Summary of today’s show: The story of the Mexican martyrs of the Cristero Wars, fighting against religious persecution in the 1920s, was virtually unknown, even in Mexico, until recently. Now the blockbuster film “For Greater Glory” has shed new light on these heroes of the faith. In anticipation of the release of the DVD and Blu-Ray, Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor welcome producer Pablo Jose Barroso to talk about how he saw the film as a work of his own faith. They also talk to Ruben Quezada, author of the official companion book, about his lifetime effort to make know this troubling time in Mexico’s history and what it could mean for the US today.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Chris O’Connor
Today’s guest(s): Pablo Jose Barroso and Ruben Quezada
Links from today’s show:
- “For Greater Glory” official website
- VivaCrisoRey.com – Ruben Quezada’s website
- For Greater Glory [DVD]
- For Greater Glory [DVD/Blu-Ray Combo]
- For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada, the Cristero War and Mexico’s Struggle for Religious Freedom
Today’s topics: The movie “For Greater Glory”
1st segment: Scot welcomed Fr. Chris O’Connor to the show and said today’s show will focus on For Greater Glory, a movie about the Mexican civil war and the fight for religious freedom. Fr. Chris said the movie also addresses the idea of what it means to be a priest.
Scot welcomed Pablo Barroso, the producer of the movie, to the show. He noted that Pablo has not always been a film producer. but has been a Mexican Catholic businessman. Pablo said he has felt called to the New Evangelization and is concerned about creating Catholic movies for the sake of his four children and other children. They want to bring Hollywood-level production values to movies with good content.
Scot said before the movie he knew nothing about the Cristero War in the 1920s and very few Mexicans knew about it either. Pablo said this sad period of history in his country has been written out of the history books. He said the concerns over religious freedom, especially in the United States today, see the same kind of conflict in Mexico in the 1920s.
Pablo said it was a struggle to produce the movie, but it was worth it. The Holy Spirit wanted this movie to be delivered in this moment. It took three years to produce and he worried about the timing. The timing allowed many of the fabulous people involved to participate including composer James Horner, who said he was blown away by the movie himself.
Fr. Chris asked Pablo when he first heard about this battle for religious freedom and what does he hope it does for younger viewers. Pablo said he is 41 years old and his father passed away when he was 9, so he never heard from his own father about the Cristeros, but society never really talked about it. But 5 years ago suddenly he heard from the same story from a number of different people and realized that he had to make this movie. He hopes young people will be inspired and entertained by both the values and the action included in the film. He hopes they come to understand everything the Lord has done for us and why we follow Him, if not in taking up arms, but through peaceful means where possible. We raise up our voice and be close to Our Lord and be clear about what we believe and practice.
Scot said there’s no doubt this is an epic film, especially in the battle scenes and cinematography around Mexico. He said he read that it’s the biggest budget film shot in Mexico. Pablo confirmed that it was a very expensive movie, but he wouldn’t focus on the money. Instead he focuses on the cast and crew he put their hearts into high production values so that the people in the theaters will be drawn into the story. He noted that the director worked on the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings and so knew how to make these big scenes and to address a young audience.
Pablo said it was a dream come true to have so many big stars and names in Hollywood trust in him as an inexperienced producer and to help him create this true story. Scot said the Blu-Ray and DVD come out one week from today on September 11.
Scot said Pope Benedict surprised Mexicans with a plan to visit Mexico and honored those being profiled in the film at the same time that the movie was coming out. Pablo said the Holy Father came to the location where the statue of Christ the King is being built. Pablo said there was no way to anticipate that the Holy Father would make this trip at this time.
Fr. Chris asked Pablo about the novel by Graham Greene that includes the events of the Cristero War and then Scot asked about the number of people who died in the war and how many have been canonized and beatified. Pablo said it killed 250,000 people, more than the Mexican Revolution. There are more than 25 canonized saints and 23 beati, some of them priests and some of them laypeople. Some are martyrs from the Knights of Columbus, which was very supportive at the time, trying to end the war through pressure in the American embassy. America had economic interests in Mexican oil at the time and so there was great interest throughout North America.
Pablo talked about one of the priests who is canonized today who was among the martyrs. He is played in the movie by Peter O’Toole. He refuses to leave and stays to comfort the people. Another martyr is a 13-year-old boy who refused to renounce his faith. Andy Garcia portrays an agnostic general who was hired to lead the army and ended up finding his faith. Another was the man some call the Mexican Ghandi, who tried in every way to avoid violence and war.
Fr. Chris noted that there were women-only St. Joan of Arc brigades. Pablo said if not for the women, there would have been no fight in the war. They were the support behind the army. They took care of the soldiers, providing food and medical care.
Scot asked Pablo why they made the movie in English and subtitled it in Spanish for Mexico. Pablo said English is the international language of film and appeals to the widest audience throughout the world. He noted Schindler’s List wasn’t filmed in German and Troy not in Greek.
2nd segment: Scot said the companion book “For Greatery Glory: The Story of the Cristiada” is written by our next guest Ruben Quezada. Scot and Fr. Chris talked about the foreword to the book by Archbishbop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles.
Ruben is the director of operations of the Catholic Resource Center. Scot asked Ruben how the idea for the companion book for the movie came about. He said he’d been speaking nationally and internationally on the subject of the Cristiada and he was contacted by Ignatius Press, the publisher of the book. He said he’d also helped some of the actors as they prepared to play their characters in the film.
Fr. Chris asked about a Jesuit priest he talks about in the book. Ruben talked about how the priest inspired him as a child, and encouraged him to learn about the persecution of Catholics in Mexico and the story of Blessed Miguel Pro. He told about going to the library and trying to find anything about the Cristero War and learned how well these events were suppressed by the Mexican government for over seven decades. Scot noted that the ruling party in Mexico from the 1920s into the 1990s was the same party that engaged in the same persecution and so was successful in suppressing it.
Ruben said he hears two responses: it happened in Mexico and can’t happen here or it was all so long ago. He noted that the same roots of the persecution have started today. He said Archbishop Gomez has said when it looks like outright persecution it may too late. We have to stand up and profess our faith before it gets to that point.
Ruben said the Cristiada was about controlling the people. When President Calles came into power in 1924, he was already an atheist and he didn’t want the Church to have any influence or to compete with the socialist ideals he was putting into place. They started by kicking out all foreign priests from the country. In order to be a priest, they had to register with the local government and even then they were required to violate their faith by charging for sacraments for example. Some of the foreign priests stayed behind to risk everything and others went underground. There are images of the execution and torture of priests for saying Masses, hearing confessions and anointing the sick.
Scot said the book contains questions and answers on all the key facts from the war, photos from the movie and of actual events, along with discussion points for parishes. Scot said his favorite parts were the letters sent from the pope to the Mexican people at the time as well as the remarks by Carl Anderson, Supreme Knights of the Knights of Columbus, on the Cristero War. He said 90% of the priests in Mexico were either killed or forced to leave the country.
Scot said people will want to draw parallels between the persecution in Mexico and what the US Bishops have been writing about what we’re experiencing in the US. Ruben said we have to raise our eyebrows at the parallels. He gave the quote from the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller: “When they came for the Jews I did not speak, because I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak for me.” This is not a Catholic issue, but is important for all people in the US.
Ruben said people wondering whether to read the book or the film first. He said it works either way, but he recommends seeing the film first because the book gives the depth that the movie can’t give. He said more information is also available on his website vivacristorey.com.
Ruben said what affects him most is knowing that these men gave their lives for him and for all of us, the next generations. The question is whether we will respond in kind.