If you’ve seen Encanto, then I’m sorry to do this to you, but “We don’t talk about Bruno no, no, no. We don’t talk about Brunnno!” If you haven’t seen the movie, then you aren’t currently participating in the sing a-long that just started with one of the movie’s more popular songs (here’s a link to the clip if you’re interested in joining us.)
Bruno, Mirabel’s mysterious uncle, was given the gift of foresight. He can go into a trance-like state and could see the future. Based on the aforementioned song, it seems like people treated Bruno as a local fortune teller. The villagers complain that Bruno told them their fish would die, they would grow a gut someday or lose their hair. These things do, in fact, come to pass. We’ve already discussed how Bruno informed Isabela she would have “the life of her dreams,” and how it sounded great but in reality was detrimental to her overall well-being. Bruno was truthful with all of his predictions. Unfortunately, sometimes people mistook normal speech for predictions. We hear about this during the song about Bruno.
Tia Pepa (the aunt who can control the weather), was getting married. She was, understandably, nervous and anxious on the big day. Bruno tried to joke with her that it looked like rain. Pepa took that to be some kind of prediction and loses her cool, bringing on a hurricane of rain and wind. We find out at the end of the movie that Bruno wasn’t making a prediction or telling the future, he was simply trying to help his sister express her emotions instead of bottling them all up inside. With this in mind, it could very well be that the things the villagers took for predictions were also simply observations that Bruno awkwardly made.
After Mirabel did not receive a traditional gift, Abuela asked Bruno to look into Mirabel’s future. He did and discovered a confusing scene. On the vision tablet, Mirabel was standing in front of the Casita, the family’s house. It was a little like those cards where if you tip it to the right, you see one picture. To the left, the light changes, revealing a different picture. In one view, the Casita is cracking and crumbling. But in the other, it’s whole. Bruno knows that Abuela will focus on the negative possibility due to her preoccupation with maintaining a facade of perfection and order about the family. Rather than risking Mirabel becoming an outsider as he feels he is becoming, Bruno destroys the vision tablet and leaves the Encanto.
Or does he? Bruno only wants to love and help his family. He finds himself unable to leave, and the Casita makes it easy for him to stay by providing an in-between the walls space for him to live. Once Bruno “leaves,” his name becomes taboo. Abuela will not allow it spoken and, as the song explains, “We don’t talk about Bruno.” Except then everyone goes on an sings an entire song about him! Clearly, there are unresolved issues about Bruno.
I’m sure it’s pretty obvious, but not talking about someone or something is usually not a healthy response to a situation. No family, no individual is perfect. We don’t always fit perfectly together but we would be incomplete if someone suddenly vanished. Families who have lost loved ones know what this feels like. New patterns of togetherness are slowly and often painfully formed. In the case of the Madrigal family, these new patterns of togetherness were not really created because they couldn’t talk about their feelings openly with one another. Luisa tells Mirabel that she overheard the adults whispering about Bruno. Camillo, Mirabel’s cousin, has a very skewed view of who his uncle was, claiming he was 7 feet tall when he’s actually the shortest of the triplets.
As we draw closer to the Feast of the Ascension, we find the Church preparing for a separation. After Jesus’ resurrection, he remained on the earth for 40 more days. He then ascended up to heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand. Jesus is leaving, but He’s not actually going. If you stretch the analogy and squint a little, Bruno does a similar thing. Jesus, in His infinite love for humanity, sends His Spirit to remain with us as well as provides us with a way to intimately experience His presence in the Eucharist. Bruno remains in the Casita, patching the cracks as best he is able and offering what help he can from between the walls.
The difference between those left behind is in the conversations they had. The Madrigal family talks about Bruno in whispers, side glances and assumptions. The disciples tell everyone they can who Jesus is and why He changed their lives. I know these two situations are not at all comparable, but the fruits are worth looking at. By suppressing conversations about Bruno, the family reaped negativity, fractured relationships and inaccurate assumptions about one another. The disciples, on the other hand, grew in their love for one another, for Jesus, and for those who came to encounter their message.
When we are having a problem with someone, it’s always better to talk about it. When we aren’t sure what happened in a situation, it’s always better to seek out those there and discover the truth of the matter. Our gift of language and communication is one of the most important tools we have to build our communities, large and small. Language only works if we use it well. Are there relationships in your life that could use some greater openness? Are you trying to discover new ways forward after a loss? Talk to those around you. Talk about what makes you happy, what makes you sad, how you like to communicate. Listen to the other person share about themselves. Don’t let issues important to you both go unspoken or unresolved. It may not happen overnight, in fact it probably won’t. Relationships take time and work. But both the Madrigal family and the disciples know that the community you nurture will be worth it.