Do It Yourself (DIY): Movie Night in 4 Easy Steps
Evangelization doesn’t have to be complicated or even challenging. It can simply be a matter of opening the door of your home and putting on a good movie. For more than ten years, the Sisters serving at St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University have invited students into their home for “Movie Night”. Their house is always filled to the max with young people who came for Italian pasta, fellowship, and wholesome entertainment. And the students leave with full stomachs and hearts changed by the encounter with truth, beauty and goodness.
This can be done at your home too! Let’s break it down so that you can plan your very own movie night in order to reach out to your neighbors and friends.
Step 1: Open the doors of your home
Movie or no movie, an invitation to your home is one of the most beautiful and appreciated invitations. It is vulnerable to open one’s home to others, like opening up one’s heart. When the young people come to the Sisters’ house for Movie Night, they are curious to see where the Sisters pray, eat, and relax. Conversation tends to fill the room along with the smell of pasta, which is served to give them a sense of being at home.
It’s important to know your group and adjust the evening’s arrangements accordingly. For example, if it is too much to provide the food yourself, you could suggest a potluck, or that everyone pitch in for pizza, or even plan the movie as an after-dinner event with just a few snacks.
As people arrive, the Sisters try to help everyone get connected and to encourage the beginning of new friendships. If you have a large group it can be helpful to have some time for introductions.
Step 2: Choose a movie based on truth, beauty and goodness
Only occasionally do the Sisters show movies about saints or openly Christian-themed movies. The main criteria is to show movies that have elements of truth, beauty and goodness.
Truth, which is radically attacked in secular society, shines when it is spoken and lived. For example, last Fall the Sisters showed the movie The Truman Show. It tells the story of Truman (True Man) who, for most of the film, is stuck in a web of lies. But by seeking out the truth of his existence, he is freed from the grasp of the antagonist Christoff (Anti-Christ).
Another good movie that they have shown is the Italian film La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful). This film showcases the beauty that comes from suffering. It is not easy to watch movies about the Holocaust, but this one also brings in comedy and romance, creating a sense of profound hope.
Other inspiring movies bring out the goodness of man, usually shining through consistent virtue. Last Spring they showed Amazing Grace, a film about the abolition of the slave trade in large part thanks to the dedication of William Wilberforce.
See below for a list of other movies that highlight truth, beauty and goodness.
Step 3: Start a discussion afterwards
The crucial part of the night is the discussion. The movie itself creates the context for a faith-inspired conversation afterwards. This can be a unique experience that people do not usually have when they watch a movie on their own. Unpacking movies together as a family, a group of friends or among neighbors can benefit each person’s processing of what they watched.After watching The Giver, one student said, “I’ve seen this movie many times before, but now I realize that it is about Jesus, right?” She had watched it with other Catholic friends, but it was the discussion that helped her see the how the movie highlighted aspects of the faith.
The Sisters lead the discussion to help stimulate a deeper reflection, but the students themselves draw conclusions as to how a film can be socially relevant, what it means for them individually and as a community, and how they can leave changed and challenged. In order to be better prepared to guide discussion time, the Sisters often look for a Christian commentary on the chosen movie ahead of time. Some helpful resources are Bishop Robert Barron’s reviews and comments on various movies on Youtube and Sr. Helena Burns’ blog.
You can find questions below to help stimulate conversation at your own movie night.
Step 4: End in prayer and fellowship
A good way to conclude the evening is with prayer together. It can be a beautiful and fruitful way to help everyone recognize that watching a movie coincides with living their faith and living their faith coincides with a life of daily prayer. The Sisters usually invite the students into their chapel for night prayer after the discussion, but there are many ways to incorporate prayer. For example, one could simply end with a moment of silence and an Our Father. It is up to each host to discern if and how to implement this brief moment of prayer.
Finally, the evening closes with a time of fellowship. This time of “goodbyes”, just as the mingling in the beginning, is important for creating ties and allowing for the birth of new friendships.
Optional: Share your experience!
For those of you who decide to try out your very own movie night, the Sisters would love to hear how it goes! Please feel free to share your experience by emailing them or suggest the event to others who are looking for a fun and fruitful way to spend an evening with neighbors and friends. Remember that the evening’s main focus is to spend time together reflecting on truth, beauty, and goodness. Just open the doors to you home, choose a movie, create a discussion, and end the evening in prayer and/or fellowship!
Here is a list of movies that can lead to good conversations. (Please check to make sure the movie is appropriate for your audience, i.e. child-friendly if you know children will be there.)
A Beautiful Mind
The Chronicles of Narnia
For Greater Glory
The Human Experience
I am David
I Can Only Imagine
It’s a Wonderful Life
Karol: A Man Who Became Pope
La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful)
Les miserables (1998, 2012)
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy series
A Man for All Seasons
Saint movies like Bakhita, John Paul II, Don Bosco, Padre Pio, Philip Neri, Bernadette, Dorothy Day
Here are questions to help your discussion time:
What scene struck you?
What scene troubled you?
How did you experience truth, beauty, and goodness in this movie?
What are the major conflicts?
What does the Church teach on that issue?
How should we apply that to our lives?