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From Pope Francis’ heart

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 09, 2022 5:00 am

Once upon a time, New Year’s Eve meant getting dressed in a dazzling outfit, heading for the top of a hotel to drink champagne, dance and to kiss your date at midnight. Then you went for breakfast before heading home and sleeping all day. Now you are too old to go out of the house. You stay home in your pajamas and watch the fireworks from your window.

This past New Year’s Eve, I took Jessica Soho’s advice and watched Stories of a Generation as I waited for midnight. This is a documentary (on Netflix) worth watching. It is not your standard documentary that’s full of facts; it’s a beautiful series based on a book written by Pope Francis and his friends titled Sharing the Wisdom of Time

Here Pope Francis speaks of how he feels about life. The series divides into four titles, or chapters: Love, Dreams, Struggle, Work.

In a sense, it is annotated by Pope Francis himself. But “annotation,” according to Wikipedia, refers to “extra information associated with a particular point in a document or other piece of information. It can be a note that includes a comment or explanation. Annotations are sometimes presented in the margin of book pages.”

Here Pope Francis speaks of how he feels about life. The series divides into four titles, or chapters: Love, Dreams, Struggle, Work.

It opens with Pope Francis walking onto the set where a single chair for him waits. A woman asks him to test his voice on the mike. He smiles at the arrangement of cameras and equipment before him. “You could say there’s some noise that sounds like a sea breeze...” That statement tells you that this Pope is different from all the other popes you have known.

He has a way with words, a warm, wonderful sense of humor and a tremendously soft heart. For the first time I congratulated myself for my ability to understand Spanish. That’s the language the Pope speaks. Spanish is a beautiful, romantic language, to me better than German or French. This documentary features many languages translated into English subtitles so you understand everything.

I will write enough to arouse your curiosity but will leave out the beautiful events so that when you watch it you will appreciate the way people feel. You will see how they feel, conquer their fears and survive, sometimes after many years.

Someone asks Pope Francis, “What is love?” He replies with something like, “You’re asking me to reply to ‘What is air?’ When young couples ask me what is love I ask them – do you play with your kids? For me love is something like having the freedom to play.” That statement makes you think.

Martin Scorsese and his daughter Francesca in the Netflix series “Stories of a Generation With Pope Francis.”

Then they cut away to Martin Scorsese, whom we all know is a wonderful filmmaker. Here you see him in a different light.

He is 79 with three grownup daughters, one of whom interviews him. His wife Helen, who was beautiful when they married, is now sick but he loves her immensely. He admits to ignoring them a lot when he was young and making films but now he is spending much time and loving them very much.

From there they feature a 90-year-old woman who is the president of Argentina’s Grandmothers Looking for Their Grandchildren. She speaks of her daughters who were activists. One was assassinated in jail after she gave birth to a son and the son was taken away. She spent her life looking for the son, her first grandson.

Estela Barnes de Carlotto gives life to the movement of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, a group of indomitable elderly search for all the disappeared children. 

Then there’s Vito, an Italian, whose parents never kissed or caressed him so he did the same to his children. He was separated from his family but one night at sea he came across an accident. Illegal immigrants were drowning. He saved 47 of them and changed his life. They became his children. Fathers, the Pope says, are not always biological. They are men who give their whole selves to children.

A woman revisiting her ancestors' past, an 88-year-old skydiver and a pioneer in climate science share their perspectives.

From Virginia, in the US, there is a woman descended from slaves meeting with a descendant of the people who enslaved her great-grandparents. From Barcelona, there is an 88-year-old lady who skydives freestyle, almost dances a ballet in mid-air. From Costa Rica, there is a man whose wife of 57 years died and left him to care for their two autistic sons.

A 90-year-old shoemaker in Vietnam, a Nigerian artist and a celebrated chef in Jerusalem help to show the dignity and rewards of hard work.

From Vietnam there is an old shoemaker who says that for him the secret of good work is passion, creativity, the eyes to see and imagine designs, the hands to make them and the willpower to try and try again. I’m sorry to say this but that statement put into words why I make rosaries. You don’t know how hard I try to make and improve them over and over again.

In the end the Pope says, “Aging is like fine wine. You must get out of yourself and go beyond. Age with your minds but more importantly, with your hearts.”

I love this Pope so much. He is very human, always smiling, always talking very simply but very profoundly. I think maybe we have one thing in common. After all, the title of this column is “From My Heart”!