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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Christmas Carol

By
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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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