I found an oasis of faith in Hollywood
Holy Cross Family Ministries
By Julie Rattey
As told by Matthew Marsden
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.
|“When I met my wife, I knew there was a God”
In a turn of events worthy of a film script, Marsden was playing the role of Paris, the famous lover whom some would say fate introduced to the beautiful Helen of Troy, when God introduced him to his real-life sweetheart.
Marsden was filming in Malta when he got thrown from his horse and began taking a Pilates class to help his back recuperate. There, he met Nadine, a ballet dancer who was also recovering from an injury.
“When I met my wife,” says Marsden, “I knew there was a God. Every person I meet just falls in love with her because she’s such a good person.”
It didn’t hurt that Nadine was Catholic. In May of 2005, they were wed.
“She has really great faith,” says Marsden. “It helps that we go to Mass together. It helps that we can sit and talk about these things. It helps when we can say the Rosary together. It helps that I can sit and say my prayers with my son when he goes to sleep and she does the same.”
Marsden believes it was nothing less than divine intervention that brought Nadine into his life. “She was absolutely chosen for me.”
Once 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.
|ABOUT FAMILY THEATER PRODUCTIONS
Family Theater was founded in 1947 by Father Patrick Peyton, pictured, who became a media pioneer by his vision and by recruiting the best writers and actors in Hollywood, from Jimmy Stewart to Shirley Temple, to entertain, inspire, and inform families through radio and television.
Family Theater is a division of Holy Cross Family Ministries and promotes and supports the spiritual well-being of the family. For more information, visit familytheater.org and hcfm.org.
To read a story from the June 1948 edition of Catholic Digest about the founding of Family Theater and how Bing Crosby helped launch its radio programming, click here.
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.
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.
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