356: Our Readers Tell Us About … Four Brave Chaplains, John Updike — and “The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love”

Thank you, readers! You’ve filled our mailbags with fascinating and timely messages, so let’s jump right in … (AND, please send us your thoughts today in an Email).


We sent out a short news item in our Monday-morning Planner that said:
    HERE’S A FASCINATING MEMORIAL that’s not widely observed, but a recent book by Random House, “No Greater Glory,” may be increasing the awareness of this coming Sunday February 1 as Four Chaplains Sunday.
(It’s the closest Sunday to the tragedy on Feb. 3, 1943.) The inspiring
WWII-era story is timely once again: Four clergy on a sinking U.S.
ship, two Protestant, one Catholic and one Jewish, assisted other men
whose lives were saved — but ran out of life-jackets and time
themselves. All four perished. They are honored in a stained glass
window at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

    This news item prompted a number of readers, this week, to tell us about inspiration they’ve found in stories like the account of the four chaplains. Some readers are old enough that they recall the actual events. Others know the four only from reading about their timeless story.
    Here’s a note from journalist Tim Moran — who wasn’t alive in WWII, but who nevertheless understands the spiritual power of remembering such true stories:

    Thanks for
the Four Chaplains link in today’s Planner. I’d seen the window at the
National Cathedral, but didn’t know the Dorchester story behind it.

    It reminded me of a
WWII chaplain I met when I was staff to the Peacemaking Committee of our
Presbytery. I wound up worked alongside an elderly minister named Bill Ferry,
who had been a chaplain during the Normandy invasion. Bill was on a troop
transport going in on the second day of the invasion that either was torpedoed
or hit a mine; I remember him telling me that he had been at the rail talking
with a number of soldiers, then had turned and moved away for some
insignificant reason. When the explosion hit the ship, a large and heavy
searchlight was torn loose, fell to the deck and wiped out all the
young men he had just been speaking with. Bill was a wonderful man, and one of
those people committed to peacemaking not as some form of exciting movement
they could join, but simply because he had seen the realities and knew the
value of — and the promise of — peace at many levels.

    Thank you, Tim! AND, if you’d like to receive our Monday-morning Planner to start your week — simply send us an email and say “Subscribe.” (The Planner comes on Monday mornings and looks at the week ahead in spiritual themes, seasons and media. It’s free. You can cancel it at any time.)


pdike taught me from an early age that human hearts and minds — and words — were more mysterious than I had ever thought possible. I grew up in a parsonage where my father fully embraced the spiritual reflections that could be discerned from the entire breadth of the world’s voices. My father didn’t agree with all those voices — but he taught me that we must encounter the full range of humanity.
    So, I grew up surrounded by bookshelves jammed with writers like John Updike — while Updike was still producing “new” books. I still recall when a “new” Updike hardback would appear, always a memorable occasion.
    As a teenager, I could scarcely hope to understand Updike — but Updike pointed me, again and again, to the larger mystery possible in human hearts and minds and spirits. If nothing else, he showed us the wondrous complexity of each human life.
    At first, I thought I was having a personal moment of reflection on Updike’s passing this week. Then, readers began spontaneously sending me reflections on his life and legacy.

ROBERT H. CRILLEY, a retired pastor, wrote from his perspective of reading Updike over many years, including Updike’s very first novel. Crilley’s reflections include these lines:

    Updike talks about the importance of wisdom coming with living: “In our age we don’t
believe in the wisdom of the ages. In a way we are all failed youths.
We don’t have a village wise man.” …
    For example: Updike’s powers of description helped me learn how to see — and not
only to see but  appreciate what I was seeing and to think about it,
and ponder it — often a long time afterwards.

    CLICK HERE to read Robert H. Crilley’s full reflection, which includes some fascinating favorite quotes from Updike.

MARY LIEPOLD of Peace X Peace, a group that has been partnering with us on Interfaith Heroes Month, moved this week from writing about interreligious heroes to jotting down her own reflections on the passing of this literary hero, John Updike. Mary’s note to us includes this example:

    Certain of John Updike’s lines have stayed with me for decades, like one about a man who tried to drown his sorrows in drink. “He awoke from the anesthesia to find that the operation had not been performed.”

    CLICK HERE to read Mary Liepold’s full reflection, which includes her thoughts on Updike’s occasional attempts to move far afield from his own life to inhabit the lives of others.

CATCH “The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love”

irst, it’s well worth heading to a movie theater at some point this weekend. Many of our readers are dropping us notes recommending good films. Dr. Benjamin Pratt, creator of the James Bond Bible Study, shot us a quick note highly recommending, “Doubt,” if you haven’t seen it already.
    We already recommended “Gran Torino.” While we haven’t written about “Benjamin Button,” we can highly recommend that film as well.
    If you’ve been following our stories on the Holocaust and emerging issues related to that sad chapter of history, you may want to go see, “Defiance,” before it leaves theaters.

    BUT — you can curl up at home as well, especially if you care to make it a TV “date” with your spouse of significant other. Our advice is: Watch “The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love.”
    “The Note,” which is now available on DVD, ranks among the Hallmark Channel’s most popular movies. Yes, you could call it a “Chick Flick,” but from my perspective as Editor of ReadTheSpirit — it’s a newspaper drama and I’m a sucker for newspaper dramas.
    In the first film, “The Note,” Genie Francis (of “General Hospital” fame and many other roles) plays a newspaper columnist who tries to track down the story behind a mysterious note she discovers. I have to admit, this is every newspaper writer’s dream — latching onto a story so good that the whole country begins to pay attention. I won’t spoil “The Note” by telling much more.
    In “The Note II: Taking a Chance on Love,” which debuts at 9 p.m. Eastern and 8 p.m. Central on Saturday, Genie’s newspaper columnist is digging this time into the mysterious Vietnam-War-era love story that surfaces from one of her readers. She’s also got a complicated tangle of personal commitments to sort out in her own life. Things are going well with her daughter, but her boyfriend may leave for a job at the New York Times.

    After 30 years as an editor and writer at top U.S. newspapers myself, I simply love newsroom dramas. I still enjoy Clark Gable and Doris Day in “Teacher’s Pet,” watching a hard-bitten editor learn a few things from a night-school
teacher — and I’m always eager to watch Jimmy Stewart track down
the truth in “Call Northside 777,” despite nearly insurmountable odds.

    Yes, this new Hallmark movie is a made-for-TV Chick Flick at the heart of it — but there are elements in this drama that do ring true to this newsroom veteran. Couples really do have to make hard career choices as Genie and her boyfriend do in this movie — and as millions of other Americans do as well these days. Frankly, it’s worth making a “date” with someone you love to see this TV movie — and it’s a whole lot cheaper and warmer than venturing out to the cineplex.

AND PLEASE, Tell Us What You Think.
    This is a good time to sign up for our Monday-morning ReadTheSpirit Planner by Emailit’s
free and you can cancel it any time you’d like to do so. The Planner
goes out each week to readers who want more of an “inside track” on
what we’re seeing on the horizon, plus it’s got a popular “holidays”

    Not only do we welcome your notes, ideas, suggestions and personal
reflections—but our readers enjoy them as well. You can do this
anytime by clicking on the “Comment” links at the end of each story.
You also can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm. We’re also reachable on Facebook, Digg, Amazon, GoodReads and some of
the other social-networking sites as well, if you’re part of those
    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email