Movie review: Wildcat

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – A blending of historical facts and Southern gothic fiction proves unstable in the biographical and literary drama “Wildcat” (Oscilloscope). As a result, director and co-writer Ethan Hawke achieves only mixed results as he seeks to introduce viewers to the life and works of Catholic author Flannery O’Connor.
Given the high rank she enjoys among 20th-century American writers, especially on the basis of her masterful short stories, O’Connor’s career is certainly deserving of attention. Nor does the primary fault for the unsatisfying nature of “Wildcat” lie with Hawke’s daughter Maya’s portrayal of the scribe, whose intriguing persona the actress succeeds in capturing.
Instead the original aesthetic sin detectable here is one of strategy. In crafting their screenplay, the elder Hawke and his script collaborator Shelby Gaines ill-advisedly attempt to interweave scenes from O’Connor’s real experiences with dramatizations of the tales she penned. The reality-based elements mostly work, the fictitious ones, by contrast, fall flat.

Maya Hawke portrays Flannery O’Connor in the movie “Wildcat.” The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association. (OSV News photo/Oscilloscope)

Thus audiences will likely be engaged by the movie’s recounting of O’Connor’s struggle to publish her first novel as well as the narrative of her battle with lupus, the disease to which she would succumb in 1964, aged only 39. The illness made O’Connor dependent on her mother, Regina (Laura Linney), with whom she enjoyed a close yet conflicted relationship.
Like many others, Regina seems to have been somewhat bewildered by her daughter’s vibrant but eccentric creative vision. A studious reader of both scripture and the “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas, O’Connor was at once fascinated and repelled by the do-it-yourself approach to Christianity she observed in the then-overwhelmingly Protestant South.
Drawing on O’Connor’s “A Prayer Journal,” published in 2013, Hawke manages to convey the seriousness with which she regarded her heartfelt beliefs. In fact, one of the picture’s most compelling exchanges takes place between a gravely ailing O’Connor and local clergyman Father Flynn (Liam Neeson).
Sequences adapted from O’Connor’s writings, on the other hand, are generally ineffectual. In some cases, this is because they are too heavily narrated, leaving them stranded between page and screen.
Still, for all its flaws, “Wildcat” does have some educational value, especially for those unfamiliar with O’Connor’s spiritual striving, physical suffering and impressive legacy. Given that problematic elements are relatively few, moreover, it’s possibly an acceptable choice for mature adolescents.
The film contains scenes of sensuality, several uses of profanity and a few milder oaths. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

Movie Review: Irena’s Vow

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – An inspiring but once little-known chapter of history provides the basis for the Holocaust drama “Irena’s Vow” (Quiver). The humane basic values of the story could potentially make it appealing for older teens as well as grown-ups. However, a plot development involving an objectively immoral situation requires careful assessment.

Sophie Nélisse plays Irena Gut, a young Catholic Polish woman swept up in – and left homeless by – the Nazi occupation of her homeland following the outbreak of World War II. Irena is eventually put to work as a waitress in the local Wehrmacht officers’ mess. She’s also placed in charge of the group of Jewish laundry workers who tend to the officers’ clothing.

Overhearing that all Jews in the area will be transported and liquidated in the near future, Irena resolves to act quickly. A lucky but unlikely opportunity to rescue her new friends arises when Major Rugemer (Dougray Scott), one of the soldiers who dines at the mess, decides to make Irena his personal housekeeper.

Sophie Nélisse stars as Irene Gut, left, alongside members of the ensemble cast in a scene from the movie “Irena’s Vow.” The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (OSV news photo/Quiver)

Rugemer has requisitioned a large villa with a multi-room basement. As Irena gets the dwelling ready for its new occupant, but before he moves in, she smuggles the launderers into the cellar and arranges to keep them safely concealed there.

The perils of the precarious situation uphold viewer interest in director Louise Archambault’s generally uplifting adaptation of screenwriter Dan Gordon’s play. But the film is not free of challenging content.

In addition to scenes of brutality, Irena has to confront an unforeseen problem when one of her proteges – who, with the arrival of a newcomer, now number 12 – becomes pregnant and announces her intention to terminate her baby’s life. Though this subplot has a happy ending, and shows Irena in a still more favorable light, it obviously constitutes mature fare.

So, too, does the turn the relationship between Irena and Rugemer takes as the movie nears its end. While revealing the specifics would constitute a spoiler, suffice it to say that – to borrow a phrase from Facebook – it’s complicated.

This aspect of the picture shouldn’t necessarily bar mature adolescents from watching it. But a family discussion might be needed to unpack its ins-and-outs.

The real-life Irena survived the global conflict and went on to marry United Nations worker William Opdyke. She resisted telling the tale of her wartime activities until provoked to do so, beginning in the 1970s, by a Holocaust denier. Having been honored both by the State of Israel and by St. John Paul II, she died in 2003 at age 85.

The film contains stylized but sometimes disturbing violence, including infanticide, implied nonmarital sexual activity and discussion of an abortion. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @JohnMulderig1.)

New diocesan office aims to build relationships and invite young adults to be a part of the Body of Christ

By Joanna Puddister King
JACKSON – In a proactive response to the growing demand for more opportunities for young adults, the Diocese of Jackson inaugurated its Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry in the fall of 2022. With this new office, the diocese is on a mission to build a vibrant and inclusive ministry that not only brings young adults and college students together but also strengthens their relationship with Christ.

In his post-synodal apostolic exhortation released in April 2019, Christus Vivit (Christ is Alive!), Pope Francis emphasized the need to make all institutions more welcoming to young people, and his words resonated deeply with the mission of the Diocese of Jackson. “We need to make all our institutions better equipped to be more welcoming to young people,” said Pope Francis from Christus Vivit. (216)

Amelia Rizor, coordinator for the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry, echoed the sentiment expressed by Pope Francis, stating, “The community has an important role in the accompaniment of young people; it should feel collectively responsible for accepting, motivating, encouraging and challenging them. All should regard young people with understanding, appreciation and affections; and avoid constantly judging them.”

GREENWOOD – On Saturday, Oct. 14 college students from across the diocese gathered at Locus Benedictus Retreat Center in Greenwood for a day of fun, fellowship, speakers, prayer and Mass. The theme for the day was “Living Joyfully.” The event was led by the Diocesan Campus Ministry Retreat Team which is made up of students from campuses across the Diocese. (Photos by Amelia Rizor)

The office’s efforts in the Jackson area have already shown promise. Rizor has organized activities such as basketball, co-ed softball, and co-ed kickball, which have provided opportunities for young adults to come together for fellowship and build relationships. Additionally, the office also reintroduced “Theology on Tap,” a popular event that engages young adults in discussions of faith in a relaxed setting, with a beverage of choice.

However, the office’s focus isn’t just limited to social events, said Rizor. She highlights the importance of growing young people’s spiritual lives, mentioning an upcoming “Young Adult Advent Day of Reflection” on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Camp Bratton Green in Canton, with diocese director of Faith Formation, Fran Lavelle.

Rizor also expressed her desire to create more service opportunities that can be conducted diocesan-wide, allowing young adults to put their faith into action.

Future plans for service include a spring break service trip to Southern Kentucky, with the aim of assisting those affected by the devastating tornadoes in December 2021.

The Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry also recently hosted its first campus ministry retreat on Oct. 14 at Locus Benedictus in Greenwood. The event brought together students from various colleges and universities across the diocese for fellowship, participation in small groups, and the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Mass.

Excitingly, the office is offering a 10-day trip on the Camino de Santiago – an opportunity to travel in the footsteps of St. James, led by Father Lincoln Dall. The St. James Way is one of the most ancient and popular pilgrimage routes in the world. The trip can accommodate only 13 pilgrims total and spots are filling up quickly. Rizor says the trip is open to all young adults who will be sophomores in college in fall 2024 through age 35.

Rizor emphasized the importance of actively engaging young adults in these initiatives, saying “Everyone likes to be invited! If you are waiting around for them to just come back, you’re going to be waiting a long time.” She urged the necessity of going out and building relationships with young adults, inviting them to be a part of the Body of Christ, much like the approach taken by Jesus himself.

In the Diocese of Jackson, the launch of this young adult ministry is not only about building a community but also about revitalizing the faith and involvement of the younger generation in the church’s mission, ensuring that they are an integral part of the church’s body. Pope Francis’ vision, as articulated in Christus Vivit, is a guiding light for this important mission.

JACKSON – On Wednesday, Oct. 18, young adults from around the Jackson area gathered at Martin’s restaurant in downtown Jackson for Theology on Tap. The guest speaker was Father Nick Adam who shared with them ideas on how they could make time for prayer and faith in their busy lives. The next Theology on Tap will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 8th at 7 p.m. at Martin’s.

“We are incredibly blessed to have someone with Amelia’s ministry experience and her love for the young church,” said Fran Lavelle, director of the Department of Faith Formation for the diocese.

“Her strength is in building relationships that lead people to a deeper understanding of their faith. She demonstrates what accompaniment looks like in practice.”

For more information on upcoming young adult ministry events, visit https://jacksondiocese.org/young-adult-campus-ministry or contact Amelia at amelia.rizor@jacksondiocese.org.

Calendar of Events

SPIRITUAL ENRICHMENT
GREENWOOD – “Franciscan Retreat” on Saturday, Sept. 16 from 9 a.m. to 3 p. m. at the Locus Benedictus Retreat Ministries at 1407 Levee Road. The retreat will be presented by Rev. Joachim “Kim” Studwell, OFM. No cost, but love offering open. Details: call (662) 299-1232.

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. “Come and See” weekends at Dominican Sisters of Springfield for single Catholic women ages 21-45. Eleven events scheduled in 2023-2024, first is Sept. 15-17. Events are in person or “Zoom and See” (virtual) and provide a brief immersion in the day-to-day lives of the sisters. Event is free, but responsible for your own transportation expenses. Housing and meals provided. Space is limited. Register at https://springfieldop.org/come-see-registration/. Details: call Sister Denise Glazik at (217) 652-5881 or visit https://springfieldop.org/come-see-dominican-sisters-vocation-event-schedule-for-2023-2024/ for more information.

WASHINGTON D.C. Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, Sept. 30 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Join with Catholics from around the country to seek the intercession of Our Lady. Hear life-changing talks; celebrate Mass and pray the rosary. Details: for more information visit rosarypilgrimage.org.

PARISH, FAMILY & SCHOOL EVENTS
ABERDEEN – St. Francis, Parish Picnic, Saturday, Oct. 14 following Mass. Enjoy a good meal and fellowship. Details: (662) 813-2295.

CLARKSDALE – St. Elizabeth Parish Fair, Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 5-8 p.m. Food, raffles, fun, games and more. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.

HERNANDO – Holy Spirit, Annual Fall Bazaar, Saturday, Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Raffles, sales, silent auction, country kitchen, games and more. Details: church office (662) 429-7851.
Holy Spirit, Men’s Association Fish Fry, Friday, Sept. 22 from 4-7 p.m. Cost: $13 adults/$6 kids. All are welcome. Eat-in or take out. Plates include catfish, hushpuppies, fries, slaw, drink and dessert. Details: Jon at (901) 481-0228.

JACKSON – St. Richard, Special Kids Golf tournament at Deerfield Country Club on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2023. Details: church office (601) 366-2335.

LELAND – St. James, Spaghetti Dinner and Fair, Tuesday, Sept. 26. Dinner and silent auction begin at 5 p.m., booths open at 6 p.m. Cost: $15 per plate. Details: Donna at (662) 207-8844.

MADISON – St. Francis, Fall Parish Mission “Igniting the Light of Christ within you,” Oct. 1-3 at 6:30 p.m. each night in the Church. Featured speaker is Paul Koleske. Hear practical techniques you can use to increase your connection with the presence of the Holy Spirit. All are welcome! Details: church office (601) 856-5556.

St. Francis, Pork Butt Sale for Labor Day, pick-up on Friday, Sept. 1 after 11 a.m. Cost: $40. Details: to place an order email or text Tunney at tunneyv1@icloud.com or (601) 622-4145.
MADISON The Catholic Foundation, Bishop’s Cup Golf Tournament, Thursday, Sept. 14 at Lake Caroline Golf Club. For more details or to register, visit foundation.jacksondiocese.org.

NATCHEZ Cathedral Fall Festival, Sept. 23-24. Enjoy food, games, raffles, bingo, adult night and more. Details: school office (601) 442-2531.

OLIVE BRANCH – Queen of Peace, Men’s Club Golf Tournament 4-person scramble, Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. Dinner included. Cost: $100 per person. Details: contact Tim at (901) 515-8598.

PEARL – St. Jude, Day-trip Pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville, Alabama, Saturday, Oct. 28. Tour the Shrine, Mass, Adoration and more. Cost est. $75. Details: email kmcgregor@stjudepearl.org or call (601) 939-3181.

RIPLEY – St. Matthew, Feast day and 13th anniversary celebration of church building dedication, Saturday, Sept. 23. Enjoy food booths, games and competitions. Bilingual Mass with food and fellowship following on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. Details: church office (662) 993-8862.

VICKSBURG Knights of Columbus Council 898 Fish Fry, Saturday, Sept. 16 from 5-7:30 p.m. Fried or grilled catfish, hushpuppies, fries, slaw, baked potato, beans, bread. Cost $15. Open to public. 310 Hall Ferry Road. Details: office at (601) 636-8372.

NOTICES & OTHER EVENTS
BAY ST. LOUIS Save-the-Date, Divine Word Missionaries Centennial celebration of St. Augustine Seminary, Oct. 28-29. Enjoy historical exhibits, tours, food, entertainment, raffles, a Jazz procession, Mass and more.

JOB OPENINGS Catholic schools across the diocese have a variety of positions open. Please visit https://jacksondiocese.org/employment for an opportunity near you.

INDIANAPOLIS Eucharistic Congress, July 17-21, 2024. Registration is now open. See what Our Lord has in store for this next chapter for the Catholic Church in United States. Purchase tickets at https://bit.ly/3ydav9Q. Details: EucharisticCongress.org.

INDIANAPOLIS National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC), Nov. 16-18, 2023 at the Indiana Convention Center. This distinctly Catholic three-day conference will include opportunities for spiritual growth, prayer, learning and service. For more information, visit ncyc.us.

NASHVILLE Billings Ovulation Method Teacher Training, Oct. 19-21. Learn the science of fertility in order to monitor reproductive health and wellness. Cost: $750. Details: events.boma-usa.org.

The Miracle Club

By John Mulderig

NEW YORK (OSV News) – A pilgrimage to Lourdes provides the framework for the tender drama “The Miracle Club” (Sony Classics). By turns humorous and touching, director Thaddeus O’Sullivan’s delicate film will appeal to grown-ups and perhaps mature teens. But it’s neither aimed at nor suitable for kids.

In a hardscrabble neighborhood of 1967 Dublin, best friends Lily (Maggie Smith) and Eileen (Kathy Bates) excitedly prepare to journey to the sacred destination in the company of a third pal, Dolly (Agnes O’Casey). Dolly is hoping that the trip will cure the mysterious muteness of her young son, Daniel (Eric D. Smith), while Eileen is secretly worried about a lump on her breast.

The dynamics of their expedition are suddenly transformed, however, by the unexpected — and initially unwelcome — return of Chrissie (Laura Linney), a former member of the main duo’s social circle who’s been absent in America for 40 years. Chrissie’s reappearance has been prompted by the death of her estranged mother, with whom both Lily and Eileen were close.

Laura Linney and Mark O’Halloran star in a scene from the movie “The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents are strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (OSV News photo/Jonathan Hession, Sony Classics)

The reasons for Chrissie’s exile are not immediately made clear, though a connection to the long-ago drowning death of Lily’s son, Declan, is apparent. Despite the fact that Lily and Eileen continue to shun her, Chrissie decides to join the tour to France which is to be presided over by Father Dermot (Stephen Rea), the wise and sympathetic, if not very forceful, local cleric.

What follows is a sensitive exploration of tragedy and spiritual healing as long-festering emotional wounds are laid bare and the possibilities of reconciliation and renewed relationships examined. Although the confessions of wrongdoing required to restore harmony and peace of mind are interpersonal, rather than sacramental, they are positive examples of moral honesty.

Questions are briefly raised in the dialogue about the authenticity of the apparitions to St. Bernadette Soubirous and the miracles attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes, and such skepticism may grate on believers’ nerves. They may also wince at the repetition of an all-too-common Irish expletive that at least approximates misuse of the Lord’s name.

As for viewers focused on the effectiveness of the tale, as penned by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer, they may feel it takes too easy a shortcut to forgiveness. Yet, in the age of the three-hour comic book adaptation, there’s something to be said for a modest, character-driven movie that comes full circle in a mere 90 minutes.

The film contains mature themes, including abortion, one direct and several oblique profanities, a rough term and occasional crude and crass language. The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.)

“Padre Pio” (Gravitas)

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Viewers may be misled by the title of director and co-writer Abel Ferrara’s historical drama “Padre Pio” (Gravitas). The film is less a profile of the titular saint, played passionately by Shia LaBeouf, than a portrait of San Giovanni Rotondo, the Apulian town of his Capuchin monastery, in the period immediately after World War I.

Moviegoers in search of an uplifting hagiography, accordingly, should look elsewhere. All the more so since Ferrara’s script, penned with Maurizio Braucci, includes graphic material that precludes endorsement for a wide range of age groups as well as themes suitable only for the fully catechized.

As Father Pio grapples with tormenting Satanic visions, the Italian social tensions that would eventually set the scene for the rise of Fascism mount. These are personified in wealthy, corrupt local landowner Renato (Brando Pacitto) on the one side and a group of virtuous socialists, including young would-be revolutionary Luigi (Vincenzo Crea), on the other.

Shia LaBeouf stars in the new drama “Padre Pio.” The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (OSV News photo/Gravitas Ventures)

The screenplay suggests points of coherence between Marxism and Christianity. But if that sounds like an uneasy mix, the attempted blending of the events unfolding inside the walls of the Franciscan refuge and those transpiring beyond it is equally unstable. Thus the picture manages to be at once respectful of Christian spirituality and anti-clerical.

The former stance leads to the moving scene in which Padre Pio receives the stigmata. The latter gives us the sight of the local parish priest, Don Anselmo (Piergiuseppe Francione), a dedicated ally of the oppressors, blessing their guns with holy water before a showdown with the good guys.

Such a caricature is, unfortunately, in keeping with the movie’s ham-handed approach to history and ideology. It’s a shame that LaBeouf’s all-in performance – as is well-known, his participation in this project has resulted in his conversion to Catholicism – should come wrapped in such a burdensome husk.

Somewhere inside Ferrara’s flawed political and social retrospective is an intriguing biopic struggling to get out of confinement. A narrower focus would have yielded much stronger results.

The film contains brief but intense gory violence, demonic behavior, rear nudity, references to incest, several rough terms and a couple of crass expressions. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

(John Mulderig is media reviewer for OSV News. Follow him on Twitter @JohnMulderig1.)

Previously run in MS Catholic about St. Padre Pio

Movie Reviews

In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – “Do not be afraid to dream.” That’s one of the characteristic statements viewers encounter in the uplifting documentary “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis” (Magnolia).

Despite its depiction of some of the world’s most pressing problems, filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi’s polished retrospective maintains a tranquil tone as it looks back over the 37 journeys to 53 different countries undertaken by the pontiff during the first nine years of his pontificate. The result is thoughtful fare suitable for grown-ups and teens.

This is a scene from the documentary “In Viaggio: The Travels of Pope Francis.” The OSV News classification is A-II — adults and adolescents. The documentary is not rated by the Motion Picture Association. (OSV News photo/Archivo Vatican Media, courtesy Magnolia Pictures)

As Francis globe-trots from the halls of Congress to the Philippines and on to the streets of Havana, he speaks his mind about refugees, migrants, poverty, war and the need to imagine a better future. He also grapples with the scandalous abuse crisis in the church and the all-too-understandable sensitivities it has created, especially among victims.

Rosi adopts a hands-off, cinema verite approach to his work, eschewing vocal narration and incorporating stretches of contemplative silence. Always meditative, his profile also is sometimes moving, as when it captures Francis’ one-on-one exchanges with the inmates of a Mexican prison.

A sequence showing the pope walking through a deserted St. Peter’s Square at the height of the COVID pandemic is a striking reminder of the isolation to which that disease reduced so many around the world. In a voiceover, Francis ponders the possibility that the tragedy was the outcome of modern people’s unwillingness to slow themselves down and listen to God’s voice.

Along with the discussion of topics that make it inappropriate for youngsters, Rosi’s picture also includes footage that might upset them. Thus we’re shown real-life scenes of shipwreck, violent conflict and death.
While not pulling his punches, however, Rosi successfully captures the peaceable atmosphere that generally surrounds Pope Francis. Accordingly, his portrait of a pontiff on the move – energetically yet calmly bringing his message of hope to a rich variety of destinations – can be thought of as an appealing 80-minute opportunity for spiritual reflection.

The film contains mature themes, including the sexual abuse of children, potentially disturbing images and situations of peril. The OSV News classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association.

The Pope’s Exorcist

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – It’s important to bear in mind that, however credible its source material may be, the ostensibly fact-based possession tale “The Pope’s Exorcist” (Sony) remains a Hollywood horror movie. Considered as such, the film starts off promisingly enough but eventually becomes overheated and lurid.
Any adaptation of books published by high-profile exorcist Pauline Father Gabriele Amorth, who died in 2016, aged 91, is unlikely to be fare suitable for the whole family, moreover. And so it proves in this case since, as directed by Julius Avery, the picture includes a variety of components that even grown-ups in search of casual entertainment may wish to avoid.

“The Pope’s Exorcist” is a 2023 supernatural horror film starring Russell Crowe as the late Pauline Father Gabriele Amorth, a longtime exorcist for the Diocese of Rome. The film is ‘inspired by’ the Italian priest’s memoirs and was released in the United States April 14, 2023. (CNS photo/Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Star Russell Crowe brings verve to his portrayal of Father Amorth. Genial and fond of a joke, the cleric is nonetheless never frivolous. Perhaps the most characteristic image among the opening scenes is that of Father Amorth riding his Vespa scooter through the streets of Rome backed by Faith No More’s refrain, “It’s a dirty job but someone’s gotta do it.”

From the Eternal City we jump to Spain, where a trio of Americans – widowed mom Julia (Alex Essoe), rebellious teen daughter Amy (Laurel Marsden) and traumatized preteen son Henry (Peter DeSouza-Feighoney) – are living temporarily. They’ve taken up residence in a former abbey while Julia supervises its renovation with an eye to selling it.

Of course, the spooky old place turns out to be haunted by a demon (voice of Ralph Ineson) who promptly puts Henry under his dominion. Local priest Father Esquibel (Daniel Zovatto) tries to help but he’s way out of his depth. Time to summon Father Amorth.

In fact, it develops that Father Amorth’s presence is part of a scheme the unholy spirit has concocted for infiltrating the Vatican. There, an entirely fictional pope (Franco Nero) is not only ailing but surrounded by fractious prelates – some allies of Father Amorth, others his opponents.

While the focus remains on young Henry’s plight, the movie feels dramatically compact and sound, though not lacking in genre cliches. And screenwriters Michael Petroni and Evan Spiliotopoulos successfully make the case for taking the power of evil seriously.

As the duo of clergymen research the abbey’s past, however, extraneous elements ranging from contemporary divisions within the church to the legacy of the Spanish Inquisition are thrown into the mix – and depicted ineptly. As a result, the proceedings eventually degenerate into a muddle while the tone becomes increasingly sensationalist.

Details of religious practice are also portrayed inaccurately. Thus in two of the three confessions we witness on screen, the confessor fails to use the necessary formula of absolution, substituting instead a vague prayer that the penitent may be forgiven. Any well catechized Catholic would demand a do-over.
Speaking of ecclesiastical tensions, in the midst of it all Father Amorth makes an observation that might be taken for heresy in some circles these days. “Prayers,” he tells Father Esquibel, “are more powerful in Latin.”

The film contains mature themes, disturbing images, an attempted suicide, brief aberrant sexual interaction, glimpses of upper and rear female nudity, a few mild oaths, numerous rough terms, occasional crude language and an obscene gesture. The OSV News classification is L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Movie reviews

“Jesus Revolution” (Lionsgate)

This is the poster from the movie “Jesus Revolution.” (OSV News photo/Lionsgate)

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Warmhearted fact-based drama recounting how large numbers of the Woodstock generation were won over to Evangelical Christianity through the unlikely collaboration between a believing hippy (Jonathan Roumie) and a previously starchy California minister (Kelsey Grammer). As their expanding mission leads to mass baptisms, their eventual converts include a once-troubled teen (Joel Courtney) and his emotionally steadier true love (Anna Grace Barlow). Co-directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, working from a script penned by the former (with Jon Gunn), craft an appealing look back at a somewhat surprising chapter in Baby Boomer history. Though the sacramental theology briefly referenced is askew from a Catholic perspective, the morality of the tale is a spot-on rejection of hedonism in favor of a more upright life, so there’s little to prevent older kids as well as grown-ups from taking this stroll down psychedelic-era memory lane. Negatively depicted drug use, a potentially upsetting medical situation. The OSV News classification is A-II – adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

“65” (Sony)

Adam Driver stars in a scene from the movie “65.” The OSV News classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. (OSV News photo/Patti Perret, courtesy Sony)

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – When the spaceship he pilots is wrecked by meteors, a humanoid alien (Adam Driver) crash lands on prehistoric Earth where he and the only other survivor of the disaster, a young passenger (Ariana Greenblatt) who reminds him of the ailing daughter (Chloe Coleman) he left at home, must trek to a rescue vehicle that detached from the main vessel and now lies atop a nearby mountain. Along the way, they’ll have to dodge an array of predatory creatures, including dinosaurs large and small. The determination of Driver’s character to safeguard his accidental protege is admirable and the bond that develops between the two is enjoyable to observe. But most of the action is devoted to the miseries of the Mesozoic Era, making co-writers and directors Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ sci-fi adventure a toilsome slog for viewers, albeit one that includes few objectionable ingredients, making it probably acceptable for older teens. Images of a gory wound, potentially upsetting plot developments, at least one mild oath, about a half-dozen crude terms. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

“Scream VI” (Paramount)

Melissa Barrera, Jenna Ortega, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Mason Gooding star in a scene from the “Scream VI.” The OSV News classification is O — morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. (OSV News photo/Philippe Bossé, Paramount Pictures and Spyglass Media Group’s)

By Kurt Jensen
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Dreary horror flick in which the franchise’s trademark masked killer – or someone simply dressed in his guise – menaces the lives of an array of young actors while also targeting series veterans now regarded as “legacy” characters. The latter include two sisters (Melissa Barrera and Jenna Ortega) as well as a duo of other survivors of the 2022 reboot (Mason Gooding and Jasmin Savoy Brown). Co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett and screenwriters James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick move the mayhem from fictional Woodsboro, California, to New York City on a long Halloween weekend. But the gruesomes excesses of earlier outings remain, resulting in gore galore. Pervasive bloody violence, including gunplay, some sexual references, occasional profanity, frequent rough language. The OSV News rating is O – morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

“Creed III” (United Artists)

By John Mulderig
NEW YORK (OSV News) – Actor Michael B. Jordan makes his directorial debut with this second sequel to the 2015 reboot of the storied “Rocky” franchise in which he also reprises his role as the champion pugilist of the title. Now retired from the ring, he’s enjoying a prosperous life with his hearing-impaired singer-turned-producer wife (Tessa Thompson) and their deaf daughter (Mila Davis-Kent) while also working as a promoter and co-managing (with Wood Harris) the gym where the current champ (José Benavidez) trains. But his tranquility is shattered when a childhood friend (Jonathan Majors) re-enters his life after serving a long prison term for an incident in which they were both involved but from which he successfully fled. Morally shaded characters add complexity and depth as the plot moves toward a pair of trademark showdowns while Keegan Coogler and Zach Baylin’s script plays creatively on the underdog theme with which the whole saga began. The film’s exploration of guilt, emotional repression and the importance of family may outweigh its earthier elements in the judgment of those making viewing decisions on behalf of older teens. Harsh physical violence, marital sensuality, mature themes, including the physical abuse of children, at least one rough term, about a half-dozen instances each of mild swearing and crude language, a few crass expressions. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 – parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

(Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service and Kurt Jensen is a guest reviewer for OSV News.)

Two books look at Black Catholic experience from different angles

By Kathleen Finley (CNS)
”Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle” by Shannen Dee Williams. Duke University Press (Durham, North Carolina, 2022). 424 pp., $29.95.

“Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s: A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition and Diversity” by Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Indiana, 2022). 192 pp., $17.95.

In Catholic books, an African American perspective is usually missing; these two books attempt to address that important gap in different and complementary ways.

In “Subversive Habits,” historian Williams has given us a remarkable work of scholarship, one that may be distressing for many readers because she clears away any shred of doubt about the U.S. Catholic Church being racist from its very beginnings.

These are the book covers of “Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle” by Shannen Dee Williams; and “Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s: A Black Catholic Celebration of Faith, Tradition and Diversity” by Marcia Lane-McGee and Shannon Wimp Schmidt. The books are reviewed by Kathleen Finley. (CNS photo/courtesy Duke University Press and Ave Maria Press)

That, unfortunately, includes the key roles that women religious have played in the building of the church.

Williams writes, “Few have considered what it meant that most of the sisters to minister in the United States before 1850, including the nation’s earliest female saints and sainthood candidates, were slaveholders or people who relied on the labor, sale and brutal mistreatment of enslaved people – and the economic benefits of whiteness and racial segregation – to establish and secure the financial futures of their orders and celebrated social service institutions.”

As she traces the hidden history of Black sisters, she admits that the only Black nun she had ever seen personally was Whoopi Goldberg’s fictional character in the movie “Sister Act.” That was true also of her mother, both of them lifelong African American Catholics.

Williams, a Catholic News Service columnist, tells story after story of institutional and personal barriers to pursuing religious vocations for African American women who, in many cases, were of mixed race because of their white fathers’ unions with Black women.

Most white religious communities refused to accept Black applicants, unless they could “pass” for white – and in several cases when women who were in positions of authority were later found to have been Black or of mixed race, they were largely erased from the community’s archives.

Because of a lack of acceptance by white religious communities, several Black religious orders were founded in the South, mainly to serve in Black schools and health care institutions, although many priests saw them as a “profanation of the habit.”

In at least one case, a Black religious community was not allowed to wear a habit in their early years so as not to arouse any further community opposition than necessary. Some women of color who wished to enter religious life fled to Canada or elsewhere to be able to live their vocations peacefully.

Even the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, established by St. Katharine Drexel specifically to minister to Native Americans and Blacks, refused to admit African American or Native sisters into its novitiate for many years.

By 1903, a Belgian priest ministering in Virginia complained to Rome about white religious communities. “In every convent of religious women, a girl having a little Negro blood in her veins is immediately rejected. It does not matter at all that she is well-educated, pious, pure and truly Catholic, so long as she seems Negro or there is the slightest suspicion of color.”

Even in the post-World War II era, Black women still had to battle for any acceptance at all in religious life, although their struggle was helped somewhat by the perspectives of Vatican II and the civil rights movement.

In 1989, when Sister Thea Bowman, one of the best-known African American women religious and then dying of cancer, addressed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops she observed that most of those ministering in the Black community are not Black and “do not feel an obligation to learn or understand Black history or spirituality, or culture or life – Black tradition or ritual.”

As Williams clearly shows, in the face of nearly impossible odds, Black women religious have made impressive contributions to the church they love. “In the long-standing absence of an empowered African American clergy, Black sisters served as the most genuine and effective leaders of the African American community. …

“As educational and moral leaders, African American sisters instilled racial pride, molded community servants and, most important, taught that racism and sexism had no place in the church – long before the bishops and others collectively did so.”

The book “Fat Luther, Slim Pickin’s” shifts our focus from vowed religious to laywomen and a folksy look at everyday life in Black Catholic homes.

Authors Lane-McGee and Schmidt give the reader an informative glimpse into what celebrating the faith looks like for them, based loosely around the liturgical year, although the section on Ordinary Time seemed to be in an odd order.

The authors also have a podcast, “Plaid Skirts and Basic Black,” and give a helpful multiethnic view of the Catholic experience, although there may be too many in-jokes for those who may not have listened to them.

They describe their focus: “As Black women, we believe there is a place for everyone at the proverbial table, and that if there aren’t enough seats, we bring in another chair.

“This journey through the liturgical year is meant to create some additional space at that table for others to learn. In particular we are here to sit with our fellow Catholics of every background to help us all better understand our culture, our faith and our hope.”

“Fat Luther” explores several helpful topics of Black culture and history, such as appreciation vs. appropriation, soul food, Black hair, the Black church, even code-switching and colorism.

Each season includes a companion, such as St. Martin de Porres, and a gentle sense of humor at times. “And here’s the thing: the Holy Spirit doesn’t care if your Advent wreath is made from four tiny birthday candles you found at the bottom of a drawer. The Spirit will come as long as you make room.”

Pull up a chair and make yourself at home.

(Also of interest: “Race and Rhyme: Rereading the New Testament” by Love Lazarus Sechrest. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2022). 414 pp., $39.99.)

(Finley is the author of several books on practical spirituality, including “The Liturgy of Motherhood: Moments of Grace” and “Savoring God: Praying With All Our Senses,” and formerly taught in the religious studies department at Gonzaga University.)