Director Martin Scorsese has described his new film Silence as a major stage in his pilgrimage of faith, a pilgrimage that included dropping out of the minor seminary, investigating other religions and recognising that the Catholic Church was his home.

Growing up in New York, “I was extraordinarily lucky, because I had a remarkable priest, Fr [Frank] Principe. I learned so much from him, and that includes mercy with oneself and with others,” Mr Scorsese told Jesuit Fr Antonio Spadaro, editor of the journal La Civiltà Cattolica.

“This man was a real guide. He could talk tough, but he never actually forced you to do anything – he guided you. Advised you. Cajoled you. He had such extraordinary love,” he said in the interview, published last Friday. A day earlier, America magazine released an interview with Mr Scorsese conducted by Jesuit Fr James Martin, who was an adviser during the making of Silence, a film based on the novel by Shūsaku Endō. The book and film are a fictionalised account of the persecution of Christians in 17th-century Japan; the central figures are Jesuit missionaries.

Mr Scorsese had wanted to make the film, to be released in the US on December 23 and the UK on New Year’s Day, since reading the book in 1989.

The process of making the film, he told Fr Martin, “be­comes like a pilgrimage. We’re still on the road and it’s never going to end. I thought it would for a little while, but once I was there, I realised no. Even in the editing room, it’s unfinished. It will always be unfinished.”

In the interview with Fr Spadaro, the 74-year-old Mr Scorsese said: “When I was younger, I was thinking of making a film about being a priest. I myself wanted to follow in Fr Principe’s footsteps, so to speak, and be a priest. I went to a preparatory seminary but I failed out the first year.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection