STROLLING FORGOTTEN PATHS

By William Markiewicz

Any self respecting writer wishes to know the maximum about his subject. And what if the subject is important enough not to be ignored and still remembered only fragmentally, like a remote dream? In Polish this is expressed in the saying: "in that church something rang". In this light I won't try to communicate my memories but rather my reactions to them. I treat a story I don't remember like conjunctive tissue that holds points to be remembered.

The first story concerns a Swiss movie whose title I don't remember which starts with a young priest or monk confessing himself to a priest. We know the whole story of the film through this confession. A Catholic Monastery needs some additional land and to obtain it they need to contact the landlady who has disappeared in some far away Ashram in India. They send the young monk (or priest) to find her. His seatmate on the plane is a young black woman. I don't remember their conversation, but at some point she steals his money and he becomes totally dependent on her. His confessor had asked him: "Why didn't you contact a church or a monastery; either of them would have helped you." He answers something about not losing time, and that she fascinated him. The older priest, connoisseur of the human soul, just looked at him and continued listening. One night (I don't remember at which place) she hears a strange noise and sees a light. Discretely she approaches and finds him in full liturgical robes, with a cross, performing a mass in solitude. It was grandiose, more impressive than the most illustrious procession. I saw, in the light of candles, a man talking to his God. In this solitude, I perceived the power of the Catholic Church, the power of Western Civilization. I remember the film mostly because of this moment. The girl draws back discreetly and later she learns from him that he is a priest or monk, and some interesting conversations take place. To her question, had he never doubted Godís existence, he answers: "Of course Iíve had my doubts; we're only human!" I don't remember in which circumstances they spent the night together and the monk/priest lost his chastity. The rest turned somehow theatrical; she confesses her theft to him, and she knows that she will die very soon from some hereditary disease coming from her motherís line, and asks him to burn her in this remote place, which he does. He succeeds in making indirect contact with the landlady and gets the permission he came for. On the way back home he encounters the priest to whom he confessed. The human and wise priest not only grants him absolution, but hospitality, and expresses his desire to confess himself to his visitor and guest. The old priest feels purified after being surrounded for too long by a tyrannical crowd of women who wanted to be "more papal then the pope." In sum, it was a happy ending story.

Like many seculars I like art and letters with spiritual content; itís like a breath of fresh air in the staleness of reality. My second movie is Israeli, with the title, I believe: "Love in the Mystical Apple Orchard" which certainly has a cabalistic connection. The story begins like an old fairy tale: Two friends decide that if one has a son and the other a daughter, they will be promised to each other. One friend soon dies in a traffic accident leaving a son. The other becomes a millionaire with a giant slaughterhouse in Jerusalem. He has a daughter and completely forgets about his pledge to his friend. He promises his daughter instead to the son of a prominent rabbi and is happy to enter the upper class through this marriage. Unexpectedly, he receives a visit from his friend's son who meets the daughter, and, of course, they fall in love. The father does all he can to separate them. The girl dies. The boy also dies; I donít remember the time or circumstances. A Dybouk (bad spirit) had entered the daughterís body and to chase it away a solemn ritual is performed by a powerful congregation. The souls of the young couple, represented by owls in Jewish tradition, fly towards heaven. The rich father gives away all his fortune for the liberation of his daughterís soul and spends the rest of his life studying Torah.

The film also gave me an opportunity to learn more about the Hassidim in Old Jerusalem, as the young man became their guest and perhaps future member. For me they represented the discipline of the Jesuits and the joy of the Franciscans. The Hassidim sing and dance.

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