Lent film series at St. Dominic has forgiveness theme
Movies are meant to entertain, but they can also educate and open dialogues among people.
For four consecutive Wednesdays starting March 19 at St. Dominic, Dominican Father Tom Condon will present a Lenten film discussion, “Faith and Film,” with a movie presentation followed by a group discussion.
Father Condon selected three movies from his personal library of favorites – “Babette’s Feast” March 19, which he mentioned is a favorite of Pope Francis; “Get Low,” rated PG-13, March 26, starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray; and “Changing Lanes,” rated R for language, April 2, starring Ben Affleck. He hopes to acquire “Philomena” with Dame Judi Dench in time for the last screening. All have a central theme of forgiveness.
“One of the primary themes throughout Lent is forgiveness,” Father Condon said. “In the human spirit, we need forgiveness. In the faith and in the church, there are so many people who long for forgiveness in their life and have a hard time finding it and forgiving other people. This is such a big part of what this season is all about – forgiving others. God can forgive us, too.”
Father Condon calls the 1987 “Babette’s Feast” a real classic. It’s a Danish film with subtitles.
“It’s a beautiful story of sacrifice in which the main character, Babette, comes to a small Danish town as a refugee of the wars in France and is taken in by two elderly blood sisters,” he said.
Babette had been a great French chef in Paris and spares no expense preparing a feast with fine wines in gratitude for what the sisters have done for her. It is revealed she has spent her entire inheritance on the feast. “It’s very Christological and eucharistic in that manner,” Father Condon said.
“Get Low,” a 2009 drama, is based on a true story in the hills of Tennessee. Father Condon said Duvall plays an old man who has lived as a recluse in the mountains for more than 40 years and comes out of seclusion to plan his own funeral while he is alive.
“He has his own story for which he seeks forgiveness,” Father Condon said.
The 2002 drama-thriller “Changing Lanes” “is really good,” Father Condon said. “The whole thing takes place on Good Friday in New York City. Two men from different worlds – their lives intersect when they have an accident on the freeway. Ben Affleck is callous and doesn’t care for other people, but he has a conversion in the movie.”
Father Condon said there is a great scene of conversion when Affleck mistakenly walks into a confessional during a Lenten service in a Catholic church.
“Philomena,” Father Condon said, shows how a real person is able to forgive what has happened to her.
“It’s powerful and can be hard for Catholics to see,“ he said. “But her own story of being able to forgive is powerful. She has remained Catholic. She said she doesn’t want to be a bitter person.”
Love of movies
Father Condon, an admitted “movie nut” who has been in residence at St. Dominic for the past 18 months, said this series has become a part of his ministry. He had developed the movie series at his former Dominican parish of St. Peter in Memphis. In addition, he has experience writing movie reviews on all types of films, from secular to religious, for the Dominican Province southern region’s website (www.opsouth.org).
“I thought of it as a way to reach out to people in different ways,” Father Condon said. “Someone might not be interested in a Bible study but might find this interesting.”
He replicated the series last fall at St. Dominic in New Orleans. Father Condon said he could have chosen other Lenten themes, such as repentance or reconciliation, but chose forgiveness to remind everyone of God’s boundless forgiveness.
“Don’t ever feel afraid of coming to the sacrament of reconciliation,” he said. “I think children know this, but as adults we forget this. We feel so bad about ourselves and what we have done, that we think that God doesn’t want us around. I think we forget that God will forgive us.”
Father Condon said these movies can easily be accessed free from the public library or on Netflix or through Amazon, if someone is not able to attend the series.
“I hope this will enrich their Lenten experience, and, in their own journey of life, to seek reconciliation with God and their neighbors,” Father Condon said of the series.
FAITH AND FILM LENTEN
➤ March 19: “Babette’s Feast”
➤ March 26: “Get Low,” starring Robert Duvall and Bill Murray
➤ April 2: “Changing Lanes,” with Ben Affleck, Samuel L. Jackson and Toni Collette
➤ April 9, “Philomena,” with Dame Judi Dench, if it arrives in time
➤ Location: St. Dominic Parish rectory in the Siena Room, 775 Harrison Ave., New Orleans (to the right of the church). Admission is free. All screenings at 6:30 p.m. followed by a discussion. Bring snacks.