Miguel Augusto (*)
The apostles Paul and Peter are considered the pillars on which the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church is based. The film about the Apostle Paul, who is now making his debut in the United States, entitled Paul, Apostle of Christ, foresees great quality, not only in cinematographic terms, but also in fidelity to the Scriptures and Tradition of the Church. Proof of this is the inspiring debate recently held at Steubenville Franciscan University in the United States led by Raymond Arroyo (EWTN), with actor Jim Caviezel, who plays the role of Lucas, the executive producer Eric Groth and theologian Scott Hahn. The guests are men of deep faith. The film will be a catalyst for the viewer to be involved by one of the most fervent and evangelizing apostles of the early Church. Textual proof is his countless journeys, all the suffering and persecution he endured in the name of Christ and the fruits of divine inspiration, such as the 13 letters that he left us part of the New Testament (NT). The movie also portrays the intimate relationship of friendship between Paul and Luke. Paul’s conversion, his mission and work of evangelization is certainly one of the most remarkable stories in the history of Christianity. He even told us in his letter to the Galatians: “Yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal, 2:20).
Raymond Arroyo moderates the guest panel and begins the debate with a series of questions, addressing actor Jim Caviezel: “I would like to ask the panel, why this story from Saint Paul? And why now? Jim has received offers, I know, after the Passion of Christ, to act as an apostle, saint, villain, Jesus again. Why this role? Why Lucas? And why did it take so long to be back to a biblical epic?”.
Jim Caviezel smiles: “That’s a long question. When I looked at the Passion of Christ I saw an excellent script. Mel Gibson had gone out with Braveheart, is a remarkable director so, I didn’t know how to turn that one down (The Passion of Christ). This movie is incredible – says Jim – a great script, it didn’t beat you over the head.
When the film was almost ready, Jim brought someone to watch. He knew neither God nor any religion. Jim just wanted to hear what he’d say. “He told me it was a great movie and that the writer was a genius, that he was a philosopher. I ask him where were the lines? He answered: To live is Christ, to die is gain! This is a very interesting concept, he said”, Jim adds,”I told him this is in the Bible. And then he exclaimed: Oh, it is?” A few days later, Jim was approached: “You know, I might want to see your Passion of the Christ and I said, Okay, I’ll get you a copy. He replies: Wait, I say, I might want to see… At least he plans to see; we got the effect we were looking for“.
Raymond Arroyo had the privilege of having already seen the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ. Highlighting a moment in the prison where Luke (Jim) teaches the brothers the Our Father, when they were about to be delivered to Nero’s “circus” and thrown to the lions, Arroyo asks Jim whether there was any concern or hesitation in the scene back to this biblical time or, performance making it look like Jesus?
It is worth meditating on Jim Caviezel’s response: “I did not care because I wanted the world to see Jesus in Luke. Are we not at our best, when the world sees Jesus in each of us?”.
The view of producer Eric Groth – Raymond Arroyo addresses Eric Groth and asks “Why Saint Paul? And this moment of the apostle’s life? Why this part, the latter part of the life when his in prison. It’s kind of confine sainthood at the end. Why did you all choose that part of the story?”. Eric Groth confided that in deciding how Paul’s story would be told he thought it would take a series of multi episodes, given the life story of this apostle. But after reflecting – with emotion – on the lifes of these wonderful saints of the past, looking at the incredible conversion experience Paul went through, they chose to portray the last years of him. For the producer, Paul is a very human person who knows that he is saved by the grace of God and yet he struggles with his humanity. Eric thinks it’s important to think and we can reflect: “It’s a lot like I am!”, Reveals. Raymond Arroyo asks Eric to comment on the relationship between Paul and Luke? It’s very beautiful to see how these actors gave them life, says Eric: “When you see the contacts that would have arisen, something really human, their relationship is beautiful”. Eric Groth illustrates the relationship of Paul and Luke as “a big brother and a younger brother, it’s a mentor to someone new and growing in the faith, it’s a beautiful thing to show. I think in our world today, as filmmakers we want to put in this contest of this stories, all kind of things that we can connect with. We have a need for mentors in our life’s, we have people that we look up to, we have people that have drowns us deeper into our faith, and that it’s so important for us to see and share in the film process”.
Theologian Scott Hahn on the movie – Addressing Scott Hahn, the moderator asks him to speak about Luke – what we know of him, whether through the sacred tradition or some details that the Bible conveys to us. Hahn points out that there is a certain irony, “because most of what we know about Paul is through Luke, in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, and much of what we know about Luke is through Paul in terms of written sources, referring to him as the beloved physician”. The theologian summarizes that Luke was probably a gentile, but also a companion of Paul. From Luke Chapter 16 of the book of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke was a disciple of Paul, more than just a companion. The interviewee believes that this is where the oral tradition of the Church comes in, because it’s great to know that Luke knew what he wrote. For example, in Luke, Chapter 2, verse 51: “… and his mother kept all these things in her heart”. According to Hahn, tradition fills in the blank when telling us that not only did Luke spend time with the Blessed Virgin, but he also painted Her: “That was another element that he had, this gift of artistry and so this icon of Our Lady goes back to Luke in our tradition”. Luke was profound and at the same time humble about himself. In the book of the Acts of the Apostles he gives us most of what we know about Saint Paul in his travels.
Raymond Arroyo asks Scott Hahn to contextualize this moment of Paul’s life in the Bible, since it seems to be only before a Christian community under assault, hidden and persecuted: “Paul is in prison. But what else is there in the film?”. Hahn recalls that the Roman Empire under Nero, fell into the deepest corruption, the darkness was most likely demonic: “Here is the Christian community, as the body of Christ, experiencing what Jesus body had already passed a few decades earlier, in the early 30’s and so you recognized that this is the moment when it looks as do, this Empire, this culture of death, will snuff out the life of Christ’s body”. The theologian highlights the relationship between Paul and Luke. He admits he likes the way actor James Faulkner plays Paul. He is not sure if everyone love Paul, but they will after this movie. “I love Paul since I was fifteen, he has been a person of interest of mine for 45 years. But I think of what this movie shows us, reminds me of that old proverb: ‘they bury us, but they don’t know we were seeds’”.
Raymond Arroyo poses two more questions to conclude: “How important is Saint Paul today? And what is its relevance?”. Hahn points out that for the last two thousand years, no other writer has had the influence of Saint Paul. When we look at the New Testament we see that he wrote thirteen of the 27 books. “It was Luke’s mentor. Luke was Paul’s companion. In this film, showing the two, sharing one heart, one life, is significant”. Luke wrote only two books of the New Testament: The Gospel of Luke, which is the longest book, and secondly the book of the Acts of the Apostles. In this two New Testament books, Luke writes more words than Paul. The two together make up more than half of the New Testament. “Ten years ago, Pope Benedict XVI declared the year of Saint Paul”.
May this movie be one more way to meet the Gospel, the Sacred Scriptures, so that we can hear the voice of God, who calls us and enlightens us in our pilgrimage to Heaven. The apostle Paul is undoubtedly a flame that has to burn in every Christian’s heart.
(*) Based on a debate at Steubenville Franciscan University (USA) moderated by Raymond Arroyo (EWTN) with actor Jim Caviezel, Eric Groth (Executive Producer. President, ODB films) and theologian Dr Scott Hahn (Professor of Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and founder and President of St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology).
EWTN – The Eternal Word Television Network, founded in 1981 by sister Angelica.