Show yourself at all times glad and joyful,
for almighty God loves a cheerful giver.
Continued from last week
This week we continue our reflection on Felicity – a spirituality of joy – as understood and lived by Mary Ward. You may remember that last week we looked at the story of the woman who encountered Jesus at a well and we saw the transformation in her as a result of that encounter. This week I would like to invite you into another story – a film actually – Chocolat. Chocolat is a gorgeous film and if you haven’t seen it, or perhaps not for some time, I would really encourage you to seek it out. It’s delightful, both visually and in its depth of insight into the human heart. And it certainly speaks to us most powerfully about Christian spirituality.
Into the very controlled and ordered village of Lansquenet in France where life has remained unchanged for a hundred years – the people live in what is called ‘tranquillite’ – the north wind blows Vianne and her daughter. Vianne is a free-spirited wanderer, who is actually carrying her own burden, we discover, and is not that free at all. However, she arrives in the village with her secret for making the most delicious and irresistible chocolate and sets up a chocolaterie during the Lenten period of abstinence. The film is all about the awakening of life, of hopes and dreams and of passion, that her tantalizing treats bring about. Everyone in Lansquenet has a story, a secret, a burden, something hurting or binding them, and everyone is set free in some way, including Vianne and her daughter. But the character I want to focus on is the Comte.
The Comte de Renaud is a man who is very pious, austere in his lifestyle, self-denying and who runs the village with an iron fist. He would like to see everyone adopt his own rigorous moral standard and sharpen their moral observances, as he puts it. This is his way to salvation as he understands it. He even has the young village priest, Pere Henri, under his control, and is in the habit of writing his homilies for him each week. But the austerity and self-denial that he practises have left him bereft of joy, alone, living a pretense (he pretends that his wife is on holiday in Italy, but she has actually left him), and desperately trying to endure it all. In his world the gifts and the abundance of life’s joys are not for the tasting. And of course he is fighting Vianne and her chocolaterie – to him they are evil. But let’s see what happens!
Ms Kerry McCullough
Dean of Mission