Sister Rose Pacatte will be visiting Singapore in October to give a series of talks on media literacy education.

SISTER ROSE PACATTE, FSP, is the director of the Pauline Centre for Media Studies in Culver City, California. She has an M. A. in Education in Media Studies from the University of London, UK. Her primary work is media literacy education for parents and teachers within the context of culture, education and faith formation. Sister Rose is the co-author of several books including LIGHTS, CAMERA … FAITH! and Media Mindfulness. She has been the film/TV columnist for St. Anthony Messenger since 2002.

Sister Rose Pacatte will be visiting Singapore in October to give a series of talks on media literacy education.

Below are edited excerpts of an interview with Sister Rose by Homiletics Online, a sermon resource website, where she talks about how media and faith connects and how to use media resources in the parish.

Movies – a good or bad thing?

For years there just weren’t very good movies and movies was considered a bad thing. So they had to write better stories that were more engaging visually. Theatres began to have more than one screen, and more and more movies were produced, and people began to see movies as a destination – something to do with someone else. People rarely see the movies alone.

The movies offer so much of a chance to make the world a better place, and to develop personally and as a community. Let’s mine the movies. Let’s take advantage of them.

Movies as a means of finding meaning

Movies tell stories. Movies are where we go to figure out things. I was at a theatre not long ago, and was leaving a showing of The Missing. There weren’t too many people, and as I was leaving, I stumbled and this lady sort of jumped up to help me, and then I asked her, “Did you like it?”

She said, “Well, I majored in Indian studies. I come from North Dakota, and I think the Indians got short-shifted.” So we stood together and watched the credits. And then she said, “Why are you so interested?” I dress down when I go to the movies. I don’t wear my habit – less distracting for everybody. I said, “I’m a Catholic sister and I write for a Catholic magazine and I’m here to review the film.” Then I asked, “Why are you here?”

“I came here today to figure out my life. This is the third movie I’ve seen today. Me and my friend – whenever we need to figure out our lives, we go to the movies.” She had a bag with her, and in it she had The Five People You Meet in Heaven, a journal and another self-help book. She said, “I think my boyfriend is going to propose to me, and I don’t know if I’m ready. I’m a healthcare professional, he’s a doctor, but I just needed today to sort things out.”

I said, “You need a retreat, some spiritual direction. What about going to church on Sunday?”

She said, “I really don’t get a lot out of church. My boyfriend is Catholic and he goes to Mass, but I get more out of movies.”

A lot of people use the theatre as church, and they go there to think about their lives.

Movies as a part of cinema divina

When I go to the movies, I always take a pad of paper, and when I get home I write about it. You don’t have to look for any particular scene, it will look for you. That’s a part of cinema divina. Think about it. In the lectio divina, we wait for the biblical text to call out to us. It’s not a Scripture study. It’s a reading and contemplation of the Scriptures where all of a sudden something will speak to us. I think that happens in movies. We are already people of faith, we have this lens on anyway, because that’s how we see all of life. When something happens, it’s going to speak to us.

I went to see The End of the Spear. There’s one part in there where the young lady who had left the tribe, comes back later and tells them the whole Jesus story, how the name of their god came to earth and left markings in the trees like “our father did” and “we follow the markings and it will cross over the boa” – I guess the big snake at the end of life. I said, “I am going to get that DVD and use that clip because that’s about language and communicating in a language that people can understand.”

Movies as part of Christian culture

There’s an exploding sub-genre in Christian publishing about film. Ed McNulty works with visual parables. Robert Jewett did St. Paul Goes to the Movies, and St. Paul Returns to the Movies. If people are at a place that they can acknowledge that there are good things in the culture, that’s a good thing. Jesus came into the culture to transform and redeem it, not condemn. So if you’re in a mode that you can see the positive in the culture and see the seeds of the gospel that are there, then all of a sudden our position and relation to the text changes. We’re open to whatever speaks to us. These are modern parables. Some people have called movies a sort of modern stained-glass window.

Running movie nights in parishes

First, the pastor has to understand that this is where young people are. They go to the movies. This is what they do. So we can use movies as a “place” of dialogue, a table as it were. There we share our insights and values and respect for each other, and respect for everyone’s interpretation, because there’s no one way to interpret a film. Everyone’s interpretation is valid because everyone comes to that table with different experiences, different levels of education, moral and spiritual development.

There are some films like Dead Poets Society, which are great, but you have to remember that you have a kid committing suicide, so with what group do you really want to study this film? But we have to look at things like this. We condemn Hollywood for being a dream factory, but we live in a dream. We don’t want to talk about the dark sides of life, or when we have to go into the depths of our spiritual life. We fall into sin and error. But, of course, there is redemption.

Sr Rose will conduct four workshops as follows:

• COURSE 1A: Media Spirituality for Catechists (SPI, Oct 10, 2.00-3.45pm)

• COURSE 1B: How to be a Media Savvy Catechist in 10 (Easy) Steps (SPI, Oct 10, 4.15-6.00pm)

• COURSE 2: Globalisation, Catholic Social Teaching & Hollywood: A Media Literacy Response (CANA, Oct 11, 10.00pm-12.00am)

• COURSE 3: Household Saints or Desperate Housewives? (CANA, Oct 11, 2.30-5.00 pm).

Permission is from Timothy Merrill, Editor-in-Chief, Homiletics. Copyright 2009.

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