Faith on Film

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter J. Daly

October 1, 2004


            I like the movies. A good movie can transport you away to another place and time. It can hold up a mirror to our world. A film can make us feel and see things we would otherwise miss.

            The success last year of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” re-awakened a lot of us to the idea that movies can be a spiritual experience.

            That is why our parish is going to start a new program. We call it “Faith on Film.”

            Over the course of a year we are going to show 20 movies in our parish theater. Afterwards, if people want, they will be invited to discuss the themes raised by these films.

            The movies will not just be about overtly religious themes, like the “The Ten Commandments.” They will also be films that awaken in us a religious sense or explore a theme of our faith.

            As part of the preparation for this program I asked our parish film critic, a 14-year-old boy named Daniel , to give me a list. Dan has seen practically every major movie every made. He really knows his cinema.

            He came back to me with some good ideas: “A Man for All Season”, “Lilies of the Field,” and “The Shoes of the Fisherman.” He also wanted a “Lord of the Rings” festival. (Not sure we can do that.)

            I asked some older people. They wanted nostalgic films of their youth, including, “Going My Way”, “The Bells of St. Mary’s,” and “The Song of Bernadette.”

            Some others suggested sentimental favorites like “The Miracle of Marcelino”, “Boys’ Town”, and “The Nun’s Story.”

            Historical classics about the church are good candidates for our series. That list might include “Ben-Hur,” and “Becket.”

            There are lots of movies about the saints, including “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” (about St. Francis of Assisi), and “St. Joan.”

            Some movies made for television are also on the list, like “The Catholics” and “The Prisoner” (about Cardinal Mindszenty).

            Catholic social teaching could be discussed with movies like, “On the Waterfront,”  “The Mission” and “Romero.”

            Catholic novels on film also make the list such as “The Diary of a Country Priest”, “The Power and the Glory,” and “Monsignor Quixote.”

            Some films are not overtly religious but they evoke a religious sensitivity. On that list we might show, “Chariots of Fire”, “Raisin in the Sun,” and  Babbett’s Feast” (a eucharistic theme).

            Sports movies also have religious possibilities. Among the ones that come to mind are “Brian’s Song” and “Rudy” (about a guy who wanted to play for Notre Dame).

            The idea is to use our entertainment to teach and edify.

            If you are like me, you probably don’t really like watching movies by yourself. When you are with other people, the experience is better. It is nice to hear others react to the screen in their laughs, gasps, and sighs.

            Our parish is blessed to have a good theater with a great sound system, so it will be just like a real movie experience. The only difference is that we won’t charge anything for the movies (we will of course pay all the required royalties).

            I think that this could be a good little experiment. When I was in Italy in the 1980s, I remember that a lot of parishes had a “salone del cine” (a movie room) where they showed films once a week. It was a great way to bring people together.  It was a painless way to educate.

            I’d be happy to have other suggestions.

            I’m looking forward to this series myself. A cheap night out without going anywhere we can be transported everywhere.

            (Film suggestions can be e-mailed to Fr. Daly at