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The Way

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Tom (Martin Sheen) is a prosperous doctor, a widower and a kind of “retired” Catholic. His son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) is a doctoral student who decides to put his dissertation on hold to go on a journey to find himself and discover life’s meaning. Tom thinks he is wasting his time and not taking responsibility for his life.

Not long after, Tom gets a call on the golf course with the news that his son has died in an accident in a small village in France. He goes there to bring Daniel’s body home. He is surprised to find that his son is traveling very light and that he was ready to begin a 500 mile pilgrimage on foot, with only a rucksack with necessities.

Tom decides to make “el camino” or “The Way” to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a path worn by the feet of thousands of pilgrims for a thousand years. The Shrine of St. James the Great is the destination, where the relics of the apostle are believed by many to lie under the altar. He places Daniel’s ashes in a metallic box in the rucksack and sets off. The next morning, after sleeping on a riverbank, he drops the rucksack into a river and in the struggle to retrieve it is thoroughly soaked. But it is a sign of a new beginning for Tom, washed clean to start again.

Along the way Tom meets people making the camino, but he doesn’t want any company. He’s grumpy, sad, and though determined, is in shock at losing his son. He constantly brushes off the irrepressible and friendly overweight Dutchman, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who travels with his own questionable pharmacy. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a stringent Canadian who says she wants to quit smoking.  Jack (James Nesbitt, whom you may remember from the lovely film “Millions”) is an Irish writer with a seemingly terminal case of writer’s block.

Eventually Tom comes face to face with his own limitations when he starts a brawl and becomes a kind of father or wisdom figure for them.

I was privileged to see this film twice and it was even better the second time. You see more and can follow Tom’s journey more closely. Frankly, I felt like signing up for the pilgrimage then and there!
Some folks are concerned that Tom leaves little handfuls of Daniel’s ashes along with way, at different roadside shrines, and then at the end, tosses them into the crashing waves near a Catholic church along the northern coast of Spain. Yes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the cremated ashes are to be kept and buried together so that the integrity of the body is maintained. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Tom is way out of touch with his faith, and this pilgrimage was his way of finding his way home again.
To quote the film critic Roger Ebert: We don’t go to the movies for Sunday school.  However, films often provide a means to talk about things that truly matter.
I think “The Way” expresses well what the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that most people come to the Church (or return to the Church) by means that the Church does not approve.
When it comes to God’s grace, there are no limits for God is all-powerful and colors outside the lines to get our attention. The movie offers us so much to talk about.
  “The Way” is a movie full of grace.

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Francis of Assisi: Francis of Assisi was a poor little man who astounded and inspired the Church by taking the gospel literally—not in a narrow fundamentalist sense, but by actually following all that Jesus said and did, joyfully, without limit and without a sense of self-importance. 
<p>Serious illness brought the young Francis to see the emptiness of his frolicking life as leader of Assisi's youth. Prayer—lengthy and difficult—led him to a self-emptying like that of Christ, climaxed by embracing a leper he met on the road. It symbolized his complete obedience to what he had heard in prayer: "Francis! Everything you have loved and desired in the flesh it is your duty to despise and hate, if you wish to know my will. And when you have begun this, all that now seems sweet and lovely to you will become intolerable and bitter, but all that you used to avoid will turn itself to great sweetness and exceeding joy." </p><p>From the cross in the neglected field-chapel of San Damiano, Christ told him, "Francis, go out and build up my house, for it is nearly falling down." Francis became the totally poor and humble workman. </p><p>He must have suspected a deeper meaning to "build up my house." But he would have been content to be for the rest of his life the poor "nothing" man actually putting brick on brick in abandoned chapels. He gave up all his possessions, piling even his clothes before his earthly father (who was demanding restitution for Francis' "gifts" to the poor) so that he would be totally free to say, "Our Father in heaven." He was, for a time, considered to be a religious fanatic, begging from door to door when he could not get money for his work, evokng sadness or disgust to the hearts of his former friends, ridicule from the unthinking. </p><p>But genuineness will tell. A few people began to realize that this man was actually trying to be Christian. He really believed what Jesus said: "Announce the kingdom! Possess no gold or silver or copper in your purses, no traveling bag, no sandals, no staff" (Luke 9:1-3). </p><p>Francis' first rule for his followers was a collection of texts from the Gospels. He had no idea of founding an order, but once it began he protected it and accepted all the legal structures needed to support it. His devotion and loyalty to the Church were absolute and highly exemplary at a time when various movements of reform tended to break the Church's unity. </p><p>He was torn between a life devoted entirely to prayer and a life of active preaching of the Good News. He decided in favor of the latter, but always returned to solitude when he could. He wanted to be a missionary in Syria or in Africa, but was prevented by shipwreck and illness in both cases. He did try to convert the sultan of Egypt during the Fifth Crusade. </p><p>During the last years of his relatively short life (he died at 44), he was half blind and seriously ill. Two years before his death, he received the stigmata, the real and painful wounds of Christ in his hands, feet and side. </p><p>On his deathbed, he said over and over again the last addition to his Canticle of the Sun, "Be praised, O Lord, for our Sister Death." He sang Psalm 141, and at the end asked his superior to have his clothes removed when the last hour came and for permission to expire lying naked on the earth, in imitation of his Lord.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Gospel is not just any joy. It consists in knowing one is welcomed and loved by God…. And so we are able to open our eyes again, to overcome sadness and mourning to strike up a new song. And this true joy remains even amid trial, even amid suffering, for it is not a superficial joy: it permeates the depths of the person who entrusts himself to the Lord and confides in him.

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