Heaven is for Real Offers Up Faith-based Entertainment for the Whole Family Just in Time for Easter

Do you believe in Heaven? Do you really believe in Heaven? That is the question that is asked in the new film by Sony/Tri-Star Pictures, Heaven is for Real, opening this Easter weekend.  Based on the book of the same name, the story is about the Burpo Family and their son Colton, who had a near death experience when he was just 4 years old.  After his recovery, Colton starts to talk about how he went to heaven, what it was like, and the people he met there.  These statements shake the small rural town the family lives in and the small church family that is ministered to by their Pastor, Colton’s father.  As Christians, they have always said they believed in Heaven.  But now they are forced to decide if they really do believe what they always have said they believed.movie poster

Heaven is for Real stars Greg Kinnear as Pastor Todd Burpo.  Kinnear gives a convincing performance as a man who is confronted with the beliefs that he preaches.  Connor Corum debuts in his first major role as Colton.  For a 4 year old, he does quite well in the role and is adorable and endearing to the audience.  The rest of the cast is rounded out with veteran actors such as Thomas Haden Church, Margo Martindale, and Kelly Reilly.  Audiences will appreciate the portrayal of a loving family who rely on their faith to stick together during the difficult times.  They will also enjoy the loyal friendship seen between Greg Kinnear and Thomas Haden Church.

As Christians it can be easy to “talk the talk” but more difficult to “walk the walk”.  This film will inspire you to look inside and ask yourself if you really do believe what you say you do.  Heaven is for Real is a sweet and gripping story for the whole family that is perfect to enjoy this Easter Season.

Heaven is for Real opens April 16th.

The Way of the Cross… Through Art

coverwebOne of the more popular Catholic devotions during this time of Lent is praying the Stations of the Cross.  The Way of the Cross by Deacon Richard Ballard, Ruth Ballard, and Jody Cole is a beautiful companion to this great prayer.

Throughout the history of the Church, art has been used to foster the prayer lives of her members.  At one time, the Church was a great patron to the Arts…such as Michelangelo’s Pieta and the Sistine Chapel.  These works of art inspire contemplation and wonder at the beauty and majesty of God and His creation in our world.

Michelangelo's Pieta and The Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo’s Pieta and The Sistine Chapel

Even today, art is being used to inspire prayer.  Every year on Good Friday, I watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ and meditate on its story to help me fully engage in the meaning of the day.  Classic films such as The Song of Bernadette and Babette’s Feast help us to go deeper into the mysteries of God.

The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Babette's Feast (1987)

The Song of Bernadette (1943) and Babette’s Feast (1987)

Deacon Richard Ballard and his wife, Ruth have compiled a beautiful book of icons to help us pray the Stations of the Cross.  Each icon, by iconographer Jody Cole, is written specifically for each Station, taking the reader deeper into the mystery of Christ’s life and death.

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Art in all its forms, whether it’s icons, films, paintings, music, books, etc., should help us grow closer to God.  It’s time we have a new renaissance…one where truth, beauty, and goodness shines forth in all art forms so that when people see art they will be lifted in prayer to the One who is Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Himself.

“Divergent” Asks The Young Adult Question: “Who Am I?”

At a time of the year when many seniors in high school are making their final decisions about college admissions, Divergent brings important question of identity and discernment to the movie screen.

Divergent is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a post-apocalyptic world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues: the selfless, the honest, the peaceful, the intelligent, and the brave.  When kids reach a certain age, they are supposed to choose which of these factions they would like to join. To aid them in this discernment, a test is administered telling the young person which faction they are most suited for. The next day, at the sorting ceremony, (reminiscent to the sorting hat from JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series) each young person is called and chooses.

The main character, Beatrice Prior (played by Shailene Woodley), struggles with this decision as the test did not give her a normal result. The test giver tells her that she tested for three of the factions and that she shouldn’t tell anyone, not even her parents because as a “divergent” she does not fit into any of the categories and is a threat to the order in this society.

Divergent opened last weekend #1 in the Box Office

Divergent opened last weekend #1 in the Box Office

Young adult fiction so often addresse the questions “Who am I?”, “How do I know who I am to become?”  Beatrice’s experience of the test in Divergent is similar to the experience of many young people today who feel “defined” and restricted by their SAT scores, college or social status or whatever family, friends or teachers impose on them.  Many find that there is not a simple way to discern their identity or life’s big questions. They desire to fit in and conform and yet, deep inside, each person has a sense that they have something unique to offer to society which a simple test is unable to unveil.

Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say that I am?” Young people look to their parents and families first and foremost for their identity and definition.  The themes in Divergent could be used by parents and teachers to encourage young people to think about who defines them and to value their own unique contributions to society.

A note to parents: Divergent is rated PG-13 due to “intense violence, and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.” Also, this film could have told the story better and with more effectiveness if it had better pacing and editing. As someone who did not read the book series, the movie was long and tried to fit in many more details than were necessary to convey the story.

Ancient Texts Coming On-Line: Vatican Digitizing 82,000 Works from Its Library

Within the confines of Vatican City are documents from the second to the twenty-first centuries collected and preserved by the Catholic Church.  Because of their age and value, many of the books have been carefully guarded with limited access.   Within two years, anyone with a computer will be abel to access them for free.    The documents are being professionally scanned and then will be made available through a Vatican Website.  According to Rome Reports, the project is being done in collaboration with a Japanese IT company.

For Catholics, the search for knowledge is an inherent part of the Christian Faith.   The documents will hopefully help people explore our past and the ways that God’s grace works in history, culture and science.  As Pope John Paul II says in  Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination:

“Thanks to meetings and discussions with experts in the natural sciences, with physicists and biologists as well as with historians, I have learned to appreciate the importance of those other branches of knowledge which involve the scientific disciplines; these are likewise capable of attaining the truth from different perspectives. The splendor of the truth–Veritatis Splendor–constantly needs to accompany them, enabling people to meet, to exchange ideas, and to enrich one another.”

 

The Romance of Religion by Father Dwight Longenecker is a Book Everyone in the Business of Making Movies Should Read

Romance of Religion coverwebAccording to Box Office Mojo, the top grossing films of the past 10 years are Shreck 2 (2004), Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006), Spider-Man 3 (2007), The Dark Knight (2008), Avatar (2009), Toy Story 3 (2010), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011), The Avengers (2012), and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013).  What do all of these films have in common?  They are adventure stories!  What makes these stories so popular?  They are popular because we all want to be that hero/heroine who goes out on a big quest to seek what is true, good, and beautiful.

The Romance of Religion: Fighting for Goodness, Truth, and Beauty by Father Dwight Longenecker is a wonderful book about the quest that we all take and the treasure we all seek.  Father Longenecker shares with us, that inherent in our own humanity, is the longing for both the adventure of the quest and the treasure found.  That treasure is God who is Truth, Goodness, and Beauty Himself.

We love stories that express this on the big screen.  The box office doesn’t lie.  Audiences are drawn to these stories because they are caught up in the quest of a hero that is representative of their own journey in life…or what they wish that journey to be.  It’s part of their DNA.

The next time Hollywood moguls are sitting around wondering what the formula for the next big blockbuster is…I would highly recommend they read The Romance of Religion.  They may be surprised that the formula has always been the same.

Hallmark Channel Partners with Best-selling Christian Author Janette Oke and Award Winning Producer and Director Michael Landon, Jr. to Bring Families Hope-filled Entertainment

HOPE.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that the virtue of hope “responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up photothe hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude.” (CCC 1818)

The Hallmark Channel’s latest dramatic series, When Calls the Heart, brings the idea (and the DRAMA!) of hope to our living rooms.  Set in rural Coal Valley, Alberta, Canada in 1910, we meet the new teacher in town, Elizabeth Thatcher.  Elizabeth, played by the beautiful Erin Krakow (Army Wives), is the daughter of a wealthy shipping magnate who has come to Coal Valley for her first teaching job.  She soon learns that her high society upbringing is not the best formation for life in the wild Canadian west.

Coal Valley has just endured a horrific tragedy…an explosion in the mine that killed off most of the men in town leaving the women and their children to pick up the pieces and fend for themselves.  This is the atmosphere that the new school teacher finds herself in.

After such a devastating loss, the town of Coal Valley is in great need of hope.  Elizabeth brings this hope with her as she helps the women and children grieve and helps them continue on with their lives and open their hearts to the love that God has for them.

Elizabeth is supported by the wisdom and love of Abigail Stanton, played by the wonderful Lori Laughlin (most famous for her role as Aunt Becky in the hit 90s family sitcom Full House), whose own husband was foreman of the mine and died in the explosion.  Abigail helps Elizabeth navigate her new surroundings and also her heart as she encounters the new constable, Jack Thornton, played handsomely by Daniel Lissing (Last Resort).

When Calls the Heart is based on the best selling series by the Christian fiction author Janette Oke.  Fans will remember that another series of this author was the basis of the Hallmark Channel’s hit film series, The Love Saga.  Hallmark also reunites the author with Executive Producer and Director Michael Landon, Jr.  Michael Landon, Jr’s first film in The Love SagaLove Comes Softly…was the highest rated movie in the history of the Hallmark Channel.  His second, Love’s Enduring Promise, surpassed the first giving him the top two highest rated movies ever on the Hallmark Channel at that time.  He went on to write, direct, and produce four more installments of the hit series.  Needless to say this duo is a winning combination.

There isn’t a lot out there for families to choose from when looking for television that they can watch together.  Thanks to the Hallmark Channel, Janette Oke, and Michael Landon Jr., families don’t have far to look.  When Calls the Heart is a show that brings us all hope…hope that Hollywood is starting to realize what families really want in entertainment.

When Calls the Heart airs Saturday nights at 9 EST/8 CST on the Hallmark Channel.