On Sunday evening, students from Hellenic College Holy Cross gathered in the Maliotis Center for a film viewing and discussion of the French independent film, “Of Gods and Men,” The title of which comes from Psalm 82. The event was sponsored by the OVM’s Roundtable Discussion Group.
The film, directed by Xavier Beauvois, starring Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale, is inspired by a true story; in 1996, a group of French Cistercian monks were caught in the middle of the Algerian Civil War. For many years they had lived in peaceful harmony with the local Muslim population, but threats of violence caused both by the Islamic Armed Group as well as the Algerian Army obliged them to consider leaving their quiet monastic enclave and fleeing to France. The title of the film was taken from Ps. 82:6: “I said, ‘You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High. But you shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes,’” which reflects the duality of the monk’s vocational struggle – the idealism of their high calling to sanctity, intertwined with the foreboding fear of their imminent kidnap and subsequent death as mere men. After much prayer and deliberation, the small monastic community, led by their superior Br. Christian, came to the universal decision to stay in their monastery. The remainder of the film portrays the life-changing consequences of their decision. Their story is one of discovering their vocation as Christians living in a non-Christian environment, as well as slowly understanding the symbiotic nature of their relationship with the local community. The movie poignantly depicts their agonizing struggle to discern whether to stay or flee, and also artfully highlights the juxtaposition between mode of life of the peaceful village Muslims and that of the Islamic radicals; both the Islamic fundamentalists and the villagers claim to be living based on the teachings of the Quran, yet manifest such divergent lifestyles in so doing.
A vigorous and stimulating discussion ensued after the film, leaving the participants looking forward to future RoundTable events. Themes such as discerning ones path in life, wrestling with doubts regarding one’s vocation, as well as how to peacefully co-exist with and even love our non-Christian neighbors all received ample attention over the course of the conversation. Students were excited and eager to suggest films and topics for similar future events.