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Today was miserable. The weather was atrocious. I sat in and watched a film - Babette's Feast (1987) - a film that Pope Francis has referred to a number of times - it is even mentioned in an encyclical of his: Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love). He usually refers to it to make his case for a more merciful, loving and merciful Church.

He recently brought it up in response to questions about those who criticized his ecumenical endeavours. He compared the rigid behaviour of those opposed to his ecumenical outreach to the rigid townspeople portrayed in Babette’s Feast.

I assume most of my readers are familiar with the film but for those who are not, it focuses on a small Protestant village that has been led for many years by a very rigid pastor. The beliefs of the congregation are extremely “Puritan,” making the village into a drab, grey place where there is hardly any joy. The townspeople are so worried about following the many rules that they are afraid to indulge in any earthly pleasures.

After the pastor has died, his daughters are forced into leading the dwindling congregation. They had hoped to marry, but their father was staunchly against marriage and forbade any suitors from approaching his daughters. Then one day a French woman, Babette, comes to the village, and upends everything. While working as a housekeeper in the village, Babette discovers that she won a lottery back in Paris and instead of taking the money and returning home, she spends it all on one big “French feast.”
The townspeople were scandalized by the many colourful ingredients and are set on refusing to enjoy what she cooks. They believe the feast is a “satanic Sabbath” and firmly believe the food should not be enjoyed and could expose them to terrible sins. However, after sitting down and beginning to eat the many courses, they quickly discover it is harder to resist than they thought. They eventually can’t contain themselves and openly enjoy the feast and by the end of it, are eternally grateful to Babette for opening their eyes to the simple joys in life.

Pope Francis sees the feast as an example of true joy. He writes in Amoris Laetitia: “The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven". He says that it is a joy to bring delight to others, to see them enjoying themselves. Fraternal love, is not that of the vain and self-centred, but of lovers who delight in the good of those whom they love.


at first i didn't recognize it
but as you described the film - yes, i remember it now
i have seen it
the joy of the feast

do you know Chocolate by Joanne Harris?
It was also made into a film
but the film is very different from the book
both have lessons to teach

we may not be able to give delight often but maybe a smile will do
I've seen this film several times, though not very recently. But as I remember it, the whole purpose of the feast was to return love for love, a response to the refuge and affection she received when she was destitute, grieving and friendless. It was certainly a very provincial and isolated village, and the little congregation very sober and plain. But the two sisters seemed filled with gentleness and love and real devotion to their lifelong ministry, and I believe they learned that message of mercy and fellowship to some extent from their father. Am I remembering incorrectly?

It is lovely to see the dinner guests, all quite elderly at this point, filled with wonder and delight at each new course, after a lifetime of... well, not French food! But I always felt so bad for the turtle.
Yes, indeed. You sum it up very well. One generous act of caring and loving can have such an affect on a whole community. I'm sure the opposite is also true.
I've not seen the film but my sect could be perceived as 'puritan' in origin although we're anything but! :o)
It would be more of the Amish type sect in USA.
The Amish population, I understand, is growing so quickly that a new community is sprouting up every month!
Current numbers are topping 250,000. They seem to be able to socialize the young into the faith, which we can't do.

The Mennonites who built our library seem to be expanding successfully too.

The Amish are anything but puritan- just choose to be old fashioned in some ways.
the Amish are also know as Plain People and come in various degrees of strictness
they do not proselytize

the young grow up in Amish household but when they become teenagers they are given time - usually a year - to live "in the world" and experience how teenagers and young people live - then they can make a decision as to embracing the Amish way of life

for them it is so much more than christian belief - it means a completely different life style - even catholic religious orders do no require such changes from the way "the world" lives