This past Friday our local senior center presented the French film “Of Gods and Men” as part of its foreign film Festival series. The film was based on the life and death of eight French Cistercian monks of Tiberherine in Algeria from 1993-1996. Although they lived in their monastery and sustained themselves by what they grew there, the monks were not cloistered.
They played an active role in the life of the small Moslem village in which they lived. They participated in the life of the community and served the needs of the people. One monk was a doctor and ministered to a seemingly endless stream of local patients. They loved the people and the people loved them. One thankful Moslem woman even described these men as the branches on which the villagers, the birds, found support.
However, Islamic fundamentalists are terrorizing the region. After a massacre of a crew of foreign workers, the local army offers protection to the endangered French monks. They refuse protection but still have to consider whether they should stay and continue to minister to the local Moslem community or leave in the face of the growing menace in their midst.
They decide to stay but are eventually taken hostage by the terrorists. At the end of the film we see them being driven by armed guards up their own hill of Calvary in the snow of the Atlas Mountains. They were never seen again. Incredibly, shortly after the film ended the news arrived from France of the terrible massacre by Moslem extremists in Paris.
Today at Sunday Mass our organist played a quiet but moving rendition of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.” It brought to mind one of the best scenes from the film classic, “Casablanca.” Vive la France!