In "The Calling" (Pleasant Avenue), filmmaker David Ranghelli focuses on the struggles involved in responding to a religious vocation. This absorbing documentary follows a young male novice and a mother superior, both of whom belong to a small community called the Family of Jesus the Healer.
Ranghelli turns his camera on this recently established, traditionally inclined group of priests, brothers and sisters at an interesting moment, just as their founder, Father Philip Scott, announces his prayer-based decision to relocate them from Tampa, Fla., to Peru to serve that country's poor.
For Tampa native Orlando Castillo, a young man from a prosperous background who wishes to "live simply," and who seeks spiritual formation from Father Scott as he discerns a vocation to the priesthood, this move adds a further strain to an already difficult situation. As frank interviews with them show, Castillo's parents -- his father in particular -- have serious reservations about the life their son is embracing.
The Castillos are especially uncomfortable with the physical and emotional distance from them that Orlando's membership in the community entails. Not only does he join in the move to a dusty, poverty-plagued village on the outskirts of Lima, but the rules of his postulancy, as established by Father Scott, allow him to write letters to his family, but not to call or e-mail them.
Also feeling the strain of separation is Mother Mary-Elizabeth, the parent of two grown daughters who entered religious life after the annulment of her marriage. Although she is Father Scott's closest collaborator in supervising the life of the Family of Jesus the Healer, she finds the increased isolation from her children and grandchildren difficult to accept, and her daughters are vocal in expressing their aggrieved sense of loss.
Insightful and probing, the narrative is also marked by some humorous moments, as when Orlando announces that it was after seeing the film "Spider-Man" that he was determined to become a priest. Why? Because, like Spider-Man, priests have superpowers: They can say Mass and hear confessions. And, like the web-shooting hero and protector of the innocent, a priest's mission doesn't allow for having a girlfriend.
An emotional highpoint comes with the liturgy at which Orlando makes his preliminary vows and dons the community's habit for the first time. Amid tears and obviously conflicted feelings, Orlando's father silently surrenders his son to God and to his newfound spiritual relatives.
As that scene demonstrates, Ranghelli's moving study of sacred aspirations and of the courageous commitment required to fulfill them is all the more effective for not glossing over the interior cost a generous answer to God's summons can sometimes exact. While the ultimate decisions made by the people he chronicles vary, this remains both an uplifting story for a general audience and an excellent tool for realistic vocations work.
The film contains a brief discussion regarding chastity. The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America.