I am looking forward to gathering with about 150 others on March 10, 2016 to preview a new movie that supposes what Jesus may have been like as a seven year old.
(If you are reading this post prior to this date, you can check for information on joining us at:
After that date, just look for the resources linked towards the end of this post.)
As the Gospel of Matthew chapter two ends, after hearing about the magi visiting baby Jesus, we read that Joseph received a dream that it was safe to return "home" so they set out from Eqypt to Nazareth. Then chapter three begins with John the Baptist preaching in the desert and Jesus approaching as a man.
What happened in between?
Luke adds one story of Jesus at age 12 preaching in the temple. Then, only these words before he appears before John the Baptist:
51 He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.
52 And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man
Mark and John do not even discuss Jesus as a child.
So, what are we to think about Jesus and a child and a teen?
The Holy Spirit leaves that to us I suppose as the Church focuses on the importance of in incarnation (God becoming man as a boy born in Bethlehem), Jesus' ministry, and the Pascal Mystery.
But as humans, we may just wonder about the in between time....
Anne Rice did when she wrote the book Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt.
And now the book has been adapted as a movie entitled "The Young Messiah."
They describe it as follows:
Remaining true to the character of Jesus revealed in the Bible, The Young Messiah film is an inspirational story about the childhood of the Savior for the whole family.
When the mystery of Jesus’s divinity begins to unfold in His early years, He turns to His parents for answers. But Mary and Joseph, in an effort to protect their child, are afraid to reveal all they know. How do you explain the ways of the world to its Creator? How do you teach the Teacher? How do you help the Savior who came to save you?
Follow the young Messiah as He and His family take the dangerous journey from Egypt to Nazareth and on to Jerusalem—where His true identity and profound destiny are revealed.
I look forward to seeing what someone envisioned this time of growth, discovery, anguish, joy, family-time, relationships, and faith for Jesus. It will be interesting to see how someone imaged Mary and Joseph as parents.
I pray that the movie deepens an appreciation for the Holy Family and the wonder and awe for each family members acceptance of God's plan for their lives.
If it is done as well as I hear it is, we may be recommending that youth groups and/or families with teens get out to see the movie. There are already discussion guides available for your use at the parish or to share with families for home-catechesis.
Catholic Youth Study Guide/Lesson Plans:
Catholic Study Guide for Families with Youth
Discussion Guide (for adults)
Perhaps more will be added by the promotional company:
Even if you do not see this movie, it can be fun to pull some of the scripture reflections and discussion questions out for use in your youth and family ministry programs.
Lenten blessings to you as you reflect on Jesus in your own life.
May you continue to claim him as messiah (young or old or ageless!)
"We want to show X movie to Y group..."
This is the start of a potentially beautiful experience of learning, community building, reflection, prayer or just fun....
Or it could be a bad choice.
How can you tell the difference?
With the current string of religiously themed movies, this seems like a good time to share a few basic considerations if you are looking to show a movie to children, youth or families:
1. A group leader should ALWAYS preview a movie!
Consider watching it twice, the first time to get an overall sense of the film; then if that seems fine, watch it again to look for any subtle themes, plot twists, backdrops or characters that may raise questions, concerns, or 'red flags.'
You may wish to invite a few other adult to preview the movie with you so that you have additional eyes to notice things and insights to share.
A few questions:
-- what is that main message the film is communicating?
-- what others themes is the film sending?
-- what Gospel themes are connected?
-- what Diocesan Curriculum Objectives are covered? (Hey, even if you are planning it just as a fun activity, it doesn't hurt to slip some catechesis in if you are sponsoring it as a ministry event!)
-- is this movie the best way to teach these themes?
-- can clips of the film be shown (obviously at a later date once they are available) to better get across the point(s) you hope to teach, or does the movie need to be seen in its entirety?
-- what prayers, reflection questions and discussions can support the film theme(s)?
Movies that pervert the faith or are blatantly immoral must be avoided.
2. What is the movie rating? Remember that the Motion Pictures Association of America is one form of rating, and a great starting point.
G = General Audiences (all ages)
PG = Parental Guidance suggested as some aspects may not be suitable for children
PG 13 = Parental Guidance but really most viewers should be 13 and older
R = viewers should be 17 and older or with a parent (often based on amount of violence, profanity, nudity)
NC 17= restricted to only those 17 and older
Therefore, you should NOT plan to high school teens to an R-rated movie, or small children to a PG film.... and I must add that you still might want to preview G-rated movies as some themes might be questionable for religious purposes, although they should be generally "safe" to watch.
3. How have Catholic Leaders rated it?
Catholic leaders look at the movies not only based on the amount of
violence, profanity, and nudity (the 3 criteria used for the MPAA ratings above) but also based on our Christian morals, teachings and scriptures.
A. Catholic News Services --CNS continues to work begun by the U.S. Bishops Office for Film and Broadcasting by reviewing movies through the lenses of our Catholic faith.
The rating system they use:
Visit the website to see the ratings given in current and older movies:
B. Franciscans Media movie reviews
(I am not sure if they add original reviews, or just post the CNS reviews from above? But the format for reading might be easier on some screens.)
C. Sr. Rose Pacatte - Daughters of St. Paul community member Sr. Rose has taken the 5 Things the National Director for Catechesis says about media (see image to the right). She reviews and writes for a number of outlets to help Catholics chose movies wisely:
RCL Benziger (publisher) has "Sr. Rose Goes to the Movies" video reviews posted for catechists, educators and parents at:
Articles on movies posted with the National Catholic Reporter (newspaper):
Pathos Faith Channels also has "Sr. Rose Goes to the Movies" for all ages at:
OK, so once you have previewed a movie (perhaps twice or with a team),
decide that it is worthy of pursuing as a parish activity, have checked the
movie ratings and see that reliable Catholic leaders support the film,
please remember that if going as a youth event, you must follow all the guidelines regarding permission forms, Diocesan Child Protection Policy compliant chaperones and drivers....
then get some popcorn and enjoy!
Cindee Case, MAPS
Director of the Diocese of Youngstown Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry.