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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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Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi: Mystical ecstasy is the elevation of the spirit to God in such a way that the person is aware of this union with God while both internal and external senses are detached from the sensible world. Mary Magdalene de' Pazzi was so generously given this special gift of God that she is called the "ecstatic saint." 
<p>She was born into a noble family in Florence in 1566. The normal course would have been for Catherine de' Pazzi to have married wealth and enjoyed comfort, but she chose to follow her own path. At nine she learned to meditate from the family confessor. She made her first Communion at the then-early age of 10 and made a vow of virginity one month later. When 16, she entered the Carmelite convent in Florence because she could receive Communion daily there. </p><p>Catherine had taken the name Mary Magdalene and had been a novice for a year when she became critically ill. Death seemed near so her superiors let her make her profession of vows from a cot in the chapel in a private ceremony. Immediately after, she fell into an ecstasy that lasted about two hours. This was repeated after Communion on the following 40 mornings. These ecstasies were rich experiences of union with God and contained marvelous insights into divine truths. </p><p>As a safeguard against deception and to preserve the revelations, her confessor asked Mary Magdalene to dictate her experiences to sister secretaries. Over the next six years, five large volumes were filled. The first three books record ecstasies from May of 1584 through Pentecost week the following year. This week was a preparation for a severe five-year trial. The fourth book records that trial and the fifth is a collection of letters concerning reform and renewal. Another book, <i>Admonitions</i>, is a collection of her sayings arising from her experiences in the formation of women religious. </p><p>The extraordinary was ordinary for this saint. She read the thoughts of others and predicted future events. During her lifetime, she appeared to several persons in distant places and cured a number of sick people. </p><p>It would be easy to dwell on the ecstasies and pretend that Mary Magdalene only had spiritual highs. This is far from true. It seems that God permitted her this special closeness to prepare her for the five years of desolation that followed when she experienced spiritual dryness. She was plunged into a state of darkness in which she saw nothing but what was horrible in herself and all around her. She had violent temptations and endured great physical suffering. She died in 1607 at 41, and was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire, therefore, of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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