You may or may not have seen the new Man of Steel movie wherein the parallels between Superman and Christ are quite unabashed. However, one similarity that seems to have gone unnoticed in the reviews is the “Holy Family dynamic” of Clark Kent and his parents.
As a family, The Kents are very much your middle American archetype, normal in every way save for the child literally sent to earth to save it (geese, be more blatantly Christ-like will you?). They have the usual growing pains as young Clark gradually discovers he is ‘different,’ enters puberty in time to discover his true identity, and then, as an adult, wrestles with his adopted father, Jonathan Kent (played by Kevin Costner) over what to do with his life (hmm, what profession meshes well with all of these super powers, eh?).
Not too ironically, Clark’s father, who wants his adopted son to keep his abilities a secret, perhaps as an example of humble justice and service himself, becomes the protagonist who shapes Clark’s final decision to “out” his identity and accept his vocation to help the world (St. Joseph, anyone?). But it is the presence of Superman’s mother in which we find notable Christ/Virgin Mary likenesses.
Superman’s mom (Diane Lane) appears throughout the film continuously offering consolation and encouragement. “Nice suit, son.” She says acceptingly after he re-emerges from consummate anonymity, never questioning his decision to start saving the world, (or the necessity of wearing a cape to do so.) We see her docility to her son’s decisions as a consistent aspect of her character, during Clark’s childhood especially when she comes to console him as he slowly acclimates to his abilities.
It is critical for us to know her if we are to understand Superman’s own compassion for the world he dedicates his life to saving. The closeness between mother and son is evident throughout the film and nothing ticks the guy in the blue off more than when some military general from space tries to mess with her.
Where am I going with this? Well, only this: we parents who are so concerned with being superman or superwoman are really getting it wrong. Really we are raising them and, as the dynamic of the Holy Family shows, and Man of Steel gets right, it’s not in trying to accomplish magnificent feats (though those are accomplished along the way, it seems) it’s in the selfless, sacrificial dynamic of the family.
In other words, the world may need Superman, but even Superman needs his mom. And his dad, for that matter. As did Christ.
And as did my own son who was a horrible mess the other night. It was the sight of my sick baby wearing his Superman pajamas as he battled through a stomach bug that inspired this column. For, though my husband was the hero that night as he dealt with cleaning him and the disaster on the bathroom floor up, who do you think the little guy asked for?
You know it: he called for his mama.
“I need to go to mommy.” “I want momma.” He chanted until my husband let him come sailing into bed with me (It’s a bird! it’s a plane!) where he stayed until the morning. I can only hope and pray that he and all of my children will continue to still seek out my consolation as their mother throughout their lives.
For what it’s worth to every mom out there – you may not feel like it but you are the hero for Superman and Supergirl and every other child in this world. And the family really is the place where virtue is cultivated. I will let our beautiful Catechism sum up for me as I sign off to go tend to my superheroes (and does anyone know of a good pattern for a cape out there? If so please leave in the comment box!):
The Christian family is a communion of persons, a sign and image of the communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In the procreation and education of children it reflects the Father’s work of creation. It is called to partake of the prayer and sacrifice of Christ.
#2205 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
Copyright 2013 Marissa Nichols