Of Gods and Men

Yesterday I accompanied a group of 50 Boston College students to see the film Of Gods and Men (Des Hommes et Des Dieux), the story of the kidnapping and murder of the monks of Tibhirine, in Algeria, in 1996. (I’ve also written on this film here.)  It’s a beautifully told and acted story: the film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

The film takes its title from Psalm 82:

The gods neither know nor understand, wandering about in darkness, and all the world’s foundations shake.
I declare: “Gods though you be, offspring of the Most High all of you,
Yet like any mortal you shall die; like any prince you shall fall.”
The film captures the beautiful friendships among the monks, and between the monks and the Muslim villagers who fear for their safety during a period of terror unleashed by extremists.
In probing the human condition, the film illustrates the Psalmist’s point: everyone who is not God gets justice wrong.  In John 10:34, Jesus cites this same psalm in a response to his detractors.  Their presumption in judging him for blasphemy is an example, Jesus says, of the human tendency to play God.
The monks struggle with the decision to stay and accompany the villagers in a difficult time, or to leave the monastery and return to their homeland in France.  It is a story of discernment.  In deciding to stay, they realize that they will likely die.  The great mystery of the film is the great mystery of faith: that friendship with God lived in friendship with those whom God gives us to love often means walking calmly toward suffering, in imitation of Jesus.  During this Lenten season, if you are able to see this film consider it a latter-day exercise of the Stations of the Cross.


  1. I watched this film this morning and could not help comparing these monks and the early martyrs of the church. Did they want to continue following Christ knowing that their actions and teachings would probable lead to death.

  2. This is definitely a “don’t miss” miss film! Saw it three days ago and am still thinking about it. The acting is superb and the spiritual message needed in these days of violence and an “eye for an eye” mentality.

  3. I, too, saw this during Lent — was the best part of Lent, actually. In addition to seeing the discernment process unfold, I was moved by how it all unfolded within the structure of the liturgical year and praying the Daily Office. Saw it weeks ago and am still pondering different aspects of the film.

  4. I loved this movie and like you, really saw the whole discernment process. It was so powerful to see the ones that wanted to leave in the beginning transition through prayer and discernment. They became one, one with eachother, one with the villagers. A beautiful film.

  5. I had been waiting for this film to arrive in Detroit. I was able to see it and am grateful. I was moved as I watched the monks struggle with their decision. It was appropriate for my Lenten journey as it reinforced prayer as the way of knowing what God wants of me.

  6. I am a Maryknoll missioner working in Cambodia. How can I get a copy of this video? Sounds like a great film to help us reflect on mission.

    • Kevin, it’s still in theaters so will not be available on DVD (at least legally) for some months yet. But I agree that it could be a great discussion starters for Catholic missioners working in primarily non-Christian areas of the world.


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