The American actor James Farentino died yesterday at the age of 73. He is perhaps best known for his deft portrayal of Saint Peter the Apostle in the landmark mini-series-movie “Jesus of Nazareth.” Personally, having re-watched that excellent, moving, and instructive film countless times since its release in 1978, I’ve always felt that he so thoroughly “became” Saint Peter in this role that, to this day, when I think of the Apostle himself, Farentino’s face and shaggy, craggy features are what I see in my mind’s eye. (British actor Robert Powell, similarly nailed the role of Jesus uncannily well.) Farentino’s portrayal (watch a video clip here) will forever remain the image of Saint Peter that inhabits my imagination — at least, that is, until I am able to meet the Galilean Fisherman himself, face to face.
I never knew much about Mr. Farentino’s personal life, though I did see him crop up in other movies, here and there. This morning, as I read through a few sparsely detailed online stories announcing his death, I was saddened to learn that he had a tumultuous personal life. I don’t know if he was Catholic, though I assume he was, even if just nominally, given his Italian surname and that he was born in 1938, an era when non-Catholic Italian American’s were relatively rare. In any case, I mourn his passing. He was a talented actor, and he enriched my own life through his work in “Jesus of Nazareth.”
I hope he went to heaven. Maybe, who knows, at the last minute he encountered the Lord and cried out to Him, “Domine, quo vadis?” (“Lord, where are you going?”). My prayer is that Jesus smiled at him and, forgiving him his sins, turned toward heaven and said, “Veni et vide” (“Come and see”).
Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.