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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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Anthony Grassi: Anthony’s father died when his son was only 10 years old, but the young lad inherited his father’s devotion to Our Lady of Loreto. As a schoolboy he frequented the local church of the Oratorian Fathers, joining the religious order when he was 17.
<p>Already a fine student, he soon gained a reputation in his religious community as a "walking dictionary" who quickly grasped Scripture and theology. For some time he was tormented by scruples, but they reportedly left him at the very hour he celebrated his first Mass. From that day, serenity penetrated his very being.
</p><p>In 1621, at age 29, Anthony was struck by lightning while praying in the church of the Holy House at Loreto. He was carried paralyzed from the church, expecting to die. When he recovered in a few days he realized that he had been cured of acute indigestion. His scorched clothes were donated to the Loreto church as an offering of thanks for his new gift of life.
</p><p>More important, Anthony now felt that his life belonged entirely to God. Each year thereafter he made a pilgrimage to Loreto to express his thanks.
</p><p>He also began hearing confessions, and came to be regarded as an outstanding confessor. Simple and direct, he listened carefully to penitents, said a few words and gave a penance and absolution, frequently drawing on his gift of reading consciences.
</p><p>In 1635 he was elected superior of the Fermo Oratory. He was so well regarded that he was reelected every three years until his death. He was a quiet person and a gentle superior who did not know how to be severe. At the same time he kept the Oratorian constitutions literally, encouraging the community to do likewise.
</p><p>He refused social or civic commitments and instead would go out day or night to visit the sick or dying or anyone else needing his services. As he grew older, he had a God-given awareness of the future, a gift which he frequently used to warn or to console.
</p><p>But age brought its challenges as well. He suffered the humility of having to give up his physical faculties one by one. First was his preaching, necessitated after he lost his teeth. Then he could no longer hear confessions. Finally, after a fall, he was confined to his room. The archbishop himself came each day to give him holy Communion. One of Anthony’s final acts was to reconcile two fiercely quarreling brothers.</p> American Catholic Blog God of love, as I come to the end of this Advent season, my heart is ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus. I join with Mary in saying, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Nothing is impossible with you, O God.

 
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