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.)

Former evangelical ‘reboots’ message on movies
for Catholic audience

By Allan F. Wright Catholic News Service

”The Message Behind the Movie – Reboot: Engaging Film Without Disengaging Faith” by Douglas M. Beaumont. Ignatius Press (San Francisco, 2022). 243 pp., $17.95.

Douglas M. Beaumont is a former evangelical who joined the Catholic Church several years ago. A former professor in an evangelical Christian seminary, he has published a Catholic update and “reboot” of his 2009 book, “The Message Behind the Movie.”

In an age when Christians can access online websites that reveal the number of times profanity is used in a film, how many sexual scenes and sexual references there are and how many drug references, Beaumont provides a biblical framework in which a religious believer can evaluate a film, absorb the positive elements and use various aspects of the film in communicating the Gospel.

His ability to provide a balanced, well-thought-out view on the Scriptures and a positive point of view on a Christianity’s ability to be “in the world” but not “of the world” is quite refreshing and encouraging.
The author loves movies and sees the value of the art form, the significance movies have in forming the values of our culture and the practical opportunities they bring to find common ground with others in order to bring the truth of the Gospel and conversations on faith.

The author makes it clear that increasing our pleasure in movie watching is not the primary goal, but rather to learn how to evaluate a movie in light of Christian beliefs. Analogous to great music or art that communicated an aspect of God’s sovereignty or Christ’s compassion for past generations, movies can do likewise.

This is the cover of the book “The Message Behind the Movie – Reboot: Engaging Film Without Disengaging Faith” by Douglas M. Beaumont. The book is reviewed by Allan F. Wright. (CNS photo/courtesy Ignatius Press)

This involves discerning the message of the movie revealed by its story, the structure and the assumed worldview of that story. Beaumont would argue that “only then can Christians evaluate whether the movie presents a strong Christian, non-Christian or anti-Christian worldview, which they can then respond to and use as a starting point for apologetics and evangelism.”

By discussing the cinematic techniques and the genre considerations filmmakers use to communicate their ideas, this book helps Catholics and other Christians to become informed viewers. The book shows how to evaluate the stories that movies tell and how to discern what they say about reality, God and what it means to be human.

At the same time, he illustrates how movie watchers can engage in thoughtful, lively discussions not only about film but also about the big questions in life.
The book is organized in three basic “acts.” Act One focuses on watching and understanding movies. Act Two discusses the evaluation process. Act Three explores what kinds of movies to watch and what kinds of movies to avoid. Ultimately, the author seeks to “show how we can all better interact with our culture by understanding the movies that shape and reveal it.”

The author begins by setting forth the historical context by which we knowingly or unknowingly evaluate entertainment. The two positions find their origins in Plato and Aristotle. Plato held that art is basically useless and may even be harmful.

Beaumont sides with Aristotle and writes approvingly: “An Aristotelian approach to movies needn’t condone sinfulness; instead, it can recognize how central storytelling is to human experience and seek to accurately critique the messages that stories in films are communicating.”

In Act Two, on evaluating and discussing movies, Beaumont encourages Christians to discern good and bad in movies. He prompts Christians to use movies as a starting point in sharing the Gospel message and to discern the philosophical angle that may “open doors to conversations which may clarify the faith.” In Jesus’ parables, the listeners are obliged to do the same.

In Act Three, on applauding and avoiding movies, the author not only has his eye on culture; he also rejects the sympathetic attitude that some Christians have toward postmodernity and positions himself in a school of thought that is focused on classical apologetics.

The book has excellent insights into the production of a movie and ends with a commentary on the film, “The Truman Show.” Parents should certainly have discretion over what is allowed in their households and the rating designation of a movie can be informative for age-appropriate viewing.

The reader will gain appreciation for the messages that are found within movies, which can be a starting point for dialogue with people of divergent faith backgrounds or no faith at all.

Calendar of events

FLOWOOD St. Paul, Women’s Ministry Advent Day of Reflection, Saturday, Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Deacon Tony Schmidt will lead the day of reflection to help us in our spiritual journey during Advent. Cost: $10 donation to cover cost of lunch. Details: register at

JACKSON St. Richard, Liturgical Living in Advent, Wednesday, Nov. 16 in Foley Hall from 6-7 p.m. Come and gather practical ideas to keep your family grounded during the Advent season. Details: RSVP to or

TUPELO St. James, Annual Men’s Retreat, Nov. 18-20 at St. Bernard Abbey in Cullman, Ala. Retreat leader is Father Ben Cameron of the Fathers of Mercy. Retreat begins Friday evening and ends Sunday morning. Enjoy this weekend of prayer, rest and fellowship. Cost: $130 if sharing a room or $205 for a private room. Registration includes two nights of lodging, all meals and snacks. Details: David at (662) 213-3742.

COLUMBUS Annunciation School, Fall Open House, Tuesday, Nov. 15 with tours at 9 a.m., 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. Come visit us! Details: school office (662) 328-4479.

Annunciation, Knights of Columbus Blood Drive, Sunday, Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the BankFirst parking lot. Details: Sign-up at

CLARKSDALE St. Elizabeth, Parish Feast Day Celebration and Mass, Sunday, Nov. 20 at 10:30 a.m. Celebration lunch served after Mass. Details: church office (662) 624-4301.

FLOWOOD St. Paul Early Learning Center, Open House for Discover Catholic Schools Week, Wednesday, Nov. 16 between 9-11 a.m. Details: school office (601) 992-2876.

HERNANDO Holy Spirit, Blood Drive, Sunday, Nov. 20 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the church parking lot. Details: call (877) 258-4825 or visit

MADISON St. Francis, Ring In Your Faith 10k run and 5k run/walk, Saturday, Dec. 31 at 8 a.m. Registration fee guarantees your shirt through Dec. 17 and you will enjoy a mouth-watering New Year’s Day meal with a Southern twist. Ring in 2023 and register here: Details: Joe at

St. Francis, Evening of Worship & Adoration for Advent and Christmas with music by John Finch, on Sunday, Dec. 4, 6:30-8 p.m. in the church. The evening will include a time of worship music, Advent reflection and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Benediction. Open to the public, donations accepted. For more info on John Finish visit Details: email

MADISON St. Joseph School, Christmas Arts and Crafts Camp, Saturday, Dec. 17, St. Joe Fine Arts Building from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 1-4 p.m. For grades K through eighth. Cost is $40 per session or $70 for both. Snacks included. Bring lunch if staying for both sessions. Details: email

MERIDIAN St. Patrick, Candy Cane 5k Dash, Saturday, Dec. 3 at 8:30 a.m. Details: to register visit

NATCHEZ St. Mary Basilica, “Will the Real Holy Grail Please Stand Up?” On Wednesday, Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. after Wednesday night parish dinner in the Family Life Center welcome Dr. Beth Boggess who will present a fascinating program on the latest findings regarding the identity of the Holy Grail. Details: church office (601) 445-5616.

St. Mary Basilica, Christ the King Feast Day Eucharistic Procession, Sunday, Nov. 20 following 10 a.m. Mass. Procession will be down Main Street to the Gazebo on the Bluff where Father Aaron Williams will bless the city of Natchez. Light refreshments will be served after processing back to the church. All are welcome! Details: church office (601) 445-5616.

OLIVE BRANCH Queen of Peace, Spaghetti Dinner, Sunday, Nov. 20 at 11 a.m. Dine-in or take-out. Cost: $8 per plate; max $25 per family; $2 smoked sausage; $10 quart gravy; $5 quart slaw. All are welcome! Details: church office (662) 895-5007.

RIPLEY St. Matthew, 1st annual Christmas Bazaar/Indoor Yard Sale, Nov. 18 and 19. Details: call Geraldine at (216) 867-8007.

St. Matthew, Christmas Mini-Sessions – photography by Madeline Hale. Nov. 13 and 20 from 12-1:15 p.m. or 4:15-6 p.m.; Nov. 16 and 23 from 5-7 p.m. Appointment form available at church entrance. Session fee is $10 and is a donation to the church. Proofs available on Nov. 30. Details: church office (662) 993-8862.

VARDAMAN Catholic Charities Thanksgiving meal for Farmworkers, Friday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. Help by donating soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste and brushes or donate funds to assist with the meal. Details: Catholic Charities Vardaman (662) 682-9992.

YAZOO CITY St. Mary, Bake Sale, Tuesday, Nov. 22 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Baked goods, soup and sandwiches available for purchase. Details: church office (662) 746-1680.

DIOCESE SEARCH Retreat – For Teens, By Teen, Jan. 13-15, 2023 at Camp Wesley Pines in Gallman. Details: email

MADISON St. Anthony School, Starry Night Gala, Friday, Dec. 9. Details: school office (601) 607-7054.

Deacon provides thoughtful explanation of Christ’s real presence

By Mitch Finley
“For Real? Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist” by Deacon Dennis Lambert. Liguori Publications (Liguori, Missouri, 2022). 182 pp., $16.99.

In some Catholic circles – especially academic ones – the term “apologetics” gets little, if any, respect. It’s true that some efforts at apologetics are little more than Catholic fundamentalist attempts to prove “us” right and “them” wrong.

This is the book cover of “For Real? Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist” by Deacon Dennis Lambert. The book is reviewed by Mitch Finley. (CNS photo/courtesy Liguori Publications)

Yet, rooted in intellectually responsible Scripture studies and theology, apologetics can help Catholics to embrace a better, more adult understanding of their faith and cultivate an ability to explain it to others.

Dennis Lambert, a deacon in the Diocese of Phoenix, serves up just such an approach to apologetics.

In this case, Lambert’s focus is on the Catholic concept of “real presence,” a traditional term that sums up the Catholic doctrine – shared, in one form or another, by some mainline Protestant churches – that in the Eucharist the risen Christ is present, body and blood, soul and divinity, and therefore (to paraphrase the Catechism of the Catholic Church), the whole Christ is truly, really and substantially contained in the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist.

Motivation comes, the author explains in his book’s preface, from a 2019 Pew Research Center study that revealed that “more than one-third of all Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week ‘don’t believe that the Communion bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ.’”

Rather, they believe with many Protestant/evangelical Christians that holy Communion is “merely a symbol or remembrance of the Last Supper.”

At the same time, in the months just following the publication of the Pew study, more than a few theologians, liturgists and sociologists expressed their concern that the Pew study was not without its flaws.

Some objected to the ways the Pew study formulated its survey questions; others questioned the meanings the survey apparently took for granted for terms such as “symbol” and “sign.”

Lambert’s research is thorough and his insights helpful for anyone who would gain a better understanding of Catholic beliefs about the Eucharist and holy Communion.

His discussion of what both Old and New Testaments contribute to these beliefs is well done, as is his summary of the teachings of the early Fathers of the church on the topic at hand and his overview of official church teachings.

While insightful and clearly stated, one may hazard the opinion that Lambert’s book could have used a livelier, more creative style. Also, it would have been refreshing to learn a few things about some of the creative insights suggested by contemporary sacramental theologians.

For example, one Catholic thinker suggests that today’s educated adult believer may gain a deeper understanding of the real presence by supplementing “body and blood, soul and divinity” with “whole person of the risen Christ.”

The final chapter of this book, “Evangelizing the Eucharist: Sharing the Truth of the Real Presence,” is exquisite and powerful.

Readers both Catholic and otherwise will find “For Real?: Christ’s Presence in the Eucharist” worth reading slowly and thoughtfully.

(Finley is the author of more than 30 books on popular Catholic theology, including “The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers and Those In Between,” “The Joy of Being a Eucharistic Minister” and “The Joy of Being Catholic.”)

Homegrown Harvest event celebrates, supports
diocesan seminarians

A ticket admitting two to the Homegrown Harvest Festival is $100. The event includes a silent auction and a sit-down meal served by the Knights of Columbus 9543 at St. Francis of Assisi in Madison. To purchase tickets, to view sponsorship levels for this year’s event, or to make a donation to seminarian education, visit:

By Joe Lee
MADISON – Once he was named vocation director for the Diocese of Jackson, Father Nick Adam went right to work on developing a grand plan to get seminarians acquainted with parishioners from all over the diocese.

That dream became the Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest Festival, now in its third year and set for Saturday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison. The event includes a sit-down meal, a silent auction and a seminarian presentation.

“I knew we needed to raise money to support the education of future priests,” said Father Adam. “But I wanted there to be an event where we came together to ‘see’ what was happening with our vocation program.

“Homegrown Harvest began with a vision of an event to celebrate our faith and the future priests of our church, and this year we are going to ‘see’ that we have nine seminarians. That’s four more than we had just this past May.”

Seminarian education is hardly inexpensive. Bishop Joseph Kopacz estimates that education plus room and board for each year of college seminary and theology is in the $40,000 range per student. Then there’s travel, summer assignments and summer formation programs for the seminarian, bringing to cost per student much closer to $50,000 annually.

“The Homegrown Harvest is becoming the featured event to celebrate the gift of priesthood, to encourage vocations, and to personally invite candidates for seminary discernment and formation,” Bishop Kopacz said. “It is also an opportunity to build up the community of parents, family members, friends and supporters of priestly vocations.”

It might make sense to guess that most seminarians are in their early twenties, though this season’s group of nine ranges from early twenties to early fifties. For older seminarians, the discernment process is different because of their station in life, as well as the role parents play in the life of a fifty-something seminarian compared to that of a teen who may hear the call and look to his parents for guidance and encouragement.

The third annual Jackson Seminarian Homegrown Harvest event will take place on Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Madison.

“I always tell young men that my job is to discern with them,” Father Adam said. “Seminary is not the end; it is a resource for young men to discover whether the Lord is calling them to priesthood. If a young man has the desire and the maturity to enter into the seminary and use the resources there for a couple of years to discover whether priesthood is for him, then he should go.”

Father Adam and the diocese have started a new initiative called POPS (Parents of Priests/Seminarians/Sisters) which works alongside the Homegrown Harvest Festival.

“Just like we are using the festival to build community and prayerful support for our seminarians,” Father Adam said of POPS, “we want to make sure we are directing resources toward parents who have made a great gift to the church by supporting their sons and daughters who are pursuing a religious vocation.”

Bishop Kopacz, though, is quick to point out that Father Adam and other vocation directors are not recruiters.

“At times (the vocation director) is directing a young person to consider the beauty of marriage, religious life, or single way of life for a time — or for a lifetime — in service to the Lord,” he said. “Ultimately it is a matter of recognizing one’s gifts and talents for one’s own good, the good of others and the glory of God. This is the gift of our Baptism that, properly nurtured, is the foundation for all vocations.”
Father Andrew Bowden, associate pastor at St. Richard in Jackson since June, said he began thinking of the priesthood at a young age.

“For most of the time I was in middle school and high school I was about 90 percent sure that it was what God was calling me to,” he said. “But I would not say that this is the norm. I locked in mentally, becoming sure that this was what God was calling me to, during my first year in the seminary.

“People today tend to try to distract themselves from what God asks of them. Ultimately this only causes greater dissatisfaction. It is never too early nor too late to start asking God what He wants you to do and to encourage the people around you to do the same. God is the source of our joy, so the greatest joy will be experienced in doing what He asks us to do.”

As Bishop Kopacz points out, presentations, prayer services and conversations are ways of planting seeds that God can bring to fruition in the years ahead. In addition to donating generously, plan to have a nice meal at the Homegrown Harvest Festival and get to know the current crop of seminarians. You may never know what impact you could have on their journey.

Sister Thea Bowman documentary on her journey to sainthood, set to release Oct. 2

A new documentary from NewGroup Media and the Diocese of Jackson, MS, Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood, presents the riveting life of Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Catholic Franciscan Sister who used her powerful gifts to educate and challenge the church and society to grow in racial inclusivity. Her skills of preaching, music, and teaching moved many Catholics to begin to confront their own racism while she urged her African American brothers and sisters to claim their gifts and share their “fully functioning” personhood.  Thea worked tirelessly to proclaim this message until her untimely death from breast cancer in 1990.

The film features interviews and commentary from her family, Sisters in community, colleagues, friends, and former students. Input from African-American scholars, clerics and bishops will speak to the ongoing issue of systemic racism in the church and country.  Extensive use is made of archival media that portrays Thea in action–photographs, film, video and audio recordings recorded in locations of significance to her life.

The program title is drawn from a quotation attributed to Sojourner Truth. When Thea was asked what she wanted said at her funeral, she answered, “Just say what Sojourner Truth said: ‘I’m not going to die. I’m going home like a shooting star.’”

The film, part of the Interfaith Broadcasting Commission’s fall documentary season, will begin airing on ABC stations nationwide on October 2, 2022. As of Sept. 30, the following stations have scheduled showings of the film:

WTVA Tupelo- Oct. 2 at 10 a.m.
WTOK Meridian – Oct. 2 at 11:30 p.m.
WLOX Biloxi – Oct. 16 at 1 p.m.
WAPT Jackson – Oct. 30 at 1 p.m.

The film can be streamed on the Diocese of Jackson’s YouTube channel beginning October 2. The film is free to view, with donations requested to the Cause for Sister Thea Bowman.

Sister Judith Ann Zielinski, OSF researched, wrote and produced the film, from early COVID-quarantined research in spring, 2020 through fund-raising, location production, scriptwriting, and delivery to ABC in fall, 2022.  She coordinated dramatic re-enactments from Thea’s childhood and early convent life and conducted all of the program’s interviews—with Thea’s childhood friends, former students, teaching colleagues, two bishops, several priests and Franciscan Sisters, weaving together their personal memories and testimonies as a basis for the script.

Christopher Salvador, NGM Partner, directed the dramatic re-enactments within the film, coordinated budget, contractual and network relations, and oversaw post- production.

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, Ordinary of Jackson, MS, initiated Sister Thea’s Cause for Sainthood in 2018 with an appeal to the full body of US Bishops which won unanimous approval. As Executive Producer, he supported the production of the film, actively collaborated with the production team, and continues to oversee the advancement of Sister Thea’s Cause.

Other interviewees include:

Rev. Maurice J. Nutt, CSsR, Preacher and pastoral theologian; Thea’s doctoral student; her biographer; associate producer instrumental in gathering pivotal colleagues and friends of Thea to participate in the project;

Rev. Bryan Massingale, Theology Professor, Fordham University, Authority/ speaker on systemic racism in the US and church;

Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory, Ordinary, Archdiocese of Washington, DC, senior African-American Bishop who was present at Sister Thea’s famous Seton Hall address to the US Bishops in 1989;

Sr Eileen McKenzie, FSPA, President, Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, Thea’s religious community, La Crosse WI;

Sr Dorothy Ann Kundinger, FSPA, Thea’s friend, companion and caretaker during Thea’s struggle with cancer and present at her death

Going Home Like a Shooting Star includes extensive use of Bowman family photos, archival material, and footage of Thea from varied public appearances, including her famous interview with Mike Wallace on CBS’ 60 Minutes.

Going Home Like a Shooting Star was filmed on location in:

  • Jackson and Canton, MS
  • New Orleans, LA
  • La Crosse, WI
  • Washington, DC
  • San Antonio, TX
  • New York City
  • South Bend, IN

The film makes a strong connection between Thea’s Gospel call for justice, love and unity and the current effort of Black Lives Matter activists and efforts to combat systemic racism. Many in the film cite Thea’s voice as an influence on their ongoing efforts to achieve social and racial justice.

Production of Going Home Like a Shooting Star: Thea Bowman’s Journey to Sainthood was made possible with funding from the Catholic Communications Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as support from various foundations and congregations of U.S. men and women religious.

Germanfest 2022

By Joanna Puddister King
GLUCKSTADT – St. Joseph parish hosted their annual Germanfest on Sunday, Sept. 25 on the church grounds. The Gluckstadt community was founded in 1905 by German immigrants. Many of the descendants of the original families still attend the parish.

Much prep work goes into planning this fun-filled festival. Families gather weeks in advance to can sauerkraut using a traditional recipe. In the days leading up to the Germanfest you can find parishioners preparing sausages, bratwurst, desserts and other German delicacies to share with the community.
This year, Germanfest was a hot one with temps in the low-to-mid 90s, but festival goers had lots of fun, good food and a variety of beer to sample.

The general store was stocked with sauerkraut and other goodies for sale. (Photos by Joanna Puddister King. More pictures from Germanfest can be found at
Morgan Ladner grits her teeth in the Women’s beer stein holding competition. Morgan Moore pulled out the win this year.
Germanfest attendees tried to beat the heat under tents.