After more than thirty years of attending pro-life conventions, Catholic gatherings and other God-centered functions, I still learn something from every one I attend. This held true the past weekend when I was a guest of the 2004 Legatus International Summit in Miami Beach, FL.
Peace of Christ at Legatus Summit
Besides a showing of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and a talk by actor Jim Caviezel, there were a number of great speakers and authors. I had the good fortune to hear a stunning sermon by Bishop Thomas Wenski, one by Fr. Robert Spitzer, Matt Daniels and Steve Ray and had the honor of sitting at the table with Tom Monaghan, Fr. Joe Fessio, Cardinal Christopher Schoenborn, Archbishop of Vienna who had just come from a meeting with the Holy Father, as well as Jack and Barbara Willke. I was able to give a short talk upon receiving a Legatus award for pro-life work.
Legatus is a group of Catholic CEO’s committed to Catholic action. It was begun in 1987 by Thomas Monaghan of Ann Arbor, MI and now has sixty chapters throughout the US and Canada.
In his opening address Monaghan announced that the summit theme, “My Peace I Give to You,” was appropriate at a time when our nation faces threats from within and from abroad, and when the Church is being criticized and called to intense self-scrutiny. It is important to remember, Monaghan said, that the only true peace comes from being united with Christ.
The Passion of the Christ Not about “Blame”
Intense scrutiny and controversy still centers on Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, and it will be very interesting to see just how the commentaries turn once hundreds of thousands and probably millions of Americans go to see it beginning February 25, Ash Wednesday. Even Newsweek for February 16 devotes its cover story to the film and Jon Meacham tries to explain why there seems to be such concern over the charge that the film will ignite anti-Semitism.
It is difficult to pick up a newspaper or magazine whether religious or secular and not read some commentary or editorial on this film. It was being discussed at the Legatus meeting, and although I did not get in on the Caviezel presentation, I have heard his own testimony that making the film and playing the part of Christ caused a major change in his life.
Caviezel says in the Newsweek interview that he doesn’t even want people to think of him when seeing the film, but to look only at Christ. As to the anti-Semitic charge, Caviezel says Mel wanted to make the film very Semitic, to have a very Semitic Jesus. He had a number of Jewish actors and asked them about their traditions. Our faith, Caviezel says, is grounded in our Jewish tradition. We cannot hate our own.
The crowd before Pilate screaming for the death of Christ in no way convicts an entire race, and more than the actions of Mussolini condemn all Italians, or the actions of Stalin condemn all Russians. We are all culpable in the death of Christ, Caviezel says. “My sins put him up there. Yours did. That’s what this story is about. When my Jewish brothers see this film they will realize it’s not about assigning blame but it is about love, sacrifice, forgiveness and hope.” I think he’s right.
Higher Ed Face the Truth this Spring
Remember the one-day Face the Truth tours coming up starting next month when we will go to the college campuses: March 10, April 7 and May 5. Mark your calendars now.