I’m always wary of watching things that Hollywood puts out that involve elements of the Catholic Church. I prepare myself for insults and total misconceptions of the truth, beauty, and goodness that the Church is and has to offer. So as I watched the trailer of Lady Bird for the first time, my immediate reaction was to look out for those things, but to my surprise, I couldn’t find anything terribly bad about their portrayal of the Catholic faith. I was going back and forth about whether or not I should watch it, but when my friends came back raving about it, when I saw Bishop Barron and Blessed is She had done reviews on it, I knew I had to give it a chance.
After watching it, I left the theater unsure about how I felt; I wasn’t sure if I quite got it. It’s the story of a teenage girl going into her senior year of high school. She attends an all-girls Catholic school in Sacramento, of which she shows very little interest in. It follows the different relationships she has in her life and all the ups and downs that come with it – dating different boys with little to no thoughts about purity, leaving her best friend to be with the popular, “partying” crowd, and the endless shouting matches with her mom.
I walked away confused because I realized I could barely relate to her.
It wasn’t a story I connected with. Purity was never something I really struggled with in high school, I couldn’t care less about partying and getting wasted, and I most definitely never dared to speak up to my mom like that. But I thought about it more and realized – this must be the story of a typical teenage girl of my time.
And then I realized, I’m the one with the weird story.
Not many people are brought up in the faith that I was. Since I was just 4 years-old my life has always been surrounded by the Christian community. I grew up hearing about the depth of God’s love for us, the healing and forgiveness that Christ bought for us, and the new abundant life the Holy Spirit has to offer us.
Throughout my childhood and into my teen years, I heard this amazing message over and over and over at every gathering, every retreat, every prayer meeting that I went to with my parents. Watching Lady Bird made me realize, my life is not the story of a typical teenage girl. Not to say my life was perfect growing up, but I definitely dealt with a different set of temptations and struggles.
What Lady Bird made me aware of is that I have limited my circle of evangelization and ministry to people just like me.
When I think of people I can invite to a retreat, I think of people that would most likely already be into the idea. People who are already exposed to God’s love in one way or another. Maybe they didn’t grow up in a ministry like I did, but they definitely grew up with some element of the faith, whether it was a regular attendance of Sunday Mass, reciting the rosary every night per their mother’s orders, or simply attending Catholic school. Those are the people I look out for. And to be honest, I almost stray away from anyone outside of that. I just think “oh, they would never be into this.”
But Lady Bird showed me that no soul is a lost cause. Throughout the movie, her most positive role models and her moments filled with the most peace and clarity are those involved with the Church. The woman who speaks hope and ambition into her life is a religious sister. The man who speaks passion and honesty into her life is a priest. And the moment she desires reconciliation with her mother is when she enters a church by herself once she’s alone at college. It’s the graces of the Church, as well as the witness and love of those immersed in the Church that brought life, hope, and peace to Lady Bird.
When a soul is baptized, it has the indelible mark of the Father and that person is a son or daughter of the Most High King. As those striving to build the Kingdom of God, those striving to live lives of virtue and discipleship, we mustn’t look at the world with filtered eyes, seeking out only those who we feel would “fit in” with the Church. Every soul, every heart out there, actively participating in the Church or not, fully embracing the faith or not, is a soul and heart that counts.
We mustn’t forget how Christ came not for the healthy, but for the sick. He came for those that needed Him most, those furthest away from the light. We need to be convicted witnesses in all places – in church, at youth group, at school, at work, with our non-believing family and friends. And we need to do it with the same merciful love that the Father shows us.
It’s Christ’s love that’ll attract them. Draw the circle bigger and reach out to those most unsuspecting people. You never know the seeds of grace the Lord can sow in even the briefest of encounters.
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