Sunday, July 17, 2011

Marianist Renewal Program - Day Seven

Towards the end of our renewal week, we gathered together to view the film, Of Gods and Men. Jesuit James Martin, culture editor of America magazine, shares his thoughts about the movie “Of Gods and Men.”

The eight monks in “Of Gods and Men” belong to a quiet tradition, devoting themselves to contemplation, service and humility. Their conversation is quiet, minimal and gentle, making the occasional spark of anger or glimmer of humor all the more notable. The monks spend their days tending bees, growing food and praying.

They are very much a part of everyday life in a village in the Atlas Mountains where their abbey has stood since the mid -19th century. They sell their honey in the local market and participate in rituals and celebrations with their Muslim neighbors.

One of them, Brother Luc, almost single-handedly runs a medical clinic, dispensing advice and hand-me-down shoes along with prescriptions.

The prior, Brother Christian, spends nearly as much time with the Koran as with the Bible, and he regards himself as a dedicated friend of Algeria.

The monks are clearly risking their lives — as nightly visits from armed militants make clear — but martyrdom is not part of their life. What motivates them is an adherence to an idea of compassion that leads Brother Luc to treat a wounded jihadist and Brother Christian to pray for the soul of a murderer and to  forgive his own likely assassins.

In place of a traditional soundtrack, most of the film’s music comes from the monks’ chanted prayers and the cries at nearby mosques. The notable exception — the only time recorded, secular music is heard — comes during a meal, when the monks sit and listen to a famous passage from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake.”