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Passion’ actor speaks at Grotto

Wheaton, Sarah | Friday, October 14, 2005

Students filled the Grotto area and spilled into the adjoining sidewalks Thursday to hear Jim Caviezel, star of “The Passion of the Christ,” say the rosary and speak about his faith.

Wearing a Notre Dame letterman jacket, Caviezel said he wanted to come to Notre Dame after he heard about Charlie Weis granting Montana Mazurkiewicz’s dying wish to call the first play in the Washington game. By using 10-year-old Montana’s call, Caviezel said Weis “made an act of faith” – a theme used throughout his speech.

Caviezel said his experience playing Jesus Christ in the movie gave him “a glimpse of what it means to be forsaken, rejected and seen as a thing despised.”

He described the pain he felt when he was accidentally whipped twice while filming a scene and when his shoulder was dislocated while carrying the cross. He said he suffered pneumonia, a lung infection, hypothermia and two lightening strikes while filming – all of which forced him “into the arms of my God.”

Caviezel emphasized his calling to be an actor, which is something he has felt since his youth.

“God used me as his instrument,” he said. “Anything good about the movie came from the fasting, the deep prayer and the daily Mass.”

In his fervent speech, Caviezel disparaged the sin and indifference he sees in today’s world.

“I came here to Notre Dame to tell you students to have the courage to step into this pagan world and shamelessly express your faith in public,” he said. “We are in a more dangerous war now than ever before … our world is entrenched in sin.”

He also exhorted students to make an act of faith and “give Jesus the best seat” in their stadium.

Caviezel spoke about controversial topics including abortion. While he said he wasn’t here to antagonize pro-choice Catholics, he asked, “Do you think Our Lady is pro-choice?”

He implored students to look at the people they could potentially convert, and said the “gleaming souls” changed because of the film were worth more than any statuette.

When Caviezel asked if the students were ready to make an act of faith the crowd responded positively.

“I believe this University of Notre Dame is called to a major act of faith right now,” he said.

He criticized the expansion of the football stadium that obscured the mural of Jesus painted on the side of the library.

“The image needs to be resurrected so everyone can see it,” Caviezel said.

Caviezel told Notre Dame students to make Jesus a major part of their lives.

“You were not sent here simply to study or play ball, but to understand that you are a son or daughter of Notre Dame,” he said. “This University is about saving your mortal soul.”

He pleaded with students not to “lose sight of Our Lady while cramming for tests, playing ball and drinking Guinness.”

As for the game Saturday, he asked students to “keep your hand on your rosary, lift Jesus in your heart, perform your act of faith, pass it right and let it rip.”

Junior Jen Richard called the speech “a bizarre mix of football pep rally and God pep rally.” She also said she didn’t really understand what Caviezel meant when he criticized the expansion of the stadium.

“I feel like reflecting Jesus in our lives is more important than having a reflection of Him on a building,” Richard said.

Some of Caviezel’s speech shocked listeners. Senior Trevor Turner said most Catholics are not prepared to see someone be that evangelical in a speech.

Justin Brandon, a 2004 Notre Dame alumnus, said he was surprised Caviezel was so lively and emphatic.

“Some of the things he said were shocking, but I agreed with everything he said,” Brandon said. “I think it needed to be said.”

Students were moved by Caviezel’s painful experience while filming.

“He did have some powerful insight from experiencing even just a part of what Jesus must have gone through,” Richard said.

Senior Trevor Turner said it “was the most spiritual part of the speech.”

After his speech, students crowded around Caviezel hoping for an autograph or a picture. Freshman Jessica Hagemann compared the crowd around Caviezel to the crowds of people who try to get close enough to touch the pope.

“His speech was brilliant,” he said. “I just sat there in awe.”

Father James McDonald, senior executive assistant and counselor to University President Father John Jenkins, said Caviezel’s trip was more of a private visit, although he indicated he would enjoy talking with students about his faith.

McDonald said Caviezel plans to stay for the football game.

Notre Dame’s Right to Life club, Student Government, Children of Mary, Knights of Immaculata and the Orestes Brownson Council all sponsored the event.