I finally got to see the movie Silence. It disturbed me a lot.
The movie was well done. The cinematography was simple awesome. The music very apropos. And it had a power cast of characters. Their acting was Oscar-excellent. What moved me though was Scorsese’s success in giving the movie a totally Ignatian tone and timbre all throughout. The manner of proceeding of the main characters was totally drawn from the playbook of St. Ignatius. The idea of “mission’ permeated the whole movie. And the iterative questions of “What did I do for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What will I still do for Christ?” are straight out of the Spiritual Exercises. All the Jesuits in the movie were true active contemplatives. And in different places were Jesuits mantras like Magis and AMDG.
One of the things I learned about prayer and praying is from my Jesuit mentors. They all had a simple formula on how to pray from Psalm 46: “Be still, and know that I am God.” And I have drawn a lot of insight and inspiration in that. In the stillness, silence and solitude, I would feel the presence of a caring and loving God. And I thought initially that that was the Silence the movie was about.
It was a more gut-wrenching and challenging Silence i experiences as Anabelle and I watched the movie. The movies was set during the times of the persecution of Christians in 17th century Japan. As many have come to expect of Jesuits, they were there at the intersection of the World and the Kingdom. But things were not rosy at all. Thousands of Japanese Christians have been executed and martyred. Those who have remained are being hunted and persecuted. Prizes and monetary rewards awaited those who would turn them in to the authorities. But the hardy band of Christian remain steadfast in their faith even in the face of torture and death. Fathers Rodrigues and Garupe witness their courage and bravery and draw strength and inspiration from it. But the pain and suffering their converts had to go through were simply too much to bear. They pray and pray really hard to God to make their lives just a little bit bearable and save them from the hideous torture and horrendous death. But they were praying to a Silent God. In their deepest despair, God remained silent. This is the Silence that the movie is about. How can you keep on believing when the god you pray to is silent. Maybe He is not even there. Towards the end of the movie both Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Ferreira, their mentor, end up apostatising and adapting to a Japanese way of life. But even as the movie moved towards its denouement, there were indications that the apostasy and adaptation to the Japanese ways were a compromise to let the Christian virtues and ideals perhaps to germinate in a new and strange environment – an accusation still leveled at Jesuits even today.
I have myself experienced the Silent God. There have been times I have prayed for my most earnest dreams and hopes. Only to be disappointed by the Silent God. Sometimes, I am not even asking of anything but only to allow me to feel His presence in my life for some consolation. And all I encounter is the Silent God. During these times, I ask if I am talking or praying to Someone at all. Maybe He is not there.
Still, I know there is a God. There is too much evidence around me to deny His existence. But maybe I do not know how to speak or pray to Him. Or, that He is actually speaking to me but I do not hear nor understand what He is saying. For after all, He is the Infinite and I am finite. He totally gets me but my feeble mind is too small to wrap itself around my Infinite God.
Then, lost and alone, despondent and in near desair; I revert back to the mantra I have learned from my Jesuit mentors putting myself into the hands I know are there but cannot fathom how or why and simply mutter: “Be still. And know that I am God.”