Gates pastor’s monthly series explores faith themes in films - Catholic Courier

Gates pastor’s monthly series explores faith themes in films

GATES — Beloved characters Dorothy Gale, Glinda the Good Witch, Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, Tin Man and even The Wicked Witch of the West were on hand last month to help Parish of the Holy Family celebrate a milestone anniversary for the “The Wizard of Oz.”

An Oct. 12 screening of the film, which marked the 85th anniversary of its production the following day, was part of October’s installment of the parish’s monthly Faith and Film Night series, which is led by Father Steven Lape, pastor. Six parishioners dressed as “Wizard of Oz” characters for the occasion.

“I love movies, I’ve loved them since I was a kid, and I knew they always have special meaning besides entertainment; they can teach people things,” Father Lape noted as he greeted parishioners and invited them to get popcorn and drinks.

For the screening of “The Wizard of Oz,” Father Lape had invited his long-time friend, Rochester native and RIT graduate Jay Scarfone, who has coauthored several books on “The Wizard of Oz.” Scarfone was present to offer his comments on the history of the making of the film and share his appreciation for the movie.

“You can draw a lot of spiritual parallels from it,” Scarfone said. “It’s certainly a wholesome, family film that speaks volumes in our day and age.”

Father Lape said that “all four (characters) discover that they already had within them, to some degree, what they thirsted for all along — powers already placed within them by a greater power, which we sense as God, even though the film never mentions God. They shared these powers to help each other through various challenges on their journey.”

Pope St. John Paul II encouraged film clubs and recognized the importance of cinema

Father Lape stated that the Faith and Film series has been going strong at Holy Family Parish since February 2023 when he introduced it to his new parish, but it’s not the first film series he’s led.

“I’ve conducted a series of faith and film nights in every parish assignment I’ve been in,” he explained.

With these faith and film nights, Father Lape said that he seeks to help people draw connections between character, theme and other film elements to aspects of the Catholic faith.

Pope St. John Paul II inspired him to create the faith and film series, Father Lape noted. The pope’s 1995 message for the 29th World Communications Day, “Cinema: Communicator of Culture and of Values,” encouraged the establishment of film clubs and discussion groups among the faithful.

The pope also emphasized the role that filmmaking has in communicating the truths proclaimed by Christ and his church:

“The cinema, since it was invented, while sometimes giving rise to criticism and disapproval on the part of the Church on account of some aspects of its extensive output, has also often dealt with themes of great meaning and value from an ethical and spiritual point of view,” Pope St. John Paul II stated in his message.

“Human and religious values that deserve attention and praise are often present not only in films that make direct reference to the tradition of Christianity, but also in films of different cultures and religions,” he continued. “This confirms the importance of the cinema as a vehicle for cultural exchange and as an invitation to openness and reflection in dealing with realities foreign to our upbringing and mentality.”

Movie screenings offer opportunities for community and thoughtful discussions

Pope St. John Paul II’s interest in cinema and media as tools for evangelization has generated growing interest in faith and film within the church, Father Lape stated. In particular, he noted the Pauline Center for Media Studies and the work of movie critic Sister Rose Pacatte FSP, whom Father Lape met on a film and faith retreat 20 years ago.

“It’s amazing all the different things you can learn from a film even after repeated viewings. … That’s what good art does,” he said.

Father Lape has a list of movies that have touched him in profound ways over the years, and he shares those that are appropriate, whether classic or newer films. Screenings at Holy Family Parish this year have included “The Spitfire Grill” (1996), “12 Angry Men” (1957), “I Confess” (1953) and “The Majestic” (2001), among others.

While attendance at these faith and film nights has been healthy, 71 people attended “The Wizard of Oz” screening, the highest number so far, Father Lape said in an email after the event.

“People obviously are hungering for these kinds of things, especially social events since COVID. This is a social event, (but) it’s also a spiritual experience,” he said.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The November 17 installment of the Faith and Film Night series will take place at Parish of the Holy Family’s St. Jude the Apostle worship site, 4100 Lyell Road, Gates, from 6:15 to 9:15 p.m. The 1983 film “The Scarlet and the Black” will be screened. RSVP for the event by calling 585-247-4322.

Tags: Faith Formation, Monroe County West, Priests
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