Monday, 18 April 2011

Of Gods and Men

One of the nice things about Holy Week in the seminary is that there is a change of gear in the life of the community. The regular timetable gives way to a more flexible programme that centres on celebrating the major liturgies of the week and preparing ourselves spiritually for the Triduum. Yesterday we went to Palm Sunday Mass in St Chad's cathedral, celebrated by  His Grace Archbishop Bernard. We will go there again for the Chrism Mass on Wednesday, and then we're off to Ushaw for the Triduum (sorry that once again we can't all come back to East Anglia for the Chrism Mass in St John's Cathedral).

This morning we watched a beautiful film - Of Gods and Men. The French film came out around Christmas I recall, but was only in certain cinemas in this country (it was widely watched in France). It tells the true story of a group of French Cistercian monks in Algeria in the 1990's, who get caught up in a spree of Isalmist terrorism that is targeted against foreigners. The monks live a peacable existence, praying, doing manual work, and helping the Muslim population in the local village (mainly through providing medical treatment). With the new threat, they must decide whether to stay, or to flee to safety. The monks are initally very nervous, and resentful of their superior Frere Christian's principled decision to stay put. Each one of them has to wrestle with his understaning of his monastic vocation, and what it means to radically commit his life to Christ. Their existence is very much presented in the film as a love story, the seduction of the monks by Christ's call and their faithful relationship with him in prayer and service. It is very well acted, and while the monks are shown to have very real, human reactions to their unexpected predicament (fear, anxiety, reluctance, confusion), their courage and faith shine through it all.

Do see it if you are able - the DVD has come out now! 

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