Youth New Evangelization & Spiritual Renewal Seminar Series
A movie screening:  Seminar 13

The Mission



 
"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." 
    John 1:5

The film is based on true events, which took place in Paraguay as a result of Treaty of Madrid of 1750 signed between Spain and Portugal. In this treaty Spain transferred part of its territories to Portugal, in which Jesuit Fathers had established seven Jesuit missions.

The story takes place around 1751 when a Jesuit Father Gabriel from a monastery in the community of Asuncion, Paraguay risks his life in order to approach native Indians from the tribe Guaraní in their native jungle above perilous Iguazu Falls. Father Gabriel by his music wins the hearts of the Indians and is accepted to live with them. He starts building a Jesuit mission San Carlos and a new home for the Indians above the falls and converts them to Christianity.

A mercenary and a slave trader Rodrigo Mendoza makes his living by kidnapping natives and selling them into slavery through a Spanish Governor Don Cabeza. Rodrigo's life turns up side down however when his lady (señorita Carlotta) commits adultery with Rodrigo's younger brother Felipe. After revealing to Rodrigo her relationship with Felipe, a duel between the two brothers during which Felipe is killed follows. The adultery and killing of his brother whom Rodrigo loved is too much for him to bear and he spirals into depression and wants to die. Father Gabriel visits and challenges Mendoza to undertake a suitable penance. Mendoza accompanies the Jesuits on their return journey above the falls, dragging a heavy bundle containing his armour and sword as a part of his penance. Recognized by the Guaranís as their kidnapper, intense moments follow which result in the Indians' forgiveness to Rodrigo. Moved by the Guaranís' acceptance, Mendoza wishes to help at the mission and eventually becomes one of the Jesuit brothers.

The Treaty of Madrid (1750) reapportions the land in South America. The land on which the Jesuit missions were located was transferred to the Portuguese, and Portuguese law allowed slavery. The Portuguese colonials seek to enslave the natives, and as the independent Jesuit missions might impede this, Papal emissary Cardinal Altamirano, a former Jesuit priest himself, is sent from the Vatican to survey the missions and decide which, if any, should be allowed to remain. Under pressure from both Don Cabeza and Portuguese Governor, Señor Hontar, Cardinal Altamirano is forced to choose between two evils. If he rules in favour of the colonists, the indigenous peoples will become enslaved; if he rules in favour of the missions, the entire Jesuit Order may be condemned by the Portuguese and the European Catholic Church could fracture. Cardinal Altamirano visits the missions and is amazed at their industry and success, both in converting the Indians and economically. At Father Gabriel's mission of San Carlos he tries to explain the reasons behind closing the mission and instructs the Guaraní that they must leave and abandon the mission. The Guaraní question his authority, and Father Gabriel and Rodrigo Mendoza, under threat of excommunication by the Church, state their intention to defend the mission should the plantation owners and colonists attack. The position of the two men is fundamentally different however. Father Gabriel believes that since God is Love, violence is a direct crime against God. He wants to take a position exemplified by Jesus Christ, the position of a sacrificial lamb. Rodrigo on the other hand wants to help the Guaraní fighters militarily. He decides to break his priestly vows to Jesuit Order to militarily defend the Mission. Against Father Gabriel's wishes he teaches the natives the European art of war and once more takes up his sword.

A military attack by the Portuguese army follows during which all natives, including women and children are massacred, and during which Father Gabriel is killed, but so is Rodrigo and their mission is destroyed.

In a final exchange between Cardinal Altamirano and Señor Hontar, Hontar laments that what happened was unfortunate but inevitable because "we must work in the world; the world is thus". In an act of self-condemnation Altamirano replies, "No, Señor Hontar, thus have we made the world, thus have I made it". Days later, a canoe of young children return to the scene of the Mission massacre and salvage a few belongings. They set off up the river, going deeper into the jungle, with the thought that the events will remain in their memories forever.

A final title declares that even today, many priests continue to fight for the rights of indigenous people.

The lessons to be learned:

1)  Notice the struggle between good and evil, which is enveloping  us every day. On one hand, we note the sacrifices of good and  righteous people for a noble and holy cause. On the other hand, we see the cruel and evil reality of this world brought about by greed for selfish gain by ruthless majority.

2)  Notice the destructive nature of adultery.

3)  Every sin MUST be followed by an appropriate penance!

4)  Was disobedience and strife the more preferred way of responding to the crisis? Or, was the Jesus' way of a sacrificial lamb better? What do you think?
 

Some key figures:

Captain Rodrigo Mendoza, Father Gabriel, Cardinal Altamirano, Felipe Mendoza, señorita Carlotta, señor Don Hontar, Don Cabeza, Father John Fielding, Sebastian, Father Ralph


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