Okay – about Brother Sun, Sister Moon.
I’ve written about this before. Somewhere, to far back to dig up, and I’ve defended the movie, relating how it’s a guilty pleasure for me mostly because of the emotional associations. When I was a freshman in college, the student center at UT showed it one night and our whole crew – those of us who were active at the Catholic student center – went. There we were, deep in our friendships and community, really into this Catholic thing, in the way that mostly (only?) young people can be, and we all went and saw this movie…and came out even more ecstatic, convinced that this thing was real and beautiful.
If you want your dream to grow…
I know there are those that hate it, but even in adulthood, and even now, no, I don’t hate it, but this most recent viewing last weekend, probably 15 years at least since the last time, revealed its flaws quite clearly.
- It’s not exactly Christocentric. Not surprising, right? Of course Christ is mentioned – Francis does say he wants to live like Christ and the apostles, but it’s not presented as his central motivation. And naturally, Francis’ whole focus on penance – that was what he was doing, really – embracing the life of a penitent, not a homesteader, is absent. (it’s absent from most contemporary takes, even Catholic ones, as well, though. When you actually read St. Francis, it’s very clear – his motive wasn’t primarily “simplify” or even “the poor.” It was “penance for my sins.”
- The scene in Rome with the Pope is over the top and almost laughable.
- He didn’t have as much actual contact with Clare after she embraced poverty as the movie suggests. In fact, after they had established how she was to live, he didn’t see her again until he was dying.
- I’m pretty sure it doesn’t snow in Assisi as much as the film suggests.
- The atmosphere is wonderful.
- So many haunting images that might not be historically accurate but are, well.. truthy.
- My favorite scene in the film is this one:
And there are other good ones. Yes, the Jesus-centeredness of Francis is not..central. But if you can balance that out with what you’ve learned from Fr. Thompson’s biography and this fantastic book….all the better.
Aside: The first time Francis encounters Clare, he follows her to an area where, to his horror, lepers gather to wash. She has brought them bread, which she lays on a rock. She then warbles, “Brothers! Brothers!” Years ago, when my daughter was maybe 5 or so, we watched the movie and for days, she would call her own (perhaps to her, leprous) big brothers by trilling, “Brothers! Brothers!” herself.
Speaking of Hansen’s Disease, I’m still reading The Colony, which is about the history of the leper colony at Molokai. It’s quite fascinating, and perhaps the most important figure I’ve learned about was one who was quite well known during the early part of this century and who now has, following his presently more famous colleagues, Sts. Damien and Marianne of Molokai, his canonization cause in process:
In late July 1886, a ship pulled into Molokai, Hawaii’s leper colony. Father Damien de Veuster always greeted the newcomers, usually lepers seeking refuge and comfort. But one passenger stood out, a tall man in a blue denim suit. He wasn’t a leper; he was Joseph Dutton, and at age 43 he came to help Father Damien. The priest warned he couldn’t pay anything, but Dutton didn’t care. He would spend forty-five years on Molokai, remaining long after the priest’s death of leprosy in 1889.
Joseph’s journey to Molokai was full of twists and turns.
Well worth reading and contemplating!
Before his death on March 26, 1931, he said: “It has been a happy place—a happy life.” It had been a restless life until he found happiness among the lepers of Molokai. At the time of his death, the Jesuit magazine America noted: “Virtue is never so attractive as when we see it in action. It has a power to believe that we too can rise up above this fallen nature of ours to a fellowship with the saints.”
Father Damien—then a patient himself—greeted him as “Brother” on July 29, 1886, and from that moment until Damien’s death on April 15, 1889, the two maintained an intimate friendship. Dutton dressed Damien’s sores, recorded a statement about the priest’s purity, and worked tirelessly to honor his memory and legacy in following years. He led the movement to name the main road “Damien Road” and wrote both personal letters and newspaper columns about his sacrifice. Included in Dutton’s collection at Notre Dame are strips of Damien’s cloak and several finger towels that he saved in envelopes.
In his 44 years in Kalaupapa, Dutton touched thousands of lives through his selfless service. He headed the Baldwin Home for Boys on the Kalawao side of the peninsula, where he cared physically and spiritually for male patients and orphan boys. From laboring as a carpenter and administrator, to comforting the dying, to coaching baseball, Dutton immersed himself in his community without accepting credit; to him, work was always about answering God’s call instead of personal fame or selfish desire.
A good week for saints this week, eh? Well, it always is, but I’m also struck by the aptness of this week’s saints for Catholic Schools Week: Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and Don Bosco.
Read their lives. Contemplate their lives. Called to take different paths in varied circumstances, all listened and responded. They prayed, they thought, they wrote, they were all creative as they, shall we say…reached out to the peripheries?
Who’d have thought it possible….
Speaking of Catholic schools, it was nice to see the Diocese of Birmingham featured in this NCRegister article on the impact of vouchers on Catholic schools. This past fall, Ann Engelhart and I spoke at St. Barnabas, one of the schools mentioned, and I was so impressed with the children, who knew quite a bit about (guess who) ..St. Francis of Assisi already.
Did a homeschool roundup post here yesterday. Here’s how Guatemala has progressed. It will be painted today:
I mean…I wouldn’t have done the mountains that way, but it’s not my salt dough map of Guatemala!
Lent is coming! Full list of resources here, but take special note today, if you don’t mind, of these Stations of the Cross..and pass it on to your parish!
John Paul II’s Biblical Way of the Cross, published by Ave Maria Press. This, again, is available as an actual book and in a digital version, in this case as an app. Go here for more information. (The illustrations are by Michael O’Brien)
A few years ago, I wrote a Stations of the Cross for young people called No Greater Love, published by Creative Communications for the Parish. They put it out of print for a while…but now it’s back!