The Catholic New York staff is very familiar with the Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in Manhattan. This issue, in fact, features a Page 4 story about a conference on civic engagement through a Catholic lens in which more than 250 Catholic high school students from the archdiocese participated.
Over the past couple of years, I have done my share of reporting from the Sheen Center, an initiative the archdiocese sponsors. So, when I received an invitation to attend a special screening of “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” about a month before it was due to open in theaters March 23, I did not hesitate.
I joined other Catholic “influencers” who were invited to view the film just two days after it was completed. Before the screening began, I looked around and saw many people I recognized from the New York Catholic Center and my travels throughout the archdiocese, as well as other Catholic media and a good size group from the Daughters of St. Paul. Since my influence extends about as far as this column does, it’s appropriate that I share my thoughts here.
To start, I want to state that I am a pretty big fan of the Apostle Paul. I am amazed by the scope of his travels on behalf of the fledgling Christian world, the directness and power of his writing, and his amazing life story, which shows that God’s grace is a powerful agent and that true transformation is possible.
The movie, “Paul, Apostle of Christ,” doesn’t tell the saint’s whole story. That would be nearly possible to do. It also doesn’t cherry-pick the best details along the way. It focuses on Paul’s last days, when he was imprisoned in Rome, at the same time Christians in the city were under the siege of the emperor Nero.
British actor James Faulkner portrays Paul, and Jim Caviezel, who gained fame for his portrayal of Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” plays St. Luke. Their scenes, in which Paul relates “The Way” of Christianity, are riveting.
Faulkner, who attended the screening, joined writer Andrew Hyatt, executive producer Eric Groth and producer T.J. Berden for an intimate and engaging panel discussion moderated by David DiCerto, the director of program administration at the Sheen Center.
The behind-the-scenes look provided a perfect cap to the evening and illustrated the importance of the Sheen Center, especially for Catholic audiences, as a performance platform and, in a natural way, as a tool of evangelization.
Faulkner, whose credits include the popular PBS series “Downton Abbey” and HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” said he “grasped the significance of the film from the moment I read the script.”
Hyatt, the writer, said, “We were kind of shocked that nobody had tackled it. There’s no theatrical film on Paul, who is arguably the most significant Christian figure outside of Jesus Christ.”
The men talked candidly of their compressed 24-day shooting schedule in Malta, the close bonds of the cast and crew, and their dedication to the film, a joint project of ODB Films, Affirm Films and Sony.
“Paul, Apostle of Christ” is not a little religious picture. It’s a full-length feature film that deserves good word of mouth and, hopefully, a receptive audience. It tackles the theme of Christian persecution, which as we all know, is as contemporary as today’s headlines. The film will leave you thinking and believing. I plan to see it again.