Movies are great fun, and have been for a very long time. My 98 year old grandmother remembers her father taking her and her younger brother to see the first "talkie" in 1927. My mom tells stories about how she used to go to the movies on Saturday afternoons at the end of the Depression and the beginning of World War II. All the kids would save their ticket stubs and watch the steady stream that was either leaving the theater to go to confession, or returning for the rest of the matinee. If you timed it just right, Father wouldn't have much of a line, and you wouldn't have to miss much of the film. Of course, if you did, you could just stay long enough into the next showing to catch what you missed. And if you were lucky, like her neighbor Monroe always seemed to be, you could win a door prize and come home with a place setting of dishes, or even a ham, tucked under your arm.
I remember movies as the cheap outing they used to be. Our small group of high school friends would go to a movie together, and then discuss it over pizza afterward. In college it was even easier. There were almost always films being shown in a science lecture hall on Friday and Saturday nights. They weren't first run movies or necessarily my favorites, but they were free and only walking distance away. And, once I got past the opening sequences of floating women, the almost endless succession of James Bond movies was pretty enjoyable, as long as nobody expected me to be able to tell them apart. (Was that the one that had the huge guy with the metal teeth?)
Despite technological advances in how movies are produced and delivered to the people who want to see them, and changes in themes and content, the experience of watching a film has remained remarkably the same. Want to shake that up a bit? Read on.
The charism of the Daughters of St. Paul, and the whole Pauline family of religious orders and their allied institutes, involves using the media to proclaim faith in Christ and lead others to him. That doesn't just mean producing Catholic products in the form of books, DVDs, music, radio, digital, and whatever-is-next media. It also means taking all the media and messaging that is already out there -- including secular entertainment -- and listening for the voice of God in it and through it.
That is what Cinema Divina is all about. In the spirit of lectio divina, the prayerful reading of Scripture, the Daughters of St. Paul host monthly gatherings where people watch a movie together in a way that opens them up to what God is saying to them. The first one of this season is "The Help" on Sept. 21. Can God speak through films? Sure, why not? God speaks to us in all kinds of ways: through nature, our interactions with others, through both silence and the noise of everyday, through books and music, thoughts and dreams, our successes and the obstacles we encounter. The voice of God is everywhere. Tuning ourselves in to hearing it, however, can be challenging.
But if we can learn to hear God speaking to us through what we watch for free on a Friday night, perhaps we can learn to distinguish his voice in the rest of our lives. Lectio divina was meant to open a door by opening our ears. Cinema divina may well have the same effect. The goal is to be open to the Word of God everywhere and in every way, to come to the point where we experience every day as vita divina, a prayerful reading of life.
Find Cinema Divina Boston on Facebook for this year's schedule and more information.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.