"The Cure for Which Mankind Longs"
Father Keller realized this wouldn't be an easy task. He wrote, "To be a Christ-bearer must mean sacrifice, loss of time, inconvenience, suffering, misunderstanding, and countless disappointments that truly try men's souls. Still, the answer is in our hands."
The popularity of The Christophers grew -- even among non-Catholics -- and eventually attracted the attention of Hollywood. Academy Award-winning director Leo McCarey (Going My Way, The Bells of St. Mary's) signed on to create a half-hour film that conveyed Christopher ideals in an entertaining way. Father Keller likely never envisioned that he would someday share the screen with celebrities like Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Jack Benny, Loretta Young, and Ann Blyth but such was the case with the film You Can Change the World, which was based on his best-selling book.
The advent of television presented an opportunity for more Christopher films and eventually a weekly talk show that featured Father Keller and guests discussing their lives, work, and the application of Christopher principles in the world.
Other initiatives (which are ongoing) included Christopher News Notes, bulletins that show how people can apply divine principles to modern life; the Christopher Awards, which honor books, films, and TV programs that affirm the highest values of the human spirit; and the Christopher Leadership Course, which trains people to improve their public speaking and interpersonal skills.
Though the Christopher idea gained the attention of powerful people, it was predominantly a grass-roots movement in which the average citizen accepted some level of sacrifice in order to make a difference. For instance, a young woman inspired by The Christophers went into the field of social work and wrote the following to Father Keller: "I have from time to time been tempted to try a job where I would be able to earn more money and get some of the material things that all young girls like. But then I look into the eyes of some of my little children and I realize I have more than money can buy."
Another letter to Father Keller came from a surprising source. It stated, "I am an agnostic -- and my first thought upon receiving your Christopher News Notes was to tear them up without reading them. However, because I love to read and perhaps partly out of curiosity, I have been reading them through. Although I may never be able to really believe in God . . . your words make me want to do more, really devote more time to helping others less fortunate than I."
Though Father Keller died in 1977, the mission he set for The Christophers continues to this day. Considering the current drift from God and traditional values, his ideas remain as relevant now as they were sixty-five years ago. Yet Father Keller was never one to indulge in complaining about what was wrong with the world. Instead, he encouraged others to focus on the good that could be accomplished.
As he wrote, "The leavening of the multitude with Christian ideals can be done in the same simple way it was by the early Christians of the catacombs -- (through) their consuming love for all men, even their worst enemies, in each of whom they saw the image of Christ Himself. It is a power which the least of us can have. It is the cure for which mankind longs."
Tony Rossi serves as host/producer of "Christopher Closeup," the radio show and podcast of. The Christophers, a Catholic non-profit that uses media to encourage people of all faiths to live gospel values.