The Celeb Names & Why We Care

Earlier I posted a picture of celebrities from the 1940s and asked you to identify them.

Some of the guesses were very good, indeed. I myself was only able to recognize Loretta Young (the sitting gal with the feathered hat) but I got waylaid by the fellow in profile, who looked a little like Cary Grant, if Cary Grant had looked like that.

Let’s look again:

The un-Cary Grant is the film director Leo McCarey.
The back row is Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, Jack Benny, Irene Dunne, and William Holden. The front row is Leo McCarey, Ann Blyth, a priest, Loretta Young, and on the armrest Paul Douglas.

Why did I show you the picture?

Well, let’s look at that priest, again. This time, with James Cagney!

That priest is a man worth knowing about, because he was eloquent in proclaiming “The Cure for Which Mankind Longs”. His name was Fr. James Keller, and he resisted the priesthood:

One day, a priest named Father Ryan came into the store to buy something and Keller started discussing his decision to leave the seminary, seeming to want confirmation that he had done the right thing. But Father Ryan told him, “I’m not going to take it on my conscience to tell you not to go back to the seminary. After all, in God’s plan, there may be thousands of people whose salvation depends on what you may do for them as a priest.”

In his autobiography, Father Keller wrote, “I began to see that failure on my part to be an instrument of the divine plan could, in a minor way at least, deprive others of blessings that rightfully belonged to them and that were to be sent through one person like myself.” This notion that we each have a particular mission to fulfill in life became an integral part of Father Keller’s philosophy.

An important message for all of us. Then there is this:

Another pivotal moment for Father Keller came during a meeting at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House during which he entered the completely darkened auditorium and couldn’t see a thing. The person he was with lit a match and set off to find the light switch. Father Keller recalled, “The sight of that tiny flame made an indelible impression on me. Insignificant as it was, it was greater than the darkness. All that was needed to banish the darkness completely was to multiply that flicker of light.”

That’s exactly what Father Keller set out to do when he founded the Christopher movement in 1945. He chose the name The Christophers because it means “Christ-bearer” in Greek, and adopted as the movement’s motto the old Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”

Though some people initially saw The Christophers as an anti-communist organization, Father Keller was quick to point out that his central goal was not to be against something bad, but rather to support something good. He said, “One of the best ways to cure a starving patient is to build him up with nourishing food; the best way to cure this disease in our society is to build up society itself with good ideas and ideals.”

Keller’s work and philosophy seem to be particularly well-suited to our times, and Tony Rossi’s brief exposition of the man and his legacy is a read that informs the mind and feeds the soul. I hope you’ll read it. You’ll be glad, and perhaps even inspired.

The Stuff Our Priests are Made Of

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • Cantara Christopher

    As I’m something of a showbiz history buff, I recognized everyone in the photo except Father Keller. The celebrities, I believe, were all interviewees of the TV show Christopher Closeup which was produced by Fr Keller’s organization The Christophers.

  • Terry Fenwick

    What a terrific story. I did not know all of this but I knew these people were Catholic – the ones sitting. Thanks for sharing and how we need to encourage others who have had a call in the past but have left it. They just may need to hear this story.

  • Klaire

    Elizabeth you write about the most interesting things! Great story, thanks!

    p.s. I though the priest was Father Peyton

  • Patty

    I’m reading this post with tears down my face feeling so humbled by the actions of our priests. Thank you, Lord.

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  • Dangerous Dan

    I recall “The Christophers” as my Dad subscribed to the small monthly, maybe semi-monthly magazine from them.

    In fact, one of his favorite sayings was printed on the cover of every edition of the magazine, “It’s better to light one candle then to curse the darkness.” I didn’t know the origin was Fr Keller.

    Thanks for sharing that!

  • Lori

    I must admit I have trouble with the notion that God gives us a work that, if we don’t do it, won’t be done by anyone. I’m sure this is partly because I feel I’m always falling short, but if a work is important, wouldn’t God have backup plans? Am I truly the only person responsible for some action or prayer which would save my brother or sister? That’s … so heavy.

  • Stefanie

    This post made me smile! Ann Blythe’s husband was my mom’s obgyn who delivered me in May, 1956. In fact, during one of my mom’s post-delivery doctor appointments, Ann couldn’t resist holding me in the receptionist area — we’re both redheads, you see. Dr. McNulty died on Mother’s Day 2007…my beloved mom followed a few months’ later.

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  • Jet B.

    Thank you for posting this article, and the link to Tony Rossi’s writing.

    re: Lori, you phrase the troubling notion well. That is to say, the humbling fact of the matter. My reflection in terms of the above article might be too long, in which case The Anchoress will please check “return to sender”.

    For God to ask any of us poor sinners to participate in the work of salvation is a mystery, but an encouraging one, since something important is requested from every person.

    Father Ryan’s reply to Fr. Keller echoes the Biblical instruction Pope John Paul II was fond of: “be not afraid!”

    As the lives of priests such as Fr. James Keller remind us, God will provide grace, particularly through the Sacraments – the grace necessary for us to sustain that otherwise terrifying “weight of glory” so long as we rely entirely on Him.

    Faithfulness to God is indeed a heavy burden, but much lighter than the alternative.

    And then I am reminded of the end of a story: “You’re gonna carry that weight.” What a good weight to bear, the yoke of Christ.

  • JBalconi

    Lori, God knows our weaknesses and failings, so I like to think of it as we have “jobs” that aren’t any bigger than we are.

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  • Maureen

    Well, of course God has many backup plans, and can even draw good out of evil. But. Part of free will is that our actions have consequences. So my actions have consequences (whether I do various things I’m supposed to do or not); the actions of the other backup plan people do too; and the decisions of the people affected by our actions or inactions have consequences (whether they accept or refuse God’s many invitations).

    That said, we should never allow ourselves to be paralyzed by regret. Even if we missed something important that God wanted us to do, we have many important things to do for God every day. And even if we screw up or deny God wilfully, He will bring good out of our evil. It’s important to keep trying to cooperate with God, because we never know when some little obedience or kindly act will be important. He loves to use little tiny things to do amazing things in other people’s lives we never could have expected, and which we may never know about until the Last Judgment.

    I once got an email that a little website of mine had inspired a young woman to find a career in a certain academic field. Did I expect that or go looking for it? Was it even the best possible website that could have been done? No. But God used my little hobby webpage to do great things. Whatever else I’ve done or failed to do, I apparently cooperated then.

  • Lori

    Thanks, everyone, I appreciate your thoughts!