Release the Lion

March 18, 2014 | 3 comments

Not so long ago—certainly within my parents’ lifetime—Catholics so influenced the culture in America that Archbishop Fulton Sheen ruled the television airwaves, Flannery O’Connor, the short story, and Walker Percy, the novel. The critics at the New York Times Review of Books must have gnashed their teeth each time Percy delivered a book deeply suffused with Catholic sense, but they could deny neither the brilliance of his prose nor the penetration with which treated the most mysterious and fundamental realities of human experience. I wonder if any of them ever understood that it was Percy’s Catholicism from which his genius derived?

In the same way, it’s no accident that from the Catholic heart of Frank Capra sprang forth so many motion-picture triumphs. His films gave eloquent and endearing expression to a Catholic understanding of family, community, and social justice. Don’t stop with It’s a Wonderful Life. See Lionel Barrymore as the good guy: the Catholic paterfamilias in You Can’t Take it With You.

See the same themes worked through with a little more edge and sorrow in the masterpieces of another great Catholic filmmaker, John Ford. “A Catholic poet” is how Ford’s present-day disciple, Walter Hill described the man who gave us The Searchers, The Informer, The Quiet Man, and How Green Was My Valley. Only Ford could set a picture in a mining town in Protestant Wales and have it come out so thoroughly Catholic.

Catholics have lost so much of their influence in the space of three generations that it is hard to imagine our age producing a John Ford or a Walker Percy, or to imagine that if there were such talent that he would find so broad an audience as he once might have. In our time the Faith hardly informs the culture. Rather it seems to be in retreat in the face of a full-bore assault. Our priesthood, our rites, and our doctrines are mocked. We are branded intolerant for not embracing false definitions of marriage. We are forced by law to pay for contraceptives and abortions. Against their consciences, Catholic business owners—bakers, wedding photographers, and innkeepers for example—are forced to cooperate with customers whose behavior turns away from to the truth.

At Catholic Answers we wish to make very clear: In the face of the present assault, lying low is not an option. It’s time to take back our culture, and our country, and not for a mere temporal cause, but so that we can win more and more souls for Christ.

Catholics are called to perseverance and fidelity. We are called to open our hearts to the grace of the Sacraments. We are also called to deepen our understanding of the Faith.

But we are called to do more than that. We are called to take our knowledge of the Faith and our fervor for the truth and to go out and leaven the world with fortitude and joy. If the New Evangelization means anything, it means  the laity have a responsibility to spread the Gospel.

It is to help Catholics fulfill this calling that Catholic Answers exists.

That's why we are here.

Let me extend an invitation: If you want to get better at defending the Catholic Faith in the face of the grave challenges of our day, join us for three days of inspiration featuring the Catholic Answers team, special guest Archbishop Alexander Sample of Portland, Oregon, and the company of fellow Catholics who share your love of the Faith and your desire to see our land once again set afire by the fullness of the truth.

September 4-6 in San Diego.


Register before 31 May and save more than $100.00 per person.

Last year’s conference was a sellout. Don’t miss this one.

Be there when we let the lion out of the cage.


Christopher Check is president of Catholic Answers. A graduate of Rice University, for nearly two decades he served as vice president of The Rockford Institute. Before that he served for seven years as a field artillery officer in the Marine Corps, attaining the grade of captain. He lectures on Church and...

Comments by Members

#1  Bryan Metcalf - Napa, California

In his book "Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic," Matthew Kelley estimates that only 7 percent of American Catholics account for more than 80 percent of the charitable donations and volunteer hours within their communities.

In spite of this, Catholics feed, house and clothe more people, care for more sick people, educate more students, and visit more prisoners than ANY other institution on the planet.

Imagine the impact we would have on the world if we live up to our calling as Christians! We would light the world on fire, just as St. Catherine of Siena promised: "If you are what you should be you will set the world ablaze."

March 18, 2014 at 10:20 pm PST
#2  ds thorne - Fairfax, Virginia

Flannery O'Connor, John Ford - and for that matter Joris-Karl Huysmans, Graham Green, Tolkein, the great Catholic polymaths of the history of science, etc. - where are their likes now? Have we lost the courage to engage the culture without compromising our faith - I mean to go beyond apologetics (very valuable in itself) and present ourselves as well-rounded, creative, even visionary? Have we left behind the old "Catholic ghetto", only to create a new one for ourselves? Does the sheer effort of maintaining orthodoxy in the midst of open dissent preclude this? I certainly hope not!
~DS Thorne,

April 1, 2014 at 12:30 pm PST
#3  Gloria Ballard - Murfreesboro, Tennessee

The television show LOST is very Catholic, especially the first season. I watched it on dvd years after all of my friends, and was astonished that not one of my friends had ever noticed.

April 12, 2014 at 9:26 pm PST

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