Saturday, April 27, 2013

Christ Stopped at Eboli, by Carlo Levi

The book was recommended to me by my friend Lucio who immigrated to America from a village in the Abruzzo region of Italy, when he was 14.  He told me that there was a saying in Italian, "Are you a Christian or an animal." He wanted to find out the original meaning of the expression, and he said that it was explained in this book. As I read the book, I sent emails to Lucio with comments on the story.  I have cobbled together my email comments below.

In 1935, the author Carlo Levi was convicted of being opposed to fascism and was sentenced to live in exile in a village in the remote, underdeveloped region of Basilicata (Lucania) in Southern Italy. The book chronicles his first year in the village.  He wrote the book in 1943-44.


I just picked-up the book from my local library.

The intro which was written by Carlo Levi for the 2nd edition of the English translation is a tour-de-force, a powerful enticement to read the rest. Chapter 1 is just two pages long. After the first paragraph, the rest of the chapter is about the human/christian metaphor--and deep waters ("Are you a Christian or an animal?").

Coincidentally, a friend loaned me a copy of the Bible on CD, and I have been listening to it in my car.  I've almost finished the Pentateuch which includes the dictation of the Jewish law from God to Moses. At the end of chapter 1 of, Christ Stopped at Eboli, the Jewish Levy says, "Christ descended into the underground hell of Hebrew moral principle in order to break down its doors in time and to seal them up into eternity." Can Levy get any deeper?  

He then presents a rather stark juxtaposition, of Christ who descended even into hell, yet never came to Eboli.

I recall your saying that Levy is more authentically Christian than most Christians. That's beginning to sound like a monumental understatement.

Are all Italian writers like this?


In the literature of the Communion and Liberation Movement, regarding the good of the self, much of the literature uses the term, the "I."  We never talk like this in America, and I found the usage of the phrase the "I" to be a little strange.  But Levi uses the term in the introduction to the book. I suspect this may be more commonly used in Italian.

I also noted how, in 20th century Italy (1935), Levi uses the term peasants to describe the common people. 

Levi was arrested for his opposition to fascism at the time of the Abyssinian War.  He was a political prisoner! Although it appears that Italy treated its political prisoners very civilly, I can only imagine that it must have been absolutely humiliating.

4/27/2013  Chapter 3

It is 1935. The Abyssinian War with Ethiopia has just begun. 

A political prisoner, Levi is not treated like a murder or a rapist.  On the contrary, each of the gentry of the village want to meet him, as if he were an honored guest. They look upon him as one of their class and try to act as if they are up to his class.

Levi is very literary.  With a few sentences or a paragraph, he paints a vivid image of each character.
Every character tell him about the flaws, sordid history and gossip of everyone else in the town.
The few gentry consist of the 2 doctors, a lawyer, the mayor who doubles as a schoolteacher, and a penniless playboy. All are either incompetent and corrupt.  There are factions, and everyone hates somebody else.

In his characterizations, Levi reminds me of the American book Winesburg, Ohio, by Sherwood Anderson.

4/27/2013  Chapter 4

I should have mentioned that Levi is not at Eboli yet but some other village.

All of the gentry with the means left for Naples or Rome a long time ago. The adventurous, whether gentry or peasant, have gone to America.  Left behind are those who have nothing going for themselves.

This is exactly what has happened to the rural villages in Mexico, as a result of NAFTA.

Political corruption is almost the norm, and the gentry don't hesitate to carry out murderous vendettas.

4/28/2013  chapter 5

In Italy, if you were opposed to fascism, you were arrested. you were a political prisoner.
But the Italians were very humane. They just put you in handcuffs and brought you to a remote village. You couldn't go outside certain boundaries.

The crazy thing is, in the villages, all of the gentry want to meet him.  Levi is treated like a distinguished guest. Levi had been in a village named Grasano. Now he is in another village nearby.

Because Levi is a doctor and show compassion and concern, the peasants that have sick people in their family treat him like a saint.  One of the local doctors treats every disease and injury with quinine--no matter what the problem is. He laments that there are no other medicines available!  There was a pharmacist in the town but he died. Nevertheless, his daughters carry on running the pharmacy. The town figured that they could let them at least run the store until the inventory of drugs ran out.  Apparently the daughters don't or don;t know how to order more medicines.  So after the inventory runs out,  they just fill empty pill cases with whatever powder is around and sell it to people.  It seems that the towns people know this and don;t seem to mind!

In this new village, the priest is a whiskey priest.  He had been a seminary professor and an artist, but he molested a student, and the Bishop sent him to the village as a Penance. He is an alcoholic. 

The most outwardly and formally religious person around is a Baron whose job is to collect taxes. But when it comes to collecting taxes is a heartless bastard.  When the jig is up, he evicts them from their homes.

Levi is an outstanding writer.  He is excellent at characterizing someone in a few sentences or a paragraph.  So far, he has maintained an interior detachment from all of these characters.

Levi is well read in St. Augustine (and the Baron is impressed by that).

4/49/2013  chapter 6

Right now, Carlo Levi is in a town called Gagliano. Don Luigi Malone is responsible for the political prisoners. One other political prisoner was an officer of a fascist militia and also a communist. There is another political prisoner who is a mason and a communist.  Don Luigi told the mason that Darwin's ideas were contrary to the Catholic religion, that Catholicism and Fascism were one and the same. To talk about Darwinism amounted to anti-fascism. 

Don Luigo decreed that the two political prisoners were not allowed to see each other, despite the fact that they live across the street from each other. Both prisoners used to cook their meals together, to save money. But since the decree, each night, one of them cooks,  then brings a plate across the street, leaves it on a wall in front of the others house.  After he returns and goes back inside his own house.  The other guy comes out and brings the plate of food inside.

You can't make this stuff up.


What is very remarkable is the fact that Carlo Levi is Jewish is not an issue with anyone.  It is not mentioned by anyone.

5/2/13 Chapter 9

"The gentry were all Party members, even the few like Dr. Millilo who were dissenters. The Party stood for Power, as vested in the Government and the State, and they felt entitled to a share of it. For exactly the opposite reason none of the peasants were members; indeed, it was unlikely that they should belong to any political party whatever, should by chance another exist. They were not Fascists, just as they would never have been Conservatives or Socialists, or anything else. Such matters had nothing to do with them; they belonged to another world and they saw no sense in them. What had the peasants to do with Power, Government, and the State?" The State, whatever form it might take, meant 'the fellows in Rome.'  'Everyone knows,' they said, "that the fellows in Rome' don't want us to live like human beings. There are hailstones, landslides, droughts, malaria and ... the State. These are inescapable evils; such there always have been and always will be. They make us kill off our goats, they carry away our furniture, and now they're going to send us to the wars. Such is life!'"

5/2/13 Chapter 10

Carlo has become the town doctor in Gagliano. Though he had graduated from medical school in Turin, he had never practice before as a doctor.  But here in Gagliano, as well as Grasano before, the two local doctors are incompetent.  When the peasants flock to him. He doesn't want to be their doctor, and he has enormous anxiety. But also worry, care and concern for the sick. Amazingly, the peasants who come to him are healed. he seems to save one or two from death. He even does minor surgery. The trust and faith that the peasants have in him is awesome.  There is a barber in town who pulls teeth, does some medical procedures, and provides herbal medicines.  Carlo says that he is more competent than the 2 village doctors and asks him to be his assistant. 

Carlo's sister came from Turin for a visit.  She is a practicing Physician.  But on the way she stops at two or three villages/cities and she shops for a stethoscope to give to her brother as a gift (he doesn't have one).  None of the pharmacies or doctors in the poor towns have ever heard of a stethoscope!

She stopped in the twin of Matera which she had read had some sites to see.
In Matera she is shocked and overwhelmed by how poor the town is.  As per her description, the condition of the people, especially the children, is almost that of animals.  All of the people in southern Italy are plagued by Malaria.  It seems that every child in Matera has malaria. There is a very haunting, sad passage where Carlo's sister goes off to see the sites but is followed all the way by a gang of young children who do nothing but beg for quinine from her.

Chapter 12

"To the peasants everything has a double meaning. The cow-woman, the werewolf, the lion baron, and the goat-devil are only notorious and striking examples. People, trees, animals, even objects and words have a double life. Only reason, religion, and history have clear-cut meanings. But the feeling for life itself, for art, language, and love is complex, infinitely so. And in the peasant's world there is no room for reason, religion, and history. There is no room for religion, because to them everything participates in divinity, everything is actually, not merely symbolically, divine: Christ and the goat; the heavens above; and the beasts of the field below; everything is bound up in natural magic. Even the ceremonies of the church become pagan rites, celebrating the existence of inanimate things, which the peasants endow with a soul, and the innumerable earthy divinities of the village."


Italian Culture and Catholicism

In the literature of the Communion and Liberation Movement, there is much talk of the "I".  We do not talk this way in America.  That short phrase was always very foreign to me, so much so that for the longest time I didn't understand what they were talking about. I thought it must be some mysterious, specific concept or that there wa some subtly that I was missing.  But they were simply taking about the self.

In Carlo Levi's introduction to this second edition in English, he talks about his state of mind when in 1943 and 1944, he wrote the book. Part of what he says: "Who was the 'I,' concealed like the shoot beneath the tree bark, who was looking for the first time at those things that are elsewhere, and who wandered among those deserted fields, in the age-old stillness of the peasant world, under the unwinking eye of the she-goat?" With that I concluded that usage of the phrase, the "I," is of Italian origin.

This usage of the "I" not withstanding, from Levi, I am getting a sense that the Catholicism that I grew up with is heavily Roman/Italian in outlook and attitude.

In Lucania, the peasants are virtually pagans or pantheists, in the way they look at and understand nature and the divine. Their culture and beliefs are a mix of paganism and Catholic cultural customs, and they have no conflict about it. Whereas the Catholic intellectual thought is neo-platonic and dualistic with respect to reality, the peasants seem not to be. When I was a child, in formal religion classes, we were specifically taught to think against the peasant's ways of thinking. I sense that Fr. Giussani (CL founder) proposes a third way of thinking which is a Catholic humanism that yet would accept and understand and makes sense from the peasant's (or anyone's) experience [and I have gotten above my pay grade here].

Most incredibly and notable, Carlo Levi is a genius of humanism.


As a political prisoner, Levi is not allowed to go outside the boundaries of the village without permission. To do so, he must ask for permission in writing and that can take days, weeks, or even months. At one point, the powers that be decided that Levi is not allowed to practice medicine anymore. But the peasants understood and simply knocked on his door at night.

There was a man with a life threatening condition but who lived outside the village. When the peasants  sent for the doctor, he had to explain that he is not allowed to go there.  After arrangements were finally made for him to go, by the time he arrived, the man had died. This drove the peasants into a rage, not at Levi, but at the officials. They said to Levi, "We're dogs, and in Rome they want us to die like dogs. One Christian soul should take pity on us, and now they want to take him away. We'll burn the town hall and kill the mayor."

Shortly afterwards another said, "Just as long as Rome controls our local affairs and wields the power of life and death over us we shall go on like dumb animals."

Long ago the peasants had labelled Levy a Christian.

From this and other passages, I infer that the peasants are using the word Christian in the true sense of the word--meaning a person with a charitable heart. And by animal, they mean someone who is predatory or selfish whether it be with regard to material gain or power.

What an insightful juxtaposition that the peasants call the Jewish Levi a Christian!

Are you a Christian or an animal?


"To the peasants everything has a double meaning. The cow-woman, the werewolf, the lion baron, and the goat-devil are only notorious and striking examples. People, trees, animals, even objects and words have a double life. Only reason, religion, and history have clear-cut meanings. But the feeling for life itself, for art, language, and love is complex, infinitely so. And in the peasant's world there is no room for reason, religion, and history. There is no room for religion, because to them everything participates in divinity, everything is actually, not merely symbolically, divine: Christ and the goat; the heavens above; and the beasts of the field below; everything is bound up in natural magic. Even the ceremonies of the church become pagan rites, celebrating the existence of inanimate things, which the peasants endow with a soul, and the innumerable earthy divinities of the village."


In Christ Stopped at Eboli, the author Carlo Levi shows us the innate human dignity of all people. The Italian expression, "Are you a Christian or an animal?" is a recognition of human dignity. To the hearer, it is a challenge, an appeal to their better nature. It applies to whether you are acting, being treated, or treating others with human dignity. The most persistent and haunting image from the book is when Levi's sister, a practicing physician from Turin, visits the town of Matera as a tourist and is followed to a museum by a group of filthy, half-naked children, all with malaria, begging for quinine.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Through Peace to Light - Adelaide Anne Proctor

Today (20/10/13), while visiting my parents, I discovered that in the book my mother is currently reading, for a bookmark, she was using a transparent, plastic protector containing a small scrap of paper that had turned brown with age. The front of it read:

I do not ask my cross to understand,
   My way to see;
But that in darkness just to feel Thy hand
  And Follow Thee.

On the back was written in my mother's hand,  "Saint Joan of Arc / May 30, 1941." My mother said that it is the one prayer that always works. She explained that the prayer never fails to bring to awareness the presence of Jesus--making everything all right again (restoring faith and hope).

My mother is 81 years old, and she recalls that when she was about 10, she and some other girls visited a church, Saint Joan of Arc, in Jackson Heights (in Queens, New York City), and it was there that she found the prayer, tore it off from whatever paper it was on, and saved it. Since she not only saved it but wrote the date and location, it must have made a very strong imprint on my 10 year-old mother. Her own parish was Saint Bartholomew in Elmhurst (Queens also), and my mother recalls that the reason for the visit was that five of the churches in the area had organized a prayer pilgrimage that involved praying at all five churches. But my mother said that due to their age, she and the other girls only visited the one other church.

With a quick Google search, I discovered that the prayer is part of a poem that was written by an Englishwoman, Adelaide Anne Procter, (1825-1864).  I am not sure if the title of the poem is a reference to a particular line of scripture, but the body of the poem is based on Isaiah 40:28-31.

Per Pacem Ad Lucem

 I do not ask, O Lord, that life be
    A pleasant road;
 I do not ask that Thou wouldst take from me
    Aught of its load;

I do not ask that flowers should always spring
    Beneath my feet;
I know too well the poison and the sting
    Of things too sweet.

For one thing only, Lord, Dear Lord I plead,
    Lead me aright--
Though strength should falter, and though heart should bleed--
    Through Peace to Light.

I do not ask, O lord, that Thou shouldst shed
    Full Radiance here;
Give but a ray of peace, that I may tread
    Without a fear.

I do not ask my cross to understand,
    My way to see;
Better in darkness just to feel thy hand
    And follow Thee.

Joy is like restless day; but peace divine
    Like quiet night:
Lead me, O Lord,--till perfect Day shall shine
    Through Peace to Light.

Adelaide Anne Procter was the favorite poet of Queen Victoria.  She was the second most popular poet in England, after Alfred Lord Tennyson. She was a friend of Charles Dickens, who published many of her poems in the publications that he controlled, and he also wrote the introductions in some of the books that contained her poetry. She was very active in charitable works. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, "Miss Procter was of a charitable disposition: she visited the sick, befriended the destitute and home- less, taught the ignorant, and endeavored to raise up the fallen ones of her own sex. She was generous yet practical with the income derived from her works. In 1859 she served on a committee to consider fresh ways and means of providing employment for women; in 1861 she edited a miscellany, entitled "Victoria Regia", which had some of the leading litterateurs of the time as contributors and which was set up in type by women compositors; and in 1862 she published a slender volume of her own poems, "A Chaplet of Verses", mostly of a religious turn, for the benefit of the Providence Row night refuge for homeless women and children, which, as the first Catholic Refuge in the United Kingdom, had been opened on 7 October, 1860, and placed under the care of the Sisters of Mercy."

Incidentally, the book my mother was reading was Rediscovering Catholicism, by Matthew Kelly. At my brother Matthew's parish, they were giving the book out for free. He did not have time to read it, so he gave it to my mother.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Lowly but Chosen

Here are a few quotes from and about Pope Francis, the former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge  Mario Cardinal Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  He chose, "Lowly but Chosen," as his Papal motto.

Since I posted the below quotes, which I cobbled together from various sources, the Jesuit magazine America posted Quotes from Pope Francis. America Magazine.  March 13, 2013.  Their compilation of quotes is better. It shows more of the surrounding context and sounds more powerful.


As Archbishop, he gave up a palace for a small apartment, rode public transportation instead of a chauffeur-driven car and cooked his own meals.

Bergoglio regularly visited the slums that ring Argentina’s capital. He accused fellow church leaders of hypocrisy and forgetting that Jesus bathed lepers and ate with prostitutes.


“Jesus teaches us another way: Go out. Go out and share your testimony. Go out and interact with your brothers. Go out and share. Go out and ask. Become the Word in body as well as spirit,” Bergoglio told Argentina’s priests last year.

"Only someone who has encountered mercy, who has been caressed by the tenderness of mercy, is happy and comfortable with the Lord...The privileged locus of the encounter is the caress of the mercy of Jesus Christ on my sin."


"In front of this merciful embrace–and I continue along the lines of Giussani’s thought–we feel a real desire to respond, to change, to correspond; a new morality arises. We posit the ethical problem, an ethics which is born of the encounter, of this encounter which we have described up to now. Christian morality is not a titanic effort of the will, the effort of someone who decides to be consistent and succeeds, a solitary challenge in the face of the world. No. Christian morality is simply a response. It is the heartfelt response to a surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy (I shall return to this adjective). The surprising, unforeseeable, “unjust” mercy, using purely human criteria, of one who knows me, knows my betrayals and loves me just the same, appreciates me, embraces me, calls me again, hopes in me, and expects from me. This is why the Christian conception of morality is a revolution; it is not a never falling down but an always getting up again."

"In our ecclesiastical region there are priests who don't baptize the children of single mothers because they weren't conceived in the sanctity of marriage," Bergoglio told his priests. "These are today's hypocrites. Those who clericalize the Church. Those who separate the people of God from salvation. And this poor girl who, rather than returning the child to sender, had the courage to carry it into the world, must wander from parish to parish so that it's baptized!" 

"We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least. The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers."

The Church

"At the last feast of Saint Cayetano, during the sermon, Father Bergoglio told all those who were there in front of him: some of the hundreds of thousands of Argentineans who as every year packed the outlying neighborhood where the shrine stands to ask favors from the saint of bread and work or thank him for those received. “Let me ask you a question: is the Church is a place open only for the good?”; and all in chorus: “Nooo!”. The cardinal, in reply: “Is there room for the bad guys, too?”. And the others, still all together, “Yeeees!!!”. “Do people get thrown out because they’re bad? No, on the contrary, they’re welcomed with more affection. And who taught us that? Jesus taught us. Imagine, then, how patient the heart of God is with all of us”. 
"We have to avoid the spiritual sickness of a self-referential church," Bergoglio said recently. "It's true that when you get out into the street, as happens to every man and woman, there can be accidents. However, if the church remains closed in on itself, self-referential, it gets old. Between a church that suffers accidents in the street, and a church that's sick because it's self-referential, I have no doubts about preferring the former."

General Philosophy

"On the other hand, to interrogate oneself in the face of these signs, one needs an extremely human capacity, the first one we have as men and women: wonder, the capacity to be amazed, as Giussani calls it, in the last analysis, a child's heart. The beginning of every philosophy is wonder and only wonder leads to knowledge.
"Notice that moral and cultural degradation begin to arise when this capacity for wonder is weakened or cancelled or when it dies. The cultural opiate tends to cancel, weaken, or kill this capacity for wonder. Pope Luciani once said that the drama of contemporary Christianity lies in the fact that it puts categories and norms in the place of wonder. But wonder comes before all categories; it is what leads me to seek, to open myself up; it is what makes the answer - not verbal or conceptual answer - possible for me. If wonder opens me up as a question, the only response is the *encounter*, and only with the encounter is my thirst quenched. And with nothing else it is quenched more."  - A Generative Thought

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Who Will Be The Next Pope?

Who will be the next Pope? It will be Angelo Scola, the Archbishop of Milan--yes, that's right, you heard it here folks! With every Papal departure, the media vomits up all sorts of speculation over who the next Pope will be. They analyze the situation as if the Papacy were a worldly political position. They think in terms of who a secular American would like to see as Pope.

The talking heads are oblivious to the fact that the church is a global institution and that the church in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East faces entirely different problems than privileged Americans. Nevertheless, the media think that those areas are due for representation in the Papacy. But the church in Africa and Asia has been growing and doing just fine without one of their own as Pope, in contrast to the decline in America and Europe. I assure you, Catholics in Africa and Asia are not sitting around complaining about church teaching on artificial contraception, marriage, or the ordination of women.

Popes are not chosen on the basis of how well they have done in the areas where they came from, but on what they have done for the universal church. And today, the critical issues facing the universal church are the secularization of Europe and North America, as well as the challenge of Islam. Angelo Scola has in-depth knowledge and involvement in both areas, and Pope Benedict's appointment of Scola as Bishop of Milan can be interpreted as the positioning him as a possible successor.

The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI

A few people have asked me, what do I think of the Pope resigning? I think we live in interesting times. I can't wait to find out who the next Pope is. It will be very interesting having a Pope and a living former Pope. I hope Pope Benedict keeps writing while in retirement.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

The Biological Origins of Altruism: "Kin and Kind" , by Jonah Lehrer

The March 5, 2012 issue of the New Yorker Magazine has an overview of the research behind the biological explanation for altruism.

Key vocabulary words: fitness, inclusive fitness eusocial, haplodicity.

I can't help but contemplate the overlap of the the conclusion with what Christian thinking says about the relationship between an individual and the community, that is between individual rights and the common good--between freedom and responsibility. In American society we tend to stress individual rights solely while never mentioning the responsibilities that come with freedom.  

I also contemplate that while the research cited in the article talks of distinct families and groups competing with other distinct families and groups, the humanitarian and the Christian have always recognized the global family of man--that we all belong to the group/community that consists of all human kind.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Marshall McLuhan

I remember hearing much about Marshal McLuhan in my youth.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I Shall Not Hate -- Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish

I Shall Not Hate  - an interview from a Canadian T.V. Show

I find this man and his story to be extraordinary. He is someone who embodies what it means to be human and who refused to surrender his humanity to hatred after the killing of his daughters and niece by the Israeli military. The ability to forgive someone who has committed evil against loved ones is the most difficult thing for a person to do.

Dr. Abuelaish was born and raised, in poverty, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Israel. He is a Moslem. For me, as a Christian, it has been too easy for me to think of forgiveness as a virtue that only Christians preached or valued (while admitting that most Christians fail to live up to the standard). The fact that this man is a Moslem, that in the face of what happened to his family, that he has refused to hate, shows that the capacity for forgiveness and reconciliation is common to all people. Dr. Abuelaish has an extraordinary humanity.

The Amazon Website for Dr. Abueliash's Book About His Experience:
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journay on the Road to Peace and Dignity

Another Interview with Dr. Abuelaish:
Dr. Abuelaish's Website Dedicated to His Daughters:
Daughters for Life

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick, Abolitionist

Slavery was as common in pre-Christian Ireland as it was in the rest of the ancient world. Ireland was entirely agricultural, and it was a standard practice for families to have slaves. The man known to history as St. Patrick is known for evangelizing Ireland, but he is not usually thought of as an abolitionist. However, Patrick ministered equally to free and slave, was militant about the human dignity of all, and worked to emancipate slaves whenever possible.

Patrick was born in the early 400’s, in Britain, the son of a Roman official. Patrick’s father had an estate with many slaves, many of whom were probably Irish. When Patrick was 16, the family estate was raided by Irish pirates. Patrick and a number of the family slaves were seized and transported back to Ireland in bondage, where Patrick was sold as a slave to a wealthy farmer. He pastored sheep and spent much time alone, sleeping in the fields and forests, and praying a great deal. After six years, he escaped on a boat back to Britain and reunited with his astonished parents.

However, Patrick was on a mission. When he was a slave, had a deep Christian conversion.  He now sought ordination as a priest, and after many years of education, returned to Ireland. Preaching from farm to farm, Patrick knew that if he could convert the women, then the men in the family would follow. Moreover, as a former slave, he identified with and easily related with the slaves. Among his converts were the sons and daughters of Irish kings and the wealthy but also numerous slaves. Large numbers of women became Christians, including large numbers of women slaves. Under Patrick’s influence, many of these women, including many slave women, also took vows of perpetual virginity.

The life of a woman in Ireland was difficult, not too different than the life of a woman in Rome or Greece at the time. A woman always belonged to a man. They were daughters, wives, or slaves, and Irish law enforced male control over them. If a man had an attractive daughter, he could improve his status and wealth by requiring her to marry the right person. Kings and clans often settled disputes by providing girls as brides. When a woman chose to commit herself to virginity, it often meant a conflict with her family. While not casting doubt on the authenticity of their Christian faith, one reason why so many women chose to remain virgins was that it gave them enormous freedom in society. One pastoral problem that Patrick had to deal with was that female slaves, including Christian ones committed to virginity, were subject to rape and other forms of sexual abuse by their masters. But because they were slaves, pagan society did not consider it rape.

In his ministry, Patrick experienced enormous difficulties including threats, kidnapping, robbery, and other violence. In one abominable incident relating to slavery, Patrick had just baptized an entire clan over Easter. While walking home from the baptism, the clan was set upon by a slave raiding party from Britain, led by a king named Coroticus. They killed several of the clan and transported the rest back to Britain, still in their baptismal robes. Coroticus and his men would have kept the most beautiful women for their own use and sent the rest to the slave markets in Britain.  

Patrick sent a message to Coroticus diplomatically asking that the captives be returned to him, but he was laughed at.  In response, Patrick, using his full authority as a Bishop, wrote a long, rage filled letter known to history as the Letter to the Soldiers of Cororticus. Assaulting Coroticus with waves of scripture, Patrick denounced, shamed, and excommunicated him, while still urging that he repent by returning the captives. To bring maximum shame, Patrick sent the letter to all of the Christian leaders in Britain and distributed it throughout Ireland. It should be noted that most Britons were prepared to think of the Irish as subhuman and fit only for slavery. For that reason, in the beginning of his letter, Patrick stressed God’s love for the barbarians and pagans.

History does not record the response of Coroticus, but to the church leaders in Britain, it was considered outrageous that Patrick excommunicated someone who lived outside of his church jurisdiction, and they responded by accusing Patrick of corruption. They accused him of accepting church donations and using the money for himself.  Patrick responded with the impassioned letter known today as the Confession of St. Patrick. Besides refuting the charges of corruption, Patrick detailed his former life as a slave, his escape., and his life as the evangelist of Ireland. The two letters are the only surviving letters that are known for certain to have been written by Patrick. They comprise almost all that we know of him.

The above information was distilled from the book, St. Patrick of Ireland, by Philip Freeman. 2004. Simon and Schuster.  New York.

Stephen M. Bauer
Nomi Network

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Death of Sargent Shriver, age 95

R. Sargent Shriver, Peace Corps Leader, Dies at 95, by Robert T. Mcfadden. The New York Times. 1/18/2011

Sargent Shriver was of the generation of Catholics educated pre-Vatican II,  who were vigorous promoters of social justice.  Pre-dating the Religious Right, he was a political liberal who was also pro-life.  "Mr. Shriver was never elected to any national office. To political insiders, his calls for public service in the 1960s seemed quixotic at a time when America was caught up in a war in Vietnam, a cold war with the Soviet Union and civil rights struggles and urban riots at home. But when the fogs of war and chaos cleared years later, he was remembered by many as a last vestige of Kennedy-era idealism."

In 1955, in Chicago, he became president of the Catholic Interracial Council, which fought discrimination in housing and education.  In 1961, under JFK, he became the founding head of the Peace Corps.  Under LBJ, he headed the Office of Economic Opportunity, which created Head Start, the Job Corps, Volunteers in Service to America, the Community Action Program and Legal Services for the Poor.  Shriver was actively involved in the The Special Olympics, which was founded by his wife Eunice. In 1967, he founded the National Clearinghouse for Legal Services, now known as the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.  Sargent Shriver was the epitome of public service.

Luigi Giussani and the Communion and Liberation Movement

The most valuable thing that I am learning from the teaching of Luigi Giussani and my involvement in the Communion and Liberation movement is that I am learning to become human.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Deeper Understanding of What It Means to be Moral

"Morality is less a set of abstract principles or laws than a way of honoring a relationship." - Luigi Giussani."

"I am using the word ‘moral’ or ‘morality’ in its deepest, essential sense which is the position of a person in front of Being, that is, in front of life, in front of existence as origin, consistency, destiny—let’s say destiny, which encompasses everything.  It is not coherence with some rules, because this is moralism; morality is the position in front of Being. To have this sympathy in front of Being doesn’t require any special characteristic or energy of our will, something that makes one become a saint because he has this energy, while I, being a poor wretch, don’t have it. Morality is not this; it is not my capacity to be coherent with certain rules, but rather the position I have in front of the sun, my wife, the mountains, the gaze of Christ. Can anyone among us raise his hand and say that he is lacking something to be able to surrender to this gaze? Whatever the level of difficulty of the circumstance he is in at the moment, does he need some particular energy? He needs simply to surrender."

- Julian Carron. p. 35. Living is the Memory of Me. August 2010. La Thuile, Italy.  Assembly of Responsibles of Communion and Liberation. Trace (magazine).

In terms of understanding the above, one way in which I understand it is to say that to be fully moral is to be completely present with all of my humanity, before reality.  To me, being completely present means without defenses--being completely honest in relation to myself, as well as being completely vulnerable. To me, reality means life, existence, facts, our experiences, and encounters.  The above definition of morality is not based on rules but on respect for relationships.  To feel guilt over an act or a relationship is to be present before the memory of the act or relationship, with our humanity.  To become more moral in this sense, we must work to become more fully and completely human.

I should explain to readers who are either not Christians or fellow travelers of the Communion and Liberation movement that in reference to destiny, our ultimate destiny means union with Christ.  Furthermore, the more we follow Christ and attempt to live the gospel, the more human we become.  The fullness of humanity is to be found in Christ.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

International Development: Anti-poverty Programs that Work on a Large Scale

To Beat Back Poverty, Pay the Poor, by Tina Rosenberg.  The New York Times. January 3, 2011.

Brazil and Mexico have anti-poverty programs that are working on a large scale. Note the emphasis on "the girl effect" and building human capital (education). They found far greater success by giving the money to female heads of households than to male. And they also emphasize the building of human capital by requiring that children remain in school and also requiring that mothers get education in health and nutrition. It doesn't say much for us men, does it? And imagine if they did something equivalent in the U.S.!  The common denominator with what Nomi Network is trying to do is the empowerment of women.

Friday, December 31, 2010

New York City on the Cheap

From the New York Times, December 30, 2010: A New York City Weekend for $100

Of course the above article only scratches the surface. For cheap food, you can't beat Chinatown. And don't forget Brooklyn's Chinatown on Eighth Avenue in Brooklyn, which is even cheaper than Manhattan Chinatown.

Whether you know anything about art or not, I recommend walking around Soho or Tribeca on a Sunday afternoon. Many individual artists and galleries display their work on the sidewalks.  I have seen art on the sidewalk or in gallery windows that was amazing, and I don't use the word amazing lightly. And anyone interested in architecture will find an abundance of notable buildings to look at in Manhattan.

Just to relax, I recommend walking the river front promenade in the Battery Park City Area.  Visit the children's playground.  Look at the sculptures of the frogs and turtles and poetry inscriptions. Drop in on the Irish Hunger Memorial and the Holocaust Museum. Walk over to Ground Zero. Take a stroll to Park51. One thing that I have always wanted to do but never have, is to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you like to take photographs, there is no end of things to take pictures of. Definitely take in a ferry ride of some sort, preferably one that goes near the Statue of Liberty.  It is rather dramatic when seen close up from a boat.  But also, New York Harbor is beautiful when seen from a boat. It also yields one of the best views of the skyline.  If the weather is good, a walk in Central Park can be stimulating too.

Visit locations in NY that have been used as scenes/locations in movies or cited in works of literature.  Then of course, there is a laundry list of famous, old, or trendy saloons to wet your whistle afterwards.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas Present

When Jesus Comes, Everything Changes, An Advent Experience in Cairo

- about the zabaleen in Muqattam (Mokattam)-- the garbage pickers in Cairo's garbage city.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas Present

Of the nations of the world, Cambodia ranks among the poorest of the poor, most certainly among the poorest in spirit (Mt 5.3).  On December 26 on the Roman Catholic calender, we commemorate St. Stephen (Acts 6.1 - 7.60).  St. Stephen fed and clothed the widows and orphans of the first Christian community while witnessing to the Truth. For this he was stoned to death, becoming the first martyr of the church.  Below are two articles about contemporary Cambodia. As Christians and others in Cambodia feed, clothe, house, educate, heal, and free the captives, we also pray that the people who are responsible for their oppression will be redeemed.

An Excellent Account of Contemporary Cambodian history:  

The Beleaguered Cambodians, by Margo Picken, former head of the UN Office for Human Rights.  12/15/2010.

An Interview with Theary Seng, on the State of Contemporary Cambodian Society, 9/17/2010:

A Discussion with Theary Seng. Founder, Cambodian Center for Justice and Reconciliation and CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus

"In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, 'Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.'
"But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
"'He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.'
"But Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?'
"And the angel said to her in reply, 'The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.
"''And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.'
"Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her."  - Luke 1.26.38

Points to meditate on:

Mary was not yet married. Joseph was bethrothed to a girl who was pregnant with a child that was not his.  Under Jewish law, Mary was liable to be stoned to death.  Mary was most likely around 13 or 14 years old.

What message does this story have for society, about unwed, teenage mothers?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

An Appeal for Help for Victims of Sex Trafficking

I am a volunteer with a non-profit organization called Nomi Network that combats human trafficking.  We were formed in 2009 and are headquartered in N.Y.  Our major initiative is in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  We provide job training and jobs for women who have been rescued from sex trafficking, as well as for women who are at risk. The jobs are in the manufacture of women’s fashion accessories, mostly hand bags. The women that we employ (23 at this time) receive a living wage that includes family health insurance, child care services, and transportation if they work late. Each woman that we employ supports a family of four or five, on average—we are lifting entire families out of poverty.  We market the goods that they make in the U.S., in boutiques, fairs, and the Internet. All profits are re-invested in anti-trafficking efforts in Cambodia. The sale of the bags is critical to sustaining the enterprise. 

 I would like you to consider either making a donation to Nomi Network directly, or buying one or more of the products that we make, perhaps as a gift for someone. Our bags are marketed under the brand-name, Buy Her Bag Not Her Body.  The bags can be purchased on the Internet at

The website for Nomi Network is  
On that website, there is a button labeled, “Please Donate Now,”  as well as one labeled, “Pick Up Your Bag,” which will bring you to the Buy Her Bag Not Her Body website.

Nomi Network is a 501(3)(c) organization, and our IRS EIN # is 80-0290896  

Incidentally, next year, we will be starting an effort to provide scholarships for higher education for children who have been rescued from brothels.  If you would like to donate for that effort now, please indicate so on your donation.

Also, please direct your wives, girlfriends, and other family members to this initiative. And if anyone is interested in volunteering for the organization, please contact us.

If you would like to find out more about Nomi Network or sex trafficking in Cambodia, I invite you to look at our main website and explore our blog.

Stephen M. Bauer 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Religion, Relationship, Power, and Conformity

I liked this paragraph, from last night’s School of Community reading--“Living is the Memory of me,” Julian Carron, Aug. 2010, section 5, p. 39.
Here we can understand, as we heard yesterday from Marta, what influence the power has on us (it is peculiar that Giussani uses the same term Friedrich Nietzsche used: bourgeois religiosity). What effect has power on us? What influence? It atrophies our relationship with Christ, making it ineffective socially and in our personal lives. What brings us to this predicament is not persecution, but rather conformism. Nobody prohibits it, but nobody dares to live fully his religious dimension as the form for his entire life. We stay in society like everybody else. We detect the influence of power in the fact that we stop desiring to the extent that our humanity is capable, we reduce our desire for the infinite. It is not that we are not religious, that we do not make some particular religious gestures. Nietzsche never thought for a moment that religion had disappeared; when he was talking about God’s death, he was objecting to religion’s ability to move the person and open the mind, of making the “I” be reborn. So, we see that we belong to the power due to this reduction of the “I” that power achieves. We are content with a reduced way of being together, and often we don’t even have an inkling that something is missing, so much has the power assimilated us, reducing us.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Request for a show of Solidarity with Christians in Iraq

From: Maria Teresa Landi
Date: Thu, Nov 11, 2010 at 2:20 AM
Subject: Letters to the Christians in Baghdad

Dear friends,

As you all know, our Christian brothers and sisters in Baghdad have been suffering persecution for a long time, and today there was another attack, possibly from Al Qaeda, just 10 days after more than 50 Catholics were killed in a Church during Sunday Mass. They have been killed for their faith, martyrs of our time.

I kept thinking at their suffering, at their mysterious participation in the cross of Christ, and what this means for me and for the history of Iraq, the Middle East and the entire world. I thought to offer my work for them, to do it very seriously as my way to be present to them. And to pray for them, to ask the pastor of my Church to say a Mass for them, that they could be sustained in this difficult time and not feel alone in their struggle. That they could recognize Christ in these challenging circumstances.

Suddenly, I had an idea and this is why I am writing to you.  

In addition to pray for them, why don’t we all write letters to them, many, many letters as soon as possible, also from our kids, to tell them that we are with them, that even if we are far, we are One in Christ, we pray for them, and we thank them for their presence in that precious land and in our lives? We can witness to them the miracles we see in our lives, the path we are following, our certainty in the presence of Christ in any circumstance, so they could be sustained in their faith.  

It is a small gesture, like a drop in the ocean, but Christ can use it to make great things, because, as He said, when 2 or 3 are united in His name, He is in their midst. 

Olivetta spoke with the Nuncio at the UN, who was very happy for our initiative and offered his diplomatic pouch (direct mail) to reach the Nunciature in Iraq. He proposed to have all letters and messages sent to him by Tuesday night in a package and he will send the package to the Nunciature in Iraq on Wednesday morning. His pouch leaves every Wednesday at noon. In addition, he will send a copy to the Syrian Patriarch in Newark, New Jersey (many Catholics who were killed last Sunday belong to the Syrian rite).
I hope you can participate in this gesture or suggest other ways to be close to our friends in Iraq. Please, be free to write as many letters as you want and share these indications with friends who would like to write to the Christian families in Iraq to support them in their faith.

Thanks a lot!

As to the practical details, Olivetta Danese, the CL national secretary, offered to collect all letters and messages, put them into a package and hand carry it to the UN Nuncio.

If you choose to write a letter, put it in an envelope addressed to:
His Beatitude
Emmanuel Delli
Patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church, Baghdad
President of the Assembly of the Catholic Bishops in Iraq

Put this envelope within another envelope and address it to Olivetta Danese at:

10 Kraft Avenue
Bronxville, NY 10708

If you choose to send an email, please address it to His Beatitude Emmanuel Delli as above, and use the following email address:

Olivetta will print the messages and put them into enveloped directed to His Beatitue Delli.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beauty Will Save the World

"Like the rose under the gaze of eternity that withers day after day and in the evening is no longer as it was in the morning, what you seek most to grasp and hold tight in your hand has become undone, you haven't possessed it, you have destroyed it. In order not to destroy it, you need a rose you can hold by its stem, that you can look on in admiration, bathed in the morning dew and fed by the mysterious winds of the Mystery of Being." 

~ Luigi Giussani

Monday, October 04, 2010

Human Trafficking in New Jersey

New Jersey is Sordid Work in Crossroads of Human Trafficking

"Sex trafficking relies on customers who do not care if the person gyrating on stage or answering an online personal ad is coerced. Indeed, one crusader on the issue said the sex trade would not be able to operate without trafficking victims.

"'You can almost take that to the bank,' said Rep. Chris Smith, R-Mercer, sponsor of a landmark anti-trafficking law in 2000 and several subsequent updates. 'Based on the evidence, it is true, there are women who are commingled with women who might say they’re doing it on their own. And that’s everywhere. I hate it. It’s a commoditization, like a supply issue.'

"Myles said the 'staggering demand' from men for commercial sex far outweighs the number of women willingly working in the sex trade.

"''That demand drives a need for more trafficked women,' he said."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Theary C. Seng Talks About Poverty in Cambodia

Addressing a crowd in Rostok Germany:

Theary C. Seng came to the U.S. as a refugee from the Khmer Rouge when she was 9. She went to Georgetown U., then U. of Mich. for law school. and is a member of the bar in N.Y. State.

In 2004 she chose to return to Cambodia permanently to work justice for the survivors of the Khmer Rouge. She has posted things on sex trafficking.  She appears regularly in Ki-Media and the Phnom Penh Post. She is also a committed Christian.

A video profile of Theary C. Seng:

Some of her family history:

And another video:

Friday, October 01, 2010

Fighting Poverty in Cambodia: The Jesuit Mission at Battambang

Three Videos:
The Jesuit Mission's Arrupe Centre, Battambang, Cambodia

Personal Stories from people at the Arrupe Centre:

Background of the Arrupe Center:

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Fighting Poverty in the Rural Villages of Cambodia

Click on the title of the blog entry to view a video from CNN.
"Ponheary Ly has survived genocide, the murder of several family members -- including her father -- and life in poverty. Today, she's working to build a brighter future for the children of Cambodia -- by helping them go to school." ...
"Primary schools are free to attend in Cambodia, but not all children go. With most of the population living in rural areas, children often lack transportation to get to school -- and many families keep children home to help on the farm and earn money, said Ly.
"Those able to go often must pay a small fee -- around $20 a year -- to buy uniforms and supplies, and many families can't afford it.
"Cambodia is one of the poorest nations in the world, where about 40 percent of the population of 14.7 million live off less than $1.25 a day, according to World Bank.
"'They don't have enough to eat,' said Ly. 'How can they have the money to buy uniforms and supplies?'"

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Two Wolves

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.  He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil - It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good - It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:  "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Sunday, September 19, 2010

International Development, Nomi Network, and the 'Girl Effect'

Getting involved as a volunteer with Nomi Network has caused me to educate myself about international development. If you have not done so, I recommend reading the books, Three Cups of Tea, and its sequel, Stones into Schools, both by Greg Mortenson, as well as Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I also recommend a book called, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, by Rodney Stark. The latter has sections about the importance of human capital, especially the correlation between the literacy rates of a country and its level of economic development. Throughout the book, Stark makes historical observations about why certain countries and cultures became economically advanced and why others didn’t.

What I learned from the above books is that to improve a country in the long term, especially economically, it is necessary to improve the human capital, and the foundation of human capital is education. With regard to capitalism, for better or for worse, and despite its side effects, capitalism is the best system that we have for the economic betterment of people. The fundamental problem in the underdeveloped countries of the world has been that education has not been universally available.  Furthermore, the problem has been compounded by the fact that education has tended to be reserved for the boys.

The single best thing that can be done to improve an impoverished country like Cambodia that has had a history of female disenfranchisement is to go to the rural countryside, build schools, and educate the girls. In theory, education is available to everyone in Cambodia. But the reality is this. Half the schools in Cambodia do not have bathrooms for girls, and that causes a high dropout rate among girls.  When a family member is seriously ill or dying, it is a daughter that is required to stay home from school to care for them.  When parents become destitute, it is the daughter who is required to go out to work to help support the family.

The average wage in rural Cambodia is between one and two dollars a day. Cambodia requires that children wear uniforms in school. How is a parent that is making only $1.60 a day and who is not able to provide satisfactory food and health care to their children able to afford school uniforms? Transportation is another problem. In the rural areas, schools can be miles away from where the children live. Rightfully, parents will not let their youngest children walk such distances to school. And for older children, how can parents possibly afford a bicycle at $50.00?

So many of the non-profit charitable organizations that are doing international development have their offices in the capitals of the countries they are trying to help. They need to get out into the countryside, and work to improve life in the rural villages. That is where the majority of the people live, including the poorest.

When you educate boys in a rural village, they tend to leave and never return. When you educate girls, they tend to stay, which becomes a great resource for the village.  It makes all the difference. When they marry, girls become the mothers of the next generation of boys and girls.  If a girl can be educated even to just the fifth grade level, it has a significant, cascading social impact on the village, in health, sanitation, nutrition, and child-rearing.   International development experts call this, "the "girl effect."

A literate girl also means that when she is an adult, she can get a better paying job.  In addition, when girls receive a higher education, it leads them to postpone childbirth until after their education is complete. This causes them to have fewer children overall, a morally acceptable form of population control.

One of the major reasons that China has become an economic power is that decades ago, the government made a decision to educate girls.  In doing so, they doubled the available population of literate workers and citizens.  And similarly, decades ago in impoverished India, in the state of Kerala, the Kerala government made a conscious decision to educate the girls, and today, because of that decision, compared to India as a whole, Kerala is at a relatively advanced state of educational and economic development.

In Cambodia, and other countries that are underdeveloped, one of the ongoing social phenomena is the emigration of people from the countryside into the cities. This occurs because of the poverty in the countryside, and it has resulted in serious social problems in the cities. Among these are increased organized crime, street crimes, homelessness, human trafficking, prostitution, and the break-up of families.

Nomi Network is working with young adult women in Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia. We are providing job training and jobs for women who were rescued from brothels as well as for women who were at risk of being forced into the sex industry. The women are mostly illiterate but have education available to them if they want it. Due to various social and economic circumstances, these women cannot or do not want to return to their villages of origin. We pay the women a wage that is well above the average in Phnom Penh and provide them with other benefits as well. But the, "girl effect" still applies. Each woman that works for us is supporting, on average, a family of four or five people.

Education mitigates human trafficking in several ways. In a country like Cambodia, if a child is in school, it reduces the risk of them becoming a victim of sex or labor human trafficking.  And with females of working age, they only enter sex work when they are destitute and have no other options . Literacy makes other options available.

I don’t mean to overlook the boys. I am a boy myself. But it is the women who raise the boys. In countries like Asia and Africa, gender equality is seriously lacking--boys are greatly advantaged already.  In underdeveloped countries, an investment in girls education may have the greatest long term return on investment, in building a better society.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Characters in the Film, Doctor Zhivago (1965)

(1965)I have not read the book, but the characters in the film, Doctor Zhivago, represent the range of humanity.

The Czar and the ruling class only care about remaining in power.  The Bolsheviks only care about seizing power. The young Pasha—Pavel Pavlovich Antipov--is a revolutionary, a militant idealist, and a moralist. Originally, he hated the Bolsheviks.  He said that they do not know right from wrong. But later, he joins them.

Lara Antipova seems to be an ordinary Russian girl, someone who simply wants to love and be loved but has little control over her destiny. Victor Kamarovsky is a wealthy, well connected, but corrupt attorney.  To me, he is a mixed bag.  He represents the ordinary person, the Russian caught in the middle. Though greedy for himself, he is sympathetic to the revolutionaries. He is a fallen man, and guilty of the rape of Lara, but ultimately, he tries to redeem himself.

And then there is Doctor Yuri Zhivago himself, medical doctor and a poet.  He is the ideal man, someone in full possession of his own humanity.  

Yevgraf Zhivago, a general and Yuri’s half brother, seems to represent the reality of the new Soviet system. He is cold, tough, and impersonal.  He is all business yet still somewhat human.

For better or for worse, the character with whom I identify is Pasha Antipov.  Later in the film, he morphs into the fanatic Bolshevik extremist known as Strelnikov, who has denied practically his entire humanity, even his love for Lara, for the sake of the revolution.   But near the end, Pasha/Strelnikov fails to continue to be able to suppress his love for Lara.  It breaks  him, and he deserts his position to meet her.  He is caught on the way, but before they can put him before the firing squad, he commits suicide.