Continuing our series on family movies, there are many that relate to saints and Our Blessed Mother for the month of May. We begin with Our Lady of Fatima on May 13. Movies about this apparition include Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, which is an older classic film made in 1952 about that period in 1917 when Our Lady appeared to the three Portuguese shepherd children Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco. Her message was prophetic then and is still relevant to us today. The Apparitions at Fatima is a Portuguese production and was filmed in 1992 on site. It goes more deeply into the visions of Hell seen by Jacinta and the penances the children took on for the sins of the world. This film is considered historically accurate. Fatima, Altar of the World is more of a documentary and it includes footage of the beatification of Jacinta and Francisco by Pope John Paul II. Who can resist any movie, whether in documentary style or dramatized, if the lead voice is that of Ricardo Montalban? Fatima is such a production and is considered the best documentary on Fatima ever made. It not only includes footage of World War I, but also commentary by Malcolm Muggeridge, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, James Hitchcock and Warren Carroll. This is a look back at the events of Fatima and what followed. The Day the Sun Danced, is an animated story for children about the events at Fatima.
There are a number of other movies about our Blessed Mother. A recent production is Mary of Nazareth, With Jesus from Birth to Death. Though the story does not follow exactly the Nativity story as we know it, it nevertheless, captures life and the essence of the story surrounding Christ’s birth. The Story of the Nativity is related by noted Catholic scholars and uses a variety of media and locations to tell the true story of the birth of Christ. A series of DVDs with the title “The Woman Clothed with the Sun…” relate the many apparitions of Our lady around the world. They are: The Woman Clothed with the Sun: Rue de Bac, Beauraing and Banneux; The Woman Clothed with the Sun: Zaragosa, Guadalupe and Lourdes ; and The Woman Clothed with the Sun: Lasalette & Pontmain
On May 15, the Church honors Blessed Damien de Veuster, the Belgian peasant who heard the call to leave home and work as a missionary in Hawaii. He was ordained after he arrived there in 1863 and chose to go work among the lepers of Molokai. He brought hope to the outcasts of society by building houses, clinics, schools and places for the people to gather together for socializing and prayer. He eventually died of leprosy and was buried in Hawaii. His remains were transferred to Belgium in the 1930s. Damien is a one-man monologue in which Terence Knapp as Damien relates the story of his life. Molokai, The Story of Fr. Damien stars David Wenham as Damien, Peter O'Toole, Sam Neill, Leo McKern and others. This story recounts the many struggles Fr. Damien faced, the temptations, the conflict, and the ugliness of the disease of leprosy. Because of its realism, I would not recommend this movie for young children.
An Uncommon Kindness is narrated by Robin Williams and beautifully tells the story of the sacrificial life of Fr. Damien.
On May 22 the Church honors St. Rita of Cascia. Rita lived in the 1400s during a time of political and social strife in Italy. She desired to be an Augustinian nun, but her parents arranged her marriage to a young man who turned out to be an abusive husband. Nevertheless, she bore him two sons and was a devoted wife and mother for 18 years. He was stabbed to death by political rivals and the norm of the day was to seek vengeance. Rita’s sons vowed to avenge their father’s death, but through her prayers and example, they were dissuaded from doing so. Rita was instrumental in reducing tensions between the warring factions and eventually entered the convent where she lived for 40 years. She was devoted to the Passion of Christ and received a stigmata-like wound on her forehead which bled for 15 years. Rita is invoked in desperate cases and unhappy marriages. Rita portrays the life of Rita and her family in a moving drama. Despite her suffering, she never lost hope, and her story is inspiring for others, especially those who think their own situation is hopeless.
Joan of Arc, honored by the Church on May 30, is another saint of the 1400s whose story has captured the imaginations and been the inspirations of people through many generations. Burgundy, which was allied with England, was in control of most of France and the rightful heir to the throne had not been crowned. Known as the “Maid of Orleans,” Joan had visions which led her to seek the restoration of Charles VII to his rightful place on the throne of France. With approval from the Church, she led the soldiers in the siege of Orleans and Charles was crowned. In a later battle, she was captured and sold to the English. In an ecclesiastical court, she was tried for witchcraft and for wearing men’s clothing. She confessed to the charges and her death sentence was commuted, only to be reinstated when she donned men’s clothing again. She was burned at the stake. Twenty-five years later, the Church revisited her case and found her innocent. She was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV. There are a number of movies about St. Joan of Arc: The 1948 version called Joan of Arc stars Ingrid Bergman and remains an all-time favorite. The Passion of Joan of Arc was filmed in 1928 in French (English subtitles) and dramatizes her trial and martyrdom. Joan of Arc: Child of War, Soldier of God is a Hallmark docu-drama which recounts Joan’s story through her own eyes. Joan of Arc is the latest dramatization of the story of the French warrior/martyr. It has an all-star cast, with Leelee Sobieski as the heroine, and supported by Jacqueline Bisset, Olympia Dukakis, Robert Loggia, Maximilian Schell, Peter Strauss, and Peter O'Toole. Being a modern movie, Joan has a bit of an attitude which would not have been typical of her time, but generally speaking, the movie portrays a good story.
These are just a few suggestions for a wholesome family night together with your family. Make some popcorn and choose a movie which will inspire, educate and entertain all at the same time.