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.)

Charities to recognize Maloney siblings at Bishop’s Ball

Catholic Charities has started selling tickets to this year’s Bishop’s Ball, a premire fundraising event set for Saturday, June 10, at the Jackson Country Club. In addition to dinner, a silent and live auction and dancing will keep the evening lively. During dinner, Bishop Joseph Kopacz will present the Good Samaritan Award to the Maloney siblings, a family whose support of the church spans several generations.
In the 1950s, James C. “Cowboy” Maloney was a residential builder in the Jackson area. With the post-war building boom rapidly transforming Jackson, the contractor and his wife Dolly carved out a comfortable living to support their family of three sons and a daughter: Con, Bridget (Fielder), Eddie and Johnny. As a way to provide better prices for his construction, in 1952 Cowboy and Dolly opened Maloney Supply Company as a local lumber yard, offering building materials at wholesale pricing. Maloney soon realized he had failed to factor in a crucial detail: his targeted consumers – building contractors – were also his direct competition in the construction business. To overcome the hurdle, Maloney retired from the construction business to concentrate on his new retail/wholesale venture. In addition to lumber and building materials, he began selling built-in appliances used in residential construction.
Creative marketing, personal customer service and affordably-priced appliance additions to his lumber lineup helped Maloney Supply flourish. “We quickly evolved to a full-line appliance dealer and from there became a TV dealer when the first television station came on line in Mississippi,” said Con, the eldest of the three Maloney sons who now share the reins of the appliance empire. “It’s the best of worlds, retail-wise,” explains Johnny, who came on board after graduating from Ole Miss in May 1978. “You’ve got Eddie who’s great with finance and Con who’s the best at marketing and I stay in between.”
Bridget no longer works in the family business, but “when she did, she was one of the best sales associates we ever had. She could sell ice to an Eskimo,” Johnny bragged.
Sister Dorothea Sondgeroth, OP, associate executive director of the St. Dominic Health Services Foundation, said the Maloney family is most deserving of this special recognition. “They exemplify their Catholic faith by their actions and involvement in parish functions and their service on various boards within the diocese. Their love for the Church and for community runs deep in the family roots. The Maloney family has been a pillar for St. Dominic’s, the only Catholic healthcare facility in Mississippi and has played an important role in its growth,” she said.
Tickets to the ball are $85 per person. Call 601-326-3758 to reserve seats.

Charities tournament benefits

JACKSON – Catholic Charities hosted its annual Charity Tennis Tournament March 30-April 7 at River Hills Club. One unique feature of this event is Kid’s Day, held this year on Wednesday, April 5.

The day began early when 55 students from Rowan Middle School arrived at River Hills. They were all wearing matching Kids Day t-shirts made for the event. USTA officials gave the students an overview of the game of tennis. They were then joined by students from the Brinkley Junior High tennis team.

The interesting thing about the Brinkley group is that they are part of a newly formed team made up of members who were introduced to tennis for the first time at this very kids day event during the past two years.

Soon after instuction, all the students watched as the ladies on the pro-circuit competed. They then moved to an hour of on-court instruction provided by both pro circuit players and local tennis pros. From there the enjoyed lunch at the club while hearing from a local speaker.

The tournament consists of pro-am play as well as Catholic Charities events, dinners and luncheons every day. Money from this tournaments goes to children’s programs at Charities. This year’s winner was Barbara Haas from Austria.

Bishop Joseph Kopacz congratulates the singles winner, Barbara Haas from Austria. (Photos submitted by Julie O’Brien)

Easter Vigil, Cathedral of St. Peter 2017

Palm Sunday Cathedral St. Peter, 2017

Chrism Mass St. Peter Cathedral April 11, 2017

Abbey Youth Fest returns

By Abbey Schuhmann

COVINGTON, La., – On Saturday, March 25, more than 300 teens and adult leaders from around the Diocese of Jackson traveled to St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in Covington, La., for the 2017 Abbey Youth Festival (AYF). The 16th annual festival fell on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and this year’s theme was “Be It Done Unto Me.”

The seminarians at St. Joseph Seminary College play a vital role in the production of AYF including our own, Andrew Bowden, Hayden Schmitt, and Tristan Stovall. The festival has grown over the years and now hosts around 250 groups from all across the south with more than 4,500 participants coming together each year for a day-long event to experience music, prayer, catechesis, fellowship and fun.

With the torrential rain and devastating floods that affected the Covington-area last spring, the 2016 festival was cancelled for the first time in its history. While this year’s forecast was not ideal for an outdoor event, accommodations were made and the program continued.

The teens and adults from our diocese remained optimistic and weathered the storm throughout the day determined to experience all the festival has to offer. The program featured keynote presentations from Katie Prejean McGrady, Stephanie Grey and David Calavitta. Dave Moore and The Josh Blakesley Band entertained the crowd with awesome music. Each speaker shared thoughts regarding the theme, “Be It Done Unto Me,” on how we all have a call to serve the Lord, how do we discern that call in our daily lives and how can we live as faithful sons and daughters of our Lord.

Participants have the opportunity throughout the day to visit different vendor booths including religious orders and communities from all around the country. Groups also have the opportunity to tour the beautiful Abbey church on campus. The event focuses on evangelization and faith formation through vocational discernment, prayer, and catechesis.

The entire event ends with Mass and candlelight adoration; often times the highlight of the event for most participants. This year the Mass was celebrated by Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and the homilist was Father Joshua Johnson of the Diocese of Baton Rouge. Father Johnson challenged the teens to become fully alive in Jesus Christ. He gave witness to this through his own, personal vocation story as well as stories that he shared that have impacted him throughout the years.

He suggested the teens follow “The 5 W’s” in order to help them enter into a deeper relationship with Christ.1. When will you pray and spend time with the Lord? 2. Where will you pray? 3. What will you do? Read scripture, attend adoration, spend time with the Blessed Sacrament after mass – were just a few of his suggestions. 4. Who will be your accountability partner? 5. Why are you going to do this? To become fully alive in Christ.

It was no doubt a wet and soggy day for our group, however; the weather did not dampen our experience with Abbey Youth Festival 2017. This event is an excellent opportunity for our teens to see the bigger church and fellowship with other young Catholics. This was the 7th year for our diocese to sponsor a trip to the Abbey Youth Festival. Make plans to participate in the 2018 event scheduled for Saturday, March 17th!

(For more information visit www.abbeyyouthfest.com or contact Abbey Schuhmann in the Office of Youth Ministry – 601-949-6934 or Abbey.Schuhmann@jacksondiocese.org)