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Archive for the ‘Superman’ Category

The updraft blew hard against my face. The big sky of Montana and the far off horizon stretched before me. It was time for flight.

Clothed in blue pajamas with Mom’s best red towel secured around my neck by a rubber band, I leapt off Bootsie’s doghouse. The exhilaration of flying brought a smile to my five-year-old face. For a brief moment, I was Superman.

Is this a familiar scene from your childhood? I don’t think I’m the only one who dreamt of being a super hero. Millions of readers purchased enough Superman comic books to launch an industry.

Superman ReturnsAs Paul Levitz, president and publisher of DC Comics says, “Superman is the mythology of a hero. This is what a hero does and what you can do if you choose to be a hero.”

In reality, we all have a little of the shy, bumbling Clark Kent in each of us even though we still want to be Superman. This recognition of our own humanity, while also aspiring to be greater than ourselves, is an appropriate mindset for being a good Christian.

And there are plenty of references to Christ in Superman Returns, the latest film in the 68-year history of the character.

• We hear the fatherly voice of Jor-el (Marlon Brando) remind his son: “They can be a great people, Kal-el, if they wish to be. They only lack the light to show them the way. For this reason above all, their capacity for good, I have sent them you, my only son.”

• After Superman (Brandon Routh) saves Metropolis from destruction with every ounce of his strength, he falls back to Earth, his arms spread wide like a crucified savior.

• When a sliver of deadly Kryptonite is removed, Superman rises from near death to soar into the heavens and bask in the glow of the energizing sun. Subtle, it’s not.

What is different in this film, however, is watching Superman deal with an issue that he can’t fix with his super strength or x-ray vision. He finds that Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) has moved on to a new relationship and has become the mother of a five-year-old. Time waits for no man, not even the Man of Steel.

Much of the tension between Superman and Lois is reflected in the title of her Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial “Why the World Doesn’t Need Superman,” which she wrote during his five-year absence searching the galaxy for remnants of Krypton.

Left on Earth without even a goodbye, Lois writes the editorial to close that chapter in her life, only to have it blown back open when Superman saves her life, again.

The film does not show us the editorial. But knowing Lois, the fiery reporter who would risk anything to get the latest news story, she might have written something like this:

“Each of us, man, woman and child, has the power within ourselves to fight corruption, dismiss hatred and help build a caring community that fosters truth and justice among all citizens.”

On the surface, this is an admirable sentiment that empowers everyone to build a good society in which to live. It makes sense in Metropolis and it makes sense in America. We built our country on the democratic principles of liberty and freedom for all.

But it’s not enough.

In Superman’s world, the citizens of Metropolis can’t build a caring community by themselves. Every night Superman flies high above the Earth and hears the cries of the oppressed – people who need his presence in their lives to save them from the evils of the world.

In our world, we can’t succeed without the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ our Savior. We need His words to guide us and His daily presence in the Eucharist to nourish us. We need His life as our ideal, that we should always aspire to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

July 25 is the traditional feast day of St. Christopher, but it was dropped from the calendar in 1969 when the church simplified the list of celebrated feast days to include those “who are truly of universal importance.” Unfortunately for St. Christopher, July 25 is also the feast of St. James the Apostle. Since few historical facts are known about St. Christopher, he was left off the revised calendar, though he was never “de-classified” as a saint.

Legend says that Christopher was a giant man who carried a child across a raging river. As he made the journey, his small burden became heavier and heavier. With every ounce of super strength that he had, Christopher completed the journey, discovering that he had carried the Christ child, who bore the weight of the world.

We should all be “Christ bearers,” living our lives with an understanding of our human failings but with the aspirations of being more like Jesus Christ.

In Baptism we received a white garment to signify the start of a new life by “putting on Christ.” Whether secured by a rubber band around our necks or wrapped around our entire being, this garment can be the cape we need to navigate this world and soar to new heights.

CF
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First published in the July 14, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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With his red cape rustling in the hot Gulf air, Superman flies low over the collapsed levees. His mighty arms carry a 300-foot-wide, 30-foot tall steel wall, which he carefully slides down into the gaping hole in the levee, turning back the waters.

He welds it shut with his heat vision and proceeds to repair the other retaining walls. Then with one giant inhalation into his super chest, he takes in the floodwaters and spews them back into the Gulf, leaving the city to dry out.

Superman always responds to disasters with courage and determination, for he cares for the people of Earth, his foster home, whose yellow sun gives him his super powers.

Suddenly the phone rings and my short daydream from reality is over.

Images of submerged cars, flooded homes and helpless refugees stream across the television screen. Press conferences and body counts continue. Unfortunately, there is no Superman who can save the day for the thousands left dead or homeless in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

There’s also no movie script that can match the devastation and personal tragedies we’ve seen in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Even our wonderment of computer-generated landscapes in fantasy films cannot measure up to the horror we feel when viewing real images of this natural disaster’s aftermath.

Not that Hollywood hasn’t tried.

Some of the biggest blockbuster films use natural disasters as a plot device, such as The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974), Twister (1996) and Volcano (1997).

But the scenes from New Orleans, Biloxi and Mobile are so much more terrible than what we, or Hollywood, could ever imagine. The pain and suffering of the citizens in this area are real; making the disaster films just a weak imitation of this real-life disaster.

However, there are examples of cinematic courage and helping others that can inspire as we each decide how best to help the victims of Katrina.

In The Poseidon Adventure, Gene Hackman portrays Reverend Frank Scott who leads a group of survivors in the capsized ship. After scaling the ballroom’s 30-foot Christmas tree to the balcony, the survivors climb up to the bottom of the ship where the hull is thinnest. When an open steam pipe blocks their way, Reverend Scott jumps to the handle and turns it off, saving the group, while sacrificing his own life.

VolcanoIn Volcano, Tommy Lee Jones plays Mike Roark, the “hard-boiled head of the Office of Emergency Management” in Los Angeles. To minimize the damage from a volcano that has sprouted from the La Brea Tar Pits, Roark and geologist Dr. Amy Barnes (Ann Hecht) convince city workers to first blow up the street in order to create a trench to the ocean. Then they rig explosives to tip over a building and guide the lava to the trench. But as the explosives ignite, Roark has to run and save a young boy who has wandered into the area.

Entertaining? Yes. Inspiring? Well, the real life images on television are more inspiring. These are true heroic efforts, without special effects or choreographed turns to the camera.

KatrinaWe watched Coast Guardsmen connected to a tether, lowered down to rooftops to hoist flood victims to safety. Then we saw National Guardsmen working 18 hours a day under the threat of bullets to hand out water, food and clothing. We also read about heroic efforts to evacuate hundreds of patients and thousands of employees from New Orleans area hospitals.

But there is always room for more heroes. You can be a part of the relief efforts and experience your own “heroic moment.” Perhaps you can…

• Donate blood or contribute money to the Red Cross.
• Fill up special trucks collecting food and clothing for the victims.
• Contribute money to the Catholic Charities USA’s efforts at special collections this weekend.
• Contact Catholic Charities if you have room to house evacuees from the region.
• Pray for the victims, the workers and the entire country during this emergency.

Though none of us can fly like Superman and completely save the day, we can each do our part to help our brothers and sisters in need. That’s a scene all of us should reenact in the movie of our lives.

CF

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First published in the September 9, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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