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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Good Deeds

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

Wesley Deeds (Tyler Perry) is a wealthy San Francisco businessman who runs the family-owned software company his now deceased father started. He’s a gentleman, 5th generation Ivy League educated,  and soon to be married to Natalie (Gabrielle Union). His brother Walt (Brian White) is spoiled, not trustworthy, and envious of his brother/ Walt wants to run the company. Their mother Wilhelmina (Phylicia Rashad) obviously favors Wesley but she quietly controls the path he walks. Wesley never questions his life; he does what is expected of him, one day pretty much the same as the next.
 
But one day a woman, Lindsay (Thandie Newton), parks in his spot and refuses to move her car. She is desperate and on the verge of being evicted from her apartment. She leaves her young daughter in the car while she goes to collect her paycheck. Walt calls the tow truck but when Welsey sees the child he tells the driver that he can go.
 
This chance encounter with Lindsay and her daughter Ariel (Jordann Thompson) has two effects: Wesley moves outside his patterned life and does selfless good deeds for strangers and begins to reflect on taking responsibility for his own life rather than just do what is expected of him.
 
A few years ago “Entertainment Weekly” listed Tyler Perry as the 7th smartest man in Hollywood. He knows his audience and the themes of his films are usually about African American life and stories. He is very well known for the Madea character he created. I saw a clip of Perry on a talk show to promote this film and he can slip from his polished professional demeanor into Madea without taking a breath. He’s very funny.
 
I have long been a fan of Tyler Perry. He is a one-man marvel. He has been writing plays since he was 18 and writes, directs, produces and acts in most of his movies.  He usually includes God in his films, but not in “Good Deeds”.  Instead, Perry lives his faith by actions. He reaches out to strangers and wants to go to Africa to dig wells for water with two of his college friends.
 
This is a movie about the very rich and the very poor. It is being released just as this topic is the fodder of the current political campaign.  “Good Deeds” has a lot of heart and Tyler Perry has the sweetest face in Hollywood.
 
That’s the good news.
 
The not-so-good news is that “Good Deeds” will remind you from the start of “The Pursuit of Happyness” (2006) where Will Smith played real life Chris Gardner, a homeless dad who had to take care of his son and eventually goes on to become a millionaire. Thandie Newton plays the wife and mother as well. The skyscape of San Francisco and the lines of the homeless made me wonder why on earth Perry didn’t at least change cities. The Lindsay-Ariel storyline seems to be the same one as that of Chris Gardner and his son, too. The scene of mother and daughter in the custodian’s closet us reminiscent of the scene of Gardner and his son sleeping in the subway bathroom.
 
Perry’s films have often been criticized for being preachy and reinforcing African-American stereotypes.  “Good Deeds” is not preachy and more than reinforce African-American stereotypes seems to support the stereotype that a woman needs a man to rescue her. There is a predictable Cinderella theme in “Good Deeds” that may annoy some folks. On the other hand Newton’s Lindsay is a strong woman and I would be willing to concede that perhaps Wesley and Lindsay end up saving each other.
 
Perry is a good actor and it was a relief not to see him turn the story into a Medea film as happened in “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (2005).  This film started out with the feel of reading a quality paperback and turned into a farce that barely came up for a breath of redemption at the end.
 
Here’s more good news. It was refreshing to see a black man stand as a symbol of universal human experience. This cross-over appeal film, and I think it does possess this possibility, is a knife to the heart of Hollywood that pins almost all its dramas around the experience of a white middle-aged male as standing in for the life experience of the world.
 
Someone told me at the one press screening that Perry permitted in Los Angeles that his opening weekend box office is always guaranteed to be strong. His fan base is that loyal. He knows his audience. But with “Good Deeds” he is reaching beyond and if anyone can fuse audiences in America, Perry can do it.
 
Now let’s see which filmmaker will be able to tell a compelling story that holds up a female of any race as the symbol of universal human experience without relegating it to the chick-flick bin.
 
Homelessness is a fact in America and “Good Deeds” shows how one act of kindness can change the lives of everyone involved. Tyler Perry and the film’s distributor Lionsgate have teamed up with Covenant House (that offers a place to live for runaway youth)  in a campaign called “Good Deeds: Great Deeds”. Visit the website to see how you can pay it forward for the good things in your life this Lent: www.gooddeedsgreatneeds.com.


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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but he soon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog Ultimately there is no friend who can fully understand us, who can walk with us all the way. We must go forward and walk on our own in response to who we are and who we are called to be in God. —Thomas Merton

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