“We go where the Church needs us”
(Speech delivered by Prior Provincial Fr. Dionisio Selma, OAR during the 1st Recoletos Film Festival organized by USJ-R and the Recoletos Communications, Inc. (RCI) at the SM Seaside City Cebu Mountain Wing Atrium last March 26, 2017)
[To the organizers and sponsors of this 1st Recoletos Film Festival: the Recoletos Communications, the University of San Jose-Recoletos, and SM-Seaside City-Cebu; to all the participating groups from all over the Philippines and the panel of judges; and to all of you—brothers and sisters: GOOD AFTERNOON.]
“We go where the Church needs us”—these are words of our Father, St. Augustine, that remain valid up to today. And this becomes our principle of engagement in the various areas of apostolate since the beginning of our existence as Augustinian Recollects, or Recoletos. From our monastic life (in Spain), we became missionary. That’s why Recoletos can be found in 19 countries worldwide. In the Philippines, we arrived in 1606, and we were assigned to difficult places far from Manila. Among these was Cebu where we worked since 1621. This means, in 2021, which is barely four (4) years away, Recoletos de Cebu will be celebrating its 4oo years of evangelizing presence in this Province.
And this 1st Recoletos Film Festival is part of the pre-Quadricentennial program.
“We go where the Church needs us”—because we believe that is where the Holy Spirit leads us to sow the seeds of the Gospel. Before, we simply worked in the parishes and mission areas. True, decades after its foundation, the Recoletos were involved in teaching, but that was informal and catechetical in nature. Only in the last century did our educational apostolate evolve into establishing formal institutions, like USJ-R (Cebu), UNO-R (Bacolod), or San Sebastian College-Recoletos (Manila, Cavite, and Canlubang)….
Our schools have become fertile seedbeds as well as potent vehicles of propagating the values of God’s Kingdom to our stakeholders. As an example: this initial and “small-scale” attempt at holding the Recoletos Film Festival is partly due to the joint efforts of the USJ-R community, particularly its Department of Tourism and Journalism, to share in fulfilling the mission of announcing the Gospel and denouncing what is contrary to the Gospel.
“We go where the Church needs us”—because the Church wants us to be relevant in our response to the signs of the times. Admittedly, this is the first time that the Augustinian Recollects (or the Recoletos) embark on this highly technical sort of “apostolate”, I should say, although filmmaking and film-showing would fall under the general category of “communications apostolate”. This is the reason why I approved that the Office of the Recoletos Communications co-sponsor this endeavor.
On this account, I am reminded by the wisdom of Pope Francis who said: “It is not technology which determines whether or not communication is authentic, but rather the human heart and our capacity to use wisely the means at our disposal” (2016 World Day Communications).
God has programmed us to determine what is truly good and what is not, as we try to “re-present” through filmmaking the inescapable realities around us. In this meticulous effort of re-presentation, we take note of the spiritual, moral, and artistic concerns, and to hit the common values that we all share—whether you are Catholic, believers of another stripe, or simply people of goodwill.
Therefore, from the point of view of a Catholic institution that sponsors and supports such a film festival, it is a red flag to promote, either explicitly or implicitly, anything the militates against the standards of faith and morals, such as vigilantism, adultery, premarital sex, abortion, illegal drug use, etc.
In fact, in the guidelines for this film festival, participants are reminded to: (1) avoid portraying obscene shots and messages, (2) observe cultural sensitivity, (3) avoid harming people and animals during production, (4) violate intellectual property rights…
In other words, in every film (from the moment of its conception to its production, and to its exhibition/presentation), the moral and spiritual values underlying it must not only be linked to, but, above all, take precedence over, purely cinematic considerations.
This is the evangelizing dimension of the Recoletos Film Festival.
Outside and without this boundary, we commit, what Pope Francis calls—“the three sins of the mass media” (cf. Address of Pope Francis to the Workers and Directors of TV2000 on December 15, 2014). These “three related yet distinct sins” are: “misinformation, slander, and defamation”. Since slander is a “spoken” defamation, the third sin would refer to the “written or printed” defamation, or libel.
Misinformation is when we tell half-truths only, or concerned of being tactical in communication which is artificial and a form of dishonesty. On the contrary, let our communication—through film—be “parrhesia”, a Greek term to describe the Spirit-filled force behind the preaching of Christ and the Apostles which struck the hearts of unbelievers and brought them to faith in Jesus.
Slander (or spoken defamation) is committed particularly by those with tendency toward brevity in which complex matter is reduced to “short encapsulations” that erase all nuance and depth, doing violence to the original idea. It is not just about being “lost in translation”, but also being “lost in condensation”.
Defamation—or, in this particular case, libel, is worried about “making headlines”. Half-truths and soundbyte mentality are contributing factors. As an antidote to both kinds of defamation, the Pope recommends: “One must speak to the whole person: to the mind and to the heart, so that [people] learn to see beyond what is immediate, beyond the present moment…”
Finally, let us consider this Recoletos Film Festival as a showcase of both art and faith. In the language of Pope-emeritus, Benedict XVI, this could be a “via pulchritudinis” or “way of beauty” in which the combination of art and faith is valued as “our commitment to the men and women of our time to proclaim the Gospel, to proclaim the God who is Beauty and infinite Love” despite the lights and shadows happening daily in our world today.
While in the near future there shall come out specific guidelines and standards that set RFF apart from other film festivals, for now it is my ardent hope and prayer that this 1st experiment will develop, with God’s blessing and your support and participation, into a creative force that “[will instill] in both the filmmakers and the audience the values of critical thinking and social responsibility” and, at the same time, “a path [that will] guide the mind and the heart to the Eternal, to elevate [us all] to the heights of God”.
My advance Congratulations to all of you for a job well done. May God bless you