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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

There Be Dragons

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


Wes Bentley stars in a scene from the movie "There Be Dragons."
The death of a Spanish priest by the name of Josemarie Escriva in 1975 generated a lot of talk about his holiness.

A Spanish journalist living in London, Robert Torres (Dougray Scott) , is assigned to investigate the life of Escriva, the founder of a Catholic group called Opus Dei. Robert is surprised when he learns that his father Manolo (Wes Bentley) and Escriva (Charlie Cox) were from same village and actually studied at the same seminary for a brief time. Robert return to Spain hoping to learn more about Escriva from his father, but Manolo will not speak with him.

However, Manolo has recorded and written his memories and this new film by the Oscar nominated director, Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields” 1984 and “The Mission” 1986), uses this method to flash back to tell the story of these two men and the separate paths they take in life.

Most of the film is set during the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. Josemaria becomes a priest and founds a community called “Opus Dei” to help everyone become holy in daily life. Manolo chooses the dark side, his heart consumed by envy, jealousy, and rage.

“There Be Dragons” is not a biography of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer. Instead, Joffe decided to use a dualistic formula and created a fictional character whose flaws and evil choices offset the holiness of Josemaria. One chooses good, the other chooses evil.

The title, “There Be Dragons” is taken from ancient maps that termed mysterious regions as “Here be dragons.” Joffe assigns many dragons to Manolo, but Josemaria has few interior struggles, if any.

The film was shot in Spain and Argentina and is gorgeous to look at. The acting is good. I had hoped to learn about Josemaria and Opus Dei but was disappointed. Alas, the film is more about Manolo, his violence and need for forgiveness and reconciliation than about the saint’s interior life and an understanding of his work. Nevertheless, there are some luminous moments that can inspire.


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Anthony Zaccaria: At the same time that Martin Luther was attacking abuses in the Church, a reformation within the Church was already being attempted. Among the early movers of the Counter-Reformation was Anthony Zaccaria. His mother became a widow at 18 and devoted herself to the spiritual education of her son. He received a medical doctorate at 22 and, while working among the poor of his native Cremona in Italy, was attracted to the religious apostolate. He renounced his rights to any future inheritance, worked as a catechist and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. Called to Milan in a few years, he laid the foundations of three religious congregations, one for men and one for women, plus an association of married couples. Their aim was the reform of the decadent society of their day, beginning with the clergy, religious and lay people. 
<p>Greatly inspired by St. Paul (his congregation is named the Barnabites, after the companion of that saint), Anthony preached with great vigor in church and street, conducted popular missions and was not ashamed of doing public penance. </p><p>He encouraged such innovations as the collaboration of the laity in the apostolate, frequent Communion, the Forty Hours devotion and the ringing of church bells at 3:00 p.m. on Fridays. </p><p>His holiness moved many to reform their lives but, as with all saints, it also moved many to oppose him. Twice his community had to undergo official religious investigation, and twice it was exonerated. </p><p>While on a mission of peace, he became seriously ill and was brought home for a visit to his mother. He died at Cremona at the age of 36.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, help me make my life more about you and less about me. May others see you in me—your image and likeness. Teach me ways to increase my time with you, my service to others, and my love for my family, for strangers, and for the poor. You are the light in the darkness. With each new day, may we be light to one another.

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