If you haven’t had a chance to see the Lenten video-based mini-retreats hosted at https://familytogether.stcdio.org/lent, please check them out now. I have a sample embedded here for your convenience, and I’ll wait.
They are the fruits of a collaborative effort of Catholics from the Diocese of Saint Cloud. The goal is manifold:
To provide for a break from your busy day to sit with a weekly Lenten Gospel reading
To offer an insight or story from another faithful and faith-filled Catholic
To offer you a question to ponder, based on the reading, insight or story.
To offer that same question for small groups to ponder together.
To provide some restful music by which you can reflect.
To offer some images about which you can ask yourself, “What do I see?” Those images are Lenten images, for example desert photos reflecting the season our hearts can experience this time of year, or maybe winter images depicting a truly Minnesotan experience of Lent.
To offer, through those images one way of being attentive to God’s presence, 100% all the time, in the ordinary.
I’ve listed the above as goals of the finished ‘products’, but what continues to amaze me are the dynamics of the process of producing them. I’ve no doubt that the prayer experience isn’t relegated to ‘consuming’ the video… but the entirety of planning, procuring and praying. And I’m hoping the viewer can sense the love that went into the production. Being aware of the effort, and sincere desire to share, can certainly add to the prayer experience. Do we have ‘eyes’ to sense the behind the scenes community involvement?
Theological reflection asks the question, “What do you see?”. It assumes the ‘seeing’ goes beyond the visual, and includes the other senses, including the feelings of a softening heart. The ‘seeing’ is through the lens of a theological framework that is both shaped by our theological education and shapes our deepening theological understanding.
Offer these Lenten video mini-retreats as ways of helping us all remember and reflect on the weekly Gospel readings.
Enhance the weekly lesson for families with an additional, more adult oriented Lenten feature.
Model one way of doing faith formation online to stimulate ideas for Parishes and Area Catholic Communities in a very cost effective way.
Model an attempt at building bridges across cultures by offering the videos in both Spanish and English.
What did I see?
What I saw has changed how I view homegrown videos. In the past, when I watched professionally done videos, I had a specific mental image of scripting, storyboarding, setup, scenes and celebrities. And when I watched grass roots/homegrown videos, I got a feeling of an organization on a shoe string budget doing its best to get a story out.
When I look at our video reflections I see something amazing. In my mind’s eye I ‘see’:
CEM staff brainstorming ways of offering something for Lent, which could also provide a model to enable, and hopefully inspire, our Parishes, Schools and Area Catholic Communities. I see the care and sense of urgency to do something in this continued pandemic to keep our Catholic story alive. Something to learn, practice, refine and share.
CEM thinking about our call to reach out to everyone, and that would include those whose primary language is Spanish. I see an earnest attempt to offer at least this small level of hospitality.
CEM identifying people who could share reflections in both languages. I see how absolutely blessed we are in our diocese to have such talented and generous people who are so on fire with their faith that they will step outside their comfort zone to share it.
Cathedral High School willing to provide the readers of the Gospel reading to lead off each video. I see two Spanish teachers showing excitement to engage their classes in the project. They didn’t just agree to help us, they were thrilled to have an opportunity to serve. And I see students who, at seemingly different levels of comfort, give of themselves to make present the Story of the Paschal Mystery. I see much time and effort in providing the recorded Word. And I see how that effort could reinforce their own appreciation of the lectionary readings.
Photographers giving us a chance to renew our awareness of God in the ordinary. I see how they understand Lent in pandemic Minnesota: a time of coldness, emptiness, isolation, solitude, loneliness, reflection, purgation, sacrifice, death … and a tiny glimpse of hope for things to come… all within the beauty of God’s creation. I see the faith of the photographers, catching so many of these feelings, and knowing that God is there in it all, 100%…all the time. I see the faith of parish communities in the Stations submitted by parish staff from around the diocese, faith that impels us to remember what Jesus Christ did for us all. I see that faith in the sixth grader with the talented eye for photography, and the adults who see the beauty God provides even in the coldness of a Minnesota winter. Hope indeed!
Music coming from a collaboration of composers gone by with a living, gifted musician who knows how to calm the human spirit and prepare it for reflection and meditation. I see a modern keyboard sending digital signals to be turned into an improvisation of melody to touch the heart of the listeners as music has for eons. Music spans the ages!
My own journey unfold as I put the pieces together and see the whole touch me more deeply than the sum of the parts. When I watch or hear or see the work of each contributor, I hear their voice, imagine them setting up to record, sense the stress of going public, and feel the love they put into it. I get a renewed sense of how this type of work can be more formative for the participants than the audience, and I am re-convinced how important it is for Parishes and Area Catholic Communities to produce , for their own benefit, such resources, regardless of the size of their audience.
CEM collaborating once again as they lend fresh eyes to each video project. Although I am at the age where I am less sensitive to critique, it gives me a chance to practice not being perfect, and having others remind me of that. And the others practice critiquing in honest, straight forward and kind ways. And we all get to reap the benefits of this collaborative effort by so many who want to share the Story of the Reign of God.
Having had a chance to reflect on all of this, when I received the email inviting me to view the Psalm Sense video with Fr. John Geaney, I took the time to center myself, start the video, and saw what I could see. This time through fresh and refreshed eyes.
And closer to home, I remembered Cabin Fever Faith with Fr. LeRoy Scheierl from Together As One Area Catholic Community in Saint Cloud. I have a deeper appreciation now of the collaboration it took between Fr. LeRoy, John and Shawn with him in the video, and Lisa Neu, Director of Faith Formation and leader in technology and ministry, to make the Reign of God present online.
Tools used to create the Lenten Reflections.
Werble for some background work… notice the pulsating sun behind the crosses in the readings.
Intro Designer iOS app for the fire of purgation introduction/title clip.
Keynote (Apple’s free version of PowerPoint) to embed the audio reading from Cathedral students and sync it with the text.
Video captured by a smartphone, iPad or a recorded Zoom session.
GarageBand (Apple’s free music recording and editing software) to capture the improvised music for the reflection clip.
Smartphone cameras and digital cameras to capture the wonderful images for Lent in Minnesota.
iMovie – to stitch each part together and edit out glitches, add transitions and some text, etc.