This week some Core students attended the showing of the film Pope Francis: A Man of his Word, directed by Wim Wenders. This film was sponsored by the University Core and co-sponsored by Catholic Studies, Religious Studies, MLK Leadership Program, Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology, and the Unanue Institute. Related thematically to Core I, II, and III, this film was inspirational and informative. I brought my Core III class, Fantasy and Faith in British Literature (which focuses on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis and their influences). The director of the film juxtaposed personal, face-to-face interviews with Pope Francis; archival footage of scenes of the Pope's speeches and travels, beginning in Argentina and continuing to very recent events; and film clips depicting scenes in the life of St. Francis of Assisi, whose name Pope Francis took for his papacy and whose life is an inspiration to him.
In my class we explored some issues arising from the film, such as how we should treat each other, particularly those who are different from us (a theme in the film and in the works in our class) and how we must make sacrifices for those we love (family, community, the larger world community). The Pope spoke about how important it is to welcome the stranger, the migrant, the refugee. He was shown visiting refugees, including children, depicted showing him their artwork and listening to him speak. The Pope is shown addressing the U.S. Congress and speaking about how North and South America are continents of immigrants, and that most of us are descended from immigrants and should therefore not be afraid of those coming to our shores from other places. In our class, we talked about being in exile and the need to find a home. This is an important theme in The Hobbit, the work we happen to be just finishing right now.
Another issue in the film is the environment, crucially important to Pope Francis and explored in his encyclical Laudato Si. St. Francis is shown in the film through paintings by Giotto, film clips, and his own poetry (from which the title Laudato Si comes), all of them depicting the saint's love and reverence for Nature. In our class, we discussed our Tolkien's works always show the importance of Nature, with good and evil characters often being evidenced by their respect for Nature or lack thereof. We see this love of Nature in the Elves and the Hobbits, particularly. This reverence for Nature is important also in Lewis' works, which we will begin next week with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. In this work, the evil White Witch freezes all of the natural world and kills living creatures with a touch of her wand. Good creatures in these works do not choose to hurt the natural world around them, but reverence it and get joy from it.
Finally, the film discusses sacrifice. The Pope talks about how we all should sacrifice some of what we have so that others with less can enjoy some equality of sharing the bounty of this good world, "Madre Tierra," as he refers to it. Saint Francis himself gave up all his possessions to share with the poor in a deep and reverential love for Lady Poverty and respect for those who are poor. In the books we are reading in the class, sacrifice is a crucial component of the values depicted that link to engaging the world. Bilbo sacrifices his safety to help the Dwarves find a homeland. Beowulf, in the classic Anglo-Saxon text that we study as a precursor to the later fantasies, sacrifices himself to save others (the Danes) and his own people from the dragon. Whether it is in a fantasy or in our own neighborhood, those with some wealth can consume less so that others can have even a little more. This kind of sacrifice is crucial to the Pope's message and to that of St. Francis.
For those who missed the film, the Core owns a copy that we are happy to lend to faculty, and it is also available through Amazon. For anyone taking a Core I, II, or III class, it relates to the themes important to that experience.
Categories: Faith and Service