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`The Way' asks the right question

theway_gallery_L_07The Way, a film starring Martin Sheen as a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago, has opened. Having twice walked chunks of the 500-mile route across northern Spain, I eagerly chose it from the menu of movies offered on a flight I took last summer.Sheen plays an American doctor whose wayward son decides to hike the Camino in search of himself. When the son dies in a freak accident, Sheen's character, an uptight man named Tom, goes to fetch his remains. Tom decides to complete the Camino for his son.The movie focuses on the same question about the pilgrims that intrigued me and which I wrote about in 2008 for BustedHalo.com: What Are They Walking For? In heavily secular Europe, few will say they are hiking the pilgrimage route for religious reasons. And yet, if a conversation gets much beyond the superficials of how far one has walked, from where, and whether blisters have developed, one finds very often that a peregrino has reached some crossroad in life - starting or finishing school, for example, or loss of someone close - and is looking for something. The Way features such characters: a Dutchman who says he is walking to lose weight, a self-absorbed Irish writer who wants to overcome writer's block. It's not so much a film about the Camino as it is about the spiritual journeys of the many people who feel they don't need religion in their lives. I don't want to give away the plot, so will just say that although the movie is a bit heavy-handed, Sheen and the director, his son Emilio Estevez, deserve credit for bringing these matters to the screen.

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I have a friend who made this pilgrimage and I appreciate her story so much. I am very anxious to see the film. There is a wonderful interview with Martin Sheen on the NCR website. Sadly, this film will probably have a very limited release and run. If there's any way we can influence small local theatres to show it and get some word of mouth and reviews in local papers, perhaps it can can around, but that's only very non-educated guess on how this all works!

Coming back from Rome in April, I watched "Che bella giornata" ("What a Beautiful Day"), about a kind of a Inspector Clouseau/Maxwell Smart who works security for the Church. Laugh out loud funny. Unfortunately, I doubt it will be released here.I'm looking forward to Cristiada, with Andy Garcia, Peter O'Toole, Ruben Blades, and others, about the persecution of the Church in Mexico and Cristeros War (1926-1929).

In my view, pilgrimages are among the treasures of Catholic tradition. Some years ago, two friends, one of whom has since died, and I took a trip to the Cross in the Woods here in Michigan. No comparison with walking the Camino, of course, but it was a day of prayer and unexpected joys. The blessings of that day have been long-lasting and humbling.