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There Be Dragons

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

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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John Leonardi: "I am only one person! Why should I do anything? What good would it do?" Today, as in any age, people seem plagued with the dilemma of getting involved. In his own way John Leonardi answered these questions. He chose to become a priest. 
<p>After his ordination, he became very active in the works of the ministry, especially in hospitals and prisons. The example and dedication of his work attracted several young laymen who began to assist him. They later became priests themselves. </p><p>John lived after the Protestant Reformation and the Council of Trent (1545-63). He and his followers projected a new congregation of diocesan priests. For some reason the plan, which was ultimately approved, provoked great political opposition. John was exiled from his home town of Lucca, Italy, for almost the entire remainder of his life. He received encouragement and help from St. Philip Neri, who gave him his lodgings—along with the care of his cat! </p><p>In 1579, John formed the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, and published a compendium of Christian doctrine that remained in use until the 19th century. </p><p>Father Leonardi and his priests became a great power for good in Italy, and their congregation was confirmed by Pope Clement in 1595. He died at the age of 68 from a disease caught when tending those stricken by the plague. </p><p>By the deliberate policy of the founder, the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God have never had more than 15 churches and today form only a very small congregation.</p> American Catholic Blog Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.

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