“Gimme Shelter” depicts heroic choice of teen mother

Gimme Shelter Denver screening draws pro-life advocates, request for grassroots movement

The inspiration behind the soon-to-be-released “Gimme Shelter” movie visited Denver last month to introduce the true story of one homeless teenager’s fight for her unborn child’s life.

Kathy DiFiore, the Catholic founder of Several Sources Shelter for pregnant teens in New Jersey, attended a screening Dec. 8 at the Landmark Theatre in Greenwood Village to discuss the real life events behind the pro-life film.

“I hope you enjoy the film,” DiFiore told the screening audience. “It’s about my lifelong work and work with mothers and their babies.”

The film opens across the country Jan. 24.

Based on true events, “Gimme Shelter” depicts the heroic story of Agnes “Apple” Bailey, played by actress Vanessa Hudgens, and her path to motherhood as a pregnant, homeless teenager.

The story begins with Apple’s flight from her abusive, drug-addicted mother, played by Rosario Dawson, and search for her Wall Street father, played by Brendan Fraser.

Her father gives her a place to stay but once it’s discovered she’s pregnant, Apple is taken to an abortion clinic. Apple decides to flee after looking at a sonogram of her baby girl.

Gimme ShelterFilm director Ronald Krauss, who also attended the Centennial screening, takes viewers through a gripping account of the desperation and isolation facing many young women lacking support for their decision to choose life.

“There’s a lot of ‘Apples’ out there—tragic Apples that need help,” DiFiore said after the film. “I’ll get another call tonight and there’ll be another Apple. We need to put so much love into them and (then) you can see the transition.”

The film shows Apple’s struggle for survival by dumpster diving, sleeping in parked cars and escaping threats from the streets, which ends in a car wreck.

In the depths of despair, Apple meets a compassionate priest in a hospital who opens her life to God and leads her to a maternity home for unwed mothers. With renewed confidence, Apple fights all odds and starts a new life for her and her baby.

Vatican official Bishop Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, president of the Pontifical Academy for Life, endorsed the film and its pro-life message.

“‘Apple’ fights against all odds and finds hope in the kindness of some key people … and the deep love of God for every single man, woman and child from the moment of conception,” he said in a statement. “Out of rejection shines the courageous beauty of a mother’s love, and out of tragedy, shines hope.”

The approximately 75,000 pregnant teenagers in the United States are in desperate need for a loving environment in a shelter or home for unwed mothers, DiFiore said.

She told viewers that the film is an effort to start a grassroots movement to aid pregnant teenagers.

The movie was partially filmed in DiFiore’s maternity home for unwed mothers, where many of the moms make an appearance. Actresses also worked with the homeless mothers to depict their personal stories in the film, she said.

DiFiore’s work since 1981 to help pregnant teenagers has been lauded, especially by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who worked with her to change shelter laws in New Jersey that threatened to close the maternity home.

Another film screening was held Jan. 7 at the AMC Highlands Ranch 24. The film is rated PG-13 for mature subjects involving abuse, violence and language. Visit www.screenitcatholic.com for details.


COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.

Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.