Saturday, May 27, 2017

Watching and listening again to Martin Scorsese's Silence, things come to mind that I want to put in words.

The five senses play a part in Ignatian spirituality, I learned while attending an Oremus workshop this past week. Even before learning that, however, I caught references in the movie to seeing, smelling, tasting. The movie's soundtrack is practically overwhelming with the sound of crickets!1

Consider these examples from the movie that mention the human senses. When the Jesuit priests encounter the Japanese peasant Christians, they recoil, presumably because of the odor from an inadequate hygiene. On top of this, Kichijiro smells from his alcoholism, "I know, I smell of sin."2 At the Buddhist temple, the interpreter asks Fr. Rodrigues whether he is affected by the smell of incense burning or perhaps the smell of meat being offered. The trip to Hirado brings them close to the sea, "I am sure the air must feel good." The most significant mention of the senses, however, is during Kichijiro's pre-confession confession, what he remembers of his family's execution3.
"Wherever I go, I see the fire and smell the flesh."
Kichijiro is haunted by this eight year old memory, of course! Almost certainly, the memory has become a part of his meditation, his prayer life. He admits how the priests' arrival began to change this for him:
"After I saw you and Padre Garrpe for the first time...I thought...I started to believe...that God might take me back. Because my dreams, the fire was no longer so bright."
During the boat ride to Goto, Fr. Rodrigues brings sea water to his lips while mediating on Christ's crucifixion, “I imagine Your Son, nailed to the cross. My mouth tastes like vinegar.” The human senses augment the priest's spiritual imagination. The overly salted fish served up by Kichijiro makes Fr. Rodrigues thirsty and weak, "The fish was so salty. I...I thirst."

During Fr. Rodrigues's initial encounter with the Inquisitor, Inoue, he looks him steadily in the eyes as he speaks to the Japanese peasant Christians in their native language. The Japanese peasant Christians do not dare raise their faces up to him. After the peasants are dismissed, Fr. Rodrigues answers whether he understood the Inquisitor's words by saying, "I saw your eyes." The Inquisitor calls Rodrigues's bluff, an attempt at covering up his poor language skills, but his regard for him is evident. Characters look to heaven occasionally as they speak. They look upon religious images, they touch and fashion crosses and rosaries, they take communion.

The concern of the Christian peasants of whether God sees them, even though they "hide the Kirishitan images ... Even though we do not have a priest? ... God still sees us, yes?" is contrasted with the repeated use of the words "hidden" and "hide."4 An aspect of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises is expressed as "looking at God looking at you." This is why Fr. Rodrigues speaks to God from the position of a son, out of his belief that God sees him as a son. And unless the Japanese Christian peasants are convinced that God sees them, their spiritual imagination is stuck.

Repetition as a practice of the Exercises comes through in certain scenes: when Fr. Rodrigues is leading his cellmates in devotions, he repeats with them the phrase, "I shall never be shaken." In his personal reflection, he imagines Christ saying to him, repeatedly, the promise "I will not abandon you." Words and phrases are repeated until they are internalized and become personally meaningful.

On that last point, the word "abandon" occurs throughout the movie. Fr. Ferreira is the first to use the word when he writes that Japanese officials expect Christians to "abandon God and the gospel of his love." In his letter to Fr. Valignano, Fr. Ferreira promises that he will not abandon their hidden Christians in Japan. Fr. Valignano reads aloud Fr. Ferreira's words to FF. Garrpe and Rodrigues5, essentially making the words his own. Fr. Garrpe doesn't want to abandon their mission. Kichijiro begs the priests to take him home to Japan, "Don’t abandon me here, Father, please!" Kichijiro confesses that he could not abandon his family during their execution even if he had abandoned God. In the meeting between the apostate Ferreira and Fr. Rodrigues, the interpreter gets angry with Fr. Rodrigues:
He is Ferreira only to you. He is Sawano Chuan now. A man who has found peace. Let him guide you along his path. The path of mercy. That means only that you abandon self. No one should interfere with another man’s spirit. To help others is the way of the Buddha and your way too. The two religions are the same in this. It’s not necessary to win anyone over to one side or another when there is so much to share.
Then Ferreira confides in Fr. Rodrigues, "I’ve been told to get you to abandon the faith."

I haven't read any online articles that touches upon these things I've noticed about the movie in terms of Ignatian spirituality. I'm not all that versed in the Ignatian program. I would be interested in discovering more ways in which the movie models Ignatian techniques.

1 Funny that the sound of crickets is our way to say, "Nothingness."
2 Kichijiro knows that his besetting sin(s) keep him from being a "pleasing aroma" to the Lord. I think he does get his chance eventually. Quotations are taken from a working script found online at Paramount which does not always match the movie.
3 the way in which Kichijiro's seven family members are lined up as they watch him trample the fumie before their execution reminds me of the Jewish martyrs at the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes mentioned in 2 Maccabees 7, even though the movie shows a father, mother, two daughters and three sons.
4 the voice that speaks to Rodrigues, that approves his trample of the fumie, says, "Your life is with me now," so similar to Colossians 3:3, "your life is hidden with Christ in God."
5 the opening scene is a little amusing with all of them addressing each other as "Father," especially because it is clear that they do not all have the same rank even though they have the same title.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

I thought it was required that at least one parent attend a "call to prayer" event at my son's diocesan high school but I was mistaken. Maybe I just wanted to anyway, an excuse to get away. Picking among the offerings was an easy process of elimination: I cannot stand living Stations and I already had a lessons & carols event in my calendar. Something new and original.

Granted, the flyer's description was vague, only the promise of visiting Princeton. I registered in mid-September for the early May day, hoping to keep it. Jeff flew to Finland that night for a few days on a business trip but there was no schedule conflict.

The high school's parking lot had a number of cars when I arrived the morning of the so-called "art spirituality" day. The back door that led directly to the chapel hallway was propped open but I decided to enter through the main entrance. Even though this was a Saturday, students were on campus, prepping for AP exams, so I was curious what sort of security they had. A guard greeted me as I entered through the main doors, but I didn't mention my business to him. As I entered the chapel, I nearly bumped into one of the coordinators who was dashing out briefly to bring in stragglers. When she returned, she gave me a folder with the day's schedule and a blank sheet of paper, and a paper with a song based on Wisdom 11.

She offered me a ballpoint pen but I said that I had my own. A woman turned around from a row ahead and said, "I always take the freebies, for what we pay in tuition. And wait until college!" I couldn't see any economic logic behind her attitude and it made practical sense only because my own pen seemed dried up. We didn't write much at all!

We moved into the next room and completed a hand-crafted Thank You card while listening to John Michael Talbot on CD and eating homemade chocolate chip cookies. We sat now facing each other instead of rows as in the chapel so I got a better sense of the participants. One woman had with her an old hardcover, tan AT&T lab book so I asked her which location she worked at. Understand that most locations are a considerable distance to the north and east and that employee rolls are now a far cry from the glory days. In reply, she began with an emphatic, "Where haven't I worked?!" then gave me a blow-by-blow of every position and AT&T location she's been. More information than I needed but I learned at least her approximate age, that she's two years older than my husband. We talked for so long that we were the last ones to our cars for the drive to Princeton.

Traffic around Princeton on a late spring weekend morning is horrendous but I had a plan. I would not park in a garage but rather in a faculty/staff lot off Washington near the University Chapel that was unrestricted weekends and evenings. I'd only ever parked there at night so I was surprised to see the back of the James M. Stewart '32 Theater. That's right! Now I remember that one of my favorite all-time actors was a Princeton graduate! Too hurried to take a picture for his Facebook fan page, I hoofed it over to the university art museum, thinking myself so late. When I saw no one waiting in the lobby, I was disappointed to think they'd left me. Then that one from AT&T arrived and went through the same steps as myself: asking the gift shop employee and the security staff whether a group of women had just passed.

I was incredibly impressed with their collection. I'm partial to mosaics.

We spent just enough time at the museum to whet our appetite for lunch for a return trip with the family. The restaurant was ready for us with a table set up in the front window. We could watch the bustling Princeton side streets. One of our leaders held up the server, who was ready to take our drink order, to say grace. I picked the least expensive menu item after the eggplant parm (always the cheapest) because I wanted that dish. But it was not good and I took home the uneaten portion.

Our mealtime conversation was about interactions with police while driving, that is, our experiences in getting pulled over. I thought it was a slight step up from the usual health and medical nightmares people our age relish sharing. The most outspoken among us worked, I learned, for a law firm. She spoke confidently of driving 80 mph on the Turnpike because "the speed limit is already 65." Meaning, I think, the tacit implication that drivers go faster. She indicated that she was accustomed to talking her way out of tickets but one time before she could even begin her spiel the officer said, "You are getting a ticket!"

I could contribute to the topic so I broke in with the story of my son's first day of high school. Not sure whether buses were running, I drove him. We left in plenty of time but traffic was already heavy. I watched the police car enter the highway and pass us, but then he dropped back and behind. I was incredulous and he approached the passenger side where my son was sitting. He asked about my headlamp, yes, I had known for about a week that it was out. He wrote up a paper about it and told me to get it fixed. I had so much trouble getting back on the highway because of the traffic. It was terribly inconvenient and I immediately switched off my daytime running lights. If they had not been on - but I have them on for safety! - he would not have pulled me over. The officer's note helped motivate my husband to replace my headlamp.

Women at my lunch table told me that I should have played dumb with the police officer and pretend that I had not noticed the light was out. That made absolutely no sense to me. I'm no model of integrity but I can muster enough to be straight with a police officer.

My AT&T friend was having none of this conversation. She was hoping for a more spiritual discussion so she brought up the indulgence that Pope Francis had announced the previous day for the Fátima centennial. I was the only one who had heard of it besides her. She wanted to know where she could find a statue of Our Lady of Fátima by next Saturday. Off the top of my head, I knew none. I imagined pastors across the diocese and around the country scrambling in response to the papal declaration, maybe even muttering frustration at Francis's apparent capriciousness. Who knew he was such a Marianist, that Jesuit?! I pictured church secretaries checking closets and cellars, peeping under draped cloths for long-lost Fátima statues. Fátima isn't now as popular as Lourdes, if she ever was.

The business of the restaurant check came and, as usual, splitting it equally was proposed first. No, everyone should pay for what they ate. I'm not so charitable as that. I had figured mine out with tax and tip: $11 meal + 7%1 + 20%2 = about $14. The woman next to me came up with $23 for her $19 meal and she asked me to validate it. I said, "I'm putting $3 on an $11 bill and you're putting $4 on a $19 bill, so what do you think?" Yes, she was ok about it so I threw in another dollar to cover her.

We walked to the University Chapel to conclude our spirituality day but the chapel was in use. We could not enter. Some went for ice cream to return to the chapel later but I went home.

1 our sales tax is actually 6.875%
2 our party size put us in the 20% gratuity category