© The Fraternity of St Genesius 2007
Praying for those involved in cinema and theatre
One night, while working as a seminarian in New York, I joined a group who went out to help the homeless. One young man who was sleeping out Battery Park told me his story. He was not from New York - he had left his home in the Mid-West (for what reasons he did not tell me), and had come to New York to pursue his dream to be an actor: his story was hardly unique - the city is full of aspiring actors, most of whom are be to found working in diners and the service industries while they look for work. He had planned to stay with his uncle, but discovered too late that his uncle had moved and left no forwarding address. With nowhere to go this young man ended up on the streets. When I met him he was trying to get a job, but so far had been unsuccessful: having neither home, agent, or money did not help. The group I was with took him under their wings, but I later discovered that his experience was typical of many men and women struggling to make a living in theatre and cinema. In my prayer I remembered him and those like him, but I could not forget the ‘famous’ ones either, the ones who ‘made it’. While we watch the glamour of their lives from afar, the reality is different. In those hours of prayer, the lives and difficulties and in particular the sheer influence of these men and women came before my eyes. Who was praying for them?
I spoke to particular friends, and like spiritual companions they reflected, prayed and guided me. I consulted with people in the business: their reactions were positive and supportive. The question on our minds: is God asking for something to be done? Such an association, as far as I could see did not exist in the Church and the aims would be noble and in keeping with the Church’s mission. I spoke with my Spiritual Director, and he told me the story of how the founder of his congregation, the Society of the Divine Word, St Arnold Janssen came to realize he was being called to found. St Arnold, he said, saw then need for a missionary congregation, and so he often spoke to priests about it, encouraging some to explore the idea - he never though of doing it himself. One day, when discussing the idea with a brother priest, the priest asked him why he didn’t start it himself. St Arnold was taken aback: he never thought of it, so he decided to test the waters and see….
Reflecting on this I went on a pilgrimage to Fátima in June 2006 and I confided the idea to Our Lady, consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart - if this was to happen it would be hers not mine - part of her mission. St Genesius continued to haunt me. In our parish in Drogheda we had conducted a novena for actors since 2005 leading up to St Genesius’ feast day on the 25th August - over seventy of our parishioners joined in the first year, and more joined us the following year. Various graces and favours were received - were these signs? In January of this year I decided to I decided to test the waters and see if the Spirit was leading, and so I invited a number of people to join me for a meeting in order to discuss the ideas. We met on the 19th January, and that evening the Fraternity was founded. So far indications are positive, and with the eagerness of the Council members and the generosity of those who are joining, we are moving forward in the hope of doing a little good for Christ’s sake and for those we believe St Genesius wants us to keep in our hearts and prayers. As we proceed we will continue to pray and trust in God and we ask you to accompany us on this journey as companions.
(Father Director’s account in July 2007)
The Origins of the Fraternity
This association seems unusual: a fraternity of Christians praying for actors and their colleagues - why, you might ask? Where did the idea come from? The idea for the Fraternity was born in a little church in London: Corpus Christi Church, Maiden Lane, in the West End. Thanks to a friend I came to know and love this church: it is a haven of peace in the city, and so whenever I am in London I like to go there.
On my first visit a few years ago I noticed a statue of a Roman martyr - it turned out to be St Genesius, the patron of acting and theatre. I knew him well as I had often visited his tomb when I was living in Rome. During Holy Hours in Corpus Christi over a period of a few years, my attention was constantly being brought back to the statue and I found myself praying for those under St Genesius’ patronage. Since that first visit the idea of forming a family of prayer for them presented itself and remained in my heart. In conversations with friends over the years we had often spoken of the need to renew culture and of the possibilities that those in the arts and cinema had of helping re-Christianize our society. Culture has a tremendous influence on society and particularly on our young people, and it needs to be reclaimed for Christ. Other things were also occupying my mind and through personal experiences and meetings I came to realize that many in ‘the business’ were struggling, be they famous or unknown. One meeting in particular touched me and made sense of my reflections.
Fr John Hogan
Statue of St Genesius Corpus Christi Church