Tag Archives: movies

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.

The Quiet Man headed home

“Based on the Church’s teachings, his soul was wiped clean, with Baptism and the Last Rites. He probably made a direct shot to the high heavens,” said Patrick Wayne, the son of the legendary actor whose name still resonates with audiences nearly 40 years after his death.

“I think what my dad represents to people, what they find attractive, is that he, not only on the screen but in his personal life, represented a character, the icon of the Old West, that this is an individual who stands on his own, who works hard to succeed,” said Patrick, 79, who himself enjoyed a successful film career.

Patrick Wayne, the chairman of the John Wayne Cancer Institute, will be one of the Legatus Summit 2019 speakers in January. He will be speaking about his famous father, the role that faith played in his life, and his family’s work to carry on the Duke’s legacy through funding cancer research.

“We had no idea how long the institute would last,” Patrick said. “We thought we would ride this and if his name resonated with the public, great. Not one of us would have expected that his celebrity and popularity would still resonate, and it does.”

An ambitious athlete

John Wayne was born Marion Mitchell Morrison in 1907 in a small town in Iowa. His parents moved the family west to California, eventually settling in Glendale. The young John Wayne was a gifted and driven athlete.

As a young man, my dad was ambitious. He wanted to succeed. He wanted to do something,” Patrick said.

John Wayne had dreams of attending the U.S. Naval Academy, but did not get admitted. However, he excelled in football and landed a scholarship to the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

In his first year of college, Wayne broke his shoulder while surfing, and lost his football scholarship. He went to work in the local film studios, where USC football players often worked in the off-season, helping with props and working as an extra.

Within a decade, John Wayne was a movie star.

“If he had gone to the Naval Academy, he would have become the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Patrick said. “If he had gone to school, he would have been president of the United States. He was going to succeed in some form, in some way. Fate just took him into the movie business.”

Then to the movies

John Wayne appeared in more than 175 movies. He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. He played dozens of cowboys in Westerns. He starred alongside Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man and portrayed soldiers in The Longest Day and The Green Berets.

“His roles in films were cookie-cutter, but not in a bad way,” said Patrick, who explained that his father was advised at a young age by the actor Harry Carey that he did not need to portray many different characters because moviegoers wanted their stars to be consistent, if not predictable.

“Right or wrong, good or bad, he chose to follow that route. I guess it paid off for him. He was still pretty successful,” said Patrick, who appeared in 40 films, 11 with his father, including The Quiet Man and The Green Berets.

“What came through the screen was his presence,” Patrick said. “When he worked in films, you were drawn to him. As an audience you can’t take your eyes off him. Without any trickery or chicanery, he was just like that.”

Referring to actors who would “be doing all sorts of schtick” when they were in a scene with the Duke, Patrick said he would tell his father, “Is this guy kidding?” The elder Wayne would just respond, “I don’t care about that. No one is going to be looking at him anyway.”

While a director could give Patrick particular instructions about a role, they would easily be vetoed by his father’s input.

“My dad would say, ‘Do it this way,’” Patrick said. “And I’d say, ‘Okay, Dad.’”

A man’s man

Audiences the world over saw John Wayne the movie star, the icon of masculinity. To Patrick, he was first and foremost, Dad.

“In his personal life, he had a great sense of humor, which from time to time was shown in the films, but not to the extent that he had,” Patrick said. “He was a warm, sensitive, feeling person, a very thoughtful, considerate, bright person. He was a much more well-rounded person than what you might see in the films.”

What Hollywood accurately captured was the Duke’s larger-than-life presence.

“He could walk into a room and literally everybody would stop talking,” Patrick said. “By the same token, in five minutes he was as charming as they come. He would warm you up and you would be talking to him and you would think from the conversation, from the comfort level, that you had been friends with him for your entire life.”

John Wayne grew up Presbyterian, but he was not churchgoing. He was divorced three times. His first wife, Patrick’s mother Josephine, was a devout Catholic who never remarried after their divorce but never stopped praying for him.

“For the last eight years of her life, she was a daily communicant,” Patrick said. “My mother was driven to be a decent person, and she had the structure of religion as a backbone.”

While John Wayne rarely darkened the doors of a church, Patrick said his father was “one of the most decent men” he still has ever met.

“He believed in the core values of loyalty, honesty, reliability and he lived his life that way,” Patrick said. “That’s the way he treated other people, with respect.”

Fighting cancer, embracing the Church

Josephine’s example and prayers had their intended effect. According to his biographies, Wayne was a spiritual person who hand-wrote letters to God as a way of praying. He also befriended Archbishop Tomas Clavel of Panama.

In the mid-1960s, The Duke successfully fought lung cancer, but by 1978, he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He deteriorated quickly.

In May 1979, with Wayne in a coma and dying of cancer, the hospital chaplain, a Catholic priest, came to visit him. Patrick said he went into the room and asked his father if it was okay for the chaplain to see him.

“My dad opened his eyes and said, ‘Okay.’ That was the first thing he said in seven days. I was stunned,” said Patrick, who added that the chaplain emerged about 20 minutes later and told him that he had baptized his father and given him the anointing of the sick.

“He was conscious and made a conscious acceptance of it,” Patrick said. “And two hours later, he passed away.”

Continuing legacy

Today, the John Wayne Cancer Institute carries on The Duke’s legacy. Located in Santa Monica, California and affiliated with the Saint John’s Health Center, the institute has expanded its research efforts to fight many different diseases, including urologic, thoracic, endocrine, gynecologic, and neurologic cancers.

Patrick’s son is also on the board of directors, and his grandsons are showing interest in continuing the work of the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

“So it’s a generational thing,” Patrick said. “There are going to be Waynes to take up the reins for a long time to come.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Business’ Hollywood image opposes Christian reality

Al Kresta

Hollywood’s 2014 box-office smash, “The Lego Movie,” opens with the villainous “Lord Business” plotting mass destruction. The movie, inspired by a consumer product, cleverly introduces that product to a wider audience. Ironically, it then presents itself as a warning on consumerism and business. “Only in Hollywood” mused CNBC columnist Jake Novak.

“Hollywood” is a business. It produces commercial products and movies. Nevertheless, movie scripts portray business executives as enemies of the good. They exploit workers, decimate forests, desecrate Native American cemeteries, cheat clients, sabotage rivals, bribe senators, market unsafe toys on children’s networks. And worse, they do so without moral anguish or pangs of conscience. “If the securities business were an individual… it could sue for defamation,” joked one trader. In Hollywood films, business people are bad people.

Why? Critic Michael Fumento suggested “that somebody has to play the bad guy, and it’s getting tougher and tougher to find bad guys who don’t have lobbying organizations.” Producer Barney Rosenwieg speculated that “Blacks, women, Italians, Hispanics, [add LGBTQ and Muslim activists] everyone, really … writes letters complaining about how they’re portrayed on television. That’s why I love businessmen — they don’t write me letters.”

Investor’s Business Daily quotes a screenwriter: “It’s a closed shop policed very strictly through the Department of Labor. Scripts that are pro-business are seen as anti-labor.” Many producers maintain faith that socialism will triumph over capitalism. “It’s impossible for a screenwriter who doesn’t profess…these things to become very successful. You can’t use my name,” he added. “I’ve got a family to feed.”

Catholics see business through a different lens. Business is a divine calling to serve one’s neighbor. Ideally, the Catholic businessman is a quietly heroic, even godly figure engaged in a deeply humane enterprise. Properly understood, it can be a highway to heaven even with the
inevitable speed bumps.

St. John Paul II’s “civilization of love” depends more on business people than politicians, environmental activists, entertainers or leftwing antifa revolutionaries. Why? Because only
business creates wealth. Without businesses creating wealth, politicians would have nothing to redistribute! Environmental activists would lack donors. Entertainers would have no box-office receipts and left-wing antifa revolutionaries would have to move out of their parents’ basement.

According to the Catechism for Business and The Compendium of Catholic Social Doctrine (CCSD), business efficiently and creatively responds to consumer demands by producing useful goods and services. This creates wealth not just for the owners but for all of society (CCSD, 338).

Profit is a necessary indicator of a healthy business. By pursuing profit, business achieves broader social and moral goals like employment, cooperation, problem solving and a corporate culture in which workers enhance their skills. Business also cultivates personal virtues like accountability, punctuality, leadership, organization, patience, trustworthiness, honesty, good stewardship of time, money and materials (CCSD, 340).

Why, then, are movies so anti-business? Because the businessman recognizes limits. He prizes prudence, practicality, efficiency and thrift. These bourgeois virtues cramp Hollywood’s grand style. To succeed, Hollywood must appear larger than life, haloed with magnificence, transcending our conventional, petty concerns. But it’s all a mirage. Hollywood’s “fantasy factories” are subject to the same mundane business realities as the shoe manufacturer. Studios are businesses. The Hollywood ethos denies this. It enchants as it whispers: “We are real wizards. Pay no attention to that little mercenary business man behind the curtain.” Screenwriters and filmmakers traffic in fantasy, dreams, limitless possibilities. They resent those who remind us that we are mere mortals with material and moral boundaries, finite and fallen creatures.

“Lord Business” is ugly because his twisted desires respect no moral boundaries. In reality, however, businesses flourish best within moral limits. Let’s bear witness to that truth. St. Paul exhorts Catholics to be “living epistles” read by all men. People will read us. The only question is “What’s our message?” Has the Catholic faith, has Christ motivated, inspired, healed, guided, sustained, disciplined, consoled you in this moral drama of growing your business while not losing your soul? If so, share the good news. Our nation’s most powerful storytellers don’t seem to know that you can do well even when you are, first of all, committed to doing good.

AL KRESTA is president and CEO of Ave Maria Radio, author, and host of “Kresta in the Afternoon” heard on the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network.