The images of death and tragedy from 2016 alone are enough to haunt us for a lifetime. The two engraved in my memory the most are the body of the Syrian boy on the beach and the child rescued from the bombing in Aleppo.

Where was God in these moments of suffering? Why was He silent?

These are the same questions posed in Martin Scorsese's newest film "Silence". The film is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Japanese author Shusako Endo. Endo wrote his stories from the rare perspective of a Japanese Catholic. When you watch the film you understand the reason Catholicism is considered rare in Japan. 

Plot in a nutshell - SPOILER ALERT

The story follows two Jesuit priests who have to enter Japan after finding out their mentor, Fr. Ferreira, was captured, forced to apostocize, and had become a Buddhist philosopher. Upon entering into the country, the two Jesuits, Fr. Rodrigues and Fr. Garupe, discover a Christian community that had been living in secret from the Japanese government. Since Christianity was outlawed, anyone discovered practicing the religion had to apostocize meaning to abandon the faith and step on an icon of Jesus. We discover that this community was similar to the early Christian communities when it was outlawed by the Romans. The priests helped this Japanese community say mass in the catacombs, heard secret confessions, and even held Eucharistic adoration.

Once the government discovers this secret community of Christians they capture and martyr the ones who refuse to apostocize. Christianity, as the emperor points out, becomes a cut root in Japan. Fr. Rodrigues, in an unexpected turn of events, leaves the Catholic faith in order to save the other Christians from being tortured. 

Too Catholic

Coming off 2016's Best Picture winner, Spotlight, about the rape epidemic in Boston by Catholic priests, Silence seemed too Catholic to share the spotlight, no pun intended, with the other contenders. This is a film which portrays Catholics in a positive light, trying to spread Truth through humility, peace, and unity. It is a film which showcases the deepest human struggle with belief in God through immense suffering. It reveals the lowly converts who stand by their faith even unto death and the disciplined Jesuits who abandon their convictions under strategic persecution. While Spotlight uncovered the conspiracy of clergymen and lay persons who allowed the evil of sexual abuse to run rampant in Boston, "silence" explains why evil happens. It is the explanation of how evil can be rooted everywhere, especially within the Church. 

To believe in a Christian God is to believe in free will. A God who does not impede human freedom even if it's evil. Gods voice is no longer one of the Old Testament, but vocalized through humanity. Humanity has become smart enough to know the difference and preach the difference. We have passed as humans the age of reason. We now are Gods voice in the promotion of good and rejection of evil. That's why when humanitarian efforts are taking place we should find out how to support no matter where we are from. 

God suffers with us. That's His plan, to walk with us, not strike evil dead, as demonstrated by Jesus' "walk" to Calvary. God is silent, even when Jesus prayed to him in the garden of Gethsemane and while feeling the pain of Crucifixion, but we can only hear him within that silence. That's why prayer and reflection are so important. 

This movie shows real Catholicism with real human struggle. Torture, death, and sacraments. Humans must fight against evil and promote good or do we remain silent in the face of adversity?

Bishop Baron

This is a great conclusion to this post from Bishop Barron in regards to preaching the Gospel in face of obstacles, hence the entire mission of the Jesuits in Japan.

The resurrection is the clearest indication of the Lordship of Jesus. This is why the message of the resurrection is attacked, belittled, or explained away. The author of Acts speaks of “violent abuse” hurled at Paul. I have a small taste of this on my YouTube forums. We all should expect it, especially when our proclamation is bold.


This reveals a great mystery: we are called to announce the good news to everyone, but not everyone will listen. Once we’ve done our work, we should move on and not obsess about those who won’t listen. Why do some respond and some don’t? We don’t know, but that’s ultimately up to God

Dear Evan Hansen, Here are 13 Reasons Why...
*Spoiler Alert
Image result for dear evan hansen
Ben Platt as Evan Hansen, photo by Matthew Murphy
Like many, I instantly fell in love with the new musical "Dear Evan Hansen". I passively listened to the music for about a month just enjoying the melody, guitar riffs, and lyrics. I started to piece the story together, but I didn't really pay attention to the theme until I binged on the show "13 Reasons Why" on Netflix, a show that hit me hard as a father, as a male, and as an overall human being. I jumped back into the music of Evan Hansen and the pain took root. 

Both Evan Hansen and 13 Reasons tackle teenage suicide, a theme that is not new, but has struck a chord in me as of late. Suicide is lonely, a personified version of Zeno's paradox (the belief that two objects never really touch). The choice of suicide as presented in both of these shows is a result of invisible person-hood. Connor Murphy (Dear Evan Hansen) and Hannah Baker (13 Reasons Why) feel invisible for different reasons. While Hannah leaves behind tapes expressing "13 reasons" why she took her life, it was ultimately due to her traumatizing rape that isolated her identity. And with mystery surrounding Connor's death, we can infer from Evan's own failed suicide attempt that Connor isolated himself because he felt misunderstood and thought would be able to "disappear" without anyone truly noticing. 

My soul weeps for these characters because they resonate with so many real people. The popularity for Evan Hansen is not just due to the catchy beats or well rounded acting, but to the fact that people really do feel invisible. In a world of 8 billion? How can that be? 

The question that these shows ask is; "Do we matter?" With so many people in the world, it's easy to feel that your own uniqueness is drowned out. We look to imitate not the people with the best qualities, morals, or courage, but the ones who are most popular simply because they are not invisible to anyone. They are seen! Yet, even the most celebrated may still fall into this isolation (I.e. Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, Richard Simmons).  

Underneath the invisibility cloak that the world throws on us, our inner selves still define our existence, expressing our identity through "spiritualized matter". We cannot see that which is invisible unless through that which is visible, namely our own bodies. Hanna's suicide is presented as a release of invisible pain, something that she quietly (almost peacefully even) drifts away from. It showcases life as a prison sentence and the body as the incarceration of the mind, but never discusses the spiritual. Even Evan Hansen avoids the the spiritual element of the human person. That's where my pain sat for several weeks. I understand that religion has become tainted for so many, but you don't have to be religious to know that there is something hidden deep inside of you that cannot really be explained. There is an energy source that, rather than isolating us, intimately connects us. Call it your soul, spirit, God, or authentic self, but something is there that sets us apart. 

"Dear Evan Hansen's" solution to suicide: a stable support network. Evan starts a campaign for Connor to remind people that "no one deserves to disappear", playing on invisible person-hood. The campaign goes viral and inspires thousands. "13 Reasons Why's" solution to suicide: standing up against the culture of rape. The transformative hero of the show, Clay, literally stands up to Hannah's rapist and secures a confession from him after taking a brutal beating. 

There comes a responsibility when watching these shows, to not allow suicide to appear glamorous (as in the show Heathers). 13 Reasons portrays suicide as a way to get revenge on your enemies and Evan Hansen showcases it as a way to capitalize on one's own anxiety. We must remember that even if we feel invisible, we are not. We should draw out the invisible spirit of our uniquely unrepeatable selves. It is through our physicality that our invisible identity is seen. The best parts of us are hidden, only to be revealed through our physical choices, voices, actions, expressions, ideas, etc. 

Suicide is lonely. You are not alone. You are loved, whether you feel it or not. Open up your invisible wounds to several people you trust, not just one person, that way you don't put the weight of your existence on the response of someone who may not understand how you feel. Build a support network and remind yourself that you matter. No one deserves to disappear. Life is a tragically beautiful play and you have your role in it. Ask what it is. You may not fulfill that role for many years from now, but you can never bask in the spotlight of your destiny if you skip rehearsal.  

Next PostNewer Posts Previous PostOlder Posts Home