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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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Angela Merici: Angela has the double distinction of founding the first teaching congregation of women in the Church and what is now called a “secular institute” of religious women. 
<p>As a young woman she became a member of the Third Order of St. Francis (now known as the Secular Franciscan Order), and lived a life of great austerity, wishing, like St. Francis, to own nothing, not even a bed. Early in life she was appalled at the ignorance among poorer children, whose parents could not or would not teach them the elements of religion. Angela’s charming manner and good looks complemented her natural qualities of leadership. Others joined her in giving regular instruction to the little girls of their neighborhood. </p><p>She was invited to live with a family in Brescia (where, she had been told in a vision, she would one day found a religious community). Her work continued and became well known. She became the center of a group of people with similar ideals. </p><p>She eagerly took the opportunity for a trip to the Holy Land. When they had gotten as far as Crete, she was struck with blindness. Her friends wanted to return home, but she insisted on going through with the pilgrimage, and visited the sacred shrines with as much devotion and enthusiasm as if she had her sight. On the way back, while praying before a crucifix, her sight was restored at the same place where it had been lost. </p><p>At 57, she organized a group of 12 girls to help her in catechetical work. Four years later the group had increased to 28. She formed them into the Company of St. Ursula (patroness of medieval universities and venerated as a leader of women) for the purpose of re-Christianizing family life through solid Christian education of future wives and mothers. The members continued to live at home, had no special habit and took no formal vows, though the early Rule prescribed the practice of virginity, poverty and obedience. The idea of a teaching congregation of women was new and took time to develop. The community thus existed as a “secular institute” until some years after Angela’s death.</p> American Catholic Blog I hear far more people discuss the presence of evil in their lives than they do the supreme power of grace. God is bigger than evil!

 
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