The Good Nurse: every one must be good

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 November 2022

Still streaming in Netflix is The Good Nurse that will surely make you feel good that despite all the evil going on in this world, there are still good people who make our planet a safer place to live. Truly, St. Paul’s words ring so true in this Netflix movie, “where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Rom. 5:20).

Based on the 2013 true-crime book of the same title by investigative journalist Charles Graeber, The Good Nurse is about how a good nurse named Amy Loughren stood her ground to cooperate with two hardworking detectives in New Jersey to arrest and eventually put into jail her fellow nurse Charles Cullen who is considered as one of America’s most prolific serial killers. According to the movie, Cullen admitted to have killed 29 patients by administering harmful drugs in nine different hospitals he had worked as nurse in a span of 16 years although authorities believe he may have killed up to 400 patients!

The only reason I watched The Good Nurse – in three installments while watching Black Butterflies two weeks ago – is because I am assigned as a chaplain in a University offering BS Nursing with a Medical Center. I was hoping to learn some “talking points” for my Masses and spiritual conferences with them from the movie; however, what actually happened was they prepared me to appreciate deeply this kind of movie with my many interactions with them both in school and the hospital.

I just have to warn you that the movie is too long, more than two hours. And very slow. But, it is well worth it especially in the last 50 minutes when tempo changes and shifts to high gear of action and suspense that you get so involved with the movie even if you are watching it alone on a laptop like me. There is that urge you actually talk to Amy not to fall in love with Charlie, especially in that part he was fired from their hospital and he suddenly spent the afternoon with her kids, sending their babysitter home as he prepared even their meal!

Yay…naku!!! I was really telling Amy to spit out that piece of meat Charlie had cooked as it may be laden with poison or insulin and digoxin!!! Hahaha!!!

Dramatic and suspenseful, most of all, feel good is what The Good Nurse is all about.

What I like most in the movie is the courage of Amy to secretly meet with the two detectives after realizing herself Charlie was not exactly true as himself – kind and diligent, silent and reserved. She eventually researched and discovered the many evidences that established Charlie’s culpability that finally put him behind bars serving 18 consecutive life sentences.

Most touching part was when Amy visited Charlie in the police headquarters after his arrest where the detectives have failed to extract any confession from him for the mysterious deaths of patients in their hospital. In one part of the interrogation it was revealed that Charlie had a deeply disturbed and dangerous personality similar with that kid in an old movie also streaming in Netflix, Primal Fear. He just kept shouting and shouting the answer “no” to every question given him, sounding like a deranged man with his face contorting and eyes so menacing.

Everything changed when Amy came inside the interrogation room. The detective warned her not to get near Charlie who was extremely dangerous. Despite that warning, Amy requested Charlie’s cuffs be removed as she sat near him at his side. When she noticed Charlie freezing inside the room, she took off her sweater and put it on him while the detective stood on guard, worried for any untoward incident to happen.

Charlie was at first cold toward Amy, refusing to look at her directly.

When Amy began speaking by apologizing to Charlie, telling him how she felt sorry that despite his being kind to her, despite their being friends, she had to tell everything to the cops. Actress Jessica Chastain who played the role of Amy was able to perfectly exude that kind of warmth and caring self despite the fears in being with a mysterious suspect that slowly, Charlie softened and confessed his crimes.

And that is where the high point of the movie is when Amy asked him to tell her the truth why he did it, Charlie simply said because “nobody stopped me”. He sobbed, covering his face.

Then, Amy asked him for names of his victims and Charlie readily identified them one by one with the next scene showing him being led down the hallway of the prison. The final scene showed Amy in bed with her two daughters, being awakened by the eldest daughter telling her it is a school day.

Amy told her, “today we stay in bed”, finally giving her daughters with the much needed quality time they sorely missed from her who had to work so hard for their needs. According to the notes after the movie, Amy now lives in Florida with her daughters and grandchildren. She eventually had her heart surgery.

The movie is very timely. In fact, I have been using it in my homilies. It is very Christian and Catholic as it presents our so-called universal call for holiness, of how each one of us must strive to be good or perfect and holy like our Father in heaven (Matt. 5:48), echoed by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium over 50 years ago calling us all to strive in creating a more just and humane society in this imperfect world.

There was no mention of religion nor any scene from the church or of anyone praying but it is very clear in the movie about the need for us all to be good like the good nurse, Amy.

According to the movie based on Graeber’s book, Cullen went on a killing spree as a nurse for 16 years because none of the hospital where he used to work at acted decisively on his case despite their suspicions over the mysterious deaths of some patients. Ironically, according to the movie, those hospitals never bothered to take drastic steps and measures in solving the mysterious deaths of their patients amid the suspicions on Cullen because they were afraid of the legal cases that might be filed against them by the families of his victims that is now exactly happening as per the movie.

There is that quotation attributed routinely to Edmund Burke that says “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”.

The Good Nurse Amy Loughren did not let the evil of Charlie Cullen to triumph. Against all odds of losing her job as a nurse, of losing herself as she was afflicted with a heart ailment, Amy proved to be so good indeed that she did everything to stop Charlie who said it so well that he did all those killings “because nobody stopped me.”

Here comes the true relevance of this good movie that challenges us all in this time to be good as always, fighting and standing up against every form of evil, regardless of who is committing them. Of course, it is not enough to just speak and fight without any evidences and most especially efforts to personally confront the evil-doers like the good nurse.

Jesus himself reminded us that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

This is most challenging for us in the Church, most especially among bishops and priests who chose to be silent, to let evil triumph right inside our hallowed houses of worship and apostolate when all these sex scandals occurred even a long time ago and still continues these days. We in the clergy must be above all most good than others in stopping evil from happening among our ranks. It is so sad and deplorable, even shameful when we priests and bishops are so vocal in denouncing injustices in the society perpetrated by civil authorities and politicians when we would not even raise our voices against the evil happening in our own turfs, of clergy and religious breaking all vows of chastity and poverty completely selling their souls to the devil for sex, money, power and fame.

The Good Nurse is a call for us all to return to being good, of saying no to sin and evil, of being truly human who respects and cares for life always which is at the core of our Lord’s teachings and of our humanity too. Happy viewing everyone!

Prayer to be good

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 November 2022
Titus 1:1-9   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. Be on your guard!

Luke 17:1, 3
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for this great Monday!
Thank you for reminding us how sin
will inevitably occur in this life,
in this imperfect world.
Bless us, dear Jesus,
to be always on guard;
guide us and keep us strong
with clear mind and conscience
to never allow ourselves to 
cause others to sin;
Like St. Paul reminding Titus today,
help us to be blameless before you
and others, "not arrogant, 
not irritable, not a drunkard, 
not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain"
(Titus 1:7).
Help us, dear Jesus,
to be on guard by being good always
like being "hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast" (Titus 1:8) 
to your Gospel message of
love and mercy, 
kindness and justice.
Amen.

Grey areas in the “Gray Man”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 July 2022
Image from Pinterest.

It has been a long time since I have truly enjoyed a movie in Netflix that seems to me not only in big trouble with its decreasing number of subscribers but mostly to lack of any good offering lately. Not even their documentaries are exceptional anymore. In fact, I have been trying to finish out of charity and old time’s sake since May the new season of “Stranger Things” that has become so strangely uninteresting even with its music selection.

Yesterday was a very exhausting Sunday with so many patients to visit and anoint in our hospital that after a much delayed lunch, I tried treating myself with a good dose of action with its new release “The Gray Man”.

But, I was totally wrong.

Photo from imdb.com.

It has a great stellar cast led by Ryan Gosling but sad to say, sayang (what a waste in Filipino).

It started great but quickly became so boring. It is like being misled into a new roller coaster in town but it turned out it is just a caterpillar ride that you just tell your self, “what the heck… let us just try to enjoy the stupid ride.” Again, because it is sayang.

Action movies are meant to excite us but “The Gray Man” has a lot of grey areas that are not only confusing but actually distracting and detracting from whatever plot it has which is the usual story of some CIA big shots out to terminate a morally upright agent (Gosling) who had uncovered their dark and evil operations worldwide.

And the main culprit is perhaps is its long duration of two hours, bringing you to different cities around the world that it looked like a travel show. Hence, the problem with its pacing wherein when actions begin exploding, they would abruptly stop and shift somewhere else with new twists. As I have told you, it is like taking a caterpillar ride which you thought was a roller-coaster.

Worst of all, the ending was not good enough to even motivate viewers to make wild guesses on what could have possibly happened to the bad guys. Of course, it left so much room for a sequel but after seeing this initial installment based on Mark Greaney’s novel, it is doubtful if anyone would really care to wait for its sequel.

The microchip everybody wanted to have was simply pulverized — and, oh! how crudely and primitively it was done by the evil CIA official who prides himself in the movie as a graduate of Harvard that you now begin to suspect anyone can easily brag being an alumnus of any Ivy League school or even Oxford like our own president without any bearings at all of a genius or an erudite.

There are, however, two saving factors in “The Gray Man”.

First is the parting line by the Tamil assassin who surrendered the microchip embedded in a pendant to the agent helping Gosling because the CIA bosses were “not honorable people” partly because they hurt women. There are some notable scenes women are highly extolled and for that, the movie is exceptional for me. One of the few instances in Hollywood where women are explicitly mentioned as persons to be respected and cared for.

Secondly, I think Gosling could be another Bruce Willis with his physique and acting abilities if given with better handlers next time.

Go see for yourself… at least, I have warned you.

Photo from deadline.com.

Tasting and seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor, 29 April 2022
Acts 5:34-42   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:1-15
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
On this feast of the first
woman doctor of the Church,
St. Catherine of Siena,
let me borrow her beautiful words
as my prayer to you, 
O God our loving Father:

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
Very often you send us
men and women you use to change
the course of history with their 
practicality and spirituality like
Gamaliel the Pharisee - through him,
the Apostles were finally set free
to go with their mission after
convincing the Sanhedrin that 
"if this endeavor or this activity 
is of human origin, it will destroy
itself.  But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
You are indeed a mystery as deep 
as the sea using even enemies to
work in our favor so that the more 
I search you, the more I find you, 
and the more I find you, the more 
I search you as you slowly reveal
yourself in every unfolding of your works;
if others would only allow your grace 
for them to desire you, dear God, 
then they would realize this wondrous
gift and joy of living in you in Christ.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
In your Son Jesus Christ's most
precious gift of his presence in the
Holy Eucharist, like the people at the
wilderness with him, we have felt 
how you work in our midst, most of 
all how we must cooperate with Jesus
to accomplish your work.
Despite her being illiterate and lack of
so much worldly credentials, 
St. Catherine eventually succeeded in 
bringing back the Papacy to Rome
even long after her death while her
writings and reflections have 
become a treasury of testament
to how you work among us despite
our many limitations.  May we have
the courage to allow you to do your
work in us, in Christ.  Amen.

Faith + works = discipleship

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 February 2022
James 2:14-24, 26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 8:34-9:1
Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.
Awaken us, O Lord,
from our mistake and
error of insisting 
that our pious and religious 
exercises are the "good works"
that express our faith in you;
let us realize that it is not 
enough that we simply 
celebrate Mass, recite the
Rosary, join processions and
pilgrimages and keep other 
devotions that make us good
practicing Catholics; these are
not the good works that St. James
is asking from us in the first reading:
faith is the true living out 
of our faith in you, Jesus Christ!

For just as a body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26
True faith in you,
O Lord, is forgetting 
one's self to reach out
to those in need, fighting
for justice and peace,
being more loving and kind,
forgiving and understanding
of others just like you, dear Jesus.
True faith in you,
dear Jesus, is being 
your disciple which is  
a call to deny one's self,
to take up one's cross in life,
and to follow YOU always
(Mark 8:34).
Give me the grace
this day, Jesus, 
to sincerely look into
myself and examine 
how true is my
faith in you, 
how my very life
and actions reveal
the faith I have
or simply do not have
at all.  Amen.

Slave of sin vs. slave of grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2021
Romans 6:12-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:39-48
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara, 2020 in Victoria, Laguna.
We are all slaves, 
born as your servants
O God our Lord and Master;
how sad that the more we refuse
to accept this reality, the more
we are enslaved to sin;
the more we assert our freedom
and decide to choose whatever
we want, the more we become unfree.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the patterns of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:16-18
Jesus our Lord and Savior,
let us realize this truth applies to us all;
that although you have saved and
justified us with your offering on the Cross
that continues in our Sacraments like
Baptism and the Eucharist that have
brought us closest to you and the Father,
it is not something like a "magic"
that fixes everything, that automatically
brings us to heaven.
Let us be faithful and prudent stewards,
slaves of grace in you like in today's gospel
who faithfully await your return
with good works and deeds.
Let us keep in our minds and hearts that
the more we profess our faith in you, dear Jesus,
as your servants, the more we have to participate
in your grace to produce fruits of
the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Amen.