Hollywood and Catholicism do not go together.
But actor Jim Caviezel is not afraid to combine his lifelong devotion to Catholicism with his acting career. He has accepted roles in several religious movies, like Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” … and he uses his celebrity to spread the Lord’s message.
Like in 2018 when he spoke to a group of college students at the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference. The film “Paul, Apostle of Christ” was soon to be released with Caviezel portraying the Apostle Luke. Caviezel explained that we all have our own cross to carry. But that God is calling us to be a warrior for Him now.
“Every man dies. Not every man truly lives. You … you … you. We all must fight for that authentic freedom and live my friends. By God we must live. And with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword may you join Saint Michael and all the angels and sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight right back to hell where they belong.”
Watch Jim Caviezel’s impassioned speech below.
The name Saul means “great one.” The name Paul means “little one.”
While making this film, I learned that by changing one little … one tiny letter that we can become great in the eyes of God. But it requires us to be little … if we wish to be great.
But this is the way of the Saints. This is the way of the Holy. And this is the way Saul became Saint Paul.
Callings come when we least expect them.
I remember mine vividly. I had this experience. I was 19 years old, sitting in a movie theater in my home town of Mount Vernon, Washington.
The movie had ended. And out there in the darkness, befriended only by my basketball in the adjacent seat, I had a sensation in my heart that made me think that I’m supposed to be an actor. That this is what God crafted me for. That this is what He wanted of me.
Yes, my rational sense intervened. I knew nothing about acting. No agents. No managers. I can’t memorize to save my life.
Yet I had a conviction. I had a call.
Cut to the spring of 2000, I was offered the role of Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo. It was a new adaptation of the Dumas classic. Very stressful period. This is the first time I ever had to carry a film on my own and here I was … what I long wanted to achieve but I had no peace.
Everything on that film was a battle.
My character, Edmond Dantes, is unjustly imprisoned. While there, both in the book and in the film, he carves on the wall “God will give me justice.”
With all the odds set against him, this one solitary man is committed to freeing himself and vanquishing evil. Even the evil within himself.
There is a wonderful scene between Edmond and a fellow prisoner, a priest played by the great Richard Harris. In the pit of self pity, a moment of real despair, while the priest is on the ground dying he turns to Edmond and says, “The final lesson. Do not commit the crime you now serve the sentence for. Remember God sayeth, ‘Vengeance is Mine.'” I look down to him and say, “But I don’t believe in God.” He says to me, “It does not matter Edmond. He believes in you.”
And He does. God loves each one of us personally. And He is there for us, even in our darkest moments of despair.
After shooting Monte Cristo I inexplicably get a call from Mel Gibson. My agent didn’t call … my manager didn’t call. I didn’t know Mel Gibson. I wasn’t politicking for the role because nobody knew it was happening.
Mel Gibson wants me to play Jesus Christ. He wants the guy with the initials of J C who just happens to be 33 years of age to play Jesus Christ.
Is that a coincidence? I don’t think so.
Is your life a coincidence? Or is it all just a chance?
Some of you may be miserable right now. Confused. Uncertain of the future. Hurting.
This is not the time to back off or to give in.
When I was up there on the cross I learned that in His suffering was our redemption. Remember the servant is no greater than the master.
Each of us must carry our own cross. There is a price for our faith. For our freedoms.
I have been literally scourged, hit by the whips, crucified, struck by lightening … yes, open heart surgery. That’s what happens after five and a half months of hyperthermia.
One day during the shoot, my arm was wedged under that heavy beam when someone yanked it in the other direction. My muscles wrenched … my shoulder separated. I fell to the ground … dropped my head into the sand. This take now remains in the movie.
In a later part of the film, Jesus experiences a shoulder separation. Well I now know what that felt like. Every day I had to pick up that thing. It was like a penance. It ripped into my shoulder … tearing at my flesh. With each passing hour it got heavier. And had this been shot in a studio you never would have seen that performance.
The suffering made my performance. Just as it makes our lives.
Some of us now … you know them … embrace a fake Christianity. Where it’s all happy talk. I call it “happy Jesus and glory.” And guys, there was a lot of pain and suffering … before the resurrection. Your path will be no different. So embrace your cross. And race towards your goal.
I want you to go out into this pagan world. I want you to have the courage to step into this pagan world and shamelessly express your faith in public.
The world needs proud warriors animated by their faith. Warriors like Saint Paul and Saint Luke who risked their names … their reputations to take their faith … their love for Jesus into the world.
God is calling each one of us … each one of you to do great things but how often we fail to respond … dismissing it as some mental blurp. It is time for our generation now to accept that call … the call of God urging all of us to give ourselves entirely to Him. To see that gentle hand guiding your path. But you first must make the commitment to start praying … to fast … to meditate on the Holy Scriptures … to take the Holy Sacraments seriously.
For we are a culture now in decline. A people in danger of succumbing to our excesses. Our whole world is entrenched in sin. And there in the quiet of our heart, God is calling to us. Each one of us to give entirely to Him. And how often we ignore Him … ignore that sweet call.
The great Saint of Auschwitz, Saint Maximilian Kolbe, said that “indifference is the greatest sin of the twentieth century.” Well my brothers and sisters it is the greatest sin of the twenty-first century as well. We must shake off this indifference … this destructive tolerance of evil.
But only our faith and the wisdom of Christ can save us. But it requires warriors … ready to risk their reputations … their names … even our very lives. To stand for the truth.
Set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation. Be saints. You weren’t made to fit in. You were born to stand out.
For in our country now we are only too happy to go with the flow. We have a shrine to freedom now where all choices are equal no matter what the consequences are. Do you honestly think this is true freedom?
Pope John Paul the Great said:
“Democracy cannot be sustained without a shared commitment to certain moral truths about the human person in the human community. The basic question before a democratic society is this: ‘how ought we to live together?’ Seeking an answer to this question can society exclude moral truth and moral reasoning? Every generation of Americans needs to know that freedom exists not to do what you like but having the right to do what you ought.”
That is the freedom that I wish for you. Freedom from sin. Freedom from your weaknesses. Freedom from the slavery that sin makes out of all of us. That is the freedom that is worth dying for.
It reminds me of what Mel Gibson first intoned in his Academy Award winning film “Braveheart” when he said to his ragtag army … and I say to you tonight:
” I see before me a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men. Free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Would you fight? This man says ‘no, we’ll run and we’ll live.’ Yea fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live … for at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now would you be willing to trade all the years from this day to that for one chance … just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that you can take our lives but you can never take our freedom.”
Every man dies. Not every man truly lives. You … you … you. We all must fight for that authentic freedom and live my friends. By God we must live. And with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword may you join Saint Michael and all the angels and sending Lucifer and his henchmen straight right back to hell where they belong.
Saul means great one. What does Paul mean? Little one.
So if we wish to be great in the eyes of God … what do we need to be? Little.
May God love you and keep you and guide you all the days of your life. And I don’t see you here … I can’t wait to see you in heaven. I love you. God Bless you. Fight hard.