Media Notebook: Reissued ‘Sacrifice’ shows response to sin, fear, despair amid crisis

By John P. McCarthy

Catholic News Service

A remastered edition of Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky’s final movie, “The Sacrifice,” has arrived on DVD from Kino International, a quarter-century after its theatrical release.

Tarkovsky defected from the Soviet Union two years before making the Swedish-language film, which was shot by one of Ingmar Bergman’s great collaborators, cinematographer Sven Nykvist. During the editing process, Tarkovsky was diagnosed with lung cancer, and he died within a year at age 54.

It’s difficult to imagine a more fitting swan song. A deeply personal yet universal work, both elegiac and forward-looking, “The Sacrifice” depicts a faith journey and, specifically, an intellectual’s response to sin, fear and despair.

Emblematic of Tarkovsky’s small but significant oeuvre, the parable also evokes Shakespeare, Chekhov and Bergman. In fact, on first encountering its slow, ritualistic pacing, you’re tempted to dismiss it as a parody of one of Bergman’s bleaker films.

Gradually, however, its tight structure and incisive hopefulness emerge. “The Sacrifice” has humor and heft, tension and tenderness. Farcical moments depressurize the atmosphere of existential terror while keeping self-seriousness and pretension at bay.

A sympathetic protagonist, subtly played by Bergman regular Erland Josephson, is essential to the drama’s success. Continue reading

It’s all part of the (priest’s) job

By Sharyn McCowen

So what DO priests do every week?

The vocation center for the Archdiocese of Sydney has produced a short video, “A Week in the Life of a Priest.” It features Father Michael de Stoop, diocesan vocations director and priest at St. Benedict’s, an inner-city parish.

The 10-minute video follows Father de Stoop as he administers the sacraments, visits schools and youth gatherings, spends time in prayer and formation, relaxes with family and friends, and even takes to the field for his weekly game of rugby with the Crusaders.

The video is also being shown in schools across Sydney.

Teacher Jessica Nohra, 22, described the reaction of her students after she showed them the DVD.

“When they saw Father playing footy (Australian football), they were amazed and kept asking, ‘Miss, is that still the priest’?”

Coming soon to a TV near you: ‘The Real Housewives of the Bible’

“The Real Housewives of the Bible,” a DVD series produced by web-based evangelist Ty Adams is set to be released later this month.

The two-part series is inspired by the hit Bravo reality TV show, “The Real Housewives,” which features women from different U.S. cities and their adventures in life, love and luxury shopping.

“I was frustrated with what I was seeing,” Adams told CNN. “A lot of society is looking toward programming to educate them on relationships and these shows haven’t effectively done that.”

Adams said she wanted to create something more wholesome that shows Christian teaching in everyday life and helps women in their relationships and marriages.

The six women in Adams’ series exhibit characteristics and are put in situations that will be familiar to audiences as women from the Bible.

If you were casting the show, what biblical characters would you like to see?

South Sudan’s jubilation a model for Africa

Father Christopher Townsend, a first-rate Catholic journalist and the secretary for communications of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference, was in Juba, the capital of the world’s newest nation, South Sudan, for the independence ceremonies. It was an emotional time for him and for all Africans. He sent this dispatch this morning, sharing his thoughts about the new nation and a time when his own country had to come to terms with its past and walk brightly to a new future.

“On the eve of independence in South Sudan, I was sitting under trees with a small community of neighbours in an area called ‘High Jerusalem’ The afternoon leading to the evening had an atmosphere I can only describe as high point South African — the sort of feeling we had during our own transition in 1994 and the feeling of the World Cup 2010. I had even heard vuvuzelas. Flags everywhere.

“Sitting near the Nile, in the insect dark, we were celebrating a meal. The South Sudanese had decided on this night of liberation that there would be a type of passover seder. Stories of pain, oppression and slavery were followed by stories of hope. Bread was shared, songs and the new national anthem was sung, candles were lit and there was dancing — the quiet, eager dignity of a people set free.

“I couldn’t help thinking that this is what we should have done in 1994 — encouraging neighbours to take their time to share stories. But maybe we weren’t ready, with our apartheid living and apartheid minds. Maybe it is something that we can imitate though — a chance to tell stories and listen, not to public hearings, but the personal TRCs among neighbours.

“On the day, sitting under the shade reserved for the not quite VVIPs (thankfully so — we didn’t get as burnt as they did) with a press of bodies around us constantly streaming forward to see this new day, was an experience in humility. For while we were there as guests, friends, donors, supporters, this was not our day.

“The Jubilation of seeing the flag raised, the quiet confidence of a new constitution and country was only outdone, for me, by the ‘hand of god’ moment when the power failed before [President Omar] al Bashir could start speaking. When he eventually finished, the crowd gave him a very polite, almost English, clap and then spontaneously stood up and waved him off. Priceless. An unmistakable sign.

“Al Bashir and his policies of Islamicization and Arabification are the latest in the long timeline of the former Sudan’s struggle with identity and centralization. Even before the coup that bought this particular latest calculating genocidal barbarian to power (these words are carefully chosen and used), the dynamic in Sudan had been Khartoum directed. Almost all post-colonial leadership has come from four small ethnic groups — Arab, Islamic, northern.

“Powerfully, South Sudan has committed to reverse these tendencies of centralization, coercive religious compliance and a single Arab identity by publicly committing to a multicultural, diverse and secular state.

“The Republic of South Sudan has a long way to go — the lack of development and infrastructure is chronic. Many Southerners who were in the North have fled south to few schools and less opportunity.

“But arriving at the very little Airport of Juba, six months after departing after the referendum, clearly shows how great the energy is for explosive growth — South Sudan is a country of enormous potential.

“As the Catholic Archbishop of Juba, Paulinus Loro, said on welcoming his guests to a certain chaos before the celebrations, we have never been a country before.”

For more on the independence of South Sudan, check out the stories on the CNS homepage. Also read CNS Rome correspondent Cindy Wooden’s post earlier today about the visit of Pope John Paul 11 to Sudan in 1993.

Remembering Blessed John Paul’s words in Sudan

VATICAN CITY — In his weekly editorial for Vatican television and radio, the papal spokesman marked the independence of South Sudan by reminding listeners of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Sudan in 1993 and the extremely strong words he used to defend the rights of Christians in the predominantly Muslim nation.

I was with Pope John Paul for that visit in February 1993 when we spent just eight hours in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, at the end of a week-long trip that also included Benin and Uganda.

The 50 or 60 journalists traveling with the pope had only a couple international phone lines and telex machines to use to file our stories. I remember feeling fairly panicked that I wouldn’t be able to file my story before we had to head back to the airport for the flight back to Rome. In those days, before everyone had fast internet connections, it usually didn’t matter if we had to wait a day to file.

Pope John Paul II was greeted by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir when he arrived in Sudan in February 1993. (CNS/Arturo Mari, L'Osservatore Romano)

But Pope John Paul was blatant and bold as he denounced the persecution of Sudanese Christians. He said their names were written “on the palms of the hands of Christ, pierced by the nails of the crucifixion.”

There were soldiers carrying guns everywhere. It was the first time I’d seen military with weapons standing in plain sight on the platform where the pope was celebrating Mass. (It was also the first and only time I’ve seen camels grazing at the edge of a field where a papal Mass was being celebrated.)

In the end, I only got one story out from Khartoum, but it included news of the pope’s meeting with President Omar al-Bashir, who is still in office. The pope told al-Bashir, who came to power in a 1989 military coup, that the measure of a national government’s maturity is the way it respects human rights and protects its minorities.

And Pope John Paul told church workers that when he looked at what was going on in Sudan, “I see clearly a particular reproduction of the mystery of Calvary in the lives of the majority of Christian people.”

As Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the papal spokesman, pointed out in his editorial, it’s been more than 18 years since Pope John Paul visited the African nation, “an estimated 2 million people have died and 4 million were displaced, but now there are hopes that the war really is over and that the new Republic of South Sudan, desired by an overwhelming majority of its inhabitants, can start a new chapter in peace.”

Share your space shuttle memories

As NASA officials prepared for the final space shuttle launch, it brought back memories of Jan. 28, 1986, when the Challenger exploded shortly after takeoff, killing all seven crew members — including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.

Those were the days when wire service news came over printers, and the Reuters machine was right next to my desk. The alert bell on the machine rang multiple times, indicating something important had happened.

I read aloud the one-line alert — that the space shuttle had exploded after takeoff. It took a moment to process that information. Then, as a chill came over me, I and other CNS staffers headed toward the TV to watch the trail of white cloud.

Do you have memories of a space shuttle –Columbia, Challenger, Atlantis, Discovery, Endeavour? Have you ever been to a launch or re-entry? What are your thoughts about the end of this era?

What’s up with the new Roman Missal?

Cover for the new Roman Missal

Cover for the new Roman Missal. (USCCB)

Many parishes are actively helping Catholics familiarize themselves with the changes to the Roman Missal by setting up meetings about it in their church, handing out flyers after Mass and having speakers address the congregation before the end of Mass. The U.S. bishops’ conference has posted on its website numerous resources and catechetical aids to help Catholics understand the changes, which can be confusing.

Catholic News Service is planning a series of articles to explain how the new translation will affect you and why it’s taking place.

Do you have questions about the changes? Send them to us and the answers could appear in an upcoming article!

You can also join in the conversation on Facebook or Twitter (@CatholicNewsSvc). Use the hashtag #romanmissal

Charities profit from smart shoppers

Catholic Charities’ Community Closet in Michigan is thankful for consumers who are turning to couponing to help others as well as themselves.

The project of Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee counties has been getting donations from couponers who get an excess of products through their couponing abilities that their family does not need.

The economic crisis over the past several years has driven many to search for new ways to save, and couponing has become a major source of savings for families. Often, consumers are required to purchase multiple products to get deals, so they end up with more than their family can use or have no room to store the excess.

Vicky Schultz, president of Catholic Charities of Schiawassee and Genesee counties, told The Catholic Times, a publication serving the Lansing Diocese and other Michigan dioceses, that “we had a woman back up her minivan to our Community Closet and unload a whole back seat full of toothpaste that she had gotten completely free with coupons. It was amazing.”

The popularity of TLC’s TV show “Extreme Couponing” also has led to a greater number of people turning to coupons as practical saving method.

“Extreme Couponing” features ordinary people who take their couponing to extreme levels, usually saving between 90-95 percent off their grocery bill and sometimes making money from their purchases.

While not all of the couponers use their skills to purchase items for those in need, several featured on the show share their surplus.

“My couponing has become so much more than saving money. It has become a true ministry for Christ. It is all centered around passing the blessing on,” Joni Meyer-Crothers, a wrote on her blog,

Eighth-graders at St. Mark School in Cleveland also learned about the benefits that couponing can have on others in May, when they were challenged to purchase products for a local service organization.

Each student received a $50 donation from a parishioner, and then used different savings strategies to get as many products as they could with the money they had. In the end, the students used $2,850 to purchase $5,094 worth of items.

Tough Vatican statement on illegitimate Chinese ordination

UPDATE:  Vatican condemns illegitimate ordination of bishop in China

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican today issued a tough statement on the recent ordination of a Chinese bishop without papal approval, saying the prelate has no right to govern the diocese.

The statement also warned that the penalty of excommunication may apply not only to the ordained prelate but to the consecrating bishops who were involved.

Father Paul Lei Shiyin was ordained without a papal mandate June 29 as bishop of Leshan,  in the presence of about 1,000 guests and government officials at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Emeishan. Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of Linyi, president of the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was the main celebrant. The six other bishops who laid hands on Bishop Lei had all been ordained with Vatican approval.

Speaking to reporters today, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said the language of the Vatican comunique left little doubt that Bishop Lei had incurred excommunication, as foreseen by canon law. The Vatican has said consecrating bishops face the same penalty, but that extenuating circumstances may apply — for example, if the bishops are coerced to participate.

Here is the text of the Vatican’s statement:

With regard to the episcopal ordination of the Rev. Paul Lei Shiyin, which took place on Wednesday 29 June last and was conferred without the apostolic mandate, the following is stated:

1) Rev. Lei Shiyin, ordained without the Papal mandate and hence illegitimately, has no authority to govern the diocesan Catholic community, and the Holy See does not recognise him as the Bishop of the Diocese of Leshan. The effects of the sanction which he has incurred through violation of the norm of can. 1382 of the Code of Canon Law remain in place. The same Rev. Lei Shiyin had been informed, for some time, that he was unacceptable to the Holy See as an episcopal candidate for proven and very grave reasons.

2) The consecrating Bishops have exposed themselves to the grave canonical sanctions laid down by the law of the Church (in particular, canon 1382 of the Code of Canon Law; cf. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts of 6 June 2011).

3) An episcopal ordination without Papal mandate is directly opposed to the spiritual role of the Supreme Pontiff and damages the unity of the Church. The Leshan ordination was a unilateral act which sows division and unfortunately produces rifts and tensions in the Catholic community in China. The survival and development of the Church can only take place in union with him to whom the Church herself is entrusted in the first place, and not without his consent as, however, occurred in Leshan. If it is desired that the Church in China be Catholic, the Church’s doctrine and discipline must be respected.

4) The Leshan episcopal ordination has deeply saddened the Holy Father, who wishes to send to the beloved faithful in China a word of encouragement and hope, inviting them to prayer and unity.

From the Vatican, 4 July 2011

‘Buy a CD, build a church’

Editor Renee Webb of The Globe, newspaper of the Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, writes that pastor Father David Hemann is putting the profits from sales of a CD he recorded — his seventh — toward construction costs of his parish’s new church. He even has a slogan: “Buy a CD, build a church.”

The new church is for Sacred Heart in Ida Grove; he also is pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Holstein and St. Martin Church in Odeboldt.

Sacred Heart has about 240 families, and the parish is in its second three-year fundraising campaign; they still have $1 million to raise for construction of the church and parish hall, which will cost more than $2.8 million.

Father Hemann and his parish's new church under construction. (Photo courtesy of The Globe)

“With a small group of people, building a church is a huge task,” Father Hemann told The Globe. So he is contributing 100 percent of the profits of his new CD to the project. Titled “Oasis,” it is the seventh CD he has recorded. It’s his first instrumental-only release. There is a big call for “peaceful, spirit-filled, anointed intrumental music that puts you in the presence of God without the distraction of words.” Check out his CD at his website.

He said he thinks the title “Oasis” is especially fitting, as he believes “a church is an oasis,” The Globe reported. It is “where you can come out of the dryness of the desert, the world, and get your canteen filled up with grace so you can go back into the world,” the priest explained.


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