I’ve heard of some families who give up TV and movies for Lent. But with the social disruption and self-isolation at home caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, media is becoming one of the best ways to entertain and educate youngsters, including about their faith.
Of course, not all media is created equal, so here are some currently available spiritually uplifting or religiously educational choices.
Unfortunately for those of us with little kids, there’s not much out there. If your kids are older, there’s a bit more to choose from, but if you do a bit of digging, you can find some things for younger kids too.
Here are my top five choices for religious viewing this Lent (and where to watch them!).
NOTE: Some films available on Amazon Prime and other streaming services are also on such other platforms as Google Play, Vudu, iTunes and YouTube. Google the title and check your apps! Each movie’s IMDB page also lists streaming options (click on the movie titles below for that).
This four-plus-hour epic movie about the life and ministry of Christ is rated G, but it does have some elements that could be a bit much for younger viewers, such as John the Baptist’s head shown on a platter, massacre of the Holy Innocents, crucifixions of some Jewish rebels, and, obviously, Jesus’ crucifixion.
The Greatest Story Ever Told is streaming on Amazon Prime right now (click here).
So, this one isn’t about Christ or related to Lent in an obvious way (unless your small children are spiritually advanced enough to get how the Exodus is a type of Christ saving us), but it’s a Bible story and can help keep minds and hearts attuned to holy things (and, The Ten Commandments, which also covers the story of Moses, is an Easter-season TV staple on ABC. The network hasn’t released an airdate for that yet, but it’ is available here on Amazon Prime).
It’s also entertaining (for kids and adults) with a catchy soundtrack that I’ve heard of adults jamming out to for no reason.
It’s rated PG, and there are some intense/frightening moments that could call for parental explanation, depending on the age and maturity of the viewers.
The Prince of Egypt is streaming on Hulu. Click here.
This one’s a TV miniseries from Touched by an Angel star Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, which is on Amazon Prime (click here) right now. It doesn’t focus solely on the life or death of Jesus, but the last five episodes are about His birth, ministry and death. (Downey also appears as the Virgin Mary.)
The Bible is rated TV-14 and contains some things like sexual references and violence (it is about the Bible, after all!), so it’s more suitable for older kids and adults.
This is a three-hour, PG-13 retelling of John’s Gospel, which is streaming on Amazon Prime right now (click here). It contains some realistic depictions of New Testament violence, so it’s another one that best for older kids and adults.
If you saw Mel Gibson’s R-rated drama about Christ’s Passion when it came out, you know that it’s not an easy one to watch. But the realism of the brutality that Christ suffered for us can make it a spiritually valuable movie to see.
Depending on how mature my own children are, I might consider watching it with them when they’re in their early teen years. But definitely preview it first before deciding whether it’s appropriate for your family.
Bonus: Brother Francis, Minno, and Catholic Central
If you’re looking for more, especially stuff that’s suitable and educational for littler kids, first check out Brother Francis. My kids love this animated friar and ask to watch it regularly. There’s a DVD on Stations of the Cross, and also a Let’s Learn About Lent storytime video that’s available on Catholic streamer Formed.org which is currently offering a 40-day Faith at Home free offer (click here)
Another place for little kids’ content is the Christian streaming service Minno , which has lots of religious content, particularly two series called Easter Week and Jesus: Messiah, Teacher, King. I wrote in more depth about it previously — click here for that.
And for something light that’s good for the whole family, you can check out Family Theater Productions’ fun but educational web series Catholic Central, which has a Lent episode It’s aimed at teens and college-age people, but I personally found it pretty good as an adult — and my 5-year-old enjoyed it, too! You can watch on YouTube, but if you go to CatholicCentral.com, for each episode there are activities and downloadable resources for individuals and groups.
Image: Icon Productions, BrotherFrancis.com/Family Theater Productions