I found an oasis of faith in Hollywood

Holy Cross Family Ministries

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By Julie Rattey



Matthew Marsden is a Hollywood actor, former singer, and native of Great Britain. He has appeared in films including “Rambo” and “Black Hawk Down.” He lives with his wife, Nadine, and their son in Los Angeles. The family is frequently involved in activities with Family Theater Productions, a division of Holy Cross Family Ministries, founded by Father Patrick Peyton.


nce in a while, there comes a time in your life when you get a nagging doubt, a hole in your heart that needs to be filled. Some people try to fill it with sex, drugs, money, other vices. For me, it took God to fill that hole in my life.

I was doing what I do now — working as an actor in Hollywood — when it began. I wasn’t living a terrible life, but I wasn’t living the life I should have been. Reaching out for God’s forgiveness didn’t really occur to me. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family in England, and unfortunately, the Church I experienced was a lot of fire and brimstone. We weren’t taught about the mercy of God. It took a special friend to bring that revelation into my life.


It all started some years back when I was in the States doing a TV pilot and one of my fellow performers gave me the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. At the time I was looking at different faiths, searching for answers in my life. When I finished this book, it hit me: This is it. Jesus was real. And He is the Son of God. Not long after, I ended up sitting next to a Catholic priest at a wedding reception who turned out to be Father Willy Raymond of Family Theater Productions. I knew I was probably going to ruin the poor guy’s dinner bending his ear, but I couldn’t resist asking all these questions I had. Finally Father Willy asked if I’d like to come to Mass at St. Monica’s, a parish affiliated with Family Theater. This would have a bigger impact on my life than I could have imagined.


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amily Theater is a godsend, a little oasis right in the middle of Hollywood. You can get caught up with a lot of other things in life, especially in this town. But Family Theater is a place where you can feel safe, a place where you can speak with like-minded, approachable, non-judgmental people.

At first, though, I was a little skeptical about getting involved. For one, I wasn’t sure how professional the theater would be. But I was in for a surprise. Family Theater encourages people to have a more intelligent approach toward filmmaking, influence the industry for the better, and create films that move people and that promote good messages. It seems that a lot of the movies in Hollywood don’t, and to some extent, I’m guilty of being a part of that. But Family Theater is really chipping away at it. As Pope John Paul II said, we have to use media to reach people. It’s rare that you can get people’s undivided attention for two hours like you do in the movies.

I began to see that by being part of Family Theater, I could use my talent in the film industry to help make that industry better, and I could develop my Catholic faith at the same time. As I began to attend various Family Theater events, like a discussion group based on the teachings of Thomas Aquinas, I began to peel off more and more layers of the Church’s rich tradition and theology. And the man who helped me do that the most is Father Willy.


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You need more than a knowledge of the Catechism to be a true Catholic; you need an understanding of God’s love and compassion. Father Willy’s got that. He’s never judgmental. He listens. He’s guided me as I discover my faith but never forced the issue. The things I’ve learned from him will stay with me for the rest of my life.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is that the Church is made up of sinners who are offered God’s forgiveness. A lot of the people I heard talking about God when I was younger came across as sanctimonious. That kind of talk just makes people think, I can’t be a part of that; I’m not good enough. But we all have flaws. We all have fallen away from the Lord. That’s why He came down for us. That’s why He’s here.

So I say to people that as I develop in my faith, I know that there are going to be times of doubt. I know there are going to be days when I don’t make God the priority. I am by no means the finished article. I’ve made loads of mistakes in my life, and I’ll continue to make them. But I’m trying. We all just need to keep trying and moving forward.

 

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I don’t look at the world in the same way as I did before reconnecting with my faith. I feel so excited about how much there is to discover. All these things have helped me realize what’s really important. Sometimes I would say to Father Willy, “If such-and-such ever happens, I would never forgive myself,” and he would say, “Who are you? Who are you not to forgive yourself when God has forgiven you?” It’s overwhelming. I’m this 6-foot-3, 210-pound guy, and yet when I go to Mass I have to hold back the tears, especially when we say, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive You. But only say the word and I shall be healed.” It just kills me, every single time. CD

Managing Editor Julie Rattey

Julie Rattey is a Boston-based writer and editor. She is the author of If I Grew Up in Nazareth, available from 23rdPublications.com.