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The "Passion" Visionary

Commentary by Roger Oakland

This commentary comes to you from within the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. I am staying at the Christ Church Guest House. As I am adjusting to the ten hour time change, I am up early. The roosters are crowing in the distance.

Earlier this morning I read through my e-mails, one of which was a comment about the last commentary I sent out called “Catholic Evangelism,” dealing with the film “The Passion of The Christ,” by Mel Gibson. As well I read another commentary by Michael Brown that was posted on the web February 4, 2004 titled “BEHIND FILM ENDORSED BY BOTH CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS IS A STIGMATIC WHOSE LIFE AND REVELATIONS CONTINUE TO AMAZE.”

First, let me restate my position - any tool that would bring people to the true Jesus of the Bible is commendable. I would agree that when it comes to proclaiming Jesus, we should be in agreement with the apostle Paul that the important issue is, Jesus is being proclaimed – that is if it is the biblical Jesus and not another Jesus.

My concern with regard to the film is to a number of issues that may be not known to those who endorse the film. This commentary will deal with one area of concern that I believe Christians should know about.

Mel Gibson’s inspiration for the film came from a book written by Anne Catherine Emmerich called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In an interview with EWTN network, Gibson explains how this book was the initial inspiration for his film. You can listen to the statement he makes about this at

I have purchased a copy of this book and am presently reviewing it. For now, I would like to refer to comments made about Emmerich by Michael Brown. Brown is a strong supporter of Emmerich (a Catholic visionary) who was born September 8, 1774 .

Brown begins his commentary the following way:

It's not something making the mainstream press. While newspapers focus on the vivid portrayals of Christ's Crucifixion, the involvement of a Hollywood star, and the controversy with Jews as reasons why there is so much "buzz" about the upcoming movie on Christ's Passion, there is a hidden, mystical element, and that's the charisma attached to the stigmatic whose revelations contributed significantly to the film and whose life continues to astonish. [1]

Michael Brown states that he has been researching Emmerich and her background. He reports:

The famous work of hers is a book of visions called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ. That's the one tied to the movie. The work I'm referring to is The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich by the Very Reverend Carl E. Schmoger and all I can say is that I knew this was a major mystic; I knew she had incredibly detailed visions; I knew she suffered the stigmata. But I had no idea of the extent of what this remarkable German woman reportedly experienced. [2]

Further, Brown states he believes that Emmerich’s visionary gift has been transferred to Gibson’s film. He writes:

As Schmoger says, reading her revelations leaves one feeling that he has undergone an "unusual influence" -- similar to what is now reported with those who see the movie. It's no surprise that there is a special "something" around a movie that taps into them. It's no surprise that the movie's director, Mel Gibson, is said to carry one of her relics. The visions may not be perfect; no mysticism is; but they are extremely potent. [3]

This brings up an interesting question: how much of the film is based on actual scripture and how much is based on Emmerich’s vision? While obviously the crucifixion is the crucifixion, is it possible there are other things that can be introduced into the film that may not be scriptural?

Once more it is useful to quote from Michael Brown’s article to see the potential there is to add extrabiblical ideas. Brown writes about Emmerich:

Her visions began early in life. By the tender age of four she often prolonged her prayer for two to three hours. She claimed to see her guardian angel on a nearly constant basis. She levitated. When she entered a cloister, she was frequently seen inexplicably above the ground. She was said to "bilocate." In vision -- or bilocation -- she saw the execution of King Louis XVI, and "visited" Marie Antoinette, queen of France , in prison. As a child, she was taken to see the suffering souls in purgatory. So frequent were Anne's visions that she thought everyone had them. [4]

Now, one further statement from Brown’s commentary about Emmerich:

It was said that she saw more of history than anyone else known and that Jesus Himself conducted her through many visions. Communion came at the age of 12, but from the day of her baptism, she was strongly attracted to the Blessed Sacrament. "When before it, her joy shone exteriorly," writes Father Schmogen. "She never entered the church without her angel-guardian who taught her by his own example the homage due to the Eucharistic God. Our Lord Himself had made known to her in vision the grandeur and magnificence of His mysteries. This inspired her with such reverence for the priesthood that no dignity appeared to her comparable to it." [5]

It is obvious therefore, that Emmerich’s Jesus is the Eucharistic Jesus. This Eucharistic Jesus is the Roman Catholic Jesus who is sacrificed each mass, over and over again. And remember, according to Emmerich she never entered the church without her angel-guardian who taught her by his own example the homage due to the Eucharistic God.

Would it be fair to ask the question: if Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of The Christ” is based on Emmerich’s vision of Jesus, is the Jesus of this film the Roman Catholic Jesus, or the biblical Jesus? Time will tell.

[1]  posted February 4, 2004  

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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