A few months ago I wrote in this blog about the Jesuits final concert being a spiritual experience for me.  Last night I went with a friend to see the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Many of my friends had already seen it and said it was worthwhile.  Indeed, they were right!

Of course it is not hard to watch Tom Hanks in any movie, but he certainly gives a great portrayal of the late Fred Rogers.  While some critics have said that the movie is mostly a fictional tale, it certainly is deeply human and touches the soul.  While the director, Marielle Heller, honors the wonderful legacy of Mr. Rogers and the way he lived his life, she also tells the transformational tale of the journalist Lloyd Vogel.  Lloyd Vogel is supposed to write a simple piece on heroes for his magazine.  As he meets Fred Rogers he doesn’t actually believe the guy is for real.  He keeps trying to find the man beyond the character on the television show.  But what transpires in the movie is his own dealing with his feelings, or lack thereof, when it comes to repressed anger, resentment and the holding of grudges against his father. 

Over time, in the movie, Mr. Rogers uses kindness, messages of acceptance, moments of silence, quips about love and forgiveness to reach out to this broken man with his hurts and gradually the journalist comes to deal with his emotional truths.  He also learns that Mr. Rogers wasn’t “pretending” to be the man he portrayed on TV; that in fact his values were true, and deeply human. 

It struck me that each of us can resonate with parts of the film—whether it is the values we hold dear—or the struggles we have in ordinary life.  How do we cope with our own anger, hurt, or betrayals?  Are we willing to forgive ourselves or others so that we can experience our own transformation? 

In this season of Advent, as we just celebrated Gaudete Sunday, (Rejoice), we hear the Scriptures tell us “The Lord sets captives free.”  Advent is a time to celebrate the gift of forgiveness from our Provident God.  We are set free to be the face of Providence in our world today.   Happy Rejoice Week!

Barbara McMullen, CDP

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