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Kathryn Jean Lopez / October 14, 2017

Hollywood, False Idols and a Different Path

In 2004, Saint John Paul II was here and his words sound like they were delivered for us today.

Brad Pitt appears to be the hero of the most recent Hollywood story, having done what many were afraid to do: stand up to Harvey Weinstein. The scandal was a far cry from the peace and dignity of Lourdes, France, where I happened to be as the tawdry details of Weinstein’s decades of sexual harassment began to emerge. Here, it’s hard to escape the natural and supernatural presence of something healing, something renewing. Here, every night a candlelight procession seems to kindle something far beyond the digital wonders of our iPhone age. Here, the dignity of each person is on display in both modest and radiant ways. It’s restorative. It’s what we need.

Pilgrims flood in daily to this site where a young girl named Bernadette saw the mother of God.

In 2004, Saint John Paul II was here and his words sound like they were delivered for us today:

“(Y)oung people who seek an answer capable of giving meaning to your lives(:) Here you can find that answer. It is a demanding one, yet it is the only answer which is genuinely satisfying. For it contains the secret of true joy and peace.”

One can only imagine that a young Hollywood actor or actress striving for success would never tolerate behavior like Weinstein’s if he or she were thinking about such matters in a community that looked out for each other’s best interest. It’s hard not to think of the celebrities who attach themselves to political causes that claim to be about lifting up women, at the same time passively contributing to the kind of misery that Hollywood appears to be bursting at the seams with.

John Paul, on the other hand, knew the gift that women are to the world. In Lourdes, he also said: “From this grotto I issue a special call to women. Appearing here, Mary entrusted her message to a young girl, as if to emphasize the special mission of women in our own time, tempted as it is by materialism and secularism: to be in today’s society a witness of those essential values which are seen only with the eyes of the heart. To you, women, falls the task of being sentinels of the invisible! I appeal urgently to all of you, dear brother and sisters, to do everything in your power to ensure that life, each and every life, will be respected from conception to its natural end. Life is a sacred gift, and no one can presume to be its master.”

In America today, there is some inadvertent transparency happening. In politics, in culture, on the streets. Our anger, our sins, our pain, all are on display. This plays out in all kinds of incivility, incoherence, sickness and death. We see the poisons that wreck families, cities and nations. The question is: What are we going to do about it?

John Paul had the answer here too. “Finally, Our Lady of Lourdes has a message for everyone: Be men and women of freedom! But remember: Human freedom is a freedom wounded by sin. It is a freedom which itself needs to be set free. Christ is its liberator; he is the one who ‘for freedom has set us free.’ Defend that freedom!”

When he first took the world stage as pope, JPII urged: “Be not afraid.” Fear makes victims of us all. No one should ever wield the kind of crass tyrannical power that Weinstein did. Our religion is celebrity, and status is everything in Hollywood. We feed it. We have some complicity in the open and hidden secrets when we make people and their power our idols.

Pope John Paul suggested, pointing to Mary’s fearless assent to God’s request: “Walk beside Mary as you journey towards the complete fulfillment of your humanity!”

Whatever you believe about God, man and Mary, consider this message of freedom. It’s water at Lourdes that heals — there are actual medical reports confirming it. But just in a visit, you discover the miracle of a little peace and quiet. And it’s not celebrity that we’re after here, but a freeing from the chains of this world and its traps. When light hits the darkness, we have a chance to do things differently. Whether you’re in Hollywood or a small town, see the light in your life and take a step to be free of whatever or whomever has been robbing you of your human dignity.

COPYRIGHT 2017 United Feature Syndicate

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