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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: July 2, 2022
By Brother Roch McClellan, OSB
David Lynch’s “The Straight Story” is a quiet little 1999 film based on the true story of an elderly man, Alvin Straight, who sets out to ride his John Deere lawn mower across Iowa and Wisconsin to visit his estranged, ailing brother Lyle. Throughout his travels, he pauses to help people and, in turn, sometimes receives assistance himself.
Alvin makes his journey through stubbornness, love for his brother and a faith beyond any human reasoning. Faith. St. Paul tells us, “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrew 11:1) At the center of our Catholic Mass, directly after the words of institution, which transform the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, the priest acclaims, “The mystery of faith.”
What is our mystery of faith? It’s revealed in John 6:51: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever, and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” And in John 6:56: “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” In other words, the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the intersection of God’s love and our faith. In love, Christ offers the gift of himself; in faith, we accept and believe the exhortations of Jesus Christ as literal and true.
Through the Eucharist, God offers us the transformational gift of Christ’s Body and Blood. It is mysterious, and you must respect the mystery of it. You must expand beyond your mortal senses and move deeper into your faith.
Through the Eucharist, God offers us the transformational gift of Christ’s Body and Blood. It is mysterious, and you must respect the mystery of it. You must expand beyond your mortal senses and move deeper into your faith. The Eucharist cannot be disassembled and analyzed. The Eucharist is not a mathematical formula to be factored out, nor is it a poem to be parsed. God’s love through the Eucharist cannot be rationalized and scientifically understood; only accepted and experienced.
A mystery. At times, his presence will overwhelm you. Sometimes your heart will be, as St. Benedict writes, “overflowing with the inexpressible delight of love.” (RB Prologue: 49) At times you will be distracted and lose sight of him. Then you must stay with him by habit, by stubbornness. Remain steadfast in him. You will sometimes feel nothing and think that he has abandoned you, but wait. Hold on. Dig in. More than ever, deepen your faith.
He is always with you despite what your senses and emotions tell you. Despite everything, struggle onward and stay the course. Through all your mistakes, falls, getting back up, reconciliations, good days, bad days, dry, arid days, remember the words of Peter: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) Expand deeper into God’s reality and, in faith, accept Christ’s loving gift of eternal salvation. The ending of “The Straight Story” finds the two old men sitting on the front porch of the brother’s dilapidated shack.
Obviously emotional, Lyle says, “Did you ride that thing all the way out here to see me?” To which Alvin simply replies, “I did, Lyle.” The men sit quietly, gazing up at a sky full of stars as the movie fades out. At the end of my life’s journey, despite all my stumbles and falls, helping others and being helped myself, perhaps Christ will look at me and say, “You traveled the straight path all the way to be with me?” “I did, Lord.”
Brother Roch McClellan, OSB, is the oblate director and a spiritual director at Subiaco Abbey.