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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Way

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

Tom (Martin Sheen) is a prosperous doctor, a widower and a kind of “retired” Catholic. His son Daniel (Emilio Estevez) is a doctoral student who decides to put his dissertation on hold to go on a journey to find himself and discover life’s meaning. Tom thinks he is wasting his time and not taking responsibility for his life.

Not long after, Tom gets a call on the golf course with the news that his son has died in an accident in a small village in France. He goes there to bring Daniel’s body home. He is surprised to find that his son is traveling very light and that he was ready to begin a 500 mile pilgrimage on foot, with only a rucksack with necessities.

Tom decides to make “el camino” or “The Way” to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a path worn by the feet of thousands of pilgrims for a thousand years. The Shrine of St. James the Great is the destination, where the relics of the apostle are believed by many to lie under the altar. He places Daniel’s ashes in a metallic box in the rucksack and sets off. The next morning, after sleeping on a riverbank, he drops the rucksack into a river and in the struggle to retrieve it is thoroughly soaked. But it is a sign of a new beginning for Tom, washed clean to start again.

Along the way Tom meets people making the camino, but he doesn’t want any company. He’s grumpy, sad, and though determined, is in shock at losing his son. He constantly brushes off the irrepressible and friendly overweight Dutchman, Joost (Yorick van Wageningen) who travels with his own questionable pharmacy. Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger) is a stringent Canadian who says she wants to quit smoking.  Jack (James Nesbitt, whom you may remember from the lovely film “Millions”) is an Irish writer with a seemingly terminal case of writer’s block.

Eventually Tom comes face to face with his own limitations when he starts a brawl and becomes a kind of father or wisdom figure for them.

I was privileged to see this film twice and it was even better the second time. You see more and can follow Tom’s journey more closely. Frankly, I felt like signing up for the pilgrimage then and there!
 
Some folks are concerned that Tom leaves little handfuls of Daniel’s ashes along with way, at different roadside shrines, and then at the end, tosses them into the crashing waves near a Catholic church along the northern coast of Spain. Yes, the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the cremated ashes are to be kept and buried together so that the integrity of the body is maintained. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Tom is way out of touch with his faith, and this pilgrimage was his way of finding his way home again.
 
To quote the film critic Roger Ebert: We don’t go to the movies for Sunday school.  However, films often provide a means to talk about things that truly matter.
 
I think “The Way” expresses well what the Catholic author Flannery O’Connor once wrote, that most people come to the Church (or return to the Church) by means that the Church does not approve.
 
When it comes to God’s grace, there are no limits for God is all-powerful and colors outside the lines to get our attention. The movie offers us so much to talk about.
  “The Way” is a movie full of grace.


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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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