Jim Caviezel was preparing for the release of his latest faith-themed film, Paul, Apostle of Christ — which was released last spring — in which he plays Luke the Evangelist. As is fitting for the biggest star attached to a picture, he went to FOCUS’ leadership summit (SLS conference) to promote the feature film.
The college students were perhaps expecting a speech about the new film, but what they got was a phenomenal call to action that sent shivers down our spines.
The crowd was thrilled to see Caviezel’s kindly, bearded face, to such an extent that it did not seem they would ever calm down. He gently raised a finger and the room became still enough to hear a pin drop. Then Caviezel began, speaking softly and reading from his prepared speech a little clumsily:
“The name Saul means ‘Great One.’ The name Paul means ‘little one.’ While making this film I learned that changing one little, tiny letter that we can become great in the eyes of God. But it requires us to be little if we wish to be great. This is the way of the saints. This is the way of the Holy and this is the way Saul became St. Paul.”
He continued speaking of vocations and how one must open up to discern such a calling. He spoke of how he knew he wanted to be an actor, the stressful time of his role as Edmond Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo, as well as the sacrifices he made during his time playing Jesus in The Passion of the Christ. He said:
“When I was up there on the Cross, I learned that in His suffering was our redemption. Remember the servant is no greater than the master. Each of us must carry our own cross. There is a price for our faith, for our freedoms. I have been literally scourged, hit by the whips, crucified, struck by lightning, yes, open heart surgery — that’s what happens after five and a half months of hypothermia.”
He recounted a moment during the filming of The Passion, when he was wedged under the cross and someone else pulled it the wrong way, causing his shoulder to become dislocated. He said this footage remains in the final cut of the film and commented that had the production taken place in a studio, we might never have seen such an authentic performance. “The suffering made my performance, just as it makes our lives.”
“There was a lot of pain and suffering before the resurrection and your path will be no different. So embrace your cross and race towards your goal. I want you to go out into this pagan world and shamelessly profess your faith in public. The world needs proud warriors, animated by their faith. Warriors like St. Paul and St. Luke who risk their names and reputations to take their faith, their love for Jesus into the world.”
He spoke about democracy and how the freedom to do what you want is not the same as the freedom to do what you aught. He quoted Maximilian Kolbe’s famous phrase, “Indifference is the greatest sin of the 20th century,” to which he added, “Well, my brothers and sisters, it is the greatest sin of the 21st century as well.”
He brought the whole speech together by quoting the famed pre-battle speech from Braveheart in which William Wallace pumps up his army by speaking of freedom and what one must be willing to do for it. He broke from the quote, speaking with conviction and leaving aside his prepared speech, saying :
“Every man dies. Not every man truly lives. You, you, you. We all must fight for that authentic freedom and live my friends. By God, we must live! And with the Holy Spirit as your shield and Christ as your sword, may you join St. Michael and all the angels in sending Lucifer and all his henchmen straight back to hell where they belong!”
It is interesting to watch the change in Caviezel when he switches between his scripted speech and spontaneous remarks. As if to visually illustrate the difference between the “Great One” and the “Little One,” once his moment of commanding presence is over, he leans back over the podium and gives a sheepish smile as he messes up the last bit of his prepared words.
Reading the transcripts of the speech do it little justice; it’s worth watching the entire video. It may move you to watch of rewatch Paul, Apostle of Christ — or even stir you to the spiritual commitment of Wallace’s army on a battlefield where the odds were stacked against them.