Fr. Rene Robert of St. Augustine, Florida
Fr. Rene Robert (1944-2016)

March 15, 2020  |  Stella Mar Films |  Today's Readings


By ministering to the Samaritan woman, an outcast of the Jewish Society, Jesus shows us just how valuable we humans are to God. It is through Jesus’ encounter with this woman that we learn that we, too, must see and protect that value in others, especially the outcast and marginalized.

As independent filmmakers, we are often drawn to stories like the one from today’s Gospel which highlight mercy and love. We were fortunate to produce a true crime documentary, Where There is Darkness, which follows such a story—that of Fr. Rene Robert, a beloved priest who devoted his life to helping the less fortunate in the tight-knit community of St. Augustine, Florida. 

Fr. Rene believed in the dignity of the human person and honored that dignity by tending to the poor and those in prison. He went so far as to become a one-stop rehabilitation center for returning citizens trying to get back into society—not the safest idea, perhaps, but one that shows his commitment to showing the face of God to those who had never seen it or had forgotten what it looked like.

It was through this that Fr. Rene’s life ended in an abrupt and brutal way. Yet even from the grave, he was able to continue showing mercy to his killer through a letter he had written denouncing the death penalty.

“But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8

"Should I die as a result of a violent crime,” Fr. Rene wrote, “I request that the person or persons found guilty of homicide for my killing not be subject to or put in jeopardy of the death penalty under any circumstance, no matter how heinous their crime or how much I have suffered.” 

That doesn’t mean we can’t feel anger. Fr. Rene’s family and friends felt anger as they discovered details of the way he suffered. After reading his letter, however, Fr. Rene’s friends and family had a change of heart and their anger turned to mercy. Anger is an emotional response to injustice, but we should channel that anger, not toward our fellow man, but toward the unjust act itself. We should seek justice over vengeance, and we should continue to value every human life. 
As we are reminded in today’s second reading, we have all sinned and “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). 
It is easy to brand people a certain way and keep them at arm’s length, but it is through our interactions with them that “brands” become human beings. 
Fr. Rene believed every life was worth saving—even that of his own murderer. He went so far as to have left behind a letter he signed 20 years prior to his death saying so.
Would we be able to see the value in the person that killed us? Fr. Rene did, and so did Jesus. 


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