Friday, June 01, 2012

In Theaters NOW

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a screening of "For Greater Glory," a movie based on mostly-suppressed historical events in early twentieth century Mexico. The ruling party from the Cristero days remained in power until 1997, and had no interest in making its bloody, repressive origins too familiar. Even Chicago auxiliary bishop Rojas, who grew up in 1970's Mexico, said that he didn't learn about the "Cristeros" in school, but from the stories told by elderly members of the family. Other Mexicans in the audience that day said it was the same for them.

Many of those family stories came together over the years and were investigated by the Church, resulting in the beatification and then canonization as martyrs of 25 saints by Pope John Paul during the Jubilee Year 2000. (I remember this well, because as I was getting on Rome's Metro to sing at Santa Susanna's parish (near the Piazza della Repubblica), an enormous contingent of musicians in mariachi uniforms was boarding.) (Read the Pope's homily from that day.)

This is not a feel-good movie; not in the least. The Cristeros were warriors, fighting a bloody war for religious freedom under a hostile government that was being supplied with high-powered American weapons.  According to the movie's telling, the Pope was not too keen on the notion of war (this was less than 10 years after World War I, the "War to End All Wars"). Even some priests took up arms (none of these was considered for sainthood).

This is the story behind the movie that opens today in theaters. It is visually spectacular, frequently moving, sometimes a bit too slow. I also found the Andy Garcia character, the General, confusing: he is the only one of the Cristeros to speak with an American accent, so I assumed he was an American who had become involved somehow with the Mexican army and ...  No, he is meant to be a regular, run of the mill (if well-off) Mexican businessman with a military past. Two of the movie characters are actual, historical figures--both martyrs (beatified by Pope Benedict with 11 others in 2005); other characters are composites.

"For Greater Glory"is a must-see, at least once, simply because the story deserves to be told. Plus, it really helps send a message that, yes, there is an audience for movies like this. "For Greater Glory" being an extremely "Catholic" movie, it may not win an audience among more fundamentalist Christians; it just pushes too many offensive buttons (statues and rosaries and genuflections and all that). If this movie is to have any kind of ranking, it's going to have to come from Catholics.

Today being a First Friday, you might want to consider plunking $10 down as a kind of "tithe" in honor of the Cristero martyrs. We need their intercession. And we may very well need the inspiration of their forthright defense of the faith (rather than their recourse to weapons).

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