The Unseen World: a film about John Henry Newman

A new film about the spiritual life and work of John Henry Newman,
highlighting his priesthood, is due to be released in June 2011.

This is what the writer and director, Liana Marabini, has to say about it:
A film is a way accessible to all, to know a character or a historical era, but is also a powerful means of evangelization. I decided to make a film about Newman, not only because I have a personal love for the theology and spirituality of Newman (and especially the merger between the two), but also because I consider it an example for our contemporaries, especially for priests, who are very close to my heart. In fact, they are the heroes of my films and The Unseen World is no exception: it is a film about a man, already famous in his time, a great theologian, successful writer, but above all a priest.

It was not easy finding an actor who could play this role, but eventually I found Murray Abraham. He is a great actor; in the U.S. he is a figure from the ‘A List’, i.e. from actors who won an Oscar. He has deservedly won the statuette for his role as Salieri in Milos Forman’s film, Amadeus. Murray entered naturally into the role. We studied all the movements, gestures and even the humor that Newman, which in my opinion he should have. The result is very good.

The film is still being worked on, but you can see a trailer made with scenes filmed up until now. What fascinates me most about Newman is his likeness, theological and spiritual, with Benedict XVI. Newman, as the Pope has said, is a good priest.
Newman said, “…Christ’s priests have no priesthood but His. They are merely its shadows and organs, they are His outward signs; and what they do, He does; when they baptize, He is baptizing; when they bless, He is blessing.” These are the words of Newman writen in his sermon ‘Waiting for Christ’ in Parochial and Plain Sermons (vol. VI, p. 242).

In all my films, I point out the model of the ideal priest, also I show that chastity is a model that inspires vocations. In fact, the doctrine of the Fathers (Augustine, John Chrysostom, Ambrose, Jerome and Cyprian), enriched over the centuries by the Doctors of the Church and the masters of Christian asceticism, demonstrates the intention of the priest to devote himself to God in perfect chastity in order to adhere more easily to him with an undivided heart, and to be positioned in such a way as to recieve wide acceptance of his fatherhood in Christ.

Newman has a particular attraction to those who, by virtue of ordination, embrace chastity. This in turn ensures a greater identification with Jesus, and shows that the theology of priestly celibacy is intimately connected with the theology of the priesthood itself. In a very significant dialogue with an aspirant to the priesthood, Newman says that chastity is the “virtue of virtues” and concludes that a lack of faith leads to contempt for chastity, and that contempt for chastity sooner or later leads to apostasy. On the contrary, the love and honour that we accord to the value of celibacy, and more generally to the purity and virginity, is the measure of the priest to Christ, the Gospel and the Holy Church of God.

In another dialogue Newman explains the essence of the Catholic priesthood, through ordination, which elevates the receiver in a supernatural organic union with Christ. He explains that priests, through the Sacrament of Order and the character that it imparts, are configured with Christ and act in his name.

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