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A Profile of Faith

In love and work, you often have to make a choice.

For best-selling author Nicholas Sparks, the choice was easy – create characters in his novels with many of his own faith-driven values.

The NotebookIn Sparks’s novel The Notebook (also a film from New Line Cinema), Allie has to choose which man to marry. Does she play it safe and follow through with her engagement to Lon, a wealthy, powerful lawyer? Or does she follow her heart and go back to Noah, with whom she shared a romantic summer?

These choices, says Sparks, are what life is all about.

“Everybody confronts these issues on a daily basis – what kind of person we want to be, the kind of life we want to lead, which values are more important to us,” says Sparks in a 2004 interview. “Sometimes you make the right decision and sometimes you make the wrong decision. In Allie’s case, she made the right one.”

Sparks has made many choices since he graduated with honors from Notre Dame in 1988. A business finance major who ran cross country and track (he helped set an Irish school record in the 4 x 800 relay), Sparks held a number of jobs before renewing his interest in writing novels. After selling The Notebook to Warner Books and feeling good about his work on Message in a Bottle, he chose writing as his fulltime profession.

But he still makes choices about his writing, especially what he won’t include in his novels.

“I don’t write about adultery or profanity. I don’t write gratuitous love scenes. If there is a love scene in the novel, it’s between adults. It’s not lust, it’s love based. There’s a sense that the couple will end up together in the long run anyway. They’re not perfect, but introduce me to the perfect Christians and I’ll write about them.”

The characters in his novels are usually Christians with strong faiths that play important roles in their lives. Sometimes that faith is front and center, such as in Jamie, the daughter of a Baptist minister in A Walk to Remember. In other works, the faith is reflected in the character’s values toward family, community and doing the right thing.

In The Notebook, Allie’s faith is reflected in trusting herself to make the right choice, despite the hurt it will cause another. She ultimately makes up her own mind, drawing upon her values to guide her decision.

This instinct, a strong belief on one’s own values, is similar to what Sparks uses to make decisions about his novels and his life.

Nicholas Sparks“I rely a lot on intuition, but my intuition is based very strongly on faith and morality. This all comes from being raised in a very value-driven household. I was born and raised Catholic, my wife is Catholic and our kids go to parochial school. I think about the values I’d like to instill in my kids, how I want my wife to view me as a person, how I want friends and other family to view me as a person. I’m very well read in the Bible, having read it about seven times from cover to cover.

“It’s the same thing as asking me how I write. You have a lifetime of experiences drawn from a number of areas and then the answer comes. Hopefully you have a deep well [of values and experiences]. If you have a shallow well, you have nothing.”

For example, Noah writes a love letter to Allie every day after their summer together. Similarly, Sparks wrote his future wife “about 150 letters” during the two months after meeting her during Spring Break. “You have to draw your characters from somewhere. You draw them from yourself, from people you know,” says Sparks.

The Notebook was originally inspired by the story of his wife’s grandparents. “They had a truly magical relationship, one that withstood the test of time and circumstance,” says Sparks. “But The Notebook is a novel, not a memoir of their lives. Above all, it is the story of everlasting, unconditional love. It is a story about a couple that loves each other through every challenge that life throws at them, from the beginning of their lives, through the middle of their lives, to the very end of their lives.”

Based upon his success with eight best-selling novels and some very popular movies, Sparks has made a number of good choices with his writing. Millions of readers would agree.

Originally published in the July 18, 2004 issue of Our Sunday Visitor.
Christopher Fenoglio

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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!”


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