Mario Lopez and His Beautiful Catholic Family [VIDEO]

In a lovely video published in January, TV host and actor Mario Lopez (“Extra,” “Saved by the Bell”) sits down with wife Courtney, son Dominic and daughter Gia to talk about their Catholic faith.

Raised in a Catholic family originally from Mexico, Lopez had his ups and downs in his faith, but now he seems settled into the life of a faithful husband and father. Wife Courtney also comes from a Catholic family, and they’re raising their children in the Faith and Catholic schooling.

(Upside, as Gia points out, you can take your pets to be blessed on St. Francis of Assisi’s feast day in October.)

He also showed off his ashes on Ash Wednesday.

And here’s the video:

Back around the year 2000, Lopez did some Spanish-language radio work for Family Theater Productions. As you heard at the end of the video, the family concludes with the signature phrase of our founder, Venerable Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C.:

The Family That Prays Together Stays Together

To which we say, Amen!

Images: YouTube Screenshot (Mario Lopez); Instagram:mariolopezextra

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Vatican’s Monsignor Vigano Thinks Movies Can Be ‘Sacred Art’

Monsignor Dario Edoardo Vigano has been in Mexico participating in the 20th-anniversary celebrations of the Chair of Sacred Art at Monterrey University — and he dedicated the commemoration to the art of the moving image.

The anniversary events began on Tuesday, Feb. 13, with Msgr. Vigano — the Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat of Communications — set to give three talks: “Searching God in the Folds of the Visible”; “The Face of Jesus in Cinema: History, Model Narratives, Intersemiotic Questions”; and “Sacred Art in the Cinema: New Language and Unedited Methods to Tell Stories in the Center of Audiovisual Production of the Holy See.”


(BTW, not entirely sure what “Intersemiotic Questions” are, but scholar Roman Jakobson translated “Intersemiotic Translation” as “Translation from one linguistic system to another which means the transference of meaning from a verbal to a non-verbal system or from one medium to another.” Your guess is as good as mine.)

In an interview conducted with ZENIT prior to leaving for Mexico, Msgr. Vigano shared some thoughts on the value of movies.

Here are some excerpts.

On honoring the movies:

[Cinema is a] dynamic art, projected towards the future, which involves all the phases of age, from children to adults; it captures the emotions, it tells stories taken from our life and, above all, it’s the factory of dreams. To speak of dreams doesn’t mean to make reference to the superficial part of existence, to the ephemeral, rather to that part of us that is always ready to receive novelties and projects, to be moved, to combine sentiments and rationality. The cinema has all this and does it . . . with art.

His favorite films (with a definite lack of mainstream Hollywood movies):

I cannot but mention “The Gospel According to Matthew” of Pier Paolo Pasolini, a milestone in the history of cinema and of the cinema that addresses the biblical text and the subject of the sacred; “Diary of a Country Priest” of Robert Bresson; “Dialogues of the Carmelites”  of Raymond Leopold Bruckberger and Philippe Agostini; “The Seventh Seal” of Ingmar Bergman; “Au Hasard Balthazar” of Robert Bresson. I add a more recent one (1994) “Before the Rain” of Milcho Manchevski. I’ll stop here , because the list risks being too long and losing its efficacy.

On religious movies:

If religious subjects are treated, the cinema can become an instrument of evangelization, not of proselytism, but an occasion to lay in people’s heart the healthy restlessness of the search for meaning, of the presence of others and of the Other.

On Jesus’ omnipresence:

Francois Mauriac wrote in his “Life of Jesus”:  “. . . and when, some weeks later, Jesus is removed from the group of the disciples, goes up and is dissolved in light, it’s not a definitive departure. He is already hidden, at the turn of the road that goes from Jerusalem to Damascus, and spies Saul, his beloved persecutor. Henceforth, in each man’s destiny, there will be this God lurking, ‘ . . . also in the cinema.

Back in 1995, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the Vatican compiled this list of great movies. It does include some mainstream films, such as the 1959 “Ben-Hur,” “A Man for All Seasons” (1966), “The Mission (1986), “Chariots of Fire” (1981), “Gandhi” (1982), “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946), “Citizen Kane” (1941), Disney’s “Fantasia” (1940), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968) and “The Wizard of Oz” (1939).

Last December, compiled a list of movies that got, if not a papal imprimatur, at least got a quasi-papal endorsement, from the pope screening the film or meeting one-on-one with the filmmakers (or, at minimum, a kind word from L’Osservatore Romano, the semiofficial Vatican newspaper).

Among the post-1995 releases on that unofficial list are Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” (2016), “Spotlight” (2015), the new “Ben-Hur” (2016) and “The Passion of the Christ” (2004).

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Faith on Ice: Catholics and the Winter Olympics

Sports can provide a great platform to talk about faith. We saw shout-outs to Christ from Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Pederson, QB Nick Foles and tight end Zach Ertz after their Feb. 4 Super Bowl victory. Now, the Church is getting a boost from the 2018 Winter Olympics, currently taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Here are a few of the Catholic athletes who’ve made a mark on Olympic ice, now and in the past:

Hannah and Marissa Brandt:

These Minnesota sisters are graduates of Catholic institutions St. Odilia School in Shoreview and Hill-Murray High School in Maplewood, and are hockey standouts for two different teams. Hannah is a foreward for the U.S. women’s Olympic team; and Marissa — who was adopted from South Korea as a baby — plays for the combined Korean women’s hockey team, under her birth name, Park-Yoon Jung.

Yuna Kim:

The 27-year-old South Korean gold medal-winning figure skater, now retired, was the final torch-bearer and lit the official Olympic torch at the Pyeongchang Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

From Catholic News Agency:

After making the sign of the cross as she stepped onto the ice to win gold in the 2010 Vancouver Games with a record-breaking score, Kim teamed up with Korean bishops for a national rosary campaign. Kim was seen wearing a rosary ring, which her fans had previously mistaken for an engagement ring, during her silver-medal performance at the 2014 Sochi Games.

The Olympian converted to the Catholic faith alongside her mother in 2008 after they came in contact with local nuns and Catholic organizations through her personal physician – also a Catholic – who was treating her for knee injuries.

At her baptism, Kim took the name “Stella” after Mary, Star of the Sea, and told a diocesan paper that during the baptismal rite she “felt an enormous consolation in my heart” and promised God to continue to “pray always,” especially before competitions.

Kim has also been active in using her position as an opportunity for charitable works, volunteering and donating funds to Catholic Hospitals, universities, and other charitable organizations, and working alongside the Catholic bishops in Korea as a spokeswoman for Catholic charities in Seoul.

Kirstin Holum (a k a Sister Catherine of the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal):

Kim isn’t the only Olympic athlete to let her Catholic faith lead the way after the Games. At the age of 17, Kirstin Holum competed for the U.S. in speedskating in Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Her mother, Dianne, was an Olympic gold-medalist in 1972 and coached American Eric Heiden to five gold medals at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

But Holum never returned to the Olympic ice. She did a stint in art school in Chicago, then gave her life over to the Lord. She’s currently based at St. Clare’s Convent in the U.K. city of Leeds.

From USA Today:

At first she rarely spoke about her former life as a speedskater and many of the sisters in her convent did not know she had once been to the Olympics. However, after publication of a feature article during the 2010 Vancouver Games, her story became widely known in the Catholic community and she continues to receive regular invitations to speak publicly, including a speech in front of 10,000 people at a religious meeting in London.

“What has opened up especially in the last eight years is the chance to look back at so many of the beautiful things about skating and the Olympics,” Holum told USA TODAY Sports in a phone conversation while she was on a brief trip to the U.S. “I don’t have a normal story of coming into the convent. It is quite unique. To have the opportunity to look back and have thanks, and to share that with people I come into contact with, is a blessing.”

Without TV in the convent, Sister Catherine may not be able to watch the Pyeongchang Games, but you know she is praying for all to do their best and give glory to God.

Curt Tomasevicz:

As a bobsledder, Tomasevicz won Olympic gold and bronze, but the now-retired 37-year-old weighed from his native Nebraska how his faith kept him on an even keel after his athletic career.

He told the National Catholic Register:

If I weren’t Catholic, I think my life would be the equivalent of a bobsled crash. Being Catholic allows me to get my priorities straight and know that, despite what most people will tell you, athletic competitions are fleeting and you should not measure your self-worth through them. There’s lots of pressure to do well, and pressure to do well badly, so to speak — meaning that winning is held up as the only thing and that a little cheating is understandable.

Competition is fun, but only in the context of following the rules. Taking given parameters and making the most of them can be a multifaceted, engaging adventure. That’s at the heart of one of the classes I teach to undergrads now. It’s an intro to engineering course involving sports — the tools we use in competition (bobsleds, rackets, bats, gloves and so on) and the biomechanics of competition (which postures, strides, timings and angles result in best runs, passes, pitches and so on).

He’s still single, but said:

I do want to be a husband and father, but that took a back seat to bobsledding for a decade. I’m still involved somewhat in the sport, but nothing like I used to be, which means that marriage is far more likely. Yet marriage is a marathon rather than a sprint, so I’m not rushing into it. The Diocese of Lincoln is one of the best in the nation, but even if I don’t find a wife here, there is one out there, if marriage is indeed what God wants for me.

Vatican City even sent a delegation to the Games, attending the Opening Ceremonies and observing a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

From the U.K. Catholic Herald:

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano reported Friday that Monsignor Melchor Sanchez De Toca Y Alameda of the Pontifical Council for Culture will lead the delegation to the session, a series of meetings where Olympic policies are decided.

In the spirit of friendship, Sanchez will present International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Korean athletes with jerseys from the Vatican Athletics squad, which is made up of Vatican employees.

Even “without the possibility of direct participation in the Olympics by Vatican athletes,” L’Osservatore adds that relations with the IOC are ongoing and will continue with the Summer Youth Olympics in October in Buenos Aires — Pope Francis’s hometown.

Work hard, train hard … pray hard!

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

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DeVon Franklin’s Charming Christmas Movie ‘The Star’ Goes Digital

Proving that a faith-based — yet funny — animated Christmas film can also succeed at the box office, producer DeVon Franklin and Sony’s “The Star” has earned $40.8M domestically, and a total of $61.8M worldwide. Now you can own it with the click of a mouse.

“The Star” retells the story of the Nativity in computer animation, with Zach Levi as the voice of Joseph; Gina Rodriguez as Mary; Steven Yuen as their faithful donkey, Bo; and Oprah Winfrey, Tracy Morgan and Tyler Perry as the Wise Men’s camels.

Other voice talent includes Patrica Heaton (Edith the cow); Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat); Kris Kristofferson (old donkey); Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog); Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse); Kristen Chenoweth (Abby the pygmy gerboa); and Christopher Plummer (King Herod).

Click HERE to go to the Voices From Hollywood playlist on our YouTube channel, which features video interviews with Heaton, Levi, Rodriguez and Catholic director Timothy Reckart.

The DVD and Blu-Ray versions come out on Feb. 20, but as of this week, “The Star” is available for digital download/streaming.

Click HERE for more information. According to the Website, the movie is on iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Microsoft, PlayStation Store, Verizon Fios, Xfinity. Movies Anywhere and Vudu.

Digital extras include sing-alongs with music from the movie, and lyric videos from Mariah Carey, Fifth Harmony, A Great Big World, Kelsea Ballerini and Kirk Franklin.

Here’s Franklin to tell you all about it …

Image: Courtesy Sony Pictures Animation

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

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The ‘Right Priest’ Who Saved Mickey Rourke Dies at 69

Father Peter Colapietro, the New York priest credited by actor Mickey Rourke with saving his life, has died at 69.

In 1994, furious upon hearing that his then-drug-addicted wife had been raped, Rourke grabbed a gun and went in search of revenge. Instead, he felt an urge to enter the Church of Holy Cross in New York City’s Times Square. There, the pastor saw him.

From a 2009 story in Our Sunday Visitor:

“I reached a place in my life where living was living hard. I was at a crossroads. Because I was raised Catholic, I had issues with the dark side of life I was drifting in,” Rourke said. “I didn’t know this man, Father Peter. I just walked in his church one day, walked in the right door and met the right priest.”

Father Colapietro managed to talk Rourke out of his plan. “He took away my gun and had me leave the note with St. Jude, the patron saint of impossible causes. And he said that part of my life could be over now and I still had the opportunity to do things over again.”

Ever since, Rourke and Father Colapietro stayed friends, with the priest hearing Rourke’s confessions, and the two sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner.

Said Father Colapietro to OSV:

He definitely is a man of faith and believes in God’s presence in the world.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Father Colapietro had passed away from emphysema. He’d been living at a rehab facility in the Bronx and died at Montefiore Medical Center.

Father Colapietro worked in two other Manhattan churches aside from Holy Cross. He spent two years at the Church of St. Monica on East 79th Street; in 2015, he was assigned to St. Malachy, known as the Actors Chapel, on West 49th Street. From the St. Malachy website:

It is with heavy hearts that we must announce the passing or our beloved pastor, Rev. Peter M. Colapietro. Funeral arrangements have been made at
St. Monica’s at 413 East 79th Street

Wake hours will be from 3:00-8:00 pm on Friday, February 9th. The Funeral Service is scheduled 11:00 am on Saturday, February 10th.

As Fr. Pete served at several parishes in Manhattan, the funeral is being held at St. Monica’s according to his request in order to best accommodate the mourners.

Standing 6 feet tall and over 200 pounds, Father Colapietro cut a distinctive figure. According to the Times, he described himself as “just a regular, run-of-of-the-mill priest.” But, having served as chaplain for the New York’s Sanitation Department, the Manhattan Restaurant and Liquor Dealers’ Association, the Metro-North Railroad and the Uniformed Firefighters Association, he was friend and spiritual support to the city’s working class.

Born and raised in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx, Colapietro started — but didn’t finish — his priestly career at St. Joseph’s Seminar and College in Yonkers, N.Y. After stints as a construction worker, longshoreman, fisherman and bouncer, he found his way back to the priesthood.

He was also a man who understood his neighborhood. From the Times:

Father Colapietro was forgiving of the gritty world that surrounded him, as when a 200-pound statue of Christ was stolen from Holy Cross. It was returned a week later, and the police dusted the statue for fingerprints.

Father Colapietro said the church would not seek to press charges, even if the police tracked down a suspect. He said the statue had merely been “borrowed,” not stolen.

Image: Courtesy Facebook page for St. Malachy/Actors’ Chapel

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‘Downton Abbey’ Star Hugh Bonneville Tracks Jesus’ Last Days

Hugh Bonneville

File under things you didn’t know: Hugh Bonneville, Lord Grantham from PBS’ “Downton Abbey,” has a theology degree from Corpus Christi College at Cambridge — but he still wants a closer look at the final days of Christ in Jerusalem.

Starting March 1 on PBS stations (check local listings for time and channel in your area), Bonneville is the host of “Jesus: Countdown to Calvary.” The one-hour documentary pairs him with historians and spiritual leaders (including Dominican Father Gregory Tatum) to explore the religious, political and social environment into which Jesus plunged on Palm Sunday, ending with the Crucifixion the following Friday.

It covers much of the same ground as a number of other documentaries on the subject — in particular last year’s “The Real Jesus of Nazareth,” with actor Robert Powell (star of 1977’s “Jesus of Nazareth”) on Smithsonian Channel. Both feature British actors in blue shirts and occasionally hats, walking through modern Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside, discussing the life of Christ. Both also feature University of Edinburgh scholar Dr. Helen Bond.

Robert Powell, Dr. Helen Bond

Nothing new is uncovered or revealed in “Jesus Countdown to Calvary,” but it is nice to see the addition of Father Tatum to the secular scholars, giving a spiritual perspective to the historical events.

Generally, the documentary is respectful and reasonably accurate, but other than the addition of the “Downton Abbey” star, it’s pretty standard fare.

It does steer away from history and into speculation on the topic of Judas, especially with the addition of an interview with Israeli novelist, journalist and intellectual Amos Oz. His novel “Judas” offers an alternative to the general view of Judas as a betrayer.

From a review of the book in the U.K. Guardian:

The Judas that takes shape is a spy, sent by the Jewish authorities, to infiltrate the inner circle of Jesus, a preacher in distant Galilee who has attracted an enthusiastic following with his miracles and his reinterpretation of what it means to follow God. But Judas goes native, and becomes the most ardent believer in Jesus’s divinity, more so than the man himself. It is, therefore, Judas who encourages Jesus to take his message to Jerusalem, and Judas who presses the chief priest to have Jesus crucified, believing he will rise from the dead on the cross. When Jesus doesn’t, Judas recognises himself as potentially the first and the last Christian and, in despair, takes his own life by hanging himself from a tree.

This was treachery in a good cause. It is not a new idea. As early as the 14th century, Saint Vincent Ferrer, a celebrated Dominican preacher close to the papacy, was pointing out that if Jesus was truly God’s son, come to Earth to redeem humankind, then his betrayal had to be part of God’s plan. Judas was therefore doing God’s business, not the devil’s.

Since we have nothing but the Gospels to tell us about Judas — and those don’t clearly delineate his motivations– there is room in the story for imagination. When Oz is interviewed, though, he opines that “the Gospels, especially the story of the betrayal, the story of Judas, they were written in a cold-blooded intention to incite anti-Jewish feelings.”

Unfortunately, that assertion is left unchallenged in the documentary, even by Bonneville. It’s a shame that the producers couldn’t have returned to, for example, Father Tatum, for a response. It’s an unfortunate moment in an otherwise balanced presentation.

You might wonder, why do this again? Is it just a ploy to capitalize on the Easter season? Maybe, indeed, probably, but that doesn’t mean shows like this are without value.

To be honest, a lot more people than we’d like to admit are unfamiliar with the Passion narrative, so getting it one hour — without a great deal of supernatural overtones — could be useful for introducing the bones of the story to the unchurched.

JESUS: COUNTDOWN TO CALVARY is a co-production of RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann, from Ireland), APT (American Public Television) and European producer ARTE.

Image: Courtesy American Public Television; Smithsonian Channel

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.