All posts tagged: carolynpirtle

And the Nominees Are . . . Moonlight

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. A while back, I wrote an essay for Church Life Journal in which I argued that, before a theology of women or a theology of men can be articulated, what is needed is a theology of empathy, in which both women and men learn to encounter the other as an extension of the self, to enter into the experience of the other—without losing the essential qualities of the self—in order to better understand the other, and in the process, come to a better understanding of the self. I remember thinking at the time that a theology of empathy had implications beyond gender relations, that this was something essential for all human relationships—that empathy could serve as a foundation for dialogue between people of different races, religions, political affiliations, socioeconomic backgrounds, education levels, sexual orientations, even ages. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come …

And the Nominees Are . . . Manchester By the Sea

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Caveat: this review contains spoilers. When life is defined by the worst mistake you’ve ever made, how do you go on living? Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan poses this heart-wrenching question and several others like it in Manchester By the Sea, the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an isolated janitor living in Boston who must return to his hometown after his beloved brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away unexpectedly, and, even more unexpectedly, names Lee the legal guardian of sixteen-year-old Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s only son and Lee’s only nephew. When Lee learns that Joe has not only named him Patrick’s guardian but has also provided funds for him to return to Manchester permanently, he recoils, making every attempt to find another way to provide for his nephew’s care. At first, this seems like the reaction of a selfish, irresponsible man who doesn’t want to be saddled with the burden of an unexpected, …

And the Nominees Are . . . La La Land

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. This post contains no spoilers. I grew up on movie musicals. The Wizard of Oz. Singin’ in the Rain. The Sound of Music. The Music Man. Some of my earliest memories are of watching these iconic films and singing along. As I grew up and started performing in musicals myself, I discovered other greats like An American in Paris and West Side Story, and more recently, I’ve reveled in modern movie musicals like Newsies and Once and Enchanted as well as film adaptations of Broadway shows like Chicago and Into the Woods. So when I heard about La La Land, I was instantly intrigued. The buzz lauded it as a glorious throwback to the glittering extravaganzas filmed in Technicolor and Cinemascope, as writer-director Damien Chazelle’s effort to create an homage, really a valentine, to the Golden Age of the movie musical. And visually, he succeeds, literally with flying colors—the gorgeously saturated …

And the Nominees Are. . .

Yesterday morning in Hollywood, the nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced. In recent years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences received harsh criticism for a lack of diversity among its nominees which many interpreted as an indication of the Academy’s lack of cultural awareness in general, and many people have simply written off the Oscars as an awards show that only means something for people of a certain gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or political affiliation. Those people may be right about the Oscars themselves—movies and awards, like most everything else, have become politicized, and it’s not necessarily the best picture that wins Best Picture. But, in the end, the awards don’t really matter. The movies themselves, the stories they tell, and the capacity those stories have to change the way we look at and the world and live in it—this is what matters. The truly great films are great works of art, and art matters. It matters a great deal. This is why we at Church Life take the opportunity every …

The Hiddenness of St. André Bessette

For centuries, January 6 has marked the celebration of Epiphany, and many Christian communities throughout the world will still observe that feast today. However, for dioceses within the United States, the celebration of Epiphany has been transferred to the Sunday after January 6. To weigh the merits and demerits of that decision isn’t the purpose of this post; rather, it’s to consider the man whose optional memorial we in the United States are invited to celebrate this January 6: St. André Bessette, C.S.C., who entered eternal life eighty years ago today. For those of us at the University of Notre Dame, St. André Bessette holds a special place as the first saint canonized from the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order which founded Our Lady’s University. St. André is a particularly poignant model of sainthood for those who mistakenly believe that sanctity is synonymous with success (a trap into which many of us in academia often fall). Indeed, the eyes of the world, St. André’s life could hardly be called successful, but through the grace …

“Little Children, Love One Another”

For reasons I can’t sufficiently explain, I find that the saints honored by the Church during the Christmas season somehow call my attention a little more than those celebrated at other times of the year. Perhaps it’s because these saints seem to be made more radiant in the glow of the Christmas celebration. Today the Church honors one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity: St. John, Apostle and Evangelist. John has long been a source of fascination for me: my younger brother shares his name, and because of that, when I was a small child, my ears always perked up at Mass whenever I heard the name “John” mentioned. (They still do.) As an adult, I am even more fascinated by St. John the Evangelist—his Gospel and epistles contain some of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. Were I ever to share John’s fate and be banished to an island like Patmos, I would take his writings with me, for I feel certain that I could spend the rest of my life studying …

Advent Fun and Festivity: St. Lucy’s Day

Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Lucy, a third-century Sicilian girl who pledged her virginity to Christ and endured a martyr’s death when she refused to renounce her faith. Numerous versions of St. Lucy’s martyrdom are told: one version says that she miraculously became unmovable when a group of soldiers tried to drag her off to a brothel in order to violate her virginity. Another version relates that, when even a team of oxen couldn’t move Lucy, soldiers piled kindling around her and attempted to set it ablaze, but the wood could not be lit. Still another version states that the soldiers gouged out her eyes before beheading her (hence her symbol of eyes on a plate and her patronage of those suffering from blindness or other eye ailments). Of course, these varied versions are more the stuff of legend than of fact; however, at their core, they all present us with the witness of a courageous young woman who chose to suffer and die rather than betray her beloved spouse, Jesus. In many …

Review: “O Emmanuel” by J.J. Wright

An album of Advent and Christmas music incorporating chant, hymnody, and jazz, performed by a children’s choir, a quartet of adult singers, traditional chamber instruments, and a jazz ensemble. On paper (or on screen), this combination is perhaps more suggestive of avant-garde performance art than reverent sacred music. But the new album O Emmanuel brings this unlikely ensemble together in a spiritually edifying and musically thrilling way. Featuring music written and performed by Grammy-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright (along with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir and Fifth House Ensemble), O Emmanuel is an exciting demonstration of the ways in which sacred music can bring together seemingly disparate styles not only from the Church’s long musical tradition but also from more recent developments in Western music, as Wright describes here in his interview with Church Life Journal. Like the Advent season itself, O Emmanuel is full of surprises. The album begins with “Gabriel’s Message,” an Advent hymn narrating the Annunciation event that deserves to be much more broadly known than it is. Here, Wright’s …

An Interview with Sacred Music Composer J.J. Wright

Following the release of the album O Emmanuel, GRAMMY-winning composer, conductor, and pianist J.J. Wright provided the following interview to Church Life Journal, where he described not only the experience of creating and recording this unique album for the Advent and Christmas seasons (which reached #1 on Billboard’s traditional classical album chart), but also the importance of children’s choirs and the future of sacred and liturgical music in the life of the Church. We are grateful to J.J. for sharing his thoughts as a complement the review of O Emmanuel featured here. CP: Throughout this piece there are moments when varied musical styles are heard side-by-side. For example, in one section, a chant melody is accompanied by a jazz trio. Can you describe your thought process when it comes to constructing passages like this? How do you fit these seemingly incongruous musical pieces together in such a complementary way? Why do you feel it’s important to fuse different kinds of music together in your writing? JJ: Music has an incredible way of stirring our emotions. When I composed this work, I wanted to create …

Christ the King of Mercy

This Sunday, the Solemnity of Christ, King of the Universe, marks the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy. As the aftermath of the recent election continues to play out, it strikes me that this past year, with its focus on learning what it means to practice mercy, has been a training ground for the days, months, and years to come. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, one must practice mercy, and at the moment, that seems to mean extending mercy toward those who appear to hold views antithetical to our own. In the world of social media, we can far too easily become insulated: we tell people to un-friend us if they voted for a particular candidate; we mute people from our news feeds if they post too many ideological rants or politically-driven articles; we cultivate a circle of friends who share our viewpoints. In this ‘echo chamber of the like-minded,’ our voices bounce off one another in isolated agreement and self-validation, growing louder and louder until they become a din, and …