Over the past weekend, stunned and saddened like everyone else over the violence in Colorado, I took time to watch the movie Of Gods and Men for the third time. This was in preparation for an upcoming retreat.
Watching that movie, about the monks of Our Lady of the Atlas Mountains, who were martyred during the Algerian Civil War in 1996, gave me a new and, I hope, contemplative perspective on both the shootings and how ordinary people might respond to them. The monks of Atlas lived Christlike lives in the face of violence and uncertainty. They were martyrs not so much in how they died, but in how they lived (remember, the word “martyr” means “witness”). They were witnesses to love in a world gone mad with fear and violence. Needless to say, they have much to teach us.
I wrote about this in my latest Patheos column: Of Gods and Men, Movies and Violence. Please check it out.
I wrote this column on Sunday, and then got to work yesterday and found out the Monastery was canceling the retreat due to low registration numbers! Preparing for a retreat that ends up getting cancelled is normally an exercise in frustration, but this time it seemed graced, in that it so synchronistically helped me find a way to respond to the tragedy. If you think you would like to make a retreat based on this movie, never fear: the Monastery of the Holy Spirit will offer it again, probably sometime in 2013.