Following the reading from the essay by Christian Chessel in “Of Gods And Men”, the monks of Tibhirine, hear a short reading from Carlo Carretto (2 April 1910 – 4 October 1988).

Carretto was an Italian religious writer and member of the Roman Catholic religious congregation of The Little Brothers of Jesus, a community inspired by the life and writings of Charles de Foucauld.

The reading from Carretto’s book The God Who Comes poses difficult questions:

Often throughout my life I’ve wondered how God could act so strangely.
Why does he stay silent so long?
Why is faith so bitter?

Life often seems to unfold along inexplicable lines. There is so much that is utterly incomprehensible.

“Of God’s And Men” refuses easy answers. The silence of God in the face of suffering is a deep mystery. Confronted by the vast unknowable realities of life, it is tempting for faith to become “bitter.”

But what is “bitter” faith? How could faith possibly be sharp, acrid, biting, or resentful? The monks of Tibhirine, as they appear in the film “Of Gods And Men”, are notable for their refusal to give in to anger or bitterness. They resist resentment. They choose gentleness, and opening at almost every turn.

Through their choice for love, the monks of Tibhirine answer the questions Carretto raises.  God is not in fact silent. God speaks through the beauty of creation, the love of seven selfless monks, the touching witness of a movie that tells their story, and endlessly through all the choices of love in the face of the harsh and painful strangeness of life.

If faith being “bitter” is Carretto’s way of saying faith can be difficult, of course he is right. The choice of love is seldom easy. The monks of Tibhirine were not plastic saints. They struggled. They wrestled, got angry, became frightened and sad. At times they were utterly overwhelmed by the horror. But, in the end, they did not waver. They persevered on the path of love.

During one of their painful debates about whether to stay in Tibhirine or flee to safety, Brother Luc announces his decision saying ironically it turns out,

To leave is to die. I’m staying.

True life lies along the way of sacrificial love. Love, is the answer to the painful questions that cannot be avoided in this difficult world.

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