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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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Cyril and Methodius: Because their father was an officer in a part of Greece inhabited by many Slavs, these two Greek brothers ultimately became missionaries, teachers and patrons of the Slavic peoples. 
<p>After a brilliant course of studies, Cyril (called Constantine until he became a monk shortly before his death) refused the governorship of a district such as his brother had accepted among the Slavic-speaking population. Cyril withdrew to a monastery where his brother Methodius had become a monk after some years in a governmental post. </p><p>A decisive change in their lives occurred when the Duke of Moravia (present-day Czech Republic) asked the Eastern Emperor Michael for political independence from German rule and ecclesiastical autonomy (having their own clergy and liturgy). Cyril and Methodius undertook the missionary task. </p><p>Cyril’s first work was to invent an alphabet, still used in some Eastern liturgies. His followers probably formed the Cyrillic alphabet (for example, modern Russian) from Greek capital letters. Together they translated the Gospels, the psalter, Paul’s letters and the liturgical books into Slavonic, and composed a Slavonic liturgy, highly irregular then. </p><p>That and their free use of the vernacular in preaching led to opposition from the German clergy. The bishop refused to consecrate Slavic bishops and priests, and Cyril was forced to appeal to Rome. On the visit to Rome, he and Methodius had the joy of seeing their new liturgy approved by Pope Adrian II. Cyril, long an invalid, died in Rome 50 days after taking the monastic habit. </p><p>Methodius continued mission work for 16 more years. He was papal legate for all the Slavic peoples, consecrated a bishop and then given an ancient see (now in the Czech Republic). When much of their former territory was removed from their jurisdiction, the Bavarian bishops retaliated with a violent storm of accusation against Methodius. As a result, Emperor Louis the German exiled Methodius for three years. Pope John VIII secured his release. </p><p>Because the Frankish clergy, still smarting, continued their accusations, Methodius had to go to Rome to defend himself against charges of heresy and uphold his use of the Slavonic liturgy. He was again vindicated. </p><p>Legend has it that in a feverish period of activity, Methodius translated the whole Bible into Slavonic in eight months. He died on Tuesday of Holy Week, surrounded by his disciples, in his cathedral church. </p><p>Opposition continued after his death, and the work of the brothers in Moravia was brought to an end and their disciples scattered. But the expulsions had the beneficial effect of spreading the spiritual, liturgical and cultural work of the brothers to Bulgaria, Bohemia and southern Poland. Patrons of Moravia, and specially venerated by Catholic Czechs, Slovaks, Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Bulgarians, Cyril and Methodius are eminently fitted to guard the long-desired unity of East and West. In 1980, Pope John Paul II named them additional co-patrons of Europe (with Benedict).</p> American Catholic Blog This is the beauty of self-giving love: Men and women, driven by love, freely choose to give up their autonomy, to limit their freedom, by committing themselves to the good of the spouse. Love is so powerful that it impels them to want to surrender their will to their beloved in this profound way.

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