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I miss many of the great stars of mid-century Hollywood, Bogey and Bacall, Tracy and Hepburn, even Abbott and Costello, and so many more. None of them will ever make a movie again. But the miracle of cinema has given them a certain immortality. On the cinema, TV, computer, tablet or smartphone screen, they are virtually, though not really, present.

Some readers may remember my mentioning my personal recent, first-time experience of acting in a short film. It has already been screened in France in January in a Lille cinema, and in Australia in April at the Alliance Française in Sydney. Next Thursday it will be featured in an evening of antipodean cinema at the Australian Embassy in Paris, and in October in the Film Festival at St Tropez. The program for the evening at the Embassy lists the titles of the three films to be shown, and adds that mine will be screened “en présence de Frank O’Meara”. “Présence” here means Real Presence. I’ll be present not just on the screen, but really, in flesh and blood, in the audience and up there on the stage introducing Julie Merckling’s movie. Julie will not be present. I will. But if the compère said, before the screening, “And now, to introduce ‘A Story of Good Men’, here’s Frank !”, and held up, say, a French croissant, people would not appreciate the joke. If the man insisted and shouted “But this really is Frank !”, they would put him in a straight-jacket and send him off to a padded cell.

The Catholic Church knows it is stretching the limits of the faithful’s credulity, so it insists, practically shouting (“argument weak here; shout like hell”) that the Eucharist is the “REAL Presence” of Jesus. It is so obviously not, that it is amazing that the clergy and the theologians get away with it.

If God really did choose to become a Man, it’s a pity He didn’t wait until the Frères Lumière invented movies. Then at least we could have experienced Jesus’ virtual presence on the screen. We don’t even have a photograph of Him, apart from the Shroud of Turin … But since He died, He’s really absent and not even virtually present. It’s tough to look at that Host and say it is the Man Jesus, alive and well and really present. Some would say it’s not just tough. It’s absurd.

RIDENDA RELIGIO

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