Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle Hosts a Video Series on ‘Amoris Laetitia’

cardinal_tagle-Word-ExposedSince its release in early April, Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” — or, in English, “The Joy of Love” — has generated reams of reaction, both in print and online.

Here’s one commentary:

A Statement from Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville,
President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Today I joyfully welcome Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), the much anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis.

The pope has given us a love letter to families—a love letter inviting all of us, and especially married couples and families, to never stop growing in love. It is also a love letter calling the Church, the family of God, to realize more and more her mission to live and love as a family.

Pope Francis is calling us to enter more deeply into the beauty of marriage and Christ’s teaching. From the opening lines of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, and throughout the Gospels, God speaks eloquently to us about the joys and challenges of marriage and family life.

The Holy Father is giving us an active opportunity to reflect upon how each of us can belong more deeply to Christ. The Joy of Love is inviting us to share the treasure and medicine of Jesus. The teaching of Jesus inspires us to live out God’s hope for us, and the mercy of Jesus heals and sustains us when we fall short. Let us remember that no obstacle is too big for Christ to overcome.

I encourage all to read and reflect on how the words of Pope Francis can be applied in our lives, in our families, and in our society. I am grateful once again to our Holy Father for encouraging and leading us in our call to encounter Jesus ever more deeply, especially in the great gift of family life, and to be His missionary disciples in the world.

And here’s another, from EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo and his guests on “The World Over”:

There’s also this series of videos from the Philippines’ Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who’s sometimes held up as a possibility for the next pope.

What’s for sure is that he’s taken a cue from predecessors Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis in using the mass media to communicate with the Universal Church.

Image: YouTube screenshot

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Cinedigm’s Dove Channel Becomes the Largest Faith-Based Streaming Service

Dove-Channel-LogoPreviously, we reported on UP Network’s new family focus, and on PureFlix’s subscription video-on-demand service, which offer more options to people seeking family-suitable and faith-friendly fare.

Now, independent content distributor Cinedigm has significantly expanded the catalog of its Netflix-like Dove Channel — available online, on mobile devices, and on Roku — with the acquisition of the assets of StoryBox.tv, making Dove into the largest faith-based streaming service.

Said BusinessWire:

Consisting of over 1,700 titles of faith & family friendly movies, television series, children’s programming, and educational content, the library is comprised of content from over 30 providers including Nelvana, MVD Entertainment Group, Organa, TMW Media Group, Marble Media, and Legend Films, among others. The library includes beloved classics like THE SHIRLEY TEMPLE SHOW and GUMBY’S CHRISTMAS CAPERS, as well as fun, kid-friendly series including THE WHEELS ON THE BUS, DINOTOPIA mini-series and GUMBY’S BEST EPISODES. Also included are family films such as THE YEARLING, THE JACKIE ROBINSON STORY, SAVANNAH SMILES and A HORSE FOR DANNY.

Additionally, in support of Dove Channel’s home-schooling initiative, the StoryBox.tv library brings hundreds of hours of educational content across a wide variety of subjects ranging from History, Geography and Math to English Literature, including Shakespeare’s stage play portfolio.

Combined with current and recently acquired titles, Dove Channel’s library of over 3,600 available titles will now rank as the largest library of faith & family friendly content in the OTT marketplace. Cinedigm will make the programming available on Dove Channel over the next several months.

“Our mission with Dove Channel has always been to provide a safe, curated environment for families to enjoy watching together,” said Erick Opeka, EVP of Digital Networks. “The addition of StoryBox.tv’s content fulfills that mission, gives our customers an incredible selection to choose from, and helps us further our goal of adding great new content to Dove each week.”

Film Producers Brigham and Noah Sunday founded StoryBox.tv in 2013, with the mission of providing families with movies and shows that would entertain, inspire, uplift, and strengthen values.

“Our mission at Dove is so closely aligned with StoryBox.tv that we felt compelled to find a way to join forces,” said Bill Sondheim, President of Cinedigm Entertainment. “The more we evaluated the offering, it became very apparent to Brigham that Dove Channel offered a very sophisticated technology platform and advanced user experience that would better and more quickly allow Brigham’s mission to be fulfilled.”

“My brother and I created StoryBox.tv with the hopes of strengthening the family through positive media,” said Brigham Sunday. “We are thrilled to be able to share our library of films with the Dove Channel as it will allow so many more families around the world to view great family entertainment.”

Dove Channel screens and curates content, along with offering robust family controls and filters.

From USA Today:

The subscription service, which launches Tuesday  on DoveChannel.com, is curated by The Dove Foundation, a non-profit that for nearly 25 years has produced its own movie reviews based on Judeo-Christian values.

“Dove Channel takes The Dove Foundation’s mission to the next level by transitioning from providing consumers information about values-based content to providing them direct access,” said Dick Rolfe, CEO and co-founder of the Wyoming, Mich.-based group, in an email exchange. “We believe Dove Channel will demonstrate a greater demand for Dove-approved entertainment, which will in turn, increase the production of family-friendly content.”

There’s plenty of great content out there, but it takes a dedicated curator like Dove Channel to sort it, screen it and bring it together in one place, so that families can trust the values expressed. In our multichannel world, where programmers — including such kid-oriented channels as Disney and Nickelodeon — are increasingly pushing a progressive agenda, safe spaces like Dove are going to be more and more valuable.

Image: Courtesy Dove Channel

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New Networks Offer Family and Faith Fare

Up-logoEven with new streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, TV is far from dead. Cable, satellite and broadcast TV still deliver the biggest audiences and generate the most money for advertisers. But there are many new ways that viewers can get the programming they like, and faith-based entertainment is moving into these areas as well.

Let’s hope it’s the beginning of something good for this huge but often overlooked and underserved audience.

UP (once upon a time known as Gospel Music Channel) is rebranding itself as having a family focus. After ABC Family (now Freeform) went far afield in its notion of what constituted a “family,” I’m approaching this announcement with caution, but UP does have a history of being friendly to values-based viewers, so it’s worth a look.

From the inbox:

All in the Family!!

UP’s New Network Focus Fills Massive Void on Television

We Get Family Brand Campaign and Programming

Strategy Launches May 16th

ATLANTA, GA — At UP, We Get Family.  The network that celebrates family, in all its complexities, announced today its new branding and programming direction that showcases the most genuine and relatable moments and stories about family on television today.

Launching May 16, the new We Get Family tagline and mantra heralds new programming featuring the entertaining and authentic stories that bring adult viewers all of the fun, dysfunction and love that defines the modern American family.

“Our research identified that 42 million adults are looking for programming with family in mind.  With family as our framework, we are filling a void in the media landscape as the brand families trust most to bring them this positive programming,” said Charley Humbard, president and chief executive officer, UP.

“Our goal as a network is to bring our viewers the best shows about family – in every form – with the highs, lows and everything in between,” said Amy Winter, executive vice president and general manager, UP. “UP is devoted to telling stories about what matters most. We believe family, whether through blood, friendship or community, provides us with the most emotional and memorable experiences in our lives.”

Featuring those familiar experiences that make us smile and sometimes cringe, the We Get Family brand spots and creative are the launch pad for and focal point of a Memorial Day Weekend Family Block Party featuring some of UP’s most popular shows, as well as a national off-air campaign.  The weekend will culminate with the network premiere of the groundbreaking series Parenthood on Memorial Day at 8 PMET.  In total, the campaign that reflects UP’s brand personality includes over 50 :15 and :30 second spots that will begin rolling out Memorial Day weekend.

Family is the theme of UP’s more than 440 hours of original series, specials, movies and network acquisitions bowing in 2016. Targeted to adult women, UP programming includes: Growing Up McGhee; Small Town, Big Mayor; Jo Frost: Nanny on Tour; and the return of the hit series Bringing Up Bates. Recent series acquisitions that join the lineup and fit this new programming direction include Parenthood, the celebrated series Gilmore Girls and America’s Funniest Home Videos, among others.

UP’s adult targeted family content extends across multiple platforms with its subscription-on-demand offering, UP Faith & Family, which super serves an audience seeking family and faith-affirming content.And for the viewers who want to extend their interaction with the brand digitally, UP will offer a retooled and robust online site that provides an improved architecture for fans to get straight into content from their favorite shows, including episode extras and exclusives, as well as a more prominent schedule and channel finder. Additionally, UP’s pro-social initiative, “Uplift Someone,” reminds and inspires people that the simplest acts of kindness have the deepest impact. As part of this initiative, UP has produced four viral videos in the past year that have generated a combined over 138 million views to date.

At the same time, PureFlix, the company behind such faith-based movies as “God’s Not Dead,” is launching into the video-on-demand market.

From the inbox:

Pure Flix Acquires Video-On-Demand Service to Take the Lead in the Faith and Family Market 

Leading digital streaming platform I Am Flix SVOD to be rebranded as Pure Flix

Scottsdale, AZJune 4, 2015Pure Flix announces the acquisition of “I Am Flix” and the launch of their newly re-branded SVOD (subscription video on demand) service, available through the Pure Flix video-on-demand service, www.pureflix.com. Subscribers of the SVOD can access the service through any browser, Roku, as well as the IOS or Android apps.

Pure Flix’s SVOD is taking the lead in serving the faith-based and family friendly content niche, currently streaming more than 2,000 faith and family movies, inspirational titles, TV shows, documentaries and biblical based educational programs.

Pure Flix’s SVOD will exclusively offer many of the Pure Flix titles (75+) including “Do You Believe?”, “Old Fashioned,” “Jerusalem Countdown,” as well as theatrical features, and production of original episodic programming. The platform will also feature a channel focused on spiritual growth content including bible-based teaching and sermons.

“We are excited to announce an innovative venture for Pure Flix that will provide more households the opportunity to view and enjoy more quality, life-affirming content with new and acquired content through on-demand and video streaming platforms,” said Pure Flix founding partner and producer, David A.R. White.

As a proven industry leader of high quality, inspiring movies and television programs, Pure Flix is a production and theatrical distribution company that offers family, inspirational and faith-based content. The acquisition of I Am Flix places Pure Flix at the lead of the OTT market for steaming services in the faith niche.

Pure Flix is on schedule to produce four theatricals per year while acquiring other quality films. Pure Flix released the best-selling film and DVD God’s Not Dead in 2014, and is anticipating the success of several theatrical releases in 2015 including Do You Believe?, Faith of Our Fathers, and Woodlawn.

Image: Courtesy UP

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

Lady Gaga, Mary Magdalene and Seeking God

lady_gaga-FFIs popular singer Lady Gaga a good Catholic? Are any of us? Ultimately, that’s for Someone Else to decide, but the question came to the fore this week, via social media.

Born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, Lady Gaga was educated at Convent of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls private Catholic school on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As Lady Gaga, she has carved out a niche in music with her voice, outrageous fashion sense and out-of-the-box live performances.

In recent years, she made appearances, such as on the Oscars, where she toned down the look and showed off her truly stupendous vocal talents … such as this 2015 tribute to Julie Andrews.

She’s also done duets with Tony Bennett …

At the 2016 Oscars, her performance was dedicated to victims of sexual abuse — which includes Gaga herself.

Earlier this week, she posted this on her Instagram account:

Lady-Gaga-Priest

 

She wrote this:

Thank you Father Duffell for a beautiful homily as always and lunch at my pop’s restaurant.

I was so moved today when you said, “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect but the food that God gives us.” — Father Duffell, Blessed Sacrament Church.

Nourishment.

CatholicLink posted a response to this, addressing the more general question of celebrities that talk about their faith. Gaga saw the piece, excerpted part of it and responded, again via Instagram.

Lady-Gaga-to-Catholic-Link

If it’s hard to read, this is her response:

ladygaga

Dear, Becky Roach
Mary Magdalene washed the feet of Christ and was protected and loved by him. A prostitute. Someone society shames as if she and her body are a man’s trash can. He loved her and did not judge. He let her cry over him and dry his feet with the hair of a harlot. We are not just “celebrities” we are humans and sinners, children, and our lives are not void of values because we struggle. We are as equally forgiven as our neighbor. God is never a trend no matter who the believer.

Obviously, Gaga is misinformed about Mary Magdalene, who is not the same person as the woman who dried Christ’s feet with her hair (it’s a common misconception, even among Catholics).

Said USCatholic.org:

But the first witness to the Resurrection—as all four gospel writers agree—was a woman whose name and reputation have become so misunderstood, misinterpreted, and misconstrued over the centuries that she is more commonly, though erroneously, remembered as a prostitute than as the faithful first bearer of the Good News.

That woman is Mary of Magdala and, finally, her centuries-old case of mistaken identity is being rectified.

Now that scripture scholars have debunked the myth that she and the infamous repentant sinner who wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears are one and the same woman, word is trickling down that Mary Magdalene’s penitent prostitute label was a misnomer. Instead, her true biblical portrait is being resurrected, and this “apostle to the apostles” is finally taking her rightful place in history as a beloved disciple of Jesus and a prominent early church leader.

But, considering Gaga’s history as an abuse victim, it’s easy to see how she resonated with the erroneous view of Mary Magdalene as a woman whom many would have disapproved of, but who became beloved of Christ. And her declaration that “God is never a trend” is a bold and accurate one.

CatholicLink saw the response and offered one of its own, again via Instagram:

Catholic-Link-to-Gaga

 

And here it is:

catholiclink_en

Dear @ladygaga, your screen shot was a one part of the article which was not aimed at judging you, rather it was an effort to help Catholics to have a balanced and positive view of when celebrities publicly share their faith. It was an invitation to value the hunger of God that exists in the world of the famous. It was a reminder to not forget that they, like us, are fragile, and that we should not judge, rather pray for them. This said, what you wrote is absolutely beautiful. It is one of the most touching comments we have ever read. Know that we will be praying that experience of God’s mercy continue to grow and bear fruits for you, for the people that you love, and all of your followers.

On May 11, Gaga posted this prayer from Mexican New Age author Don Miguel Ruiz:

Gaga-Prayer

So, what are we to make of this whole exchange? It’s much the same thing as the CatholicLink author pointed out — that celebrities don’t, by virtue of their fame, have special knowledge of God or special abilities to deal with their own issues over and above those of any other person. In some cases, it’s harder for them, since much of what they do is under the unblinking lens of public scrutiny.

In a way, though, it’s enlightening to know that fame and great fortune don’t insulate a person from pain and suffering, so certainly those folks who don’t have these things know that they’re not the answer. Of course, God is ultimately the answer, and sometimes He’s harder to reach if you’re higher in the esteem of the world.

But what celebrities do have is a platform and the opportunity to get a message out to thousands or millions of people — for good and ill. What Lady Gaga has done is open a window into her private struggles with body image, faith and other things, perhaps sparking conversations (like the one with CatholicLink) and a reexamination of conscience on both sides.

In Catholicism, our true celebrities and heroes are popes and saints and holy people, not famous singers and athletes. But these are people we all know and hear about, so when they take the personal risk to speak kindly of faith in a generally unwelcoming public arena, it’s appreciated.

And know that, each Friday, here at Family Theater Productions, we hold a Holy Hour for Hollywood, with prayer, reflection, Adoration and Benediction, including a special invocation for all the good work done in this town and for the conversion of the souls that labor within it.

This Friday, I’ll add Lady Gaga’s name for special consideration.

Images: Wikimedia Commons; Instagram screenshots

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

‘The Present’ Is a Gift of Grace

PuppyIt’s short and simple and … well, get hankies.

From the Vimeo description of “The Present”:

After a very successful festival circuit, running on over 180 film festivals and winning more than 50 awards, we’ve decided that it’s finally time to share “The Present” with the rest of the world.

“The Present” is based on a great little comic strip by the very talented Fabio Coala.
Make sure to check out his page: mentirinhas.com.br

“The Present” is a graduation short from the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

We really hope you enjoy the result of our hard work. Thanks to everyone who help creating this film and everyone who supported us during the festivals. Thanks a lot for making this such an incredible journey.

Watch for yourself.

Image: Vimeo screenshot

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.

From Baseball to Soccer to Christ: A Tale of Two Vocations

Norbertines1

The Catholic Church can survive without a lot of things, but one thing it can’t exist without is a priest. Without a priest, there is no Eucharist, and without that, Christ is no longer physically present among us.

In the modern world, though, the last thing on most young men’s minds — even most Catholic men — is giving up their personal freedom and the idea of a wife and family for a lifetime serving Christ as a Catholic priest.

Obviously, not all priests are celibate — a small number of Catholic priests are married former Anglican or Lutheran ministers; and priests in the Eastern Rite may wed before ordination — but for the vast majority of priests in the Church, the discipline of celibacy remains.

But, married or not, all Catholic priests also have to be obedient to authority — whether it’s a bishop or the superior of a religious order — and in an age devoted to personal autonomy, that inability to pursue all your hopes and dreams in the way you please may be an equally challenging sacrifice.

Yet, we still have vocations. Some in the secular world think that the only reason a young man would become a priest is because he doesn’t have many other options (some of these folks also think the same about joining the military), but this is demonstrably untrue. And here are just two of many examples.

From Mustang News, out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, comes the story of Frater Matthew Desme, a member of the Norbertines of St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California.

A former Cal Poly baseball player who looked to be headed to the major leagues, Grand Desme of Bakersfield, California  — Matthew is the name given to him as a Norbertine — turned away from pro sports to find greater satisfaction serving the Lord, and is on his way to the priesthood.

Here’s a few excerpts from the story (click here to read the whole thing; it’s long but well-written and fascinating):

Desme has clearly lost muscle off the 210-pound frame he kept during his playing days, but his jawline is sharp as a knife and he has maintained a look of lean athleticism. Though he occasionally visits the weight room in the back of St. Michael’s, his mind is far more active than his body nowadays, even in his free time. He has experimented with painting, calligraphy and sculpting, determined to see the beauty in art as well as in God. Studying French is his new recreational joy.

Though Desme was not involved with a Christian organization while at Cal Poly, save for an occasional appearance at the Newman Catholic Center, his faith remained the cornerstone of his decisions. Fireside talks with teammates occasionally delved into God and man’s place on His earth, and Schafer said he routinely prayed for his roommates. Desme became known around campus before he even took the field for the first time when he penned a letter titled “Jesus Loves Everyone” to the Mustang Daily.

In his letter, Desme admonishes a previous student for writing negatively about the church’s stance on homosexuality. His letter ends, “A point of advice: next time you write a column to express your hate towards something as great as the Catholic Church, please do some research to understand what is truly going on.

Peace be with you.

Grant Desme”

With God, everything was about love. It was the word Desme chose when asked to sum up all the teachings of Catholicism.

“That’s what it all flows from,” he said. “Christians believe that God is love, the inner life of the Trinity is love, the motivation for the incarnation, for God becoming man, is love. And the life of a Christian is to be a response to the love of God, poured out through baptism.”

Soccer player Chase Hilgenbrinck actually made it to the pros, playing in Chile and later for the New England Revolution of the MLS in 2008. But later that same year, he retired from soccer and entered the seminary.

From a story at ESPN:

The final Friday of September began, like virtually every day at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, in church. Chase Hilgenbrinck, clad in a gray polo shirt, black slacks and black shoes — standard wear for new seminarians — joined his 150 fellow aspiring priests for 7 a.m. Mass in Immaculate Conception Chapel. After a quick breakfast at the dining hall and an hour-long prayer seminar for first-year seminarians, Chase went back to his room to study.

It’s a single, sparsely decorated, with no private bathroom. The closet houses hanger after hanger of identical white and gray shirts, and black pants. The bookshelf is stocked with titles such as “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” “The Catholic Ideal: Exercise and Sports,” and “Rediscovering Catholicism.” There’s a crucifix in one corner of the window, a statue of the Virgin Mary in the other. A set of rosary beads dangles from a bedpost.

If not for the chair draped in a Clemson blanket, you wouldn’t have a clue about the occupant’s past.

All this is not entirely new to him, though. Chase has been a practicing Catholic his entire life. His parents, Mike (a regional sales manager for a fertilizer dealership) and Kim (an accountant with State Farm Insurance), brought him and his older brother, Blaise, to church each and every Sunday. Both sons served as altar boys at Holy Trinity Church in Bloomington, Ill. But eventually Chase begged his parents to let him quit, because he was tired of finding a fill-in every time he was away for a soccer tournament. “We look back and laugh about that now,” his father said.

Even as a teenager, people tended to flock to Chase for support and counsel. His mother recalls one particular instance, when a high school classmate who had gotten a girl pregnant came to their house, hoping to talk to Chase. “We were like, ‘Chase, you’re not old enough to be giving out advice on this kind of thing,'” his mother said. “‘This boy should be talking to an adult!'”

Hilgenbrinck was ordained a priest in his home diocese of Peoria, Illinois, on May 24, 2014.

Chase-Hilgenbrinck

While still a deacon, he did this video telling his story:

Pray for these young men — one on his way to ordination; one already there — and for all the men who courageously choose to answer God’s call. You never know where they come from … for all you know, one may be in your own family.

Images: Norbertines of St. Michael’s Abbey at Easter vespers, by Kate O’Hare; Twitter

Visit the Family Theater Productions homepage and Facebook page to learn more about how FTP is reaching out to Hollywood and producing its own projects.