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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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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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