Skip to comments.ON SET OF THE PASSION, IT WAS MASS THE OLD WAY
Posted on 03/05/2004 6:35:43 AM PST by Maximilian
During the filming of the now-famous movie, The Passion of the Christ, Mass was held at 7:30 each morning in a converted office at Cinema City at the east side of Rome (when filming was there), and presiding for much of the time was Father Stephen F. Somerville of Queensville, Ontario, near Toronto, who has detailed the fashion in which Mel Gibson prepared spiritually for the shooting -- confirming Gibson's taste for the pre-Vatican II liturgy.
"I said Mass for seven weeks of the filming," Father Somerville told Spirit Daily. "It was the old Latin Mass, the traditional Latin Mass -- not the new Mass in Latin. It was the old Catholic Mass that was used until the 1960s."
Father Somerville -- who, though traditionalist, technically remains under the jurisdiction of the Toronto archbishop -- said that many of those working on the movie couldn't make Mass because they had to apply make-up. "So we just had a small group of people, five or six on the average, and Jim Caviezel often came, but he particularly had to go for a long siege with the make-up artists, so sometimes I would give him Communion with a Host reserved from Mass," says the priest. "We converted a small room into a chapel. We improvised a decent-looking altar, and Mel sent somebody out to buy everything we needed -- vestments, nice candles. There were a few chairs and a sofa and there it was. Mel knelt on his knees on the floor behind me and answered the prayers in perfect Latin."
At times Caviezel would attend Father Somerville's Mass in full costume before the day's shoot -- though not during the bloody scourging scenes.
About 25 square feet in size, the tiny chapel had a few chairs and a simple wooden table raised against one wall to act as an altar. Above the table, the wall was decorated with various religious ornaments, including a picture of the Virgin Mary. Father Somerville had previously noted that he always began and ended Mass with a hymn, something that Gibson, joining in with his monotone, seemed to enjoy.
Somerville said he was there for the trial scenes. He didn't note any miracles, but emotions flowed. "There were some moments of strong feeling on the set," he recalls. "I was there for the scourging."
Asked about the role of German mystic Anne Catherine Emmerich -- who some have tried to downplay as an influence -- Father Somerville said that Gibson "made practical use of Emmerich in the movie. A lot of the details that you see visually in the movie are in the Emmerich book."
Father Somerville says that Gibson is "more of an extremist traditionalist Catholic than I am. He's not as hard-line as his father, but nevertheless," adding: "Many films about Christ have been made. But this one was made by a master actor and director with profound Christian conviction."
Somerville said that he "has become a traditionalist priest" though he is now retired and doesn't have a church. He met Gibson's father Hutton while filling in for a traditionalist priest at St. Jude's Shrine in Stafford, Texas, near Houston, where Hutton was living. When asked if he was loyal to Rome, Father Somerville said he is "loyal to Rome but I'm loyal to the Rome of all time, not just the Rome of right now. John Paul is the Pope and I respect him, but I disagree with many things that he is teaching."
In October of 2002 a letter by Father Somerville renouncing liturgical reform was posted by the St. Pius X Society. The Society is associated with a schismatic bishop, Marcel Lefebvre, and suppressed by the Vatican. Lefebvre was excommunicated for illicitly consecrating priests, but since then there have been attempts at reconciliation.
Note that Fr. Stephen Somerville is officially a priest of the diocese of Toronto. However, as the article says, he has become a traditionalist, now offers only the Latin Mass, and has publicly renounced his service on the ICEL -- the commission that created the vernacular English Mass. That article has been posted here on FR before, here is an original link:
that would be five feet by five feet. elevators are bigger, usually, i think they meant 25 feet square.
That sounds too big since the article calls it "a small room" and says that 5 or 6 people were crowded into the room. You're probably right that 25 sq ft may have been an underestimation, but 25' x 25' would be much bigger than what the article describes.
What an impression that must have made on Fr. Somerville!
I'm not certain which particular statement Fr. Somerville is referring to in that statement.
Do you think that SSPX will get some footing since the movie?
I think that people are being made aware that there is an alternative. It's not just the SSPX, but the Latin Mass and traditional Catholicism. As Fr. Somerville points out, the SSPX stand out because they are the largest and the most well know of the traditional groups. But there are many groups of traditional Catholics who continue to offer the traditional Catholic Mass and to practice the traditional Catholic faith.
Most people have no clue that this even exists. But when they learn that they have a chance to flee from their kumbaya parishes and once again participate in the traditional Catholic faith and liturgy, many will want to take advantage of the opportunity.
Does anyone know when the "new" Mass really came into full change? I was born in '60, yet I remember vividly what I think of as the old Latin Mass. I remember Mass in Latin until maybe the late '60's, at least in the part of Florida where I grew up (central). Even as a young child I felt like I understood what was going on. The old Mass seemed so HOLY, at least to me. IIRC, the priest did not face the congregation, and communion was done kneeling at a rail at the edge of the altar.
I don't know if Gibson is schismatic, and to be honest, it doesn't matter to me. I think of it as him being someone who never outgrew his love for the holiness he experienced in Mass when said that way. I think the traditional Mass is lovely. Of course, I have to admit I love the "new" Mass, too. In the former I felt His Holiness. In the latter I feel like I am able to approach Him.
You can find the closest Latin Mass to you here
I do not know Keating personally but some friends do and think highly of Keating. The weakest part of Keating and his associates is on this personal evaluation of others stuff. Doctrinally, Keating seems fine but, absent something specific from Mel Gibson himself one way or the other, we ought to reserve judgment. What someone heard someone on the radio say as to what a friend of that someone heard from Gibson does not suffice.
Right now, Gibson is too hot and has too many controversies concocted by others swirling around him for the world (i.e. us) to dispassionately discern the specifics of his faith.
If Mel says he is SSPX or that he is sedevacantist or that he is a traditional Catholic in communion with the Holy See, I am willing to take his word and his alone for what he actually believes. If he chooses to keep that information to himself, that is OK too. There are too many people grinding too many axes (not you) trying to lay claim to him or to cause others to reject him for whatever reasons.
I am not attacking him for his position; just reporting what I heard.
Frankly, I think that SSPX is less schismatic than many who are supposedly within the formal Church (see: National anti-Catholic Reporter).
The new post-Vatican II liturgy that looked a lot like the New Mass was introduced in late 1964. Then in 1967, the "vernacular canons" were introduced, i.e. "Eucharistic Prayers I, II, III and IV," which eliminated the last vestiges of the traditional Catholic Mass.
However, these changes were not yet mandatory, even though they were introduced nearly universally. But there were still some dioceses and parishes that resisted the modern innovations. Then in 1969 the "New Order" was made mandatory for all Catholic Masses. At that time only 1 bishop in the whole world that I am aware of continued to follow the traditional practice, Archbishop Castro de Mayer in Campos, Brazil. Archbishop Lefbvre was retired at the time, but he came out of retirement when a group of seminarians approached him and requested that he open a seminary for traditional Catholics. This was the start of the SSPX, which today is still a society of priests. Lay people attend Mass at an SSPX chapel, but they don't belong to the SSPX.
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