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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Higher Ground

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

Corrine (Vera Farmiga) grows up in a fundamentalist Christian church and accepts salvation at an early age. She’s a good girl and loves to write. She attracts the attention of  a student musician Ethan (Joshua Leonard), who asks her to write songs with him.

Corrine gets pregnant and she and Ethan marry. Their life is difficult for a long time as they work for enough money to survive with now two daughters. Their faith and church, or home church community, supports them.

Corrine is baptized and shares the joy of her faith with her best friend , the earthy and uninhibited Anika (Dagmara Dominczyk). Anika goes where the shy and modest Corrine has never thought of treading, from talking about sex to speaking in tongues.

Corrine is very attracted to speaking in tongues, but cannot quite make it happen.  She’s actually experiencing a call to move beyond the mere following of rules, conventions and the mores of her faith community, to the next step in communing with God. As she searches for meaning, the framework that held her up falls apart for her. It can no longer satisfy the yearning in her heart for something more than sitting like a lady and making sure her clothing will not tempt men.

Anika’s illness expands Corrine’s inner journey, and represents in her body what may happen to Corrine’s soul if she does not follow the call of grace. Corrine begins to question everything, and this leads to some difficult choices. The film treats fundamentalist Christians with a gentle touch for the most part. Thus, we are able to focus on the path that Corrine walks, seeing the world and God as she does.

“Higher Ground” is based on the book This Dark World : A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost by Carolyn S. Briggs, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The book was released shortly before the film opened.

I think “Higher Ground”, nominated for the grand Jury prize at Sundance this year, may be on the runway to the Oscars. Farmiga’s directorial debut is as impressive as her acting that seems so effortless.

Anyone who has felt the inner movement of grace to take the next best step in the spiritual life will recognize Corrine’s dilemma and journey of discernment. As a Catholic, Christian I felt the absence of the sacraments for Corrine, and wondered where her journey might lead. The thing is, Corrine knows that God is faithful and that indeed “all is grace.”


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Rose of Lima: The first canonized saint of the New World has one characteristic of all saints—the suffering of opposition—and another characteristic which is more for admiration than for imitation—excessive practice of mortification. 
<p>She was born to parents of Spanish descent in Lima, Peru, at a time when South America was in its first century of evangelization. She seems to have taken Catherine of Siena (April 29) as a model, in spite of the objections and ridicule of parents and friends. </p><p>The saints have so great a love of God that what seems bizarre to us, and is indeed sometimes imprudent, is simply a logical carrying out of a conviction that anything that might endanger a loving relationship with God must be rooted out. So, because her beauty was so often admired, Rose used to rub her face with pepper to produce disfiguring blotches. Later, she wore a thick circlet of silver on her head, studded on the inside, like a crown of thorns. </p><p>When her parents fell into financial trouble, she worked in the garden all day and sewed at night. Ten years of struggle against her parents began when they tried to make Rose marry. They refused to let her enter a convent, and out of obedience she continued her life of penance and solitude at home as a member of the Third Order of St. Dominic. So deep was her desire to live the life of Christ that she spent most of her time at home in solitude. </p><p>During the last few years of her life, Rose set up a room in the house where she cared for homeless children, the elderly and the sick. This was a beginning of social services in Peru. Though secluded in life and activity, she was brought to the attention of Inquisition interrogators, who could only say that she was influenced by grace. </p><p>What might have been a merely eccentric life was transfigured from the inside. If we remember some unusual penances, we should also remember the greatest thing about Rose: a love of God so ardent that it withstood ridicule from without, violent temptation and lengthy periods of sickness. When she died at 31, the city turned out for her funeral. Prominent men took turns carrying her coffin.</p> American Catholic Blog Father, open our minds and our hearts so we can be more understanding of the obstacles faced by so many hurting people. Help us to be more like Jesus in accepting people for who are they are and not for what we think they should be. We ask for this grace through Jesus, your Son and our model. Amen.

 
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