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Band of Brothers, the Iliad and Seeing Christ in Others

October 11, 2010

It’s a funny thing how one idea keeps popping up in your head by connecting it to various things and circumstances. The concept doing that to me right now is…


It all started with Steven Spielberg.

No really!

Ria and Gus and I recently finished watching his mini-series, Band of Brothers. Great movie (about World War II), though very intense, and definitely not a family flick (in fact, I was grateful for the heads-up to have the kids skip a brief scene at the beginning of episode 9)! It occurred to me after watching this series and chatting about it (and how much I tend to enjoy Steven Spielberg movies) with various friends that part of what I liked about this series, in spite of its intensity and grit, was that he and Tom Hanks (who co-produced the series with him) really treat the subject matter and especially the people involved with reverence.

I recognized this reverence in a number of his other movies too – Schindler’s List, Prince of Egypt, Minority Report. Even Indiana Jones, which is more light-hearted and even frivolous at times, has a certain amount of this – particularly in The Last Crusade. It’s a lovely thing!

That reminded me (and Ria too) of one of our teen literature discussions – on the Iliad. The Iliad is full of grit and gore too, but I was particularly struck in this most recent reading (my third time through the book) at how carefully the author makes us feel the tragedy of each death by giving us a sense of the doomed man’s family, background, loved ones, etc. The book makes you hate the ugliness of senseless war and violence and the stupid things people did to cause it. This is something entirely different than, say, the gladiatorial games of Roman times, that worked on the level of de-humanization and de-sensitization and caused the viewers to desire blood and death.

So I’ve been mulling over these things in my head for the past few weeks and my thoughts, quite naturally, turned to how we treat (or don’t treat) individual people that we encounter with reverence. As people who are follows of Christ and on the pro-Life side of things, we should be particularly about this. The first thing that comes to mind in this regard are the most vulnerable – babies (that’s not too hard, is it?), the disabled, and the elderly. But surely this is true of everyone – we are all in need of this reverence, but some might be even harder for us to look at in this light: the cranky neighbor, the immigrant, the mentally ill, or anyone that might be an answer to the question “Who is it most difficult for me to love?”

I started this post today, because I happened to stumble upon the perfect quote (and a Eucharistic one at that!) to complete this circle of thought. It’s from one of my very favorite books (and only a very recent discovery – I read it last month while on retreat), Caryll Houselander’s The Reed of God:

Just as we cannot depend upon feelings to know that Christ is in ourselves, we cannot depend upon appearances to know that He is in others.

That which is true of the Host is true of people. We cannot discern God’s presence through our senses, but faith tells us that we should treat one another with the reverence that we give to the Host.

We need to bring to other people faith like that which we bring to the Blessed Sacrament.

It is really as easy to believe in one as in the other. We have exactly the same reason for believing in both: the word of Christ.

Both are miracles of love which, like God’s peace, pass understanding.

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