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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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Columban: Columban was the greatest of the Irish missionaries who worked on the European continent. As a young man who was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh, he sought the advice of a religious woman who had lived a hermit’s life for years. He saw in her answer a call to leave the world. He went first to a monk on an island in Lough Erne, then to the great monastic seat of learning at Bangor. 
<p>After many years of seclusion and prayer, he traveled to Gaul (modern-day France) with 12 companion missionaries. They won wide respect for the rigor of their discipline, their preaching, and their commitment to charity and religious life in a time characterized by clerical laxity and civil strife. Columban established several monasteries in Europe which became centers of religion and culture. </p><p>Like all saints, he met opposition. Ultimately he had to appeal to the pope against complaints of Frankish bishops, for vindication of his orthodoxy and approval of Irish customs. He reproved the king for his licentious life, insisting that he marry. Since this threatened the power of the queen mother, Columban was deported to Ireland. His ship ran aground in a storm, and he continued his work in Europe, ultimately arriving in Italy, where he found favor with the king of the Lombards. In his last years he established the famous monastery of Bobbio, where he died. His writings include a treatise on penance and against Arianism, sermons, poetry and his monastic rule.</p> American Catholic Blog There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing. –Bishop Fulton Sheen

 
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