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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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Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows: Born in Italy into a large family and baptized Francis, he lost his mother when he was only four years old. He was educated by the Jesuits and, having been cured twice of serious illnesses, came to believe that God was calling him to the religious life. Young Francis wished to join the Jesuits but was turned down, probably because of his age, not yet 17. Following the death of a sister to cholera, his resolve to enter religious life became even stronger and he was accepted by the Passionists. Upon entering the novitiate he was given the name Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows.
<p>Ever popular and cheerful, Gabriel quickly was successful in his effort to be faithful in little things. His spirit of prayer, love for the poor, consideration of the feelings of others, exact observance of the Passionist Rule as well as his bodily penances—always subject to the will of his wise superiors— made a deep impression on everyone.
</p><p>His superiors had great expectations of Gabriel as he prepared for the priesthood, but after only four years of religious life symptoms of tuberculosis appeared. Ever obedient, he patiently bore the painful effects of the disease and the restrictions it required, seeking no special notice. He died peacefully on February 27, 1862, at age 24, having been an example to both young and old.
</p><p>Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was canonized in 1920.</p> American Catholic Blog Life is not always happy, but our connections to others can create a simple and grace-filled quiet celebration of our own and others’ lives. These others are the presence of Christ in our lives.


 
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