Victim Soul Chapter Four

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[Author’s Note: Gemma’s guardian angel is introduced in this chapter.  Originally, he was going to be an off-to-the-side character, but after learning of Gemma’s deep bond with him, I asked God to help me incorporate her guardian angel into the story.  My research confirms that one evening, after taking a particularly terrible beating from the devil, Gemma was unable to move.  Her guardian angel picked her up and put her to bed, then stood watch for the rest of the night.  There are three artistic liberties taken.  The first is the conversation that takes place between the guardian angel and the devil.  This sequence has been created to develop the guardian’s angel character.  The second is the insertion of Gemma’s quote “Oh God, I am weak….give me…a little strength.  No matter what will happen to me, all is for You.”  This is a documented quote from her.  It was said while she was in a state of ecstasy.  However, I made the decision to insert it here to show Gemma’s resolve.  Finally, the third liberty is what Gemma says to her guardian angel about almost giving in to the devil’s temptation when she was ill.  This was created to reestablish Gemma’s motivation for remaining strong against the devil’s abuse.  In addition, I realized that I needed to show their rapport].

Her face swells from where his fist struck.  The bruises pulsate with a throbbing pain that spreads throughout her body.  Pressing her worn hands against the cold floor, her fingers quiver as she struggles to support her own weight.  She feels blood trickle from her nostrils, creating miniscule crimson puddles on the floor.
“That’s enough for one night, wouldn’t you say?”
Gemma can feel his fiery eyes cast down at her.  She glances up and sees his immense shadow looming over her.  “My–my Jesus…my Jesus, please…” she struggles between breaths.
Her body becomes rigid when he kneels down beside her.  She is too weak to stop him from cupping her chin into his talons.  “Your God does not care about what happens to you.” Satan releases her chin and stands up.  He turns to leave, but then stops and turns his head.  “My offer still stands, Gemma.”
She keeps her eyes on the floor.  “Just kneel before me.  Pledge your allegiance to me and I will protect you.  You won’t have to suffer for some dead carpenter if you just–“
“No.” Gemma raises her head and darts her eyes to the crucifix on the wall.  “Oh God, I am weak….give me…a little strength.  No matter what will happen to me, all is for You.”
A sudden force pins her to the floor.  Staring up at the ceiling, she clenches her fists, bracing herself for more pain.
“Hmph, suit yourself, little one.”
She shuts her eyes the minute his body whirls around, his fist aimed high.  The thud rings against her ear.  She opens her eyes and sees that his fist has just barely missed her face.  As he disappears into a swirl of smoke, the echo of his vicious cackle remains.
Weakness has rendered her immobile.  She turns her head and sees a sizzling hole where the devil’s fist landed.  Her beating heart drums in her ears.  She glances up at her extinguished candle as it sits barren and alone on her small table.
A flame flickers on the wick as warmth takes hold of the room.   A glowing set of feet stand on top of the sizzling hole.  Gemma sighs in relief to see her guardian angel.  She feels one of his feathers gently brush her bruised cheek.  “Angel, I can’t move.”
Her guardian angel kneels to the floor.  He wipes the blood from her nostrils with his sleeve.  The blood dissipates into the fabric until it completely disappears.  Reaching underneath her, he lifts her in his arms, cradling her.  Sleep, my child.  You have nothing to fear.” His ethereal light dulls every ounce of pain that has ravaged her body. Gemma takes deep breaths as she is lowered onto her bed.  A strange chuckle escapes her lips.
“What makes you laugh, Gemma?”
Lying flat on her back, her eyes bore into the ceiling.  “To think that I almost surrendered to that monster…” She closes her eyes, sinking into the painful memory.

“I can take away your suffering, Gemma.  Whatever you desire, I will grant you.  If you submit to me, obey me, do as I say, I will see to it that your body never betrays you again.”  He opened his palm and reached out to her.  “Just take my hand and I will free you from your misery.”
Gemma kept her eyes on the ceiling.  Desperation began to drown her.  As if her body was moving without her consent, her hand lifted.  She pulled back, clenching her fist.  She relaxed her hand, leaving it mid-air.

When she opens her eyes, she sees her guardian angel holding up his hand, “Leave in the past what belongs to the past.  He will attempt to use your weakest moment against you, my dear.  Accept that you have been forgiven by our Lord and go forward.”
She turns her head to the candle’s dancing flame.  “If this is how he treats those who oppose him, imagine how he treats the ones who do exactly as he says.” A chill runs through her body at the thought of being a follower of darkness. The idea of the almost haunts her; almost taking his hand, almost pledging her allegiance to Hell, almost trading her eternal soul for temporary comfort.
Her guardian angel pulls the sheets up to her chin.  His hand touches her head. “Remember who are you and Who you belong to.” He points at the crucifix, “Before anything else, He is a savior.  He will not let you fall.”
Gemma looks at the crucifix, mentally absorbing every detail of Jesus’ body.  She touches her cheek, realizing that the swelling is gone.  Looking at her arms, she can see that the bruises are no more.  As tears of joy pool in her eyes, her face brightens with a tender, assured smile.  She places her hands over her heart, “Oh Jesus, I see You as greater than all the treasures on earth.  Yes, my sweetest God, my most lovable Jesus: to my eyes You are greater than the greatest treasures on earth.” She notices that her stoic angel’s mouth has lifted into a smile, as well.  As she drifts off to sleep, she hears his wings stretch out, shielding her from the terrors of the night.

Her guardian angel holds his sheath, ready to strike any demonic forces that draw near.
“And how is our little Gemma?”
The guardian angel faces the prince of darkness with a stoic expression.
“Oh, relax.  I’m not going to throw her across the room.”
The guardian angel crosses his arms, “You beat this woman for over an hour.”
Satan rolls his eyes, “You angels of God are no fun.  At the very least, allow me to check up on the poor girl,” he reaches out his claws for Gemma’s forehead.
The guardian angel grabs Satan’s wrist.  Within seconds, his light burns the devil’s skin.
“AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!” Satan recoils to the floor, clutching his bubbling wrist.
The guardian angel pulls out his sword and points it at the enemy.  A brilliant light shimmers off the blade, blinding the devil.
As Satan recovers, the guardian angel stands above him.  He looks back at Gemma, who is sound asleep.  He hears Satan beginning to stand and faces him.
“Hmph, you’re just as much of a menace as Michael!” Satan hisses as he props himself up.
“Why do you want this daughter of God?  Many people have fallen into your hands and the whole earth is yours.” The guardian angel places his sword back in his sheath.  “Are the ones who already reside in Gehenna not enough for you?”
Satan walks over to the candle.  He runs his talons over the small flame, releasing a dark plume of smoke into the air.  The guardian angel clears the smoke with the light of his sword.
“Hell is populated by my easiest targets.  Many of them made the quiet and comfortable journey into my hands.” He raises his talons and points at Gemma, “Imagine the glory of snatching away one of God’s finest…” A sinister smile plasters his face.  “I would love nothing more than to look a former servant of God in the eye and say, ‘Welcome to Hell.'” Satan narrows his eyes, his unflinching focus set on the holy woman.  “Hmph, I almost pity the poor child and how she allows herself to suffer for a being she cannot see.” The guardian angel tenses when he sees a spark of lust in the devil’s eyes.  “She is quite lovely…”
The guardian angel stands in front of Gemma, blocking her from the devil’s line of vision.  “Leave. Now.” The guardian angel once again withdraws his sword and presses the tip of the blade right at Satan’s throat.
Satan smirks as he steps back.  He glances at the crucifix, but can only look at it at a second before it burns his eyes.  “Whether it is a docile girl who prays or an abrasive drunkard who lies and cheats, I want everyone to be as far away from the Almighty as possible…” The devil turns his back to the guardian angel, then stops and tilts his head slightly.
“I won’t stop until everyone burns.”

Victim Soul Chapter Three

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[Author’s Note: The first artistic liberty taken is that Satan’s words to Gemma, “Do you not see that this Jesus does not hear you, and wants to have no more to do with you.  Give up, and be resigned to your unhappy lot” have been inserted into the opening scene.  My research confirmed that this is one of the many insults hurled at her by the prince of darkness, but when exactly it was said is unknown.  The second artistic liberty is that after Gemma fails to receive Communion, she sees Satan’s silhouette in a dust fog.  This sequence has been created to foreshadow the epilogue of Victim Soul, which involves a stare-down between the two characters].

“Dear Monsignor Volpi, I must I tell you what happened last night.  I never went to bed, because the Devil frightened me with his blasphemies, and I thought he was in the room; I could neither sleep nor pray.”

“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”
Watching the candle’s restless flame, Gemma sits frozen at her desk as the screeching, maniacal laughter of the devil pierces her eardrums.  Her trembling body trapped in a hunched position, her lips are pressed against her folded arms.  Gripping her scapular in her hand, she dares not to look for her adversary.
“Do you not see that this Jesus does not hear you, and wants to have no more to do with you.” 
The darkness infused with his words shake her to her core.  Gemma shuts her eyes, which swell with coming tears.  She slowly turns her head to the crucifix, from where her beloved watches her.  “My Jesus, I know You are with me now,” she whispers.  She takes deep breaths as she struggles to fight the dread and loneliness that threaten to consume her troubled heart.  She jumps when she feels a tug at her hair, but refuses to turn around.
Give up, and be resigned to your unhappy lot!” The devil’s words are a diabolical hiss that seep into her conscience, furthering her fright.  His presence ceases, but the sting of his cruelty settles in her bones.

Fingers of morning light peer through the stained glass windows.  The altar ahead is a blur in her line of vision.  Gemma’s head turns to the stained glass window next to her pew.  She rubs her eyes.  “Wake up, wake up,” she murmurs to herself.  She freezes when she feels a hand on her shoulder.
“Are you all right, Ms. Galgani?” asks a female voice.  As Gemma glances at her shoulder, for a moment she sees not a hand, but dark talons clutching her.
She shakes her head and looks back at her shoulder.  There are no talons, only the hand of a woman with a round face.  ‘Just like mother,’ Gemma bites her lip. “Yes, signora,” she answers with a meek nod.  She switches her gaze to the altar before she can be questioned further.

1885
“Come here, my darling Gemma…”
Seven-year old Gemma sat herself on Mother’s lap.  She rested her head against mother’s sturdy shoulder. 

“I have prayed so much that Jesus would give me a little girl,” Mother stroked Gemma’s hair.  “He has given me this consolation; it is true, but too late.  I am ill…” her mother’s chest rises as she inhales.  Tears begin to swell, making her eyes look like small pools of grief.  “…and I must die.  I must leave you.” Mother gripped Gemma’s tense shoulders, “Oh, if I could only take you with me!  Would you come?” 
“And where are you going?”
“To heaven with Jesus and the angels…”

A single tear escapes from her eyes.  Gemma wipes it away as quickly as it came.
It is time to receive the Eucharist.  Gemma’s face lights up with a peaceful smile.  Standing at the very end of the small line of parishioners, she raises her eyes to the large crucifix, placing her hands over her heart.  She turns her head to the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which stands by the stained glass, shimmering in colorful incandescence.  “Oh, my Heavenly Mother,” she says in an affectionate whisper.
Looking back at Jesus on the crucifix, she lowers her head as an aching sadness begins to overwhelm her.  As she draws nearer to the priest, the sensation of sinking oppresses her.  ‘My sins, my imperfections put Him there…’ “I put Him on that cross…” she closes her eyes, envisioning Mary cradling the mangled body of her Son.
When the Precious Body is held before her eyes, she turns her head away.
As if her body is moving without her, Gemma realizes that she is running out of the church.  Throwing open the doors, she is blinded by the scorching rays of daylight.  She whirls her body back and forth, trying to remember where she is.  A sudden gust of wind kicks a cloud of dust into her face.
“AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”
Rigidity takes hold of her.  Within the fog she sees a dark silhouette.  Time seems to have come to a halt.  For what feels like an eternity, the world consists of a frightened girl and an entity of darkness standing opposite of each other with only a fog of dust dividing them.
Gemma turns her head, then pauses.  Inhaling air and dirt, she slowly looks back and straightens her shoulders.  The silhouette has vanished, but the cackle continues to ring as a faint echo.
Tightening her lips, she holds up her head.  As her racing heart calms and the tremors throughout her body cease, she moves ahead to the church.  She opens the doors and returns to the line.
The minute the Eucharist passes her lips, her heart is kindled with a tender flame that burns as passionately as her love for her King.

Back at home, Gemma carries a bucket filled with water to the house.  Her eyes downcast, she watches her step to avoid spilling.  Her nostrils fill with the crisp air of springtime.  Opening the door, she treads down the hall, where she stops at a portrait of the Sacred Heart.  Closing her eyes, she places her hand over her heart.  “Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You!”
There is a whooshing sound, which is followed by what feels like an array of fiery fists striking her shoulder.   Overcome by white hot pain, Gemma collapses to the ground. Though the fearsome rage of the evil one is palpable, she dares not to look and see if he is physically present. When she finally does look up, she sees that the bucket remains intact with the water perfectly still.  She smiles as she lifts her gaze to the Sacred Heart.

Gemma’s letter to Monsignor Volpi verbatim:

“I must I tell you what happened last night.  I never went to bed, because the Devil frightened me with his blasphemies, and I thought he was in the room; I could neither sleep nor pray.  I did not make my meditation, nor pray from 11 am to 12:00.  I went to church, but when the time came I felt I could not go to Holy Communion. I came out of the church and I heard the Devil laughing very loudly. I understood why, went back to church again and received Holy Communion.  Jesus told me had I not conquered that morning I should never have done so…Yesterday morning my aunt asked me to draw a bucket of water; I filled it and bringing it back had to pass before the picture of the Sacred Heart. I saluted Jesus with these words: ‘Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You!’  Just after I had said this I felt a series of sharp blows on my shoulder, so that I fell to the ground, but without breaking anything.”

Victim Soul Chapter Two

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[Author’s Note: The majority of my research states that Satan started his attacks by giving Gemma violent headaches to keep her from praying.  Just like the scene where Gemma ponders what awaits her in Chapter One, how Satan gives Gemma a migraine is my interpretation of the research I collected.  The artistic liberty I have taken is that while Satan did say to her on occasion, “How stupid you are to think of praying to a criminal. Look at the harm He does you, keeping you nailed to the Cross with Himself. How can you care for one whom you do not even know-who makes all suffer who love Him,” when this was said has not been documented, so I inserted the quote here.  In addition, I portray him attempting to engage her in conversation before triggering her agonizing migraine]. 

Gemma closes her bedroom door.  Undoing her hair, she hurries to the crucifix.  As she begins to kneel, she pauses and looks around the room.  All is calm, the room quiet and still.  Squinting her eyes, she peers at the shadowy corners.  No creature jumps out to grab her, no dark forces surround her.  The only chill in the air comes from the open window. She walks across the room and closes the window.  Within her being, there is no sense of disturbance rattling her soul.  “Maybe it is not time for the devil to harass me yet,” she hopes. She inhales slowly, allowing herself to relax.
Gemma stands in front of the crucifix.  She takes a moment to gaze in awe of Jesus’ purposeful eyes, the crown of thorns on His tilted head.  She places her hand on His nailed feet, its coldness pricks at her fingertips.  Her hand moves and presses to her heart as she contemplates His love, wondrous, sacrificial, everlasting.  Peace and joy consume her at once, which results in a beaming smile across her face.  Making the sign of the cross, she kneels on the floor and closes her eyes, immersing herself in the presence of the Lord.
“I see that you have regained the color in your cheeks…”
Gemma freezes.  The room is suddenly ice-cold, permeated by a dark heaviness in the air.  As her heart races, she keeps her eyes closed and her body kneeled on the floor.
Satan’s footsteps slowly draw near.  His gravelly chuckle send shivers down her spine.“It seems like only yesterday, I was attending to a deathly pale little girl who could barely lift her head as she lie on this very bed.” The condescension in his voice stings her, but she does not move.  She hears him take a seat on her bed.  “Now here you are; a healthy young lady kneeling on a wooden floor, praying to a person you have never seen.” Only the sound of her pounding heartbeat fills the deafening silence between them.  “It is rude to ignore a guest, little one.”
Don’t look at him, don’t look at him, Do. Not. Look…” says her conscience in a panicked whisper.  She raises her head and opens her eyes, the crucifix looming large in her tunnel vision.
In a clear, candid voice, she states, “Jesus is my guest, not you.” She closes her eyes and keeps her head downcast, bracing herself for whatever was to come.
There is a deep growl, followed by silence.  She hears Satan approach her side. “How is your head feeling, Gemma?” he asks.
Gemma feels a quick tap between her eyes.
A searing pain spreads inside her head like a cancerous tumor.  She lets out a visceral cry as her body hits the floor.  She clutches onto her forehead, which burns with white-hot intensity.  In spite of her agony, she is determined to keep her eyes closed.  ‘I will not allow his image to enter my mind,’ she vows internally.
“Oh, dear, you look very uncomfortable.  Why don’t you lay down?  That might help your poor head.”
Gemma feels his talons press down on her head, which makes the splitting pain even more excruciating.  She slightly opens her watering eyes to look up at the crucifix.
Satan releases her head, but the torturous migraine continues.  Gemma raises her body the best she can.
“It is almost midnight, child.  There is no shame in climbing into bed, closing your eyes and resting the headache away,” he taunts.
Even in her torment, Gemma mentally conjures the image of Jesus in her mind’s eye.  She crawls closer to the crucifix and grips her hands in prayer.  She anticipates what must surely come next: Blood trickling down from her throbbing head.
Satan’s howling laughter rings in her ears, “How stupid you are to think of praying to a criminal. Look at the harm He does you, keeping you nailed to the Cross with Himself. How can you care for one whom you do not even know-who makes all suffer who love Him?
In that moment, Gemma feels His presence.   It is a soft warmth that envelopes her.  As the furious migraine ceases, an enraged scream shakes the room.  All at once, both the warmth and the dark presence of the devil disappear.
Slowly rising from the floor, Gemma faces the crucifix and, with a gracious smile, whispers a relieved, “Thank you, my Jesus.  Thank you.”

Victim Soul Chapter One

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[Author’s Note: Some artistic liberties have been taken.  Gemma’s letter to Father Germano is verbatim, but because we do not know anything about the night before the devil began his Hellish campaign against her, the opening scene is my interpretation of how Gemma would come to terms with what awaits her.  The flashback to 1899 is also accurate with two exceptions.  Satan did offer to cure her, but what exactly was said was not documented.  Also, Gemma called out to then-Venerable Gabriel Possenti twice, but in the flashback, I shortened it for the sake of brevity].

“Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You.”
–Saint Gemma Galgani

Lucca, Italy – 1902

“Dear Father Germano…”

Her pen gripped in her trembling hand, Gemma Galgani begins her letter.

“During the last two days Jesus has been telling me after Holy Communion: ‘My daughter, the devil will soon wage a great war against you.’”

She pauses, lifting her eyes to the dancing firelight of her candle.  She rests her jaw in the palm of her hand, listening to her own increasing heartbeat.  After a moment, she resumes writing:

“These words I hear in my heart continuously.  Please pray for me….”

A sudden chill overcomes the room.  Gemma rises from the small table.  She wraps herself in her black mantellette robe.  The cold persists, but the fabric of the mantellette keeps in the warmth.  She sits herself down and presses on with her letter:

“Who will win this battle: the devil or my soul?  How sad this thing makes me!  Where will the war come from?  I am for ever thinking about it instead of praying Jesus to give me strength and help.  Now I have told you, and I leave this matter to you, that you may help me.

Your poor,

Gemma.”

The pitch blackness of nightfall makes her window look like a square hole into an unknown abyss.  Gemma stands up and walks to the window, focusing her eyes on the scattered stars.  She leans forward and rests her arms on the window frame.  Ashen clouds curtain the full moon, engulfing the stars.
Her head lowers, “Jesus, am I truly ready for this coming trial?” She places her hand on her forehead as anxiety races through her mind.  “What if–” she hunches forward, crossing her arms.  “What if the devil overcomes me?” As her eyes swell with coming tears, she looks at her bed.  “To think that I almost gave in…” she closes her eyes as the memory of her weakest moment overwhelms her, a seemingly ancient time when illness had crippled her and made her susceptible to the darkest temptation.

1899
“My, my, you poor thing…” a wicked voice echoed from the shadows of her room.
Gemma sat up, turning her head as her weary eyes scanned the room.  “Who…who is th-there?” Succumbing to the pain in her spine, she lay back down.
“Tsk tsk tsk, to say that you are not looking well would be an understatement, now wouldn’t it?” The dark figure took form.  Gemma forced her eyes open and stared at the being, a muscular angel with folded wings and small horns.  His skin and talons the color of shadows, his fiery eyes bore into hers.
Gemma couldn’t stop her body from shaking.  “You–you’re…Lucifer.”  Her blood froze at the sound of his laughter.  “Ah, I haven’t heard that name in a long time,”  Satan reached out his hand to touch her forehead.  Gemma turned her head away.  Were it not for her afflicted spine, she would have turned her back to him.
“I mean you no harm, dear child.  Quite the contrary,” Satan wandered around her room.  Relaxing her body, Gemma watched him cringe at the crucifix on her wall.  She looked away when he faced her.
“Ignoring me is not going to make me disappear, little one,” Satan narrowed his eyebrows, staring her down the way a lion faces its weakened prey.  He paced back and forth, “As a fallen angel, I may not be on good terms with your friend,” he pointed at the crucifix, “…but I still have all kinds of powers.  If you were to give me a chance, I could cure you.”
Beads of sweat drenched her forehead and ran down her deathly pale face.  Clutching onto the sheets, Gemma grinded her teeth as she endured the terrible pain.  Her eyes watered as her vision blurred from the pounding migraine.
Satan’s mouth lifted into a sinister grin, “I can take away your suffering, Gemma.  Whatever you desire, I will grant you.  If you submit to me, obey me, do as I say, I will see to it that your body never betrays you again.”  He opened his palm and reached out to her.  “Just take my hand and I will free you from your misery.”
Gemma kept her eyes on the ceiling.  Desperation began to drown her.  As if her body was moving without her consent, her hand lifted.  She pulled back, clenching her fist.  She relaxed her hand, leaving it mid-air.
At that moment, a face appeared before her mind’s eye. 
St_Gabriel_Possenti_CP

Venerable Gabriel Possenti…the holy boy she had read about.  His figure covered in light, his soft brown eyes gazed into hers.  For a moment, she forgot that the prince of darkness was standing at the foot of her bed.
Gemma inhaled through her nostrils.  With a cold-stone expression on her face, she realized that she was at a crossroads and only one path could be chosen.
A guttural cry escaped from her, “Venerable Gabriel, save my soul first and then my body!”  With that hand that almost ended up in Satan’s grasp, she made the sign of the cross as fast as she could.
There was a flash of light, followed by a furious scream.  When the light disappeared, so had the enemy.

Gemma raises her eyebrow.  “Hmm, how odd, I don’t remember blowing out the candle…” she looks curiously at the extinguished candle.  The frail line of smoke disappears into the air as it floats from the charred wick.
She gasps as she looks around the darkened room.  She takes a deep breath to calm her nerves.  “All right, if this is what You want, Jesus…” she pauses, staring straight into the shadow that has engulfed her door.  “…then I want it, too.  So long as You give me the strength to stand my ground against him.”
Gemma curls up on her bed.  Weariness presses down on her, pushing her into a deep slumber.  The last thing she sees is a shadowy figure standing by the window.

CGB Review/My Experience Watching The Young Messiah (2016)

Mary, did you know that your baby boy would get a movie about his childhood?

So this is both my review of The Young Messiah and a reflection on an experience I had during the film.

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Based on the book “Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt” by Anne Rice, The Young Messiah is a historical fiction about a year in the boyhood of Jesus.
While playing with another child, Jesus is bullied by a boy named Eliezer.  During this confrontation, Satan kills Eliezer in an attempt to frame Jesus.  Minutes later, Jesus uses His gifts to revive Eliezer.  In order to protect their Son, Joseph and Mary gather their relatives and the Holy Family journeys out of Egypt and back to Nazareth.  All the while, the child Jesus seeks answers about His birth and comes to terms with His coming destiny.
I was very anxious about this film.  There is very little written about Jesus’ childhood, so anything that happens in the film would be based on speculation.
During my viewing of this film, I had an experience that shook me to my core.  I will talk about it in a bit, but first, let’s see how The Young Messiah holds up.

The Hits
It is clear that actor Adam Greaves-Neal understood the significance of his role as young Jesus.  He brings the right balance of innocence and wisdom to the character.  Given the delicate subject matter, I feel that the filmmakers balanced Jesus’ divinity and humanity as well as they could have.  Jesus questions His abilities, but when it comes to spiritual matters that no child His age could have a grasp on, Jesus has all the answers.  I feel that Adam Greaves-Neal did a pretty good job conveying the internal struggle of being unlike others and the film serves as an admirable character study of one who is both human and divine.
The Holy Family is awesome in this movie.  They are righteous and just, but still feel like an authentic family unit.  Mary and Joseph argue about how they are to explain Jesus’ true identity to Him, but always agree to trust in God’s timing.  I think this might be the best portrayal of Mary and Joseph to date.  Kudos to Vincent Walsh, the actor who plays Joseph.  He gives us a seasoned and dutiful Joseph who has embraced his mission to protect the two most important people ever.  He frequently affirms Mary and wrestles with his own identity as the foster father of the Son of God.  Sara Lazzaro is terrific as Mary.  Sweet, protective and devout, she brings a nurturing tenderness to the Blessed Mother.  It is clear that the actress understands who she is playing, which explains her respectful performance.
This film has one of the most accurate portrayals of Satan since the movie “Black Mass.” He shows up in scenes unannounced and partakes in either staring at Jesus in an unsettling way or whispering deceit into unsuspecting ears, which is very much in-character for the devil.  I feel it was a wise choice to have him change into different robes, which serves as a reflection of how the prince of darkness is a master at disguising himself so that mortal eyes never figure out who he is.

The Misses
Similar to Risen, the film feels very stretched out at times.  There are a few scenes that serve next to no purpose other than to fill a 90 minute run time.   A few times, I thought to myself, “The point of this scene is…what?” It is obvious that the screenwriter drew a blank on how to progress the plot.
Build-up is a major issue in this film.  While not knowing where the plot is going is better than sitting through a bland and predictable story, it can also make the film itself seem aimless and pointless.  Investment is lost if the story lacks the sense of building up to something.  Even the climax of the film feels a tad rushed.
I kind of understand why the film includes relatives of Jesus, but I feel they were unnecessary.  They were just filler characters.  The dynamic between Jesus, Mary and Joseph is already interesting enough; we don’t need a made-up Uncle Cleo for comedy relief.
Sean Bean’s character Severus is very underwritten.  His conversion story is not developed very well.  His conflict with being assigned to find and kill the child Jesus is poorly conveyed.  This results in his character feeling like an obligatory villain, an antagonist for the sake of there being an antagonist.

Verdict
The Young Messiah is a noble effort to understand the psychology of Jesus.  Personally, I think that Risen is better than The Young Messiah, but that doesn’t mean The Young Messiah is a bad movie.  Much thought went into the humanistic portrayal of the Holy Family and that is worth commending.  While the actual plot is lacking and could have used a lot more polishing, the sincerity on the part of everyone involved make the Young Messiah a flawed but intriguing addition to the Christian film genre.

My Experience
In my book review of The Screwtape Letters, I mentioned that I’ve been dealing with spiritual attacks.  This past week has been particularly challenging.   Let me put it this way: Imagine a party guest who shows up even though nobody wanted to invite them and this person spends the entire evening criticizing the food you’ve prepared and the decorations you chose and just mocks your every move.  The devil has been that guy to me all week.
Two days ago, my mother told me that a friend of hers had seen the film and said that the movie begins with Satan killing a child and making it look like Jesus is the culprit.  Immediately my heart dropped to my stomach, so my mother prayed over me last night.
Fast-forward to my viewing of the film: The movie starts and we first see young Jesus.  Everything is fine and good…until the film cuts to a blond-haired man in black robes.  I scratched my head, “Why is there a blonde dude in Egy–oh, no, it’s him.”  As I said, the film never calls his character “Satan”, but in my heart, I knew exactly who the character was supposed to be.
There is one sequence in particular where Jesus gets a fever and is confronted by Satan.  The camera is shot from Jesus’ perspective, so Satan is staring down at Him (and at we, the audience).  I wanted to look away, but I forced myself to be brave and keep my eyes on the screen.  Satan taunts Jesus, pressing Him about His identity.  When Jesus remains strong, Satan shows Him a vision of Jerusalem on fire.  Moved to tears, Jesus kneels and begins to pray.  Satan moves closer to Jesus and begins hissing in His ear.
Fear gripped me.  I couldn’t stop my body from shaking.  I zipped up my jacket to keep in the warmth, but my body continued to tremble.  The scene ends with Satan telling Jesus, “Chaos reigns…and I am THE PRINCE OF IT!”
I began to cry.  I could feel the darkness infused with those words.  A sinking sense of loneliness enveloped me.  For the first time in my life, I actually thought to myself, “What if there is no God?”  The minute this thought crossed my mind, despair overwhelmed me.
A sinister laughter echoed in my ears.  I turned around and saw that the laughing didn’t come from the three other people in the theater, who all sat silently.
At that moment, I suddenly felt the presence of Saint Gemma Galgani, who knows all too well about the extent of the devil’s cruelty.  A warmth wrapped around my body, as if she was embracing me.   I took a deep breath and turned my focus back to the film.
The film ends with Mary explaining to Jesus His origins.  When she tells the story of Archangel Gabriel appearing to her, she says, “My room filled with light and it spoke to me, it said, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you…'” I whispered the Hail Mary as she spoke and as I prayed, the feeling of crippling loneliness disappeared.  In its place was a sense of peace, the feeling that God is with me, especially when I feel alone.

Where there is sin and darkness, there is light.  Jesus is that saving light.

Holy Family, pray for us.