in praise of holely families

I meant to write and publish this post on The Feast of the Holy Family. But, I was too busy on that day, and in the weeks that followed. Too busy. With family.

Old school images of the Holy Family make me think of today’s photoshopped, artistically staged Instagram pictures. Flowers and misty lighting might capture a split second of perfection in a family photo. It doesn’t reflect the messiness of daily life. And, life can be messy.

As a new decade begins, it’s a chance to reflect on more than the past year. On New Year’s Eve, we began chatting about all that our family went through in the last ten years. As we began listing our well worn litany of woes, our daughter stopped us all. Yes, shit happened, she said. But, so did a lot of good. And we need to embrace it.

With GRATITUDE.

There are holes in the fabric of every family. Some are caused by simple wear and tear. Others are ripped and torn apart by unexpected crises and losses. Sadly, we live in a throw away culture. When newness fades it is thrown away. Imperfection is rejected and discarded. We have forgotten the art of mending and darning, picking up each dropped thread one by one. It’s a patient art. Re-weaving the new into the old, making it whole again.

My phone is filled with photos from the holidays. Children are caught in mid flight during group poses. Tears, giggles and snotty noses are captured together. No one has their hands prayerfully folded, they’re too busy scrambling to corral the littles. There are no lilies or roses. There isn’t a halo in sight. But, laughter abounds. As does love. Much love.

Yes, there is holiness in the holely.

and now for something completely different…

This morning’s headlines were more depressing than usual. To the south of us it appears inevitable that evil, lies and corruption will trounce truth and justice in what is swiftly becoming a farce of a senate impeachment trial. Climate crises abound. Terrifying viruses threaten to spread across the miles.

And Terry Jones, one of the founding members of Monty Python, died.

Being a life-long fan (obsessively so), my heart sank at the news of Jones’ death. But, the mourning was brief. Sadness was quickly washed aside with memories of unforgettable scenes and one-liners from the Python treasure trove.

  • The Spanish Inquisition? No one expected it.
  • Philosophers? All drunkards according to the Bruce’s Club.
  • Canadian Lumberjacks? They’re OK.
  • Dead parrot? It is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s pushing up daisies.
  • Feeling like all is lost? Look on the brighter side of life!

Some comedy, like the Pythons, begs to be watched over and over. With each viewing a new gem is discovered. It is tucked away into the brain for a rainy day. It morphs into a secret language between fans “in the know”.

Laughter is energizing. Watching a good comedy isn’t merely an escape from daily stresses and worries. It’s good medicine. A much needed cleanse of mind and soul. A reprieve from all the darkness that lurks in our world. The sound of laughter, itself, can bring a smile. Our youngest is known for laughing out loud while watching her favourite movies and TV shows. The sound would echo throughout the house, making us all giggle.

Recently, hubby and I bought a copy of the Little Rascals for our grand-sons; the 1990’s version watched endlessly by our kiddies. The lads chortled and cackled at the slap-stick silliness. The humour had stood the test of time.

So many streaming options today offer a treasure trove of comedy both new and old. We’ve spent many an hour going down the YouTube rabbit hole re-watching favourite stand-up routines and sketches and discovering new (to us) comics. Two of our faves at the moment are Michael McIntyre and Sarah Millican. Both British. Both hilariously talented at observational comedy.

We watch Stephen Colbert, John Oliver and Seth Meyers and others for a daily dose of satire in the midst of the insane American political landscape. Their intelligent, well researched takes on the news remind us that what is happening is not normal. And, sometimes the best weapon against a delusional narcissist is to mock them and deflate their fragile ego.

Rest In Peace, Terry Jones. You will be missed, but thoughts of you bring smiles and warm memories. I hope there’s a special place in heaven for you and all who gift the world with joy and laughter.

the two popes

I was eagerly awaiting the release of The Two Popes on Netflix. The choice of actors was brilliant, Anthony Hopkins as Benedict XVI and Jonathan Pryce as Francis. The story was intriguing. The movie lived up to its expectations.

Masterful actors inhabit a character so deeply that we forget the actor and become engrossed with the person and story being told. Hopkins and Pryce are masters. Many times during the movie I forgot that they were there. It was Benedict and Francis on the screen.

The movie is “inspired by true events”, a term I learned more about while working on my screenplay. It allows the writer to weave fiction with fact without fear of liability. Several articles have been written about the accuracy of the movie, including The Two Popes; what’s fact and what’s fiction from America Magazine. It’s helpful to know the basic facts behind the story. With this movie, though, it’s best to sit back and allow yourself to be immersed in the dialogue between the two protagonists. The writing portrays the human struggles of both popes while emphasizing their differences. And, the differences are hard to avoid.

The contrasting liturgical fashion tastes of the two popes became an instantly identifiable symbol of their different pastoral styles. Benedict’s love for traditional finery and red Prada shoes became a caricature to be mocked by liberals. (Guilty!) Yet, for most of the movie the two men are dressed simply. Two men, one a pope and one a future pope, talking to each other. The dialogue identifies the deeper differences, and I think this is where the movie shines.

Hopkins brilliantly portrays Benedict as a man who spent his entire adult life in an academic/theological bubble. There is an innate awkwardness about him. He tries to impress Francis (Pryce) with his piano skills, side-stepping topics of conversation that he knows nothing about. He eats by himself. He knows little about popular culture. He has few, if any, friends outside his clerical circles.

It is a sympathetic portrayal and one that is often used to defend the emeritus pope. Ah, but he was simply too sensitive. Too gentle. Too intellectual. Too much of an introvert to be loved by the masses.

Hog-wash.

Joseph Ratzinger truly was “God’s Rottweiler”. As head of the Doctrine of Faith, his attacks on liberal theologians, priests and religious were harsh and unjust. Punishments were meted out for anyone who dared question the doctrine of the church, especially her teachings on a male-only priesthood. In contrast, ecclesial sanctions were light or non-existent for sexual abusers.

Clericalism and its defence was at the heart of Ratzinger and then Pope Benedict. His was a narrow vision of church focused on black and white doctrine, clerical power and a mythical, holier church of the past. His lack of personal experience with “the world” was not a sign of contemplative holiness. It was a sign of a person sadly out of touch with the people he was called to serve. His liturgical style, over-the top vestments surrounded by similarly dressed attendants, emphasized to the great-unwashed in the pews their great-unwashedness.

The movie scenes that stayed with me the most, were the close-ups on Francis while he listens to Benedict bearing his soul. Pryce looks piercingly into Hopkins’ eyes. Honest compassion and confusion mingle on his face. He is trying to understand this man, so unlike himself.

Francis, of course, is not perfect. The controversies around his actions as Jesuit Provincial during the Dirty War years in Argentina still haunt his legacy. The movie shows that they still haunt the man. What does he do? He tries to make reparation with his life. He eschews clerical luxuries to live and work closer to those he served. In Argentina, as Archbishop, it was the slums. In Rome, it is Santa Marta where he can dine and worship with residents and visitors alike. He speaks unceasingly of mercy, compassion and social justice and matches his actions to his words.

Two Popes. Two men with two contrasting visions of church, talking and trying to understand each other. Perhaps, the simple lesson to take from this movie is this.

Two men talking and trying to understand each other.