Every December my husband and I happily anticipate watching our favorite Christmas movies together.
With the passage of time, we’ve lost interest in some of them, whereas others have grown in their meaning and relevance.
One such jewel is the 1947 black and white classic, The Bishop’s Wife.
In the movie, Dudley, an angel-in-disguise played exquisitely by debonair Cary Grant, enters the lives of young bishop Henry Brougham and his wife Julia, just before Christmas (David Niven and Loretta Young, equally wonderful). The joys of the season have escaped the bishop, weary and frustrated by his failure to raise the needed funding for a new cathedral. He ignores the pleas of his wife and daughter, and even his parishioners, for his love and attention, while fretting over meager donation envelopes and devising strategies to pressure donors. Before long, his single-minded determination to build the cathedral at all costs leads him to a choice that would compromise his principles.
Angel Dudley, who appears in disguise as an assistant who would help the bishop with his fundraising, actually has different plans. He will secretly set in motion God’s true vision for the funds – one which will help the poor and the hungry. Along the way, Dudley showers Henry’s family and the townspeople with love and blessings, lightening the burdens and brightening the outlooks of everyone he meets.
But the bishop, so attached to his human vision of a towering, majestic cathedral that would dazzle the town in its splendor, is initially stunned, even angry at this ‘better plan’.
He had sacrificed so much to do what he thought God wanted!
Today, Rick and I can empathize with Henry’s plight more than ever, as deacon and deacon’s wife. We’ve both seen how easily our well-meaning intentions and actions have the potential to frustrate or exhaust us, keeping us very busy but at times making us wonder if we’re achieving the results that God desires for our lives.
Speaking for myself, this past year I found myself overwhelmed with worthy causes while many of my quiet moments with God felt rushed and unfulfilling. Does any of this sound familiar?
But I’m happy to share that I had the good sense to step away from the holiday chaos in favor of indulging my parched, frazzled soul with a lovely Advent!
Daily Advent devotions and journaling, Lessons and Carols at our parish, a day of reflection and prayer with other diaconate wives*, and quality time with my family and friends. I set reasonable limits on volunteering duties and turned off other demands that could stand to wait. It felt good, and I felt I was at my best with those around me. A welcome change from years past!
My goal is to sustain this delicate, life-affirming balance in the new year.
At the end of the movie, the angel Dudley bids a tender farewell to the restored Brougham family. To Julia, the bishop’s wife, he says:
“There are few people who know the secret of making a heaven here on earth. You are one of those rare people.”
His words struck me as if I’d heard them for the first time! Don’t we ALL hope to be one of those ‘rare people’? For me, I know it’s only possible if I check in with God to make sure my purposes are aligning with his, or I am certain to wander astray as this movie bishop did.
This Advent and Christmas renewed me with a fresh start.
Tell us about you!
- Did any Christmas movies or activities mean more to you this year? Why?
- Have you felt inspired to make any changes so that 2019 will be your best year yet?
*‘Mary, the Mother of God’ -special appreciation to Father Frederick Miller and Kimberly Mailley, Center for Diaconal Formation at the Immaculate Conception Seminary, for hosting yet another wonderful experience for the wives!