I recently got to see an amazing new film about faith. It has won all kinds of awards. And it’s about some Catholic Cistercian monks. Oh and it’s based on a very recent, true story. It was excellent. It’s called “Of Gods and Men.”
It’s the story of seven Cistercian monks serving in Algeria, caught up in the Algerian Civil War in the 1990′s. After being repeatedly pressured and frightened into possibly leaving, these modern day martyrs exhibit what it means to truly have faith. [watch the trailer below.]
With plenty of moving moments, this quietly tense movie carries with it a number of life lessons we find at the heart of the Catholic faith. It’s a great reminder that we are here for something much bigger than whatever little worries you have on your mind today and whatever activism you are pursuing. We are even here for something much bigger than the biggest of political agendas and more epic than the biggest world wars. And this small group of monks demonstrate that very powerfully as they very simply live their faith under very complex and difficult circumstances.
One particular line struck me as one of the monks was writing a letter – knowing that they were in a very dangerous situation. He said, “Here it is mayhem and violence. We are in a high-risk situation, but we persist in our faith and our confidence in God. It is through poverty, failure and death that we advance towards him.”
It is through poverty, failure and death that we advance towards him. Of course, the spiritual value we can find in our poverty, failure and suffering is a common theme in the Catholic faith. But for some reason the “death” part really stuck out to me. Death is not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s not the stifling of life, it’s an advancement of it. If this is true, our purpose in this life becomes very different.
Also, the entire final part of the movie parallels the Last Supper and Christ’s passion beautifully. It’s very cool and extremely moving.
Finally, the final words of the movie, presumably from a previously written letter from one of the monks, puts the entire event into a very relevant context for the world today. The movie deals with radical elements of Islam, but more importantly, our approach and response to evil in the world. It truly hits on a nerve of what makes Christianity so unique – so genius – so real. Lots of good thoughts to reflect upon:
“Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country.
The the Unique Master of all life was no stranger to this brutal departure. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion.
I’ve lived enough to know that I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world and the evil that will smite me blindly. I could never desire such a death. I could never feel gladdened that these people I love be accused randomly of my murder.
I know the contempt felt for the people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by a certain Islamism. This country, and Islam, for me are something different. They’re a body and a soul.
My death, of course, will quickly vindicate those who called me naive, or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity and, God willing, will immerse my gaze in the Father’s and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them.
This thank-you which encompasses my entire life includes you, of course, friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of the last minute, who knew not what you were doing.
Yes, to you as well I address this thank-you and this farewell which you envisaged. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God, the Father of us both. Amen.”
Hearing this in the context of the events that just unfolded in the movie is very powerful. And it will make you think.
Please go support this movie (it will be coming out around the country soon). I love it when movies like this get the recognition they deserve. Here’s the trailer: