This November just passed, I interviewed Tom Leopold about his upbringing in Miami, life as a young comedy writer, how he met Barbara his lovely wife and about the intense times of suffering when his daughter Gussie has been battling anorexia, and the series of ‘coincidences’ that led him to becoming a Catholic. These days, Tom doesn’t believe they were ‘coincidences’ per se, but stepping-stones to Catholicism.
Many of these key events were replaying in my mind during Passiontide and now that we are in the Easter Octave.
On Good Friday, I meditated on Our Lord’s sorrowful Passion, while walking around the cluster of trees at the top of Hyde Park. In central London, it’s one of the few places that I get the sense of being in the Garden of Gethsemane. After I finished the meditation, I thought back to Tom’s first time he identified with Our Lady…
Leopold’s first spark of faith happened some years ago in a curious place: Radio City Music Hall in New York. He took his family to see the Christmas show and they had a “corny” Nativity show. While he watched the actors play the Holy Family, Gussie cuddled up to him and he felt a spasm of sorrow that she had become so terrifyingly skeletal. “I began to identify with Our Lady as a mother, that she had to suffer through her Child dying on the Cross. I had this incredibly powerful realisation where I saw the connection between me and my little girl, and Our Lady and her Son Jesus.”
Picking up a point from Tom’s experience, it draws attention to Our Lady’s sorrows. She was the masterpiece of God’s hands, the sinless one and yet, she was subjected to the most extreme suffering when she watched her child nailed to the cross.
On Easter Sunday, when I was praying the Glorious Mysteries and concentrating on the Resurrection, another key event from Tom’s conversion replayed in my mind…
He wandered by accident into a cinema that was showing Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. “What really got me was Jim Caviezel, playing Jesus, in the tomb,” he recalls. “He is like a runner, down on all fours, waiting for the gun to fire. It’s the Resurrection, and his body is completely recovered. He bolts out of the frame and we see Jesus has triumphed over death. It blew me away. But I still was not thinking of faith or religion.” Briefly touching on Mel Gibson, Leopold jokes charitably: “Mel has a lot of issues. He took a few too many blows to the head during Braveheart.”….. Nowadays Leopold regularly bumps into Jim Caviezel, “the best movie Jesus”, in the Catholic churches of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
On Easter Sunday 2009, Tom was received into the Catholic Church, and this Easter marks the fifth anniversary of him becoming a Catholic.
|Tom Leopold, Yours Truly, Gussie and Barbara Leopold|