Saint Stephen the Protomartyr: Ora pro nobis.
Everything is always changing, but August 2012 will go down as a month of particularly momentous milestones for the Greydanus family—some of which will have repercussions on my life and work, including my film review work, for many years to come.
Just a few days ago, our eldest, Sarah Elisabeth, left us and began life at college—the first of our children to depart the nest. (If you missed my blog post on Sarah’s review of Whisper of the Heart, check it out.)
The week before that, Suz and I welcomed our seventh child, Matthew Richard. Around the same time, I wrapped up the third summer season of “Reel Faith.” (If you missed our season finale, catch it at the show’s website (coming soon)—and see a pic of Matthew in the opening minutes!)
The week before that, on August 3, we celebrated our 21st anniversary. Three times seven years. 3 and 7… biblical numbers keep cropping up.
Here’s another biblical number: 12. That’s how many years I’ve been doing Decent Films and writing faith-informed film criticism. (I always thought I registered the domain in August, but it looks like it was earlier, probably in May. So, 12 years and 3 months?)
Perhaps the most momentous milestone, though, is the last.
Next week I will be going back to graduate school—back to seminary, in fact—to pursue diaconal studies in preparation for ordination to the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Newark. (I currently hold an MA in religious studies from St. Charles Borromeo in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. As of this year, my archdiocese requires diaconal candidates to earn an MA in theology, so…back to school I go.)
I've been discerning this vocation for a long time—to one extent or another, ever since I was received into the Catholic Church. In our archdiocese, the diaconal program is limited to a single class at a time, so the program only opens once every several years. The last time I looked into it, the program was closed. When it re-opened last year, my pastor sponsored me for the program, I began the year of discernment…and here I am.
Obviously this means significant adjustments in my other activities for the time being, most notably my movie reviewing. For those of you who follow my work, here’s what this means.
First, I’m not leaving film criticism or going on total hiatus.
For a few years, though, I’ll be doing quite a bit less of it, at least through the academic year. In the summers I hope to be back at something like full strength.
The rest of the time, I’ll still be writing reviews for the Register and Decent Films every few weeks or so. I’ll try to make sure I hit at least one notable movie each month, hopefully by or before opening day as usual. I’ll also continue to appear monthly(ish) in Catholic Digest. (If you’re a paying subscriber to either or both of those publications, bless you. You help keep the lights on at Huis Greydanus.) I also hope to continue with “Reel Faith” in the summers—something I find very rewarding, and which also helps keep the lights on—assuming NET keeps bringing us back. (If you’ve enjoyed the show, let the studio know!)
This will be the modus operandi for the next few years, until, God willing, I reach ordination. At that point, I hope to come back to reviewing movies with renewed vigor as Deacon Steven Greydanus…and, in a weird way, all those people over the years who've mistyped my initials as “DSG” will be retroactively right.
Less movie writing (for now) won’t be the only adjustment in my life. I expect I’ll also be pretty much giving up participation in our church choir—for now, because I won’t be able to make practices, and later on because I’ll be assisting in the Mass as a deacon—and that will really grieve me. (Our director of music is extraordinary, and we sing a lot of magnificent music, but our choir is small, and every voice counts—and while I’m not the most skilled singer in our choir, I’m pretty much the loudest.)
There will also be economic implications. With less film reviewing for now, I’ll be earning less money just as our expenses are going up with college tuition costs. (There will also be a cost involved in my graduate studies, though a modest one, with the cost split between myself, the archdiocese and my own parish.) I’ve never tried to monetize Decent Films—I’ve never taken advertising and never accepted donations, though over the years kind people have expressed willingness to contribute if I ever opened the door for it. (Stay tuned.)
Still, I believe this is the best decision, not only for my own sanctification, but for my family (Suz’s support—advocacy, actually—in this has been a cornerstone of my discernment process) and for my parish community. (Although I’ll be at the archbishop’s disposal to assign me anywhere he wishes, the general tradition in our archdiocese is to assign deacons to their own parishes.) I’m grateful to God for the opportunities I’ve to serve Him in the media through my film criticism, but I hope to be of greater use in my local community than I am now.
Ultimately, I think it will benefit my film criticism as well. Certainly I hope I’ll be drawing closer to God and experiencing His operations in my life in a new way, both through my studies and devotions and through the grace of the sacrament itself. (It will also be a new connection with my patron saint, Stephen the Protomartyr, traditionally reckoned one of the first deacons.)
Beyond that, while my days of film classes are probably behind me, I’ve noticed that any course of study tends to make me sharper and more creative in general, so I’m looking forward to seeing how my new studies impact my responses to films and my approach to writing about them.
Of course I want to take this occasion to express my deepest gratitude to you, my readers for up to the last dozen years of my life—particularly those who have taken the trouble to provide thoughtful feedback of any kind, positive or negative. I’ve heard over the years from Catholics and Protestants, Christians and non-Christians, agnostics and atheists. Your thoughful comments, support and criticism has been a big part of the reward of doing this work, and has benefited me and my work immensely.
In the years to come I hope to continue to repay your interest, perhaps more sporadically for a few years, but hopefully with a corresponding increase in quality, especially in the long term. I hope you’ll stay with me. If you think of it, please offer a prayer for me, and I’ll remember you in my prayers.
Keep watching this space.
Soli Deo Goria — SDG