Tag Archives: Christ

It is never ‘safe’ to imitate Christ

It is July 18, 1882. General Charles Pomeroy Stone, an American engineer in the employ of the Khedive Ismail of Egypt, has since July 6 been separated from his wife and their two daughters while the British – with but two days’ warning – bomb Alexandria. Stone is there with the Khedive. His small son John is alone on a frigate offshore. The rest of his family is in Cairo, 120 miles away. They do not know if the general is alive or dead. Rumors are all bad. The nation is on the brink of civil war.

On this day, the general’s eldest child, Frances (age 17), her sister, and a few Muslim servants walk to an English chapel nearby to fetch some books. The clergyman, to Frances’ disappointment, had abandoned his post. The Muslims take cushions from the seats to kneel on and pray while the girls go to the library. When they return, they find the servants looking curiously at the organ. So Frances sits down at it and plays “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” while the men listen, rapt.

“Poor fellows!” Frances writes. “They are such fine brave men, and do so long to see us safe with Papa. I wonder what [the Khedive’s challenger ‘Urabi] and his creatures would have said could they have looked in and seen a young Christian girl playing sacred music to two armed Mussulmans in a Christian church.”

What would we say?

The days have dragged on. “Death to the Christians!” they hear from outside. One faithful servant has pleaded with them to flee to the country to lodge with his family, in hiding. But Mrs. Stone remained firm. “I shall not run away from my servants like a coward,” she says, “and leave my house to be pillaged.” She insists upon waiting for word from the general. “I propose that we stay at home like brave women,” she says to her girls, “and live like Christians as long as we can.”

She reads to them from The Imitation of Christ: “It is good for us now and then to have some trouble and adversities, for oftentimes they make a man enter into himself, that he may know that he is in exile and may not place his hope in anything of this world.”

What those adversities were, we may gather from Mrs. Stone’s words on the 12th: “I want you to promise me to be patient, to be cheerful, and always brave. Go on with your studies, keep always busy, and trust to me to save you, if it is possible, when the worst comes.” They have firearms to hold off the enemy till the staff officers come, but if they do not, she says, “you can be brave and face death like good soldiers.”…

After many days of fear and privation, and strategy too – frustrating spies by conversing simultaneously with loyalists in English, Arabic, French, and Italian – they would be reunited with General Stone on August 9. “Fanny” Stone published the selections from her diary in The Century Magazine, June 1884, in language that for clarity and breadth of knowledge would be impressive for a college professor in our time.

I recount some of the story to make four observations.

First, courage is the foundational virtue; without it, the other virtues wither.

Second, courage finds good soil in the loyalty and obedience that Christian family life demands.

Third, the family is more powerful than we know, and that is why Satan hates it.

Fourth, it is never safe to imitate Christ, and it never will be.

DR. ANTHONY ESOLEN is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of Liberal Arts in Warner, NH. He is author and translator of more than 20 books, including Defending Boyhood: How Building Forts, Reading Stories, Playing Ball, and Praying to God Can Change the World; Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World; Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture; Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child; and Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity (St. Benedict Press).

Crisis unveils valuable moment to show devotion to Christ

“Faith Seeking Understanding” is a phrase attributed to St. Anselm. It asserts succinctly the nature of the search of truth under the light of faith, which emphasizes our yearning to understand more perfectly — to see, as much as is possible, the truth about the human person, his life, and eternal destiny. The believer seeks to understand what he holds by faith, and his belief is itself an aid in the pursuit of the truth. As St. Anselm said, “I do not seek to understand so that I can believe, but I believe so that I may understand… I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.”

Today we face a critical period in the Church’s life, affecting our families, parishes, communities, and world. Fueled by decades of superficial and false catechesis, millions of Church faithful are confused about fundamental tenets of the Catholic faith and the moral law — marriage, family, human sexuality, and the dignity of life. However, this crisis presents an opportunity for us to express our devotion to Christ the Truth. It is time the faith becomes our most intimate and valuable treasure.

In his encyclical God Is Love, Pope Benedict XVI said that Jesus’ dying for us on the cross is “love in its most radical form.” Our desire is to deepen our love of Him who first loved us, to constantly reflect on God’s goodness. As the pearl of great price, we want to know Him better, to be His follower and friend — “Lord, you know that I love you!” Called to this greater love, we seek, ask, and knock, desiring to deepen our personal relationship with Him.

We must first seek greater intimacy with God through prayer. Jesus is our model, and we desire to mirror His actions. So, what does He teach us? Throughout the Gospel accounts, the Evangelists expose us to our Lord’s habitual attitude of prayer. In all matters, He turns to the Father. We too need to aspire to be contemplative souls — at home, in the street, and at work, remaining in conversation with the Father, following the Master.

Our faith and understanding are further deepened by attendance at daily Mass, frequent Confession, daily prayer with Scripture, and study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals, and the lives of the saints. This formation in faith helps us to cultivate wisdom of intellect and heart, to be well-formed disciples.

The best indication of growth in faith and advancement in the life of virtue is our love and service of our brothers and sisters. Do we practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? Do we share our greatest treasure, our faith, when prompted by the Holy Spirit? St. Teresa of Avila wisely noted that it is difficult to know if we love God. “But,” she said, “we can know if we love our neighbor. And the more we advance in this love, the greater likewise will be our love for God.”

Without a pursuit for holiness, depth of prayer, a life of virtue, expansion in one’s knowledge of the faith, and a life nourished by the sacraments, the heart is in danger of being ensnared by the allurement of an earthly life devoid of God. The day we no longer love God, our world will become cold and lifeless, deprived of its most precious good. Ours is to burn with love for our faith, and to desire and foster its growth in our hearts. Then we will not only defend it, but also share this treasured possession, bringing truth and life to those who are confused and lost.

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is president of Human Life International (www.hli.org) and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA. Please keep Human Life International in your continued prayers and support.

Shroud still wrapped in divine mystery

In conjunction with the celebration of Christ’s resurrection comes the annual controversy over whether physical evidence exists for a miraculous event that still impacts the world and the foundation of our faith.

That “evidence” is the Shroud of Turin – a mysterious rectangular linen cloth measuring 14.6 feet long and 3.5 feet wide. The cloth bears a faint, continuous, front-to-back yellowed image of a bearded, crucified man with bloodstains matching the wounds suffered by Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in all four Gospels.

Since 1578, this holy relic has resided in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Turin, Italy (except from 1939 to 1946, when the Shroud was secretly moved after Italian authorities feared Hitler would seize the cloth in the belief he would gain supernatural power to win World War II).

The Shroud has earned the distinction as the world’s most revered and studied artifact due to numerous unexplained properties that still baffle 21stcentury scientists. Here is a brief overview of the Shroud’s mysteries:

How was the image formed?

There are several theories. Some scientists propose that radiation rose from within the body, resulting in a burst of light that scorched the cloth with a detailed, anatomically correct male image. Moreover, in 1978, distinguished scientists participating in the only comprehensive study ever authorized — the Shroud of Turin Research Project (STURP) — concluded: “No pigments, paints, dyes or stains have been found,” and “The Shroud is not the product of an artist.”

Miraculously, the image does not penetrate the cloth; rather, it sits on top . But the male human Type AB blood does penetrate the cloth’s fibers. Thus, with no image under the blood, Shroud researchers say, “Blood first, image second.”

What explains the photographic abnormality?

In 1898, Italian photographer Secondo Pia obtained permission to apply the “new” technology of photography to the Shroud. In his darkroom, Pia discovered the Shroud’s first “modern” unexplained mystery — when seen with the naked eye, the cloth is a “negative” image, but develops as a “positive” photographic negative.

Why is the Shroud image encoded with 3D “distance” information?

Amazingly, the Shroud and the image is 2D but reads like a 3D “relief map.” It was discovered in the 1970s. Quoting from STURP’s final report summary: “Computer image enhancement and analysis by a device known as a VP-8 image analyzer show that the image has unique, three-dimensional information encoded in it.”

How is the Shroud image uniform in depth across both frontal and dorsal images?

Remarkably, the man’s image is only two microfibers deep — the thickness of about 1 percent of a single thread — and uniform in intensity throughout the cloth with no deviation — a feat impossible to accomplish with human hands! Think of the image as resting on the hair of your forearm.

There are many more mysteries and controversies concerning substances found on the cloth such as pollen, dust, and traces of plants and flowers.

However, the most famous controversy concerns the 1988 radiocarbon (C-14) tests dating the Shroud to between 1260 and 1390, thus denigrating the cloth as a “medieval forgery.” Immediately, scientists questioned and criticized the test protocols.

In 2017, the radiocarbon test raw data was released after 29 years. Subsequently, a research study completed in 2019 concluded that the medieval dates — famously reported in 1988 with great fanfare and “95 percent confidence” — were suspect and unreliable.

Ultimately, questions remain: is the Shroud physical proof of Christ’s resurrection? Is the Shroud a “living cloth” with hidden properties waiting to be revealed through new technologies?

Meanwhile, the Shroud’s existence prompts us to ask the same question Jesus asked Peter: “Who do you say that I am?”

MYRA ADAMS is founder and executive director of SignFromGod.org, an interdenominational ministry that evangelizes and educates about the Shroud of Turin. Myra is a Jewish convert to Christianity and later Catholicism. She is a Shroud expert, Bible study teacher at Assumption Catholic Church, media producer, and a conservative political/ religious writer at RealClearPolitics, Townhall.com, and National Review

Priests who teach Truth do us a favor

Sin is the cause of endless misery today – and yet, most suffering from despondency never attribute it to immorality. Why would they? Most don’t practice faith in Christ, and of those who do, many no longer hear straight talk about sin. Catholic clarity is hard to come by now, and “right” and “wrong” seem relative. But when you hear a good shepherd who’s fearless in imparting Catholic teaching – even facets which cause squirming and discomfort – you don’t forget him. And you don’t soon forget his message.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

All around us people are harried, confused, and rattled … by viruses, scandals, elections, traffic, jobs, weather, stocks, you name it. There’s no shortage of legitimate ‘concerns’ apart from God’s. People have vacations to plan, budgets to review, wardrobes to update, social calendars to coordinate. Incessant angst, impatience, and competitiveness are part of the grind … yet the utter purpose of life gets totally forgotten.

But here’s a simple truth: when we love and worship God properly first, His laws and teachings come naturally – and in turn, He keeps us under His protection. We’re happier. But if we rebuff Him, we slide down the cool slope of sin, degree by degree – rationalizing it, seeing it as necessary, losing our horror of it. Before we know it, we’re okay with just about anything the world serves up – and we think we’re content – but we’re fighting an inner anxiety we can’t escape.

I remember that day in my life over 25 years ago. We were new in town, and a local priest invited me to a class he was teaching on the popes through history, and their key writings. His engaging homilies had gotten my attention in church, so I thought he’d be an interesting teacher. I was about to get the lesson of my life.

I was late to the first evening’s class, working for a large pharmaceutical client and finishing a project that afternoon. I hurried in still in my suit, and looked around seeing mothers feeding their babies, and a few veiled women holding rosaries. I wondered if I was in the wrong place. The priest motioned me to a seat in front of him. They were finishing up opening prayers – which I didn’t recognize.

Then the night’s papal-encyclical handout came around, called Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI. Huh, never heard of it.

Well, no matter. I was soon frozen by Father’s elucidations – on related sins, purpose of marriage, rearing children, birth control, bioethical issues, lots of stunning stuff. My eyeballs veered left and right, to see if others were as shocked. Everyone seemed fine except me. This was Catholic teaching? Since when? I was sweating, angry, and anxious for the coffee break so I could leave.

Running into our house, I grabbed the dusty Catechism and looked up the citations. It was all there. I’d never heard it.

But I had no excuse anymore. That weekend, I made the hardest Confession of my life, and it reset my course forever.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK is Legatus magazine’s editor.

Social bonds should draw one to Christ

It is incumbent upon us in the panoramic overview of our life to analyze in great detail our social relationships, which consist most likely of both relatives and friends. To do this, we must first understand the timeless truth of Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises no. 23, “Principle and Foundation: Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this mean save his soul. The other things on the face of the earth are created for man to help him in attaining the end for which he is created.”

… Let us enter into a plan of life for our social relationships – let us study, analyze, and examine each one to see if it is a true friendship, or a friendship that should be cooled, or a pseudo-friendship that should be ended once and for all.

Step back and observe all your social contacts, but try to view them through the divine perspective, through the eyes of God, the Father of all.

Bad contacts. Being dead honest and sincere, in the presence of Jesus, Mary, the angels, and the saints, ask yourself if there are contacts – be it relatives or so-called friends – who are truly jeopardizing or damaging your relationship with Jesus, Who is really your best friend.

End them! Even though this may appear somewhat extreme, as well as exceedingly difficult, Jesus might be challenging you to cut, sever, and end those relationships. If some person whom you call friend is hurting your friendship with Jesus, why wouldn’t you take the drastic measure of ending that friendship once and for all!

Less time and energy. Then there might be a middle-ground experience or relationship. By this we mean a friendship with a person who is noble, good, spiritual, with high ideals and pursuits like yours. However, the time you spend with this person is extreme. It is too much! … You are aware that you are neglecting your time with God, with your spouse, with your children, and with other aspects of your life that need attention. Conclusion? This is not a call to end this, but a call to moderate it; that is to say, give less time and energy to this relationship.

Upgrade your social life. Maybe it has happened that there is a person – in some parish group or setting – whom you believe is holy, dedicated, hardworking, prayerful, and inspiring, with many other virtues. After talking with them several times, you realize that each time you leave filled with spiritual consolation and peace. This could be Jesus, your best friend, speaking through this inner consolation that He wants you to expand your horizons and establish a friendship with this person.

Excerpt taken from Road Map to Heaven: A Catholic Plan of Life, by Fr. Ed Broom, OMV (TAN Books, 2019). From Chapter 14, “Our Social Relationships,” pp. 115-118.

ED BROOM, OMV is a member of the religious order Oblates of the Virgin Mary, and a priest, speaker, author, radio talk-show host, and retreat master – with a particular focus on devotion to Catholic Ignatian Marian spirituality. He serves as associate pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, CA

Encountering Christ and growing our faith

In this issue, we highlight Christmas and the Summit, two of my favorite times. It’s unbelievable that a year has passed by again, as we ready to welcome baby Jesus back into our hearts, and celebrate being Christian. We also look forward to the coming year.

Stephen Henley

Beginning in 2020, we will again host two Summits yearly. In years past, we had two Summits annually, but with growing costs and our then membership-size not being at a level to sustain it, we decided to have just one event per year. Now, with over 5,500 members and nearly 100 chapters, we are at the size to again host two. The past several Summits have sold out. Part of our intent in having two events again is to expose more members to the Summit. Those who have attended know what a crowning jewel the Summit is to a Legatus year.

Historically, each Summit is whole unto itself. The west Summits tend to have more central and west region attendees, and the east, likewise. As we expand to two events, one will be on the east coast and one in the west; one in the fall and one in the winter. The Summit in September of 2020 will be at the beautiful Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. This Summit will be hosted by the Colorado Springs Chapter and will include different speakers and theme than will our January 2020 Summit.

At next month’s Summit East hosted by the Pittsburgh Chapter, we selected the theme “Iron Sharpens Iron: Co-Responsibility of the Laity.” In Proverbs 27:17, we read: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” As Ambassadors for Christ in the Marketplace, we are called to not only refine our lay colleagues, but as Pope St. John Paul II suggested in 1988 in his Apostolic Exhortation Chrisifidelis Laici [On the Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World], we are called to work in active collaboration with fellow priests and religious. We must help our brothers and sisters, regardless of vocation, to that ultimate goal of getting to heaven and bringing along as many people as possible.

The Summit is built as a retreat: a chance to engage and grow your faith, away from the demands of daily life. It is an opportunity to step away and focus solely on Christ, in a way not possible in the daily hustle. Through this experience, we can sharpen ourselves and each other, and endeavor to truly walk with Him in our vocations.

If you have been to a Summit, I encourage you to share this experience with fellow members and if possible, to address your chapter. The Summit, like monthly chapter events, is an experience difficult to paint for others through advertisements, but which leaves unforgettable impact. If you have never been to a Summit, now is your time!

Lastly, as we prepare for the coming of our Lord, on behalf of all the staff at Legatus, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

STEPHEN M. HENLEY is Legatus’ executive director

Christ at the capitol: Why government must welcome the Christmas Nativity

There is a huge misconception about separation of church and state, especially pertaining to Christmas Nativities. Those claiming offense by displays of the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth often cry foul, and government officials regularly deny applications for scenes depicting the Holy Family on public property.

Christmas 2019 marks the 35th year for the “resurrected” Nativity on Chicago’s Daley Plaza. In 1984, when government officials nearly shut it down, a lawsuit had to be filed to protect the Nativity scene and prevent physical destruction of the life-sized Holy Family statues. The free speech rights of Christians to proclaim their faith in public prevailed when the late Chief U.S. District Judge James B. Parsons enjoined the authorities from discriminating against religious expression at this venue where political rallies were regularly held.

The American Nativity Scene assists in placing crèches around the country. In 2012, they were denied application to add a crèche to the winter holiday display in Arlington Heights, a northwest Chicago suburb. The seasonal exhibit — installed, funded, and sponsored by the village annually since 1991 — showcased numerous scenes, including Chanukah dreidels. The Thomas More Society informed village and park leadership of their constitutional obligation to administer this traditional public forum without discrimination against religious speech. Eventually, the joyful scene of Jesus Christ’s birth was displayed in this public forum and religious freedom triumphed.

In Franklin County, Indiana, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged the privately funded display of a 50-year-old Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn. Joined by the Satanic Temple, they tried to have the traditional Christmas decoration ousted – with two separate lawsuits, in December 2014 and March 2015. The case was settled in December 2015 in favor of retaining the display.

Each case ended with the triumph of religious freedom. Religious speech is no less valuable or protected than nonreligious speech under the First Amendment, and that includes the expression of faith by private citizens via a Christmas Nativity display in a traditional public forum, such as a statehouse rotunda, county lawn, or town square. Currently, the American Nativity Scene sponsors Nativities at 19 state capitols and additional government locations in 36 states.

Attacks on the Nativity, both socially and legally, are now commonplace. The Thomas More Society and other public interest law firms regularly defend the rights of individuals to include their faith in their day-to-day lives, and to display symbols of that faith in the public square.

Many erroneously assume that a city or town is prohibited from sponsoring a holiday display. The law is clear. Government entities may erect and maintain celebrations of the Christmas holiday, including Nativities, as long as the crèche’s purpose is not to promote its religious content, and it is placed in context with other symbols of the season as part of an effort to celebrate the public Christmas holiday through traditional symbols. Private groups may utilize public space if it is made available by government for events involving non-religious expression.

Challenges to public expression of Christian faith can be expected to escalate. While deeply held personal beliefs are at the root of the desire to share the true meaning of Christmas, it is never the government’s role to endorse or support such. The focus must always be on the right to express one’s beliefs in public. Believers should be ready to address an intolerance of Christianity, despite a demand that all else be tolerated, and hold full confidence in the fact that these displays, privately funded and sponsored, are clothed and armored with the full protection of the First Amendment of our U.S. Constitution.

Those interested in setting up a large Nativity scene in a public space at no cost can visit: americannativityscene.com

THOMAS OLP is vice president and senior counsel at the Thomas More Society (https://www.thomasmoresociety.org/) a not-for-profit, national public interest law firm dedicated to restoring respect in law for life, family, and religious liberty. Educated at Georgetown University and The Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law, Tom’s early practice revolved around labor and employment law and litigation in the nation’s capital. He has been with the Thomas More Society since 2007.

‘Putting on the armor of God’ is man’s ultimate calling

Professionals, like firemen, policemen, and military personnel, wear a distinctive uniform or insignia that helps us easily identify them. As for Christians, we are to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul explains how Christians should live in the light of Faith and in relation to one another and society. Having been liberated by Christ, Christians are to offer their “bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.” We are “not to conform to this age” (Romans 12:1-2); instead, we are called to be warriors – to live our faith with passion and conviction, virtuously, and in accord with God’s will.

Discipleship is faith expressed in real life, every day, in every way. We are to “let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good” (Romans 12:9). We are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) by shedding our “street clothes” – the habits of pride, rebellion, and sinfulness and put on “new clothing,” which represents a Christ-covered life.

“Man was created for greatness—for God himself, he was created to be filled by God. But his heart is too small for the greatness to which it is destined. It must be stretched” (Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI). Sadly, many Christians seek what is comfortable and extremely superficial; yet Christ calls us to something truly meaningful – to achieve greatness. “You are the light of the world,” says the Lord and “a city set on a mountain cannot be hidden,” so “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16).

In an address to German pilgrims in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that Jesus’ command to love requires hard work and is painful. “Christ did not promise an easy life,” noted the pope and “those who desire comforts have dialed the wrong number. Rather, he shows us the way to great things, the good, towards an authentic human life.” Discipleship implies a living relationship with Christ, in Whose life we are invited to share, love, serve, seek, and imitate.

The Father’s act of love in giving His Son defines the ultimate requirement of true love. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19); thus, our love for Him is a response to His love for us. “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another,” says Christ and “this is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). God’s love is perfected in us when we reproduce it in or among ourselves.

Holiness is the remedy which heals, transforms, strengthens, and produces an abundant harvest. “All the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, 40). Uniting our wills to God’s brings about the “fullness of Christian life” and “the perfection of love.”

Following Christ can be extremely hard at times, but our part is a daily effort to discipline ourselves and to strive for holiness as an athlete competing in games (2 Timothy 4:7). The Holy Spirit can transform us, stretch our hearts, enabling us to bear godly fruits (Galatians 5:22) and also assist us to give full witness to His transforming power, allowing us to say “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20).

FATHER SHENAN J. BOQUET is the president of Human Life International (www.hli.org), and a priest of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, LA.

Discerning The King, Long Before His Coming

Messiah, a new eight-part documentary film series, explores how the prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ – and his Church

After millennia of preparing his people through the patriarchs, prophets, the law and his covenant, God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to proclaim the good news of salvation and to redeem us through his cross and resurrection.

The story of Jesus has been told in film numerous times, from motion picture epics that keep close to the Gospel narratives to modern reinterpretations that strive to make Jesus more accessible to contemporary believers.

Now comes Messiah, a new eight-part documentary series due for release this fall. Filmed on location in the Holy Land, in Rome, and in the United States, it is produced and marketed for use in churches, schools, and private homes.

So why make another Jesus film? What more is there to say about Christ?

“In one sense Messiah doesn’t say anything new. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever,” said Rick Rotondi, creator and executive producer of the series, referencing the Letter to the Hebrews. “Two thousand years ago, Jesus revealed Himself fully to His apostles. In a project like Messiah, all any artist or filmmaker can hope to accomplish is to mine the riches of this revelation once given to the saints.”

Although Christ remains the same, Rotondi added, “Every generation must discover Christ afresh. There are truths about Christ we tend to forget. We’ve forgotten the astounding ways in which Christ fulfills the Old Testament.

“I hope Messiah changes that,” he added.

What Messiah brings to the forefront

Due for release in the fall, Messiah guides viewers through the Old Testament covenants and prophecies beginning with the Exodus event and reveals how these prophecies are fulfilled in the person of Christ — and the Church he established.

Filmed on locations in the United States, the Holy Land, and Rome, Messiah uses beautiful images and music, narration, voice actors, and expert interviews to convey how the Church fulfills the messianic prophecy as a “light to the nations.” Designed for presentation in churches, schools, and private homes, the new series is a catalyst for catechesis and discussion.

Leonardo Defilippis, who serves as the series’ host, has evangelized through stage and film presentations on the Gospels and the lives of the saints for nearly four decades. He calls Messiah “a very profound work.”

All Christians are taught that Jesus is the Christ, the “anointed one” of God, Defilippis said, but Messiah shows how He is the priest who builds God’s true Temple, which is the Church.

Unfortunately, “so many Christians do not recognize Him and slip away due to their lack of faith and lukewarm spirit,” he explained. “This is the state of the world and of our very beings most of the time.”

Defilippis said it’s easy to see why people stray from the Church, and it can be summarized in one word: sin. “We leave Jesus because we constantly reject His very person and follow the way of the world,” he said.

But Messiah “reminds us that He is the true liberator, and it is all clearly proclaimed through the history of salvation,” he added. The film thus points viewers toward “the reality of the kingdom of God, heaven itself.”

Catholic novelist and co-producer Bud Macfarlane agreed with the evangelizing potential of Messiah. “No viewer will ever experience Mass the same way again, because the series places Old and New Testament readings into a world-historical and supernatural perspective,” he said.

Challenges and blessings

Filming in Rome and the Holy Land often came with tight restrictions that presented special challenges. Sometimes authorities allowed the crew just an hour to stage and film a scene; other times guards were unexpectedly tolerant of their presence at particular locations. The project, however, seemed to be blessed at every turn.

“We saw one mini-miracle after another while on this set,” said director John Strong. “We went to impossible lengths and got the footage we desired.”

Defilippis found himself deeply inspired while filming in the Holy Land. “I had the privilege to see a window into heaven many times,” he said. At the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, he was moved to drop to his knees in silent prayer. “At that moment it hit me that this is one of the most significant places in all of creation,” he explained.

Anticipating profound impact

Rotondi said he hopes viewers will be affected profoundly by Messiah. “One of the takeaways I hope people obtain from Messiah is that God is faithful to His promises,” he said. “To see how God’s promises to Abraham and Moses and David come to fruition in Christ fills us with awe and should give us confidence that God will fulfill His promises to us.”

Another hoped-for takeaway is that the Church on earth is the Kingdom of God and the Lord’s Temple, tasked with carrying out Christ’s work of salvation.

“We don’t often get to enjoy this glorious image of the Church today, but it’s a true one,” Rotondi said. “Despite the Church’s sins and wounds, despite corruption, sin, and timidity in her human members, the Church is the living and active presence of Christ in the world. The Church is the Mystical Body of the Messiah, extending His dominion through time and space, putting all things under His feet.”

For more information about the film’s September 2019 release, visit SeeMessiah.com.

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Return to faith – overcoming scar of clerical abuse

Paul Zsebedics could never bring himself to throw away the T-shirt with a picture of Christ’s face that his mother gave him years ago.

Zsebedics was barely a practicing Catholic when he agreed to chaperone a group of high school students on a weekend retreat at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He wore that old T-shirt.

In a metaphorical and literal sense, Zsebedics put on Christ for the first time.

Encountering Christ anew

“I think I did it because I knew I was going with others to this retreat who had something that I didn’t, and I was sort of hiding behind Jesus,” said Zsebedics, 52, a member of the Tampa Bay Chapter, and CEO of VoloForce, a software company.

On that weekend retreat several years ago, Zsebedics met Jesus in a deeply personal manner. Encountering Christ in a Eucharistic Adoration gathering, Zsebedics said the Lord physically intervened in his interior life.

“This was miraculous, not a metaphor,” Zsebedics said. “Jesus Christ reached into my chest with His hand. I actually felt it. He grabbed my heart. I gasped. That was it. My life was changed forever.”

As he later knelt down and wept, Zsebedics felt a peace envelop his entire body. Nothing in that moment would have been able to take that consolation away from him, not even the pain of being a sex abuse survivor.

Betrayed altar boy

“There is no amount of money that can ever heal the way that Jesus Christ can,” said Zsebedics, who was an altar boy in the third grade when he was sexually abused by one of his parish priests in Queens, New York.

After finishing their altar service training, Zsebedics said the priest escorted each of them separately into a bathroom in the sacristy, where he abused them. Not even 10 years old, Zsebedics and the other boy did not understand what had happened.

“Being in the third grade, you don’t know much about the world,” Zsebedics said. “At the time, it was confusing. The older you get, you see what’s going on and you begin to know what’s happening.”

Growing up with that horrible memory turned Zsebedics off to the Catholic Church, which he saw as having no moral authority, especially since his childhood parish — Our Lady Queen of Martyrs – turned out to be “an epicenter” of clergy sex abuse. Zsebedics’ own sister was abused by one of the parish priests.

“A lot of bad priests were brought there,” Zsebedics said. “A lot of altar boys and others who worked in and around the rectory were abused in one way or another by those priests, and the diocese covered it up for many years.”

Damaged view of Church

The horrible experience also shaded Zsebedics’ view and understanding of sexuality for many years.

“Looking back, you bring this garbage everywhere you are in your life. You look at sexuality differently,” he said. “Back then in the 1970s, nobody talked about what sexuality is and how one is supposed to look at sexuality in general. You become numb. You try to figure it out and understand.”

As an adult, Zsebedics fell in love with Ellen, a young Pan Am flight attendant in New York with whom he would later elope. Ellen’s mother, a devout Catholic, arranged for the couple to meet with a priest and have their civil marriage convalidated.

Though he attended Catholic schools for 12 years, Zsebedics said he was “poorly formed” in the faith, and was not very supportive when Ellen, who was baptized Catholic but never received her other sacraments, enrolled in RCIA. When Ellen received Holy Communion for the first time, Zsebedics watched in bewilderment as she started crying.

Powerful return to faith

“All I can think of is why is this woman crying over this Jesus cookie?” Zsebedics said. “At the time, I was thinking, ‘She should be crying because she’s marrying the greatest man on earth, which is me.’”

Their parish priest subsequently encouraged the couple to complete “St. Louis de Monfort’s Way of Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary.” Our Lady’s promise of drawing the soul closer to her son had its desired effect. Both had powerful conversion experiences.

“It changed the direction of our family,” Zsebedics said, adding that he and Ellen, who have been married 23 years in the Church, developed a prayer group with other families. Their family also grew.

Today, they have six children whose ages range from 9 to 27. Their 18-year-old son, Andrew, recently told them he plans to enroll in seminary to discern the priesthood.

Priceless gift of healing

“My wife and I were joyful that we had a son who was open to discernment,” said Zsebedics, who, though he was abused by a priest, encouraged his children to be open to the Lord’s call, even if that meant the priesthood.

Zsebedics also said he regularly prays for his abuser, who died in 2016. Zsebedics added that he has spoken with diocesan officials in New York to erect a shrine to St. Maria Goretti at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church to aid in the healing of sex abuse survivors.

“Bishops will often ask, ‘What can I do to help you heal?’ It’s very difficult when you tell them, ‘Absolutely nothing,’” Zsebedics said. “There’s not a dollar in the world that can actually make up for this priceless gift of faith and healing that we received through the Blessed Mother and her son, Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.” L B

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.