In the last 5 years or so, audiences all over the world have been enamored by live action productions of Disney animated classics. Although some have fallen short of the original animated Disney magic, it has been delightfully nostalgic to be taken back to the little town in a quiet village, to witness the triumph of the restoration of Pride Rock, and to behold the shining shimmering splendid world on a magic carpet ride.
Of all the live action Disney movies, my favorite has been Cinderella. I could gush for hours about this movie and how it has utterly captivated my heart. I am dazzled every single time I watch it, and it has quickly become one of my all time favorite movies.
Like many, I am captivated by the line “have courage and be kind,” and the witness of a young woman who chooses to love, to be generous, and to show kindness in the face of deep sorrow and tragedy. Quite frankly Cinderella’s integrity baffles me, and I find myself pondering deeply how one can not only long endure suffering, but long endure suffering with a generous and kind heart.
Through the early scenes of the movie, we encounter the “golden childhood” of Cinderella, in which she, her mother, and father lived a simple life of deep love and joy. Though their house was not a mansion, their family was rich in love. Their love was so profound it not only blessed the nuclear family but also everyone and everything that came in contact with them. From the cooks and maids to the field mice and farm animals of the home, the delight beheld by the little family became a wellspring of goodness that nourished the land.
This culture of delight that saturated the walls of Cinderella's home was so rich, it permeated her very being. The potency of pure delight was so much so that it propelled Cinderella through the many tragedies she would face later in life— the death of her mother, the depression and later death of her Father, and the persecution and mistreatment from her step mother and step sisters.
As citizens of this world, and particularly as Americans, the last several years have been particularly dark. I don’t need to list all the events and occasions that have plagued our country and our world, we know them and we feel them all too well. On a deeper level, as Catholics we not only feel the burden of the trauma of the world's brokenness, but are faced with a call to respond in the midst of a culture that is becoming increasingly animus toward Christianity.
When we encounter the brokenness and outright meanness that exists in our world, it is natural for us to harden our hearts from feeling pain. Sucking it up and numbing ourselves seems to be the only solution to maintain our sanity and safety in this world. However, we know from other Disney movies that locking oneself away in our interior castles does not lead us to greater freedom and peace. As Brene Brown says, we can’t selectively numb our emotions. When we numb one, we numb them all. When we numb ourselves from experiencing sorrow and pain, we also numb ourselves from being able to experience the fullness of joy and communion with others.
What is the solution then? How can we keep our hearts fleshy so that they may experience the fullness of delight, but not be destroyed by the heaviness of sorrow?
Courage and kindness. Oh! and a great deal of delight.
The latin translation of courage means to live from the heart. We see this modeled so beautifully in our Lord, who never withheld or numbed His heart from the world that He loved, and loved till the end. Jesus allowed His heart to experience the fullness of every emotion this life had to offer. The sweetness of communion in the times he gathered for meals with his disciples. The joy of intimacy in interactions with Mary and Martha. The wonder and awe of playing with children. Although it doesn’t say this in scripture, I’d bet my bottom dollar that Jesus belly laughed so hard he cried and had plenty of late night heart to hearts with His friends.
Quite obviously, Jesus also allowed His heart to experience deep pain, arguably the worst pain a human can experience on this earth. Even with the knowledge of the trauma that was to come, Jesus didn’t hold back from loving the people around Him. He never allowed the reality of the suffering to keep Him from the abundance of life in the present moment.
Jesus was able to live courageously with his whole heart, because His whole heart was solidified in His Father’s loving delight for him. It was His certainty of His identity as the One Whom the Father found delight, the beloved son of God, that Jesus was able to carry out His mission. Regardless of what trials and difficulties were set before Him, Christ was certain that His Father's love for Him would never change and would endure for all of eternity.
This image of a culture of delight depicted so beautifully in the live action Cinderella movie, gives us another example of the potency of delight. Oftentimes we think that battles are won by imposing strength and out performing others. However, I find that the most powerful people I know are the ones who simply allow themselves to be fathered by God. The strongest people I know are the ones who have allowed the love of the Father to strike deeply into their heart, to the core of their being. Permitting the loving gaze of God to see them to the depths, and allow for his tender love to reclaim all their prodigal parts. The strongest people I know are the ones who are convinced of their sonship/daughterhood, so much so that they are able to rise above the chaos here on earth and tap into the graces of Heaven.
The key to long suffering, persevering through persecution, and moreover overcoming fear is knowing where we belong and to Whom we belong. Just as Jesus carried out His mission by, for, and from His identity as a beloved child, so must we seek to live moment by moment of our life abiding in the love of the Father. Drinking fully, as St. Teresa of Avila said, in the fullness of the consolation one receives in knowing that by their baptism they are loved, loved eternally, and chosen from eternity. In encountering the Father’s kindness, we are reconciled as His beloved children, and in the face of our flaws, faults, difficulties, traumas and trials are transformed from glory to glory.
Although Cinderella is a fairytale, there is real peace we can experience from living a life in which we are more convinced of our belovedness than despairing over brokenness. If we just bring our hearts to the Father and allow ourselves to be caught in His most kind and tender gaze, we can experience something that is better than Disney Magic and lasts for all of eternity.