Silence, the Novel by Shusaku Endo (left) and the Movie directed by Martin Scorsese (right).

Silence – Part 2 | Read Part 1

After a long delay (more of dilly-dallying), I finally got to watch the movie. And then I even watched it a second time, last Good Friday (April 14, 2017).

I was able to sleep soundly after both viewings, yes. Somehow, it was reading the novel that kept me more awake and affected. Either way, engaging with both media can’t just leave one unaffected. But I am really still too stunned to process my thoughts.

Maybe I can just handle the whole thing more from the youth ministry lens, as usual. And here’s my take:

It strikes me that the young Jesuit priests Rodrigues (portrayed by Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver) were both students of Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Their determination to go and search for him, despite the threat of persecution and death (shown in the introductory scenes when the two were discussing plans with their superior), and then the crucial, face-to-face confrontation between Rodrigues and Ferreira later, were two pivotal and potent moments. In both, the person of Ferreira is the lynchpin. And until the last moment (that of Rodrigues’ own apostasy), Ferreira was still educating his student. For all Rodrigues’s brashness and bravado, eventually he also gave in under the terrible pressure.

“No pupil is greater than his master,” our Lord Jesus said. Probably both in faith and in failure, we hang on to what we learned from our mentors. Those are handy tools to prop us up in good times or in bad. Think then of the terrifying responsibility we have as educators of youth. And be very afraid.

In the end, God alone matters. All education and formation can only do so much, they can only go to a certain extent. We are old enough to handle our own personal actuations. And we alone will have to answer before God for our own decisions and actions.

As we typically end the oaths we recite, “So help us, God,” He may be silent through all that we face or go through — even uncaring or absent, for that matter. It is said that Shusaku Endo himself in his lifetime agonized so much as a Japanese and Catholic writer. (Even his other novels — and yes, I’ve also read Deep River, Stained Glass Elegies, and Volcano — display his faith-and-culture struggles.)

My struggles to make sense especially of Silence, and to write something now, all seem so puny in comparison.

MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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