The Catholic Association
Ep. 262 Father Roger Landry on Columbia Protests & Eric Groth Talks Wildcat!
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Episode Description

Producer Eric Groth shares highlights of his new film, Wildcat, which follows the life of American and Catholic novelist, Flannery O’Connor, as she seeks God’s grace amidst a lupus diagnosis in her early twenties. The movie takes a candid look at suffering as a means to encounter God’s grace in unexpected ways.

Father Roger Landry discusses the Columbia University protests and puts the developing conflict into theological and cultural context. As chaplain on campus, he is especially attune to the reality that Jewish students “feel very unsafe on campus, in the heart of New York City, which is the largest concentration of Jews outside the Holy Land.” He shares how he is touched by Catholic students’ offers to pray the Rosary for the dire situation, and calls for further prayer.

Father Landry also talks with us about the upcoming Eucharistic Pilgrimage kicking off in May, where he will be the only priest to trek the full 1,500 miles across one of four routes in the US before joining other pilgrims in Indianapolis for the 2024 National Eucharistic Congress. Marking 25 years of his vocation to the priesthood, Father is eager to spread the very good news of our “Eucharistic life.”

Bios

Eric Groth is CEO of Renovo Media Group and President of ODB Films, an award winning non-profit Catholic video production ministry. ODB has produced 250 short films, including a 60-film Video Catechism series for teens. In 2016 he released OBD’s first feature film, Full of Grace. He worked with Sony Pictures to release Paul, Apostle of Christ in 2018, which opened in over 30 countries and earned more than $32 million worldwide. He and his wife, Becky, have been married for 32 years and have eight children.

Father Roger Landry is a priest of the Diocese of Fall River, Massachusetts. He writes for numerous publications, speaks on radio and TV, and is the author of the book, Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God. He is a graduate of Harvard and the Pontifical North American College in Rome, and was Attaché to the Holy See’s Permanent Observer Mission to the UN in New York. Father Landry is slated to embark on the full 1500-mile Eucharist Pilgrimage this summer to commemorate his 25th anniversary as a priest.

Episode 262 Transcript

GrazieHello friends, and welcome to Conversations with Consequences. And we are the radio show and podcast on the Catholic Association where we aim to change the culture one conversation at a time. You can listen to conversations with consequences on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. Eastern or catch the encore at 5 p.m.. We are also on Sirius XM Channel 130.
Of course, our radio show is always a podcast. Go to the Catholic Association, Dawgs podcasts, or directly to wherever you listen to your podcasts. I'm your host is Dr. Gracie Christie, and we talk with Eric GROSS all about the new movie Wildcat in theaters next week on the life and writings of Flannery O'Connor. But first, Columbia chaplain Father Roger Landry discusses the dire situation at the university with ongoing protests and violence against Jewish students in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.
Today, we would like to speak to him specifically about something that's very close to his heart. That's something that's very exciting for him and I think for all of us. And that is the national Eucharistic Pilgrimage and Procession, which is kicking off next month. So welcome to the show, Father Roger.
Fr. LandryGreat to be with you. Grazie. And all those who listen to us every week.
GrazieFather, I want to talk to you in depth about the Eucharistic pilgrimage at which you're going to feature in such an important way. But because I mentioned that you're a chaplain at Columbia University, and right now, Columbia University has descended into chaos. And it's a place that I have very happy memories of. I was a student at Columbia.
I entered in 87 and finished at 91, and I think I learned to to love all things knowledge and intellectual and philosophical. At Columbia, we had I think is still there. We had the core curriculum which opened these giant windows out into the great masterpieces of our culture. And I'm always thankful for my time at Columbia. But right now I'm very concerned.
The whole country is at what's happening. And I wanted I don't want to talk to you about difficult topics, but I wanted to know what is it like for a Catholic chaplain in a place that has descended into chaos?
Fr. LandryThe core curriculum still exists here, which really does its job in preparing students for some of the deeper questions. But also as a Catholic chaplain at Columbia, they have to read two of the gospels as part of the core curriculum. They have to read Saint Augustine. They have to read Saint Thomas Aquinas. So it's very difficult for a student at Columbia to think that Catholics, especially some of the greatest Catholic minds of history, are not as great as they are.
And so it makes it much easier for us to engage those types of questions. And we need to lean on that. During this time of crisis on Columbia's campus after October 7th, really for the last six and a half months, Columbia has been in a state of chaos that's been augmented since the president of Columbia spoke in Congress a little over a week ago, in which it started immediately here, some encampments on campus.
She called in the NYPD in order to arrest the first group of students who were in camping, about 110 of them. But as they were arresting some, there were students on the other side of the quad in front of Butler Library who used to study all the time. Gracie And they didn't have tents at the time, and they were just seated there.
But over the course of time, they brought back tents and now there's a full scale encampment happening again. For me, as a Catholic chaplain here, that the Catholics have questions about how they're supposed to respond to this circumstance. And I have said to them many times, we as Catholics, the most important things we can do is we can pray and we can exercise charity in every circumstance, no matter what.
Those are the two most important things we can do. I try to help students recognize that they are not going to be able to solve through protests and activism here in New York City. Political crisis that has been going on since 1948 in the Holy Land. There are talented there. Gifted people do take them seriously, but they're not going to solve that 76 year old division in halfway across the world.
But what they can do is they can care for their Jewish elder brothers and sisters here on campus, most of whom feel very unsafe on campus in the heart of New York City, which is the largest concentration of Jews outside the Holy Land. There's no reason why Jews need to feel persecuted and beleaguered. They likewise need to reach out to those Palestinians here, including some students who come from Gaza, who have just seen their life changed irrevocably because of what's happened since Hamas did its evil on October 7th here in the Holy Land.
And so we come together, we pray every Sunday mass for the situation there. I've challenged the students even last year, the last Sunday when we had mass here, that in response to those who were in camping for a political cause, why don't we in camp an all night adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, asking the Prince of Peace to give us his peace so that we can offer each other the sign of peace.
And so these are circumstances in which our Catholic faith is very much needed. But it's got to be not just no, it's got to be lived. And when we really take our faith seriously with the Lord, as I tell the students, we become far more capable of being the salt light and leaven that not only the world needs, but now obviously the Columbia campus needs.
And so I'm honored that many of our Catholic students have tried to live up to that challenge, try to pray each day for all of these circumstances. Later tonight, a bunch of students on their own ask, could we get together and pray the rosary for peace on campus? And I said, I'll bless that with both hands. And so they're coming together and praying so that we can be those types of bridges among all those who think that what is the way forward is to foment division.
That's the biggest thing that's happening here. After October 7th, on October 12th, there was the first of the big manifestations on Columbia's campus. Because I'm a Columbia ID holder. I was able to get on campus and I was shocked to see so many cheering what Hamas diabolically did five days earlier. But then when I got off campus, I saw a lot of people behind barricades.
When I went over to the barricades where those who were supporting Israel were, most of the people had posters in which they had relatives who had been kidnaped on October seven, when I went over to the barricades where there were people cheering on Hamas. They had three different types of posters and I got all the posters. I wanted to see it.
They were very generous in giving me the posters that they were trying to pass to all passers by. The three flavors of those posters were all very pro-communist, explicitly communist, describing that the Palestinians and the Gazans were part of an oppressed class and therefore every, you know, their end, their ending the oppression would justify almost any means, including the violence to the 1200 who died on October 7th.
They are outside of Gaza. And so we have to be alert to the presence of outside actors who are trying to bring people into this oppressor oppressed Marxist matrix, which is absolutely contrary to the gospel, to what Jesus himself teaches and to what he sent us out to live. We are disciples of the Prince of Peace, who, by his passion, death and resurrection, brought reconciliation to the world.
And unless we're living that as Catholics, we're not really living the Catholic life. And so I tell the students that I challenge them. This is a time where your Catholic faith is going to make a huge difference, not just for you, but for others here on Columbia. And so it's now the time for us to live. Columbia's motto, as you remember.
Columbia was founded as an Episcopal school, and the motto comes from Psalm three six, verse ten In your light, we will see light. And so I'm helping them to see all things, including present controversy in the light of God and to spread that light as a gift so much needed by those who are wandering in darkness.
GrazieWell, Father, I'm so glad I asked you. I was doubtful whether to bring up such a difficult topic, but how wonderful it is for the Catholic students there to have you as their chaplain. I can imagine how it could be totally. It could be mismanaged in a completely different direction. And I'm so glad that you tied in the support of the Hamas terrorists with the communist angle and the Marxism.
And also like the postmodernism, you've been growing young people and marinating them in this in this post-truth era, right, where there are no overarching narratives which we can depend on where everyone's truth is individual. And then again, as you mentioned, where everybody is broken down into different groups and then set against each other. And and then you have these horrible, unholy alliances, right, between genocidal terrorists and the Antifa types and the communists.
And I didn't really traumatize since October 7th myself. And I'm not I'm only Jew adjacent because my husband was Jewish when I married him. And as everyone on the show knows, because I talk about him all the time and now he's a daily mass going Catholic. But it's been very traumatic, especially watching all those alliances take place in front of our eyes and that group of that circle of hatred solidify and become so dense.
Fr. LandryClass warfare is evil and that's what the Marxist do. And they do try to unite everyone who believes he or she is in an oppressed class to overthrow the oppressors. And so you see a lot more people joining these protests than really know all that much about the situation in the Holy Land. But they're being dragged on in by this larger movement of the oppressed, so-called oppressed classes against the oppressor.
As Catholics, of course, we're against all forms of injustice and we need like the Good Shepherd we celebrated this past Sunday to be willing to fight for justice for those who are having it taken away from them. That's clear. But the way toward justice, the way toward harmony and the way toward peace is not by the types of diabolical divisions that so many false leaders try to foment.
And so to prepare Catholics to bring the gospel into these situations, to bring the light of the Lord, to bring the peace, the Lord to bring the joy of the Lord. This is a context in which Catholics can really shine, and it's an honor for me to be able to try to be the Lord's instrument to help these Columbia students who are so gifted to recognize that the qualities of leadership that they're being asked to exorcize come from the Good Shepherd rather than from Machiavelli, rather than from Marx, rather than from other sources.
And their capacity in their training in that is shining and great a relief to all those who haven't had the gift. We have had to grow up under the light of the Lord so that we're able to bring that light to these situations rather than magnify the heat to us.
GrazieTruth as a person and justice as a person and love as a person. And that's a person of of Christ and the Eucharistic procession and the pilgrimage. I think it's it's it's an invitation to connect with truth and justice and goodness as a person. The person of Jesus Christ, Jesus.
Fr. LandryChrist came into our world in the midst of oppression, even there in the Holy Land, in order to be able to show us a different way to live and that same incarnate Lord and fleshes himself for us body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearances of bread and wine and the Holy Eucharist. And so this is the antidote against all those who live as if God doesn't exist.
That's the typical definition of secularism. The incarnation in the Eucharist are God's great response. Gracy I say a lot, but it wasn't enough for God just to take on our humanity and to our world wasn't enough for Him even to suffer and be crucified so that we would be able to experience the gift of salvation. He loved us so much that he wanted to become our food and the way that he would remain with us until the end of time.
As he promised before he ascended, is in the gift of the Holy Eucharist. And that's what the Church in the United States is celebrating over this three plus year Eucharistic revival. And that's what we're hoping to bring in the Eucharistic pilgrimage and the 2000 year history. The church, nowhere, no church anywhere has ever done what the church in the United States is boldly going to do between May 18th and July 16th.
There have been lots of Catholics over the centuries who have made long pilgrimages from Germany to the Holy Land along the Camino de Santiago in France, Spain and Portugal. But no country has ever had a Eucharistic procession across an entire country that's the size of a continent. But that's what we're going to be doing from the West Coast and San Francisco, from the East Coast and New Haven, Connecticut, from the Canadian border in northern Minnesota to the Mexican border in Brownsville, Texas.
We're all going to be converging in Indianapolis for the National Eucharistic Congress, the first in 83 years. And what we're going to be doing essentially is making a Eucharistic sign of the cross all over our country, asking the same Lord Jesus who brought peace to Judea, Samaria, Galilee and the pagan territories in the ancient Holy Land, to walk through our towns, our villages, our metropolises blessing each of the people.
They are blessing our country, blessing the church, and helping us to recognize that no matter how many problems we face, the Lord is there with us in the Eucharist so humbly, in order to strengthen us on the inside, to live up to our identity as his disciples and apostle is 65 days.
GrazieYes, 65 days. Converging from the four corners of our country are the four.
Fr. LandryCardinal Cardinal points. You could say.
GrazieThank you. Thank you very much. The four cardinal points of our country converging on Indianapolis starting the weekend of May 17th, which is Pentecost weekend. And you are going to be making a particularly strenuous effort.
Fr. LandryOne of the great gifts of being a university chaplain is, for the most part, we have the summer off in order to be able to do all those other things that we can do during this very time consuming academic year. And so three days after Columbia's commencement, I'll start in New Haven as the only priest who was able to accompany one of these four pilgrimage routes.
All 65 days is the great privilege of my life racing. I'll be celebrating my 25th anniversary as a priest on June 26. This, I'm carrying the Lord several hours a day in Columbus, Ohio, and just the priest's whole life revolves around making a choice that I would rather give you and others Jesus in the Eucharist than experience the blessings of marriage and family like myself that I you know that a priest all life is Eucharistic.
My priestly vocation happened when I was four years old, when I recognized Father John Cantwell, who was 73, going on 173, celebrate Mass and then come down to give all those who are old enough and lucky enough to receive him Jesus in Holy Communion. And I said to myself as a four year old would with wonder Boy, how lucky a priest is.
He's able to hold God in his fingers and give him to others. And that was the day that I first asked the Lord for the vocation to be a priest. There were other sort of things that nourished that vocation later, but it happened when I was four years old. I've never lost that wonder how can I make a repayment to the Lord for the gift of the priestly vocation?
I'm going to not only lift up the chalice of salvation as we pray in Psalm 116, but I'm going to have the privilege to be the Lord's Donkey walking about 1200 miles from New Haven to Indianapolis, asking him to bless his people, that he died on the cross to redeem and one of the coolest things about a Eucharistic procession, most laypeople don't know this, but when you put the priest's host in the monstrous, it often the host isn't even an exact fit for what we call the Luna, which is the two glass pieces that enclose the priest.
Host And so you'll often get at the very top about 1/16 of an inch, maybe one eighth of an inch, where you can see through the Luna. But you're looking at the Eucharist and you're looking sort of through the Eucharist at the world, and there's nothing like that. I've led Eucharistic processions in downtown Manhattan during rush hour, and to be able to look at this city or to look at Columbia's campus or to look at the parish in Massachusetts, where I've had the privilege to be able to do this through Eucharistic lenses is one of the most extraordinary things that I've ever experienced.
And I'll have 65 days walking 8 to 10 hours a day with the Lord two inches from my nose as I'm asking Him to look out with love on his people. I can't.
GrazieWait. What is that? The magic that the Lord causes to happen when when he walks through our streets.
Fr. LandryWhen people see a Eucharistic procession, and especially when they're hearing the singing and the devotion and maybe smelling the incense and seeing people walking with the Eucharist, they have to come to one of two conclusions, Hey, these people are crazy. They're walking around with this thing thinking blasphemous leads that this thing that is clearly bread is gone. That's the first thing.
Either these people are crazy or maybe these people are right. And if they are right, and this really is whom the Catholics claim to be, then maybe I'm crazy as long as I stay on the sidewalk. And so it's something that provokes people to have to make a choice. We were talking before we began this interview about a mutual hero of ours, Peter Kraft, one of the great teachers in the English language of the Catholic faith.
And I had the privilege last October to run the New York State Eucharistic Congress at the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Morrisville. And I invited Dr. Craib to come up and speak. And there he did something which he can do better than anybody else. He started with C.S. Lewis, his great testimony that we can't treat Jesus just as a good teacher.
He's either Lord or he's a liar who pretended he was Lord or is a lunatic who crazily thought he was Lord. But it's not enough for us to just.
GrazieLeave.
Fr. LandryJesus as a good moral teacher because he prevents that possibility by what he claimed. And then Peter Graves said, Likewise, for us as Catholics, we can't allow the Eucharist just to remain a thing either. The Holy Eucharist is exactly who Jesus said he is, that this is our incarnate Lord, who said, Unless we eat his flat and drink his blood, we'll have no life in us.
And this is my body and this is the chalice, my blood. Either it's truly the Lord, and then our behavior has to be the behavior we would have versus the Lord. Or this is the single most blasphemous claim of all time in which we treat an unleavened piece of bread as if he's the second person, the Blessed Trinity.
It can't be a third option. And my hope is, as we take the Lord through the highways and byways of our country, many people, by the faith of those journeying with the Lord, following in his Eucharistic footsteps, that they'll come to the conclusion that they want to join us on that pilgrimage. Because the church in her pilgrimage to the Heavenly Jerusalem is walking essentially a Eucharistic procession.
And so the way to get to heaven is to be with our Eucharistic Jesus as we journey with Him through time to what the Holy Eucharist is a foretaste of that eternal wedding banquet around the lamb looking as if he has been slain. And so that's what I hope we're going to be proclaiming by our body language and by our singing as we journey across the country.
GrazieThe Lord is always with us. He's he's in every street, he's in every byway, he's in every hovel, in every palace. How is he with us? Especially with what's special about his presence with us when he when you for instance, are carrying him down the highway, the side of the highway or on a busy sidewalk?
Fr. LandryYou're right to say that there are multiple presences of the Lord's resonant creation present in the church. Speaking to us live through His word, present in the way that we care for him in the distressing disguise of the other. But there's a special presence in the Eucharist. Jesus didn't say, Do whatever you want in my memory. He said, Do this in memory of me.
And he meant two things by that. First, celebrate the Eucharist in my memory, but then also make your life truly Eucharistic patterned after my Self-Giving say to others, This is my body, this is my blood, this is my sweat, these are my calluses. This is all I am and have given out of love for you. That's what a Eucharistic life is.
It starts by loving God in the Holy Eucharist with all our mind and soul and strength, and then filled with that love going out and seeking to love others in tandem with Christ from the inside. And so there's a really special presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist, which is why we genuflect, which is why we come before Him kneeling, which is why we sing our hearts out.
Sacrament Most Olio Sacrament Divine. It's why the Church exists. And this Eucharistic revival of the Church in the United States is to bring us back to that essential truth, which almost seems too good to be true. But it is true that this really is God with us always, until the end of time here with us on Columbia's campus when we need him most.
And in our country as we prepare for, for example, political elections, lots of other problems in our country and in the national and the international world, we're bringing the King of kings with us, asking to bless everybody in every circumstance who needs his wisdom in order to govern prudently their own life and the lives of those entrusted to them.
GrazieWe are very.
Fortunate in our parish to have 24 hour adoration seven days a week and in a truly gorgeous chapel, which is so beautifully decorated and lit that you feel like you're lounging in your halls, as they say in the songs. Tell me what you think would happen in our society, in our world, if that kind of reverence and that feeling of adoration, of that feeling, a fainting, fainting in your court that we get when we are before the sacrament, is that if that could be disseminated more widely, what would happen in our society?
Fr. LandryWe learned, by the way, that we approach Jesus in the Eucharist how really to revere and adore him that will overflow into all other aspects of our life, would be able to look with different eyes upon the other people we see, would be able to look at them more with Jesus. Besides, we would be able to see Jesus image and likeness a little bit more easily in that we'd be able to strive that if Jesus could love them enough to give his life in crucifixion for them, well then maybe we can patiently endure some of the irksome habits they may have that we wish were different.
It changes the way we look at the entire world when we start to see Jesus and recognize him under the appearances of human food, of bread and wine. When we can recognize him there, it becomes so much easier for us to recognize him everywhere. And once that happens, the world will be changed. Pope Benedict once said that when we worship the Lord at Mass and receive him in Holy Communion, it brings about a total transformation in our soul.
And that is the way that the Lord seeks to transform the world. We receive Jesus, the great revolutionary within, and become one in communion with him. And then we become his revolutionaries going out into the world to turn it right side up. That's what our Eucharistic life is meant to bring about. And that's what the U.S. fish courageously and persevering we are trying to achieve with God's help during this Eucharistic revival.
GrazieWell, Father here conversations, we wish you all the best and we will be praying along with you. How can we? Is it possible for the general public to find out where the processions are taking place so we can join in and pray along and maybe even be present as well as our Lord passes through our streets?
Fr. LandrySo we're very grateful for those prayers and need them. There is a website called Eucharistic Pilgrimage dot org, which gives the route and a little bit of a background and I'm still working very hard Gray City to have a blog done so that each of the four routes every day like many who do the Camino de Santiago in Spain are able to put what they're covering that day in the next day so that no matter where everyone is, they're going to be able to follow us almost step by step as we crisscross the country with the Eucharistic Lord, ask him to bless and prosper.
All our good intentions. And so Eucharistic pilgrimage dot org is certainly going to work. And then we hope based on that, we're going to be able to have a blog so that everybody will be able to watch the videos, see the photograph here, some of the stories from the street with us as we're going along, the perpetual pilgrims and I, so that people are able to participate virtually as we are making our spiritual and physical exercises together with the Lord across our land.
GrazieWell, thank you so much, Father, for for that. For doing that for us. For all of us, which is what you're doing. You're doing it for all of us Catholics, all those children of God, and for everything you do for us here on conversation with Consequences once a week, a lovely homily and the way to take care of us spiritually.
And thank you for your work at Columbia. We will pray along with you that the chaos will be tamed and that the hate will be replaced by love by our Lord.
Fr. LandryThanks for all of that. Grazie. I'm going to go get ready for the homily. I'll see you later in the program.
GrazieThank you.
Joining us next on Conversations with Consequences is executive producer Eric Groth. He produced the movie The Movie Wildcat, which opens next weekend on May 3rd, the weekend of May 3rd. I've been fortunate enough to already have watched a screener of the film, so I'm very excited to welcome you, Eric, to our show.
Eric GrothThank you so much. I'm glad to be here with you.
GrazieWell, we want to get to your movie and wow, it blew me away. I'm a huge Flannery O'Connor fan and how beautifully it populated so much of her work for me. And I know it's going to have that effect on our on our listeners when they watch it. But before that, tell us tell us about your road to to becoming the producer of this very important film.
Eric GrothYeah, that's actually probably like an hour long conversation.
GrazieI can give a beer.
Eric GrothOr a bourbon or a coffee. I'll give you the I'll give.
GrazieYou give us the highlight. Give us the highlights.
Eric GrothYeah, yeah. So you know what? The Lord grabbed my heart. I love my Catholic faith as a young kid and really wanted to just got into a space where I wanted to present the gospel in creative and innovative ways, especially with my peers and our youth minister in our parish that I grew up in was very, very much innovative in back in the eighties, as innovative as you could be, right, using slide projectors and shadow mines, these really creative ways of presenting the gospel and and ultimately that led us to creating short films for Catholic teens.
We started a company in 2005 called Outside the Box, and we just really wanted to serve our Catholic space and create a really engaging, relevant short film resources for Catholic youth workers to use in programs with their teens. And so we did. We did. I we're not for profit. We produced a lot of films. We produced a whole series on the catechism of the Catholic Church in film for teens.
We distributed 30,000 DVDs for free around the country to churches and schools. And that led us to get, you know, expanding the horizon a little bit. We did a film in 2015 called Full of Grace, our first feature film, and that led us to doing in 2018, released, we released a film we produced with Sony called Paul Apostle of Christ.
And on the heels of that, I met David King when I David Cameron is the chairman of Renewable Media Group. We spent a couple of years just kind of envisioning what this could look like and one of our first major projects coming out of it in which we're so blessed to be part of is is Wild Cat with Ethan Hawke and that incredible core team.
So that's the that's the fast version that.
GrazieEric I feel that with Wildcat you jumped into the deep end of all sorts of things that joined that cross in in the life of Flannery O'Connor. You know she's, I'm sure all of our listeners know more or less about her, but she was a she's a she was a spectacular, really accomplished writer, a novelist, short story writer and and a devout Catholic, someone from the Deep South at a time when things were less than perfect down there on the racial right.
On the racial side, she's a person who write, wrote in a way that that challenges the reader in a very deep and a very deep sense. Right too. To read Flannery O'Connor is to is to is to go for a walk in a dark forest and then find surprising, surprising shimmers and blow out of of light. Right of joy.
So anyway, why, why, why Flannery? Why Flannery O'Connor? Such a difficult subject.
Eric GrothYeah, for sure. I'll give you some really interesting practicals I want to just unleash to what you just said. You know, like, I mean, there is a she's quoted, she says, you know, she at one point she said all of my stories are about the action of grace on a character who is not willing to support it, you know, And so she which is really interesting.
And then what does she say for the heart of hearing you have to shout for the almost blind to draw large and startling figures. And and she you know, I think she saw herself not as somebody looking out at the horizon and going, hey, there's a problem out there. I'm going to address it with my writings. But I think it's sort of first and foremost, like in her own life, in her experiences in that Southern Gothic South, where she's a minority as a Catholic and she's in the midst in the heart of all of a lot of racism, and she's just observing these characters around her, these people around her.
Right. And and yet are she also was a person who who struggled personally diagnosed with with with lupus when she was 25. She died when she was 39. She's a wrestling with her own sickness. She's wrestling with her own mortality. She's wrestling with how how how do I how am I good Catholic? You know, like, how can I be a good Catholic in this world?
GrazieAnd and when I'm sorry, Eric. And also, how am I Catholic when I write about very dark things, right? Because we I think sometimes we think that to be good Catholics, to be good followers of Jesus, we have to always stay on the sunny side, right?
Eric GrothThat's right. And I think that's part of why she said that, quote, You know, for the heart of hearing your shout and for the almost blind, you got to draw these large, startling characters. And and she saw herself early, as you know, it was she recognized that she writes scandalous things. Right. You know, and I have a lot of Catholic friends and many have read Flannery and many have not.
And it seems that people either like her or they're not a big fan of her because it's just so different from what they're used to diving in. She's she's she's addressing big personal cultural issues and and she's not afraid to do it. And in what can certainly come off in dark ways. But I think there's a serious Integra be there because she's super honest and about her own life and she's honest in her writings and is just trying to to to wake us up in a lot of ways with the viewer up to what's around us.
And and I think she saw herself in a lot of ways as the grounding of the supernatural in the concrete, the real experiences. And she's showing where grace and reality meet, where grace which is which often, you know, cuts with the sword before it heals. Right? And so I think a lot of times she's also addressing the fact that we want grace to be friendly, right?
We want Grace to feel good. We want it to be delivered in a fashion that doesn't offend and opens our hearts. And it's in a nice box wrapped with a really pretty bow. But the reality is God delivers grace. However, it's needed for that person, for that moment, for that culture, for that time. And and so her readings are and they opened my eyes to a bigger reality of where Grace comes from.
You know, you read her writings, you kind of start out liking the protagonists, right? But then you start to see darkness in them, you know, and then you're not a real fan of the antagonists, but you start to see light in them. And I, I, I think it's just a really interesting way to, to, to view and look at the world.
So, you know, when you asked about, you know, why Flannery as a first project but again, you know there's there's a couple of really interesting, you know, a couple of kind of practical things to outside of just the fact that it was Flannery and, and this profound Catholic writer. And I think I was often well, I often wondered I didn't read a lot of Flannery we decided to do this film I read like so many do, at least everybody seems to have read a good man.
It's hard to find if they've read anything from her and and, and I was curious about like, why is that? As we started to explore a little bit more. But on the practical side too, I was I've always been a big Ethan Hawke fan and we're the same age since I saw him in Dead Poets Society and just kind of started following his career as an actor.
And I think he's a fantastic filmmaker to see him, you know, directing this project, starring his daughter Maya, with a whole wonderful cast. And and honestly, the thing that really attracted me the most to doing this project, the combination of all of this, but the big one was that it was a dad and a daughter doing something together.
And I love that and have had, you know, the last couple of years to sort of be with them and get to know them and see their relationship grow and develop and to see their artistry and to see what comes out between the two of them. It was just a really neat thing.
GrazieWell, it shines throughout the movie. The those personal, the warm relationships that they're they're everywhere in the movie. And let me mention for for our listeners who haven't had the chance to watch it yet. Yeah of course because it has an opened that it's a it's beautifully woven I think in a masterful way the parts that are about Flannery biographically and then her stories are played out there, they're staged in the movie and the same characters go back and forth in and out of her stories.
And what's fabulous that is that you, you're able to, to, to populate your understanding of this amazing woman, Flannery O'Connor, with the, with the characters and situations of her stories, which I think is always the case for every writer, right? Every writer writes about what they know and what they see around them. And you and you watch that in the movie.
You watch her see something on a bus and then and then it cuts to the this this story that she wrote.
Eric GrothYou know, the integration of that object or person. Yeah.
GrazieFabulous. What a fabulous thing to do with.
Eric GrothSuch a good device. You know, like I was the writer being Ethan Hawke and Shelby Gaines. I just. You know what a device, right? Like, how do you tell how do you try to tell who Flannery is in a film? And I think it was just beautifully the route that they chose to do that, where you've got the convergence of of reality and imagination and how faith intersects with that.
And, you know, Flannery, whose life was short circuited, right? She lived 14 years after her diagnosis. And what did she do? That's when she did all of her writing. She wrote her two novels. She wrote 30 something short stories. She wrote all her letters. And, you know, it was it was in that span that, you know, it's in that span that so much we can learn so much about her.
Right? It's like if you pull that, if you put her writing outside of her life, I'm not sure how interesting her life is, but God kind of anointed her right to write and and and so I think that I think the writers did a great job of kind of saying, okay, these are these are key things we want to communicate.
It seems like it works really well through the use of these aspects of these short stories. Let's let's incorporate it all together in the telling of a biopic where you see both reality and imagination intersecting.
GrazieIt was it was a wonderful, as you say, a device to see how Flannery O'Connor was a kind of mirror held up to not just her time and the situation and the particular situations of the place that she lived in, but also to the human soul. Because it's almost in the film, you almost feel like you're, you're traveling in and out of, of Flannery Soul and into the soul of her character, the souls of her characters who really are just representative types of, of human beings.
Because we can recognize all we recognize all the people in her stories in our own lives, right? I mean.
Maybe.
Maybe the condescending, I don't know, racist woman in the bus is not someone we know specifically, but we know condescending people. We know people who who are who see other people as parts of groups, members of groups and not individually. Right. Like we know those people or we are them sometimes. So that's true. So fabulous to to watch that happen in the movie.
Eric GrothIt's especially fun to talk with people who who who? Flannery Who? Who know. Flannery Yeah. Arenado
GrazieSomething I really like about the movie, too, is that I would call this a Catholic film and that's special interest to Catholics on a Catholic subject, but it's so well done that you never feel you're watching a Catholic film, which I don't want to put on Catholic films, but sometimes when I know it happens, I see every Catholic film that comes out and I very often get to interview the director, the producer, or someone who acted in it and I'm so happy and proud to do that.
But I know that there's like a barrier between the general public and going to watch a Catholic film right. And and that's I.
Eric GrothKnow.
GrazieIt's unjust, but I don't I it doesn't apply to Wildcat.
Eric Groththank you for saying that. You know, that's a that's a that's a hard it's a reason that we really want to take into our productions whether you know, I've seen a lot like you say grace, I've seen a lot of Catholic films, I've seen a lot of ones that fit the evangelical space. And, you know, on a level of personal call, like, I want to reach out with the gospel, with the beauty, goodness and truth that were just so embedded in who we are as humans and do it in a way that's accessible to all people.
So while this film, we we especially made this film for Catholics who love Flannery. But but we, you know, but there's also the indie arthouse loving film lovers and there's, there's the literary space and there's Maya Hawke's 10 million Instagram followers and Ethan Hawke's fans. And, you know, if we can make a film that is accessible than anybody can come and see themselves in that pull things from it.
We don't have to be preachy, but we can also, you know, achieve both things.
GrazieIt's a very important movie for its time, the same way that Flannery O'Connor is an important author for our time right now, we've seen we're seeing a terrible tide of anti-Semitism cut across the Western world. Flannery O'Connor is a person who has been accused of racism because she was part of a society and a time when people wrote and express themselves a certain way and she was steeped in her culture as we all are in our own cultures.
But she was able to find that the the ugliness in every human soul that then has been engulfed by the grace of God. Right. And made beautiful.
Eric GrothThat's right.
GrazieAnd that cuts across race and ethnicity and culture, Right? I mean, that's that's the human soul. We are in the image of God and God does that for us. He takes our ugliness and he and he and he fills us with grace.
Eric GrothI think she's an a really important voice. There's no doubt about it, because, again, she's speaking very honestly and very sincerely and very authentically, almost prophetically. Right. I mean, from the fifties to here we are now, and certainly there are always problems that culture is going to deal with in moments in time like now, like you just mentioned, there's always there seems to be escalation of trials of problems at times.
And right now, certainly an escalation of things like anti-Semitism and other other things where we're just deciding that certain peoples are more or less valuable than others and it couldn't they couldn't be farther from the gospel truth that all have been created in the image and all have in profound dignity. No matter who you are, no matter what you've done or haven't done.
And, you know, she wrote in a time when she was very honest about it, you know, I mean, she she used the language of the culture. And it's a very offensive to some people, you know. But but she's she's very honest. And I think in Wildcat and we've had some really great and reached out intentionally, especially in black culture, just to make sure that, hey, we're telling an honest story.
It's not gratuitous, not trying to offend because we think this honest person telling these incredible stories from her experience, very much so. It brings something that we can all learn about today.
Graziehow wonderful that wildcat is is out now this weekend. It is, I believe, a movie for our times. It's a movie for Catholics and non-Catholics. It's a for writers and creative people who are trying to live their faith and also be true, true to God's calling and to God's purposes in their lives. And I could go on forever, but we're out of time.
So thank you so much, Eric, for joining us.
Eric GrothThank you so much. I really love the conversation. I appreciate.
GrazieIt. And now, Father Roger Landry offers us, as is customary, a short and inspiring homily to prepare us for this Sunday's gospel.
Fr. LandryThis is Father Roger Atlanta. It's a joy for me to join you again at the end of the program. As we enter into the consequential conversation. There is more Jesus wants to have with us. This Sunday. He's going to share with us one of his most memorable and powerful images, revealing the type of relationship he wants us to have with him and with others, describing for us how to have a truly successful life according to his terms.
We're living at a time of great fragmentation. The church has been divided not only between Catholics and Orthodox and Catholics and Protestants, but also among various groups of Catholics. The regard to liturgy, morality, the truths of the faith, and more politically. We're polarized socially, we're stratified, as we've seen on many college campuses lately, like at Columbia, where I serve as Catholic chaplain.
We're rancorous, divided over what's happening in Gaza, what's happening on campuses and more. All of these divisions ultimately trace themselves back to voluntary separations from God through sin and choices against communion with others. That's what makes Jesus words to us this Sunday so important, urgent and helpful. Jesus tells us, I am the vine. You are the branches. He and his faithful.
He and the church exist together like Venn, Vine and branches do that first, a sacramental or archeological reality by our baptism, we have been incorporated into Christ himself as part of the life giving Vine with Jesus own life flowing through ours. But it's also meant to be a moral reality. We're called to live in communion with him and with others in communion with him.
This image of the fruitful Union of God and His united people was foretold throughout the Old Testament. The prophets often compared Israel to a vine. Isaiah declared, The Vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel. Jose added, Is Israel is a luxuriant find that yields its fruit. All of this was depicted visually in a stunning golden relief of a vine with clusters of grapes as big as adults running around the outside walls of the temple of Jerusalem.
The church is the fulfillment of this image. The temple stands for God, and when the people in faith attach themselves to God, they become a luxuriant vine, stretching out branches and bearing fruit even into the desert. Jesus was probably calling upon his apostles obvious knowledge of this golden sculpture as it was describing the image of the vine, the branches on Holy Thursday night, because they likely would have seen the gilded vine as they visited the temple early in the day.
The problem, we know from our knowledge of sacred scripture is that Israel as a whole didn't stay attached to God in this way. God would ask to try Isaiah. What more was there to do from my vineyard than I had not done? Why? When I looked for a crop of grapes, did bring forth wild grapes. It didn't bear good fruit because it had detached itself from God through sin.
Jesus mentioned this in one of his parables when he said the vineyard owner said multiple waves of servants and finally a son to collect his share of grapes at the harvest time. But the tenants of the vineyard manhandled the servants and killed the son. This was referring to salvation, history and to the way Israel treated the Prophet God sent to them and treated even Jesus himself can look to Israel to bear fruit, namely deeds of love and union with God.
But so often the harvest that was yielded was the bitter fruit of a wild life, rejecting God's prophets, God's Word, God's love, and even God's very son. That's why Jesus says at the beginning of this Sunday's passage, I am the true vine. By doing so, he contrasted himself with the unfaithfulness of those which failed to produce the harvest of love God wants in the world.
He had taken on a humanity, entered our world to replant that vine, to become the new temple, to make possible our bearing good fruit. And in the great mystery of salvation history, God makes the fruit He bears dependent on our being fruitful branches. A vine can't be a fruit without branches. The stem only bears branches, but it's the branches that bear fruit for God to bear his fruit in the world.
In other words, he has chosen to depend on us that we remain attached to him and bear good fruit. Otherwise, the great gift of his salvation, his love won't be seen in the world. People won't be saved. The sap of his love will be wasted. Jesus wants to be a fruit in you and in me. He wants his love to flow through you and me and through the church wants us to bear not wild grapes that are good for nothing but fruit that will endure to eternal life.
The church exists as branches on Christ the vine precisely to bear this a man abundant harvest of the fruit of love. For that to occur, Jesus says we must abide in Him. Whether we bear good fruit or not totally depends on whether we remain in him, whether we live in loving union with him. Abide in me, he tells us, as I abide you just as a branch can't be a fruit on its own unless you remain remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide me to abide in Jesus is far more than a wish to be in communion with Him.
There's many practical consequences we see elsewhere in the Gospel. We can focus briefly on five things we need to do to abide in Jesus. First, to abide them, we must keep his commandments, he tells us, in the continuation of Sunday's Gospel passage. If you keep my commandments, you will abide my love. Just as I have kept my father's commandments in a Biden is love.
The commandments train us to love God and love others. We can't be abiding in God unless we love him and try to love others as he is. Loved us first. Second, to abide in Jesus, we must listen to His word. He tells us, If you remain in me and my words remain in you, we must be people who abide in the word of God, who let what God has said echo within us, who must act.
And what Jesus said to the devil. Man doesn't live on bread alone, but in every word that comes from God's mouth must live by the principle. Saint Peter and the Apostles live by Lord. To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. If we don't know the Word of God, If our Bibles just take up space, our bookshelf.
If we don't seek to become living commentaries on what God has taught, then we will bear little fruit. That's why it's so great. Millions of Catholics are listening to the Bible in a year podcast with Father Mike Schmidt taking advantage of the excellent resources of Scott Hunt, St Paul's Biblical Center, where Bishop Barron's word on fire. Listening even to this reflection every week or otherwise trying to grow in their knowledge, love and living of sacred scripture.
That brings us to the third point To abide in Jesus, we must be pruned by God the Father through the Word of God. Jesus says that the Father takes away every branch in me that doesn't bear fruit. And everyone that does he prune means so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you.
The word of God helps us to cut off from our lives. Whatever won't be a fruit and God helps us to keep our priorities straight, to assist us, for example, to cut out all the time we waste watching television or video scrolling through social media or other distractions. So we use our gift of time, not for selfish pursuits, not for worthless diversions, but for God and in others in forgotten and love of others.
Many times we can that type of pruning ourselves, making resolutions through prayer or after retreats so that our energies can go exclusively into bearing fruit. But sometimes when we don't do so or can't do on our own God, the Father may out of love, prune us, take away certain things that we might desire so that we may begin to grow in the way God really wants us to grow.
To abide in Jesus means to give Him permission to do this pruning and to pray about how He wants us to be pruned every day. Beginning now. Fourth, to abide in Jesus, we must spread the faith. Saint John writes in his first letter God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God and they abide in God.
God really abides in us and we in Him than we can't help but spread love of him. So naturally, as a good apple tree bears good apples, we can't keep to ourselves the joy of living, the faith, the happiness that comes from having Christ within. We must share that faith. Lastly, to abide in Jesus, we must live a truly Eucharistic life.
Jesus told us in his famous Bread of Life discourse Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them. This abiding begins with hungering for Jesus in Holy Communion and receiving immortality. Eucharistic life involves running a loving communion with others is the same Holy Spirit who hovers over the priest in altar to change the substance of the bread and wine into Jesus body.
Blood, soul and divinity hovers over the priest and faithful to change us into one body, one spirit in Christ, and a Eucharistic existence flourishes in wanting to bear fruit and do this in memory of him to give our body and blood out of love for him and others. This type of Eucharistic abiding is something that the ongoing Eucharistic revival of the Church in the United States is trying to foster.
Every mass is a living summary of this gospel of the vine and the branches in it. We consecrate the fruit of the vine, the true vine Jesus himself squeezed out during his passion on the cross. But we also consecrate the work of human hands. Our hands, we who are the branches God, the Father returns this to us is our spiritual drink that we offer to Him under the appearance of wine in the Eucharist, the fruit that we give with Christ, the fruit of the vine in the branch.
It reaches its climax as we consecrate it together with Christ to the Father. If we live the Eucharist, if we keep this communion with the Lord, if we live this loving union with Him and others, then we will indeed He promises bear that will last until eternal life. And this is the remedy for all the division that the devil seeks to sow in the world.
Let's live as vine and branches in communion with Christ, in communion with others. Always. God bless you.
Thank you, Father Landry. To hear more from Father Landry, check out his website on Catholic priest income. And you can also catch his writings at EWTN on National Catholic Register. A big thank you to all our listeners for joining us. I hope that this show was helpful. I hope that it gave you more peace and more hope and more joy.
And you go with our prayers.