‘Practicing Catholic’ — What Does That Mean?

Father-Mike-SchmitzAscension Press’ Father Mike Schmitz tackles what could be a touchy issue, what does it mean to say one is a “practicing Catholic”?

We all know folks who’ll say they were “raised Catholic” — but more often that not, that means their view of the Church is strictly in the rear-view mirror. Catholicism isn’t an ethnicity encoded in your DNA, nor is it a club that you pay admittance to and become a lifetime member in good standing, even if you never show up for a meeting.

Being a Catholic means believing Catholic dogma and doing Catholic things. It’s not a condition or a situation, it’s an ongoing process — one that can be rebooted at any time.

Have a look.

Images: Affirm Films, Wikimedia Commons, Family Theater Productions

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Who Was Mary Magdalene? Fact, Fiction and Films

Mary-Magdalene-RisenToday (July 22) is the inaugural Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene, upgraded from a memorial. But there long has been a confusion about who she was, with many assuming she was a reformed prostitute — even though there’s no direct evidence of that.

From a post at EWTN:

Was Mary Magdalene a prostitute and where in the Bible does it say that?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 9/27/2006:

Martha–

Although it is a popular assumption, the Bible does not say that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. It says only that Jesus cast out seven devils from her (Mark 16:9). 

Mary was also one of the people at the foot of the Cross, with Christ’s mother Mary and John, the “beloved disciple.” And, going to the tomb to anoint the body of Christ after the Crucifixion, she is the first to encounter the Risen Christ, as shown in this painting, “Christ’s Appearance to Mary Magdalene After the Resurrection,” by Alexander Ivanov (posted today, with a quote from today’s Mass readings, at our Facebook page):

Mary-Magdalene

There was a woman who led a “sinful life” who anointed Christ’s feet with oil and her tears, and dried them with her hair. She is not named, and while someone living “a sinful life” might be a prostitute, she might also be an adulteress or a woman living with a man to whom she is not married (or even a fortune teller, etc.).

While tradition in the past leaned toward this woman and Mary Magdalene being one and the same, we lack a direct connection (and there are several different Marys in the New Testament).

From the blog at CatholicFaithStore:

Fact or Fiction: Mary Magdalene washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair

Fiction: It’s often believed that Mary Magdalene repented before Jesus for her “sinful life” by washing his feet with her tears and hair (Luke 7:36-50).

In those times, it was believed that a woman who led a “sinful life” was a prostitute or adulterer. Historians argue that Mary Magdalene’s name is never mentioned as the woman who washed Jesus’ feet. All that the verses say is, “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life” learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.” Since there is no mention of the woman’s name, scholars say they can’t say with certainty that the woman was Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is also believed to be the adulterous woman who was saved by Jesus from being stoned to death (John 8:3-11). Again, there’s no mention of the adulterous woman’s name.

Why did so many believe Mary Magdalene was a prostitute?

The belief that Mary Magdalene was the sinful woman who washed Jesus’ feet gained stronghold in the sixth century, when Pope Gregory the Great declared in one of his sermons that he believed the unnamed woman to be Mary Magdalene. Furthermore, Pope Gregory believed that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene was the same person. It was not until centuries later, in 1969, when the Catholic Church declared that Pope Gregory was mistaken and that Mary Magdalene was not the penitent woman in Luke 7:36-50. Furthermore, the Church clarified that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene were two different people.

And now, this “Apostle to the Apostles” has her own feast day. From a story today at Catholic News Agency:

The reason (for a feast), according to Archbishop Arthur Roche, is that she “has the honor to be the first witness of the Lord’s resurrection.”

“She is the witness to the risen Christ and announces the message of the Lord’s resurrection just like the rest of the Apostles,” he said, explaining that for this reason “it is right that the liturgical celebration of this woman should have the same rank of Feast as that given to the celebration of the Apostles in the General Roman Calendar.”

Nevertheless, the notion that she was a prostitute persists.

As recently as the movie “Risen,” which hit theaters in January, Mary Magdalene has been identified as a prostitute — which led to one of the biggest jokes in the film. As the Roman tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is seeking Mary, he enters a house of ill repute and asks who knows her, and all the men’s hands go up.

Here’s a scene of her interrogation:

The notion of a repentant sinner, especially a prostitute, becoming the first witness to the Resurrection is a powerful and romantic one. It makes for a great story, but as with many things that sound good, it may not be true.

Regardless of her history, what we know for certain is that Mary Magdalene was the first to proclaim the Good News, and if nothing else, that alone accords her a place of honor in salvation history.

What do do know for sure is she was NOT Jesus’ wife, as portrayed in the silly film “The Da Vinci Code.” In 2012, Harvard historian Karen King claimed that a tiny scrap of papyrus was evidence that of the nuptial relationship — leading the Smithsonian Channel to rush out a breathless documentary — but even King now admits it’s probably a fake.

From a June 16 report in The Atlantic (whose investigation of the papyrus caused King to question her findings — meaning a popular magazine successfully refuted an Ivy League academic):

She reached this conclusion, she said, after reading The Atlantic’s investigation into the papyrus’s origins, which appears in the magazine’s July/August issue and was posted to its website Wednesday night.

“It tips the balance towards forgery,” she said.

King said she would need scientific proof—or a confession—to make a definitive finding of forgery. It’s theoretically possible that the papyrus itself is authentic, she said, even if its provenance story is bogus. But the preponderance of the evidence, she said, now “presses in the direction of forgery.

Now, the saint is going to get her own movie, “Mary Magdalene.” But as this is a Hollywood film, there’s no way to tell whether it will bear any resemblance to the Bible. Also, as in some other recent Bible films, the casting may not match the actual ethnicity of the characters. Here’s what we know so far, from CinemaBlend:

The planned film will follow the life of Mary Magdalene, one of the female followers of Jesus Christ. Rooney Mara will play the title role, while Joaquin Phoenix will portray Jesus. Now, The Wrap is reporting that Chiwetel Ejiofor is in talks to take the role of Peter. In Roman Catholicism, Peter is recognized as the first Pope, making him a major figure in modern western Christianity.

Stay tuned!

As a bonus, here’s a homily on Mary Magdalene from EWTN:

Images: Affirm Films, Wikimedia Commons, Family Theater Productions

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Does ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ Deliver on the Hype?

The-Secret-Life-of-Pets-FFThis summer, the humans who brought you “Despicable Me” will tell you the secret that we have all been wanting to know ever since God gave Adam dominion over the animals at the dawn of creation: what do your pets do when you leave them? If only that were what “The Secret Life of Pets” was actually about.

The animated feature film, released on July 8, tells the story of Max (Louis C.K.), beloved terrier of Katie (Ellie Kemper – a Catholic, whom we discussed in a previous post), whose power struggle with new doggy-roommate Duke (Eric Stonestreet) and a bunch of crazy alley cats lands him – collarless – in a pound-bound truck, with his new roommate in tow.

While trying to get home, the unlikely duo stumbles upon a gang of “flushed,” or rejected, pets whose mission is to take down the human race. Its leader is Snowball (Kevin Hart), a cute white fuzzy bunny, who is anything but cute and fuzzy on the inside. Meanwhile Max’s neighbor, Gidget (Jenny Slate), a fluffy white Chihuahua, leads a search expedition made up of Max’s other neighborhood pet-friends. In order to get home, Max and Duke need to evade the rejected pets and the city pound and get reunited with his friends, all by the time Katie gets home.

Yes, there were some very interesting characters that were built upon stereotypes, while some were their opposites, like the, Chloe (Lake Bell) the self-centered picky cat, and airheaded Gidget, who wears her heart on her sleeve and loves her cheesy Latino soaps, and is in love with Max. There is the pig that was used for practice at the tattoo parlor; and the hawk whose master had seemingly abandoned him. And then there is that poodle that is featured in all the trailers, who loves head banging to heavy metal when his sophisticated owner is not around.  (That joke might still be funny when you see it in the actual movie.)

The movie does deliver on its promised funny moments, some which are more predictable than others, mostly thanks to its cast of famous stand-up comedians, including Dana Carvey as Pops, the paralyzed basset hound.

Unfortunately, this movie tells the same story that we have heard time after time, from “Lassie” to “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” to “Bolt”: a beloved pet gets lost and has to find his way home, but in this film the owner doesn’t know about it.

“The Secret Life of Pets” has too many characters (16 of them to be precise) to create an attachment to any one of them, and the least interesting one happens to be the main character. The only attachment to Max is the fact that he is separated from Katie, whom all of us pet owners empathize with.

So the credit for the record-breaking $103.2 million opening-weekend for an animated feature should probably not go to the writers, but the marketers who have been promoting the heck out of this movie for the past year, with a Christmas promo, a Super Bowl ad, a “Happy Easter from the Secret Life of Pets” ad, and 34 different TV spots.

Here’s the Super Bowl spot:

The notion of anthropomorphism has been very lucrative since the dawn of literature, especially with the birth of animation. Who wouldn’t want to know what their pets are thinking? The movie delivered on the funny and cute pets and pet moments. Sadly, the plot – though morally harmless – had the potential for so much creativity and was superficial at best.

It might also do to remind younger children that real animals aren’t like the ones in the movies. While pets do have a life when we’re not home, it’s not like the ones on-screen, and we always need to understand animals on their own terms, not as humans with fur, feathers or scales.

Images: Illumination Entertainment

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Ellie Kemper of ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Talks Being Catholic With Stephen Colbert

Ellie-Kemper-Stephen-ColbertOn June 30, Ellie Kemper, star of the (not-family-suitable) Netflix comedy “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” made a guest appearance on CBS’ “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.”

In “Kimmy Schmidt,” Kemper plays a woman who recently was rescued from the clutches of a doomsday cult — where she was imprisoned as a child — who attempts to rebuild her life in New York City with little more than her unconquerable optimism and sense of wonder.

In real life, Kemper’s life is also changing. In 2012, she married comedy writer David Koman at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in New York City, and now she’s pregnant with her first child.

While you may or may not agree with how celebrity Catholics live out the Faith — and who among us is perfect at that? — it’s refreshing to hear two smart, funny, talented adults speaking positively of the Church in such a public setting.

Here’s a selection of the conversation (click here for the whole video):

Colbert: Now, I understand that you’re, actually, a practicing Catholic.

Kemper: I do. Yes, I am. I am a practicing Catholic.

Colbert: ‘Cause I meet a lot of people in show business who are Catholics and they generally go, “I’m arecovering Catholic” or something like that.

Kemper: Yes, they’re always lapsed, right?

Colbert: Exactly. So, you’re still sticking in there?

Kemper: I’m in there for the long haul, just like you. If you drop out, I’ll consider dropping out, but as long as you’re in it, I will stay, too.

Colbert: I was only in it ‘cause you were in it.

Kemper: Oh, wait a minute … In fact, yes, I am in Catholic. In fact, my wedding anniversary is coming up in a week and my husband … Thanks guys … It’s very meaningful to me for many reasons, but my husband is not Catholic. He’s Jewish and that’s fine.

Unbreakable-Kimmy-SchmidtColbert: I hope he’s watching this, I hope he’s just found out that it’s fine.

Kemper: It’s fine.

Colbert: I know your husband, Mike Koman. He’s a great guy. He’s a hilarious writer.

Kemper: He is a great guy, thank you very much. He is.

Colbert: Please pass that on to him.

Kemper: I will pass it on to him. He’s also Jewish, and he, very gamely, agreed to get married in the Catholic Church, ’cause it meant a lot to me. We did all the things … I’m sure you did. You got married in the Catholic Church, I think?

Colbert: I didn’t.

Kemper: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Colbert: I got married by a Catholic priest who was one of my father’s older friends, and an Episcopal minister who is one of my father-in-law’s oldest friends, in a Presbyterian church. We had everything except Jews. That would have fun, but we shoveled everything into the pile, hoping one of them would listen.

Kemper: Right, exactly. I didn’t realize that. OK, so you, maybe, didn’t do pre-Cana?

Colbert: Oh, we definitely did pre-Cana.

Kemper: Oh, you did do pre-Cana.

Colbert: For the people who don’t know, pre-Cana is his thing in the Catholic Church where you have to go either on one retreat weekend or multiple weekends, and you’re taught about what it’s like to be married.

Kemper: Exactly, it’s actually very helpful.

Colbert: I loved it.

Kemper: It wasn’t necessarily even that religious. It was a lot of good premarital advice. What caught me by surprise is, Michael and I’ve been talking about, how will we raise our future children? In what faith? ‘Cause we’re different faiths. We hadn’t really reached a resolution.

During the ceremony itself, which was in a Catholic church, the priest, Father O’Connor — I adored [him]; soft-spoken, very wise, grounded Catholic priest — he was saying, “Will you honor each other all the days in your life?”

“Yes, I will.”

“You come here freely to join yourself in Holy Matrimony?””

“Yes, we do.”

Then it was, “Will you raise your children in accordance with the law of the Catholic Church?”

I was so worried that Michael, who can’t lie … I was so worried [that] he was going to say like, “I don’t know” or something, so I very loudly said, “I will.” I could hear Michael, like, softly, out of the corner of his mouth go, “OK.”

Colbert: You worked it out.

Kemper: Yeah, we worked it out.

As for for “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” itself, it has racy elements that make it unsuitable for a family audience, but it has earned praise from Catholic reviewers. From a July 2015 piece at USCatholic.com:

Though saturated with humor, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt has a message. “We’re not garbage. We’re human beings,” Kimmy tells Today Show’s Matt Lauer (playing himself) in an interview following her release from captivity. She stares right into the camera. It’s this conviction that drives Kimmy for the entire season, to help old friends, new friends, and, of course, herself. But it’s not about necessity and the need to survive in a cynical world. She left that life behind in the Rev. Wayne’s bunker. It’s because she believes people are worth it.

But it has come under criticism in the mainstream media. From an April 2016 piece in Time:

For a show whose central figure is a naif, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is poisonously savvy about the case it builds—that manners (or a perceived culture of political correctness) are the enemy of free discourse. That’s a point that’s well-made when Kimmy doesn’t get why her love interests think her childlike enthusiasm is a bit extra.

The second season isn’t just doubling down on a say-everything ethos that loses sight of character and plot in favor of being daring. It’s an elaborate defense of itself. Apologies may be the enemy of comedy. But demanding an apology as the price of admission is hardly much funnier.

We do, though, have a “Kimmy” fan right here at Family Theater Productions — post-production specialist Don Burt. Here’s what he had to say about the show:

I think it is worthwhile for a couple of reasons: first of all, even though unspoken, I believe there is a very subtle faith message in it – that there is always good in the world, that if you approach life with the eyes or wonderment of a child, you will be OK or “unbreakable.” Also, the value of being true to who you are is very important in this show. Kimmy becomes a mirror to her castmates and allows them to see who they really are, without the masks they have fashioned over the years. Kimmy displays a lot of the qualities that Christ has asked us to have: she is generous, trusting, forgiving and loving.  I think her faith has helped Ellie to shape the character this way.

There you have it!

Images: Courtesy CBS/Netflix

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‘American Ninja Warrior’ Joe Moravsky, the ‘Ninja Weatherman,’ Puts God First

Joe-Marovsky-Ninja-WeathermanOver the last few seasons, fans of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior”  — which returns Monday, July 11 with the City Finals — have followed Connecticut native Joe Moravsky, a k a “The Ninja Weatherman,” a meteorologist for News 12 Connecticut in Westport, through his engagement, and then his marriage, and now the birth of a daughter, Emily.

Meet Joe, who’ll be in the City Finals:

Moravsky is also a Catholic. As his Twitter bio says, “God #1″ — and his parents, Robin and Joe Moravsky, are regular visitors to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. Robin Moravsky has even interpreted in in American Sign Language (ASL) on Divine Mercy Sundays.

I caught up with Moravsky on Twitter and asked if he’d answer a few questions by email. Here’s the result (answers in bold):

The “American Ninja Warrior” family has followed you through engagement to marriage to fatherhood. What’s it been like, sharing your life with the fans?

It’s been surreal being able to share my life with the world. I always grew up wanting this type of life (not sure why) and I’m very happy that I’ve achieved it.

How has fatherhood changed your perspective on your athletic endeavors — and everything else?

Fatherhood has changed everything. I use to think that I couldn’t love anyone more than my parents, or my wife… but the strength of the love for my own child is something I could have never guessed.

Is there a connection between athletic discipline and the Faith?

I believe there is a link between athletic discipline and Faith. I always trust in God to provide the path for me … and my job is to be open to any changes (even if I might not like them). It’s hard but it’s important.

It says in your Twitter bio that God is #1 — how does that play out in daily life?

“God is #1″ is important because it’s a reminder for me (and my fans) to put God first … especially in times of need!

Not everyone can be a Ninja Warrior, but how can watching the show have a positive impact on people’s lives?

You’re right, not everyone can be a Ninja Warrior … but that’s because everyone has their own individual strengths, goals, and physical/mental abilities. BUT, watching the show is a good reminder to never give up on your dreams and goals… and no reason to not do something is too great to stop you. 

What is it about “Ninja Warrior” in particular that was meaningful for you?

“Ninja Warrior” means a lot to me now more than ever. It’s changed my life in ways people might not understand. I have met many people ranging from famous celebrities … MUCH more than myself … to VERY sick individuals. Each encounter has changed not only my outlook on life, but my understanding of life as a whole.

How do you balance your job, your family and athletic training?

I still don’t know how I balance my jobs, family life, and training … haha!

Patron saint and favorite prayer?

Saint Michael — favorite prayers are the Our Father and the Serenity Prayer.

Click here for Joe’s official page.

And click here for an interview with his fellow Catholic competitor, Sean Bryan, the “Papal Ninja,” who joins him in Los Angeles on Monday night for the City Finals. Here’s a sample:

You’re the Papal Ninja — why did you choose a name that sets such a high bar?

I like to think of the name Papal Ninja as more of a description rather than a title. As a title, it would be quite a high bar, but I guess – in a way – it keeps me accountable. But “papal ninja” as a description seems quite fitting for what I do.

My work with the Dominicans in animating the Lay Mission Project has deepened my appreciation for the role of the laity in the mission of the Church – to be leaven for the world, as Lumen Gentium encourages:

[Lay people] seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God. They live in the world, that is, in each and in all of the secular professions Papal-Ninja-Sean-Bryan-FFBand occupations. They live in the ordinary circumstances of family and social life, from which the very web of their existence is woven. They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven. In this way they may make Christ known to others, especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope and charity. (LG, 31)

In this way, I see the role of all laypeople as that of a papal ninja.

In an analogical sense, think of what a ninja is: a gifted person who stealthily helps to accomplish the mission of the one who sent him. Laypeople are likewise called by Christ to partake in the
secular mission of His Church by using their gifts to “work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.” As such, I am called to simply be myself, and live out the Gospel faithfully in the “ordinary circumstances” of my life, which in this particular case includes trying my best to witness the faith quite publicly.

Image: Courtesy Joe Moravsky, NBC

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‘Chariots of Fire’ Coming Back on Aug. 1 — And the Surprising Catholic Connection

chariots-of-fire-FFJust in advance of the 2016 Summer Olympics, on Monday, Aug. 1, the Academy Award winning 1981 film “Chariots of Fire” is hitting theaters across America for a special one-night showing.

Tickets are available in advance only from ChariotsofFireEvent.com, where there’s also a form to request the film in your city if it’s not on the list.

And, there’s a fascinating Catholic connection to this movie, but first, here’s more details on the screening from my inbox:

CHARIOTS OF FIRE
Presented by TheatriCast and Warner Bros. Pictures
In Theaters Only August 1, 2016
Cities include:
Charlotte, NC
Columbus, OH
Dallas, TX
Houston, TX
Indianapolis, IN
Lexington, KY
Rocklin, CA
Scottsdale, AZ
Simi Valley, CA
Upper Darby, PA
Wheaton, IL
**More cities/locations to be announced**
SYNOPSIS: Winner of four Academy Awards® including Best Picture! The historic film, renowned for its stirring portrayal of athletic heroism and faith during the 1924 Olympics, tells the true story of British sprinter Eric Liddell, who famously refused to run the Sunday of his signature race because of his strict observance of the Christian Sabbath. Though ridiculed by the British Olympic Committee, his fellow athletes, and most of the world press, Liddell triumphed in a new event, winning the 400 meters in Paris. Liddell and teammate Harold Abrams, a Jewish runner who won gold in the 100-meter race, were able to return home victorious and true to their faiths.
Directed by: Hugh Hudson
Screenplay by: Colin Welland
Starring: Ben Cross, Ian Charleson, Nicholas Farrell, Nigel Havers,
Cheryl Campbell, Alice Krige
Official Facebook: http://bit.ly/29unnA5
In the film, Eric Liddell’s idealistic Christianity is central to his ethos and the driving force behind what he does, and that’s no coincidence. From a 2012 piece in RunnersWorld.com:

“I had had success with Midnight Express, but it was not the type of film I’d come into the industry to produce,” [producer David Puttnam] says now. “In this story [of Eric Liddell], I saw something not dissimilar to A Man for All Seasons,” the tale of Thomas More’s refusal to set aside his conscience by agreeing to the divorce of serial wife-botherer Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon.

Puttnam has an idealistic, almost romantic view of what movies can achieve. As he said of A Man for All Seasons in a 1988 PBS interview: “The cinema allowed me for one moment to feel that everything decent in me had come together.” His movies after Chariots reflected that view of the transforming power of moviemaking, from the quixotic environmentalism of Local Hero to the redemptive power of friendship in The Killing Fields and the crisis of conscience at the heart of The Mission.

For Puttnam, filming Liddell’s story would send a flare into the Hollywood sky, a declaration of principle in a fickle universe. “It answered questions I was asking myself: What was I doing in this business? Could I really make a movie like this?”

But, for Harold Abrahams in “Chariots of Fire,” religious practice is not as central to the character as the notion that just being ethnically Jewish makes him an outsider in upper-crust British society, along with his choice to hire a professional coach. The script doesn’t portray Abrahams as being driven so much by his beliefs as the fact that his Jewishness — and his refusal to train like a “gentleman” — sets him apart from the other elite British runners.

In real life, Liddell went on to be a missionary in China — where he was born to missionaries — dying in an internment camp there in 1945.

But what of Abrahams?

In 1934, 20 years after the Olympics, Abrahams converted to Catholicism, which, in a way, made him a double outsider. But it’s not a change of heart that everyone accepts. From a review of a 2011 biography of Abrahams called “Running With Fire”:

One of the more interesting revelations in the book was that the Jew, Abrahams, espoused Christianity while at university where he “took his initial steps towards Christianity”.

His adopted daughter, Sue Pottle, is quoted as believing that “Harold’s decision to embrace Christianity was influenced by his need for acceptance beyond the Jewish community.”

Eric Liddell is known as the man who sacrificed his chance of a 100 metres gold medal because of his religious principles. Abrahams, in contrast, speaking at function organized in his honour by a Jewish organisation called the Maccabeans explained why he could not follow Jewish religious law as to do so would rule out athletic distinction. He referred not only to competing and travelling on the Sabbath but also to the Jewish dietary laws.

The author’s conclusion is: “But the truth was that Harold Abrahams was neither a committed Christian nor ]ew in the second half of his life. If he firmly believed in anything, it was that he didn’t want religion to restrict him in life. He never had let it. At best he was a ‘hoper’ for an afterlife.”

Considering the attitude of posh Britain — and the U.K. in general — toward Catholics, if Abrahams was seeking wider acceptance, he picked the wrong Church. Becoming an Anglican might have made the former Cambridge student more palatable to his fellow Brits, but becoming a Catholic would have had just the opposite effect.

I can’t say what was or wasn’t in Abrahams’ mind, but it’s a conversion that would have even given an Anglican pause in that day and age. But some still made the trek.

In 1922, British writer G.K. Chesterton left Anglicanism for the Catholic Church, stating:

“The difficulty of explaining why I am a Catholic is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.”

The details of Abrahams’ personal journey are lost to history, and we can only speculate on what led him across the Tiber.

By the way, the movie’s title comes from a hymn “Jerusalem” — a poem by William Blake, set to music by Hubert Parry — sung at the memorial service to Abrahams (set, in the film, in an Anglican church), which opens “Chariots of Fire.” And here it is:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.

It also closes the film (where, by the way, no mention of Abrahams’ conversion is made):

One wonders if a movie in which a character’s Christianity is so central to the plot would even be made today, let alone beat out the wildly popular “Raiders of the Lost Ark” for best picture. Much has changed in Hollywood since 1981, and a lot of it, not for the better.

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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