Monday, January 09, 2006

Courage! Courage! Courage!

I remember when I was a teenager seeing a picture of Michael Stipe from REM wearing a T-shirt on which he had scrawled with a Jiffy Marker "Courage! COURAGE! Courage!" At his inspiration, I wrote these same words out on a piece of paper with a black oil pastel and taped it to the inside of my bedroom door. (Not that outside my door was a ferocious lion or anything). It was simply so that whenever I would leave my room, particularly each morning, I was always reminded of the need for courage in life, and in the world.

But before I say more about courage I have to say a little bit about our Sunday afternoon. And I have to laugh. Krista and I have been wanting to watch the whole Godfather trilogy for some time, as she has not seen them all, and I haven't for a long time. I have often been moved by this brooding family drama to think about courage and nobility and love that characterizes the Corleone family, but at the same time is subjugated to the family's 'business' - and the tragic violence that goes along with it. Al Pacino as Michael Corleone has always been one of my favourite characters in movies, period. So we watched Part 1 last Sunday, and then we watched the first part of part 2 on Saturday night. We watched it on VHS because the Mighty Parkallan didn't have the sequels on DVD. And wouldn't you know it, when we went to start the second tape Godfather 2 on Sunday afternoon it was doing this weird thing where it would stop every five minutes and shut off the power on our brand-new VCR. We thought this was mildly annoying, but just kept restarting it. Then all of a sudden it just froze on one scene... and the tape would not eject from our VCR. So we called BLOCKBUSTER and they told us not to worry about the tape because it was faulty and they gave us a credit on our account. But this doesn't change the fact that we have a copy of Godfather 2 still jammed in our VCR! We called Krista's Dad, who has had some experience with this kind of thing, and he told us that it is is probably not too hard to fix, so we might crack open our VCR to try this out. Sounds exciting, and no doubt requires a fair dose of courage in and of itself. Nevertheless, we felt like watching a movie still so we decided to go to Parkallan to get one. I went over there and picked one up, and came home, and it turned out to be not our cup of tea at all, so we went back together to get another (thankfully the video store is about a minute walk from our back yard). As soon as we walk out the back door and I hear it click shut, I say to Krista, "did you bring your keys?" And she says "I thought you had yours." And so we realized, at that very moment, that we were locked out of our house with no wallet and no keys (you can trade DVD's for free if you're a member at Parkallan Video). So we go over there and pick out a new movie, and the hospitable proprietor, Jeff, lets us use his phone to call Krista's parents to come let us back into our house with their extra key. So, in the meantime, Krista and I went and huddled on our front steps, and actually that was kind of fun to just sit there and enjoy it, and I mentioned that we should sit out there in the summer sometime.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

I have always been heartened by the etymological origins of this word "courage", which relates to the "heart," coeur . That bravery or strength of character is something deeply rooted in the heart, that permeates all possibile human interactions. Be of good courage!

And this leads me to the part of it all that I am most deeply affected by... a line from one of our hymns from Church - the "Dogmatic of Vespers for Tone 1" to be specific, which lauds Mary the Mother of God - a tremendous model of personal courage herself. The line simply says, "Courage, courage, O People of God!"
And somehow this sums up the need, I think, of so many of us in the world today. We need to have something happen in our coeurs... something has to shift, to break, to bleed, to grow in our hearts. My own (and perhaps all of our) grinchy old tickers need to move up a few sizes... until they have expanded enough to take in the love that is truly all around (hidden in the broken VCRs and homes we may be currently locked out of).

"Courage, courage, O People of God!"


Blogger Simply Victoria said...

"Courage, courage, O People of God!"

I am much heartened by this post.
I think I need to make a poster with this on it.
It is exactly what I need right now.

ps: did you ever get the tape out of your vcr?

10:43 AM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Nope. "The Godfather" is still in there. I might try tonight if I can muster up the courage.

Always so good to hear from you Victoria...

10:58 AM  
Blogger Gabe said...

What a fun day ;)

3:02 PM  
Blogger Stacy said...

It seems that they knew the tape was broken... shouldn't they have to repair your VCR? Just wondering. I'm also wondering why you have a new VCR. I didn't know they still made them unless it was a DVD/VCR combo.

Okay, I'm done being sassy.

I've never seen the Godfather either.

Not that you can tell from my silliness, but I really enjoyed the post. I probably won't write "courage, courage, courage" on my door but I might write it on my mirror (no joke intended there... I simply write on my mirror with a dry-erase marker a lot).

3:28 PM  
Blogger myn said...

i write on my mirror too...but with eyeliner! i too enjoyed your post Matthew...and it was SUCH PERFECT timing for me to read it!


ps: i miss you and Krista...and can perfectly imagine you sitting out on your stoop. i hope it wasn't too cold!!

3:47 PM  
Blogger Sheri Eyre said...

Courage is not the abscence of fear. It is being afraid and acting anyways. I hold this little saying in my heart whenever I am afraid. I used to thimk if something scared me, that I should walk away. Now I try to jump in with both feet knowing that the best things in my life have come from me acting in spite of my fears.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Thanks everyone. You guys ROCK! You'll all be happy to hear that I fixed the VCR! Took it apart myself... yes, I am basking in triumph over the mechanical.

*And, just for the record it is a VCR/DVD combo thingamabob.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

And you're right... BLOCKBUSTER did seem to know all along... those scoundrels! From now on I'm sticking with The Mighty Parkallan video all the way!

6:59 PM  
Blogger RW said...

Thanks for the post. I enjoyed reading it and I chuckled.. because this would be something that happened to me.

I just watched the Godfather trilogy last year for the first time. I found it very sad; but I loved how the movie shows the family dynamic at work.

At Taize we sang a song in french:

Confiance ce du coeur, source de richesse;
Jesus donne-nous un coeur de pauvre.

Trust of the Heart, Source of joy;
Jesus, give us poverty of heart.

Which is only connected to courage because of the heart, but I think It is Jesus who gives us the courage. To dare to be bold in our lives...

These thoughts are a bit disjoiinted but your post reminded me of this song; and I love this song. I haven't hummed it lately. So thanks for bringing it back to me.

7:39 PM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Thanks so much Ramona.

"Trust of the Heart, Source of joy;
Jesus, give us poverty of heart."

Reminds me of Brother Roger.

Beautiful. And that somehow in Christ 'courage' and 'poverty of heart' are two sides of the same coin.

7:59 AM  
Blogger MatJenny said...

I remember 'landing' in the UK as a younger person and seeing the word 'Courage' in beautiful gold letters everywhere I went. I thought: what wonderful people live here -- so wise and virtuous to exhort us to take courage as we walk down the street! How noble! How excellent! What a disappointment to find out that Courage is the name of a brewery, and that all those buildings bearing the word in gold letters were pubs!

12:00 AM  
Blogger Matthew Francis said...

Yes. Strange. I've heard spirits called by some "liquid courage," and of course this is sometimes true.... with results sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

10:25 AM  

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