Monday, December 30, 2019

The New "Little Women"

Please note: Spoilers are included.

Twenty-five years ago, I fell in love with the movie version of Little Women that starred Wynona Ryder as Jo. It was cinematically beautiful and the acting was excellent. I had read the book as a child, but that movie truly made the story come alive for me. 

Fast-forward to this past year. My daughter asked if she could watch the 1994 movie. I wasn't sure if she'd like it, but she did. She then asked to listen to the audio version of the book. Once again, upon seeing the 17 CDs in the case when I took it out of the library, I had my doubts as to whether we'd make it through the whole thing, but we did. 

I am so glad that I did have the opportunity to revisit the story. I hadn't remembered many of the details of the book. Plus, reading it as an adult certainly lends a different perspective than I had as a child or even as a teenager.

In addition, I read Meg, Jo, Beth, May: The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux. It provided much fascinating background information on Louisa May Alcott and her writing of the famous story. 

My daughter was eager to see the new Little Women movie released in theaters on Christmas Day and this was one movie trip I was happy to indulge. I couldn't help but compare the new film to the one I loved so much, but I tried hard to judge it on its own merits. 

First, the good things. Director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig truly loves the story and wanted to provide an updated version for a new generation that would still be faithful to the original story. In that she does succeed. She is faithful to the story, bringing out parts of the book that were ignored in the 1994 version. In this version the relationship between Laurie and Amy is explored much more. We also get to see an adult Meg struggling with her desire to have a beautiful dress that is out of the budget provided by her poor husband. Jo and Beth are seen taking the beach trip that Jo desperately hoped would heal Beth of her illness. 

My favorite part of the new movie was the ending. Jo is negotiating with her editor about the publication of Little Women. Louisa May Alcott never married, preferring to retain her independence, and she didn’t want her heroine to be married. She only had Jo get married because readers were demanding it. The original Little Women was published in two parts so readers had read the portion when the girls were younger and were eager to offer their opinions on what should happen to them. In the movie, the editor tells her that Jo needs to get married. She agrees in exchange for increased compensation. It is a delightful scene, faithful to who Louisa May Alcott was, even if not faithful to the book. 

Now, for the less-good things. The movie is confusing. If you haven't read the book, it would be impossible to understand. It hops back and forth in time repeatedly. Scenes from the book are shown as vignettes without a great deal connecting them. 

The casting also seemed to lack something. Amy, who is supposed to be the youngest, looks and acts older than Beth and is too old to play a young teen Amy convincingly. There also doesn't seem to be much chemistry between Jo and Laurie, and Professor Behr, while handsome, is too young. 

Overall, seeing the movie made for a pleasant excursion; one I was happy to be able to share with my daughter. If you plan to see it with your children, I highly recommend making sure that they have read the book first.

 I also enjoyed reading Little Women: The Official Movie Companion which offers much behind-the-scene information and beautiful photographs. Even if you don't watch the movie, you will enjoy this book if you love the story.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Lessons on Life and the Love for a Child

If you plan to read Finding Chika by Mitch Albom (of Tuesdays with Morrie fame), I strongly suggest you keep a box of tissues nearby. Albom tells of the young child he met at the Have Faith Orphanage in Haiti, which he and his wife run. When Chika is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness no one in Haiti can treat, Albom and his wife, Janine, bring her to America in the hopes of finding a cure.

It is not a spoiler to tell you that their search for a cure is unsuccessful. Albom shares that news on the first page. Indeed, the ghost of Chika is a prominent character in the telling of her story and the ways it changed Albom forever.

Having never had biological children, taking care of Chika thrusts Albom in a role of father he never expected to have. The fact that she is fighting an unfightable disease makes parenting that much more of a challenge.

As writers are prone to doing, writing Finding Chika was a way for Albom to process and reflect on all that happened to him. But within this book's pages are powerful lessons on life and what it means to love a child.

Here are a couple of quotes that especially struck me:

There are many kinds of selfishness in this world, but the most selfish is hoarding time, because none of us know how much we have, and it is an affront to God to assume there will be more.

I could not understand why a child had to suffer . . . This does not mean I lost my belief in God. Nut it was tested. . . .As your condition worsened, my clinging became more desperate. I often got angry at the Lord.

The reason I didn't walk away altogether, I guess, harkens to something an old rabbi named Albert Lewis once told me. He had lost his four-year-old daughter to an asthma attack in the 1950s.

I asked if even he, a righteous clergyman, didn't get mad with God over that.

"Oh, I was furious," he said.

Then why didn't you stop believing?

"Because," he said, "as terrible as I felt, I took comfort in having something I could cry to, a power to whom I could shout, 'Why?' It is still better than having nothing to turn to at all."
Purchase Finding Chika on Amazon (affiliate link)

Friday, November 29, 2019

Help for When You Feel Like Less Than Enough

If you have a strong sense of self-worth, please feel free to stop reading this now. On the other hand, if you struggle with feeling worthy of love or frequently compare yourself to others, only to find yourself lacking, please know that you are not alone.

 In Enough as You Are: Overcoming Self-Doubt and Appreciating the Gift of You, long-time Catholic writer Peggy Weber shares her own story of feeling unworthy. "How many times I have felt unworthy in my life, not just of God's love but of love from others, too, and how many times I have failed to love myself . . . I have spent a lot of time wondering if I am any-number-of-things enough. . . I should have figured out a long time ago that God loves even me and that, all along, I am enough."

Weber explores a number of ways in which we women tend to think we are not enough. We struggle to feel worthy of love, experience loneliness and being unwelcome, and wonder if we are smart enough, good enough, or holy enough. We sometimes think that we don't have enough material goods or that we are not impressive enough to other people. At other times, we may be drowning in the pain and suffering of hard times and feel like we simply don't have enough resources to cope. 

Weber speaks with honesty and the wisdom of years and perspective, sharing anecdotes from her own life to illustrate how she has faced each of these issues. She also offers spiritual wisdom, beginning each chapter with a quote from St. Frances de Sales and ending chapters with an Ignatian examen to aid in personal reflection.

As someone who has suffered from a poor sense of self-worth for much of my life, I could relate to so much in these pages. I often read while waiting for my daughter at her activities; I found myself crying while I read Enough as You Are while waiting outside of gymnastics, dance, and acting class.

No one book will cure you of your struggles with self-worth (I wish that it could), but Weber wrote this book so that you can "explore why you might also be comparing yourself to others, feeling inadequate, or wondering if you are enough." Understanding can help on the road to healing. So can prayer. It can also be helpful to know that you are not alone in how you feel. 

St. Francis de Sales said that you should "be who you are and be that perfectly well." Enough as You Are can help each of us who have a poor sense of self-worth to appreciate the gift of the person that God made us to be.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

November 27th is the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. My parish includes a novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal during its Saturday morning Masses (which I usually try to attend), and I've recently begun saying those prayers on a daily basis for some special intentions. I also wear a Miraculous Medal around my neck (along with a Crucifix and a medal and Our Lady of LaSalette, who I wrote a book about).

For those reasons, I thought it would be interested to share some background on the Miraculous Medal. Our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Labouré on November 27, 1830, in the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac in Paris.
Mary appeared standing on a globe with light streaming from her hands. Around her was an inscription: "O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee." Mary spoke to St. Catherine: "Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck."

Mary then turned to show what should appear on the reverse of the medal: the letter M with a cross on top. Below the M were two hearts: the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The first medals were made in 1832. So many healings and conversions were attributed to it that it soon began to be known as the Miraculous Medal.

Mother Teresa is known to have had a great devotion to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. She would carry many medals around with her. Rarely would anyone leave her presence without having a Miraculous Medal pressed into his or her hand. Her Missionaries of Charity continue to hand out Miraculous Medals. Mother Teresa and her sisters consider the medals to be a tool for evangelization.

For more information on Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, please visit The Central Association of the Miraculous Medal.

Novena Prayer to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
O Immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord Jesus and our Mother, penetrated with the most lively confidence in your all-powerful and never-failing intercession, manifested so often through the Miraculous Medal, we your loving and trustful children implore you to obtain for us the graces and favors we ask during this Novena, if they be beneficial to our immortal souls, and the souls for whom we pray.
(Here privately form your petitions.)
You know, O Mary, how often our souls have been the sanctuaries of your Son who hates iniquity. Obtain for us, then, a deep hatred of sin and that purity of heart which will attach us to God alone, so that our every thought, word and deed may tend to His greater glory. Obtain for us also a spirit of prayer and self-denial, that we may recover by penance what we have lost by sin and at length attain to that blessed abode where you are the Queen of angels and of men. Amen.

An Act of Consecration to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal
O Virgin Mother of God, Mary Immaculate, we dedicate and consecrate ourselves to you under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. May this Medal be for each one of us a sure sign of your affection for us and a constant reminder of our duties toward you. Ever while wearing it, may we be blessed by your loving protection and preserved in the grace of your Son. O most powerful Virgin, Mother of our Savior, keep us close to you every moment of our lives. Obtain for us, your children, the grace of a happy death; so that, in union with you, we may enjoy the bliss of heaven forever. Amen.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Searching for an Advent Devotional?

Are you searching for an Advent devotional to aid in your preparation for Christmas? The Living Gospel: Daily Devotions for Advent 2019 by the Carmelite Sisters of The Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles is a lovely little book featuring prayer, scripture reflections, and suggestions for actions to help you keep the focus on Christ this Advent. 

The central message of Carmelite spirituality is that "God is the soul's health." The sisters write, "If you frontload the first days of Advent with care for your soul, you will be amazed how you will stay grounded for all four weeks." They suggest that before Advent even begins, decide when you can set aside some time to be alone with God each day. They also recommend setting a date to go to Confession.

One of the reflections that spoke to me was written by Sr. Regina Marie, O.C.D. for December 5th based on Matthew 7:21. This is a brief excerpt:

The answer to all questions in life is "to do the will of the Father in heaven." Only in this do we find our true happiness. . . Can we trust him? Do we trust him? . . . At times, his will is challenging. . . He may be calling us to love ourselves or another is a deeper, more sacrificial way. He sometimes allows nature, darkness, or others' sin to cause us pain and suffering. . . In all of our difficult moments in life, we can entrust ourselves to the Father and know that he will bring about good. 

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