Saint Ignatius High School

A Love Story

Jim Brennan ’85 shares a poignant reflection on sacrificial love and the transformative power of selfless love, exploring the essence of Holy Week.
A Love Story

The year 1968 saw the release of an incredible number of memorable films: from Rosemary’s Baby to The Shoes of the Fisherman; from The Green Berets to Barbarella; from A Lion in Winter to The Night of the Living Dead. And I could go on. It was, in short, a pretty impressive year for Tinseltown. 

But one of the most memorable and moving films for me—even as a young man—was a lesser known one: Yours, Mine, and Ours. Based on the memoir Who Gets the Drumstick? by Helen North Beardsley, the movie traces the real-life union of Frank Beardsley and Helen North after each had been widowed.  It would be the inspiration for TV’s The Brady Bunch—except that the Beardsleys had 19 children…not a measly 6.

There is an especially powerful scene that will eventually make it into a montage I’ve envisioned for Sacraments class in which one of the daughters, Colleen, goes to her new dad seeking advice. Her boyfriend, Larry, is pressuring her into showing her “love” for him and she doesn’t know what to do.

The household is a chaotic wreck. The mother, Helen, got pregnant after the wedding and is in labor as Colleen approaches her dad. Rushing to take his wife to the hospital, he tells Colleen: 

"I've got a message for Larry! You tell him *this* is what it's all about. This is the real happening. If you want to know what love really is, take a look around you… Take a good look at your mother... It's giving life that counts. Until you're ready for it, all the rest is just a big fraud... Life isn't a love-in—it's the dishes, and the orthodontist, and the shoe repairman, and... ground round instead of roast beef. And I'll tell you something else: It isn't going to bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts!"

Of course that holds true for men as well. But the point is clear: love, real love, is about self-sacrifice. The movie Beardsleys, like the real-life ones, are Catholics. Like most Catholics, Frank and Helen got married at Mass—that place where we join with Jesus at His Last Supper and on Calvary. That place where He shows us the meaning of love.

A love until death.

This week we enter into that love story where Jesus gives life by giving Himself away: in the humble act of washing the feet of His disciples (Jn 13:1-15), in feeding them with His Body and Blood (Lk. 22:19-20), and in laying down His life for them—because, as He tells us, there is no greater love than that (Jn. 15:13).

This is the week where we see the even more real “happening.” On Holy Thursday we commemorate the Last Supper and Jesus’ washing of the feet: an act where He does the work of the humblest slave in a household and commands us to do the same.

Because no act of loving service is beneath a Christian.

On Good Friday, we meditate on Jesus’ suffering in being denied, betrayed, and abandoned by His best friends. We recall his physical anguish as He bore a degree of pain so great that it made its way into our language: “excruciating,” literally “from the cross.” And we remember that over all this, He was humiliated—mocked and hung literally naked on the cross.

Holy Week is, as is the whole of Salvation History, a love story. It is the story of self-sacrificial giving. This week we are reminded that life comes from love. And love often means suffering for our beloved.  Helen Beardsley, like mothers everywhere, gave her child life through her sufferings in labor. And she did it because she loved.

Because He loved, Jesus gave us eternal life through His sufferings on the cross.

Have a blessed Holy Week.

A.M.D.G. / B.V.M.H.