Summer “cinema divina” retreat at home!

My column this month outlines how you can make a retreat from your seat if you are unable to a retreat house.

For Lent this year, the Pauline Center for Media Studies hosted a six-part weekly program using The Way, starring Martin Sheen. In the film written and directed by Sheen’s son, Emilio Estevez, Sheen plays Tom Avery, a widower who travels to France to bring home the body of his son who died in an accident. Tom discovers his son had just set out to make
the 800-kilometer pilgrimage to the shrine of St. James of Compostela and resolves to
take his place on the Camino (see October 2011 St. Anthony Messenger).

Because we wanted to keep the motif of the pilgrimage, even though we met at our center and people arrived by bus or car, our slogan was “If you can’t walk it with your feet, you can do it from your seat!” The same can be said for an annual retreat, which can be made at home if you’re unable to get away to a retreat house. Summertime is ideal to live out Jesus’ invitation to the disciples in Mark 6:31: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted
place and rest a while.”

Narrative films are an ideal way to bridge faith and life, using the format and methodology of the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius. A Scripture verse that reflects Tom’s reality and journey in The Way is John 9:11.

Continue reading the On Faith and Media column here

Feeling comfort from the cross for the first time

There are some things you should know about me and Jesus.

I was twelve years old in 1964. On Good Friday of that year, I was just about ready to set out on my bike for the services at St. Rita’s Church when my mother mentioned in passing that Jesus wasn’t Catholic. What a shock!

If Jesus wasn’t Catholic, then why all the fuss about having Protestant friends? And why hadn’t anyone told me before that he was Jewish?

I felt like I had been scammed and now I’d have to recalibrate everything I knew and believed about Jesus and religion to that point. That Jesus wasn’t Catholic, or that he was Jewish, seemed like really important information to hold back over all my years of CCD classes When, exactly, was someone going to mention this?

I got over it as I matured and learned more about my faith and the scriptures but I still wonder that I never connected the dots. Or that no one realized in those days that kids needed help connecting the dots.

I have always appreciated the beauty of the crucifix, especially on an artistic level. But it was hard to connect with the image of Jesus on a personal level because Jesus’ death on the cross has always been about my sin and guilt and this irritated me.

Even as I listened to the Palm Sunday homily this week, I noticed that no matter how hard he tried to get to the idea of mercy, Father couldn’t get past the dominant connection between the crucifixion, sin, guilt, and reparation for salvation.

Continue reading here from NCR Feeling comfort from the cross for the first time

PS Today is Good Friday (I wrote the above earlier this week) and I remembered a scene from Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) that is very moving. Here Judah Ben-Hur’s mother and sister are cured of leprosy and Jesus’ blood is washed into a stream and beyond; the visuals alone wouldn’t be nearly a powerful without the musical score that speaks louder than words.

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