Going Inside the Passion: Weekly Message for 03-12-2019

Dear Fellow Digital Pilgrim, Pax Christi:

In a sense, a seminarian’s years of preparation for the priesthood are like one, long Lent.  After all, Lent is the liturgical season meant to prepare us for entering into the holiest days of the year – the days when we celebrate Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.  Our special Lenten attention to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is meant to unite us more to Christ, deep within our hearts, so that we can live those grace-filled days of Holy Week to the full, allowing God to continue transforming us into holier and more joyful Christians.

For a seminarian, preparation for the priesthood is very much the same.  It is preparation for entering into Christ’s passion in a special way. Every time a priest celebrates Mass, he is acting in the person of Christ as he actualizes Christ’s own passion, death, and resurrection at the altar.  Every time a priest absolves a penitent from sin, he is saving sinners, administering the grace that Jesus won for our salvation by dying on the cross and rising from the dead.  Seminary is like Lent because a seminarian is preparing to join Christ from the inside out, sacramentally speaking, in his passion, death, and resurrection. Just so, each of us lives Lent as a preparation to do the same thing, spiritually speaking.

The Year I Was Ordained

The year I was ordained to the priesthood, God gave me a special boost in my efforts to go inside Christ’s passion.  Through a series of providential encounters, I became involved in Mel Gibson’s groundbreaking film, The Passion of the Christ.  I ended up researching and writing a book that brings readers inside the making of that film, pointing out the artistic insights of the director and the other contributors, and how those insights relate to the spiritual meaning of the Gospels.  I worked on that project for about nine months before the film came out in February 2004. Towards the end of that period, on December 24th, 2003, I was ordained a priest.

Somehow, in God’s amazing goodness, I was given a chance to go inside an artistic masterpiece dedicated to Christ’s passion just when I was finishing my own preparation to enter into the sacramental celebration of that same passion.  And the former deeply, deeply enriched the latter. Writing Inside the Passion, which became a Catholic best-seller in 2005, allowed me a unique opportunity to enrich my own theological knowledge and spiritual experience with an incomparable journey into the brilliant beauty of a timeless work of art.

Going Deeper Than Ever

I cannot share the feelings I had during that experience, but I can share the fruits. This year, we are re-releasing Inside the Passion, the only authorized, scene-by-scene explanation of the now immortal film and a Lenten Study Circle Guide to go with it.  It is our sincere hope that these resources will help you go to new depths in your own intimate accompaniment of Jesus, who has so much to teach us and to give us through the mysteries of his passion, death, and resurrection.

Thank you for being a fellow digital pilgrim.  And keep counting on our prayers.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. John Bartunek, LC

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