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The Lucky One

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Taylor Schilling and Zac Efron star in the film "The Lucky One."
Ah, how time flies. Wasn't it only yesterday that we were watching Zac Efron sing and dance his way through high school? And here he is in "The Lucky One" (Warner Bros.), all grown up and a Marine veteran of the Iraq War to boot (no Parris-Island pun intended).

This being a Nicholas Sparks property, we linger by the troubled rivers of Babylon only long enough to learn that Efron's character—Sgt. Logan Thibault by name—has earned the titular accolade by surviving at least two close calls. Logan attributes his good fortune to the photograph of an attractive young stranger he accidentally discovered in the midst of battle. So, on returning home, he seeks her out to thank her.

By identifying the lighthouse that looms in the background of the image—what are the odds?—Logan finds himself in the Hallmark card-perfect rural setting of fictional Hamden, La. There the object of his search turns out to be local kennel owner Beth Green (Taylor Schilling).

Logan is too tongue-tied, during their first encounter, to explain the nature of his quest -- thus storing up plot complications for the future. But he makes a better impression on Beth's wise grandmother, Ellie (Blythe Danner), who hires him to help out with the dogs. And Logan soon hits it off with Beth's clever-beyond-his-years young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), as well.

Despite some initial resistance on Beth's part—it takes her a full 30 minutes of screen time to wake up and smell the pheromones—and to the dismay of her scheming ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), the black-hat town deputy, our two destined lovebirds inevitably fall for each other.

Director Scott Hicks confects a serviceable date movie from Catholic author Sparks' novel, as written for the screen by Will Fetters. Attention is diverted from the jumbo improbabilities at work by Alar Kivilo's luxuriant cinematography of Cajun-country sunsets and such as well as by some wry observations from Granny and Ben.

But the generally amiable proceedings—which register, at times, like a prolonged iced tea commercial—are marred by a couple of overheated scenes glamorizing the as-yet unwed leads' serial bedroom encounters. Though relatively brief, they strictly preclude viewership by any but adults.

The film contains a benign view and semigraphic portrayal of premarital sexual activity, a reference to out-of-wedlock pregnancy, at least one use of profanity and a handful of crude and crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog I discovered that my sins had created a spiritual racket that drowned out the gentle whispers of God to my soul; God had never actually abandoned me, but I needed repentance and sacramental grace to reawaken all that was good and beautiful in me.

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