“I would have followed you, my brother . . . my captain . . . my king.”
The moving scene of Boromir’s death in the film adaptation of the Fellowship of the Ring—released 17 years ago this December—is perhaps my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. The threefold title by which Boromir addresses Aragorn, while probably not meant to be so by the film’s scriptwriters, is a fitting description of a Christian’s relationship to Christ.
Well before the religious troubles that plagued the Catholic Church in the 20th century, there was a problematic tendency to portray Christ and his saints in a somewhat effeminate way. Many statues and paintings of our Lord and of various male saints show them as looking rather gaunt, with pale skin, pink lips, and big dark eyes like one might expect to find an “adorable” kitten meme.
This “cute” depiction of our Lord and his saints can be less-than-appealing to masculine men. Other authors who’ve pointed this out have noted that it’s hardly surprising that church attendance has long been much lower among men than among women. For well over a century, feelings and sentiments have been emphasized in the practice of religion. Some Christians find this to be just fine, but for others, it can be extremely off-putting or at least not particularly beneficial.
I must confess that I find myself in this latter camp.
As I believe is probably the case with most men, I find I can pray best when I view my prayers in the light of spiritual warfare. Some of the greatest material for meditation that I possess was given to me by a retreat master on a five-day Ignatian retreat that I took with a friend just after we’d graduated high school.
This retreat was given specifically for men, and so the martial theme of it was very much emphasized. In his talk, the retreat master instructed us to envision ourselves as warriors on a battlefield, dressed in armor and carrying weapons. We were tired, dirty, and hungry. The enemy, Satan, had an enormous force arrayed against us, made up of terrifying demons supported by their human slaves.
The situation, as the retreat master presented it, seemed almost hopeless to us, and it was easy to fall into despair, but he also told us that we had a great battlefield commander there with us. That commander was Christ, our King. He was not directing the battle from behind the front lines, but was rather there in the trenches with us, rallying us, encouraging us, supporting us, and fighting alongside us. Like Alexander the Great, He chose to be there with His men, suffering what they suffered, enduring what they endured, and asking no more of them than what He Himself was willing to give.
This image of Christ as a battlefield commander is an especially appealing one for me. It may seem absurd to some, but when I do my Rosary meditations, I often picture Christ as looking much like Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings movies. He’s dirty and tired and worn out from carrying the great burden of our sins. Despite this, he has a noble bearing, and beneath the humble carpenter of Nazareth is the all-powerful king of heaven and earth.
This, then, brings me back to the scene of Boromir’s death. The dialogue in the movie is different than that in Tolkien’s book, and while each has its merits, I find that the film version provides the best material for meditation. In it, Boromir first addresses Aragorn, his countryman, as his brother. We can likewise view Christ as our brother, as we have the same Father in heaven, as well as the same mother in the person of Our Lady.
Next, Boromir addresses Aragorn as his captain. Again, we can recognize Christ as our captain, leading us in spiritual warfare against the forces of hell.
Finally, Boromir recognizes Aragorn as his king. This is especially significant in the film, as Boromir had earlier insisted that his nation of Gondor neither had nor needed a king. But just as Boromir finally came to recognize Aragorn as his rightful ruler, so we must come to see Christ as our king, as the ruler of heaven and earth.
With all of this in mind, I would suggest that Boromir’s final address to Aragorn—my brother, my captain, my king—is a suitable and beneficial way for a Christian to address Christ. He truly is my Brother, my Captain, and my King.