’13 Reasons Why’: Father Mike Schmitz Talks Choosing Hope Instead of Suicide

In this new video, speaker and college chaplain Father Mike Schmitz takes on the issue of suicide and the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

His biggest problem is that the show depicts suicide as a revenge story, in which a troubled teen girl takes her own life and leaves behind recorded explanations of why it’s the fault of many people around her. But, as Father Mike points out, it’s not the suicide victim’s enemies who will suffer, but instead it’s those who cared about the person who will be hardest hit.

He also discusses the Church’s stance on suicide, and how people may not always be morally responsible for what they do.

Take a look:

Back in June, our own Catholic-mom blogger, Korbi Ghosh Biggins, who’s also a licensed marriage and family therapist, wrote a detailed review of “13 Reasons Why.”

Click here for the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt that relates to Father Mike’s point:

While the series certainly opens the door to explore and discuss difficult subjects with teenagers, it also portrays suicide —and the process by which a person may get to that place in life— quite inaccurately. “13 Reasons” depicts Hannah’s decision as an act of revenge against the people who hurt her or let her down. In reality, people at risk for suicide are very rarely thinking about others when contemplating or preparing to end their life. Suicide is a mental health issue and the vast majority of people at risk are suffering from a debilitating mental health disorder such as major depression or bipolar disorder.

Traumatic events, like being raped or mercilessly bullied, can certainly contribute to the onset of mental-health issues like depression. However, post-traumatic stress, depression and bipolar disorder are all treatable. There is a way out for those who feel trapped in hopelessness — ways that do not include suicide. Unfortunately, “13 Reasons Why” fails to give the viewer any credible insight into their options for seeking help, which is troubling and dangerous.

In fact, the series seems to effectively romanticize suicide. I would go as far as saying that, for the impressionable and possibly desperate, it glamorizes suicide to some degree.

Please do watch Father Mike’s video and read Korbi’s whole piece — then share both with anyone you know who might be contemplating suicide or connected to someone that is.

You could save a life … maybe even your own.

Incidentally, “13 Reasons Why” is returning for a second season. The deceased main character, Hannah (Katherine Langford), will make some sort of appearance. Here’s a tidbit from Refinery29.com about the theme of the sophomore season:

One thing that we should definitely expect, according to [series star] Dylan Minnette’s new interview with Entertainment Tonight‘s Katie Krause, is for season 2 of the series to focus on “recovery.”
“[The new season] kicks off a few months after season one,” Minnette explained to ET. “This season particularly is a lot about recovery.”

Images: Courtesy Netflix, Pixabay, Father Mike Schmitz

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‘Born This Way’ Star Rachel Osterbach Talks Independence for Those With Down Syndrome

Having just completed its third season on A&E, the docuseries “Born This Way,” which focuses on young adults with Down Syndrome, took home an 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Unstructured Reality Series, and is nominated again in that category for 2017, along with five other nominations.

The show has done much to raise the profile of people with Down Syndrome and acknowledge, along with the challenges, their capabilities, accomplishments, aspirations (which are much like anyone else’s) and essential humanity.

Among the young people profiled is Rachel Osterbach, 34, of Fountain Valley, California, who works for a local insurance company. She graduated with her class from Edison High School, and attended a Regional Occupational Program at Orange Coast College.

From a 2014 piece about her in the Orange County Register:

Her father, Gary Osterbach, says his daughter has always been a positive person who has never let any setback bring her down.

“She has inspired me and my wife with her positive attitude,” he said. “We’re very proud of her.”

He said he heard about the voluntary board position through the Down Syndrome Association of Orange County, of which Rachel is a member.

Rachel Osterbach also is a charter member of the Toastmasters Gavel Club and one of 15 global messengers in Orange County for the Special Olympics. She was an avid participant in her younger days and has collected more than 100 medals in basketball, bocce ball, soccer, track and field and rhythmic gymnastics. As a global messenger, she acts as an ambassador speaking about the Special Olympics.

Osterbach also has her own IMDB page, listing her as an actress.

I recently conducted an email interview with Osterbach about her life and aspirations:

What is the biggest misconception you think people have of those with Down syndrome?

People think that if you have Down Syndrome that you cannot do very much – that is not true.

Much of the conversation about Down Syndrome focuses on children — but of course they grow up. What is the show teaching about what it’s like to live as an adult with Down syndrome?

The show is teaching people that individuals with Down Syndrome can lead an independent life – they can hold a job, they can have a relationship with a partner, they can overcome fears, and they can have goals and dreams and achieve them – like everybody else.

Many parents are very afraid of having a child with Down syndrome. What would you like to say to them?

Don’t be afraid because your son or daughter can achieve anything and can find great happiness in life.You will laugh with them, you will cry with them, you will enjoy their successes with them and be there for them when they are struggling, just like you would with any child.

What do you like about your current job?

I love being with my co-workers and being part of a team. I also enjoy my work in the mailroom – opening and sorting mail, receiving and sending emails, and being sure that everything gets done on time.

What makes you interested in acting?

Acting is my dream – what I like most is that it gives me a chance to express all different emotions.

What did it mean to you for the show to win at the Emmys?

It meant a lot to me – it meant that people loved the show and it made me proud to be part of it. I also got to go on stage with the cast to accept the Emmy which was presented to us by Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens – a moment I will never forget.

Which challenge that you’ve overcome makes you the most proud?

I am most proud of the fact that I have overcome my fear of loud noises and crowds, which has enabled me now to attend concerts and plays that I never would have been able to attend before.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In five years, I see myself being married, living with my husband independently,and being a famous actress.

Here’s a clip of Osterbach’s favorite singer, Adam Lambert, helping her overcome her fears:

And another that shows her with fellow “Born This Way” cast members:

No airdate has yet been set for a fourth season.

Full episodes are available online (if you have a cooperating cable provider) or through Amazon Prime Video.

Image: Courtesy Rachel Osterbach

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Family Theater Priest: I Blessed the Set of ‘Annabelle Creation’

(Father David Guffey is Head of Production for Family Theater Productions, based in Hollywood.)

Several months ago, I picked up the phone in my office and heard a friend ask, “Father David, could you bless a set of a movie?”

He went on to explain that they were shooting a horror film on the Warner Brothers lot, and some of the cast were a little freaked out by the story. So, I trekked over to Warner Brothers in Burbank and found my way to the sound stage. I did not see the script, but the set itself was eerie. With stole and holy water in hand, and a small group of cast and crew present, I blessed the set, adapting prayers from the official Book of Blessings. The movie they were making is Anabelle Creation, and it opens nationally this weekend.

The film is the latest release in the Conjuring Series, from James Wann. The films feature stories of demonic possession and the people who fight it. Anabelle Creation is a prequel to the Anabelle film released in 2014. The film opening this weekend tells the story of the dollmaker (Anthony LaPaglia) who created Anabelle. He and his wife (Miranda Otto) suffered the loss of their young daughter, a beloved only child. In their grief, they become vulnerable to a seductive and sinister bargain.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed in this latest installment.

It is an R-rated (for frightening content) horror film. While most people will never experience the intensity of evil portrayed in the story, the methods the devil uses are all too familiar in everyday life. The devil is opportunistic, looking for any opening to insert himself into a person’s life. The devil is a deceiver who seduces people into thinking that something destructive is life-giving, and that life-giving things are destructive. Finally, the devil is a divider of peoples. You will find all these dynamics in Anabelle Creation.

Evil does influence life. What people of faith know is that God and the forces of love are more powerful than anything the devil can dish up. This truth was more completely realized in the original Conjuring films, which were based on the real life work of Catholic paranormal researchers Ed and Lorraine Warren.

Anabelle Creation shows the patterns of evil with little of the hope in the forces of good. This makes for a great scary movie, but an incomplete one for people who believe and have confidence that ultimately, God wins. People of faith can resist evil and in fact do every day.

It was with this hope that I blessed the set of the film. Stephanie Sigman, one of the actresses present at the rite thanked me and said she felt more secure knowing the set had been blessed. Every little blessing helps defeat evil. You can see her this weekend playing Sister Charlotte in Annabelle Creation.

Father Guffey also participated in an Aug. 9 panel on the film, sponsored by New Line Cinema and Fuller Seminary’s Reel Spirituality, which preceded a screening at the ArcLight Theater in Pasadena, California. The panel topic was “In Defense of Evil,” and featured the film’s director, David F. Sandberg; Dr. Craig Detweiler, author and director of the Center for Entertainment Media & Culture at Pepperdine University; the moderator was Dr. Kutter Callaway, assistant professor of theology and culture, at Fuller Theological Seminary, an Evangelical institution in Pasadena.

(NOTE: According to Variety, Annabelle: Creation is on its way to a 36M+ opening weekend.)

Image: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures

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‘Lost in Oz’: Actor Jorge Diaz Voices a Munchkin in the Amazon Series

This week, Jamie-Lynn Sigler (“The Sopranos”), Soleil Moon Frye (“Punky Brewster”), Shiri Appleby (“UnReal”) and a handful of other celebrity moms and their kids came out for the premiere of “Lost in Oz,” an original series which launched on Amazon Prime on Friday, August 4th.

Also attending were the voice actors who play the parts of Dorothy and her friends in this animated, modernized version of the “Oz” book series by L. Frank Baum, which follows 12-year-old Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto as they desperately search for a way back home to Kansas.

Playing the part of Ojo (pronounced “Oh-Joe”), an awkwardly giant munchkin and one of Dorothy’s best friends in Oz, is Jorge Diaz (“Jane The Virgin,” “The Long Road Home”). I had a chance to chat with Diaz about why “Lost in Oz” is special.

“What I love about the project besides all the adventure and laughs is that there is so much heart behind it,” Diaz shared. “The creators are such a great, sincere group of guys, and one them, Jared Mark, put it best when he said that the story, at its core, is about finding community and friendship in people that could not be more different than ourselves on the surface, but who ultimately share the same hope and humanity within. It’s about recognizing and helping others with their problems despite having significant problems of our own, it’s about finding a sense of belonging and purpose in a world that can sometimes feel upside down.”

In addition to that, it’s a series with a determined, resourceful and kind young girl as its lead. However, “Lost in Oz” will appeal to both girls and boys, primarily between the ages of 6 and 12—and possibly their parents too. The world of Oz that the creators and animators have produced is really pretty spectacular—incredibly detailed and action-packed. As Diaz said, “I feel the show just gets better and better with every episode, and when you start watching you’ll see why. The story takes exciting, unexpected turns, and there are some epic places you discover about Oz’s landscape in pretty much every new episode.”

One of those places? Diaz said one of his favorite episodes from this first season is when we meet Ojo’s family and discover the munchkin farm: “There are some really funny moments but also the munchkin world they created is so beautiful to see.”

In addition to that, it’s a series with a determined, resourceful and kind young girl as its lead. However, “Lost In Oz” will appeal to both girls and boys, primarily between the ages of 6 and 12—and possibly their parents too (note: preschool-aged children may be a bit young for this one, my three-year-old twins found the flying monkeys and a few other parts slightly frightening!). The world of Oz that the creators and animators have produced is really quite spectacular—incredibly detailed and action-packed. As Diaz said, “I feel the show just gets better and better with every episode, and when you start watching, you’ll see why. The story takes exciting, unexpected turns, and there are some epic places you discover about Oz’s landscape in pretty much every new episode.”

Diaz, who is driving up to northern California to hang with his family today, encouraged grownups to check out “Lost in Oz” with their kids.

“What’s so great about the show is that the ENTIRE family can watch it. We’ve gotten so much great feedback from parents, grandparents, teenagers, and adults of all ages saying how much they’ve enjoyed it!,” he said. “All my cousins, nieces and nephews are so excited to watch it this weekend. I’m glad I’ll be able to watch it with them!”

Korbi is a former full-time TV blogger, writing for sites such as E! Online and Yahoo!. She is now a full-time mom of twin boys. In her free time, she moonlights as a Marriage, Family & Individual Therapist.

Image: Courtesy Amazon Prime Video

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‘Garage Sale Mystery’ Takes Over August Sundays on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

Solving crimes has never gone out of fashion on television, but these days it’s often laden with sex, violence and deep dives into depraved lifestyles. And then, there’s “Garage Sale Mystery” on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Based on novels by Suzi Weinert and presented in two-hour movie installments since 2013, it’s a TV version of what’s known in mystery fiction as a “cozy mystery,” which feature a (frequently, but not always) female amateur sleuth. She’s got brains and keen observational skills, along with great instincts and knowledge of human nature. Sometimes she’s married; sometimes she’s not.

But when the local police need a bit of extra help in solving the unusually high rate of murders that happen in her (often small) hometown, the cozy-mystery sleuth is there.

Cozy mysteries offer viewers a chance to puzzle through clues and the vagaries of human behavior without having to wallow in the darker side.

From “Murder, She Wrote” to “Father Brown,” the cozy remains a TV constant, but has been largely supplanted by mystery dramas centered on police or military investigators. Those have their place, but there’s nothing like watching a bright but dedicated amateur show the pros how it’s done — especially one, like Jennifer, who doesn’t flinch at the prospect of a morgue visit.

Last week, I attended a screening of “Murder by Text,” a “Garage Sale Mystery,” at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills, California, attended by Hallmark executives, fans, friends and stars, including “Garage” star Lori Loughlin.

She plays antique-store owner Jennifer Shannon, a wife and mother of two teen children, whose eye for detail and knack for deductive reasoning entertains her family and helps local Detective Lynwood (Kevin O’Grady) burnish his cases-closed stats.

With side plots involving the family and Dani (Sarah Strange), who works in Jennifer’s store (an actual antique shop in British Columbia, Canada, where the show is shot), “Garage” tells an entertaining story that keeps it light, humorous and interesting.

“Murder by Text” also features Jennifer’s husband (Rick Ravenello) and daughter in a dispute over his company’s plan to turn a local historic building into condos, without raised voices or slammed doors. While I thought daughter Hannah (Eva Bourne) still acted like a bit of a brat — you don’t slap bumper stickers on people’s cars without their permission — the issue resolved with good sense and good humor.

How refreshing.

While the murder element of the show may disturb young children, “Garage Sale Mysteries” is perfectly suitable for preteens and up.

Here’s what’s coming up in August:

Garage Sale Mystery: The Beach Murder (August 6, 9 p.m. ET/PT): Jennifer wades into a murder when a young internet entrepreneur drowns in the ocean, the apparent victim of a surfing accident.

Garage Sale Mystery: Murder by Text (August 13, 9 p.m. ET/PT): After a bass player sends a cryptic suicide text, Jennifer suspects the apparent suicide was actually murder. Meanwhile, Dani deals with a visit from her sister, who may have hidden talents (and a secret).

Garage Sale Mystery: Murder Most Medieval (August 20, 9 p.m ET/PT): Jennifer finds a dead body in a suit of armor purchased for her client.

Garage Sale Mystery: A Case of Murder (August 27, 9 p.m. ET/PT): A tape inside an old recorder Jennifer purchases may hold the sound of an actual murder.

And courtesy of Parade magazine, a clip from “Murder Most Medieval”…

Image: Courtesy Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

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Petula Clark: Blast From the FTP Past (And She’s on Tour Now!)

In 1981, British singer Petula Clark — known for such British Invasion 1960s hits as “Downtown” and “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” — participated in an Easter special called “The Greatest Mystery,” for Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C, and Family Theater Productions.

We’ve reached into the vaults for two beautiful songs from that show, performed with a boys’ choir.

But you don’t have to see the 84-year-old singer just on video — she’s on tour right now, playing dates at the Fairport’s Copredy Convention in Banbury, U.K. from Thursday, Aug. 10 through Saturday, Aug. 12; at Saban Theater in Beverly Hills, California, on Sunday, Nov. 19; and at Bear’s Den, Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, Niagara Falls, New York, on Saturday, Dec. 16.. Click here for details.

In the meantime, enjoy:

Image: Wikimedia Commons; Family Theater Productions

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.