From August 2nd until Monday noon august 9th, I was part of a small group of Daughters of St. Paul who participated in a "Cinema Divina" Retreat. The priest chaplain is a Jesuit Father who hails from Munich, Germany, Fr. Christof Wolf, sj. Sister Suzanne Mayer,IHM, a Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Philadelphia, was also a director for the retreat.
Almost everyday we began by viewing a film at 9:00 AM. Each film was chosen because it somehow incarnated the gospel reading for the day's Mass. At 5:15 pm there was a sharing on the day's film. A person was free to share, or free even not to attend the sharing but to pray more.
In the group photo Sr. Suzanne is second from the left, Father Christof is on the right.
Each Sister had a retreat "director" whom she saw for about a half hour each day. The director would suggest a reading, usually from the Scripture. Then we each would pray with that Scripture at least three times throughout the day.
Father Christof offered Mass each day. His homilies were very focused, practical and Christ centered.
The last film we viewed,"The Lives of Others" (Das Leben der Anderen) made in 2006, depicts life in Communist East Germany. A career Secret Police interrogator has a change of heart when he bugs a a playwright's apartment. Because of his change of heart the policeman is demoted while the writer is eventually freed from surveillance. The silent and beautiful surprise ending is very moving. This film had particular significance for Fr. Christof who lived 19 years in Communist East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In almost every movie at least one person chose to change for the better. Both their behavior and their perspectives changed. God's grace is powerful. Grace even permeates movies when they are seen from a Faith-filled perspective.
One of the first movies which we saw, "The End of the Spear" takes place in the Amazon jungle in 1956. This true story of five American Protestant missionaries' efforts to evangelize the Waodani people is very moving. The widows of the five men became a missionary presence among the people who killed their husbands. The unassuming heroism of these good people won over the hearts of a tribe that was literally dying because of its ruthless violence.
In one of Fr. Christof's homilies he quoted a contemporary author who said that (wasting our minds) with trivia is sinful. Father noted how so much of television fare is trivia. Father is a TV and film producer in Munich.
In our Pauline Family Prayerbook there is a prayer called The Pauline Offertory. It has nine petitions in which we ask God to increase the ranks of those who produce quality Christian media. May God increase and multiply Father Christof's productions for Loyola Productions in Germany. And, may God bless and multiply the efforts of Christian film and TV producers in the USA and Canada.
May you too have the grace of one day spending time in prayer on a Cinema Divina retreat.