Dear friends, please go see Of God’s and Men. If you are in Philadelphia, it will be at the Ritz Five for about five more seconds, I imagine. It is the most Christian movie I have ever seen. It is as slow as life in a Cistercian monastery, so don’t go sleepy. It is in French with subtitles, so don’t go irritable. It is about being a real Christian, so go discouraged, or questioning, or ignorant. Go to meditate on what it means to live by faith in a tumultuous, violent world.
Here’s the trailer: A monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa in the 1990s. Eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim brothers. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic fundamentalist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. Should they leave? Despite the growing menace in their midst, they slowly realize that they have no choice but to stay… come what may. This film is loosely based on the life of the Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996.
Gwen and I both felt, after we left the theater, “I have been WAY over-concerned with my problems.” It is easy to forget how wrapped up we get in small things and make them big, because they are the only things we’ve got. The movie was about big things and how to find the faith to face them. Watching it made me understand that I could also be faithful in relation to my small sufferings.
I have been praying ever since, “Thank you, Lord, that there are still people who do something as radical as plant their Cistercian monastery in the Atlas Mountains to pray for Algeria and love its people!” The story of these monks opened my eyes to realize that I am living among such a people, who are inspired enough to be a circle of hope and plant themselves in the middle of the megalopolis with a very similar intention and practice. We aren’t Cistercians, but we are strange enough when we aren’t too afraid to be so. Plus, we have Compassion Teams and intentional households that keep us on the edge. “Thank you, Lord!”
Circle of Hope has a strange connection with the monks, you know. They were kidnapped on the exact weekend we had our first public meeting. It was Palm Sunday. Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”