Igniting Our Values
Igniting Our Values

March 1, Sunday

The Magis

boyIn an article for Jesuit Higher Education, Fr. Barton T. Geger, SJ, notes the ubiquity of the term “the Magis” in Jesuit institutions, as well as the general lack of agreement as to what the term actually means.

Whatever its definition, “the Magis” would certainly make anyone’s short list of Ignatian values, so let’s spend this second week of Lent considering it from different angles, through the lens of today’s liturgical readings.

Sister Rose Pacatte, FSP, a nationally respected film critic, uses a scene from a recent, award-winning film as a key point of reference in her reflection. Scroll down for links to the scene — and to Fr. Geger’s helpful article.

Scripture Readings

Sunday Readings - Week 2

GN 22:1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18
ROM 8:31B-34
MK 9:2-10

English
http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030115.cfm

Español
http://www.usccb.org/bible/lecturas/030115.cfm

A procedural note: our reflections and prayers will refer to the Sunday readings for the week, not the daily readings.

Daily Reflection

If God is for us, who can be against us?
by Sr. Rose Pacatte, FSP

On the night of Tuesday, March 26, 1996, ten days before Easter, seven Trappist monks, living and working in a village in Algeria, were kidnapped and murdered by factions in the country’s ongoing civil war. The incident is the subject of 2010’s “Of Gods and Men,” by French filmmaker Xavier Beauvois. His film, which won the Grand Prix at Cannes that year, focuses on the monks’ discernment about God’s will for them, as a community bound by prayer and work.

The monks had several months to discern whether they should stay or if they should go, months to strengthen their spirits, their community, their resolve. They had made vows of stability, to work out their salvation in that place, and the people needed them to help provide food, shoes and medicine. The men knew that if the situation became dire they may be killed. Yet, one by one, the monks reaffirmed their decision to stay.

The first reading from Genesis shows Abraham ready to do as God commands, without thinking twice, to sacrifice his only son as a holocaust. With the same fervor, the monks discern God’s will, using all the resources at their disposal, confident that God has accepted their gift of self. They are, indeed, as the responsorial psalm chants, servants of the Lord who fulfill their vows, walking thankfully in the land of the living.

The monks understand, as the reading of Paul to the Romans affirms, that if God is for them, who can be against them? Their last supper, when Father Célestin plays music from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake,” becomes one of the most transcendent sequences in all of cinema history. What could this ballet, this music, mean for the monks? Perhaps that they, like Christ, are willing to die for love. Or that, like swans who mate until death, their commitment to the greater good is for life.

Father Christian wrote a letter (quoted in the film) that illustrates his generous dispositions and authentic motivations and certainly those of his confreres. His letter, like the monks’ story, is a “magis” of great value for us to consider during this Lenten season:

Should it ever befall me, and it could happen today, to be a victim of the terrorism swallowing up all foreigners here, I would like my community, my church, my family, to remember that my life was given to God and to this country. And that my death is the same as so many other violent ones, consigned to the apathy of oblivion. I've lived enough to know I am complicit in the evil that, alas, prevails over the world. I know the contempt felt for people here, indiscriminately. And I know how Islam is distorted by certain other Islamism. My death, of course, will vindicate those who call me naïve or idealistic, but they must know that I will be freed of a burning curiosity. God willing, I will immerse my gaze in the Father's and contemplate with him his children of Islam as he sees them. This thank you, which encompasses my entire life, includes you, my friends of yesterday and today, and you too, friend of the last minute, who knew not what you were doing. May we meet again, happy thieves in Paradise, if it pleases God the Father of us both. Amen. Insha'Allah.

Si Dios está a nuestro favor, ¿quién podrá estar contra nosotros?
Por: Hermana Rose Pacatte, FSP

En la noche del martes 26 de marzo de 1996, diez días antes de Pascua, siete monjes trapenses, que vivían y trabajaban en un pueblo de Argelia, fueron secuestrados y asesinados como consecuencia de la guerra civil que sufría el país. El incidente es el tema del filme “De Dioses y Hombres” del año 2010, del cineasta francés Xavier Beauvois. Esta película que ganó el Gran Premio del Festival de Cannes de ese año, se centra en el discernimiento de los monjes sobre la voluntad de Dios, y los presenta como una comunidad unida por la oración y el trabajo.

Los monjes tuvieron varios meses para elegir si debían quedarse o irse, pero durante esos meses fortalecieron su espíritu, su comunidad y su determinación. Ellos habían hecho votos de estabilidad, para alcanzar la salvación en ese lugar, y la gente los necesitaba por la ayuda que los monjes daban proporcionando comida, zapatos y medicina. Los hombres sabían que si la situación empeoraba, existía la posibilidad de que fuesen asesinados. Sin embargo, uno a uno, los monjes reafirmaron su decisión de quedarse.

La primera lectura de Génesis muestra a Abraham dispuesto a obedecer el mandato de Dios, sin pensarlo dos veces, de sacrificar a su único hijo. Con el mismo fervor, los monjes disciernen la voluntad de Dios, usando todos los recursos a su disposición, seguros de que Dios ha aceptado el don de sí mismos. Ellos son, en efecto, como los cantos del salmo responsorial, sirvientes del Señor que cumplen sus votos, caminando con gratitud en la tierra de los vivos.

Los monjes comprendieron, como lo afirma la lectura de la carta de Pablo a los romanos, que si Dios está con ellos, ¿quién podría estar en contra de ellos? La última escena del filme se convierte en una de las secuencias más trascendentes en toda la historia del cine. Cuando en la cena, el Padre Célestin pone una música de Tchaikovsky, “El lago de los Cisnes”. ¿Qué significado podría tener esta música de ballet para unos monjes? Tal vez que, como Cristo, están dispuestos a morir por amor. O que, como los cisnes que se aparean hasta la muerte, su compromiso con el Bien Supremo es para toda la vida.

El Padre Christian escribió una carta (citada en la película) que ilustra su generosa disposición y auténtica motivación, y ciertamente la de sus hermanos. Su carta, como la historia de los monjes, es un “Magis” de gran valor para que nosotros tengamos en cuenta, durante este tiempo de Cuaresma:

Si alguna vez ocurriera, y esto podría suceder hoy, que termino siendo víctima del terrorismo que devora a todos los extranjeros por aquí, me gustaría que mi comunidad, mi iglesia y mi familia recordara que mi vida fue dada a Dios y a este país. Y que mi muerte es igual a tantas otras muertes violentas, consignada a la apatía del olvido. He vivido lo suficiente como para saber que soy cómplice del mal que, por desgracia, prevalece sobre el mundo. Conozco el sentimiento de desprecio por la gente de aquí, indiscriminadamente. Y sé cómo el Islam es distorsionado por otro tipo de Islamismo. Mi muerte, por supuesto, reivindicará a aquellos que me llaman ingenuo o idealista, pero ellos tienen que saber que yo seré liberado de una ardiente curiosidad. Si Dios quiere, sumergiré mi mirada en la del Padre y contemplaremos juntos sus hijos de Islam, como Él los ve. Este agradecimiento, que abarca toda mi vida, los incluye a todos mis amigos de ayer y de hoy, y a ti también, amigo del último minuto, que no supiste lo que estabas haciendo. Que podamos vernos nuevamente, ladrones felices en el Paraíso, si esto agrada a Dios que es Padre de los dos.

Amén. Insha’Allah.

Referencias
GN 22: 1-2, 9A, 10-13, 15-18
ROM 8: 31B-34


Sister Rose Pacatte is a Daughter of St. Paul and the director of the Pauline Center for Media Studies in Los Angeles, California. She has an M.Ed. in Media Studies and is a media literacy education specialist as well as an award-winning author and film journalist. She writes for St. Anthony Messenger and the National Catholic Reporter. Her blog is SisterRoseMovies.net and her newest book, a biography of the actor Martin Sheen, is due out in February 2015 from Liturgical Press.



Prayer

God, who is Allah, Yahweh and Father of Christ our Savior,
we claim our unity in you.
Give us today,
hearts strong enough to love you until the end,
hearts big enough to love all you love,
and hearts soft enough to be moved by the fragility of your
beloved peoples.
Help us to know the magis includes more than we can imagine
and when we embrace all,
we embrace you fully.
All this we ask in Christ our true brother and Lord.
Amen.

Caravaggio
Caravaggio

Passages

My father had a steel comb with which he would comb our hair.

After a bath the cold metal soothing against my scalp, his hand cupping my chin.

When Abraham took Isaac up into the thicket his son did not know where he was being led.

When his father bound him and took up the knife he was shocked.

And said, “Father, where is the ram?”

Though from Abraham’s perspective he was asked by God to sacrifice his son and proved his love by taking up the knife.

Thinking to himself perhaps, Oh Ismail, Ismail, do I cut or do I burn.

Fourth son of a fourth son, my father was afflicted as a child and as was the custom in those days a new name was selected for him to protect his health.

Still the feeling of his rough hand, gently cupping my cheek, dipping the steel comb in water to comb my hair flat.

My hair was kept so short, combed flat when wet. I never knew my hair was wavy until I was nearly twenty-two and never went outside with wet and uncombed hair until I was twenty-eight.

At which point I realized my hair was curly.

My father’s hands have fortune-lines in them cut deeply and dramatic.

The day I left his house for the last time I asked him if I could hold his hand before I left.
: Kazim Ali

Multimedia

Video
Scene from OF GODS AND MEN (2010)



Music
The Story of Isaac (L. Cohen)


 

Learn more about “What Magis Really Means and Why it Matters”
http://www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/news-events/documents/WhatMagisReallyMeansPublishedCopy.pdf

Playlist (Spotify users login, then click)
https://play.spotify.com/user/beajesuit/




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