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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Logan Lerman stars in a scene from the movie "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief."
Catholic parents' decision whether to allow their children to view "Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief" (Fox) will largely depend on how they choose to interpret the tale's mythological premise.

For the film—like the children's novel on which it's based—is set in motion when its hero, mildly troubled New York high school student Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), discovers his true identity as a demigod, offspring of the Greek sea god Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) and Sally (Catherine Keener), his affectionate, but perfectly ordinary human mother.

Some will take this mingling of contemporary reality and ancient myth as no more than a literary device, and a useful means of introducing youngsters to the deities of Mount Olympus, whose figures crop up constantly throughout the canon of Western literature. For others, it may represent an attempted revival of pagan ideas with the potential to confuse impressionable kids.

The disclosure of Percy's true nature comes in the midst of a crisis. The theft of Zeus' (Sean Bean) thunderbolt threatens to unleash a war between the king of the gods and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades (Steve Coogan). Convinced, like Zeus, that Percy has stolen the lightning, Hades takes Sally to the underworld as his prisoner to blackmail her son into handing the celestial weapon over to him.

So Percy embarks on a heroic quest to rescue his mother and prevent the outbreak of a conflict with potentially devastating consequences. He's accompanied—and assisted—by the semi-divine teen girl warrior Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario), daughter of Athena, and by Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), a courageous but untested adolescent satyr who has long served as Percy's protector under the guise of his schoolmate and best friend.

Though some slick special effects keep the adventure moving forward—Uma Thurman as Medusa has an unsettlingly realistic head of squirming snake hair—character-based drama is almost entirely absent from director Chris Columbus' glossy but shallow screen version of the first in novelist Rick Riordan's series of best-sellers.

And Percy's transformation from a 12-year-old on paper to a 17-year-old on the screen introduces elements unsuitable for some of the book's younger fans. Thus, in true satyr fashion, Grover spends his off-time cavorting with a gaggle of bikini-clad nymphs, and later draws the amorous interest of Persephone (Rosario Dawson), Hades' unwilling wife.

There's talk in the dialogue, too, of Persephone's secret male visitors and of how gods and mortals have been known to "hook up."

Though moderate, such content, taken together with the theological considerations mentioned above, precludes endorsement for a general audience.

The film contains pagan themes, brief domestic discord, a few instances of sexual innuendo and a couple of crass terms. The USCCB Office for Film & Broadcasting classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG—parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

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



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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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