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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Gravity

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie "Gravity."
Hold on tight for the ride of your life in "Gravity" (Warner Bros.), a lost-in-space adventure as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

Director Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men"), who co-wrote the screenplay with his son Jonas, serves up a modern-day horror story with top-notch performances and dazzling 3-D cinematography that envelops the audience in the majesty of space.

The film's life-or-death scenario evokes the spirit of the 2011 movie "Apollo 18." But the danger here doesn't come from aliens as it did in that feature. Instead, it results from all-too-human technology gone badly wrong.

Amid the mayhem, "Gravity" has another, deeper story to tell, as the nearness of death provokes reflections on mortality and the afterlife.

The space shuttle is in orbit 370 miles above Earth, and astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are outside it, making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. The two crewmates are chalk and cheese: Stone the cool, reserved scientist on her first mission; Kowalski the cocky veteran, a fun-loving space cowboy with the gift of the gab who's savoring his final voyage.

"Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission," Kowalski quips lightheartedly to mission control before breaking into another yarn as his favorite country music plays in the background.

Kowalski's levity is misplaced. When the Russians launch a missile against a spy satellite, it causes a chain reaction in space, raining debris on the astronauts. Within seconds, the shuttle is destroyed, and Kowalski and Stone are the only survivors, cut off from Earth and spiraling into outer space.

What ensues is "E.T." in reverse, as our plucky marooned humans search for a way to go home (where gravity is taken for granted). With Kowalski steering his jet pack and Stone on a tether, they make their way to the nearest oasis, the International Space Station, where more challenges await.

To describe what happens next would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that, in the deafening silence of space, the duo has plenty of time to meditate as they stare death in the face.

For Stone, this is an epiphany. She laments that she is alone in the world, mourning the loss of her only child in an accident years ago. "Who will pray for my soul?" she asks.

While she admits that she has never prayed herself, she regrets that no one ever taught her how.

Such feelings are hardly surprising when the possibility of death is imminent. But "Gravity"—which provides a rare combination of enlightenment and excitement—uses these sentiments as stepping stones toward a resolution that viewers of faith will find both satisfying and refreshingly pro-life.

In view of its underlying significance, and despite the elements listed below, some parents may consider "Gravity" acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains scenes of intense peril and horror, brief gore, at least one use of profanity and a few crude expressions. 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.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.



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Pio of Pietrelcina: In one of the largest such ceremonies in history, Pope John Paul II canonized Padre Pio of Pietrelcina on June 16, 2002. It was the 45th canonization ceremony in Pope John Paul's pontificate. More than 300,000 people braved blistering heat as they filled St. Peter's Square and nearby streets. They heard the Holy Father praise the new saint for his prayer and charity. "This is the most concrete synthesis of Padre Pio's teaching," said the pope. He also stressed Padre Pio's witness to the power of suffering. If accepted with love, the Holy Father stressed, such suffering can lead to "a privileged path of sanctity." 
<p>Many people have turned to the Italian Capuchin Franciscan to intercede with God on their behalf; among them was the future Pope John Paul II. In 1962, when he was still an archbishop in Poland, he wrote to Padre Pio and asked him to pray for a Polish woman with throat cancer. Within two weeks, she had been cured of her life-threatening disease. </p><p>Born Francesco Forgione, Padre Pio grew up in a family of farmers in southern Italy. Twice (1898-1903 and 1910-17) his father worked in Jamaica, New York, to provide the family income. </p><p>At the age of 15, Francesco joined the Capuchins and took the name of Pio. He was ordained in 1910 and was drafted during World War I. After he was discovered to have tuberculosis, he was discharged. In 1917 he was assigned to the friary in San Giovanni Rotondo, 75 miles from the city of Bari on the Adriatic. </p><p>On September 20, 1918, as he was making his thanksgiving after Mass, Padre Pio had a vision of Jesus. When the vision ended, he had the stigmata in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>Life became more complicated after that. Medical doctors, Church authorities and curiosity seekers came to see Padre Pio. In 1924 and again in 1931, the authenticity of the stigmata was questioned; Padre Pio was not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to hear confessions. He did not complain of these decisions, which were soon reversed. However, he wrote no letters after 1924. His only other writing, a pamphlet on the agony of Jesus, was done before 1924. </p><p>Padre Pio rarely left the friary after he received the stigmata, but busloads of people soon began coming to see him. Each morning after a 5 a.m. Mass in a crowded church, he heard confessions until noon. He took a mid-morning break to bless the sick and all who came to see him. Every afternoon he also heard confessions. In time his confessional ministry would take 10 hours a day; penitents had to take a number so that the situation could be handled. Many of them have said that Padre Pio knew details of their lives that they had never mentioned. </p><p>Padre Pio saw Jesus in all the sick and suffering. At his urging, a fine hospital was built on nearby Mount Gargano. The idea arose in 1940; a committee began to collect money. Ground was broken in 1946. Building the hospital was a technical wonder because of the difficulty of getting water there and of hauling up the building supplies. This "House for the Alleviation of Suffering" has 350 beds. </p><p>A number of people have reported cures they believe were received through the intercession of Padre Pio. Those who assisted at his Masses came away edified; several curiosity seekers were deeply moved. Like St. Francis, Padre Pio sometimes had his habit torn or cut by souvenir hunters. </p><p>One of Padre Pio’s sufferings was that unscrupulous people several times circulated prophecies that they claimed originated from him. He never made prophecies about world events and never gave an opinion on matters that he felt belonged to Church authorities to decide. He died on September 23, 1968, and was beatified in 1999.</p> American Catholic Blog In times of intense loss and grief, we take our place with Mary as she embraces all our grief in her own as she is silently holding in her arms the stark presence of our suffering God in the lifeless body of her Son.

 
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