Bruised, Battered, Redeemed
Premiering just outside the streets of Philadelphia, this could be a game changer.

Dan, one of the subjects of Desire of the Everlasting Hills


Kathryn Jean Lopez

Villanova, Pa. — “​I think that we all have a deep, deep need for love, and we find that where it seems to fit most,” Rilene says.

“We’re made for better stuff than what we settle for,” Dan says. “My whole life, I’ve settled. I don’t want to settle anymore. Even if that means living my life single. I can do that. I don’t want to go back. But I wouldn’t rewrite the past, either.”

“I feel that I have been given hope,” Paul says. “And I want to do that for other people, to give others the same hope.”

A new documentary, Desire of the Everlasting Hills, begins with these words: “Look at the face of the other and . . . discover that he has a soul, a history, and a life, that he is a person and that God loves this person as much as he loves himself.”

And look and discover is just what this movie invites you to do. You meet Rilene, Dan, and Paul, and join them on a universal journey — to receive and give love, to see a glimpse of order and meaning in life. The three give intimate, courageous, beautiful testimonies in Desire of the Everlasting Hills, which premiered at Villanova University outside Philadelphia this weekend.

All three had been raised Catholic, as we say, but they had fallen away from any kind of religious faith. Dan, in fact, wanted God “dead” for being such a “brutal puppet master” who didn’t care about Dan’s happiness. “I basically said, ‘Screw you’ to God.”

It’s a remarkable work, remarkable because it is so honest — about life, about mistakes, about hope. The movie exists thanks to Courage, a Catholic ministry that spearheaded the effort. Courage supports people with same-sex attractions in living chaste lives in love of God, but this is not a sermon about the catechism of the Catholic Church. This movie is pure witness, in the individuals’ own words, of three people’s continuing journey as they discover God’s love for them.

Desire of the Everlasting Hills is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. In no small part, it’s about conversion and renewal, and knowing oneself and what one truly wants, for life and eternity. To watch it is to know that you cannot caricature it. It’s about living and learning; it reveals the truth of our lives, as discovered by three individuals who today are overflowing with a grace-filled, transparent joy — a joy deepened by redemptive suffering. All three leave regrets about the past to God’s mercy and entrust their future to His Providence, always acknowledging that the Way of the Cross is a rough road, but believing it to be the one with eternal rewards.

“I don’t want to denigrate the relationship I had with Margo,” Rilene explains. She was in a 35-year relationship with a woman. “I was turning away from the [homosexual] life . . . . I was not rejecting her, and I still loved her,” she explains. Even after breaking off the relationship, Rilene remained friends with Margo and cared for her in her final days as she died of cancer.

“I’m still as much attracted to men,” Dan acknowledges. “I still have moments of loneliness and longing.” He knows he’s human and could be tempted to turn his back on what he’s learned and committed himself to. He doesn’t have “it all figured out” and won’t pretend to, but he knows the road he’s on now is better.

Paul explains that his friendship with the man who was his intimate partner for about 25 years is better than ever, now that he is chaste.

Upwards of 90 percent of the people Paul knew in New York City in the 1980s died of AIDS, he says. He was a dashing model who worked around the world, and he had sex with “thousands” of men. “It became frantic,” he says, reflecting on how “insensitive” he had become to being with someone, “both body and soul.”

When he finally got around to going for an AIDS screening himself, he tested negative. He believes he was spared so he could make up for how he spent those days.