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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Way

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

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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All Saints: The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (<i>On the Calculation of Time</i>). 
<p>But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost. </p><p>How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.</p> American Catholic Blog Touch can be an act of kindness when someone is dying. If you visit a sick person and find that you are at a loss for words, reach out and touch her hand.

 
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