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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Contagion

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

A woman, Beth, (Gwyneth Paltrow) shakes hands with a casino chef while at a conference in Hong Kong. She touches someone else. She changes her flight home to Minneapolis so she can have a longer layover in Chicago to have a liaison with a former lover. Her husband, Mitch (Matt Damon), waits at home with his stepson, Clark (Griffin Kane). Beth seems to have the flu, but becomes deathly ill and dies. Clark follows.

The Center for Disease Control is alerted; the World Health organization in Geneva is alerted. Someone sends conspiracy-theory blogger, Alan (Jude law),  a smart phone video of a man collapsing in the Tokyo subway.
 
The CDC calculates how long it will take this phantom disease to multiply and spread.  A scientist isolates the virus but the government shuts him down – but he goes ahead to develop a vaccine anyway. 
 
Over the steady drumbeat of days flashing at the bottom of a screen, we discover the source of the virus and how it spreads. We see heroism; we see selfishness and greed. We see generosity, panic, and power plays. We see blame attributed so the government doesn’t look bad. We see a blogger who is onto the truth about the collusion of government and corporations falsify information about a cure and cast doubt on citizen reporting over media giants.
 
The interesting thing about “Contagion” is that it shows us what a pandemic looks like in a panoramic way. We see how the U.S. government and the World Health Organization might handle it, and the nobility and decency of people contrasted, and sometimes replaced with humanity’s basest instincts.
 
From a Christian perspective, you will find all of the Beatitudes and the Deadly Sins represented in the film.
 
Steven Soderbergh often takes on social issues in his films, as does Participant Media (Jeff Skoll, founder of Participant Media, is an executive producer) but I am not sure what the movie was trying to say other than to provoke us into washing our hands – seriously. It was an interesting watch, to see how people might react in such circumstances. But what did the movie really mean?
Certainly it means to keep an eye on the three-way marriage between government-corporations-media and to ask questions.
 
How ready is the world to take on a super-virus? How many people need to die, especially if a corporation patents a vaccine making it cost prohibitive? Are lengthy testing protocols worth it when, as someone said, that the warnings about side effects are as long as the credits for a movie. Animal testing? Human testing? What are the consequences for all the genetic manipulation we are carrying out (or someone permits in our name) on food, and the immune systems for humans and animals?
 
“Contagion” isn’t a story as much as someone saying, “Look, this could happen. You might want to be more involved in society so that we, the people are making decisions.”
 
That’s what I got out of it. And – please, wash your hands. Seriously.
 
By the way, the acting is very good. Listen especially to what Dr. Cheever says (Laurence Fishburne) when he explains (twice so we get it) the custom of shaking hands: in the olden days, you extended your hand as a sign of trust, to show you did not carry a weapon.
 
He thus intimated that these days, dirty hands are a weapon. 
 
But, what about people who don’t have clean water to wash their hands?

Lots to think about.


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John Vianney: A man with vision overcomes obstacles and performs deeds that seem impossible. John Vianney was a man with vision: He wanted to become a priest. But he had to overcome his meager formal schooling, which inadequately prepared him for seminary studies. 
<p>His failure to comprehend Latin lectures forced him to discontinue. But his vision of being a priest urged him to seek private tutoring. After a lengthy battle with the books, John was ordained. </p><p>Situations calling for “impossible” deeds followed him everywhere. As pastor of the parish at Ars, John encountered people who were indifferent and quite comfortable with their style of living. His vision led him through severe fasts and short nights of sleep. (Some devils can only be cast out by prayer and fasting.) </p><p>With Catherine Lassagne and Benedicta Lardet, he established La Providence, a home for girls. Only a man of vision could have such trust that God would provide for the spiritual and material needs of all those who came to make La Providence their home. </p><p>His work as a confessor is John Vianney’s most remarkable accomplishment. In the winter months he was to spend 11 to 12 hours daily reconciling people with God. In the summer months this time was increased to 16 hours. Unless a man was dedicated to his vision of a priestly vocation, he could not have endured this giving of self day after day. </p><p>Many people look forward to retirement and taking it easy, doing the things they always wanted to do but never had the time. But John Vianney had no thoughts of retirement. As his fame spread, more hours were consumed in serving God’s people. Even the few hours he would allow himself for sleep were disturbed frequently by the devil. </p><p>Who, but a man with vision, could keep going with ever-increasing strength? In 1929, Pope Pius XI named him the patron of parish priests worldwide.</p> American Catholic Blog The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold on to. –Pope Francis

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