“If might is right, love has no place in the world. It may be so, it may be so. But I don’t have the strength to live in a world like that, Rodrigo. ” Jeremy Irons in The Mission
Last week, I captivated some of my few Twitter followers with photographs of Catholic-movie-stars-as-priests, for which I was, rightly, chastised for going too far. One of the photographs was of Robert de Niro, who really does not seem to be able to stop playing priests, in his role in The Mission. In the film, de Niro plays Rodrigo Mendoza, a mercenary, slave-hunter and murderer, who undergoes contrition, penitence and conversion. He becomes a Jesuit priest, assisting the Jesuits in their reduccion or mission, protecting and evangelising the Guaraní people. In the end, he is killed, trying to protect the mission, as are his Jesuit brothers, who have refused to take up arms, and most of the Guaraní people.
The character of Father Gabriel, played by Jeremy Irons, is based in part on Saint Roque González de Santa Cruz, who set up the Jesuit reduccions in the Amazon to provide a safe haven and a place of catechism and education for the vulnerable local people. He and his two companions, Saint Alonso Rodriguez and Saint Juan de Castillo, were murdered by a local chief in 1628. They were canonised in 1988 and are known as the Martyrs of Paraguay. Today is their feast-day.