The Extra in Extraordinary
Published on July 2-3, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Damian Cunningham is unlike other kids his age. His heroes are the saints and martyrs, not the footballers of Manchester United. He has visions of his haloed heroes and talks to them about life and the afterlife. He asks each one, “Do you ever come across a Saint Maureen?” But neither Peter nor Joseph, neither Clare of Assisi nor Nicholas of Myra could reassure the young Damian that his recently departed mother is already in Heaven.
The saintly innocence of this freckle-faced Catholic schoolboy is the subject of the 2004 British film Millions (by Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle). The movie begins with Damian’s family moving to the suburbs shortly after the death of his mother. He builds himself a cardboard-box fort by the train tracks, a sanctuary where he communes with his sainted friends. But then came the day when his sanctuary is crushed—literally—by a gym bag full of stolen cash.
Unlike his older brother Anthony who is keen on spending the money, Damian wants to give his share to the poor. Their father at first insists on returning the loot to the police. But when their home gets ransacked on Christmas eve, even Mr. Cunningham resolves to use the stolen money to retrieve the family’s stolen Christmas. The youngest Cunningham alone remains uncorrupted by greed. He sees that “the money just makes everything worse” and decides to dispose of it.
At the end of the film, Damian gets his long-awaited vision of his mother. Unlike the previous saints, there is no halo over Maureen’s head, prompting her son to ask, “Are you really a saint?”
“Well,” Maureen explains, “the criteria’s very strict. It’s not just a case of doing good and all that. You do have to do an actual miracle.”
“What was your miracle?” Damian inquires.
Maureen smiles. “Don’t you know? It was you.”
At that moment, it becomes quite apparent how important it is that Damian is unlike other kids his age, that he is unlike everyone else who has been consumed by greed. Damian is different because someone has made a difference in his life, because someone taught him the difference between right and wrong. Thanks to his mother, he is not blinded by the lure of worldly goods; instead, he always has his eyes set on doing what is good on behalf of Him who is Good.
This film reminds us that the path to sainthood is not reserved just for those who wield great wonders. It is open to even the most ordinary Christian—a parent, a sibling, a child—who teaches and inspires others to be, in a word, extra-ordinary. In fact, that little extra that one gives to what is ordinary often makes all the difference in turning many a sinner into a saint.