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Theological Notebook: "God or the Girl"

Could be interesting and useful if it's been well done, or it could be a disaster.

Men let cameras in on their vocation discernment for cable TV series
By Mark Pattison
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Steve Horvath, Joe Adair, Dan DeMatte and Mike Lechniak have something in common: Like many young Catholic men, they've wondered whether they are called to a life in the priesthood.

Unlike the vast majority of their compatriots, however, they consented to have their discernment process captured on camera for a cable television series, "God or the Girl," to debut on Easter, April 16, on A&E.

The five episodes of the series cover their lives over several weeks as they deal with current, past and potentially future girlfriends as well as influences from priests, peers and family. They are bound by the producers not to reveal their decision until the final episode airs.

"It was a lot of fun" being on the show, Lechniak told Catholic News Service, yet "it was annoying and stressful."

At the same time, "it was something I wouldn't change. I enjoyed having it (the camera) there," he said, although "having your life put on film" and living "behind or in front of the camera, it's very, very hard to deal with."

He said he asked himself, "How much do I want to let them into my life?" and even before the camera got to him, he "prayed about that a lot."

"I talked to my parents and some friends. My parents were very influential. They said, 'Michael, be yourself. Don't be a fake. Be yourself and get your message across. ... If Jesus were in the same position, he'd be himself.'"

DeMatte, 21, concurred that being filmed "was an inconvenience to your schedule a lot of times ... because you had to fit everything in, and all that stuff." The fellow students with whom he lived from Ohio Dominican University and Ohio State University, both in Columbus, "were really cool" and "patient with it all." But it was hard, he said.

Series co-creator and executive producer Darryl Silver, a veteran TV producer, said, "At first people are very self-aware of the camera, after it's there all day every day. You can only be false in front of a camera for so long. He (DeMatte) really wanted to use the show as a pulpit, but what he found out was he was really going through an experience. You still have to live your life."

DeMatte, who had declared a six-month break from his girlfriend even before filming started, said he is comfortable with his decision, which will be revealed in the final episode.

"Since the filming ended, I've found a great amount of peace," he said. "Every single day Our Lord affirms us and brings us more and more peace, and that's something that's beautiful. I think that I'm doing God's will. With being obedient to the Lord comes peace. I have not looked back, no, and I have not turned into a pillar of salt."

Horvath had quit his job and broken up with his fiancee before the series started. He joined the Fellowship of Catholic University Students and became a "student missionary," moving from his home in Fairfax, Va., to Lincoln, Neb.

After he completed seventh grade in a Catholic school, Horvath's parents agreed to his request to transfer to a public school. "Looking back on probably most of my growing up, I viewed the faith through more of a legalist lens -- the church says that I have to do it, so I'm going to do it," Horvath said.

Later, he said, he had what he called "an attitude shift."

"I had some God experiences where I said, 'Wow.' I didn't have anyone else to turn to but God. There were times when I embraced my faith and made it my own," Horvath said. "Now I embrace the church, not as some arm that's trying to control my life, but allowing me to live the life I've been created to live."

Adair had the closest brushes with ordination of the four. He graduated from his college seminary, spent a year in Philadelphia in the Capuchin novitiate, and, later, two years in the Jesuit novitiate in suburban Detroit. In between, he worked with merchant seafarers for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

He went with his brother last year to Germany for World Youth Day, but also to meet a German woman he had met in Cleveland to see if there were any romantic stirrings. He later went on a pilgrimage from Cleveland to Niagara Falls, Ontario, to help discern his vocation.

After all that, does he feel at peace with his decision? Though he had to keep mum about it, Adair said the answer was yes.

"I made that decision ... with everything I knew about myself at that time," he said. "Is that decision permanent? Is it binding in some way? No. Meaning, did I take vows? No. I'm not a married person. I'm not a priest. ... Could it change? Possibly. But I needed it to give myself freedom from all that angst."
Tags: cultural, education, media, movies/film/tv, mysticism/spirituality, priesthood, theological notebook
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