Tag Archive: mission


AMDG

360946-jpg-c_215_290_x-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxx‘This is a spiritual & cultural artefact’ – was how a producer at the BBC described Scorsese’s recent adaptation of the Shusako Endo novel ‘Silence‘.   A work of historical fiction, i.e based on real characters, about the Jesuits in Japan.  Having seen the film about a month ago, I tend to agree, although the cinema was fairly empty and I notice there is no ‘awards buzz’ about it – I think it will grow in stature and popularity.  I hope it will slowly acquire cult status, it doesn’t have the feel-good, crowd pleasing appeal that LaLa Land has ( and surely people need that in our fragmented times) …. but it has a depth and leaves a ‘haunting’ imprint that will mature over time. Like an artefact it will stand the test of time.

If you think about explicitly Christian films that have gone mainstream, all have differing levels of depth. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, in its own way a masterpiece – has the force of a sledgehammer and I would place it in the Key Stage 3 RE category.  Roland Joffe’s The Mission, slightly more complex interweaving of theology / politics/ ecclesiology maybe would be GCSE, (Key Stage 4) Level.  But Scorsese’s Silence – is certainly A Level (KS5) material – with all its glorious and infuriating ambiguities. Leaving scope for discussion and meditation.

landscape-1482951700-martin-scorsese-silence-religion-on-filmHere in Manchester – many of the students are divided by it, and fascinating discussions ensue.  Some get hung up on the priests apostasy and a sense of betrayal from that, without taking into fact the incredible commitment and self-offering that have got the missionaries their in the first place. In a similar way many of the reviews are polarised.  The more secularised, the less they ‘get it’ – including one absurd review accusing it of ‘torture porn’ (I actually thought the film wasn’t as harrowing as I was expecting). It is as though the sheer fact that you can believe in something enough that you are prepared to die for it. is inconceivable to the more superficial reviews.  Many people (even the usually prescient Robert Barron)  seem to fixated on the ‘apostasy’ element. Which I think misses the point of the film (and the novel).  For me Kichijiro is the main character in the film – and it is God’s Mercy for him , through sacramental confession, this is the most powerful aspect for me.

silence-00977A former student sent me a wonderful email which expresses it like this, “I found myself really focusing on more in the film was the mercy of God, which I think is and should be the big focus within the film and book. The question: How much should I forgive my brother? Seventy seven.  Is something I often thought about when watching this film especially when witnessing Kichijiro continuously plead for confession. For me Fr. Rodriguez and Fr Ferreira are insignificant as for me really the true Christian is perfectly embodied in Kichijiro. As he is what a christian really is: a sinful and weak creature totally dependent on God’s mercy. Interestingly Kichijiro does not really seem to care about human respect or his reputation as seen by his continuous grovelling and humiliating display of weakness before the priest. To me I think the book and film do a great job in showing this about Kichijiro and the mercy of God; but seem to overlook it and get a bit too obsessed with somehow trying to justify someone’s apostasy.    The real question I think is how much are we willing to accept our weakness and plead for forgiveness

Maybe this is echoing Scorsese own life – as revealed in this fascinating interview with the America Jesuit James Martin,  his sense of rejection at a crucial age when he wanted to be a Maryknoll Missionary. He was asked to leave the seminary, and ‘crushed’ in his own words,  and then his ‘pilgrimage’ slowly and painfully from the outside and back to God (?) . Jim has also written a very good  reflective piece on common questions people struggle with after Silence.   So is Silence really about about the Silence of God or the Deafness of Man? .

 

 

 

Heroic Faith (1)

AMDG

$T2eC16RHJIIE9qTYKDQ4BRo1n+7-z!~~60_35Whilst I was on my retreat last week, I was able to do some spiritual reading.  I was inspired by a book called ‘The Flying Bishop’  Fifty Years in the Canadian Far North, by Gabriel Breynat OMI.  It documents how the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and Sisters of Charity (Grey Sisters) did heroic work in Canada and Alaska at the turn of the century.  The author, pictured right, was called the Little praying man by the First Nations when he arrived in 1892 at the St Bernard Mission in Athabasca – 10 years later he was named Bishop at the age of 35 – and served as a bishop for 42 years.  He saw the mission grow north of the Arctic Circle,  establishing churches, Schools, Hospitals, Farms, Harbours even Coal Mines.

With such a huge mission territory and such harsh conditions the work that they undertook was incredible.  Originally visiting various communities entailed sleeping out on the ice, occasionally building igloos, surviving hurricanes, Ice Drifts, boats being crushed by Ice flows, having to eat their own dogs to survive, frostbite (losing toes), Bear attacks, Plane crashes, 3 month long winter and twilight, fishing under ice flows, hunting caribou (with migrations of 3  million of them at a time).  It is gripping reading. $T2eC16h,!ysE9sy0kzGKBQuDq7vLPw~~60_35The Travel was rigorous – but as the ice began to break up travel by canoe and boat became possible. mission boat evolved  went from 20hp to 120hp, finally they were able to buy a mission plane. This lead to him being known as the Flying Bishop – but the plane made possible a visit in 9 hours of various mission stations what would have taken him 9 weeks in his early days.  

Pope Pius XI took special interest in the mission – the first book he had read as a boy was an account for the quest of the north west passage.  The Pope was especially interested in the most remote and northerly mission, the mission of Christ the King in the Minto Inlet, on Victoria Island.  004272On occasional visits to him in Rome, the bishop would always have an audience with the Pope who was entranced and gripped with his updates. He presented a chalice to be used on this mission.  A Papal delegate visited many years later and reported ‘The Fathers dwelling was a big tent of tough canvas, about 15 feet by 20 feet and served as a chapel, presbytery, kitchen, bedroom – in one corner, behind an Indian curtain, was a little altar, surmounted by a poor tabernacle arranged like an ammunition box. IN the middle was a rich chalice presented by Pius XI and used by himself .  It was engraved Pius XI, Christus Vicarius, Christi praeconibus (Pius XI, Vicar of Christ to the Heralds of Christ)’

The missions had it own martyrs – The killing of Fr Le Roux and Fr Rouviere by Sinnisiak and Uluksak (two Inuit) near Bear Lake. Also the drowning of another priest who misjudged the thickness of the ice as he was trekking to another mission station.  It is inspiring and moving to hear about the dedication of these men and the sisters who were helping them – but the last word is for the one of the Inuit leaders who addressed the pope’s delegate in these words.

You the envoy of the Very Great Man of Prayer, have come from far away to see us.  Even though we live at such a distance, as though hidden in a wood, and even though we may seem, like Cain of old, to flee from the presence of the Holy Spirit, yet the men of prayer have sought us out: they are great hunters.  For a long time they pursued us, as though hunting, before they could catch us in the lasso of their prayer. It is nearly twice a thousand winters since the birth of Jesus.  At last the men of prayer have reached us: thanks to the Great Spirit we should say. You will tell the Very Great Man of Prayer that we venerate him most respectfully and love him with all our hearts; we thank him for having sent you here to see us.

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