St. Pedro Calungsod, whom I wrote about in my last post, was not the only one who was canonized on October 21, 2012. Also canonized with him were two Americans (St. Marianne Cope and St. Kateri Tekakwitha), a German laywoman named St.Anna Schafer, the martyred French Jesuit St., Jacques Berthieu, the Italian St. Giovanni Battista Piamarta, and the Spaniard St. Maria del Carmen.
Among those who were canonized together with St. Pedro Calungsod, I am familiar with St. Kateri Tekakwitha only. From a book I had about her when I was a kid, I know about her Native American roots, her pagan father and Christian mother, the hard life she lived in an anti-Christian tribe and growing up with her uncle and aunt, her clandestine baptism as an adult, her escape to a Christian community, and the holy life she lived.
Mulling over the stories of St. Pedro Calungsod and St. Kateri Tekakwitha, a thought occurred to me: with the exciting lives that these saints lived – who are only two out of seven saints canonized on the same day, and out of a countless multitude of saints throughout the history of Christendom — why do movie makers run out of ideas?
The lives of the saints are not just sugary feel-good anecdotes for second-rate sermons. Saints were interesting people. They were not all indistinguishable clones of each other. For example, some, like St. Therese of Lisieux, have grown up in ideal families, but, as the example of St. Dymphna shows, having a dysfunctional father is no excuse not to be a saint.
I like how Ethel Pochocki, author of the Once-Upon-A-Time Saints children’s stories, describes the saints: they were “human and lovable people whose mysterious passion for God led them into preposterous escapades”. Because of their love for God, the saints had real-life adventure, action, drama, comedy, suspense, and romance in their lives. They left their families and refused promising marriage proposals to “elope” with the Beloved, defied human authorities to obey God, travelled to distant and dangerous lands to preach, narrowly evaded arrests, led troops into battle, recited memorable lines like “Credo!”, “Viva Cristo Rey!”, “I am the king’s good servant but God’s first” while being tortured or before being executed.
Their stories contain the kind of inspiration our generation craves, the kind of role models the youth need. Their stories also contain the stuff good movies are made of. Young people can’t help but get their role models from the movies. But movie makers, in turn, need sources for the stories they tell us, and if they cannot get good sources, they will tell us stories that dishearten and corrupt.
I do not want all movies to be about saints. I am only suggesting that if movie makers run out of ideas, perhaps they can look at the lives of the saints to see what they find. They’ll find a plenty of material for sure: a lot of humanity, not lacking in the dark realities of life but neither lacking in edification for viewers. Lest it be thought that movies based on saints’ stories would not be lucrative and would appeal only to a minority, Song of Bernadette and A Man for All Seasons both garnered Oscar awards and nominations in the past. There’s no reason any well-made saint movie won’t resonate with today’s audiences.
Readers, what do you think? Which saints would you want there to be movies on? Which actor or actress would you cast as your favorite saint? Please share in the combox.