Jim Caviezel’s Tribute to the Virgin Mary, Mother of All Peoples

Transcription of Jim Caviezel’s Presentation delivered at the “World Day of Prayer for Peace through the Mother of All Peoples,” Amsterdam, June 1, 2019

Her hand has guided my life and my career in incredible and, at times, startling ways.  

For instance, back in 1997, I had auditioned for a role that every big name in Hollywood wanted—a role in director, Terrance Mallick’s upcoming film: The Thin Red Line.  Now the odds were against me, but I at least got a meeting with Mallick.  I pulled up at his house in Beverly Hills for my 6 o’clock meeting.  But I couldn’t leave the car. 

Plagued by self-doubt, I made a decision that if this didn’t pan out, if this didn’t go through, I was going to have to hang it up.   I didn’t want to just drift along the rest of my life, wondering if I was ever going to work consistently as an actor.  It is now 6:00pm.  I was still in the car. I believe in my heart that the next 10 minutes changed my life forever.  

In my mind, I was the guy from Mt. Vernon Washington.  I wanted to be a basketball player.  What the heck was I doing here, outside of Terrence Mallick’s house?  I’m an emotional mess, self-sabotage at full fury, so I started to pray the Rosary!   Its 6:05 PM and I’m in the middle of the Fourth Glorious Mystery!

You see, six months earlier, my manager, who was bit like a Catholic mystic, said that I should start praying the Rosary on a daily basis.  My wife, Kerri, taught me how to pray it.  So, following orders, I borrowed her grandmother’s Rosary- a precious antique heirloom.  I started running them through my fingers and praying without even really knowing the mysteries.  

I’m already five minutes late for this major meeting with the most sought-after director in Hollywood, and I have not finished the Rosary.  So, I decide to press on.  “Hail Mary full of grace…. Hail Mary full of grace.”  When I finally finish the Hail Holy Queen, it’s 6:10 PM.  I jump out of the car, dash up to the house, and realize I have Rosary beads in my hand.  So, I turn heels and race back to the car to dispose of the beads.  I open the car door, and made a deliberate move to drop the Rosary, when I get this feeling— right here (in my heart)—  that I should take the Rosary with me.  This was not the first time I had experienced this sensation…

The first time I had this experience, I was 19 years old, sitting in a theatre in Mt. Vernon, Washington.  The movie had ended, and out there in the darkness, befriended only by my basketball (who was in the adjacent seat)— I had a sensation—right here (again in my heart)—that made me think that I’m supposed to be an actor.  This is what God crafted me for.  This is what he wanted of me.  It was my personal “Annunciation,” a very deep awareness of my vocation.  So reluctantly, I went forward.  My rational sense intervened…I knew nothing about acting: no agents, no managers, and I can’t memorize lines to save my own life.  Yet I had this conviction—this charge!

So, back on the curb in front of Terry Mallik’s house, I decide to take the Rosary with me and make my way to front door.  The maid answers the bell.  On her neck is a Miraculous Medal.  So I say, “Oh, you’re Catholic”.  She says, “No I’m not, I’m Episcopalian.”  She takes me in and shows me the house, a beautiful Spanish hacienda.  And as we are admiring the ceiling, while the woman is in mid-sentence, I get that sensation in my chest again, but stronger than I’d ever experienced, and without thinking, I reach for the Rosary in my pocket, interrupt her and say, “This is for you”.  She startles and says, “Why did you do that?”  Tears are welling up in her eyes.  I say, “I don’t know.”  “Oh my God”, she says, “The woman that gave me this medal also gave me a Rosary that she got from Mother Teresa.  But I lost it.  And I prayed this morning that God would send me another one.  And then you walk in.”  This woman is now collapsing in tears, I am shell-shocked, there is this Rosary between us, and in walks the director, Terrence Mallick.  When he started with “Honey, what’s wrong?,” it occurs to me that this “ain’t the maid.”  This is “Mrs. Terrence Malick,” his wife!  And I thought, better book a return flight to Mt. Vernon, pal.

When I got home, I told my wife, “Honey I’ve got some good news and some bad news.  The good news is that I may get The Thin Red Linepart; the bad news is Granny’s Rosary is gone.”

 I believe that Rosary and the intercession of Our Lady led to the first major role of my career in “The Thin Red Line” (against the wishes of the studio).  We would be nominated for seven academy awards, including best picture.

Cut to the spring of 2000.  I was offered the role of Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo.  It was a new adaptation of the Dumas classic. 

This was the first time I had to carry a film on my own. And here I was, at the pinnacle of what I long wanted to achieve, but I had no peace.  I am having Masses said for this movie and trying to pray, but, like you, I was never sure if my prayers were landing… Then an amazing thing happened.

We are set to shoot a pivotal scene in the film in this grand house in Malta.  It is the moment when the Count must decide whether he will remain with his love, or leave her to pursue his revenge.  And I look up to the ceiling as I weigh the decision.  Now in reality, I’m looking up at nothing— I mean there is nothing up there.  Then the director Kevin Reynolds, who is a Baptist from Texas, pulls me aside and says, “Let me show you what you’ll be looking at.  I’ve found something down the hall that I think will work.”  He takes me into this room about 10 doors away and point to the ceiling.

Well, I am in shock.  I just stand there, slack jawed.  There on the ceiling is a fresco of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.  Now Reynold’s doesn’t know a thing about Mary or the Catholic Church.  So, I say, “Do you have any idea what that is?”  And (in a Texas drawl), he says “Yup,” and leaves the room.  I was hesitant to add to the ‘yup’, for fear that he would take the shot out of the movie.  So, I just kept my mouth shut.  But it was a sign for me—a sign that the Lord and His Blessed Mother were with me.  Through all my trials, Mary had been there all along leading me by the hand, guiding me toward Her son and my vocation.    And if you saw the Count of Monte Cristo, you know that the shot stayed in the film.  And I am proud to say that I shared some screen time with the Mother of God. 

Then, inexplicably, I get a call from Mel Gibson.  Now my agent didn’t call, my manager didn’t call, I didn’t know Mel, and I wasn’t politicking for the role, because no one knew it was happening.  Gibson wants me to play Jesus Christ.  He wants the guy with the initials of JC, who happens to be 33 years of age, to play Jesus Christ.  Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Shortly before this, I was introduced to the apparitions and message of Medjugorie by my wife.  This would play a major role in deepening my love and service to the Mother of All Peoples.  It was at Medjugorje that I consecrated my life and my acting career to the Blessed Mother, using the traditional consecration form of St. Louis Marie de Montfort.  From that moment on, all that I did in my life and in my career was in her service, to do with me as She pleased. I also believe Medjugorje prepared my heart to give my “fiat” to play Jesus in The Passion of the Christ.

Filming The Passion of the Christ brought me even closer to Our Lady.  The more you experience the Passion of Jesus, the more you understand the compassion of Mary—the connection between Mary and her Son. What Mother does not suffer when her child suffers?

Playing Jesus in The Passion also reminds me of the call of St. John Paul II that we all must become “co-redeemers” with Jesus and Mary.

On the very first day of shooting, the crowd rushed in around me, the guards hit me with whips—which hit my flesh.  My arm was wedged under the heavy beam, when someone yanked the top of the cross in the other direction.  My muscles wrenched and the shoulder separated.  I fell to my knees, dropped the cross and buried my head in the sand (this “take” remains in the movie).  Every day I picked up that thing, it was like a penance: it ripped into my shoulder, turning my flesh an angry red, with each passing hour, it got heavier.  

Then I had to hang on that cross.  It was November in Matera, Italy—bone chilling cold—and I’m up there on a cliff in only latex and a loin cloth. On a cross, it’s not the blood loss that kills you, it the oxygen loss.  You asphyxiate.  So, I’m gasping for air, and my legs were going numb.  And then guess what: hypothermia!  To bring my core temperature up, they brought these gas heaters in. When they brought them closer, my toes started frying and the latex began melting.  And that was before I was struck by lightning… and soon to follow …. open heart surgery .  But I offered up all of the suffering, in union with Jesus and Mary, for the success of the film, that it might lead souls to Christ.  And it did.

The Passion reveals the obvious biblical truth that Mary, like no other, shared in that suffering of Jesus Christ, as “Co-redemptrix.”  As St. Teresa of Calcutta exclaimed, “Of course, Mary is the Co-redemptrix.   She gave Jesus his body, and the offering of his body is what saved us.” 

The scenes of The Passion profoundly depict Our Lady’s role as Co-redemptrix with Jesus. In fact, a well -known Italian journalist stated that The Passion of the Christ could also have been justifiably called, “The Story of Mary Co-redemptrix.

For example, in the film, it is Mary alone who understands when Jesus has been arrested that “It has begun.” What has begun? The unified mission of Jesus, the Redeemer, and Mary, the Co-redemptrix, to redeem the world.  

When Mary walks the way of the Cross with Jesus, she stands opposite Satan.  She is his opponent. Mary’s role with Jesus to “crush the head of Satan” is powerfully dramatized.

In the Calvary scene, the dying Redeemer gives his own mother to become the Spiritual Mother of All Peoples, when he says from the cross, “Behold your Mother” (Jn. 19:27).

In the final Calvary scene, Mary becomes a living Pietà, holding the dead body of her Divine son, she looks to us all as our loving Co-redemptrix, who suffered in union with Jesus, and calls us all to appreciate the price of our redemption.

There are a lot of deep theological truths that Mel Gibson wove into the Passion of the Christ.  In this chaotic, confused age, we need truth.

And it is true that Mary is the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix of all graces, and Advocate for all humanity!  It is my hope and prayer that the Pope will proclaim this truth as a Marian dogma, so that every single living human being will know that they have a spiritual Mother that loves them, and who will intercede to bring them to Jesus, their true Savior!

Now why is this necessary if the truth of Mary is already the truth?  Why does it need a papal proclamation?   Well, look at the moment in scripture when Jesus asked the apostles, “Who do they say that I am?” Ladies and gentlemen believe me when I say to you………Jesus wasn’t having an identity crisis—He knew who he was—but he wanted the truth proclaimed!  When Simon Peter announced the truth that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, then and only then did Jesus found the Church and the papacy on the rock of Peter, the first pope.

I believe Jesus wants the full truth about Mary— that she is the world’s Spiritual Mother, the Co-redemptrix and Mediatrix, to be proclaimed by the present Pope, so that Our Mother can utilize her “full power” of intercession to bring peace, true peace, to the world.

My friends in Jesus and Mary, the present world scene is one of unprecedented moral breakdown, natural disasters, and even greater global threats of war and terrorism are now looming in our midst. The power of Satan is evident, no matter where we turn.  Our whole world is in desperate need of the peace of Jesus Christ. And his peace, both spiritual and global, will only come to us—as it did originally– through the person of Mary, our Mediatrix and Advocate!

At Fatima, Our Lady promised that “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph…and a period of peace will be granted to the world.” Let us trust in these words of Our Lady. Let us pray, especially before our Eucharistic Jesus, for true and lasting world peace through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of All Peoples.

She will keep her promise, but we must do our part.  As St. Bernard has written, and as I have seen in my own life: “You will not go astray if you follow her…you will not get lost if you call to her.  If she is holding you by the hand you will not fall.  If she is protecting you, you have nothing to fear.  You will not grow weary if she is at your side.”  But you must reach out to her.

 My brothers and Sisters, be faithful, call out to your Mother, pray the Rosary for world peace! Adore Jesus Christ in the Eucharist and Heaven will respond! 

Before I leave you, this path will not be an easy one for our bishops and laity who accept this challenge and the fight to fulfill the will of God is never easy… but from God’s gospel and Mother Theresa’s personal creed, they echo this sentiment: Blessed are you when people hate you…when they exclude you and insult you…and reject your name as evil because of The Son Of Man.” In the final analysis, it is between You and God…it was never between you and them anyway.” 

“So yes, your very name
may not appear down here, 
In this world’s Hall of Fame.

In fact, you may be so unknown that no one knows your name;
The Oscars and the praise of men may never come your way.

But don’t forget, God has awards that He’ll
Hand out someday.
This crowd on earth, they will soon forget when you’re not at the top;
They will cheer like mad 
until you fall.
And then, their praise will stop.

Not God…He never does forget 
And in His Hall of Fame, by just believing in His Son; 
Forever, there’s your name.

I tell you, friend,
I wouldn’t trade my name 
However small
That’s written there, beyond the stars 
In that celestial Hall.

For all the famous names on earth or the glory that they share,
I’d rather be an unknown here 
And have my name up there.” 
(Written by John Wooden)

 May God love you, keep you, and guide you, all of the days of your lives.

Thank you.

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