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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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Anthony Claret: The "spiritual father of Cuba" was a missionary, religious founder, social reformer, queen’s chaplain, writer and publisher, archbishop and refugee. He was a Spaniard whose work took him to the Canary Islands, Cuba, Madrid, Paris and to the First Vatican Council. 
<p>In his spare time as weaver and designer in the textile mills of Barcelona, he learned Latin and printing: The future priest and publisher was preparing. Ordained at 28, he was prevented by ill health from entering religious life as a Carthusian or as a Jesuit, but went on to become one of Spain’s most popular preachers. </p><p>He spent 10 years giving popular missions and retreats, always placing great emphasis on the Eucharist and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Her rosary, it was said, was never out of his hand. At 42, beginning with five young priests, he founded a religious institute of missionaries, known today as the Claretians. </p><p>He was appointed to head the much-neglected archdiocese of Santiago in Cuba. He began its reform by almost ceaseless preaching and hearing of confessions, and suffered bitter opposition mainly for opposing concubinage and giving instruction to black slaves. A hired assassin (whose release from prison Anthony had obtained) slashed open his face and wrist. Anthony succeeded in getting the would-be assassin’s death sentence commuted to a prison term. His solution for the misery of Cubans was family-owned farms producing a variety of foods for the family’s own needs and for the market. This invited the enmity of the vested interests who wanted everyone to work on a single cash crop—sugar. Besides all his religious writings are two books he wrote in Cuba: <i>Reflections on Agriculture</i> and <i>Country Delights</i>. </p><p>He was recalled to Spain for a job he did not relish—being chaplain for the queen. He went on three conditions: He would reside away from the palace, he would come only to hear the queen’s confession and instruct the children and he would be exempt from court functions. In the revolution of 1868, he fled with the queen’s party to Paris, where he preached to the Spanish colony. </p><p>All his life Anthony was interested in the Catholic press. He founded the Religious Publishing House, a major Catholic publishing venture in Spain, and wrote or published 200 books and pamphlets. </p><p>At Vatican I, where he was a staunch defender of the doctrine of infallibility, he won the admiration of his fellow bishops. Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore remarked of him, "There goes a true saint." At the age of 63, he died in exile near the border of Spain.</p> American Catholic Blog The greatest tragedy of our world is that men do not know, really know, that God loves them. Some believe it in a shadowy sort of way. If they were to really think about it they would soon realize that their belief in God’s love for them is very remote and abstract. Because of this lack of realization of God’s love for them, men do not know how to love God back. —Catherine de Hueck Doherty

 
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