“Our nation is under siege. [There is] a plot to poison the minds and hearts of our people… this threat will not be tolerated.” No, this is not Cardinal Timothy Dolan talking about the recent HHS contraception mandate. This is former Mexican President Plutarco Calles talking about the Roman Catholic Church. Well, as least it is what his character in an upcoming film says about the Church.
For Greater Glory depicts the struggle of Mexican Catholics 85 years ago (around the same time Pope Benedict XVI was born half a world away) against a brutally atheistic government that shut down Catholic schools and convents, seized all properties belonging to the Church, and sought to stamp out any influence of the Church in Mexican society. During the Cristero War, tens of thousands of average Catholic citizens, including children, women, and men decided that they would never give up their religious freedoms willingly and vowed to go up against the entire Mexican army.
Without going into the details of the plot, history tells us that Blessed John Paul II canonized 25 of these counter-revolutionaries. The Church also recognizes other martyrs from this struggle including Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. and 14-year old Blessed José Sánchez del Río. We also know that it was not until 20 years ago that the Mexican government finally decided to change the laws to allow the Catholic Church to exist legally in the country again.
The film will hit theatres in the United States on Friday, June 1 and received a rating from the MPAA of R. The Catholic News Service, however, has rated it A-III for adults, but probably acceptable for mature teens. This is one of the rare instances where the Church-affiliated agency has actually “downgraded” the rating compared to the MPAA rating and actually encourages mature teens (>16 years old?) to watch this film. (The A-III rating is due to “considerable action violence with some gore, the torture of a child and at least one mildly vulgar term” and so you will still need an adult to buy you the ticket if you go watch it.) Also, unlike previous films like There Be Dragons, which targeted religious audiences, this film is a mainstream film featuring three Academy Award nominees, Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives), and Eduardo Verástegui (Bella), so don’t be shy about inviting your non-Catholic friends to watch this film too.
The Cristero War allows us as American Catholics of all ages today to have a glimpse into the struggles of our southern brothers and sisters not too long ago and to reflect on what it means for us today to stand up for our religious liberties. What will we personally do to realize the Cristero battle cry: Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!)