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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

X-Men: First Class

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

This latest installment in the Marvel comics-into-film “X-Men” franchise is one of the best of the four, so far, if not the best. It is, indeed, “first class.” Actually, the story is based on characters from the comic book series, rather than an actual comic. It is a prequel written by four people, based on a story by two others, including Bryan Singer, the entertainment virtuoso who directed “Superman Returns” (2006) and other notable films.

Usually too many writers spoil the plot, but in this case the collaboration worked. We learn how mutant Charles Xavier (James McEvoy) meets Raven (later Mystique played by Jennifer Lawrence), and how the CIA eventually recruits them, after a fashion. Xavier and Raven seek out others like themselves, who have unique superpowers and abilities, due to the exploitation of atomic energy. They gather for training to go up against other mutants who do not have the good of the world at heart.

While the story runs from about 1944 through 1962 where the “X-Men” team thwarts the Cuban Missile Crisis, rewriting history for those who enjoy fantasy speculation, the themes of self-acceptance, respect for others who are different, and empathy run throughout this film, as they do through the previous X-Men movies.

The moral or ethical tension in almost all comic book based films is dualistic: characters are good or bad, the choices are for good or evil. What I have always appreciated about the “X-Men” films is that they illustrate that morality is more than black and white, or a choice between two evils. It’s more complex. Here the characters consider consequences and while not all choices are good or even the best for the common  good, the characters struggle to do the right thing, and often do – which is why we like them.

There are bigger issues in this film, however, than the personal ones the characters deal with. Nuclear power, atomic energy, once unleashed, cannot be contained again except through the efforts of people with the political will to choose to do so. Documentaries, such as “Countdown to Zero” (2010), deals with the same issue in stark, unadorned terms.
Without spoiling of “X-Men: First Class”, the ending seems somewhat dualistic. However, it is an invitation to another prequel, and I think I’d like to see it when it comes out.


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Rose Philippine Duchesne: Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the new rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness. She entered the convent at 19 and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for homeless children and risked her life helping priests in the underground. 
<p>When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend. In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis. She then met one of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called "the remotest village in the U.S.," St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. </p><p>It was a mistake. Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove them out—to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. "In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy" (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., <i>Philippine Duchesne</i>). </p><p>Finally at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her "Woman-Who-Prays-Always." While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83 and was canonized in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog It was important for some saints to vanish from view, to “decrease” so that God could “increase” in the scheme of things. Many saints actively fought promotions. If obedience required embracing them, they found other ways to remain lowly.

 
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