June 29, 2009


"Gran Torino"
So, what movies and books about priests/priesthood do PRIESTS (and seminarians) like best?

Well, we asked 'em and here's what we came up with (many polled were from the Chicagoland area).

The National Catholic Register recently ran an article of the "Top 10 Priest Movies" (gleaned from their "Top 100 Catholic Movies" list from an online poll of 1,000 people). http://www.ncregister.com/daily/top_10_priest_movies/, but we asked the man of the cloth on the streets himself. The NCR article is also strict about it being an American movie, the movie being about a priest (rather than bishop or pope), and having the priest be the main character. Our responses below are much more varied! (Great gift ideas!)

1. Romero* (1989)
2. On the Waterfront* (older priests especially inspired by this) (1954)
3. The Mission* (1986)
4. Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
5. Becket* (1964) (Protestant pastors also inspired by this to go into the ministry!)
6. Blackrobe* (1991) (Canadian film, historical fiction of Jesuit missionaries in 1600's)
7. Scarlet and the Black (1983)
8. Exorcism of Emily Rose* (2005) (based on a true story, priest is a real hero)
9. Keys of the Kingdom (1944)
10. Keeping the Faith* (2000)

Other feature films priests recommended:

--"True Confessions"* (1981) (some nudity, deals with how priests are tempted to get caught up in Church politics, deals with the true nature of priesthood and tough choices to be made)
--"The Cardinal" (1963) (some priests said too "cardboard" and "pollyanna," but good historical snapshot)
--"Ninth Day" (2004) (priests in Dachau, the book is "Priestblock 25487")
--"Molokai: The Story of Fr. Damien" (1999)
--"Monsieur Vincent"* (1948) (French, award-winning film on St. Vincent de Paul)
--"Beyond the Gates" (aka "Shooting Dogs" 2005) (true story of a priest in Rwanda)
--"The Prisoner" (1955) (based on either Hungary's Cardinal Mindszenty or Croatian Cardinal Stepinac--tortured by Nazis)
--"Father Brown" (G. K. Chesterton's mysteries)

Priest not main character, but good priest parts:

--"Men with Guns"* (1997)
--"Gran Torino"* (2008)


--"Fishers of Men"* (inspiring vocation film by the amazing "Grassroots Films")
--"With God in Russia"* (true story of Polish-American Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ)
--"Road of Hope--The Spiritual Journey of Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan"*

*Sr. Helena highly recommends:

--"JESUS" (2-hr Gospel of Luke), "Gospel of John," "The Passion of the Christ" (Jesus, our high priest!)
--"Diary of a City Priest" (2001) (film adaptation different from the book; the unglamorous life of a parish priest in a poor, inner city neighborhood; should be required seminary viewing!)
--"The Father Clements Story" (1987) African-American priest adopts kids to set an example
--"Hoodlum Priest" (1961) (surprisingly good, gritty drama of ex-con priest, based on true story)
--"Saving Grace" (1985) (pope gets locked out of Vatican)
--"Gran Torino" (2008)
--"Gospa" (1995) Medjugorje Franciscan played by Martin Sheen
--"Open City" (1945) (Italian, Rossellini, Nazis torture a priest in WWII occupied Rome)
--"Little Flowers of St. Francis" (1950) (Italian, Rossellini, St. Francis and his first followers)
--"Into Great Silence" (2005) 3-hr "silent" movie about Carthusian monks (the Church's most austere order) who live in silence, except for prayers
--"Of Gods and Men" (2011) The Trappist martyrs of Algeria
--"The Rite" (2011) Some theological inaccuracies, but Anthony Hopkins does a great job playing a priest-exorcist
--"Keeping the Faith" (2000) A young priest and young rabbi are friends
--"The Priest and the Devil" (French, B & W) The Cure of Ars
--John Paul II movies--take your pick!

Are YOU a priest or seminarian? Don't see YOUR favorite "priest movie" here? Comment!

Priests/seminarians favorite BOOKS on priests/priesthood:

--"You Are a Priest Forever" by Fr. Groeschel
--"Jesus Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church"
--"Quickening the Fire in Our Midst: The Challenge of Diocesan Priestly Spirituality" by George Aschenbrenner, SJ
--"Reclaiming Our Priestly Character," by Fr. David Toups
--"Gift and Mystery"* by John Paul II
--"The Keys of the Kingdom" by A. J. Cronin
--"The Power and the Glory" by Graham Greene
--"Silence"* by Shusaku Endo
--"Father Brown"* mysteries by G. K. Chesterton
--"The Unchanging Heart of the Priesthood" by Fr. Thomas Acklin, OSB
--"The Priest Is Not His Own" by Fulton Sheen (one priest says it makes him depressed, another seminarian LOVES it)

Sr. Helena recommends (even though she hasn't read some of them):
--"In Defense of the Priesthood" by St. John Fisher, bishop & martyr (written to refute his contemporary, Martin Luther! One of Fisher's only extant writings!)
--"Letter for Year for Priests" Pope Benedict XVI (lots of Cure d'Ars quotes)
--"The Meaning of the Priesthood" by Cardinal Avery Dulles
--"Theology of the Priesthood" by Jean Galot
--"Joy of the Priesthood" by Fr. Stephen Rossetti
--"Behold Your Mother, Priests Speak About Mary" by Fr. Stephen Rossetti
--"Priests for the Third Millennium" by Archbishop Timothy Dolan
--"Priestly Celibacy" by Paul VI
--"Priestblock 25487" (priests in Dachau)
--"With God in Russia" and "He Leadeth Me" by Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ
--"Alter Christus--St. Paul Speaks to Priests"
--"Virgin Mary and the Priesthood" by Pierre Philippe
--"Priesthood, Manhood and Theology of the Body" Fr. Thomas Loya www.tinyurl.com/FatherLoyaPriesthoodBook
--Anything on or by St. Jean-Marie Vianney, the Cure of Ars (now patron of all priests, not just parish priests)

Books on Women and the Catholic Priesthood:
--"Women and the Catholic Priesthood" by Sr. Sara Butler
--"Priesthood of the Heart" (Alba House)

For more books on priesthood:
http://www.albahouse.org/ (Publishing House of Society of St. Paul)
http://www.ignatius.com/ (Ignatius Press)
http://www.ipfpublications.com/ (Institute of Priestly Formation)

Are YOU a priest or seminarian? Don't see YOUR favorite book on priesthood here? Comment!

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  1. What, no comments from the priests? I was hoping for more than a list....

  2. This IS their list! (From their feedback.) They are free to add/agree/disagree....

  3. Excellent resource, Sister Helena!

  4. Anonymous5:40 AM

    I was hoping for more than a list....
    Apply now Nation wide cash

  5. My favourite movie is listed here: Becket.
    Love it!

  6. I actually think the depiction of the priest in Gran Torino is more negative than positive. As I watched the movie I thought, "This is exactly the kind of priest I DON'T want to be."

    Maybe I'll go rent "Diary of a City Priest" some time, given your accolades for it. "Required Seminary viewing"? I'll be the judge of that :P

  7. Hi Andy!

    I thought the young priest was great. He couldn't help it that he was young and inexperienced, but he stood his ground and kept his promise to Walt's wife, and learned to adapt himself to Walt. I think he made great progress in a short time. He was a true priest, and in the end, Walt respected him for that, and SPOILER TO ANYONE READING THIS!!! finally went to Confession. I love depictions of swashbuckling, heroic priests also ("Exorcism of Emily Rose," "Keys of the Kingdom," "Scarlet and the Black," etc.), and Lord knows we need to see MORE of that today, but I think it's OK to show humble, humanly-frail priests also, especially if they keep at it and are faithful and persevere and yadda, yadda, yadda.)
    DO let me know what you think of "City Priest" (Netflix has it)--he's kinda humble, humanly-frail, etc.
    As far as my setting the Cinema Syllabus for Seminaries (how's that for alliteration?)--I have a MANDATE FROM GOD HIMSELF to do just that, as a Daughter of St. Paul, thank you very much. :]

  8. Check out www.nypriest.com for the latest "Ordination 2009" video produced by Grassroots Films.

  9. Anonymous8:00 PM

    For Books about priests:
    By far, my favorite book is the semi-autobiographical, "A Priest Confesses" by Jose Luis Martin Descalzo which I was lucky to find used in an english translation.
    also, "The Cardinal" by Henry Morton Robinson. The book is much better entertainment then the movie and captures the spiritual life in a rich and moving manner.

    I also enjoyed Willa Cather's Death comes for the Arch Bishop (but realize this is not strictly speaking about a mere parish priest) and Parish Priest: Fr. Michael McGivney and American Catholicism.

    Vis-a-vis St. John Vianney, the encyclical letter of Pope John XXIII from 1959 Sacerdotii nostri primordia is most excellent and is the one Pope Benedict references so often in his letter.

  10. Anonymous (above)--are you a priest? Just curious--I'll check out the "Priest Confesses"...never heard of. All I remember about the movie "Cardinal" is that it's heavy on the pomp and circumstance--LONG church ceremonies...oof. And the Boston "streetcars."

  11. Anonymous4:32 PM

    Where can I find a copy of "The Priest and the Devil"? I saw it years ago and would like to see it again.

  12. Anonymous8:22 PM

    Why is "A Man For All Seasons" left off of everyone's list? I think it shows how to handle a moral dilema very well, with grace and conviction to the end.

  13. I suppose since More is not a priest himself and we only briefly see the infamous and portly Cardinal Wolsey (and Thomas Cranmer, too, I believe). BTW, this is my FAV movie of all times, even tho' it's more like a filmed play!

  14. Anonymous8:52 AM

    I just watched 'Of Gods and Men' last week at the suggestion of my pastor and wow was that a good movie. It's about Trappist Monks in Algeria during a time of civil unrest who struggle with the decision to stay in the increasingly violent country, knowing it will ultimately lead to their deaths.

  15. yes! I need to update with "The Rite," and "Of Gods and Men"! Both good movies, "Gods and Men"=excellent, of course