Cristero Movie

a.k.a. “101 Ways to Smoke and Drink Tequila While Defending the Holy Faith”

Movies in which the stirring orchestral score cues up before the five-minute mark make me suspicious. “For Greater Glory” will not be outdone as a music video of the Cristero War. Some resourceful acting manages to cover the relative lameness of the script. Andy Garcia makes sense by smoking in meaningful ways. Rubén Blades as President Plutarco Elias Calles almost steals the Opening-Scene-Menace Award from De Niro’s Al Capone as “The Untouchables” begins.

I wish I were a better priest, a better friend of the Mexican nation, a better Knight of Columbus. If I were, then I would know more facts about the Mexican martyrs than I do. I do know that Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory makes the whole business 10,000 times more real that this film does. The novel gives us one of the greatest heroes I have ever encountered, and this film makes Greene seem all the more brilliant by comparison.

But “For Greater Glory” gives us some lovable heroes, too. I never really doubted that I am fighting for the right team. But if I had doubted it, the scene in which “El Catorce” tells the federal (who just hanged a priest for saying Mass) to “spend your money in hell, c-bron!” would have dispelled any doubts I had. Our church has room for bad-sses.

And fifteen-year-old Mauricio Kuri, playing Bl. José Luis Sánchez del Rio…In real life, the saint was not even yet fifteen when martyred. I wept when they cut up his poor little feet, to torture him. Come on, evil federales! But it really happened.

The Spanish-isms of the movie struck this gringo as patently ridiculous, even offensive. In what world does using “Mejico” instead of “Mexico”—in the middle of English patter with bad accents—in what world does this achieve verisimilitude?

But, al otro lado, the movie does give us Mexico, mainly by the authentic use of tequila in the interactions between men and in the open, airy style of the churches.

The main thing: Don’t die without going to Confession to a Catholic priest. Or die as a martyr. Don’t leave this world via any other exit. This movie makes it magnificently clear that leaving the world in any other way is really lame.

In the 1920’s, the Mexicans played big-league spiritual ball, while we dithered as a nation of t-ball strikeouts. The Spanish-speaking world made the rest of us look like piker Catholics. (The Spanish Civil War of the late 30’s produced scores of holy martyrs, too.)

Graham Greene grasped this fact a long time ago. Hopefully, “For Greater Glory” will remind us—and prepare us for whatever battle we will have to face.