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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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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 he soon 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 Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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