Who are the ‘Josès’ in Our Lives?

The story of the Cristiada – or Cristero War – was released in the United States under the film title, “For Greater Glory“. It tells of the rise to power of President Plutarco Elias Calles and how he becomes obsessed with the idea the Catholic Church in Mexico is a threat as he tries to enforce the anti-clerical articles of the constitution of Mexico* by writing a new and more stringent law, the Calles Law (1926), penalizing clerics for any infraction of the constitution. At first, there is little resistance, but as Churches are closed and priests are arrested and foreign priests deported, a resistance to the government silently begins to build. The film uses the backdrop of the rebellion to tell the story of a boy, José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913 – February 10, 1928) and how his faith and courage opens the heart of the agnostic rebel general Enrique Gorostieta to return to the Catholic faith. Some film reviews have called For Greater Glory “simplistic” story telling. But within its story, there are many lessons to be learned. I’d like to share just one.

On the way home from the movie, my Sisters and I were discussing various scenes in the movie, and how impressed we were with the story of young José and the deep courage he had shown. But where did he get it?

One of the opening scenes depicts an eleven year old boy, José, and his friend playing a joke on the parish priest, Father Christopher (Peter O’Toole). José is caught by his father and brought to the priest so that he can make up for his wrong doing. The light-hearted priest plays down the matter of the joke, and the boy is taken under Father Christopher’s wing. Over the days that follow, a friendship forms between the priest and the boy. One day, José asks Father Christopher why he doesn’t go into hiding like many of the other priests. He tells the boy how God will watch over him in His house. The boy continues to insist, only for the priest to conclude, “There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ.”  These words impress José very much. A few days later, José is up in the bell tower marveling at the view of hills, when he notices government horsemen riding toward his village. He shouts to warn the people and then goes to find Father Christopher to warn him. José urges Fr Christopher to hide, but he refuses. He gives his rosary to José and sends him off. José returns to the bell tower from where he watches as his priest friend is brought out of the church and shot by a firing squad. As the squad prepares, it seems that the priest and José are repeating the words from their places, aware of the others presence, “There is no greater glory than to give your life for Christ.”

The movie goes on to show this young boy as a person of deep moral fiber, courageous and zealous for the things of God. Towards the end of his young life, he is tortured to reveal the base camp of the rebels, and in his refusal they cut the bottoms of his feet. He is then led through the village – his personal via crucis – his feet bleeding, to the spot prepared for his execution. With his parents standing by, he is given the chance to walk away, if only he will say Christ is dead. He continues to say “Viva Cristo Rey!” He is stabbed and topples over, tracing the sign of a cross in the ground with his blood shortly before he is shot to death.

Reflecting on his character, I mused:

  • “What if Father Christoper had gone into hiding?” 
  • “What if – in his moment of confrontation – the priest gave in to his prosecutors and denied his faith there in the square under the watchful eyes of young José?” 
  • “What if others chose not to get involved, risking their personal safety, for the sake of the war for religious freedom?”

The movie doesn’t tell us, but hints at the inspiration in Jose’s life in a simple parish priest who lived – and died – well for Christ.

This lesson is one we all must take to heart. We might not be called to die – as many did in the Cristero War did – for what we believe in. But we can ask ourselves, “Who are the Josés in our lives that might be carefully watching, wanting to do what is right but need someone to show them the way?”

Will the witness of our life and faith be such, that when José must choose, we have helped prepare him to be courageous to do what is right, no matter the cost?

Viva Cristo Rey!

___

Film Review: For Greater Glory, by Ed Morrissey

To know more about José and the other beatified martyrs of the Cristero War.
 
RELATED:
 
In the United States, now, there is a threat to religious freedom brewing, that would not even allow Mother Teresa and her works of charity to continue.
 
The Sacred Heart and Religious Freedom
 
For more information on religious freedom, please visit US Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
 
* The Mexican Constitution, ratified in 1917, was based on a previous version instituted by Benito Suarez in 1857.
 
This story was originally posted under the title “For Greater Glory: A Lesson” at:

The Sacred Heart and Religious Freedom

Traditionally in Catholic circles, the month of June is dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It seemed in my mind a calculated gesture to release the film For Greater Glory on June 1st. The film tells of the Cristero War of Mexico (1926-1929), and the Mexican people’s fight for religious freedom in an anti-clerical climate.

For Greater Glory struggles to explain the history of the conflict leading up to the Cristero War (how much of history can be told in a two-hour film?); how the loss of religious freedom was not done in one sweep with the ratification of the Calles Law of 1926. No, the Calles Law was only the last straw in a long, drawn-out oppression of the Church clerics written into the Mexican Constitution of 1917.

The people’s rebellion began peacefully, with non-violent protests and boycotts, and only escalated as the Mexican government under President Calles began to persecute clerics and the faithful more openly. The people rose up to fight for their religious liberty under the banner of Christ the King (Viva Cristo Rey – Long Live Christ the King).

But much before the Cristero War began, the people have been sharpened like swords fashioned in the hot flames by the oppression they have experienced. Today, here in the United States, where we enjoy and exercise our freedom to practice our faith openly is being challenged under the current President and his administration. You might be thinking, “Oh, Sister Lisa Marie, what we are experiencing is nothing on the scale of what happened in Mexico.” And, thankfully, your statement would be true.

However.

If we keep an attitude that what happened in Mexico can never happen here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and continue to enjoy our freedoms and do nothing to preserve them, we will one day find our Catholic institutions – hospitals, schools and other charitable organizations – closing their doors. This will happen due to the regulations being put in place by means of the Health and Human Services mandate, which defines a religious institution in such narrow terms that Mother Teresa and her Sisters would not even be defined as a religious organization in their works of charity. And this, I fear, would only be the beginning.

Who will lose? First will be those who depend on these services. It is happening already with universities, in planning the new school year they are dropping their healthcare plans because of the mandate and the rising costs involved in meeting mandate criteria. Who will be next?

Those who benefit from Catholic Social Services – and other resources like it – will be the next hit. Catholic Social Services (go ahead and google it; they are found in almost all diocese in the United States, like this one in Sacramento, CA) employs not only Catholics, but people of other faiths too. Because of this, by definition of the HHS Healthcare Mandate, this large network of services for those in need would not qualify for religious exemption by the federal government (because they employ – and serve – people of other faiths). Strange isn’t it? The very quality that demonstrates her Christian principles works against the Church under the Obama administration.

The United States Catholic Bishops have been working to defend religious liberty and has sounded the warning to us all how the recent HHS Healthcare Mandate is a threat to not only our works of charity, but even more so to our ability to live out fully our faith. Our Bishops are proposing some ways in which we too might begin to defend our religious freedom:

  1. send your message to HHS and Congress telling them to uphold religious liberty and conscience rights;
  2. understand why conscience protection is so important;
  3. understand what the mandate includes;
  4. pray daily for the overturn of the HHS Healthcare Mandate; and
  5. participate in a Fortnight for Religious Freedom.

Other things to do:

  • Check with your diocese to see if it has other things planned. The Diocese of Sacramento will sponsor a Walk for Religious Freedom on the eve of Corpus Christi, a Eucharistic procession through the streets of Sacramento.
  • Pray for a positive outcome to the Fortnight for Religious Freedom activities taking place in dioceses across the country. Gerard Nadal is posting a Novena for the Fortnight on his blog for the next nine days to help in this preparation. Please consider praying it.
  • And please continue to pray for our Bishops.

We are called to walk with Christ. What better time to devote to this good work than in the month of June, dedicated to His Most Holy and Sacred Heart. In the picture above of the banner used during the Cristero War, it has a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with the words, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Christ is our King, who from the Cross, paved our way to freedom from sin.

Let us pray that we will be able to continue to openly worship and serve Him.

Viva Cristo Rey!

A Lesson from For Greater Glory