It’s been a long couple of years, hasn’t it? COVID hit during Lent 2020, and now here we are, about to begin our third pandemic Lent. If you’re finding it hard to gear up for another season of self-sacrifice, I hear you. It feels like we’ve been in sacrifice mode for a long time.
But here’s the thing. While the seasons of the Church year unfold in the same pattern year after year, one important factor in the equation changes: us. As the familiar Lenten journey begins, we are not exactly the same pilgrims we were last year, or the year before that. Over the past 12 months, we’ve all been dealing with life events and experiences that have shaped us in countless ways: the loss of a loved one, a shift in a relationship, job insecurity, financial worry, the arrival of a child, a change in priorities… and, of course, the pandemic itself. I’m sure each of us could add to that list.
In some ways, it’s even more important to live Lent well this year, when the times are testing us. I know it would be easier to just go through the motions when we have so much on our minds. It’s tempting when we have a bit of downtime to want to chill out, watch Netflix and wait for the joy of Easter to fill us with hope and a refreshed faith.
Here’s a compromise: this Lent, let movies help you do the spiritual work. In Lent Goes to the Movies: Finding God through Film, authors John Pungente SJ and Monty Williams SJ accompany us as we watch movies on Lenten themes, encourage us to discuss and reflect on what touches us, and nudge us to live the heart of Christ in our daily lives. Their approach will move and inspire you from your very own couch. After all, a film is much more than entertainment – it’s a parable, a way for God to speak to us. The story meets us where we are and brings us face to face with ourselves. By paying close attention to what touched us, we discover what we value. We can then reflect on what God is telling us in that moment the film touched us.
Lent Goes to the Movies invites you to choose from 24 films on a range of topics, including lots of family-friendly options: The Mission, The Notebook, Hidden Figures, Ratatouille, A Man for All Seasons, Toy Story 2 and Casablanca, among others. Along the way, you’ll delve into six key themes: the mercy of God, the awareness of sin, journeying into freedom, the joy and the cost of love, glimpses of resurrection, and the gifts of Lent. Watch as a family or start an in-person or virtual group for reflection and sharing!
Each entry includes some thoughts about Lent, a synopsis of the film, discussion questions, and a reflection on the film as a Lenten parable. Given that the authors are Jesuits, their approach is based in Ignatian spirituality and is very accessible. John Pungente is an educator and media literacy specialist who hosted two award-winning TV shows, Beyond the Screen and Scanning the Movies, on Bravo! Monty Williams is a renowned spiritual director who is known for his innovative exploration of Jesuit spirituality. They are the co-authors of the two volumes of Finding God in the Dark: Taking the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to the Movies (Novalis).
Make this Lent a fruitful one by exploring key themes through movies – an engaging way to nourish your faith at home.
Anne Louise Mahoney is managing editor of Novalis. She is the editor of Looking to the Laity: Reflections on Where the Church Can Go from Here and the author of I Hope, a book for young children.