Tag Archives: culture

Gimme Shelter, The Pro-Life, Pro-Catholic Film, Big Hollywood tried to Stop

29 Jan

 Gimme Shelter movie poster

After reading this article  in the National Review about how Big Hollywood desperately tried to stop a pro-life film that features James Earl Jones as a pro-life, Catholic priest who helps a troubled, pregnant  teen  by referring her to a shelter for expectant moms run by a devout Catholic, I was convinced that we Catholics need to support the film, Gimme Shelter in large numbers.

Gimme Shelter stars Vanessa Hudgens (remember her from High School Musical) as Apple, a pregnant teenager who flees an abusive mother only to find herself pressured into having an abortion by her estranged wealthy father (played by Brendan Fraser).

Gimme Shelter is based on a true story and was just released this week. Given that the sooner you see a film the more the producers make we need to reward them by seeing this film early and often, and let all our friends know.   We need to let Hollywood know we like seeing movies that show Catholics, especially priests, in a positive light, and we are tired of having to watch re-runs of the Bell of St. Mary’s to get that.

Here’s the trailer on youtube:  Gimme Shelter .  I was moved just by watching it.

Evangelizing Church

11 Dec

Pope Francis 4As we well know, our Holy Father chose as his patron and model St. Francis, who is known for the statement, perhaps apocryphal, that we should “preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” While there is some wisdom in that statement, we cannot conclude (or perhaps rationalize) that words aren’t important in the work of evangelization. In fact, they are usually necessary!

Pope Francis surely thinks so. He opens chapter three of his apostolic exhortation on “the joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, “EG”) with the statement (quoting Blessing John Paul II) that “there can be no true evangelization without the explicit proclamation of Jesus and Lord, and without the primacy of the proclamation of Jesus Christ in all evangelizing work” (EG 110). He says that our “absolute priority” must be “the joyful, patient, and progressive preaching of the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

In today’s installment of our series on Evangelii Gaudium, we will unpack the first half of the chapter on the proclamation of the Gospel (EG 111-34), in which the Pope focuses on the role of all Catholics in the work of evangelization. He reminds us that evangelization is the work of the entire Church, understood as the pilgrim People of God (EG 111). Now, it may be daunting to hear that we are personally called to be on the front lines of the Church’s mission to bring the joy of the Gospel to all people, but the Holy Father quickly adds a few crucially important considerations:

  • It’s not about our own efforts, but about allowing God’s grace to work through us, so that the Church may be the sacrament of the salvation God offers the world (EG 112). Grace always comes first!
  • Drawing on a key emphasis of Vatican II, Pope Francis says that we are saved not as isolated individuals, but as a family (EG 113). The Church is our home, and all are welcome to share our joy.
  • As Church, we are have the dignity of being leaven in the world, offering hope, mercy, and encouragement to all (EG 114).

The Holy Father spends a considerable amount of time talking about “culture,” which has to do with “the lifestyle of a given society, the specific way its members relate to one another, to others, and to God” (EG 115). Grace presupposes and builds upon culture, and at the same time culture gives flesh to the faith. The Holy Father stresses that “Christianity does not have simply one cultural expression” (EG 116). He especially points out that European Christianity at a particular moment in history does not exhaust the richness and possibilities of our faith (EG 118). He does not see “cultural diversity” as a threat to Church unity or Catholic orthodoxy, but rather as a telltale sign of the Church’s vitality. After all, unity is not the same as uniformity (EG 117).

Perhaps the “heart” of this section of the apostolic exhortation is the Holy Father’s insistence that we become not mere missionaries and not mere disciples, but “missionary disciples” (EG 120). He challenges all of us, right now, in the present moment, to be agents of the new evangelization. He says we can’t be “passive observers” so as to leave the work of evangelization to so-called ”professionals” (EG 120). He doesn’t deny that we need to mature in the faith through ongoing catechesis, but nonetheless we should not “postpone” evangelization until some later time (EG 121).

One way that the Gospel gets “inculturated” is through expressions of popular piety and devotion (EG 122).  The Pope affirms things such as taking children on pilgrimages, fingering the Rosary, lighting candles, praying before a crucifix and other simple yet profound expressions of the Holy Spirit at work in individual hearts and in our culture (EG 123-26).

The Pope also discusses the person-to-person dimension of evangelization, even in the midst of conversations with strangers (EG 127). In paragraph 128, he describes how we can share our faith in dialogue with others. Some of the adjectives he uses are “respectful,” “gentle,” “humble,” and “willing to learn.” We can’t lose sight of the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave Himself up for us, who is living and who is offering us His friendship and salvation.  When the circumstances are right, he encourages us to pray with people and to remember that we don’t have to have “fixed formulations” memorized in order to communicate our faith (EG 129).

He encourages us to be open to various charisms or gifts of the Holy Spirit, which build up the entire Church (EG 130). We seek the Holy Spirit to build unity amidst our diversity and to heal divisions. We ask for the Spirit’s grace to be open to differences that at times can be “uncomfortable” (EG 131).

The Holy Father promotes apologetics in the work of evangelization—perhaps not so much in the traditional sense of responding to Protestant arguments, but in the sense of putting reason and the sciences at the service of evangelization (EG 132). In that regard, Pope Francis is very supportive of the work of theologians, yet he does remind them that theology exists for the purpose of evangelization (EG 133). He ends this section with a brief mention of Catholic universities and schools, which combine education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, so as to foster the evangelization of culture (EG 134).

In the next post, we will turn to what Pope Francis has to say about the role of the Sunday homily in the work of evangelization!

Life Is a Highway

23 Aug

One of my sons’ favorite movies of all time is Pixar’s Cars. I’ve enjoyed watching this delightful film several times with them, and after each viewing I just can’t get the movie’s catchy hit song “Life Is a Highway” out of my mind.

As I think about the song’s lyrics I have to admit that in some sense life indeed is a highway. It is a movement, or journey, through space and time that begins at our conception and birth.

But where are we going?

Not surprisingly, then, when the Word of God became flesh, He identified Himself as the “way” (Jn. 14:6), and one synonym or code name for the early Church was “the Way” (e.g., Acts 9:2).

In fact, the New Testament is replete with suggestions that the Christian life is a road or journey. For example, in Luke 9:23, Our Lord says, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” This suggests that we follow in Jesus’ footsteps the via crucis, the way of the Cross.

Similarly, in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:29-37), the road to Jericho is a metaphor of life’s journey, which offers us the opportunity to be “neighbor” to those whom we encounter on the way, especially those in need. The parable reminds us that we’re not alone on the highway, that God doesn’t save us merely as isolated individuals, but as His beloved family.

When was the last time any of us were driving on the freeway without a destination? Sure, sometimes we might not be sure of the directions and even for a time get lost before we find our bearings and head in the right direction. And as we drive, especially on long journeys, we might not be thinking of our destination every minute.

But it’s safe to say that all rational, sober motorists are headed somewhere, and all decisions, such as lane changes, turns, and the like, are ordered precisely to getting there. Otherwise, it’s pointless to be on the road at all.

In the journey of life, what is our destination, our goal? Are we driving with a purpose in mind, or are we going through the motions, indifferent or ambivalent to the direction of our lives? Do we truly believe that life has a destination, that if we seek we truly will find?

Some even go so far as to perversely boast, a la rock band AC/DC’s notorious song “Highway to Hell,” about going the wrong way. If our intended destination were north, who would want to brag about heading south?

These questions held some poignancy for me recently as my wife and I drove home from the airport after attending an out-of-town wedding. We longed to be reunited with our children. Needless to say, we drove with a purpose and took the most direct route home, our hearts filled with joyful anticipation.

The drive home vividly reminded me how much every fabric of our lives should be ordered to our final destination. The unexamined life is not worth living, but a life caught up in the quest for eternity is eminently purposeful and passionate. After all, life is a highway, and we’re headed home!