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A Christmas Carol

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Ebenezer Scrooge, voiced by Jim Carrey, in the animated movie "A Christmas Carol."
Acclaimed on its publication and so popular since that it has never gone out of print, Charles Dickens' classic 1843 novella "A Christmas Carol" also has provided the basis for innumerable stage and screen adaptations.

The latest, a lavish and well-crafted 3-D animated version from Disney, though free of objectionable content, does feature images and special effects likely to disturb sensitive youngsters.

As faithfully retold by writer-director Robert Zemeckis, this is the familiar story of miserly misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge (voice of Jim Carrey), who notoriously regards Christmas as a "humbug."

After spending the eve of the holiday making his much-put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit (voice of Gary Oldman) miserable, and rebuffing the cheerful invitation of his nephew, Fred (voice of Colin Firth), to a celebratory family dinner, Scrooge retires to his dreary mansion for a supper of cheap gruel. But his routine is interrupted by the tortured specter of his late business partner, Jacob Marley (also voiced by Oldman).

Chained to heavy money chests symbolic of the greediness that marked his life, and condemned to wander in eternal restlessness, Marley—a grimly decaying animated corpse— warns Scrooge that he is headed for a similar doom, and that he will soon be visited by three spirits who will try to persuade him to change his ways.

These, of course, are the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, all three voiced by Carrey.

The first, who appears as a flickering candle, returns Scrooge to the scene of his lonely childhood and his apprenticeship under fun-loving Mr. Fezziwig (voice of Bob Hoskins), during which he fell in love with gentle Belle (voice of Robin Wright Penn). As the sprite also forces Scrooge to recall, however, their romance was eventually ruined by his idolatrous love of money.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, a jolly, thriving figure, gives Scrooge a "heavenly perspective" on current events, revealing the straitened circumstances in which Cratchit's meager salary leaves his family, especially his sickly, crippled, but ever-chipper son Tiny Tim (Oldman's voice as well), and the pitying mockery with which Scrooge is discussed by Fred and his guests.

With the approach of midnight, the Ghost of Christmas Present suddenly turns corpselike and is replaced by the last apparition, a black-robed, silent skeleton. The vision he conjures sees Scrooge chased for his life by a runaway horse-drawn hearse and forced to experience his own unmourned death.

Such eerie elements, though present in the original, make this unsuitable viewing for the most impressionable. But heartier family members of almost any age will be delighted by a sweeping survey of Victorian London, from its coziest firesides to its gloomiest graveyards.

As for the central conversion story, its Christian context is unabashedly detailed in the lyrics of carolers, in the lingering view of the ornamental cross above a city church and in the upbeat piety of Tiny Tim, whose jaunty prayer, "God bless us, every one," serves as the final line of novella and script alike.

"A Christmas Carol" will be shown on both Imax and conventional screens.

The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-I—general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

Mulderig is on the staff of the Office for Film & Broadcasting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Charles de Foucauld: Born into an aristocratic family in Strasbourg, France, Charles was orphaned at the age of six, raised by his devout grandfather, rejected the Catholic faith as a teenager and joined the French army. Inheriting a great deal of money from his grandfather, Charles went to Algeria with his regiment, but not without his mistress, Mimi. <br /><br />When he declined to give her up, he was dismissed from the army. Still in Algeria when he left Mimi, Charles reenlisted in the army. Refused permission to make a scientific exploration of nearby Morocco, he resigned from the service. With the help of a Jewish rabbi, Charles disguised himself as a Jew and in 1883 began a one-year exploration that he recorded in a book that was well received. <br /><br />Inspired by the Jews and Muslims whom he met, Charles resumed the practice of his Catholic faith when he returned to France in 1886. He joined a Trappist monastery in Ardeche, France, and later transferred to one in Akbes, Syria. Leaving the monastery in 1897, Charles worked as gardener and sacristan for the Poor Clare nuns in Nazareth and later in Jerusalem. In 1901 he returned to France and was ordained a priest. <br /><br />Later that year Charles journeyed to Beni-Abbes, Morocco, intending to found a monastic religious community in North Africa that offered hospitality to Christians, Muslims, Jews, or people with no religion. He lived a peaceful, hidden life but attracted no companions. <br /><br />A former army comrade invited him to live among the Tuareg people in Algeria. Charles learned their language enough to write a Tuareg-French and French-Tuareg dictionary, and to translate the Gospels into Tuareg. In 1905 he came to Tamanrasset, where he lived the rest of his life. A two-volume collection of Charles' Tuareg poetry was published after his death. <br /><br />In early 1909 he visited France and established an association of laypeople who pledged to live by the Gospels. His return to Tamanrasset was welcomed by the Tuareg. In 1915 Charles wrote to Louis Massignon: “The love of God, the love for one’s neighbor…All religion is found there…How to get to that point? Not in a day since it is perfection itself: it is the goal we must always aim for, which we must unceasingly try to reach and that we will only attain in heaven.”   <br /><br />The outbreak of World War I led to attacks on the French in Algeria. Seized in a raid by another tribe, Charles and two French soldiers coming to visit him were shot to death on December 1, 1916. <br />Five religious congregations, associations, and spiritual institutes (Little Brothers of Jesus, Little Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Little Sisters of Jesus, Little Brothers of the Gospel and Little Sisters of the Gospel) draw inspiration from the peaceful, largely hidden, yet hospitable life that characterized Charles. He was beatified on November 13, 2005. American Catholic Blog You know, O my God, I have never desired anything but to love you, and I am ambitious for no other glory.

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