Monday, February 09, 2015

Top Ten Catholic Films for Lent 2015

Lent is a season of  drawing  into a deeper intimacy with Jesus. Watching sacred films during Lent is one method I use to draw closer to Christ. Here are the films I recommend watching this Lent, which have served that purpose for me:

1. Babette's Feast (1987) Babette, a French Catholic woman flees to Denmark after her husband and son are killed. There, she works as a domestic servant for two aging Protestant sisters and ends up winning the lottery.  This film contains a beautiful message about God's great generosity and Jesus' total self-sacrifice as manifested through the charitable actions of Babette.

2. Les Miserables (2012) The musical version of Hugo Victor's tale of love and self-sacrifice comes to the big screen. Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, strives to build a new life of nobility and compassion, only to be pursued by the callous Inspector Javert, who doesn't intend to let Valjean escape his past.

3. Into Great Silence (2005) Director Philip Gröning's study of the Grande Chartreuse monastery introduces a world of austere beauty as it follows the daily activities of the resident monks, whose silence is broken only by prayer and song. With no sound save the natural rhythms of age-old routines, the documentary -- a Special Jury Prize winner at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival -- captures the simplicity and profundity of lives lived with absolute purpose and presence.

4. The Ten Commandments (1956) This is the most biblically accurate version of the story. Who can forget the memorable scene in which Jews, Moses (Charlton Heston) smashes God's stone tablets in the face of his golden calf-worshipping followers? Yul Brynner is the caustic Pharaoh Rameses, who pursues Moses' followers at his own peril.

5. The Passion of The Christ (2004) Oscar-winning actor-director Mel Gibson helms this epic that focuses on the last 12 hours of Jesus's life -- from the betrayal, trial and death of Jesus to his brutal crucifixion and resurrection from the tomb. Starring Jim Caviezel as Jesus, Maia Morgenstern as Jesus's mother and Monica Bellucci as Mary Magdalene, The Passion is spoken entirely in Latin and Aramaic, and the violent Crucifixion scenes are incredibly graphic.

6. Ben Hur (1959) Charlton Heston plays Judah Ben-Hur, a proud Jew who runs afoul of his ambitious boyhood friend Messala (Stephen Boyd) in this epic that boasts an unforgettable chariot race and earned 11 Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Heston) and Best Director (William Wyler). Condemned to life as a slave, Judah swears vengeance against Messala and escapes, later crossing paths with Jesus.

7.  For Greater Glory (2014) In Mexico in the late 1920s, President Calles institutes a vicious ban on Catholicism that results in many deaths and prompts retired general Gorostieta to join the motley militia groups fighting to preserve religious freedom throughout the country.

8. Restless Heart: The Confessions of Augustine (2012) Filmed in Europe, the first full-length feature movie on Augustine uses a historic backdrop to tell the true story of one of the Church's most beloved and well-known Saints. Its message of sin, conversion, redemption is as timely today as it was in the 5th century of Augustine. It is the story of a gifted man who pursues fame and fortune without a moral compass - and the dramatic changes that occur in his soul when challenging events lead him to see the light of truth. It also chronicles the collapse of the Roman world and how Augustine laid the intellectual foundations of what became Europe. With Augustine, the stories of two other great saints, Monica and Ambrose, are also portrayed.

9. The Mission (1986) In the 18th century, a Jesuit missionary (Robert DeNiro) establishes a church in the hostile jungles of Brazil, but finds his work converting the indigenous Indians threatened by his superiors. Meanwhile, a slave hunter converts and joins Father on his mission.

10. Romero (1989) Archbishop Oscar Romero (Raul Julia) stands between 1980s El Salvador's ruling military elite and a band of Marxist guerillas as a man with simple demands: freedom and justice for all people. He braces for violence from both factions with quiet resolve, but in a tragic twist, Romero's words fall short of delivering true change during his lifetime. The film, based on real events, was shot on location in Mexico.

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