Going to the movies is a popular pastime in our culture that dates back to the late 1890’s. Good movies are a great form of entertainment and relaxation. They make us laugh, cry, fill us with positive and negative emotions and can even be used as a tool for evangelization.
THE VISION ...
With four young grandchildren, I see a lot of children’s movies. When they hear the words, “let’s go to the movies,” they are filled with excitement and are ready to go! Whether we go out to the theater and enjoy popcorn topped with their favorite candy or stay at home and enjoy old-fashioned popcorn made in a big pot, their enthusiasm is always the same.
WHAT WE DO ...
After viewing a movie, we talk and share about our favorite parts and characters. During recent discussions, I thought about lessons from the recent movies we saw: Ferdinand and the Bull - be true to yourself; Frozen – the importance of family; Coco – respect for family; and Toy Story 4 – friendship. It occurred to me to enhance our sharing by using “Cinema Divina” (praying with the movies) that I learned from the Daughters of St. Paul. Cinema Divina is based on the ancient prayer practice of Lectio Divina (praying with Scripture). Just like we pray with the stories of the Bible, especially those about Jesus in the Gospels, we can also pray and share our faith and values with movies.
THIS YEAR'S FAVORITES ...
My summer favorite was Toy Story 4. This was the first Toy Story movie I saw and, initially, I found it silly with all of those talking toys! I was familiar with Woody who taught powerful lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage, and sacrifice. However, I quickly became enamored with Forky – a new toy made by a little girl named Bonny who was struggling with the start of kindergarten.
Forky had come out of the trash and was made with googly eyes, pipe cleaner arms, and popsicle-stick feet. Bonny quickly fell in love with him but he could not understand why; after all, he is nothing but trash and continues to throw himself back into the nearest wastebasket. Woody, however, consistently drags Forky out and returns him to Bonny and eventually helps Forky to see his true value. The value of friendship and kindness spoke loud and clear to me. No matter what we look like or where we come from, we are all valued and precious.
MAKING IT COUNT ...
With a plethora of negative and false social media and bullying in today’s world, this movie was a great teaching opportunity for my grandchildren. I started with five basic, age appropriate questions that would, hopefully, result in a biblical teaching or Gospel values:
- What is the movie about?
- Who is your favorite character? Why?
- Would you want to be that character? Why or why not?
- Did you learn a lesson from the movie?
- What makes a good friend and how can you be a good friend?
THE FIRST ATTEMPT ...
My first attempt at Cinema Divina went fairly well with my grandchildren (ages 5 – 10). Our conversations focused primarily on Woody and what a good friend he was. This is a good lesson for both children and adults.
We followed up our discussion with a craft and created our own little “Forkys”! Although each one was made with the same parts, they all look different and were loved by their creator. The children learned that, although we are all different, we are loved individually by our Creator too. One of my granddaughters made a Forky for me to keep in my car. He is now my little driving buddy!
FOLLOWING ALBERIONE ...
The founder of the Pauline Family, Blessed James Alberione, the Media Apostle, prayed for the motion picture industry, especially the necessity of better films for youth. As a young priest, Father Alberione looked on the motion picture as an effective means for communicating the Gospel.
Having celebrated his feast day on November 26, let’s pray to him for good media and thank him for helping us see how the media are gifts for bringing the world to Christ and Christ to the world. He was the first priest to see clearly how the media are tremendous gifts for bringing the world to Christ and Christ to the world. And he did something about it.
Here's what three recent Popes have said about Blessed James Alberione:
- Blessed Paul VI: “A marvel of our times.”
- St. John Paul II: “The first saint of the new evangelization.”
- Pope Francis: “That great apostle of communications.”
To learn more about him, watch the Father James Alberione Story at www.MediaApostle.com
A HOLIDAY INVITATION ...
With the fast-paced holiday season quickly approaching, make a date for a “Family Movie Night”. Take a pause from shopping, decorating, etc.; watch a good Christmas movie and practice Cinema Divina! One of my favorites during Advent is The Nativity Story – a film that delivers a powerful opportunity to discuss the real beauty of the Season and to discuss the faith of Mary, Joseph and the other characters.
Another all-time favorite is It’s a Wonderful Life. It teaches that each person’s life has purpose and faith, family and friends are what really matters.
Maryann Toth has been a Pauline Cooperator since 2008. She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Richard, is the mother of two daughters, blessed with four grandchildren and semi-retired as a Credit/AR Manager. She serves as a Eucharistic Minister and lector at her parish and volunteers at a local Catholic hospital. Helping at book exhibits and JClub presentations are her favorite activities as a Cooperator. She currently serves as a Lay Provincial Team Member with the Daughters of St. Paul.