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Movie Parables: The Thorn Birds

Updated on December 20, 2009

Driven to the Cross We Sing to the LORD a New Song

The Thorn Birds is the second most-watched miniseries in television history. This multi-Emmy award winning film epic was set in Drogheda, a sheep station located in the Australian outback between the years 1915 and 1969. At the heart of this sweeping love story is the ill-fated romance of beautiful Meggie Cleary and the handsome Roman Catholic priest, Father Ralph de Bricassart. Throughout this grand saga, Father Ralph is engaged in a constant struggle between his holy calling and his carnal desires. Forced to choose between his undying love for a woman and the church he is sworn to, his ambitions win. He stays with the church only to advance within the hierarchy and become a Cardinal in Rome. What Father Ralph fails to realize is that Meggie’s son Dane, who is likewise drawn to the priesthood, is his son. Meggie conceals the truth until after Dane’s tragic death.

In the heart-rending final scene, we find Father Ralph and Meggie in their old age, reunited at the funeral of her only son. After learning the truth of fathering the son of Meggie, Father Ralph is left stunned and stricken with grief. At the family cemetery, Father Ralph is seated and suffering from a weakened heart as Meggie is kneeling before him. Together they reflect back on the unforgettable tale of a mythical bird that searches for thorn trees from the day it is hatched. From birth, its entire life is committed to sing but one beautiful song.

Father Ralph tells Meggie, “Long ago I told you about a legend, about a bird that sings only when it dies.” Meggie replies, “The bird with a thorn on its breast. It pays with its life for one song and the whole world stills to listen and God in his heaven smiles.” Father Ralph continues, “Driven to the thorn with no knowledge of the dying to come but we press the thorn to our breasts. We know, we understand, and still we do it…still we do it.”

Throughout the scriptures, the desire to please God was often accompanied by great personal costs. Commitment doesn’t come without a costly price. When we choose for certain things we choose against others. In the film, Father Ralph and Meggie paid dearly for love by pressing themselves against the thorn of a doomed relationship.

In today’s climate of ease and self-gratification we find many who don’t have what it takes to work at a lasting alliance, to hang tough with a difficult marriage relationship for better or for worse, or to stick with a group and go this distance. There’s always another group, another person, another cause where the problems won’t be so draining and the cost so high.

Job suffered loss and pain but remained committed, Abraham gave up his country and family, Joseph gave up fleshly pleasures and personal revenge, Moses gave up a royal life and Egyptian ease, and Hannah, true to her vow, gave her son Samuel back to God’s service. Because of his devotion to God, David denied himself the pleasure of getting even with Saul. Paul experienced loss, beatings, being shipwrecked, poverty, and hunger. These men pressed ahead in their love for the LORD with no knowledge of the selfless dying to come. Without the complete understanding of God’s ways, their love for him compelled them to do it.

Wasn’t it Jesus who said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Lk 9:23-25). When we carry our cross to follow Christ we pay dearly. We forsake all our worldly dreams and ambitions for the single purpose of dying to self and resurrecting into the newness of life made possible by the Savior. Driven to the cross we sing to the LORD a new song as the whole world stills to listen and God in his heaven smiles.

The Thorn Birds (David Wolper-Stan Margulies Productions, 1983) written by Lee Stanley (based on the novel by Colleen McCullough) directed by Daryl Duke.

© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.

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    • Gicky Soriano profile image

      Gicky Soriano 6 years ago from California


      It's a beautiful story tied together in torn relationships. No doubt it's worth visiting Drogheda time and again. And thank you for visiting this hub and leaving an encouraging note. Blessings.

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 6 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      I wanted to write a hub bout "The Thorn Birds". The book by Colleen McCullough was actually my first encounter with this story. I read the book about three years before they made movie about it. My family and I watch it again and again because the relationships in the story touch our hearts so. As I have gotten older, I see the correlation between the Biblical relationships with God and the characters in the story. Thank you for your excellent review.

    • profile image

      James 6 years ago

      The choir in the Thornbirds was the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir from Hollywood. I was fortunate to be a member from 1982 until 1984. The experiences will be with me for the rest of my life.

    • DeBorrah K. Ogans profile image

      DeBorrah K Ogans 8 years ago

      The Thornbirds was one of my favorite movies. The cast and actors were excellent. It also showcased a wealth of wisdom depicting a phlethora of human emotions and actions. As well as the life long consequences of their decisions.

      You are correct when you say "Commitment doesn’t come without a costly price." It is so important to know God's WORD and develop an ongoing intimate personal relationship with Him! Then to commit to implementing those principles in your daily life.

      The world at large continues to migrate away from embracing God's principles. God as our Creator knows what is best for us. He has given us HIS WORD and HIS HOLY SPIRIT to guide us through our life's journey.

      You have presented some very good examples. Desiring to live to please the LORD comes with often being misunderstood

      But it is well worth it.

      And yes I agree I consider this a movie parable.

      Thank You for this insightful Hub!


    • Timely profile image

      Timely 8 years ago from United States

      Have a wonderful day Gicky. You are a true ray of sunshine for many!

    • Gicky Soriano profile image

      Gicky Soriano 8 years ago from California

      Timely amen to how you processed the hub. Those who carry their cross accept Jesus' invitation to die daily. Since we have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer us who live but Christ who lives in us (Gal 2:19-20). As Paul said, "For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain" (Phil 1:21). And living the Christ life means dying to self by forsaking worldly gain that we may know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings (Phil 3:8-11).

    • Timely profile image

      Timely 8 years ago from United States

      Gicky, you imply that we will resurrect into a new life on earth, forsaking current worldly gain. I know a true believer definitely has a change in heart producing fruit for changing priorities, allowing a day to day peace, giving way to the decrease in desire and need for worldy treasure.

      The magnitude for our spiritual gain could not be fully realized until we are resurrected in the presence of the Lord. For if the world stands still to hear our song to the Lord as we depart,it would bring so many to Christ. I believe it would only be possible for christians near the departing soul to hear their song. It would be confirmation of a Holy and majestic place to set as a goal for a final destination.