James Gandolfini: A Somewhat Different Take
The acclaimed actor James Gandolfini died suddenly of a heart attack, and the entertainment establishment was not slow in lavishing praise on James Gandolfini, the actor. Wonderful publicity, by the way, to have one’s tweet in the world press.
We Catholics, though, cannot, on such days, avoid reflecting on the caducity of life in general, and the destiny of Gandolfini’s immortal soul in particular.
The son of Italian immigrants of – says Wikipedia, for what is worth – devout Catholic faith, the probability that Gandolfini was not at least halfway instructed is very thin. Still, Gandolfini was – again, says Wikipedia – divorced and remarried, and unless he had things made by the book (say: first marriage annulled; Wikipedia doesn’t say, but that doesn’t mean much) I cannot but smell danger.
A heart attack is, if you ask me, not a bad way to die. One does not have the time to call a priest, but in many cases he will, one supposes, have a clear perception that the bus has reached its destination, and he must get out fast. I can’t imagine that this does not concentrate the mind wonderfully, and the effort of one’s Guardian Angel must be supreme in those moments. It is fair to say if those twenty or forty seconds were not sufficient, then a long additional life would not have been sufficient, either (which would lead me to write about Providence and Predestination, but it would be too long a digression).
One reads about Gandolfini’s death, and wonders. Did he recite the Hail Mary every day, at least when he was a child. Did he stop afterwards. Did he grow indifferent as honours and praise were lavished on him, and lost sight of what really counts in life. Did he – horribile dictu – in the end fail to achieve the only real aim in life, the only metre of failure and success, the all-deciding admission to Purgatory.
We hope he did make it, and I invite you to remind him today in your prayers. But please notice this little Catholic detail: that the world famous, rich, celebrated James Gandolfini appears, at first sight, to have been in far greater danger of damnation than his obscure, poor, simple, not educated, but devout parents.
A prayerful mother is a thing of heaven, and if it is true that Gandolfini’s parents were devout Catholics I smell here the sweet fragrance of endless prayers of a mother for the eternal welfare of her child. I like to imagine that even if the son was going astray, his earthly and his Heavenly mothers were helping him, silently, every day.
Let us hope that this motherly help succoured James Gandolfini in the hour of truth, and supplied every deficiency that he might have had; and that the same may happen for us, when the moment arrives; and let us reflect that in those solitary moments in a hotel room in a foreign country honours and prizes and wealth already counted for nothing, and the only currency accepted was prayer and, if needed, perfect contrition.
We have a mother in Heaven. Let us ask her for her help in those moments every day, lest we discover on our skin how little every earthly pleasure or achievement is worth in the end.