Monday, November 29, 2010

Bishop Finn Urges Passage of Dream Act

The Dream Act is expected to soon come before the U.S. Senate as a stand-alone bill. The act would provide a path to conditional permanent legal resident status to those who were brought into the country by their parents, have lived here for more than five years, stayed out of trouble, completed high school or GED and who commit to attending college or military service.

Today, Kansas City – St. Joseph Bishop Robert W. Finn wrote to members of Missouri’s congressional delegation urging them to support passage of the Dream Act. Following is his letter to Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO):

Dear Senator McCaskill,

Thank you for your previous commitment to vote for the DREAM Act, which would benefit thousands of young people here in the United States. I understand that the issue of immigration is a controversial one and one which the nation has grappled with for many years. To date, our elected officials have not been able to come to a fruitful compromise, one which protects the integrity of our nation’s borders and security but also provides a humane solution for the millions of persons now in limbo. It might take more time before the nation reaches consensus on how best to fix our national immigration system.

At the current moment, however, our federal elected officials can provide a remedy for a very vulnerable group of immigrants – young persons who entered the United States with their parents years ago. Their futures are limited because of their undocumented status, yet they have so much to give to our communities and nation.

These young people entered the United States as children, following the direction of their parents, as we would all do in the same situation. The United States is the only country that they know. They have incredible talent and energy and are waiting for the chance to fully contribute their skills to our country. We would be foolhardy to deny them that chance.

The United States is a great country because it is a land of opportunity. We have given newcomers the opportunity to work hard and be successful, and it has benefited our country immensely.

Today, I am asking you to remember how we are all immigrants or descendants of immigrants and that we, too, have benefited from this opportunity and the American values of fairness, compassion, and hard work. With the passage of the DREAM Act, we can welcome a new generation of Americans who will one day become the leaders of our communities.

In the past attempts have been made to attach the DREAM Act to legislation that would fund abortions at military hospitals and legislation that would repeal the military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” regarding homosexuals serving in the military. I, along with the entire body of U.S. Bishops, oppose these other pieces of legislation and therefore I could not ask you to vote for the DREAM Act if it were attached to such policies that are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is my hope that the DREAM Act could be removed from such politics and receive a fair vote on its own merits.

I also ask you to put aside politics in this instance and to vote on the merits of the proposal. There are times when a proposal should be enacted because, simply put, it is the right thing to do. This legislation is one of those times. On behalf of the Catholic community of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, I urge you to vote in favor of the DREAM Act.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.

In Christ and Mary,

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Most Reverend Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lowest Crime Cities Have Huge Immigrant Populations and Vice Versa

CQ Press came out with their annual ranking of US cities based on crime rate in the US on Monday. Just looking at the list, I got a hunch as to an interesting correlation; the safest cities seemed to be high-immigrant population centers, while the most dangerous were not. So I checked it out.

The following table lists the ten safest cities in the U.S. according to CQ, along with the percentage of their population which is foreign born, according to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (an anti-immigration lobby).

SAFEST CITIES

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
El Paso 26.1 %
Honolulu 25.3 %
New York 35.9 %
San Jose 40.5 %
San Diego 25.7 %
Austin 16.6 %
Portland 13.0 %
Los Angeles 40.9 %
Seattle 16.9 %
Fort Worth 16.3 %

And now for the

MOST DANGEROUS CITIES

CITY FOREIGN BORN POPULATION
Detroit 4.8 %
Baltimore 4.6 %
Memphis 4.0 %
Washington, DC 12.6 %
Atlanta 8.7 %
Indianapolis 4.6 %
Philadelphia 9.0 %
Milwaukee 7.7 %
Houston 26.4 %
Columbus 6.7 %

That’s a pretty strong correlation. Safe cities have a consistently high percentage of foreign born residents; 60 percent of those cities have more than a quarter of their population born overseas (to say nothing of the children of immigrants).

With the exception of Houston, none of the most crime ridden cities have an immigrant population higher than any of the safe cities; 80 percent of dangerous cities don’t even climb out of single digits for immigrant population.

The correlation doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a causation for high or low crime rates, but it certainly pokes a gaping hole in the meme that having a bunch of immigrants in your city makes for higher crime rates. If anything, the opposite is true.

Reason Magazine noticed this same correlation last year and in an article called the El Paso Miracle reported that:

There were just 18 murders in El Paso last year, in a city of 736,000 people. To compare, Baltimore, with 637,000 residents, had 234 killings.

In fact in the most recent full-year statistics, El Paso had only 13 murders, whereas Baltimore had 238.

Reason Mag goes on to ask:

So how has this city of poor immigrants become such an anomaly? Actually, it may not be an anomaly at all. Many criminologists say El Paso isn't safe despite its high proportion of immigrants, it's safe because of them.

"If you want to find a safe city, first determine the size of the immigrant population," says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. "If the immigrant community represents a large proportion of the population, you're likely in one of the country's safer cities. San Diego, Laredo, El Paso—these cities are teeming with immigrants, and they're some of the safest places in the country."

Read the whole report.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bishop Finn on the Pope’s New Book: Light of the World

It is somewhat amusing now to post Bishop Finn’s thoughts on Peter Seewald’s book-length interview of Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote it last week before heading to the USCCB meeting in Baltimore and then on to the consistory in Rome.

The plan was to put out Bishop Finn’s column in conjunction with the release of the book, but a small portion of the book was curiously released early, in a “palpably incompetent manner,” with predictable results.

What’s amusing is that Bishop Finn evidently read the whole book without being thrown by the passage that now defines its release; he doesn’t even mention it. What Bishop Finn does say is that God has given us a “holy father, a wise and good shepherd,” who “wants people to understand the Church he loves.”

Bishop Finn also says of the book, “This is not ‘sound bite’ theology, and I hope people won’t just pick through it – but read it in its entirety for the full picture.”

So, get the full picture, “like” the '”Light of the World” facebook page, visit the website and buy the book.

Here’s the column:

On the Pope’s New Book: Light of the World

Most Rev. Robert W. Finn
Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph

Dear friends,

I recently had the opportunity to read an advance copy of a new book by Pope Benedict XVI. Entitled, “Light of the World: The Pope, The Church, and the Signs of the Times,” published by Ignatius Press. It is a book length conversation between the Holy Father and the German journalist, Peter Seewald, and it reaches the market this week. I don’t want you to think that I get any fee for saying so, but this text is another great gift from “Papa Ratzinger” to the Church.

In this first ever such interview of a sitting Pope, the Holy Father takes on the most direct, challenging and heart wrenching issues and questions of the day, including the response of the Church to the scandal of priest sexual abuse, the tension and promise of dialogue with other Christian and non-Christian denominations; as well as the somewhat neuralgic propositions urging the abandonment of priestly celibacy and the promotion of women’s ordination. Pope Benedict receives these and many other questions with warmth and addresses them with reasonableness and candor.

This is the third published interview between the two men, Peter Seewald and now-Pope Joseph Ratzinger. The previous books, “Salt of the Earth,” and “God and the World,” came out during the latter’s tenure as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This time we hear the successor of St. Peter – and it is a quick and enlightening read.

When I picked up the earlier works some years ago, I was amazed at the ability of Cardinal Ratzinger to synthesize and explain – without notes and previous knowledge of the questions – complex and nuanced topics with apparent calm and kindness. He wants people to understand the Church he loves, and he has extraordinary talents as a teacher. As George Weigel says in the forward to the new book, the Pope speaks in “full paragraphs.” Again, the interview was several hours sitting face to face without notes. His answers are well organized and focused. His responses are concise but substantive. This is not “sound bite” theology, and I hope people won’t just pick through it – but read it in its entirety for the full picture.

The Pope speaks about his election as Pontiff, his emotions, and ultimate trust in God. He talks about what he does in an evening where he has relaxing time. He tells of how he found himself weeping as victims recounted their narratives of abuse. The Pope chides the inquisitor for recounting all the things he has had to say “no” to over the years, and asks us to recall some more positive initiatives. In the most trying situations he has faced, in the perilous circumstances of planet earth, in the face of serious challenges of peace and unity, the Holy Father offers again and again his conviction of authentic Christian hope. It is very uplifting. We see that God has placed at our head a holy father, a wise and good shepherd.

As this goes to press I am happy to be able to make a rather brief trip to Rome to witness the Consistory and creation of new cardinals on the Sunday of Christ the King. There in particular I plan to congratulate “Cardinal Raymond Burke,” former Archbishop of St. Louis and now Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, “chief justice of the Church’s Supreme Court,” and a good friend; he was the principal consecrator at my episcopal ordination here in May, 2004.

Though I do not anticipate having the opportunity to greet Pope Benedict on this visit, I know I carry with me your affection for him, and our prayerful gratitude for our Holy Father. May our Blessed Mother protect him and keep him close to her Son.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Beatification Cause for Founder of Mary’s House at Ephesus to Begin in Kansas City

SrMarie016 The cause for the beatification and canonization of the French Daughter of Charity regarded by the Church as the Founder of Mary’s House at Ephesus will open in Kansas City, January 21. In the words of one of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey’s biographers, Mary’s House is a remarkable place where Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics “all join together in the home of a Jewish Mother.”

Mary’s House was discovered in 1891 on a mountain near Ephesus based on descriptions of the place from the visions of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. It is believed to be the place where Mary lived with St. John after the death and resurrection of her Son and the place of her Assumption. The home has been visited by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. A remarkable aspect of the home is that it is a place of pilgrimage for not only Catholics and Orthodox, but for Muslims as well, who revere the Mother of Jesus.

Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey was of noble French birth. As a Daughter of Charity, she worked in orphanages in France. In 1886, she moved to work at a French hospital in Smyrna, Turkey and used her own funds to refurbish the hospital and establish a school for girls. Though Sister Marie lived her life under a vow of poverty, she was allowed, with permission, to use her family’s wealth for apostolic works.

Sister Marie had read Emmerich’s description of the life of Mary and was convinced Mary’s home was to be found in Ephesus, per Emmerich’s vision. Sister Marie encouraged some local priests to read the visions of Emmerich and based on these the house was found in 1891. In 1892, Sister Marie purchased the property and began restoring it and in 1914 Pope St. Pius X granted an indulgence to those who visit the house. A permanent indulgence was later granted by Blessed Pope John XXIII.

So what does this all have to do with Kansas City? Read Bishop Finn’s column below from this week’s edition of The Catholic Key. You may also be interested in a biography of Sister Marie (pdf) and Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s fascinating essay, Mary and the Moslems. A prayer card for Sister Marie follows Bishop Finn’s column:

Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey:
Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Studies Her Life and Work

By Most Rev. Robert W. Finn

Many times I have said that our goal in this life is to get to heaven and bring as many others with us as we can. This month of All Saints and All Souls helps us to focus on the holy and faithful people who have gone before us.

I felt very privileged recently when our Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was asked to participate in a Cause for the Beatification and Canonization of a woman who died almost 100 years ago half way around the world! It occasionally happens that a diocesan bishop may be expected to participate in the Cause of a holy man or woman who lived or died in the bishop’s local diocese. Today I want to tell you about an extraordinary woman who never visited Kansas City, or the United States. Soon she will come to be better known here in Missouri. Her name was Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent DePaul. The Daughters of Charity have been an important part of the history of our diocese in both St. Joseph and Kansas City.

Who is Sr. Marie de Mandat-Grancey?

Sr. Marie was born of nobility in France in 1837. She joined the Daughters of Charity in 1858. She was professed in 1862. She died in Smyrna, Turkey in 1915. Sr. Marie was a devout Religious who gave up her status and wealth to care for the poor. She served as a nurse in France. In 1886, she was assigned to the French Naval Hospital at Smyrna. She became superior of the house and was dedicated to the care of the sick and children. During the time Sr. Marie served in Turkey, she was instrumental in identifying and procuring the House of Mary in Ephesus. Mary’s Home at Ephesus has become a place of pilgrimage for millions of people every year, the majority of whom are Muslims. Pope’s Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Paul VI, have all celebrated Mass there. The process of the cause would attempt to investigate the heroic sanctity of Sr. Marie, and present this for consideration by the Church.

Why is this cause being considered in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph?

About two years ago I participated in a pilgrimage to Meryem Ana Evi, or “Mary’s House” in Ephesus, Turkey. I traveled with faithful from Kansas City and various places in the U.S. During that visit I met Mrs. Erin Von Uffel of New York, who had studied the life of Sr. Marie and had worked with the Archbishop Emeritus of Smyrna (modern day Izmir), Most Reverend Giuseppe Bernardini, to research the life and work of Sr. Marie. While I was in Turkey, I met with Erin and the current Archbishop of Izmir, Ruggero Franceschini. In this meeting Erin encouraged the Archbishop to promote Sr. Marie’s cause. In February of 2010, I was formally petitioned by Archbishop Franceschini to assist with the cause, given the insufficient personnel and other resources of the Archdiocese in Turkey. After a series of discussions and prayerful considerations, I requested, and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was granted, jurisdiction by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for this initiative.

How will the process take place?

After having received the support of our neighboring bishops in Missouri and Kansas, the Superior General of the Daughters of Charity, the Archbishop of Dijon, France, where Sr. Marie was born, and the Presbyteral Council of our Diocese, I nominated a postulator and formally requested permission to “open the cause.” Dr. Andrea Ambrosi of Rome is the postulator, the person who will oversee the whole process and bring the case before the Vatican, and has worked on many such causes. He explains that, “a beatification cause involves a years-long process of examination of the candidate’s life, virtues, writings, reputation for holiness, and reputation for intercession.” When a candidate’s cause is opened, that person is called a Servant of God. After the Servant of God’s heroic virtue has been proven, he or she is declared “venerable.” Then, to be beatified, one miracle must be attributed to the Venerable’s intercession. Finally, a second miracle is needed for canonization. Dr. Ambrosi said, “The Church’s criteria for accepting a miracle are very rigorous.”

When will the Process begin?

Although much work has been going on to gather archival materials, and assign responsibilities for the work of the cause, the first step of the process will be the solemn opening. The opening of the cause for Sr. Marie is now scheduled for Friday evening, January 21, 2011, at 6:00 p.m. in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Kansas City. Everyone is invited to attend this historic event. A number of the family members of Sr. Marie have been invited. As the local bishop I will receive the oaths of the postulator, the members of the Tribunal who will gather all the materials, and the Historical and Theological Commissions who will help in evaluating the materials.

Sr. Marie seems to have been a holy woman who lived her life humbly in God’s service. Please pray for God’s blessing on our work. A prayer that was written a number of years ago in thanksgiving to God for Sr. Marie is provided here.

Von Uffel_Sister Marie graphic_Page_01

Thursday, November 11, 2010

World War II Through the Eyes of a 20 Year Old

We weren’t going to publish this piece about the inspiring WWII stories collected by a local vet till the next issue, but since it’s Veteran’s Day it seemed appropriate to post. The story notes that the vet comes from the “tiny farming community of Utica, Mo., near Chillicothe.” If that doesn’t nail it down for our out of state readers, Chillicothe is, among other fine things, the “Home of Sliced Bread.”

Thanks from The Catholic Key to all our Veterans! Story follows:

World War II Through the Eyes of a 20 Year Old

By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor1119_WWII_book

LEE’S SUMMIT — The most remarkable thing about Harold J. Braden’s story is that it is so common among the men of his generation.

They lived through the Great Depression, fought and won World War II, then came home to build the strongest middle class and the highest standard of living history has ever known.

Braden, 89, only tells a small part of that story in his book, “World War II Through the Eyes of a 20 Year Old.” But it is a story that Braden had to tell before it went untold forever.

“It’s not going to be a money-maker,” Braden told The Catholic Key. “But I am happy I have written it. Now I have a record of not just myself, but my brothers and brothers-in-law and friends.”

His story centers on the tiny farming community of Utica, Mo., near Chillicothe.

“It was a little town then, and it’s gotten littler since,” Braden said. “We used to have a couple of grocery stores, a filling (gasoline) station, a blacksmith shop and a brick yard. We don’t have any of that any more.

“And we had a Catholic church. The priest would come on the train at first, then he got a car and drove,” Braden said. “We’d get the young priests, mostly Irish. We had one from Holland. He couldn’t speak English too good, but he was a good ol’ boy.”

The story is about growing up when everybody was poor, when farming fathers went broke then took any job they could find.

“You could buy a loaf of bread for a dime, but you’d have trouble finding that dime,” he said.

And it was about how virtually every young man answered the call to military service after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Big brother John Braden was drafted into the Army two months before Pearl Harbor.

“I’d say he was blessed with the Braden big mouth because he never got far in the Army,” Braden said. “He was a leader but the Army never found out about it.”

John Braden would later serve as mayor of Greenwood, Mo., and retire from a career in finance as a vice president of the Bank of Lee’s Summit.

Younger brother Robert Edward — “We called him Ed” — was too young for World War II, but served in Korea where he earned the Bronze Star.

Bill Lightner married Braden’s sister Mary Margaret.

“He volunteered for the Navy the day after Pearl Harbor,” Braden said. “They assigned him to the USS South Dakota, which was just being built. He served the entire war on the South Dakota, sailing to the sound of guns.”

Joseph Dietrich, an Army Air Corps radioman and gunner, married his sister Cornelia, who was nicknamed Corky.

“They got married in 1944 down in Texas after he came back from North Africa and Italy,” Braden said. “He flew 52 missions.”

There was his uncle, Francis Murphy, who was not that much older than Braden.

“He was a tanker with (Gen.) Omar Bradley” in the European Theater, Braden said. “He lost a couple of tanks, and one time, he was the only survivor.”

There was Maurice Dietrich, Joseph’s brother.

“He was a gunner on a B-24 bomber,” Braden said. “He took part in the first raid on the oil refinery at Ploesti (Romania on Aug. 1, 1943). They lost 800 men that day. He was awarded a whole bunch of ribbons and medals.”

There was Ellsworth Lawson, a friend from childhood.

“He was a couple of grades ahead of me,” Braden said. “He went to work for the Burlington Railroad, and they drafted him and put him in the group that took over the French railroad and ran it to the advantage of the Allied armies.”

There was Fred Merryfield.

“He was in the Air Force and spent most of his time in the South Pacific,” Braden said. “They called it the Jungle Air Force. They would just make an airstrip out in the jungle until they got back to Manila, where they had a real air field.”

Every airman who participated in the Ploesti raid earned a Silver Star or higher. Five earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.

As for Braden himself, he started working for the Civilian Conservation Corps right after he graduated from high school in 1939.

“They paid us $1 a day, $30 a month,” he said. “They’d give us $5 and send $25 home.”

His parents could have used the money, but didn’t. Instead they saved it so that when Harold returned home, he could enroll in classes at a business college in Chillicothe.

The clerical skills he learned there landed him a job in Kansas City for a company that made milk bottles and caps for dairies. After working there for a few months and taking the civil service exam, Braden got a job in October 1941 with the new Social Security Administration in Washington, D.C.

“It was $25 a month more than I was making, so I got on a bus and went to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

The following May, he was in the U.S. Navy, where he would serve until November 1945.

“They just transferred me to the Navy Department,” Braden said. “I was in communications because I could type.”

Soon he was sent to the South Pacific, where a good deal of his service was spent in communications and intelligence, particularly under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

“I was assigned to whatever ship he (MacArthur) would be on to do the extra communication work,” Braden said.

He was no fan of the commander of Allied forces in the Pacific.

“He was a real leader, but he was pompous and arrogant and all that,” Braden said. “He thought the bullet wasn’t made that would get him. He was so brazen that people wouldn’t care to go with him.”

After his discharge from the Navy, Braden returned to classes at Chillicothe Business College.

“Before I got my degree, the Santa Fe Railroad hired me,” he said.

The job sounded real good to a child of the Great Depression.

“I always had this notion that we were going back to the Depression,” he said. “My brother John used to say we had no guts because we never took chances.”

In 1956, he married Lucille, his wife of 56 years, and they had two children. He had by then settled into jobs with trucking companies, and bought a brand-new house in the then-tiny suburb of Lee’s Summit in 1963, three years before joining Yellow Freight, from where he would retire in 1983.

But World War II, Braden said, “was the defining moment in my life.”

“Even now, I think of before the war, and after the war,” he said. “It broadened me greatly. I traveled across the country several times, I spent time in Brisbane, Manila, New Caledonia and lots of jungle spots. It broadened me from being an old country boy. It broadened all of us.”

Braden also said that it was a defining moment for the nation as well.

“There are very few times when the whole country strives together for just one result,” he said. “Going to the moon was another time, but that didn’t last as long as World War II.”

As Braden was putting the finishing touches on his book, he had a chance for another rush of memories.

On Sept. 28, Braden was the guest of the Honor Flight Network of Kansas City that flies World War II veterans, expense free, to Washington, D.C., for a one-day trip to see the new World War II monument.

“It was a great day. They wore me out to a frazzle,” Braden said.

“At 4 a.m., I was talking to a reporter from Channel 9 at the airport, and I didn’t get to bed until 11 that night,” he said. “We were on the go the whole time. I had my two children with me, and that was great.”

Braden said he was no different than millions of men of his generation.

“I’m no hero,” he said. “I was never any good at volunteering. We were all just civilians, but we did what we were told to do.

“Some of us were well-trained, and some were like me — didn’t know nothing,” Braden said.

“But we were going to win the war,” he said. “Nobody I ever talked to thought anything different but that we were going to win.” o

Harold Braden will be a the VFW Hall, 329 SE Douglas St., Lee’s Summit, from 1 to 4 p.m. Nov. 21 to sign copies of his book, “World War II Through the Eyes of a 20 Year Old.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review - ‘You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger’

From the upcoming edition of The Catholic Key:

‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger’

Reviewed by Santiago Ramos

DIR and SCR Woody Allen
Starring Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Freida Pinto, and Naomi Watts

This year’s Woody Allen opus begins with the story of Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), a wealthy septuagenarian lawyer living in London who becomes gripped by the fear of his own mortality and, after the brief paralysis that such gripping fear brings, decides to do something about it. He divorces his longtime wife, Helena (Gemma Jones) and pursues younger women, until he finds a call girl named Charmaine (Lucy Punch), who he can persuade, after buying several dozen hours of her service, to marry him. A new life.

MediaPicNov12 Alfie and Helena have one daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts), an unhappy former art student and reluctant career woman. She is married to an American writer, Roy (Josh Brolin), a sort of emasculated Hemingway who can’t write a good second novel—he is currently writing his fourth as the movie begins. Roy does not want to have a baby with Sally until his literary career has been cemented into excellence. But Sally wants a family.

Sally begins to work—reluctantly, instead of making a family—as an assistant to an art dealer, Greg (Antonio Banderas), who plays the newly standardized Woody Allen role of “Hispanic sophisticate” perfected by Javier Bardem in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, and to whom Sally becomes instantly attracted. Roy, on the other hand, is drawn by a woman wearing a red dress that he sees every day from his bedroom window across the short distance to the next apartment building, where she lives and plays guitar by her window. Sometimes she does more than play guitar, and Roy becomes a true voyeur.

Sally and Roy are only the second sundered marital union in this film. There are more. But Woody Allen is not interested in satirizing the selfishness and shortcomings of the old and young. That we are moral failures is merely a premise to the film. The other premise is supplied by MacBeth, and quoted at the beginning of the film: “Life is a tale told by an idiot / full of sound and fury / Signifying nothing.” The film is about measuring the effectiveness of our responses to these premises. “Sometimes the illusions are better than the medicine,” is a line that is repeated in the film. It refers to two possible responses.

The first is Helena’s, who dives into illusions after a botched attempt at suicide. She starts frequenting a psychic, who assures Helena that she is about to enter “into a period of great fulfillment.” Even if her husband has decided to marry a blonde half his age, Helena needn’t worry; she too will soon meet a handsome new love—or, as Roy sarcastically puts it, “a tall, dark, stranger.” Sally supports her mother’s visits to the psychic precisely because “the illusions are better than the medicine,” but Roy thinks that the psychic is merely conning Helena out of a lot of money.

Everyone else, however, tries different types of “medicine,” that is to say, a rearrangement of their living situation through force of different types—persuasion, seduction, coercion. Divorce is the first move for all of them. Sally becomes emotionally involved with Greg, though with mixed results. Roy finds his way into the apartment of the girl in the red dress, whose name turns out to be Dia, and begins an affair with her.

In one of the best scenes of the film, Roy stands alone in Dia’s bedroom, looks outside her window and back into the window of his old apartment, and finds Sally in their old bedroom, more attractive than he had found her in years. There will always be another window, and the grass is always greener… The medicine is not enough because it cannot guarantee something completely new and free and good.

The “completely new,” or “the new which stays new” (to steal from Ezra Pound), is one way to describe what Woody Allen makes his characters desire. Another way to describe it would be: “something that doesn’t go away,” something that lasts. Allen’s worldview is comprehensively tragic: the new and lasting—the eternal—does not exist. And he has become an expert at crafting stories about people living this very drama of desire gone unmet. This film is unique, however, because one character’s desire is met.

Helena’s superstition, which is the symbol for religion in the universe of the film, is not, in the end, as ridiculous as all of the film’s characters make it out to be. It is not “effective” merely because it provides a consolation and an anesthetic with which Helena can live her remaining, painful days. It actually works. Her fulfillment does come. No doubt Woody Allen is trying to be ironic—“See how beautiful and ironic life is?” Antonio Banderas asks Sally. There is something funny about a group of intelligent people who are unhappy, being laughed at by a superstitious old woman who is happy. Nevertheless, he places religion before a reasonable standard: Have you found true fulfillment? Does the tall, dark, stranger truly exist? Have you seen him?

Among the film’s restless characters, only Helena stays put long enough to ask herself those questions. Among filmmakers, Woody Alone stands out as a restless (and repetitive) asker of the same.

Santiago Ramos has written for First Things, Commonweal, Image Journal, Traces, and the Kansas City weekly, The Pitch. He is currently pursuing graduate studies in Boston College.