Sunday Afternoon at the Movies: MARY OF NAZARETH

The Holy Family in the cave at Bethlehem

Today I attended a sponsored screening of the new motion picture Mary of Nazareth, which has just been released by Ignatius Press.

First off, let me tell you:  I loved it.  This full-length feature film about the life of Mary, the mother of God, was filmed in Europe and shot in English in high definition.  It seemed to me to be a living, moving Carravaggio painting—with its rich color palette and the subtle interplay of light and shadows.

Mary explains to Joseph just what has happened here

The film vividly captures the essence of Our Lady’s profound faith and trust in God.  She held a great mystery in her heart; but what struck me on the big screen was not the immensity of her role as the mother of God, but rather, her infectious joy.

The film is long (two hours and 33 minutes!), but my attention never wavered.  I could be mistaken, but I think that while the main characters spoke English, there were some minor parts which were dubbed from another tongue—possibly Italian.  That didn’t matter.

The story, of course, was completely familiar—since it was all based on Scripture—yet I was not bored.  In fact, I thought Alissa Jung, who portrayed Mary, delivered her lines in the Magnificat with such fresh honesty that I had a new appreciation for that beautiful prayer.

I noted some anachronisms.  Mary, Joseph and Jesus were fair-skinned, blue- or hazel-eyed, with light hair that seemed more European than Mid-Eastern.  The clothing was lovely but perhaps more finely crafted than one would expect in a period movie from the first century.  For example, Mary wore a lot of pink—something I’ve never seen in bible stories.  Toward the end of the movie, Mary wears a deep blue veil of a delicate, almost sheer fabric edged in a richly embroidered gold band.  She seemed appropriately dressed for a holy card, but oddly out of place on a dusty Nazareth hillside.

Still, my strongest impression during the film was of the joy and the love that filled the screen, the pure goodness of the saints who walked with Christ.  Mary (and Jesus, and many of the characters) smiled so much that I, sprawled out in my theatre seat, had a sore jaw from smiling back at them.  I longed to meet these characters, to share in their laughter and their love.  Heaven, I imagine, will be like that.

Mary of Nazareth is not in general release; interested individuals or groups can contact Carmel Communications (866-777-2313 or screenings@carmelcommunications.com) about setting up a showing.  If you haven’t thought of doing it, may I recommend that you seriously consider whether you could help to bring Mary of Nazareth to your local theatre.  You’ve seen The Passion of the Christ.  If you’re in Michigan, you may have seen the stage production of The Cross and the Light.  Now, you should add Mary of Nazareth to the list of great faith films you’ve enjoyed on the big screen.

And be sure to visit the website for more information about showings, and to see film clips.

UPDATE: The trailer is now available, so I’ve added it here.

  • Jill Healy

    Sad that most of us will never see this movie

  • Morrie Chamberlain

    Before all lose hope, I am sure it will be available at some point on DVD

    • Karen Head

      yes it will

  • Christ’sDisciple

    In fact, this movie has been released on Netflix under the title of “Maria di Nazaret”. I have been watching it over and over again. It is my favorite too. When one is tired or despondent, watch this movie to have a refreshment from the smile of “Our Lady.”

  • Ron

    I watched this as a two part movie on Netflicks. I liked how the story filled in some parts of Mary’s life that are not recorded. Who knows…maybe Mary Magdalene and our blessed mother really were friends as children. And I found it a little odd that as Jesus grew to his thirties, Mary and Magdalene never seemed to age. Both actresses are beautiful, but Ms. Jung is stunning. And there was the added story of the mean princess of Rome…..very clever to tie things together. I really loved the movie but viewers must know when poetic license is taken, but in no way subtract from the story.

    • movie buff

      The movie reviewed by Kathy Schiffer is not the same film that is available on Netflix. Yes, they have the same title but are two different movies. The
      Netflix movies was made in 1995 and stars Myriam Muller as Mary. The
      film reviewed above was filmed in 2012 and stars Alissa Jung.

      Many books and movies have the same title. Best to first check your facts
      before criticizing that way you won’t pass no misinformation.

      • Pat Titus

        Maria di Nazaret is the title on Netflix. Pay attention

  • Pat Titus

    It is indeed on Netflix. The movie is quite ridiculous if not blasphemous. Mary and Joseph as flirty young lovers is cringe worthy.. St. Joseph asking in an angry tone if the Blessed Mother is “out of her mind” when she says that the child in her womb is from God is not even Biblical and really disparages the supreme holiness of the saint.

    • movie buff

      The movie reviewed above is not the same film that is available on Netflix. Yes, they have the same title but are two different movies. The Netflix movies was made in 1995 and stars Myriam Muller as Mary. The film reviewed above was filmed in 2012 and stars Alissa Jung.

      Many books and movies have the same title. Best to first check your facts before criticizing that way you won’t pass no misinformation.

      • Pat Titus

        The Netflix movie stars Alissa Jung. I checked before criticizing. I’m right you’re wrong. Na na.

        • heidir

          Wow, not very Christianly. “Na na”?

    • heidir

      As someone who has been an educated Christian for 46 years. I have to disagree with you. I think in this day and age we need to portray Joseph and Mary as what they were, which is human. The Bible is an account of what the disciples were told or witnessed to. Matthew, Mark, Luke nor John were there to witness before Jesus was born, therefore, it is strictly an account of what they were told by those before them. Therefore the exact wording of Joseph and Mary would not be known even though the disciples were “God inspired” in their writing. Joseph was no saint, and the Bible does attest to him being angry with Mary and ready to “put her away” for what she had “done”. Although I’m sure the character of Mary and Joseph were Godly, at the same time they were human. Therefore why not portray them as such?

      • gratiaplena

        “Joseph was no saint”????????? How dare you utter that disgusting disparagement against the greatest saint in the history of the universe, after Mary????

        The SAINT, Joseph, Mary’s chaste husband, was sanctified from his mother’s womb, and NEVER had so much as an iota of anger against Mary. Joseph was so reverent of his beloved chaste spouse, that he could hardly be in her presence without the most humble attitude of veneration and awe for her! The Bible DOES NOT “ATTEST TO HIM BEING ANGRY WITH MARY”–he doesn’t understand, and in his confusion, and to spare Mary public scorn and humiliation, he decides to “put her away quietly”. He NEVER had one iota of anger against her!

        You might consider yourself to be “an educated Christian for 46 years”, but you don’t have a clue as to the chastity, the sublime holiness, the angelic virtues of Mary and Joseph. They might have been human, like all of us, but they were so superior to you and me in their virtues, that it is truly incomprehensible. The angels ministered to this magnificently humble, holy couple. To attribute the basest human, sinful urges to Mary and Joseph (even if it’s just to Joseph) is nothing short of disgusting and sacrilegious.

        • heidir

          Wow, indoctrinated much?? You can tell you are Catholic. Therefore convincing you of an actual history education is going to fall on deaf ears. God bless!

          • gratiaplena

            You are obviously a victim of Protestant heresy. There are many facts about Mary and Joseph that we know outside of the Bible. Yes, heidir, there ARE credible historical documents with facts not written in the Bible. Not to mention Church-approved apparitions which contain invaluable information and teaching and devotion.

            Your heretical comment: “Joseph was no saint” is so repulsive, that it shows that you have a very narrow, limited, superficial knowledge of Christianity.

            You are the poor one who is indoctrinated… with the heresy of Protestantism. There is but ONE Church, and it is the Church Jesus intended to found: the Catholic Church. Protestantism is but a pale shadow of true Christianity.

          • kathyschiffer

            I’ve got to pop in here, gratiaplena, to call a time-out. You may disagree with Heidi, but I see nothing in her respectful posts which is deserving of scolding. And although St. Joseph was holy, there is nothing in Catholic dogma which says that Joseph was “sanctified from his mother’s womb”; he was a sinner, just like you and me and the rest of the saints (excluding Mary).

            See, your rude retorts have drawn fire from Heidi, too. She accuses you (and me, and all Catholics) of being “indoctrinated”.

            They’ll know you are Christians by your love, folks. Show me the love.

          • gratiaplena

            Kathy: I believe that heidir was very disrespectful by her comment: “Wow, indoctrinated much?? You must be Catholic”. You call that respectful? I call it anti-Catholic bigotry.

            That being said, the Church has always abided by the Tradition that St. Joseph NEVER committed an actual sin. That’s just common sense. Why would the man chosen from all eternity to be the reputed father of the Savior of mankind, the man who would instruct, model, love, adore, raise the God-man ever be a “slave of Satan”? God doesn’t work that way. Just because something is NOT in the Bible, doesn’t mean we can’t believe it. There’s plenty that’s not in the Bible. For example, it also makes no sense that Jesus would not appear to His mother Mary immediately upon His Resurrection on Easter Sunday morning. That’s not explicitly written in Scripture, but common sense tells you that of course He went first to Mary!

            The very under-reported apparitions of Our Lady of America explain exactly what I just said. Cardinal Raymond Burke, Head of the Apostolic Signatura, brilliant canon lawyer, and courageous, fearless bishop, investigated the apparitions of Our Lady of America, after the bishop of Cincinnati heartily approved, and enthusiastically advocated for the apparitions, and found them worthy of belief. There is really nothing new in these Church-approved apparitions, just confirmation of what the Church already teaches, whether doctrinally or traditionally. I will attach the very words of Mary from this Church-approved apparition in a minute.

            As for your admonition to me: “Show me the love”, would you admonish St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, who punched another priest in the face and knocked him to the ground for expressing doubt that Jesus was fully God and fully Man? Was he not zealously defending the honor of God?

            I will defend the honor of St. Joseph, no matter what it takes, and if it offends Protestants, that’s their problem.

            Here’s proof of Joseph’s sinlessness:

            “It is true my daughter, that immediately after my conception, I was, through the future merits of Jesus and because of my exceptional role of future Virgin-Father, cleansed from the stain of original sin.”

            “I was from that moment confirmed in grace and never had the slightest stain on my soul. This is my unique privilege among men.”

            “My pure heart also was from the first moment of existence inflamed with love for God. Immediately, at the moment when my soul was cleansed from original sin, grace was infused into it in such abundance that, excluding my holy spouse, I surpassed the holiness of the highest angel in the angelic choir.”

            “My heart suffered with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Mine was a silent suffering, for it was my special vocation to hide and shield as long as God willed, the Virgin Mother and Son from the malice and hatred of men.”

            “The most painful of my sorrows was that I knew beforehand of their passion, yet would not be there to console them.”

            “Their future suffering was ever present to me and became my daily cross. I became, in union with my holy spouse, co-redemptor of the human race. Through compassion for the sufferings of Jesus and Mary I co-operated, as no other, in the salvation of the world.”

          • heidir

            You can tell that you are getting your facts from catechism instead of the Bible. Jesus and the prophets have stated that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The only perfect human example we have ever had is Jesus.

          • gratiaplena

            There are exceptions to “all have sinned…” It is a fact that babies and children who die before reaching the age of reason have never sinned. It is a fact that most retarded people don’t have the capability of understanding sin, and therefore, do not sin. “All of Jersualem was there”… the word “all” is used many times as a means to signify that many, many people were there, or heard a prophet’s teaching, or whatever. When you take certain words and phrases so literally, you are not using common sense.

            Mary never sinned, so she is one exception. Joseph never committed an actual sin, although he was conceived with original sin, so he is another exception.

          • heidir

            Although I agree with you about the “age of accountability” I do not believe that there is a single adult other than Christ who has not committed sin. I guess this is a case of agree to disagree.

          • kathyschiffer

            Again, Heidi, we are closer to agreeing than you may realize. Mary did need a Savior–she herself said in her Magnificat, the prayer she recited when she met her cousin Elizabeth, “My soul rejoices in God my Savior.” But there is a difference.

            Catholic apologist Steve Ray offers a very helpful story of a person who walks down a path and falls into a mud puddle. That guy, like all of us, needs a savior–someone to clean him up and wash the mud from his face and clothing. But then there is another guy who walks down the same path–and just as he is about to fall into the mud puddle, a hand reaches out of the brush and stops him. That guy, too, needed a savior; but he was saved BEFORE he fell in the puddle.

            In the Old Testament, God specified that the Ark of the Covenant must be plated with the finest gold, constructed according to his specifications, so that it would then be worthy to be the holder of His divine Word (as found in the stone tablets which contained the Ten Commandments).

            Likewise, in the New Testament, God wanted a suitable vessel to contain His Word, in the Second Person of the Trinity. Since Mary contributed the DNA, the very essence of the physical Christ, it was appropriate that God should preserve her from sin so that she–as the New Testament “Ark of the Covenant”–would be worthy to carry the Christ Child in her womb. It was not anything that Mary did, but rather God’s saving action that preserved her from sin. That’s why the angel who visited her to announce that she would become the Mother of God said “Hail, full of grace.” She, and only she, could be “full of grace”; the rest of us have some grace, yep, but there’s some sin there, too.

            Again, I offer you an article which might better explain what Catholics believe, and why. http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/hail-mary-conceived-without-sin

          • heidir

            I understand what you are trying to convey. I just don’t agree with it. :o ) Thank you for the clarification though.

          • kathyschiffer

            You know, ordinary Catholics–folks like me–are often not the best advertisements for the Catholic Faith. I would encourage you to keep exploring the issues, though, and not settling for “I’ve always thought this or that…” I know of more than one great theologian who came into the Catholic Church kicking and screaming after a thorough study of Church history. Here is one such story. http://chnetwork.org/2012/02/a-protestant-historian-discovers-the-catholic-church-conversion-story-of-a-david-anders-ph-d/

          • gratiaplena

            Mary was declared by the Archangel Gabriel as “you who have always been full of grace”–the English translation of the Greek in which St. Luke, a Greek, wrote.

            It would make NO sense for a sin-tainted mother to bear in her virginal womb the eternal Godhead. Would God make His own mother a sinner?

            There are many very scholarly explanations as to why the Immaculate Conception is true. I’ll put a link at the bottom.

            In Genesis, God Himself tells the serpent (the Devil): “I will put enmity between you and the Woman; between your seed and her seed…” That means Mary, the Woman, will ALWAYS be the mortal enemy of Satan! If it is true that she was a sinner (or even if it was just original sin), then that makes God a liar. Because being a sinner means being a “slave of Satan”, and God just declared the Woman Satan’s enemy, so how could she EVER be the slave of her enemy?

            Mary, for the sake of bearing the eternal God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, by necessity, could never have had even a shadow of sin.

            http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/a116.htm

          • heidir

            Interesting, it seems you don’t understand the concept of “agree to disagree”.

          • gratiaplena

            I never “agreed to disagree”. I will never agree to leaving a non-Catholic in the dark about the Truth of the Catholic Church, no matter how much I’m scorned for it. Truth is Truth. I’m sorry that you have such a flippant attitude about such a crucial, vital issue. “There are none so blind as those who will not see.”

          • heidir

            You said, “I never agreed to disagree”. Then I guess since you won’t respect my request for that, then you will be arguing by yourself. I’ve learned not to beat a dead horse.

          • gratiaplena

            So be it. But one day you will be shown the Truth of the Eucharist, of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, of the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, of Purgatory, etc.–and I pray that you will accept all that Jesus taught His Church, the Church He instituted for the salvation of mankind.

          • heidir

            Hi Kathy,
            I don’t think all Catholics are indoctrinated. I have several catholic friends and Mormon friends and friends from many Christian denominations. However, this other lady on here really shows an ugly side to Catholicism. However, I do get that they are not all like her.

          • heidir

            Amazing that there are still prejudiced Catholics like you. This is why people left England and Holland. To get away from the persecution people like you were administering. I pity you. God doesn’t approve of your attitude. Thank God there is freedom of religion here. Perhaps if you want to continue with your way of thinking, you should go back to the oppressive country you came from.

          • gratiaplena

            It is the doctrine of the Catholic Church that “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church”. This has been taught since Day 1. Jesus said, “Go and baptize all nations, teaching them everything I have given you…those who believe will be saved, those who do not believe will be condemned.

            I’m sorry that simply repeating the teaching of the Catholic Church earns me the label “prejudiced”, and “oppressive” and “indoctrinated”. Just because I said that Protestantism is a heresy and that Protestants are indoctrinated with heresy earns me a rebuke from Kathy, a Catholic deacon’s wife, even though what I said is Catholic dogma.

            I did not attack you personally, heidir, I simply reiterated the 2,000 year teaching of the Catholic Church. So you and Kathy would rather “kill the messenger” than try to discover if what I’ve been saying is true.

            Yes, I’m glad we have freedom of religion in the U.S. Oh, by the way, Kathy, will you rebuke heidir for her personal attack on me by calling me a “persecutor” and telling me to “go back to the oppressive country I came from”? Where’ s the love, Kathy? That was pretty nasty. Just because we have freedom of religion does not mean that all religions are right. I too have many very good Mormon friends. And believe it or not, I actually have Protestant friends!!!! GASP! But Jesus came to earth to redeem us from our sins and to give us His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Blessed Sacrament for supernatural nourishment and eternal life: “IF YOU DON’T EAT MY FLESH AND DRINK MY BLOOD YOU HAVE NO LIFE IN YOU”. Jesus Himself said that those who don’t partake–through the Catholic Church– in the Eucharist–will not be saved. If my saying this is repulsive to heidir, I’m really sorry, but Truth is Truth, and the Catholic Church is the only means of eternal life.

          • heidir

            Again, it makes me very sad you feel this way and that there are people like you out there deceiving many into believing that Catholics have the monopoly on heaven. I think you are in for a rude awaking on judgment day.

          • kathyschiffer

            Heidi, please let me clarify: The Catholic Church does not teach that salvation is only for Catholics. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “All salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.” That may still be confusing–so I urge you to read this very helpful article: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means

          • heidir

            It seems we believe the same way, Kathy. I also believe that Jesus/God was referring to the “Christian” church, not a denomination other than that.

          • gratiaplena

            I never said Catholics have a monopoly on Heaven. I said that the Catholic Church teaches that “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church”. There are plenty of Catholics who go to Hell, I’m sure.

            But Jesus didn’t say, “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build My churches.” Jesus desired that “all may be one as I and My heavenly Father are one”. There has only been ONE Catholic Church throughout history, but there are over 40,000 Protestant denominations, which stemmed from Martin Luther’s decision to disobey the Catholic Church and start his own “church”, which continues to split and split and split. Which church has the fullness of Truth? The One which can be traced back all the way to Christ.

            That being said, I’m sure that upon death, Jesus appears to each human being to show them the entire Truth of His Blessed Sacrament, and His Church, and gives them the opportunity to accept it or reject it. It is not His will that anyone be lost, and He goes to any extreme to bring that person to Heaven. Protestants are just that: protesters. But Jesus wants them to believe EVERYTHING He taught, so they can be saved, so He will give them that last chance, and I pray daily for every dying person to be converted and come to God through His one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

          • heidir

            I feel that when God stated “Church” he was referring to the Christian church not the Catholic church. The Catholic church didn’t come until later.

          • kathyschiffer

            Your feeling this does not make it so, Heidi. Here is a timetable of when the various Christian churches started. http://www.catholicbible101.com/whostartedyourchurch.htm

          • heidir

            When I say, “feel” I’m referring to my own education. I can site scripture and history facts that back up what I’m saying but I’m sure you are grounded in your beliefs as I am in mine. Jesus said, “I have sheep in many folds.” In my education, I’ve come to understand with Godly insight that God was referring to his children in various religious situations. For example, I would not use the same tactics with all of my children. Because of their different personalities and genetic make ups, I reach them at different levels and different insights. I’m a firm believer that no one Christian church holds the monopoly on the truth. Just as no one Christian church holds the monopoly on being incorrect. I feel that there are certain people in the world who need the Catholic way of living, while other’s need the Protestant way of living in its various sects. I really frown on a church that states with false pride, “We hold the monopoly on the truth.”. Now you might disagree with me and that is your choice. However, know that you won’t change my beliefs either. I’ve had a very close relationship with God and he has given me many insights, one being that there will not be ANY true church until Jesus comes back to build one. Until then each person has to come to God in the way that God leads them.

  • Lux

    I watched the movie at the theater this weekend, Alissa Jung portrayed Mary. There were parts that definitely made me cringe. St. Joseph was portrayed as an angry man, his anger directed at Mary. They made it seem as if Mary was an unwed mother and deserving of stoning.

  • NIck

    Did they show her in pain while giving birth?

    • kathyschiffer

      The movie was very noncommital on this and on Joseph’s presence. Mary hugged her belly and knew the baby was coming–but she did not seem to be in pain and all of a sudden, there was a baby! Joseph left to get water and didn’t get back until after the baby’s birth. There was no mess to clean up, just a smiling mom. Not so realistic, but everyone regardless of perspective could go away feeling they’d just seen the story unfold just as they expected.

      • Nick

        Well Catholic tradition holds that she did not suffer labor pain, so that’s why I asked : ) Thanks!

      • heidir

        I noticed those things as well. Additionally, I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t show Jesus getting baptized. They went straight to him being tempted in the mountains.

  • Chris from MI

    To clear up some of the confusion of movies, the Ignatius Press release of Mary of Nazareth is an edited version of the film streaming on Netflix as Maria di Nazaret. There are aspects of the full Netflix version that are not family appropriate and that are distracting from the main story of Mary, so they were edited out. The film being released by Ignatius Press for sponsorship viewing is appropriate for family viewing, although some scenes regarding the slaughter of the innocents or the crucifixion would not be appropriate for very small children.

  • Zachary Everett

    Living Rule Ministries out of Ohio is trying to show the film in Pittsburgh PA and Steubenville OH. If you are in that area and would like to see the film please consider giving us your support so we can help others see this beautiful film!
    We are also interested in bring the film to other communities that are excited to see and learn about the life of Christ through the eyes of Mary. Be sure to check out our campaign to help support us in bringing this film to as many as possible!
    http://igg.me/at/maryofnazaret

    • gratiaplena

      I refuse to pay money to see a film that portrays Joseph as being angry with the Blessed Virgin Mary, his chaste spouse.

      Sorry, all of you advocates of this movie. If only ONE character is portrayed erroneously, then the whole film is worthless. And if it’s St. Joseph, then shame on the movie producers.

      St. Joseph is the foster father of the Savior of the human race, the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who NEVER committed so much as ONE actual sin, and yet he is portrayed as being very angry with Mary for “what she did”. That is blasphemous, and that discredits the entire project.

      • scarptp

        You keep saying that Joseph never committed a sin, where do you get this from? There have been many in Jesus’ blood-line that have committed numerous sins…all but the Blessed Mother. So please clarify. Thanks

        • gratiaplena

          @scarptp:

          “The Mystical City of God” by Venerable Mary of Agreda, heartily approved by the Church, and enthusiastically advocated by many Popes.

          “The Life and Glories of St. Joseph” by Edward Healy Thompson”.

          Our Lady of America, a series of apparitions to a holy and pious nun in Cincinnati in the 1950′s, which has been officially approved by the Church, and extensively investigated and approved by Cardinal Raymond Burke.

          The above information will show you why St. Joseph, even though he was conceived with original sin, NEVER committed an actual sin. It doesn’t matter that Jesus’ bloodline contains many sinners. David is the worst, committing adultery and then having his mistress’s husband killed in battle, and yet, we call Jesus, “The Son of David”. But he didn’t live in Jesus’ home and become the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin, and the foster father of the Redeemer!

          It doesn’t make sense that the reputed father of Jesus, St. Joseph, His beloved foster-father and teacher, and role model, and mentor, and instructor in virtue, obedience, religion, charity, etc, would ever have been a “slave of Satan”, which is how Scripture describes sinners like you and me.

          How could someone chosen from all eternity by God to be the protector and earthly daddy of the Savior of all mankind, EVER be a sterling role model if he was EVER chained by the bonds of Satan? It just doesn’t make sense!

          I hope you read those books and research Our Lady of America. I am sure you’ll understand then why St. Joseph was without actual sin!


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