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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

War Horse

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

It is just before the start of World War I in 1914 where in a village in Devon in the English countryside a tenant farmer, Ted Narracott (Peter Mullan), buys a beautiful young horse, Joey, at an auction. He spends money he doesn’t have on the wrong horse because, as his wife, Rose (Emily Watson), tells him, he needed a plow horse. But their son, Albert (Jeremy Irvine), is delighted because he befriended the horse  from the time he was born.

Joey proves he can the work of any horse and plows the rocky field. But the rains come and the crop is lost. Indeed, all looks lost when England declares war on Germany. The army comes recruiting men and buying horses. The soldier who buys Joey promises Albert to bring him home if he can.

Joey and a black steed named Topthorn pair up; they are lost and found by a grandfather and his granddaughter, but ultimately the Germans capture the horses and treat them badly, though a horse wrangler and young foot soldiers try to shield them.
 
At the film’s climax, Joey escapes and runs the gauntlet of no-man’s land, enduring gunfire, bombs, gas, and barbed wire. It is a harrowing, heartbreaking scene that sums up the torture of war of the innocent, symbolized by an animal exhibiting the kind of courage we would all want to have to save those we love.
 
“War Horse” is based on the 1982 children’s novel by British author Walter Morpurgo and was made into a successful stage play in 2007.
 
There are many good things to say about “War Horse”.  In most films featuring animals we learn how we can become more human, more humane, and “War Horse” does this beautifully. Friendship, love, sacrifice are themes that bind the film together.
 
However, the film runs long for a family film. The only interesting characters are the mother, Rose, and the French grandfather (Niels Arstrup) and Emilie (Celine Buckens), the granddaughter. All the others lack depth. Truly, the horses steal the show and our hearts.
 
Many are raving about the cinematography but I think the digital process has over saturated the colors making the film look less real and more like a Pixar production. Some of the way the scenes are framed are stolen right out of classic movies of the past; “Gone with the Wind” and “The Searchers” came to mind.

 “War Horse” is a film about war and the idiocy of the endeavor as led by generals. But the troops will sacrifice everything for their friends, and when it comes to saving stalwart animals, even enemies can come together for the common good – and they do.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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