If you haven’t heard of the film, For Greater Glory, it depicts the true story of the Mexican “Cristero War” in the 1920s:
“It’s history that is not even that well known to many Mexicans…The Mexican government set up its own church, deported all foreign priests, and made the sacraments unavailable. Even after the war ended in 1929, each local governor continued to enforce the constitutional anti-clerical laws in different ways. It took a long time for this to change. Officially, priests couldn’t wear religious vestments in public until 1998.”
Before I get into my review of For Greater Glory, you need to understand something about me. I went to a Catholic university that focuses on bringing Christ to the culture through business and media. As a result, many of my close friends are incredibly passionate filmmakers who also happen to be faithful Catholics. (Me? I started out on the film track and moved into the Theology-meets-media side of things. Hence the blog).
I tell you this because after three years of sitting in classes with these people, having many conversations with them both in and out of the classroom about what good art is (and what it is not), I must admit that they have rubbed off on me. These are both truly devout Catholics and dedicated filmmakers. When a movie or television show combines these peoples’ two greatest loves—their Christian faith and film, as the film For Greater Glory does—you have what we call a sensitive area.
In discussions about good art, my friends often come back to the theme of what Blessed John Paul II says in his Letter to Artists: “beauty will save the world.” If it’s not beautiful, then it’s not the Gospel, no matter what the subject matter of the art claims to be. Their point: A bad film does not glorify God just because its subject matter happens to be faith-based.
So when I see a movie that attempts the audacious (yet so very needed) task of portraying the glory, truth, splendor, and/or truth of the Christian faith on the screen— even though I don’t consider myself to be anything of a filmmaker— I still tend to hear my friends’ voices in my head.
Now that you know all of this: What did I think of the film, For Greater Glory?
As a moviegoer, I was entertained. As a Catholic, I was moved. As an American living in 2012, with the HHS mandate threatening our basic right to religious liberty, I was sobered.
I truly do believe that we need more films that tell the great stories of our faith as For Greater Glory does. We have so many of these stories, ranging from stories in Scripture that have stood the test of time to the incredible stories of the lives of the Saints and martyrs. These stories need to be told, and they need to be told well.
It’s easy for me to say that as someone who is not a filmmaker, and I can understand that for a Christian person in the film industry, this is a scary task. Knowing that these stories deserve nothing less than excellence means that if the film is not received well by an audience, it’s not the fault of the story itself but of the people who made it. That’s a heavy burden.
So praise God for the people that realize the importance of telling these stories, and who believe in the power of them, as the makers of For Greater Glory do. I sincerely recommend that all young Catholics go see this movie (not too young, though. It is rated R for its depictions of violence).
And please pray for Christians in the film industry. They’re hard at work for the Church; I promise you