Sr. Mary Lou Kownacki, osbby Mary Lou Kownacki, OSB
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

What is it about the musical Le Miserables? I always leave the theatre a sobbing basket case, yet inspired by the human spirit—its ability to transform soul-wrenching tragedy into raw beauty.

I’ve just seen it for the third time and am more overwhelmed by this one—presented by our local playhouse–than the previous two that I saw in Cleveland and Toronto.

It’s not just that the Erie Playhouse did such a tremendous job, one of only four community theatres in the United States licensed to stage the Tony-Award winning play. It’s more that the themes and the music and the story grow richer with time.

The musical, based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables, centers on ex-convict Jean Valjean who served 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread for a hungry child and his relentless pursuer Inspector Javert. A simple story line, made into great literature.

Tolstoy wrote, “The purpose of great literature is to reveal what is hidden and to illuminate what is in darkness.” Les Mis leads us through a dark human labyrinth of vengeance, self-righteousness, poverty, injustice, greed, and betrayal. Yet this powerful story, told through a haunting and lyrical musical score, illumines the darkness with a tiny flame, flickering but never extinguished, of love, hope, human kindness and unconditional forgiveness.

At its core Les Miserables is a testament to what constitutes a meaningful life captured in the song at the play’s conclusion: “To love another person is to touch the face of God.”…

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2 thoughts on “REFLECTION: Climbing to the light

  1. Amen, Mary Lou! I watch Les Mis every time it’s on PBS and feel the same overpowering emotion each time. (I also saw it on Broadway, but only once.) Even the movie trailer tapped that feeling. This is possibly the best musical ever composed. One of the recent times I watched it, it struck me even harder because I thought I was watching our own contemporary tragedy of poverty, injustice, and violence and longing for revolution and redemption being played out. Thank you for this reflection.

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