5 Must-See Catholic Movies

With many of us stuck at home, we’re all watching more television and movies than we’re used to. If you’re like most of the country, you’ve stuck with things that are familiar and comfortable, and that might have been great at first. But now, what about something a bit more substantial? What about a few movies about faith?

In this video, I recommend five movies that all Catholics must see. They are extraordinary movies that have affected my faith along the way.

But there are obviously plenty of other great movies, even if they don’t fit into the category of “must see.” Here are a few honorable mentions:

Silence The number one movie left in the comments as something I forgot. Folks, I didn’t “forget it.” I simply recognized that it is not a movie for everyone. Based on the true story of the Jesuit missionaries who were tortured in Japan, the movie is profound, well-crafted, and entirely too much for many to handle. It is long and violent, and while I think the book is an incredible work of art, I can’t exactly recommend the movie to everyone. If you can handle an extremely heavy movie, have at it. It’s one of the best.

St. Vincent Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray aren’t exactly the dynamic duo I would pick for a Catholic film, but this isn’t exactly a normal Catholic film either. A story about finding saints among the sinners, Murray’s character is rough around the edges but has a heart that changes a young boy’s life (who in turn, changes his). While not entirely family friendly, it is a heartwarming story about second chances and the goodness in people we least expect.

Beyond the Gates (Shooting Dogs) Ready for a gut-wrenching film that will haunt you? Probably not. This movie is based on the true story of a Catholic school’s effort to protect its people in the midst of the Rwandan genocide. It is a story of solidarity, sacrifice, and the precious nature of all life.

Romero I’ve heard that this is not the most accurate of movies, but really, what “based on a true story” movie is? A biopic of the now St. Oscar Romero, the film captures the late cardinal’s involvement in the Salvadorian civil war, calling for peace and ultimately giving his life. One of my favorite saints.

The Two Popes Like Romero, it is hardly a work of pure non-fiction. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Br. Tito and I discussed this a few months ago on our podcast, so I decided to leave it off the list.

Entertaining Angels And finally, an ode to one of my favorite non-saints, Dorothy Day. By no means the work of a major production company, it’s not going to win any prominent awards, but it tells the story of someone everyone should know about. Although I’m not a huge fan of Moira Kelly, it stars Martin Sheen and is written by John Wells, so for those who love The West Wing, it’s a great preview of what’s to come.

Bible Overview: What is it all about?

As most people know, the Bible is less of a book than it is a library. Consisting of dozens of books from different authors written at different times for different purposes, it is hardly a cohesive work. Add this to the fact that the final editors decided to group the books together thematically rather than chronologically, and there is no way to keep everything straight.

Which is why, a) reading from Genesis through Revelation is such a difficult task and many people give up along the way, and more importantly, b) most people have no idea how the stories all fit together. Especially for Catholics, who tend to get most of their Scripture from the Lectionary of Mass (and do little reading at home…) there is a disjointed nature to it all. We have all of the stories, yes, but we have no chronology. No narrative. No overarching story holding everything in place.

In this Catholicism In Focus, I hope to demystify the Bible and make it more approachable. When you have the general structure and know where it’s going (think, reading the Cliffnotes), all of the details become easier to understand. The Bible may not be a cohesive work, but the story of salvation is definitely clear.

Saving a Dying, Shrinking Church

By just about any metric, the Church in Europe and United States is in decline. From Church attendance to denominational affiliation, people are coming to Church less and no longer identifying with organized religion.

What do we do about this? Naturally, the answer to this question would take months to answer in a video, if an answer can even be given. Rather than offering a comprehensive response to the issue, i want to focus on one thing in this video: reframing our goals.

As much as the common metrics seem dire, quantitative data may not be all that helpful to us. Why? Because in years past, many people came to Church because they had to. It didn’t mean that they were true disciples, it just meant that there was social pressure to show up to church on Sunday. Now that that is simply not the case, we can see that “church attendance” may not be the end goal of our faith. Rather, we need to get to the core of what it means to be a Christian, and focus our attention on what really matters.

During Lent, and especially on Good Friday, many Catholics pray the stations of the cross. It is among the most popular devotions in the whole world, ranging in style and content from place to place.

But where did this devotion come from, and how did it develop over time? Interestingly enough, the Franciscans had a lot to say in answering both questions.

If you’re interested in praying the stations at home, I recommend a number of resources to you. The first is the USCCB’s website that includes multiple versions of the prayer. Catholic Relief Services has produced a version that connects our prayer to the suffering and poverty of our world. As I mention in the video, there are also Marian versions of the devotion, following the events from her perspective. And, honestly, there is a lot of leeway to create your own. A parishioner just sent me a “coronavirus themed” version that reflects on the current situation in light of Christ’s passion. The point of the practice is to mediate on the events of Christ’s death in a way that makes sense to us, and so I say, “be creative.”

What is the utmost goal of every Christian? Or, at least, what should it be? As far as I can tell, the clear answer is “holiness.” We seek to be like the one who came to be like us. As much as we think of ourselves as people who “do” things, who accomplish things, who work and work and work, the reality of the Christian mission is that it’s not so much about a “what” as it is a “who.” We do what Jesus did because we want to be like him. Our life goal is to become saints, those who live with him in heaven forever.

So, how do we get there?

For the past 2000 years, there has been no shortage of treatises and guides. From the lives of the saints to apostolic exhortations written by popes, I could sit here and list hundreds of perspectives on the matter. Many people want to help you become more holy, and I encourage you to read as many of them as you can.

In this video, I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach. Rather than attack the issue head on, offering tips that will help us become holier and closer to Jesus, I’ve decided to present five ways that each of us can become a bit more evil. (Probably not what you were expecting! One commenter wrote that I’ve been in quarantine for too long, and I don’t disagree!)

The idea is simple: sometimes, it’s helpful to look at the opposite of what you want to see how you might be subtly undermining your goals. In this satirical take, I offer five things that are the furthest goals from a Christian life—things that are horrid and absurd and downright unconscionable—to make clear what we must avoid. Even as people seeking holiness, there is a part of us that is still susceptible to evil. We must be on our guard, quick to turn away from it when we find it.