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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

SENNA

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

Aryton Senna de Silva (1960 – 1994) was a Formula One racing champion from Brazil. He gave hope to the people of Brazil during hard times, and he gave back through philanthropic work, especially for the education of Brazil’s millions of poor children.

This documentary follows Senna’s life chronologically. He fell in love with racing as a child and won go-cart races as a teen. He worked his way up to Formula One, which refers to the rules that all participants must adhere. The incredibly high speed races take place on race tracks and through narrow city streets.

Senna was a devout Catholic and talked about racing as a spiritual, almost mystical experience. Not all the other racers appreciated this, but he was no fool. One of his most famous sayings was, "Just because I believe in God, just because I have faith in God, it doesn't mean that I'm immune. It doesn't mean that I'm immortal" (1989).

“SENNA” has won major awards at the Sundance Film Festival, the Los Angeles Film Festival and Adelaide Film Festival.

When the publicist invited me to the screening and said it was about Formula One racing, I was glad she could not see the blank look on my face. But then she said that Senna, the subject of the film, was a Catholic and the film has a surprising spiritual dimension. I was intrigued, so I went to the screening – and cried at the end.

British film director Asif Kapadia said that “Senna was complex and no angel. But he achieved so much in such a short time, confronting corruption within the racing culture and emerging with integrity.”

“Senna,” Asif said, was “otherworldly, intelligent, eloquent, an artist. He raced to become closer to God.”
This is an inspiring story about a sport, a sportsman, about competition, about rivalries and ambition. But I think you might agree that Senna didn’t just go into a “zone” when he was racing, he went where Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890) described as the imagination, a place to “realize faith”. In one of Newman’s “University Sermons” he describes so well, I think, what Senna’s experience might have been like when he describes the mountain climber  who “… makes progress on a steep cliff, who by quick eye, prompt hand, and firm foot, ascends he knows not himself; by personal endowments and by practice, rather than by rule, leaving no track behind him, and unable to teach another. And such mainly is the way in which all men, gifted or not gifted, commonly reason, - not by rule, but by an inward faculty.”




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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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