Can I Quote You?
“It was a dark and stormy night…” so begins my favorite childhood book, “A Wrinkle in Time.” My third-grade teacher read Madeleine L’Engle’s award-winning story to the class; I can clearly remember drawing scenes from the book as she read aloud. It sparked a love of science fiction and fantasy that remains to this day.
The book checks off my requirements for a good story: a strong protagonist who must defeat evil, a fantasy setting that sparks imagination and smart, thought-provoking themes sprinkled throughout the novel. Rereading the book as an adult has added layers to my understanding and enjoyment of the story.
Three guides lead Meg, the protagonist of the story, throughout her journey: Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Whatzit. Meg is fighting in a battle of good versus evil, and the 3 beings guard and protect her along the way - much like her guardian angels. Mrs. Who, a plump woman with magical spectacles, has always been my favorite of the three.
Mrs. Who finds it difficult to verbalize in her own words, so she speaks using the words of others, notably quoting Shakespeare, Pascal, Cervantes, Euripides and the Bible. In the film, actress Mindy Kaling charmingly adds a modern twist and delivers, in my opinion, some of the best lines of the movie.
It is fitting that the experience of going to see this in the cinema started my week. The themes of empowering youth and combining science and faith kept returning through a variety of sources. Perhaps experiencing the movie primed me for noticing the presence of powerful quotes that have appeared in a variety of formats in my world over the past few days.
I witnessed students participating in school walkouts, passing by banners that pronounced the words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, “Be a nuisance when it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics - but never give up.” This led me to learn more about the environmentalist, journalist and activist whose name is forever connected with Parkland, Fla., and, sadly, school shootings.
I saw memorials to Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest physicists of our time, with his brilliant and often witty take on the wonders of the universe. My favorite of his is simple yet poignant: "However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there's life, there is hope." Although Hawking publicly stated he did not believe in God, he was an esteemed member of the papal academy, named to the order by St. John Paul II for his important contributions to scientific progress.
Catholic News Service published several special pieces recently celebrating Pope Francis’ five years as pope. One article celebrated his “wonder and wit,” naming his most memorable quotes from his years in service. His messages to the youth of our Church relay his focus on reaching out to the peripheries: "I want you to make yourselves heard in your dioceses. I want the noise to go out. I want the church to go out onto the streets. I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves."
And of course, I had to reread “A Wrinkle in Time” after seeing the movie. The filmmakers omitted several of my favorite characters, and I needed to bring their memories fresh into my mind. I noted how, much like fellow author C. S. Lewis, L’Engle has written with an undercurrent of faith. She chooses Corinthians 1:27-29 to inspire the main character in a moment of weakness: “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”
I pray that we all continue to find our strengths, embrace our weaknesses and foster our talents. In the words of L’Engle, “We were sent here for something. And we know that all things work together for good them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”