Alfred Hitchcock and the Jesuit

Sunday, August 14, AD 2016

(Yesterday was the 117th birthday of Alfred Hitchcock.  That gives me an excuse to rerun this post from 2012 with new video attachments.)



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!


3 Responses to Alfred Hitchcock and the Jesuit

  • Amen! Alleluia!!
    See Luke 15:7.
    Repent. It is never too late.
    Finally (Thank God!), it would be such gracious articles that convinced me that the Wall Street Journal subscription price was worth the money.

  • “At the end however we are confronted with the stark reality of death and the time for illusion ceases…” I think it would be more appropriate, indeed correct, to say that the time for “self-delusion” not “illusion” ceases.

  • I know that Hitchcock had a well-formed Catholic upbringing in his school years, studying for a time at St Ignatius School (prep) in Stamford Hill, in London. (He had to leave, according to his biographers, about age 15, because his father died and the family was left in tight circumstances.)
    Of course, Jesuit training, especially by the English Jesuits in the then-pre WWI era, was something substantial and to be proud of,…then. That era of spiritual formation apparently stayed with him quite well and brought him home at the end.