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Church uses 'The Matrix' to talk to youth

Indianapolis priest featured in ad campaign to promote Catholicism
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While events such as World Youth Day have attracted media attention from around the world regarding the Catholic Church's efforts to attract young people, other efforts are also taking place on the local level.

The Indianapolis archdiocese recently released an ad campaign promoting the idea that 'Catholicism is cool.' The campaign features an ad showing a young priest looking similar to Keanu Reeves in the movie 'The Matrix', with the text "The Catholic Priesthood, coming to a parish near you."

Father Jonathan Meyer, the priest used as the model in the ad, joined MSNBC's Chris Jansing on Thursday to talk about the campaign.

Meyer said the idea for the promotion came "from the youth themselves."

"It actually came from an eighth grader at our school in our parish. ... Where they started calling me 'Father Neo.' (After the Reeves character in 'The Matrix.')," Meyer said. "I had never seen the movie, I didn't understand it and research put me in the position of finding out that this Matrix film was speaking to young people about what a hero was and what the image of somebody 'cool' was."

One major goal of the archdiocese is to dispel misconceptions about the priesthood, Meyer said.

"I think a lot of people only see a priest on Sunday. They see the priest celebrating mass, and they think that's all he does. They think the priesthood might be boring or dull. Where in fact, it's exactly just the opposite," he said. "The priesthood is a great life:  a life of serving the poor, of serving the needy, of celebrating the sacraments. It's a great life of hope, a great life of joy, and I think sometimes that can be forgotten."

Using the character of Neo in the Matrix is a contextual way to send that message, Meyer noted.

"I think a lot of youths do see it as a life of denial, but the great joy of course is that in denial there is life. When one gives up something, God blesses us, Jesus gives us that extra grace," he said. "When you look at the character in the Matrix, Keanu Reeves had to deny himself in order to somehow bring about the good in that film. Suffering and self-denial are part of the human experience"

Ultimately, Meyer said increasing interest in vocations would be his ideal result from the campaign.

"I think the greatest thing is that is making a lot of people talk about vocations, pray about vocations. That's my greatest hope, that even if one person thinks about vocations or prays about vocations in a way they haven't before."

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