Wednesday, May 25, 2005

A Good Day Off

Yesterday was my day off. To be honest, I am rather protective of my day off; God wanted Man to have a day of rest, to count his blessings and to be re-created, and priests generally do not get to do a lot of that on Sundays. Yesterday I had a very nice day off.

After my early morning Mass (6:25 a.m.), I made a "mini-pilgrimage." Since May is a Marian month, another priest and I decided to go to a church, named in honor of Our Lady, to pray three decades of the Rosary. We decided to go to a church we had not been to before, and about half way between us. Our Lady of Mercy in Englishtown, NJ fit the bill quite nicely. Our Lady of Mercy is a small, country church. While not a Gothic church, the church was very tasteful decorated, and the stain glass windows, while small, were very nice. The design of the church showed the devotion of the people who built it. One of the first things I noticed were the TWO Respect Life signs outside the church. It was great to see them boldly proclaiming the truth of the sanctity of human life.

Fr. Juan (my friend, the Opus Dei priest in Princeton) and I prayed the first decade in the devotional chapel, then another in the main body of the church, with meditations from St. Josemaria's book on the Rosary. After going to the rectory to pay our respect to the pastor of Our Lady of Mercy, we prayed our final decade standing outside the church, in front of the statue of our Lady. It was a relaxing, refreshing hour and a half.

The mini-pilgrimage was a wonderful idea of Fr. Juan's, demonstrating that you do not have to go far to make a special morning of prayer. Fr. Juan and I have been discussing forming a group for priest of the diocese to have monthly discussions of living and growing in the virtues as we minister as priests. Something to which those who participate can be supported and accountable. Not a religious order, but a bit more structured than the typical "priest support" group which often ends up being just a social group (which is great, too). Of course in the seminary we were held more accountable in our formation. As priests, while we are still suppose to work on on-going priestly formation, the activities of the parish can often "bump" that if it is just done on one's own. We don't know if there will be much interest, but we will pray about it.

After the morning of prayer, I slipped out of my new cassock, under which I had my "day off" clothes (jeans, golf shirt), I went to see Star Wars, Episode III. OK, I am of the age when the first Star Wars (Episode IV) was a life altering experience for some people. I just really liked that movie and "Empire Strikes Back." "Return of the Jedi" was fine, but IMHO not the same quality as the first two. Episodes I & II, well, I frankly thought blew big baby chunks. They struck me as really long comercials for merchandise. Of course I wanted to see Episode III just to see how the "Saga of Anakin" wrapped up, and left us primed for the "Saga of Luke" (the "Saga" bit is more my own organizational framework). However, two people told me that they thought that the Jedi Council vs. the Chancellor dynamic was interesting, and left you wondering which was the really "good" side. I do not want to give away any plot, and I don't think I will, but just in case YOU MIGHT WANT TO STOP READING HERE BECAUSE IT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED A SPOILER (there, I warned you).

I actually thought the dynamic left less of a confusion of who were the "good," but seemed to demonstrate the deceptiveness of Modernist and Post-Modernist thought. The Chancellor tries to woo Anakin by playing largely on emotivism, and a false philosophy of tolerance. The Jedis are "dogmatic" whereas the Chancellor wants Anakin to see that other perspectives could be just as good; that there is no real Truth. For the Chancellor, self-interest and power is the ultimate goal, even if it is dressed up in terms of "order," "justice", and "protecting democracy." Now, I am not saying that the Jedi Council is ideal, they do seem to speak in platitudes a lot; but I think the "unfairness" that Anakin rales against so much, is really more do to the Council wanting him to learn patience. While the two friends of mine who brought up the issue seemed to question which side was truly the right one, I did not see much confusion. In the end, I still do not think that this was a very good movie. I like character development, and in this film there were huge leaps, and basically just trying to do too much. While I have like Natalie Portman as an actress ever since I saw her in "Leon/The Professional" she did nothing for me in this film. The dialogue between Padme and Anakin sounded like something a 14 y/o would write -- it was sappy. I know that they had to end with Luke and Leia being born, to set up the "Saga of Luke," but besides that they could have cut Padme out of the film for the little it contributed to the film. They could have found another emotional cause, more closely related to the dynamic between the Jedi Council and the Chancellor for Anakin to be conflicted over, that would lead to his becoming Darth Vader, so that more attention could be given to developing that part of the plot. The large battle scene in the first 20 minutes of the film was visually very pleasing, but was largely wasted film for it did little to advance the story. This is in contrast to the large battle scenes at the end of Episodes IV and VI, where the story comes to a resolution in the battle. In this film the battle scene seemed to be there just to demostrate the special effects; we already knew that there was a war going on. While the film did not ruin my day off, it is not something which excited me as Episode IV still does, over 25 years after I saw it for the first time. I am glad that the series is finished, but in hindsight I think it would have been better to end with only 3 films (IV, V, VI).

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