WINSTED, Conn. — Translating an abstract “credo” into a documentary film lush in sound and cinematic aesthetics, U.S. filmmakers have reproduced Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s “Manifesto of Faith.” In his four-page public testimony, the German cardinal reasserted many key teachings of the faith, reminding clergy and laity, as Register Rome correspondent Edward Pentin reported, that it is up to “shepherds” to “guide those entrusted to them on the path of salvation.”
Richard and Stephen Payne, the father-and-son founders of Arcadia Films, believe it is an important message to share via film.
“I read the ‘Manifesto’ after some friends and benefactors suggested it could do well as a short documentary and loved it,” Stephen told the Register on the eve of the documentary’s debut this month.
“Dad and I were sold — we saw this would be the perfect opportunity to restate the basic truths of the faith, in light of the incredible amount of confusion that seems to be plaguing the Church and world right now,” added Stephen. “We knew we could present it in such a way that would be dynamic and visually inspiring.”
The German cardinal himself has found it to be an “impressive, modern and sympathetic way to communicate the faith, speaking to people’s hearts and minds.”
When asked how he intended to use the new film to aid his own apostolic mission, and how other shepherds might be encouraged to do the same, Cardinal Müller told the Register, “When we look at ‘Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith’ (Hebrew 12:2), we overcome our fears and doubts. Rationalism must also be countered with correct theological argumentation. Today, high-ranking Church officials plant trees for the media. But it is much more important to sow in souls ‘the everlasting seed of the Word of God that lives and remains’ (1 Peter 1:23) so that the fruits of faith, hope and love flourish in them. Where instead of catechesis and pastoral work, there’s media work and politics being done, the Church goes evermore downhill — even when we are praised by Freemasons, the mainstream media, the abortion lobbyists and the ‘LGBT’ propagandists.”
The filmmakers believe that the film’s presentation, although visually rich, offers straightforward catechesis — a trait that makes the “Manifesto” appealing to the audience.
“Cardinal Müller has a sense of wonder in his words,” Richard commented. “Yes, you could almost call it childlike wonder in how he presents the profound truths of our faith so concisely, so simply. It reminds me of a quote from Dag Hammarskjold, when he was considering becoming Catholic: ‘God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.’”
Addressing this “childlike” wonderment, Cardinal Müller told the Register, “To the little ones and the babes are revealed the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But all human beings can attain the knowledge of God in Jesus Christ only through creaturely humility. It is down to making our various talents and gifts humble and in sacrificial readiness for the building up of the Kingdom of God. In the faith, which opens the possibility of salvation with God, we are all equal before him. However, the gift of teaching is given to some, so that it can be used for the edification of others. (Romans 12:7; 1 Corinthians 12:7).”
A number of clergy were invited to an early viewing of the film. Father Matthew Mary Bartow, of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, wrote in an email to the Register, “The film grabs your attention right from the start. It begins with the prologue to Cardinal Muller’s ‘Manifesto,’ which lays the groundwork for the rest of the film. It really is no secret that knowledge of the perennial teachings of the Catholic Church has been sorely lacking among Catholics [as the recent Pew study highlights]. There are a number of reasons for this failure, but we should keep in mind that parents are the primary educators of their offspring, bishops are the primary teachers of their respective dioceses, and priests and deacons share in the teaching office of the bishop.”
Father Bartow continued, “As Catholics, we must be absolutely convinced of the truth if we wish to be effective evangelizers. Since it is true that there is no salvation in anyone other than Jesus, then there should be no other area of study that takes precedence over knowledge of Our Lord and his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.”
Father Richard Heilman, a priest of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, agreed. “Souls are starving for clarity. This film helps feed that hunger, in a profound way. … It’s time for us to make a return to clarity in truth and a fiery resolve in ministry. I am grateful to Cardinal Müller for presenting with such clarity and, now, for this exceptional video.”
Comments began to flood in from the 40,000-plus viewers in the first week of the documentary’s showing online, some shared with the Register by the Paynes.
One viewer wrote, “This film has helped to give me the courage to share what it means to be authentic to Jesus Christ and the Church he founded.” Another added, “Your presentation of Cardinal Müller’s letter is excellent! The film was visually pleasing, and the depictions of faith traditions and the liturgy, in particular, were reverent and stunningly beautiful! Overall, the film rivets one’s attention throughout ... and it brings me to tears at the end.”
The filmmakers hope to provide copies of the film to bishops and cardinals throughout the world, to be used, as Richard Payne put it, “as a beautiful leaven for the propagation of the faith.”
Bree A. Dail is the international coordinator for
Rosary Coast to Coast and the Holy League of Nations.