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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Iron Lady

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

Is there anyone the multi-nominated and Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep cannot portray? As I was leaving the theater after watching this most watchable film I asked a woman if she came for a movie about Margaret Thatcher or to see Meryl Streep perform? She smiled and said, “If I have to tell the truth then it was to see Meryl Streep.”

I admit it as well: I went to see Meryl Streep become Britain’s first and so far only female Prime Minister, transformed by the magic of Hollywood makeup artists and who knows, perhaps with touchups from Photoshop for movies. Thatcher held office from 1979 – 1990 as a staunch Conservative and likely parallel political partner to her American cousin across the pond, Ronald Reagan  (1981 – 1989), but the film begins closer to the present, after Thatcher’s husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) had died in 2005.
 
No one recognizes the little old lady who escapes from her household keepers to buy a pint of milk. They fuss over her and she hates fuss! Her only daughter Carol (Olivia Coleman) comes to help her to put away Denis’ things and then we realize he has gone and Margaret is hallucinating.  Her memory comes and goes. The comparison between who she was as a young woman, played nicely by Alexandra Roach, her rise to power – and it was a rise to power let there be no mistake about it – and the sunset of her life when everyone had forgotten her. Even her son does not come from South Africa when she asks him to be there for the unveiling of her portrait at #10 Downing Street.
 
Screenwriter Abi Morgan takes us back and forth through Thatcher’s life, from her beginnings as the daughter of a politically informed grocer, through Oxford to her initiation into politics. According to the film, her life of public service would come before her husband and children (twins Carol and Mark).
 
Because of the nature of the film and its larger-than-life subject, it was not possible to delve into the historical contexts of Thatcher’s iron fisted decisions, especially in regard to the treatment of IRA prisoners.  Alexander Haig (Matthew Marsh) visits Thatcher and condescendingly tries to talk her out of engaging the Argentines over their invasion of the British-held Falkland Islands. I am not a fan of Thatcher but I admit she held her own with Haig.
 
Thatcher resigns when she loses the trust of her last cabinet member. Her determination that every citizen in Britain, rich or poor, should pay the same amount of tax was too much even for those most loyal to her.
 
This is a fascinating portrayal of a woman who led an intriguing life that broke Britain’s political glass ceiling with her scorched earth policies. I would have preferred a biopic of Churchill, but then, Meryl Streep couldn’t play him.
 
Or could she?


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Bernard of Clairvaux: Man of the century! Woman of the century! You see such terms applied to so many today—“golfer of the century,” “composer of the century,” “right tackle of the century”—that the line no longer has any punch. But Western Europe's “man of the twelfth century,” without doubt or controversy, has to be Bernard of Clairvaux. Adviser of popes, preacher of the Second Crusade, defender of the faith, healer of a schism, reformer of a monastic Order, Scripture scholar, theologian and eloquent preacher: any one of these titles would distinguish an ordinary man. Yet Bernard was all of these—and he still retained a burning desire to return to the hidden monastic life of his younger days. 
<p>In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux. His five brothers, two uncles and some 30 young friends followed him into the monastery. Within four years a dying community had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot. The zealous young man was quite demanding, though more on himself than others. A slight breakdown of health taught him to be more patient and understanding. The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light. </p><p>His ability as arbitrator and counselor became widely known. More and more he was lured away from the monastery to settle long-standing disputes. On several of these occasions he apparently stepped on some sensitive toes in Rome. Bernard was completely dedicated to the primacy of the Roman See. But to a letter of warning from Rome, he replied that the good fathers in Rome had enough to do to keep the Church in one piece. If any matters arose that warranted their interest, he would be the first to let them know. </p><p>Shortly thereafter it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope. </p><p>The Holy See prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe. His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured. The ideals of the men and their leaders, however, were not those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster. </p><p>Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade. This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came August 20, 1153.</p> American Catholic Blog One of the things that we need to remember is that we’re preaching Jesus, not the institutional Church. It’s easy to get caught up in the rules and regulations of the institution and forget that we are saved not by the Church but by the person of Jesus or the Church as the body of Christ.

 
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