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A Profile of Faith

In between long drags of his cigarette, Mel Gibson asked Jim Caviezel again if he wanted to portray Jesus in Gibson’s film The Passion of the Christ, as Hollywood has a history of typecasting actors after high-profile roles.

“Absolutely,” Caviezel replied. While he joked with Gibson that he was perfect for the role (being 33 years old with the initials of JC), it was Caviezel’s strong faith that led him to the acting profession.

“I have no doubt that God put me in this business. When I was a teenager in a movie theater in my hometown, I felt this huge pain in my chest, like a voice saying, ‘Please get into this business—this is what I need for you to do.’ And I asked, ‘But who am I? I know nothing about acting. I don’t know any actors. I’ve never taken any classes,'” he said in a recent interview.

Besides, Caviezel has been able to find land other roles since The Passion and Frequency. He stars as Kainan in the upcoming Howard McCain directed film Outlander and will work with Ray Liotta and Gerard Depardieu in the film Only in New York.

Back in Nashville last week, Caviezel took part in the second annual “A Light for the City” concert in the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Sponsored in part by Thomas Nelson, the concert was the perfect setting for a scene from “The Word of Promise” audio bible, recently released to bookstores by Thomas Nelson.Jim Caviezel visits Nashville

In this 25-hour, 20-CD set, Caviezel leads an all-star cast in a state-of-the-art presentation of the New Testament. Narrated by Michael York, this multi-voiced audio drama features original scored music and movie quality sound effects set to the text of the New King James version of the Bible.

<When you purchase the Word of Promise audio bible, your church can receive 10% of the proceeds. For details about the “Pay it Forward Program,” go to www.thewordofpromise.com.>

The production also includes Academy Award winners Louis Gossett, Jr. as John and Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene, along with John Heard as Matthew, Lou Diamond Phillips as Mark, Chris McDonald as Luke, Stacy Keach as Paul, Ernie Hudson as Peter, Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Mary the Mother of God, Richard Dreyfuss voicing quotes from Moses, and Terrence Stamp as the voice of God.

The original music for the audio bible was composed and conducted by Stefano Mainetti, one of the two composers who scored music for Sony’s “Abba Pater,” the album which blended original music with the voice and chants by Pope John Paul II.

For Caviezel, portraying Jesus in The Passion was the most physically demanding role of his career. During the course of the production, he was struck by lightning, felt the sharp barbs of the whip when twice it missed its target, and suffered hypothermia from the intense cold as he hung on the cross.

To pass the time during the tedious filming delays, Caviezel listened to music on headphones. One song in particular, Michael W. Smith’s “Above All,” helped him get through the filming of the crucifixion scenes.

He felt “rejected and alone as all those around me laughed while drinking their hot coffees, oblivious to what was occurring. Jesus must have felt like this—forsaken, rejected, alone, and despised. The song helped me pray in a very deep way—to pray without words, to pray from the heart. The discomfort, the loneliness, the split shoulder, the raw flesh all forced me into the arms of God because I had nowhere else to go for a performance I knew I was unable to create.”

Caviezel has challenged everyone from university students to priests and bishops to resist the desire for comfort, popularity, and timidity. In an interview published in the Catholic Standard & Times, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he challenged leaders to preach the unpopular gospel “in season and out of season.” He called on all Catholics to recommit to prayer, the rosary, fasting, frequenting confession and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

“Our whole world is entrenched in sin. There in the quiet of our hearts a woman is calling us, each one of us, back to her Son. Jesus is there for us in the Scriptures. How often do we ignore Him? We must shake off this indifference. Only the faith and the wisdom of the Church can save us, but it requires men and women, warriors ready to risk their good names, even their very lives to stand up for the truth.”

At the closing of his speech at the Nashville concert, Caviezel gave a passionate rendition of Mel Gibson’s battle cry from the Oscar-winning Braveheart. He challenged the audience to fight for the freedom that is real—freedom from weakness and from the slavery of sin.

“You, my friends, by God, you must fight with the Holy Spirit as your shield and with Christ as your sword. May you fight with St. Michael and all the angels in defending God, in sending Lucifer and his army straight back to hell where they belong!”

CF

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Dear Dad,

I watched a really good movie last week with Tommy – Frequency, starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. It came out in 2000 – did you ever see it?

Tommy gave the film high praise, so I really wanted to watch it with him. As you know, it’s important to share special moments with your children because you never know how many you’ll have.

The story is set in New York City in 1969. Frank Sullivan and his son John are huge Mets fans. Poor souls. Lucky for them it’s the year of the “Amazin’ Mets,” that stinking team that beat our Cubs and then defeated the Orioles to win the World Series.

That year we lived near Chicago, cheering for every Cubs victory and dying a little bit when they lost. How could they be leading the Mets by 13 games with just six weeks to go and then lose all those games at the end? It should have been the Cubs in the Series, not the Mets.

The night the Cubs officially lost the pennant, I remember how upset you were. While you were working at the hospital late one night, I wrote “Go Cubs in 1970” on single sheets of notebook paper and laid them on your bed. I was 11 years old at the time but I remember that night so clearly. Mom told me the next day that you liked the message. I hope so.

FrequencyAAnyway, Frequency shows how Frank, a NYC fireman, often talks after dinner on a short-wave radio. He even shows his six-year-old son John how to use it. Unfortunately for the family, Frank soon dies fighting a warehouse fire and never sees his son grow up to be a New York policeman.

Thirty years later, John finds his father’s short-wave radio and turns it on. Through the time-compressing properties of the visible Aurora Borealis (and a lot of movie magic), John picks up a signal and begins talking to his father in a time before the fatal fire.

FrequencyBThey talk back and forth in a regular conversation, each sitting in the same house, though separated by 30 years. After they sort out the reality of their incredible connection, the son tells the father how he died and tries to convince him to take a different path and save himself.

I wonder what I would say to you, Dad, if I had that same opportunity. Would I try to get you to stop smoking and avoid a lot of fried foods? I know I couldn’t keep you from eating our favorite salami or Mom’s bagna calda, but perhaps a few more salads and a lot more exercise might have prolonged your life.

When I look in the mirror and see a younger you, I know that I need to watch my own weight and other vital health numbers like my blood pressure and cholesterol. Maybe I can convince myself to improve my lifestyle, so that you’ll always live on through me.

The film blossoms into a full-blown murder mystery, as the son/cop investigates a serial murderer who still terrorizes the community. In one timeline, there are only three murders, but after Frank is saved, eight more murders occur. Father and son work together, thirty years apart, to track clues, discover the killer’s identity and stop him before more murders permanently scar other families.

Just like in Back to the Future, photographs change as people are affected by the police work. At the film’s end, father and son are very grateful for the additional time they had together.

But it’s never enough, is it Dad?

Just a few weeks ago I thought about calling you to ask which team would win the Super Bowl, as I have many times before. Then I remembered that you are in a better place where earthly concerns no longer matter.

Can you see us from heaven? Do you know how much we miss you? Can you pray for me and our family as we struggle with the same life issues that you faced and conquered?

I wish I could talk to you again and hear your friendly greeting “Hi, guy.” I heard your voice in a dream last week. It filled me with so much warmth and love that it hurts now to recall it.

The photographs in my mind won’t change in the coming years, they are frozen forever. Future photos will never show your face and smile.

But it’s my hope that my sons and daughter will have many, many years of photographs with their father. Good times, bad times, even times when nothing special is going on. We’ll be together, enjoying each other’s company and hopefully talking on the same frequency.

We never know how long we will have with our loved ones, so seize the day while the sun still shines, until Our Father calls each of us home to His side.

Daddy, I’ll talk to you later.

Love,
Chris

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First published in the February 24, 2006 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2006 Christopher Fenoglio.

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