Friday, October 14
Watch This Space
I don't want to say too much until The Shrine can get an actual text or a recording, but all I can say is, it was tremendous. In the five years I have spent here, there have been three enormous, gigantic...things that have served as milestones marked the continuing flowering--the ecstatically exponential growth, really--of the Faith here on campus. There was the visit of Christopher West three years ago, and the remarkable flourishing of the Theology of the Body that has since spread like wildfire; there was Father-President Jenkins' positively incandescent speech this past October, and the remarkable popularity he has since received from the students.
And then there was this.
God, Mary, the Rosary, Catholic identity and Catholic faith, abortion, death, and grace, it was all there. "Do you think Mary was pro-choice?" he asked, pointing up to the white concrete statue in its backlit, rocky niche. He pointed to his Rudy-style jacket, at the shamrock, at first we thought facetiously. "The shamrock is the heart of Mary. No, really, her heart's shaped like that." And he pointed to each one of the lobes. "She is the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the daughter of the Father, the Mother of the Son. And she's the stem, because she leads us to them." He was unabashed and unashamed of his deep faith, and he was warmly received by his audience. No jeers, no boos, but only glorious amazement. "I want every one of you to step into the world and proclaim your faith, shamelessly, out in public ... I believe that this university, Notre Dame, is being called to a major act of faith right now."
And the thing is, the students cheered and clapped to hear such things, and they went wild with applause when he called upon them, with the aid of St. Michael, to cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits that prowl around the world looking for the ruin of souls. There was a standing ovation by the time he had finished the speech. People wept and lingered, and waited, and the grotto candles kept on burning in the darkness.
Mr. Caviezel is a remarkable fellow; his faith is inspiring, especially in the robber's den of Hollywood. He is out there living the Gospel; he hasn't pulled back into the Catholic bubble we all wished we lived in. Playing Jesus in a film gives him no special authority, of course, but the way he lives his life, and the way he risked career death for the love of God, does. Though, in a curious way, the peculiar history of his participation in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, does give him a fresh and immediate perspective on the death of God that I, sheltered and soft, certainly lack.
He never said as much, of course, but as I listened to him talk of the physical exhaustion he had to face while bringing the Crucifixion to life on film, I thought that he is one of the few people outside of the mystics who has gotten a specific physical taste, in some small way, of the suffering Our Lord endured. The film shoots literally sounded like torture. This wasn't just a Hollywood bimbo carping about not having the right flavor of bottled water on set. There's a slight difference between his performance in The Passion, and say, Meryl Streep getting called in to Congress to testify on pesticides because she played a farmer's wife in some halfwit movie.
This was real, horrific pain, experienced by a real athlete. He dislocated his shoulder, he accidentally tasted two lashes of the whip that left foot-long scars on his back and knocked him to the ground, he got sick, he hung up there, blue with cold, half-naked in the cold November air for weeks as they filmed and re-filmed Christ giving up His spirit to the Father. (I doubt he could have done it if he hadn't gone to Communion every day--he did this for God, not his career). It's terrifying enough to think of an ordinary man in this comfy day and age being whipped, even accidentally, or having to feign a crucifixion. It's terrifying, and frightening. Now multiply that by five thousand percent--and add real nails.
I sometimes think the reason Christ suffered in this world in 33 AD was it was only then that human ingenuity could devise a torture so awful as to make the depth of His Redemption evident.
And so, to hear him remind us that out of God's suffering, comes grace and strength, was powerful. But in this time and place, that his rallying cry for Notre Dame, the school of the Mother of God from whom we all learn, was heard, and was heard with a shout of triumph from hundreds of ordinary young adults, was equally powerful, and speaks not only of a brighter future, but a very bright present here and now on campus.
God is gracious, and God's Mother's university is going on to great things.
Watch this space for more info in the next few days.