Veterans Day 2018

The only sound at the gravesite was the uncontrolled sobbing of this boy’s father. As they never had before, my eyes filled with tears. That was the day I stopped doubting Dorothy. That was the day I became sure that she was right all along.
~ Dan Jackson

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Joy in Parentheses

In the economy of His grace, you may be sharing His gifts with someone you will never know until you get to heaven.
 ~ Thomas Merton, OCSO

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3 Fairy Tales with Not So Tidy Endings

Your children are not likely to trouble you about the meaning. They find what they are capable of finding, and more would be too much.
~ George MacDonald

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Of Courage, Humanae Vitae, and the Martyrdom of Speaking Up

Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness.
~ Pope St. Paul VI

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All Things Considered (x3)

The real objection to modernism is simply that it is a form of snobbishness. It is an attempt to crush a rational opponent not by reason, but by some mystery of superiority, by hinting that one is specially up to date or particularly ‘in the know’.
 ~ G.K. Chesterton

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Two Movies at the Vickers in Three Oaks, Michigan

War and peace start in the hearts of individuals.
~ Pema Chödrön

Arthouses are largely a thing of the past, but they were a big part of my teenage cinematic tutelage. I can still remember with great clarity sitting my brother in a tiny Boulder, Colorado, theater, wide-eyed and mouth agape, as I tried to make sense of Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963). A similar arthouse in Seattle is where my brother and I took in My Dinner with André (1981) and David Lynch’s utterly confounding (and disturbing) Eraserhead (1977).

Truly, they don’t make ‘em like they used to – and, in the case of Eraserhead, I’ll add, “and then some.”

Yet, alas, now we’re pandered to by multiplexes that dish up recycled schlock year after year. And here, in the Midwest, anything fresh and creative (and, let’s face it, commercially untenable) won’t get to us for months after its release on the coasts – if at all. When a gem does make it to a local theater, it’ll hang around for a week or so, and then be gone – *poof* – to be shipped off for DVD or Netflix processing.

Ah, but here in Michiana, we have a rare alternative: Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan. It’s a glorious relic of arthouse culture that somehow – thankfully! – stays afloat, despite its relative geographic isolation. It’s only a short hour’s drive away from our South Bend home, and it hosts a remarkably diverse selection of films – the kind of Sundance and Telluride entries you read about, but never really think you’ll get a chance to see on the big screen.

Aren’t you jealous? You should be!

For instance, I checked out their listings a month or so ago (as I do periodically), and I watched the trailer for Gus Van Sant’s Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018). I mean, with a title like that, how could I resist? The trailer turned out to be as enticing as the title, so Nancy and I made the trip to catch the whole film.

It was a stunner. I hesitate to use the word “wow” in a capsule movie review – it seems lazy and more than a bit trite – but…wow all the same. Don’t Worry is a biopic of sorts, but it’s fierce and raw. It traces the alcoholic and then sober-alcoholic history of John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a talented artist and cartoonist who also happened to be a quadriplegic. His irreverent, often offensive drawings appeared in numerous publications, and no topic was taboo – not even his own disabilities. He’d been paralyzed from the chest down from a car wreck, but he still managed to realize great commercial and even critical success before his death at age 59 in 2010.

But, based on the film, I imagine Callahan would argue that his sobriety was his greatest achievement. His drinking had started in childhood, accelerated in adolescence, and his disabling injuries at age 21 only added fuel to his self-crippling alcoholic fire. It wasn’t until Callahan gave Alcoholics Anonymous a chance that his life started to turn around, and, as a part of his recovery, he managed to figure out a way to get pen to paper as a creative outlet for his pent-up anger, frustration, and other emotions.

Don’t Worry is a story of redemption. Despite some rough edges and graphic images – it earns its “R” rating – it’s well worth seeing. A powerful narrative of hope and recovery in the face of overwhelming odds, it’s all the more powerful because it actually happened.

Sound interesting? Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait for the DVD because Don’t Worry is long gone from the Vickers. Their tight margins, you see, won’t let them hold onto their artsy selections indefinitely. I know this from repeated experience – the most recent being a mere two-week run of another great film, American Animals (2018), that I also discovered through the Vickers’ listings. It was whisked away all too soon, but we didn’t have to wait long before the disc showed up at the library and we screened it at home.

Directed by Bart Layton, American Animals is another stunner based on real-life events – this time, a wildly improbable heist of extremely rare books from Kentucky’s Transylvania University in 2004. The culprits were four college students who, for various reasons, were looking for…something. Something to disrupt their humdrum routines and open up new vistas of, well, meaning? Opportunity? It’s hard to tell. Certainly they didn’t need the dough. One of them, Chas Allen, might’ve been speaking for all of them when he confessed, “I just knew I wanted things to be different.”

For more clues, we have the testimony of the four men themselves woven into the film. The narrative shifts back and forth from dramatization of actual events to interviews with the criminals – now ex-cons trying to piece their lives back together after their prison sentences. At times cocky, the guys settle into wistful recollections of their caper and they display considerable regret – particularly with regards to the physical harm they inflicted on the rare books’ sole librarian-guardian, not to mention the emotional harm that came to their families.

In that sense, American Animals has much in common with Callahan’s story: Both pivot on a disaster that makes possible interior transformation and redirection. It’s a pivot referenced in Callahan’s New York Times obituary: “A friend, Kevin Mullane, said in an interview that the drinking came closer to killing [Callahan] than the accident did. ‘Ironically, the crash may have saved his life,’ Mr. Mullane said.” Similarly, the failed robbery of those rare books in Kentucky may have saved the lives of four disillusioned students, for the ending scenes in Animals indicate they’re all pursuing more constructive and creative means of making their marks.

One of them, Warren Lipka, is studying filmmaking. I sure hope one of his films ends up at the Vickers. I’ll be first in line.
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A Radical Preference for Heavenly Treasure: St. Dominic Loricatus

All things are possible for God (Mk 10.27).

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Holy Hubbub: Lessons from Squabbling Saints

To live above with the Saints we love,
Ah, that is the purest glory.
To live below with the Saints we know,
Ah, that is another story!
~ Irish toast

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Fathers Stay Put: Of Paternity, Stability, and Canon 522

Efforts must be made to restore socially the conviction that the place and task of the father in and for the family is of unique and irreplaceable importance.
 ~ Pope St. John Paul II

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Our Local Pro-Life Guardian Angel

See that you do not despise one of these little ones… (Mt 18.10).

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