Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Friday, June 22, 2012

If You Haven't Seen "For Greater Glory" Yet, Why Haven't You?


Wednesday night I was finally able to go see For Greater Glory, the movie about the 1920s Cristero War that I have been talking about in several posts. The movie was released on 1 June 2012 but only arrived in DBQ last Friday (15 June) for a one week engagement.  While there wasn't a large crowd for the 7 pm showing, I would say that I knew at least 75% of the audience.
Where do I begin??? Seriously, this is definitely a must see movie. When it was over & the credits began there was almost complete silence. When I went home I had to dig out something light to watch because of how it effected me. This morning when I was talking to a friend who had been there, he asked me if I had trouble getting to sleep afterwords. Others have had similar reactions.
In short, this is a powerful movie that tells the story of those who refused to let Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles get away with his attempt to destroy the Catholic Church in Mexico. While the movie doesn't mention it, part of his motivation came from being a freemason.
I will try not to give away too much of the story. The movie starts out with Calles calling on the Mexican Congress to enact  legislation known formally as The Law Reforming the Penal Code (unofficially as the Calles Law). The law was simply supposed to enforce the 1917 Constitution's seperation of church & state. But what it really was inteded to do, & did, was open the doors to an all out persecution of the Catholic Church in order to destroy it. Calles was played by Ruben Blades who gave an excellent performance. His portrayal of Calles gave me the impression that Calles was one of those villians who often appears in a Bond movie, someone who puts up a front to the public (in this case the US government & others) but is really wholey motivated by an evil agenda.
We soon meet Fr. Christopher, a Catholic priest played by Peter O'Toole, who befriends 13 year old  José Luis Sanchez del Rio (Mauricio Kuri). Fr. Christopher's witness of the love of Christ to José begins to have an effect on the boy to strenghten his faith. As the attacks escalate Fr. Christopher in mudered by the Federales with José  as a witness. O'Toole played that scene with just the right blend of fear & faith. You could see that Fr. Christopher was not relying on his own strength, but was keeping his eyes on Jesus & praying for the grace he needed to face his martydom. Later, after witnessing the Federales kill 2 other people, José  & a friend take off & join the Cristeros. They are not allowed to fight. Instead they help out arround the camp.
At the same time we see the efforts of Anacleto González Flores (Eduardo Verástegui) & others to find a peaceful solution to the attacks on the Catholic Church. Unfortunately Calles rejects all those efforts. Soon groups are organizing across Mexico to take up armed resistance against Calles. 1 of those groups is lead by Fr. Vega (Santiago Cabrer) The National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty, a group that was originally founded for peaceful protest, realized that they need an experienced General to lead them. Enrique Gorostieta Velarde (Andy Garcia in 1 of his best roles ever) is contacted. His wife, Tulita Gorostieta (Eva Longoria) is a faithful Catholic), but Gorostieta is an atheist. But he is also a firm believer in religious liberty & with the support of his wife, agrees to lead the Cristeros.
Obviously a 145 minute movie cannot cover everything that happenned over the 3 years of the Cristero war. Much of the film focuses on the training, the battles & the struggles of the Cristeros. But some of it does focus on what went on in the US & the American Ambassador's efforts. Additionally, the movie doesn't paint the Cristeros leaders as perfect. It does show some of the mistakes they made, the pride of some leaders as well as their deep faith. Several times we witness a part of a Mass for the Cristeros.
Other things get mentioned in passing. 1 of those is the involvement of the Knights of Columbus. The movie only mentions the KCs contacting the US government. But they did much more. The KCs were already active in Mexico. Like many other Catholic organizations, they came under attack by the Calles government. Several KCs who were martyred in the Cristero War have been either beatified or declared saints by the Catholic Church. You can read more about what they did in 2 articles in the May 2012 issue of Columbia: The Untold Story of the Knights during the Cristiada & The Voice for Religious Freedom Knows No Border.
While there wasn't an excess of blood or gore, the movie did accurately portray the violence. That included the hangings. 1 of the things shown was how Calles had the bodies hung on telephone poles, including those alongside the railroad tracks. The reason for this was the same as that used by the Roman empire for why they crucified criminals & rebels along public ways. It was to send a message that if you don't stop rebelling the same fate awaited you.
The portrayal of the hangings reminded me of something else. I am refering to the hangings by the Ku Klux Klan in the USA. Again the hangings were a means of terrorizing those the KKK opposed. That included Catholics. The KKK was rabidly anti-Catholic & would do anything to help wipe them out. That meant they fully supported what Calles was doing. In fact, the Klan offered its 4 million members as soldiers for the Calles regime should any group or country intervene militarily.
While not mentioned in the movie, another big supporter of Calles efforts to wipe out the Catholic Church in Mexico was Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood. She praised Calles’ campaign against the Church & saw it as a step toward making her work easier: “With the yoke of medievalism thus thrown off we can anticipate a splendid development of the government work for birth control already begun in Mexico.” Of course her other reason for wanting promoting birth control in Mexico had to do with her racist eugenics agenda. Remember she saw Mexicans as an inferior people. This agenda is still carried on by Planned Parenthood today. & not only in Mexico but in all of Central & South America.
1 of the things shown in the movie were attempts by the Federales to get Catholics to aposticise. Saying, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!), the battle cry of the Cristeros, was considered to be an act of treason. The scenes where the Federales tried to get Catholics to deny Christ or be shot again reminded me of how the early Christians were given the choice of worshiping Caesar or being martyred. To not worship Caesar was treason. The movie shows many Catholics  facing death with  “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”  on their lips.
I know that many people like to walk out the second the credits start at the end of the movie. In this case, I would say don't. The credits start with telling what happenned to some of those portrayed in the movie. Throughout the credits we see actually pictures of the events during the war. 1 of those pictures is of Blessed Miguel Pro (José Ramón Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez) being martyred.
The movie was rightly rated R because of the violence depicted. I won't make the arguement here that, given the violence & sex in some PG-13 movies, that it could have been rated that instead. Clearly, this movie is not suitable for very young children. But given the exposure to so much violence in video games, most teens (& some 10-12 year lods) would be able to handle it. In fact, I would strongly recomend that parents of teens take them. & then use the movie as a starting point for a discussion on what it means to live the Catholic faith, especially the cost. Why were the martyrs, from the early days of the Catholic Church until now, willing to lay down their lives for what they believed in. Another topic would be how does this compare to the attacks on the Catholic Church & religious faith in general by the Obama administration. How is this persecution similar or different? Could we be seeing Catholics arrested & martyred in the US for refusing to submit to the attacks on the Catholic Church (& other Christians as well)?
I hope we never face the type of persecution the Calles government wrought on the Catholic Church. (Note: even after the agreement, persecution continued. Calles' government often did not abide by the terms of the truce. In violation of its terms, executed some 500 Cristero leaders & 5,000 other Cristeros.) This movie has inspired me to continue my efforts to see that it doesn't. We must have the same courage that the early Christians as well as the Cristeros had. We must ask God to give us the strength & graces needed to live our faith & defend it, even if it may some day cost us our lives.

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