The worker-priest movement to which Joffe refers created solidarity for the Church, especially when so few of the educated understood the plight of laborers like these coal miners in France. Scranton, in fact, is a town known for its defense of the rights of workers in the mines and its coal strikes. (Another film that depicts a priest of this kind can be found in Marlon Brando's justly praised performance in On the Waterfront.) John Mitchell is memorialized in Scranton City center at the Courthouse Square for his role in creating unions and more just labor laws. Places like Scranton were built on the backs of immigrant families who labored under oppressive conditions that often resulted in death for the workers and severely truncated lives. To be "liberated" from those conditions required defending the rights of workers and seeking just remuneration. The Jesuits took over the Christian Brothers school, Saint Thomas, and created The University of Scranton in the 40's, serving the descendants of coal-miners and to minister in "the mission" of urban Scranton. Jesuits have often practiced accompaniment with laborers and the poor the world over. What many of the Jesuits have shown is that by coming alongside people and working together towards a more just future we learn to love one another more deeply. That love destroys the false idol of the "us" and "them" mentality.
Fr Greg Boyle, SJ articulates well how the transformative love of gang-members in Los Angeles (pictured here in the background) changed his life. Compassion and kinship are two realities he introduces to us:
Love and the city applies radically to his work in Los Angeles. Homeboy Industries provides much hope to people who otherwise may have lost all hope for a better future.
Boyle encourages us to stand with the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, the easily despised, the readily left out. To celebrate justice is to engage in kinship and work against the dehumanization of our times. The drive to dehumanize is evident in The Mission and should occupy some of your attention. How do the Jesuits in the film work towards re-humanization? (HERE is an article on the Jesuits who inspired the film.)
The Guarani are hunted, enslaved, exploited, and considered sub-human by the colonizers. The Spanish and Portuguese want the land and the riches of the land for building wealth through international trade. The "Mission" is in the way of the plans for further exploitation. Fr. Gabriel defends the rights of the indigenous and models how to care for the Guarani. The Trial scene is particularly telling of the different ways the Guarani are treated. Just notice how Fr. Gabriel relates to the child in the trial who sings as "proof" of his "humanity," in contrast to the slave-trader. (Remember our use of the song At the Purchaser's Option previously?)
"We an legitimately say that in the process of oppression someone oppresses someone else; we cannot say that in the process of revolution someone liberates someone else, nor yet that someone liberates himself, but rather that human beings in communion liberate each other." Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p. 133.
Please read the link provided above for the article in Commonweal, after you have watched the film. It will deepen your understanding of the film and its relationship to themes important to our course.
Record your "video response" holding a conversation about how The Mission gives us insight into what Paulo Freire means when he writes that "human beings in communion liberate each other." Who is "liberated"? How? In what way(s)? Maybe your reading of the film is that nobody is liberated. If so, then do we see at least glimpses of liberating communion between people, founded in love? If so, what kind of love?
(I would suggest a focus on Rodrigo and his penitential journey may provide an excellent focus for you. What is the deal with his “penance”? Why is it self-chosen? Why must Rodrigo bear the burden until he feels the time is right? (Note that Liam Neason’s character tries to intervene too early.) What is the significance of the role the Guarani play in his penance? Why do you think the Guarani must be involved in his penance, as far as the story-line associated with Rodrigo goes? Who is he, what is his role, and why might he have previously been engaged with the Guarani? How is the Christian understanding of love, as it relates to sin, forgiveness, and new life significant for the story?)
Submit the presentations on Slack before Monday morning, July 26.
Created with images by Daniel Öberg - "Cascade aux Ecrevisses" • Alexander Paul - "Young Yagua" • Kateryna Kovarzh - "dipinto acquerello comunicazione concettuale" • Varshita Korrapati - "I was walking through a crowded part of Central Park when I stumbled upon this violinist playing a beautiful tune and I immediately knew he was special." • Archivist - "French Miners. Date: circa 1900" • Alexis Balinoff - "Lost in Los Angeles" • Rawpixel.com - "Classmate Solidarity Team Group Community Concept"