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Showing posts from March, 2015

Lord of the World revisited for Holy Week

By John O'Brien, S.J. Many in the media have  noticed that Pope Francis has, on several occasions, referred of a novel which he recommends to readers across the globe. It might be considered a strange choice for a pope whose public image is that of a progressivist who is shattering traditions and heralding a bright new world future. The book is a 1907 futuristic apocalypse by Robert Hugh Benson called Lord of the World . Some have called it prophetic in its portrayal of a dystopian post-modern future. My father has cited it as a major influence on his own Children of the Last Days   novels . Others, such as journalist John Allen, Jr., have speculated that this endorsement may indicate the Holy Father is thinking that his own time might be short. I am not going to review the novel here, but rather quote a remarkable selection from its third chapter. The passage describes an experience that its protagonist, the English priest Percy Franklin, has when he enters into prayer

The Tree of Life

By John O'Brien, S.J. 2011. Director: Terrence Malick, 139 min. U.S.A. Stars: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn Music: makes use of many different classical and operatic pieces. Plot An impressionistic portrait of a young family in Waco, Texas in 1956, in which the eldest son Jack (Hunter McCracken) struggles with his loss of innocence and coming to terms with two “ways” in life: the way of “grace”, represented by his luminous mother, Mrs. O’Brien (Jessica Chastain) and the way of “nature”, the win-at-all-costs philosophy represented by his father (Brad Pitt). There is a flash-forward to 1968, when his mother receives a telegram telling of the death of her other son (presumably in Vietnam), and a flash-forward to present day, where we see an adult Jack (Sean Penn) grapple with the memories of his childhood and the legacy of his choices; and to scenes at a mysterious seashore in an eschatological future, where the child and adult Jack interact with his parents, and


By John O'Brien, S.J. 2014. Director: John Michael McDonaugh, 102 min. Ireland/U.K. Stars: Brendan Gleeson, Chris O’Dowd, Kelly Reilly, Marie-Josée Croze Music: Patrick Cassidy An anonymous man in the confessional tells Father James (Brendan Gleeson) that he was abused by a priest who's now dead, and so he's going to kill him in one week instead -- not because Fr. James is a bad priest, but because he's a good priest. Fr. James spends the next week reaching out to members of his small-town Irish parish, attempting to help them in their various scurrilous moral problems, and to comfort Fiona (Kelly Reilly), his fragile daughter. The days go by quickly, and he feels sinister and troubling forces closing in. He begins to wonder if he will have the strength to face his own personal Calvary at the week's end. This film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014, and Brendan Gleeson won Best Actor at the British Independent Film awards that ye