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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

For Colored Girls

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

A good man is hard to find in writer-director Tyler Perry's ensemble drama "For Colored Girls" (Lionsgate).

As well as allowing for only one positive male character in an unusually large cast, the misguided feminist values underlying his script also take for granted behavior quite at odds with Judeo-Christian sexual ethics, and hold out, as the sole source of hope for a series of embattled characters, the discovery of the "God-within-myself" and female solidarity.

This screen version of Ntozake Shange's 1974 play, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf," shuttles among the lives of nine New York-based African-American women to present a downbeat exploration of the personal effects of numerous societal ills. The dialogue is studded with verbally impressive, but sometimes dramatically distancing, poetic set pieces.

The most prominent characters are successful but emotionally isolated business executive Joanna (Janet Jackson), Joanna's harried assistant Crystal (Kimberly Elise), and lovelorn nurse Juanita (Loretta Devine). The personal lives of all three are in disarray because of the various problems—ranging from unfaithfulness to alcoholism—of the men in their lives. They're portrayed, respectively, by Omari Hardwick, Michael Ealy and Richard Lawson.

As various characters endure rape, abuse and betrayal, Crystal's repeated refusal to marry the father of her two children, with whom she cohabits, is presented as a wise precaution, given that he is an unemployed war vet in the throes of emotional turmoil and excessive drinking.

The middle course of not marrying, but also not living with him, never seems to occur to Crystal, despite the fact that his compulsive boozing frequently leads to violent attacks against both her and their children.

In between wrestling with the infidelities of her on-again, off-again live-in boyfriend, Devine's character establishes a women's health clinic in her Harlem neighborhood in New York. There, she is shown cheerfully recommending—and dispensing—that panacea of contemporary society, the condom.

Plot developments for other characters lead to a back-alley abortion and an extended discussion of a deeply concealed homosexual lifestyle.

The former is so harrowing that, while some viewers may interpret it as an implied argument for the current legalized status of this profoundly immoral practice, others may legitimately interpret it as reckoning on the horrific cost involved in any abortion, legal or otherwise. As for the closeted character, his behavior is presented as a profoundly disloyal deception, not as anything resembling liberation.

But—along with the actions the script does explicitly endorse—the skewed theology that leads to the climactic declaration: "I felt God in myself, and I loved her fiercely," is more consistent with the tenets of the New Age movement than with those of revealed religion.

The film contains a graphic rape, a scene of abortion, nonexplicit nonmarital sexual activity, fleeting rear and obscured full male nudity, incest, sex abuse and homosexuality themes, about a dozen rough terms, frequent crude and crass language. The Catholic News Service classification is O—morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

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


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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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