The National Catholic Review

Today, Oprah Winfrey signs off after 25 years on daytime television. It has been, by any estimation, an astonishing career. In episodes (4561), Emmys (48), guests (30,000 -- including at least one Jesuit), gifts given, books promoted, money made -- even in that most unusual of daytime television categories, spinoff programs, Oprah has soared not just head and shoulders but whole continents above her competition.  (For enough amazing Oprah statistics to begin to fill a Harper's Index, click here.)

As the press proceeds to dissect Oprah's legacy, may I offer one thought. Part of what made us love Oprha, even those of us like myself who only watched the occasional clip of her show, is that she seemed to see herself as trying to share the things that she loved. It's really no coincidence that she became known for giving things like cars or trips to Australia away; on so many levels, that was her M.O. She was the one that discovered fun or important things, uncovered amazing stories and people, and she wanted to share them with her 40 million plus closest friends. 

You and I, we don't have talk shows or pulpits of that size -- at least I don't.  (Your Holiness, if you're reading, never you mind.) And our spheres of friendship and influence are far smaller. But still, the example of Oprah reminds me that whatever the size of the worlds that we inhabit, that gifts that we have, the blessings that God gives us, really can touch other people's lives and make our world a better place. 

When I think of Oprah, that is my favorite thing. 

Jim McDermott, S.J.

Comments

JIM MCCREA | 5/26/2011 - 4:51pm
Further to Ken’s comment @ #7:
 “There are many people who the church has but God does not have; and there are many people who God has which the Church does not have.”
St. Augustine (paraphrased) ca 4th century


Carolyn Disco | 5/25/2011 - 8:50pm
Having just watched a good part of the last show, it was moving to hear Oprah's last words: ''To the greater glory of God.''

Earlier, practically quoting Scripture, she spoke of the importance of listening to that whispered inner voice  - of God - adding, ''be still.''

Her message essentially was to find that inner spark, the transcendent; and to affirm and validate others in our lives; to listen so they know they matter. She rejected the oft-heard idea that one is unworthy; simply being born makes one worthy to be.

She commented on the meaning of her 200 plus shows on the sexual abuse of children, particularly the recent one where 200 men who had been abused when young came forward publicly, and found acceptance to overcome the shame. 

Any clergy would do well to pay attention.
Vince Killoran | 5/26/2011 - 3:08pm
Some good stuff; way too much celebrating consumerism and celebrityhood.
KEN LOVASIK | 5/26/2011 - 9:06am
The great Jesuit theologian, Karl Rahner - whose thought contributed so much to the Second Vatican Council - coined the phrase ''Anonymous Christians'' in his theological reflection.  He, although simply reiterating the Church's consistent teaching that every human being who lives his/her life by their best lights (what they believe to be "the good") will be saved, reminds us that there are many in the world who do not bear the name 'Christian', but who, perhaps without even knowing it, belong to Christ and live as virtual - yet "anonymous" - members of His Body!96
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RUTH ANN PILNEY | 5/26/2011 - 7:28am
Yesterday I watched Oprah's final program.  I figured I would, since I had seen her first program.  Although I'm not a fan of hers, I acknowledge the good she does.

I was surprised at her personal testimony about Jesus and God-and prayer/meditation.  My impression was that she was sincere in what she said.  I especially liked her final words.  ''To God be the Glory.''  So, I put them on my Facebook status with an attribution to her.

I was surprised at the controversy that engendered among my FB friends, especially the Protestant fundamentalists.  Wow! Apparently they object because Oprah believes there is more than one path to salvation and Jesus isn't the only way.  Supposedly she once said something like that.  Isn't the Catholic view that Jesus' redemptive act opens up the possibility of salvation for all, even non Christians? 

Anonymous | 5/25/2011 - 1:06pm
David, that was a hilarious clip that put tears in my eyes; a must-see for Chris Rock fans. 

I didn't see the Oprah episode referenced (I haven't seen but a few minutes of any), but I've no doubt that the story is true.  The power of spin, persuasively delivered by a popular, trusted figure is a powerful thing.

Gerelyn Hollingsworth | 5/25/2011 - 1:00pm
My favorite thing about Oprah was that she was named for Orpah, the only person in Hebrew scriptures who returned to her own gods without being punished.

And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.

And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.