Archive | February, 2014

How the movie ‘Gravity’ is an allegory of the Christ story

February 27, 2014

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By Bob Busch

(Warning: spoilers ahead.)Scene from movie 'Gravity'

I highly recommend the movie “Gravity.” I found it to be a riveting space-survival story, and, whatever the filmmaker’s intent, also an allegory for the Christ story.

“Gravity” is set in low-earth orbit in the present day. The movie’s heroine, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), is not a professional astronaut. She’s only aboard the space shuttle to deliver her research work, a new set of eyes so the Hubble Space Telescope can “scan to the edge of the universe.” Her colleague, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), is a veteran astronaut on his last mission before retirement.

While Kowalski marvels at the beauty of the earth brimming with life below, Stone has turned her back to it. Her spirit died the day her young daughter died in a tragic accident, and she’s since buried herself in her work. Disasters ensue, and all but the two perish. And then Kowalski gives the supreme sacrifice so Stone might live. Stone is now alone and struggles to survive against insurmountable odds.

To me, “Gravity” is a movie masterpiece, both as a space story and as a spiritual metaphor for the Christ story. Kowalski represents Christ. Stone represents us, humanity. The voice from the Houston ground crew represents the voice of God. Contact appears lost when disaster strikes, and the astronauts’ pleas to “Houston from the blind” represent humanity’s pleas to an unseen and unheard God.

Kowalski’s sacrifice in the untethering scene represents Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Stone exclaims humanity’s cry: “But I had you!”

Abandoned and alone, literally and figuratively out of fuel, Stone despairs in the Upper Room of her marooned space capsule. She laments that no one will mourn for her, and she dismisses praying since she’s never prayed in her life. Bereft of hope, she chooses death by turning off the capsule’s oxygen.

Then the key scene: the miraculous visitation by Kowalski. He enters directly through the Upper Room capsule door. Is Kowalski a low-oxygen hallucination or a dream, or is this truly a resurrection visit from the divine? Whichever, the visit changes everything for Stone.

She’s now found the reason and purpose to go on. We see her Pentecost as she turns on the oxygen and breathes new life in the spirit. We see her re-entry from space, complete with tongues of fire as the space debris descends into the atmosphere. We’re witnessing the descent of the Holy Spirit onto man.

Whether she burns up in the next 10 minutes, or lives to tell the tale, she’s now fully embracing life’s every moment. She emerges from her water landing and her space-capsule womb, representing rebirth of body and soul. She crawls from the water onto the shore, representing man’s evolution to a new life in the spirit.

She clutches at the sand, uttering the simplest and most perfect prayer: “Thank you.” They are the movie’s final words. Finally, she marvels at life all around before walking off into the distance to begin her life anew, on this earth and life eternal.

As I look back at the movie, I ask what Stone was searching for in outer space. To me, she was searching for the key that would open the door, between heaven and earth, which stood between her and her beloved daughter. Her search for that key represents humanity’s search to be with God.

Nothing of this world proved to be the key that brought her to her daughter. Humanity’s greatest technologies failed and fell away. No solely human effort or idea or human being came to the rescue. The one and only key that opened the door was not of this world, but rather of the divine. It did not come from within Dr. Stone, but through a relationship with another. It was not earned through her efforts or intellect, but was freely given as a gift.

The one key that opened the door was Kowalski, symbolizing Christ. His sacrifice and resurrection was the key that allowed her to transcend the bonds of this world, to connect with her child. When she finally spoke to her daughter, she did not do so directly, but rather, through Kowalski: “Tell her I love her, and I’m not quitting.” Jesus is the intermediary who opens the door between heaven and earth.

Once the door opened, where did it lead? Not to a God residing somewhere “out there” in the heavens of outer space. As the movie’s opening credits state: “Life in space is impossible.” No, God is life, and life resides right here, at home. God is in the ground crew. Stone looked for the answer at the farthest edge of space. In the end, she found the answer was right here all along, in her own backyard.

And the rescuing voice that immediately called out to her, when her craft broke through the clouds, as she re-entered the land of the living? It was God’s voice in the Houston ground crew, calling out to her, amidst the other radio clutter symbolizing life’s daily distractions that keep us from hearing God’s call. Houston had appeared to her as an unresponsive dial tone when she had called, unseen and unheard. But Houston had been there all along, calling out to her, wanting to be with her. Only when she entered her new life in the spirit was she able to hear God’s ever-present call: “I’m here! I’m coming to rescue you!”

When Stone says “thank you” at the end, who is she thanking? An abstract God? A low-oxygen hallucination of her own making? I don’t think so. She’s thanking a very real God, made fully human and yet fully divine, through Kowalski (Christ). Jesus renamed Simon as “Peter,” meaning “the rock,” and like her namesake, Dr. Stone goes forth to the ends of the earth to share her new life in the Spirit.

The father-son team that created “Gravity” acknowledges many other spiritual paths throughout the film, from references to Buddhism to the Ganges River that is at the juncture of the Muslim and Hindu worlds. However, whatever the intent, to me, “Gravity” is a space movie that also serves as a beautiful metaphor for the Christ story.

Busch resides with his wife and three children in Minneapolis, where he raises money for new medicines development and doctor training at the University of Minnesota Health. The family attends the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. He can be reached at robertbusch27@gmail.com.
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Time for your Catholic parish to change?

February 12, 2014

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HolinessCultureDoes your parish have lackluster Sunday Masses where people mumble the responses, where only a third of the people sing and where almost everyone skips past the cup at Communion time?

Is the culture of your parish one that allows its members to come and go, live and die, without really being engaged in their faith?

If you’d like to get started helping to reinvigorate your parish so its members have the kind of encounter with Christ which leads to conversion, a richer community life and action that serves others — one that draws others to it because it is so attractive a lifestyle — then Bill Huebsch has a book for you.

“A Culture of Holiness for the Parish” (Acta Publications) is a mere 82 pages in the size of paperback that easily fits into a pocket or purse, but it’s filled with wisdom about the Catholic faith. Huebsch, who is director of pastoral planning, com and its online Vatican II Center, has grasped the meat of what the Second Vatican Council expects of Catholics, and his well-structured process to help Catholic parishes meet those expectations are presented in language others can grasp, too.

Pastors, parish ministers and core leaders of parish ministries and organizations show the way by sharing their own personal stories of seeing God active in their lives. As parishioners feel comfortable telling others about the holiness they feel and see, about the times they’ve been touched by an event or times they’ve felt God in their lives, “home lives are imbued with hospitality, forgiveness and love,” Huebsch writes, and “a new orientation of self-giving love seeps into parish life and reaches out in action to the wider community.”

Through “A Culture of Holiness for the Parish,” any parish can plan, launch and sustain a Catholic community which others will notice for the way its members love God and love their neighbor. Worth a try?

 

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Thinking ahead to spring

February 10, 2014

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Only minutes into taking my dog for a walk yesterday, I knew it was a mistake. It was really cold, and the winds started biting into my face right away. I went ahead with the full 3 miles, but the last mile was brutal.

I needed a dose of spring after that, and I simply turned my thoughts to the upcoming turkey season. No doubt there are people who are worried about turkeys freezing to death in these sub-zero temperatures, but 30-plus years of turkey hunting have shown me that these birds are tough!

I have hunted after some of the worst winters we’ve had, and the birds always seem to be present in good numbers come spring. I once talked a wild turkey biologist, and he assured me the birds can withstand the coldest weather we face, as long as they can find food.

In the areas where I hunt, it’s not a problem. There’s always spilled corn and soybeans left over from the fall harvest, plus at least one landowner I know feeds the birds in the form of spreading manure on his fields. What I learned years ago is that there’s a lot of undigested corn in the manure, and the turkeys know it. In fact, one farmer I know says the birds always come running out of the woods when they see him spreading manure.

I think bird numbers will be just fine this spring. In fact, I expect a high number of mature gobblers when I get out in the field in May. The early and mild spring of 2012 put a lot of jakes in the woods last year. Those birds will be mature this year. And, the poor weather throughout the spring cut down on the hunting and resulted in fewer birds taken, which means more survivors.

So, I think it could be a very good year. Of course, it all depends on weather. I do NOT want another spring like last year, when there was cold and snow during just about every time period in Minnesota and Wisconsin. That made the hunting unbelievably tough. I managed to get a bird in Wisconsin, but struck out in Minnesota.

As long as we don’t have a nasty snowstorm in April or May, I think I’ll be fine. I have been working on securing permission to hunt my usual properties in both states, and am close to being all set. One more “yes” in Minnesota and I’m ready to go there. In Wisconsin, I’m good to go.

Sometimes, staying on good terms with landowners and getting permission year after year is a challenge. One guy I talked with brought up some bad experiences he’s had with hunters. A hunter one year asked for permission to hunt, then brought others with him to hunt. This landowner didn’t like it, and let me know that such a tactic will not work with him.

I’m grateful that he was honest in telling me about it — and was still willing to let me hunt. He’s got an excellent piece of land to hunt, and it is adjacent to another property I have permission to hunt. One of the best spots is right near the property line, so it’s good to have permission on both properties. Plus, this landowner has a great roosting area on his land. The birds roost there regularly, and now I can move in on them.

I have done a little practicing with my calls, but not much. Some years, I have practiced very intensely, which can drive my wife crazy. I’m going to back off on the practicing this year. I certainly don’t want to be rusty when I hit the woods, but I also have learned that there are many factors that determine success, and there are things every bit as important as being a good caller. In fact, if you focus too much on calling, you can end up neglecting other important factors.

My seasons in Minnesota and Wisconsin are almost exactly three months away. I cant’ wait!

 

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Crashed Ice construction

February 7, 2014

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The track is being constructed. Follow along with photos of the construction on The Catholic Spirit’s Facebook page. The Crashed Ice competition will take place February 22 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, National Shrine of the Apostle Paul.

 

Photo by Michael Pytleski / The Catholic Spirit

Photo by Michael Pytleski / The Catholic Spirit

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Blessed Trinity principal and teachers camp out to bring attention to school’s 20th anniversary

February 1, 2014

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The Frozen Five ready to spend some time out in the cold. Photo submitted

The Frozen Five ready to spend some time out in the cold. Photo submitted

Fearless Frozen 5 to camp outside Feb. 1 

To bring extra attention to the school’s 20th anniversary, the Catholic Schools raffle and its $20,000 goal, a group of school staff, called the Fearless Frozen 5, will camp out in the cold night air at Blessed Trinity’s Penn Campus Feb. 1. after the school’s Sno*Ball dance and auction. Mr. Patrick O’Keefe (principal), Mrs. Patty Armbrust (4-6 grade teacher), Mrs. Melody Wyrick (first grade teacher), Mr. Brian Stock (middle school teacher) and Mr. Matt Miller (gym teacher for preschool though grade 8) will spend four hours in a tent outside. 

At 10:15 p.m, the school community will gather with the Frozen 5 and send them into the tent with a cheer, prayer and care package. Once inside the tent, their experience will be documented via social media. Follow them on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1401918903395726/

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