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Dear Hollywood: When your characters use the name of Christ, he is there

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Hollywood takes irreverent use of Christ’s name to absurd excess because of a deep spiritual disconnect.

A recent viewing of The Post, the new Meryl Streep/Tom Hanks offering, might leave one entertained on one hand, but disturbed on the other. The story is interesting, and the acting is top-notch, but throughout the film Christian viewers might find themselves flinching as the characters, again and again, sputter, “Jesus Christ!” – and never in reverence but frustration or anger.

It’s hard not to be offended; He is our Lord and Savior; Jesus Christ is God Incarnate, and we should care about respect for the Holy Name as deeply as we care for our own. More so, actually, because the Name of Christ is a true prayer.

If you have never read Henry Morton Robinson’s classic novel, The Cardinal, consider picking it up. There is a scene in it where the priest-protagonist, Father Stephen Fermoyle, has rushed into a construction accident to hear a dying man’s confession. In the intimacy of this cramped space, the crushed worker confesses irreverence. “I make Jesus name in swearwords … hundred times a day. Everything I say is Christ-a-this, Christ-a-that.”

Fermoyle replies, “That shows how near He always is. What else, Joe?”

Obviously, this is a priest consoling a dying man, but isn’t that message true nevertheless? Christ is always near, and when we thoughtlessly spit out “Jesus Christ!” – in frustration, in anger, in fear – we are calling on him, seeking out his help, and we’re doing it so subconsciously that we don’t even recognize our pleading for what it is.

That’s a spiritual and cognitive disconnect that should tell us something important: that we are not consciously making the effort to bring Jesus Christ – the Savior — into all of our activities, day after day, or minute by minute, and yet the soul cries out for his company and help.

Hollywood takes irreverent use of Christ’s name to absurd excess because of that same disconnect. How very much Hollywood needs Jesus Christ, and they don’t even recognize how frequently they call out to him!

Naturally, we can’t like the repeated use of the Lord’s name in vain, but The Post – again, unintentionally – reminds us of just how needy are the hearts and souls of our artists, and how deeply they need our prayers that they might someday make the connection, and begin to utter the Holy Name in real, intentional, rather than accidental and sub-conscious, prayer.

Let’s  pray for Hollywood, especially in this month dedicated to the Holy Name, that they find a better way to call on Christ than this.

We’re reminded of the Marian apparitions received by three children in the French Alps in a city called La Sallette. One of Mary’s messages, in 1846, revolved around the improper use of God’s name. This is what Mary said: “Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son. These are the two things [the other, not keeping holy the Lord’s Day] which make the arm of my Son so heavy.”

This makes sense in many ways, but just imagine, each time his name is said in vain, how he reaches out. It would make any arm heavy.

Our Lady exhorts us to eliminate the vain use of Jesus’ name from our speech. It might take time, but it is so important. And the profanation of God’s name has gotten much worse since 1846.

At Fatima Our Lady requested us to make reparation for sin and to make sacrifice for sinners. The improper use of God’s name cries out for our reparation not only for the times we might use His name carelessly but also on behalf of others who are indifferent to their speech. One of the many prayers from our tradition might be appropriate:

  • “Hallowed be thy Name.”
  • “And Holy is His Name.”
  • “Blessed be the name of Jesus.”

The next time you hear the name of God or Jesus’ name being taken in vain, whether in person, on television or in a movie, say a short prayer – in reparation, but also for the sake of the speaker, who is in greater need than he or she may realize.

Dear Hollywood: When you call his name, he is reaching for you. Try reaching back.

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