Alfred Hitchcock and the Jesuit

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When I was a kid I loved watching Alfred Hitchcock Presents, known in its last four years as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.  His sardonic wit and macabre sense of humor I found vastly appealing and no doubt had an impact on my own developing sense of humor.  Hitchcock was a Catholic, although some have claimed that he became estranged from the Faith later in life.  Father Mark Henninger in The Wall Street Journal relates his own encounter with Hitchcock shortly before his death.

At the time, I was a graduate student in philosophy at UCLA, and I was (and remain) a Jesuit priest. A fellow priest, Tom Sullivan, who knew Hitchcock, said one Thursday that the next day he was going over to hear Hitchcock’s confession. Tom asked whether on Saturday afternoon I would accompany him to celebrate a Mass in Hitchcock’s house.


I was dumbfounded, but of course said yes. On that Saturday, when we found Hitchcock asleep in the living room, Tom gently shook him. Hitchcock awoke, looked up and kissed Tom’s hand, thanking him.

Tom said, “Hitch, this is Mark Henninger, a young priest from Cleveland.”

“Cleveland?” Hitchcock said. “Disgraceful!”

After we chatted for a while, we all crossed from the living room through a breezeway to his study, and there, with his wife, Alma, we celebrated a quiet Mass. Across from me were the bound volumes of his movie scripts, “The Birds,” “Psycho,” “North by Northwest” and others—a great distraction. Hitchcock had been away from the church for some time, and he answered the responses in Latin the old way. But the most remarkable sight was that after receiving communion, he silently cried, tears rolling down his huge cheeks.

Go here to read the rest.  Any priest can relate hundreds of similar stories about people nearing death who embrace the Faith.  During life most of us adopt many poses and masks as we proceed through all the helter-skelter activities that make up a life.  At the end however we are confronted with the stark reality of death and the time for illusion ceases as we prepare to stand before the Ultimate Reality.  Rest in peace Mr. Hitchcock and I hope the angels are laughing at your jokes!

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  1. Every so often I read something such as this (last Friday’s WSJ) and say to myself, “It’s still worth the subscription price.”

  2. Whenever I read a story of a penitent, I think of the sermon that Bossuet preached at the solemn profession of Mlle de la Vallière, (Sister Louise de la Miséricorde) the former mistress of Louis XIV, as a Carmelite nun.

    He took as his text, “And He that sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new'” (Apoc 21:5).

    He also discusses the mystery, even the paradox of grace, both “Make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!” (Ez 18:31) but also, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.”(Ez 36:26)

  3. One of my favorite passages in Scripture is Isaiah 1: 18:

    “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

  4. Donald…..very good story. It reminds me of the movie, “immortal Beloved” about the life of Beethoven. In the movie, the dying composer refuses to see a priest and receive the last rights. In reality, according to Thayer’s Life of Beethoven, he died during a terrific hailstorm after having devoutly received the last sacraments. His Missa Solemnis, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, ” is a mighty profession of faith in a personal God by one of the greatest geniuses of all times, who composed it in the midst of the growing doubt and impending moral and spiritual disintegration of his age.” I don’t know the reason why Hollywood and the publishing industry do not want to tell the truth or downplay the influence of belief in God but it must have something to do with the agnostic/atheistic ingrained prejudice against the compatibility of Catholic faith and intellectual or artistic genius. They think only stupid or simple people could believe in God.

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