A Basic and Shared Beauty: Reflection on the Film A Man of His Word
June 28, 2018
By Sister Joy Clough
Pope Francis is the focus of the recently released film, A Man of His Word. The film is anchored in a conversation the filmmakers had with the pope and in the visuals they amassed as they accompanied him on many of his trips to troubled spots around the world. Yet it wasn’t Pope Francis who caught my attention. It was the other folks—the anonymous ones.
Their faces were beautiful. Each one beautiful. Across the diversity of peoples and circumstances, beautiful.
Soft with love. Furrowed with worry. Bright with joy. Pensive. Patient. Pleading. Holy.
Black. Middle Eastern. Asian. White.
Taut. Wrinkled. Female and male.
A Kaleidoscope of Humanity
The scenes varied. A refugee camp in Africa. A prison in Europe. A children’s hospital in the Near East. A decimated countryside in the Philippines. Places where people were hurting, felt abandoned, lived in fear, were desperate for hope.
So much suffering. And the pope visited to call attention to the reality of most of humanity, to reach out with God’s love to “the least,” to admit he had few words—sometimes no words—to share, yet wanted to be with them.
Across this kaleidoscope of human faces, Pope Francis was speaking of our common humanity. Of brotherhood, sisterhood. Of care for one another and for the Earth we share. His words were comfort and hope.
There were other faces. Members of the Vatican Curia. Members of the U.S. Congress. Faces of power. Faces of contrast, counterpoint. Faces—not all, but generally—stoic. Bored. Resistant. Mostly white. Mostly male.
Before these faces also, Pope Francis spoke of our common humanity. Of brotherhood, sisterhood. Of care for one another and for the Earth we share. His words were challenge and truth.
Doing With a Bit Less
Of the world’s peoples, the pope said, 20 percent have and control 80 percent of the world’s wealth.
Being of the United States, being white, being educated, I am in that 20 percent. I have a roof over my head. I do not worry about whether or not there will be food for me today. I have shoes and considerably more than one set of clothes. I have “disposable” funds for frivolities like ice cream or movies. I am part of the 20 percent. What consequences here and hereafter does that fact hold for me?
Pope Francis says we all need to be a bit poorer, to do with a bit less, so that others may have more. He chooses to live in a simple apartment. He drives a modest car. He tries to keep things simple. What might my “bit” of less be? Might there be more than one “bit”? Might there be more gratitude for what I have, how I’m blessed? Might there be less complaint? How, in my life, can I keep—or make—things simple?
And then, surprisingly perhaps, the pope spoke of beauty. Of artists, yes, but also of the beauty of the human face. Of the beauty of a simple smile. Of the gift a smile can be. Of the dignity of direct eye contact. Of the hope one face can impart to another.
He himself, in the midst of all these listening, attentive faces, was often smiling, sometimes serious, occasionally evoking laughter, always imparting concern. Always eager to be not just with, but also among, them. Always aware, always reminding them, always insisting on each one’s fundamental, undeniable, God-given dignity, worth and goodness.
And in those forlorn places, the faces, momentarily reflecting their souls, gave credence to his words. Across their diverse origins and circumstances, these oh-so-human faces were, quite simply, beautiful.