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Sunday, June 24, 2012

No greater glory than to give your life for Christ

This is the inspirational line, the last words spoken by Father Christopher, before he is martyred, to a young altar boy named José Luis Sánchez del Rio.
I had planned on taking my older two children, 15 and 13, to the movie with me today.  Then at the last minute I decided my younger daughter, 10.5, could also come.  She has no sensitivity to blood and I have hope of her one day being a surgeon.

My husband insists we check out Focus on the Family's Plugged in Movie Reviews before we take the kids to the show.  There was a time when we went on a whim without checking and he wasn't happy with the quality of film we ended up sitting through.

When he pulled up this review he found right away that it was rated R.  For some reason I thought it was PG-13.  Immediately my 10.5 year old was not coming.  When he read through the violent content, and read in particular about the torture and murder of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, then he was sure I was going to see this movie alone.  I said, yes, there are some martyrs.  He compromised by letting them read the summary for themselves.  My daughter, the 15 year old, a very fast reader, quickly opted out.  She came out  to the van to retrieve her belongings.  If she wasn't going, then neither was my 13 year old son.  I did go alone.

The movie was good, and I've spent the past hour or so reading up on the criticism of it.  I thought maybe Plugged In had perhaps overdone it, since it a Protestant site, and it was a Catholic themed film. It was actually a very accurate and fair review.

Martyrs are part of church history, and I've read and heard about the martyrs and also those who weren't martyred but suffered mutilations and enslavement for their faith.  I ache inside when I hear about the tortures that have been suffered by men, women, and children at the hands of their fellow human beings throughout the ages.  I am someone that sees St. Bartholomew as saint of the day on Universalis and then begins an hour or so research into the history of flaying someone alive.

I also hit the internet to learn about the pogroms suffered by the Jews in Russia, the atrocities committed during Hindu-Muslim violence in India, the horrific violence in The Congo, Darfur, Rwanda.  It seems important to me, not in a morbid way, but in a way to know what is going on, and what could or might be done to stop it.

I don't think we do want to land our soldiers everywhere there is injustice in the world.  But, could we at least air lift in medical supplies and food?  Maybe we don't attack, but maybe we could have a volunteer special force set up whose job it was to build and protect refugee places in countries like Sudan, so the camps are not raided at night by machete and gun wielding rapists.  Why aren't we at least dropping food and medical supplies into Syria right now?  We have satellites to know where to drop the supplies, and can't we do something to those drones to have them scout a drop site and not just use them to kill people?

I hate horror movies, and I never saw, nor took my very disappointed son to see the Star Wars Episode 3 where Anakin takes out the young Jedi, because it is wrong for Hollywood to portray children being killed.

Now I am fresh off of Hunger Games when I sobbed like crazy during a child death scene, but I am wanting to take at least two of my children to see what I know is going to be portrayed.

I've read about the martyrdom of children before, from the three young daughters of St. Sophia, St. Faith, St. Hope, and St. Love (Agape) (the three of them are the patron saints of our religious school), to the children in Japan that were crucified with their parents, including the martyrdom of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, that I read about from a link posted by Ignatius Press on Facebook.  We have a banner of St. Sophia, St. Faith, St. Hope, and St. Agape in our church.  It is a handmade/homemade looking banner, but my heart burns with love when I remember their witness.  I could paste a link here, but it is such a heart-rending account I'll leave it to you to do your own google, if you want to.

My human mind, with its fear of suffering, not unlike Peter trying to stop the Lord from going to Jerusalem, also can't help crying with questions, "Did you give them help through their suffering, Lord?  Did you pull them close to you in their spirit so that your love was truly sustaining them and helping them endure such great cost to testify of their love and belief in you?"  The icon in our church shows Jesus in the corner looking down on them.  I hope it was more than that.  I hope he was speaking to them at the time.  I hope that by his abandonment on the cross that he won the victory to not let his beloved martrys suffer from any sense of abandonment during their passion and deaths.

This is real, this is history, this is still occurring in parts of the world today.  As portrayed in the first 30 minutes of the film, there are armed men breaking into churches in other parts of the world and killing those inside.  

I thought it would help my children, well teens, to see this reality.  To think about it. To grapple with the questions and the fear.  To pray through the fear that if it came to it, that they would have that gift of perfect love that casts out all fear (1 Jn 4:18).

If you haven't seen it yet, the link to the Plugged In movie review above will tell you what you are in for.  This was not a gory representation, but you know what was happening.  I became desensitized to the sight of hanging bodies during the movie.  It seemed more unreal than the imaginary Hunger Games, although it was actually the opposite . . . this was a time, in this past century, in this hemisphere, of terrible barbarity.


Because I had read the account of the martyrdom of Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio, I was not one of the women in the audience that let out a cry of horror when he is violently stabbed in the back after telling his parents he loves them, and says again, "Viva Christo Rey!"  There were some women in the audience who were not prepared for that, and they were shocked.  They didn't show it on camera, but you know exactly what happened.

I read the Hunger Games, but I cried more during that one super sad scene than I did during the whole For Greater Glory movie.  It isn't just that I knew what was coming for this young martyr.  It is that I understood and believed as he did, that he was going home.  Not only would he see his beloved Father Christopher, but he would also see his beloved Christ the King, and Our Lady.  The actor playing the role made both the pain, and the faith very believable.

The movie won't be out much longer in theaters.  I had to travel a bit to find it.  It was only in the place with 30 movies, and was only there for 3 showings today.  It is good to see on the big screen, but you won't miss much once it goes to DVD, other than the chance to register in the box office totals a movie that wakes us up to the reality of what some have sacrificed for our faith.

It was ironic that the movie was criticized that the heroes seemed to have very good shooting skills relative to the bad guy Federal soldiers.  I guess it makes it too Clint Eastwood, John Wayne like for them, and reduces its integrity as historically accurate.    I also found a review on a socialist site, it looked like a news article review but it wasn't.  It was a socialist review.  It said how the church was also conspiring to keep land from being redistributed to the peasants.  

Really shows you the difference a point of view can make, doesn't it?  If you are someone whose heart is being filled with the light and love of Christ the King, then seeing your priests shot, and your church's religious treasures destroyed, and those attending prohibited masses, whether men, women, child, or elderly killed, is enough to take up arms.  (Although the movie also showed the life of a martyr, Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, that pursued non-violent means, an economic boycott.)  If you think the Church isn't seeding enough of its lands to be redistributed to those that have been oppressed, then you think the peasants were ignorant, and the church took advantage of their ignorance to get the peasants to fight for them.

The socialist site did make one criticism I agreed with though.  They pointed out that the movie didn't show what life was like for the peasants before they took up arms.  I thought this was fair.  We probably could have learned more about that.

Ruben Blades, the actor that played the Mexican President, was very good and believable in his role.  His eloquence and "swag" will remind you of a certain current president!  There is another parallel that isn't as easy to deduce.  President Calle said the church was evil and wanted to promote a secular society raising the peasants through secular, scientific education.  He managed to legislate this policy into law.  His enforcement measures, killing priests and those attending services after they were banned was clearly and dramatically evil.

In this country we have a President, Human Health Services Secretary, and former Speaker of the House proclaiming that the evil of abortion, killing the child within the womb of the mother, is not just "reproductive rights", but "reproductive health".  Death <> health!  There is no difference between the illogicity and lies of Presidente Calle's speeches and those we hear from the current party in power on this issue.

I am not saying it is time to take up arms either!  Just saying, remember elections do mean something!  Hope like crazy that the Supreme Court calls the whole Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.  It was Obama's way of getting the Free Choice Act passed without passing it in Congress.  Maybe you saw his speech to Planned Parenthood while he was campaigning the first time around?  He promised them this was on his priority list.  Instead he has unelected HHS secretary consulting with "reproductive health" experts to covertly regulate the intents of the Free Choice Act into law through the back door.

Bruce Greenwood as Ambassador Morrow shows how "US Interests" aren't always on the side of righteousness.  In the movie Morrow sells Presidente Calle machine guns, cannons to help end the war sooner, so as to get more generous treatment toward American Oil Companies operating in Mexico.  Later in the movie he sees the many bodies hanging from electric poles during negotiations with the church on behalf of the Mexican president.  He has to leave them, and the view, as he finally realizes the cost of his callousness.

It is an important film.  Never heard anything about the Cristeros in American History, World History at either the high school nor college level, and I would have thought since I attended a high school named after Pope John Paul II and a university named after Our Lady that this would have come up.  God bless those that funded and made this film.  God bless and reward those that died for the freedom to worship Christ the King, as he asked, by attending the Mass in memory of his sacrifice for us to the Father.

The final thing to remember from the movie is the moral dilemma: is it right to take up arms and kill for the sake of righteousness.  We see in history that the Church recognizes the heroic martyrdom of those that have taken up arms or led those who did.  We see them portrayed in movies, but we don't see the blessed and saints killing.  St. Joan of Arc carries her banner, but we don't see her use her sword.  Blessed Jose is shown doing similar thing, holding the banner of the Sacred Heart.  Yet when I did a Google Image search there is a picture of Blessed José carrying rifle and wearing an ammunition belt across his chest.

I grappled with this slightly when I joined Army ROTC to help pay for attending Notre Dame.  It wasn't going to go well with my application for scholarship if I indicated that I might be a future conscientious objector.  That wasn't what dropped me out of the program, it was a sergeant putting his boot on my back and pushing me to the floor.  Didn't want to put myself in that kind of helpless position to some unscrupulous and stronger person again.

It makes you think though.  If ever you would want to know the will and heart of God it is if you have to kill for a righteous cause, or if you are dying for the glory of his name!  We are fairly secure that the priests forgiving their assassins, and the boy being killed because he will not deny Christ are Saints with a capital S.  

We are left with the impression that those that killed hundreds, thousands for Christ's cause would not be saved if they didn't receive absolution before dying.  The General, and athiest/agnostic in the beginning, confesses immediately before his last battle because of a dream of Blessed José.  The priest that carries the guilt of accidentally setting fire to a train with civilians still inside, is rushed wounded to a priest so that he can make a last confession.  

If we conclude they needed to confess because they had killed, I think that would be a wrong conclusion.  Not only because it is wrong to judge, as Jesus told us not to, but because there were other things that they needed to confess, which I bring up for discussion based on their character development in the movie.    The General had non-belief and pride that put him ahead of God.  The priest was fighting with a revengeful heart.

If one thinks they needed to confess because they had killed, this would result in a misunderstanding of church teaching since both men would certainly kill again if they lived.  Absolution is only valid if there is contrition and firm purpose of amendment.  Contrition can be either perfect (sorrow for offending Christ and contributing to his suffering and death) or imperfect (fear of punishment in this life and the next).  But either way the resolution to not commit the confessed sins again needs to be present.  

The 5th Commandment (6th if you are Protestant) says Thou Shalt Not Kill.  I heard a Rabbi once say that the correct interpretation from the original Hebrew is Thou Shalt Not Murder the Innocent.  Those that are killing priests, children are not innocent, although one would have to judge them in order to decide that they were killable, right?  So are those who are killing those who are evil and cannot otherwise be stopped, breaking the 5th Commandment?  I am not the judge, Jesus Christ is but I think the answer is no. 

The Old Testament has many battles that could be aptly described as blood baths, and God still loves David even though he shed much blood.  He does say that his son should build the Temple rather than him because he has shed blood (1 Chronicles 22:8).  Jesus says those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword (Matt 26:52) , but then in another verse he says to sell your cloak to get a sword (Luke 22:36).  

We see in the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola what happens when a soldier is converted!  His work on discerning the spirits is probably the most useful study someone that feels called to the military could make.  Since serving Christ is primary, one would want to ensure that calling was in line with serving Christ.

Prayer of Intercession for our servicemen and for all of us in the Church Militant
O Blessed José, littlest soldier of Christ, whose last bloody steps brought you to the arms of Our Lady and our Lord, keep healthy and strong the steps of our Lord's soldiers who remain here on earth, such that they may have your strength to endure and persevere to the end.  Amen.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this . I was wondering about it. I love reading about martyrs. Amazing the courage they are given by God to undergo their suffering. God bless.

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