Finding Dory: A metaphor for finding faith in the modern world

God is actively waiting for us to return to our home with Him.
Dory’s search is impeded by her incredibly short memory.

Source: Catholic Outlook, September 2016

By Ben Smith, Director of the Life, Marriage & Family Office, Parramatta

During the July 2016 school holidays, I watched the movie Finding Dory with some of my children. The movie is about the adventures of a fish named Dory and her friends to find Dory’s parents.

As I watched the movie I realised that Dory’s search was a great metaphor to describe the journey many of us take on our search for faith and meaning in our modern world.


Dory’s search is impeded by her incredibly short memory. However, during her journey, fragments of her memory return to help guide its direction. One of these fragments was the place in the ocean where she lived with her parents.

When she arrived at this location, particular signs and architectural features triggered other memories that gave Dory more confidence in her quest.

Friends also accompanied her on the journey. She encountered an old friend, a whale shark named Destiny, who helped Dory remember a few more things about her childhood.

She was also helped by an octopus, a beluga whale and her old friends, Nemo and Marlin. They enabled her to discover the massive fish tank where she used to live inside a marine institute.

However, her parents were not there and they were assumed to have died. This discovery left her extremely disappointed.

She was so close, yet so far away from finding her parents. In the midst of this search she recalled another long-lost memory of the symbolic significance of seashells in guiding her back to her old home.

As she left the marine institute, having given up hope of finding her parents, she unexpectedly discovers a line of shells on the sea floor. As she follows these shells she discovers a whole series of seashell lines, all leading to a fish house at which she finds her long-lost parents.

Her parents revealed that they had not given up the hope of finding her and had spent time each day finding shells and laying them on the sea floor just in case Dory returned to the area.

For many people in their 30s and 40s, Catholic faith practice can seem like a distant memory. As our children begin preparing for and receiving the sacraments, these old memories can be stirred.

The child-like trust in God we may have had when we were young may be recalled. But finding our way back to God in the context of our adult life is not that easy.

If we look at the lessons of Finding Dory, a mixture of places, people and symbols may help with this journey. In terms of places, a church, a house or even a place in nature can conjure up a sense of the sacred.

Friends, family members, priests and religious who share their faith and their own inner journeys can act as lighthouses as we try to find our bearings.

Lastly, the symbols of faith such as a crucifix, a statue of Mary, a prayer or even a hymn can help those who are seeking faith and purpose.

Our efforts are only part of the story. God is actively waiting for us to return to our home with Him. Dory’s parents’ daily task of building lines of shells in anticipation of her return reminds us of the father of the Prodigal Son. He did not lose hope and maintained a regular watch for his returning son. Once he caught sight of him in the distance he ran to greet him.

God is waiting for us. All we need to do is start the journey.

For more information about the work of the Life, Marriage & Family Office in the Diocese of Parramatta, click here.

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