Where are the Catholic Movies?
Coming out of the movie Courageous, my daughter and I cried a river of tears. The message of this movie was touching and beautiful and I believe that a bit of faith in mankind had been rekindled in us. Catholics have been flocking to this movie right along with our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ and boasting of its powerful and emotional message. Even so, coming out of the theater with my heart deeply moved, I couldn’t help ask myself a few questions: “Where is the Catholic movie?; What happened to the Catholic message?; and most importantly, “Where are the Catholics?” We may be in the comfy theater seats watching Courageous with our Kleenexes, but where are our hearts really?
Allow me to explain my thoughts in more detail. The main characters in the movie were Protestant men with a self proclaimed devotion to their Christian faith, but some of them were falling short of living this faith. Tragedy enters into the picture and propels one man to make a renewed commitment to God that as head of his family he is going to vow to be not just a good husband and father, but an outstanding spiritual leader, protector, and provider of the highest Christian standard. Eventually one of his friends turns his life over to Jesus and he and the rest of this close knit group are moved to join him in making the same vow. They become witnesses for each other and promise to hold each other accountable to a higher standard. At a formal celebration attended by their families, they all sign a written pledge for each other of their vows to put God and family first in a heroic and unprecedented way. They realize that this is a tall order, but they are ready to brave the storm and be held accountable by those they are closest to. They frame their pledges and proudly display them in their homes. At the end of the movie, a series of powerful challenges are presented by one of the men in front of the large congregation at the Church he attends. These challenges are put forth in the form of questions, and the only acceptable answer is a strong, “I will!” It is like a congregation of God fearing men renewing marital vows in front of their entire church community. Of course these vows include the obligation to raise God fearing children, (something the Catholic Church has always taught is intrinsically linked to the sacrament of marriage). Men proudly stand and forcefully respond to the questions with,“I will”. They pledge to step up to the plate and by their behavior imitate the perfect father; God, the Father. You really have to see it to understand, but these men proudly proclaiming their God given role as husband and father is more moving that watching Rocky Balboa doing his victory dance in front of the wild cheers of his fans after winning the boxing championship.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with framing and hanging a written pledge signed by yourself, your family, and your friends who love you enough to hold you accountable to such a lofty standard of Christian living, but entering into a pledge of this manner with witnesses is an ancient practice. The Catholic Church, since Her birth, has been an ever present and faithful witness in the celebration of each and every marriage sacrament. Couples enter more deeply into their relationship with Christ when they pledge before Church and God to love as God loves by entering into the marriage sacrament. However, this sacrament is so much more than a pledge signed by a few friends; it is a call to live faith to the fullest by entering into a relationship, rooted not in a contract, but in a covenantal relationship with Jesus. Not only is this sacrament witnessed by the Holy Catholic Church, God’s Heavenly reign on earth, it carries with it the grace to restore and strengthen in times of trouble, and its blessings are without limit. This is because it is not a contract made by man, but an indissoluble union made in Heaven. Sacraments are entered into only once because they are forever binding. What might also be proudly displayed on a wall in the form of a legal contract, is a union that is forever inscribed on the heart of our Lord and Savior.
Fireproof was another Protestant movie with a touching message about Christian marriage. It seems that many Christians are tired of the sinful worldly message and they are starting to take a stand and we are starting to see movies like this really making an impression. Isn’t it time that Catholics come forward with a message of their own? I am not talking about a new message found in search of a truth that has been lost in the corruption of American society, but an ancient message that endures all time. All Catholics should come forward and acknowledge the beauty of the sacramental life of the Holy Catholic Church by being faithful witnesses of God’s Kingdom. Of course, we can help our brothers and sisters in Christ know and understand the Catholic truth by speaking this truth and evangelizing, but even more importantly we ourselves need to live this truth. Even privately in prayer, Catholic married couples can continue to make renewed vows to the Church and each other and call upon the grace they have received in the sacrament of marriage.
If Catholics can be moved to tears by the promoting of a Christian message in a Protestant movie, how much more should our hearts be touched by His Holy presence and His Church which breathes this life giving message into us through the Sacraments, most especially through the Eucharist?