Jim, could you tell us how you heard about Medjugorje?My wife was in Medjugorje while I was in Ireland during the filming of “Monte Christo”.Things were not going so well at the time, although I was working 7 days a week. She called me and at the tone of her voice I could feel that she had undergone a change. She began telling me about Medjugorje and that a visionary would come to Ireland. I interrupted her with these words: look, I have serious work to do. I cannot deal with visionaries just now. I thought that as a catholic I was not obliged to accept Fatima, Lourdes or Medjugorje at all costs. This was my thinking. I also remembered how my friends and I, who were going to a catholic school at the time, were enthusiastic about the events in Medjugorje, and as we heard that the local Bishop rejected the apparitions, declaring them not authentic, we had lost interest.
The visionary Ivan Dragicevic from Medjugorje came to Ireland. It was clear to me that I would not have any time for him, as I had to work non-stop. But, then, on one Thursday, my filming partner Richard Harris did not feel well, and I was free for the rest of the day. Therefore I could assist at the apparition. I stood at the very back of the packed church and had no clear idea about what was going on here. At the moment of the apparition a man in a wheelchair fell to his knees, and I was very struck by that- I thought, this handicapped man, is kneeling on the cold stone floor, in spite of his incredible pain, and he is praying!
Today I am aware that only God could know me so well as to know where I could be seized. As strange as it sounds, I was given free time again on the following Sunday and could meet the visionary Ivan, which had been the special desire of my wife. During the apparition I knelt next to him saying in my heart:” ok, here I am. I am ready. Do with me as you wish.” At the same moment I felt something filling me. It was so simple and yet so unique. When I got up, tears were streaming out of
I began crying with all of my heart.
Ivan told me:” Jim, man always finds time for what he loves. If somebody has no time, and suddenly meets a girl whom he loves, he will make sure he finds time for her. The reason why somebody has no time for God is that he does not love him.” This touched me and I wondered whether I had time for God. Ivan continued to say to me: “ God calls you to pray with the heart.” “ How should I do that?” I asked him. “ By beginning to pray.” In that moment a window in my heart opened. Never before did I think this was possible. We went to a restaurant, and I must say that the food and wine that evening tasted as good as never before. Something began changing in me. Often my wife had wanted to teach me how to pray the rosary, and I had always refused. Now I wished to pray the rosary although I did not really know how to. I only felt that my heart had opened for it. One morning I said to my driver who was bringing me to the filming site every day: “I do not know what you think about this, but I wish to pray the rosary.” To my surprise he told me: “ O.K. let’s do that.”
In the gentle light of the love which I began feeling in me, I began to recognize where I was standing, how many temptations I had, where my feelings were, how weak I was and how many people were condemned by me.
When did you come to Medjugorje for the first time?After the end of the filming, which finished in Malta, I decided to go to Medjugorje. I was full of inner expectations. When I was 20 years old, there was like an inner voice that told me to become an actor. When I told my father about that, he gave me this answer: “When God wants something from you, then surely only for you to be a priest. Why should you become an actor?” I also did not understand this at the time.
Now I was asking myself in a new way whether it was the will of God that I should become an actor in order to earn lots of money and to become rich.
I was aware of the unbalance in the world between the few who possess much too much, and the many who have much too little to live, and I was sure that God did not want that and that we also had to make a decision whom we should serve: wealth which will not grant us eternal joy, or God who wishes to guide our lives.
Medjugorje reminded me of Bethlehem and I thought:” as Jesus was born in a small place, so the Mother of God appears here in a poor area between the hills.”
The four days in Medjugorje were like a breakthrough for me.
In the beginning I was still surprised how much the people were praying here. I saw a similarity with a Basketball –camp, thinking that there you do not only play once a day, but again and again, continuously. After all, in school, we do not read just once a day, but all the time, again and again. During the first days in Medjugorje I felt restlessness within myself while praying, as I was not used to praying so much, and I asked God to help me. After four days, all I wanted to do is pray. Every time I prayed I felt united to God. This is an experience I could only wish for every catholic to make. Perhaps, as a child I had such an experience, but had forgotten it. Now it had been given to me. Today, when people ask me why I go to Medjugorje I tell them:
“Look, if you do not believe in radiation, go to Tschernobyl and stay there for 5 days. You will see that your hair starts falling out. These are the consequences of radioactive radiation. In Medjugorje there is a radiation from heaven, in which thousands of people convert and Generations of sinners
melt. It is an irradiation of the Holy Spirit which leads people to prayer, daily Holy Mass and to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This experience lasts, also at home. In my family we live the Sacraments together. With my children I pray the rosary every day on the way to school. If I do not start at once, my son begins to pray.
When I came to Medjugorje for the second time, I was looking to have the same experience as during my first visit. This time it was different. After a lunch, some pilgrims invited me to go with them to Siroki Brijeg to meet Father Jozo.
This was the special desire of my wife. I did not know Father Jozo, but what I heard him say, touched me very much.
I went up to him, he put his hand on my shoulder, which I also did to him. He laid his hands on my head, which I also did to him. In that moment I felt these words in my heart: “I love you brother. This man loves Jesus.” Father Jozo spontaneously turned to his interpreter, asked her in Croatian who I was and that he wished to speak to me.
This was the beginning of a friendship which lasts until today. At that time, I had just completed the filming of the “Passion of Christ” and repeatedly had the experience how different powers tried to keep me from doing that movie.
Can you tell us, why you had this experience, and which is the link between the film and Medjugorje?Probably you know the saying” crossing the Rubicon” – it means that there is no turning back. The film “The Passion of Christ “is something like that for me. When I heard Pope John Paul II say that we need not be afraid, I thought that I was without fear in any case, and that I was doing well. During the filming of the “The Passion of Christ” I began to understand that Jesus is more controversial than ever before. Some colleagues prophesied me that I would loose everything through that film, my carrier, my money, perhaps my family or my life.
I was 33 years old when the work for the film began; I was the same age as Jesus when He lived the Passion. Repeatedly I doubted whether I was worthy to interpret Jesus. Ivan Dragicevic encouraged me telling me that God doesn’t always choose the best, and that he saw that with himself. Without Medjugorje I would never have acted that role, as there, my heart opened to prayer and to the sacraments. I knew I had to be very close to Jesus if I wanted to act him. Everyday I went to confession and to Eucharistic Adoration. Mel Gibson also came to Holy Mass under the condition it would be celebrated in Latin. This was good for me, as I also learnt Latin that way.
Temptations came again and again, and I had to fight them. In that warfare I often experienced a great inner Peace. For example, in the scene where Mary, the mother of God comes running towards me and I say:” Look, I make all things new.” We repeated this scene four times, and still I felt that I was in the first place. Somebody then hit the cross and my left shoulder jumped out of its joint. By this terrible pain I lost balance and was crushed to the ground by the cross. I fell onto the dusty ground with my face, and blood shot out of my nose and mouth. I repeated the words to the mother:” Look, I make all things new.” My shoulder was hurting terribly while I slowly embraced the cross and felt how precious it is. At that point I had stopped acting and Jesus became visible. As if
answering my prayers he came out:” I wish that people see you, Jesus, and not my acting.” As the rosary was constantly prayed,- I don’t know how many rosaries I prayed during the film- a special atmosphere was created. I knew that I was not to use swear words or let myself go, if I wanted to transmit something to the team. Most of them did not know Medjugorje, they were great actors, and we were happy to have them. How else could I transmit Medjugorje to them if not by my life?
For me Medjugorje means to live of the Sacraments, in unity with the Church.
I began to believe through Medjugorje, that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist, and that He forgives me my sins. Through Medjugorje I experience how powerful the prayer of the rosary really is, and what a gift daily Mass represents.
How can I help people to believe more in Jesus? I understood that this can happen when Jesus is in me through the Eucharist, and that people see Jesus through my life.
When the scene of the last supper was filmed, I carried relics of Saints and a small piece of the cross of Christ in special pockets of my robe. I so wished Jesus to be wholly present, and therefore asked a priest to expose the Blessed Sacrament. First he did not want to, but I insisted, because I was convinced that while looking at Jesus people would recognize Him better in me. The priest stood just behind the cameraman, with the Blessed Sacrament in his hands, and together with Him he came close to me. When people see the shine in my eyes in the film, they do not realize that they are seeing Jesus, the reflexion of the consecrated host in my pupils.
This is how it happened during the scene of the crucifixion,: the priest was present , holding the Blessed Sacrament in his hands , while I prayed unceasingly.
The greatest challenge in the film were not as expected the learning of texts in Latin, Aramaic and Hebrew, but rather the physical hardships that had to be endured. During the last scene I had a dislocated shoulder which jumped out every time the cross was hit. During the scourging I had been hit by the scourges twice, and had a 14cm long wound on my back, my lungs were full of fluid, and I had pneumonia. In addition to that the chronic lack of sleep was tangible: For months I had to get up at 3 am on a daily basis, as the make up alone took 8 hours.
During the very last picture the clouds were hanging very low and a lightning struck the cross on which I was attached. Suddenly all was silent around me and I felt that my hair was standing up on my head. About 250 people who were standing around me saw my body lighten up and a fire burning at the right hand side as well as at the left hand side of my head. Many were shocked by what they had seen.
I know that “The Passion of Christ” is one great film of Love.
Jesus today, is more controversial as never before. There are many possible ways to destroy humanity by means of nuclear weapons, biological weapons, but I believe in Jesus and I trust in Him. This is the source of my joy.
I think that God is calling us in a special way these days and that we need to give an answer - in our heart and in our Life. Interview: Christian Stelzer, www.oasedesfriedens.at
English Version: Milona von Habsburg de Rambures