Movie reviews

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) – Tech savvy viewers will especially enjoy the wacky proceedings of “The Emoji Movie” (Columbia). But patrons of all stripes will appreciate the film’s themes of loyal friendship and faithful romance.
Set within the smartphone of high school freshman Alex (voice of Jake T. Austin), this lighthearted animated comedy tracks the adventures of a trio of misfits on their quest to reach the internet Cloud.
Gene (voice of T.J. Miller) is a “Meh” icon meant to express only indifference. But the first time Alex makes use of him, the native enthusiasm of his personality, together with nervousness at making his professional debut, causes him to register a strange mix of emotions instead of the bland apathy he was supposed to convey.
This malfunction immediately makes Gene an outcast and draws the ire of the chief emoji, maniacally cheerful Smiler (voice of Maya Rudolph). She condemns Gene to be deleted. So he goes on the run, and joins forces with upbeat hand symbol Hi-5 (voiced by James Corden) and rebellious codebreaker Jailbreak (voice of Anna Faris).
Once one of Alex’s favorites, Hi-5 has fallen into disuse and longs to regain his former popularity. Jailbreak resents the regulated life she is forced to lead on the phone, and hopes to enjoy much greater freedom by transferring herself permanently to the Cloud.
As the three newfound friends bond, and something more than friendship blossoms between Gene and Jailbreak, the challenges of their journey force them to prove their mutual devotion. Messages about teamwork and putting the interests of others ahead of your own goals balance the emphasis on Gene’s right to break the mold and be himself.
The presence of a minor character named Poop – voiced, amusingly, by no less a personage than Sir Patrick Stewart – typifies the predictable potty humor running through director and co-writer Tony Leondis’ script, penned with Eric Siegel and Mike White. Together with episodes of peril, these jokes may make “The Emoji Movie” a less than ideal choice for the youngest film fans.
The feature is preceded by an eccentric, enjoyable short called “Puppy!” which involves a young lad, a giant, disruptive dog named Tinkles and the boy’s indulgent grandfather – who just happens to be Count Dracula.
The film contains characters in jeopardy, mild scatological humor, a suppressed crude expression and a slightly crass term. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG – parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Alex, voiced by Jake T. Austin, appears in the animated movie “The Emoji Movie.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating, PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Sony) See MOVIE-REVIEW-EMOJI-(EMBARGOED) July 27, 2017.

By Joseph McAleer
NEW YORK (CNS) – A dark chapter of the Motor City’s history is revisited in “Detroit” (Annapurna), a searing period drama.
The setting is the summer of 1967, when race riots broke out in several cities across the country. In Detroit, simmering discontent over systemic discrimination and growing unemployment erupted in African-American neighborhoods. As protesters clashed with police, businesses were set afire and looting was widespread.
The crisis, which lasted four days, resulted in 43 dead, over 7,200 arrests, and the destruction of more than 2,000 buildings. “Detroit” zeroes in on one notorious incident of the so-called “12th Street Riot”: the police raid of the Algiers Motel that caused the death of three unarmed men and the brutal beating of several others.
As violence engulfed the city, the hotel became a refuge of sorts, harboring both innocent patrons and shady characters. Among the former are Larry Reed (Algee Smith) and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), members of an up-and-coming musical group, The Dramatics. Separated from their friends, they seek shelter at the Algiers.
At the hotel pool they meet two giggly prostitutes, Karen (Kaitlyn Dever) and Julie (Hannah Murray), white women from Ohio who are making the most of the “Summer of Love.”
Upstairs, 17-year-old Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell) decides to show off by shooting blanks from a toy pistol. Turning his attention to the growing police presence outside, he next fires the gun into the crowd.
Suspecting a sniper, the police respond in droves, and a reign of terror descends on the Algiers and its residents, including Greene (Anthony Mackie), a decorated Vietnam vet.
The raid is led by a trigger-happy cop, Philip Krauss (Will Poulter), who has a reputation for shooting looters in the back. Krauss rounds up everyone and, with the assistance of fellow officer Flynn (Ben O’Toole), unleashes a ruthless, demeaning interrogation.
A witness to the unfolding horror is Melvin Dismukes (John Boyega), a black security guard charged with protecting a nearby grocery store from looters. Dismukes suspects wrongdoing, and inserts himself into the maelstrom at a key moment.
Needless to say, “Detroit” is not for the squeamish. Kathryn Bigelow (“Zero Dark Thirty”), working from a script by Mark Boal, directs at a furious, gut-wrenching pace, placing the viewer in the very center of the fast-moving storm and incorporating real-life news footage to enhance the immediacy.
However, though graphic, the portrayal of police brutality is never gratuitous. Coupled with the subsequent miscarriage of justice, the harrowing events re-enacted in “Detroit” offer a powerful reminder to mature viewers of a sad but significant incident in America’s past.
The film contains intense bloody violence and torture, brief female nudity and pervasive profane and crude language. 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.

John Boyega stars in a scene from the movie “Detroit.” 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.(CNS photo/Annapurna Pictures) See MOVIE-REVIEW-DETROIT Aug. 2, 2017.

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (CNS) – The annulment process provides the unusual courtroom setting for the romantic drama “The Tribunal” (Freestyle). While the movie’s Catholic values are strong, they come filtered through some faulty filmmaking.
Divorced musician Joe Seacker (Chris Petty) pursues a decree of nullity so that he can wed his devout girlfriend, Emily Vanderslice (Laura Mock). But his case requires the testimony of his estranged former bandmate and best friend, Tony Mirakul (Ryan Wesley Gilreath).
Tony was once Emily’s boyfriend, and still carries a torch for her while also harboring resentment against Joe for stepping into his shoes after he and Emily split. But Tony has firsthand knowledge of the fact that Joe’s ex, Jessie (Victoria McDevitt), disdained the permanence of marriage as well as the prospect of having kids.
Joe’s cause is represented by Emily’s father, Ben (Jim Damron), and opposed by the tribunals’ “defender of the bond,” Michael Constantino (Chuck Gillespie). Both men are permanent deacons.
Religious themes, including the countercultural message that sex before marriage is a damaging mistake as well as a sin – Tony’s seduction of Emily was the eventual cause of their breakup – will resonate with viewers of faith. But sometimes subpar acting, an amateurish musical score and unlikely plot developments chip away at this small-scale project’s credibility.
Still, the good intentions motivating screenwriter Michael C. Mergler and director Marc Leif are as obvious as they are honorable. And moviegoers used to being immersed in the loose morals of contemporary society will find the earnest ethics surrounding this love triangle a refreshing change.
In that light, at least some parents may consider “The Tribunal” acceptable for older teens, despite the elements listed below.
The film contains bedroom scenes, including a nongraphic premarital sexual encounter, some irreverent images, a mild oath and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Tom Morton and Ryan Wesley Gilreath star in a scene from the movie “The Tribunal.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/107 Productions) See MOVIE-REVIEW-TRIBUNAL July 27, 2017.

Youth

Summer service close to home

SOUTHAVEN – Catholic Service Initiative is an annual event for the six parishes in northern Mississippi served by the priests of the Sacred Heart: St Gregory, Holy Spirit, Good Shepherd, Christ the King, Queen of Peace and St. Joseph. This year groups of teens, including a few from the neighboring Diocese of Memphis, stayed for a week at the Sacred Heart Southern Missions’ volunteer house in Walls so they could do service work. They were able to completely redo a roof for one family and begin work on a wheel chair ramp for another. The boys served one night at the Garden Cafe in Holly Springs which offers a hot meal to the working poor and homeless of the area. One of the pastors, Father Thi Pham, SCJ, was the chef for the night..  
The parishioners and Knights of Columbus of the parishes provided skilled workmen to help at the job sites, volunteer chaperones, food each night and transportation to and from the work/play sites. “CSI helps our teens realize that charity begins at home and that you do not have to travel across the country or to a foreign land in order to help. There are people in need in our own backyards,” wrote parishioner Donna Williamson.

 

WALLS –Above, left, teens from the six parishes stack new shingles on a roof they are repairing on a house. Above, Girls from the six parishes of northern Mississippi worked to help unload trailers of donations for those in need.  (Photos by Donna Williamson )

Colorful Vacation Bible School

GLUCKSTADT –The theme for St. Joseph Parish’s Vacation Bible School this year was Summertime Blast. Students learned about St. Teresa, St. Paul and Mary, Mother of the Church, while focusing on the Eucharist, the commandment to love one snother and the rosary. As part of the closing day organizers prayed a living rosary with the children. (Photos by Karen Worrell)

  

PHILADELPHIA –  Vacation Bible School for Holy Cross Parish ended in a mess for pastor Augustine Palimattam and his youth group as they made “human ice cream sundaes.” (Photo by Brett Moran)

Workshop aims to connect ministers, music, liturgy

By Mary Woodward
PEARL – “Sacred music and liturgical chant have the task of giving us a sense of the glory of God, of his beauty, of his holiness which wraps us in a ‘luminous cloud.’”
With this quote from Pope Francis given at an international conference on sacred music in March of this year, Alexis Kutarna, director of music and professor at St. Mary Seminary in Houston, Texas, began a two day retreat-style gathering for parish liturgical music ministers and pastors on June 8-9.
The gathering was designed to bring music ministers together to refresh and strengthen their knowledge of the role of music in the liturgy. Pearl St. Jude Parish graciously hosted the event.  

Alexis Kutarna, director of music and professor at St. Mary Seminary in Houston, Texas, led the workshop, hosted at Pearl St. Jude Parish.

Kutarna based her talks in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Roman Missal and Sing to the Lord,  the U.S. Bishops’ document on music in the liturgy. Though the presentations were in English, the substance of the talks applied to the celebration of Mass in any language.
On the first day, Kutarna expounded on the mystery of liturgy and how it is the work of the Blessed Trinity, which draws us into a glimpse of the heavenly banquet and towards our salvation. Quoting the Catechism, Kutarna further explained the liturgy as the work of God, the work of Christ and the work of the Church:
 …the Father accomplishes the ‘mystery of his will’ by giving his beloved Son and his Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world and for the glory of his name. Such is the mystery of Christ, revealed and fulfilled in history according to the wisely ordered plan that St. Paul calls the ‘plan of the mystery’ and the patristic tradition will call the ‘economy of the Word incarnate’ or the ‘economy of salvation.’
For this reason, the Church celebrates in the liturgy above all the Paschal mystery by which Christ accomplished the work of our salvation.
It is this mystery of Christ that the Church proclaims and celebrates in her liturgy so that the faithful may live from it and bear witness to the world… (CCC 1066-1068)
From these foundational statements, Kutarna then took participants on a journey through signs, symbols and sacraments, touching on art, architecture and ultimately music and the role of these in creating and developing our awareness of and participation in the divine liturgy whenever the people of God come together to worship.
She stressed the liturgy is a corporate act of worship by the people of God, where the “eternal event of Christ intersects with chronological time.” Therefore, this should be kept in mind when planning liturgical celebrations.
Art, architecture and music are not intended to be the center of worship but integral parts that lead the community into worship and giving glory to God. The Mass is not a concert or an opportunity to show off voices. Music ministers should seek to enhance the corporate act of worship by striving to connect the worshippers with the choirs of angels and the heavenly hosts.
In the evening, Kutarna took participants through the parts of the Mass offering practical suggestions for various aspects, such as: not to use the Gloria as a “sprinkling” song, when to begin the alleluia, singing a hymn of praise after Communion, and more.
On the second day, Kutarna shared resources and practical information on the role of music ministers and the types of music and instrument choices. While the organ still has pride of place in worship, other instruments may be incorporated as long as they are played in a manner that does not distract or remind worshippers of their other uses, such as electric guitars, which have often been smashed on amplifiers by crazed rock stars.  Music and instruments should reflect the dignity of the celebration and the sacredness of the transcendent moment.
Careful attention should be placed on selecting appropriate hymns based in Scripture and theology. Musical texts reinforce Scripture, the teachings of the church and liturgical theology for worshippers. If you constantly use communion songs that refer to bread, then worshippers are going to continue to think of it as bread, Kutarna emphasized.
She suggested musicians look at the options for selecting music provided by the Church in the liturgical books. Entrance and Communion antiphons are the first three of the four options for music. These antiphons are steeped in Scripture and Catholic theology and can easily be used as an opening or communion hymn.  
They have been developed over the past 19 centuries and can be sung as chant or in more modern settings. Hymns are certainly an option, but once again musicians need to be careful to select hymns that are consistent with Scripture and Church teachings.  
Kutarna also spoke on ways to incorporate the Liturgy of the Hours into parish life.  As part of the retreat, participants gathered to sing Vespers or Evening Prayer; Compline or Night Prayer; Lauds or Morning Prayer; and Sext or Midday Prayer.  
The Liturgy of the Hours has been prayed in parish communities for more than 18 centuries.  For the retreat, Evening Prayer was combined with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Participants were able to learn more about how the hours could be prayed in a parish setting and reflected on those possibilities such as ecumenical gatherings and times when Mass may not be available, especially during the week.
Speaking as the director of the diocesan liturgy office, we wanted to provide an opportunity for liturgical music ministers to come together and refresh their knowledge of the liturgy and music’s role in it. We also wanted to offer some solid foundations and resources on broadening their horizons from just the traditional four hymn Masses.
Kutarna certainly gave us plenty to think about. We thank those who partook and are working on ways to follow up with resources and networking for all parishes.
The retreat was sponsored by the diocesan office of liturgy. Deacon Aaron Williams assisted in planning and was the retreat organ master.

 

Calendar of events

Correction
JACKSON Tickets for the Catholic Charities Bishops’ Ball scheduled for Saturday, June 10, at Jackson Country Club are $85 per person. The dinner and auction event starts at 6:30 p.m. Details: 601-355-8634. The price printed in the last edition was incorrect. We regret the error.

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT
ABERDEEN St. Francis of Assisi, Bible study, held on the last Sunday of each month after Mass in the parish hall. Details: (662) 813-2295.
BROOKSVILLE Dwelling Place Retreat Center, “Transitions and Transformation,” June 9-11. Facilitators: Dr. Francis Baird, LPC, has a private counseling practice in Columbus & Starkville; Clare Van Lent, MA CSp, Dwelling Place director. Begins at 5:30 p.m. Some of the topics that will be dealt with during this retreat will be: realizing my gifts, overcoming my fears, addressing my regrets, exploring my lost dreams. This weekend will be a time to explore these issues in the light of faith. Donation $180. Details: Sheila Avery, secretary, (662) 738-5348 or www.dwellingplace.com to register online.
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Cursillistas interested in forming a men’s prayer group. Details: call Wayne Miller at (901) 679-3400.
RIDGELAND Hospice Ministries volunteer training program, June 9-10. Volunteers are always in need to answer the call of helping others during one of life’s most trying experiences, terminal illness. It is a fast-paced program filled with speakers (and refreshments). Friday, June 9 – 5:30-8:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 10 1-5 p.m. Details: call Volunteer Services at (601) 898-1053 ext. 258.
JACKSON St. James Episcopal Church “Walking the Mourners’ Path” a 6-week course beginning Sunday, June 4, offers comfort and healing for whatever stage of grief you may be in. Details: call Ann at (769) 257-2377 or mclemore.a@a@gmail.com.
NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, Book Club resumes with a study of a Christian classic, “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Beginning Tuesday, June 6 on the 1st & 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 6 p.m. in the O’Connor Family Life Center. You can download the discussion questions at cslewis.org/resources/studyguides. Details:  (601) 445-5616.

PARISH, SCHOOL AND FAMILY EVENTS
GREENVILLE Steve Azar Delta Soul Celebrity Golf and Charity Event, June 8-10. Details: General Info: info@steveazarsaintceciliafoundation.org or Delta Soul deltasoul@sascf.org.
– Reggie Smith Baseball Clinic, Thursday, June 8, 8 a.m. – noon, Delta Sportsplex, held in conjunction with Delta Soul Celebrity and Charity event. Ages 9 years and older. Cost: $10 per player and all proceeds will benefit the Delta Sportsplex. Details: Beth Giachelli (662) 822-6632 giachelliphotography@hotmail.com or Jeffrey Giachelli (662) 822-6836 jeffrey.giachelli@farmsourceag.com.
JACKSON St. Therese, CWA Garage Sale, Saturday, June 10, 7 a.m. – noon in the gym. Proceeds benefit the parish projects of the St. Therese CWA. Drop-off times are Saturday, June 3, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. & June 5-8, 5-7 p.m. Details: church office, (601) 372-4481.
MERIDIAN Catholic Community of St. Patrick and St. Joseph, the Knights of Peter Claver will be selling fish and rib plates on Saturday, June 3, 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. on the corner of 8th Street and 26th Avenue. If 10 or more tickets are purchased, knights will deliver within the city limits. Details: tickets may be purchased from any Knights of Peter Claver member or call (601) 938-5757.
VICKSBURG St. Michael, meals on wheels next service day is Friday, June 9, 8 a.m. in the Parish Hall. Help is needed with cooking, boxing or delivering the meals, or if you like to donate a dessert, salad, or bread. Details: contact Carrie Meyer at (601) 218-1007 or Jennifer Vincent at (601) 529-3230.

YOUTH BRIEFS
HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Vacation Bible School, June 26-30, 6 – 8:30 p.m. Teen helpers ages 12+ only. Please fill out registration forms and put in basket in back of the church starting the first Sunday in June. Details: Lucy Holland at (662) 429-1188.
JACKSON Sister Thea Bowman School, Enrollment is now underway for 2017-18 school year. Details: contact Shae Robinson at (601) 352-5441.
MADISON St. Francis of Assisi, Hero Central Vacation Bible School. Many heroes are needed to volunteer to teach, assist, work in the kitchen, decorate, and babysit on June 19-23. Details: contact Mary Catherine at mc.george@stfrancismadison.org or (601)-856-5556 to volunteer.
MERIDIAN St. Patrick School, Pre-registration continues for the 2017-18 school year. Registration fee is $300. Details: (601) 482-6044
OXFORD St. John, Vacation Bible School, June 5-9, youth- ages 4 – entering 4th grade. pro-life themed program where kids will learn to discover, respect, protect, serve and celebrate life. Volunteers welcome. Details: contact Kristin Whelan at (404) 538-9100 or kmwhelan8@gmail.com.
SOUTHAVEN Sacred Heart School (PreK-4 through 8th grade) is holding open enrollment for new families.  Sacred Heart is one of three national finalists for Innovations in Catholic Education for Promoting Catholic Identity. Details: Contact principal Bridget Martin (662) 349-0900 or bmartin@shsm.org  

Correction
JACKSON Tickets for the Catholic Charities Bishops’ Ball scheduled for Saturday, June 10, at Jackson Country Club are $85 per person. The dinner and auction event starts at 6:30 p.m. Details: 601-355-8634. The price printed in the last edition was incorrect. We regret the error.

Jóvenes hispanos celebran la resurrección de Cristo

El 22 de abril, unos 30 jóvenes hispanos celebraron la resurrección de nuestro Señor durante el primer “Pascua Juvenil, Viva Cristo Rey” en el Locus Benedictus en Greenwood. El día consistió en oración, canciones, actividades al aire libre, videos, sesiones de escucha y más. Sacerdotes Redentoristas del Delta estaban disponibles para escuchar confesiones y el día terminó con la celebración de la Santa Misa.

Birthright offers inaugural ‘Mom’s Day 5k’ fund-raiser

By Melisa Munoz
FLOWOOD – On Saturday, May 6, almost three dozen walkers and runners came out to the Flowood Nature Center to support Birthright of Jackson’s inaugural Mom’s Day 5K and 1-mile Stroller Stroll. Participants honored their moms, both living and deceased, and walked or ran in support of all women who may be struggling with unplanned pregnancies.
In the 5K Run, Sammy Lemonis was the male overall winner and Amber McKenzie was the overall female winner. In the 5K Walk, Larry Sykes was the overall male winner and Julia Gaines was the overall female winner.  All four overall winners were from Brandon.
The funds raised in the 5K are a true blessing to Birthright, which relies solely on donations and is staffed only by volunteers. The money goes directly to provide services and help Birthright achieve its mission to offer free, confidential and non-judgmental love, friendship and support to women who are experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.  Birthright believes that “It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth, and the right of every child to be born.” Its focus is on loving the mother, reminding her that there is hope and ensuring her that she is not alone.
 Save the date for next year’s Mom’s Day 5K, scheduled for Mother’s Day weekend, Saturday, May 12, 2018.

Witty dialogue, but not much depth to Arthur retelling

By John Mulderig
Early on in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (Warner Bros.), the audience is treated to the sight of magically generated giant elephants swinging boulder-size wrecking balls at the ramparts of Camelot. It’s an apt visual considering how ponderous this action fantasy turns out to be.

Charlie Hunnman stars in a scene from the movie “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.(CNS photo/Warner Bros.) See MOVIE-REVIEW-KING-ARTHUR-(EMBARGOED) May 10, 2017.

Rearranging some of the traditional elements of the Arthur legend – which may or may not be rooted in actual history – director and co-writer Guy Ritchie comes up with a sort of “Prince and the Pauper” version of events.
Thus, not long after those lumbering pachyderms depart, toddler Arthur’s father, Uther (Eric Bana), dies as a result of his evil brother Vortigern’s (Jude Law) violent – and ultimately successful – bid to usurp the throne. Arthur evades a similar fate by being set adrift, Moses-like, in a boat which eventually finds its way to a bustling version of medieval London still called by its Roman name, Londinium.
There Arthur, dispossessed of his rights and with no recollection of his real identity, is raised as a brawling street urchin by the inhabitants of a brothel.
Once grown, and now portrayed by Charlie Hunnam, the rightful heir comes almost accidentally into possession of Excalibur – here essentially a weapon of mass destruction so powerful that it mows down Arthur’s opponents by the dozens. Aided by a so-called Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who otherwise goes unnamed, Arthur learns how to wield the super sword and uses it to battle Vortigern for the crown.
Along with the supernatural support of the Mage, Arthur gets human backing from Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), once one of Uther’s advisers, and expert archer “Goose-Fat” Bill (Aidan Gillen).
Together with his script collaborators, Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, Ritchie works the occasional witty exchange into the dialogue. But otherwise his film is a grueling ordeal of nonstop noisy fighting. Like the Dark Ages in which it’s set, the movie is dim, toilsome and beset with mayhem.
Since the dust-ups are mostly gore-free, however, and the only flourishes of sensuality come in the form of occult visions, some parents may consider “King Arthur” acceptable for mature teens.
The film contains pervasive combat and other violence with little blood, a prostitution theme, brief partial nudity, fleeting sexual humor, at least one rough term and occasional crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

Dutch novel good fodder for morality tale

By Kurt Jensen
NEW YORK (CNS) – “The Dinner” (The Orchard), a trenchant morality tale about the nature of evil and mankind’s savage underpinnings, turns out to be as infuriatingly dense and labyrinthine as Dutch author Herman Koch’s 2009 novel.

Richard Gere stars in a scene from the movie “The Dinner.” The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (CNS photo/The Orchard)

It’s not meant to be comfortable viewing, though, any more than the book was meant to be a tranquil read. It addresses moral challenges straight on, and when is that ever soothing?
Director Oren Moverman, who co-wrote the screenplay with Koch, has Americanized the settings. But he has kept intact the central conflict between Stan Lohman (Richard Gere) an ambitious congressman planning to run for governor, and his brother, Paul (Steve Coogan), a schizophrenic and embittered high school history teacher with a particular obsession about the Battle of Gettysburg.
One evening, Stan invites Paul and wife Claire (Laura Linney) to join him and his new spouse, Katelyn (Rebecca Hall), for a very expensive dinner. The venue is one of those Beaux Arts mansions in which the dining experience is tightly choreographed theatre with overly fussy dishes.
The goal, in Stan’s words: “We’re gonna talk tonight. We’ll put it all on the table.”
But the night is about far more than long-simmering sibling resentments. Each couple has a teen son, and together the cousins (Charlie Plummer and Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick), who are also friends, have participated in the horrific abuse and murder of a homeless woman, setting her on fire.
No one’s been charged. But a video of the woman set ablaze is now online and there’s been a blackmail threat.
All of this, as well as Paul’s illness, is shown in a long series of flashbacks.
Neither brother is quite the person outward appearances suggest, and as their spouses discuss the crime and the destruction it will wreak on their respective families and aims, their lack of empathy quickly widens in unexpected directions.
This, of course, allows for long, angry monologues, diatribes which the actors, shot in close-up, obviously relish. But these tirades are not especially edifying for viewers trying to keep up with the plot – or with details like which nefarious lad belongs to which set of parents.
Perhaps the closest recent parallel to this film is Michael Haneke’s 2009 “The White Ribbon,” which showed German children descending, years before World War II, into feral cruelty without a smidgen of guilt.
So this isn’t escapist fare, but neither does it preach. The script recognizes that humans are complicated – never more so when parents are confronted by the worst thing they could discover about their children.
The film contains physical violence, mature themes and some profane and rough language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

A tender gaze: Fatima trip shows pope’s respect for pilgrims’ faith

By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – Pope Francis is not shy about showing his love for Mary in public and, like many Latin American bishops, he strongly has resisted attempts to dismiss as superstitious or “simple,” in a negative sense, popular devotion to the mother of God.
The pope’s devotion and his respect for those who turn to Mary in their hour of need was on display May 12-13 when he and some 500,000 people gathered at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

Pope Francis uses incense as he venerates a statue of Our Lady of Fatima during the canonization Mass of Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto, two of the three Fatima seers, at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, May 13. The Mass marked the 100th anniversary of the Fatima Marian apparitions, which began on May 13, 1917. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Canonizing two of the illiterate shepherd children to whom Mary appeared in 1917, Pope Francis made it clear he sees no need for people to be “sophisticated” in explaining their devotion.
But he also made it clear that, as in any area of faith and spirituality, there is room in their understanding of Mary for people to grow as Catholics and Christians.
Calling himself a pilgrim with the pilgrims, Pope Francis asked “which Mary” did the crowds come to honor? The Mary who is “a teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the ‘narrow way’ of the cross by giving us an example, or a lady ‘unapproachable’ and impossible to imitate?”
For the pilgrims, he asked, is she “a woman ‘blessed because she believed’ always and everywhere in God’s words or a ‘plaster statue’ from whom we beg favors at little cost?”
Pope Francis said many people would want to have a vision of Mary and to receive direct messages from her like Sts. Francisco and Jacinta Marto and their cousin, Sister Lucia dos Santos, did at Fatima in 1917.

Pilgrims wait for Pope Francis to arrive for a visit at the Little Chapel of the Apparitions at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, May 12. The pope was making a two-day visit to Fatima to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Marian apparitions and to canonize two of the young seers. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

However, he said, “the Virgin Mother did not come here so that we could see her. We will have all eternity for that, provided, of course, that we go to heaven.”
Mary appeared at Fatima, he said, so that people would listen to her pleas that they pray more, do penance and follow Jesus more closely.
Like retired Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II before him, Pope Francis teaches that Marian devotion is an important part of Catholic life, but always because she leads people to a deeper relationship with Christ.
Pope Francis sees a role for priests and bishops in challenging pilgrims to grow in their faith, but not to control how they express it.
In a letter to the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in 2016, Pope Francis said popular piety – including Marian devotion – is “one of the few areas in which the people of God are free from the influence of clericalism.”
“It has been one of the few areas in which the people (including its pastors) and the Holy Spirit have been able to meet without the clericalism that seeks to control and restrain God’s anointing of his own,” the pope wrote. “Let us trust in our people, in their memory and in their ‘sense of smell.’ Let us trust that the Holy Spirit acts in and with our people and that this Spirit is not merely the ‘property’ of the ecclesial hierarchy.”
Pope Francis is convinced that devotion to Mary and other popular expressions of faith are a largely uncultivated seedbed of evangelization. His conviction is so strong that April 1 he formally transferred responsibility for Catholic shrines from the Congregation for Clergy to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
“Despite the crisis of faith impacting the modern world, these places still are perceived as sacred spaces where pilgrims go to find moments of rest, silence and contemplation in the midst of a life that is often frenetic,” Pope Francis wrote.
The enduring popularity of Catholic shrines, “the humble and simple prayer of the people of God” and the Catholic liturgies celebrated in the shrines offer “a unique opportunity for evangelization in our time,” he said.
Many people today, he said, have a longing for God, and shrines “can be a true refuge” where people can be honest about themselves and “find the strength necessary for their conversion.”
The decision to transfer responsibility for the shrines seems a natural consequence of what Pope Francis wrote in his first exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” which has an entire section on “the evangelizing power of popular piety.”
Popular piety, he wrote in 2013, is a “true expression of the spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God,” inspired and led by the Holy Spirit.
In the exhortation and at Fatima, Pope Francis celebrated the fact that Marian devotion and other forms of popular piety are particularly strong among the poor and humble, the very people with whom Mary identifies in the “Magnificat,” her hymn of praise for how God lifts the lowly, fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty.
Think, the pope wrote, “of the steadfast faith of those mothers tending their sick children who, though perhaps barely familiar with the articles of the creed, cling to a rosary; or of all the hope poured into a candle lighted in a humble home with a prayer for help from Mary, or in the gaze of tender love directed to Christ crucified.”

National music educator to offer liturgical workshop in Pearl

By Mary Woodward
The diocesan Office of Worship and Liturgy is sponsoring a retreat-style conference entitled “Liturgical Music: Ministry Encounters Mystery” for liturgical music ministers, clergy and LEMs, June 8 – 9, at Pearl St. Jude Parish. The presenter for the experience is Alexis Kutarna, director of music for St. Mary Seminary in Houston, Texas.

Alexis Kutarna

Born and raised in Canada, Kutarna has been involved in church music ever since she was a child. Kutarna earned the Master of Arts in Liturgy at The Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, where she wrote her thesis on “The Sacramental Nature of Sacred Music.” She holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in music, as well as a performer’s certificate.
Kutarna has a special interest in the spirituality of liturgical music, and was privileged to study chant with Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB. She has served as a parish music and liturgy director, working with singers of all ages.
In a letter to parish leaders and musicians, Bishop Joseph Kopacz remarked: “In my travels around the diocese, I have experienced some wonderful liturgies with all kinds of musical offerings. This retreat experience will help affirm and broaden our parish musical horizons.
“Everyone from the novice to the most accomplished will benefit greatly from this conference. It is meant to inspire us to grow more deeply in our understanding of the divine mysteries and the unique and sacred role music plays in that mystery,” wrote the bishop.
“More deeply inspired and thoughtful liturgies based in our rich spiritual and theological tradition give us the fuel to embody and live the Gospel and proclaim it to others.”
Frequently asked to speak on music and the liturgy, Kutarna presents in a variety of contexts, from parish choirs and retreats to lectures and conferences. She has presented on seminary musical formation, the spirituality of chant, liturgical participation, and singing the Mass, including at the 2016 NPM convention.
She teaches the Summer Learning Schola for the St. Basil School of Gregorian Chant. In April of this year, she spoke on music and heaven at the “Transfigured” young adult conference in Chicago, hosted by the Liturgical Institute.
Kutarna teaches courses on the liturgy and liturgical music at the University of St. Thomas for the seminary, the permanent diaconate program, and the master of sacred music program.
The retreat will incorporate prayer, instruction, reflection and interaction. It is designed for those who actively engage in music ministry on the parish level. It also is designed to benefit clergy in additional knowledge of the role of music in the liturgy.
Retreatants will enjoy a journey into the sacred mysteries and gain a better understanding of their ministry as musicians in the liturgy. Topics for reflection include: Mystery and Liturgy, Mystery and Silence, Mystery and Music and From Mystery to Ministry. Though the retreat will be in English, resources for Spanish and bilingual Masses will be a part of the retreat.
As a prayer experience, the Liturgy of the Hours will be sung throughout and there will be a session on practical applications during the Mass.
The tentative retreat schedule will begin with check- in at 1 p.m. on Thursday, with overview and first session beginning at 2 p.m., and run until 9 p.m. Thursday night; it will begin on Friday at 8:30 a.m. and end with Mass at 4 p.m.
Cost is $60, which includes three meals and materials. Participants must make their own lodging arrangements. For more information contact Mary Woodward, chancellor, at 601.960.8475 or mary.woodward@jacksondiocese.org.
(Mary Woodward is the chancellor and coordinator for the Office of Liturgy.)