AMBIVALENT CATHOLICS IN HOLLYWOOD UNITE IN PRAYER AND SACRIFICE
Yesterday was the, always interesting, Catholics in Media Award brunch. It is an annual "foo-foo, chi-chi" event at the Beverly Hills Hilton, in which Catholics come together to pray with their bishops and priests for the world here in the biz, and beyond.
This year's award winners were Mel Gibson for The Passion of the Christ, Barbara Hall for Joan of Arcadia, and Jane Wyatt who won CIMA's life-time achievement award.
Overall, the event came off very well. The liturgy, which used to be the terrain of the "Joan Baez was the summit of Western Civ music" leaning baby-boomers, has started to cede to some of the Gen Xers yearning for tradition and holiness. So, we had the best of all possible renditions of that dreadful song, 'I will Raise You Up' (which used to be 'And I Will Raise HIM Up' before we realized as a Church that God wouldn't be able to bless women too with that patriarchal, oppressive gender insensitive translation of the Scriptures...), then, during the offertory, a lovely Latin version of 'Ubi Caritas,' and then a rousing black Gospel ditty with great music but lyrics too simple for four-year olds as our recessional. During the Communion meditation - or, as we think of it here in L.A., the time we are allowed to sit after standing since the Lord's Prayer - John Debny, the composer from TPOTC, led a female vocalist an oboe and a flutist (floutist?) playing a haunting melody from the film. It was so beautiful, people forgot we were at mass and broke into applause at the end. The sheep are so unused to beauty at the liturgy, that they feel like they have to bang their hooves together in pathetic gratitude whenever they get some.
Mel Gibson wasn't supposed to attend the awards, but I had a feeling he would come, and sure enough, he strode in unobtrusively during the banquet and took a seat up front with the other folks there from the film: Producer Steve McEveety and his wife, Jim and Carrie Caviezel, John Debny and Fr. Fulco, sj who translated the dialogue into Hebrew, Latin and Aramaic.
Mel's acceptance speech was a bit rambling. He noted that he hasn't been picking up any of the awards being given to the film, "Because it really wasn't about awards for me." But this one, coming as it did from Catholics, meant something special to him. [Official Catholic support of the film, you will recall, wasn't exactly impressive when it would have mattered most. It was our Vatican that voted for the film before we voted against it - "It is as it was." and then, 'No, it wasn't"...] Mel also took the opportunity to note that this is a very ominious, dark moment in human history. He said, "As we Californians who were just prop 71'ed into realizing." He noted (paraphrasing here), "The sign of the end of any human society is when it practices human sacrifice. We've been doing it on one level for forty years in this country, but this breeding of humans to be used for their parts, this is literally human sacrifice."
Half the assembled Catholics - mostly the young ones! - broke into applause and gave him a standing ovation. Bishop Zavala (filling in for our Cardinal who is on sabbatical somewhere apparently), on stage beside Mel applauded nervously (which someone much unkinder than me would say is actually the perfect way to fill in for our Cardinal...). The other half of the audience - ah, that would be the gray-haired baby-boomers for the most part - still shell-shocked by the recent incomprehensible blow to their beloved Democratic party, sat awkward and stony.
Ah, such interesting times in which to live.