Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Phil 4:6-7

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Viva Cristo Rey!

My mom and I went last night to see For Greater Glory. Neither of us go to theaters much anymore, nor do we watch television. Today's culture is so full of death, we both prefer to live in a thick plastic bubble through which we don't see the world as it really is.

 For Greater Glory is really not my idea of a great movie, nor my mother's, but we both felt we should support the makers of the film. It is a film that many American Catholics need to see, for the insight it provides to the possible future of our own country.

Just a quick synopsis for those who know nothing about this period of time, just 80 years ago in Mexican history...and if you have never heard of this horrible persecution of Catholics, you're not alone. It's essentially been wiped from the history books:

In 1917, the Mexican government wrote anti-religious laws into the Constitution (why? I have no idea). In the 1920's, President Calles (raised atheist) felt the Church was too powerful in Mexico and passed a law which allowed him the enforce the laws in the Constitution (known as the Calles Law). This essentially shut down the Catholic Church and lead to the persecution of Catholics, including torturing and killing clergy and religious, as well as citizens who defied the laws and practiced their religion in secret. As a result, Catholics fought back and the country fell into civil war. Rebels formed an army and fought the Cristero War.

The film is about the war. It's graphically violent. There is a scene in which a young altar boy, who joined the army, is tortured and marched through the village streets leaving a trail of blood. He is killed and his mother receives his dead body, a scene hauntingly similar to the death of Our Lord, and His mother holding His body. Many scenes broke my heart and I cried through half the film.

But it's a film that needs to be seen, as hard as it is to watch.

My only criticism of the film is if the filmmakers wanted to draw similarities between the persecution in Mexico and the crisis of religious freedom we are experiencing now in the U.S. (and maybe they didn't), they should have shown more of the persecution which led to the war. The film was really about the war itself, so we didn't see a lot of the religious persecution leading up to it. There were some scenes where soldiers shut down the cathedral, and a few priests were killed (they were horrible), a scene where soldiers broke into a locked church where the Mass was being celebrated and they shot and killed many people there, but I think from the perspective of "why did the war happen" we didn't really see how badly the Catholics in Mexico were persecuted before the war began.

It's frighteningly familiar how it all began. Pay attention to what is going on around you today.


  1. Thanks for your post! I loved the movie and want to see it again and read more about these Mexican Martyrs.

  2. Oooooh, I like how you ended that....gave me chills! Can't wait to see it in video....with the baby, theaters just aint happening for me! I liked your review, thanks so much!

  3. I want to see it, but it will probably leave theaters before I have a chance. Dh doesn't want to because it's getting bad reviews, but I agree with you about supporting the filmmakers.

    Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory is about the Christero wars. The "whiskey priest" is kind of a letdown for idealists like me, but it's a good book.

  4. Sara, please tell your sweetheart that the reason it is getting bad reviews is 95% of the media in this country are anti-Catholic. There are several Oscar-worthy performances (not that they will be nominated). Andy Garcia did a great job as did the you g boy who played the altar boy/martyr. And if you saw The Nativity Story you'll recognize the man who played Joseph as the really bad good guy. He was mean but on the right side! A martyr as well.

  5. You wrote: In 1917, the Mexican government wrote anti-religious laws into the Constitution (why? I have no idea).

    This might just be my public school education talking here because along with Texas history in grade school we also got some Mexican history (they kind of went hand in hand for a while) but the anti-clerical attitude started when the Church was seen as more of a political influence in Mexico not just a spiritual one. Certain dictators were promoted by the Church in Mexico because they in turn supported the Church. In reality, they were still dictators, not benevolent rulers, who were really after the vast wealth and property of the Church. It had more to do with politics and greed than religion. For Calles specifically, he was the illegitimate son of a well known man and was treated as such. Given no rights, raised in poverty and deprivation, he was finally befriended by his maternal uncle (a staunch atheist) after his mother's death. If the writers were trying to draw a parallel between today's persecutions and then, I can see why they wouldn't have focused on the reasons why the Church was persecuted. It wasn't exactly the best of times. Certainly there were many priests and nuns doing wonderful, charitable work amongst the poorest of the poor but there was also an incredible amount of power and wealth being wielded by the higher ranking clerics. Those politics, like all politics, started to work against them much like the French Revolution. I'm certainly not defending the anti-clericalism of Calles and his friends, but I can see how it would have developed in response to his personal situation and the situation of the Church in Mexico at that time. Calles was, I believe, an early fascist and was just one of many other people who felt disenfranchised by society. Some bishops and cardinals of that time forgot that they were emissaries of the One True Faith and gave in to greed, power and politics. Those two equally regretful situations collided into a perfect storm and sadly, the innocent suffered.

  6. Thanks for the history lesson,Charlotte. As with all of humanity, a few bad apples...

  7. Great review. And I cannot wait to see this movie because of what is happening currently.
    A perfect storm could easily be brewing in this country also.
    Thanks to Charlotte also from me..that was very interesting.

  8. Great post and informative comments. I was just deeply moved by the whole thing and certainly left the theatre broken hearted for the way that the church was defiled, despite the reasons. I cried for days at the thought of some of the horrific scenes. Thank you for sharing!

  9. My DH and I saw this movie last night! It is a MUST SEE for ALL Catholics, but also for all those who truly care about religious freedom.

    Despite the negative reviews, it was an excellent movie. I have stopped trusting our local movie critic. I agree with you, Barbara, I think the negative reviews are because of the anti-Catholic bias. I will support a movie, especially when I know it has redeeming value, which this one definitely does.

    Andy Garcia was wonderful in his role, as were many of the actors, especially the young Jose.

    The Fortnight for Freedom begins Thursday! And on the USCCB Web site, there is a list of activities by diocese: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/fortnight-freedom-diocesan-activities.cfm

    Viva Cristo Rey!

  10. Oh, I know the negative reviews are primarily due to people thinking it's a "Catholic" movie and not just a historical movie; I told my son as much, and I'm sure I don't need to tell my husband that because he doesn't read mainstream media. Sadly, he doesn't feel the same drive I do to support Catholic or family-friendly movie-makers.

    We didn't have time for it this weekend, hopefully it won't leave the theater this week!


I appreciate your comments -- sometimes I feel like I'm talking to myself!