Coco: Pixar’s Most Catholic Movie

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I realize that I’m late to the Coco party. However, with Divine Mercy Sunday around the corner, I decided that this would be a #FlashbackFriday type of review. I honestly think that Coco is the most Catholic movie that Pixar ever made and I’m not just saying that because the movie is inspired by Mexican culture. What makes this movie Catholic are the themes: family, forgiveness, and never forgetting to honor the dead.

Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen this movie yet. I highly recommend at least renting the movie. It’s available on Redbox. It’s definitely worth a watch.

The emphasis on being loyal to one’s family is established early on in the movie. It’s clear from the beginning that Miguel loves his family, in spite of the fact that his abeulita tries to keep music from their lives a little too much. Miguel is especially close to his great-grandmother Coco.

Side note, but I think this is the first Disney/Pixar movie to feature an entire family unit. Both of Miguel’s parents are alive and aside from the relatives who are living in the land of the dead, nobody in Hector’s family gets killed off. Not only that, but you see a family working and living together.

The conflict that drives the movie is Miguel’s desire to pursue music, even if it means ignoring or even outright cutting himself off from his family. It’s clear that he’s a great musician and for a while, it feels as though his family takes the anti-music stance way too far, especially when Miguel’s abuelita destroys his guitar. However, the events of this movie show Miguel that it’s important to stay connected to your family, especially when he learns that Ernesto got his fame by murdering his songwriter friend Hector.

I love the character of Hector, by the way. The movie does a great job at making you suspicious of Hector at first, but he slowly becomes more endearing, especially when he encourages Miguel and shows that he cares for him and is protective of him, even though Miguel is just a stranger.

The theme of remembering the dead is what drives the subplot of the movie: Hector wants to visit his daughter and be remembered or else he will disappear into oblivion. It’s never said where the souls of the forgotten go after the “Final Death,” but it compels the audience to take on a very Catholic tradition: to pray for those who have no one to pray for. In that way, no soul is ever really forgotten.

On a similar note, the land of the dead really reminds me of Purgatory, final death thing put aside. It’s not exactly heaven, given that a murderer like Ernesto is living there, but it’s not Hell, either. It’s a place for departed souls to live and there’s still a link to those who are living, even if it’s just one day a year.

One good thing that came out of the broken pedestal experience though is that Miguel finds out that Hector is his real great-great-grandfather. This leads into the second Catholic theme of the movie, which focuses on forgiveness. When Miguel and Hector are reunited with Miguel’s deceased relatives towards the end of the second act, his great-great grandmother Imelda is reluctant to forgive Hector for leaving her.

What makes the relationship with Hector and Imelda interesting is that Imelda never remarried. She cut Hector and her love for music out of her life, even though she loved both very much. When she confronts Ernesto, she berates and hits Ernesto for “murdering the love of my life.” In classical tsundere fashion, she still claims to be mad at Hector, but she at least loves Hector enough to know that he doesn’t deserve to be forgotten.

I love that forgiveness is shown to be a process. Imelda goes from hating Hector to defending him to finally allowing him to be in her life and her family. This is shown in the climax, when Miguel has to return to the land of the living. At the start of the movie, Imelda wants Miguel to promise her to never pursue music again when he returns to the land of the living. In the second attempt to get Miguel back, Miguel is actually willing to make good on that condition. The third attempt, however, is made with no conditions. Just the type of selfless love that seriously has me reaching for the tissues.

The two themes of family and forgiveness get tied together in what I feel is my favorite scene: Miguel plays “Remember Me” for Coco in front of his family. His abuelita tries to stop him, but his father allows Miguel to play. The song restores Coco’s memory and allows her to tell everyone in her family about all the mementos she kept from her father and how her parents both loved music.

One year later, Miguel’s deceased relatives, Hector and Coco included, get to spend time with the living on the Day of the Dead. Miguel and his family join in on a song and it’s shown that Hector is playing along with him. All is forgiven and music has returned to the lives of the Rivera family. I love the ending of this movie because it shows that pursuing one’s passion should never come at the expense of family.

One last side note: I love the animal sidekicks in this movie, especially Dante the Xolo dog. He’s a lot like Scooby-Doo in that he seems so goofy and is kinda cute even if he’s a hairless street dog, but he is also foreshadowed to be a true guide in the land of the dead, instinctively throwing Hector and Miguel together a lot. Plus, the name is very fitting as those familiar with The Divine Comedy or at least Inferno recognize the name from the protagonist of those stories, who literally goes through a journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

This movie isn’t just great to watch for the Day of the Dead. It’s one I recommend watching for Lent and even now, in the Easter season.

Pray for the souls of those who’ve died, especially those who have no one to pray for.

 

Women of Christ Wednesday: The Visitation Project

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From left to right: Bonnie, Rebecca, and Heather. Credit to The Visitation Project’s Facebook page.

From The Visitation Project’s Website:

The Visitation Project is a radio show with one goal: meeting Catholic women wherever they are.

Co-hosts Rebecca Frech, Bonnie Engstrom, and Heather Renshaw come from different backgrounds, regions of the country, and perspectives, yet together they offer a fresh voice for Catholic radio. On-air, the TVP Crew discusses issues and challenges significant to today’s Catholic woman, while infusing huge doses of joy and their love of Jesus Christ and the Catholic faith as the underlying thread that ties it all together.

The Visitation Project is produced through the facilities of Mater Dei Radio in Portland, Oregon. TVPRadio episodes broadcast every Sunday evening at 7:30 p.m. PST on 88.3 FM Portland / Vancouver and 100.5 FM Eugene / Springfield. You can also listen live at http://www.materdieradio.com.

 

1) What is The Visitation Project and where did the idea for this show come from?

The Visitation Project is a weekly half hour radio show that airs Sunday nights at 7:30 PST. Our name comes from the Visitation, when Mary set journeyed to see her cousin Elizabeth. There she was literally with The Lord, but she didn’t ask Elizabeth to come to her. She met Elizabeth where she was, and brought Jesus to her.

That’s the academic answer. What is it really? It’s three Catholic women having an honest conversation about life, family, the culture, and our faith with lots of laughter and the occasional beat-boxing.  We’re meeting women where they are and bringing Jesus with us!

 

2) What do you think makes The Visitation Project different from other Catholic radio programs?

We’re not scholars or theologians, so we’re not talking about things from that perspective. We’re trying, instead, to engage our audience in a conversation about what it means to be a Catholic woman in the modern world. We talk about things no one else is discussing, and we aren’t afraid to say the things you don’t normally hear on Catholic radio.

 

3) You have a few podcasts about vocations. What advice would you give to young adults who are discerning marriage and religious life?

Start off with prayer, asking God to make it obvious where He wants you to be. I always ask him to make it obvious, because I’m not good with subtle. I need big blinky neon lights pointing the way.

After praying, search out people who are living the life you feel called to and ask LOTS of questions about what it really looks like to live that life. Don’t forget to actually listen to the answers, not just the good bits but the bad ones too. Then you can have a full picture of the decisions you are making.

Get all the information you can, and then realize that God is going to lead you wherever He wants you to go.

 

4) What advice do you have for young moms that want to make sure that their kids understand the Catholic faith?

Talk about your faith in front of your kids and let them see you pray. Small children will soak up everything you tell them, but they will believe what they see you do.

 

5) What do you think is the most important thing you guys want people to know about The Visitation Project?

That they need to be listening. Seriously. All the cool kids are tuning in. We’re everywhere – radio, podcasts, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and our website thevisitationproject.com; and we really do want to hear from them. Some of our best shows have come from suggestions or questions from our listeners. We want to know what’s important to you and what crosses you’re carrying. We want to go beyond being your favorite audible addiction. We’re hoping to create a community of Catholic women that helps us all to live our faith out loud and with great joy.

Can Young Adults Really Believe In Marriage?

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Mawwiage. Mawwiage is what bwings us twogethow today.

 

When you’re in your 20s and early 30s, the world of “married life” looks like an amusement park. The newlyweds are on a merry-go-round while other couples are on a roller-coaster and many couples end up leaving the park altogether, choosing to split up after over a decade or so of marriage. It’s one thing to hear about celebrities divorcing, but some people grow into adulthood and watch as friends who married in college decide to call things off. What’s even worse are the couples who marry within the Church, doing the Sacrament of marriage a great dishonor.

So with all the statistics on marriage and the option of cohabitation and “free love” available, how can young adults believe in marriage, let alone start discerning it?

It starts by knowing what marriage is and what it isn’t.

Marriage IS NOT…

1) A Job.

Like the vocations of priesthood and religious life, marriage isn’t a 9-to-5 thing that you can clock out of. It’s a lifestyle, one that demands your all. Being married takes work, but it’s not all work and no play.

2) A Fairy Tale.

Or a Nicholas Sparks movie. Or a romantic comedy. Or a Hallmark movie. Marriage isn’t going to be a story where people will fall in love at first sight or start bickering constantly and end up falling in love with each other. The story of every marriage is different. There will be boring parts. There will be exciting parts. There will be parts that don’t really fit into any kind of movie or “romantic” story. The point is, though, that marriage is the story belonging to the husband and wife and God and as Fulton Sheen said, it will take the 3 of them to make the story a good one.

3) Just About Being Each Other’s Best Friends.

There’s a song by Calvin Harris called “How Deep is Your Love” (no relation to the BeeGees song of the same name) that has a lyric that goes “So tell me how deep is your love, can we go deeper?”

Married love goes way deeper than mere friendship. According to the Theology of the Body, marriage is becoming one flesh with your spouse, giving yourself body and soul to someone you trust with your life and your heart. It’s not always about treating your spouse the same way you would treat a friend. Many of my married friends don’t have everything in common with their spouses. (Example: My friend’s husband watches Game of Thrones while she prefers musicals.)  The friendship between spouses is just as special as “BFF level” friendship. It’s just different.

4) Going to Complete You

Like many young adults, I wanted to be in a relationship for the sake of just having somebody. My anthem throughout college was Queen’s “Somebody to Love.” And I’m very certain many young adults are still singing that as their anthem. Or “On My Own” from Les Miserables. Or “All By Myself.” But here’s the thing, people. Your spouse is a human being. The reason Fulton Sheen says “It Takes Three To Get Married” is because God needs to be a part of marriage in order for it to be complete. The spouses both pursue Heaven together with their eyes towards God and not just on each other.

So don’t seek out a relationship just because you want to have somebody or you want to have the experience of going out. A friend of mine recently started dating again for the first time in years and while she’s having a great time going to new places, she genuinely likes the guy that she’s going out with. She’s not using him as a meal ticket or a placeholder until a better guy comes along.

5) About What We Want

Marriage isn’t what we get out of it. It’s about serving each other. I’m pretty sure all of us, married and unmarried, have rolled our eyes whenever we heard this passage from Ephesians.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, in order to make her holy by cleansing her with the washing of water by the word, so as to present the church to himself in splendor, without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind—yes, so that she may be holy and without blemish. In the same way, husbands should love their wives as they do their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, because we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, and I am applying it to Christ and the church. Each of you, however, should love his wife as himself, and a wife should respect her husband.

But look harder. It’s not asking for a woman to be doormats and for husbands to be dominant. It’s a passage about mutual surrender. Christ gave his life to His Bride, the Church, and the Church ideally does the same for Him. This mutual surrender is a part of being married. “You’ll be mine and I’ll be yours.” (That’s from Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.)

So what is marriage then?

1) It’s more than a wedding.

I have a joke that I’m saving for whenever somebody says that Catholic weddings are too long. “Honey, Catholic weddings aren’t too long. It’s just that every other wedding is too short.” I get the appeal behind having the perfect wedding. But life goes on long after two people say “I do.” Marriage is a path to sainthood, just like every other vocation. Which means that there will be times when you find yourself screaming “This is the last time I’m asking you this, put my name at the top of your list.” There will be times you’ll want out. There will be times when the two of you will fall apart. Fight for each other. Ask God to help you fall back together. Whatever problems you have, you’ll come out stronger and more in love than ever. That beats a million dollar wedding anyday.

2) It’s a matter of fidelity.

We don’t just choose our spouse when we enter into a relationship and eventually say “I do.” No matter how hard we may crush on celebrities and athletes, the fantasies have to be put aside for the reality that is our spouse. A happily married actress (who’s been with her man for over a decade and married for four years with him) said “The grass is greener where you water it.” Cultivate your marriage and let it grow. When God enters into the marriage, faithfulness to Him can increase faithfulness between spouses. (Results may vary, of course.)

We choose our spouse every day when we choose to stay with them over the cute hired hand or a fictional character or the young intern in the cubicle next to us. We choose them when we stop thinking about “What if I was married to so and so?” We choose them when we let ourselves be vulnerable to them and let our armor down.

3) It’s just as much about children as it is about each other.

Ideally, marriage is about creating a family. Some couples aren’t blessed with children, but can be called to adopt or become foster parents. Then, of course, there’s the old Catholic joke about having 7 kids and homeschooling them until college. (Rebecca Frech, I am looking right at you, sister!)  But it’s not just about procreation. Mark Hart and his wife still go out on dates to renew their love for each other. There needs to be just as much investment in each other even after kids come into the picture.

4) It’s going to be different from every other relationship.

I’ve said before that real love is one where we maintain our authenticity and integrity. It’s not going to be the teenage love where we feel like our significant other is all we know and we would die without them. Love isn’t obsession or something where we lose ourselves in the other person. We mutually surrender to our spouse and make ourselves vulnerable, but that love should not come at the cost of losing our souls. Real love is something that leads our souls closer to heaven.

5) Marriage is beautiful.

We all stand in awe at the sight of a bride in white. There are many words to describe her, but beautiful is the one that comes to mind the most. Couples out together, parents with kids, families with babies in church? All of these things are beautiful as well. And it’s through the beauty of marriage that we can evangelize to the world.

Fr. Robert Barron said that it’s hard to resist the power of a beautiful thing. When we are drawn to a beautiful thing, we want to be a part of it. It starts changes us. The more we understand the beautiful thing, the more we understand what makes it beautiful (the goodness of it) and eventually, we find the truth.

Funny how that sounds so much like falling in love. Marriage starts with finding a beautiful person. The more we get to know a person, the more we understand what makes them beautiful and eventually we find the truth that we want to spend the rest of our lives with this person.

Through the beauty of marriage, people will wonder “how do they do it?” Through understanding marriage, people will realize what makes marriage good. And eventually, the truth comes out: real marriage is about the other person and about God.

There are so many books and resources that can give you advice on what being married is like. I found this wonderful list from Word on Fire while working on this article. I also recommend studying the Theology of the Body and reading The Jeweler’s Shop because that play captures love in all its stages and kinds. If you want to find examples of good marriages, there are saints out there who were married, like St. Gianna, or the soon to be canonized Louis and Zelie Martin.

But even with all this knowledge, we ultimately won’t know what marriage is like until we are married. Deciding to get married is the biggest leap of faith, the same kind of leap of faith it takes to enter into any vocation. Because it takes a leap of faith to fall in love with anything in the first place. That leap of faith, though? It’s a very beautiful thing.

So can young adults really believe in marriage? Yes.

Postcards: A Series of Haikus

My brother is studying abroad in Japan, Thailand, and Malaysia for the summer. We dropped him off at the airport early this morning, but we’ve been preparing for this for a while now. Back when I was doing the Poem-A-Day Challenge on Writer’s Digest, one of the prompts was “Across the Ocean.” I decided to write a series of haikus called “Postcards,” which is told in the point of view of my brother writing postcards to me. Pray for his safety as he lands, while he’s travelling, and for his trip home.


 

Hey there Sister,

It’s my first month in Japan

studying abroad.

 

I’m here in Beppu,

in the middle of nowhere,

but still having fun

 

I travel sometimes

to Tokyo with all my friends

wishing you were here.

 

Now I’m in Thailand

2 hours’ drive from Bangkok.

The traffic is hell.

 

The study abroad

is going by so quickly.

I don’t wanna leave

 

But I still miss you

while I’m here in Malaysia.

I’ll be home real soon.

 

I hope you get to

travel the world by yourself.

With love, your brother

 

Firefly Month: The Family We Choose in Safe

The episode starts out with a flashback to River and Simon’s childhood and then goes back to present-day River who is having a mental breakdown. The crew of Serenity plans on selling off the cows they smuggled from the previous episode. Mal tells Simon and River to take a walk around the town away from the deal-making point. They go into a shop where Inara and Kaylee are looking around. Simon snaps at Kaylee about being out in a backwater planet, resentful of the lack of respect he’s getting. Kaylee chastises him for his words, but River wanders off before Simon could word out a proper apology.

From this point on, the episode follows two parallel plots: Simon and River getting to know the new planet and the rest of the crew of Serenity having to deal with the consequences of their latest attempt at smuggling going south.

River joins in on a local folk dance while Mal, Jayne, and Sheperd Book get caught in the crosshairs of local law enforcement who arrest the buyers. The music from the dance eventually crosses over with the gunfight that ensues. (It’s a space western, just go with it.) Shepherd gets shot and finds himself in critical condition. Meanwhile, Simon and River kidnapped by settlers and think that Mal has abandoned them, not realizing that Shepard Book was critically injured.

The crew of the Serenity debates over where they could get a doctor without Simon, realizing that they have no choice but to ask the Alliance for help. The Alliance men check in and take Book to the infirmary. They later learn that Book has some kind of past with the Alliance. Jayne says that life without Simon and River on board could be a lot simpler.

Simon and River are taken to a small village of settlers in need of a doctor. Simon gets straight to work and the two of them try to make the best of the situation. River later reveals some information to the local teacher about a patient in the clinic who has been mute for two years. Unfortunately, she also gave away the fact that she could read minds. The nurse thinks that River is a witch and it eventually leads to village planning on burning her at the stake. (Seriously? Backwater town with religious beliefs that sets on burning an innocent girl? How cliche can you get?)

Screenshots copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

Screenshots copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

But things turn around when the crew of Serenity arrives (to quote Captain Tightpants here) “just in the nick of time” to rescue Simon and River. They take the town at gunpoint and take Simon and River back. Mal states that Simon and River are part of his crew, whether he likes them or not. The episode ends with everyone having dinner together.

The theme of Safe is family and home. Joss was always fond of “families of choice,” ones that don’t really have blood relations.  The flashbacks to Simon and River’s past show the strained relationship that Simon had with his parents. He was right to worry about River, in spite of his parents dismissing that he’s just being silly and missing his sister. His father threatens to cut him off when Simon gets arrested for trying to get information on River’s whereabouts. Of course, we know what he decides.

While Simon and River are in the settler’s clinic, River opens up about how damaged she feels and knows exactly how much her brother sacrificed to save her. She also said “We won’t be here long. Daddy will come and take us home.” Simon thinks that River was referring to their biological father. However, it’s Mal that comes to their rescue. It indicates that in spite of seeing Serenity leave them earlier, River sees Mal as a father figure. Book also says, once he is out of the Alliance infirmary “It’s good to be home.” The fact that the episode ends with everyone sharing a meal together is also a subtle symbol of how the crew of Serenity is slowly becoming a family. In spite of Mal not liking Simon and Jayne wishing they weren’t even there, Simon and River are still part of the family.