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Cinema verite.

For Lent this year our family has adapted an idea from Culture in Context columnist Patrick McCormick. In our March 1999 issue Pat had proposed that parishes pick a few great movies and host their own "Lenten film festivals." We're not inviting the whole parish over, but the past few Sundays we've been popping in a VHS or DVD for our own little, do-it-yourself Lenten film fest. Dad, in his autocratic fashion, has decreed that the theme for this year's series is justice movies. When I first proposed it to our two teenage sons, Stefan, the older one, quipped, "Oh, I get it. You want us to give up good movies for Lent."

But despite their initial reluctance both our teens have been moved and inspired by the films. Last week's selection was Dead Man Walking, the powerful movie based on Sister Helen Prejean's book. Prejean, who in 1999 received the U.S. Catholic Award for Furthering the Cause of Women in the Church, has been a personal hero of mine, and her autograph on the U.S. Catholic Award ad has been hanging on the bulletin board in Stefan's room ever since. We had already been talking about Sister Helen at our house because I had had the privilege of interviewing her for this issue when she came to Chicago on a book tour a few weeks ago (see "Wrongful death," pages 28-32).

Through her writing, the movie, and her extensive public-speaking ministry, Sister Helen has become the nation's most prominent voice for the abolition of the death penalty. Her new book, The Death of Innocents (Random)--like her previous bestseller and the movie--provides an unflinching look at the cruel and deeply immoral reality of capital punishment in this country.

But despite the serious subject matter, The Death of Innocents also includes flashes of Sister Helen's trademark humor through memorable scenes such as her scrambling to change from pants into panty hose and skirt just before meeting the pope in a private audience or running into Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who happens to be a hunting buddy of her brother Louie) at the New Orleans airport.

Don't miss this month's cover story ("Can you hear me now?" pages 12-17), which brings you the results of a larger-than-usual U.S. CATHOLIC survey on the role of the laity in the church. In addition to polling our customary number of readers, this survey was also sent out to more than 100,000 Catholics who did not (yet!) subscribe.

Finally, congratulations to our senior editor Cathy O'Connell Cahill whose book moms@myspiritualgrowth.corn: Meditations and Cool Websites for Active Moms was just released by ACTA Publications. Check it out: It makes a perfect Mother's Day gift.
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Author:Scherer-Emunds, Meinrad
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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