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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Warrior

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

In the universe of sports films “Warrior” is unique because the subject is fighting for a spiritual goal through Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), a “full contact combat” sport. This relatively new sport, though some contend it does not qualify as such, is a fusion of boxing, wrestling, judo and other sports. (See the article on Mixed Martial Arts on Wikipedia; it’s pretty thorough http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixed_martial_arts). The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) that promotes MMA worldwide.

A young man Tom (Tom Hardy) shows up at his dad’s house after fourteen years. At the height of Paddy’s (Nick Nolte) alcoholism, Tom and his mom left, leaving  his older brother Brendan (Joel Edgerton) to survive with Paddy, a boxing coach. Tom even takes his mom’s maiden name, Riordan. When their mom died Tom joined the marines. Just back from Afghanistan, Tom wants his dad to train him for the UFC.  Paddy, now sober for 1000 days, agrees. This doesn’t mean Tom has forgiven Paddy, and Paddy is still working on forgiving himself.
 
Brendan is a successful high school teacher, married with children. He will have nothing to do with Paddy. Brendan and Tom refuse to reconcile as well. When Brendan’s home goes into foreclosure, he returns to boxing and tried MMA. His school fires him for a local fight. And soon both brothers, and their dad, are in Atlantic City for the championship match, winner take all in only five rounds or less.  Both brothers have their own reasons for wanting to win the purse.
 
I interviewed director Gavin O’Connor (he directed the 2004 film “Miracle” about the famed Olympic hockey match between the US and USSR in 1980) about “Warrior”. He said that MMA “is less violent than boxing, that it’s very athletic.”  It doesn’t seem this way to me, as MMA takes place in a cage, not a ring, and going just by movies I have seen about boxing, I think MMA is far more vicious.
 
“Warrior” is about forgiveness, and if cinema is at its best when it is the external manifestation of internal realities (and I think that it is), then the intense interior struggle to forgive and reconcile with one’s brother, is portrayed in extreme passion, pain, and physical force.
 
-SPOILER ALERT-
 
The ending of the film is especially brutal because Brendan “breaks” Tommy. So I asked O’Connor to explain it to me from a male sport spirituality perspective. He said:
 
“The intention of the match is like an intervention only in a cage. Tommy needed to die at the hands of his brother in order to be reborn; he needed to surrender his anger. He is spiritually bankrupt and his breakdown, so to speak, starts when he gets his father to drink with him before the match.  And when he finally does convince him to do this as a way to get back at his father, when he wakes up and sees his dad lying there, it’s the mirror that makes him start to wake up.
 
“The fourteen years of distance between the brothers is played out in five rounds. The repairing of their relationship is dramatized because they grew up communicating through violence. What Tommy ultimately needs is to hear is, ‘I am sorry.’
 
“Tommy has so much strength of will but once his brother starts choking him and then says ‘I am sorry, I love you”, these words allow him to let go and surrender.”
 
I believe that our inner struggles with God can be extremely intense; even in the Scriptures Jacob and his brother are estranged for fourteen years and Jacob wrestles with an angel (Genesis 32:23), that some say represented Esau. The yoke was broken from Tommy’s neck, like Esau threw Jacob’s from his.
 
Jacob and Esau’s relationship with each other and their father Isaac seem like a template for “Warrior”.
 
However violent the Bible can be, I still don’t think it’s as ruthless as Mixed Martial Arts. Is MMA a way for God to get Tommy’s attention because he is so headstrong? I will let you decide.


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Andrew Dung-Lac and Companions: Andrew Dung-Lac was one of 117 people martyred in Vietnam between 1820 and 1862. Members of this group were beatified on four different occasions between 1900 and 1951. All were canonized by St. John Paul II. 
<p>Christianity came to Vietnam (then three separate kingdoms) through the Portuguese. Jesuits opened the first permanent mission at Da Nang in 1615. They ministered to Japanese Catholics who had been driven from Japan. </p><p>The king of one of the kingdoms banned all foreign missionaries and tried to make all Vietnamese deny their faith by trampling on a crucifix. Like the priest-holes in Ireland during English persecution, many hiding places were offered in homes of the faithful. </p><p>Severe persecutions were again launched three times in the 19th century. During the six decades after 1820, between 100,000 and 300,000 Catholics were killed or subjected to great hardship. Foreign missionaries martyred in the first wave included priests of the Paris Mission Society, and Spanish Dominican priests and tertiaries. </p><p>Persecution broke out again in 1847 when the emperor suspected foreign missionaries and Vietnamese Christians of sympathizing with a rebellion led by of one of his sons. </p><p>The last of the martyrs were 17 laypersons, one of them a 9-year-old, executed in 1862. That year a treaty with France guaranteed religious freedom to Catholics, but it did not stop all persecution. </p><p>By 1954 there were over a million and a half Catholics—about seven percent of the population—in the north. Buddhists represented about 60 percent. Persistent persecution forced some 670,000 Catholics to abandon lands, homes and possessions and flee to the south. In 1964, there were still 833,000 Catholics in the north, but many were in prison. In the south, Catholics were enjoying the first decade of religious freedom in centuries, their numbers swelled by refugees. </p><p>During the Vietnamese war, Catholics again suffered in the north, and again moved to the south in great numbers. Now the whole country is under Communist rule.</p> American Catholic Blog To replace our sins with virtues may seem like a daunting task, but fortunately we can follow the example of the saints who have 
successfully defeated these sins in their lifetimes. They provide us with a way forward so that we, too, can live holy, virtuous lives.

 
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