I saw the film, “Jimmy’s Hall” yesterday. Among other lessons conveyed, it seems to me, is the one that reminds us that oftentimes the most brutal wars are the local and neighborhood ones. If you haven’t seen the film it is based in the very turbulent, of course, Irish history of the 1930s. The worldwide depression has deeply settled in. The Irish version of it included living through freedom’s bitter and bloody struggle of going from British rule to the “powers that be” of Home Rule. And the powers do not include working folks, single moms and their children, and, God knows, non-Catholics.
At that time if you stood up for something different than what the political powers were establishing in the form of only 2 political parties, then, of course, you were not a power. If you had the pluck to assert the people’s freedom from below and did not literally buy into the Catholic Church’s assertion that freedom is a gift from God – by way of Holy Mother Church then you most certainly were not a power.
It was a time of tremendous opening of minds to possibility. It was also a time of terrible closing the boundaries of that possibility.
In all of this Jimmy Galton re-opens a Community Hall in County Leitrim. The film, by the way is based on a real person and real events. Now that he has returned from exile in New York, and now that the youth plead for him to re-open the place that formerly had been a center of radicalism, and yes, communism, Jimmy does just that.
Very likely you know the rest of the story. The irony that informs our look back to such unenlightened and oppressive times leads us to question again inequality – these 80 years later from the setting of this story.
The story has been crafted to clearly accompany us on the way to asking the big question. If freedom is so free why does it cost so much?
Are we to settle for the local priest’s too late affirmation of Jimmy’s courage and decency?
How refreshing when we see someone from within the “powers that be” make comments and conduct her/himself with the heart and companionship of the folks who suffer most from the inequality created by the “powers that be.” How refreshing to hear Pope Francis speak with compassion. How satisfying to see his comments create not more burdens on the people but rather more disconnecting challenges to the ecclesiastical “powers that be.” He directs priests to stop their practice of refusing to baptize the children of unmarried parents. He invites those who wish to be re-invited into the institutional church to seek absolution for their participation, men and women both, in abortions.
And now he comes to the United States after first visiting those nations who are poor, pushed aside, and among the most unequal peoples in a world of the haves and the have-nots. He comes to the United States, one would hope, with these visits in mind, being the voice for the voiceless.
Welcome, Pope Francis. As people used to say on behalf of President Truman. “Give ’em hell!”