Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

This is a famous Chinese proverb that I have never needed more than in the last few days.

I ran into two cases where people I liked and respected shocked me with their acquiescence to the culture of death, one about pro-life and one about "death panels." It isn't necessary to go into the details. I have a feeling that I'm not alone in knowing otherwise wonderful people who will put on the blinders about these issues.

It left me feeling down. Really down. Depressed, dystopian-science-fiction-is-coming-true down.

Then this morning I was thumbing through the December Magnificat, looking at the end credits for meditations, and was interested to see Frank Capra's name. I'm not much good on the spot in finding the right words to stand up for issues, but I wish I'd have known about Capra's words when I was groping for the right way to express my feelings to both people.
It's a Wonderful Life wasn't made for the oh-so bored critics or the oh-so jaded literati. It was my kind of film for my kind of people. ...

A film to tell the weary, the disheartened, and the disillusioned; the wino, the junkie, the prostitute; those behind prison walls and those behind Iron Curtains, that no man is a failure.

To show those born slow of foot or slow of mind, those oldest sisters condemned to spinsterhood, and those oldest sons condemned to unschooled toil, that each man's life touches so many other lives. And that if he isn't around it would leave an awful hole.

A film that said to the downtrodden, the pushed around, the pauper, "Heads up, fella. No man is poor who has one friend. Three friends and you're filthy rich."

A film that expressed its love for the homeless and the loveless; for her whose cross is heavy and him whose touch is ashes; for the Magdalenes stones by hypocrites and the afflicted Lazaruses with only dogs to lick their sores.

I wanted to shout to the abandoned grandfathers staring vacantly in nursing homes, to the always interviewed but seldom adopted half-breed orphans, to the paupers who refuse to die while medical vultures wait to snatch their hearts and livers, and to those who take cobalt treatments and whistle -- I wanted to shout, "You are the salt of the earth. And It's a Wonderful Life is my memorial to you!"
Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title
(via Magnificat)
This put heart into me. "Each man's life touches so many other lives. And that if he isn't around it would leave an awful hole."

Those lives we nod to having snuffed out before they begin and those that we nod to snuffing out before their natural end ... these are the holes we dig for ourselves and countless others when we look the other way, choose the convenient way. We are doing harm that we cannot possibly count, not only in taking into our hands the control that God alone should have ... but in leaving gaping holes where living, breathing people should be.

As I thought about all this, as my husband and I had a conversation about the fact that we feel as if we're the equivalent of 15th century vassals (as far as the government is concerned), I suddenly began thinking about what I could do for those I know who are endangered. Obviously I pray for my loved friends who think that death or nonexistence some form of solution, of lighting a candle ... rather seeing it as cursing the darkness by turning out lights. And I love them, believe me, or I would not be so grieved.

I also was led to think of those around me who I have been ignoring because it is time consuming, inconvenient, or awkward ... so it's easier to think of something else and forget them. No longer. I rise again, heartened and ready to light my candle. I can talk a good game but it is time to act more resolutely, even when I am nervous or afraid to do so. I begin today.

I need to watch It's a Wonderful Life again soon. Maybe we all do.

The Christophers also use that motto. If you don't know about them, be sure to find out more.


  1. Thank you, yes, exactly right, amen.

  2. Yes, sadly, I have had such discouraging encounters with my friends, too. Serious, churchgoing Catholic moms who tell me about their beliefs in reincarnation, in the healing powers of crystals, in the aborting of handicapped children so they won't burden society, in the righteousness of voting for an abortion-promoting politician because he/she has the right attitude toward healthcare. Me? I'm on my way to the Adoration chapel now.

  3. Julie, thank you for this posting. I really needed it today and so did my son with whom I shared it! Thank you! Lisa

  4. Uh oh. I made a comment referencing death panels about an elderly, infirm, beloved family member at a recent dinner you and I attended. I hope that is not what you are referring to in your post. I am not a supporter of government dictated health directives and my comment was of a tongue-in-check variety. Absent the martinis, champagne and wine I realize the comment was in bad tase to say the least. Anyway it was great to see you and Tom. Little John