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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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