The movie I'm sharing with you today is, hands-down my favorite movie. It even tops The Sound of Music in my book...and I love that movie! What I love about this movie is that it makes priests and religious appear so human, so normal, so accessible, and so lovable. That's been my experience, and it's the experience I want for my daughters, too. Priests and religious are people, too! I love, too, how this movie makes vocations so attractive. Ready?
Not only are the two leads amazing actors (especially if you're a fan of Casablanca or White Christmas among others) but they really bring the characters of Fr. O'Malley and Sr. Benedict to life. There characters are funny, nuanced, and imperfect - but so full of life and joy.
The basic premise of the movie is that Fr. O'Malley is sent to a failing parish/school to close it down. But, in the process, he is taken in by Sr. Benedict and the sisters to see what a gift St. Mary's is, and plays his own part in their plan to save the parish.
I first saw this movie when I was a very little girl - it's one of my parents' favorites, too - and I remember loving it from the start. There are so many funny moments (like when Sr. Benedict teaches herself how to box so she can mentor one of her students who is getting beat up by another boy) and so many heartfelt and serious moments (I just love the ending!). But there are a few things that I think really make this movie stand out as a witness to the priesthood and religious life:
1. Spiritual Fatherhood and Motherhood is beautifully portrayed.
If you want to see life-giving celibacy at its best, this movie is a fantastic example. Sister Benedict is truly a mother to so many - to the littlest of the students as they prepare for their Christmas play (I love the incredible affection and amusement she and Fr. O'Malley share when they watch these little ones rehearse), to her in-between students (I love how she mentors Eddie to stand up for himself, but also to show forgiveness), to her older students (she truly wants to understand and mentor and love dear Patty), and especially to her fellow sisters! Fr. O'Malley is truly a father to many. He invests in the lives of Patty and her family, even restoring a marriage in the process. He looks out for the sisters. He gives pats on the backs to the rough housing boys in the school yard, and throws the schedule into chaos at the beginning of the movie (which is such a dad thing to do!). But ultimately, he has the desire to protect and provide for the needs of all those in his parish. In the midst of all of this, though, there is no scandal, no abuse, just trust. I feel like Hollywood has forgotten how to portray priests and religious without scandal. But the reality is that the spiritual motherhood and fatherhood of sisters and priests is powerful. It's just beautiful to see that happening so naturally and beautifully in this movie - and in such a healthy way!
2. Celibate friendship is presented in a believable way.
Fr. O'Malley and Sr. Benedict very clearly love each other. But they don't love each other in a romantic way. It certainly isn't because they are unattractive (because they're both gorgeous specimens of humanity). It's because their love is more nuanced and deeper than that. They are brothers and sisters in Christ, working side by side to build up the Church and tend to the needs of their spiritual "children". There is no awkwardness about this, and no hint at inappropriateness or possible romance. They truly love each other in a chaste way. This is integrated and healthy sexuality at its best!
3. Religious Life and Priesthood look attractive and accessible.
Fr. O'Malley and Sr. Benedict are relatively young and are completely in love with their vocations. They are happy, they are real, and they're the sort of people you would want to be friends with. Without talking nonstop about their faith, they preach their faith nonstop. They make God's love completely believable by the way in which they love!!
So, in short - watch this movie!!! It's great and totally family friendly. :-)
Please continue to pray for vocations with us!
O God, Father of all Mercies,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
Provider of a bountiful Harvest,
send Your Graces upon those
You have called to gather the fruits of Your labor;
preserve and strengthen them in their lifelong service of you.
Open the hearts of Your children
that they may discern Your Holy Will;
inspire in them a love and desire to surrender themselves
to serving others in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ.
Teach all Your faithful to follow their respective paths in life
guided by Your Divine Word and Truth.
Through the intercession of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary,
all the Angels, and Saints, humbly hear our prayers
and grant Your Church's needs, through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (source)