Though they are irreverent, uneducated, and in many cases openly sinning (one among their number becomes well-known to have had both a wife and a mistress), the 33 Chilean miners who would endure an extended period of time trapped by a mine cave-in were veritably soaking in Catholic culture before that experience.
They spend their above-ground existence surrounded by symbols of Catholicism, live in what is presumably a Catholic country, and, it is implied, are heartfelt in their displays of piety and deployment of prayer.
Rev. Alfredo Cooper, chaplain to Chilean President Sebastian Pineira noted how prayer played a central role in the chief executive’s deliberations over the miners’ rescue. As for the miners themselves, the Catholic priest said, “Many were Catholics, but many went down without any faith at all, many were nominal in their faith. And they all say this: ‘We were not 33, we were 34 because Jesus Christ was with us down there.’ “
In real life, after the rescue effort drilled a narrow hole which allowed food and small items to be sent down to the miners by capsule, one among them asked for 33 small bibles so that he could lead a prayer group; and the oldest among them, called by the others the “pastor” (though he was not ordained) requested a crucifix and statues of Catholic saints so he could construct a subterranean shrine. One of the miners claimed after surfacing that while confined underground, they prayed to St. Lorenzo (San Lorenzo), patron saint of miners. It was group cohesion and very disciplined rationing of very limited provisions (food for 30 was stretched to feed 33 over more days than the food was intended to last) which was partially responsible for keeping them alive long enough for the rescue efforts to successfully drill down deep enough to get to them.
In an interview, director Patricia Riggen said: “Camp Hope became a city of thousands. Everything was happening up there. It was a circus. I put nuns and fortune tellers and newsstands and restaurants and everything I could put there. They had all of that and more.”
Catholic publications credit the power of prayer and claim the ultimate happy ending, the rescue of the miners, was a miracle of divine intervention:
What was perhaps Hall’s greatest challenge came the day his equipment finally reached the miners. He and his team had drilled to within 400 feet from the space where the miners were trapped. At that point, their drill got stuck and it seemed they would have to defy the laws of physics to push onward.
“I told God, ‘We’ve done everything that we can do, Lord. Those are 33 of your children down there. We’ve done everything we can do. If you want to get them out, you’re going to have to send your holy angels down and dig my bit out, because we’re finished’.”
“I’ve told everybody that that job can’t be done,” he said. “I didn’t do that job. God drilled that hole, and I just had a good seat. It just shows that our Lord … is working in this world … and a billion people saw it.”