“But our Lord was not silent.”

Shusaku Endo, Silence. Picador 2017 (1966). 256 pp. $9.52.

Martin Scorsese. “Silence: A Film,” 2016.

Shusaku Endo’s remarkable novel Silence is enjoying a comeback, thanks to the release late last year of Martin Scorsese’s cinematic adaptation of it. Endo, a Roman Catholic who died two decades ago, was one of Japan’s finest 2oth-century novelists.

The novel is set in 17th-century Japan. Christian missionaries – and, indeed, the practice of Christianity in general – have been declared personae non grata there, suspected by shoguns of undermining traditional Japanese culture. Underground priests who are discovered by the authorities are given the choice of repudiating Christ or facing death. Nevertheless, two young Jesuits, Frs. Rodrigues and Garupe, afire with missionary zeal, travel there to spread the faith.

They’re quickly found out by the authorities, and just as quickly discover that fidelity to the faith is much more complicated than they could’ve imagined. A willingness to sacrifice their own lives for Christ is one thing. But the lives and well-being of their converts depend upon the two priests’ apostasy; unless the two publicly renounce their faith, the Japanese Christians to whom they ministered will be tortured and killed.

So the question faced by Frs. Rodrigues and Garupe is whether they’re prepared to make the greatest sacrifice of all – a repudiation of their faith – to save others. And in struggling to come to a decision, they feel deserted by God. Instead of divine reassurance and counsel, they’re suffocated by what they take to be God’s silence.

And yet, as Fr. Rodrigues eventually realizes, “our Lord was not silent.” It’s just that God’s voice wasn’t quite what he expected.

Silence is an incredibly captivating novel, not only because of the sheer beauty of its prose, but because it poses to us the same question that confronted the two young Jesuits. In the real, messy world, how do we live our faith? Might we occasionally, in extreme situations, be called upon to wound God in order to minister to God’s people? Can it possibly be the case that sometimes the only way to serve God is to act in ways that tear at our hearts?

Although visually gorgeous, with plenty of incredibly scenic shots of Japanese mountains and shores, Scorsese’s film doesn’t do justice to Endo’s story. The film is way too long – nearly 3 hours – and focuses, in an almost sensationalistic way, much more on the despair experienced by Fr. Rodrigues than his eventual realization that God is never really silent. Still, if you have the time and patience, it’s worth watching, not only as an homage to Endo but as yet another cinematic stage in Scorsese’s own complicated faith journey.

But if you can do only one or the other, pick up the book and skip the film.

“…because by thy glorious Resurrection thou hast given life to the world!”

Terry Tastard, Stations of the Resurrection: The Way to Life. Liguori Press, 2008. 80 pp. $6.99.

Throughout the season of Lent, parishes regularly offer opportunities for praying the Stations of the Cross. The fourteen Stations, which recall episodes in Jesus’s walk along Jerusalem’s Via Dolorosa toward Golgotha, help us to focus on the suffering our Lord willingly endured for our sakes. Praying the Stations is a somber experience, but it can also be an inspiring and even hopeful one. Many available guides to the Stations help participants see the suffering of Christ in the travail of the world’s most vulnerable persons, and understand that helping them is coming to the aid of Christ as well.

In recent years, a post-Lent or Easter series of meditations, these celebrating the Resurrection, has grown increasingly popular. Although still not as widely practiced as Stations of the Cross, Stations of the Resurrection help focus us on the joy and promise of Christ’s Easter defeat of death. They take as their inspirations the resurrection moments recorded in scripture.

Fr. Terry Tastard’s Stations of the the Resurrection: The Way to Life, is a good resource for parishes interested in complementing Stations of the Cross with their Easter analogue. Because most churches don’t have wall plaques depicting the fourteen resurrection moments, Tastard’s book illustrates each of them with icons painted by illustrator Caroline Lees. There isn’t as much in the way of traditional call-and-response as there is to traditional Stations of the Cross litanies. But the brief meditations for the most part are thought-provoking and inspiring.

Praying the Stations of the Resurrection is a good way to ensure that the joy and hope of Easter remain fresh throughout the long summer months of Ordinary Time.