In the article “Being Catherine Keener” (August 27, 2006), New York Times writer Lynn Hirschberg interviews actor Catherine Keener, who played Harper Lee in Capote and co-starred in The 40-Year-Old-Virgin.
When asked about how Keener gets so many diverse roles, especially for being an actress over 35, Keener responded:
Well, for one thing, I like being a supporting actress. I like to come and go in the film…. I find that playing so many characters in so many films is a way to be in the moment. That was, to me, growing up Catholic, the appeal of the clergy — they address the moment. So, short of being a priest, I am an actor.
What an interesting thing to say. I think a central part of ministry is that ability to “address the moment.” Vatican II called this reading the “signs of the times.” There’s also something that is sort of Eastern in this … the idea and practice of being present in the moment, of being conscious of the now.
The interviewer followed Keener’s comment by noting that as a girl, Keener wanted to be a nun. Keener responded:
I still love anything connected to nuns. That’s why I love all of Yohji Yamamoto’s designs — they look like a nun’s habit, and if I had my way, I’d always dress like a nun. As a girl, I saw every movie with nuns: “The Trouble With Angels,” “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.” I saw them all. I love the nun’s lifestyle: the quiet, the solitude….
What’s interesting is that Keener follows by saying that she then wanted to be a priest because she realized that nuns “were subservient to priests.” Ouch. While I am not really pleased with such an observation, I must say that I think that Keener is probably not alone in thinking this. This is a tough issue to tackle. I have come to appreciate that the Church has a variety of roles and ministries. Religious life (nuns, monks, brothers, sisters) is a very different lifestyle than ordained/clerical life (priests, deacons). We are each a gift to the Church and the people of God in different ways. My hope is that this is becoming more clear now than when Keener (and many of us) were growing up. It is so important that every member of the Church be valued and that no one be made to feel or be perceived as subservient to any other member.
Finally, I must say “Kudos” to Catherine Keener for freely discussing her religious upbringing. While Christian Science and Kabbalah are often mentioned in connection with Hollywood actors, it’s nice to have the Catholics represent.