Archive for the ‘Fireproof’ Category

In each Reel Life Journeys column, I try to illustrate a moral theme or Christian teaching with examples from films and family life.

I often use examples from science fiction and fantasy films, as I really enjoy the complexity and symbolism found in The Lord of the Rings, Superman, Back to the Future, etc.

Lately, however, I have enjoyed a genre of film that some may label as pure fantasy—romantic comedies. Granted, some of the plot devices are rather far-fetched. Would you really fly from Baltimore to Seattle to meet an insomniac with a nice radio voice? But these are very entertaining films that touch on fundamental human needs—to love and to be loved.

The next time you watch these films, think about the love lessons contained within.

Romantic comediesAfter another sleepless night in Seattle, Sam recounts the magical moment when he took his wife’s hand as she was getting out of a cab. It’s probably the same feeling he feels when he takes Annie’s hand as they leave the Observation Desk of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day.

The spark of romance, a magical moment happens all the time when couples get together. Keeping the romance alive, however, takes kindness, communication and an active decision to love one another.

Asleep under shooting stars, I dream of a love unseen, a prayer yet unanswered.

When Harry met Sally, there was no magic or mutual attraction. They didn’t even think it was possible for a man and a woman to be true friends without a sexual relationship present. But friends they become, true friends who look after and support each other. Later, when their own love blossoms, it is based upon a solid foundation of friendship and support.

Over the hills comes the dawn, a soft and warm glow that pushes the night away and wakes my world.

Mary Hatch always had a hard time deciding what ice cream to order at Mr. Gower’s Drugstore. She was content to just listen to the boy behind the counter talk about exploring foreign lands, building tall skyscrapers and making lots of money to enjoy the finer things of life.

Unfortunately, he never gets the opportunities to travel, to design and create, or make a lot of money. Yet Mary always believes in him and supports him throughout their wonderful life together. “George Bailey,” she whispers into his bad ear, “I’ll love you ‘till the day I die.”

High into the morning sky climbs the light, creating new life and fulfilling my dreams.

It was difficult for Cathy and Caleb to live in the same house without angry arguments breaking the stone-cold silence. Both are successful in their stressful jobs—Cathy receives high praise for her hospital PR work while Caleb is a leader at the fire hall. But neither does a very good job at fireproofing their marriage. Their competing egos are two sparks that threaten to consume their union in flames.

Fortunately, they don’t give up. Caleb takes the Love Dare and finds new ways to relate to his wife. More importantly, he rediscovers his own faith. Once he knows the love of Jesus the Christ in his heart, Caleb is able to share it with his wife. Together they base their relationship on this everlasting love, an unquenchable fire that powers their marriage. (Fireproof is not a comedy, but a dramatic film every married couple should watch together.)

In the heat of mid-day shadows disappear, roots grow deep, and faces turn up to bathe in the love.

Noah doesn’t give up either. He fell in love the first time he saw Allie at the county fair. He stays in love with her even when she leaves town to marry a rich, well-connected lawyer. Noah remains at home and rebuilds his house.

When Allie returns, they consecrate their love in marriage and build a family. Even as they grow older and Allie stops remembering who he is, Noah still loves and cares for her. He sits in her room each day and reads the stories of their youth from his notebook. He waits for the magical moment when she will recognize him again and they can reconnect the love in their two hearts.

The light of this love is reflected from our faces onto our family and friends.

My wife and I recently celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, a milestone reached undoubtedly with the help of the love lessons from these films. At our wedding, I sang “Ave Maria” as Linda placed a rose on Mary’s altar. We both asked Our Blessed Mother for her guidance, strength and love. We share this faith and love with each other, an eternal bond between us like the circular rings we wear.

Thank you, Linda, for the magic, the friendship, the support, the hard work and faithful love after all these years. Always remember… I love you.

There are still ages to live and miles to go until the long day closes. Hand in hand we’ll walk our real life journey, together in the Light.

First published in the May 15, 2009 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2009 Christopher Fenoglio

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According to my dictionary, a routine is a set of “commonplace tasks as must be done regularly or at specified intervals.” In this sense, routines can be good, helping us to organize our time and accomplish tasks in a timely manner.

The dictionary also states that a routine is “unvarying, unimaginative, a rote procedure.” In this sense, routines can be bad, especially to relationships. In a marriage, a bad routine can move individuals to disengage from their spouse and fill their days with mindless, heartless actions.

fireproof_poster_250In the film Fireproof, destructive routines have crept into the marriage of Catherine and Caleb Holt.

Catherine (Erin Bethea) is the PR director of a local hospital, a position in which she excels. She promotes the hospital’s services in TV interviews and has developed good working relationships with the physicians. One physician in particular—Dr. Anderson, a tall man with a pleasant smile—has caught her eye. They begin to spend time together, talking at work and eating lunch together.

At home, however, it’s a much different situation.

Caleb (Kirk Cameron) is the captain of a local fire station, a position in which he excels. He bravely fights fires and rescues helpless individuals. He teaches his men important lessons in fire safety and camaraderie. Through his work, he gets a great deal of respect from his men and the city.

At home, however, it’s a much different situation.

Catherine and Caleb often go long periods without speaking. Tension fills the air, a pot of anger and mistrust that constantly simmers. When it finally boils over, fights fill the air with angry, hateful words.

In Caleb’s mind, his wife does not appreciate how hard he works to pay for the house and their cars. She doesn’t keep food in the fridge or clean clothes in his closet. She does not give him the respect he deserves.

In Catherine’s mind, she can’t understand how he has changed so much since they got married. He doesn’t help around the house or do any of the shopping, even though he has a couple days off. He just sits at the computer and spends hours looking at Internet porn sites or dreaming about buying a big boat.

Even though there was romance at the beginning of their marriage, the couple’s work, ambition, lust, material goods and attention from other people have slowly sucked the romance and love out of their relationship.

A song in the film’s soundtrack illustrates this point clearly. It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away. It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray and thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid when you give yourself away. People never crumble in a day…it’s a slow fade. (“Slow Fade” by Casting Crowns)

Just when their marriage appears irrevocably broken, Caleb’s father asks him to wait 40 days before signing the divorce papers. He sends his son a book called the “Love Dare.”

Caleb agrees to take the “Love Dare” and follow its instructions, which include routine-breaking actions like:

Day 1: Say nothing negative to your spouse

Day 2: In addition to saying nothing negative, do an unexpected act of kindness

Day 3: In addition to the above, buy something for your spouse

Day 4: Call to ask your spouse how the day is going and offer to do something for him/her

Day 16: Pray for your spouse

Day 17: Really listen to your spouse

Day 18: Study your spouse; continue to learn about him/her

Day 23: Watch out for parasites to your marriage – people, things or addictions that may provide temporary pleasure but will destroy your heart.

Halfway through the book, their relationship is still floundering. Caleb’s father knows from experience that it is hard, but he challenges Caleb to put his whole heart into his efforts.

“But Dad, how can I love someone unconditionally without any love in return?”

His father gently tells Caleb that the answer can be found in knowing Jesus, who loves us all unconditionally, without any expectation of a response or love in return. In Him, Caleb can find the love he needs to truly love his spouse.

The film has received glowing endorsements from Catholic clergy and lay ministers, including Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville. “Fireproof is an excellent film that makes marriage commitment real and attainable with Christ’s grace,” states the Archbishop in promotional materials for the film.

The creators have also set up a website where couples can find materials to help strengthen their marriage. Look for them at www.fireproofmymarriage.com.

At Mass last weekend we sang “I Will Choose Christ,” a song written by Tom Booth. One verse struck me as particularly relevant to our response to the “Love Dare:”

Christ my teacher and healer, teach my heart and heal my soul. And as I walk this road with you, teach me to love. I will choose Christ, I will choose love, I choose to serve. I give my heart, I give my life, I give my all to you. I give my all to you.


First published in the October 31, 2008 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2008 Christopher Fenoglio

P.S. Chris and his loving wife Linda will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary next May.

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