Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Movies for Lent

As I write this blog post, Lent is just around the corner, and by the time you read it, Lent will be here! Lent is a time for walking closely with Jesus. We are invited by the readings at Mass to look deep within to see where we could re-align our life so that it reflects more of his life.

Here at Pauline Books and Media in Culver City, we offer monthly Movie Bible Nights. During Lent we offer Lenten Film Retreats at local parishes. Just as we can learn from reading and reflecting on Scripture, a spiritual book, or a life of a saint, so too can we learn from watching a movie and reflecting on it with others.  Perhaps a Movie Bible Night or a Lenten Film Retreat could assist you on your Lenten journey.  Maybe you would like to lead a Movie Bible Night in your parish or with your family and friends.

Last year, one of our sisters stationed here in Culver City, Sr. Jennifer Tecla, prepared the monthly Movie Bible Nights by choosing a theme for the year – “The Social Teachings of the Catholic Church.”  She found Scripture passages to accompany each theme and chose a movie that showed the social teachings in action.  For example, in November she chose the Social Teaching about the “call to participation,” and the movie that paired with the teaching was The Butler.  She then selected the Scripture passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (Col. 3: 12-14). 

The format for a Movie Bible Night is as follows:
1. Open with a prayer and the reading of the Scripture passage;
2. Introduce the movie and invite the audience to watch closely for themes on the “Call to Participation” (or whatever theme is chosen for that week);
3. Watch the movie;
4. Take a 10 minute break;
5. Return as a group for a sharing on prepared discussion questions;
6. Close with a prayer.                                      

This year we were invited to lead a Lenten Film Retreat again at St. Augustine’s Church in Culver City. Two years ago we used the movie The Way, starring Martin Sheen and written and directed by his son Emilio Estevez.  It shows the journey of four pilgrims walking “the Way” to St. James in Campostela, Spain. On the first night of the Lenten Film Retreat, we watched the movie together as a group. We also provided a Lenten display of books, movies and music for sale during the retreat. The following four weeks, we returned to St. Augustine’s for group sharings about the film using clips from The Way and prepared discussion questions. The booklet of discussion questions was prepared by Sr. Rose Pacatte. Because these retreat times were in the evening, the parish provided soup and bread.  We called it a “Lenten Soup and Cinema Retreat.”  Throughout the retreat we provided symbolic items that tied in with the movie such as rosaries, Bibles, holy water, shells, etc. We were also able to offer the retreat in both English and Spanish by preparing the materials ahead of time and having a translator from the parish work with us.  This year we will be using the movie The 100 Foot Journey.

If any of you are interested in leading a Movie Bible Night or a Lenten Film Retreat, please contact me at and we can assist you with details, suggestions, and prepared discussion questions. Don't worry if you don't have a formal media literacy background. A working knowledge of the Bible and of the faith are important. Most people have watched enough movies to offer a thought or two on how a film connects with the Word of God. What's important for you as an organizer is the ability to moderate a discussion or find someone to help you.

What are your favorite movies to see during Lent?  Here are some answers from local Southern California Pauline Cooperators:

Maria Siciliano recommends The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur.  She says:
“In Ben Hur, our protagonist, played by Charlton Heston, has a brief and amazing encounter with Jesus on the cross.  You can feel the powerful spiritual connection that takes place between them during those moments. Both movies show the power of God over man - even though Moses (in the Ten Commandments), initially a powerful Egyptian prince, is cast down when his Jewish identity is revealed.  He rises higher than any earthly prince because of the strength and power of God. It's interesting because both stories involve princes (both played by Charlton Heston) who lose their earthly powers, but come back with God's help to be princes in God's kingdom”.

Shellie DiSpirito likes to watch Philomena during Lent because it is a compelling story about a mother finding out the truth about her son who was given up for adoption.  It is a story of forgiveness and reconciliation. She also recommends The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Shellie says, “I like this story because the main character was able to travel back in time but also return to reality,  The movie demonstrates how life goes on in the midst of difficulties.”

Irene Inonog loves to watch Passion of the Christ during Holy Week each year.  She says that it helps her “enter into the experience of Holy Week in a deeper way by reminding [her] in image what Jesus suffered out of love for us.” She also enjoys watching Leonardo Defilippis’ production of John of the Cross, because he was a saint who longed to be with God and he endured the dark night of the soul with great faith, hope and love.

Sr. Marie James Hunt entered the Daughters of St. Paul community in 1981 from Alexandria, VA. She received her M.A. in human resources from DePaul University in 2003 and served as provincial councilor of the Daughters' US/ESC province from 2008-2011. She is missioned in California, where she is the manager of the Pauline Books and Media Centers in Culver City and San Diego. Sr. Marie James is also the West Coast Coordinator of the Pauline Cooperators.


Kristen Filipic said...

One that I want to try for Lent one year is The Straight Story, all about the journey to reconciliation and redemption:

(Note: this is directed by David Lynch and there are many many David Lynch films I would *not* recommend for Cinema Divina. This one however is rated G and is entirely inoffensive.)

Association of Pauline Cooperators said...

Thanks for the suggestion Kristen. We are carrying out Cinema Divina in Charleston (this is Sr Margaret Charles in case the post says I am Assoc. Pauline Cooperator). The films that fall during Lent are random -and I think since they will be shown during Lent they will still have a Lenten theme because of the live audience.

Angela Briest said...

In the future i want to live near a Pauline Media and Book store just to be able to do stuff like seeing a movie on movie night.,, and to be around people who are full of love for Christ,, and maybe get some of the over flow....I'm only 52 and have alot of working years left so i hope that some my favorite Daughters of Saint Paul are still thriving and active...when if ever i could make that happen.....

M-L Handal, NYC said...

Thank you for the suggestions and specific ideas for parish Lenten Film Retreats and Movie Bible Nights. You provide a wonderful resource for parish leaders.

Christian LeBlanc said...

Not explicitly Lenten, but still: The Mission