This is Part 2 of Mi Rae’s review of Jo Hyun Jae’s drama “Love Letter”.
Episode 1 begins with Andrea’s ordination ceremony. (Editor: In this scene Andrea is still a transitional deacon that is why he is still wearing white robes with 1-shoulder stole. He is being ordained into the next grade of priesthood – the presbyterate. After this ordination he becomes a full-fledged priest.)
Andrea is called to the front of the altar by his bishop. The bishop calls him by his two names: Lee Woo Jin and his Christian name, Andrea, to swear fidelity. Then, the choir sings the Litany of the Saints (a prayer begging the principal saints of the Church to pray to God for the new priest.) Andrea lays down, face to floor, to pray too. But in this moment Andrea sheds tears. (Editor: Mi Rae will explain later why Andrea sheds tears during his ordination.)
Then we go back in time, to 1984, when Lee Woo Jin (Andrea) is about 10 years old. He lives with his paternal aunt (birth father’s sister), her husband and their 2 children. Woo Jin is a skinny, bullied, and sad boy. His aunt makes him work, starves him, and tells him his mother is a bad person
Editor: This despite the fact that Aunt and her family lived on Woo Jin’s inheritance from his mom which Aunt’s husband wasted away. Aunt doesn’t consider the mom’s money as Woo Jin’s inheritance. Instead she believes that the money from Woo Jin’s mom is owed to her because she was the one who supported her brother all his life only for him to die because of Woo Jin’s mom. Aunt blames Woo Jin’s birth mom for her brother’s death and for all her misfortunes.
Woo Jin reads a story to his cousins: Dear God, please send us a strong rope if you have decided to save us. If not, send us a loose rope. And then God sent a strong rope. The siblings climb up to heaven. The brother and sister had lost their parents. Later the brother became the Sun and the sister became the Moon and they shined brightly on the world forever.
The next day Woo Jin’s maternal uncle (brother of birth mom), a priest called Father Peter, comes to visit him at his aunt’s house. Father Peter has just arrived from Italy, he came to see Woo Jin, whom he keeps calling Andrea. Father Peter also brought presents for the boy.
Aunt asks Father Peter if he is taking Woo Jin to live with him. Father Peter replies that he is not in a position to take care of Woo Jin. Aunt complains about the burden of taking care of Woo Jin. Father Peter says that if Aunt finds it difficult to take care of Woo Jin, then he will take Woo Jin with him. But he is not sure if Woo Jin would want to go with him, so he offers to send Aunt money every month for Woo Jin’s keep. Father Peter explains that as a Franciscan priest he cannot use the money he inherited from his parents, so he has earmarked the money for Andrea.
When they were alone, Aunt instructs Woo Jin that if Father Peter asks him where he wants to live, he should say that he wants to stay with Aunt. She tells Woo Jin that his uncle is also a bad person just like his birth mom; he will probably end up in an orphanage if he goes to live with his uncle.
Father Peter takes Woo Jin to eat at a restaurant and play outside. They enjoyed themselves but when Father Peter asks Woo Jin if he would like to live with him, Woo Jin replies that he is fine staying with Aunt. During their walk back to Aunt’s house Woo Jin reveals that he would like to become a doctor like his dad. Father Peter tells Woo Jin that his mom was a doctor too. Woo Jin cries, he thanks his uncle for visiting him, for “finding” him, for asking him to live with Uncle, and for telling him that his mom was a good person.
After Father Peter has left, Woo Jin’s aunt begins to bully the boy. Thankfully, Father Peter returns to the house and witnesses Woo Jin being bullied by his aunt. So Father Peter takes Woo Jin away from his aunt’s house to live with him instead. In the train, Woo Jin asks Father Peter about the name Andrea. Father Peter explains that was the name given to him when he was baptized. When he finds out that his mom called him by that name too, he decides that he wants to be called Andrea from then on. Andrea holds in his hand a silver crucifix pendant.
Fast forward to ten years later, Andrea is now in high school and is living at the orphanage Angel House which is being managed by his uncle Father Peter. (Editor: So, Aunt’s prediction that he will end up in an orphanage if he goes off with his uncle came true. 😀 ) Aside from Father Peter, Andrea also lived in the orphanage with other orphaned children, Sister Gemma and Maria. He is happy with them.
One day, a lady brought a girl who is the same age as Andrea, she is the daughter of an actress who died. This lady is Dr. Yin, the older sister of Father Peter, although no one in the orphanage knows this. Father Peter surmises that the reason Dr. Yin is looking out for a friend’s daughter is due to her guilt feelings for abandoning her own son, Andrea. Father Peter asks her if she wants to see Andrea. She replies that the best thing she can do for Andrea is to stay away from him since he probably grew up thinking she is dead.
Dr. Yin and Andrea accidentally meet when she is about to leave. Both are unaware that they are mother and son, but Dr. Yin seems to be drawn to Andrea because she keeps looking at him.
The girl Dr. Yin brought to the orphanage is Eun Ha. She is apprehensive and shy, timid and very sad. She meets Andrea while she is in the confessionary of the chapel. She is in the middle of telling God that she hates her parents for leaving her alone (both are dead), and that she will never trust anyone again when Andrea enters to clean the chapel. While peeking at him from the confessionary she drops her silver crucifix pendant. This reveals her presence to Andrea. She runs away, Andrea picks up her crucifix, she goes back for it and leaves. That night Andrea sees Eun Ha crying out for her mom. Andrea goes out and plays the harmonica. Eun Ha hears him and stops crying. Later, Eun Ha will find out from Father Peter that from when he was a young child, Andrea would play the harmonica whenever he is having a hard time.
The next day they meet again at school. Soon Andrea offers Eun Ha his friendship and promises that he will never be disappointed in her nor will he abandon her. Eun Ha rejects him at first, but her heart softens up to him when she finds out from Sister Gemma that Andrea was orphaned when he was just a baby and that he lived with an aunt who treated him cruelly until he was 10 years old.
Soon Andrea and Eun Ha became the best of friends. Time goes by, and the two friends pass the College Entrance Examination. By this time, Eun Ha has already fallen in love with Andrea. Eun Ha tells Andrea that in her former school girls tie letters to the branches of pine trees, writing about their crushes.
One day, Andrea and Eun Ha go on a short trip. Eun Ha writes a love letter for Andrea which she plans to give to him on this trip.
Contents of Eun Ha’s letter to Andrea (she addresses him as Woo Jin, not Andrea): Dear Woo Jin, I met you when I was still trying to hide from the world. But pretty soon you helped me find myself. At first I pretended to be mad at you. But, honestly, I am thankful to you for finding me. Because you were the only person who has ever done that for me, from that day on I wanted to do the same for you. And when that day comes I wonder if you will be as thankful as I am. I wonder if you will like me just as I like you right now. I like you so much that it hurts inside. I like you, Woo Jin. I really do.
However, when they reached their destination and before Eun Ha could give him the love letter, Andrea tells her that from the first time he heard someone call him Andrea (when he was 10 years old by Father Peter) he has already decided on his path – he wants to become a priest.
Mi Rae’s Thoughts:
As you can see, the action takes place in winter. Winter is a season the writers like to put sorrows and hope. Winter is cold, trees are without leaves, “dead”, only evergreen is beautiful. This is the reason why they put love letters in pine tree’s branches.
The story of the rope is the story of Andrea himself. Father Peter is that rope who took him out from his miserable life when he was a boy.
Andrea saw his mother leaving Angel’s House, although at this point in the story he doesn’t know yet that Dr. Yin is his birth mom. This is their first encounter.
We also find out that when Andrea is troubled, he plays the harmonica. The song is so beautiful, the title of the song is “The Sailor Goes to Sea” (Lyrics at this link.)
The scenes of Andrea and Eun Ha getting together are beautiful. She begins to believe in him and we see this when she rides the bike to school with him. At first she was a bit sullen, but eventually she began to smile. What a pain for her when she learns that Andrea wants to be a priest.
Regarding the ordination ceremony
The ordination ceremony consists of the following parts: the procession of the celebrants of the Mass and the new priest, deacon dress with white stole; Bible readings, preaching.
The new priest is called to the altar to swear fidelity to the bishop. The bishop holds the new priest’s hands, then he is required to prostrate himself on the floor, face to the ground, while the Litany of the Saints is sung – this symbolizes that the new priest is renouncing the world.
The bishop prays with his hands on the head of the new priest. He anoints the hands of the new priest with blessed oil, to separate them from the world.
The mother of the new priest clothes him with his vestments: a 2-shoulder stole and a chasuble (like a poncho). The bishop puts in the hands of new priest the chalice to celebrate Mass for the first time. The Mass continues as usual. The new priest gives the holy communion to his parents first. In the end, the new priest gives the blessing personally to all those present.
Why Andrea shed tears during the ordination
The women in the family of the new priest have the privilege to clothe him during his ordination ceremony. The mother dresses the new priest for God, in the same way she dressed him with love when he was born. Andrea’s mother was not at the ceremony because (1) she is mourning her husband who committed suicide, and (2) she feels unworthy of clothing him during his ordination.
Furthermore, Eun Ha is seriously ill. Andrea is afraid that Eun Ha would die while he is not yet able to give her the sacrament of anointing of the sick which she requested of him. He is also afraid that he is not around while Eun Ha undergoes the heart transplant.
I like that right from the first episode the writer shows us the central themes that she will explore in the drama. This is not always the case in most dramas these days, where writers meander from one episode to another until the very end without clearly showing the audience what message they want to impart. In “Love Letter” the writer makes things clear right away.
So, what are the themes the writer wanted to explore here? These are the themes of abandonment and “finding” (or saving or rescuing.) Andrea feels abandoned as a child, but Father Peter finds him. Of course at this point in the story Andrea believes that the abandonment is due to death.
Later in the drama Andrea will find out that his mother’s abandonment of him when he was a child was deliberate. Andrea’s loving heart will help him find the strength to forgive his mother’s abandonment.
However, his mother will abandon Andrea again in favor of her other family. At the same time Andrea will also feel abandoned by Eun Ha due to the machinations of the other Woo Jin. This 2-punch abandonment will shatter Andrea to the point that he will lose the ability to feel pain for his fellow human beings. This time around, it will be Eun Ha’s love that will save Andrea.
When Andrea finds out that Eun Ha loves him, he will try to abandon the priesthood to be with Eun Ha. But Eun Ha’s illness will be God’s instrument so that Andrea will “find” his way back to God.
Credit: Photos as labelled; Review by Mi Rae. Thanks! Edited by prissymom.