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Of Genuine Art, Catholic & Christian Movies.


Lord, it is your will that men use their minds to unlock nature’s secrets and master the world,
— may the arts and sciences advance your glory and the happiness of all peoples.
Give us light, peace and security, Lord – Liturgy of the Hour, Evening Prayer  7th Week of Ordinary Time

Had it not been for Nora Kenney’s review of the movie Wildcat in The City Journal serendipitous appearance in my news feed, I would not have know about its existence. Now I want to watch it.

The movie Wildcat is directed by Ethan Hawke and starring his daughter Maya Hawke, Wildcat is based on the true story of Southern Gothic writer Flannery O’Connor as she is diagnosed with lupus. According to Nora Kenney, Wildcat is what Catholic movies should look like.

In 2004, the National Catholic Register and Faith & Family magazine gathered online nominations for films that best celebrate Catholic life, with specific Catholic references, not simply with Catholic themes.

Kenney compares the 2023 movie The Miracle Club to Wilcat: “The Miracle Club has one key difference: while purporting to be Catholic thematically, it neglects to explore the theological drama of a soul’s relationship with its creator. Wildcat plunges right in.” Although the four main characters in The Miracle Club do not exist in real life, the true story Netflix movie is inspired by writer Jimmy Smallhorne’s memories of growing up in Ireland.

Kenney writes: “For O’Connor, the tradeoff here is ineluctable. If she believes that God is helping her write something better than she could have done on her own, she must also accept His will in other, less comfortable areas of life. And when her lupus symptoms begin to flare up, that idea is harrowing. “Father, I’m afraid,” she sobs to her Irish priest (Liam Neeson.)” She then concludes “All too many Catholic-themed films default to naturalism’s feeble replacements for the transcendent. Wildcat is a welcome exception.”

Raises a question: what is Catholic Art, such as Michelangelo’s La Pietà?What  makes a good Catholic movie? The Catholic Catechism (2502) teaches art is true and beautiful when its form corresponds to its particular vocation: evoking and glorifying, in faith and adoration, the transcendent mystery of God – the surpassing invisible beauty of truth and love visible in Christ, who “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature,” in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.” This spiritual beauty of God is reflected in the most holy Virgin Mother of God, the angels, and saints. Genuine sacred art draws man to adoration, to prayer, and to the love of God, Creator and Savior, the Holy One and Sanctifier.

Genuine Art

Lord, it is your will that men use their minds to unlock nature’s secrets and master the world,

— may the arts and sciences advance your glory and the happiness of all peoples.

Give us light, peace and security, Lord – Liturgy of the Hour, Evening Prayer  7th Week of Ordinary Time

In 1995, the Vatican celebrated 90 years of cinema by asking experts on films to compile a greatest hits list. That list surprised more than a few people.
Some of the selections were obvious picks such as biopics of saints like The Flowers of St. Francis and The Passion of Joan of Arc. Others included Schindler’s List, with its nudity and violence; 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its deeply secular worldview; and The Burmese Harp, whose protagonist is a Buddhist monk. Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s didn’t even make the cut.

As the Franciscan Media points out “The compilation of films was, of course, not the Vatican giving any of the movies an imprimatur, affirming that everything in them was in alignment with the Catechism. Rather, the compilation was an affirmation of greatness—sometimes theological greatness, sometimes moral greatness, sometimes artistic greatness. It also was a reminder that everything that is truly great—that reflects the good, the true, and the beautiful and points humans beyond themselves toward an experience of the transcendent God—is indeed Catholic. No Roman-collar-wearing Bing Crosby required.”

In that sense, good Christian movies and Good Catholic Movies are very similar.

Or as Bishop Barron’s writes in his book, Renewing Our Hope: ”Following Dietrich von Hildebrand, we should say that the truly beautiful is an objective value, to be sharply distinguished from what is merely subjectively satisfying.This means that the beautiful does not merely entertain; rather it invades, chooses and changes the one to whom it deigns to appear. It is not absorbed into subjectivity; it re-arranges and re-directs subjectivity, sending it on a trajectory toward the open sea of the Beautiful itself.”

I’m looking forward to watching Wilcat, God willing and thanks to Kenney’s review showing up in my news feed- although it comes across as pretentious: “For O’Connor, the tradeoff here is ineluctable,” for example.

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