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For Greater Glory – A Review

Last night Aquinas and More took a bunch of our staff to see For Greater Glory. It left me shaken.

First, I'm going to get the problems I had with the film out of the way.

Eduardo Verastegui as Blessed Anacleto Flores

The producer (if he is the person who actually assembles scenes), needs some more film schooling. There were too many quick scenes between too many characters which left me unsure through most of the movie why some of the supporting cast in the towns were important. Since I don't speak Spanish, I didn't get that the town mayor was Bl. Jose's godfather until very late in the movie. I thought he was Jose's father and that their relationship was very strange. I also was confused about who Anacleto Flores was throughout the movie. I know he was in a lot of scenes but then he grew a beard. I also thought that Adriana (the gun runner) was his sister but I got that wrong, too. Finally, at the beginning of the movie there was a quick outside shot of the building where the resistance members worked but I missed the name on the building so I spent the rest of the movie wondering what the building was in all of the following shots.

Father Vega Celebrating Mass

In a past life, I spent a lot of time working on The Catholic Liturgical Library so I have an interest in liturgy and liturgical history. The vestments that the priests wore were beautiful but the director should have had a consultant from one of the Extraordinary Form orders, like the FSSP, on staff to make sure that silly anachronisms didn't make it into the film. First of all, the priests that served the Cristeros army said Mass using large hosts like those used in Ordinary Form parishes today which are typically broken up into a bunch of pieces and put with the rest of the hosts for Communion. The host that a priest of that time would really have used was typically under three inches across and he would have consumed it entirely himself. The second thing, and this makes me want to start raving every time I see it, is that until the Ordinary Form of the Mass was created, the communicants didn't say “Amen” like they did in this movie (and just about every modern movie that features a pre-Vatican II Mass).

Andy Garcia as General Enrique Gorostieta

On the positive side, the main cast of For Greater Glory held the film together well. Andy Garcia does a convincing job of inspiring the the Cristero army with the things they needed to hear while on a slow journey to believing in their cause. His character is pretty complex as he supports the Cristero cause because of his belief in religious freedom but at the beginning of the movie he is an atheist who doesn't believe anything about the Church but humors his wife by letting her raise their children Catholic. When she expresses her worry that they won't get confirmed or learn their catechism he says he'll teach them science until the problems blow over. In real life, Andy Garcia's character was a mason which made his acceptance of the leadership of the army even more remarkable. In the movie and in real life he explained that he was bored running a soap factory and the Cristeros were paying him twice what the Federales paid their officers.

Peter O'Toole as Father Christopher
Santiago Cabrera as Father Vega

Peter O'Toole is memorable in his role as an old priest who doesn't believe that the Church should take up arms. He gets into an argument with Father Vega, who eventually becomes a general in the Cristero army, over what the proper role of the clergy in the dispute should be. Peter O'Toole, as Father Christopher, takes the path of comforting the suffering. Both end up dead – Father Christopher, shot by a firing squad in front of his church, and Father Vega, from wounds in battle.  Father Christopher has been beatified, Father Vega has not. If you remember The Mission, a similar dilemma developed between Jeremy Irons's character Father Gabriel, who was shot while leading a Eucharistic procession of his mission Indians, and Robert DeNiro's character Rodrigo Mendoza, who was killed while fighting against the Portuguese.

Mauricio Kuri as Blessed Jose
Nestor Carbonell as Mayor Picazo

The scenes throughout the movie of government atrocities including church burning, killing clergy by firing squad and the countless people hung from telegraph poles are horrific enough and move the US ambassador to demand full amnesty for all of the Cristeros from the Mexican President but it is the martyrdom of Jose that is the most chilling scenes in the movie. Remembering that Jose is only fourteen and that his GODFATHER (played by Nestor Carbonell of Lost fame) repeatedly encourages him to apostatize makes the scene all the more powerful. Would any of us have this young boy's courage? Yikes.

An interesting footnote to the history of the Cristiada is that at the end many masons and anti-Catholics had joined the Cristero rebellion for the purposes of overthrowing the government. They hoped that the Catholics would keep fighting but with the agreements to remove the worst of the anti-Catholic laws and amnesty for the rebels, most of the Catholics went home and the remaining rebels were defeated and the leaders executed. It is also interesting to note that the full repeal of these laws didn't occur until 1992.

Movies that display true courage, such as Gettysburg, Master and Commander, A Man for All Seasons and For Greater Glory always force me to ask myself how I would react under those circumstances. I appreciate movies that force that question on an audience because they go beyond simply entertaining and ask you to look inward at your own convictions.

Overall, the movie is well worth seeing. The filming is gorgeous and the main characters make up for the problems with the skimping on the secondary characters. If you do go see For Greater Glory, I recommend showing up 15 minutes after the movie time. Since the movie is rated “R” you will be subjected to a constant stream of raunchy previews until the movie starts. Considering the current disputes in our own country over Church rights, the banning of religious symbols in public places, and the rhetoric used by the Left against Christianity in general and the Catholic Church specifically, this movie is a prophetic warning about the road we could be headed down in the future.

Be sure to stay through the credits.

More resources:

For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada
Mexican Martyrdom


Blessed Miguel Pro
Blood-Drenched Altars

You can also read some more background on the events in the movie here.






  1. My husband and I just came home from seeing this movie. We both loved it and the little things you mentioned about priestly garb, Eucharist size etc were something we were not aware of and most who see this will not realize it either. We mad a pilgrimage to the Guadalupe Shrine in 2004 for our 30th wedding anniversary. We took several side trips to various miraculous places and visited various churches. We were also told about what happened during this time. I believe everyone should see this. This administration is evil.

  2. Thanks for your review! Agreed how they should have made the Sacraments more realistic (not distributing Holy Communion in English, for example). I was also disappointed that Fr. Vega didn’t give his brother absolution right after he was shot.

    Overall, this is a very inspiring film, and it’s refreshing to see a Hollywood movie that portrays the Church and her Saints in a positive light. Aside from the fact that a cent of my money went to Eva Longoria (co-chairman of Obama’s re-election campaign), I was happy to financially support this film.

    Incidentally, I don’t think the producers have anything to do with the scene assembly — that would probably be more in the realm of the director, editors, or writers. As far as I know, the producers are the financial supporters of the film. Perhaps you noticed that Carl Anderson (of Knights of Columbus fame) was listed in the credits as one of the producers?

  3. I’ll reserve my comments on your review until after I’ve seen the movie. I will, however, comment on your “spelling” which could use some improvement. I’m hoping that the movie comes to our area and is not confined to just certain places.

    • I apologize for misspelling dilemma.

      • Barb Zimmerman

        After re reading your review, I don’t know where I was coming from in saying that you misspelled words. I think I must have read something else, along with your review, where the misspelling took place:( I’m really sorry for making a big deal out of nothing, and for being wrong about it in the first place. Your review is wonderful:) I can’t wait to see the movie.

  4. Thanks for the review. My husband and I saw the film last night and also thought is was great despite cinematic flaws. I was pretty blown away at the epilogue. I didn’t know the characters were based on real people, especially Jose. It takes the movie to another level.

  5. One thing that bugs me (not having seen it yet) is the R rating. They could have earned a larger audience if they kept it at PG13. Was this just for violence?

  6. Were I someone to believe in conspiracies, I would allege that the R rating was forced on it to purposely lower ticket sales.

    • Wow! I thought the Lord of the Rings films were more violent than this film, and the Lord of the Rings had a PG-13 rating. I wonder if the producers tried to protest the R-rating of this film.

  7. Nice review. I didn’t agree with everything you said. Loved the movie. It is a movie I would recommend for most people. People that have issues with the idea of others practicing their faith may not get it, but most people will. I do think our country has many dangers in the same regard. I think discrediting different faiths, including catholic, is something that happens in little bits through this law or that law in our countries recent history. I know this is very dangerous. Having freedom of Religion is really a necessity.

  8. My husband and I went to see this movie on 6/7/2012 in Fort Worth, TX. It was worth the time and money spent on this film. The acting was supberb, the content was really an eye opener as to how quickly our religious freedoms can be taken away. All it takes is God Less leaders and people to be complacent. Connie Bailey. May our Lord Jesus Christ be honored and Loved Always.!!

  9. You are one of the more remarkable people I have the privledge of knowing – and being related to. I saw the movie, did not know the history, and I am glad I was encouraged to see this movie. thanks for pointing out those things that are important to the authenticity of the material in the movie. Some of it was horrific! Some pulled on my heart strings. But it was well worth seeing. Thanks Ian.

  10. Maybe you should be checked for A.D.D. The opening scene where, the soon to become 14 year old Blessed, Jose Sanchez throws a piece of rotten fruit at the elderly Priest, it is the boy’s Godfather who catches him in the act and makes it clear to the Priest that, “as his Godfather” it was his responsibility to see that the boy respects the Priest and henceforth has the right to determine the appropriate “punishment”. Dropping down to your last paragraph, “Overall the movie is well worth seeing…”. This movie is a MUST SEE for every citizen, Catholic and otherwise, of the United States. It took twenty minutes into the film to draw the line from (A) Mexico, 1917, to, (B) United States, 2012. Stick to selling books.

    • And thank you for your wonderful remarks! We really love it when our visitors diagnose us with medical conditions and respond so positively to the work we do.

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