(Photo from some Chinese website I can’t give credits to as it’s, well, in Chinese - sorry!)
Q&A with Kerri Caviezel
Kerri Caviezel is a teacher by profession and now a stay-at-home mom with three children, ages 13, 11, and 2. She volunteers in her free time at a crisis pregnancy center. Her husband is Jim Caviezel, a well-known Hollywood actor.
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Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: Well, I love reading and ping-pong. I was laughing because my sister was talking with my nephews—they just got a ping-pong table—and she was telling them how competitive I was as a child and they were so surprised. “Really? Aunt Kerri?”
Q: What is your favorite book?
A: When I’m not reading textbooks to my 7th grader or picture books with the baby, I love historical fiction. There’s an author named Francine Rivers who writes stories set in the time of Jesus or ancient Rome. I love those kinds of books.
But my favorite of all time is To Kill a Mockingbird. I taught junior high and then high school and we reflected on it a lot. I think what draws me so much to that story is the father, Atticus Finch, who is truly the image of God. He is protecting the most vulnerable in a society, in a time when no one else wants to.
Q: Have you read any good books lately?
A: Currently I’m reading Direction for Our Times. It’s a set of volumes, a set of locutions—that started not that long ago—with that sense of what Jesus is asking us to do in our lives. It’s incredibly thought provoking.
Q: Favorite food?
A: Well, I come from Croatian background, so I love soup. Even when it was hot outside, my grandma always made soup. And I’ve carried on that tradition. My favorite right now is roasted tomato basil soup with peppers, quinoa, and kale. Thankfully, I have a bunch of eaters in my family, so we’re a no-leftover crew.
Q: What is the biggest surprise you have experienced in life?
A: Being a mom. Those amazing, magical moments God gives me that I haven’t felt in any other way. We adopted our oldest boy when he was five. I had no idea how amazing and how difficult it would be. It is the best and most difficult job. I can remember two weeks after he came to be with us, looking at my husband and asking each other, “What did we do with our time before?” We used to think that becoming parents would change our lives. And it does. I think the Holy Spirit gives you amnesia so it doesn’t matter what you did before. Nothing is as important as what you are doing now. I am constantly reminded why it’s the greatest job in the world. Our son is a rooster. At six o’clock in the morning, when he was barely able to see us over the edge of the bed, he would be there saying, “Good morning Momma!” I don’t know that I would have appreciated that at 25 but I just loved it, because I knew at some point he wouldn’t do that anymore.
Q: What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?
A: Spontaneous moments. Things the kids come up with that you weren’t ready for. I’ll give you an example: like my parents had their 50th wedding anniversary and the kids wanted to create their own cards. Our son wanted to do an acronym for “Happy Anniversary” and he ran out of things to put for the letter “A.” So when he got to the last “A” in Anniversary, he put the word “ancient.” I left it in the card because I thought my mom would laugh. There’s just a beauty in their innocence—in their desire to please, in their child-like faith, and that unconditional love. Our baby is just starting to talk. And the other day—it had been a difficult day with him—and he was crawling up the stairs when I asked him, “Are we going to see a good boy for the rest of the day?” And he looked around and called out, “Good boy, where are you?” I’ve worked with crisis pregnancy center for 16 to 17 years now, and it always rings in my head with the women I meet. Even with the teenage audiences—no matter how difficult a pregnancy is—we have never had a young woman come back that’s been sorry about carrying her child. Regardless of the situation, the power of motherhood is so strong. That child is the most important thing in their lives. They are always glad, no matter how hard it is. Children remind you of what’s best in us.
Q: What are you most grateful for?
A: I am the most grateful for the knowledge that God loves me. I can’t tell you why I’ve always known that, but I have. It’s been there with me since I was a very little girl. It gives me perspective in the highs and lows of my life. I always attribute it to grace. The three very important people—my mom, my dad and my grandma all anchored it in my subconscious. Mom was the face of mercy and compassion; my dad demonstrated strength, responsibility, and character; and my grandma talked about her faith. I could ask her any question about the faith and it was very alive to me because of that—not just in Mass on Sunday—it was every day. We would joke that there was never a rosary my grandma couldn’t break. And one year, my uncle brought back a rosary from Europe that was supposed to be unbreakable—and well, she broke it. And that image of the rosary for me gives the sense that faith is alive. People talk about works and faith and you can’t separate them. One without the other is dead. I’ve seen people do tremendous good deeds, but without the knowledge of the grace, it loses the power to transform. It just becomes a job.
Q: What was a moment in your life when you felt that you really “owned” your faith?
A: One of the most important priests in my life, Father Vincent Sampietro, was a Paulist Father who did missions in the US. Most people don’t think of missionaries being in the States, but we all need to be constantly converted. Once he came to our small parish in the late 1990s, and he gave me a book called True Devotion to Mary. I didn’t read until 2000, and that was the moment that completely transformed my faith. My interaction with Mary and the saints—they are constant partners with us on this journey.
Because of that, I traveled to Međugorje. And what struck me the most about being there was I was so impressed with the faith of the people. One of the priests told me that it could be anywhere in the world, but it was here because there was a great desire. And that we could take that back to our parishes too.
Father Sam Peitro passed away in 2007. He was never elevated to the higher status of bishop or even to a monsignor, but he exuded God’s grace.
We also met Mother Angelica from EWTN a month before she had her debilitating stroke. That was another transforming moment in my faith. I wasn’t speaking to groups yet, but I felt I was supposed to be. That was in my path. I remember saying to her, “I don’t know, I think I’m supposed to be doing this, but I don’t want to.” And she said “That means you’re supposed to. If you’re not willing to do the ridiculous, God cannot do the miraculous.”
Q: Did you think it was ridiculous at the time?
A: No, but you have to step outside yourself into the uncomfortable zone. She started the largest Christian network in the world. And she was basically saying that if God is asking you to do it—you do it.
As I started speaking more, I got the sense of what He wants me to say that day. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched her, but I saw her in an old recording—and she never had any notes. She spoke about what God wanted—He led the conversation. You have to leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. Sometimes that work is through a very uncomfortable or uncharted place in us and we’re not always sure where it’s going. But if it’s something God wants, He’ll tell us.
There was a hugely challenging time. I had stopped teaching from the fall of 1999 to the fall of 2000 when my husband’s career took off. He had asked me to spend more time with him. And teaching was my life. I felt there was value in what I was doing, but God closed that door and showed me that it had nothing to do with what I did, but who I was. He could accomplish His will through anyone, but he chose me to do this.
Q: What would you say is one of the greatest challenges you have experienced in life?
A: The last couple of years—we’ve come out the other side, but we spent about ten months in and out of hospitals with a very sick baby. He was diagnosed with a rare cancer at 13 months old.
Every day you’re afraid. I can’t walk into a hospital that I don’t think about it. Just every day, getting up and saying “God I trust you even when I don’t want to.” You want to know how this is going to turn out and instead, God wants us to walk in the moment in that day. And now, we’ve been in remission for about a year and a half.
Grace comes through. God allows you to deal with it at that moment.
Q: What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
A: We have this plan for our life—and it doesn’t include any of the challenges. And yet every life at some point, whether at the beginning, middle or at the end there is some challenge. Suffering is universal. What God asks—He puts us on earth at that special time for a special purpose—we have to be present in that moment, not in the past and not in the future.
And we can’t know these things are going to happen. If we did, we wouldn’t have accepted any of them. But He gives us the grace we need at the time we need and asks us to live in that moment. When I have done that I’ve seen amazing things happen.
We all think we’re supposed to do these amazing things—that they are valuable and important—whatever we’re doing at that time, like “when I get married,” or “when I have a child.” We focus too much on what we think needs to happen and we lose what we’re supposed to do at that time.
We have three children we adopted. My husband and I used to say that if we had had three or four children like we thought, we might never have chosen to adopt. And we would say to each other, “Can you imagine not having them?” We cannot understand God’s plan for us. It’s too immense.
My daughter, who is 11, asked me once: “Do you wish you’d had your own children?” And I told her, “I do have my own. It couldn’t have been a more perfect way God orchestrated you coming into our lives. It was perfect.”