Letter to Parents
The following is a brief description and rationale for The Search for Man, a formational course for young men in 8th grade.
Primarily, we wish to make clear to both parents and students that this is not a “movie-watching club”, but rather an instructive course on moral character, Catholic doctrine, and spiritual maturity that uses critically acclaimed movies as its primary “textbook”. Attendees will analyze and discuss these films in an engaging yet serious atmosphere of thoughtful Christian refinement. The theme for the course is “What is Christian manliness? What does it take to be a true, Christian man?”
The course has two specific purposes. The first is to inspire teenagers in an enjoyable and memorable way to answer God’s call to live as sons of His with generosity and strength. The second is to help sharpen their ability to discern and analyze critically the messages and assumptions that movies can communicate. This naturally encourages these young men, whose world is saturated with digital entertainment, to set a very high standard for the media they choose to view.
The structure of the course is as follows: a worksheet will be provided before each session. Students are encouraged to observe a particular character or situation while viewing the movie. At perhaps four or five key moments during the movie, the action is paused, and students answer a question, such as, “What should [X character] do in this situation?” or, “What error in moral judgment did he just make?” or, “What does the Church teach about this?” etc. Students meet at a set time (see the course schedule here) for a class with the instructor. Each question from the worksheet is discussed; this leads naturally to an explanation of a particular aspect of morality, piety, or Church doctrine essential to living the Christian vocation. Each session concludes with a short collection of related quotations from Sacred Scripture, Church documents, writings of various saints and other writers, which students can then read on their own time. All course materials are available here.
The movies reflect a wide variety of themes, genres, character types, time periods, and artistic styles. Each is carefully chosen to address a particular aspect of Christian masculinity, presenting specific topics, challenges, and examples of virtue relevant for young Catholic men in their teenage years. In the case of three movies, 3:10 to Yuma, Big Fish, and Saving Private Ryan, inappropriate scenes will have been edited out (for the in-person viewing), and instructions for skipping these scenes are provided here for at-home viewing.
A brief summary of the lessons to be taught and each lesson’s corresponding film can be found here.
We want you to be fully aware that three of these movies carry an “R” rating: 3:10 to Yuma, Glory, and Saving Private Ryan, for violence. The scenes containing violence are not gratuitous, and as such we will not edit them out. We’ve chosen these specific films after careful deliberation, mindful of the nature and purpose of the course, the capabilities of young men of this age to handle challenging visual content, and their need to be fully prepared to meet the rigorous demands of Christian manhood in the real world.
Each of these three films present violence as a tragic reality to be avoided whenever possible, or faced with reluctant resolve when necessary to protect innocent life or a just society.
If you would like more information about the course or any of the above movies, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Tim McDonnell (teacher of the course)
Matt Bowman (course coordinator)
Menlough Study Center
1160 Santa Cruz Ave.
Menlo Park, CA 94025