Finding the faith in classic movies

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Jesus (Jonathan Roumie) and Nicodemus (Erick Avari) in episode 7 of “The Chosen.” Wikimedia Commons photos 

As Catholics, we understand that suffering is a part of life. It is one of the universal truths of the Catholic Church. What we also know is that our suffering further connects us to Christ and the cross as we take up our own cross and follow in the light of His footsteps.

This message is not always a given when you branch out into the secular world, but engaging with popular culture content can sometimes be just the catalyst needed to further spread the message and values of the Catholic faith to others.

St. Henry Church is taking that opportunity to heart with the recent launch of their monthly Classic Cinema Sundays program, led by Deacon Mike Catalano.

On Sunday, Sept. 17, the program kicked off with a viewing of the 1940 film “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on the 1939 novel by John Steinbeck, in the church’s Fellowship Hall.

Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan and Patty Duke as Helen Keller in the Broadway play “The Miracle Worker.” In this scene, Miss Sullivan tries to teach Helen the meaning of “water.”

After watching the film, those in attendance discussed the different Catholic values and themes they recognized in the film, the biggest being that idea of suffering.

“To the secular world, the suffering you saw in that movie would not make any sense, and even as Catholics, sometimes when we suffer, it doesn’t make any sense, but it can have true meaning,” Deacon Catalano said.

For many who came to the event, it was their first time to ever view the film. In Aurelie Steve’s case, she had not read the book either.

“Since it was a literary classic, I thought that it was necessary for me to see the film. I found the actors to be very strong and powerful,” Steve said. “Not only was it historical, but very prescient in describing the problems that we face in our current culture.

“As Catholics, it causes us to reflect on the truths which our faith upholds,” she added. “There were examples of man’s inhumanity to man. We need to guarantee to everyone their human dignity at all stages of life.

“We see the immigrant as powerless to fight greed and wealth. In response, we have to practice love and charity at its fullest,” Steve continued. “It shows us the strength of family and perseverance in fighting almost insurmountable struggles. We need strong families.”

The idea for the Classic Cinema Sundays series started with a recent initiative started by St. Henry called Encountering God Through the Senses, which led to hosting such events as encountering God through wine tasting, through hikes in the park, and more. Another series paired wine tasting with various books, which eventually led to the idea for the classic movies. 

Charlie Grapewin as Grandpa William James Joad in a scene from the 1940 film “The Grapes of Wrath.” 

“You have to be innovative and creative in this world to evangelize, and this is just one way,” Deacon Catalano said. “I went online and looked for the 100 top classic movies and searched for those films that would contain those universal themes throughout the movies.

“As Catholics, we know that we are in a secular-driven world, and we have to use different, innovative, and creative means of getting the message of Christ to people,” he continued. “Going all the way back to our original Encountering God through the Senses initiative to this program now, the whole message is that you can encounter God in ways that you may have never thought about before.”

The next Classic Cinema Sundays will feature “The Miracle Worker” (1962) on Oct. 15, “On the Waterfront” (1954) on Nov. 12, “You Can’t Take It with You” (1938) on Jan. 14, 2024, “Casablanca” (1942) on Feb. 11, and “Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) on March 10. All movies begin at 7 p.m.

“These classic films give us an insight to former times and teach us that history can repeat itself,” Steve said. “They are video teaching tools about American past history and social culture. Unfortunately, our present generation is not becoming aware of the truths of the past.

“Since the present generation is prone to Instagram, Facebook, and texting, these might be ways to evangelize,” she added.

Another way St. Henry is using popular media to further discuss the teachings of the Catholic faith is through an adult Bible Study based on the popular Angel Studios and Loaves & Fishes Productions’ series about the life of Jesus, “The Chosen.” After watching a new episode every week, the group is following the study guide that the creators of the series provide.

“It’s very, very popular and continues to be popular. Many who come have already seen the series,” Deacon Catalano said. “What’s interesting is to watch it again and watch in light of what it means to be chosen by God in the midst of our brokenness.”

“The Chosen” Bible Study meets every Monday at 9 a.m. in person and via Zoom.

For more information about Classic Cinema Sundays and “The Chosen” Bible Study, email Deacon Catalano at

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