“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (RSV)
This film starring Rosalind Russell as the Reverend Mother and Hayley Mills as Mary Clancy is not a typical holiday feature, although there are two Christmas segments within it. Mary and her new found best friend, Rachel Devry, are new students at St. Francis Academy. They wreak havoc on the Reverend Mother and the nuns with their mischievous pranks from replacing bubble bath salts for sugar at the sisters table, to sneaking into their private quarters, to smoking in the cellar so that the fire department is called. Mary and Rachel’s escapades at this boarding school are tame by today’s standards, but provide good entertainment.
In the first Christmas scene Mary, Rachel and other girls go with the sisters to host a party at a home for the aged. As Mary serves cake, she overhears the residents speaking about their loneliness and needs and she feels their pain and sorrow. At her young age she comes to recognize her own mortality. We see that God is at work in the life of this rebellious young woman, who tells the Reverend Mother, “I hope I die young and very wealthy.”
In the second Christmas scene sometime later, Mary is captivated by the nuns who have gathered in their chapel for worship on Christmas Eve. They are singing Angels, We Have Heard on High as Mary looks on hiding behind a pillar. She is spotted by the Reverend Mother and their eyes meet briefly and Mary quickly retreats. God is continuing to work in the life of this rebellious young woman as we see that Mary is finding herself drawn to life within the novitiate.
From my childhood to the present I have liked this film because: 1) I have long had a huge crush on Hayley Mills and 2) Angels, We Have Heard on High is one of my favorite Christmas carols. More than that I see how God can take even mischievous and rebellious people and can work within them so that they do become faithful servants. I was mischievous growing up and my sense of call to the ministry was rekindled through my work in a nursing home and my involvement in the church, which perhaps explain why I can relate to this film. Consequently, I will view this film almost any time that I have the opportunity.
God of mystery, Your plans for our lives are not always known to us. We thank You that Your plans are always for our welfare and to give us a future and a hope. In Your time You reveal Your plans for us as You did for the Virgin Mary, who would become the mother of our Lord Jesus. Help us to humbly submit ourselves to Your will and to respond as did Mary saying, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Amen.