An Examination of Conscience based on Hacksaw Ridge

Recently I had the opportunity to see Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge.  I regularly take in films but I must say, this film left me speechless at the end and by far was one of the best I’ve seen all year.  Here’s a quick synopsis: Desmond Doss, a Seventh-Day Adventist, desired to serve in the military as a medic.  He enlisted, went to training, with the caveat of being a conscientious objector, meaning he would neither touch a gun nor even train with one.  The movie portrays his struggles and triumphs in training and during the war.  Yes, it is a war film, so expect graphic injuries and violence, but do not allow that to get in the way of the overall story.

With the film’s Christian storyline, what can we take away from it?  I would like to suggest the film proposes an examination of conscience, allowing the viewer to consider the film’s themes and apply them to his or her own life.  In such a way, a person can be led to a deeper repentance for the sins of their life and receive God’s mercy and forgiveness.

Forgive Us Our Trespasses

In the opening minutes of the film, we are introduced to Desmond and his family.  Because kids will be kids and always be roughhousing, Desmond nearly fatally injures his brother during a childhood fight.  As his parents try to save the life of his brother, a gripping scene of remorse and repentance occurs when Desmond stares at an image of the Our Father in their home.  A viewer notices that reality hits Desmond and it seems he makes a resolution to never hurt another person again.

The Examination

  • How often do I ask God to forgive me?
  • When I pray the Our Father, do I mean the words I say?
  • Do we allow our prayer to change our hearts?

Remembering the Dead

Desmond’s father makes frequent visits to the cemetery where he pays tribute to his fallen comrades from combat.  On the battlefield, Desmond shows a great care and concern for those who had died, paying honor and respect to them.  The Church prays for the dead and the souls in Purgatory during the month of November.  The actions of characters in the film show us the importance of remembering our dead.

The Examination

  • Do I pray for my family members and friends who have died?
  • Do I have Masses said for their soul?
  • Do I pray and sacrifice for the souls in Purgatory?
  • Have I visited the graves of family and friends?

Love your Enemies

Hacksaw Ridge portrays the decision of Desmond to be a conscientious objector.  As you can imagine this is not a popular decision by his brother soldiers or commanding officers.  Desmond is given the opportunity to live the gospel by turning the other cheek and praying for his enemies and persecutors.  Desmond lives Jesus’ commandment to love one another and to even love one’s enemies.  Even when he is hated and reviled by others, Desmond perseveres and never gives up.  It is this simple action of love that converts the hearts of his band of brothers.

The Examination

  • Do I live Jesus’ commandment to love one another?
  • Do I strive to love even my enemy? Do I pray for them or do I speak ill of them?
  • Do I ignore the people I disagree with?

Reading the Word of God

The woman in Desmond’s life gives him a bible before he boards the bus to head to training.  Desmond keeps the scriptures with him always and reads them as often as he can; in his room and in the battlefield.  Whenever he has an idle moment, be assured Desmond has his nose in the scriptures.

The Examination

  • How often do I read the Word of God?
  • Are there things in the bible I do not believe or understand?
  • Would reading the bible more improve my relationship with God?
  • Do I own a bible?
  • Do I have a bible app on my phone? If not, go to and get the Truth and Life bible app!

Honoring the Sabbath

Desmond belongs to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church.  These believers honor the Sabbath on Saturday, and not on Sunday.  In conversations Desmond has with his superiors, they express concern over his unwillingness to work on the Sabbath.  But these beliefs are part and parcel to who Desmond was and so he stuck by them and never wavered.

The Examination

  • Do I strive to keep holy the Lord’s Days (Sunday, the Day of Resurrection)?
  • Do I do unnecessary work on the Lord’s Day?
  • How often do I attend Mass on Sundays?
  • What are the greatest priorities in my life?

Saving Souls

As a medic, Desmond’s goal was to save lives.  He sought out those who were injured and tried to provide temporary solutions in order to sustain life.  After he saved one soul, you could hear him repeat the mantra: help me find one more soul.  His approach was one by one.  Looking out at all those injured, he could have become discouraged and gave up.  Instead he placed His trust in God and requested His help to do His will and save as many lives as possible.

The Examination

  • How have I reached out to the people in my life who are far away from God?
  • Would people know I am a Christian by the way I live my life?
  • Do I pray for those who do not know the love of God in their hearts, especially those in my family, my friends, and co-workers?
  • How do I proclaim the gospel to those I meet?


Desmond Doss believed what he believed.  Agree with his decision or not, he was unwilling to go against his beliefs but also knew that he wanted to and could make a difference by becoming a soldier.  He was genuine and lived what he believed and even in the face of opposition, he did not back down.  He provides an example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.  His life, as portrayed in Hacksaw Ridge, provides us an opportunity to reflect on how we live our lives.  If we haven’t been true to our beliefs, there is always time to repent, ask for forgiveness, and begin again.  At a moment’s notice, we might go home to be with God, so we must always be ready.  Are you?  Learn from Desmond and live the gospel!

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Fr. Edward Looney was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Green Bay in June 2015, and is an internationally recognized Marian theologian, writer, speaker, and radio personality. Author of the best-selling books, A Lenten Journey with Mother MaryA Heart Like Mary’s and A Rosary Litany, he has also written a prayer book for the only American-approved Marian apparition received by Adele Brise in 1859 in Champion, Wisconsin. He currently serves as Administrator of two rural Wisconsin parishes. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at the handle @FrEdwardLooney.

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