnes finally recovers from his brainwashing. Even after Rogers learns that Barnes is in his right mind, instead of greeting his old friend with a smile or a warm handshake, Rogers proceeds to immediately bombard Barnes with questions. This cold humanity reaches to Cap’s strange romance with Sharon Carter, Peggy Carter’s niece—their relationship is unconvincingly portrayed, not giving much grounds for the kiss they share (after which Carter is faded out of the story).

Which brings me to my disappointment in the character of Captain America. In Civil War he seems to be lacking in the good spirit and selflessness which he shows in Captain America: The First Avenger. He is supposed to be a representation of America, but we never see him being particularly patriotic towards his country. And more generally, Civil War is more about a disagreement among the Avengers than a film about Cap and a further exploration of his character. Though the movie bears Cap’s name, the focus of the film is not truly on him as Iron Man plays just as large a part in it as Captain America.

The end of the film is inconclusive, a typical “teaser” ending. Yes, I suppose the filmmakers need audiences to keep coming back for more but all the ends are left open, so the next film can hand us more surprises we mightn’t (or might) have expected. But it’s almost as if the filmmakers have forgotten the art of crafting a true, satisfying ending. Speaking for myself, sometimes the audience doesn’t want to be kept guessing. Sometimes the audience wants to be contented with the story. The ending-that-is-not-an-ending seems particularly inappropriate for the supposed concluding film of the Captain America trilogy.

Don’t get me wrong—I wasn’t cringing in my seat all throughout Civil War. There are several jokes that viewers, especially long-time fans and watchers of the Marvel movies, appreciate. Superheroes abound to delight nearly any fan. The introduction of the young Peter Parker/Spider-Man, in particular, adds an innocence and charm that is refreshing in the darkly intense Marvel world. The heart-wrenching revelation near the climax adds a twist delivering an impactful surprise. When going to see Captain America: Civil War, you might expect to be amused, and maybe even thought-provoked, just don’t necessarily expect to be awestruck.

Risen Movie Review: A Jerusalem X-File

Every Lent and Easter brings up movie adaptations of Jesus’ life, and this year’s new installment is Risen, produced by Sony’s Affirm Films faith-based division. Recently I was able to attend a premiere screening of Risen at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York City. A roundtable discussion afterwards with the star, screenwriter, and producers revealed their motivations and goals for the film.Risen_2016_poster

At first glance, Risen might seem like another installment of the Roman soldier conversion trope at the center of classic epics like Ben-Hur and The Robe. Coincidentally, the Coen Brothers’ new Hail, Caesar! is a timely spoof of their soundstage Biblical gravitas. Can a modern movie about a Roman tribune investigating the Resurrection be much different?

Fortunately, Risen is surprisingly more creative than the usual Holy Week movie. Its reverence for scriptural accuracy might be traditional, but its storytelling is decidedly modern. At the premiere, screenwriter Paul Aiello was emphatic that midcentury swords-and-sandals epics were not his inspiration. Instead, he wanted to offer a follow-up to The Passion of the Christ, imaging what happened after Jesus’ dramatic tomb exit. He and the producers –  Mickey Lidell, Pete Shilamon, and Patrick Aiello – were dedicated to “21st century storytelling.” Affirm Films Senior Vice President Rich Peluso cited Les Miserable as the ideal faith-based film – one that offers examples of moral choices rather than an altar call.

Although the filmmakers were quick to note that they wanted to avoid the revisionism complaints against 2014’s Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings, their tone has a similar focus on post-modern individuality. Joseph Fiennes’ Clavius doesn’t make grand speeches like Charlton Heston  or swear his sword’s loyalty like Richard Burton. Instead, his adventures lead him on a path of personal introspection with an uncertain objective.

Risen doesn’t really delve into Clavius’ backstory. We never hear about his family or love interests, just a generic desire for professional success and peaceful retirement. This unique narrative kept me from really caring about him as a character, no matter how many sun-drenched shots lingered on his chiseled face. The tribune remains a blank slate Everyman, a stand in for the audience’s personal reactions.

Rather than an old-school epic, Risen is really more like a police procedural where the audience is one step ahead of the sleuth. Clavius is an intelligent, ambitious official who’s used to getting stuff done. With his boss breathing down his neck and a new intern to train, he throws himself into the case of the missing body. The investigation gets more and more complicated as he gathers clues about the empty tomb, pays informants, questions witnesses, and does some time-sensitive forensic work. When researching the role, Fiennes even consulted with a Maltese detective to learn interrogation techniques. Clavius’ dogged efforts lead to a surprising revelation that makes him question his training and entire worldview. Spoiler alert: Jesus isn’t dead.

Every Jesus movie has a requisite scene of zealot quashing, but Risen offers a surprisingly nuanced picture of Jerusalem’s Roman occupiers. The soldiers are dirty, tired men coping with everyday brutality in different ways. A centurion leaves the Crucifixion emotionally shattered, but the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pair guarding the tomb just want to get drunk and goof off. New recruit Lucius (Tom Felton) can’t yet stomach the stench of executed corpses. The Romans may be pagans but they still have spirituality. Several characters invoke their favorite gods, and a funeral pyre ceremony offers interesting contrast to Jesus’ Jewish burial.

At the Sheen Center screening, Fiennes remarked that Clavius’ violent life was the focus on his performance. “They way they fought was the way they thought.” He even spent a week in Rome learning gladiatorial fighting techniques from a group of “physical archaeologist” reenactors. A hillside skirmish scene at the beginning of the film offers an excellent demonstration of the testudo shield formation.

The loving community of Apostles is meant to be a foil to Clavius’ Roman pragmatism. For the most part they’re pretty generic, except for Stewart Scudamore’s delightfully irascible Peter and Stephen Hagan as Happy Youth Pastor Bartholomew. Cliff Curtis is a perfectly fine Jesus in his limited screen time, comforting his doubting disciples with almost parental tenderness. Sadly, female characters are one of Risen’s weak links. The Virgin Mary gets only one scene as grief scenery, and Mary Magdalene is a boring, spacey prostitute-turned-mystic. The wife of Pilate (Peter Firth) never even gets a mention, despite her role in Good Friday’s drama. Women are prominent agents in the Gospels’ Resurrection accounts, so it’s shame to see them shuttled to the sidelines.

Thanks to some manufactured political drama, Clavius ends up accompanying Yeshua’s followers to Galilee while he learns more about their teacher. The rag-tag group of hippies are still uncertain about the nature of the Resurrection or what will happen next; all they know is that they have a mission to share the Good News. Several desert landscape shots later, they have some final encounters with the risen Lord. Despite the producers’ emphasis on Biblical timelines, the days after Easter feel a little rushed.

Although Risen has a stronger beginning than conclusion, it’s refreshing to see a Jesus movie that isn’t a paint-by-numbers Passion play. Most of Good Friday’s events happen off screen. I thought this was a great choice that kept the plot moving instead of getting bogged down explaining Jesus’ origins and ministry. It may not be the ultimate Jesus movie, but Risen is an interesting addition to the genre that prompts viewers to ponder how divine mysteries can impact any life, even one that least expects them.

Sarah Duggan

 

 

A cradle Catholic, Sarah Duggan grew up watching The 10 Commandments and Jesus of Nazareth every Lent of her childhood. She’s now a museum professional in the New York City area who loves exploring old churches with her historian husband. You can find her other Bible movie reviews on her blog, Catholic History Nerd.

Logos Bible Software: 4 Reviews in One

 

This review was originally published at my blog on 12/12/11.

Recently, I received a review copy of the Catholic Scholar”s version of Logos Bible Software. After doing a little dance and screaming like a 5 year old, I committed to writing this review. For this review, I want to consider four different people who may benefit from the Logos software and talk about it in relationship to their needs. I will do this looking through the eyes of four distinct individuals who would directly benefit from it: lay person, priest, student/professor and catechist.

Review 1: Lay person

“But what is the answer to these charges? “I am not,” you will say, “one of the monks, but I have both a wife and children, and the care of a household.”  This is what has ruined everything, your thinking that the reading of scripture is for monks only, when you need it more than they do.  Those who are placed in the world, and who receive wounds every day have the most need of medicine.  So, far worse even than not reading the scriptures is the idea that they are superfluous. Such things were invented by the devil.”
-St. John Chysostom”s Second Homily on Matthew

We all should want to study Scripture. As a lay Catholic, the task can seem daunting for a number of reasons. For starters, we always want to read the Bible in and with the Church, or we could end up like this guy. But how do you read “in and with” a 2,000 year old Church without literally filling your house with books? Have you not started studying Scripture because of fear of suffocation via books?
I”ve got good news for you. The Logos software fits right inside your computer! Thousands upon thousands of official Church documents, writings of the Fathers, and Doctors of the Church all searchable in relationship to the passage of Scripture you are reading. No more heretic Mondays or schismatic Tuesdays!


Just kidding, well, sort of. The point is that as a lay Catholic, the Logos software is a short-cut to mining the inestimable riches of the Holy Spirit working in and through His Church to lead Her into “all truth”. Without the software, you are stuck going between 20 or so websites with 10 or 20 browser windows open (not to mention a dozen books strewn all over your desk). In the next 10 years, you will probably buy the equivalent worth of book. In other words, you are going to spend the money. An investment in Logos software means having something that you will actually be able to use with relative ease. No more standing in front of a book shelf with a blank stare, only to go back to Jeopardy.

Then again, “I”ll take Bible Answers for $500, Alex.”

Logos = win at Jeapordy (side benefit)

Nice.

Review 2: Priest

I am not a priest and I do not play one on TV. However, I can preach and have preached. In preparing for a sermon, a lot goes into it. Well, it should.

This Sunday, the responsorial Psalm read:

“Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.”

The theme of seeing the “face” of God is littered throughout the Old Testament. This would be a beautiful opportunity to weave this response into the homily. How do you do it? Without the Logos software, I imagine hours of tedious study. I then imagine being interrupted by a sick visit to a hospital, 3 calls from distraught parishioners, an extra-Mass after the retired priest got sick, and not to mention your father is ill and needs you to visit him in a town an hour away.

Did I mention fitting in the liturgy of the hours in all of this?

I just typed in “face of God” in the Logos search engine. 55K results. I added a “ranking” function, switched over to my “Magisterial Documents” collection, and in moments I”ve got the relevant Vatican II document. In seconds of searching within the St. Thomas Collection, I have found 8 passages talking about the “face of God”. Imagine a homily that ties together St. Thomas, Vatican II and the responsorial Psalm. You have practically in one homiletical moment brought the entire Church back together again.

=

Review 3: Theology Student or Professor

This hits close to home. Having been a student (undergraduate and graduate) and guest lecturer in Philosophy of Religion for a semester, I understand the challenges of meeting deadlines as an academic. Unless you are working as the Chair of Philosophy at the University of Paris, you probably have limited resources: time, money, and attention. You are being asked to read books that you may not want to read, while simultaneously wanting to read a panoply of books that only distract you from the various projects you have at hand. However, in reality you would much rather be working on projects relative to your personal interests. But, again, you are not employed by the Sorbonne.

What do you do?

If you are a theology student, you buy this software. If you are a philosophy student and your emphasis is philosophy of religion, you buy this software. Period. It makes no sense to live your life without it. Half the time you are given assignments with far less time than you need to produce top-tier work given the less than top-tier library (sans Sorbonne). Now you have no excuses. Considering the exegetical and hermeneutical tools at your disposal, the software could help you become the academic ninja you always wanted to be.

Interlinear Scripture Study: Wowzer

The software will not do the thinking for you, but it will come pretty darn close (not to mention it will make a citation for you). Without going into more detail than I am able to discuss at this time so as to appear more erudite than I am and defy all the rules of academia, the reverse inter-linear mining function is incredible. Imagine you are reading a text in English with the Greek or Latin right underneath it. Then, when you want to search a word and see how it is used in other works of that time, you don”t search the English word, you search the word in its original language.

Context.  Precision.  Genius.

= Logos (discounts available to students)

Review 4: Catechist

I think the three other reviews pretty much tell you why you may want this software. If they don”t, I recommend a nice cantor position or maybe serving punch in the fellowship hall. In all seriousness, the catechist has an incredibly important job. They do what cannot be done in the Mass but must be done. The first catechist, of course, is the parent. They are required by God to raise their children in the faith. No CCD can do what they must do–no catechist can stand in loco parentis . I will stand before God and give an account as to how I raised my children in the faith. I cannot say, “Well the catechist at St. Benedictus was lazy and had them do coloring pages.”

Connect the real dots between your vocational responsibility and your time and talents. Logos does that for you. With Logos, you have the answer at the click of a mouse and one less excuse for leading men and women (and children) into all confusion.

[Disclaimer: Logos Bible Software is a very powerful and advanced software that takes time to learn. It also takes a couple of hours to download all of your content. There are so many online resources to help you get started: wikis, how-to-guides, and videos. Like a jet ski, at first you might fall off, but after a day or two you will be having the time of your life.]

Usury Free Option

The cost. I know, it can be prohibitive. Here”s the deal. You have two options.

Option one: fork up all the dough up front. It is an investment, not a purchase. You are buying resources that will give you spiritual purchase for the rest of your life. You will not regret it if you use it.

Option two: the payment plan. There is a $5 fee per payment. When you consider the fees associated with using a credit card, the time it takes to process a fee and the cost of an employee processing it (paying them a just wage), and the exceedingly depreciating value of capital, this is truly a “usury free option” (sorry, no charts or graphs). As a Catholic, I can stand behind this option. So, if you have not finished your Christmas buying list, or if you just want to start the new year with a powerful tool to change your Scripture study life, consider Logos.

That”s my 4 cents.

[author] [author_image timthumb=”on”]http://www.ignitumtoday.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Brent-A.-Stubbs-e1313148902233.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Brent A. Stubbs is a father of four ( 1 in heaven and 1 in the oven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic.[/author_info] [/author]