Monday, October 29, 2007

Cardinal Van Thuan

This morning's blog is borrowed from Carl Anderson - Knights of Columbus. Reason? This is a Pauline Book & Media title - and Cardinal Van Thuan will be enrolled in the list of the canonised saints soon - plus you will be inspired (the origin of this word means "filled with the Spirit").
Sr Margaret
Welcome to today's discussion of Cardinal Van Thuan's book Five Loaves and Two Fish. I hope you all enjoyed reading this book as much as I did.

Carl A. Anderson
Supreme Knight

Friday, October 26, 2007

Beyond the Gates Movie Review

Beyond the Gates (2007)
Screenplay by David Wolstencroft; story by Richard Alwyn and David Belton

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones

The Power of Decision
What would you risk to make a difference?
By: Sr. Nancy Usselmann, FSP

Life often seems to be made up of the numerous yet somewhat unimportant choices made on a daily basis. Yet, when faced with life-changing events, our inner spontaneous response echoes how we live the insignificant moments. Have you ever considered what you would do when faced with tragedy and the feeling of inability to make any difference in a complex situation?

This is the heart of the dilemma that a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Christopher (John Hurt) faces while finding himself in the midst of the Rwandan genocide in the movie, Beyond the Gates. This is a film that tests the audience in their deepest consciousness about social issues and the responsibility we have toward one another as members of the human family. It challenges each viewer to consider how those daily decisions can have an impact on the lives of others for good or for ill.

In the movie, Fr. Christopher is a seasoned missionary operating the Ecole Technique Officelle (ETO) school in Kigali, Rwanda. A young idealistic teacher named Joe (Hugh Dancy) comes to Rwanda to help at the school to try to make a difference in the lives of the Rwandans. Fr. Christopher shows signs of discouragement about the impending political troubles and is at the point of nearly losing his faith in his ministry. He tells Joe, “I always had hope. It’s all we ever had. Now we’re running dry.” When the Hutus threaten the lives of all the Tutsis, the people come to the gates of the school. Fr Christopher shelters them, but all the while knowing there is nothing he can do to stop the tragedy from unfolding. The UN soldiers at first protect the grounds of the school, but when the UN pulls out, full-scale slaughter of over 2500 Tutsis on the grounds of the Ecole takes place. Fr Christopher & Joe have to make the choice of whether to leave with the UN or stay with the Rwandan people. Fr Christopher stays, saying to Joe, “My heart is here. My soul. If I leave, I think I may not find it again.”

Because Fr Christopher stays, he heroically helps some children, including the young woman, Marie (Clare-Hope Ashitey) onto a truck before the Hutus make their way through the school gates. He is stopped by renegades and questioned. All the while, Marie helps the children out of the back of the truck and leads them to escape through the woods. They all survive the genocide. As Fr Christopher distracts the soldiers by offering them genuine Christian love, he is shot in the chest, falls to the ground and sees the children escaping. He surrenders his life for the people he served for so many years.

Joe, too, must make a decision. When he chooses to leave with the UN soldiers, Marie comes to find him in England years later and asks, “Why did you leave us?” He tells her, “I was afraid to die.” Fear of death is an emotion that affects every human being. Who at one time or another is not afraid to die? Hugh Dancy said, about his character’s decision, “the movie is not meant to be giving people direction, but causing them to ask that question of themselves.”

I am one of those people from the Western world who knew very little of what was going on in Rwanda in 1994. The news was confusing, the information scarce. Why did governments of powerful countries turned a deaf ear to the cries of the Rwandan people? Was it because we simply did not want to hear of such a barbaric tragedy and realize that our governments and the United Nations avoided involvement? I remember feeling helpless and asking myself, “What can I do?” The answer, as the director Michael Caton-Jones points out, is to, “do something.” He said, “As filmmakers, we could do what we could do. We could raise consciousness.”

The producer, David Belton, was working as a broadcast journalist in Rwanda at the time of the genocide explained why he chose this story to put into film. He says, “It was the most incomprehensible and therefore you couldn’t find the answers. As a journalist I could never find any answers.” He said the genocide was an, “unbelievably important and ignored event that people just didn’t know about it. For that reason it needed to be told.”

Caton-Jones shares his reasons for deciding to leave Hollywood to find a project that would fulfill him. He says the reason he did Beyond the Gates was to, “shine a light on something that happened. I changed when I was in Rwanda. I understood on a deeper level and became passionate to get as accurate as I could and the responsibility I had to the memory that went on there and the people I was meeting there. I remember that the people of Rwanda, when I told them I didn’t know what happened, they said, ‘then you must tell people.’ I felt a responsibility to get it right, to get it as best I could.”

Hugh Dancy hopes that, “anybody who watches the film that it does affect them, that it transports them into the middle of these event, like a flash into consciousness.”

The film raises the question, “How can my daily decisions have a lasting effect upon humanity?” As human beings, we have a responsibility toward history as well as toward future generations. This is the heart of Catholic social teaching. Unless we have the courage to uphold the dignity of the human person now in our age, future ages will not have these convictions modeled to them. Our ability to work for peace in our personal lives, our homes, our workplace, our community is what makes a difference. We can only change ourselves. We can only make decisions now that respect human dignity, promote peace and challenge us to live lives that can break the chain of violence, hatred and war. In this way, we can make a difference. I can make a difference. Beyond the Gates has made a difference.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Traveling by air and by prayer

Greetings again! This blog is time bound and I am sometimes airbound - traveling. So even if it isn't updated you are welcome to ask me "where in the world" I am and I hope to respond. PLUS you can tell us about your "location" in the world of time and Pauline spirituality. When I am not traveling I live in Boston. This week we are holding meetings for all of the sisters (68 here!) regarding our General Chapter which just concluded in Rome. There are some wonderful presentations that we are sharing on life and mission. Revision of the Apostolate is the call we are responding to as well as deepening our communal life and the call to be apostles through the three vows of religious life. All of us are called to be apostles. I was just in St Louis, MO where I met and spent a week with our three new postulants. They are excited about the call they freshly responded to. There are lay apostles who are searching for a deeper relationship with Jesus through the Pauline charism "that is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me." I receive at least one or two e-mails a week for inquiry into the Pauline Cooperator Association.

The postulants began a blog while I was in St Louis with them. I have to get the address for you or you could try a google search for Daughters of St Paul Postulants. This way we can all keep in touch while traveling and praying.

Gotta go. Time for prayer!
Sr Margaret

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Movie Night at the Cooperator Conference

The film Beyond the Gates, a recently released DVD, gave us a lot to share on Saturday night at the Cooperator Convention. All of us watched the film on a large screen television. It was challenging to watch since the story was about a priest and social worker in Rwanda at the time of the genocide/civil unrest. Sr Nancy led the film dialogue after we had a "wine and cheese" break. She had just interviewed the producer, Hugh Dancey and one of the survivors of the . massacre. The main challenge of the film was "what would you risk to make a difference." We were fortunate to have a cooperator who works at the United Nations with us to answer our questions about the situation surrounding the "war" in Rwanda. Elly gave us insights into similar situtations of revoltuion and unrest in which she found herselfas a child in Central America. Fr Jeffrey and all of us attending contributed to the sharing that concluded with prayer and a resolution to bring peace into all the areas of our life - family, community, parish, and the impact of globalisation - through our living out of the gospel.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

National Convention Pauline Cooperators 2007

Our gathering at the 17th National Pauline Cooperator Convention was held in Boston at the Daughters of St Paul retreat house. It was a great weekend out in Billerica, MA. We gathered from New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Massachusetts to celebrate the Pauline charism. Over the next few days I will give some highlights of our convention. I invite everyone who attended to share their reflections here. It was great to be with you!