With a small procession down the vast and empty central nave of St. Peter's Basilica,…
New album serves as a reminder of the power of familial love and the call to help others heal
“The first thing that you’ll notice is some separation from each other. Yes, it’s a lie we’ve been believing since time immemorial. There was an apple, there was a snake, there was division. There was a split, there was a conflict in the fabric of life.”
Those are the opening words to a new song from Canadian-born singer Alanis Morissette. I confess I don’t recall having focused on any of her songs in the past. But recently she appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” with her band, all-familiar Zoom style. But it wasn’t the words that first caught my attention, as striking as they are. It was her young daughter becoming the star of the show, sitting on her mother’s lap. The song, “Ablaze,” is a song dedicated to her children about her vocation as a mother.
She sings to her son: “To my boy, all that energy so wild. All your hues and your blues in equal measure. Your comings and your goings-away. My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze.”
And then to her daughter: “To my girl, to your innocence and fire. When you reach out, I am here hell or high water. This nest is never going away. My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze.”
It’s all something quite beautiful in our popular culture. It seems especially appropriate at a time when we are all so clearly being invited to embrace what is most important, to push away anything that is not — that is not of God. To have nothing to do with anything that doesn’t contribute to radiating his light and love to the world.
And it was all made more striking when I listened to another one of her songs on her new album, “Such Pretty Forks in the Road,” and read some of her recent interviews. About the Me Too movement, she emphasizes that most women in the music industry have been “assaulted, harassed, raped.”
And the reality is: Some of Morissette’s songs are not typical OSV stuff. The album has explicit language, describing some raw, brutal experiences. She herself has been a victim — a survivor — of sexual abuse. If it hasn’t dawned on us yet, there are more people like her than we will ever know. They are family. They are friends. They are people who have never talked about it because they are ashamed, even though they didn’t do anything wrong. The abuse we have come to know about in our own Church — and it continues to trickle out, about past crimes — should be a mandate to us to be an open door of help and comfort to all those who have suffered, whomever and wherever they may be. This is not just about clerical sex abuse, it’s about a culture that the Church has been a part of.
If you can tolerate some use of the f-word and knowing she’s singing in her song called “Sandbox Love” about sexual abuse and life after, it’s worth listening to — or reading the words. Maybe you don’t have to, though; maybe you know it too well.
We keep hearing that the report on Theodore McCarrick may finally come out soon. It’s long overdue. At the same time, all that business about triggering has something to it. For all those who have been violated in the most intimate way — in a particular way when young, but everyone — there is a pain that remains, even when there is healing. We must be vigilant and sensitive.
Morissette’s album has some of the worst and best of our cultural reality. I’ll leave you with the best: “The first thing that you’ll notice is that everything is temporary. The next thing that you might notice is that we will always be a family. My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze.”
Whatever has happened to us in life, recall that St. Catherine of Siena quote about being who you were made to be to set the world ablaze. Let’s do it — and help one another do the same!
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.