Our world is in flux. There is a lot that is happening around us. We are people trying to make sense of the world around us. We are constantly jolted, and there exists a palpable tension between the world and our identities as sons and daughters of God.

To this existentialist crisis, we throw in the mix, the current happening of a world pandemic. We are now restless individuals stuck at home, feeling cabin fever and trapped, and possibly helpless in our situation. There is frustration, there is anxiety about what the future holds, there is a overhanging cloud of lethargy, depression, fatigue, resignation, and ennui.

To this conundrum and Catch 22 situation, the proposed remedy – Cinema Divina.

Cinema Divina is an extension of the Church practice of Lectio Divina.

In Lectio Divina, we engage with the voice and the perspective of God, through an authentic reading and meditation on the Word of God. Lectio Divina comprises:

  1. Lectio – the reading of Scripture that takes into account our excavation of the Words through a framework or mode of literary analysis that considers the expressions that are used, the symbolisms that are found embedded in the text, the historical and social contexts of the writing, including the authorship and the timeframe in which it was written, the form and genre of the text, the characters, images, and words that are found in the text, and the structure of the Scripture passage.
  2. Meditatio – the dispositions of the reader are excavated as the reader ponders upon the themes and the motifs that are presented in the text.
  3. Oratio – prayer that is heartfelt and spontaneous, that flows from the person reading and meditating upon the Scripture.
  4. Actio – praying about and discerning a tangible course of action after reading, pondering and praying upon the Scriptural text.

The Practice of Cinema Divina is a contemporary monastic practice that was introduced fairly recently in the 20th century. Matthias Neuman, a Benedictine in 1977 was interested in how the Lectio could be expanded from the reading of the printed text of God’s Word, to the spiritual reading of filmic forms and visual images. He proposed, “Beyond the written word, the giant visual image of the modern movie screen may provide the impetus for an authentic lectio.” (Neuman, 1977) This exploration of film-viewing as prayer could not be more timely and prophetic, especially today in a world where our senses are bombarded 24/7 by audio-visual stimuli.  Amidst the noise of our culture and the happenings around us, we are once again invited to read the world, and to find the fingerprints of God in the world that we live in. We are nomads and pilgrims who are after all in the world, but set apart from it, and thus invited to gaze upon it and ponder about it with Godly lenses and eyes.

How do we go about the practice of Cinema Divina?

  1. Attune to the film with attentiveness – Be mindful of what is happening within you and outside of you are you watch the film. What is it that I am seeing? What am I listening to? What am I feeling? What attracts? Repulses? Does anything inspire? The colours? The non-diegetic and diegetic music? What emotions are being evoked in me as I watch a scene unfold? What is the reason I am feeling that way? Which characters are resonating with me? With whom can I relate the most or least? We surrender to the Heart of Jesus these evocations and we ask the Lord to reveal what it is that He is trying to tell us from these things.
  2. Connect our rational minds to the workings of the film – what thoughts come to mind as I reflect upon what I have seen, heard, felt, understood? What are some underlying biases and prejudices that are surfacing? What memories am I recalling? How can I articulate these ideologies, philosophies, and perspectives within me? What values and assumptions are causing me to think this way? What am I thinking about the characters, the themes, the patterns, the cinematography, the plot? What new information or insight have I received? We ask the Holy Spirit for the gift of Knowledge and Wisdom to see things clearly and in a Godly way.
  3. Encounter the film with reflection – Contemplate with God the things that have surfaced – thoughts, reactions, responses, emotions, feelings, insight. What questions have arisen? What discomforts me? What doe not make sense? What invokes marvel and awe? What are the moments of beauty in the film? What was the good that each scene presented? What was the bad? What were the values that were brought up that were in alignment, or not in alignment with the aspects of my Faith? What moved me?
  4. A Call to Action – What change in my own life is God calling me to step into? How is God inviting me to live more fully as a human being? What is my choice? What is my response? How is the Lord inviting me to love my neighbours, myself more fully through the experience of watching this film?

Video [cinema] divina requires a set disposition which says ‘This evening, I wish to get closer to God so I think I’m going to watch this film which might give me better insights into myself or why my neighbor acts as she or he does….’

— Benedict Auer, OSB, “Video Divina: A Benedictine Approach to Spiritual Viewing

In Cinema Divina, we are invited to encounter critically and through the eyes of Faith, the filmic possibility and the space that has been presented to us, so as to excavate deeper truths about our own living, existence, and being, in relation to who we are and how we are seen by God our Father. The question that we ask as well is how may I use the gifts of media to tell the world of God’s message of hope and life? To engage spiritually with a film does not mean that we accommodate these films. What is important is that in our engagement with the films, we become more authentic and more honest with ourselves, and enter into a prayerful space that is offered by the films, to dialogue, converse, ponder upon the beauty that is God, yet manifested in fragments on the cinematic screen.

So what are you doing this weekend? Why not pray a cinematic experience together with your loved ones?

By the Grace of God,

Brian Bartholomew Tan



Neuman, M. (1977). The Contemporary Spirituality of the Monastic Lectio. Review for Religious, 36.