All Diocesan Articles




It’s a Wonderful Life: How a 75-year-old Movie is the Gospel Transposed onto Celluloid

Posted on December 15, 2022 in: Reflections, ADVENT

It’s a Wonderful Life: How a 75-year-old Movie is the Gospel Transposed onto Celluloid

If you are one of the few people who have never seen this classic movie, be warned, there are some spoilers to follow. Hopefully, by the time you finish this article, you will want to pop some corn or roast some chestnuts and find an airing of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Be sure to share it with someone you love. If you are like me, you will want to have a box of tissues nearby. What can I say, I’m ok embracing my emotions.

Frank Capra, the Italian-born American director, called It’s a Wonderful Life the greatest film he had ever made: “A film to tell the wary, the disheartened and the disillusioned; the wino, the junkie, the prostitute; those behind prison walls and those behind Iron Curtains, that no man is a failure! To show those born slow of foot or slow of mind, those oldest sisters condemned to spinsterhood, and those oldest sons condemned to unschooled toil, that each man’s life touches so many other lives. And that if he isn’t around, it would leave an awful hole.”

It is easy to miss how Catholic this movie is, as there are no overt religious visuals in the movie. However, the themes are there.

Like many of us, Capra initially rejected his religious heritage. In his autobiography, The Name Above the Title, he wrote that in his early adulthood he was a “Christmas Catholic.” But in the mid-1930s, he underwent an artistic crisis. It was the scolding given him by an unidentified man that resulted in a conversion experience: “The talents you have, Mr. Capra, are not your own, not self-acquired. God gave you those talents; they are His gifts to you, to use for His purpose. And when you don’t use the gifts God blessed you with, you are an offense to God and to humanity.” Capra later developed this theme in It’s a Wonderful Life.

A view from the cross

Frank Capra described himself as “a Catholic in spirit; one who firmly believes that the anti-moral, the intellectual bigots and the mafias of ill-will may destroy religion, but they will never conquer the cross.”

When I first thought of the characteristics of a person who would appear on the pages of this magazine, George Bailey came to mind. I realize he is a fictional character, however, his consistent choices of self-sacrifice for the common good are present throughout his life. The words of Jesus from Mathew’s Gospel are cinematically depicted, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26)

And like Satan tempting Jesus in the desert, Henry F. Potter tempts George Bailey with everything he ever wanted: money, travel, fancy clothes for his wife and an important job. But you see, George’s soul was not for sale. Whether it was putting his own life at risk to save his brother from drowning, saving Mr. Gower from a life of ruin, giving his college money to his brother Harry, using his honeymoon money to help the townspeople or rejecting Mr. Potter’s offer of fame and fortune, George always took the selfless path. Without realizing it, George, through his many sacrifices for others, has spent his entire life imitating Christ.


God hears the cry of the poor

Jimmy Stewart, the actor who played George Bailey, explained why he became emotional in the prayer scene at Martini’s Bar — “God … God … dear Father in heaven … I’m at the end of my rope. Show me the way.” When he spoke those words, he “felt the loneliness of people who had nowhere to turn,” and his “eyes filled with tears.”

“I broke down sobbing,” he said. “This was not planned at all, but the power of that prayer, the realization that our Father in heaven is there to help the hopeless, had reduced me to tears.”

Every life is precious

Capra explained that his major goal was “to show … that each man’s life touches so many other lives.” Though in his isolation and desolation George Bailey didn’t know it, that’s exactly why the townspeople were at the very same moment praying for him.

Capra said, “My films must let every man, woman and child know that God loves them, and that I love them, and that peace and salvation become a reality only when we all learn to love each other.”

The Christmas Eve prayers of the Bedford Falls townspeople were answered. Sometimes a change of perspective is good. We, as humans, don’t have the whole picture. We have part of the jigsaw puzzle, but we don’t see the whole. However, God sees everything as it really is — including people’s hearts. 

In George’s case, he is given a gift, to see what the world would have been like had he never been born at all. This changed George’s skewed perspective. 

While his circumstances didn’t change from when he was on the bridge of despair to a couple hours later when he prayed those memorable words at the same location, “Clarence, help me! I want to live again. Help me to live again.” His perspective changed. 

George needed this gift because he didn’t fully understand that doing good works is empty without an understanding of the importance of such good works in the context of fullness of life. A life of service without contemplation can sometimes lead to resentment. 

My hope this Christmas season is that, like George Bailey, we are all able to see how precious and meaningful every person is in God’s plan. Especially ourselves.

Now please go make yourself a snack and watch It’s a Wonderful Life.

By Wayne Gignac

Most Viewed Articles of the Last 30 Days

Saint Patrick: "Christ Be With Me"

Posted on March 16, 2023 in: Reflections


Saint Patrick: "Christ Be With Me"
“Christ be with me, Christ within me” St. Patrick’s Breastplate The Church celebrates the feast day of Saint Patrick on March 17. The following prayer is attributed to Saint Patrick and has a personalized inspiration for all of us who reside in our diocese placed under his protection and reliant on his intercession.  “Christ be with me, Christ within me… Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Chri...

Read More


Bishop's Column: 'Lord, I Love You'

Posted on March 01, 2023 in: Reflections


Bishop's Column: 'Lord, I Love You'
Winter 2023 Four County Catholic 'Lord, I Love You' As we enter the season of Lent, we take on the 40-day journey as an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the Lord. It is a contemplative time of intense soul-searching. It is also an opportunity to think beyond ourselves. As Christians alive in our faith, we turn with love and compassion during this season of hope toward our brothers and sisters who most need our help. More than any other time of the year, Lent reminds us that love for one another is how love is ultimately defined at the cross...

Read More

With A Father's Heart: Celebrating the Feast of Saint Joseph
Ordinarily celebrated on March 19, the Feast of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be celebrated in dioceses in the US on March 20 because March 19 falls on a Sunday. As a diocese, let us continue to renew our devotion to the beloved, tender, accepting father Saint Joseph is to us (Patris Corde, 2020).  Click here to read Pope Francis' 2020 Apostolic Letter, "Patris Corde (With A Father's Heart)".  Click here to pray a Litany of Saint Joseph.  See below for a prayer to Saint Joseph. This Lent, give ...

Read More


Annual Catholic Appeal






Signup for Weekly Newsletter

    Recently Added Galleries
    Click to view album: Rite of Election
    Click to view album: Mass of Ordination  for Fr. Jacob Ramos
    Click to view album: Mass of Ordination for Father Lawrence Barile
    Click to view album: Palm Sunday
    Latest Articles
    With A Father's Heart: Celebrating the Feast of Saint Joseph
    St. Patrick's Day Lenten Dispensation
    An Unlikely Chaplain Evangelizing an Unlikely Team
    Saint Patrick: "Christ Be With Me"
    The True Sense of Life
    Why You Should Attend the Connecticut March for Life on March 22 in Hartford
    Celebrating 10 Years of Pope Francis
    Virtual Lenten Mission Recording: Witness and Wisdom

    Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich
    201 Broadway
    Norwich, CT 06360-4328
    Phone: 860-887-9294