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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Calling

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

In "The Calling" (Pleasant Avenue), filmmaker David Ranghelli focuses on the struggles involved in responding to a religious vocation. This absorbing documentary follows a young male novice and a mother superior, both of whom belong to a small community called the Family of Jesus the Healer.

Ranghelli turns his camera on this recently established, traditionally inclined group of priests, brothers and sisters at an interesting moment, just as their founder, Father Philip Scott, announces his prayer-based decision to relocate them from Tampa, Fla., to Peru to serve that country's poor.

For Tampa native Orlando Castillo, a young man from a prosperous background who wishes to "live simply," and who seeks spiritual formation from Father Scott as he discerns a vocation to the priesthood, this move adds a further strain to an already difficult situation. As frank interviews with them show, Castillo's parents—his father in particular—have serious reservations about the life their son is embracing.

The Castillos are especially uncomfortable with the physical and emotional distance from them that Orlando's membership in the community entails. Not only does he join in the move to a dusty, poverty-plagued village on the outskirts of Lima, but the rules of his postulancy, as established by Father Scott, allow him to write letters to his family, but not to call or e-mail them.

Also feeling the strain of separation is Mother Mary-Elizabeth, the parent of two grown daughters who entered religious life after the annulment of her marriage. Although she is Father Scott's closest collaborator in supervising the life of the Family of Jesus the Healer, she finds the increased isolation from her children and grandchildren difficult to accept, and her daughters are vocal in expressing their aggrieved sense of loss.

Insightful and probing, the narrative is also marked by some humorous moments, as when Orlando announces that it was after seeing the film "Spider-Man" that he was determined to become a priest. Why? Because, like Spider-Man, priests have superpowers: They can say Mass and hear confessions. And, like the web-shooting hero and protector of the innocent, a priest's mission doesn't allow for having a girlfriend.

An emotional highpoint comes with the liturgy at which Orlando makes his preliminary vows and dons the community's habit for the first time. Amid tears and obviously conflicted feelings, Orlando's father silently surrenders his son to God and to his newfound spiritual relatives.

As that scene demonstrates, Ranghelli's moving study of sacred aspirations and of the courageous commitment required to fulfill them is all the more effective for not glossing over the interior cost a generous answer to God's summons can sometimes exact. While the ultimate decisions made by the people he chronicles vary, this remains both an uplifting story for a general audience and an excellent tool for realistic vocations work.

The film contains a brief discussion regarding chastity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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CATHOLIC GREETINGS
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The tears of this fourth-century mother contributed to her son's conversion to Christ.

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Lord of the harvest, thank you for all those Men and Women Religious who have answered your call to service.

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