Julianne Moore in Still Alice
I went to the cinema recently with a friend (yes, Brothers do go to the cinema occasionally) to see Still Alice. After viewing this well-produced film, I was left in no doubt about how challenging life is for people with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia.
Julianne Moore who played the part of a housewife suffering with the illness captured how the disease creeps up and eventually controls life. Still Alice also did a good job of portraying the effect the illness can have on a family.
It was very engaging. It left me with a feeling of helplessness and at times it brought tears to my eyes. That’s the power of good cinema. It connects us at a deep level with the humanity of the character on the screen. Strangely, we often seem to be able to connect faster and more deeply with these fictional characters and strangers on the big screen than real people in real life.
We know that the challenge of the Christian life is to see each person as our brother and sister, to see their pains as our pains. But that's not an easy task – we all have busy lives full of distractions.
Perhaps we empathise more readily in the cinema because we manage to block out the noise of the world. In that dark cinema theatre, it’s just you and the screen. We can focus. We can listen. We can become involved in another person’s story.
The trick then is to find moments of silence in our own lives where we can pause and reflect on what the people around us are saying.
Religious life, when lived well, affords us the time and space for reflection during which we can identify, at a deep and meaningful level, with the needs of other people.
It gives us a chance to ask: "Who, of all the people I met today, is in need of a word of encouragement or support?" It’s a challenge to break from the orbit of our own ego and self-interest and notice others…but that's the challenge...
And, believe me, when you stop to look, you’ll see many around us who could do with a little help or support…And, to be honest, that's one of the reasons I'm a religious brother.
If you would like to learn more about life as a Presentation Brother, get in touch on vocation@PresentationBrothers.org