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Charisms on the Silver Screen PDF Print E-mail
Written by Michael Fones   
Monday, 30 November 2009 19:14
I took Fr. Bede, an elderly friar in our community, to see The Blind Side. It was recommended by Fr. Bart, our superior, and I had heard good things about it from a few other folks. The movie’s title refers to the part of the field the quarterback tends to not see – the part of the field off his throwing arm. That's the side that needs to be protected from onrushing defensive ends.

The Blind Side is based on the story of Michael Oher, an offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, who was taken from his drug addict mother at the age of seven, never knew his father, and bounced from foster home to foster home until a friend begged a Christian high school coach to see his athletic potential and give him a chance at the high-end private school.

While there, he was given a place to stay by Mr. and Mrs. Sean Tuohy, a well-to-do couple with a daughter and son who attended the same school. Leigh Anne Tuohy, wonderfully portrayed by Sandra Bullock, is a Christian woman who may well have the charisms of mercy and hospitality. She sees “Big Mike” walking in the rain while driving home from school with her husband and son, and asks him where he’s going. Michael, wearing the same shorts and shirt he always wears responds, “To the gym.” Mrs. Tuohy knows the gym is closed and gets Michael to get in their car. When her husband asks, “Where to?” she responds with a look that says, “Duh!” and says, “Home, of course.”

Mrs. Tuohy sees to Michael’s needs: new clothes, a driver’s license, and, eventually, a tutor; all practical things that restore his dignity. The movie demonstrates that as the incredibly quiet Michael becomes more and more “at home” in his own skin as the movie progresses. One of the signs of any of the charisms is that they energize us, and while the Sandra Bullock character is something of a southern force of nature, there’s an intriguing bit of dialogue between Sean and Leigh Anne. At one point when they are alone and are asking why they are opening their home to this enormous stranger from the wrong side of the tracks, Sean observes that Leigh Anne “gets some strange pleasure from this,” (or something along those lines).

Another sign of the charism of mercy is that Leigh Anne takes several trips into the projects where Michael grew up; something her society friends wouldn’t dream of doing. And while she may not be entirely comfortable there, she is profoundly moved by the plight of the poor. Shortly thereafter, while eating an $18 salad with her friends, she remarks that they (herself included) really have no idea how some people live just a few short miles from their own multi-million dollar homes. Immediately, the other three women assume that Leigh Anne is going to start some kind of fund-raiser to help the poor, as though this is the sort of thing she always does.

Opening one’s home to a stranger is exactly the sort of thing that someone with the charism of hospitality would do. Mrs. Tuohy – as well as the rest of the family – make Michael at home, and eventually Sean and Leigh Anne become Michael’s legal guardians.

The story is based on real events, and I found myself smiling throughout the entire movie. It shows the wonders God can do in the life of an individual through the help of others. In the case of Michael Oher, it wasn’t just the Tuohys, but the friend who took him to the Christian school and went to bat for him, the football coach who gave him a chance, and the teacher who cared enough to see his potential. It also shows that God’s grace can overcome even a horrific childhood, as Michael, in spite of the difficulties he faced, was able to avoid participating in the violence and drugs that seemed to surround him.

Fr. Bede enjoyed “The Blind Side,” too, so it gets two thumbs up from these Dominicans. So, too, do Mr. and Mrs. Tuohy, Michael Oher, and our common Father in heaven.

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