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.

7I7: the Wednesday hop

I like my Wednesdays.  They bring a nice re-invigoration to my week.

Part of this hop, as I think of it, comes from having a stable schedule on Wednesdays.  I teach an 8th grade Confirmation prep class on Wednesday evenings, which means I don’t ever work after 5:00 on Wednesdays.  I know what my Wednesday nights look like, every week, and that’s not something I can say about most days of the week.  I also have a routine for Thursdays during the day, which contributes to the peace I feel on Wednesday nights.

What really gets me, though, is the class. Continue reading

Theme Thursday: Church Windows

So, I’m trying something new and using the WordPress app on my phone to write a post.  I am nothing if not adventurous.

Once again, I am linking up with Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursdays, aka the link up that keeps my blog on life support.  No, no– KEPT my blog on life support.  I’m back, guys, and I have plans.  You’ll here about them much later tonight.

Still!  Check out Cari’s blog and all the other photos.  This week’s theme is church windows, and you’re getting a sort of greatest hits parade.  The first two are from Sacred Heart in Pittsburgh, the last is from St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee.


The Blessed Sacrament Chapel has my favorite church windows of all time. They depict the history of the Mass from the Last Supper up to the trenches of World War I. I can't believe this photo of the chapel's renovation process is the only photo I have of those windows.


This statue is set high up in the back of the church, overlooking the pews.


So, the window itself might not seem interesting, but I love what its light does to the statue

Check back later for a verrrry late bonus photo of the barn in my backyard in honor of last week’s theme.

My Older Son Moments

Oh, friends, I am so excited for Sunday’s gospel reading.  We’re hearing about the return of the prodigal son this weekend, and I am so ready for it.

Obviously, this is a perennial favorite, and a parable I’ve known for a long time.  I’ve been reassured for years through the common focus of the exegesis surrounding this story: no matter what we’ve done, God will always be looking for us to come back to Him so He can celebrate.


Thing is, I’m looking to this story for a bit more about now.  I’ve been experiencing a lot of what I call “Older Son Moments”.

I’ve been wrestling a lot with these the past few months.
Continue reading


Today, Pope Benedict XVI steps down from active ministry.  This is my response.  It is the longest and most honest blog post I have ever written.  Thank you for reading it.


On Monday, February 11, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would resign from his active ministry at the end of the month.

This news was met with waves of emotion from across the world.  I was woken at 6:00am by a text from an aunt announcing the news.  By the time I fully awoke for the day, I had heard from several others.  The first of the blog reactions were already posted.  I read messages of shock, confusion, sadness, abandonment and tremulous hope from the faithful.  The Church’s opponents were just as loud in their anger, glee and distrust.  The sheer weight of the world’s reaction caught me by complete surprise.

I myself felt only a profound relief.

It was a week to the day since I had resigned from my own position in ministry.

Continue reading