The year before Covid hit, a Pew study revealed that nearly 7 in 10 US Catholics, including over a third of weekly Mass-goers, believe that the Communion bread and wine merely symbolize, but do not become, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. In response to this alarming reality check, the US bishops have launched a three-year Eucharistic revival effort, which officially began on June 16, 2022 — the date of Corpus Christi, where it is not transferred to Sunday — and planned to culminate in 2024 in a National Eucharistic Congress.
In Spain, where self-identified Catholics make up over half the population but fewer than 15% are weekly Mass-goers, a movement called Hakuna — a private association of the faithful that traces its origins to the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro — has been focused on Eucharistic revival for years. Hakuna Films’ Alive, or Vivo — even the title resonates with the idea of revival — is both a document and an instrument of the movement’s advocacy of Eucharistic adoration.
First-time feature director and cinematographer Jorge Pareja Trigo’s method is simple but effective. Using an off-camera interview style, with subjects addressing an unseen, unheard interviewer, Pareja weaves together four conversion stories following individuals who range from conventionally observant to adamantly atheist on various paths to transformative encounters with God, and particularly with Jesus in the Eucharist.
A middle-aged couple, Antonio and Sonsoles, find their comfortable status quo challenged by an emotional retreat experience. Andrea, a self-possessed young woman reeling from her boyfriend’s death in a vehicular accident, accompanies a friend to a Holy Hour out of curiosity. Two young men — Jaime, a violent, neo-Nazi delinquent, and Carlos, a high achiever studying medicine — find dramatic new perspective on mission trips to Calcutta.
Pareja focuses mainly on his five subjects, with occasional supplementary viewpoints from friends or family members. Carlos comes across as self-deprecating as he confesses that he used to think that religion was only for old people, but our first impression of him comes from a friend, a young woman, who remembers him as arrogantly dismissive of other religious points of view. Later she jokes that Carlos’ sudden religious fervor is more surprising than if he had come out as transgender. Andrea is introduced from the perspective of a college friend who remembers her as outwardly together but distant in her grief. Marital bantering between Antonio and Sonsoles provides contrasting perspectives on their journey.
In most of the stories, the journey of faith is fostered by a devout friend whose lifestyle helps — as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger once put it — to “make God credible.” Carlos describes his amazement the first time he met a normal, down-to-earth young person who was also a devout believer and could respond intelligently to Carlos’ skeptical cross-examination. For Andrea, there was a young woman whose radiant inner peace she found both off-putting and attractive. As for Jaime, despite his reported descent into drugs and alcohol, violence, and skinhead culture, a lifelong friendship with a priest he admired was his lifeline when he hit rock bottom.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.