The Summer is upon us. We’ve celebrated Memorial Day, school’s almost out and you might be looking forward to vacation with the family. Perhaps you have some other fun summer activities planned. If those plans include movie night with friends or family, consider Cinema Divina, a way to bring movie night and living faith together.
Based on the ancient prayer practice of lectio divina, Cinema Divina is praying with movies. Just like we pray with the stories of the Bible, especially the stories of Jesus in the Gospels, we can also pray with movie stories. Take a moment to watch this video by Fr. James Martin, SJ. He clearly explains the process of lectio divina which can also be used to pray with film.
Just like lectio divina, Cinema Divina can be done in a variety of ways. It can be done individually or with a group. Cinema Divina works best with teens and adults who can understand the nuances of film stories and their plot lines but, with some prompting and leading questions, it can also be done with younger children using an appropriate kid’s film.
The four questions posed by Fr. Martin (with a little bit of rewording) can be used to enter into prayer with a movie story.
- What does the movie say? After viewing the movie, ask yourself or the group, what is the movie about? What themes are revealed in the story? Why do you think the producers chose to make this movie (other than monetary gain)?
- What does the movie say to me? Do I identify with any of the characters? How? Why? What about the story speaks to me? How might God be moving my heart with the movie story? In a group setting, those who wish can share their insights with the group.
- What do I want to say to God about the movie? How is God speaking to me through this movie story? Is there something in the story that challenges me that I need to pray about? Perhaps I want to emulate the behavior of one of the characters but I need to ask God for help. Again, if you’re with a group, all are invited to share their prayer.
- What difference with this movie make in my life? What is God calling me to do, concretely, as a result of viewing this film and praying with it? Then, make sure you do it!
Not all films lend themselves to Cinema Divina. I find that dramas provide good fodder for prayer, especially if they are based on a true story. Science fiction also works well because usually at the heart of sci-fi stories is some reflection on what it means to be human. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use a comedy or an action-adventure film for Cinema Divina. I once used Guardians of the Galaxy with a group of teens because among the action there is also interplay between the characters that can be inspirational.
As you get geared up for the warmer weather the summer brings, make that trip to the air-conditioned movie theater, not only a chance for fun with friends and family, but a catalyst to prayer and growth in faith.
For a free guide to praying with the movie, Hidden Figures, click here.
For a simple guide to lectio divina, click here.
For a more detailed treatment of Cinema Divina, click here.