Summer Film Retreat 2012

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.

John Pungente, SJ, and Monty Williams, SJ, have published two books, Finding God in the Dark: Taking the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to the Movies I & II. Pungente and Williams break down the 30-day retreat into 52 chapters in each volume: one step of the exercises, with Scripture readings, and one film for each week during the year.

The Lights, Camera…Faith! book series can also be used (by Pacatte and Malone, These volumes include Scripture references, a film, commentary, and
questions for reflection.

For your cinema retreat, you will want to choose quiet time, turn off your phone, and have a Bible, journal, and pen handy. Read the suggested Scripture and then see the film. Afterward, take a break to write your responses to the questions, and take some time for silent prayer.

The Tree of Life

In the 1950s, the struggles of a young father and his eldest son are contrasted with nonlinear images and sequences of God’s creation struggling to be in relationship with the divine. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, especially 5:17, provides a perfect lens to make meaning from this film that requires focus and intentionality on the part of the viewer.

Big Fish

This wondrous, fantastical film, from the creative mind of Tim Burton, explores the relationship between a highly imaginative father and his son, a fact-oriented journalist who feels his father lied to him growing up. He tells his father he doesn’t know who he is. The Gospel passage Matthew 13:10-17 occurs in late July. In it the disciples ask Jesus, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” and Jesus explains.


After 9/11, a Palestinian-Christian woman, Amreeka, applies for a visa to the United States for herself and her son. When it seems that the visa will never come through, it does. They go to Dearborn, Michigan, to stay with her sister and her family. In the face of hardship,
racial stereotyping, and bias, Amreeka and her son persist. She is the woman you would love as a next-door neighbor. Matthew 13:18-23 is about the reward for perseverance.

The Vow

A young married couple (Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams) are in a car accident, and the wife no longer remembers her husband or their marriage. Based on a true story, the situation presents a moral conundrum: How does a loving husband move forward when his wife doesn’t remember him? This leads the audience to ask: What is the right thing to What is the right thing to do? What would I do in the same situation? How could I cope with such a dilemma? St. Paul offers t

Film Capsules

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Although this film focuses only on beautiful middle-and upper-middle-class white couples—and a Latino couple who goes to Africa to adopt—I found myself touched and moved at the stories of these couples. I was at once impressed and confused by the religious ritual when Ethiopians give away their children to adoptive Western couples. It’s a little
preachy and uneven. Mature themes.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

With a cast made of British acting royalty, this charming film tells of retirees from the United Kingdom who respond to an ad for exciting—and cheap—retirement living in India. The young bungling owner, Sonny, tells them when things are not what they expect, “Everything will be all right in the end . . . if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.” Indeed. Mature themes; some sexuality.