On the face of it, the newly-released film, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, has a typical plot. A man is looking for a soul mate to fulfill him, and then the soul mate is found—but something is missing: God. St. Augustine could relate.
What makes “Desire of the Everlasting Hills” different is that the one-hour-long film features three individuals with same-sex attraction—the people our culture tells us are fulfilled in their lifestyle, cannot change, don’t want to change, and so forth. But the movie reveals that they, like St. Augustine, have hearts that are restless until they rest in God.
The movie was produced by the Courage Apostolate, which ministers to people with same-sex attraction who want to live by the Catholic Church’s sexual teachings.
Asked why he made this film, Fr. Paul Check, the executive director of Courage and a former Marine Corps officer, told Catholic World Report: “When I first started working within the Courage Apostolate, I recall Fr. John Harvey, our founding executive director, saying, ‘Our best ambassadors are our members.’ In the culture that we live right now, the best way to engage people, especially on a topic of such sensitivity, complexity and of a painful nature, is through story.”
With the stories of Paul, Dan and Rilene, Fr. Check explained, the filmmakers found “people who would like to share their perspective, while not claiming that their story is every man’s story, but just saying ‘look, here is my story.’” From there, the priest added, they can find a way to engage in conversation “in some places we wouldn’t be otherwise welcome.”
“We first showed the film publicly at a Christian LGBT film festival in Pasadena, California, in March called Level Ground,” he explained. “It was well received because of the production value—it is just a well-made movie—but also because of the authenticity of the stories.”
“The content of the stories made some people uncomfortable. We aren’t surprised by that. The preaching of Jesus made a lot of people uncomfortable too, so that just shows that fallen human nature is still alive and well in the world, unfortunately.”
The sometimes quirky, often funny, and at times shocking film, follows the lives of three people: Paul, a former model; Dan, a musician; and Rilene, a successful business woman. Their stories run the sliding gamut of those who experience same-sex attraction, from simple attraction to members of the same sex to various forms of bisexuality.
Paul worked as an international model and party-boy living off “sex, drugs, and disco” in New York until about 90% of his friends died of AIDS in the 1980s. Having had thousands of sexual partners, Paul said his sexual encounters became frantic while he grew “insensitive to what it really means to be with a partner.”
Dan, attracted to men, lived with anger at God for allowing him to suffer that way. Viewing God as a heartless puppeteer, Dan would “flip the bird” at a local basilica every time he passed it by. After many relationships with men, Dan finally met and dated a woman he hoped to marry. When their relationship didn’t work out, his attraction to men hadn’t changed.
Rilene sort of fell into a 25-year-long relationship with another woman, believing herself to be heterosexual until she felt the force of how her future lesbian partner “wanted” her. “And I needed to be wanted,” Rilene confessed, after many years of not being asked out by men.
Their stories, ultimately, could be summed in the classic fashion of “lookin’ for love in all the wrong places.” Each speaks of an emptiness they lived with in their same-sex relationships, despite the compatibility they shared with their partners. Paul, though in a long-term relationship, could never give up his promiscuity. Dan wanted children. And Rilene could never quite put her finger on what was really wrong, although plagued for years by inexplicable tears and loneliness.
Similar to other conversion stories, the stories of Paul, Dan and Rilene chronicle the gentle hand of God bringing them home to his Church. For Paul, it came through watching “the pirate nun”—Mother Angelica sporting an eye patch after a stroke—on EWTN. Her honest and true talk kept bringing him back to her network, though he hid it from his partner, turning the channel before turning the TV off— the same thing he would do after watching porn.
Dan knew that his relationship with a woman had been a gift from God and that returning to a lifestyle of pursuing men wasn’t an option for him anymore, although his attraction to men remained.
Rilene, too comfortable with the material success that she and her partner shared, cried out to “the universe” to help her, though she knew she couldn’t walk away from all “the stuff.” Shortly thereafter, their finances fell apart, followed by the crumpling of their relationship.
For each, the Catholic Church and an authentic relationship with God, brought a true sense of belonging, of being known, of security, of being “home”. And they have all found the joy that comes from loving others beyond their own selfish desires. “I have been given hope, and I want to do that for other people: to give others the same hope,” Paul quietly confesses.
When asked why he chose these three individuals for the film, Fr. Check said: “I asked them because they are all people of great integrity.”
“I think this subject in particular, for someone to stand up in the public forum today and say: ‘I used to live the homosexual life and now I have had a change of heart and I don’t,’ I think, that is a special blend of humility, courage, and charity.”
“Their struggles are not over,” Fr. Check was quick to add. “They tell you that and leave a sense of that with the viewer in the film. They are still in journey. They are still walking toward and with the Lord Jesus. They are not holding themselves up as models and saying ‘we have arrived.’”
“I think one of the great things about the Catholic Church,” Fr. Check concluded, “is not that we are the church of the saved, but the church of the striving. And these people all live that.”
Related on Catholic World Report:
• “Homosexuality, Identity, and the Grace of Chastity” (September 03, 2013) | A CWR interview with Fr. Check, by Carrie Gress
• “Liberated Love” (February 13, 2012) | A profile of Courage, by Jim Graves