Slumdog Millionaire

I’m sure there are, well, a million posts on this movie, but, having seen it last night, I wanted to add my thoughts to the picture.

I think the best thing about this film was its ability to energetically portray life in the slums of India.  The vibrant yellows and reds, the contemporary and traditional Indian music, and the variety of camera effects made the movie an intriguing collage of cinema.  The movie made me want to travel to India and speak the Indian language.  It made me want to explore the issues of poverty that the movie explores.

The story line called to mind two experiences from my own past.  The first is a book, The View from Saturday, by E.L. Konigsburg.  In the book, four students when an academic competition because they happen to be asked questions that can be answered from their unique life experiences.  This is the premise of Millionaire, that a young boy from the slums, a “slumdog,” can answer his questions based on his vast life experience.

The movie also reminded me of an experience I had while living in Rome in 2005.  While there, I had the chance to visit one of the priories of the Missionaries of Charity priests (Mother Theresa’s order).  I visited for prayer, dinner, and then, it just so happened, a visit to the gypsy (or “Roma” as they are properly referred to today) camp nearby.  It was an old, abandoned building that housed a hundred or so shanties where the gypsy people live.  Gypsies are the people you find most often begging on the streets of Rome.  The movie reminded me of the Gypsies because a large part of the boy’s experience was his enslavement to an organized ring of beggars and the gruesome experiences that entailed.  The Gypsy camp that I experienced was not gruesome, it was actually surprisingly lively (we had gone over there to show the Passion, I think, for the Romanian Orthodox celebration of Lent).

The movie is rated R and, for that reason, should be approached with some caution.  The movie has some violent and gruesome scenes that even some adults would find troubling, especially those who are sensitive to violence toward children (which would be most adults, I would think, but I’m sure there are some who are more so than others).  There are other adult themes but, ultimately, values and actions that are in line with Catholic teachings seem to prevail.

If you saw it, what did you think?  If you read The View from Saturday or are familiar with the gypsy people, I’d also like your input.


The Littlest Angel

Over the last month and a half, I have been singing with the choir at my Catholic parish. I come when I can and, although the choir is, well, a church choir, I do enjoy the community of randomly assorted singers that I get to see every Wednesday evening and Sunday morning.


On a couple of occasions, I have thought of the children’s book, The Littlest Angel, while singing with the choir. The main character is a little boy-angel who sings with the choir and runs around heaven, always leaving things in a little bit of a mess and never quite fulfilling his angel-duties like a responsible angel should. For example, he always shows up late to choir practice, sings a bit off-key, and gets distracted easily during practice. The older angels give him disapproving looks, thinking he can’t get his act together.

I like to think of this littlest angel, who must be so loved by God. Flitting into and out of his responsibilities, he is held in God’s tender hand. God is not so worried about his little mistakes, but takes delight in his spirited presence in heaven.

When I’m too serious about my adult responsibilities, it helps to think of myself as the littlest angel. It’s okay if I flit into and out of my responsibilities, a little. The Lord doesn’t care that I do everything perfectly; he’s delighted I’m around on earth, brightening up corners here and there.

An elderly angel realizes the littlest angel is actually homesick and that, perhaps, his lack of attention to detail might be a symptom of missing his earthly home. He finds a bolex of things that remind him of his home on earth, gives it to the litt angel, and this seems to do the trick.

When Jesus is born, the littlest angel gives Jesus his box; it is the only gift he has. He worries that it won’t be enough but God accepts the gift.

He turns the box of remembrances into the star of Bethlehem.

I get homesick, too, down in MS. We all long for things we have lost or given up to follow the Lord. But maybe our little gifts, however imperfect, will be enough to direct others on their way to see the Lord.

…and well-known Catholic, Amy Welborn.  Her husband died today, very suddenly.  May his soul rest in peace.

One Nation Under Blackberry

I just wanted to pass this opinion piece which critique’s Obama’s decision to keep a Blackberry during his years in office.  It is an interesting commentary on the Web 2.0 Culture.

(It is better listened to than simply read)


Today I drove with two teachers from my high school and one other from Memphis to see Imacculée Ilibagiza speak at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in McComb, MS.  The parish was marking their fourteenth year of Eucharistic Adoration with an inspiration presentation from this survivor of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide.

Before Mass, Imaculée spoke and sang the Magnificat in, what I imagine to be, a Rwandan language.  She said that the Eucharist is a powerful medicine that can heal our bodies and our souls and that we should come to it as frequently as possible.

Mass was beautiful, if simple, and was celebrated by a very vibrant parish community.  You could tell that the parish was very faithful and seemed energized by something – perhaps the Eucharistic adoration.

After Mass, we watched a short video clip from the larger DVD, “The Diary of Imacculée,” which recounts the history of the genocide and Imacculée’s return to Rwanda to forgive those who murdered her parents, two brothers, and numerous other family members and friends.  The video also gave us a brief overview of Imacculée’s 91-day stay in a tiny restroom with seven other women while they waited out the genocide.

It was there that Imacculée says her heart was more fully converted to the Lord.  At this point, Imacculée herself picked up the story, filling in details here and there but all the while focusing on her relationship with God which was sustained by the prayers she said on a red and white rosary her father gave her just before she ran away into hiding.

Imacculée herself seemed a gentle soul.  Although she wore a bright yellow garment with glittering gold stripes, she clutched at her heart at more intense points in her story.  Her facial expression was always somewhere between a smile and a tear, but she consistently made subtle jokes that lightened the mood.  For example, she told as story about how at one point, as she was praying the rosary in the bathroom, she decided to cut part of Our Father out because she could not say it authentically – it was impossible for her to pray the words “…as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  She smiles shyly and said, “but I heard in my heart, “Imacculée, the Our Father is not a man-made prayer!”  She later resolved to say the Our Father in its entirety, adding to her prayer the hope that God could make her understand the words he had given the disciples.

Imacculée reminded me of St. Therese of Lisieux, in some ways.  Although Imacculée is not herself a religious sister (she is married with two children), there was something very gentle, sensitive, and pure about her.  At the same time, just as St. Therese was, there was a quiet inner strength that showed through as she spoke and certainly showed through in her persistence not only during the genocide but throughout the rest of her life.  While she was hiding in the bathroom early on in the first three months and members of the Huto army came to look for those in hiding, she was tempted to bring on what seemed like the inevitable by simply giving up and opening the bathroom door.  Through prayer, she maintained her hope.  Later, she persued a job at the U.N. when she walked there every day to obtain a job until she finally got one.

Imacculée said that there is always hope.  She encouraged the sacraments as remedies to all our ills.  She says she knew she could have gone crazy with revenge after what she experienced, but her faith in the Lord saved her.

I encourage you to read her book Left to Tell. Although I have not yet read it, having met the author, I am guessing it would be a very powerful book.


Since I’m a Spanish teacher, I thought it would be fitting.

This week in Spanish II we are working on the preterit tense.  We have practiced saying that the preterit tense refers to past actions that are seen as completed.  An example of the preterit:  Yesterday, I woke up, showered, got dressed, ate breakfast, drove to school, and jumped into my homeroom just in time.  All of those verbs are in the preterit tense.

The big pedagogical dilemma that I always face when teaching, well, any concept, is the war between a very grammatical approach and a very popular, new approach called “Communicative Language Teaching.”  CLT focuses on introducing and practicing foreign language concepts in the context of communication and focuses on the four “communicative competencies,” sociolinguistic, discourse, grammatical, and strategic.

Essentially, the grammatical approach is straightforward but not exciting.  CLT can be a bit more fun, but much less clear.  Oh, and apparently the research says CLT is a more effective way to help kids learn a foreign language.

I think it’s possible the answer is a mix of both.  I love digging into real uses of Spanish: writing letters, reading articles, listening to a Spanish song or the radio.  Although difficult, the language really comes alive.  Just this week we perused the Spanish version of the Catholic diocesan newspaper for preterit verbs and I think my students enjoyed it.  But I think they’ve also enjoyed having the very grammatical basics we’ve been working on as an anchor to hold on to.

Not to mention that students are people, not brains a stick.

I have the back to school butterflies.  I’m going to pretend, for a moment, that I actually have a readership, and ask the question: are you going back to school?  How do you feel about going back?  What are you looking forward to?  What are you not looking forward to?

Also, a quick prayer from St. Thomas Aquinas:

Grant, O Merciful God, that I might ardently desire, prudently examine, truthfully acknowledge, and perfectly accomplish, what is pleasing to thee for the praise and glory of thy name.

Before I go, one link I’d like to pass along to the USCCB’s daily video reflection on each day’s Mass readings.