Legacies and Legends

My mother spends a great deal of time watching Channel 61 on our cable system, the Catholic Global Television Network . She also spends a great deal of time trying to get me to watch it, and I spend a great deal of time making excuses about all the other things I have to do.
The other day, however, while I was over in her apartment, I caught an old segment of Mother Angelica facilitating a discussion of stem cell research. Now, my opinions these days are decidedly catholic and not at all Catholic. And so I have to admit that I didn’t agree with most of what was said. However, I did get a kick out of Mother Angelica’s quippy sense of humor. She reminded me of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who used to be on our old black and white tv in the early fifties. Like Mother Angelica, he knew how to play to an audience. They both used humor to make religious doctrine sound human and humane. It occurred to me, watching Mother Angelica perform, how much that approach appeals to the “childlike” in all of us. People of such uncritical faith seem to have remained innocent and childlike in ways that people like me turned way from for all kinds of personal and realistic reasons.
People like me look at Mother Angelica and see Granny Weatherwax. They are both the stuff of Croney female legacies and legends. And childlike fantasies. Their quirkinesses are appealing and disarming. Personally, I prefer Granny in terms of what lessons there are to learn about life. But if one is compelled to wear a black habit instead of a black pointy hat, she should take lessons from Mother Angelica.
Legacies and legends. I guess that’s why I also like novelist Alice Hoffman, whose novel The Probable Future I just finished. It is a novel teeming with legacies and legends, and, like all of Hoffman’s works, it opens up places in my poetic spirit that strict and traditional religion was never able to touch. Legacies and legends are powerful in their metaphor — more powerful, for people like me, than any literal interpretations of life as we are supposed to know it.
And that’s why I’m interested in seeing Mel Gibson’s controversial movie, The Passion of the Christ.
I hadn’t been paying much attention to the publicity about the movie, but when my phone rang at 11 p.m. Monday night and it was my mother excitedly telling me to put on Channel 61 (aarrggh), since I was up, I did. It was Mel Gibson being interviewed about the movie. What he said in that interview is pretty much what he’s been saying in all interviews:
“Obviously, nobody wants to touch something filmed in two dead languages,” Mel Gibson explained at a news conference

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