Saturday, November 24, 2012



Beginning to co-author the screenplay for a movie based on the story of Newark Abbey and St. Benedict’s Prep has introduced me into the world of cinema, which is really unfamiliar territory for me. Thank goodness I have two good guides and some books from the library. My learning curve is still pretty vertical as I continue to learn a lot of new things every day. Up until two months ago, for example, I had never heard of a “logline.” This morning during Vigils, however, I was reflecting on the idea of loglines. But first, just in case you don't know, I better tell you a little about what a logline is.

Here’s a short treatment of loglines excerpted from a web site:  "A logline is a one-sentence summary of your script. It's the short blurb in TV guides that tells you what a movie is about and helps you decide if you're interested in seeing it. It's the grabber that excites your interest."

If you’re writing a movie yourself “Your logline answers the question: What is your story about? …You need to be able to state the main concept of your story in one concise sentence. … your logline is also step number one of planning your screenplay. Before you even begin to write, you must write down this one key sentence—the logline. Keep it in front of you while you write your script. It will keep you focused on the story when you stray."


Okay, so that’s what a logline is – and I can tell you from recent experience that writing one is not as easy as it sounds. So anyway, there I was this morning praying the psalms at vigils with my brothers when I asked myself, “If someone asked me to compose a logline for my life, what would I write?” A logline presumes that there is a story, a series of events that are held together by some plot or deeper meaning. I’d have to ask myself, “What is my life about?” Hmm. Pretty serious business! An interesting question to ponder while reciting psalms of repentance or thanksgiving or praise.

As a Christian I know that the real logline of my life is not the one people can see or even surmise. That’s why the early monks worked hard at not judging others – at not writing other people’s loglines. It’s a real temptation to engage in this practice, coming up with a judgment of my brother such as “Arrogant monk thinks of everyone else as inferior to himself and thus spends his life isolated and miserable.” Roberta Bondi, whom I’ve had occasion to quote before, describes why ancient monks tried to avoid passing judgment on the faults of others: “No one can judge another, for no one but God knows why or how people come to act as they do. What comes easily to one comes with difficulty to another, and only God can weigh all things, even in such a case as that of a mass murderer.” (To Love As God Loves, 1987, Fortress Press, p.53)

On the other hand you also need to learn not to write loglines for people whose lives seem better than your own. It's easy to be envious of someone whose life seems to flow along smoothly without any difficulties while your own is just an unbroken series of struggles and disappointments. Remember that you have no idea what that other person’s inner life is like, what their real logline is. The person I envy for having it all “together” may actually be living a logline such as “Courageous monk battles despair and depression while maintaining a façade of contentment and competence.” And it is actually in waging that messy battle that my brother is growing closer to God.


I won’t tell you any of the loglines I've been writing for myself, but as we prepare for tomorrow’s Solemnity of Christ the King I thought I’d try my hand at writing a logline for God.  You should try the same exercise, it’s really interesting.

As you write God’s logline, remember what was said above: The logline tells what the story is about. And, especially remember this: Keep the logline in front of you while you write your script. It will keep you focused on the story when you stray.” If you and I keep God’s logline in front of us as we write the script of our own lives it can indeed keep us focused when we stray. If that's crucial in writing a screenplay, how much more crucial as a guide to living your life!

Here’s the logline I came up with for the story of God-and-us:

“Boundlessly loving creator sends his own Son to share the plight of his fallen creation and thus set things right.” 
...........Happy feast of Christ the King!

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