Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Let's Make a Show of Lent

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Let's Make a Show of Lent

Article excerpt

Christmas films reinforce the values often overlooked in the consumer clutter. Easter has sweeping epics worthy of the Resurrection. Even Groundhog Day has its own movie. Patrick McCormick suggests that we give the holiest season of the year its cinematic due, creating do-it-yourself Lenten film festivals--we could even pop some purple popcorn, too.

Lent, it seems to me, is cinematically challenged. Easter has Ben-Hur, The King of Kings, and The Wizard of Oz. The summer has its usual array of blockbusters, and Christmas--with everything from It's a Wonderful Life to Scrooged--has more movies than you can shake a candy cane at. Even Groundhog Day has a cute little comedy named after it. But Lent, alas, is a desert.

So here's a thought. What about sponsoring your own do-it-yourself Lenten film festival? Why not call up a couple of friends and invite them and your family to get together for a few Friday nights in Lent to watch and discuss some great flicks? You could even serve purple popcorn.

A silly thought? Maybe. But Lent after all is our season to remember and recount the stories that make us Christian. During these 40 days we immerse ourselves once again in the central narratives of the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ, and in this season of catechumens we welcome new members by sharing with them these precious stories. So maybe a little Lenten film festival could provide us with an opportunity to sit down on a couple of evenings and reflect.

Host a Lenten filmfest

How to go about it? Well, first, find a small handful of folks who you think might be interested in spending an enjoyable evening watching a great movie with some friends, and who wouldn't be averse to talking about it afterward, perhaps over a takeout pizza. I recommend that you pick a Friday. That will allow folks to stay up later without having to worry about work the next morning. It's also a traditional day for Lenten practices, even if it means the pizza needs to be meatless.

Tell your guests that the evening will be sort of like a book-club meeting, except that they won't need to read a book beforehand--although the previous Sunday they might possibly think about paying special attention to the readings at Mass.

Then--alone or with others--come up with a short list of possible films available at the video store or library. If you're like me, your initial temptation (a nice Lenten theme) may be to go with a couple of foreign films, the sorts of artistic movies that most of us admire but don't always look forward to seeing.

I suggest, however, skipping right over movies with subtitles and moving in the direction of something decidedly American, popular, and--if possible--riveting. In other words, get a great Hollywood movie, an entertaining flick that you and others would enjoy watching under almost any circumstances. Remember, watching the movie should not constitute a Lenten penance, although listening to some other people's opinions about it might turn out to be one.

Why pick a great Hollywood film? Because if you're going to have a conversation about the stories that shape our lives, you need to be sure you're talking about the sorts of movies whose scenes and lines have become part of our national consciousness. Now, Babette's Feast was a terrific film, as were Il Postino, Jean de Florette, and Raise the Red Lantern, but for most of us these are not the movies we flock to week after week, or the ones we watch over and over on cable. Nor are there 50 copies of these movies at the video store.

So let's take a look at some Hollywood movies and ask just what these stories have to say about things like sin, grace, conversion, redemption, compassion, and forgiveness. After all, if the movies are popular, more people will come to your festival, and that may mean a better conversation.

Where to start looking for a short list of movies? I suggest a couple of options. …

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