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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

A Better Life

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Carlos (Demián Bichir) works as a gardener in East Los Angeles. His boss, Blasco (Joaquin Cosio) is an undocumented worker like himself, but who has saved enough money to return to Mexico. He convinces Carlos to borrow money to buy the truck  and his client list. Carlos turns to his sister (Dolores Heredia), who has legal status because of her marriage, and she gives him money she has saved for a rainy day.

Carlos is raising his teenaged son Luis (Jose Julian) alone. Luis was born in the U.S. but his mother left the family early on. Carlos sleeps on the couch so his son can have his own room, like a normal kid. Jose is surly and unappreciative toward his father and is trying to join a gang.

Carlos seems fulfilled as he drives his truck past the crowd of day workers hoping to be hired. He chooses a man who had once shared his lunch with Carlos as they both waited for someone to hire them. Then disaster strikes. Director Chris Weitz (“About a Boy”), with a nod to the Vittorio de Sica 1948 film “Bicycle Thieves”,  notches up the anxiety level when the man steals Carlos’ truck. Without his truck, Carlos will lose everything he has gained to make a better life for his son.

The rest of the film shows Carlos and Jose searching for the truck demonstrating smart detective skills with few resources, Jose flirting with gang membership and loyalty to his father, and evading the immigration authorities.

“A Better Life” asks the audience to consider what it is like to come from a place of little or opportunity to make a better life. The issue of undocumented workers, or as they are often referred to as “illegal immigrants” or “Illegal aliens”, is a touchy one in the United States today. Yet, the situation of undocumented workers, or those whose parents are undocumented but whose children were born in the U.S., who contribute much to our country by doing work no one else will do, as well as building up church participation, is precisely where Christian discipleship and authentic citizenship intersect; they are compatible – not mutually exclusive.  As followers of Jesus we can help create a way forward that is just for all.
“A Better Life” is a touching film, and some may think it is heavy on message. The acting is good, and held my interest from the very beginning. Some may take issue with the ending, however, people are resilient, and the bonds of family very strong.


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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