Cistercians

Remarkable Film

Remarkable Film posted in Eleison Comments on February 12, 2011

It is easy to see how the recently released French film, “Of Gods and Men,” gained top prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival in France last year. It recreates real events of 1996, the last months in the life of a Cistercian monastery in post-colonial Algeria, where the eight monks were finally taken out and killed by unknown assassins. The film is beautifully directed, acted and photographed. Of particular interest to Catholics familiar with Tradition will be the film’s religion and – from a religious point of view – the politics.

Perhaps most remarkable of all is the film’s true sense of religion, given that it is the Conciliar religion being portrayed. Doctrinally, there are for instance ecumenical moments of excessive respect for the Koran. Liturgically, the words and music chanted in the simple but noble monastery church are of modern man, subjective and sentimental. Yet the scenes regularly showing the monks at prayer are so genuinely religious as to be altogether surprising in our secular age. This, one says to oneself, is what monasteries are about!

What can one say? As for the film’s directing and acting, just as modern Britons can still most convincingly represent the Victorian age because the British Empire is close enough in their history to be still in their bloodstream, so the French actors of this film must make marvellous monks on screen because Catholic monasticism has been such an important part of their heritage. But above all, as Our Lord says (Mt.XV,18,19), it is what is in the heart of a man that matters. Much the best of all is heartful Tradition, but this film is there to remind us Traditionalists that heartful Conciliarism may yet please God better than Tradition losing heart.

The politics portrayed in the film are of particular interest in view of the current Islamic uprising in various Arab countries. The monks in the film, as no doubt happened in real life, are caught politically between the Devil and the deep blue sea. On the one side their non-Islamic lives are obviously threatened by the Islamic rebels killing anybody in the way of a political take-over of Algeria for Islam. On the other side the post-colonial Algerian government is highly suspicious of the monks aiding and abetting the rebels by, for instance, practising on their wounded the Church’s corporal works of mercy, and it invites the monks to leave the country. To this day some people think that they were executed by the Algerian government. God knows.

What can one say? Certainly heartfelt Catholicism is far superior to heartfelt Islam, which is an anti-Christian, simplistic and brutal sect. But if the heart is drained out of Catholicism, as it was by Vatican II, so that in real life, anywhere in the world, Catholic monks and priests are liable to be giving not only medical but also moral support to anti-Catholic revolutionaries – in fact, as Archbishop Lefebvre used to say, modernist priests make the most terrible of revolutionaries! – can one be surprised if any established government objects to Conciliar priests’ undermining of law and order? Islam is only rising because the true Catholic Church is still falling.

How much depends upon the few souls holding to Catholic Tradition!

Kyrie eleison.

Interior Cave

Interior Cave posted in Eleison Comments on October 23, 2010

Visiting Subiaco put me in mind of two lines of Latin verse which situate in succession four founders of great religious Orders in the Church. Besides sweeping over three quarters of Church history, the lines also suggest why so many a Catholic soul today is hanging onto the Faith by its finger-tips.

Here are the lines:—Bernardus valles, colles Benedictus amabat,

Oppida Franciscus, magnas Ignatius urbes.

A free translation might be:— Bernard loved valleys, Benedict took to the hills

Francis worked towns, cities Ignatius tills.

In chronological order (slightly upset here by the demands of the Latin hexameter), St Benedict (480–547) sought God in the mountains (Subiaco, Monte Cassino); the Cistercians, galvanized by St Bernard (1090–1153) came down to the valleys (notably Clairvaux); St Francis (1181–1226) roamed amidst the small towns of his day, while the Jesuits of St Ignatius (1491–1556) led the apostolate of the modern city. One might say the modern city took its revenge when Jesuits, with Dominicans, led the collapse that was Vatican II (e.g. de Lubac and Rahner, S.J.; Congar and Schillebeeckx, O.P.).

For is not the progression from hill to city a progression from being alone with God to being only with man? Industrialism and the motor-car make the modern city with its soft life possible, but in doing so they generate a daily environment steadily more artificial and cut off from God’s Nature. With the material comforts increase the spiritual difficulties. In fact big city life is becoming so inhuman that the liberal death-wish may soon bring on the Third World War, to devastate urban and suburban life as we know it. Then if, for a variety of reasons, a Catholic cannot take to the hills, how does he stay out of the mental institutions?

One answer is logical. He must live with God, inside himself, in an interior cave, leaving the world to rush all around. He must turn his own heart into a hermitage and at least his home, if he can, into something of a sanctuary, while respecting all natural family needs. That does not mean living in an unreal world of one’s own, but in the real world of God within, as opposed to the fantastical world of the Devil without, pressing on us from all sides.

Similarly, the Newchurch has closed countless monasteries and convents since Vatican II, which leaves rather fewer openings for a soul which may think that it hears an interior call from God. Has he led them up a blind alley, or has he let them down? Or is he maybe calling them to lead a religious life within, turning their little flat in the big city into a hermitage, and their godless office into a field of apostolate, by means of prayer, charity and example? Our world is in grave need of Catholic souls that radiate outwards their inner peace and calm with God.

Kyrie eleison.