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Sr. Rose Pacatte finds seeds of the gospel in today's film scene. In her reviews of both cinema blockbusters and independent films and documentaries, she shares her passion for the best in today's popular culture.

Special Features
On Faith and Media



Sr. Rose Pacatte, from the Daughters of St. Paul, is an educator, author, movie reviewer for the Catholic press, and she’s won numerous awards for her passion to illuminate what’s good in today’s popular culture. Her monthly column appears in St. Anthony Messenger, and she's featured each week on AmericanCatholic Radio. Visit her blog or find her on Facebook for more of her fine work.




May 4, 2012

Chimpanzee
I thought the narration was banal; sometimes it wasn’t logical though I am hard pressed to come up with an example. The cuteness factor is strong.

Think Like a Man
If the film can help couples stop and think before dating or marrying, it’s a good thing in this anything-goes culture.
April 20, 2012

The Lucky One
“The Lucky One” is based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks. When asked about the predictability of his stories he described the formula that resonates with readers: a plot that moves through all life’s emotions from loss, sorrow, jealousy, betrayal, sadness, tragedy, reconciliation, love to joy.

A Separation
This is a movie about separation blocking communication and understanding on many levels. The visuals, doors, windows, partitions are seamlessly included to reinforce the real partitions and to symbolize ones we cannot see.
April 13, 2012

October Baby
“October Baby” is a film with a good heart but it is preachy and heavy on messages. Personally I do not think our young people will sit through such a drudgery to get to the final scenes.

Monsieur Lazhar
This is a gentle film about loss, grief and a caring man who transcends his own sorrow to offer hope and stability to children.
April 6, 2012

We Have a Pope
“We Have a Pope” is about the interior struggle of a simple man who wants to be honest to himself, the people, and God.

John Carter
The only point I got out of this long and rambling movie – that is strangely watchable – is that Carter stands for peace and nonviolence. Otherwise much of the film is like a 1950s “B” movie—corny and campy.

March 30, 2012

The Hunger Games
“The Hunger Games” is a story filled with moral dilemmas that the young people and those close to them must face in a controlled society with an omnipresent government that dominates its citizens. How to survive without killing anyone except as self-defense or defense of another, how to be part of the fake and banal world of celebrity television without losing one’s humanity, the many shades and obstacles to true love, family, and how to endure life with an all-seeing totalitarian government whose absolute power has corrupted the leaders and their hacks absolutely?

March 22, 2012

Mirror Mirror
This fantasy romantic version of the fairy tale is based on “Snow White” collected and published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. But be sure to set aside all previous telling in movies, television, video games and fiction. This new imagining of the tale is a visual and melodic fusion of east and west that may surprise you but most certainly you will leave the theater smiling.

The Kid With a Bike
These filmmakers have insight into a reality that has marked, or marred, every generation since the Industrial Revolution and perhaps before: disposable kids. Parents fail to care for their children and they fall into the prevailing culture or criminal behavior. But if the parents fail - the kindness of a stranger prevails.
March 9, 2012

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax
“Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax” is a must see for citizens and disciples of any age. So much to talk about, so many opportunities to do something to make a difference.

Salmon Fishing in Yemen
This film offers a lot to consider and contemplate about faith and life. The Sheik is a kind of mystical character and the story has a fairy tale quality about it that made it one of the gentlest films about faith and transformation I have seen in a long time.


March 2, 2012

The Secret World of Arrietty
I loved the beautiful world of the film, the moral imaginary journey of trying to live and be happy by walking in the shoes, or seeing through the eyes, of people different that me. And I appreciated the girl Arrietty’s gumption and the boy Shawn’s quiet strength in adversity. Finally, here is a film with two complementary heroes, each respectful of the other and courageous in their own way.

Safe House
The film is certainly a critique of the CIA and the government’s torture policies but a two-hour series of car crashes, explosions and gunfights cannot make up for a film that just is not very good. All the character development is placed on the capable shoulders of Denzel, but if you look, you’ve seen the facial expressions, knowing looks, keen intelligence and quick moves before.

February 17, 2012

Good Deeds
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.

Act of Valor
“Act of Valor” is not a Hollywood film; its backer, at least in terms of support and casting, is the U.S. Navy. So I think it needs to be seen more as a recruitment film, or a film that can cloud the audience’s need to ask: What’s really going on here? What Christian values does it support or deny? “Act of Valor” just made me sad.

 

February 17, 2012

Undefeated
“Undefeated” is not a movie about football, it’s a beautiful documentary about love, brotherhood, community, education, forgiveness, prayer, respect, humility, character, faith, and yes, beating one another to pulp over some inflated pigskin. I cannot really express how deeply this film touched me.  This film is about gifts: the ones we share, the one’s we receive, and the ones we never see coming.

The Woman in Black
This is a film about grief and love, about mental illness and who decides who is ill or not. In some warped way, when Arthur tries to set the universe aright to appease the woman in black, she returns the favor. And it is not all that upsetting except to the living. The story also has a terrible Pied Piper quality about it because vengeance for an original crime is the real horror. “The Woman in Black” is well scripted, acted, and filmed. But is it horror or about the power of love? Can they be the same?

 

February 10, 2012

The Vow
The film could have gone deeper into the emotional and moral dilemmas but chose to skim these by creating a more dramatic backstory for Paige and her family and maintaining the eye-candy appeal of the lead actors. Leo’s devotion to his marriage vows is reinforced throughout, as well as his respect for Paige, and Paige’s faith and courage, regardless of any other seeming flaws in the film, creates the overarching meaning of “The Vow”.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island
“Journey 2” is a thoroughly enjoyable family film – and I do not make this observation lightly. So many “family films” are so sanitized that they can bore one to tears. But “Journey 2” is about great literature (please note all the literary references and authors that will be familiar to most kids ten and above), adventure, imagination, growing up, and family relationships that include forgiveness and reconciliation.

 

February 3, 2012

Coriolanus
In a presidential year, “Coriolanus” is worth watching. Pride, even if it be a man’s natural personality, is a deadly sin. It is a lesson Coriolanus never learned and it cost him his life.

Albert Nobbs
I thought this was a compassionate story about women in a culture in which men preyed on females without impunity and that women, in order to survive, did what they could. Sometimes we just don’t know why people do what they seem to be doing. Director Rodrigo Garcia is quite at home directing sympathetic films about strong women beset by difficult choices, tragedy and rays of hope.

 

January 27, 2012

Haywire
Director Steven Soderbergh never makes a frivolous movie. Here, using a tight script written by Lem Dobbs, he makes a case for the precarious ethical union between the U.S. government and the military industry that is unregulated, extremely profitable, and thriving.

Red Tails
“Red Tails” is based on true facts but the script is tedious and the action slow throughout most of the film. Director Anthony Hemmingway has made a fine reputation for himself for television, but here the pace is so slow that I think such an important movie may not receive the audience it so deserves. The writing obviously struggled to create tension and friendship among the men, but it was so obvious it was a cliché. The actors have so much potential but their performances are stilted.

 

January 20, 2012

Contraband
There are plenty of surprise switch-and-bait plot points to keep you watching, but somehow I just couldn’t buy the premise except for one major point. The story reminded me somewhat of Mark Wahlberg’s personal story of moving from a life of trouble making to a family man, good citizen, and productive member of society.

Carnage
This is a dark comedy set in a stuffy hell created by these parents who don’t really know who they are. The acting is taut and fine by all the actors but some plays are better left to the theater.

 

January 13, 2012

Joyful Noise
“Joyful Noise” is not a great film, but it is high energy and very entertaining. It’s not especially good on moral theology either (one of the lady choir members sleeps with another one and when he dies during the night, she wonders if it is God’s punishment; the pastor assures her it isn’t but he is not particularly concerned that sex outside of marriage falls outside of Christian behavior.)

The Devil Inside
“The Devil Inside” won the box office last weekend, but I thought it was a boring rehash of the same old story. The good part is that the film reminds people that the devil is still around and he sure doesn’t seem to be leaving Hollywood anytime soon.

 

January 3, 2012

The Iron Lady
Is there anyone the multi-nominated and Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep cannot portray? As I was leaving the theater after watching this most watchable film I asked a woman if she came for a movie about Margaret Thatcher or to see Meryl Streep perform? She smiled and said, “If I have to tell the truth then it was to see Meryl Streep.”

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Love is what the movie, at its heart, is all about. And if it is about love, it is about hope and faith. I loved it, as hard as it was to experience September 11 through the eyes and life of this child who feels everything so intensely.

 

December 22, 2011

War Horse
There are many good things to say about “War Horse”. In most films featuring animals we learn how we can become more human, more humane, and “War Horse” does this beautifully. Friendship, love, sacrifice are themes that bind the film together.

We Bought a Zoo
It’s not easy to make a movie about grief, and grief is uncomfortable yet it is part of all our lives. Not sure it’s the best choice for a Christmas release, but I can see the film extending a healing touch to those who are feeling loss.

 

December 16, 2011

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Ultimately the theme is about patriotism, loyalty, and betrayal on the level of the individual and one’s country, and between countries with the same goals. It is very well acted and worthy of seeing for the performances and quality of direction if nothing else.

Young Adult
“Young Adult” tries hard to be witty but it falls flat at every turn. It is a bleak excursion into the soul of a person who does not even realize she has one. Even the one likeable character, Matt, played by Patton Oswalt, loses his footing and falls prey to Mavis’ bleak search for what she cannot have and certainly does not deserve.

 

December 9, 2011

The Descendants
The younger generation is made up of lonely rich kids; Matt’s generation is made up of middle-aged people waiting around for a financial windfall, and the grandparents are lonely and slowly losing their mental powers. Is this all life is meant to be? “The Descendents” is a short circuit of a film; it goes in a circle and only hints at breaking out.

My Week With Marilyn
This film, directed by Simon Curtis, seemed to really be about capturing the aura and pathos of the life of two gifted and beautiful actresses: Marilyn and Michelle. I think Michelle has already learned enough lessons from the film business to last a lifetime.

 

December 2, 2011

Hugo
I found myself profoundly moved by the film and at one point, I just started crying for the sheer joy of seeing the creative imagination validated. If we approach the film intentionally, willing to wait for the story to unfold, to savor the blend of sight and sound, to become a curious child again, we, too, will be rewarded, just like Hugo.

Arthur Christmas
What movie-going child today under the age of ten or twelve won’t think it’s normal for Christmas to be run by the entities such as the Pentagon or the U.N. and soldiers? That’s is the part I didn’t like. Here’s the part I did like: The film challenges militarization and war games when the elves confront Steve: “What do you mean one child doesn’t matter? If she doesn’t matter, who decides which child does matter?”

 

November 23, 2011

The Muppets
There are a lot of inter-textual references, that is, inside jokes about Muppets and Hollywood, plus much music and guest appearances, including politico James Carville – twice! The film is a very enjoyable crowd pleaser.

Breaking Dawn, Part 1
There is a lot of blood in this film and if anything links it to the Mormon faith, it is the symbolic nature of the blood connecting families, past generations, and even those yet to be born. As vampires are immortal, so are Mormon men who are the channels of salvation and immortality for their wives.

 

November 18, 2011

Into the Abyss
Herzog treats his subject with an even hand. At the end Adam Stoler’s sister says that she is doesn’t want to seem like an evil person but that she is glad she went to the execution. Herzog asks her if the death penalty is something she thinks Jesus would do. She replies, “Probably not.”

A Very Harold and Kumar's 3D Christmas
It was never my intention to see this stoner celebration of perpetual adolescence, in the Harold and Kumar pothead franchise, but I received a request from St. Anthony Messenger to give my perspective on the film.

 

November 11, 2011

Tower Heist
The film was OK but I was disappointed that it wasn’t as funny as the previews led us to believe. Heists are supposed to be improbable tales about losers outwitting the winners and this one did so with interesting characters, though it was almost impossible to understand Casey Affleck’s mumbled lines.

J. Edgar
Clint Eastwood’s vision in this film is interesting because he is commenting on American individualism taken to the extreme of almost unbridled power that neither elected or appointed government officials could regulate. Eastwood never strays far from the Western myth and the consequences of accepting it without question.

 

November 4, 2011

Anonymous
The interesting aspect of “Anonymous” is the commentary it offers of the role of Puritanism at the court of Queen Elizabeth. The legacy of Puritanism is with us still, seen, for example, in  school boards banning books or groups promoting boycotts in reaction to television shows and movies, rather than taking a reasoned, educational approach to pop culture artifacts.

Puss in Boots
“Puss in Boots” is a contrived tale of a quasi-felonious feline that wants to get back his good name. The movie looks good but is only mildly entertaining.

 

October 21, 2011

The Way
I think “The Way” expresses well what the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that most people come to the Church (or return to the Church) by means that the Church does not approve. When it comes to God’s grace, there are no limits for God is all-powerful and colors outside the lines to get our attention. The movie offers us so much to talk about. “The Way” is a movie full of grace.

September 23, 2011

Machine Gun Preacher
This story is morally and ethically complex because it showcases the use of violence justified by the Bible. But unfortunately the film reduces the moral dimension to what seemed more like propaganda to me. 

Dolphin Tale
Dolphin Tale parallels Winter’s story with that of two children of single parents, and a returning soldier wounded in Iraq. Although the film is in 3D, the story is beautiful in its simplicity. The courage of some of the children who visit Winter goes right for the heart.

 

September 16, 2011

Contagion
The interesting thing about “Contagion” is that it shows us what a pandemic looks like in a panoramic way. We see the nobility and decency of people contrasted, and sometimes replaced with humanity’s basest instincts. From a Christian perspective, you will find all of the Beatitudes and the Deadly Sins represented in the film.

The Lion King 3-D
“The Lion King 3D” won’t pop out and scare you, the sound won’t overwhelm you, and the 3D will not annoy you. It’s a refreshing 3D experience. The music is as great as ever and the story is one for all seasons. The opening sequence especially is visually stunning.

 

September 9, 2011

Warrior
“Warrior” is about forgiveness, and if cinema is at its best when it is the external manifestation of internal realities (and I think that it is), then the intense interior struggle to forgive and reconcile with one’s brother, is portrayed in extreme passion, pain, and physical force.

The Debt
This is a very provocative film and though the subject explores the deepest and darkest recesses of the human heart and our own inhumanity to one another, the film has substance, it is interesting and extremely well acted and directed.

 

September 2, 2011

Seven Days in Utopia
For anyone who has ever made a retreat, there is much to like about this gentle film beginning with the seven-day structure. To examine one’s life, to articulate one’s identity, is always a salutary practice. To become aware of the world and others, to forgive and reconcile, to be open to wisdom, are well presented in the story. The cinematography, especially in the opening sequences, is beautiful.

Higher Ground
Anyone who has felt the inner movement of grace to take the next best step in the spiritual life will recognize Corrine’s dilemma and journey of discernment. As a Catholic, Christian I felt the absence of the sacraments for Corrine, and wondered where her journey might lead. The thing is, Corrine knows that God is faithful and that indeed “all is grace.”

 

August 26, 2011

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World
“Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World” is a sturdy family film but it felt like the special effects outweighed the plot and certainly the dialogue. The good news is it is better than the comic books into film we have been getting, with more discernment about the situation that the simplistic good vs. evil.

The Hedgehog
I felt that I had seen fine literature come to life with this film that takes place almost entirely in an apartment building. Indeed the story is based on the critically acclaimed French novel “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” by Muriel Barbery.

 

August 19, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love
“Crazy, Stupid, Love”, written by Dan Fogleman, who wrote “Cars”, “Bolt” and “Tangled” vacillates between charm, humor, and the unsatisfying consequences of careless sexual behavior. But he does manage to show that marriage takes work, that temptations abound, and that it is precious, and requires character, courage, and effort.

Attack the Block
I didn’t see any advertisements for “Attack the Block”, no marketing at all. It just happened to be the one film at the local multiplex that was new and that I had not yet seen. I was the only one in the theater as well. That’s too bad, because this film is one of the good ones: entertaining, a little scary, good acting and directing, thoughtful about human freedom and dignity, and just a little cheesy in the alien department.

 


August 12, 2011

SENNA
“SENNA” has won major awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Adelaide Film Festival. When the publicist invited me to the screening and said it was about Formula One racing, I was glad she could not see the blank look on my face. But then she said that Senna, the subject of the film, was a Catholic and the film has a surprising spiritual dimension. I was intrigued, so I went to the screening – and cried at the end.

The Help
“The Help” is a tribute to human dignity, faith, and forgiveness. It  is relevant, engaging, and entertaining. It will take you by the heart.

 


August 5, 2011

The Whistleblower
“The Whistleblower” is not an easy film to watch. Human trafficking films such as “Trade” (2007)  are very difficult to watch, yet they pull away the shades covering up human misery that we really do not want to know about. But then, what are we to do? C.A.S.T., the coalition for the abolition of slavery and trade, educates, advocates for legislation, and provides shelter and immigration services to women and children who are able to escape from bondage.

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness
As the ad says, before there was “Fiddler on the Roof” there was Sholem Aleichem, the Yiddish storyteller whose takes of Tevye the Dairyman were the inspiration for the beloved award-winning musical and film.

 

July 29, 2011


Captain America: The First Avenger
Comic books-into-film is a hugely successful film genre because they are a special effects bonanza, the heroes are beautiful people, and the bad guys lose. The stories are basically the same: good vs. evil engage in a massive struggle and good triumphs. There is almost always an American patriotic spin to the plot. While good does triumph, the use of vengeance as a virtue is a concern to thoughtful viewers.  Also, seeing the world in the simplistic black and white categories of good vs. evil and violence as a way to solve problems, falls far outside of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

Sarah's Key
More than anything I think the story wants to say: how easily we forget the crimes against humanity of the past. We need to remember or we are doomed to repeat them. There are consequences to ignoring or forgetting history, just as there are consequences to not seeing genocide and man-made famine in our world today. History in the making. How do we want to be remembered?"

July 22, 2011



Of Gods and Men
Not long after midnight on March 27, 1996, seven Trappist monks were kidnapped from the monastery of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria. After two months in captivity, they were beheaded; their bodies were never found. The film, by the prolific French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois, captures the monks’ simple life of work and prayer. Of Gods and Men won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010.

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
This is a film about tradition, the emotional connections created through life-long friendships, loyalty, sacrifices, and sisterly love. I think the theme of language and communication frames the story and creates layers of meaning that cinephiles will enjoy discussing.

July 15, 2011: Special Edition
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2



July 15, 2011




Horrible Bosses
“Horrible Bosses” is not as horrible as some of the puerile movies made for a male audience, but almost.   If there is anything worthwhile to take away from this crudely indulgent film by four accomplished television comedians, it is that bullying goes on in the workplace and the abuse of power, while often absurd and incomprehensible, can cause real suffering. Bullying always has consequences.

Winnie the Pooh
Besides the lesson of choosing friends over one’s self (this is the key moral of the story), it is a movie about literacy, reading, language, learning, writing and understanding.  I loved the honor the film pays to the joy of reading and the hope it can give us – books, as well as all story-telling media: cinema, television, music and song -  can give us hope when we need it the most.

July 8, 2011



Page One
This fascinating documentary that follows four Times journalists throughout 2010 and the morphing of a newspaper into a multiplatform source for news.

Larry Crowne
I wanted to like “Larry Crowne”, a new film directed by the brilliant Oscar-winner Tom Hanks and co-written with Nia Vardalos, who gave us the wonderful film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” in 2002. Yes, I was looking forward to seeing “Larry Crowne” but the best thing about it was seeing it after “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”. It gave me a chance to unwind. Unfortunately, I almost fell asleep.

July 1, 2011



Mr. Popper's Penguins
Imagine if you were an only child and your father was seldom at home because he was wandering the earth looking for adventure. He would call or write, but eventually as you grew up, you almost forgot him. This is the case of Mr. Popper (Jim Carrey).

The Labyrinth
Themes of survival, art as a healer, the resilience of the human person, man’s inhumanity, and finally hope, are some of the themes the film reflects as it leads us through this phenomenal maze of genius. For more information about this film and to order a copy of the DVD, visit http://www.thelabyrinthdocumentary.com/

June 24, 2011




A Better Life
“A Better Life” is a touching film, and some may think it is heavy on message. The acting is good, and held my interest from the very beginning. Some may take issue with the ending, however, people are resilient, and the bonds of family very strong.

Buck
This is a film about hope, resilience, self-knowledge and awareness, self-control and respect. If a person develops these character traits, he or she will be successful with horses, other pets, and most of all, people.

June 17, 2011



Queen of the Sun:What Are the Bees Telling Us?

“Queen of the Sun: what are the bees telling us?” is an inspiring film about and by poet-scientists that can motivate us to respect nature and remind us that God’s way in nature is the best way.

Super 8
This is the perfect film for the Pentecost season. The gifts and fruits of the Spirit are all there: peace, love, joy, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, wisdom, knowledge, reverence and so on. See how many you can find. Sometimes I think that Steven Spielberg makes the best Christian movies ever. Then J.J. Abrams, who gave us the hit TV series “Lost” doesn’t do such a bad job himself.

June 10, 2011



The Last Mountain
This feature-length documentary is about a group of people from Coal River Valley, W.Va. and their efforts to stop Massey Energy from blasting Cold River Mountain, the last of five hundred Appalachian mountaintops that had been blasted for coal.

X-Men: First Class
This latest installment in the Marvel comics-into-film “X-Men” franchise is one of the best of the four, so far, if not the best. It is, indeed, “first class.”

June 3, 2011



Bridesmaids

This review is not a recommendation, but there are probably young women in your life that will see it. The question is: what will they learn? I would hope their take away is that casual sex is demeaning and disappointing and that friendships are fragile but they can last forever if we tend to them.

The Tree of Life
“The Tree of Life” is about mystery and about grace, about certainty and the questions, and about the complexity of human freedom in relation to the Creator, to creation, and to one another.


May 27, 2011



Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The film actually addresses themes of religion, superstition, fantasy, redemption through mankind’s endless search for eternal youth so as to avoid death. There’s commentary on clerical missionaries and celibacy, but I am not sure how serious this is meant to be. The voodoo doll, that everyone knows is superstition, calls for some conversation between parents and children, just to make sure they understand it as a comic device rather than a supernatural way to control people.

Midnight in Paris
Director/writer Woody Allen’s film opened the Cannes Film Festival earlier this month and it is indeed one of his best films in a long time; clever, sharp, entertaining and though not overly self-conscious as Allen’s films can be, the litany of writers and artists in the film meet Allen’s cinematic requirement for neurosis.

May 20, 2011



The First Grader
“The First Grader” is a moving and important film, especially as the United States faces its own crisis in education and literacy levels continue to drop. The film ignites a passion for learning and education for all.

Everything Must Go
“Everything Must Go” is a kind of parable that lays out the options for middle-aged people who find themselves at a crucial moment, a crossroads, even if it only means crossing the front yard.

May 13, 2011



There Be Dragons
I had hoped to learn about Josemarie Escriva and Opus Dei but was disappointed. Alas, the film is more about Manolo, his violence and need for forgiveness and reconciliation than about the saint’s interior life and an understanding of his work. Nevertheless, there are some luminous moments that can inspire.

The Beaver
I was moved by this poignancy and helplessness portrayed in the film, by those who suffer illness and those who love them. To me, the acting is flawless and direction by Jodie Foster, a longtime friend of Gibson, is strong and right on. More than anything, I wish Mel Gibson well, because he can really hold his own on the screen.




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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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