Santiago Cabrera portrays Father Vega in a scene from the movie "For Greater Glory." (CNS photo/ARC Entertainment)

Call me an optimist, but I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, the new film “For Greater Glory” might help thaw the hearts of some of the cynics out there. I was wrong. At least about the cynics in the mainstream media, anyway.

The film chronicles the uprising of the Cristeros against the tyrannical power of the Mexican federal government back in the 1920s. Mexico’s anti-clerical laws at the time resulted in severe repression and persecution of the Catholic Church.

Blessed John Paul II canonized a group of 25 martyrs, mostly priests, from this period and Pope Benedict XVI beatified José Sánchez del Río, a 14-year-old Cristero who refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ. The portrayal of this young boy’s heroic faith is one of the most moving aspects of the movie. Bring extra tissues.

Yes, the film is violent. It’s about a war, after all, and war involves lots of shooting and dying. Pacifists will not flock to “For Greater Glory.” But to be fair, the movie is no more violent than others that deal with war, and quite frankly, far less than most of what moviegoers are expected to tolerate. The difference is that “For Greater Glory” highlights the courageous faith of priests and laity who were willing to lay down their lives for the Lord.

Persecution continues

That’s something that’s still going on today. On June 3, a suicide bomber killed 15 Christians at prayer in a church in Nigeria. The repression and violence against Christians throughout the Middle East, Asia and around the world continues. And as usual, it’s pretty much ignored. I can’t give you details about the 15 Nigerian Christians killed because nobody’s writing much about them. They’re on a growing list of nameless, faceless martyrs of our own time, forgotten by the media elite but not by God.

Here in the United States, we’re facing restrictions on our religious liberties. Though our lives are not at risk for our faith, the federal government wants to shove paying for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients down our throats. Church leadership is not falling for any so-called “accommodations” in this regard, either.

The infringement on our liberties as Catholics goes beyond that, however. Many people are unaware that the feds also want to force Catholic adoption agencies to place children in homes with same-sex couples. Catholic adoption agencies have closed rather than cave to these outrageous demands. The government is also trying to restrict the way the Church cares for undocumented immigrants.

In response to this attempt to limit the free exercise of our faith, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has called for a two-week period of prayer, fasting, education and action that begins June 21. See page 14 for more details. I’m sincerely hoping Catholic Sun readers will wholeheartedly join in this prayerful effort to restore and protect religious liberty in our country.

But back to the film. Not surprisingly, mainstream media critics pretty much hated it, so don’t hold your breath for Academy Awards. After all, “For Greater Glory” shines a light on Hollywood’s arch-nemesis, the hated Catholic Church. You know, the institution it likes to belittle and insult, in spite of its insistence that we all be tolerant of anti-Catholic propaganda like “The Da Vinci Code” or “The Last Temptation of Christ.”

The Arizona Republic gave “For Greater Glory” a lousy two stars out of five and called it “a pious mess of a movie.” The Boston Globe smirked that the film was “a total embarrassment.” The Los Angeles Times moaned that it was “stodgy, overblown and repetitive slog.”

Don’t listen to these guys because, as usual, they’re wrong. This is the kind of film Catholics ought to support and promote. I’m sick of movies that mock our faith and values, corrupt our culture and shamelessly trash the Church and our priests.

If you haven’t seen “For Greater Glory” yet, check it out. And please remember to pray for our country as well as for those who face death and persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ. ¡Viva Cristo Rey!