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THEOLOGY ON TAP: Somewhere over the rainbow, we must all make that journey of faith

TOT4

 

Franciscan Father Johnpaul Cafiero points to an authentic pair of ruby-red slippers during his presentation "The Spiritual Journey: Reflection on The Wizard of Oz" at the Theology on Tap meeting in Crown Brewing in Crown Point on July 23. (Anthony D. Alonzo photo)

 

By Steve Euvino

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

     CROWN POINT – Mark Cregger’s favorite character in The Wizard of Oz is the Tin Man. “He did everything with his heart,” said Cregger, from St. Francis Xavier in Lake Station. “He didn’t realize he was doing it, but he cared for others.”

     Cregger may have stumbled onto some spirituality within one of the most popular movies of all time. He and other young adults learned more about Munchkinland at a Theology on Tap session at Crown Brewing.

     Franciscan Father Johnpaul Cafiero, a former New York policeman now ministering in Chicago, addressed the spirituality of Oz on July 23. The friar’s family owns the second-largest collection of Oz memorabilia – more than 65,000 pieces, including copies of the L. Frank Baum book in 48 languages.

     With such international appeal, Father Cafiero said, The Wizard of Oz is a “classic spiritual story.” Known for its fantasy storytelling, unusual characters and Oscar-winning musical score, the 1939 MGM film was the first movie to use Technicolor, which ties into the movie’s spirituality.

     Father Cafiero outlined five phases of the story. First is a state of discontent, reflected in black-and-white footage in a bleak Kansas. Something is missing in Dorothy’s life, and perhaps it can be found “somewhere over the rainbow.” Then, moved by the Spirit, the protagonist is called to go forward, the second phase.

     In the third phase, the main character goes through a period of testing, a time of trial. Contemporary people face these challenges in relationships, Father Cafiero said. Initially everything is wonderful, then reality sets in; or, in the case of Dorothy and her companions, there are lions and tigers and bears (oh my!).

     The fourth phase is a new awareness or seeing things a new way. The fifth phase is the return home, but as changed individuals. “You can’t return home unless you change,” Father Cafiero said. “You’re seeing a different way. Your priorities change. You see with new eyes – the eyes of Jesus.”

     Theology on Tap is an informal gathering of young adults for socializing and learning more about the Catholic faith. St. Mary in Crown Point sponsors this particular four-week series, one of three sites in the diocese this summer.

     For Amanda Hornback, from St. James the Less in Highland, Father Cafiero’s presentation was a “new interpretation for me.” Her favorite character from the movie is Judy Garland’s Dorothy because, Hornback said, “She gets to meet everybody.”

     For Father Cafiero, Dorothy represents the child within, that simplicity of mind and heart that believes in magic, in this case, mystery or miracles. For Christians, he said, this represents the Paschal Mystery – the belief that Jesus suffered, died, and arose to new life.

     Just as Dorothy asks Glinda if she is the good witch or bad witch, Father Cafiero said, the faithful are being asked a similar question. In our case, he said, “We have the power within us to make choices. … Faith gives us the power to make a difference.”

      Dorothy meets a variety of characters along the Yellow Brick Road. The faithful also encounter many people, both positive and negative influences, in the haunted forest of life. And just as Dorothy learns about brains, courage, and heart from her straw-filled, furry, and tin companions, “the only way to get through it is to face it,” Father Cafiero said. “We gotta face our fears to overcome them.”

     Eventually Dorothy meets the wizard, who represents the Church or religion, Father Cafiero said, or, as Dorothy sings, “a wizard who will serve.” Dorothy discovers she and her companions always had what they needed; they just searched in the wrong places.

     “I now think of [Oz] from a religious point of view. It makes a lot of sense,” said Ashley Corbett, from host parish St. Mary. “You have to believe in magic and mystery.”

     As Dorothy learned through her perilous journey, Father Cafiero said, Christians must also learn that their faith is rooted in their relationship with God.

     “Then we can go home,” the Franciscan friar told the young adults. “You’re going through that journey.”

    Note: More information on Franciscan Father Johnpaul Cafiero and the spirituality of Oz is available online at friarjp.com.

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