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Articles of Faith

For BC graduation, O'Malley trades Capuchin brown for cardinal's red

On Monday, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley wore a formal silk ferraiolo for Boston College's commencement. On Monday, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley wore a formal silk ferraiolo for Boston College's commencement. (Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)
By Michael Paulson
Globe Staff / May 24, 2009
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For those of you who are aficionados of Catholic vestments, check out this photo of Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, at Monday's commencement ceremony at Boston College. The cardinal, a Franciscan Capuchin friar whose preferred garb is the brown hooded habit and sandals of his order, here is shown wearing a silk ferraiolo, which is an ecclesiastical cape used for solemn nonliturgical events, like formal dinners and academic convocations. The ferraiolo is over the cardinal's simar, or house cassock, a black wool garment, in this case trimmed in scarlet, the color signifying that O'Malley is a cardinal. O'Malley is shown entering the commencement ceremony with the Rev. T. Frank Kennedy, the rector of the Jesuit community at BC.

Evangical character strikes a sour note
The gratuitously negative depiction of a Bible-thumping Los Angeles Philharmonic cellist (!) in "The Soloist" amazed me, especially once I learned that even though the film depicts actual events, the evangelical faith of the musician is a fictitious plot element.

The cellist, named Graham Claydon (played by Tom Hollander) is brought in by the film's hero, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr. ), to help a homeless and mentally ill Juilliard dropout, Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx ), resume playing the cello.

Hollander talks about his character's faith in the studio's press materials, saying, "He's . . .a very committed Christian, so he hopes that, through him, God can save Nathaniel and bring transformation into his life."

The issue is that Claydon's Christianity is so preachy and tone-deaf it's almost comical.

Robert W. Butler , a columnist for the Kansas City Star, called Claydon an "unfair cliché," and wrote that "Tinseltown invariably misunderstands and misrepresents religion."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops weighed in as well, saying, "The portrayal of the pious musician . . . suggests that his poor judgments arise from his evangelical-style Christian faith."

And in the LA Times, critic Kenneth Turan says the characterization is of a piece with other problems in the film: "Director [Joe] Wright seems to relish overdoing whatever he can. . . . So a cellist who tries to help Ayers can't be just a good person, he has to be clumsily religious."

Parents unable to save last Jamaica Plain Catholic school
The last Catholic school in Jamaica Plain will close next month, after parents were unable to raise enough money to save the Our Lady of Lourdes School.

The Parent Committee to Save OLOL posted a letter detailing the turn of events on its website.

An excerpt: "Despite 4 months of hard work, hundreds of donations, and the support of many in Boston's philanthropic community, we are faced with a decision over which we have no control. The final amount that we raised in cash and pledges was about $350,000 a truly impressive figure given the current economic climate and a testament to the merits of our cause but not enough. In the end, the lack of pastoral support for our mission was an obstacle too great to overcome. After 95 years of serving the community, Our Lady of Lourdes School will see its last graduating class this June.

"We will soon begin the process of returning donations to the donors, with our heartfelt thanks . . . Although our hearts are broken, we will all do everything possible to make sure these last few weeks at the school are happy and upbeat for the children."

I asked archdiocesan spokesman Terry Donilon about the closing of the school, which had 187 pupils this year. Here's what he said: "We know this is not easy for the students and families of Our Lady of Lourdes School. We also know that there are many opportunities for families to continue educating their children in Catholic schools. The closing of Our Lady of Lourdes School does not diminish the Church's commitment to Catholic education. The task ahead for us is to see to it that we provide a smooth transition for the students, families, teachers, and staff as the school year draws to a close."