Continuing our Tower of Trent Tributes, we honor the second alphabetically of the three outstanding lay leaders chosen by our readers, who have made a significant impact on the Traditional movement and for Holy Mother Church. Today we honor a man known the world over and admired for both his acting and directing prowess, faith and family values. What he has accomplished this year is nothing short of a miracle and we're not even half way through the year! Yet hundreds of millions have seen his masterpiece 'The Passion of The Christ' and been deeply moved by the genuine Catholicity of his film that will live forever as a visual work of art on par with the works of the masters Michelangelo and Carravagio. Our honoree today has taken the celluloid canvas and brought it to life in a way that few meditations could ever capture for it was done through the intense passion of a man of Tradition whose truly Catholic work has touched more souls than all the bishops combined over the past 40 years.
Mel Columcille Gerard Gibson was born the sixth of eleven children on January 3, 1956 at 4:45 EST in Peekskill, New York to Hutton and Ann Gibson, delivered by Dr. Charles Sweet an old-fashioned doctor which has so sadly become a thing of the past as well. Mel's father, a staunch middle class Catholic, who was self-taught in acquiring a penchant for intellectual curiosity in reading about history, religion, politics and other interests, imbued in the family a thirst for knowledge and a solid orthodox Catholic foundation.
It is perhaps providential that Hutton must have had an idea that his son would be a warrior for the Church Militant for he gave him at his baptism the name of a little known patron saint Saint Columcille, the sixth century Irish saint from Donegal who clashed with Saint Finnian over possession of a copy of Saint Jerome's Psalter. St. Columcille devoted himself to converting the Scots after a tremendous battle in which his clan, in victory at the Battle of Cuil Dremne, slaughtered 3,000 of King Diarmaid's men. Remorseful, St. Columcille (also known as St. Columba or St. Columbkille) left Ireland and devoted himself to evangelizing and converting the Scots and his influence on Western Christianity had a tremendous impact in the British Isles. In fact, tomorrow - June 9th - is the Traditional feast of this notable Irish saint and so it is fitting we honor Mel today and why Mel's own life greatly parallels St. Columcille's life. It is also an interesting sidebar that Mel was born on the same day as J.R.R. Tolkien for both will forever be known as great Catholic masters of the arts whose work will forever be enshrined on film. While Mel's movie was breaking records in the first weeks, the story from the imagination of Tolkien was taking every Oscar 'The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King' was nominated for. Many believe next spring Mel and his screen gem 'The Passion of The Christ', as well as lead actor Jim Caviezel, who portrayed our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will be up for Academy Award nominations.
Early on Mel's father definitely had a method to his madness. A railroad brakeman by trade, Hutton was seriously injured while on the job in 1967 Because of his self-taught deep-seated thirst for knowledge and reading between the lines, and the grace of the Holy Ghost, he knew well before most others what exactly was happening in the world and the Church. This discernment enabled him to see that the Vietnam War was taking its toll and that the Church would never be the same in the aftermath of Vatican II. Thus, Hutton fearing his children would be sacrificed to the political gods of slaughter on the battlefield without purpose or subjected to the Protestant reforms of Vatican II, utilized his medical settlement from the Railroad and the $25,000. winnings he had accrued from the early years of TV's popular Jeopardy quiz show in 1964, and packed up the entire family in 1968 when Mel was 12-years old and returned to Australia where Mel's mother was from.
Down under is where Mel blossomed, despite the rebellious teen years when, though he at one time cherished the thought of being a priest, by his own admission late in his teens he veered from the Faith his father had imparted to the family. Many believe it was not only the era but the liberal environment he was subjected to as he attended the University of New South Wales in Sydney. It was here where the acting bug took hold. It actually resulted from his sister submitting his application without his knowledge at the time. The night before Mel was scheduled for the audition, he got involved in a fight with some ruffians and his face was badly bruised. Yet, as fate would have it, the condition he sheepishly presented himself for the audition the next day was exactly what the auditioners were looking for. He attended the Drama School Toi Whakaari in Wellington, New Zealand, where he learned the craft of being a thespian. This opened the opportunity for him to perform at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) alongside future stars Judy Davis and college roommate Geoffrey Rush. Mel also was classmates with Peter Wier who wrote the screenplay and produced Gallipoli' and would produce and adopt the 2003 action thriller 'Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World'. After completing his courses in 1975 Mel gained more acting roles on stage and television and film, including an Australian Academy Award in 1977. Two years later he landed the lead role of Max Rockatansky in the film 'Mad Max' in which the character he portrayed was an independent, yet complex and fiercely zealous hero. This profile would be repeated in many roles he would play over the next three decades as he became the ideal for one who would not put up with the status quo or political correct nonsense or injustices, and was not afraid to take matters into his own hands.
Torn between his faith, the new front put on Catholicism and the growing influence of the world, the flesh and the devil, Mel went through his own dark night of the soul that would reach its darkest day in the early nineties. Until then the path was paved with roses, for soon he met - through a dating service - his bride and mother of 7 offspring over the past 24 years now, Robyn Moore whom he wed in 1980.
A year after the birth of their first daughter Hannah, Mel landed both the role as Frank Dunne in the critically acclaimed film Gallipoli and as Mad Max in the sequel The Road Warrior. In 1982 he appeared in the film The Year of Living Dangerously while passing out cigars as the proud papa of twin sons Christian and Edward. Two years later Mel made his US debut acting aside the magnificent thespian genius of Anthony Hopkins in which Mel played the noble Fletcher Christian in 'The Bounty'. From this time on he was regarded as a 'handsome hunk' by movie goers and this had to play a taxing time on Mel and Robyn's marriage as he eventually found himself back in the states and Hollywood. With the birth of daughter Willie in 1985 followed three years later by son Louis in 1988 and Milo in 1990, the couple were half way to a dozen in ten years. Family life and the life of a movie star had to have caused problems, for those seeking to do good will always be hounded by the evil one as Mel so magnificently portrayed in The Passion of The Christ' with his androgenous demon. This friction would seem to have only intensified when Mel became Sergeant Martin Riggs in the highly commercial success series of 'Lethal Weapon' films in the late 80's and early 90's. Had there not been true love between Mel and his wife, it is unlikely the marriage would have lasted. But God, in His infinite goodness and Own reasons, allowed Mel to grow even more popular and become an international sex symbol and one of the most beautiful people in the world, including being voted 12th on the list of the top 100 actors of all time. Mel has admitted that, though he was not a practicing Traditional Catholic in those days, were it not for the foundation of his Catholicism that his parents had instilled in him, he could easily have caved and crashed.
As it was, Mel suffered from manic depression at times and yet, being the renowned star, had to keep most hidden and if he revealed anything, the paparazzi and press would have a field day misinterpreting everything. He had been burned too many times to trust the scribes and pharisees of tinsel town. His portrayal of the tragic figure Hamlet in the film of the same name in 1990 revealed a depth and crying out for help that in retrospect was evident but so few saw it. Mel was being assaulted by the world, the flesh and the devil and torn within. His mother passed away that year and he was experiencing great periods of depression. His roles in films in the early nineties became more desperate characters until he recalled in an interview that he hit rock-bottom and turned to the only lifeboat available - Jesus Christ. It was at this point in his life when he was about 36-years old that depression and the dark night of the soul took hold. In this state he did not give in, but like the Christ in his masterful film, got back up and continued on. He admits, "From about the age of 15 to 35, I kind of did my own thing as it were, not that I didn't believe in God, I just didn't practice the faith or give it much consideration. I went through a period in my life where I put a lot of other things first." It was during the crisis of the early nineties that he made a promise to God to do a film on the Passion and Death of Our Lord in order to bring people to the realization that the Sacrifice on Calvary was not a fairy tale but a grim reminder of how much He loved us. Mel resigned himself to evangelize that truth in however way God so deigned. Also, he swore off all alcohol in getting himself right with God and his family.
As is usually the case, it takes time to establish what one has promised. Mel threw himself into his work and reconciled his family back into the Traditional elements of the Faith. Though in Hollywood, he would no longer be of Hollywood. He took on the roles of interesting heroes both tragic and comical but always with the empathy for the man he played such as Justin McLeod in his masterful work as the vulnerable and, yes, hideous-looking lead man and his first directing masterpiece 'The Man Without a Face'. But Mel showed his range by also playing the whimsy, fast-talking Bret Maverick, Jr. in 'Maverick'. The true mark of the man came through in his triumverate role as producer, director and actor as William Wallace in the noble film 'Braveheart' in which he won two Oscars at the 1996 Academy Awards for best actor and director. He originally turned the role down thinking he was too old and offered to just direct it until writer Randall Wallace and others told him he could direct the picture only if he played the lead part. It goes without saying what was obvious to all the movie-goers as well: Mel became the Scottish hero rather than just Mel playing a character. That is the measure of true acting genius.
Despite his tremendous success from the mid-nineties on, he had not forgotten his promise to God and set in motion to fulfill his commitment by establishing his own film company Icon Productions with branches in Hollywood, Australia and the UK. He chose to incorporate within the logo an extreme closeup of the Blessed Virgin Mary's eye and nose from the magnificent icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. He was coming back full circle as he returned to his roots by literally stumbling into the answer. He had been looking for another book in his library, when he grabbed what he thought was the wrong book. As it turned out it was the perfect book for he had, by God's Providence, 'stumbled' across a work that would greatly influence him in his mission for Jesus and help better visualize what Mel had in mind. That, of course, was Anne Catherine Emmerich's The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ which would be used as the perfect segue and filler to the Gospels for his film which was already in the planning from the early nineties on.
In the meantime he took on roles that pushed him to the edge in preparation for pushing himself to the edge so that he, in his own words, could make a film that would push the viewer to the edge in his 'The Passion of The Christ'. He played the desperate father Tom Mullen whose son had been kidnapped in the 1996 thriller 'Ransom' and in 1997, the likeable anxiety-ridden Jerry Fletcher who drew great empathy from the audience in an excellent film called 'Conspiracy Theory' opposite Julia Roberts. What is most interesting in retrospect is Mel's brilliant stream-of-consciousness opening monologue in the taxi as the viewer got a glimpse of things his character feared in 1997; today most every fear he expressed are no longer conspiracies but realities. Again, Mel was ahead of the scale in understanding, just as his father had always been. Despite the denigration of the secular media toward Hutton Gibson from comments he has made, they have taken them out of context, for, in truth, Hutton is a brilliant self-made scholar who knows very much of whereof he speaks and can back up his arguments. That is something the media lightweights won't follow-up on. To Mel's credit he stands by his aging father with true Catholic loyalty of a loving, faithful son.
Mel agreed to play Marty Riggs again in 'Lethal Weapon 4' which, along with his roles in 'Payback' and 'The Million Dollar Hotel' helped him garner the kind of funding necessary for financing 'The Passion of The Christ'. While filming of 'The Patriot' was underway in 1999, their seventh child Tommy was born. Mel was again passing out cigars while balancing the voice of Rocky in 'Chicken Run' with the serious role of a grieving father pressed back into war in Revolutionary times as Benjamin Martin in 'The Patriot.'. Then he turned to a bout of fun with the whimsical farce that cashed in at the box office with the gals in 'What Women Want.' All three movies were released in 2000. Soon after he tackled an excellent film, which he should have been nominated for but was overlooked - 'We Were Soldiers' in which he played Lt. Colonel Hal Moore in the true story of a devout Catholic officer during the Vietnam War and the moral questions that arose from those times and the heroic actions of this great soldier and the families. It was directed by Randall Wallace. If his previous movies had not established him as one of the most popular and greatest actors of our time, then 'We Were Soldiers' surely did. He followed with the psy-fi film Signs in 2002 in which he played a disheartened and disillusioned Anglican minister trying to find his way. His character was complex and well portrayed, while M. Night Shyamalan's story itself was far-fetched and sketchy. But what would not be far-fetched was that the time had finally come for Mel to make 'The Passion of The Christ'.
As has been documented on these pages many times in the 40 day countdown leading up to the release of 'The Passion of The Christ' and for the forty days after during Lent, and which was brilliantly conveyed in the January and May Issues of INSIDE THE VATICAN Magazine, Mel had to go through his own passion and suffering in making his masterpiece, beginning with not only rejection from anyone wanting to invest in a 'Jesus movie' but a concentrated, well-planned-out offensive against him which, as we can clearly see, was an assault on his Traditional Catholic beliefs and on the Gospels themselves by the hypocrites of our times. Just as Our Lord did not succumb, so also Mel persevered. He was willing to give it all up in order to fulfill his promise to God. That kind of commitment reminds one of Abraham's willingness to do whatever God asked even to sacrificing his Son Isaac. Thus Mel gambled on doing God's will by insisting on doing it in concert with total Catholic truth. He pooled all his talents in becoming writer, producer, director and even as an actor for it was his feet that Mary Magdalen reached for and his hand which pounded the left hand of Christ - as Mel noted, "the left hand - which Italians call sinistre - as in sinister." Though there was not a sinister bone in Mel's body, he knew the evil one would do all he could to sabotage Mel's project for the last thing satan wanted was the success Mel has reaped. To stave off the demons and gain the daily strength to fight the good fight, Mel insisted on starting every day in another role - as altar boy or participant - at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for it is a fact, as some have acknowledged, that it was the first time that the real Jesus Christ was ever truly present during the making of a film about Christ. Indeed, each day on the set began with the True Catholic Mass - the immemorial Latin Mass. Mel's journey in making the film and then deflecting harsh criticism was his own personal passion that God allowed for his growth and graces that will continue to bear great fruit as already proven.
One reader - Mark Steven Scheffer - sent in a poem in tribute to Mel which we share with you here:
Across the street they’ve hung up plywood on
The stained glass windows,
nailed the door to beam
And broken lintel, posted signs
That no one should proceed beyond what’s seen:
The ruining of the choir never stops
In history. The birds in winter flee,
Fly high upon the wind through empty gaps,
Or sit on twisted branches of the tree.
A faith in summer, and the Branch, sustains
Deep down inside the basement of the ruin,
Deep down inside themselves, in what remains,
Though almost absent, like a faceless moon.
Song cannot be removed from them like spring,
Nor any tune replace what swallows sing.
Like a modern-day St. Augustine, Mel had returned from the brink and paid ten-fold for his errors and now was making amends. As we can see the fruits of his work have borne a tremendous harvest that can only yield good as many more begin to realize that Catholic truth never changes and when the VaticantwoArians begin to twist things in backtracking from a most embarrassing denial of the Pope saying "It is as it was" to trying to appease ecumenists who have so misinterpreted the issue with the Jews or show their obvious ignorance to Catholic truth by trying to force Vatican II ideas as doctrine, well they only get caught with their pants down. The same with the scribes of modern time from Frank Rich, Christopher Noxon and Christopher Hitchens to the Pharisees such as Rabbis Marvin Hier, Schmuley Boteach and ADL head Abe Foxman to self-appointed ad hoc committee members Eugene Fisher and Paula Fredrickson to name just a few of the offenders who waged such a hateful vendetta against Mel and his Traditional beliefs. In the end it was Mel who came out smelling like a rose.
As of June 1st 'The Passion of The Christ' had garnered over $600 million worldwide and still playing in over 500 theaters in America even though it came out over three months ago. That in itself is amazing considering how short a time films stay in theaters today. God has blessed Mel abundantly by providing more than one-hundred-fold returns because he was faithful to his mission as a modern St. Paul in bringing the Gospel to every corner of the earth in a visual way that was never possible before. Struck from his own high-horse in the early nineties, Mel resolved to follow Christ fully. While the rich man walked away in the Gospels, this rich disciple of 2000 years later was willing to sacrifice all: his riches, his reputation, his life to bring "The Truth, the Way, and the Life" in a visual way never done before on the silver screen. As mentioned earlier, Mel's film has had a greater impact and touched more souls in less than 4 months than all the Vatican II rhetoric circulated over the past 40 years. Add to this that the DVD is slated to be released on August 31st and it will be a banner year for Mel and for Traditional Catholicism.
As Mel himself would say, "no rest for the wicked" and he has not taken time to even relax for he continues in his passion for making movies. Currently in the works are several TV programs he is producing including the story of Evel Knievel and he has just completed producing the film scheduled for release later this year 'Paparazzi.' He is planning for the 2006 release of 'Warrior' which is the story of the warrior woman Boudica and her rise from peasant roots to become a military leader in the fashion of St. Joan of Arc. This early British heroine led Britain against the Romans in the 9th Century and was posthumously crowned the first queen of the British Empire before royalty ever settled in as the rule of England. It should truly be a medieval masterpiece considering Mel is producing it. Mel openly expressed to Sean Hannity a few months ago on his radio show the desire to film the story of Judas Machabeus from the book of Machabees which immediately threw alarmed ecumenists into a tizzy for it would be dealing with restoration of the True Sacrifice of the Old Covenant and serve as a vivid reminder of what has happened to the True Sacrifice of the New Covenant. If this wouldn't be enough to wake up the Novus Ordo Catholics, his true-to-history story of the establishment of Hannikah has progressive Jews already in a stew. And to really shake things up, the very book from which Mel would be taking the account comes from none other than the Book of Machabees, one of the books of Scripture that was expunged by the Martin Luther and Protestants. Knowing Mel, it promises to be interesting and you can be assured it will be Catholic through and through.
Mel himself grows more devout each year as he realizes the truths of what his father imparted well before it became evident that Vatican II was a bad fruit that must be resisted. Mel handled the modernists so well in passing through the gauntlet of the New Order in dealing diplomatically with Rome throughout the unnecessary flap over 'The Passion of The Christ', yet Mel never backed down. Yet, to his credit he did not put fuel on the fire either, choosing discretion as the better part of valor. When it comes to his faith he is happy to share his beliefs, but not his private life and that is to be commended for he cherishes his matrimonial vows and has been able to stave off the demons that have destroyed lesser men and women so dazzled by stardom. Mel knows he would be nothing without Christ and Our Lady, and is happy whether he is making $28. a week or $28 million. That's rare though most of us assume anyone would be happier with the latter. The key is that he could find happiness with the former and that is the measure of the man who possesses such a sense of humor that he went out of his way to executive produce his favorite comedians - 'The Three Stooges'. During filming of 'The Passion of The Christ' though the subject matter was intense, he kept things light with his ever present clown-nose. Those who know Mel will tell you he is generous to a fault and though shy, is gracious to all. He has suffered much in his life with the interior struggles and dealing with fame, and over the past two years with the emotional issue of bringing family into the fray. If one wants to get Mel steamed, do what Christopher Noxon and Frank Rich did in bad-mouthing Mel's family and you'll see his Irish temper at full tilt. As he told Diane Sawyer in the February 16th interview on ABC's Dateline when she tried to bring up Mel's father, "don't go there, Diane, don't go there!" Enough said.
We do know that there is nothing more precious to Mel than family and, like his parents, he and Robyn seek now to instill in their own children the same Catholic ideals Mel was brought up with. While Mel is well known there are thousands of other Catholic families doing likewise in rejecting the synthetic New Order rite of Vatican II and making great sacrifices to take their families to the Traditional Latin Mass, many times driving for hours. That is how special the Sacraments are to true Catholics who will do anything to preserve and uphold the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as they were taught from Saint Peter through Pope Pius XII.
Mel has received a bevy of awards, many plaudits in gold, bronze, silver and crystal as well as other properties. He has been enshrined with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame and been feted by royalty and the Who's who of fame and fortune. Thus it is with humility that we present an award to Mel which cannot be held in his hands, or placed in a trophy case, but in God's eyes means so much more in the long run for it is about the souls touched by the passion of a man of Tradition who would never give up and sought the perfection that is the masterpiece of all time - his gift to God and His children - the perpetuity on celluloid of the most visual meditation ever produced - 'The Passion of The Christ.' Thus it is with great pride and an honor to enshrine Mel into the Tower of Trent Hall of Honor and present him with the Tower of Trent Trophy for outstanding service for God's Holy Church as we proclaim today and tomorrow - his patron saint's feast day - Mel Gibson Day in all of Christendom.
For other charter members honored in this inaugural presentation of the Tower of Trent, see Charter Recipients of the Tower of Trent Trophy