Sunday, September 8, 2013


Spoiler warning.  If you have not seen Les Miserables, the play or the movie, read at your own risk.  

I warned you.

Last chance.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Les Miserables has become one of my favorite movies.  If you told me I'd love a movie or a play about the French Revolution I'd say you were nuts.  But, alas, I do.  Actually, love is to light a word to describe my feelings about the film.

To me, this is a very Catholic film.  It's a film about love, grace, and redemption.  It's a film that makes me cry.  Every time.  There are so many fabrics weaved into the story.  But I want to focus on just one for now.  The fabric of prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean.  Valjean stole a loaf of bread to feed his nephew and was caught.  Because he tried to escape many times, he spent nineteen years doing hard labor.  After his release, he breaks parole.  He makes his way to a church where a Priest grants him solace along with grace and mercy. During the night, Valjean steals all the silver from the church and runs off.  He gets caught immediately and the police take him back to the church and talk to the Priest.  The Priest, showing more grace and mercy tell the police that he *gave* Valjean the silver and proceeds to give Valjean silver candlesticks telling him he forgot those and to use them well.  At this point in the movie, Valjean ends up in the sacristy and is touched by the grace of the Priest and of Jesus.  He cannot understand Jesus grace and love for him and I must confess, many days, I feel the same.

Fast forward through the movie.  Moved by grace, Valjean turns his life around.  He has become a respected member of society.   Unbeknownst to him, he makes a bad decision regarding a worker named Fantine.  She loses her job and takes to the streets to support her daughter.  When Fantine is discovered by Valjean again, she is a shell of herself.  She has been used, abused, and is dying.  He realizes what he has done and takes her in and cares for as she dies and promises to raise her daughter as his own and he does.

Throughout the film, Valjean helps others all while evading the police who recognize him as the man who broke parole all those years ago.  The police officer doesn't care what Valjean has done in the time since.  What good works he has done, all those he has helped.  He only sees the prisoner he once knew.  He's all about following the letter of the law.  No grey, only black and white.  Towards the end of the film, Valjean takes the opportunity to bestow mercy and grace on the officer.  This confuses the officer and he is forced to deal with the grey. 

The church is it's own character in the movie.  It's where Valjean meets the priest who shows him mercy and grace.  Then, in the middle of the film, he comes to a convent seeking sanctuary.  Then, at the end of his life, he comes back to the convent to die.  The ending scene gets me every time.  Valjean sings a beautiful song to Jesus about how he is ready to come home.  And, Fantine, comes back to bring him home.  And, in one of my favorite lines of the entire film says "to love another person is to see the face of God".   

No matter how many times I watch the movie, I identify with so many of the characters, but none more than Jean Valjean.  We are both granted, unworthily, Jesus grace and mercy. We are both moved by the kindness of others.  We both change our lives for the better.  We both find solace and love in our faith.  And, no matter how much good we do (or think we do) we are pursued by our past.  Whether it be in Valjeans case, police officer, or in mine, falling into the devils snares of anger, jealousy, greed and so many more.  Watching this film reminds me of who I want to be to others.  How I want to show others, who I feel who don't deserve it, God's love and mercy.  And, give it freely.  Something that is so hard to do.

 This movie may not have intended to be Catholic, not even Christian.  And, I'm sure others who have seen it don't see it that way.  But for me, and my faith, I could not help but see it as so.  And, after all, who am I?  Who am I?  I'm Jean Valjean.

Until next time,
Watch the movie.  I promise you, you'll love it.


No comments: