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Chocolat for Lent?
Lent has traditionally been a time for giving something up -- but what happens to that self-sacrifice when Easter rolls around? During this Easter season, instead of reverting back to your pre-Lent state of mind, I encourage you to live your life to the fullest. Don't let one minute pass you by! Learn a lesson from the movie Chocolat and savor all that life brings.
The story of Chocolat is really a story about table fellowship. Who do we find acceptable to keep at our table and whom do we keep out?
The story begins in 1959 as a single mother Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter, Anouk, come to a town steeped in tradition to open a Chocolate shop. The problem is, it's Lent. The town, under the watchful eye of the Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), is advised not to go into the Chocolate shop. In fact the Comte is even more disgusted to find out that Vianne and Anouk are not Catholics but follow some pagan spirituality.
An all-out battle of the wits ensues when a group of wandering gypsies enters town looking for work. The Comte does not condone their loose ways, and starts a ban on immorality. Of course, it is Vianne, the "sinner," who welcomes in Roux (Johnny Depp), a pirate, and helps him maintain his dignity by giving him a job.
Jesus had to deal with these same problems. He was often criticized for the company he kept. His was a table that was always open. He had a way of making people feel whole. I wonder if we are this welcoming.
Dominating not Respecting
Another major theme of the movie is how devastating domination can be to a person's ability to grow and develop.
One example is with a mother (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her son. She carefully monitors everything he does and will not let him go into the chocolate store. But when he is there, he is free to develop his personality and skills as an artist.
The woman also treats her own mother in the same way. The mother (Judi Dench) isn't even allowed to see her grandson because she might be a bad influence on him. She is now diabetic and would rather die enjoying life than refusing all her "just desserts."
One of the most chilling shows of domination is between a bar owner and his wife. He allows her no rights or life of her own, and when she leaves he violently tries to get her back.
The movie is filled with many different levels of domination. Even the young priest (Hugh O'Conor) is told what sermons to say at Mass by the Comte.
When one is treated like a child and told what to think and how to act, a level of dignity and respect is lost. God gave everyone a brain and logic. A person doesn't have to blindly follow tradition to be a good Catholic. Faith doesn't mean having all the answers; it just means having the guts to still ask the questions. We must continue to make sure that everyone has the right to ask the questions and develop at his or her own pace.
The Priest is Right
The crux of the movie can be found in the young Pere Henri's sermon on Easter. He says, "We can't go around measuring our goodness by what we don't do, by what we deny ourselves, by what we resist and who we exclude; I think we've got to measure goodness by what we embrace, by what we create, and who we include."
Let that be your motto for the Easter season this year, and this will be a time you'll never forget. We are an Easter people. It's time to start living Easter every day.
What do you find easier: giving something up or dedicating yourself to starting something new?
How do you think God will measure your goodness?
What are ways that you can be more welcoming and respectful of differences?
Copyright 2002 by Nick Popadich
7010 N. Marks, Suite 103
Fresno, CA 93711
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