Are you ready for the unexpected ending to our Philomena story from last week? If you need a little refresher, in my last post, I gave a synopsis of the movie “Philomena,” in which a young teenager (Philomena) gets pregnant from an illicit sexual encounter. Philomena’s father is so embarrassed by his daughter’s transgression, that he sends her to give birth at a nearby convent. Philomena, under the strict ruling of the nuns, has a difficult delivery, and then has her son (Anthony) taken away from her by adoption, never to see him again.
Philomena kept the secret about her son for fifty years, only to finally reveal it to her daughter, whom she had after getting married later in life. Philomena never stopped loving Anthony, and became desperate to find him. Philomena and her daughter teamed up with a news correspondent (Martin Sixsmith) in a search to find her son.
They soon found out that Anthony died of HIV, much to Philomena’s dismay. With this second tragic ending in the story of Philomena and her son, one would think it would all end there. But,no, Philomena decided she must find out if her son ever wondered about her, as she did him every single day of her life. Knowing this would somehow, hopefully, give Philomena some sort of closure on this whole heartrending situation.
At this point, the saga takes multiple twists and turns, but the search eventually leads Philomena and Martin right back to the convent where it all started. In the finale, we learn that Anthony did have strong memories of his adoption and his ties to Ireland. Before he died, Anthony made repeated attempts to find his birth mother, even to the point of returning to the convent to question the nuns about it. Just as they had stonewalled Philomena, the nuns refused to give up any information to Anthony about his mother. He died without ever reuniting with Philomena.
Through all this controversy, Martin was assembling the pieces to the puzzle. He realized that Anthony was searching for Philomena at the same time Philomena was searching for him. Knowing both of their whereabouts, the nuns lied to each of them thus preventing their reunion.
Even worse, when Anthony died, he was buried at the Rosacrea convent where he was born. The nuns kept this information from Philomena, too. In the movie’s final scenes, Martin and Philomena confront the nuns about their deception. The nuns showed absolutely no remorse for keeping Anthony and Philomena apart. Instead, they spewed vicious vitriol at Philomena saying that it was due penance for Philomena’s original sin. (Anyone feeling angry, yet?)
OK, it was at that point that I lost it. I wondered where was God’s love and forgiveness in all of this? Certainly it was not there in the hearts of the nuns who were supposed to be representatives of God. In fact, the nuns demonstrated the exact OPPOSITE of how God would have handled this situation, which would have been with love, compassion, mercy, and a reunion between mother and son.
One would think that there would be no way Philomena could ever forgive the cruel nuns for the treachery, loss, and heartbreak they had caused in her life. But, surprisingly, after all she had been through, we find that, at the end of the movie, somehow, forgiveness was still found in Philomena’s heart.
It was not so for Martin though, who, by the end of the journey, had grown to hate the actions of the nuns. Martin angrily demanded that Philomena display the same abhorrence for the nuns that he was feeling. Philomena responded with a great show of unconditional love for the nuns. “I can’t let myself be filled with hate, Martin. I choose to forgive. It’s just way too exhausting to hate,” she said.
Wow!!! I was completely astounded by Philomena’s capacity to forgive the nuns. I’m not sure that I could have done the same. But, Philomena showed such a powerful portrayal of God’s love that I felt it was important to take you along on her journey, to see that U Love is possible even in light of dire circumstances. I agree with Philomena. It is just way too exhausting to hate. Shall we learn to forgive like Philomena did and let unconditional love prevail? I hope so. There’s a lot here for us to think about.
See you next week. Please join our U Love chain here.