“‘Ohana means family, family means nobody gets left behind. Or forgotten.” – Stitch, Lilo & Stitch
If you’ve heard me talk about my choice of entertainment you probably know that I’m a sucker for feel-good movies. Not just any ‘up’ movie, but movies like UP that strike at the very core of what we need in life as broken people. So when Steven Greydanus of Decent Films recommended Lilo & Stitch, well, it got bounced to the upper end of the Netflix queue. And it was no great surprise to me that as the movie reached its dénouement, I was choking up a bit. Fortunately, the pastor was away and my room at the rectory was closed, you know, just in case. No need to actually have witnesses….
My love for good storytelling began when I learned that the funny black marks on the slips of tree were actually gateways into a nigh-infinite variety of alternate worlds. Years later, before graduating from college seminary, my classmates & I were charged with writing and later presenting a research paper. By luck and no small amount of conniving, I was able to pick as my focus Catholicism & Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. The most fun I’ve ever had researching anything. But I discovered in Tolkien’s musings the treasure that is his article On Fairy Stories. It is the standard by which I have judged every work of fiction I have encountered since.
The reason for this is fairly straightforward. Tolkien suggests that a good fairy-story (which I expand to any work of fiction) holds a higher role than simple entertainment, escapism. He says:
It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality.
. . . .
In such stories when the sudden “turn” comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart’s desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.
We all have the desire to not only glimpse joy and our hearts desire, but to possess it completely and be possessed by it entirely. ….But we know all too well not just how broken the world is, but how broken we are – and not just kinda. Left to our own devices, its not too hard to see how we’d head off to our own ruin. We know just how bad we are.
And this is where we’d be if it weren’t for Christ. Lost.
The eucatastrophe of our human story is our salvation. Through Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, we can enter into the family of the Trinity. Through our baptism we are offered adoption. Through confirmation, reconciliation and the Eucharist, we are purified and strengthened in order to be perfect. The season of Lent gives us a chance to take advantage of these gifts in a new way. Perhaps in ways that we haven’t, or wouldn’t pursue otherwise.
We may be broken, but we can still be good. Our stories of how to be good point us to our highest Good: Christ. And His story, which we prepare to celebrate at Easter, makes it possible for us to find our true family too.
Who wouldn’t get excited – and maybe even a little teary-eyed - at that prospect?
May your Lent continue to be blessed.
- Father Maurer