By Cliff Garvey
In 1976, MGM released Network, a movie about a television news anchor who is fired because of low ratings and erratic behavior. The movie won four Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Original Screenplay. Network is best remembered for one scene. Peter Finch plays Howard Beale, the aging anchorman about to be fired. Howard Beale is an angry man: angry at life, angry at the state of the union, angry at the world. Allowed on the air for one last time, Howard Beale goes on a live and nationally televised tirade that ends with him encouraging viewers to open their windows and shout: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Needless to say, Howard Beale lacks the peace that we read about in the lives of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi and so many other holy men and women. He lacks peace in his heart and the deep satisfaction that flows from deep within. He lacks the inner calm that makes us effective advocates for peace, justice, and solidarity in our long-suffering world. As a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit, we have learned that humility is the best way to make peace and argue a point. But Howard Beale shouts. He rants and raves. He brow beats. He lectures. And in the process, he makes little progress.
We also know that we are called to denounce injustice and that we should enter into a sincere dialogue with those who hold different views. We are called to charity, prudence, and firmness of principle. We know that we are called to virtuous living and a universal kinship, the realization that all people and all creatures are connected and depend on each other. And we know that we are called to be gentle in order to balance the hatred in our world. How can we answer this call and fulfill our mission as disciples and peacemakers when the world pushes us to behave more like Howard Beale than like Francis of Assisi? How can we live like Francis when the world pushes us into corners, onto different teams, and out of each other’s arms?
Pope Francis has a few ideas. Not long ago, he said: “This is a time of spiritual training and spiritual combat. We are called to face the evil one through prayer; and with God’s help, to overcome him in our daily lives. Unfortunately, we know that evil is at work all around us, wherever violence, rejection of our neighbors, closed mindedness, war, or injustice occur. All of these things are works of wickedness. All of these things are works of evil.” Pope Francis then said that we must find the courage to reject whatever leads us astray and choose instead whatever leads our hearts and minds back to God.
What leads us astray? Pope Francis is very clear about this. He points to brutality, exclusion, racism, rigidity, violence, and a lack of fraternal charity in our world. He points to the sad reality that we live during a time when the vices of anger, greed, and price seem to hold increasing sway over the virtues of faith, hope, and love. We live during a time when politicians argue like junkyard dogs; when faith leaders fail to speak out against injustice; when too many of our brothers and sisters turn their backs on people who live, look, love, sound, or think differently than we do. We still live during a time when a white police officer can kneel on the neck of a black man until he suffocates and dies. We still live during a time when a jobless person must wait in line, in the hot sun, for eight hours, just to file a claim for unemployment insurance. We still live during a time when it’s easier to buy an assault rifle than to buy medicine for a sick child or aging parent.
How can we confront these “works of wickedness?” We can pray — for ourselves, our friends and families, our hometowns and parishes, our country and our world. Prayer is never an empty exercise. It is a powerful force for goodness, healing, and reconciliation. Prayer changes hearts. Prayer changes minds. Prayer makes miracles. Members of the Assisi Project know this because we experience it in our own lives and in the lives of those we pray for each and every day. When we ask God to guide our thoughts, words, and actions, we can truly become instruments of peace, love, and mercy during these dark and troubled times.
We can be more discerning about who we listen to, what we buy, what we watch, where we go online, and how we obtain news and information. Just because someone claims to be Catholic or Christian or “orthodox” or “traditional” or “fair and balanced” doesn’t mean that their programming or reporting brings us closer to Christ, closer to the Church, or closer to each other. When Pope Francis talks about the works of wickedness in our world, he refers not just to actions or policies, but also to the false rumors, fake reporting, and scurrilous slurs that sow the seeds of anger, confusion, and doubt in our community, in our country, and in our church. During an age when the noises and voices in our lives are countless, we owe it to ourselves and to our children to be more vigilant in both prayer and discernment.
We can also respond by logging off, tuning out, and turning away from whoever and whatever leads us astray, away from God, and away from each other. We can reject whatever leads us to pride and anger; whatever hardens our hearts and closes our minds; and whatever feeds the fires of bigotry, hatred, and violence. We can also respond by living the Gospel, sharing God’s love, and rebuilding our church, our community, and our country into places where the Golden Rule is the foundation of all that we think, say, and do. We can support candidates and causes that protect our children, our grandparents, and our most vulnerable neighbors.
Finally, we can demand that the weapons of war not be used against civilians, against the poor, against those who march and work for justice. Perhaps such weapons can be used for national defense, but never ever to cause unspeakable suffering for families like yours and mine. As our faith journeys continue, may God help us confront the “works of wickedness” with hearts filled with courage, love, and peace. Many lives may depend on it. If you are as mad as hell, don’t take it anymore. Love God. Love others. Turn away from what leads you astray. Turn away from darkness. Turn toward light. Turn toward Jesus. Glory to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
About the Author & Presenter
Cliff Garvey is a co-founder of the Assisi Project. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Maine, Saint John Seminary College, and the Catholic University of America. Cliff is a spiritual director, retreat leader, writer, and university lecturer. He also serves as Associate Minister of the Catholic Community of Gloucester & Rockport in Massachusetts where his ministry focuses on adult faith formation.
Thank you for listening to the Assisi Project Podcast: Mad As Hell? This audio recording is produced by the Assisi Project, Inc. For more information about the Assisi Project and our ongoing programs and ministries for adults of all ages and backgrounds, please contact Cliff at email@example.com. Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved. May the Lord give you peace!
Founded in 2007, the Assisi Project is a Fellowship of Franciscans in Spirit with members, friends, and followers in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa. We are dedicated to helping Christian believers of all ages to more faithfully live the Gospel of Christ in the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare. The Assisi Project is a non-profit, tax exempt charitable organization. All are welcome to support our ministry via PayPal or smile.amazon.com; or by sending a donation to the Assisi Project, Post Office Box 3158, Gloucester, Massachusetts 01931-3158. For more information about the Assisi Project and our upcoming opportunities for formation, prayer, and pilgrimage, please contact Cliff Garvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. May the Lord give you peace!