Weekly Video Picks

The Face [Jesus in Art] (2001)

The Church's sacred art is part of her repository of sacred Tradition, preserving and expressing the deposit of faith in a unique and indispensable way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reflects the importance of the Church's art in her faith and teaching by including four-color prints of important works of religious art.

The Face, a remarkable two-hour documentary produced in conjunction with the Catholic Communication Campaign, is a visually sumptuous and spiritually rewarding exploration of Christian art that surveys the history of how Jesus Christ has been portrayed and how Christian teaching has been understood, interpreted and given different emphases by the art of different times and places.

The Face traces the figure of Jesus from the earliest third-century images in the catacombs to the lavish art of the Renaissance and into the modern era. The development of specifically Christian art forms such as the stunning wall mosaics of the patristic era and the iconography of the Christian East is explored, and an eye-opening discussion of the increasing emphasis on Jesus’ humanity in sometimes blood-drenched medieval depictions of Jesus' passion offer welcome perspective on recent historically uninformed critiques of the violence of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. (Gibson himself, coincidentally, is one of the narrators, along with Bill Moyers, Ricardo Montalban and others.)

Content advisory: A few graphic painted depictions of the Passion.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977)

Like the Bible itself, Franco Zefferelli — s epic, ambitious, made-for-television Jesus of Nazareth is often experienced in bits and pieces over the years and is commonly better known in isolated parts than in its lengthy whole. Viewed as a whole, it might or might not be the greatest Jesus film ever made; in any case it remains in some ways the standard by which other Jesus films are judged. No other Jesus film, not even Pier Paolo Pasolini's The Gospel According to St. Matthew or Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, offers an interpretation of the Gospel story so comprehensive and definitive.

Its key assets, beyond its ample running time, are a scripturally and historically literate script, a reverently non-revisionist distillation of key Gospel stories, a distinguished and generally apt ensemble cast, and matter-of-fact realism in its approach to the miraculous.

Robert Powell's portrayal of Jesus is reverent and authoritative, though too ethereal, more successfully evoking Christ's transcendence than his humanity. The film's most glaring weakness, though, is its Resurrection episode, which feels rushed and anticlimactic. But Jesus of Nazareth's strengths more than outweigh its weaknesses. Its achievement is unique. Nothing else like it has ever been made and might never be.

Content advisory: Somewhat graphic Passion narrative violence; a few scary scenes (e.g., the slaughter of the innocents, an exorcism, etc.); a bit of discreet sexual content. Reasonable family viewing.

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito says of discerning one’s college choice, ‘There has to be something that tugs at you and makes you want to investigate it further. And then the personal encounter comes in the form of a visit or a chat with a student or alumnus who communicates with the same enthusiasm or energy about the place. And then that love of a place can be a seed which germinates in your own heart through prayer.’

Choose a College With a Discerning Mind and Heart

Cistercian Father Thomas Esposito, assistant professor of theology at the University of Dallas (UD) and subprior (and former vocations director) of the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Dallas, drew from his experience as both a student and now monastic religious to help those discerning understand the parallels between religious and college discernment.