Divergent: Book versus Movie

By Amy MacInnis

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Watching Divergent play out on the big screen got me reflecting on the book again. I was reminded particularly of things I appreciate about the novel. First of all is Tris’s love for her family and their importance in shaping her identity. This came across really well on film, possibly even more than in the book. Something else that powerfully struck me on screen was the cool rationalization of Erudite leader and villainess, Jeanine, played excellently by Kate Winslet. The movie did not include the troubling line Tobias speaks to Tris that I criticized in the book review, affirming the non-abusiveness of their relationship. Finally, seeing rather than just reading about the capture-the-flag game brought home its purpose as tactical training for future soldiers.

However, many aspects of Daunless initiation were understated in the movie. The danger of initiates’ tasks and the cruelty of some of the characters were much more evident in the book. I thought about some of the things excluded from the movie—like an initiate who falls to her death jumping out of a train, and a leading initiate who gets stabbed in the eye in cold blood by a competitor—and I realized just how violent Roth’s dystopian world is and how corrupted courage can become if it is used as a means to power. Even toned down, though, the violence in the movie was unsettling and thought provoking.

A couple minor things bothered me about the movie. Tris, played well by Shailene Woodley, was meant to appear quite thin and frail in the book, but seemed strong from the beginning on film. Additionally, the actresses were obviously wearing makeup in Abnegation, which would be completely contrary to the faction’s attitudes. Overall, though, Divergent was a satisfying adaptation of the book, reminding me how much I liked it.

Summa Theologica for Lent: Second Part of the Second Part

Written by St. Thomas Aquinas

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

This may sound a little obvious for a Catholic book review journal, kind of like reviewing the Bible. But sometimes the most obvious things are overlooked: like that love of neighbor actually includes your next-door neighbor.

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I am reading ‘Part Two’ of the ‘Second Part’ of St. Thomas Aquinas’ greatest work, the Summa Theologica. This large volume (just shy of 600 pp) is dedicated to the virtues. It is just about as perfect as a book gets. Thomas was certainly the Mozart of theologians: technically, he admits no comparisons. (For the record, Augustine would be the Bach – his equal, but not a twin by any means.)

The Summa Theologica is as perfect as theology gets. The Second Part of the Second Part is as perfect as moral theology gets. It owes a great deal to Aristotle’s Ethics – the greatest work of moral philosophy – but it is Christian through and through, owing, as it does, so much also to Augustine, St. John Damascene, St. Gregory the Great, etc., too. Continue reading

A Suggestion for Lent: On the Cosmic Mystery of Christ

St. Maximus the Confessor

(St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003)

Reviewed by Colin Kerr

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SVSP’s Popular Patristic Series in one of my absolute favorites. Its volumes have a prominent place on my bookshelf, and I come back to them time and again.

St. Maximus is one of the greatest theologians of all time. He did not receive a great deal of attention in the West until the previous century, when great Latin theologians like von Balthasar finally gave him the attention he so justly deserves. He was the hero of the Monothelite Controversy, the 7th Century debate over whether Christ has a human will in addition to His divine one: He does, said Maximus. He ultimately died for it.

As comes across in this short collection of writings, he was primarily influenced by St. Gregory Nazianzus and Pseudo-Dionysius. From my judgement, he is a perfect blend of the two.

This publication samples two of his great works, his Ambigua and Questions to Thelassius, as well as one other tract.These are not easy writings, though. They require some care and attention. And yet, they are remarkably profitable – both spiritually and intellectually. The first one, for instance, explains a phrase of St. Gregory’s, liable to misinterpretation – “that we are a portion of God and have slipped down from above.” In doing so he develops an amazing and inspiring meditation of our life in God. The writings are very well chosen and appropriately arranged – no surprise, seeing that the editor is John Behr.

Of course, it is the final essay, which is on Christ’s two wills in the Agony in Garden that is of the most historical interest. Of great interest period: the question of the nature of the Lord’s will is one of the most misconceived topics in theology these days.

Particularly apt for Lent would be the tract “On Christ’s Conquest of the Human Passions.”

If you are up for an intellectual challenge while desiring to deepen your faith, this book is definitely for you. At 188 pages, even taking it a few pages at a time, you will easily be able to finish it by Good Friday.