For about 30 years, I have been a member of a priest discussion group. I call myself the moderator because I usually pick the date on which we will meet and suggest the book that we will discuss.
Just about everyone I have spoken with who has seen the film “A Hidden Life” mentions how the film disturbed their conscience. Watching the story of a man, the Austrian farmer, Franz Jagerstatter, who during the Second World War refused to sign an oath of loyalty to Hitler and so eventually died a martyr, moves viewers to wonder what they would do if they were in his situation.
Third in a series
In the philosophy and film course that I teach at St. John’s University, I rely on the theory of art of the great Thomist philosopher, Jacques Maritain, to give the students some sense of the ingredients that make up a great film or indeed any great work of art. When I was an undergraduate student in philosophy many years ago, Maritain was referred to in just about every course that I took. I have found his theory of art one of his special contributions. Maritain’s insights, I think, have helped me to interpret novels, plays and films.
Viewing and reflecting about Terrence Malick’s new film, “A Hidden Life,” has reminded me of two other great films that deal with conscience: “A Man for All Seasons” and “Sophie Scholl.” It has occurred to me that a wonderful film festival showing these three films could be conducted in a parish on the topic “A Christian Conscience.” I have already shown “A Man for All Seasons” (1966) and “Sophie Scholl” (1905) in festivals that I have conducted and I plan to show “A Hidden Life” as soon as it becomes available.
I first heard of Terrence Malick’s film, “A Hidden Life,” several months ago. Probably I read about it in a newspaper article about the Cannes Film Festival at which Malick’s film caused some discussion. I am not exaggerating when I claim that for months I had been waiting for the film to appear in this country.
Something strange and wonderful happened in my life in relation to my previous column. Just before writing that column, I had lunch with some people in service professions.
I have just come back from having lunch with some people who are in service professions. Knowing that I planned to write a column sometime today, I half-jokingly asked them what I should write about in the column. I was not planning to have a deep conversation but was merely curious about what they might say.
Faith & Thought
Recalling the many Christmas columns that I have previously written, I was momentarily concerned that in writing this one I might repeat myself. Almost immediately I put the concern out of my mind. How could I not repeat myself?
Recently in a philosophy class at St. John’s University, a student asked a question that caused me to be silent for a few seconds. Usually I love to receive questions and often find that they stimulate me to explore new areas of philosophy, and the dialogue that develops between me and the questioner can provide an educational experience for me, for the questioner and for the other students in the class.
I cannot recall whether a special experience I had took place while I was praying or while I was preparing a homily about prayer. The experience was a vivid insight into a truth that I already knew.