Rorate Caeli

MOVIE REVIEW: For Greater Glory

Tomorrow, Ember Friday in Pentecost, a movie comes to mainstream theaters around the U.S. entitled “For Greater Glory,” which is set in Jalisco, Mexico, during the Cristeros War from 1926 to 1929.  Known as “Cristiada” when the movie was released in April in Mexico, it has been screened to several interested Americans over the last few months, including this writer.
This is a movie well worth seeing and supporting.  It had an impressive budget with three major movie stars and accurately portrays a time of Church and State struggle under a Marxist, anti-Catholic president, Plutarco Elías Calles, played by Rubén Blades.

Andy Garcia is the lead actor, playing General Enrique Gorostieta Velarde, a military hero who had fallen from the faith but accepted a monetary offer to lead the Cristero army.  Eva Longoria, an extreme liberal in real life, did a fantastic job playing the devoutly Catholic wife of the general, Tulita.
Perhaps the most charming of the characters, Peter O’Toole, plays an elderly priest, Father Christopher, who exemplified humility and courage in defense of the Church.  Without giving away his brief story line, which begins the movie, you will be moved by it.

I will, however, give away one small scene in the movie.  There is a moment where Andy Garcia’s character, the general, kneels at Mass for communion.  He had already made it clear beforehand he was not in the state of grace.  The priest, Father Vega, who was no conservative, had the sense to deny him the sacrament.
Surprisingly, Donald Cardinal Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, who removed the faculties of a priest who did the exact same thing at a Requiem Mass, was cited in a recent article in the New Republic as supporting the movie and urging others to see it.  Perhaps that scene was not in the cut His Eminence viewed.  Hopefully it remains in tomorrow’s release.  Incidentally, the Cristeros general who was denied communion saw the error of his ways, made a sincere confession and came back fully into the Church.  Tough love trumped false charity before the Second Vatican Council.
Liturgically, the movie is a pleasure to watch.  The priests offering the traditional Masses are heroes. Roman vestments everywhere.  Cassocks.  Collars. Latin.  Only a handful of liturgical errors exist, including the chanting of the Per Ipsum during Mass, and an awkward view of a Roman collar on a priest offering Mass, likely the result of a wardrobe department that did not know what an amice was.
One area that is of concern in the movie is true.  The Church teaches that priests should not take up arms, but about five priests actively fought with weapons in the Cristeros war.  One of them, Father José Reyes Vega, mentioned above with the communion scene, is featured prominently in the movie.  His story in real life was a mixed bag, fighting for the Church, but leading a questionable life as a priest, including with his vow of chastity.  Portrayed (often in cassock) by Santiago Cabrera in the movie, it is a character of many conflicts.
The children, including Adrian Alonso as Lalo and Mauricio Kuri as José, are central to the movie, and show the bravery with many of the boys during the war.  The women in the movie are also crucial, smuggling guns and ammo to the Cristero soldiers through clever means.
On the political front, fans of President Calvin Coolidge will be a little disappointed to see the United States’ role in the war, especially through the compromises put forth by Mexican Ambassador Dwight Whitney Morrow, played by Bruce Greenwood. But Coolidge was not Catholic, and the U.S. is not a Catholic republic.  A diplomatic end was crafted that favored the government.
The situation in Mexico, which resulted in priests and bishops who were not killed to flee the country, was so serious that Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical, “On the Persecution of the Church in Mexico,” during the first year of the war.  In all, about 90,000 Mexicans were killed during the Cristero war, nearly 60,000 federal troops and 30,000 Cristeros.
Times have changed in Mexico.  Anti-Catholic laws are no longer enforced.  The Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, which has a personal parish in Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco, is free to walk around the city in cassocks and collars, which they do.  But that could easily be reversed one day, and other countries are seeing their own issues concerning the freedom of the Roman Catholic Church to practice the faith.
The movie is rated R for war violence, none of which is gratuitous.
Tomorrow, Saturday or soon, see For Greater Glory in the theater to learn about and appreciate this nearly forgotten war waged by Catholic peasants in defense of the Church over an oppressive State.  ¡Viva Cristo Rey!


  1. Lawrence5:57 PM

    The actor playing Blessed Anacleto in the movie (Eduardo Verastegui) is a devout Catholic who I've seen at Tridentine Mass here in California!

  2. Calles was an evil, marxist, bastard; also, see Greene's The Power and the Glory.

  3. It looks to me from the trailer and all the pictures I've seen is that there is another liturgical quirk in this movie... I didn't see a single maniple.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Brian6:32 PM

    I saw a private screening of this movie, and it was great, I highly recommend. Just a warning that it depicts violence including intense scenes of martyrdom, so be careful on deciding which of your children to take to the theaters. I personally wouldn't take any children under 13, but that's just me. Other than that please support this great film.

  6. Anonymous7:05 PM

    Peter O’Toole makes the best Catholic priests, and especially prelates. He was a great pontiff in the Tudors.

  7. My brother read a review that there was brief immodesty in this film.
    Any one verify this please?

  8. Brian8:11 PM


    There was a scene in the version I saw (which was not the final cut) that displayed the women in their underwear (the underwear then covered more than what I see everyday at my job in an office environment). They were in this state of dress to show how the women would transport ammunition. It is very possible, however, that this scene didn't make the final cut. But either I think that scene would incite lust in very few if any people.

  9. @Cruise the Grove: Check tomorrow, when their analysis of this movie goes live. They have very thorough analyses of movies' appropriatenesses, including their depicted immodesty.

    Also, a good 15 minute documentary on Mexico's Cristiata is here.

    This movie is essentially about Freemasons versus the Catholic Church; see: "Freemasonry, anti-Catholic repression and armed rebellion of the Cristero in Mexico" by Alex Rosal.

  10. On a similar note, please also see Waugh's Edmund Campion.

    It is not a novel, but show a recent example of a Catholic saint in the face of extreme martyrdom.

  11. Seraph8:52 PM

    "This movie is essentially about Freemasons versus the Catholic Church."

    But does the movie actually mention Freemasonry by name? That would make the movie truly courageous and historical.

  12. "Tough love trumped false charity before the Second Vatican Council."

    That was a cheap shot at the recent years of the Church, Mr. Wolfe. Do you have any evidence that it is no longer so at all or that it always was so before the Second Vatican Councel? Otherwise, your innuendo rings of propaganda.

  13. General Enrique Gorostieta Velarde was public figure whose apostasy was presumably well known. For a priest to deny him communion would probably be in keeping with Canon 915 (which actually didn't exist yet), and a very different case from the DC scenario.

  14. Spliff9:45 PM

    The trailers indicate that it's soaked in sentimentality. Thus I'll most likely be avoiding it. Plus, I don't want to be exposed to the cacophony and filth in the previews.

  15. Not a Social Slobberer9:50 PM

    petrus, Fulton Sheen speaks forcefully about false compassion here:

    Vatican II could well be called the Council of False Compassion.

  16. Nicholas11:37 PM

    "Tough love trumped false charity before the Second Vatican Council."

    Mr. Wolfe is obviously making a general statement, and it is equally obvious that it is generally true. Of course there was some false charity before the council, and of course false charity has not been the absolute rule since the council. But it is scarcely a cheap shot to assert what Mr. Wolfe is asserting.

  17. Alan,
    With the current debate over the HHS mandate and its implications for religious liberty in the United States, the producers may have thought any mention of "religious freedom" would encourage people to draw a parallel.

  18. LD. Schmidt5:01 AM

    A month ago, I & me Wife had the good luck to get to view this wonderful movie. We both left the theater in tears. This movie depicts historical truth. Beauty of thier conviction, love for God,and the Church. Hope it gets many eye's to open wider, with many conversions. Ya know, I pray that I might have the courage that these people had! Go see this wounderful film! In the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. L Schmidt. PS. You folks at Rorate Caeli are certainly due many thanks for the Fine work you'all do at this Web Site!! With all the Frensi going on about the Pope and the SSPX, thank you for your clarity and sanity in it all, Really Thanks.

  19. Gratias6:27 AM

    This movie will bring the Cristero war into the historical record. I read much history, but had never heard about these heroes. Yet, as I learned in the documentary linked by Alan Aversa above (thanks!) their sacrifice saved Catholicism in Mexico.

    We have not been to the movies for a few years, but tomorrow we will be there.

  20. Before seeing the movie, read these articles:

    Here is the best Cristero article:

    also this is a must read of a miracle:

    In the first battle, the Mexicans had sticks and stones, were barefoot. The Mexican Government forces, armed and well supplied by the American Government Freemasonry were defeated soundly after the Cristeros asked the Virgin Mary to aid them.

    It was the Virgin Mary that led them.

    The Holy Father made a grave mistake by not requiring the Freemasons to also stop fighting.

    Viva Cristo Rey!


  21. @Cruise the Grove: now says that there is mild sex/nudity. They also gave it a 4/10 review; they're clearly Protestants.

    @MJ: Yes, I hope people see the connection with the HHS Mandate, too.

    @Pablo the Mexican: Thanks for the Angelus article.

  22. @Seraph: Plenty of movies mention Freemasons…

  23. gratias5:55 AM

    Just back from "For Greater Glory".

    It is a wonderful Catholic film. If you like crucifixes you will love this movie. It conveys the religious fervor of the Cristero war. It is about a war, so unsurprisingly there is lots of shootings. But being set in Mexico it comes off as a cross between a Western and a War movie.

    Andy Garcia is a fantastic actor. The Peter O'Toole character is the priest in front of the firing squadthat New Catholic has shown the picture of here in Rorate. The young Jose is the boy who gave his horse to a general and was canonized by Benedict XVI.

    You should all watch it. What was prescient is that the whole argument is one for religious freedom. President Calles' Cristero war reminds one of President Obama's present War On Catholics. I think Cardinal Dolan had great insight when the framed the argument as one of religious freedom.

  24. Regarding my previous post, the actually movie did say "religious freedom."


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