Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater | National Catholic Reporter

Finding the meaning of Ash Wednesday in a darkened movie theater | National Catholic Reporter.

Jamie L. Manson has done it again – bravely sharing from the deep, dark places of the heart. Her latest column describes her frustration in the past weeks fighting the contraception issue in the US. In her fatigue, she first forgot about Ash Wednesday then intentionally refused to participate in the distribution of Ashes.

I had a similar experience, many years ago. A dark time in our local church coincided with the Lenten season. How I struggled to attend the requisite services – more for the sake of our children than mine. I know how difficult, how impossible, it can be to walk through the doors of the church when the hurt is raw. When the anger is fresh.  I didn’t need ashes strewn across my forehead to remind me of suffering.

I hope that many will read Jamie’s powerful and honest reflection. Perhaps you, too, can relate. It is also a reminder for us all not to judge those who are missing from the pews. Don’t assume that absence connotes a ‘bad’ or ‘fallen away’ Catholic. Absence can be a survival technique for those who truly love the Church, but need an intentional time of exile.

the way – the movie

“You don’t choose a life, Dad. You live it.”

The highlight of this past Oscar weekend, was watching a non-Oscar movie. But what a winner it is!

I’ve been waiting and waiting to see The Way for about a year. I read about it when it was still in production. I read reviews when it finally opened in the USA and then in Canada. But, it never made it to our rural theatres. What a shame! We all need a break from the ongoing conveyor-belt of Hollywood block-buster, shoot-em-up shock-fests. Yet these are the movies that garner theatre releases and fill the rental -shelves a few months later. So, I was thrilled to see The Way offered on Apple TV. Hubby and I watched it on Saturday, and again on Sunday. It’s just one of those movies.

The Way is written and directed by Emilio Estevez. It stars Martin Sheen as Tom, an ophthalmologist who receives news that his son died on the first day of the Camino De Santiago pilgrimage. He flies to France to pick up his son’s remains and has the inspiration to walk the Camino himself, spreading his son’s ashes along the way.

The story is simple, but powerful. The friends Tom (unwillingly) picks up on the way reflect the classic, rag-tag of characters found in most pilgrim stories. Their reasons for walking the Camino are as diverse as they. Joost, from Amsterdam, is hoping to lose weight and win back the affection of his wife. Sarah, the Canadian, wants to quit smoking. Jack, the Irish scribe, is battling his writer’s block demon.

The cinematography is stunning. The many minutes devoted to the actual walk draw you into the experience. You imagine yourself walking the Camino. You wish you were walking the Camino. (New bucket list item?!)

The evening scenes were wonderful vignettes of Spanish late night table socializing; eating, drinking, and singing into the wee hours. It is no place for a quiet introvert!

The Way is a movie that draws you into deeper thought. As with any good piece of writing, art, or drama, it opens itself to layers of interpretation. My own take-away was the realization, yet again, that our personal efforts at self-discipline aren’t as important as the relationships around us. This is a good lesson for Lent. I remember hearing once that we are all, at one time or another, the walking wounded. And, we are not meant to walk alone. We need companions on the journey. We need to be companions on the journey. And, our loving God certainly has a sense of humour when it comes to matching us up!

If you are looking for a good Lenten meditation, I highly recommend The Way. Watching a movie may not be penance. But, we can all use a little inspiration on our Lent journey. Buen Camino!

(Click here for the movie trailer.)

the rainbow: God`s covenant of love…for all!

Traditional scripture readings sometimes nudge your mind beyond traditional interpretations. Hubby and I began our Sunday with Religion and Ethics Newsweekly on PBS; a favorite weekly show. Today, there was a report from Africa called Gay Rights in Uganda. Two hours later, I sat in church and listened to a well-known reading from Genesis. God spoke to Noah after the flood,

This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (Genesis 9: 12-13)

Who doesn’t love a rainbow? From Rainbow Brite dolls and Care Bears, to Lucky Charms cereal, rainbows are marketed to children as symbols of happiness and hope. A rainbow after a storm makes every one stop and marvel at its beauty. A double rainbow graced the sky on the way to our honeymoon, and again during our 25th wedding anniversary celebration. We took it as a sign not only of God’s love, but as a blessing on our own covenant.

Today, the rainbow has also become a universal symbol for GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) rights. It’s a perfect symbol for promoting a world where diversity can be accepted; where equality and diversity can walk hand in hand.

Uganda attained international notoriety in 2009 for proposing an Anti-Homosexuality Bill that not only outlawed homosexuality, but allowed for the death sentence in cases of “aggravated homosexuality”. The PBS report shows how this deeply entrenched intolerance is rooted in and rationalized by references to scripture and fiery evangelical sermons.

Uganda might be a poster-child for extreme homophobia, but we are far from innocent here in North America.  For example, to the south of us, Rick Santorum proudly confesses his anti-homosexual beliefs as part and parcel of his Catholic faith. He, and others of his ilk, believes that this makes him a “good Catholic”. He continues to push the culture war agenda, siding with religious and political conservatives in the hopes of garnering their vote. But doesn’t everyone have a right to their beliefs, and a right to share those beliefs?

Tell people often enough, and in harsh enough language, that homosexuality is evil and a sin then the need for understanding and compassion is removed. Couch religious beliefs in battle terminology of good vs. evil, then you can expect judgmental extremism. You can expect hatred. You can expect persecution meted out in the name of religion. You can expect cruel bullying in schools and work places. You can expect suicides from those who feel they can no longer live in a world that doesn’t accept them as they are.

We are blessed with dear friends who are actively part of the GLBT community. They refuse to believe that being a gay Catholic is an oxymoron. As faith-filled women and men, they refuse to live a secretive existence and refuse to be pushed out of the church they love. They work to promote an open, welcoming, inclusive, truly catholic church, for this is a social justice issue; following in the footsteps of Jesus who welcomed all around his table.

Uganda forces us to open our eyes to the evils of intolerance. Being a gay Catholic or supporting gay Catholic rights is not an oxymoron. Being a Catholic or Christian homophobe is.