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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Mary of Nazareth

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Luca Marinelli portrays Joseph and Alissa Jung is Mary in a scene from the movie "Mary of Nazareth."

The story of the Gospels unfolds through the eyes of the mother of God in "Mary of Nazareth" (Ignatius Press Films), a beautiful, often moving depiction of the life of Mary from her childhood through the passion and resurrection of her son.

Italian director Giacomo Campiotti (2002's "Doctor Zhivago") has produced a handsome and respectful film, with a gifted international cast and some luminous cinematography shot in Tunisia. The script, by Francesco Arlanch, more or less follows the biblical account, with a few intriguing departures, inspired by apocryphal writings, that heighten the drama.

For example, we are told that King Herod (Andrea Giordana) heard a prophesy of a girl who would one day bring forth a savior, prompting him to terrorize Judea, in a precursor to the slaughter of the innocents. Mary's parents, Ann (Antonella Attili) and Joachim (Roberto Citran), hide their young daughter, keeping her safe.

Mary (Alissa Jung) is a joyful but special child, one whom dogs and snakes fear. Her parents are happy but often perplexed. After Mary's betrothal to Joseph (Luca Marinelli), and the Annunciation, a resigned Joachim tells Mary, "Forgive me. I always knew you were a mystery, but I never knew how great a mystery."

The Nativity (unfortunately, Joseph misses the birth, as he leaves the cave to fetch water) is beautifully rendered. Mary possesses a strong, almost psychic bond with her young son, aware when he is hurt or in danger, and experiencing visions of his future Passion in her mind.

Once Jesus (Andreas Pietschmann) begins his public ministry ("He couldn't stay and be a carpenter forever," Joseph says), Mary is always present, strong and compassionate, helping when she can. But when she asks him for assistance with the wine at Cana, she later worries she was impulsive, forcing Jesus to act before he was ready.

Mary not only shares her son's ministry, but also his pain. Every blow during the scourging is felt by Mary, as is the slow agony of Crucifixion. She literally crawls up the hill of Calvary on her hands and knees to be near her dying son.

The depictions of the slaughter of the innocents and the Passion are graphic, even harrowing, which pre-teens might find upsetting.

But for the rest of the family, "Mary of Nazareth" makes for an enriching catechetical experience that's also both inspiring and entertaining. The film is fittingly dedicated "to all mothers, whose life-giving, sacrificial love, like Mary, changes the world."

"Mary of Nazareth" is available for sponsored screenings in theaters, and is expected to be released on DVD later this year. For more information, visit www.maryfilm.com.

The film contains several scenes of bloody violence and death. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II—adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.

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



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Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions: Lawrence (Lorenzo) was born in Manila of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, both Christians. Thus he learned Chinese and Tagalog from them and Spanish from the Dominicans whom he served as altar boy and sacristan. He became a professional calligrapher, transcribing documents in beautiful penmanship. He was a full member of the Confraternity of the Holy Rosary under Dominican auspices. He married and had two sons and a daughter. 
<p>His life took an abrupt turn when he was accused of murder. Nothing further is known except the statement of two Dominicans that "he was sought by the authorities on account of a homicide to which he was present or which was attributed to him." </p><p>At that time three Dominican priests, Antonio Gonzalez, Guillermo Courtet and Miguel de Aozaraza, were about to sail to Japan in spite of a violent persecution there. With them was a Japanese priest, Vicente Shiwozuka de la Cruz, and a layman named Lazaro, a leper. Lorenzo, having taken asylum with them, was allowed to accompany them. But only when they were at sea did he learn that they were going to Japan. </p><p>They landed at Okinawa. Lorenzo could have gone on to Formosa, but, he reported, "I decided to stay with the Fathers, because the Spaniards would hang me there." In Japan they were soon found out, arrested and taken to Nagasaki. The site of wholesale bloodshed when the atomic bomb was dropped had known tragedy before. The 50,000 Catholics who once lived there were dispersed or killed by persecution. </p><p>They were subjected to an unspeakable kind of torture: After huge quantities of water were forced down their throats, they were made to lie down. Long boards were placed on their stomachs and guards then stepped on the ends of the boards, forcing the water to spurt violently from mouth, nose and ears. </p><p>The superior, Antonio, died after some days. Both the Japanese priest and Lazaro broke under torture, which included the insertion of bamboo needles under their fingernails. But both were brought back to courage by their companions. </p><p>In Lorenzo's moment of crisis, he asked the interpreter, "I would like to know if, by apostatizing, they will spare my life." The interpreter was noncommittal, but Lorenzo, in the ensuing hours, felt his faith grow strong. He became bold, even audacious, with his interrogators. </p><p>The five were put to death by being hanged upside down in pits. Boards fitted with semicircular holes were fitted around their waists and stones put on top to increase the pressure. They were tightly bound, to slow circulation and prevent a speedy death. They were allowed to hang for three days. By that time Lorenzo and Lazaro were dead. The three Dominican priests, still alive, were beheaded. </p><p>In 1987, Blessed John Paul II canonized these six and 10 others, Asians and Europeans, men and women, who spread the faith in the Philippines, Formosa and Japan. Lorenzo Ruiz is the first canonized Filipino martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog We don’t have to scrub off our sin so God can love us. Instead, when we allow God’s healing love to touch us, we want to leave sin behind. Growth starts in love, not in guilt.

 
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