Paving Over Grace & Preparing a Place

Two must-reads for you, over at Patheos–well, three, actually!

If you are a fan of books and movies, and I know you are, check out Joseph Susanka’s excellent take on Paved Over Grace; The Road to Perdition, and how Hollywood deviated from the book in ways large and small, to essentially eliminate all the grace-notes, but manage to focus (with perhaps too much emphasis) on the message of “non-violence.” Including both, says Susanka, would be better:

The film’s final lines, delivered by the young son, Michael Sullivan, Jr., underscore the message he learned during those grueling days on the road to Perdition, Illinois — days spent crisscrossing the countryside with his father, one step ahead of the hired guns hell-bent on their destruction: “When people ask me if Michael Sullivan was a good man, or if there was just no good in him at all, I always give the same answer. I just tell them: ‘He was my father.’” Sadly, this answer seems to taint the film’s final moments with the insipid, toxic strains of moral relativism, and combines with Junior’s previous revelation — “I saw then that my father’s only fear was that his son would follow the same road. And that was the last time I ever held a gun.” — to deliver the film’s final warning: the way of violence will always end in violence. A tired message copied directly from Hollywood’s well-thumbed handbook, “Moralizing 101”? To be sure — but still, one that cannot be said to be entirely without value.

To someone familiar with Collin’s graphic novel, however, this ending cannot help but come as a disappointment. While the message of non-violence is present in the literary Road, it is clearly of much less importance to Collins and his characters than the themes of repentance and redemption that permeate the original work — themes so severely downplayed in the film version that they sometimes seem entirely absent. (Mendes, the director, acknowledged that he was drawn to the script because it had “no moral absolutes” — a claim that makes the film’s final lines a bit more understandable, but one that makes repentance and redemption undeniably tricky topics, if not downright irrational ones.)

You’ll want to read the whole column. I haven’t read The Road to Perdition, but now I mean to. It sounds wonderful, actually.

Secondly, take a gander at Marcia Morrissey’s piece, in which she shares her experiences on a recent trip she made to the Biloxi/Gulfport area with her husband, Ed Morrissey of Hot Air. While she and Ed were taking in the vast recoveries that have been made to that stricken area, Marcia sampled the seafood (I am jealous) and then writes of how people came together to Prepare a Place for Others, which ends up having a nice Advent theme:

[Mississippi Cares International was founded by Ellen Ratner and Cholene Espinoza within weeks of Katrina; the people who participated on this project worked very quietly, and without much public notice. They saw the need, and with many helping hands made it possible for the homeless to have a place to live, and a way to move from the woods to the indoors — from dire straits to dignity with self-respect. Oregon Place is a 55-unit apartment complex of fourteen four-plex units of two bedrooms and an onsite laundry. The spacious 3.2-acre site has a stand of mature oaks and a playground for the children.

There are only a few simple requirements to live in Oregon Place: there cannot be a warrant outstanding for one’s arrest; no drugs or alcohol can be used on site, or by the residents; job/skill training is required under a self- improvement plan developed by case workers; and the residents are helped with social, health, and educational needs. A tenant organization oversees the daily activities and safety of the residents. People have been given a helping hand, and a chance to help themselves. Eventually, perhaps, they will be able to extend help to others, themselves.

You can read it all here

Finally, if you have been following the “condom controversy” that followed the release of The Light of the World, check the Catholic Portal Landing Page later in the afternoon, for a Symposium of writers discussing either the controversy or the book itself. Participants include Amy Welborn, Heather King, Mark Shea and “a host of others” as the saying goes!

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About Elizabeth Scalia