7 Quick Takes: Welcome to Lent

Once again, kind readers, we join Conversion Diary for 7 Quick Takes.

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Welcome to Lent!  I started off the season like a true millenial by taking a Buzzfeed quiz that asked what I should give up for Lent.  I got meat, which is what I had already decided to give up.  I promise I wasn’t aiming for that specific answer.  If anything, I was aiming for Coke, which is what I decided to give up as well, in case the marathon training and meatlessness don’t mix well and I start eating meat again.

The Coke is probably going to be harder for me to avoid than the meat.  So much for a secondary fast.

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Another Lenten discipline I am tackling is the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge hosted over at White House Black Shutters.

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I took part in this last year, but I never really had much organization or focus, and what little I had went out the window when I knew I was moving partway through Lent.  Packing has usually been the death of purging for me.  I hit a point when shoveling stuff into boxes and bins becomes far more important (and urgent) than sorting through and deciding what I actually need.  As I have lived in four dorm rooms, two houses and two apartments since 2006, I have done a lot of moving.  The boxes of unsorted junk have piled up.  Since I’m back at my parents’ house regrouping, it is definitely time to get rid of a lot of things and simplify my life.

There’s not enough room here for all my crap, anyway.

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I joined a Living the Eucharist Lenten study group at my parish.  We had our first group meeting yesterday.  It’s early, but I think it’s going to be a good thing.  I’ve been missing having a solid faith-sharing group in my life.

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I’m about a week into the #100HappyDays challenge.  I am posting a picture of something that makes me happy for 100 straight days on my Instagram account.  I was looking at my collection last night, and I realized that 5 out of 6 photos so far feature food.  This is all on a spectrum from coffee (which barely counts as food) to the Blessed Sacrament (the best, most nourishing food of all).  I have never considered myself much of a food person, but apparently, eating well (or eating in good company, or feeding myself spiritually, etc.) brings me happiness.

To be fair, who WOULDN'T be happy with a paczek and hot chocolate?

To be fair, who WOULDN’T be happy with a paczek and hot chocolate?

Still, I am determined that today’s post not involve food of any variety.

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I went to see Winter’s Tale last night.  I almost didn’t go, because so many people said the movie was so awful.  Still, it sounded like the sort of thing I’d like, so I went to the very last showtime it had in our theater.

And I loved it.  Sure, it was a flawed movie, and I could tell that the source material was broader and deeper than the film could cope with, but it was exactly the right tone and it inspired me to come home and write.  I now have the beginnings of a story idea, and I’m excited about it.

The moral of the story?  I know what I like in films and literature, even if it’s not objectively well done, and I shouldn’t listen to other people instead of myself.

Also, I really need to read the book by Mark Helprin now.

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I’m starting to get into marathon training.  I had a really rough start, and I’m behind, but I’m fighting to catch up.  I’ll be ready by May 4 (so God help me)!  It is so much easier to train when the weather is nice and I can run on the paths by my house.  In the meantime, I joined a local recreation center so I can use the track.  I have new running shoes that help my knees.  My legs are changing shape and I’m definitely getting into shape.

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It’s definitely the time of year for Irish music.  This is one I heard for the first time just the other day.  Enjoy!

Evangelization at the Movies

Here is that post I was teasing last night.  It actually works out a lot better to write this tonight.  Father talked about evangelization at Mass tonight, and now I’m watching the Oscars.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the intersection of these topics, mostly because I have a theology degree and work in a movie theater.

Oh yes… and because we’re currently showing Son of God in my theater.

Confession time: I really dislike the weekends when we’re showing “religious” films.  Is that bad?  Should I be happy that we have a movie about Jesus showing in one or two of our twenty auditoriums?  Does my disgruntled attitude betray a lack of priority (maybe) or a lack of charity (probably)?

As a creative person, I love the idea of using art to evangelize, and I do consider movies to be art.  I think we need to reach people using the languages they speak, and film is such a common language these days.

I am perhaps disappointed in the quality of most of the current offerings, and I am suspicious of the motives of most people involved.  This video review by the critic “MovieBob” Chipman sums up my feelings rather accurately and amusingly (note: this video carries a language & attitude warning.  If you don’t want to watch, the key phrases to note are “bad, boring and laughable,” “blatant, cynical cash grab,” and “just read the book”.).  Church groups buy out entire showtimes for Son of God and similar offerings, but they don’t necessarily fill the seats.  That’s more money for everybody up the supply chain.  

The majority of the customers who attend the show are polite, kind, cheerful people, but there are some who act as though a Christian has never walked through the doors of the theater before.  Some of these people, it seems, are attempting to inflict God upon me, as though He is a weapon.  One such customer pointed out to me that the soft drink cups advertising the next big release should, instead, have Jesus on them.  I did not reply with what I was thinking.  I am all for making God more visible, but I can think of better ways to treat my Savior than slapping His face on a disposable pop container.

When it comes to evangelization, these efforts seem to be failing.  They target an audience who is already so in love with God that they are willing to pay weekend theater prices to watch a bland film they have probably already watched on television.  They aren’t reaching anyone who hasn’t already heard the message.

Why, instead, don’t we spend our money and our creative energy on truly imaginative efforts?  Let’s tell stories that are deep and beautiful and charged with the grandeur of God.  Let’s be true and honest and heart-breakingly open and reflective of grace.  Let’s not just spout out, again and again, the verses we all have memorized, but let’s find surprising moments of sacrament and faith.  Let’s be like Darlene Love belting out a hymn in Oscar acceptance speeches.  Let’s be like Sr. Helena Burns pointing out authentic love in movies.  Let’s challenge our own preconceptions and sneak that message out to the audience that least expects it.

The movie theater is definitely a place for evangelization, but it doesn’t happen because you buy a ticket.  It happens when I’ve been smiling at customers for six hours straight and am so tired, but one man says to me, “I can tell you care about people.  Keep loving!” and I am inspired.  It happens when a lady asks an employee to exchange her ticket for a different movie, because she walks out of any show that takes the Lord’s name in vain three times, and that employee himself starts making the effort to choose different words.  It happens when employees start talking among themselves behind the stand about where they worship and how they pray.

Evangelization happens when people make an authentic connection and notice that God is in their midst.  Whatever facilitates that connection is necessarily a good thing.  I just think there are better ways to do this than we currently have up on the big screen.

I almost chose against it

It has been a long and crazy day, and when I got home at midnight from my parish’s school fundraiser, I was not really thinking bloggy thoughts.  I was thinking snowy thoughts, and gnarly thoughts, and tired thoughts, but I was not in the mood for writing.

I have an idea for a post, but it needs some actual thought and reflection and careful wording, so maybe you’ll see it tomorrow.

There’s really not much substance to this post now, but I wanted to post to say I did it.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to prove that I can post seven nights in a row, that I can meet my commitments, that I can dig deep and come up with something.

I’ve been writing poetry again, guys, and composing song lyrics in my head.

But for now, tonight, I am just going to leave you with this song by Priscilla Ahn.

I almost chose against posting, but I followed through.