The movie version of the Twilight series is reaching its end. This month the second-to-last installment of the movie version was released to theaters. The movie shows the marriage of the heroine Bella, the human girl, to her great love, Edward Cullen, the vampire. Fiction, yeah, but interesting. The movie also shows the pregnancy of Bella and the dramatic problems that pregnancy brings.
The Twilight series is a moving love story, taking elements from human love and transposing them to a much more dramatic level.
Some critics claim that the story is totally unrealistic, and they are right, but the story does resonate with some of the deepest truths about human love. That is why it has done so well. We all have a deep sensitivity to the beauty of love.
Let’s take a look at some elements in the love story and see if these can help us understand some important things about human love.
Love and sacrifice
Human love is capable of making great sacrifices. When we are deeply in love with someone we only want the best for that person, even if it means sacrificing some of our dreams and desires.
Edward Cullen falls in love with the melancholic Bella. Yet he knows that such a love is impossible. His vampire instincts would make him want to kill her. So he runs from her. He knows that this is the best thing he can do is protect her from the evil part of his character. The only way to do that is to avoid contact with her.
Believing in goodness
Yet Bella is drawn to Edward. Is she drawn to his evil side? No. Absolutely not. She senses a goodness and nobleness deep inside him that she has never found in anyone else. Even though she is afraid of the dangers, she searches him out.
Love and self-mastery
The first book in the series shows us the struggle that Edward has in choosing to follow a romance with Bella. In spite of his fears and struggles he becomes capable of something he thought was impossible. He becomes capable of controlling his evil impulses around Bella.
Actually, he had already been working for years on controlling these impulses, but he never thought he could be this close to a human without harming her. The first book, and the whole series, is a beautiful story of love conquering dark instincts.
Love and defending the innocent
But the danger is not limited to the relationship between Bella and Edward. Bella finds herself immersed in world of constant danger, where bad vampires constantly seek to kill her. Edward and his clan are faced with a dilemma: Do they defend Bella by killing other vampires and causing even more conflict inside the vampire world? Or do they leave Bella to her fate?
They choose to defend Bella and their non-killing way of life even by having to fight with lethal force against other vampires who attack them. This is what happens throughout the Twilight series, and it comes to a climax in the last book.
Discovering the beauty of waiting
But the bigger moment happens in the last book. Bella is finally able to marry Edward. It is an incredible moment, when Bella finally understands the beauty of Edwards desire to do things in the right way: marrying formally and publicly before they consummate their love physically.
Of course, it is totally strange, a human being marrying a vampire, but it is fiction, not reality. Still, the deeper message comes across powerfully: love is even more beautiful and strong if it waits until love has matured through friendship and courtship, until it waits for the public and formal commitment of marriage.
God’s plan for marriage
As Catholics, we believe that marriage is a sacrament, that God is there to bless the union of the two spouses and help them in their journey of love. We believe that marriage is a beautiful expression of God’s love for us. In marriage, God entrusts someone he loves very much to us. He gives us a participation in his ecstatic love for that other person. Marriage is not easy, but it is one of the greatest ways to true happiness.
Joy and intimacy
The author of the Twilight books (Stephanie Meyers) passes over the details of the wedding night, only describing afterwards the bliss that Bella feels the next day. This is because some things are better kept as private and intimate between lovers.
But of course Hollywood loves to sell sex, so the movie will be more explicit than the book.
Sure it is normal to be curious about sex, but perhaps Hollywood is appealing to our curious side rather than our noble side in doing this.
Does that mean teenagers should not go to see the movie? Good luck stopping them. Still, it would be better if Hollywood had handled this in a more discreet way. That’s not easy to do, but it could be done.
Love and babies
Marriage and sex are for love. And a fruit of that love is often the miracle of another human life. Well, in this story Bella is human and Edward is a vampire. No baby, right? Wrong. (Hey, it’s fiction…) Bella, much to her surprise, becomes pregnant with Edward’s child.
Edward is horrified. Not because he does not want a child, but because he knows the pregnancy can kill Bella, and that if the pregnancy does not kill her, the evil vampires will once they know she has had a vampire child.
Yet Bella chooses the life of her child over her own. We see here the deepness of a woman’s love for the new life that marriage has sprung within her. Bella senses that there is a solution to the dilemma. She believes she can have the child.
But of course, it isn’t that simple. The development of the child does put her in danger because the baby is so physically strong. And the bad vampires begin a search for Bella and her baby.
Love conquers all
Yet in the fictional world that Stephanie Meyers has created there is a solution to that. Again, love conquers all. Edward turns Bella into a vampire at the very moment that the birth of her child sucks out her last breath.
And now Bella and Edward are now both vampires. And Bella is actually happy, very happy as a vampire, because she is with Edward forever and because she learns to be like Edward in his non-murderous lifestyle. (Isn’t fiction fun?) And they have a beautiful child.
But there’s a new danger: the bad vampires who want to kill the child and all those who defend the child. That will have to wait until the last movie…
Some final thoughts
Still, we can reflect on three interesting thoughts as we get ready for this movie.
One: marriage is a beautiful thing. It is worth waiting for.
Two: the new life that comes from sexual union between a man and woman (OK, in this case it is a woman and a vampire, but it’s a dramatization) is always a beautiful thing, even in the most terrible circumstances.
Three: Jacob (the “other boy”, well, werewolf really) who has a gigantic crush on Bella is really sad….
But he will “learn to live with it”… and he will find a new love…
More about that later.
“Set me as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm; For stern as death is love, relentless as the nether world is devotion.” (Song of Songs 8, 6)
“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her.” (Ephesians 5, 25)
“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” (Gen 2, 24)
“Then Isaac took Rebekah into his tent, and thus she became his wife. In his love for her Isaac found solace after the death of his mother Sarah. (Genesis 24, 67)
2360 In marriage the physical intimacy of the spouses becomes a sign and pledge of spiritual communion
2361 Sexuality… is not something simply biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such.
2361 Sexuality is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of the love by which a man and woman commit themselves totally to one another until death.
2366 …conjugal love naturally tends to be fruitful. A child…springs from the very heart of that mutual love, as its fruit and fulfillment.
“True(purified) eros tends to rise “in ecstasy” towards the Divine, to lead us beyond ourselves; yet for this very reason it calls for a path of ascent, renunciation, purification and healing.” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, no. 5)
“Agape expresses the experience of a love which involves a real discovery of the other, moving beyond the selfish character that prevailed earlier.” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, no. 6)
“Love is indeed “ecstasy”, not in the sense of a moment of intoxication, but rather as a journey, an ongoing exodus out of the closed inward-looking self towards its liberation through self-giving, and thus towards authentic self-discovery and indeed the discovery of God.” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, no. 6)
1. Do you think that the Twilight Saga has chastity and old-fashioned chivalry as one of the underlying themes? Why or why not?
2. Do you think that true romance is hard to find today? Do you think that courtship and waiting until marriage is possible today?
3. What sort of effects does our culture have on the search for happiness in romance? Can you name some pop culture figures, shows, or movies that encourage courtship and controlling yourself in your relationships with the opposite sex? Can you name some figures, shows, or movies that encourage the opposite?
Compare the Twilight Saga and True Blood (if your parents or teachers allow you to discuss this). What messages does True Blood have to say about romance and marriage compared to the Twilight Saga? What are some of the underlying messages in the True Blood series? Is there a message of hope or of terror?
Saints and heroes
Even more beautiful in death
Blessed Kateri Tekawitha
Entered heaven on April 17, 1680
Kateri was a girl who died at only 24 years old after a difficult but heroic life. Her death revealed, even physically, her interior beauty.
Kateri was born in what is today the town of Auriesville, in upstate New York. Her father was a Mohawk chief, and her mother (who had been taken prisoner after an inter-tribal battle) was an Algonquin Christian. When she was just five years old, Kateri’s parents and baby brother died in smallpox epidemic that decimated the tribe. She caught the disease, but survived, though it left her face scarred and her eyesight severely weakened. Her mother’s dying wish was that Kateri might some day be baptized.
Her uncle had adopted Kateri when he took over as chief and relocated the tribe across the Mohawk River. She was a hardworking girl, very productive. With the other women of the tribe she spent her days in the fields, or in the longhouse keeping the household in order, making baskets, doing beadwork and embroidery, and cooking. Her industry was exceeded only by her kindness and gentleness. Her Uncle was dissatisfied in only one thing: the girl had no desire to marry. He and the other relatives were determined to overcome this reluctance.
But God had other plans. When she was a teenager some French missionaries visited the village. The Chief extended them a proper but cold welcome. As she served the men of God, Kateri became fascinated by them. When she saw them at their prayers (notably their rosary) she was reminded of her mother, and her mothers dying wish. Eventually they set up a little chapel in the village and traveled through regularly. She was drawn to the faith, longed to visit the chapel and receive baptism… but her uncle forbade her; she wasn’t even permitted to speak to the missionaries.
One day when she was 19 Father Jacques de Lamberville stopped by her longhouse while the Chief was out. She immediately fell on her knees and asked to become a Christian. The priest was deeply impressed with her sincerity and piety. Somehow, he obtained permission from her guardian, and on Easter Sunday, 1676 the Mohawk maiden was baptized and given the name Kateri (Catherine).
Her devotion grew quickly, but her new-found faith caused other members of the tribe anger and she suffered verbal and physical abuse from them. The members of the tribe used to fling mud and sticks at her as she went to and from the chapel. They mocked her: “There goes the Christian…” On Sundays they would give her no food, since she refused to work on the Lord’s Day. Once a drunken warrior burst into the longhouse where she was working quietly with a club, threatening to beat her to death unless she denounced Christ. She answered, “You may take my life, but not my faith,” and bowed her head waiting for the fatal blow. But it never came. Her indomitable courage unnerved the assailant.
Eventually the abuse became unbearable (they tried to force her to marry, tricking and deceiving her) and she decided to flee to the nearest Catholic settlement, more than 200 miles away through the wilderness. Two missionaries accompanied her and guided her to her new home, where she would receive her first Holy Communion, be inspired to make a vow of virginity, serve the community through work, prayer, and penance, and spend her last months tormented by horrible sickness as her life ebbed away. Through it all her constant companion was the rosary.
She passed away with the following words on her lips: “Jesus, Mary, I love you!” She was only 24 years old.
Only a few minutes after her death, while the priest was still kneeling beside her in prayer, her scarred features were suddenly and quietly transformed into the radiant face of a beautiful young Indian woman. It was the first miracle wrought by God for his especially beloved Mohawk daughter, and it wouldn’t be the last.
A Tragic King
Blessed Charles of Austria
Entered heaven April 1, 1922
Charles of Austria was born in 1877 into the Von Hapsburg dynasty, a family that once ruled Europe. When he was born, that dynasty was falling apart, and he was not originally expected to be the heir to the throne. Other relatives had precedence. When circumstances did put him on the throne, the dynasty was practically finished, but the way Charles lived his life both before and after becoming the heir to the throne goes way beyond any struggle for political power. He was simply a man who tried to be a good Christian. And it showed.
His family was devoutly Catholic and he had received a strong education in the Catholic faith. During his youth he developed a very strong personal relationship with Christ, and this continued to give him strength throughout his life. He had a deep devotion to Holy Eucharist and to the sacred heart of Jesus. He turned to prayer before making any important decisions.
When he was a young man in his early twenties he fell deeply in love with a girl who was also a member of a noble family. Her name was Zita. She was Princess of Bourbon and Parma (areas of France and Italy). Charles was struck by her kindness and her beauty. Zita also fell deeply in love with him. They married and had eight children. Charles always gave his family priority over his political duties.
During his lifetime the long process away from the feudal system of government (kings and kingdoms) and towards democracy in Europe was finalized (The process had lasted hundreds of years). Charles was sent into exile by the new democracies once this happened.
Because of his political upbringing, Charles felt that he should continue to rule as emperor, but he recognized the rights of people to govern themselves once the reality became apparent.
During his very brief time as emperor of the Austro-Hungarian empire (about two years) he had worked very hard to for peace (World War I was happening) and prohibited the use of weapons of mass destruction (mustard gas) during wartime.
Throughout his life he dedicated himself to his faith and his family, and tried to use the influence he had to promote Christian principles in what he found to be confusing circumstances.
His love and devotion to his wife never weakened but seemed to grow as time went by. As he lay dying of a sickness that took his life while he was only 32, he declared to her: “I will love you forever.”
Many Christians have been inspired by his life. A miracle was officially attributed to his intercession in 2003 and he was officially declared blessed by Pope John Paul II in October 2004. In 2008 a second miracle was officially recognized. In 2009 the process for beatification of Zita was officially opened because of her exemplary life.