Jesuits on the Big and Little Screens in 2017

Jesuits on the Big and Little Screens in 2017, PDF format

  With a Jesuit sitting in the seven-hilled city as Pope Francis I, and the Jesuit Order holding the Vatican in a grip of iron, the Order is on top of the world, riding a wave of global power and authority and enjoying celebrity status. 

  The pontificate of Francis I is the reign of Jesuitism. 

  And in order to further enhance its image worldwide, the Order has seen to it that the motion picture and television media have been harnessed to promote the image of the Jesuits to the masses, at such a time as this.  Two movies and a TV series are the result – and millions will be captivated by the work of this sinister and deadly Order, entertained by a sanitised version of what the Jesuits are really all about.

  One film is about Jesuit mission work; the other is about the Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola; and the TV series is about the Jesuit pope, Francis I.

“Silence”: Bringing Worldwide Attention to the Jesuits

  One of Hollywood’s leading movie directors, Martin Scorsese – a Roman Catholic, sort of – made the movie, Silence, in 2016, based on a 1966 novel written by Japanese Roman Catholic author, Shusaku Endo.[1]  Described by a Roman Catholic news source as “a thrilling depiction of the persecution suffered by Jesuit priests in 17th-century Japan”, the same news source confidently predicted that “the film is sure to bring worldwide attention to the Society of Jesus, 30 years after the other great film about the congregation: ‘The Mission.’”[2] Bringing worldwide attention to the Jesuits: now that is worth winking at Scorsese’s somewhat-less-than-devout Romanism, as far as the Jesuits are concerned.  They have always been lenient towards erring Papists, if those same Papists are able to serve their interests in any way.

  A renowned United States Jesuit, James Martin, editor of the Jesuit magazine, America, worked on the production of Silence, coaching the actors to enable them to “understand the Jesuit charisma.”  He said, “I was asked to look at the script to see what a Jesuit would say and do in certain situations.  I also helped the actors prepare for their roles, especially Andrew Garfield, who plays the lead, I led him through the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, which was a six month project, and he was very well prepared by the time he was finished.”[3]

  Garfield himself said, “I studied with Father Martin all things Jesuit and attempted to crack what it means to be a soldier for Christ.  The basis of that was the exercises [Ignatius’ “Spiritual Exercises”] for me.”  Although his ancestry is Jewish, Garfield was raised in a non-religious household.  He did the 30-day Jesuit retreat, but not in the customary way.  The third week was spent at a retreat house in Wales.  He described it as “a silent week, and intense”, and added: “Yeah, it was remarkable, really.  I was so grateful for the sacred time.”[4]  Scorsese also gave Garfield many books and films to prepare him for the role.

  What are Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises?  They are vital to the training of any Jesuit.  “The Spiritual Exercises work on the imagination of the candidate, helped by a ‘director’.  Various biblical scenes are ‘relived’ in front of him, beautiful ones alternating with frightening ones.  His sighs, inhalings, breathing, and periods of silence are all noted down.  After a number of weeks of this, he is ready for indoctrination.”[5]  It is not surprising that Garfield, even after a modified experience of the Exercises, emerged a different man.  This is what the Exercises are designed to do.  The lead actor in this film about the Jesuits had been molded into something of a Jesuit novice himself.

  Garfield said that what he took away from the film, personally, was “endless”.  “What I’ve been given by playing this role and being with Marty [Scorsese], being with Father Martin, doing the [Ignatian] exercises, it’s impossible to sum up.  I’ve been given so many different graces for the whole experience.  By the end of it, of filming, I [didn’t] even need the film to come out or for people to like it.  The year of preparation, those months making the film, were worth it.”[6] 

  Clearly, authenticity regarding Jesuitism was important to Scorsese.  He went to a lot of trouble to see to it.  The Jesuits were very obviously expecting great things from the film. 

  Before the film’s premiere, Scorsese met with the most famous living Jesuit on earth, Francis I.  The director brought his wife and two daughters to the meeting, along with the film’s producer and his wife.

  During the traditional exchange of gifts, Scorsese gave the pope a religious picture, saying as he did so: “This is a Japanese artist from the 17th century, and the original is in the 26 Martyr (Museum).  But this is the most revered image for the hidden Christians.  This is with the Jesuits.  We used this for research in our film.”[7]

  Amazing how Scorsese had come back into favour in Roman Catholic circles.  This was the man who made the blasphemous movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, back in 1988.  When it was released it was immediately opposed by the Roman Catholic institution as morally objectionable, and people picketed outside theatres and boycotted the movie in their thousands.  Scorsese, commenting on the film, said: I’ve always wanted to do a spiritual movie but religion gets in the way.”  He said that The Last Temptation of Christ sought to “tear away all the old Hollywood films… and create a Jesus you could talk to and get to know.”[8]  Hardly the kind of statements guaranteed to earn the approval of the Roman Catholic hierarchy.  Scorsese was certainly unpopular.  But now, almost three decades later, here he was being fêted in the Vatican itself, meeting the pope, and preparing for his new film’s premiere to be shown in Rome.  The Jesuits now looked with indulgent fondness on Scorsese the black sheep, a man who had once wanted to become a priest.  Make a film about the Jesuits and be forgiven and rehabilitated back into the fold, apparently.