30 Jun 2022

COLUMN: Fr Vincent Stapleton pens a letter to Denzel Washington

There is no doubt that when it comes to the greatest actor, my vote goes to you every time - Fr Vincent to Denzel Washington

COLUMN: Fr Vincent Stapleton pens a letter to Denzel Washington


Dear Denzel,
I have to confess that this letter is one hundred percent fan mail.

I wouldn’t dream of publicising my thoughts on the greatest current actress in a letter like this. However, there is no doubt that when it comes to the greatest actor, my vote goes to you every time.

Remember the Titans, released in the year 2000 when I was coming of age, was an incredible acting performance. What strikes me about you is the intensity and your uncanny ability to stir up the deepest human emotions. Since that time, I have followed your career with interest.

Ten academy award nominations and two Oscars speak for your gift. You have used your talent and fame to further many worthy causes.

Speaking of the Oscars, your little intervention in the Will Smith affair during the last Oscar ceremony was very telling. At a time of great tension, after Will Smith had lashed out, slapping the host Chris Rock in the face, you took him aside for a quiet word. It was probably a pivotal factor in Smiths prompt apology. Accepting his Oscar, he also accepted the gravity of his actions and apologized to Rock and those he had let down. He referenced your words – “At your highest moment, be careful. That’s when the Devil comes for you.”

There is great wisdom in those words. They echo the old saying that pride comes before a fall. In a sense you were a peacemaker and helped to calm the waters.

Too often in today’s world, people want to keep it stirring – for a headline and a splash. Whereas in prayer and discernment, our faith teaches us how to tell the difference between the spirits that move us.

The bible tells us that the bad spirit works through division and strife – fuelling envy and bitterness, impatience and resentment, gossip and factions. There is powerful energy at work in division and we can thrive from feeling important and powerful and on the right side, during such struggles. But this is like a serpent that devours its own tail. Our vision is narrowed, and everything becomes contentious.

The Spirit of God has a totally different approach and effect – through quietness and trust … with openness of heart … the good Spirit seeks to bring us together and to open a shared space for listening with humility and speaking honestly with respect. The fruits of the Spirit are patience and gentleness, peace and joy and ultimately love. It is clear that you are a man of substance and prayer.

Prayer is the key to the discernment of spirits. You once said – “Why do we close our eyes when we pray, cry, kiss, or dream? Because the most beautiful things in life are not seen … but felt by the heart.” Would that each of us could recover that silent space for prayer and contemplation which anchors the heart and allows us to rise above the conflicts that surround us.

Fr Vincent Stapleton is a curate in Thurles parish and Rector of St Joseph and St Brigid’s Church, Bóthar na Naomh.

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