Friday, February 27, 2004


I'm back in CT with my family for a few days. They all saw The Passion on Ash Wednesday, and are still recovering from it. Nobody is ready to talk about the movie yet. They don't want to hear me opine about the film's cinematography and its use of imagery and its editing. They are still in a place of profound sadness.

When I pressed my sister Alison for her experience of the film, she just looked at me and said, "I sat here and cried quietly for two hours." It reminded me of the characters of Mary, John and Magdalen in the film. No screaming, no demonstrating, no spinning, no gesticulating. Just grief without remorse.

I was marveling this morning at the horrific vitriol that some secularists are spewing towards Mel and his film - which is now really "our film" in the way that the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta are ours. I really have to take the Maureen Dowds and the Dominic Crossans, and the Christopher Kellys at their word that this bloodied, tortured Jesus in The Passion of the Christ is no one that they know. Their rage seems to be coming from a sense that their Jesus is one whom we associate with being gentle, curing sick people and admonishing hypocrites. Oh, and yes, the only thing He said that really matters to them is, "Judge not."

My family are of the stock for whom this movie is most meaningful. We are people who have spent thousands of hours brooding over the Sorrowful Mysteries. We are rosary people. We are people who really really DO Lent, and for whom Passion week is the center of the year. We think of the mass as being an unbloody Sacrifice that only has power because it recreates the bloody one of Calvary. We make the stations and holy hours and read the Scriptures and go on retreats and honor the Sacred Heart and offer things up and go to confession pretty much monthly.

The images in The Passion of the Christ are not shocking or new to us. They are pictures we have seen in our minds-eye millions of times. Yeah, we get that this is one artist's interpretation, but it is still incredible to see something you have spent your life trying to "believe without seeing."

Sorry, I just don't believe the protesters. I don't believe the journalistic outrage, the cultural pundits spewing warnings and liberal scholars tearing their theological garments. I don't buy any of it. They are missing the one thing that would validate their claims to authority: quiet tears.

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